By Jun Ledesma

Cannot DOH take hint?

WE have seen them sleeping on pavements underneath canopies of skyways and roof eaves near Ninoy Aquino International Airport. They have been there for days, weeks in fact, and we have even a name for them: “Locally Stranded Individuals” or LSIs. They were there not because of their choice for in fact they have none.
Many of them are fortune seekers, lured by the glitters and glam of Metro Manila, the diabolic luster in an inferno which they thought reflects the job opportunities deprived of them in the provinces or where labor or servitude get better pay. When the new coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) struck they stuck it out until the order of lockdown caught up with them. They lived a miserable life and desperation wanted to go home.
The LSIs have each a story of their travail. The excruciating faces of despair, hunger, and need had become the centerpiece of media reports. We saw them daily being interviewed on nationwide TV. No social distancing and improper use of masks. From where I watched quarantined at my house in Davao City, I kept asking myself how can the Department of Health missed this horror? To their credit, the Air Force provided them space somewhere in Villamor Airbase. In the meantime, I wonder whether they were or are being subjected to the necessary tests.
Yesterday Senator Bong Go, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, issued an appeal for the LSIs to be accorded the necessary health regimen and to ensure that the basic health and sanitation protocols are provided them. Rightly so. These people are eager to go home but having been appraised of a number of LSIs who were ferried home earlier but were later found to be Covid-positive, the good Senator issued a caution and piece of that for the health and security of those scheduled to leave for their respective destinations and their families each has to go through the procedures.
DOH Sec. Francisco Duque has to open his eyes even if he remains deaf to the din of the calls for him to resign and take over from where the Air Force personnel started. He should save Pres. Rodrigo Duterte from catch 22 of having to retire or retain him and saying a kind remark that he trusted him. I mean, at least with the LSIs for him to act on their health issues with dispatch and not wait for a hint from Sen. Bong Go what measures should be done.
President Duterte and his Economic Team have commenced on a delicate strategy to rev up the economy and balance this with health concerns to keep our nation alive. If Duque is not going to leave on his own, then he should wake up from a state of lethargy and take a good grip on the reins of the Health Department. My gosh! Wasn’t he jarred when the President dispatched Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu to look after the health problems in Cebu City? Twice Duterte, appeared on TV to say that he will make the rounds of the country to personally assess the health situation. Isn’t he the captain of the ship and not the engineman? Just asking.


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.