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Opinion

‘Out in the open, no more secrets’

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

The past cannot be undone, but the future holds great promise. Forgive and forget whatever was done in the past.

That was the essence of the speech of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos in his inauguration the other day at the National Museum, which used to be the country’s legislative building.

There will be no blaming his predecessors for their perceived mistakes, as he said his administration would be like fish in a bowl. President Bongbong Marcos wants to reunite the country that has been torn asunder, especially during the recently concluded elections.

“There were shortcomings in the COVID-19 response, we will fix them out in the open, no more secrets in public health,” the country’s 17th president said.

Without saying so, President Bongbong said the past leadership of the Department of Health’s handling of the pandemic response left much to be desired.

The country, he said, would no longer be “caught unprepared, under-equipped and understaffed to fight the next pandemic.”

This means public health would be one of the greatest concerns of the current Marcos administration.

Another focus would be on education, as Bongbong said he would return the Filipinos’ facility for English by having it as the medium of instruction in all schools.

“What we taught in our schools, the materials used, must be retaught… I am talking about the basics, the sciences, sharpening theoretical attitude and imparting vocational skills such as in the German example,” he said.

Bongbong was apparently referring to a study that found Filipino students lagging behind their counterparts in science, mathematics and reading.

*     *      *

On the issue of public health, Bongbong didn’t mention it directly – he just said, “It was not a walk in the park” – but he nearly died of COVID-19, which he contracted while visiting Spain with his wife, now First Lady Liza Marcos, last year.

Going to the bathroom from his bed meant that Bongbong had to stop halfway as he was too weak to walk, I remember Liza telling me.

I don’t know if I should mention this, but part of Bongbong’s survival from the deadly illness could be attributed to a very bitter Chinese herbal tea that a Filipino-Chinese, Liya Wu, gave Liza.

(That tea also saved a Supreme Court justice, my son-in-law Vic, my daughter Cathy, their children and many others. But that’s veering away from the topic at hand).

I’m sure Wu will always be in the minds of the couple Bongbong and Liza for saving his life.

The Marcoses are a grateful family. They have an elephantine memory when it comes to favors done for them in the past, no matter how small. It’s in their genes.

I recall the Old Man Ferdinand giving a government sinecure in the early 1980s to the grandson of a farmer who hid him when the Japanese were looking for him during the Second World War. The old Marcos didn’t forget the farmer even after 40 years.

My father, Ramon Sr., was also a recipient of president Ferdinand Sr.’s high sense of gratitude.

Sometime in 1964, Philippine Constabulary (PC) Maj. Ramon S. Tulfo was assigned the unpleasant task of escorting then Senate president Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was campaigning for the presidency, in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“Unpleasant,” because other military officers would have nothing to do with a guy who would be the rival of the Armed Forces commander-in-chief, president Diosdado Macapagal.

Dad, who was then the Sulu assistant PC commander, volunteered for the job because he was an Ilocano like Marcos, who was then considered an underdog candidate to the reelectionist, Macapagal, who was very popular with the masses.

As Marcos was about to board a plane to Manila, he handed my father a piece of paper with the Office of the Senate President’s letterhead. The note in Ilocano was short and crisp: “I never forget.”

My father was designated as Zamboanga del Sur PC commander in 1966, a year after Marcos won in the presidential election of 1965. He forgot about the note, but Marcos didn’t.

Without lobbying for it, my father, considered a maverick by his peers, was given the most prestigious assignment at the time. He was also promoted to lieutenant colonel.

*     *      *

Let’s hope that even if President Bongbong didn’t point an accusing finger at anybody for the inefficient response to the pandemic, it doesn’t mean that we should let go of those people who stole money from the government big-time in the midst of the scourge.

Let’s not forget Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which, despite having a small capital, was able to bag a P10-billion contract to supply COVID-19 medicines and equipment to the government.

Pharmally sold to the government P10 billion worth of supplies, which it bought in China for a few million pesos.

The company’s officers bought luxury sports cars with brands like Lamborghini and Porsche, as if they were buying toys.

An official of the Health department was seen during a Senate hearing sporting a P13.3-million watch. A new Ferrari was seen in his garage in a gated village in Quezon City.

Those crooks who stole the people’s money committed economic sabotage which, under our laws, is punishable by life imprisonment. One of them is a Chinese national who has probably left the country.

*     *      *

On the issue of reviving English as a medium of instruction, critics will probably ask why we should do that, when we have our own language, Filipino.

Have these critics forgotten that the country’s biggest export is manpower? Millions of Filipinos are employed abroad.

And since English is a global language, overseas Filipino workers would do well to be proficient in the world’s lingua franca.

If we want to produce scientists, we should excel in English, which is the medium of communication in science.

COVID-19

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