As the lockdown set in, media had fixed attention on the plight of the frontliners as well those living in poor communities, noting how the lockdown had imposed an impossible condition on those whose shelter was no more than one room where everyone lived and slept. Media also pointed out the unrealistic expectation that those who lived from day to day, depending on some form of informal economic activity, could observe the quarantine.
The coverage of frontliners triggered an edifying response among various communities who looked into the basic needs of health workers, means of transportation, places to stay that would be near enough to where they worked, and the constant supply of masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs).
But reports also called attention to other needs which only government could act on, as these required official response. Here, media attention did not necessarily succeed in convincing government to re-think the orientation that had been set in the government’s response to the pandemic — the strong-arm approach which treated “violators” of the quarantine as criminals, rather than victims.
The Inquirer’s editorial referred to the fatal shooting of an army veteran already afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder on April 21, and an assault on a homeowner who was in his own property in Makati. Restrictions on freedom of speech were exemplified by warrantless arrests of those posting criticism on their social media. On the same day, Manila Standard enumerated what citizens did not need during the crisis: recurring threats about imposing martial law, shooting of violators by law enforcement agents, and officials dodging responsibility for their failures and wanting to shift the blame on others.
Once again, the president’s resistance to the state’s obligation to observe human rights fueled a cruelty to citizens in a time of massive affliction.
Special reports from the media also described other areas which were, not surprisingly, missed by the narrow scope of government’s attention.
These included the state of overcrowding in city jails made worse by the arrest of some 20,000 who were caught violating quarantine and curfew restrictions. PCIJ warned of the imminent spread of the disease because of government’s policy to punish with detention those caught violating curfew and quarantine restrictions. The report called attention to the need to adjust penalties for those who were first time violators, the recommendation of DSWD to early release of elderly and sick prisoners, which DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said would be done at once. Once again, the report surfaced contradictory policies in dealing with pandemic, a sign of a lack of coordination and leadership at the highest levels.
It was media as well which reported on the sad state of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) in Mandaluyong.
CMFR cheered 24 Oras for calling on the critical conditions which affected both patients and health workers in the beleaguered institution which is under the DOH. The hospital is the largest facility for treatment of mental health patients and also serves as a special training center for specialists in this field of medicine.
The newscast reported the high infection rate among the employees of the institution, with hospital officials repeating the complaint about the lack of transportation for staff as well as scant supply of protective gear for their workers.
While national policy has upheld the needs of the persons with disability (PWDs), the needs of the poor PWDs seemed forgotten by the administration as they had yet to receive their share of cash aid from government agencies.
CMFR cheered Rappler and Philstar.com for their focus on the problems faced by this vulnerable sector during the crisis and for giving voice to their feelings of having been left out of the picture.
READ CMFR MONITORS ON THE ISSUE:
“The media has focused on paramount concerns, with most of news time and space given to government actions to address the pandemic and case counts here and abroad. CMFR notes efforts of different media organizations to check on other stories, including how different sectors are affected, requiring special attention and assistance.” | Amid the pandemic: News that remembers the forgotten
“Each agency has been using a different approach in dealing with the pandemic. The BJMP has implemented the strictest measures—no new detainees and an absolute lockdown that requires jail guards to stay inside jails until the quarantine is lifted. Unlike BJMP, however, local police continue to arrest and detain violators. Similarly, Bucor is still accepting new prisoners despite its current inmate population of 49,584.” | Prison outbreak: PCIJ report warns of risk of COVID-19 contagion in the jail system
“Media coverage of the pandemic has rightly placed medical professionals and all health care workers front and center in the news. The group’s vulnerability to the disease is obvious as they provide key services and hold the first line of defense against the spread of the disease.” | Focus on the Forgotten: Sad state of the NCMH