If the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated anything, it is how imperfect such institutions as governments and even entire societies are — and that some are more flawed, damaged, and damaging than others.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon headquarters of the US Department of Defense came the virtual reversal of the global trend towards liberalization and democratization that had characterized the last two decades of the 20th century.
A sovereign citizenry’s right and duty of monitoring and evaluating public issues and problems, and of commenting on them and proposing alternative approaches and solutions, are best served by a free press. But because their hold on power partly depends on being perceived as infallible, most governments including the Philippines’ own detest criticism, hence their antipathy to press freedom and free expression.
The Department of Health (DOH) has stopped the local government of Marikina City from testing its residents for COVID-19 despite the considerable efforts and costs of setting up the facility. The DOH said it should be located in a separate building all its own.
With over 500 cases in the Philippines, the COVID-19 threat is already serious enough to concern everyone. But its unwanted presence has also further exposed Filipinos to the authoritarian virus that to this day has survived the 1896 Revolution, World Wars I and II, the EDSA civilian-military mutiny of 1986, and the untiring efforts of human rights defenders, independent journalists, committed artists and academics, civil society organizations, and social and political activists to combat it.