COVID anxieties skewing thoughts everywhere

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - January 18, 2021 - 12:00am

Everything is getting skewed by this pandemic. President Duterte, in a decision difficult to comprehend, said he and his Cabinet are ready to be among the last to be vaccinated to give way to frontliners and other priority groups. Reporting on the decision, one national newspaper wrote: "In other countries, heads of government are getting themselves vaccinated first to reassure their citizens of the safety and efficacy of the COVID shots."

I disagree completely with both. I find them reckless and preposterous. First, Duterte cannot be more wrong. There is no greater frontliner in this global health crisis than a president and members of his cabinet. Without meaning to belittle the work of regular frontliners, we can lose any number of them and still survive. Take away the president and the national leadership, and you take away government, and with it, in a crisis, the whole country.

And that is why, secondly, the quoted news report could not have led off more badly and be so utterly wrong in its conclusion. For that is essentially what the report was, a matter of conclusion not a reporting of facts. How can the newspaper say leaders of other countries have themselves vaccinated first to reassure their citizens of the safety and efficacy of the shots? There are 200-plus countries in the world --did the paper verify with even one?

The reason the leaders of other countries are getting vaccinated first is because they are all looking at the big picture. They are acting to preserve the national leadership, and through them, the country. No country can afford the wholesale loss of their leaders, especially in times of great crisis. It is this line of thinking that gave way to lines of succession and the birth of such policies as designated survivor.

Again, without meaning to belittle the unsung heroes in this fight against an unseen enemy, but of what use are so many surviving frontliners if the top leadership of a country gets wiped out? You cannot just replace them with a whole new batch of unelected officials who do not have the clear mandate that an election can bestow on the national leadership. In an upside-down world caretaker governments are the surest recipes for disaster.

Instead of helping to clarify any information meant for a citizenry rendered anxious by the uncertainties of the crisis, the aforementioned newspaper report very sadly helped in disinformation instead. What a sad day for journalism that raw and unfounded conclusion could get passed off as factual reporting.

World leaders are not getting vaccinated first as a safety and efficacy assurance. World leaders are not lab rats and guinea pigs as what the newspaper's writers apparently concluded. They are getting the first shots to ensure that the national leaderships in these countries survive to lead their respective countries out of this crisis and on to speedy recoveries.

Duterte may think himself gallant in giving way to frontliners and other priority groups. Actually he is being a sucker. He is sucking up to the political interest groups whose only intention is for him and his government to fail. Had Duterte chosen to be first, they would have cried greedy and looking out only for his self-interest. But now that he wants last, they will say he is chicken and letting others act as trial balloons.

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