It will already be March in a couple of days.
That means our dear country will have been in lockdown or various stages of community quarantine for almost one year. It also means that one fourth of 2021 has already passed but neither the New Year nor the Chinese New Year has changed anything, it still feels like peak 2020 for most Filipinos.
Filipino children will have been stuck at home for almost 365 days. Many employees will have been working at home for almost 12 months. Many former employees will have lost their jobs for at least half a year already and the poorly performing economy which is now among the worst in the region means that many of those who lost employment because of the pandemic will most likely retain their unfortunate status for a few more quarters.
It is already March 2021 but the Philippines has not yet made Covid-19 vaccines available for the Filipino people. Despite putting all hope on vaccination as the silver bullet that would revive our nation and its foundering economy, our government has catastrophically failed to procure vaccines. It qualifies as a catastrophe because other countries have already started vaccinating but we are still waiting with our mouths open and eyes staring blankly into space.
Our great leader has been talking about vaccines, almost every week during his rambling “talks” to the nation but it turns out that his trusted cabal of retired generals and loyalists have failed to follow through, making him look more and more incompetent with every broken promise. No biggie for them because the past year has shown that none of the king’s horses and men are in danger of losing their jobs despite their many failures.The Filipino people who have had to turn their world-famous resiliency up several notches every time their government fails to deliver on its many boastful promises are getting sick and tired of this recurring theme and nightmare.
Even when our government exerts itself in its bid to get vaccines into this country, the poor quality of government officials somehow manages to mess things up. Take for example the Department of Labor and Employment resorting to human trafficking in an attempt to wrangle vaccines from the United Kingdom and Germany. Our government apparently requested those governments to provide Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for exemption from the 5,000 per year limit on the deployment of Filipino nurses and other health care workers. Only in the Philippines can government officials treat its people like cattle or slaves and get away with it because of “good intentions.” How low have our standards for performance and decency fallen?
March is the season of graduations but it would seem like the Philippines cannot even graduate to an acceptable quarantine status. We failed at testing in the beginning. We are still failing at contact tracing today. For this year’s final exams, our officials failed at procuring a vaccine in a timely manner. If you come to think of it, there is absolutely no reason why we should be allowed to graduate. Can our country afford to lose another year while the rest of our batchmates are already moving up? Is this what we get for choosing a great leader who took 7 years to finish high school back in his day?
We cannot lose hope yet. If we follow this schoolyear analogy, there is always summer school where the educational system’s failures have traditionally redeemed themselves through remedial classes or manual labor. Maybe if our government officials and leaders can resolve to work harder and pass this crash course in pandemic response, we can still get something done and barely make a passing grade. Maybe we can still get a vaccine deal signed and a vaccination program started. Hopefully our bevy of handsomely-paid retired generals can still pull off a last second rally and save our country from the jaws of a crushing defeat against the invisible foe. Perhaps, the man hailed by many as the greatest leader in the solar system can manage an FPJ and emerge victorious from a seemingly hopeless situation.
The month of March will define how 2021 goes for the Philippines. How our government performs, especially when it comes to the fate of its vaccination program, will determine if Filipinos are going to have a future or if we will be dropping out due to incompetence, the lack of effort, and too many failures.
Good luck to our country as we face this term’s final exam.*