Dereliction of duty

Dereliction of duty

With 6,483 new infections recorded yesterday, the COVID surge continues in the Philippines. Yet in several recent incidents notably in Metro Manila, epicenter of the pandemic, it seems as if people are oblivious of the sickness and death that COVID-19 brings.

Crowds are going swimming in private pools and public beaches, organizing food distribution stunts unmindful of the need to maintain physical distancing, staging a street boxing match with a large crowd of onlookers, and holding wakes with the crowd much larger than the 10-person limit. Teenagers even play volleyball in the street at 3 a.m., in open defiance of curfew hours and other health safety protocols.

At least 20 guests who went swimming at the Gubat sa Ciudad pool resort in Caloocan have since tested positive for COVID. Results of tests on other guests are being awaited. Scores of participants in several of the other super spreader events have also tested positive. People have a right to catch COVID-19 if they want and head straight to the crematorium if the worst happens, but they have no right to endanger others who want to remain COVID-free and alive.

With this in mind, President Duterte has ordered the apprehension of organizers and participants in super spreader activities. But first to be arrested, the President said in his televised address to the nation the other night, will be the barangay captains with jurisdiction over the venue of the events, for dereliction of duty.

The order makes sense, since officials of the barangay system, the smallest unit of government, should be aware of large gatherings within the community. The order makes sense especially because in some cases such as the street boxing, barangay personnel themselves have been found to be directly involved in the events.

Such activities indicate impatience with the lockdowns and the slow rollout of COVID vaccines. But Filipinos have waited for over a year and made enormous sacrifices in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Over a million have been sickened in this country and the number of people mourning the loss of loved ones keeps increasing.

A united effort works best in containing the pandemic. It is deeply disappointing to see the sacrifices of millions being wasted by irresponsible people. And they can indulge their irresponsibility because they can – because those tasked to stop them have failed in their job.