Sir, ask why instead
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - August 5, 2020 - 12:00am

A sub story following the appeal of medical associations to revert Metro Manila into Enhanced Community Quarantine or ECQ is the issue of President Duterte feeling slighted by the fact that the physicians chose to air their sentiments and suggestion through a press conference instead of bringing their concern to him. Before anything else, and before anybody passes judgment on the sentiment of the President, I personally understand why PRRD would feel that way. To begin with, as a senior leader he likes to think of himself as open and available. In addition, people within the President’s age group are naturally sensitive to any action that may portray them as unapproachable, and being by-passed concerning a very sensitive matter is equivalent to being excluded from the discussion. Some people might also misconstrue it as an act to force the hand of the President.

Instead of being slighted or being tempted to feel bad about the matter, President Duterte should actually ask: Why did the medical practitioners not go to him? To get to the heart of the matter, the best thing to do is to invite the physicians to “meet” with him digitally or via the internet and find out why. But given everything that has been added to the “Fire” in terms of insinuations and accusations, it might be a bit late to get the facts straight. This teaches us to hold comment until we hear all sides. Failing to make that happen, here are some possibilities for PRRD to consider.

First and foremost, almost anybody would love to have the President’s ear or attention. It’s just the normal order of things. I know very few people who would decline the invitation of the President to talk about something near and dear and especially urgent. So that alone suggests that something is not right and the President should not assume or be convinced by the “We Bulong brigade” that the problem is with the physicians. In the many years I have dealt with similar situations, more often than not, the reason people don’t talk or approach the leader or the person-in-charge is because people are fully convinced they will not be listened to or will be dismissed as not a priority. The second most common reason is that the leader or person-in-charge has not established himself as accessible and approachable and has not set up a firm system where people have access to him. The third and, in this case, the most probable reason why the physicians did not approach President Duterte is because he is already surrounded by several rings and levels of people who intentionally or operationally have made it almost impossible to bring such matters to the President directly.

Before Covid-19, the common impression was the only person you needed to reach, call or see in order to gain access to President Duterte was SAP Christopher “Bong” Go. Back then, it was even said that with Bong Go as the messenger or courier, you were guaranteed that the message would be unfiltered and would be delivered. But with Bong Go moving on to the Senate and the President being surrounded by multiple layers of officials from the Cabinet, the IATF and politicians, that is no longer the case. The filters have exponentially increased in a similar way to Covid-19 cases! In fact, one or two of them have been so busy consolidating their power and influence that you cannot access some Usecs and Asecs without them getting the go-signal from Secretary so and so. The fact of the matter is that the President has found himself tied down to and dependent on a very small circle of people who are now running the show for him and therefore also making the decisions, a number of which are disconnected with the reality on the ground or reality itself.

The doctors knew that if they coursed their appeal through the IATF or Malacañang, the first thing that would happen is someone from DOH will pressure them or try hard to convince them to water down their solution or tell them that other departments will oppose their suggestion. This is apparently what happened on two occasions. If that doesn’t work, the request would be dribbled and passed through the IATF and the offices in Malacañang, while a team pinpoints who masterminded the idea and either win him over or work him over professionally. And why would this happen, because several officials have now gotten so used to being in power and being in charge that the only opinion that matters is their opinion or of the IATF and Malacañang.

As I analyze what took place last weekend, it turns out that the various associations of medical experts have often hosted press conferences to announce major or serious medical concerns. Whether it was about dengue, Dengvaxia, measles, etc. The Press Conference has historically proven to be an effective tool because the media always picks up the announcement and as a result, policy and decision makers and legislators quickly follow suit. Aside from being very effective, medical press conferences make things transparent, apolitical and open to inquiry by media.

Yes, Mr. President, why didn’t the doctors meet with you? Perhaps you should also ask: why did “your” people fail to see this coming? What did they do to address and resolve the matter before it became an embarrassing situation that you (as always) have to solve for them?

I personally have not heard anyone talk about revolts or revolutions. Maybe some critics were simply saying some people around the President have become so “revolting” – as in disgustingly arrogant or unreasonable.

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