COVID-19 crisis management: Issues & concerns

DURING the course of our Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), Atty. Howard M. Calleja (legal luminary and PPCRV colleague) spoke on various Issues and Concerns relating to the management of this infectious disease. I spoke to Atty. Howie, and here are some of his significant insights which is worth sharing:

ON COVID-19 CRISIS MANAGEMENT: Sadly even after two months, our government’s response to COVID-19 is still playing catch-up. Unless an effective TEST-TREAT-TRACK framework is in place prior our transition to General Community Quarantine (GCQ), we must continue to reconsider extending our current Enhance Community Quarantine (ECQ). In the end, we can’t enjoy wealth if we are not in good health. The imposition of the “new normal” will not be sufficient to ensure that sentinel surveillance sites are screening for asymptomatic cases and contacts for COVID19 results are properly executed.

When we were rhetorically asked by the President (addressed to those who were vocal on this COVID-19 health crisis), “ano ba nagawa nyo sa bayan?” The first logical instinct was not to reply; and simply allow our actions to speak for itself. But for the sake of social dialogue and the countless others supporting our frontliners; allow me to modestly reply: my private life as a taxpayer, volunteer lawyer, loving parent, devout Catholic, professor of law, local practitioner (easing the impact of brain drain) and responsive provider (using personal funds) to our suffering compatriots deserves more deference rather than what your rhetorical question implies.

ON LEGAL ISSUES DURING ECQ: Winston Ragos' alleged act of attempting to get the gun inside the sling bag does not qualify as unlawful and or imminent aggression under our law. The justifying circumstance of self defense has 3 elements the crux of which is the presence of unlawful or imminent aggression which is actual rather than mere threats. The Supreme Court in the case of PEOPLE vs OLARBE clearly said that mere placing of hand in a holstered revolver is not unlawful and imminent aggression also in PEOPLE vs RUBIO mere thrusting of a hand inside a pocket to draw a weapon or cocking a gun is not unlawful aggression.

Our home is our castle and should be protected against inappropriate aggression. Any intrusion into our homes without any search or arrest warrant is illegal and should be condemned. Moreover common areas and streets inside gated private subdivisions and condominiums are private properties. Barangay and police officials cannot be allowed access without the appropriate consent from the homeowners association. Thus any action without proper authority and express consent of the homeowners and or building association is illegal.

To say that POGO is a BPO is a big fat lie! Allowing POGOs to operate during this health crisis when a majority of our workers are still on lockdown is insensitive and uncalled for. Saying that POGO workers are essential workers is a great disservice to our frontliners. And to say that we need the POGOs to save our economy only reflects the narrow illogical mindset of our leaders. Only we as a people can help ourselves and through God's grace we all will be saved.

ON THE RULE OF LAW: Freedom of speech is guaranteed under our constitution. In this health crisis where the failures of government are evident, public discontent has been suppressed by arrest due to alleged seditious statements. Inciting to sedition carries a penalty of 6 years but this is not an excuse for the PNP or NBI to enter one’s home and effect a warrantless arrest. Instead of suppressing our speech our leaders should listen and use criticism in improving public service. As stated by the Supreme Court, ‘to be truly meaningful, freedom of speech and of the press should allow and even encourage the articulation of the unorthodox view, though it be hostile to or derided by others; or though such view induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are or even stirs people to anger’ (Chavez v Gonzales G.R.168338, Feb 15,2008).

To achieve a disciplined and orderly society our laws should not be whimsically applied. Our present health crisis has revealed the imbalance on how our laws are applied to the rich and to the poor. The consistent selective application and interpretation of the law is worst than our present health crisis. It is law without justice. I, together with most Filipinos, follow the laws set by our government even if such laws and response to the health crisis are confusing and inadequate. However what is alarming during this crisis is the selective application of the rule of law in favor of a few which not only reveals the incompetence of our leaders but more so their impotence to govern.

ON LEADERSHIP CHANGE: To say that we cannot change leaders in the middle of this crisis is totally false. History has proven that we need the right man for the job and no man is irreplaceable. Eight months after British PM Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany he was succeeded by PM Winston Churchill who eventually won the war against Germany. In the middle of the 1981-82 NBA Season the LA Lakers replaced Paul Westhead as head coach with Pat Riley who gave them the championship title. Ten weeks into this longest quarantine we have seen who among our leaders are capable and who only has illusions of competence. For the sake of our nation they either shape up or resign.


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