The mandate that all Filipino citizens must undergo mass testing has led to public outcry, fueled frustration and disappointment among many, and many have been alarmed by how easily migrant workers can be targeted by these measures.
Last week, the government required all Filipino citizens to undergo mass testing as they made up 9.5% of Covid-19 cases in the city.
Causing outrage online and offline, the authorities stated the next day that 25% of the community’s cases over the past two weeks were Filipinos.
That 25% up to 20 cases, 20 Filipinos.
Available data shows that nearly 4% of the city’s current residents are Filipinos, given that many of them have left amid the pandemic crisis that has forced businesses to lay off employees – including local residents.
171 Covid-19 cases, 20 community cases. These are the justifications for the mandatory test.
No details were given of 171 cases. Were they key factors? Workers who were exposed and therefore more likely to contract the virus while the city was half asleep during the partial lockdown?
Were they domestic workers who were not living with their employers despite numerous calls from the government to employers to arrange a place for them to stay in their homes but were unable to do so due to the lack of a spare room – and thus had to use public transportation?
Or were they workers who squeezed themselves together in a two-bedroom apartment, shared the room with three to four other people, and then formed a “gathering?”
Heeding the government’s call for mass testing is not difficult. What is a 10-minute walk to a DNA testing station (NAT) to get tested if it can help trace the source of the infection? Especially if the authorities call on employers to allow their employees to take the test during working hours. We all walk out of these stations with free gifts on hand: free N95 masks and rapid antigen test kits.
This jurisdiction has been generous in making sure that the public responds to their call to achieve their goal of zero cases.
However, it has become difficult to achieve due to an underlying problem – the conditions of vulnerable groups.
The weak not covered by the minimum wage law – the weak ones who earn the least, and work the longest.
They are not just part of a global health crisis; They are part of a crisis that has existed for a long time.
The pandemic has (again) only exposed how the majority of these city-dwelling citizens see an adequate housing environment as a luxury due to the outdated MOP500 housing allowance. Thus, they became more susceptible to infection with the virus due to these “collections”.
What happened also echoes questions from the UN Human Rights Committee last week, which questioned the Bureau of Labor Affairs (DSAL) about the lack of a minimum wage for domestic workers.
To this question, the office inexplicably answered, “The main reason for this is that home helpers are special and families [who] Employing domestic labor and providing jobs and domestic labor is not there [to help them] make a profit.”
In response to the mandate, the Consulate General of the Philippines in SAR issued three statements over the weekend, which were also criticized by many for throwing Filipinos under the bus.
In its second statement, the consulate noted, “lubos na nababahala,” which translates to a statement that it is “extremely concerned” about one in four Filipino cases in the community.
Given the conditions of essential Filipino workers in the community, 20 community cases are less worrisome. The sad reality of these vulnerable groups gives us a lot to be “extremely concerned” about.