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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, August 25, 2020
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia



A four-day “timeout weekend” has been announced for the cities of Bacolod, Talisay, Silay and Bago and the municipality of Murcia, from August 28 to 31 so mass testing for COVID-19 can be conducted. Provincial and local governments involved are targeting 10,000 free tests during that weekend as they try their bestest to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections that have been surging ever since the ECQ period ended a couple of months ago and the floodgates of infected humanity were unleashed upon our shores by the national government task force ironically responsible for keeping COVID-19 infections under control.

The details as sketchy as of this writing, but still we have a couple of days to go before that so-called timeout weekend and, based on our previous experience with lockdown announcements and details, the resilient Filipino is expected to find our own ways of adapting no matter how little time we are given to prepare for such events.

It’s just four days or one long weekend so don’t panic too much guys. We have today, Wednesday and Thursday to refresh and renew our stocks of toilet paper, Spam and Yakult. Rushing to banks to hoard cash is no longer absolutely necessary because we have already experienced longer lockdowns in the past and even if we do run out of cash, we can always barter.

It would be nice if we can be informed of the guidelines in a timely manner but since our President can change the quarantine status of the National Capital Region in the dead of night and expect implementation by the time the cock crows, our local leaders probably feel no pressure to be more considerate than the country’s mayor. It is difficult to blame their lack of preparation and mediocrity at this point, especially after they have seen what happens to those lesser mayors who have unknowingly outshined the master by being too proactive and visionary.

Whatever happens this weekend, let us simply be thankful that we get to have a timeout for testing. Never mind that it is almost 5-6 months late, what is important for Filipinos during these troubling times is the adage “better late than never” and the tried and tested “tumulong ka na lang.” In other words, do not complain, but be a good Filipino: be thankful and cooperate.

If you come to think of it, all time outs are good, even if it is already overtime and we are down by 189,000. This time out would’ve made our leaders look like geniuses had it been done by April instead of almost September, or Jose Mari Chan season. But the sad fact is that we had neither the test kits nor the laboratories and personnel then because our government was not prepared. Our dear leader and his merry gang of boomers thought they were going to be playing barangay-level tic-tac-toe when they should’ve been preparing for the Olympics.

This time out weekend, if done properly, will help our island and our cities get a grip on the real COVID-19 situation. 10,000 tests will be really helpful, especially if the targeting is done correctly. They have 4 days to do this and, hopefully, they don’t waste those precious tests on frivolous and power-tripping people. We need the tests to confirm which areas have truly become hotspots, which hotspots are emerging, and which areas are still relatively safe. It is not a status symbol or an IG-story opportunity.

If our battle cry is “better late than never,” hopefully the people responsible for this time out weekend are also gunning for “get it right the first time.” It may be embarrassing to admit that the timeout weekend is our first time to attempt a targeted mass testing, especially since it is already almost half a year since our leaders first decided to implement one of the longest and harshest lockdowns in the planet without a plan in mind. But if we treat this time out weekend like it is the first time, like it is April and this is our one and only chance to control the COVID-19 outbreak on our island, a properly targeted and conducted 10,000 tests, coupled with a science and data based action plan or roadmap that does not depend on checkpoints, curfews and camouflage uniforms; could turn the tide in Negros.

The overtime-time-out can still work but our leaders will have to be put to the test. This cannot be a token gesture. This shouldn’t be another one of those typical displays of braggadocio followed by no follow through. They will have to be brave enough to defy the boomer high command, smart enough to put the right people in charge of a plan that, if it works, could embarrass the powerful higher ups who have so far achieved nothing significant despite wasting trillions of pesos and six months. They have to be ready for the blowback of doing well in a country where mediocrity and the gold standard have unfortunately become synonyms. They might actually have to put Negros and Negrenses ahead of their political plans and ambitions by doing their jobs properly, not being afraid to outshine the greatest in the solar system by actually making a positive difference right now instead of waiting for the winds of change before committing to doing what should’ve been done from the very start.

It’s not yet game over for us. A time out can help, even if it’s already over time. If we are going to have a time out, our coaches better be doing it because they have a game plan, and not because they just want to stop the game clock and want to look like they know what they’re doing.

We shall see what this time out achieves in a couple of days. Let us pray that it is not another waste of time and resources.*  

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