Management by bahala na

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Thousands of Filipinos will perish in the coming days. This tragedy is likely to unfold under the new management style adopted by the Du30 administration to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. The new management approach indicates Du30 had thrown in the towel and handling the pandemic is no longer his priority.

Filipinos were stunned when early this week the government announced a new quarantine classification and will implement it on experimental basis in the National Capital Region (NCR).  Under the new quarantine classification, NCR’s status is downgraded to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) with alert level 4 from the stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ). Instead of placing the entire region on lockdown, granular lockdowns will instead be implemented.

The declaration of a new quarantine classification was made on the day the country recorded its second highest daily cases of infection at 22,415. The new policy was slated to take effect the day before the highest daily cases of infection (22,820) was reported. The public was bewildered with the sudden shift of pandemic handling amid a surge and the country recording more than 20,000 daily cases of infection in four consecutive days.

Public anxiety was further heightened when the announcement coincided with the decision of the Department of Health (DOH) placing the entire NCR except Manila under the highest alert level for Covid-19 due to the rising cases of infections and hospitalization reaching critical level. Intensive care utilization in the region is at 74 percent. “All areas except the City of Manila are classified as Alert Level 4. The Delta variant had been detected across all areas in the NCR,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire declared.

Daily cases of infection are at its highest and hospitals are overwhelmed with sick people, why is the government relaxing restrictions asked the perplexed and confused public. For most Filipinos this move is crazy.  It is a recipe for mass death, a tokhang version of the pandemic.

OCTA research team expressed serious concern over the new approach to pandemic management. “We’re concerned that if this does not work, at a point when we’re actually seeing that the curve might plateau soon in two to three weeks, there’s a chance that we might lose effective control of the pandemic and it will become much worse than it is,” Octa research fellow Dr. Guido David warned.

“Regarding the granular lockdowns in the past, we have not seen evidence that it has been effective when we have a widespread community transmission,” David explained. “Granular lockdowns would work if it’s concentrated in certain regions. For example, if you have only 40 percent of your barangays with new cases, then it’s feasible that you can impose the granular lockdowns and it may be effective,” he added.

Philippine College of Physicians President Dr. Maricar Limpin seconded David’s observation noting that people live in different areas from their work. “Will the workplaces be able to, you know, understand their absence? Because it’s open. The industry is open and therefore, this actually makes it quite difficult for people to really follow the lockdown. They will still go out because they want to be assured that they will still continue to have work.”

The logic behind the change of pandemic management is economics. The business community proposed the new approach to ensure that the economy remains open despite the surge. It’s wealth over health and the government agrees even if it means exposing people to the virus. They are playing with or sacrificing the lives of the workers in particular and the people in general for wealth accumulation. The poor are expendable, as long as the wealthy can gain more.

Faced with a tough choice between health and wealth, Du30 apparently chose wealth hence the adoption of management by bahala na. Open the economy despite the surge and bahala na si Batman. With this defeatist attitude (same attitude in the West Philippine issue), Du30 is abdicating his duty as president since he is unable to actually manage and handle the health crisis. Management by bahala na is his ultimate refuge, his final excuse to his gross incompetence and patent laziness. Sadly, thousands of Filipinos died and will die due to his epic failure to handle the pandemic.

Du30 resorted to management by bahala na since his priority is no longer the pandemic but politics. While daily cases of infections breached the 20,000 mark in succeeding days, Du30 was busy with his political plans for the 2022 election. Despite the prohibition on mass gathering per government policy, Du30 and his wing of PDP-Laban held a national convention (another evidence of double-standard) nominating him and his loyal assistant as vice presidential and presidential candidates respectively. He accepted the nomination while his caregiver declined so says their latest script.

Due to strong public backlash on the rash implementation of the new quarantine classification, Du30 was forced to defer its implementation. Lack of guidelines for its execution is another reason for the delay. The postponement was announced six hours before it was to take effect. The sudden deferment again created confusion since it caught everyone by surprise. People were already preparing for GCQ with granular lockdowns when MECQ was reinstated. This erratic act is a manifestation of management by bahala na, another evidence of Du30’s disgusting incompetence.

Many lives would have been saved and the suffering of the nation would have been eased had Du30 managed the pandemic well. Leadership does matter especially in times of crisis. With management by bahala na, the country is doomed.