“In Iraq, throwing one’s shoes at someone is the strongest act of disrespect.”
SOME days I feel like that Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George Bush at a press conference in Baghdad in 2008. I long to throw my shoes (maybe even small rocks) at our officials (high and low) who keep mishandling this Covid-19 crisis. They don’t consider how the ordinary people, particularly the poorest of the poor, suffer from having to be cooped up in their miserable dwellings, not being allowed to go out to buy food and medicines they might need. They don’t ensure that the food promised by the government is delivered promptly and regularly to the right people even in the remotest areas. They don’t properly oversee those barangay officials who are tasked to hand out money from the Special Amelioration Program (SAP) so they don’t engage in hanky-panky, as has been going on, like giving the money to their relatives first, or pocketing some of the funds themselves.
In a critical time like this, where life and death decisions need prompt and thoughtful action, officials (local and national) shouldn’t engage in politicking when dealing with ways to control the spread of the pandemic. They shouldn’t be like that high official who recently, when receiving aid from a tycoon, made sure to put his name onto the goods before they were distributed. (We all know that happened during the Yolanda crisis when officials repacked the foreign assistance & labelled them with their names so that disaster victims would feel grateful and vote for them in the next election.)
Sadly what we have today in this unlucky country are too many national and local officials devoid of integrity and lacking common sense while tackling the problems besetting the population. What’s required is a meeting of minds to earnestly study the medical aspects that need to be in place to save people from getting sick and dying. Admittedly this is not a rich country possessing medical expertise and the right equipment and drugs. But it has a number of experts of various kinds who can be tapped to concentrate their brains on the big problems facing the nation today. Our political leaders could look at other countries to see how they are using lockdowns and curfews so as not to make human beings feel stifled. They should study ways in which every citizen, educated or not, can understand what’s going on and why strict measures have to be enforced.
We could behave like that man in Zambales and the woman in Cebu and display our frustration by calling for someone to kill the President. Or we could act like that Iraqi man did towards George Bush. The way things are going, it seems all we can do is just throw our hands up in frustration and muddle through as best we can. (Isabel T. Escoda)