Leadership in crisis

By Manuel P. Mejorada

Although I am far away from Iloilo City, social media and the internet have enabled me to watch what is going on there as this Covid 19 pandemic crept into my home city. I share the anxiety of every Ilonggo after word broke out that there are Covid 19 patients and kept the city and province on edge.

But I am glad that our LGUs appear to have the situation under control. Strict quarantine is being enforced. I was told that almost all municipalities and barangays have put up checkpoints to make sure the disease is not brought to their communities by people coming from other places. This is the key to containment: Keep the virus out.

Facebook has kept me up-to-date about what City Mayor Jerry P. Trenas has done to protect his constituents. His Facebook official page has become his avenue to communicate with people in the city’s 180 barangays. He has taken full advantage of social media, notably Facebook and Twitter, to make sure everybody is in synch with the city government’s efforts.

In a crisis, a constant flow of information from a leader to his constituents is crucial.

I checked the Facebook official page of Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr. but saw that it wasn’t active. Of course, this doesn’t mean he is not hard at work. I could see in several press releases that Governor Toto has also been busy, especially in laying down the ground rules for a lockdown in the province and coordinating with 41 municipal mayors and one component city mayor.

What JPT (short for Jerry P. Trenas) has done so far has brought out the best in the man. Honestly, I didn’t expect him to be so decisive and firm. It is a radically different JPT that I’ve been seeing these last few weeks. And it’s a JPT who has demonstrated a leadership the city needs to defeat Covid 19.

JPT’s outstanding leadership has triggered a flood of donations from the private sector. The city cannot wait for help from the national government before it acts to stem the tide of hunger and frustration that rise in a crisis like this. It’s something nobody has anticipated. But by bringing the entire community into the LGU response, the crisis is being prevented from overwhelming its meager resources.

“Bato ta, Ilonggo”. JPT has even thought of coining a battle cry.

One of the most heart-warming scenes I saw unfold was the swift private sector initiative to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) for our doctors, nurses, medical technologists and other hospital personnel.

Even the richest and powerful nations of the world were met with shortages of PPE. I read about an Ilonggo nurse who has a passion for fashion design bringing his talent forward and distribute his design for local dress makers or tailors to follow. JPT was quick to support this initiative. He has ordered an army of local dress makers to manufacture the PPEs to fill the vacuum.

Violators of the community quarantine have been met with firm disciplinary action from law enforcement officers in accordance with JPT’s directives. Barangay captains under the able leadership of Liga ng mga Barangay president Irene Ong have proven effective in looking after the needs of their constituents. With all sectors working together under JPT’s leadership, there’s no doubt in my mind that Iloilo City will surmount this crisis with few casualties.

This is the most difficult period Filipinos have ever faced in modern history. Most of us didn’t experiene World War II, but I had plenty of stories from my aunties when I was younger about what it was like. I would think that this pandemic is equal, if not greater, in terms of pain and suffering as the last world war. It’s a good thing that we are just locked in our homes, and not have to find a remote place as evacuation site.

The lockdown is the most effective way to defeat the Covid 19 virus. It would take at least a year and a half before a vaccine can be successfully developed and manufactured. Hence, everybody in Iloilo, as in the rest of the country, can contribute to this effort to prevent more infections, and inevitable deaths, from taking place.

It gives me confidence to see Iloilo under effective leaders.