By Artchil B. Fernandez
This week is record-shattering. Record of daily cases of Covid-19 was broken not once but fourfold in a span of few days. The record-breaking week mirrors the gravity of the pandemic now ravaging the country, the most serious health crisis in a hundred years.
Last year, the highest number of daily cases of Covid-19 infections was 6,958 recorded on August 10, 2020. The record was first broken on March 19, 2021 when daily cases breached the 7,000 mark. On that day, there were 7,103 new infections. The following day, the record was smashed when daily cases soared to 7,999. This figure sparked funny memes and jokes in social media, the number akin to a sale price tag, netizens noted.
But Filipinos were immediately brought back to stark and scary reality when the March 20, 2021 record of daily infections was shattered two days later. On March 22, 2021 daily cases of Covid-19 rose to 8,019. Then on March 25, 2021, a new record was set when Covid-19 cases climbed to 8,773 in a day. With the number changing so fast, it is not impossible this latest figure will be breached again. The number of active Covid-19 cases in the country is about to break the 100,000 mark with 99,891 patients sick of the disease. So far, there are 693,048 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country with 13,095 deaths.
The spike of daily infections of Covid-19 in the past weeks brought the Philippines back to where it was before exactly a year after the pandemic broke out. Hospitals’ Covid-19 beds in the National Capital Region (NCR) are now full and the region is exploring the option of sending people sick of the disease to hospitals in the nearby Regions 3 and 4. The R-naught or reproduction rate in the region is now 2.1.
With Covid-19 cases running amok in NCR, the government was forced to place the region and surrounding areas under strict restrictions where only essential travelers are allowed in and out of the zone. While the government refused to officially put NCR and nearby areas on a lockdown, the stringent restrictions and uniform curfew imposed is tantamount to a lockdown.
To conceal the lockdown, Du30 and his self-proclaimed smart officials resorted to wordplay or engaged in a game of semantics. They invented bizarre terms to sugar-coat the harsh measures they are imposing – soft MECQ, hard GCQ, circuit-breaker lockdown. Lately, they called the move ‘NCR Plus Bubble.’
The play of words is a publicity stunt, designed to fool the public into thinking there is no lockdown. Calling the action a lockdown will force the government to provide people with support and aid which it does not want to do. To justify its abdication of responsibility to Filipinos, Du30 and his officials refused to say they are placing NCR and nearby provinces in a lockdown when in reality they are.
Current serious surge of pandemic is the fruit of Du30’s incompetent, lazy and inept leadership. His style of dealing with the pandemic is management by wishful thinking. Du30 wrongly assumed the pandemic will simply go away in time hence he did not craft a comprehensive plan on how to handle the health crisis. This gross negligence of Du30 to create a blueprint on how to manage the pandemic is the primary reason why the Philippines is the worst among ASEAN countries and in the Asia-Pacific region in Covid-19 handling.
There is only one word that truly defines Du30’s way of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic – “sabog.” Nothing clearly illustrates the “sabog” leadership of Du30 than his performance in his weekly night show this week. Filipinos were aghast, stunned and amused to see a confused, dazed, disoriented, and bewildered Du30 in national television. Did he fail to take his maintenance or what substance did he take, people asked.
Du30 went on a rampage in his latest public appearance. He blasted the idea of indemnity for vaccine makers. “The manufacturers want the private sector to buy, but the government will assume liability. This cannot be.” He called the idea “illegal.”
On February 26, 2021 Du30 signed into law the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 (Republic Act No. 11525). The law explicitly states that manufacturers “shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippines laws with respect to all claims arising out of, related to, or resulting from the administration or use of a COVID-19 vaccine under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program except arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.”
The law is an urgent measure of the Du30 administration to facilitate the purchase of vaccines. An indemnification clause is a requirement in vaccine procurement and is explicit in the law. Du30 affixed his signature on the measure making it a law.
Why is Du30 now attacking his own creation? Here are the possible explanations for Du30’s latest public outburst: He signed the measure without reading it, unaware of its content. Du30 did not understand or failed to fully grasp the content of the document. He forgot he signed into law RA 11525 and its existence completely slipped from his memory. Du30 was simply unstable when he appeared on national television and was not aware of what was coming out of his dirty and foul mouth.
Any, a combination or all are possible explanations of Du30’s weird behavior. Above all, the “sabog” behavior of Du30 best exemplifies his and his officials’ handling of the pandemic. The “sabog” handling of the pandemic is the reason why there is hardly any progress in the situation of the country a year into the pandemic.
Incoherent, confused, illogical, scattered, and panicky all best captures the Covid-19 handling of Du30 and his officials. This is the reason regions are now in bubbles, stringent restrictions and curfews are back and daily Covid-19 infections are breaking records. Under Du30’s “sabog” leadership, the entire country is now “sabog.”