By the third week of the lockdown, we were already restless, bored, agitated. We had Netflix and banter with friends on Facebook to amuse ourselves with, but the daily news of death to Covid-19 patients, to attending doctors and nurses, the equally saddening plight of the homeless, the vulnerable and those struggling to make ends meet, were taking their toll. 

We found especially tragic the death of frontliners, which could have been prevented by a clearer plan of action before the crisis hit and a more responsive intervention during the crisis itself. That we called them heroes and martyrs was apt because they truly laid down their lives to save others. 

“We found especially tragic the death of frontliners.”

While they were so lauded on traditional and social media, it became increasingly ironic when, closer to home, there were reports of frontliners experiencing discrimination. They were shunned, refused entry or even evicted from their own condominium buildings, apartments, villages and barangays. 

They (frontliners) were shunned, refused entry or even evicted from their own condominium buildings, apartments, villages and barangays. 

These instances called for a legal response, hence, Volunteer Lawyers Against Discrimination (VLAD) was organized. We were just too glad to join. We could not save lives but we can defend people’s rights and stand for liberty. And in so doing, we also kept our own sanity. 

We volunteer for cases with eagerness and excitement and extend help in similar fashion. The VLAD Chat Group is charged with this positive energy. Most cases are assigned and resolved on the same day. 

Pingki Bartolome-Bernabe, Volunteer Lawyer

Personally, I have assisted a nurse who was discriminated against by his own barangay captain. The abuse was extended to his mother and other family members. Despite observing self-quarantine, they wanted him to observe additional measures which were beyond the protocol mandated by the rules. 

This case was eventually endorsed to the local IBP Chapter where the incident occurred. They took on the case with equal enthusiasm. They coordinated with the DILG to ensure that barangay captains, in general, do not abuse their authority in implementing quarantine measures. 

In contrast, I assisted a patient who suffered at the hands of a doctor and nurses whose fear of the virus prevented them from providing adequate and timely care, as a result of which, the patient died. 

Indeed, this crisis brought out the best and the worst side of people. I am thankful that I could provide redress to damage caused by the abusive behavior of some people that the lockdown produced. Undoubtedly, however, when I look back at this time, I will see that VLAD was one of the best responses.

Note: The author, together with more than a hundred volunteer lawyers, provides free legal assistance and can be contacted through the Facebook Page of the Volunteer Lawyers Against Discrimination or any of its mobile numbers: 09992298705 for Smart subscribers; 09177052333 for Globe subscribers.

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