Prepare to dance

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    ‘Where we went wrong was in the obstinacy of the President of the Philippines in keeping his Health secretary when, early on, the man should have been replaced or at least sidelined so that a clear, rational and firm approach to the pandemic could be adopted.’

    EARLY in the year, March I think it was, the Department of Health (aka the Department of Hahaha) announced to the world that one case of COVID-19 had been discovered in Greenhills, San Juan.

    But the DOH was quick to assure the public: there was no need to panic because this was not a case of community spread.

    That’s when I coined the phrase “immaculate infection” because the DOH was telling us that this individual had just gotten sick, just like that, despite the absence of foreign travel or exposure to anyone infected.

    This was one for the books, specifically the Bible.

    Before that Greenhills case we had only officially recorded three others, all mainland Chinese, one of whom died. The DOH was telling us that there was no link between the Greenhills case to those three. Immaculate indeed.

    Since then the 3 cases have ballooned to over 35,000 active ones, the biggest number in Southeast Asia. Our total number of cases, past the 50,000 mark, places us firmly behind Indonesia (still ahead with over 60,000); worse, we have the worst record of deaths of frontliners in ratio and proportion to total cases.

    We have been in various states of lockdown since March 16, from ECQ or enhanced, to what smart-alecks call MMCQ or “matira-matibay community quarantine.” And yet, despite the longest lockdown in the history of the COVID world, here we are, racing with Indonesia to the top of rankings no one would wish to be competitive for.

    In the beginning, our health officials were boasting that our numbers were low because of the quick action and wise decisions of our President. Now what? Where did we go wrong? Is it because Filipinos are inherently “pasaway” and “reklamador” and undisciplined?

    Where we went wrong was in the obstinacy of the President of the Philippines in keeping his Health secretary when, early on, the man should have been replaced or at least sidelined so that a clear, rational and firm approach to the pandemic could be adopted. The President has defended his decision by saying that he would not have chosen Dr. Duque if the latter had been incompetent. And yes, some of Duque’s colleagues during the GMA years tell me they knew him as a competent individual.

    But they miss a crucial point: a crisis demands so much more (if not differently) of people, that someone who does well under ordinary circumstances may be someone who will wilt under the pressure of crisis. And no matter how well Dr. Duque did previously – and even that is contestable – he wasn’t the right man for the job that the times demanded.

    Proof to me was whenever he would slavishly praise PRRD for his wisdom every time there was a DOH briefing in the early days of the pandemic. The level of obsequiousness was unbelievable.

    He was no Dr. Fauci. In fact, I refer to him as Dr. Faulty.

    And too bad ass-kissing isn’t the cure for COVID, as we would have had zero cases from Day One.

    In the end the slavish praise worked. Even as the numbers climbed the President did nothing, allowing Dr. Faulty to even throw his DOH bureaucracy under the bus by blaming them for such things as the slow pace of testing and tracing. Even after petition after petition were drawn up seeking the Secretary’s head, the President was unmoved. This is his call, he said. So Dr. Faulty stayed. And the count continued to rise.

    Four months later we have come full circle. The Department of Hahaha says that new cases are coming from everywhere as they can no longer be traced to old cases. Immaculate infections again. But the truth is, the DOH never really came close to doing a good job at tracing in the first place. From that first immaculate infection to the latest one.

    As things spin out of control, all we can do now is to prepare to dance.

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