Simply put

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2021 - 12:00am

It’s cheap, easy, and effective. And, it distracts!

Simply put, the decision of the Department of National Defense to discontinue its accord with the University of the Philippines and symbolically “invade” the UP community is nothing but a politically motivated, badly performed script, but a well- engineered distraction aimed at drawing away public and media attention from the highly controversial mismanagement of the government’s vaccine procurement and its presently non-existent Covid-19 vaccination program.

The DND can deny this to high heavens but just listening to the unusually “petty” or shallow arguments and justifications put forth by high-ranking officials of the DND and the military already tells us how ridiculous the whole thing is and that the DND has to be doing all these with tongue in cheek. In spite of all the statements issued by DND officials lately, what I know of them is that they are intelligent, professional individuals. So for them to start behaving the way they are and talking like petty bureaucrats is unlike them and very much out of character. I therefore conclude that they are all acting out a script, and sending in a couple of troop carriers to introduce urban agriculture in UP Diliman actually tells us that they are either bad actors, slapstick comedians or they got the wrong campus or address on purpose. Farming has long been the domain of UP Los Baños and the only green space in UP Diliman that has not received much care would be the old and probably non-existent golf course inside the campus. Or someone should direct them towards the old National Stud farm area where their convoy can set up their gardening outlet beside the other existing puestos.

The fact that all the government pet trolls were suddenly let lose two days after the DND declared they would no longer honor their commitment with UP also tells us that the distraction strategy is a well planned operation backed with a social media campaign. Quite honestly, it is definitely a very effective distraction strategy because it was certain that the UP Community would react “violently” in a figure of speech. The UP people flew to the fire like moths and as a result the tipping point of the Senate investigations on the Sinovac vaccine was avoided or prevented. For the very first time the suspicion of a major corruption incident in government has landed on the doorsteps of Malacañang as well as the Senate floor and it seemed that not even the President spewing counter accusations could turn public opinion. But instead of everybody getting behind the investigation and taking issue with Malacañang, social media and public opinion shifted to the defense of UP. But if we were to really analyze the matter, the DND-UP agreement is much like a marriage vow that many people have violated. The piece of paper only matters for as long as the parties concerned are faithful and honorable. It is no guarantee and has never prevented the military or DND from sending in spies or assets at any time they needed to or wished.

In fact, I would advise the UP community to welcome the military personnel and all the subsequent “strangers” who appear there with flowers, merienda and a warm smile. Don’t fall into the trap of  “provocateurs” through confrontation or intimidation but rather put the burden on them to prove their claims. This might actually be a great opportunity for the long under appreciated UP police force to show their worth by tracking and “assisting” the DND personnel as they roam the campus in search of the enemy. If the DND insists that there are recruiters within, then the DND has the responsibility to share their information with the UP officials and the UP police. If these recruiters are criminals, then finding them and arresting them is a shared responsibility between all authorities, whether military or civilian! Don’t attack or humiliate the lowly agents of the state who are simply bound to obey orders, rather treat them with warmth and respect, and in the process show them what UP is about. Believe me, I’ve seen this before. We had classmates who stuck around and disappeared and only much later would we learn that they were reportedly intelligence operatives checking “us” out. Must have been tough keeping up the pretext of studying and resisting the weekly drinking sprees that went on after school!

In the meantime, let the UP president take responsibility for the matter along with the Board of Regents and the UP Alumni. It is an institutional issue, not a political issue. The rest of us can then refocus, listen and pay attention to the more serious matter concerning the stealthily conducted deal of government for the Sinovac vaccine. All of us need to show our concern for how the government plans to undertake the vaccination of 70 million Filipinos and how the prioritization will be done. Judging from all the interviews I’ve done, there is nothing concrete in terms of an actual plan, and if there is, the biggest problem is finding the necessary manpower of several thousand individuals who qualify under existing laws to administer vaccines. The entire undertaking requires billions of pesos, probably a year and a half to two years to complete, thousands of personnel and the humongous burden to determine if the choice of vaccine is correct and effective and will the program put an end to Covid-19 infections and deaths in the Philippines.

Counter to that entire wish list is the grim fact that the UK variant of Covid-19 has reached the country and no one knows if it is under control or slowly but surely about to wreak havoc upon us. This is the serious matter that we as one nation must face together and not be distracted by a bunch of uniformed soldiers and not so secret agents roaming the Diliman campus. They did it during martial law and it gained them nothing.

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