[EDITORIAL] Emergency measures? Show us the plan first

[EDITORIAL] Emergency measures? Show us the plan first
Who is in command? Who is thinking long term? If granted emergency powers, will this President even reasonably use them given his poor track record?

This Monday morning, March 23, senators and members of the House are scheduled to deliberate on President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposed declaration of a national emergency that will give him more powers than he already has.

We do not doubt that we are in an emergency. What we doubt is the Duterte government’s understanding of it and its skills to address it. (READ: A call to nationalize hospitals)

Since it imposed a Luzon-wide lockdown on March 17 to address the coronavirus, the administration has spawned chaos and confusion through conflicting orders, statements, and rules that make a mockery of the “Laging Handa” (Always Ready) branding for their daily advisories.

It should be obvious to us by now – except perhaps for the trolls who continue to spread lies at our expense – that the government has not thought and planned this through and is now trying to make up for it via its usual shotgun style.

Duterte pooh-poohed the crisis early on, its enormity and complexity escaping a mind that is averse to the unfamiliar and the unknown. Or he got cold feet – hesitant to issue anything far more complicated than shoot-to-kill and which would impact his voter base such as the OFWs.

As late as March 9, he scoffed at suggestions of a Metro Manila lockdown, saying it was too early to do anything extraordinary when the confirmed cases at that point were only 24 (which tells us about his level of knowledge of the virus’ exponential spread). (READ: Available testing centers in the PH)

When he finally listened to the alarm bells, his Cabinet scrambled for a haphazard plan, because of course he wants everything pronto. We know what happened next: disaster.

Obsessed with containment, these crisis managers sidelined two equally urgent tasks: supporting the frontliners and protecting the vulnerable sectors. Each task need not be independent of each other, as the Pasig mayor knew fully well. Which is why when he implemented all 3 with the savvy of a crisis veteran, his elders in Malacañang got spooked, shamed by their lack of common sense.

To illustrate: Vico Sotto talked to the owners of Dahlia Hotel to convert the drive-by motel into a quarantine center. He did not need extra power or muscle to do that. In contrast, our senior government officials scanned the few state hospitals that they could easily command and made them isolation centers – when they could have, from the get-go, mobilized the entire private sector to lend their hospitals, hotels, motels, buildings as temporary clinics.

The Cabangon family, which owns a chain of hotels and motels, already jumped in over the weekend to do just that. Businesses already pooled P1.5 billion to feed the poor during the lockdown. All this without government intervention.

This is the context of our misgivings about today’s legislative-executive agenda.

Where is this government’s plan? Who is in command? Who are the key bastoneros on the ground who will implement it? Who is thinking long term? Who is in charge of the day to day? 

If granted emergency powers, will this president even reasonably and judiciously use them given his poor track record in the sober application of the law?

What happens after April 14, the end of the lockdown? What if this drags, as many experts think it would? How interconnected are the measures beyond local and national boundaries? 

Does the government seriously think it has not lost political capital in the last week since the lockdown? Distrust, despair, and cynicism have hit the roof – the propaganda overdrive notwithstanding.

To regain public trust, our leaders need to do better. For starters, show us the plan.

But it appears there’s a dearth of thinkers and planners in Malacañang. Do they need to be reminded that the country has a deep bench of experts and crisis managers out there?

Some of them, in fact, already have a plan. Here, Mr President, serve us better by finding time to read the study of UP economists along with Dr Alfredo Paloyo, who shared the plan on Twitter here. Just 11 pages, promise. (Watch out for our Rappler Talk with Dr Paloyo on Monday, March 23. Bookmark this page.) – Rappler.com

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