COVID-19 Op-ed

Long and Winding Misery of the Marginalized: Social Exclusion in the Philippines amid COVID-19

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Kristine Mari T. MirandaGraduate Student, College
of Social Work and Community Development, University of the
Philippines

While
COVID-19 may be a global health crisis, it has brought us actually deeper
into structural and interconnected problems at the local and national levels.
It exposed social, economic, and political glitches that have been sidelined
in the past. These issues continue to expand without inclusive policies,
proper implementation, and clear guidelines being established by the
government. We may avoid the occurrence of a specific problem for a short
period of time but if we concentrate on just providing band-aid solutions
without targeting the root cause of the problem, we may end up digging
ourselves deeper into a rabbit’s hole.Inequalities are at their peak during
times of disasters and crises. The COVID-19 pandemic is a test of action for
the government on how it could rouse public participation and inclusiveness
without leaving anyone behind. “If interventions do not take these into
consideration, not only will existing inequalities be exacerbated, the
physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being, safety, and security of those
belonging to the most disadvantaged sectors will be adversely impacted (UP
COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team, 2020).”Speaking of exclusion, it is crucial
to be mindful of the plight of those who live in depressed, underserved
communities throughout the country. How much do we actually know about their
situation? Many relief programs or commonly called as
ayuda” are being implemented with little evidence-based
knowledge and understanding of their needs and challenges. Furthermore,
people at margins are being treated as beneficiaries, but never partners to
combat this pandemic. The government may be concerned but definitely lacked
the willingness and ability to alleviate the deprived from the negative
impacts of this crisis.The continuous extension of the Enhanced Community
Quarantine (ECQ) had exacerbated many facets of this public health crisis.
For instance, the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), indicated in the
Republic Act No. 11469, also known as the Bayanihan to Heal As One
Act,
earmarked billions of pesos worth of cash assistance for 18
million poor households. However, as of May 11, only
16.1 million or 89.42% of beneficiaries were able to claim their cash
assistance a day after the second adjusted deadline (Inquirer.net, 2020).The
government forced people to stay home, but failed to provide them with basic
assistance they need to survive on a daily basis. This public health crisis
has evolved to be an economic and social disaster, whereby human rights and
freedoms are disrespected. On May 1, Rappler.com, an online news network,
reported that there were at least 38,817 individuals who have been arrested
for allegedly violating the protocols of the ECQ. Some of these quarantine
“violators,” mostly from marginalized communities, are merely finding ways to
survive. However, their needs seem to be sidelined by authorities who are
mandated to ensure their well-being and rights.  Apparently, those who
are in power would never understand struggles on the ground, because
marginalized peoples were never included in the fight against the pandemic.
As the number of cases rise every day, more and more people suffer from the
lack of systematic governance of COVID-19.When the initial step en route to
social inclusion is not achieved, the very nature of dealing with the
pandemic has already failed. During this crisis, the government should also
let the people be involved in the process.Local Government Units (LGUs) must
be given adequate resources, freedom and political will to initiate and
implement programs that address concerns of their constituents. Different
sectors should be consulted first concerning their situations before coming
up with policies and programs. This will ensure that government service
caters to the needs of everyone, especially, the disadvantaged, the poor, and
the marginalized.This crisis revealed a fragile system that only serves the
interests of an elite few. Those at the fringes of society were never given a
fighting chance to survive, all the more, to contribute to policies and
programs that would elevate them from deprivation and suffering. Moreover,
the government should ensure that rights and freedoms are fully protected. It
should always provide a safe and open space for voices from the ground to
speak their truth, as well as dissent and criticism from the public. Lastly,
active collaboration among people’s organizations, community-based
organizations, and other civil society groups should be strengthened
throughout this process of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and
beyond.Reference:Al-Adhami,
R. (2011, May 3). The significance of social inclusion for
development.
United Nations Research Institute for Social
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on 10 May, 2020.Biseneo, X.L. (2020, April 22). The pre-COVID-19
plight of the poor and government’s old ways.
IBON.org. Retrieved
from https://www.ibon.org/the-pre-covid-19-plight-of-the-poor-and-governments-old-ways/
on 15 May, 2020.De Silva, R. (2020, May 4). COVID-19: Its impact on
the Philippines – Parts I, II, III, and IV of V.
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on 14 May, 2020.International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
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deadline, only 89% of beneficiaries got aid—DSWD.
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on 14 May, 2020.University of the Philippines COVID-19 Pandemic Response
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on 13 May, 2020.

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