Crisis is opportunity – that’s how we at Rappler learned to handle the attacks of the Duterte administration and keep on mission the past few years: To do our job holding the powerful – both the public and private sectors – accountable to the public we serve.
For two years, we lived by #InspireCourage – because we needed courage to protect the rights guaranteed in our Constitution.
This year in the face of the coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, #InspireCourage evolves to #CourageON – one that we hope will be a call for unity like we have yet to see from the Duterte administration.
Hope comes from courage, from so many:
- the courage of our health workers, who are doing their jobs, many without the right protective gear;
- the courage of our government officials and employees, who are trying to find the best path forward despite top-down shortcuts and knee-jerk commands;
- the courage of our journalists who go out every day to find information so you don’t have to;
- the courage of ordinary Filipinos who keep on doing what they must despite the uncertainty of the times.
As early as 2009, then-WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan gave a prescient warning: “All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans. Countries should remain on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.”
At that time, it looked like the Philippines would be prepared for a possible pandemic. After all, it was seen as a model nation in dealing with SARS in 2003.
In fact, the countries that have dealt well with SARS-CoV-2 (which causes the disease known as COVID-19) – Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong – learned their lessons from SARS and institutionalized them. Officials from these countries stuck to the facts and the plan.
Data from around the world shows strong government action is required to stop the spread of virus, to “flatten the curve.” (Read: Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now)
There are two complicating factors the Philippines must deal with before it can effectively fight a pandemic:
- #FactsMatter: A pandemic in the time of social media carries the seeds of further disaster, especially if government is involved in information operations. Without facts, society as a whole becomes more vulnerable. As former health secretary Manuel Dayrit said, there is a “virus of fear and panic” which “often traveled much faster than the virus itself.” (Read: What we learned from SARS, according to ex-DOH chief Manuel Dayrit)
- #UnitedWeStand: The Duterte government must work to unite the divided society it created. Now more than ever, our populist leader using anger, violence, and hate to divide and conquer needs to learn to unite, to become a leader for all. That’s what a pandemic demands: collective action – individuals working together for the common good.
That’s the opportunity from this crisis.
We need to pull together. We have Filipino expertise to draw on: health and crisis experts who have lived through this before, countless local government officials. Embedded in our bureaucracy are the lessons learned from 2003. Let them surface. Leave the politics behind.
Instead of fragmented government voices contradicting each other, leaving the public confused, revive and update past protocols.
We can learn lessons from other nations and how they are handling this. As one Singapore official said, this is not just about government. It’s a “whole of nation” approach.
“In fact, this is an acid test of every single country’s quality of health care, standard of governance, and social capital,” said Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. “If any one of this tripod is weak, it will be exposed and exposed quite unmercifully.”
This is a test of leadership.
Oh – and probably best to start with the health directions instead of law enforcement. No need to intimidate or threaten. Only if you fail to lead and inspire the bayanihan spirit will that be necessary.
We need clarity of thought. And deed.
Let’s bring out the best of our humanity to drown our fear.
We’re all in this together.
#CourageON – Rappler.com