Why Baguio People are Overly Dismayed by the Apparent Selective Application of Health Protocols
With the looming re-imposition of General Community Quarantine over the Cordilleras, residents of this mountain resort city woke up to social media posts showing pictures of the Mayor partying with celebrities at the Camp John Hay Manor. What earned the ire of Baguio folks is the manifest breach of protocols as guests are seen without facemasks and ditching social distancing conventions. Within an hour of posting, hundreds of comments were noted and local news social media pages went on an exposé spree. Disappointment, anger, and the feeling of betrayal are the common tenor among these comments. The obvious consensus is that protocols do not apply to the elite. The Mayor, a.k.a Contact Tracing Czar, seemed to have forgotten his own recent rhetoric on protocol violations and his non-hesitation to have violators arrested. To the outside world, perhaps this type of public outcry is a bit harsh considering that the Mayor has already issued a statement admitting his lapse in judgment. Well, allow me to share a series of events that lead to this outrage.
A few months ago at the height of strict quarantine restrictions, the Mayor of San Juan was placed on the spotlight for trying to evade checkpoint upon entry into the City. Despite being escorted by his local police unit, the gallant front liners at the Baguio checkpoint were able to apprehend them sending them straight to the designated triage area. From the point of view of the people, this was an insult- an act endangering the health of people in the community and a clear mockery of their strict compliance to established policies. The people expected the Mayor to enforce penalty and sanctions for his counterpart’s willful infraction but none was forthcoming. A simple apology and a ridiculous line of reasoning was enough to send the issue to Timbuktu. Clearly, the people were robbed of their right to see justice done in this incident.
Since the start of the gradual lifting of restrictions, the Mayor has been tirelessly advocating the opening of the city gates for tourists despite evident opposition from the people and most of the city’s health care workers. Again, the voice of the people fell on deaf ears. Tourists started coming in and in another blunder, the Mayor authorized the conduct of crowd-drawing event that eventually descended into a protocol nightmare. Until now, cases in the city continue to rise with the possible presence of the new UK variant. Baguio has been constantly regarded as High Risk by the OCTA research and as expected, a mere shrug of the shoulders was the Mayor’s response.
In a desperate bid to curb transmissions, the Mayor at one point, restricted the entry of residents coming from the nearby municipalities of Benguet without proper consultation with the town Mayors. Disregarding the possibility of further covid spread by tourists, he seemed to have implied that people from these municipalities are the spreaders. These neighboring municipalities are actually Baguio’s greatest life line and not the tourists he so favors. Many city workers and essential goods come from these localities. They also serve as a gateway to Baguio making the transport of essential goods possible. The relationship between the city and these Municipalities has always been one of respect and mutual benefit so backlash from all fronts came quite expected.
With this appalling state of things and the Mayor’s selective application of protocols, how then will the people of Baguio react? How could their leader be so callous to their plea? So harsh in giving marching orders to his POSD minions when it comes to apprehending regular people - People who are trying their best to survive and to strictly follow rules as long as practicable. Vendors who risks their lives in the frontlines so we could have food to buy and clothes to wear. Workers who need to provide for their families in this direst of times. Or could it be possible, as many folks surmise, that the Mayor’s heart is with the elite who gives life to his interests and not really with the people he has sworn to serve. You be the judge.