AS A firm believer and staunch advocate of participatory governance, it is my standpoint that participatory approach is the best way to defeat Covid-19.
Participatory approach means involving the broadest organized citizens possible, the NGOs, POs, CSOs, foundations, academic institutions and associations, the barangay-based accredited institutions and organizations, among others, using their knowledge, skills, talents and resources and network in dealing with a serious crisis such as covid-19. We have thousands of them, with resources, and often are better organized and with wide network than public servants.
The serious crisis caused by Covid-19 cannot be handled by the military and police personnel, civilian security forces, much less the barangay tanods. They are not trained for medical problems, and one as contagious as this Covid-19. At their best they can regulate the movement of people, discipline the “pasaways,” and arrest violators.
Our medical professionals and health workers cannot manage alone as well the Covid-19 crisis. We don’t have much professionals around because thousands of our best trained doctors, nurses, and med techs are somewhere else in the world for reasons that their salaries here could not give them decent living.
Even those who stay here in private and public service are not trained and equipped enough to confront dangerous viruses because our health system is so corrupt and major health service institutions are under profit-oriented capitalist hospitals and clinics. The many that we have here are volunteers and barangay health workers who, without offense just a concern, could not even dispense basic first aid for simple injuries and wounds.
The barangay units, the supposedly the frontliners in governance, are also beset by bureaucratic problems and political bickering and expediencies among officials, not to mention the disgraced image or questionable integrity of many of them.
Unfortunately, even the DILG frontliners, the LGOOs, many of them don’t give a damn what the LGUs especially the barangay officials are doing, with exception of those who are doing well, right and good. The case of food relief distribution in many LGUs are demonstrative of this problem. For a week now, the Facebook and social media are flooded with attacks, from mild to nasty ones, on barangay officials and their henchmen and women, with charges that they are shortchanging the people of what the President has promised of full support to those affected by quarantine and companies shutdown.
In view of the above, and notwithstanding their institutional limitations, the best option is to mobilize the organized citizenry either in one formation with government units, or in parallel formation but whose operations are closely coordinated and supervised by the DILG, or its equivalent, provided the people tasked for this should have unquestionable integrity.
How could that be done, or how could we bring them together now when social distancing is strictly enforced?
Well, without gathering them in a conference, task the DILG and LGU to jointly enlist them per municipality and city, and know where and how they could contribute effectively. I am sure, their voluntary services will range from providing shelters to serve as quarantine or observation centers as in schools, financial assistance, alternative livelihood generation, safety works, community mobilization, information-education, psychological counseling, medical technology support, monitoring and evaluation, and many others.
The government should learn to differentiate these organized citizens from the greater mass of people, and simply treat them as assets not liabilities, as partners not beneficiaries.
Now is the best opportune time to exercise participatory approach to solving this crazy virus.
Don’t squander this challenge and opportunity.