Innovate and volunteer

March 23, 2020

This is no time for rigid, monolithic governance.

Neither is this time for asserting certain individual freedoms and other democratic rights.

 They must yield to the demand of the general welfare and the command of the State.

After all, we are in a virtual state of war, and the enemy is vicious, unseen, and wily.

The government is leading the charge, and we all must move in unison, act in concert in the face of the viral siege.

Let us heed the counsel of a veteran lawmaker and former top law enforcer.

In a statement, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former National Police chief, said:   

Start itals

As the enhanced community quarantine due to the COVID-19 threat continues, a grim reality is becoming more felt: it is not just lives that are at stake, but also livelihoods. For many, survival is indeed a priority, but what good is survival if they face the prospect of starving?

While we must concede that our individual rights and freedom must yield to our survival as country and people, creativity still plays a major role in balancing both sides of the equation and still satisfy both concerns.

For instance, daily wage earners - including drivers of public utility vehicles such as jeepneys, taxis and pedicabs, as well as vendors, construction workers, waiters, and even caddies - are hit hard by the public transport ban. Without wages for even just a week, how will they feed their families? Parents may go hungry for the sake of the children. But when their children go hungry, God knows what they will do next.

Our authorities may consider creative solutions. There are options - such as deputizing them even on a rotational basis to help ferry front-liners or those needing emergency transport, or even performing other jobs not related to their job descriptions while ensuring they follow protocols like social distancing, etc.; or advancing whatever benefits are due them such as compensation and other subsidies, so they will not completely rely on government dole-outs which are also limited.

For example, Davao City has implemented the TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers) program of the Department of Labor and Employment. They provide allowance but made the drivers earn their keep by doing work for the city. The e-trikes for front-liners in Manila is another. There could be more. No need to be rocket scientists to be creative.

Having said that, does the government have a reliable database to determine how many are vulnerable, and more importantly, who they are? Since the National ID system - which would have helped greatly in situations like this - has not gotten off the ground after the passage of the Philippine System Identification Act in 2018, there should be a system to address this concern.

While our national government agencies and local government units try to find a balance between the health of the public and the immediate needs of constituents during this critical time, a little flexibility - and creativity - might help. Better to be flexible so those affected can make ends meet, than to have them resort to crime and anarchy.

 End of itals

And while we yield certain basic liberties, we must still be ready to offer our help to those in dire need in this difficult, perilous period of our nation’s  history.

Heroism has been defined as the ability and willingness to do things that other won’t or cant.

We can all be heroes just by volunteering our times, effort, talents, even resources to those in dire need at this time.

And so we join Sen. Grace Poe in paying tribute to the tens if not hundreds of thousands who have signed up and showed up.

Itals uli    

We commend the growing spirit of volunteerism among Filipinos as the country grapples with this pandemic.

Some are doing it at individual level--providing meals, masks, alcohol and other supplies to their neighbors and to those in need. Others are pooling resources, lending bicycles and offering to drive health workers to their workplace.

Even big corporations are doing their part to bring relief to Filipinos--cutting bill payments, spending money to assist their employees and making valuable donations to our overworked healthcare workers.

This is the Filipino at his best--giving the most to those who have the least. This is the true Filipino bayanihan spirit that has not failed to lift up the country during countless disasters.

We hope these acts of generosity continue as more of our kababayan will be needing assistance during the quarantine period and beyond.

We urge the national government and local government units to support the surge of goodwill by putting in place a system allowing the smooth passage of organizations or individuals engaged in these forms of charitable work.

Lastly, we call on everyone involved in volunteer work to continue protecting themselves and their loved ones from the COVID-19.