If there’s one thing this COVID-19 pandemic has proven, it is the obvious and immense distance amongst social classes.
For the privileged, myself included, the lockdown became an opportunity to spend time with their loved ones, discover a new hobby such as gardening, or relearning a forgotten skill like playing the guitar.
Do not get me wrong. The lockdown has also caused troubles to the middle-upper class such as dealing with anxieties, depression , and other mental health problems (again, myself included, since I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in April 2020).
However, just like any other disaster, natural and man-made alike, it is the poor who suffers the most.
According to the July 2020 Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country’s unemployment rate ballooned to ten percent, almost doubling the preceding year’s July record which is 5.4 percent. It even reached 17.7 percent last April 2020, the first month of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
For the rich, losing their job means having to withdraw their savings to survive the coming month/s; but for the poor, this leads to hunger. We’ve seen how some PUV drivers went begging on the streets just to put food on their table, how some street vendors fought against the authorities to be allowed to sell their goods amidst the lockdown just to provide for their families, and a lot more.
But what is more disappointing, if not angering, is how the poor were treated under the hands of the law during this pandemic.
On March 20, 2021, during the first day of the implementation of the Executive Order No. 05 – 2021 or the household lockdown in Pampanga, 281 individuals were arrested for violating quarantine protocols such as social distancing, wearing of fake masks and face shields, liquor ban, and the curfew hours. Proven violators of the said ordinance will be imprisoned for one month up to six months, or pay a bail of P20,000 to P50,000.
Also on the said date, ironically, a motorcade called #Sarall organized by the Run Sara Run Movement took place in different cities and municipalities of Pampanga. Pictures clearly showing volunteers and supporters putting down their masks without abiding to the one to two meter social distancing protocol surfaced over the internet but no one was held liable as of this writing.
Not even a week has passed, another set of photos of Run Sara Run supporters went viral online. This time, it was a caravan hiding in the guise of a food and herbal medicine donation drive which took place in Balibago, Angeles City. Barangay Captain Tony Mamac, who organized the event, was honest enough to admit that there was indeed a violation of social distancing protocols when they were about to distribute some hamburgers as seen in the photos. However, unlike the unfortunate case of the 281 individuals and counting who were arrested since March 20, Mamac and his company now sleep soundly in their homes with their families.
They say disasters are the greatest equalizers. But in a country like ours where the hands of justice lean towards the rich and the powerful, not even the COVID-19 pandemic can make us breathe the same air– masked or unmasked.