FROM out of the blue, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo proposed yesterday that students should be temporarily banned from entering and loitering in shopping malls as an added precaution against the COVID-19. Specifically, Panelo appealed to the owners of malls and movie houses to prevent students from entering their establishments this week, saying they should stay at home for now.
The Palace’s concern is that just because President Duterte authorized the suspension of all classes in Metro Manila from March 10 to March 13 following his declaration of a nationwide state of public health emergency, students and pupils will congregate in malls where before they used to crowd the campuses. The Chief Executive’s decision on classes was prompted by the fact that last Monday, the number of Filipinos infected by the coronavirus had soared to 24.
President Duterte earlier authorized the suspension of classes in Metro Manila from March 10 to March 14 after the country’s coronavirus cases soared from 12 then 24 as of Monday night, and then 33 on Tuesday afternoon. The class suspension seeks to protect the students and prevent the further spread of the coronavirus in the country.
A presidential spokesman usually mirrors the thinking of the President. He or she echoes the words of the boss, the Chief Executive. Thus, when Panelo speaks, especially at a formal press briefing in Malacañang, his words are taken on the character of being official.
“What the malls and movie houses should do is not to allow those students. They should also cooperate,” Panelo said during a press briefing Tuesday.
“I’m appealing to them. Kasi nga kailangan tayong magtulungan. All of us should do something. We should be creative … If I were them, they should not allow or discourage them from entering the malls and movie houses. It is for their interest,” Panelo added.
He stressed that the students should stay at home and study during the duration of the class suspension. He said they should not loiter especially in crowded places.
He noted that barangay officials have been directed to ensure that no student will loiter in crowded places and to advise them to go home. If the students will resist, he said, the police or the village officials will inform the parents about their children’s situation, short of physically dragging them home.
This latest pronouncement from the Palace show that the government is taking the national emergency to fight COVID-19 seriously. The tact is to use moral suasion first to enjoin compliance from the people, and even the grudging cooperation of the business community whose losses will soon plummet southward.
Panelo, and by extension, the President, is vigorously asking for the cooperation and sacrifice from every Filipino, for that truly is the nature of a national emergency. “There is a crisis. This is for public safety, public interest, general welfare. That will be your basis,” Secretary Panelo said.
The nation is put on notice that under this emergency, many more inconvenient directives are forthcoming.