‘We still need a plan, Mr. President. More than a bi-monthly proof of life, we need a proof of plan to get us out of this situation. Other countries are slowly beginning to open up, their citizens beginning to slowly adjust to the new normal in their environs.’
IF the rabid reaction of the fanatics is any measure, it seems Vice President Leni Robredo’s latest speech wherein she laid out concrete suggestions for the administration to consider is a smashing success. Hopeful in tone, substantial in content, the stark contrast she struck against the current dispensation seemed to have gotten the fanatics frothing at the mouth, resulting in a collective “ampanget mo” moment. Let me explain.
If the comments against the Vice President are any indication, it seems all the fanatics could muster were nasty epithets about her appearance. I could not find one single criticism about the actual substance of her suggestions, gathered from various experts and stakeholders. You’d be hard-pressed to disagree with the points she raised—consumer confidence is down, business confidence is down, and this has had a severe effect on how the economy is struggling to get back on its feet in the midst of rising COVID-19 cases.
So instead of discussing the merits of her proposal, fanatics immediately launched an attack in essentially a childish response: “ah wala, ampanget mo,” “Fake!” (referring to the VP’s glasses, which to my recollection she has always worn when needed) “Her clothes are baduy,” and perhaps the most puzzling: “She looks like a school principal.” What’s wrong with the way school principals look, anyway?
You see, it would’ve been easy for our economic managers to parse the Vice President’s recommendations and say, “We’re already doing that, we’re already doing this, so and so is in the pipeline” if in fact, they were already doing it. But sadly, as people have expressed, we seem to be riding a two-week bingo of ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and all the CQs without any whiff of how decisions are made regarding our current situation. What VP Robredo said struck a chord—ordinary workers, small business owners, and just about everyone who needs to eke out a living in these hard times certainly have little or no confidence about what is in store for us precisely because of what the government is doing.
You see, apart from announcing the alphabet soup of quarantine implementations every two weeks, it seems all that the administration is obsessed about is fighting rumors about the true state of the President’s health. It’s undeniable that we see a difference in President Duterte’s vigor and pep in the last year, especially in the last few months. I noticed this when I caught A Thousand Cuts, the documentary on Maria Ressa by Ramona Diaz, about a month ago. It featured interviews with President Duterte back in 2016 when he had just assumed the presidency, and some clips of his speeches on the campaign trail just in 2019.
As I am not a medical professional, I will not hazard a guess as to the cause, except just to say that there is quite a difference even in the way the President talks then, and now.
So yes, every couple of weeks we are treated to a proof of life photo of the President, with someone in the background (in the most recent one, it was the President’s partner, Honeylet Avanceña) holding the day’s newspaper. In most cases, a taped video of the President meeting with his Cabinet is shown, usually aired the day after, to show that the Chief Executive is on top of the situation in the country. These “proof of life” stunts have gotten so regular (every late Monday night or early Tuesday morning) that it seems that we do not hear anything from the President in between, leading one social media user to remark that any employee who only comes to work four times in a month will surely be fired by now.
While fanatics will surely come to the defense of the President, saying that he works so hard away from the glare of the lights and cameras, it is again undeniable that as President, his presence and visibility is necessary, especially in uncertain times, if only to offer hope and consolation to his people. It would not also hurt if we heard more about concrete plans and actions, and less about why the problem of illegal drugs is ruining communities and families, or why the NPA is a bane to society. Again, on both counts, this is not intended to belittle the problem of illegal drugs or the insurgency; however, people are dying by the day because of the pandemic. That is by and large the most pressing problem we face today, and anyone sitting in that office by the Pasig River cannot complain that there are just too many problems at once – that is the nature of running a republic.
We still need a plan, Mr. President. More than a bi-monthly proof of life, we need a proof of plan to get us out of this situation. Other countries are slowly beginning to open up, their citizens beginning to slowly adjust to the new normal in their environs. And yet here we are, still seeing COVID-19 cases rising by the day, yet inundated with idiotic comments about the Vice President’s eyewear and blouse. What next?