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Last year, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) launched the Disiplina Muna public advocacy program to bring back the discipline among Filipinos for a safe, healthy and progressive country that it used to be in the past. The program engaged respected political leaders and private individuals to be the poster personalities of the program to ensure the public is enticed to go back to a basic way of life as a response to the pandemic facing the country and achieve a better place to live and provide improved quality of life among the Filipinos.

Obviously, the rolling out of the program in the different parts of the country had its own for the country to achieve its overall objectives in elevating to a higher level the living condition of Filipinos.

On March 17, 2020, because of the need to really instill discipline as one of the very important virtues of individuals’ birth pains, President Rodrigo R. Duterte placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) after declaring a state of national emergency to prevent the rapid spread of the dreaded Corona Virus Disease (COVID) 2019 to ensure the health and safety of Filipinos. Everyone, except frontliners and those engaged in essential work and businesses, were required to stay at home so as not to be exposed to the unseen enemy and contract the deadly virus, and cause the local or community transmission of the same.

Further, the government, through the national inter-agency task force for the management of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, also crafted stringent guidelines that included basic health and safety protocols pursuant to international standards, such as the strict adherence to physical distancing, the mandatory wearing of face masks at all times, the practice of personal hygiene and sanitation, among others, to guide the behavior people and prevent them from being infected with the highly contagious virus which has been elevated to a global pandemic.

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During the height of the ECQ and later, the general community quarantine (GCQ), people had to learn to be vigilant on what is happening around them. Local officials were on their toes leading the implementation of health and sanitation programs to help stamp out the virus. Everything seemed to be in the right direction as most people began to reflect on the latest developments in the world while being confined in their residences. At the most, Mother Earth definitely took a breather from the enormous environmentally-polluting activities of people and businesses that had a serious negative impact on the state of the environment.

Each local government or community in the country had their own unique way of handling the situation and to make sure that their constituents will not contract the virus and subsequently spread the same. It is definitely difficult for people to adjust to the situation where everyone home confinement was immediately required of almost everyone and this measure somehow succeeded to a great degree in keeping the numbers of confirmed COVID patients only in the hundreds.

Because of the clamor from the different sectors and the people for the possible resumption of certain businesses that will allow the gradual recovery of the economy, government was compelled to design a system where with certain types of community quarantine allowed for the slow transition from the lockdown to the new normal while efforts are being done to develop the appropriate vaccine or medicine against the virus. However, the downgrading of the community quarantine status of most areas in the country which allowed the restrictions on the movement of people to be relaxed eventually saw the number of cases suddenly rise up. Still, health authorities claimed the government was still in control of the situation. Evidently, the spike in case only showed that the people were not able to sustain the discipline of the earlier quarantine period. It seems that as soon as the community quarantine status of most areas in the country were downgraded, we forgot the discipline we have to follow and lessons learned from the experience.

We would like to emphasize that the people and local officials should remain focused on the efforts to prevent the spread of the deadly virus in their communities. Let us not put our guards down as we are still in a very fragile situation where anything can happen in a short span of time. We need to continue what we practiced during the lockdown because it is the one that will eventually free us from the threats of the pandemic.

We believe the government did enough to cascade to the grassroots level the minimum health standards that must be observed, thus, it is our obligation as citizens to also strictly adhere to the same. However, the government should also show consistency in the compliance to the quarantine guidelines and not simply to be relative on the matter, especially when it concerns some personalities. What is important today is for every individual to do their part because no single person can solve our present problem.

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