COVID-19 is not an equalizer – community doc

In the fourth episode of Bulatlatan, community doctor Dr. Gene Nisperos debunked the many narratives peddled by government officials regarding COVID-19 pandemic.


MANILA – A community medicine doctor belied that the COVID-19 is an equalizer and maintained that the poorest of the poor remains the most vulnerable to the disease.

In the fourth episode of Bulatlatan, the regular webcast of Bulatlat, Dr. Gene Nisperos of the Community Medicine and Development Foundation (Commed), said, “The ‘Heal as One’ narrative is rooted in the discourse that virus does not distinguish whether a person is rich or not or if you live in a big house or not or that everyone is equally affected. But that is only partially true. What is kept here is that one’s economic standing determines their chances of afflicting the virus.”

Such claim was just one of the narratives debunked by Nisperos in this week’s Bulatlatan episode titled, “Framing narratives, reporting a pandemic.”

As of this writing, the Philippines has nearly 7,000 positive cases, with 462 deaths. An international research revealed that the country unfortunately ranked first with the highest percentage of deaths among health workers in relation to the total number of COVID-19 deaths.

Read: Mass testing for health workers urged anew amid spike in COVID-19 positive cases

Blind follower?

Nisperos also said that the struggles affecting the country’s poor amid the pandemic should not be oversimplified as a mere result of their stubbornness (katigasan ng ulo) or for being trouble-makers (pasaway).

Another false narrative being peddled nowadays is that “discipline” is needed to control the spread of the virus. Nisperos, however, equated the very narrow definition of “discipline” as mere “blind following.”

Iron-fist discipline, said Nisperos, is dangerous as it aims to impose blind obedience. Education, he said, is the key to combatting the deadly virus.

If at all, poor families do not want to get sick because they know how expensive it can be, the community doctor added. Yet, many poor families are forced to leave their homes despite the lockdown and curfews in place because they need to put food on the table.

Read: Informal workers find ways to earn, but still struggle because of lockdown

Washing of hands and ensuring physical distancing, as recommended by the World Health Organization and the country’s Department of Health, also prove to be difficult if not impossible in many urban poor communities, Nisperos said.

Many urban poor communities do not have access to clean water. Extended families usually live together in small houses.

Crushing solidarity

On the issue of pitting the interests of the poor against middle-income earning families, Nisperos said this is meant to heighten their differences instead of forging solidarity amid a pandemic.

“They want to crush the solidarity that is being formed,” Nisperos said.

For one, many came to aid the arrested residents of an urban poor community in Quezon City, after they gathered along major thoroughfare EDSA to await for relief goods. The poor implementation of the social amelioration program, too, has ignited the people’s wrath. (

*Bulatlatan is a weekly webcast of Bulatlat. It provides insightful discussions on burning issues from the perspective of the Filipino people. All our episodes are uploaded on Facebook, Youtube, and Spotify.

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