OPINION: Covid-19's non-medical casualty

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at May 23 2020 10:47 PM

No sooner was there an occasion to cite the police, as an institution, damaging its own reputation by individual egregiously abusive behavior and themselves becoming casualties of the raging pandemic, comes a truly high-ranking uniformed officer of the law, mindlessly shooting himself in his big foot!

The very top dog of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), Major General Debold Sinas, was video-caught a flagrant scofflaw! 

Gen. Sinas was birthday-partying in raucous violation of the very health quarantine prohibitions (social distancing and liquor ban) his office is tasked with imposing. Of course, there was an outcry and social media was afire. Not to worry, though. President Duterte himself has already, yet praisingly, gotten the erring NCRPO head off the hook. And before an internal affairs investigation could even begin to perform its task. 

Now, how exemplary Duterterian could that be? Disciplinary action as nonchalantly dispensed with. Not a knock on Sinas’ knuckles. Leadership by personal example? “Consentidor” is a Filipino parenting term, from the Spanish “consentir.” Encouragingly consenting, thus spoiling and pampering. In fact, insofar as Mr. Duterte is concerned, such attitude has consistently followed a pattern since his taking office. Offering encouragement and rewards to men in uniform for a variety of killing situations, blatantly bloodiest being the continuing EJKs (extra-judicial killings). Remember when the President sauced up official mayhem with suggestions to aim for the ‘vagina’ in the case of encounters with female NPA rebels?

Well, Covid-19, still unconquered while government pandemic administrators, distracted momentarily arguing about terminology and semantics (testing, wave#, curve, plateauing, flattening) instead, has been casting a wider net of casualties. 

Certainly, these are non-medical victims. Victims of circumstance, the affliction being one of public trust and esteem, reputation as it were, of the police and in this particular instance, retired flag officers of the Philippine military. I have argued that recovery from disrepute could take at least a generation. Will this be a legacy of the current dispensation?

The Inter-Agency Task Force (for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease), IATF, viewed from a non-medical angle, is undoubtedly also an opportunity for either rectifying an already deficient reputation or an occasion for another bad rap further institutionalizing a tarnished image. Unfortunately, a dim ‘no win’ appears to be it. Noticeably, IATF is a virtual junta of retired generals, tasked with ruling over the national endeavor to suppress and conquer a coronavirus virulence. 

It is no fault of these generals that they have been exposed to unfamiliar responsibilities. More so, that they are caught in an alien field -- the cross section of public health and politics. Is it any wonder then that a perception of incompetence is rife and rising? 

Another thought on the matter of retired generals. President Duterte has hired to fill up his Cabinet with an unprecedent number of them. Apparently, not one among them having applied to join the “junta” by the Pasig. Reportedly, they were handpicked. I find no extenuating reason to rehire retired generals for service in the civilian government, for which in the first place, there is a vast non-military talent pool always available. As an inevitable consequence, there arises the acknowledgment, perhaps unfair, that this re-hire was ostensively a rewarding cooptation and a lucrative ersuasion to buy loyalty and blindered obeisance for some nefarious Presidential intent, just in case. But I digress.

On May 16, ABS-CBN News carried an IATF item. Its head said: “Religious gatherings of up to 10 people allowed in general quarantine areas—IATF.” The lead continued with: "While adhering to the prescribed minimum health standards, religious gatherings are not encouraged but in any case should be not more than 10 persons," read the guidelines issued by the IATF. I thought there was something odd with such statement. A religious gathering “should be not more than 10 persons!” 

Imagine a cavernous cathedral, like Quiapo for instance, with 9 worshipers plus the priest celebrating Holy Mass making up the limit of 10. Speak of ridiculous!

Well, came righteous reaction the following day. The Auxiliary Bishop of Manila Broderick Pabillo, now the caretaker of the Archdiocese, complained publicly, aired his irritation and called IATF’s “limitation on religious gatherings in terms of the number of persons allowed” as “unreasonable” and “laughable.”

Clearly the guidelines evinced insensitivity, a lack of empathy on the part of the IATF ‘junta’ and definitely, a failure to consult with the very folks covered by the stricture. Bishop Pabillo had every right to air serious misgivings in behalf of his flock. I searched for an IATF reaction, hoping that they would heed and issue a revision. I never saw any. Too embarrassed to publicly rectify and render added notoriety to their boner ? A ‘dead letter’ perhaps, the better then not to stir a hornet’ nest!

Anyway, feeling naughty, I posted the following lampoon on my Facebook page:

“NEWS FOR CHURCHGOERS: The MILITARY JUNTA of retired GENERALS running the InterAgency Task Force (IATF) LIMITS CHURCH ATTENDANCE to 10! Bishop Pabillo says it is UNREASONABLE. It is ALSO STUPID ! Imagine 10 PEOPLE IN THE CATHEDRAL, STO DOMINGO, BACLARAN, SAN SEBASTIAN, or CHRIST THE KING, etc.? Mabuti pa ang Mall (only when morons run government?)”

My FB community reacted with a hefty mix of hilarity and irritation. I fell asleep laughing!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.