Business groups 'appalled' as officials violate rules while Filipinos suffer
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines' biggest business groups slammed public officials violating health protocols, while ordinary citizens get arrested for being unable to conform to one of the most strict lockdowns in the world.
In a statement on Sunday, May 31, the Makati Business Club, along with the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Financial Executives of the Philippines, Institute of Corporate Directors, Institute for Solidarity in Asia, Judicial Reform Initiative, and Management Association of the Philippines, reiterated that upholding the rule of law is "the bedrock of our democracy" and in turn lifts up the economy from a recession.
"We are therefore greatly disappointed – even appalled and dismayed – about news reports of public officials violating with impunity the IATF (inter-agency task force) and DOH (Department of Health) protocols intended to protect public health," the joint statement read.
Over 48,000 violators have been arrested without a warrant during the lockdown, according to police data. (READ: In PH pandemic: Due process for allies, warrantless arrests for the rest)
"Many of those arrested suffered detention, costs, humiliation, and inconveniences," the business groups pointed out.
While thousands were harshly punished, officials like Metro Manila police chief Major General Debold Sinas celebrated his birthday, breaking rules on mass gatherings and physical distancing.
Despite the backlash, Sinas brushed off public outrage and simply said people should "move on" from the issue.
President Rodrigo Duterte, known for his harsh words against lockdown violators, even went on to praise Sinas and called him "a good officer."
"Hindi niya kasalanan kung may mangharana sa kanya sa birthday niya. At kung 'yun namang nagsasabi na nakikitang hindi naka-mask, eh siyempre may merienda 'yan, may pagkain. Alangan namang kainin nila pati 'yung mask? 'Di tanggalin talaga nila. Kainan 'yun eh," Duterte said in a televised speech on May 20.
(It's not his fault if he is serenaded on his birthday. And those who say it was obvious they didn't have masks on, well of course, they were having snacks, there was food. Were they to eat the masks? Of course they took them off. It was a feast.)
The business groups emphasized that the strict lockdown affected millions of jobs.
"The impact has been much greater on families living near or below the poverty line, despite government's extension of financial aid. Additionally, the seeming confusion and different interpretations of rules led to numerous quarantine violations," they said.
The business groups urged government officials to demonstrate "the highest standards in observing and enforcing the rule of law, and serve as role models in discipline and moral ascendancy." – Rappler.com