Choosing between peoples' safety and national economy

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Between lives and livelihood, between health and economy, the leader has to decide. And between the president who has to make a crucial decision, and those whose only task is to criticize, malign, and attribute ill-motives and malicious intent, I ask all men and women of goodwill to support the leader.

To decide one way or the other is like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea, and to make a judgment based on limited facts is like King Solomon trying to resolve which of the two women was the true mother of a contested child. But the leader has to make a hard decision, and thus he does. It is not an easy decision to make, in trying to draw a delicate balancing act between saving the lives of the people or bringing back the economy to its feet. Social media commentators who are all biased to one side or the other are too loose in their bashing and too presumptuous in their reckless conclusions, as if they know all angles, and are familiar with all the facts.

Credit should be given to the president for getting the input of LGU executives, and for asking them to submit their inputs to the inter-agency task force. The task force does the analysis and considers all options. Then the president makes the decision, either from among the alternatives submitted by the task force, or a hybrid among all options. That is the prerogative of the leader. In fact, this president is more democratic than President Marcos who, because he perhaps considered himself brilliant, took sole responsibility to decide on his own. President Duterte is different; he respects technical competence and honors inputs from those in the frontlines.

Both the health and safety of citizens and the economy are important, although the lives of people take primacy over livelihood. But the president has to draw a delicate balance. While we cannot stop protecting the health and safety of our people, we cannot neglect the economy. First, there is a real and grave danger for a second wave or spikes or upsurge of infection, if there is a sudden and rushed shift to normalcy. There is a real possibility of great dangers if we do not manage the gradual shift to the new normal well. On the other hand, we need to resume economic activities. If our people do not die of COVID-19, they might die of hunger and starvation. The economy is down, millions of jobs are lost, and small enterprises are closing and are bankrupt.

And so, the leader is not affected by the cruel aspersions thrown by the congenital non-conformists and the perennial opposition. They have roles to play in a democracy but it is not their catcalls and ridicules that save the nation in a time of crisis. It is the call of the leader who has to make decisions day in and day out. The president has a whole nation to lead. He has 110 million people to protect. His plate is full. He leads and manages foreign affairs, national defense, labor and employment, economic development, social services, education, health and welfare. The detractors have just to attack and throw brickbats mindlessly or in good intent. If the president would be distracted by them, the security of the nation and the welfare of the people would be put in jeopardy.

Let the detractors say their piece. Let the critics throw whatever garbage they want to unload. But I and my house support the leader who has to bite the bullet and open himself to all “slings and arrows” of outrageous accusations. This is a crisis and we have to rally behind our president.


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