When COVID-19 hit the Philippines, among the urgent measures the Duterte administration did were not about enforcing medical solutions to aptly address a critical health problem. What the government did was to come up with a measure beautifully called and disguised as the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.” But months after its passing and given the continuously increasing number of COVID-19 cases, it’s not far-fetched to think that the spirit of “bayanihan” is absent within the said law.
Under the Bayanihan Act signed into law on March 25 by President Rodrigo Duterte, he was granted with “special powers” to optimize and hasten government efforts to curb the disease.
The said law has eight policy objectives which include mitigating or containing the spread of COVID-19; immediately mobilize assistance in the provision of basic necessities to families and individuals affected by the imposition of community quarantine, especially indigents and their families; undertake measures that will prevent the overburdening of the healthcare system; immediately and amply provide healthcare, including medical tests and treatments, to COVID-19 patients, persons under investigation (PUIs), or persons under monitoring (PUMs).
Also listed as the main goal of the law is to undertake a program for recovery and rehabilitation including a social amelioration program and provision of safety nets to all affected sectors; ensure that there is sufficient, adequate and readily available funding to undertake the foregoing; and partner with the private sector and other stakeholders to deliver these measures and programs quickly and efficiently.
While our neighboring nations have already successfully “flattened” the curve of COVID-19 infections, the Philippines, despite having the longest and strictest lockdown measures, still continue to fail in stopping the outbreak. In fact, the national government even recommended to ease quarantine guidelines all while the country repeatedly jots down daily record-high infections.
Sure, during the past months, we’ve all heard news about local government units (LGUs) extending cash aid to their constituents, something that’s also mandated under the Bayanihan Act, but not without lapses which are mostly related to corruption and the inefficient process to give assistance to those who really need it.
Even with the Bayanihan Act at hand, the Duterte administration seemingly focused more on issues that aren’t even health-related. There goes the misplaced urgency in passing the anti-terrorism bill which has nothing to do with the pandemic, but more on to quench the thirst of the government to hold onto power, even if it means to spread fear and mistrust among the Filipino people.
The last of the eight-point objectives of the Bayanihan Act reads “promote and protect the collective interests of all Filipinos in these challenging times.”
Considering the current happenings: healthcare workers receiving delayed compensations, overwhelmed hospitals, OFWs being neglected by OWWA, jeepney drivers struggling both finding means to meet daily needs and facing the issue of modernization program, the selective justice between normal citizens supposedly violating quarantine rules versus government allies deliberately showing their non-compliance, and the in-your-face incompetence of government officials, it looks like there’s nothing pro-Filipino about the Bayanihan Act.