The local online community is calling on the public to “#ProtectVico” as criticisms against the proactive initiatives of the youngest local chief executive in Metro Manila surfaced amid the Luzon quarantine.
The particular hashtag reached the top trending list of Twitter Philippines which first gained traction last night, when Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto appealed for the Department of Interior and Local Government to allow tricycles to operate in his city.
It has since gained more than 43,600 tweets as of Thursday evening.
The city chief previously allowed tricycles to service health workers and those exempted from the quarantine when his team found out through a risk assessment that the mode of transportation cannot be banned due to lack of vehicles.
Under the enhanced community quarantine, mass public transport is suspended. This includes MRT, LRT, jeepney, buses, transport network vehicle services, motorcycle taxis and tricycles.
However, reports of authorities stopping Pasig tricycles on checkpoints surfaced on Wednesday, a day after Sotto had given them the clearance to operate.
The tricycle drivers were issued tickets because of “traffic disobedience” but Sotto shouldered the costs of the supposed penalty.
He later on appealed to DILG to allow the tricycles to operate and reiterated that it is for the public’s health and safety.
“Kapag hindi po natin pinayagan yong mga tricycle, mas marami pong mamamatay. ‘Yung mga kailangan pong magpa-dialysis, ‘yung mga post-surgery po na kailangan magpa-check up, kailangan pumunta ng hospital,” Sotto explained.
“Paano po kung sa Manggahan nakatira, sa PCGH nagpapagamot. Nandoon ‘yung doktor niya, nandoon ‘yung medical records niya. Paano po siya pupunta dito,” he added.
The DILG spokesperson only echoed what presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo previously said to commuters amid a traffic crisis—”be creative.”
“We appeal to Mayor Vico to be more creative in dealing with this problem just like the other Metro Manila mayors who have addressed this problem already,” DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said.
Nograles, who is part of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, said that the national government cannot see how social distancing could be practiced in a tricycle, the smallest mode of public transport.
Filipino online users then commented that it could be done if only one passenger will be allowed to ride the tricycle.
“One passenger per tricycle. Problem when people in authority aren’t familiar with modes of transportation other than their own private vehicles,” a Twitter user said in response to Nograles’s remark.
Comedienne and online personality Ethel Booba also gave a few recommendations to Sotto’s critics.
“Put plastic cover between side car and motorcycle. Make sure na may suot na mask ang pasahero at driver. Dapat one passenger allow lang sa side car at bawal ang pasahero sa likod ng driver. Pwede pa din naman ang social distancing sa tricycle. Charot!” she wrote.
Others pointed out that the government does not necessarily observe the practice in terms of providing transport.
Gov’t: “Concerned talaga ang gobyerno dito sa paggamit ng tricycle dahil hindi namin lubos na makita or maintindihan paano mag-social distancing sa tricycle?”
Also gov’t: pic.twitter.com/ecNbnNy1xN
— Tito Maroon #SaveSanRoque (@maroontito) March 19, 2020
The picture was attributed to Twitter user @hunterei who posted the photo on Wednesday amid concerns on social distancing.
The original caption reads, “It is (a) good idea to use government resources to ferry stranded workers pero paano ma-ensure ang kanilang well-being. Sana walang hawaan …”
Those who are opposing Sotto’s critics eventually rallied and created the “ProtectVico” hashtag on the microblogging platform to express their support for the mayor’s initiatives.
“I’m not for stanning any politician but we rarely get good leaders and thus, we all must protect Mayor Vico who’s been doing more than what the national government does. Doon tayo sa may puso at isip sa pagseserbisyo. #ProtectVico,” a Twitter user wrote.
“Grabe the bar is so low for politicians na people are calling Vico Sotto ‘pabebe’ and ‘bibo.’ HE’S LITERALLY JUST DOING HIS JOB, PEOPLE. Masyado lang tayong sanay sa corrupt and incompetent officials kaya mukhang over the top si Vico! #protectvico,” another online user wrote.
“This hate campaign launched by ‘them’ against Vico Sotto, a pro-people politician who does what is expected of him and works better than most, is unbelievably low and disgusting but is already expected of ‘them.’ #ProtectVico,” said another Filipino.
He has so far installed sanitation tents, mobile kitchens dedicated to medical workers and responders, signed an anti-hoarding ordinance and procured disinfection drones for Pasig, among others.
A quick look at Sotto’s social media pages show that he has been proactive in his initiatives to combat COVID-19 even before Metro Manila was placed under a community quarantine.