‘Barter’ is life!

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Barter communities got fired up when DTI Sec. Ramon Lopez made a statement that online barter is “illegal” and that they will go after those engage in this activity.

Funny enough, there were some who said that the Lopez statement is being used as a “propaganda” by critics of the government. Duh!

At any rate, the day after, Lopez turned around and clarified that only online business barter transactions are prohibited by law, while personal transactions are allowed, thus all is forgiven and forgotten.

Nevertheless, the Global Barter Communities which was started by lawyer Jocelle Batapa who also founded the Bacolod Barter Community that started the craze, immediately came out with a statement the very day that Lopez raised the illegality of said online barters.

“It is with painful sadness and frustration that we read the news today about the plan of Lopez to ‘hunt’ due to violation of laws the over 1 Million Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world who are helping one another through bartering online,” their statement said.

The Bacolod Barter spread like fire at the height of the lockdown when people had to stay home, found time to dig through their trash and treasures, and exchange it with someone who needs it. Without work or income, barter became a source of food and essentials for many.

There were of course problems in the early stage as organizers cautioned members for hoarding or bartering essential goods such as face masks and alcohols. It also popularized Spam and Yakult that disappeared fast from grocery shelves. This has now been replaced by the trending obsession for plants.

I myself was initially a fan of the barter community and made several transactions. There are barter pages that allow exchange of cash but as many have pointed out, these goods, even if new, were already taxed when purchased, so why tax it again? Are we this destitute despite the billions of dollars this government has accrued that we will even go after small time barter trades?

The statement of the battered barter groups to Lopez was very emotional. “Our communities are hungry. Help us. Do not pin us to the ground and take what little dignity left of us by exchanging our used clothes instead of stealing in order to survive. If you must use the law, use it to help Filipinos but do not further worsen our situation.”

Jocelle is quite admirable for getting all 150 barter communities globally to issue that statement immediately in response to Lopez. Thus, I was taken aback when yesterday, after reading the clarification of Lopez, she was all praises of how she admired the guy and (I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this) perhaps it was all along media’s fault for “no follow up questions.”

Before becoming a lawyer and councilor, Jocelle was in media and in her interview yesterday, it sounded like this could have all been avoided if media did its job well by asking more questions. Huh?

I am not sure if Jocelle actually saw the interview of Lopez or just read some article about it, but the fact is, Lopez was accurately quoted during the “Laging Handa” public briefing which is actually a government-media program.

It may be true that Lopez had no idea or the context of the online barter craze, but ignorance is not an excuse. As a cabinet secretary, you don’t shoot off statements that can immediately be considered as a policy if you are not clear of the issue. But to insinuate it may be media’s fault? Please!

The fact too that the Global Barter Community issued a rebuttal immediately was clearly because Jocelle and her cohorts believed the public statement of Lopez. Or was that a knee-jerk rebuttal for something that should have been clarified first by the organizers if they so believe that Lopez is so admirable and not capable of doing such?

We are very much aware that this government keeps on flip-flopping on various issues. Media is there to simply report it and not wait it out until our so-called leaders get a clear sense of things. If people did not actually react to the initial Lopez announcement, do you think he will change his tune? Nah!

Just to further elucidate on how this government keeps on confusing the public is the supposed clarification of Presidential Spokesperson, Harry Roque that contrary to DILG Sec. Eduardo Año’s statement of mobilizing the police to go on a home-to-home search for COVID-19 positives and place them in quarantine facilities, they will only haul off reported patients who are unable to have a proper home quarantine. Are they even talking to each other?

Roque also said that their way to entice these patients to “voluntarily surrender” for isolation is the fact that “these are air-conditioned centers, free lodging, free meals three times a day and with free wi-fi.”

Coming from the president’s alter ego, should we not take that as a policy? If so, can Bacolod and Negros Occidental live up to this? Dream on!*

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