Nalzaro: Politics in the time of crisis

Bobby Nalzaro

WE keep hearing that this global coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is a war. Yes, this is really a war in which we cannot see our enemy. We are at war against a virus and we are not winning it. Even the most powerful and most advanced countries like the United States of America, Great Britain and everyone in Europe have a hard time combating this invincible enemy. How much more the Philippines, a third world country?

Amid this pandemic, people around the world are being asked to observe protocols like proper hygiene and social distancing or in some cases under mandatory “enhanced community quarantine” (ECQ) or lockdown. These dynamics have created unique challenges for those seeking to be vigilant while also trying to maintain normalcy in their daily lives. To some extent, this pandemic changed the lifestyle of some individuals, especially the famous and rich.

This disease respects no one, whether you are a powerful political leader, a prime minister, a king, a senator, a Hollywood actor, a popular National Basketball Association (NBA) player, an Armed Forces chief of staff and many other rich and famous individuals, you will still be infected with the disease.

Here in the Philippines, we are faced with different dilemmas. First, how to confront the main enemy, which is to contain the virus from spreading and, second, how to handle the economic impact as a result of the ECQ or lockdown where almost sectors in the community are being affected and businesses down.

But instead of uniting to fight this common enemy, politics still always come into play in this present crisis. When President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress for a special temporary emergency power, there were politicians, especially those from the opposition, who questioned his motive. His critics claimed that he had enough powers, saying the existing powers were already abused. They feared that the powers granted to the President would be used to run after his critics in order to perpetuate himself in power. They criticized how the President is handling this Covid-19 issue.

While local government units (LGUs) are scrambling on how to handle the situation, there are some local politicians who are taking advantage of the situation by playing politics. Even the distribution of relief goods for the displaced sectors and quarantine passes are being politicized.

Cebu City Hall channeled the distribution of relief goods to the newly created Mayor’s Information and Liaison Office (Milo), especially for those barangays whose barangay captains are affiliated with the opposition, Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK). And because of this, many constituents have complained because they were being left out by Milo representatives, especially if they were identified with the opposition in the barangay level.

City Hall is also apprehensive about delegating the distribution to the barangay captains because BOPK barangay captains might prioritize their supporters and Barug PDP Laban supporters will also be left out. This, despite the appeal of Mayor Edgardo Labella to set aside politics in these trying times.

Today, Cebu City Hall will release the financial aid to the barangays categorized as follows: P3 million for the first 10 most thickly populated barangays; P2 million for the 11th and 40th secondary thickly populated; and P1 million for the 41st to 80th tertiary populated barangays with the condition that 80 percent of the amount will be used for food assistance, while 20 per cent for protective gears like masks, gloves, personal protective equipment, alcohol and soap. I hope barangay leaders will be fair enough in the distribution. Makatilaw unta ang tanan. Sana all.

Some local leaders are coming up with their list of supposed beneficiaries for the relief goods assistance and people are made to line up to get their shares. But during election time, these politicians will go house to house to distribute sample ballots to voters with an amount clip on it. You see the difference of their attitudes during elections and crisis? Ang ubang mga pulitiko, wala gani gyud magpakabana panahon ning krisis. Wala magpakita.