SINCE day one of this pandemic, “food” has not been given much emphasis in many, if not most, discussions. Much has been said about the importance of peace and order. In fact, we have gone as far as preparing for possible terrorism in a time of the pandemic. There has also been increasing discussions on education and the various modalities of its delivery in the new normal. But sadly, we are not told as to the status of the food supply in the country and how we can ensure that at the end of the day hunger and starvation won’t be a problem. I would like to believe that the Department of Agriculture is doing its best amidst current economic challenges. Still, much has to be heightened in terms of agricultural production because “hunger” among the people is the turning point to either success or failure.
Our leaders should always keep in mind that food will be the deciding element regarding the viability of our peace and order. Revolutions happened not because guns were made but because the bread was no longer found on the table. Local officials are quite excellent at pointing out how undisciplined people are for not following their rules but they are not paying attention to the main reason behind the violation of the rules: the fear of not being able to eat.
Food security also means managing the flow of the supply and, thus, ensuring that there is equity in the process of distribution. Without clear procedures and mechanisms that would win people’s trust in the government’s efficiency, the gradual movement to chaos cannot be avoided. Truth to tell, some agencies or persons in the government may be blamed for making people leave their homes. How many times were people asked to go to their barangay center to claim their food subsidy? If the government is serious about its lockdown, then it should look for a way to make sure that food would arrive at the doorstep of every household. Even if people would be locked inside their homes so long as the food is provided then we can gamble for a complete one-month lockdown. But precisely the problem is that state authorities are only resolved in limiting people’s movements without looking for a way to minimize the reasons for such movements.
It is so irritating to see and hear that, on the one hand, we insist on people staying at home. On the other hand, the same authority would ask people to congregate for their “ayuda” without the assurance of strict measures to avoid viral transmission.
In the face of increasing unemployment, how will we pacify people that though they are crippled in so many ways at the end of the day they won’t go hungry? If politicians can make all promises ranging from the possible to the most impossible during elections, can they not do the same these days? Can there be an assurance of equitable distribution of food for all regardless of partisan leanings and economic status? An honest answer to the foregoing however is that we are “not sure.” We know very well that even before the pandemic, the number of “food poor” in our country is either increasing or maintained. The recent survey of SWS released in May revealed that hunger among families has doubled to 16.7 percent.
Where the level of perception of inequity in society is high, we cannot expect people not to behave properly. Psychology teaches us that “every obnoxious behavior is a cry for help.” Lawmakers and law enforcers need to be reoriented to the fact that they are dealing with individuals who are, no matter what, free to follow the law or not. Lawyers and law enforcers should remember a basic lesson they should have learned in their undergraduate years that the law may guide the exercise of freedom but, at the end of the day, “law and freedom” are “not the same.” Laws in themselves cannot bring about lasting peace and order. It is not a choice between discipline and food security. If we want to cross this current challenge we must work towards the enhancement of both.
The government may not need to spend money and exert greater effort for food security but if this is needed to achieve peace then let such an economic trade-off be. If politicians have made promises and gambles in the past, why can’t they do today if only to favor the most important goal as of yet: survival.