As we go to the press, we heard local authorities of Lanao del Sur have started halting violators of special laws concerning the urgent task to help flattn the pandemic coronavirus.
It may be a little bit harsh. But it is not yet late to strictly enforce special laws and local ordinances. In fact, it is timely. Without enforcing such laws, the locality will not be different from an anarchy, without realizing such a truth.
Despite being under the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) for almost a month, Lanao del Sur including its capital, the Islamic city of Marawi, remains the only locality placed under the more harder MECQ across the Philippines.
The only reason one can openly say is that coronavirus infection has surged in the locality despite the stricter MECQ measures it was placed earlier from September 8 to 30, 2020.
Before September 7, the province and the city had a spike of local infections which is higher than many other localities. This prompted the provincial government to request the national IATF to allow them place Lanao del Sur and Marawi City under MECQ. NIATF implementer Valdez approved it and thus the province was placed under MECQ from September 8 to 30, 2020.
On September 28, 2020, President Rordrigo Duterte in a televised announcement relaxed the measures of those localities from MECQ to GCQ except Lanao del Sur because the virus infections in the Maranao dominated province keep on surging. The present infection is much higher than before September 8 and earlier.
Why does virus infection keep on surging in Lanao del Sur?
Some say, it was the residents’ stubbornness, many of whom don’t believe in the seriousness of the pandemic while equally too are many who say, “If it is not the will of God, the Coronavirus cannot harm us.” They sacrifice the purpose why laws are made which is for their well-being to the extent that they circumvent, if not violate the law.
Others say there is no discipline among the Maranaos. They do not follow guidelines, the required health protocols. They do not observe minimum health protocols such as social distancing, wearing of face masks and shields, regular washing of hands with water and soap or disinfecting with alcohol. In sum, they are not law-abiding. One may even be led to believe this nature exists within them, in their culture.
On September 28, media practitioners visited Marawi. There they clearly observed how Maranaos do not care about rules, ordinances or laws. They do not follow traffic rules. They throw garbage anywhere they can see convenient for them. They do not listen to traffic enforcers to follow smooth queues in one way lane roads.
And the law enforcers? That is the question. It appears there is no truly a strong political will to execute ordinances and laws. Everybody knows there is penalty in not properly throwing garbage, that counter flowing and overtaking in a narrow one way road is not allowed and that there are corresponding penalty for any violation.
Likewise, not wearing of face masks, and face shields, not observing social distancing, attending mass gathering of people of more than the required minimum of participants, not observing health protocols the government requires the populace to observe have corresponding penalties for their violations.
And it is the duty of law enforcers to implement those guidelines, rules, ordinances and laws.
But in Marawi and Lanao del Sur? The media people have yet to see enforcers like in such cities as Iligan, Cagayan or Cotabato strictly implement these guidelines, ordinances and laws. It is only now that we have heard they are beginning to apprehend violators in Marawi. And let us ask, “How long will these law enforcement operations last?”
The spikes of infections in the province and its capital Islamic city is not solely the fault of the populace. While they share in the blame, more to be blamed, if there is any other to be blamed, are the local chief executives for lack of strong political will. And, of course, law enforcement agencies in the locality especially Maranaos must perform their duties religiously for which they are being paid for. Otherwise, without law enforcement, no amount of strict community quarantine can flatten the deadly Covid-19.