Masters of Distraction

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    ‘As many before me have said, the unilateral abrogation is just another stark example of how those who govern us choose to rub their power in our faces.’

    WITH all the challenges that government is facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’d think that its resources, time, and attention would entirely be devoted to figuring out how to contain and deal with the new variant, and work out all the kinks in getting and rolling out the vaccines when the time comes.

    It was certainly quite puzzling why the administration (more specifically, the Department of Defense) decided to pick this particular time to abrogate its accord with the University of the Philippines. I’m quite certain that the DND already expected the opposition and backlash to their unilateral decision, and that they were not in the least bit surprised at the outrage.

    But like any government policy, the timing of implementation is as crucial as the direction.

    The fact that the policy makers decided to implement this abrogation at this particular time is susceptible to several interpretations: the first may be that in their perception, the problem (or need, if you will) is quite urgent and requires immediate action. Now, those a lot more knowledgeable than me on this issue will certainly demolish this particular possibility in no time, much like flicking a house of cards. As many before me have said, the unilateral abrogation is just another stark example of how those who govern us choose to rub their power in our faces. Why do it, we ask? “Because we can,” is the simplest answer.

    On the other hand, it could be that the timing is quite an opportune one: it comes in the middle of the Senate hearings on vaccine procurement, and our officials have been caught in a very tight bind when it comes to explaining the offered cost of the Sinovac vaccine per dose. There are also persistent questions as to the choice of the pharmaceutical company for the procurement, when other companies (whose vaccines have been given an emergency use authorization or EUA by other mature FDA jurisdictions) are pegged at a lower cost, and whose efficacy has not come into question. Once again, the China connection rears its controversial head, adding to the uncertainty that people harbor when it comes to getting vaccinated.

    It could very well be that these problems of their own making are not problems at all, from their point of view, but rather distractions that can divert attention away from the unwelcome scrutiny of their decisions by one and all. Given the current dispensation’s propensity for obfuscating the issue at hand and attempting to divert the current discourse,

    I wouldn’t put it past them to reach into their bag of tricks to throw another wrench out and see how people scramble in frustration.

    In any case, from their point of view, they will not be making any new enemies anyway; the ones making noise are already perceived to be staunchly against the administration.

    Never mind the clumsy excuses (“oh we went there for a gardening project!”) or the mixed messaging that baffles watchers—these sectors, to their mind, are lost causes anyway. The real and important question is, how do ordinary people perceive this development? Do they share the same view that this is evidence of impunity, or do they simply not care because they have more pressing personal problems, like where to get their next meal?

    Unfortunately, we may never know unless public opinion is measured by the traditional route of surveys.

    Until policy makers feel a tangible effect of public displeasure, they will continue to do this again and again, simply because it serves the purpose for them. Until then, the Masters of Distraction will stay their current course.