I don’t think there’s any doubt that the rallies of ABS-CBN Corp.’s talents and staff as well as those by communist-led activists against the Anti-Terrorism Law and even President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), helped worsen the pandemic that we thought we had started to put under control.
The only question is how much these contributed to the surge: coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases rose from 37,500 on June 30 to 98,232 on August 2; in the same period, 1,266 deaths to 2,039; and hospitalizations, from 6,238 to 8,729.
Of course, there were other factors that swelled the pandemic. Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. has pointed out one factor — that many asymptomatic or mild cases were not really quarantined, but merely stayed home, infecting their families.
But the surge in cases to 118 reported at University of the Philippines Diliman, a rich recruitment ground for rallyists to the nearby ABS-CBN headquarters and to the Batasang Pambansa, and the fact that Quezon City, together with Cebu City, make up the epicenters of the pandemic in the country, bolster the analysis that the demonstrations were Covid-19 super-spreaders.
It would have been magnanimous, even heroic, if the oligarchic House of Lopez had called on their serfs to desist from undertaking rallies, as these put them and others at a very high risk of contracting the disease.
But no, ABS-CBN’s lower ranking officials were leading the rallies inside and outside their headquarters. The higher ranking officials of course were nowhere to be found at the rallies.
ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak cheered on the demonstrators, but of course, cleverly, only from his chauffeur-driven Land Cruiser as it drove by the rallyists, its windows opening only intermittently. There is even a rumor that Gabby Lopez, the top Lopez honcho who the clan put in charge of ABS-CBN, had managed to leave the country, in time for his usual birthday celebration in the land of his birth.
It was a crime for ABS-CBN and its echo chamber Rappler (whose Chief Executive Officer Maria Ressa, like Katigbak, cleverly avoided the rallies) to report again and again, with so many photos, that the entertainment network’s stars were joining the rallies, their pictures showing them without masks, and even shoulder-to-shoulder with the rallyists. And to think they are role models, whether we like it or not: “The Probinsyano doesn’t wear a mask. I don’t either.”
As the Lopez strategists likely planned, their stars being in the rallies got hundreds of their fans, many from the lower-class districts in Quezon City, to rush to ABS-CBN, expecting that they could fulfill their dreams of hobnobbing with, even touching, their idols.
How many of them could now be in wards in QC hospitals, which have become overcrowded with Covid patients? How many did they, after being infected in the ABS-CBN rallies, infect others in their crowded communities?
It was criminal neglect for QC Mayor Josefina Belmonte not to have prevented legally or through persuasion the ABS-CBN rallies. Didn’t the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on the pandemic specifically ban public gatherings in which category the ABS-CBN rallies could have been put into?
I’ve been to hundreds of rallies as a participant in my youth and observer as a journalist. I can’t think of a more perfect distribution center for epidemics.
Rally participants are forced to violate either all at the same time or consecutively the four things Covid-19 experts say are absolutely necessary to contain the epidemic: 1) wear face masks in public; 2) physically distance yourself from others by at least 1 meter; 3) avoid crowds; and 4) wash your hands vigorously and avoid touching your face. One can’t help touching each other somehow in such crowds.
Do you think the rallyists never took off or lowered from their noses the masks after an hour or two under the hot sun? They wear masks, they touch each other so often in such crowds. Would anyone really be able to tell a fellow rallyist to stay away from him by 1 meter? How on earth could they have washed their hands during the rally?
As epidemiologists have also emphasized, a scenario that spreads the disease is one in which there is a lot of shouting, as droplets containing the virus are projected much further when these come from someone hollering, especially with passion, “Oust Duterte!” which is done not just by the speakers, but also by the rallyists.
Worse, after the rally, many of them —now infected — would have of course used public transport, where they infected helpless commuters coming from a hard day’s work.
Full-time activists, especially communist urban cadres, would be super-spreaders of the diseases. As “NPAs” (no permanent addresses), they move and sleep from one safehouse to another to meet with comrades indoors to do their DGs (discussion groups) or to hand down the orders from the “nakatataas.” As full-timers living frugally, as Mao’s Little Red Book enjoins them, they have the minimum hygienic standards, and are forced by circumstances to wear the same clothes (or the de rigueur jacket) for days and even weeks.
If the virus was attached to their jacket from a rally, that would be Covid-19’s base of operations for days, one that moves from place to place, even all over metropolitan Manila.
Government should implement the IATF-EID ban on public gatherings, even if the demonstrators claim these are political assemblies guaranteed by the Constitution. Better martial law than dead or sick people under a lively democracy.
Let them ask the Supreme Court to rule whether such legislation is illegal or not. By the time the high court hands down its ruling, which will be several months after, this pandemic would likely have been contained.
How stupid of us. We have imposed curfews to discourage gatherings. We have to queue at supermarket and drugstore entrances so only a small number of people are inside for a certain period for the sake of physical distancing. Travel has banned from one province to another, separating families for months. Masks and temperature checks are required to enter supermarkets and malls.
Yet we allow rallies, even those undertaken for an oligarch’s sake, where people don’t wear masks, stand shoulder-to-shoulder, shouting old slogans that project virus-laden droplets all around — the perfect distribution center for Covid-19.
Damn you, Yellow zombies, Lopezites and communists. You helped Covid-19 kill a thousand more Filipinos. And now we may have to suffer another lockdown, which would throw more Filipinos out of jobs and into hunger.
I won’t argue anymore, and instead present the photos of these rallies that, as the cliché goes, speak a thousand words.