Truthful citizens

March 30, 2020

For the longest time, the people have demanded full transparency from their elected leaders.

Complete disclosure, they insisted, is the best guarantee or insurance against corruption.

Honesty may be the best policy, but it is a two-way street for both the government and the government.

At this time of great national peril, the government demands honesty from the people in the fight against the 2019 coronavirus disease.

A truthful public reporting on community incidence of the Covid-19 is critical to curbing the spread of the contagion, now considered a global pandemic.   

And so we fully agree with and strongly support the call of a veteran lawmaker and former top law enforcer for all citizens to declare their true state of physical health amid the unabated viral spread.

In a statement, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a long-time law enforcer and former National Police chief, said:    

With Republic Act 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act still not ready for implementation, it is not easy for the government to trace ordinary citizens who tested positive for Covid-19, as well as those who were directly exposed and symptomatic.

Making the job harder is the Data Privacy Act of 2012 (Republic Act 0173), which protects the right to privacy and non-disclosure of medical records of patients.

As an admitted oversight of Congress, the recently enacted Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (RA 11469) does not authorize the President to direct the disclosure of Covid-19 patients.

But if public figures like Prince Charles, Boris Johnson, Tom Hanks, Christopher de Leon, and several of our own legislators had voluntarily and publicly declared they are or were infected, maybe it is time for the "man on the street" - the ordinary Filipinos - to do the same in order to alert those who they had interacted with to take the necessary measures, so that the infection does not spread further.

If their identities are made public voluntarily, even through their barangay bulletins, homeowners' associations or any social media platforms available, then people who they directly got in contact with can come forward to be tested and treated if needed.

As an elected Senator of the Republic, I appeal to our citizens to practice that selfless act of responsibility to society and do our part in hastening to flatten the curve by thwarting the spread of the virus even in our own little way.

Covid-19 may not be like the Human Immunodeficiency Virus,  where there is social stigma attached to the afflicted because it is sexually transmitted in most cases. Nevertheless, it does not diminish the threat that CovidD-19 poses not only to those vulnerable but those around them.

Meanwhile, amid the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country, Sen. Richard J. Gordon called for unity and cooperation to ensure victory against the disease, which has already affected numerous countries in all the continents, as well as their economies.

"Dapat ang resolve ng buong bansa, we must rally around the flag, we must rally around our country, wala munang pulitika at gawin natin lahat ng magagawa natin para matalo natin itong salot na dumating sa mundo. Stop focusing on what others are doing and start asking yourself, 'what can I do to help?' 'Yan po ay kaya nating gawin. Don't be a weak link. We have a gargantuan problem in our midst, it will need all our help and cooperation. Today, kailangan natin masabi ito, we must beat the virus. Fight (COVID-19) we must, win we must.," he said.

Gordon said the government and its concerned agencies should be allowed to do their job and the people should cooperate by staying inside their homes to prevent the further spread of the disease.

"If we work together as a people, at ang liderato natin ay gumagalaw, mananalo tayo sa labang ito. Hindi ngayon ang panahon ng sisihan at bangayan because everyone is already overwhelmed. Let's not add to the problems, let's offer solutions instead. Can't our country be no. 1 sa pagtutulungan imbes na no.1 sa pagsisisihan. When all this is done, we will have all the time in the world para sa sisihan at sumbatan. And when that happens, wouldn't you want to be on the side of those who helped rather than those na nanumbat at nanisi?" he said.

The lawmaker also pointed out that with people forced to stay inside their homes, concerned agencies such as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority could offer learning programs through television or the internet to enable people to learn new skills during the enforced confinement.

"We must make sure na kahit nasa bahay ang mga tao, magkaroon ng pagkakataon na makapag-aral sila, ang TESDA pwede sigurong magkaroon siguro ng program sa TV para matuto sila na makapag-bake, makapag-gupit o makapag-anuman para sa gayon meron tayong mapupuntahan pagkatapos nitong krisis na ito," he said.

"Gamitin natin ang internet sa makabuluhang paraan gaya ng pagsali sa mga libreng online seminars o workshops gaya ng free online scriptwriting workshop ng award-winning na screenwriter at novelist na si Ricky Lee. I'm sure marami pang ibang ganyan na pwedeng salihan para magkaroon ng karagdagang skills tulad ng mga gumagawa ng washable face masks, face shields, PPEs, at acrylic shield boxes o 'yung mga nagde-deliver ng pagkain sa mga barangays and frontliners," Gordon added.