Traveling secretaries and senators

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Senator Panfilo Lacson has stated that if two Cabinet secretaries, namely Secretaries Harry Roque and Carlito Galvez, have violated health protocols and restrictions for COVID-19 then they should be investigated and punished under the law. In response, Roque countered that no violations were committed and that their movements were part of the vaccine rollout of government.

To Senator Lacson I would say: why stop there? And to Secretary Roque et al., are your movements really all about official business?

Senator Ping Lacson’s statement about the Traveling Secretaries has long been on the mind of many people, particularly those who have been forced to stay at home for more than a year while they watched Cabinet members swim with the dolphins, croon in Karaoke parties, go island hopping, all under the guise of official duties. But these under cover (of official business) junkets have not been limited to Cabinet members. Even senators have used the camouflage to sustain their public presence and recognition while others have openly gone about distributing land titles, certificates of occupancy or material and financial assistance to the poor. They all think they are being cunning and sly but in the public eye it is evident that they are simply taking advantage of their position in order to wander about or are pretending to be doing official business when they have in fact already been campaigning.

If government officials and senators use the excuse that they are simply “rolling out” a government program, project or giving out titles and certificates, may I remind you jokers that your constant traveling and setting up mass gatherings may also be rolling out COVID-19 cases and contributing to the record numbers that we now have! Every time the President and Senator Bong Go go about distributing titles and the like, it involves gathering at least a thousand people in some public gym or multi-purpose arena. The organizers and politicians may be observing protocols but what about the poor people who’ve been forced to travel in buses or jeepneys and congregate in groups waiting for visitors from Imperial Manila to distribute titles or certificates like gifts from Santa Claus. No amount of protocols and prevention is 100 percent and the mass gathering already violates IATF rules. I was recently told about the decision of a governor not to allow such an activity in his province because of the number of COVID-19 positive cases among Cabinet members or government officials in general. As my source told me: “Baka sila pa ang magdala ng sakit sa probinsya namin (They might end up bringing the disease to us).”

Last weekend I once again saw a photo on the front page of The Philippine STAR showcasing DOH Secretary Francisco Duque with his measuring rod inspecting market stalls in Baclaran with Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez. Judging from the photo itself, Duque and Olivarez were not observing social distancing, not to mention all their assistants, security escorts, members of media, etc. The very people who have been telling us to observe social distancing are the ones violating their reminders and, worst of all, they are the ones creating or causing mass gatherings. Given the record-breaking number of cases last Friday that breached 7,000 it is time for us to drop the political tit for tat and objectively recognize that the personality-centered practice of dealing with the public or media endangers people while we have COVID-19 in our midst. Until we roll out the vaccines nationwide, all government officials and politicians should stop any activity that could end up rolling out COVID-19 in the countryside.

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Back in the ’70s, a US Senator by the name of Mike Mansfield was asked what he thought of the political situation in the Philippines under Marcos during Martial Law. The senator’s reply was both shocking and sad: “40 Million cowards and one son of a bitch.” Many Filipinos reacted by saying: “Easy for you to say.” Since then the Filipino people have had two “revolts” on the highway, detained two presidents and, having failed to learn from our past, we now relive it in our present and perhaps even in our future. Yes, it seems that history repeats itself, if I were to base it simply on a recent survey that claims that 40 percent of Filipinos nationwide believe that it is not safe to criticize the government. From what I caught on the news the breakdown is 50 percent in Mindanao, 40 percent in the Visayas and 30 percent in Luzon believe it is unsafe or dangerous to be openly critical of the government.

Now if we were to assume that the Philippine population is 100 million then 40 percent would be 40 million Filipinos living in fear. So between 1972 and 2021 or almost 50 years, it turns out that the government has failed to win the trust of 40 million Filipinos. Perhaps, people in Malacañang should do a deeper study on the question and find out who these people are in terms of economic status, social justice as well as “customer experience” with government as a whole.

This is a significant discovery because fear is not sustainable, not as a weapon or as a state of being. You can only scare or intimidate people for so long. People, even children, outgrow their fear and replace it with hate. The real question is why are 40 million Filipinos afraid of their government? Is the government directly responsible for causing the fear? This is not something to take for granted. During the early days of the vaccine roll out, people were afraid or did not trust the vaccines and the vaccination for COVID-19. Someone pointed out that this reflects the public’s distrust in government. Now we have a survey showing 40 million Filipinos fear the government. Something is very wrong and something needs to change.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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