NO one messes around with the feisty Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte especially during this coronavirus crisis and gets away with it. The Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) just learned it the hard way. Inday Sara warned the religious sect of some legal action if their local ministers had continued to disregard her orders stopping all church services in the city at the height of the community quarantine, ahead of the Luzon lockdown ordered by her father, President Duterte. Other local officials have looked the other way when INC went on with church services in their localities. To them, nobody should mess around with the INC, one of the country’s most powerful religious sects that has prominent protectors in the national police and the military. Willful daughter Sara must have shaken her head in disbelief as her father dilly-dallied against the rapidly-growing menace by kowtowing to the Chinese.
Is it beyond President Duterte to apologize deeply to the families of the four doctors who gave their lives in this virus war, and to many others whose lives had been cut short in terribly-undermanned Metro Manila hospitals? Shouldn’t he stop struggling with his own conscience that still causes him sleepless nights over delaying prompt government action to fight the growing epidemic then? The nation does not hope to get any credible explanation from him on why he blindly dismissed the deadly virus “that will just go away” and that “our people are resilient” enough to withstand it. He and his officials simply denied the looming gigantic medical and social upheaval which health experts in the Asian region saw coming.
Refusing to ban Chinese travelers from Wuhan and the rest of China while cases of COVID-19 infections rose, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque was forced into a corner by his boss and, against his will, would announce that he could not do so because of the “political and diplomatic repercussions.”
A greater man would have stood his ground against this President who had put politics and diplomacy over and above the lives and well-being of his own people. The strongman now imposes his mettle on a fearful and undisciplined nation which would be otherwise daunting for a lesser individual. But to his credit, the President will likely be able to marshal his galvanizing personal drive and political zest at a very crucial time like this, overworking himself to ultimately shine through along with our health frontliners who have been ready to give up much more than he.
He is probably the only head of state on the planet who has not prohibited people from going to church services or places of worship. Tanzanian President John Magufuli was in church in the capital, Dodoma, last Sunday where he likened the pandemic to Satan, “needing divine intervention to be quelled.” A devout Catholic, he also said his government would not shut down places of worship because “these are the only places where true healing can be found.” Top opposition leaders were quick to jump on him, blurting out,” let us not argue with science.” Magufuli retorted that for the past 30 years, noted scientists and medical doctors have recognized the healing power of God. Most of the Catholic, Protestant and born-again Christian denominations have regarded this coronavirus as sent by God to punish people for various and persistent sins against God and man. Many call it God’s “judgment” on a fallen world, but only a few like Magufuli see it as the work of the devil which should not be feared and should be rebuked and cast out.
Some Christian pastors in the US have been conducting church services despite the social and public restrictions. In Minnesota, Reverend Jesse Duplantis has called on his congregation to comply with government measures against the coronavirus but not to be overcome by the paralyzing fear that keeps them away from worship services. The charismatic pastor warns that tolerating fear is blocking the exercise of faith and that “fear tolerated is faith contaminated.” And he has challenged Christian believers: “You do not know God if you do not believe that He will protect you during an emergency or crisis. How can you be infected with the virus if the Holy Spirit is in you?” Duplantis declares from the Bible that truly “greater is He who is in you than he (Satan) who is in the world.” And, he quotes 2 Timothy1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.”