Is Duterte still in control?
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - July 8, 2020 - 12:00am

As the coronavirus pandemic succeeded in kicking the door wide open in the Philippines in March and the need was seen to unleash massive relief for a suddenly distressed nation, President Duterte boldly promised that aid would come for everybody. Everybody. He said that clear as day on TV. But that was not to be. There were probably as many left empty-handed as there were who got aid, many undeservedly.

As the new schoolyear approached inexorably even as the coronavirus pandemic not only persisted but even surged, Duterte said there will be no classes until a vaccine is found. While that may be a little tenuous, what he must have really meant was that science will dictate whether classes will open despite the pandemic. Well, an opening date -- August 24 -- has been announced. And Duterte has grown silent.

So is Duterte still in control or not? One rule I made for my reporters when I was still editor-in-chief of The FREEMAN was to never clutter a story with statements from underlings saying the same thing that their principal has already announced earlier. If God has spoken, there is no need to call in the apostles unless it was Judas saying another thing.

But that doesn't seem to be so right now in the Philippines, at least not in the two aforementioned instances. In these two instances, what Filipinos got straight from the horse's mouth was apparently not permanent teeth. And so the huge rip-off that is supposed to be aid-for-all will again, with the second wave of relief, be aid-for-some.

Just as crucially, perhaps even more so, classes will apparently resume despite what Duterte said to the contrary. The underlings in charge want to push education over life. Perhaps this is just being consistent with a national policy that earmarked P692 billion for education this year over and above the P176 billion allocated for health for the same period.

Let us not go into whether education means anything to a person who dies of COVID-19. Let us just say that what education is even possible under pandemic circumstances will always and ever be critically less than ideal. It will decidedly be substandard, a characteristic that should not attach, no matter how remotely to education.

The main and only purpose of education is the betterment of life, not just of individuals, but of communities, countries, societies. Education is not to be trifled with. It is not for show. It is not going through the motions. A person who cannot distinguish the uses of a question mark and an exclamation point will forever, forever, be hampered in his communication skills.

Knowing thus the main and only purpose of education, it must not be given haphazardly. It must not be given just for the sake of giving. The nation loses little if it foregoes classes this year. People will not descend into idiocy if they do not study for a year. But they will live to study another day. If we insist on classes, and the pandemic worsens, what happens then? Have we even thought of that beyond obsessing about how to hold classes?

RODRIGO DUTERTE
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