HERE'S an important finding that should debunk the popular belief that Filipinos have defied quarantine rules and are mostly to blame for the rise in Covid-19 cases.
Asian Development Bank (ADB), "a multilateral institution without bias and partnership," surveyed 24 countries in the Asia Pacific regarding quarantine rules.
It ranked the Philippines, with 92.9 per cent, to Nepal's 95.2 per cent, on strictness. On cut-down in mobility, our country slashed by 63.2 per cent, second to Sri Lanka's 66.4 per cent.
Filipinos "generally complied" with the prohibitions. In terms and conditions, that makes the nation the second most compliant in the region.
The lockdown in the Philippines has been considered the severest in Asia Pacific, enforced by police and military, with threats of arrest from the president ("We do not have qualms in arresting people; spreading the disease is a serious crime.")
How about the narrative that most Filipinos have defied the quarantine rules? That seems to be the official thinking among high officials, which has been so efficiently peddled that many Cebuanos themselves believe it.
Prominent recipient of the bashing, singled out on national television as stubborn, are, of course, the Cebuanos, more specifically Cebu City residents.
Thanks to the President, himself a Cebuano by origin, who said on national TV that Cebuanos are "gahi'g ulo" (literally, hard-headed). That's stronger and more derogatory than the Tagalog "pasaway" (English translation: "recalcitrant").
Duterte sent DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, a retired general, to Cebu, a move that jibes with the mantra that Cebuanos need an armed force to be disciplined. Which tends to support his line that we Cebuanos are more stubborn than the rest of the nation.
Yet, officials from IATF, the national task force on infectious diseases, who flew with Cimatu to Cebu were not as direct or specific as Duterte. Local government chief Eduardo Año said it would be tough to conclude that we are "pasaway" on the basis of a few incidents of misbehavior. (That afternoon though, he ordered police not to honor all of City Hall's quarantine passes. Double talk or he just wanted to shock and awe the natives.)
The finding on Filipino behavior on quarantine behavior is relevant because despite the compliance, the Philippines leads in the list of countries and Cebu City in the list of local government units with the biggest number of Covid-19 cases.
Behavior of citizens has been blamed for the high record of cases and hospitalization rate care. People have been the favorite whipping boy in the coronavirus campaign. The city or country is not doing well in containing the surge of new cases. We are told: It must be the people; it must be those "gahi'g ulo" Cebuanos. Yet, with the numbers in Metro Manila soaring higher than Cebu City, some City Hall watchers quip, who are more stubborn now?
How about the authorities?
In the campaign against the virus, there appears to be two forces waging it: (1) the people who are bound to follow the quarantine rules, and (2) the authorities that adopt policy, lay down regulations and enforce them.
People are called upon to observe lockdown procedures, observe health protocol in public and private spaces, and mostly fend for themselves to survive economically.
We the people have been doing our part and, as the independent ADB survey says, we've been more obedient than most other people in Asia Pacific.
Have the authorities been doing their part: not so much in enforcing the rules as in doing the required follow-ups to contain the Covid, namely, testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment? How about the support to the health system and the economic survival of wage earners and others who have no savings?
The public knows little about that aspect of the campaign: the part of those who govern. Attention and blame have been heaped on the behavior of the people. "Pasaway" and "gahi'g ulo" stereotyping is easier and more convenient.