When credibility is in question…

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    “DITO sa amin, may mga namamatay pero nililibing agad kahit hindi pa natetest.”

    How many of us have heard this line from friends outside of Metro Manila, implying that the real number of Filipinos dying from COVID-19 is far higher than official figures?

    When a television anchor reported on social media recently that a.hospital in Metro Manila had its hands full dealing with the remains of patients who were dying of COVID, he started a firestorm. The so-called DDS savaged him for spreading lies and rumors and trying to damage the reputation of the President and his administration, while non-DDS of whatever political stripe took him more seriously. To the latter group (and I suspect this to be a bigger one) it was easier to believe the TV personality because of lingering suspicion that we are not seeing the real numbers.

    It also matters that the TV personality is deemed credible by many.

    In contrast, it doesn’t help the cause of winning the faith and confidence of the public when the Secretary of Health – my favorite Cabinet secretary these days – resorts to ass kissing. How else can I describe it when he goes on TV crediting the “low numbers” of infections in the Philippines to “great decisions made by the President” – the travel ban and the lockdown?

    What an irresponsible thing for the Health Secretary to do. How do you now expect health care units all over the country to report bad numbers? Then again, was that the intent?

    Reminds me of my mother’s tales when she was taking up her Masteral in Nursing during the 1970s and how local health centers were sensitive to reporting numbers for fear of displeasing higher-ups. What was true then could be very true now, especially when you have a Secretary who has mastered the art of “kasipsipan.”

    He cannot rewrite history. Maybe we should remind the good Secretary that Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong had blocked flights from China in late January at a time when he was refusing to do so for fear of “diplomatic and political implications.” On Facebook I interpreted this to mean that the Filipino could get sick for as long as our powerful neighbor isn’t displeased. Is there any other interpretation?

    And despite the brown-nosing that the DoH head has raised to an art form, we are now a very close second to Malaysia in terms of number of cases reported, second to Indonesia in terms of number of deaths, and woefully 6th out of the 10 ASEAN countries in terms of number of recoveries. These are even worse when seen percentage-wise. No one in his right mind could be proud of these numbers, and the President should not tolerate these numbers being ascribed to his “good decision making.”

    But it is obvious that PRRD is a tolerant man, unfortunately of the wrong people and for the wrong reasons.

    As a result, when daily numbers are reported for ASEAN COVID cases, it is with dread that some people look at the rate of infections and recoveries because we are doing far from a good job. This in turn, clashes with official statements, including the “we have enough PPEs” of the DOH in February which should qualify for the COVID-19 Believe it or Not Hall of Fame. The consequence of this clash is loss of confidence in the ability of the authorities to contain this health threat, and that’s why reports about people dying untested or bodies piling up unclaimed are easily believed.

    When the credibility of those tasked to manage a crisis like this is in question, people for better or worse will believe what they hear from those sources they see as more credible.

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