IN AT least one or two instances we have taken up in this column our personal view about the enjoyment of too much freedom. To vouch our belief we have quoted a line (or is it the title?) of a song, “Too much love can kill.” Parallel to that we are also harboring the idea that too much freedom can also kill as well. In fact, in certain situations death could even be massive.
A case in point is the ongoing efforts of the government to fight the globally raging pandemic which is literally bringing many countries, one of them the Philippines, down to their knees. Yes, in our country the almost two years of the prevalence of the Corona Virus Disease (CoViD) has already racked up over two million total cases and curtailed the lives of over forty thousand people including, ironically, medical practitioners who are supposed to be the “go-to” sector when times of health emergency occurs.
The government of our country and its health system apparently were not ready for the sudden onslaught of the deadly virus in the early 2020s. When our authorities resorted to using the extreme measure in containing the pandemic during its initial juggernaut in the first quarter of 2020, declaring a lockdown in areas most affected, our economy which was in its highest ever, suddenly floundered like a meteor from space.
We Filipinos, armed with our constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech and expression suddenly started our offensive blasting the government and the people running the health system as wanting in experience to handle such kind of a situation. Politicians and the supposedly all-knowing and self-declaring health management experts were lightning-quick in chastising all the efforts of government as emanating from inexperienced leaders. The media and some of its practitioners suddenly ganged up on the government which they claimed to have come up with an ill-prepared solution to one gargantuan problem. They made some comparisons between the situation of the Philippines to that of other countries in the world and Asia. For example they compared our CoViD response performance with that of South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar and others. But they failed to factor in the comparison some critical parameters that could have made the exercise an apple-to-apple or orange-to-orange situation. And what are these parameters that they may have missed sorely or deliberately omitted in their comparison? One is the size and geographic location, as well as topographic situation of the countries. Another is the resource base and the over-all economy of the country. Still another very important factor which probably the comparison was wanting to make it fair is the number of population.
Clearly, the last parameter is very critical to give credence to the supposed comparison in the status of the Philippine response to the pandemic. For how can one government be able to respond effectively when it has so limited resources to or the means to reach to as many as 110 million people as against a government delivering health measures backed up with sizeable logistics to a population of 10 to 50 million people?
Moreover, how can the Philippines be compared with countries – though with people similarly guaranteed freedom of the press or speech – that have instilled in their citizens respect and discipline that made them willing compliant with laws and policies intended for the benefit of everybody?
Now come this major global response to tide down the prevalence of the pandemic – massive vaccination of people. In our country, the government and its health authorities are targeting 70 percent of its 110 million population to be vaccinated to create the so-called “herd immunity” that will serve as a bio-isolation wall to stop the pandemic on its track.
But again, there are those who are invoking our personal freedom to have everyone make his personal choice. That is, to be vaccinated or to reject such anti-CoViD infection measure. Even some medical professionals, who are supposed to be the front liners in the fight against the pandemic, have shown their outright disavowal of the vaccine. Columnists, radio and television commentators – some of them – are strongly but irrationally arguing against vaccination claiming that everyone has the freedom to do what he thinks is best for him or her.
To us massive inoculation is the ultimate solution to the health emergency that is bedeviling countries of the world. We, as well as the many who have similar views as we have, believe that, like in all past pandemics like the Spanish flu, the smallpox onslaught, the dengue and malaria prevalence in the last century, it was only the discovery and application of vaccines that stopped its morbid impact on the people and economy.
All these appear to be set aside by the so-called learned and expert broadcasters and opinion makers on air and print. They even attack those people – including seniors – who have taken the jab and are sharing their sense of security from CoViD infection to others who are not yet vaccinated. These commentators on air, as usual, invoke human freedom to choose not to be inoculated.
Indeed if some people are openly fighting the government through armed struggle because of their belief in another ideology, then what and whose interest these opinion makers are donning in their incessant opposition to mass vaccination? Pray, tell the people.
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