Serious concerns
FILIPINO WORLDVIEW - Roberto R. Romulo (The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2020 - 12:00am

Work from home (WFH) has its benefits for a senior citizen like myself. No traffic, no crowds, no ties or suits. However, it has its drawbacks. One of which is that you can’t get away from bad news, so you stew in it. I’ve had my fill this week which I will share with you.

1.   As a former government official, I realized very early on that the more senior you are, the more your words carry weight. In a globalized world where nothing is purely domestic anymore,  utterances by public officials reach a global audience and thus impact on how we are perceived abroad. I have written about this many times before, and by default the presidential spokesman always comes on top of the list for gaffes. I realize it is a difficult job interpreting or justifying the President’s statements or actions and in putting them in the best light possible. More often than not though, they end up making cringe worthy statements.  Most recently, the current presidential spokesman, Harry Roque, opined that the presidential pardon of Pemberton was motivated by a desire to secure priority for COVID-19 vaccines from the United States. He was quoted by local press and international publications like The New York Times. President Duterte himself has not given a reason, but to speculate that it has to do with COVID-19 is disingenuous, cynical and insensitive. As a former aspirant of  an ambassadorship in the UN, Roque should have had the diplomatic sensitivity not to be quoted, which is clearly embarrassing to the nation. Others opine, because he was the lawyer for the Laude family, he did so to justify his about face and as damage control to his future election plans. I don’t think he did himself or our country’s image a favor.

2.  Speaking of election plans, a high profile business leader wrote me: “Thank you for sharing your column expressing the anemic funding of DICT. I agree that it falls short  given the urgency and tasks mandated. The digital plans are long term in nature, considering that less than two years remains of the PRRD administration. I surmise priority is focused on short-term projects. There is also the possibility that the present  DICT secretary running for public office may have been factored in.” Clearly, the government and the DICT head’s short-term focus, in view of the forthcoming election, are a source of serious concern particularly since we are already late in the game for digital transformation in our region. Unfortunately, this is going to be a common thread for those seeking office or reelection. I always thought that if you perform your responsibilities as an official, you should not worry about being elected.

3.  The recent MOA between AFP and Mislatel/Dito for the latter to install its cellular tower in military camps and to assist in “improving” their ICT system has been flagged by independent experts as akin to giving the fox the key to the hen house. China Telecom has 40 percent  equity in Mislatel/Dito. According to China’s National Intelligence Law, it is the duty of Chinese companies to gather intelligence for the motherland. It doesn’t take an expert to conclude that they will not pass up this opportunity to snoop for the sake of delicadeza, or whatever the Mandarin equivalent is. Xie xie!

4.   The last one is puke-worthy. Just as everyone is either actually sick or suffering from the economic impact of the lockdown – particularly the underserved members of our community – we read about 89 barangay captains being charged for diverting funds destined for the poor to see them through the economic disruption. But the scandal at PhilHealth takes the cake. This is not just about crooks pocketing reportedly billions, but of people dying because they cannot get the necessary treatment.

Mr. President, I hope that in the next remaining 20 months of your administration you address these serious concerns that millions of Filipinos like me share.

WFH
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