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[OPINION] Mañanita mentality

DEMAND AND SUPPLY – Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) – September 18, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A story in this newspaper last Sept. 9 made me angry. Here are the first two paragraphs:

“Another lawmaker who tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 has died. Sorsogon second district Rep. Ditas Ramos was on a flight to Manila from Legazpi City yesterday when she suffered cardiac arrest, according to her office.

“It was only on Sunday when the House of Representatives announced that Ramos had been infected.”

Based on this story, the House knew and presumably the Congresswoman knew too that she was COVID positive on Sunday, but still managed to get on board a commercial flight on Tuesday.

I asked PAL if that was their flight and within seconds they responded it wasn’t. Cebu Pacific’s marketing VP did not confirm or deny the flight was theirs two days after I initially asked. She said she couldn’t tell me even if she knew.

Question: Why was a COVID-infected person allowed to get on board a commercial flight? The rules are so strict on domestic travel. One must show a negative COVID test result to board a plane, bus or boat.

A knowledgeable source told me she must have traveled on the basis of an APOR or an Authorized Persons Outside Residence permit. When I asked if an APOR supersedes the usual permits to travel, which includes health checks, my source merely said, it is a long story that includes PNP, AFP and barangay officials.

Clearly, the tough rules do not apply to anyone with political clout.

Just this week, a top PNP official issued an order that for Metro Manila residents to go to Tagaytay, they must have proper barangay and police clearances. Tagaytay lang yan… no airplane flight.

The COVID-positive congresswoman on a Legaspi to Manila flight contaminated an entire flight. I wonder if all the passengers on that flight were required to go on quarantine? Their lives were put at grave risk by official incompetence.

The whimsical implementation of bureaucratic rules, the PNP mañanita comes to mind, reduces the already strained credibility of the IATF, the generals running the anti-COVID fight.

Now we cannot even trust the airlines to keep infected passengers from their flights because they cave in to demands of government officials for special treatment.

I want to share an e-mail sent to me by a reader to show the tedious process of getting a permit to travel within the country. His girlfriend was traveling from Taguig to North Cotabato.

“First of all, the process took her at least 10 days as she had to fit in multiple appointments with various agencies to get approvals to fly to Mindanao.

“She had to go online from a PC or some kind of desktop as the website required to pay the fee was not available via a hand-held device like a phone. Now it’s 2020. Who in his right mind would create a process like this? Anyway, this ridiculous requirement was so she could pay a P60 fee, apparently for the health check which she had to schedule.

“Following this, she had to go to whatever health clinic and wait around most of the day for what was seemingly a useless and total BS experience, a few questions, temperature check and she is clear.

“Now, if this was done on the same day of her flight (or say within 48 hours), there would be some merit for this short check.  But this is not the case.

“Then back to the local barangay and police department for some kind of sign off. This, again, takes a reasonable part of the day to achieve.

“From there it was a trip to City Hall for another stamp of approval of some kind, more documents etc.

“Back to the local officials in charge of finalizing the certificate/ approval to travel, and another wait and finally she received her pass.

“She can finally take her flight 10 days after her health check. Let’s analyze this process:

“1) After 48 hours any sign off of health is useless.

“2) At each stage of the process she is exposed to dozens of people waiting in lines and offices for these various rubber stamps.

“3) For each appointment she must interact with others in her travel, whether in jeeps, buses, trains etc.

“The ridiculous process created to ‘protect’ people and stop the spread of the virus is contributing dramatically to the spread of the virus.

“If she were to simply book a flight online, get in a taxi to the airport, have a quick screening there for temperature or whatever, get on the plane and go home, the number of people she interacted with would be minimal.

“There are these very cumbersome processes in place that are counter-intuitive and unproductive, and outright dangerous that one has to go through to travel within the country.

“Yet this congresswoman has demonstrated exactly what COVID is so good at demonstrating: The reality that rules only apply to the lowly people. These rules do not apply to the ruling elite.”

IATF… General Galvez… General Año… what went wrong? Who made the final clearance for the congresswoman to board the flight? Those responsible should be made publicly accountable.

IATF owes the public a good explanation because, after all, they have imposed horribly cumbersome, often useless and even dangerous rules on all of us. Dapat no exceptions… because the virus doesn’t choose who to infect.

What happened to the other passengers on that flight? We need to know that too.

We look like a stupid banana republic because our officials play politics in implementing rules. The virus will be around for a while and it is time to get our act together.

The first order of business is winning credibility. The Secretary of health lost that early in the pandemic. Now the generals must win that credibility or their work is in vain. No one will take them seriously… we all lose… and the virus wins.

Formulate reasonable and intelligent rules. Then be strict with everybody. No mañanitas. Is that too difficult to do?