[OPINION] Callous leaders, helpless Filipinos

Let’s face it. We’re on our own.

This government has mastered the art of blaming Filipinos. It abhors any criticism and yet it is quick to attack every enemy it can think of.

I can only imagine, but Duterte must be ashamed that he is our President. And everyone who serves at his pleasure should be embarrassed. 

At a time when Duterte’s infamous political will should have shown its might and strength, this is what the country has come to – “the world’s longest and strictest coronavirus lockdown”. 

Optimistic no more

It’s not difficult for Filipinos to be hopeful. 

At the end of every year, Filipinos look forward to the new one with so much optimism. Surveys validate this point, which only goes to show the psychological and cultural capacity of Filipinos to weather the worst storms. 

Some of the talk about resilience are of course hogwash. [READ: Resilience is not enough]

But there is something indomitable about the Filipino spirit. After all, the story of the Filipino is about overcoming pain. The most inspiring stories are those that tell us that poverty or any inadequacy has no power to arrest our dreams.

But this time it’s different. 

According to a recent survey of SWS, 83% of respondents admit that their lives have taken a turn for the worse. The biggest losers come from the Visayas and Mindanao, where 87% and 86%, respectively, feel that their quality of life has worsened in the past 12 months. 

The turn has a material bearing. 

In another survey, SWS notes that 20.9% of families have experienced involuntary hunger. The figure translates to 5.2 million Filipino families. As expected, hunger incidence is higher among the poor. 

We also know that the unemployment rate has now reached 17.7%, rolling back a major economic achievement that took decades to accomplish. We are talking about 7.3 million jobless Filipinos.

The future is therefore bleak. 

This is the case for 43% of Filipinos who expect life to be much worse in the next 12 months. By contrast, only 24% are optimistic.


And so many Filipinos are not only disappointed. They are now angry. 

To be disappointed only goes to show how the hopes many once pinned on Duterte are now beginning to fade away. 

But for many others, anger is what they feel.

They are angry for all sorts of reasons: unnecessary deaths and joblessness are some of them. And for the rest of us, we are angry because we feel utterly helpless about the present.

When the quarantine was first implemented in March, people did not have enough time to prepare for it. Borders were locked down, rendering people unable to go to work. Families were asked to stay home and stock up on food as if everybody could afford to do so. The military was brought in as if people were terrorists.

Now we are back to square one. And yet ordinary people are blamed for the spread of the virus.

Callous leadership

As if it were not bad enough, our leaders have become astonishingly insensitive. No, callous is the more appropriate word.

No consolation came from Harry Roque. Instead, the spokesperson had the audacity to make the following remark on our healthcare workers. All they asked for was another ECQ to help them cope with the burden and improve response. 

“Ibinigay natin lahat ng gusto ng mga frontliners dahil kinikilala natin kayo bilang bagong bayani. Pero tingin ko dapat sagutin nila: why was the President the last to know about their demands at ipinaalam muna nila sa buong mundo bago nila ibinigay kay President iyong gusto nilang mangyari?”

But nothing is surprising anymore about Roque. The man who once fought for human rights now parrots his master at whose pleasure he serves.

During his address on Sunday, Duterte began by expressing sympathy for health workers. But his true sentiment came out not too long after that. 

“Huwag kayo magsigaw-sigaw, ‘revolution.’ Magsabi kayo revolution, then ngayon na. Try it. Patayin natin lahat ng may COVID-19. Is that what you want? We can always end our existence in this manner.” 

Who are the real enemies?

They are callous but the problem is much bigger.

Duterte and his entire administration see enemies where they do not exist. That is the problem.

The real enemy is within and the administration fails to see it. They said things were under control but clearly they are not. They said the curve was flattening but clearly it is not. They said a plan exists but clearly it does not.

Instead, this government is paranoid over imaginary revolutions, communist insurgencies, and critical media. It invents its own enemies and is relentless until they are gone.

As a result, we are where we are now. People are hungry, jobless, and impoverished. And people are tired.

In the years to come this crisis will define Duterte’s presidency, one that has ironically banked on its ability to solve ordinary people’s woes. Of course, nobody wants the President to fail because his failure is everybody else’s failure. 

And yet here we are.

The future might be bleak for ordinary Filipinos. But the same can be said about the President himself. What a terrifying scene for a man exalted for his strong will and benevolence. – Rappler.com

Jayeel Cornelio is Associate Professor and the Director of the Development Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University. He is a 2017 Outstanding Young Scientist of the National Academy of Science and Technology. Follow him on Twitter @jayeel_cornelio.

Jayeel Cornelio

Jayeel Cornelio, PhD is Associate Professor and the Director of the Development Studies Program at the Ateneo de Manila University. A sociologist of religion, he is a recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the National Academy of Science and Technology. He i...