Learning more hard lessons about Covid-19

By May 31, 2021Punchline

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


OUR editorial this week discussed hard lessons to be learned from recent updates:  1. How and why the Covid pandemic recently affected Singapore and Taiwan – the two places in Asia considered success stories in the war vs Covid, but were suddenly reported to have a surge in cases the past week – and, 2. How and why Dagupan City Mayor Brian Lim caught the infection, despite his having completed the two-doses of vaccine protocol.

We pointed these out not only to warn the province’s populace of more difficult periods ahead but to urge our provincial, city and municipal governments to be prepare more pro-active measures amid fears of a fourth wave.

What’s realistically to be expected are for people to be complacent more than ever, which, therefore, begs the question: What plans do the local governments have in anticipation of the fourth wave after achieving a seeming measure of success in the war vs. Covid-19? What cannot possibly happen is for our government leaders to think they can merely continue what’s being done today that improved the situation over the past months. NOTE: Lest they forget, it is these same policies that are exactly what could have led others to be complacent and pasaway. 

For instance, note two occurrences today: The continued weak if not complete absence of strict enforcement of the health and distance protocols in our barangays and, the superfluous filtering of visitors passing through border controls in the province.

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CLUELESS BARANGAY KAPS. Finally, we heard the stern warning from President Duterte directed at the barangay chairmen last week. It tells all about what’s happening in our barangay across the country. But never mind what’s happening elsewhere, let’s take a close look at what’s happening here in Pangasinan.   

 To have a full picture of what’s happening out there, Guv Pogi should consider organizing three teams of roving marshals for each district to run through barangays over a two-week period, and require video reports of surveillance and monitoring without prior knowledge of kapitans. These should give him a clear true picture of the common serious lapses in the enforcement of the health and distance protocols in our barangays.

 Early morning monitoring alone, they will still see residents congregating for news chats by the highways, streets or stores, inside and outside markets, around loading areas of tricycles, etc.  Late afternoons are best time for jobless men to start drinking sessions and neighborhood sabong. The insomniac among the pasaways get their adrenalin rush past 10pm.  Most of the time, face masks are not worn, and if worn, there are worn inapproiately.

 On seeing these every day, one cannot but wonder what their barangay officials, health workers and tanods are doing about the enforcement of the covid protocols. Is the pandemic no longer a serious concern? Or are the barangay kaps simply clueless?  

 The answer?  Most no longer believe that the pandemic is still a serious concern. After all, no violator is called out, punished and penalized according to existing ordinances unless it’s the police chief that personally makes it.  

 Given this perception, clearly Pangasinan is not ready for the fourth wave, and the situation will get worse before it gets any better especially because the national government is already considering to further relax quarantine rules.

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QUESTIONS ARE NOT ENOUGH. Then observe the performance of our province’s border control checkpoints… and checkpoints between towns and cities.

What do they do? At our border controls, our deployed police teams merely ask for travel and health certificates.  The checkpoints installed by town and city governments merely ask where motorists where they came from and their purpose for visiting the town or city, in addition to checking motorcycle riders’ licenses and ownership of their units.

One wonders, how could these questions help strictly enforce the health and distancing protocols. These don’t do anything directly related to the enforcement of the two protocols.

What’s missing? The police do not check if motorists and their passengers are equipped with face masks and shields. There is no warning about violation of the two protocols outside their homes, hotels, restaurants.

Solution?, Our police teams detailed at the checkpoints should adopt the following as SOP:

  1. Require all passengers to wear masks before they are allowed to pass through border controls and checkpoints.  (If there’s anyone in the vehicle without a face mask, it should be cause for the police to bar the entry of the vehicle and its passengers).
  2. Warn motorists and passengers that if caught without their masks and shields on, they will be accosted, detained at the police station and fined.

If these don’t create further serious concern and awareness in our neighborhoods, I don’t know what will.

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OFFICIAL PROTECTION RACKET. The unintended “discovery” by the Dagupan City councilors that not a single owner of the more than 150 beach sheds operating at the Tondaligan Beach is paying monthly lease rate or business tax to the city government alone is another indication of how widespread the corruption in the city is perpetuated by Mayor Brian Lim’s Barkada.

Is it possible that the shed owners would be so daring to profit from their operations without any accountability to the city government, and without any official protection? This can only mean one thing: Someone in the Barkada is regularly collecting a portion or the full sum of what’s intended for the city’s coffers.

That the Tondaligan Park administrator is mum about who’s collecting and how much, and with no indication whatsoever of the identities of those receiving the monthly tong, should be enough reason to fire him on the spot.  But he wasn’t. He was not even chastised for failing to alert the city council earlier that the reasons for the operators’ non-payment is due to the city council’s failure to pass an ordinance specifying the fees and taxes to be imposed.

What was hardly surprising was that even after the “revelations,” no one in the city council dared to be quick to propose the immediate passage of the missing ordinance which is the usual norm but not this time.

Well, this is no different from the city council’s refusal to compel the city government to strictly enforce the city ordinance that allows limited entry of alien bangus to the city market.  They are well aware that someone in the Barkada is making a pile by offering official protection. Ditto for the city council to refuse to compel the mayor’s office to limit and regulate the presence of street vendors using the cover “Baratilyo” ordinance intended only for the city’s fiesta and festival.

Are we seeing the hands of the 12 SHS (See-Hear-Speak no-evil) monkeys again in the city government’s affairs, protecting their and city’s hall occupants’ personal interests?
Expect the worst to happen once the mayor’s “Executive Management Group” that the 12 SHS monkeys unanimously endorsed, is officially organized. (Mr. Lim justified its creation by his admission that he cannot perform creditably even with all the powers granted a mayor under the Local Government Code, without it).  

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