Croak for help
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - September 8, 2019 - 12:00am

Tell me it's not true. Local officials releasing poisonous toads into our rivers, in the mistaken attempt to address dengue?

This is indeed apparently what happened. A barangay in Quezon City found a thousand toads and, in a misguided strategy to eliminate mosquito larvae, sprung them loose. Barangay Old Balara thought they were harmless field frogs, but the bad news is they weren't frogs, but toads. Toxic, dangerous toads!

An expert said these toads didn’t only have poisonous glands, but were vectors of disease as well, loving the eating of fecal matter and other icky substances. So, yes, set them loose against the unfortunate residents with the bad luck of residing by the riverbanks! Yes, they won't die of dengue, but of government ineptitude instead!

One has to necessarily ruminate about the quality of our local officials. How do we end up electing officials with the capacity to unleash schemes like this?

We probably have to be grateful they had the best of intentions, and in the true spirit of public service, thought they were helping the community. But that only brings to mind that apt adage about the road to hell. And we shouldn't reward stupidity. In fact, we should call them out for it, because they did run for their posts, and with victory, comes responsibility. Including - and this is the least of it - stewardship over public funds.

Necessarily, the toads were procured from a supplier, with cash paid. What kind of research was performed by the officials? (Obviously, none). What kind of specs were drawn up and released to the supplier? (A generic call for the supply of palaka-looking critters?). How did the barangay sign off on the delivery when these arrived? Was an inspection performed to see whether they were breathing and croaking?

(Unless the officials had a frog-catching day and they were successful in harvesting a thousand "frogs" - without encountering their poison glands - and then kept the catch fresh for a couple of days before the grand launch?).

Now that public funds were used to purchase toads, will we get to see prosecution for this misuse? Or will public scorn be enough to chastise offenders?

The root of this unfortunate incident, we must remember, is dengue. Meanwhile, we see headlines about the children of rich families getting their dengue vaccine shots from abroad, because an unfortunate controversy has erupted about the efficacy of the vaccine and the alleged corrupt government program that spent billions purchasing and deploying it.

That vaccination program has been suspended, numerous Senate hearings held, much media mileage and front page exposés generated, and meanwhile, less-fortunate kids can’t get the vaccine. What are we to do while he experts debate the truth?

So many officials have been implicated, all the way up to the former president. (It’s interesting to see how Noynoy Aquino's name keeps on floating up and then disappearing. It's as if his political opponents are floating test balloons to see if his unpopularity is already that strong so they can proceed with plans to hang him out to dry. But the former president keeps himself out of the public eye, despite the best efforts to drag him into this and that controversy. He's kept an even lower profile than Barack Obama, who is similarly being dragged by Trump into the latest scandal du jour. So, there's no opportunity for public ire to build against Noynoy, and no leverage for opportunists to use.)

Fingers are pointed everywhere. Thousands are still getting dengue. The government programs to address it are inadequate. And let's add to the mix, toxic toads and the ecological imbalance brought by their release into non-native habitats.

Does anyone have that feeling that our swamp just keeps getting murkier?

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