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The bare minimum

"We need our leaders to be more than just alive."

In the past few days, we were regaled with photos of the President jogging, swinging a golf club, and mounting a motorcycle in the cover of dark, supposedly on the grounds of Malacañang.

Perhaps Senator Bong Go felt he needed to do better than that photo of himself working in an office with President Rodrigo Duterte across from him, which he had also circulated a few days before. As proof of life, a newspaper was conveniently placed on the table between them.

Unfortunately, social media users have played with these images, photoshopping this or that personality or even characters in a movie, showing how easy it was to insert people in a scenario with the help of technology.

Mr. Duterte has been conspicuously absent from the public view in the past two weeks. Thus, if the intention of the Mr. Go is to assure Filipinos that the President is, contrary to nasty rumors, alive, then he has likely succeeded. Then again, it’s reprehensible for anybody to wish illness or death on others. It is a good thing that the man elected into office by 16 million voters in 2016 is around. Managing an emergency political transition at this time would only compound our woes.

Filipinos, however, need their leaders to be more than just alive.

More than one year into the COVID-19 crisis, we are seeing record highs in the number of new cases. Hospitals are overwhelmed and patients are dying waiting for their turn to be accommodated in emergency rooms. Testing and contact tracing have been limited all this time. The resurgence has also caused new restrictions on business and mobility, and the effects are much too palpable, even when NCR Plus returns to modified enhanced community quarantine today after two weeks of strict lockdown. People are losing jobs and are desperate for ‘ayuda.’ And then we are told the funds are running dry.

Even the ongoing administration of vaccines to priority groups has been slow.

The sight of Mr. Duterte up and about is a small consolation given all that we are facing right now. The disease is hitting closer to home, entire families instead of just individuals are getting infected, and there are no clear prospects for economic recovery. Millions do not know where their next meal would come from.

What we need are not photos or proofs of life. Instead, Filipinos need some assurance that their national government, acting through their local government and elected representatives, are working in unison toward specific objectives, measurable targets and coordinated action.

More than images of midnight jogs, we need notifications on how we can get vaccinated, where to get help if somebody in the family, especially the breadwinner, falls ill, or what steps to take and which facilities to go to in the event we feel symptoms of the disease.

These would be more than enough proof that the people we voted to lead us are doing their jobs. We don’t really care if they walk or jog, or mount a horse or a motorbike­—or even a jet ski, as long as they do the work.

Topics: Editorial , President Rodrigo Duterte , Senator Bong Go
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