, May 22, 2024

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The Pandemic’s Aftermath

  •   2 min reads
The Pandemic’s Aftermath
By Joey Salgado

Is the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic over? Ninety three per cent of Filipinos think so, according to a December survey of Social Weather Stations (SWS) whose results were released earlier this month. The optimism, however, is guarded. The same survey said 78 per cent are worried they could still catch the virus.

The President, in a recent speech, said the country is “somewhat recovering from the effects of the pandemic.”  But he hastened to add a note of caution, stressing that “…it is not yet over. We cannot say that the problem with COVID is over.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the hard lockdown imposed by the previous administration three years ago has left deep scars. It would be difficult to look back and not be frustrated with the previous administration’s handling of the crisis, how ineptitude and corruption put at risk the sacrifices of our health workers, and how the heavy-handed management of the lockdown may have lingering effects on the exercise of constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms.

We need to be reminded that at one time, our leaders believed that a virus can be controlled by curfews and checkpoints. Heavily-armed policemen patrolled the streets in combat fatigues. Curfew violators were herded into cramped jail cells or made to stay for hours in dog cages. People were beaten up for not having their quarantine passes, and a retired soldier was shot dead for leaving his home.

The previous administration quelled criticism and protests during the lockdown with singular focus and ferocity. It took advantage of the lockdown, when mobility and all forms of public assemblies were forbidden, to crack down on critics.

Arrests, red-tagging, and summary executions persisted. Ordinary citizens were charged with cyber libel for expressing their frustrations online. And it succeeded in closing down ABS-CBN, constantly lambasted for its supposed anti-government bias, and enacting the Anti-Terror Law, controversial actions that in normal times would have prompted protests.

While the economy may recover - and the incumbent administration points to signs of a recovery - the climate of fear induced by economic uncertainties and the naked display of government-sanctioned terror during the hard lockdown could dictate our future conduct.

The challenge ahead is to continue to assert our rights, even during, or especially during times of crisis. We need to question rather than acquiesce, and not to meekly surrender our civil liberties in exchange for government dole outs.

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