We should not want to go back to the way things were.
President Rodrigo Duterte still holds the highest seat in the Philippines. The War on Drugs tactics of the Duterte administration was perhaps put on hold by the outbreak—yet just as existent in the mobilization of the military and police during a health crisis. Threats toward the media and press freedom have remained persistent and common. The family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is again rising to power. Women who stood up to the miscalculated and questionable initiatives of the government were being silenced. The poorest communities were still struggling and left unsupported in terms of livelihood, education, and financial literacy.
These happen up until now, and are more aggravated to some extent. While we are trying to figure out means to keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay, we are also occupied with a dying—or already dead—economy, government corruption scandals, and a general lack of care for the country’s state.
Our current goal should not go back to normalcy but to progress from our current disposition. Growth and development after all is what we are aiming for, not further regression. But what is progress and how do we know we’ve attained it? It means putting the country first before any political affiliation or support group.
In the past decades, politicians and us, their supporters, have been loyal mainly to these personas and their initiatives—not to our country per se. We have been loyal to the Liberals, to the Nationalists, now to Duterte and his minions and paid the price for such judgment. We have been blinded by our want to stay loyal, ensuring our pride is intact despite, at times, being completely aware that the politicians’ actions are no longer worth supporting or even glorifying. The country has turned into one big reality television show where the politicians are the celebrities that are free to hold parties during the quarantine period, free to mess up COVID-19 response protocols and not be held accountable, and free to be incompetent for all they care. Meanwhile, we hold the actual celebrities to much higher standards. We are the audiences and the fans willing to watch the chaos and drama unfold before our eyes, void of care or concern.
These are the hurdles—the kind of desensitized normality we need to get rid of. It is not wrong to look forward to days beyond the time of pandemic as it is the goal. However, we should keep in mind that there are bigger things to look out for.
The “new normal” could only be as desirable if this fanaticism becomes a thing of the past. The “new normal” could only be worth working hard for if the government officials we have put into power worked as hard as our medical and service frontliners. We are made to believe that any outcome post-pandemic would be the new start we would need. But we should not be deceived. The only ones who will have a new start are those who already reek of corruption and bad governance. It will not be us who need it most. It will not be us who are trapped in a situation we never put ourselves in.
Perhaps we should look forward to a “new Philippines” instead—where loyalty only lies in the effort of making each Filipino’s life better in all aspects. We must know when to support a government that makes decisions that are helpful and beneficial to the greater Filipino society. We must also know when to criticize their decisions that lead to nothing but even more problems. It is not wrong to be inspired by a government that has our best interests in mind after all. However, we cannot be blind to political strategies that tend to distract from a bigger crisis such as the PhilHealth funds scandal through directing attention to something as problematic as putting dolomite in Manila Bay. We cannot be blind to questionable COVID-19-related “scheduled mass recoveries” and to rising national debt. We have eyes and judgment for a reason.
We should also practice being vocal. Silence will always be indicative of tolerating or condoning whatever may be happening—may it be good or bad. We have every right to voice out our opinions. We have every right to demand for change when we are both the ones who put people to power and the stakeholders of the government. We have every right to seek out what is best for every Filipino because if we do not, who else will?
Putting the country first before the politicians and the general public is admittedly an idealistic concept, but perhaps it can seem just as abstract as the COVID-19 response of the government. However, with this Filipino dream in mind, there is this greater desire to actualize it—beyond the antics, beyond the hopefulness. We will need to act on it and this willingness is shared by many. I am positive that we have a chance.
Our country calls for us to open our eyes and pledge our allegiance to it. It is due time we heed that call.