Not the enemy

posted July 08, 2020 at 12:40 am
The presidential spokesman last week rejoiced at beating the forecast of scientists and analysts from the University of the Philippines who predicted the number of COVID-19 cases in the country would hit 40,000 at the end of June.

Not the enemy

On that day, the official figures showed a number below—but not far from—the predicted level. Eventually, the 40,000 mark was breached and, more importantly, there emerged renewed concern that hospitals were once again finding difficulty coping with the surge in coronavirus patients.

Secretary Harry Roque was roundly criticized for saying that what we are up against is UP. And indeed, researchers and analysts who scrutinize the data fed us by the government are not the enemy. By the questions they raise, they prompt authorities to do better in their jobs.

A radio-television network is shut down, and a renewal hangs in the balance, for numerous alleged violations of its franchise terms and of the Constitution. A media personality and her online organization is found guilt of cyber libel and pilloried for various supposed violations of the law. In both cases, they are accused of bias and unfair reporting—even as their real infraction appears to be displeasing the powers that be.

Again, our leaders get it wrong. Media organizations are not the enemy. The press exists to hold authorities accountable to their constituents. It is the duty of the press to be critical when necessary—otherwise, it becomes a public relations tool for those whose interests it serves.

A law purporting to combat terrorism is enacted, despite widespread opposition to the many pitfalls it contains. There is no question that the country must be protected from terrorists, but this draconian law provides massive opportunity for abuse by its implementors, especially those who are easily offended by citizens merely expressing their dissent—a hallmark of democracy.

Critics are not the enemy. They want the same thing our government officials want—a just, humane, inclusive society where abuse is checked and every voice is heard.

Those who expose institutional blunders in the hopes of improving their processes are not the enemy.

Those who go out of their homes despite the risks, just to earn a living—they are not the enemy.

The enemy is hubris—our officials’ desire to always be right and their refusal to acknowledge that they could be wrong or that they might need the help of others.

The enemy is entitlement—when because of their position and stature, they believe that rules do not apply to them.

The enemy is simplistic thinking—that people have to be a diehard supporter or a consummate critic, with no space for meaningful insight or participation in between.

Finally, the enemy remains to be this dreaded virus, because it continues to keep us guessing, because a cure and a vaccine continue to elude us, and because we have a long way to go before we beat it.

Let us not allow ourselves to be distracted.

Topics: University of the Philippines , COVID-19 , cases , Harry Roque , terrorism
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