Malilong: On the cusp of a return to GCQ

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

THE figures are from the Department of Health Region 7 as reported by SunStar Cebu.

As of June 28, Cebu City has logged 8,813 cases, more than one half of the 15,664 recorded in the entire Central Visayas during the same period. Of that number, 5,075 have recovered and 472 have died —both also tops in the region—thereby leaving only 3,266 active cases in the city.

But what was most significant was the city’s number of new cases on that day, 43, which is much lower than the 58 that was tallied each in the province and in Mandaue. When you consider that new infections in the city used to be in triple figures, 43 is a remarkable improvement in our Covid-19 outlook. How did this come to be?

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who is the Inter-Agency Task Force overseer in Cebu, attributes the decline to better compliance by the people of ECQ guidelines that require them to stay at home, wear masks when they have to go out and practice social distancing. The compliance rate was only 50 percent when he arrived; it has since improved to between 80 to 90 percent, Cimatu told a local daily.

Would he have been able to exact compliance if he did not bring additional policemen, including the Special Forces, to Cebu? I doubt it. People stayed in their homes because they saw armored personnel carriers rolling in their neighborhoods. They wore masks when they went out because they were scared by reports, sometimes exaggerated, about the armed, no-nonsense and non-Cebuano speaking policemen manning the checkpoints or roving the city’s streets.

We got angry when President Duterte called us hard-headed not because the description did not fit us (it does, by the way) but because the truth hurt. And what is the truth? That Mayor Edgar Labella had alternately advised, warned, begged and cajoled us to observe quarantine protocols until his voice grew hoarse but we, many of us, anyway, did not listen.

What compounded the situation was that the mayor could not punish the violators by fining or sending them to jail because being a lawyer, he was aware that he had no legal basis as the ordinance that would have provided such basis was gathering dust in the city council.

Cimatu was not similarly burdened when he arrived. He was armed with the President’s order to impose discipline in Cebu as a means of containing the spread of the virus. In this period of national emergency, what can be more powerful than the President’s word?

I do not think Cimatu was able to send anyone to jail either for violating the IATF guidelines. He did not have to because when the APCs started showing up regularly and reports of violators being punished on the spot by the police such as by making them walk five kilometers began to surface, the hard-headed turned meek and obedient.

So here we are, on the cusp of a return to GCQ from the more restrictive ECQ that has ruled our existence during the last many weeks. I hope that we have learned our lesson to obey regulations on our own and in the event that we have not, that General Cimatu and his shock troopers will continue to be around to teach the dimwits a lesson that they will never forget.