Escudero cannot lecture Duque on health matters

TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag - The Freeman

All things being equal, there is really no way of knowing if health secretary Francisco Duque is doing a good job in fighting the Philippine share of the global war against the coronavirus pandemic. And that is because nobody in the world was truly prepared for this health crisis. There is no standard by which to measure anybody's performance. Even the greatest countries in the world are struggling to survive this viral onslaught.

It is, therefore, unfair to judge Duque on the basis of popular ignorance. The only one who can legitimately judge Duque is the president. And even his judgment has nothing to do with superior knowledge of health matters but simply executive privilege. President Duterte is no doctor but if he wants to fire Duque, for whatever reason, he can, because he is the president. If he wants to keep him, also for whatever reason, then he can as well.

A few days ago, Chiz Escudero, a former senator currently cooling his heels as governor of Sorsogon Province, came out of the blue wildly swinging at Duque. He thinks Duque is just making up numbers in the daily COVID-19 statistics the Department of Health reports out to the nation and wants the president to fire him.

Of particular consternation to Escudero was the DOH report of more than 38,000 recoveries in a single day, which he considers dubious, especially since it came right after the country saw a record 3,954 new cases recorded in a day. He must think the health secretary was playing with numbers to pretty much even out the scores.

First of all, why would Duque do that? What does he hope to gain from tinkering with reality? Whether he pads or shaves the numbers, the real score will still come back to haunt him at the end of the day. And for as long as he is health secretary, the truth will still be the inescapable burden he will have to carry.

He has to be crazy to do what Escudero suspects he is doing. But if he is crazy, then he would not be able to even imagine doing what Escudero suspects he is doing. Again, nobody can really judge Duque fairly in the absence of legitimate standards by which to measure efforts that have never been tested in a pandemic that caught everybody and every nation by surprise.

If you ask me who to believe when it comes to health matters between Duque, a doctor, and Escudero, a lawyer, I would choose the former all the time. It is presumptuous and preposterous for Escudero to think he is better than Duque when it comes to tracking the movement of disease within the populace. Just because a particular movement escapes his understanding does not mean it is wrong, or worse, simply made up.

But why, of all people, did it have to be Escudero to suddenly come out of the woodwork? I hope it was merely due to some genuine civic concern for the true picture to emerge. In which case there was no need for him to cast aspersions on somebody working his ass off just like other frontliners. But if it was to jumpstart a possible new run for the Senate in 2022, it was bad to do it at any frontliner's expense. Very bad, very insensitive.

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