The country’s prestigious business organizations are sending notice to the government on their concerns about the way it is handling some public issues.

On June 1, business groups consisting of, among others, the Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines and American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines issued a joint statement criticizing the government’s alleged double standard in the application of the rule of law for quarantine violations.

They called attention to the more than 30,000 ordinary Filipinos who were charged or arrested for violation of quarantine rules set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, but did not do something similar to public officials who were seen violating the medical protocols.Although they did not mention the public officials’ names, it was obvious they were referring to the birthday party last month of Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas that was attended by high-ranking Philippine National Police officials.

A week later, MBC, MAP, Investment House Association of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Education and several other business-related organizations added their voice to the opposition of civic groups to the passage of the antiterrorism bill.

In their joint statement, they expressed strong opposition to the enactment of the bill, which they described as “… highly divisive because it imposes [a] clear and present danger to human rights enshrined in our Constitution at a time when our nation needs to come together as one.”

The business groups’ activist involvement on matters that have no direct relation to business or trade and commerce comes as a pleasant surprise.

They are usually heard from only on economic or financial issues, e.g. taxes and business regulations, that affect their business interests.

Until this month, they were generally apolitical, that is, they kept to the sidelines on controversial social or political issues and refrained from issuing statements that may not sit well with the administration.

Their silence, or hands-off, stance is understandable because their officials are perceived by some of the present administration’s officials as closely aligned with the past administration.

Any statement they make that is critical of the Duterte administration runs the risk of being branded by its subalterns as coming from a “dilawan” (or yellow), the color identified with the Aquino administration, and that could spell trouble.On the occasions they took issue with administration policies or actions, their statements were couched in diplomatic or politically correct language.

But they cannot be faulted for that because they know drawing the ire of the powers-that-be would be akin to “fighting City Hall” and no business person who wants to keep his or her business going would dare do that.

The business groups’ complaint about the unequal application of quarantine measures is valid. The PNP personnel tasked to enforcing them should set the example in compliance rather than violation.

While it is true criminal charges have been filed against erring PNP officials, it is doubtful if they will prosper in light of President Duterte publicly absolving them from their offense.

With regard to the antiterrorism bill, indeed in these times when a pandemic is wrecking havoc on the economy and the nation has to act as one to get through it with the least pain and suffering, a bill that tends to divide Filipinos does not deserve priority treatment from the government.

The business groups that issued the joint statements represent the views of business executives whose actions have a strong influence on the Philippine economy and account for the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.

Their concerns should not be dismissed as inconsequential or politically motivated by the government officials to which they are directed. INQ

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