What do Cebu City Councilor Renato Osmeña Jr., and Cebu Provincial Board Member Glenn Anthony Soco have in common? They are both out of their minds. Why? Because they want to put lives, especially of children, and public health at risk and in jeopardy.
Consider this. Junjun Osmeña wants to pursue the holding of a night market in one of the busiest streets in the downtown area to help vendors displaced by the road clearing operations and the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid -19) pandemic. This, after Mayor Edgardo Labella rejected the proposal presented by the Market Operations Division to open a night market by closing down a long stretch of Colon St. where vendors would rent stalls from the City and display food like barbecue, puso and grilled fish and dry goods like clothes, kitchen utensils, personal and cellular accessories, among others, at very low prices.
This is from early evening until the wee hours of the morning. The event is a crowd drawer and tourist attraction like in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand. But in the face of the pandemic where mass gathering is discouraged and not allowed, Labella junked the proposal. The hizzoner had re-imposed stricter quarantine measures in the light of rising Covid cases.
But Osmeña, the Council’s chairman of the committee on market, insists Labella’s initial disapproval on the night market was only because the latter had not yet seen the official proposal that incorporates health protocol. He said the market authority will officially propose the plan to the mayor to convince the hizzoner to approve their proposal.
Osmeña, however, did not give any hint of initial details on the proposal. But can he and our authorities control the public and ensure physical distancing? They cannot even control shoppers in supermarkets and groceries, which are closed areas, much more in an open space like a night market? It is easier said than done, Mr. Osmeña.
Look at what happened in Divisoria and Baclaran in Manila recently? Manila Mayor Isko Moreno was fuming mad when he saw shoppers flagrantly violating the physical distancing guideline because of the pre-Christmas rush shopping. Authorities failed to control the crowd. Why gamble?
Soco, on the other hand, sponsored a resolution asking the Department of Education (DepEd) Cebu to go back to face-to-face learning in Covid-19-free areas. Soco cited recent surveys which showed the difficulties encountered by school children in blended learning, online classes and modular classes. According to the survey, 40 percent of school children, especially in the countryside and belonging to poor households, have difficulties coping with online classes because of poor internet connectivity and with modular learning because nobody would help and teach them.
Okay, where in Cebu, Mr. Soco, is there no Covid infection? Maybe there is in Kintolimbo because there is no Covid testing there. This reminds me of a joke of the health minister of Burundi who was asked by reporters, “Mr. Health Minister, why it is that there are no Covid cases in your country?” He answered, “There is no Covid case in my country because there is no testing.” Will the teachers assigned in rural areas and mountain folks not travel to urban areas where they can come in contact with the virus?
When we had face-to-face classes, did we improve the quality of our education, especially in public schools? Is Soco willing to financially help a child if he/she is hospitalized because of Covid? Will he sympathize up to the grave if the child dies? I think it was Gov. Gwen Garcia who said that “education can wait. What is very important and precious is the lives of our children.” Unsaon man nang edukasyon kon patay na ang mga bata? I don’t know if Gwen has changed her stand. Again, why gamble?