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Urinating on the Volcano, Slapping the Virus, and the Politics of Face Masks

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on February 11, 2020 17:32

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In times of crisis, the public needs reassuring leadership. But it’s hardly the case in the Philippines after a volcanic eruption and with the outbreak of COVID-19. What we have is an ashfall-eating, volcano-peeing, and virus-slapping president.

The sky was dark, and I thought it would rain. After half an hour, I got up and went outside. Dust covered the cars parked by the roadside. And homes in the neighborhood closed their doors and windows. On January 12, Taal Volcano, about 40 miles south of Manila, erupted, spewing a column of volcanic ashes more than a thousand meters high. It was alert level 4.

The people panicked. All stores run out of face masks. Some enterprising folks sold them at exorbitant prices, but there are a lot more good people extending their hands to those needing help. I was expecting the president to say something in public, to reassure the nation that the government was in control of the situation. But there was not – only his propaganda mouthpieces and trolls exploiting the situation.

Chaos ensued. There was a lack of coordination between the national and local governments. Lawmakers and unscrupulous politicians said crazy things about the eruption, making fools out of the scientists working day and night to provide the public with accurate information.

The ashfall buried the towns surrounding Taal Volcano -- people’s homes gone, and their domestic animals died, but some survived. The outpouring of support and sympathy abound, together with the people’s generosity, especially in areas hit by the disaster that affected both the rich and the poor.

Finally, Rodrigo Duterte spoke up. "I’ll eat that ashfall, even Taal, I’ll pee on it, goddamn it," he said.

So presidential.

A few weeks later, COVID-19 reached the Philippines. Facial masks were in high demand again. But it only took 6 hours for Sen. Dick Gordon to ship 3 million face masks to China. He’s proud of it, saying it was for a humanitarian cause. Well, it was, after Filipinos had to sew their face masks during the volcanic eruption.

So humanitarian.

And again, I waited for the president to reassure the country that the government was doing something. But days had passed, and government agencies in chaos on face masks, the president was nowhere to be found. The health department said it’s all right not to wear masks when there are no symptoms, and another department advised to impose monetary fines on public utility vehicle drivers if they failed to wear a face mask. Hardly a sign that a competent government was in place at all.

Finally, the president had spoken. First, he called out those "political kibitzers", and "idiots." Then he offered a solution to the outbreak: use the military to maintain order. And he threatened the microbes, "You know, if we can’t handle this f--king coronavirus, I’ve been looking for it, because I want to slap the idiot."

Very presidential.

Eventually, he said what he ought to say in an emergency. "I can assure you we can defeat the virus. Just believe in the government. In a crisis involving deaths and getting people safe, we will do our very best," he declared.

Yeah, with all that’s happening? Very reassuring, indeed. 

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on February 11, 2020 17:32

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Source: Tech2

Red-hot lava spewed from a volcano near the Philippine capital of Manila on Monday as tens of thousands of people fled through...

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