In ordinary times, today would have been a day for pranks. It’s the first of April, after all. But our days now are extraordinary; our challenges existential and profound. The mood is too somber for silly jokes.
Unfortunately, often we feel that some people—sometimes, the leaders who of all people should be in charge and coherent and who should serve as good examples—are still playing pranks on us.
The past three weeks have been so different from how we used to pass our days. Along with our fear of contracting the disease, our empathy for those who are sick and those who go against the odds to treat them, we are likewise anxious about how the people will be enabled to deal with the pandemic.
Many have stepped up to the challenge. The private sector, development sector, and some other officials have set an example in helping one another despite great restrictions.
Unfortunately, the bad jokes being played on the Filipino officials—by those precisely tasked to help them—grate.
Amid a shortage of testing kits, many “VIPs” and their families and staff members elected to get themselves tested even if they did not have any symptoms. They demanded a swift release of results and even re-tests, dislodging from the queue others with more pronounced symptoms who should have been given appropriate treatment. As a result, many have died without even receiving their test results.
A senator who has now sealed his place in history had the temerity to accompany his wife, set to give birth, to the hospital. He went shopping at a supermarket at a time he was supposed to be in quarantine. He later on tested positive for COVID-19.
Yet another senator lived up to his reputation of taking selfies on most occasions. Some showed him distributing relief to fire victims—clearly neglecting social distancing.
A health official continues to refuse to act with urgency on the need to get more people tested for the virus, even as the experience of other countries have shown that it is only through mass testing that any society can hope to slow the virus’ spread.
On Monday night, the nation waited for updates on how the national government was faring in its discharge of emergency powers. We had hoped for a prompt announcement, but were willing to extend patience for seven more hours just to be reassured by the President. We did not quite agree that medical frontliners were “fortunate” to die for their country, when they should not be dying in the first place.
While the chief executive said he was worried about us and that he had billions to spare, we wanted to hear more. How will the money be spent? What exactly will be done to speed up the rate of testing? How and how soon will hospitals be equipped to deal adequately with the crisis?
In this global pandemic, each country’s failure or success will be determined by the decisions and actions of its leaders. As we wait out the crisis from the safety of our homes, we will observe how our decision-makers are conducting themselves. We will commend their worthy initiatives and criticize those less worthy. We will call out follies and reject being made fools, not because we want to bring anyone down or prove ourselves better than others, but because blunders will mean lives.
We will do this because we know the only way to survive is to survive together.