MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 05 May) – President Duterte last month warned he might declare martial law if the New People’s Army would continue attacking government forces amid the pandemic. He added he would unleash the full might of the military to end the insurgency in the remaining two years of his term.
That would mean fighting a war on two fronts, and against enemies that share similar traits – stealth and unpredictability. Moreover, both are capable of mutation, the virus through factors that science is yet to fully understand, and the insurgency due to repeated failures to address its roots.
Recall that the virus that now afflicts the whole world has mutated from MERS-COV to SARS-COV to its current nomenclature, COVID-19. Note that the Communist Party of the Philippines, sprang from the remains of the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas in 1968 and formed the NPA the next year.
The virus thrives in human bodies as its host, the insurgency among human beings who feel oppressed and neglected. Time has made the virus stronger with each new form that it takes. The insurgency draws strength from the virus of inequity and injustice. In short, the enemy, be it the biological or the political, has adapted well to its environs.
There’s no telling when the last guerrilla would bid farewell to arms. No wonder that the Armed Forces keeps flattering itself with body counts the way the Americans did in Vietnam. There’s no telling when the pandemic would end. No wonder health officials are trying to take comfort in cold statistics, particularly in the number of COVID patients that have recovered.
But apart from the deaths caused by the armed conflict and the virus, there are other questions begging for answers. How many were displaced during military operations? How many workers have become jobless? How many of those in the informal sector now face imminent hunger due to the lockdowns? Is enough being done to alleviate their plight?
Despair is mounting, no thanks to the turtle-paced distribution of relief aid and social amelioration funds. It is because of these shortcomings that people, mainly in the urban areas, are demanding for a return to “normalcy” despite the risks to public health. Indeed, why stay at home if no help is coming?
For government, this requires a balancing act that could prove tougher than it looks. How will it balance physical distancing with the jeepney driver’s need to earn enough for his family? Is there enough money to subsidize those who live off the trash that others dump on the streets and into canals, people who can only choose between hunger and possible infection?
Our leaders may be putting up a brave front in public to assuage people’s fears of what lies ahead. Yet, deep inside them is growing anxiety. They know the implications of prolonging the quarantines on the economy and public order.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte mirrored this anxiety when she told Dabawenyos to “pray for a miracle” to end the contagion. One can only guess whether it was a declaration of faith or a sign of frustration that government might not be doing enough to defuse a ticking social time bomb.
Meanwhile, let’s mourn for those who have died and those who are yet to die in either war.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])