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EDITORIAL: Diversionary Tactics

At last Malacañan and more particularly the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) against the Covid-19 pandemic has awakened from a deep slumber and realized that want of enough vaccines and not refusal of some people to be vaccinated should be the focus at this point in time. And for that matter President Duterte’s hip shot threat to have people arrested is pointedly irresponsible.

Such off-the-cuff pronouncement is uncalled for and not fit for decision making that would involve more than 110 million people. It may not even be fit for a smalltime village chieftain.

Coming up with stable supply of the needed vaccine should be foremost in the minds of government officials. As the situation stands vaccine availability is yet very unstable. People therefore cannot be faulted for their hesitancy in having themselves vaccinated. This is particularly pronounced due to fear of not being vaccinated with the second dose.

A case in point is the predicament on the prospect of non-arrival of the subsequent Russia-made Sputnik V vaccine, which according to reports may not be coming in time for use to vaccinate the second dose. Those who have been administered the first dose will feel to be on the edge. This is not the first time that Mr. Duterte has placed the entire nation off-balance because of unguarded pronouncements. A practice which on minor matters may be permissible. Not in the case however on matters involving the people’s health.

Earlier, in a conversation with legislators including Senate President Tito Sotto and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, the President was quoted saying that face shields need not be worn in public and that doing so is more advisable only when inside the hospitals.

The statement seems to be a product of experience and practical approach. It is no surprise therefore that it was taken positively. Many who are already used to pronouncements of the President automatically did away with their face shields, especially when Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque echoed Malacañan’s stand. It turned out however that health officials and others composing the IATF sought to reconsider the President’s directive and insisted that wearing a face shield is mandatory. President Duterte backtracked and consequently adopted the IATF opinion.

Prior to that, several cabinet officials took conflicting stands regarding the wearing of face shields. One insisted that wearing a face shield is still mandatory. The other, a health undersecretary, adamantly opined that face shield is no longer necessary because of the relaxed quarantine status in many parts of the country. As to be expected, Roque turned ambivalent, apparently to please his principal.

Caution should have been observed in making orders and not in a chivalrous manner, given that millions of people take seriously even the seemingly unvetted presidential pronouncements.

There are even times when unverified news reports about presidential statements are taken as if already a formal directive. This practice is very dangerous particularly when it comes to law enforcement, when those of limited understanding of law, excitedly rush into implementing presidential orders without being equipped with a hard copy of the order.

As a consequence, some of those in the law enforcement arm of the government are placed in a bind. What is alarming is when the law enforcers mistakenly interpret a yet un-formalized directive. It should have been in keeping with sound management practices when directives are put into writing and copies of the same duly served upon the offices concerned.

Unless the presidential pronouncement like those involving the arrest of the people not willing to be vaccinated is a mere diversionary tactic to cover up government’s mishandling of the vaccination program, most particularly in reference to non-availability of enough vaccine supplies. Or it is simply a case of reverse psychology?


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