Experts enjoy authority and credibility for a reason.
They did not get to where they were because of their connections, or because they found themselves at the right place at the right time.
Experts spent long years studying their field and staying updated about developments in it. The knowledge is not just theory—equally important is the time spent actually practicing their profession.
They are recognized among their peers and in the local and international community. They enjoy high esteem from the general public. Their work has been reviewed by peers, validated by time, and used as reference by those who come after them.
And when their services are tapped for the public good, they are usually willing to help out, to provide their time and services for the benefit of the many.
They agree to make recommendations, guide policymakers and draw from their experience in providing answers and finding solutions to the problems at hand.
It is not their obligation to always agree with whoever appointed them. In fact, it is their obligation to disagree with actions not consistent with their findings and recommendations. They must call out those who make pronouncements and feign expertise just to paint a picture rosier than the actual state.
Meanwhile, those in power should not begrudge these experts the opportunity to speak what they think. The opinion of experts is not that of a politician. It does not recognize political color or affiliation. It is based only on evidence—never names, never personalities.
During this time of uncertainty and fear, the only voices that bring comfort are the experts. They know what they are talking about. While we are desperate for good news and relief, words like “everything will be all right” or “we are winning this” or “it’s not as bad as we think it is” from non-experts should be taken with a grain of salt. More so if they are public officials desperate for good perception.
In the United States, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has been maligned by President Donald Trump and his allies numerous times because he continues to warn the public about the persistent threat of COVID-19.
Here at home, Palace mouthpieces play down the dire forecasts of researchers from the University of the Philippines on the number of COVID-19 cases. Spokesman Harry Roque once expressed jubilation at “winning against” the UP projection that the number would reach 40,000 as of end-June.
A health reform advocate was also eased out of his advisory role in the task force implementing regulations concerning COVID-19 for not keeping his opinion to himself and criticizing the government's response to the pandemic.
These are times we need to be guided only by science and evidence. We must heed the warning of experts even if their words fail to bring us comfort. Reassurances, especially when these have no basis, do not have any value outside of lulling us into complacency—and dooming us into a state worse than where we are.