Between the devil and the deep blue sea?

By April 19, 2021Punchline

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


IT has become undoubtedly clear that Pangasinan cannot think or believe for a moment that it is not affected by the situations obtaining in NCR+, because it is.

But here’s the contentious issue that has since confronted the provincial government.

When Pangasinan relatives residing in NCR+ rush to the province for COVID treatment, what should the provincial government’s response be? Should they be turned away to protect the health of the million residents or accept them simply under a “compassionate policy”?

If the provincial IATF decides the transient patients cannot or should not be accepted, the message’s narrative for it is: PRIORITY treatment facilities are reserved for bonafide Pangasinan residents. But that simple cut and dry policy will beg more questions than answers. For instance, what recourse do Pangasinenses that have since been living out of Pangasinan for the most valid reasons, have? Will they, too, be discriminated against, turned away because they are migrant residents from Pangasinan and not true Bulakeños or Cavitenõs or Manileños? The only viable compromise is for the provincial IATF to make Pangasinan hospitals commit to specific number of beds that can be offered to transient confirmed COVID patients, no exceptions in the implementation.

But then again, how can the provincial IATF hope to have an effective contact-tracing in place if the transient patients cannot present any health document and data of contact-tracing on their cases, but armed simply with an “endorsement” from a politician or a hospital affiliate that will not take responsibility?

Then, we have the confused police border guards. How far can they demand strict compliance by transients with the executive order of Guv Pogi? Can they allow free access to any transient that invokes medical emergency?

So, between the devil and the deep blue sea, what will it be for the provincial IATF? Hopefully, it won’t pick either but to develop an option for a clear blue sky that will shine on everyone. One that is plausible… possible in the face of realities.

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WEAPONIZED PALAKASAN IN THE BARANGAYS. The observation of Bistop’s Wilson Chua, PUNCH’s online edition partner, that the provincial and city government’s performance over the use of quarantine facilities as dismal has basis.

 Indeed, the most obvious impression one gets when occupancy level of quarantine facilities is low, is there are no major COVID cases in the barangay. But the narrative of the data that culled from the Provincial Health Office easily debunks that perception.

 Here are some significant data about Dagupan City he culled from DOH:

  • Barangay Pantal only served its quarantine facility to only ONE out of 28 confirmed cases.
  • Zone 4 of Poblacion: Only 3 out of 18 cases.
  • Caranglaan: Only 2 out of 8 cases.
  • Malued: Only 3 out of 12 cases.
  • Bonuan Gueset: Only 7 out of 15 cases

 While the DOH data did not indicate whether registered cases were mild, and, therefore, did not need the implementation of quarantine protocol, it cannot be assumed that such a number could only represent mild cases. These barangays are densely populated.

 Whether mild or major cases, they are carriers nonetheless who can infect anyone and whose cases can eventually result in mild or major infection.

 While Wilson is being diplomatic in his observation, the obvious truth on the ground is, there is “palakasan” to avoid detention in a quarantine facility without regard to the protection of the populace.

 I have often wondered how Barangay Pantal and the others cited could even move on and beat the contagion in their communities when simple proper wearing of face masks could not be strictly enforced.

 Anyway, the DOH data clearly show how the pandemic has been weaponized in the communities ahead of the 2021 elections to the disadvantage of helpless, unsuspecting residents.

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JEEPNEY AS SUPER-SPREADER. As the provincial government gears for another battlefront in the campaign vs. COVID, there is one thing that the Federation of Barangays can do for the province.

With the recent awarding of more special permits to jeepneys to ply their old routes, barangay officials, in addition to strict enforcement of the curfew, the heroic frontlines among them, the tanods, can set up two-three checkpoints along main roads if only to make sure that jeepneys have installed prescribed plastic barriers between their passengers and all passengers are wearing their masks properly.

The jeepneys are super-spreaders of the virus if not checked for the strict implementation of protocols for public transport. As one regular Dagupan commuter recalled, the jeepney driver would usually alert his passengers to wear their masks on approaching a checkpoint, as if the warning of presence of checkpoints is part of the service! In some instances, many operating jeepneys have also since stopped repairing their torn plastic barriers since no one inspects their usefulness.

So if the Federation wants to have a useful impact on the campaign, work on jeepneys’ strict implementation of the protocols on distancing, wearing of masks and no-talking rule while inside the jeepney.

It’s heartening to note that the Dagupan City POSO is taking the control of entry of potential carriers into the city seriously. The POSO under Rob Erfe Mejia’s leadership is shining.

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LOSING TO COVID-19. The virus has hit close to home. The PUNCH’s notary public, Atty. Nap Arenas, passed away last week. A dear cousin-in-law, Gina de Guzman’s husband, was claimed by COVID.

 My former professor in Ateneo, Nestor Torre, failed to survive COVID’s onslaught. A colleague, Manila Bulletin Editor Jun Icban was caught in COVID’s web.

 I pray the dying will end soon.

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