By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
THROUGHOUT my life, I have lived a practice of keeping myself healthy through natural, indigenous ways. It is a tradition I adopted from my grandfather who is an herbalist and lived a longer life than most, with his knowledge of plants and indigenous healing methods. It kept me away from diseases, and less dependent on commercially available means of maintaining my health. There are many women practicing indigenous methodologies of healing, among them, a very good friend, Daisy Langenegger, who continues to experiment on combining essences of farm produce and indigenous herbs from forests. This practice emanates from a philosophy that our bodies are sacred, and that they are temples of our spiritual being, and must therefore be treated with utmost respect.
For this reason mainly, women like us chose not to be vaccinated. The other reasons stem from the fact that the current vaccines are different from the previous vaccines that have gone through rigorous tests and have proven over the years to be effective and safe for use by a large population. The current vaccines are a response to an emergency, used to mitigate the impact of a pandemic, and unlike the previous vaccines, carries with it a waiver that the pharmaceutical companies are not responsible for its adverse effects.
Governments were ill-prepared to deal with the rapid spread of the virus, and embarked to adapt to the situation by following international protocols. The implementation of these measures varied, depending on the leadership of governments, and the activism of its civil society. In a paper posted in July 2020 entitled, Reimagining Governance: Reclaiming Solidarity and Subsidiarity in the Time of COVID-19, Tanya Lat and Michael Henry Yusingco mentioned:
“Two dominant governance models have emerged on how to address the crisis. The first is China’s authoritarian, command-and-control model which uses centralized monitoring, police surveillance, and harsh punishment. The second model is a more democratic model used by South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore which relies on extensive testing, honest reporting, and cooperation between government and the citizens.”
The national government of the Philippines is closer to the authoritarian approach implemented by China, and had imposed compliance by local government units (LGUs) and private citizens to its system, no matter how flawed, without adequate consultation.
The campaign resulted in demonizing the unvaccinated as carriers of the virus, despite the fact that the unvaccinated spread them as well. The mobility of the unvaccinated, even in cases where they had been swabbed, is severely restricted, especially those that need breathing spaces to maintain their health. The President has also declared that government institutions and private companies can prevent the unvaccinated to go to work. Some companies have given their employees a choice to be vaccinated or to take weekly swabs whose monthly cost is equivalent to their current salaries effectively taking away their means of sustaining their families. These restrictions violate human rights guaranteed by the Philippine constitution.
It is imperative at this time, that the LGUs must come together to formulate a road map, together with the local communities on how best to rationalize or balance the impact of directives coming from the national level to best serve the interest of citizens, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, and make their initiatives relevant in the governance of the pandemic.
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