Last week was a highly emotionally charged yet eye-opening week for us and the rest of the world. George Floyd’s death spurred louder calls for Black Lives Matter, ensuing global movements and protests to abolish systemic racism in many countries, even in war-torn Syria. Locally, we are dealing with equally pressing issues like the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the continuous call for mass testing to begin. We have gone into a General Quarantine Community (GQC) mode and have seen these last few days how ill-prepared the government is with their rigid mandate on transportation thus heavily affecting the welfare of the working and mass-riding class.
To make effective changes, we must be open to adjust. That includes understanding that we will not get things right the first time. However, what I was not prepared for were the heartbreaking stories of our fellow Filipinos who endured long walking hours to go to work because buses and jeepneys were still not allowed to operate, in adherence to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) restrictions and guidelines.
It was an excruciating read, going through my social media timeline with written ordeals of people who try to resume business as usual without so much as empathy from government officials who have been sworn to protect and uphold the rights of its constituents. “Kung walang masakyan, maglakad na lang,” (If you cannot get a ride, you can just walk) quipped a government official. Or how about blaming commuters for the chaos on the road. Such callous remarks were totally uncalled for when we could have shown some compassion to our kababayans whose only desire that day was to report for work and earn some keep for their families not to starve.
Sixty-seven-year-old Felicia Osiana had to walk for an hour and a half just to get to an MRT station but was denied entry because of the IATF ruling on senior citizens. She could have had suffered a stroke while walking under the heat of the sun just so she could collect her husband’s pension in San Juan to buy her maintenance medicines. I am not sure which was more oppressive for the old woman: the scorching heat of the sun or the IATF ruling disallowing senior citizens to go out of their homes. Even the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) call this IATF provision “discriminatory” against the seniors.
A gasoline boy named Ryan travelled all the way from Cavite to go to his wife in Fairview as she was about to give birth. He was able to hitch a ride to Taft, hopped on the MRT and was determined to walk the stretch of Quezon Avenue and Commonwealth Ave. just to be able to hold her wife’s hand as she goes through labor. Luckily, a good Samaritan stopped and offered Ryan a ride home. But really, should we just rely on the goodness of other people and the private citizens for something that the government has been mandated to do? Were the countless Osianas and Ryans soldiering on the street asking too much from our government officials?
And if these accounts were not enough to enrage you, how about the six jeepney drivers who were apprehended and “invited” by the Caloocan police on charges of disobedience and mass gathering? These drivers who have been deprived of their income due to the lockdown; who have not received the promised financial assistance from the government; and whose foremost concern is how to feed their families. Again, it was the people who rallied behind to raise funds for their bails, offered their legal services for free and constantly bombard the media to free up these men whose only fault was that their stomachs were hungry. I write this almost a week into their detainment with no resolution yet in sight. I write this as Malacañang announces it will continue to ban certain modes of transportation — yes, the jeepneys — to curb the spread of the virus. I write this as the Social Weather Stations (SWS) releases its survey that majority of the Filipinos find the suspension of public transport a burden to their families.
The news that hog the headlines this past week were stories that will either move you into action or you take with a grain of salt. The world is getting angrier. Too many disconcerting issues one after the other and the struggle continues. The once in a century pandemic is still here and added with the many gaps in society that has been given more attention now, it can get pretty overwhelming. I am hopeful though, that as we emerge from this pandemic, we can look at the world anew and act together to make things right particularly for those who have suffered much.
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