LOCAL government units (LGUs), particularly those in Metro Manila, have not enjoyed or wielded more authority or control over our lives than they do today during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the strange concept of granular management of the viral outbreak, LGUs, including our neighborhood barangay, have been vested by the President no less with the power to place their communities under full lockdown (when the situation warrants) and subject their citizens to strict surveillance for possible violation of the quarantine restrictions.
It is an effective system of control at barangay level because the barangay has plenty of information about us and our households, even the ages of each and every member, including yours.
This surveillance power extends to control over the immediate environment in which we live. LGUs superintend life in our villages; they license and supervise the operations of businesses in your area. They also issue permits for the construction of public and private works in your neighborhood.
The power evidently also includes allowing squatters within your area, as many as they may wish, which of course has important implications for the periodic elections.
An ever-present reality
In Quezon City, where I live, the majestic power of the LGUs over our lives is an ever-present and obtrusive reality. This is probably because Quezon City has the biggest population in the metropolis; it has the greatest number of Covid-19 cases, and the mayor, Josephine Belmonte, along with others at city hall, have tested positive for the disease. She has consequently applied herself to the challenge of checking Covid-19 with ferocious zeal.
At our Heroes Hill subdivision, where I have been residing for four decades now, life has been rough going lately. This is not just because of the pandemic, but because of the manic obtrusiveness of city administration on our lives.
As a senior over the age of 65, I have been working at home continuously for a year now. Mercifully, I am in good health and have been spared from Covid. I venture outside the house only when I have to go to the drugstore and grocery to buy necessities, or to buy takeout food from a restaurant. I never leave home without dutifully wearing a face mask and a face shield.
In these excursions, I am relentlessly subjected to temperature checks and inquisition on my medical history. I often wonder whether the health authorities ever bother to examine these endless inquisition forms, of which I must have filled hundreds. Some joints, wearying over the chore themselves, now just require customers to sign a registry.
Ordeal in my village
In our subdivision today, there is now an ongoing massive public works project of laying the pipes for our sewage system. The project is so massive, covering nearly all streets, that it obstructs passage in and out of Heroes Hill.
The obstructions have become all the more severe and clogging because of several factors:
Various businesses, particularly auto repair shops and bakeshops, have sprouted in the village. Our streets are clogged by countless customers and vehicles, they sometimes become impassable.
One street, Gen. Segundo, has become the terminal of choice for countless jeepneys in various states of roadworthiness. How did our village become a terminal for jeepneys? By city ordinance?
It is also time to ask whether the ranks of squatters in our village are diligently monitored and controlled by our LGU. They seem innumerable. Is the squatting population swelling by official consent or blessing?
My narrative here gives the impression that our village is one cohesive and compact barangay. In fact, we share our barangay with another residential area across the street, whose residents are the ones who routinely rule the barangay elections.
Power and responsibility
The LGUs with their new power during the pandemic should operate on the principle that with power also comes responsibility.
Our QC government and our barangays should wield their greater control over our lives with greater responsibility and regard for the citizenry, who are truly their employers. They should not just be alarmed whenever a resident gets infected with Covid or dies of it; they should be accountable and responsible for every order that they levy on us. The orders should be science-based.
Today, the institution during the pandemic that is under most scrutiny and criticism is the mother of all, the ad hoc IATF-EID, which is not even a regular government agency.
Now, the IATF is studying a proposal by its “treatment czar” that it should order double-masking by the public as enhanced precaution against Covid-19.
Health undersecretary and testing czar Leopoldo Vega says the public should practice enhanced health standards, including the wearing of two face masks, because the transmission of the virus is getting out of hand.
He is evidently being coached and egged on by the OCTA group, the super fearmongerer, which is now predicting that Covid cases in the country will swell to 11,000 by the end of March.
If double masking is ordered, I will join the Senate clamor for the abolition of the IATF and press for the permanent dismissal of all the czars.