Gaffes, blunders and half-baked policies, decisions amidst COVID-19

Learning the lessons of the late banning of flights from China and Corona virus disease (COVID) – 19, national officials are now scrambling to make announcements on how to implement the “lockdown” of Metro Manila. The problem, this created one blunder to another and created confusion as well as added fuel to the panicky situation.

The first blunder was created by President Rodrigo Roa duterte (PRRD) himself by spilling the beans. While his bureaucrats were trying to sugarcoat the pronouncement, PRRD said, “Community quarantine is hereby imposed in the [entirety] of Metro Manila … Ayaw namin gamitin ‘yan pero — kasi takot kayo sabihin “lockdown”. And a — but it’s a lockdown.”

Because of the spilled beans, the supermarkets and groceries were filled with panic buyers emptying shelves of food and sanitation items.

The lockdown covers 16 cities and one municipality of Metro Manila, as prescribed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. In principle, the lockdown limits the mobility of people coming in and out of Metro Manila and ergo control the transmission of the Corona virus. The problem is, the announcement was only reactive and in response to the clamor of a significant number or certain sectors to declare a lockdown. No pre- lockdown scenarios were laid out that the people started scrambling to return to their provinces. Mass exodus is happening as of this writing as people would not want to be contained in the NCR that PRRD said he will lock, physically, with chains. These could include the possible COVID-19 carriers who went out of NCR freely and would be infecting their relatives and friends in the provinces.

Next, it is unfortunate that the PRRD’s government is “sailing while building the boat”. While this cannot be avoided, the problem is compounded with a number of captains on board thus resulting to confusion and more panic than ever. NCRPO PNP Director Major General Debold Sinas, for instance, announced that they are ready to arrest lockdown violators only to be told by the Department of Justice and human rights lawyers that there is no legal basis for the arrest. Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno pointed out that “The PNP cannot arrest and detain you for violating public health emergency measures. They can stop you and bar your entry, that is just right if needed, but they cannot arrest and detain you because entering Metro Manila is not a crime.”

As if this was not enough, Metro Manila Development Authorithy (MMDA)  General Manager Jojo Garcia added to the list of blunders by announcing that that NCR will be placed in a curfew — an announcement that was eventually debunked by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, Eduardo Ano pending the ordinances passed by the local legislative councils.

The COVID-19 is a health issue but the government is looking at it from a different perspective. In a video demonstration on vehicle inspections related to the lockdown, no health worker was involved — only armed military personnel. This prompts the Netizens to ask: Is the government intending to shoot the virus should they find it in the vehicle?

These blunders, among others, is a manifestation of the needs for a more holistic view and a more coordinated effort in responding to the COVID 19 pandemic. While we agree that PRRD is not a medical expert, he has at his disposal people who can help calm rather than confuse, and bring the public to act rather than oppose. What is the intelligence fund doing if it cannot even create a profile of the “proper guys” at his disposal?

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