OUT ON PASS
Thaddeus C. Hinunangan, M.D.
Out on Pass is a borrowed term used in hospitals, where a patient is temporarily sent home for a respite, with promise to return for definitive treatment. Dr. Thaddeus C. Hinunangan is a physician by profession, and a writer by heart. His work was published in several anthologies and he also contributes to Philippine Daily Inquirer Opinion column.
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Seven years ago, after the super typhoon Yolanda, the public was in uproar because of the inefficient government aid. Although donations poured in from the international community, for us in ground zero (I was a 3rd year medical student then), the actual rations we received were paltry – a few kilograms of NFA rice, expired instant noodles, and canned sardines. The donations we received from the churches and NGO like Tzu Chi Foundation were more substantial and more organized.
Years later, the media uncovered tons of donated goods just rotting away. There were senate hearings and inquiries about where the donated money went and in the end there was no resolution. On a Barangay level, some would distribute relief goods based on VOTERS LIST. Even during the time of disaster, people were only giving aid to those who are supporters of a certain political party. We received none of the cash assistance and rebuilt our house using our own funds.
This would not be our last brush with dirty politics. After I finished medical school and started my training in PGH, our Barangay decided to put a waste recycling facility on the lot in front of our house without the consent of our neighborhood. They would leave sacks of garbage for sorting in the facility which reeked to our homes. I wrote a letter to the Barangay captain as well as to the City Health office. Up until now, the waste recycling facility is there, and this time the Barangay officials had “marked” our household because of our complaint.
Fast forward to today, in the time of enhanced community quarantine for Covid-19, they are supposed to issue one quarantine pass per household. I asked my distant cousin, who was looking after our house to get one so he can get food and buy his needs. Apparently, the Barangay officials had purposely left out my cousin as punishment for our complaint regarding the waste recycling facility. After his third attempt, I sent a message to the Barangay captain herself and that is the only time they issued him the pass.
The problem we had in our Barangay speaks volumes of what kind of leaders we have now. During the time of Covid19 crisis, most politicians are undecided, lacking a coherent plan, corrupt, and self-serving.
Politicians insisted on “VIP” testing and put themselves and their families first, even those who were asymptomatic, ahead of health care workers like doctors who were exposed to the virus while serving patients. A senator who tested positive for Covid-19 went to a hospital with his wife despite having symptoms and knowing he should have stayed on quarantine. He had exposed and endangered the health care workers in that hospital, just because he wanted to accompany his wife. Another mayor of the second wealthiest city in Metro Manila allowed Covid-19 positive patients to go home to their urban poor communities, instead of isolating them in a facility, further exposing these high risk communities to the virus. The rest of the politicians had gone into hiding.
In time of crisis, the most vulnerable are the poor. To those families who live below poverty line, those casual laborers and daily wage earners, not having to work means not being able to put food on the table. This is where the national and local government should step in. People will not comply with a total lockdown if you do not assure them that they will be able to eat. To be fair, many of local government units with hardworking mayors have risen up to the challenge.
The current pandemic exposed how unprepared our government is in its response. The travel ban and community quarantine was late, despite the early warnings. We have very few working molecular laboratories, which speaks so much of how undervalued research and health care is in our country (“Ewan ko ba kung bakit baliw na baliw kayo sa research,” said one senator who is also nowhere to be found during this time of crisis). And even after the emergency powers were granted we still lack a coherent plan from the national government. What so we plan to do with 275 billion budget for the Covid response? Where are the PPEs for hospitals fighting Covid-19 and where is the support in terms of manpower and testing?
We do not need our politicians putting their names on donations. Their actions NOW defines who they are as public servants. To the majority of us living through this pandemic, never forget what our politicians did today. Come election time, they will once again come up with sweet promises which appeal to what seems to be a very short collective memory. Let’s not make the same mistake of putting greedy inutiles in power.