G Spot

Quo vadis, COVID?

By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo

THE Department of Health (DOH) must give us a projection, in real numbers, as to the rate of spread of COVID-19 so we can adjust our living priorities and strategies. By now, we cannot just base our moves on confirmed cases, but must be guided extrapolating all available data, and make the public understand where we really are.

The encouragement for citizens to travel by the Department of Tourism (DOT), even in areas declared safe, is not a guarantee of safety because people move to and from various places and mingle without being monitored. This is a callous and predatory strategy that endangers the health and welfare of communities.

We cannot surmount this situation with incoherent pronouncements from the highest official of the land, guided by the incoherence of its concerned agencies. The panic that ensued after the speech of the President is indication of the impact of mixed messages that diverted into unrelated things. There was a severe lack of focus on the gravity of the situation punctuated by the usual rants.

What is bothersome is that while we desire to protect ourselves from COVID-19, the Philippines continues to allow the unabated entry of large numbers of people from mainland China to work in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) as part of an economic strategy. What is worse is that, Congress is not acting to pass a law to address their apprehensions about POGO, even when it was directly put forward to them by Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Dominguez. PAGCOR remains to be the main regulatory body for offshore gaming services and is not tasked to integrate in its mandate, the health concerns of the public and its various impacts on Philippine economic and socio-cultural development. For this, we seriously need to pass a law. DOH, being in the forefront of public health, must advocate for this law.

I have respect for the executive capability of DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III and the dedication of its personnel. I have seen this dedication in its field workers for infectious diseases, as my niece, Maria Kasmira Maramag, has chosen to miss celebrating Christmas and New Year with her family to continue doing field work. However, I have concerns about how much information the Secretary withholds from the public, how much he clears with the political strategists of Malacañang before he makes pronouncements, and the timeliness of the information he gives for public consumption. It is not enough to give an update, it is imperative to give adequate, timely and relevant information from which the public can draw reasonable guidance to plan ahead, aside from practicing social distancing and washing of the hands.

To wash our hands decreases our vulnerabilities, real or imagined. To wash our hands also means declaring innocence for the outcome of actions we have taken or not. Most of the dirt, as well as the guilt, will be washed away by soap and water. But some things are more difficult to wash away, even with the outpouring of the rain.


The voice in the rain

the hierarchy is deaf/ to a voice in the rain/
it waits/ to come through, un-drowned/ by the cacophony
of voices floating/ with the debris of the passing seasons

the meaning evaporates/ in the litany of curses/ the crowd disperses
a line becomes visible/ to kiss the hand of the joker
enthroned/ wallowing in the darkness of his fate

with the people of the lie, and a fatal kiss.

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