Readers' Comments on LIMITS

07 May 2020

Aside from the readers' comments found underneath the article INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM vs COLLECTIVE GOOD, some comments were too long to be accommodated in the space allocated at the website.  I have therefore taken the liberty of publishing them below, as follows:

From Gerry van der Linden

Leaving aside the specifics of these two cases, the key issue is the one you identify: can individual freedoms be curtailed in the interest of a common good? The answer is of course yes.

Someone must take care of the delivery of common or collective goods and addressing common evils. In a democracy like the Philippines (real or otherwise, but that is a separate debate), we entrust elected politicians with those responsibilities. If they introduce a law or regulation, we accept that we have to comply with it. If the law or regulation is seen as unreasonable, we can work towards its repeal or seek to amend it.

So, an appeal to authorities, as you suggest, to amend a legal measure that is seen as unreasonable is a possible way forward. But that is the easy part. How to amend the measure in question? My understanding is that you can only leave your residence for essential shopping (or when given a permit for essential work). Indeed, a blunt measure, but how would you modify it in a way that does not only benefit people living in condominiums with swimming pools? It is also blunt in that it can only be complied with by people who have a residence that allows them to stay indoors; 40% of Manila’s population live in slums.

One way would be to replace it with a regulation that allows people to go outside provided they wear a face mask and they keep a distance of at least 2 meters from each other. Would that work? Would people comply?

Another way would be to keep the current rules but show leniency in enforcing them (as already happens in slum areas, or allow surreptitious violations as you suggest). Would that lead to rule-breaking on an acceptable scale or would it completely negate the effectiveness of the measures? Unfortunately, the approach taken in the Philippines has been very much based on compliance enforced by police and military backed up by regulations drafted by lawyers so the second approach may not work.

From Mildred Dominguez

I understand the gravity of the covid-19 health concerns. First of all, we need to protect ourselves and of course other people by our actions and behavior. Wearing masks and social distancing outside of your own property are a must. If you take this to heart, (short of wearing PPEs--Personal Protective Equipment), you are, most importantly, protecting others (this is what authorities are emphasizing) and, of course, yourself.

However, I believe, the authorities have taken it too far. To the point that I personally feel that it has gotten to Gestapo-like tactics and surveillance. People will listen more if the approach is humane, benign and with loving kindness. The harshness of authorities gets people riled up and triggers the urge to fight back. When everyone is so stressed and worried as they are right now, we do not need another layer of authority ordering or harassing us on what to do. The authorities are the ones whom we expect to be more humane (having been schooled on how to treat the public). Unfortunately, many times they do abuse their power.

Here at my subdivision in Royal Pines West (RPW) where there are only 16 occupied residences in a 14-hectare subdivision, we were told by PNP (Philippine National Police) that we cannot walk the streets of RPW at any time even if we’re wearing masks. There is absolutely no way we can walk in groups. But there’s hardly anybody here. Look how ridiculous this order is. There are some highly populated areas of Tagaytay where people congregate - why don’t they focus their efforts on these people? Authorities seem to have lost their common sense in dealing with this crisis. PNP has entered RPW many times to check if people are complying with the rules (e.g., no walking even if solo, and even with a mask on).

I truly don’t get it . . . 

From Alex Alianan

The PNP (Philippine National Police)  has been trying to be strict. Everyone is becoming paranoid, But I say it's better to be paranoid and safe than short of precautions and fail. This is where China excelled. If the state says "everybody stay indoors" everyone follows for fear of the state; unlike in western countries where people want to enjoy their liberties and therefore need to be convinced before they follow rules.  They don't want to reduce their "freedoms." I'm not pro China but in this situation, a strong arm rule could be beneficial.