VIPs amid the pandemic

A senator who tested positive for Covid-19 visits a hospital and goes grocery shopping despite strict home quarantine protocols, recklessly exposing healthcare workers and other frontliners to the virus.

Some government officials and their families were able to easily get tested for Covid-19–and they quickly got results–even when there were not enough test kits and the Department of Health was prioritizing the testing of those exhibiting symptoms. Meanwhile, many OFWs remain in prolonged quarantine, still waiting for their delayed test results.

A police chief has a birthday party at their police camp despite the ban on mass gatherings while Metro Manila was on lockdown, even as many others, including protesting jeepney drivers and students, have been dragged into jail.

A Metro Manila mayor and his entourage are able to drive all the way to Baguio to visit a posh country club, barging through strict border checkpoints and disregarding quarantine protocols and rules for non-essential travel, even as hundreds of people remain stranded and cannot return to their hometowns.

These are just some sorry examples showing this so-called VIP syndrome is alive and well, especially amid the pandemic.

The VIP syndrome is the tendency to treat influential people differently. It has become somewhat of a culture among Filipinos that we do not seem to follow standard practices and rules because certain people are regarded as VIPs, in particular politicians and government officials who think they are entitled to certain perks and privileges because of their posts.

When he was newly elected president in 2016, TV reports showed Duterte passing through the x-ray and metal scanners at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport like a common passenger as he flew home to Davao City.

The president was seen shaking hands with people as he walked to the boarding gate, accompanied by his security detail. By undergoing security check at the airport, he wanted to set an example to other officials to shun VIP treatment. He wanted to show that under his watch, the same rules will apply to both government officials and the people whom they are supposed to serve. No special treatment and no special favors. This example seems to have fallen away from certain realities.

The VIP treatment seems to be the practice in many areas of the bureaucracy during this pandemic. When exposed in media, authorities seem to make light of it, as if there’s much ado about nothing. They are quick to sweep issues under the rug and dismiss credible allegations.

The guilty government officials come up with all kinds of excuses along with their so-called apologies. They might even exhort people to just forgive and forget, perhaps citing there are more important issues facing the country that we should be concerned with during the pandemic, never acknowledging that they are part of these problems. 

They send a very wrong message during this pandemic, which the United Nations called humanity’s worst crisis since World War 2: That we Filipinos are not all in this together. That some people are exempted and are above the rules.

Many have shown their utter disgust, particularly through social media. Filipinos have called certain government officials and politicians shameless, irresponsible and arrogant. They are supposed to be public servants after all. They are supposed to serve the people and not be their lords and masters. Taxpayers are paying for their offices and incomes.  

For a lot of them, obviously, their magnificent houses, expensive cars, servants and bodyguards could never have been financed merely by their government salaries, but they are public servants just the same. At least they are supposed to be.

Yet we have seen plenty of examples of them behaving as bullies and showing a reprehensible pattern of abusive behavior against the very people they are supposed to serve.  As makers and implementers of government policies, regulations and laws, they should be the first ones to follow these to show a good example, not flout them. What makes it more galling is that they can get away with their bad behavior without sanctions and manage to stay in their posts in the top echelons of government, which only encourages more irate reactions from the public.

They can blame media for blowing up issues but the adverse sentiment toward them is just the healthy reaction of many Filipinos already appalled by their VIP affliction.

Image credits: Jimbo Albano


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