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EDITORIAL: Entitlement and Power tripping

In response to the mounting criticism raised by concerned quarters, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya finally found enough guts to voice out opposition to the now widely exercised practice of issuing quarantine clearances by barangay officials. He boldly gave a name to the practice, particularly of even imposing fees for the useless piece of paper. Stupid, that is how Malaya describes it. Presumptuous, it may be added.

Effective upon the declaration of the state of public health emergency, the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF), which draws its authority from Republic Act 11332, otherwise known as the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Concern Act which was passed by the Senate as Senate Bill No. 2186 on February 4,2019 and adopted by the House of Representatives as an amendment to House Bill No. 7134 on February 8,2019 and approved by President Duterte on April 26,2019, already outline certain guidelines applicable to issuance of quarantine passes.

The law, the passage of which is in accordance with the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and recognizes epidemics and other public health emergencies as threats to public health and national security.

The guidelines made no mention at all about the authority or responsibility of barangay officials to issue quarantine passes, which is obviously understandable. Such role had already been assigned to specific agencies, but not all the way down the barangay level as otherwise it would result in a lot of chaos and confusion, as what is now happening. For purposes of control and verification, the passes should have been issued by each town or city executives, for distribution by barangay officials.

Power corrupts, that is a long accepted reality. It also breeds a misplaced feeling of entitlement. This probably explains in part why some irresponsible segments of the society find it difficult to be in home quarantine. Certain government officials must have developed a wrong notion of governance—feeling being part of the privileged few, without realizing that they should be models in being on voluntary self or home quarantine.

Otherwise they would be at risk of getting infected no matter how noble may their motive be, by being constantly exposed to the public. What applies to Juan, so does it apply to Juana, Pedro and Petra. The old Bikol expression still finds timely application. “An sabe ni lola gabos kun gabos.”

Voluntary quarantine is difficult. But there is patriotism in it. Not heeding the call unmasks a distorted leadership style and is open to misimpression as may in fact be taken as a display of entitlement or special privilege which other equally irresponsible parties may take as grandstanding.

Meanwhile, some senators, cabinet officials and others holding positions of power and influence brazenly post through social media the results of their laboratory test. Consequently, others develop also the longing for entitlements. What is good for the gander should also be good for the goose. Obviously disregarded is the plight of the frontliners in the struggle to limit the spread of the dreaded pandemic. Until now many of them are not yet provided with personal protection equipment.

It is this situation that must be discouraged. Usec Malaya must have considered this in part when he described issuance of barangay quarantine passes stupid. That description however is too tame.As it deals not only about irregular collection of fees, considering that exercise of the power to issue quarantine passes opens the floodgate for abuses and redundancy. The guidelines issued by the national leadership more than meet the need. Moreover, printing of the passes entails additional public expenditure and distributing them en bulk or by household, eats so much of manhours.

More importantly, before it is overlooked in the midst of the efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, government documents, in order to be considered genuine, ought to have bar codes. Otherwise, how are quarantine passes sans bar codes validated?

Along this line, a certain DILG official who seems to be your co-equal in rank issued a clarification that barangay-issued quarantine passes are only effective in the barangay within the jurisdiction of the issuing authority.

Usec Malaya, please trace the source of the idea for the issuance of barangay quarantine clearances who may not be stupid only, but more importantly, also a power peddler or scene stealer. Please look around you. In case you have the opportunity, lecture your colleague about the importance of human rights even in times of emergencies. Prolonged denial of basic human rights makes life only a few steps from death.

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