CoViD19 radically exacerbates the crises faced by our already struggling democracy. Our human rights are violated and our democratic institutions are further weakened. While cheerfully complying with the government’s lockdown protocols, we will seek to protect our rights and our institutions. Sustained by Love-energized spiritual courage, we will face the challenges before us brought about by this pandemic.
The Philippines, as of 20 March 2020, have 380 confirmed CoViD19 cases; 38.2% are still under investigation. 7 additional deaths were reported. There is concern among many Filipinos that our health care system is not prepared for this crisis. Some are pointing to the incompetence of our country’s leadership in the face of this pandemic.
These challenges we’re facing make us afraid. We are prompted to look deep into our being as individual persons, and into the deepest reason of our existence as a community.
With Love as our spiritual energy, we take courage to demand our rights as people: for mass testing, for food security, for social protection, and for good governance. We will shout for these as an act of love and concern for our people while being compliant to a nation-wide lockdown.
Mass Testing Now
We’re watching how the virus got out, exponentially spreading out through many countries with less population density compared to the Philippines. According to Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data, the current population of the Philippines is 109,172,738. The density is 368 per square kilometers. Our total land area is 298,170 square kilometers. 47.5 % of the population is urban—that is 52,008,603 people. This is more visible in the urban poor neighborhoods. These informal settlement areas must be the focus of priority testing.
We are one of the many groups and organizations who demands that our government must —
- test all patients with CoVid19;
- test all frontline health workers;
- test all citizens in communities where there are already confirmed cases;
- not prioritize VIPs and politicians; and,
- follow strictly quarantine and lockdown protocols.
Our demands resonate with the call of Mike Ryan, World Health Organization’s top emergency expert. His advice includes the need to focus on finding those who are sick with the virus, isolate them, find their contacts, and isolate those contacts. Without mass testing, the danger of the disease jumping back up would happen once the lockdowns are lifted.
Food Security, Economic Recovery, and Democratic Institutions
There have been warnings of food shortages in the coming weeks as our government proceeds with lockdown protocols. Our leadership at PBCI have been posting about this issue in their social networking platforms. Our fellow workers are experiencing this shortage. Many of our networks have been texting us for relief supplies.
We hear of social protection and economic recovery proposals that we think are brilliant. Yet those are possible only under good governance. Their ideas require transparency and accountability of our government officials. Their proposals would need the maintenance of the balance of power between the three branches of our government.
In the next 24 hours, the legislators in our country will decide on the request of the President for more powers as a response to CoViD19 crisis. One of the leading online news outfit reports that Duterte is asking Congress for special powers to deal with the present public health crisis. These powers include takeover of private hospitals and even realignment of government funds. Some constitutional experts, according to the report, say this is contrary to the Constitution.
This is another push to further weaken our democratic institutions using the present crisis as an excuse. At first glance, this is like the death of democracy in our land.
But no. There is hope. “Democracy is not dying in this country, if by this we mean the indigenous respect for collective decision-making by consensus” says Dr. Melba Maggay, President of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture, in one of her recent articles in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “What is dying,” she explains, “is the ineffectual system of checks and balances that quickly collapses when someone brashly captures power and holds hostage all the institutions by the skillful use of fear and patronage.”
Dr. Maggay’s insights encourage us more to learn from, and to work with, the Indigenous Peoples in our land. We hope to help the younger generation to lead with “respect for collective decision-making by consensus.”
Suspending Our Operations
We are strictly in compliance with the government’s 6-month national calamity declaration. This means a sort of lockdown over the whole country too.
Coffee for Peace. “This CoViD19 pandemic casts fear among us,” Joji said to her management team during a recent online meeting. She continues, “Let us all think on what we could, and still apply justice in our decision-making process.”
The management team of Coffee for Peace decided to prioritize the welfare of the employees and their families over profit. The coffee shop would continue paying a fraction of the staff salaries to help them survive economically. The post-processing farm will continue to operate since the three workers can continue their tasks while keeping more than the required distance from each other.
“As a social entrepreneur, I have to think of our workers at Coffee for Peace Café and their needs,” Joji said. “I have to think of our workers at Malipayon Peace Hub as they sort our coffee so that in their struggles to make ends meet while under community quarantine, their families will still survive, will eat, and will stay healthy.”
PeaceBuilders Community. Sihaya Ansibod, PBCI Director of Field Operations, shared her perspectives on the impact of CoViD19 lockdown on our peace and reconciliation ministries. In this video, she also shared how she’s using these ‘down times’ positively to enhance her field teams’ operations in the context of the new CoViD19 realities.
Do Not Be Afraid.
“Do not be afraid” (Luke 12:7). The positive way of saying this is, “Be courageous.” The first step to deal with our fear is to be honest and say, “I’m afraid.” Then cry if you must. While crying, express that sense of fear to the Creator. Like a child to our Heavenly Parent, we can say “I’m afraid.” Then experience the embrace of the Loving Creator who welcomes our sense of helplessness without condescension, but rather with transcendent understanding. Immerse yourself in the ocean of the transcendent, unconditional love of the Creator.
Then think of the welfare of your loved-ones. Family. Friends. Be grateful for them. Forgive them. Embrace them in your heart. Text them. Listen to their fears—perhaps by reading their anxious posts. Send them a message. Assure them of the unconditional love and embrace of the Loving Creator. Remind them of your online presence even through 👍 and ❤️. Tell them, “Do not be afraid.”
Close your eyes. Smile. Open your eyes. Find a way to look up to the sky. Smile. Send the love-energies of your smiling face to the whole planet. Embrace the creation of the Loving Creator.
Imagine all the fearful faces of people you’ve seen on television and in social media. Smile. Send your love to them from the deepest part of your heart. Embrace them in your heart.
You are a funnel of the Creator’s Love. Allow the Creator to unclog your being of fear. Say, “Loving Creator, please let your love-energies flow in, and through, my being. Thank you.”