OPINION | BETWEEN RESPONSIBILITY AND FREEDOM
by Salvador del Mundo*
Everyone in this country knows how difficult it was when ECQ ruled over us all last 2020. Travel restrictions, limited mobility and food purchase, public transportation down to zero, economic standstill, sudden retrenchment of workers, their sudden unemployment, physical dislocation, isolation and detention at home, etc. It was practically a lockdown politely termed as quarantine. Thereafter the rules and guidelines spelled out by the national government through its Inter Agency Task Force or IATF were forced upon every Filipino as a responsibility and to be irresponsible would mean definite punishment. Everybody had to toe the line or be verbally abused, physically mauled and worse dragged into jail. All these in the name of so-called public safety. Only the vulnerable sector of society suffered these punitive actions unlike those belonging to the moneyed class and the political elite who did transgress in one time or another the protocols and yet retired home without a scratch.
A disclosure here, myself was locked down in Cebu Province from March 15, 2020 to July 23, 2020. I was traveling on a transit flight from Tacloban to my home however on that fateful March 15th 2020, the second leg of my flight from Mactan Airport was suddenly cancelled. An ECQ had been declared in the whole Visayas Region and I was unaware of what was happening around me. It was disturbingly quick and caused an uproar in the airport as thousands like me got stranded in Cebu. Throughout the lockdown that went on for months, I experienced a load of anxiety and helplessness for I had realized that the State had deprived me of my right to personal mobility and freedom to travel. I had become one of the first prisoners of Duterte’s carceral regime.
The evening of July 16 2021, it was supposedly the first night of the ground level implementation of ECQ in Iloilo City and Iloilo Province which would mean border patrolling and checkpoints including prohibition of face to face dining, closure of shops that sell non-essentials, among other directives. But as an “act of civil disobedience” my colleagues, I myself and other friends had decided to push through with our dinner powwow in a restaurant overlooking the City’s River. There we traded and shared our forebodings about the politics-soaked implementation of the ECQ classification. Together we arrived at a common stand against this threat to individual freedom and economic security of citizens. No doubt at all that we all have our responsibility to observe the protocols set forth in the classification — but at what cost and who are paying? When the implementation of the rules become too militaristic, it only causes distrust, stigma, disempowerment, economic dislocation, impoverishment of the great majority. And instead of encouraging citizens to make healthy choices, the opposite happens — those who are vulnerable to conditions of despair spiral down to suffer more mental depression and breakdown and literal experience of hunger.
As of this writing Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas finds the ECQ declaration of IATF as most unfair and unjustified. About “500,000 Ilonggos or a portion thereof will go hungry for the next two weeks. The city will try to give our food assistance in the meantime,” he declared. The Mayor and the residents of the City can no longer contain their frustrations.
Making quarantine classifications should be seen as a balancing act between respecting individual freedom and providing a scientific basis for the classification. The corona virus is the common enemy. The war waged against this common enemy should not arbitrarily trample the Iloilo City Mayor’s respected authority and definitely not the welfare of law abiding Ilonggos of Iloilo City.###
* Num-de-plume of a scholar in history who wrote an essay thesis on the Bureau of Science during American colonial regime in the Philippines.
– Photo credit to Mayor Jerry Treñas page.