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ROUGH CUTS| A case of not ‘walking their talk’?

EARLY last week people in Davao City going to the downtown area noticed a coffin display in some Corona Virus Disease (CoViD) 19 checkpoints (or what used to remain of it). Going south one empty coffin can be seen at one checkpoint.

The most noticeable outcome of the scheme which many have posted in social media as “idiotic idea” is the even more humongous vehicular traffic it has created in that particular stretch of the southbound road. That stretch of MacArthur highway has long been saddled with such commuter problem.

But why has the city government gone to such extent of displaying empty coffins in certain checkpoints just to emphasize the seriousness of the CoViD 19 prevalence in this part of the country? Are our officials bothered by the city’s continuing presence in the list of top areas all over the country having new cases of CoViD infection on the Department of Health’s (DOH’s) daily monitoring report?

We do not know. But somehow it can give people the notion that the local government authorities are unable to make many Davaoenos obey the various health protocols imposed by both the national and the local governments.

Imagine resorting to displaying the grim reminder of death – the coffin – just to deliver the message that if people refuse to observe the various health protocols they’d surely end up inside the morbid box!

And why are some city residents still ignoring the restrictions imposed by the government? Why have they developed the culture of hard-headedness when the protocols are supposed to be for their own good? Should they be faulted for such infraction? Or are the government authorities, especially those at the local level, be also heaped the blame for the people’s disregard of the protocols?

It is our take that the local government of Davao City is in fact largely to blame for the spike of the CoViD 19 cases in the city these past few weeks. Why, because to us, the local authorities have been unable to make good their own admonition to the Davao residents not to be complacent even when the city’s quarantine level was downgraded first from Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and later to Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ). The latter two allow for relatively relaxed restrictions of human activities under the pandemic situation.  

Like many other Davaoenos, we easily remember that at the onset of the pandemic in the city in early March, the local government imposed a total lockdown. The said mandate was of course, covered by an executive order (EO) from the city mayor, the first of a series of EOs.

Immediately there were checkpoints installed in various routes leading to and from the barangays in both the urban and rural areas, as well as from neighboring provinces and cities. These facilities serve as control points to prevent people with the deadly virus infection from transmitting it from one place to another. As support to checkpoints’ objective another EO was issued. This was the one that mandated the use of the Food and Medicine Pass (FM Pass) which allows people to go out of their homes solely for the purpose of buying food and medicine or for medical intervention and related emergencies.

Then a subsequent order intended to limit the number of people that can converged in markets and malls was again issued. It prescribes the days FM Pass holders can go out of their residences using the last digit of the pass number as determinant of days allowed for holders to go out for the purpose. Another related mandate was issued which to us clearly added to the effectiveness of the measure that was adopted by the city. This was the order to divide the city into clusters where residents of a particular district or areas thereof can only do their grocery procurements in pre-identified supplier stores within the cluster.

To us and to many other people in the city, that particular strategy was very effective in preventing convergence of people in the downtown areas where population of the city is evidently dense.

On the other hand, the checkpoints, with all the front liners actively engaged in their assigned task, were clearly successful in its responsibility of deterring the spread of the virus. Was it not that during those lockdown period, commuters passing the facility are checked of their body temperature? Also in checkpoints a portion of the road is laid with disinfectant so as not to allow the virus on vehicle wheels to be carried to its final destination.

These measures were seen by many as having contributed to the slowing down of CoViD infection in Davao City. And without doubt the improved local situation was the reason of the downgrading of the city’s quarantine level from ECQ to GCQ, and finally to MGCQ.

But then again, it seems that the local government authorities have forgotten their own mantra for the residents not to be complacent. They themselves were unable to walk their talk. They became complacent.

When the GCQ level was given the city most checkpoints were dismantled. And if there were some left, the activities thereat were decreased substantially. There were no more taking of body temperatures of those passing the checkpoints. Sanitizing section on the road near checkpoints were gone. The use of the FM pass was stopped and the clustering scheme in buying groceries and market stuffs were halted as well. 

We believe that even if under the GCQ and MGCQ where some economic activities are allowed to resume and workers have to report for work, the continuation of checkpoint operation and the use of FM pass, as well as clustering of marketing activities, would not be too much of a hustle to livelihood making activities of people. And without doubt it would not bother them much because being assured of free-CoViD health will certainly allow them to work continuously.

But the city officials somehow made a wrong decision in also downgrading the level of checkpoint number and activities thereon. Now, the virus’ prevalence in the city has come back — and with a vengeance! This day the city is number one in the list; tomorrow number two; another day the city is number three or four. And somehow, over the past weeks our Davao City has not gone out of that sinkhole. All these, notwithstanding the series of EOs issued by the mayor supposedly to contain the spike of the deadly disease.

Now comes EO 62 mandating for going back to the strictest restrictions even including the re-use of the FM pass. And yesterday we have observed that the checkpoints are again installed in various areas in the city. Added to these is the grim suggestion to Davaoenos to make their choice: Stay home or get inside a coffin.

Are these indications of the city authorities realizing their misjudgment of the situation? Too late. But as they say, “Better late than never.”

“Let us to see.” 

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