A test of leadership

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - July 20, 2020 - 12:00am

Government and non-government organizations, particularly international organizations such as the United Nations agencies, strictly follow some sets of principles in the delivery of humanitarian aid in line with poverty alleviations, health and life-saving programs in response to any man-made or natural disaster.

One is the “Do No Harm” (DNH) principle that says programs and activities must avoid exposing the target beneficiaries to additional risks or threats. It requires taking a step back from a chosen intervention to look at the broader context and mitigate negative effects on the beneficiaries’ well-being. It aims at safeguarding equality, dignity, non-discrimination and the rights of the target communities and beneficiaries.

The other principle is the” Leave No One Behind” (LNOB) principle which endeavors to avoid inequalities between people and groups, discrimination, and exclusion by focusing on and prioritizing the most vulnerable and farthest behind. It is understood that inequalities and deprivation will be abated only when the farthest behind benefit to a greater degree. This principle postulates that the poor, disadvantaged and marginalized individuals or communities tend to have the least say in the decisions that affect them and are least likely to be included in the government’s data and therefore results to inequitable allocation of resources and flaws in policy directions.

The implementation of these principles is a test of the kind of leadership a country has particularly during a crisis. The ability of our leaders to respond to a crisis that will result in keeping the citizens well-informed, safe and, healthy has been put to a test in recent months as we fight the pandemic.

Covid-19 is a battle. We must realize that it should not be perceived as a mere assumption but instead a present reality. It must not only be seen as a proposition that needs to be debated, argued, speculated, but rather an intimidating state that will require us to map out, to plan and to put that plan into concrete action.

There is fear in the economy, social and political stability, and worse, it has penetrated the physical and mental condition of the basic unit of society and individuals. If we will not get our act together, we will collapse as a country and as a race. The disruption of school is a clear indicator that we are far from getting back to normal. If we will fail to act beyond what is expected of us, we will be allowing ignorance, miseducation and disinformation to prevail, hence endangering the future of the following generations.

The most pressing issue we face today is disunity. There is a lot of disagreement and conflict amongst us. How can we act as one nation? Many citizens are devastated with the loss of their loved ones due to the novel corona virus. Many are distraught, faced with unemployment. Many are confused with the data and directives given by government.

I am personally saddened by how government handled ABS-CBN’s violation. Why didn’t they penalize the group instead or at least give them a period of transition. Imagine how many children will suffer and will be left out of school? We are not living in normal times where one can easily find a job after a closure. We are in a crisis. We need to maintain what we have in order to survive. And what did the President do about it? Why didn’t he act as a leader?

What will the President say during his SONA? Will the people listen to him? Will they believe him? If there were protests in the past, watch out – there will be more because this Adminstration has angered the people. Emotions are very high right now. In a time when you need the President to be the father of the land, to help ease the burden of the crisis, we do not seem to feel that kind of presence. His alter-egos are the same. They are too callous to feel the vibe of the nation.

The DSWD’s failure in the timely and efficient distribution of the Social Amelioration Program can be considered a blatant disregard of the DNH and LNOB principles. The agency’s lack of planning and coordination with the LGUs has caused a string of problems that resulted in chaos – mobs, long lines, non-adherence to social distancing, risk of being infected, emotional outburst, emotionally and physically distraught persons, confusing information, piecemeal information dissemination, etc. These are shortfalls in institutional capacities, a clear show of incompetence and inefficiency!

What about the DOH? Health Secretary Duque has committed major blunders that has caused confusion and panic among the citizens. Senators and medical practitioners have called for his resignation. Yet, the president chose to keep him in his position.

When some companies opened for business under GCQ, the workers were faced with the challenge of finding a way to go to work. Obviously, the government did not give this possible scenario a serious thought. What happened to the brilliant ideas of Transportation Secretary Tugade? Unreported cases who had difficulty accessing health services due to stringent containment measures put in place in their localities and exacerbated by the absence of transport services amid the quarantine period.

How about the IATF leadership? Policy decisions without the participative and consultative process involving the provincial governors and key local government officials is tantamount to not having a clear understanding on how a program should be done. A top down planning and decision making can cause more problems and obstacles in the implementation of any project for that matter. The “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa program is a classic example of this problem.

The spike in the number of Covid-19 cases and the growing hopelessness, fear and frustration of the public is a strong indication that there is a break down in leadership. Something must be done to save it in order to get this country going.

Napoleon Bonaparte, French military leader, and statesman once said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” Great wars were won not by guns and ammunitions alone. It is the heart, mind and soul of a true leader that will lead us to victory. In order for our country to rise up, we need to be inspired by the commitment of the President amidst this pandemic. We need to be inspired by the kind of leadership that will guide our spirit to serve the country for its survival.

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