December 6, 2023

There is a saying by Confucius that goes, “Even a fish will not get into trouble if he keeps his mouth shut.”
I pray that President Duterte, who we love so deeply, will heed this adage. Why so? Of late, every time he opens his mouth, he hurts people. The latest is his tirade against doctors and nurses when he said that they are “indispensable but not irreplaceable.” What was he thinking when he said that? Doctors and healthcare workers were only asking for a “timeout” so that they can recalibrate their coping mechanisms against the overwhelming number of patients that are being admitted in hospitals in mega Manila. Besides, where will the replacements come from? The country has temporarily ceased producing doctors and nurses. Colleges and universities are closed and board examinations are suspended until further notice.
As it stands, our doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers are tired and stressed out. They have sacrificed so much that many among their ranks have died in the line of duty. Their morale is at its lowest ebb. They are confessing that they are “waging a losing battle.” The least that we can do is to pray for them, inspire them, and give them the courage to fight on. Has the President and his spokesperson reneged in this moral duty that they are now uttering words of discomfort?
I remember that only months ago, the President was hailing our doctors and other frontline workers as the new breed of heroes. He was praising them to high heavens, giving them a worth regard by promising all the help and assistance that the administration may extend. Thus, for the President to challenge the health force to “go almost on a …. not really a rampage – but an outrage, as if you are angry. x x x there would not have been needed for you to go into….raising your hands as if you are saying revolution, revolution,” is balking at the very promise he made. It is not at all soothing. It is rude and demoralizing.
When the doctors, through the Philippine College of Physicians and other allied societies, petitioned the President to put mega Manila on a stricter community lockdown, they were doing so with the best interest of the country in mind. They are at the forefront of the pandemic and they know what is going on. If they say that there is a need for a stricter quarantine protocol because the capacity of beds in hospitals and clinics are being occupied at an alarming speed due to the number of Covid-19 patients being admitted, the President and his minions have to listen and sympathize. To contradict the sentiments of our doctors and other frontline workers is a dishonest way of providing a political solution to a medical problem.
Look, when Marawi was on siege, who gave the advice that martial law must be declared? Who commanded the forces on the ground to attack or to retreat? The military. It is this branch of our society that was in the best position to project the course of action that must be taken to minimize further danger. The President, without rancor or reservation, obeyed everything that was said. Should he not extend the same courtesy to our doctors and nurses who, like the soldiers in Marawi, are on the ground fighting in the front lines against an unseen yet formidable enemy?
Only doctors are in a real position to predict what the real score is about our Covid-19 issue and only they can provide the solution. Sad to say, the problem lies not in the number of healthcare workers or their dedication and resolve to continue healing the sick, but in the manner by which our politicians are dealing with the facts.
Is there even a concrete and definite plan to combat the spread of the contagion aside from quarantines and lockdowns? The President gave a clue that is as ominous as an unexpected miracle. In his televised meeting with some of his Cabinet members, he explained that his team was not able to prepare a roadmap to combat Covid-19 and there is no post-pandemic strategy because nobody foresaw this problem coming. He remains hopeful, though, that by December, the vaccine to neutralize the virus will be made available to us.
Is that what the President is relying on? A contingent vaccine that is yet on its experimental stage? Thus, plan of action, if this is the only one that he has in mind, is froth with many pitfalls. What if the vaccine is not mass produced by December? Where will it come from? What if it will be over priced and over compensated with side effects? What if it will not work as expected like the dengvaxia? What will become of us?
Ultimately, the last course of action is for us to trust our doctors and our nurses. To turn them away from the profession by saying that “if they want a better pay, they’d rather enlist as policemen or army personnel instead” is insensitive, even as if was said as a joke. After all, during these challenging moments, it is no joke to be a doctor or a nurse. To be paid a practice in exchange for their lives is bad enough. To be castigated because they are asking for a deserved break is worst.