There is no doubt that for most of us, 2020 absolutely sucked.
It sucked not only because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the year 2020 also revealed how the government officials we ultimately elected in 2016 proved to be less than capable than most of their peers in the planet.
Almost one year after the pandemic was declared, it would probably be safe to say that the COVID-19 response of our beloved Philippines continues to be among the worst in the world. Proof of this ongoing tragedy is nine months after our government belatedly responded to the coronavirus outbreaks, our country is still stuck in its first wave of infections. Other countries have already gone through their second and even third waves but Filipinos are still surfing our one giant wave that our government was never able to suppress.
Most countries that took COVID-19 seriously were able to more or less reduce infections to an acceptable level because of the proactive science-based actions their government took. But because COVID is so infectious and difficult to control, those governments that initially succeeded in controlling the spread of the disease still ended up facing wave after wave of COVID infections. The point here is that they initially succeeded but were still overwhelmed by succeeding waves while in the Philippines, statistics show that we are still failing to control the initial wave of infections. The famously resilient Filipino simply learned to adapt to the never-ending wave and deal with the new normal that includes government’s never-ending restrictions and regulations that are meant to make us feel like they are doing something.
We gave our government a chance, even when it basically gave up and pinned all hopes on the global scientific community as it fast-tracked the development of a vaccine. Even if we did not contribute anything towards that effort, we were not even willing to make a down payment or pay a reservation fee. Perhaps our leaders whose powers within this country have grown immensely ever since they neutered the opposition and silenced critical voices in the media thought that their powers and influence were enough to force their way into the queue and subvert the capitalist system that doesn’t care who they are, who they’ve had jailed, shut down, or allowed to be killed.
2020 ended with the news that our government has dropped the ball as far as vaccine procurement is concerned, confirming that the Philippines will not be first in line and that Filipinos will have to wait a few more months for the vaccine whilst it is already being deployed in countries where effective and efficient governance is present. Outgoing US president in denial Donald Trump’s government may be pretty messed up but at least Trump showed his art of the deal ability by getting vaccines for Americans. As usual, all Filipinos got were boastful and empty promises.
To make matters worse, 2021 began with even more depressing news that our own government has already vaccinating select people with unauthorized and smuggled vaccines. In other words, our public servants found nothing wrong with breaking the law and prioritizing themselves over the people. The heights of hypocrisy scaled by a government that claims to be engaged in a deadly war against illegal drugs allows us to begin this year with the realization that it is truly every man for himself in this country.
We should’ve done this a long time ago but because it is the season of resolutions, now would be the best time to remind ourselves of our obligation to ourselves, our children, and our nation.
Let us resolve to want more for 2021 and beyond. More competence, more accountability, more transparency. Let us resolve to raise our ultra-low standards for leadership and public office. Let us recognize the failures, take notes, and prepare for the 2022 elections. 2020 should’ve made us realize that we need to have standards and expectations from the people we put in power as the stewards of our future. 2021 is our opportunity to show ourselves and our children that we are capable of learning from our mistakes and changing our future.
I am hoping that 2020 is as close as we can get to rock bottom, as a country and as a people. Because rock bottom means we can only go up from there. However, if we do nothing this 2021, we might end up as the proverbial bottom dwellers or worse, allow ourselves to sink even lower.
What we do this year will prepare us for the future. Hopefully we are ready to finally take action after spending the whole of 2020 on our butts, waiting for a savior that, it turns out, was only interested in saving friends and cronies.
We can just carry on as we did in 2020 and expect nothing from our country or 2021 can be a new beginning. That is the choice we will have to make as we start the New Year.*