"The usually tough President Duterte is showing great understanding of and softness to his handpicked officials."
Filipinos are a patient lot. Generally, we are tolerant of erring or incompetent leaders and elect them – and their kin -- again and again to public office. Specifically, we have extended our patience no end to officials tasked with managing this health crisis and the consequent economic fallout.
Early last year, for instance, while other countries were quick to shut down their borders and implement swift testing and contact tracing measures, we took our sweet time before banning visitors from China, where the first patients were from. We were wary of offending our giant neighbor, and our health officials spoke like diplomats, forgetting their primary duty.
We were also patient with the many violations committed by VIPs who should have been the first to enforce health protocol and set a good example. Some of them, like the now-chief of the Philippine National Police, were even defended by the Palace and rewarded with cushier jobs.
We waited a long time for news of the development of vaccines against the coronavirus. When the breakthroughs came, however, many of our leaders dropped the ball by failing to act with urgency to secure the precious doses.
We were so forgiving upon hearing that some Cabinet officials and military personnel were already inoculated even as no clearances had yet been issued.
There are still no vaccines, despite the fact that many local government units have come up with their vaccination programs and conducted dry-runs for their implementation. We were told that the jabs for medical frontliners would begin on Feb. 15 – more than a week later, the vaccines are still on the way.
We know that rich countries have procured more than enough doses for their citizens, and have begun their rollout. There were some ways to correct this inequity, for example through the COVAX Facility, and we should have moved toward that sooner, too. But the 117,000 Pfizer vaccines from the facility did not come, and issues on emergency use authorization delayed the arrival of 600,000 more doses.
Perhaps those in charge of obtaining the vaccines do not realize how crucial their jobs are, not only for the protection of Filipinos, but for the recovery of the economy.
The usually tough President Duterte is showing great understanding of and softness to his handpicked officials. He is not holding anybody accountable for the delay, because he supposedly knows we are on the receiving end of these vaccines.
How lucky for these officials. How unlucky for the rest of us. More than 12,000 Filipinos have died and more than 560,000 infections have been recorded.
We will continue to wait for the arrival of the vaccines, and for their eventual administration among the people. We will also wait for the time when government officials become more mindful of their responsibilities, and when their bosses act on behalf of the people and call them out for their incompetence.