Pandemic is war, the frontlines are many and long

TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag - The Freeman

I was aghast that, according to an ABS-CBN report (yes, like the virus, it has mutated to other platforms and is very much alive), some healthworkers are bitching about how the Presidential Security Group and some members of the Cabinet had been the first to be given the vaccine against COVID-19.

Nobody can dispute the fact that healthworkers are risking their lives, and by extension that of their families, in this war against an unseen enemy. But after about a year of dong battle, what readily comes to mind is that they just bury their heads in their jobs in quiet dignity. They never bitched about the dangerous work, the lack of protection, the long hours, the low pay. They remained true professionals despite occasional harassment.

And then I realized that the healthworkers ABS-CBN was reporting about belonged to the Alliance of Health Workers, a shadowy group that is listed as a member organization of Jose Maria Sison's International League of People's Struggles. This is a group meant to make noise as part of efforts to undermine government. The issues it espouses, however valid-sounding, always consequently fail the test of motive.

The real healthworkers have been at it against the virus for a year, too busy to even manage a whimper of grievance or remorse. It is those with a clear motive to undermine government who are making noise about who gets the vaccine first. True, the vaccine obtained by the PSG and some Cabinet members may have been obtained dubiously (no permits have issued as yet), but that is a matter that should not pry our eyes from the target.

Our ultimate goal here is not just to survive the pandemic but to emerge from it on our feet as one nation. Politics should have no place in the overall efforts to emerge from this challenge in one piece. And one way to do that is to keep government strong and functioning, to allow the leadership to do its work undistracted by political machinations, no matter how seemingly rooted in attractive causes.

This pandemic is a war. The frontlines are long, the battlefronts are many. Healthworkers, with due respect to the awesome job they are doing, are not the only frontliners. Just as the tanod pounding the lonely deserted barangay roads at night to enforce the curfew is a frontliner, or the baker rising before the sun to keep bread on our table is another frontliner, so are the PSG who must be healthy and able to protect the president safe at all times.

The worst thing that can happen in a pandemic is not a selective rollout of vaccine administration, or even an illegal procurement of this vital weapon, if we can make that conclusion minus the evidence. What can truly make the collective war effort collapse is a failure of government because at a time like this, only a functioning undistracted government can keep the fabric of this nation from unraveling.

At the core of that government is the president, the chief executive, the commander-in-chief. He must be kept safe at all times, insulated from intrigue, isolated from scandal. Those who protect him and carry out his orders, such as the PSG and the Cabinet, while not vested with impunity, must be given certain leeway. We have to survive first or even accountability will not see its own tomorrow.


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