[OPINION] The out-of-touch, elitist gaps in our lockdown

Gaby Baizas
[OPINION] The out-of-touch, elitist gaps in our lockdown
'Not a lot of upper-class and middle-class Filipinos realize how good they have it in the midst of this lockdown. They forget to check their privilege, and come off as incredibly insensitive and narrow-minded.'

I write this from the comfort of my home.

My parents came home from the grocery with more food to keep us fed for a few weeks. I just made my second cup of tea for the day as I waited for Duterte’s address to air. After the address, I had a video call with my high school friends and we stayed up until 2 am catching up and playing online games together. I could afford to sleep in because we at Rappler set efficient work-from-home measures to prioritize everyone’s safety in the midst of this fiasco.

Needless to say, this lockdown is just a minor adjustment for me and my family. Just admitting this privilege almost feels like a sin. For most Filipinos, the lockdown is an inconvenience at best, a matter of life and death at worst.

I admit that I come from a place of privilege as a middle-class citizen. But I’ve seen way too many Filipinos run into so many hurdles because of how poorly this lockdown was implemented. I can’t help but be angry. Several workers braved the traffic just to get to work, because they couldn’t afford to take days off without pay. Later, mass transportation was suspended, which affected thousands of commuters. The Department of Justice stated violators of the Luzon lockdown can be arrested even without a warrant, which is bound to put many people’s lives at risk.

These measures might not affect me, but they will affect many other Filipinos. I guess that’s where a lot of my frustration comes from – not a lot of upper-class and middle-class Filipinos realize how good they have it in the midst of this lockdown. They forget to check their privilege, and come off as incredibly insensitive and narrow-minded.

I saw titas on Facebook share that James Deakin post, where he said we shouldn’t be complaining about the quarantine and curfew because all we’re being asked to do is to “sit on the couch and watch Netflix.” Cat Arambulo-Antonio, watching workers get arrested on her widescreen TV, gratuitously filmed an Instagram story for her followers, saying, “God, why don’t you motherfuckers just stay at home?” These are the kind of people who forget many Filipinos don’t have that kind of option, who fail to realize these people wouldn’t even leave their houses in the middle of a rampant outbreak if they had a better alternative.

And what angers me so much about this is that well-off Filipinos have the audacity to say we should all just cooperate with our government. First of all, I’m allowed to criticize the government’s implementation of the lockdown while cooperating with them – they’re not mutually exclusive. I can be a perfectly behaved, law-abiding citizen while thinking the government can do a better job, because we deserve better than this. ([OPINION] Loving your country is very different from loving your government)

Secondly, cooperation is a two-way street. The elites talk a lot about cooperating with our government, but have they considered asking what the government is doing for its people? Have they wondered if the government was meeting the people where they are, implementing inclusive, intersectional policies? Do they realize not everyone can just “trust the government” to know what its constituents need, let alone give them what they need?

This kind of narrow-mindedness isn’t exclusive to internet personalities and “woke” influencers; it bleeds into the way public officials are responding to the crisis. When the lockdown was imposed on the national capital, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told informal workers to just sell outside Metro Manila. After public transportation was suspended, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles left citizens with only two options: to take a private car or walk. When people asked about how the harsh lockdown conditions will affect access to food, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said, “Walang namamatay sa gutom.” (No one dies of hunger.)

It’s these out-of-touch remarks and anti-poor policies that make me realize how detached our government is from reality. Responding to a crisis like this in ways that only serve the upper class is bound to backfire and fail. It doesn’t sit well with me that I’m one of the few that can afford to live comfortably despite the lockdown, when every Filipino deserves a competent government that addresses all their needs in disastrous times like these. A government tasked to serve the public must serve all of the public.

I write this from the comfort of my home, and I go to sleep tonight knowing tomorrow I’ll have enough food to eat and that I can stay in to keep myself healthy. I can only hope this government does enough to ensure everyone gets the same kind of liberties. – Rappler.com

Editor’s Note: Cat Arambulo-Antonio posted an apology on her Instagram account the same day this essay was published.

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Gaby Baizas

Gaby Baizas is a digital forensics researcher at Rappler. She first joined Rappler straight out of college as a digital communications specialist. She hopes people learn to read past headlines the same way she hopes punk never dies.