Engaging the public
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - March 28, 2020 - 12:00am

How do you enjoin the public to comply with the rules on community quarantine or its enhanced version, but without arousing panic or uncontrollable responses?

That is another daunting challenge facing us now. Consider what happened last Thursday when city people learned about the impending enhanced community quarantine or lockdown in the island to contain the threat of COVID-19. People waited in long lines at grocery stores, and bus terminals were crowded with passengers trying to get a ride to their hometowns where they plan to wait this crisis out.

Government may be doubly hard at work against this pandemic. But for some officials, their inexperience and lack of proper advice from pandemic response experts have resulted to such scary scenarios described above – which should not be entirely blamed on the public.

For instance, had there been communication experts at the table who are able to warn decision makers that announcing a lockdown would cause people to inevitably flock to the grocery stores and transportation terminals, police and military checkpoints would have already been stationed along roads leading to these establishments in order to maintain an orderly flow of passengers to the stores and terminals. Enough police and tanods would have been mobilized to assist private guards in imposing physical distancing among shoppers lining up to buy basic necessities.

Wrote Mark Davis (political and social scientist), Niamh Stephenson (faculty of medicine) and Paul Flowers (social and public health scientist): “Populations are regarded as more or less passive and vulnerable, yet happily compliant when the time is right. If not acting in this way, publics are seen to be only capable of under- or over-reacting. But these assumptions of pandemic citizenship smack of medical paternalism or even recall ‘the great unwashed’ of previous eras (pun intended). Pandemic control seems bound, ironically, to (dis)engage its public.”

“On this basis we argue that it is necessary to put the social character of publics back into pandemic control. The compliant-complacent-panicky subjects that currently figure in pandemic control, along with their proscribed agency and deracinated quality, need to be countered with close attention to alternative, creative engagements with pandemics. Given that pandemic futures remain, strictly, unpredictable, it seems sensible to us that such alternative forms of pandemic citizenship are explored.”

This was written and published in 2011 in “Social Science & Medicine” (Elsevier), a peer-reviewed international and interdisciplinary journal for the dissemination of social science research on health.


These past few days, we have seen the mobilization of resources by various groups in order to address the gaps and help the government in its fight against COVID-19.

Fabrication laboratories or fab labs at the University of the Philippines Cebu and Cebu Technological University, both supported by the Department of Trade and Industry, are making personal protective equipment like face shields and donating these to frontline health workers in various hospitals in Cebu. These hospitals have evaluated the usefulness of these PPEs and have accepted them amid the shortage. The University of San Carlos Department of Chemistry has also activated its chemistry laboratory to make 70% ethyl alcohol solution and deliver these to the Talisay City District Hospital and selected LGUs.

Offering free confidential psycho-social support and counseling online is the National Association for Social Work Education Inc. (NASWEI), led here in Cebu by my good friend Dr. Khalachuchi S. Flores-Caballes of the University of Cebu College of Social Work Department. Psycho-social support is human support and practical assistance extended to fellow human beings who are suffering from a serious stressor like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philippine Commission on Women chairwoman Dr. Rhodora M. Bucoy likewise brought to my attention the need for gender advocate groups and agencies to monitor the mental and physical state of women under the state of community quarantine. Her office has sent a memorandum calling for vigilance on the possible increase of domestic violence against women and children in these stressful times.

Indeed, when families are confined in their homes 24/7, we must watch our actions and be vigilant against any act of physical, psychological, or emotional violence against family members, particularly women and children. It’s already hard to stay at home the whole day, it would be a torment if there is domestic abuse. But a friend told me men can be abused too by getting an earful from their partners.

In any case, let’s just be good to each other in these trying times, okay?


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