DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Last week in his national broadcast, President Duterte said the following:

“Iyan ang ano ko, iyan ang – doon ako nag – naano sa… Wala talaga. Except si Roque, nagdala ng hamburger doon. I went there 10 times. The last time nga nabutas ‘yung chopper. And I spent hanggang gabi. Hindi also pumunta doon – nagpunta ako ng hapon hanggang gabi. Iyan ang ano.”

If you cannot make heads or tails of what the President was saying, you are not alone. It is unfortunate because the last thing we need at this time of crisis is incoherence from the top.

The pandemic seems to be getting worse and we need to hear from our President his game plan. Relatives of those who are dying in hospital driveways want to know how the President plans to help them survive this virus.

Those streams of consciousness broadcasts from the President reduce our confidence in government at a time when every effort must be made to increase it. We have expectations from our President at this time of crisis.

Our condition is serious. It isn’t just about health, but about the economy as well. These times call for a leader who is able to inspire hope that things will be better soon. This is especially true because recent numbers and actual situations on the ground tell us a grim story. Too many people, people we know are sick and dying.

We know our bureaucracy is usually inefficient in carrying out programs. A pandemic response is no different.

But we have been at it for a year and a half. Why is the Duterte administration unable to execute a decent testing and tracing program? The highly transmissive Delta variant has made testing and tracing vital.

Even the health workers who heroically man the hospitals at great risk to their own health are not being given timely benefits that are legally theirs. Private hospitals are not being paid by PhilHealth, reducing our total capability to deal with the onslaught of this virus.

Our country has received the dubious distinction of implementing the longest and most stringent lockdown in the world. Yet, in the end, the presidential spokesman has to concede that the lockdown has lost its value.

What we are left with is one of the deepest economic contractions in the ASEAN region, even as our pandemic numbers show no sign of improvement.

We should have long shifted to a more effective and cost-efficient containment strategy for the disease. But the government has failed to test and trace, and also harness the IT capabilities we have to get such a strategy going.

The result of this failure to handle the pandemic, as Dr. Ronald Mendoza of Ateneo puts it, is to transform “the health crisis into an economic crisis as well, provoking five straight quarters of contraction…”

Thousands of businesses have been shuttered, making millions of Filipinos unemployed. Millions more experienced hunger.

Dr. Mendoza also cited inadequate social transfers from the central government.

“At least one senator blasted the government’s counter-pandemic team for giving only two months’ worth of transfers during 16 months of lockdown by the time the President delivered his 5th and final State of the Nation Address in July 2021.

“Around the same time, several rating agencies already downgraded their outlook on the Philippines, citing the erosion of its fiscal situation and the jump in its debt-to-GDP ratio, the weakened prospects for quick growth recovery, and the potential for scarring in the economy, noting long-term consequences of the government’s inability to manage the pandemic while minimizing damage to its economy.”

We have big problems and no indication that the Duterte administration is up to the challenge. Maybe the problem is his style of leadership.

In times of crisis, he needs to consult with a wide circle of experts and be ready to change courses of action when needed. He is only comfortable with his generals and his Davao cronies. And he refuses to correct his mistakes.

It is at times like this when we wish we had FVR on top. He is a military man used to a command structure. But his record as president shows he is also inclined to widely consult before making decisions.

He strictly observes his CSW style of management. CSW stands for complete staff work. Nothing gets to his desk unless subordinates have thoroughly studied an issue, scrutinizing various options for the president and giving FVR clear recommendations.

Since he is also detail oriented, because of his civil engineering training, FVR is also quick to see gaps in the paperwork presented to him. In such instances, the documents go back to the subordinate with comments written in red ink.

Even journalists are not spared. From time to time, we would get photocopies of our articles with FVR’s comments. He points out if we are right or wrong, and why. This goes to show that FVR works hard to understand issues and will dialogue with you in a civilized manner. No curses.

If FVR were president at a time like now with the pandemic, he will make sure he has a calming effect on people. He will be focused on solutions, not cursing and fat-shaming his political enemies.

The other thing with FVR is that he is a firm defender of the Constitution. He could have done some magic to extend his term, but he didn’t because it would have negated his sacrifices to defend that same Constitution with his life.

As a constitutionalist, we never heard FVR advise his Cabinet members to ignore COA or the congressional fact finding hearings. FVR respects division of authority, the check and balance enshrined in the Constitution. He didn’t try a sneaky approach of running for vice president to circumvent the intention of the Constitution to limit a president to a single term.

And one more thing… we never heard FVR speaking incoherently before the nation. He spoke clearly and authoritatively. We would have felt safe today if he were the president running our COVID pandemic response.

But we have what we have and we can really only pray at this time.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter@boochanco

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