How opinions are shaping the COVID-19 response

By Ray Adrian C. Macalalag

I am angry and so are most of us. The enhanced community quarantine distanced all of us from each other but has made us into one big multifaceted community in social media where distancing is mythical. It gave us more time to be online. It kept us updated.

But at any rate, truth be told, it has divided us. The fact-based netizens whose expressions of frustration led to #OustDuterte were turned into smart-shaming subjects. The poor and the marginalized who have no food on their tables and obviously lack internet access are generalized to be lazy and a liability of the privileged. The supporters of the President are dumb-shamed by their acts of patronizing fake news and memes as how one diehard supporter would refer to her own materials published online. With this premise, I could not agree more with one of the memes these diehard supporters propagate (along with Hollywood actors, Sheldon Cooper, and even a porn star) as to why we have the worst citizens.

We all have our opinion. We are entitled to that.

Even if we are the worst as citizens, our opinions have become effective in directing the government to the right direction. We have been complaining and ranting. This resulted to a lot of actions in the government. Despite of rumors of getting replaced due to issues that exposed the truth of VIP testing, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine exec still holds her position. Uproar when the National Bureau of Investigation called on Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto has urged the administration to call the attention of the NBI to be more responsible with the interpretation of the law and its effectivity. It is worth mentioning that one of the commissioners of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission was sacked for slipping his politically maneuvering opinion of investigating Vice-President Leni Robredo for “competing” with the government.

Proper utilization and accountability of funds released and to be released in response to the COVID-19 event have been expedited. Social benefits are just around the corner and will soon be received by the target beneficiaries. Thanks to the loud voices that we hear from Facebook and Twitter.

The main reason why the government is moving swiftly and is acting on a right path is because of the passionate people who have called out their actions. Critics will be there no matter what. They can be toxic at times. But if you are doing a damn good job or at least a satisfactory one with the likes of the local governments of Pasig City and Iloilo City, you also get the appreciation and the recognition that you deserve.

Quoting the South Korea Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha in an interview by BBC’s Andrew Marr, “…Our public is very demanding [and] expects highest standards from government services.” With South Korea in the world spotlight in the management of COVID-19 cases, they boast mass testing for early detection of cases as well as sophisticated methodologies to manage their cases without total lockdowns.

With that being shared, it is in our opinions, in our rants, and in our noise that we contribute to our government, not the other way around where we are just silent followers.

On the other hand, misled individuals come in twos: the ones that share videos on how COVID-19 is treated by various herbs and the ones that share videos of conspiracy and obsession of government takeover by the opposition. Fake news are hard to deal with at these trying times. We are all afraid. We are all confused. We are all getting lost. However, the best way we can contribute is to pacify our obsession with the things we see online and to be open of the idea that not all of the things we see as we surf the web are true and verified.

Stop pushing it. It ain’t helping.

The media (legitimate ones) have been brought in and out of the simmer as some would say that they sensationalize the issues, the quotes, etc. With proper appraisal, you could be the judge of it and decide which ones you would believe. Back it up with information from government websites and even the Presidential Communications Operations Office. Then after that, you are free to be the judge of your truth. Just be brave and honest enough to face the facts.

So going through this, we are not the worst citizens after all. We are responsible and involved citizens because we care a lot to be on the scene. It is only a matter of time when we truly realize the value of our opinions and how to make them relevant in shaping the ideal government that we want and deserve.