Enough of theatrics, Mr. President

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    ‘Entertainment may be good during the campaign, but not now when thousands of Filipinos are sick and dying.’

    ADDRESSING the nation Monday night thru nationwide television, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he has accepted Russia’s offer to supply coronavirus vaccine to the Philippines. He also volunteered to get the first vaccine shot to test its safety for the people.

    Earlier, Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev said Russia has developed a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine and expressed readiness to cooperate with the Philippines on clinical trials, vaccine production and supply. This was followed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin himself, who made the same announcement before the international media, although he qualified that his country’s scientists are on the final stage of clinical trials for the SARS CoV-2 virus, the pathogen that causes COVID-19. Although in the final phase of development, the government of Russia has already registered the vaccine, vouching for its efficacy and safety as a preventive cure for COVID-19.

    Already, the world has been put in a frenzy with this announcement from Putin. Orders from Europe and the United States flooded the laboratory in Russia, even as Ambassador Khovaev said the Philippines, as a very friendly nation, will have first crack at the vaccine. Khovaev even extended to President Duterte his country’s invitation for local drug manufacturers to partner with Russia in the mass production of the vaccine.

    It is all right to express happiness on this news, for it really calls for a celebration. But instead of regular welcome, Duterte even saw an opportunity for theatrics. He said he will be the first Filipino to be vaccinated, perhaps to assure the nation that the vaccine is safe and will do what it is expected to do for the human body.

    “Handa po siyang ialay ang sarili niyang buhay para po maisalba ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan (He is ready to offer his life to save the lives of our countrymen),” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

    By volunteering to be the first receiver of the vaccine, Duterte would like to drive home the message that the Russian vaccine, being new, might bring not a solution to COVID-19 but instead, more problems. The snafu of Dengvaxia is too recent to be removed from the public mind. And so, the President is willing to sacrifice his own life as part of the clinical trial.

    But wait a minute — we are not impressed. Stop the theatrics, Mr. President, and just stick to science, which ultimately is the only human weapon we have against the pandemic. Let others participate in this vaccine process, more so because some experts say the Russian vaccine will work well only for people with ages ranging from 15 to 55. Meaning strong and healthy young adults, not the likes of 72-year-old men, even if they are Presidents.

    A vaccine is nothing but weak samples of the target viruses that are injected into a healthy person for him or her to develop antibodies and thus, immunity from a certain disease. Medical experts have agreed that senior citizens, especially super seniors, generally have weaker immune systems than young adults.

    Remember when during the presidential election campaign in 2016 we asked what they would do about the Philippines’ claim over the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the South China Sea, and Duterte said he will drive a jet ski there and plant the Filipino flag? Well, now we know, the guy from Davao is fond of hyperbole and dramatic performances.

    Entertainment may be good during the campaign, but not now when thousands of Filipinos are sick and dying. The latest tally is 143,749 with 4,444 new cases, 2,404 deaths including 93 new, and 68,997 recoveries (636 new).

    Drop the theatrics, Mr. President, and stick to science to save the lives of Filipinos whom you say you love.