By DEAN MEL STA. MARIA
Talking about our president, the cabinet secretaries, many congressmen/women, and senators may not at all be inspiring during crisis. Most of them have their biases, polarizing by nature, and , at times, having something negative and even useless things to say against each other and, yes, even against the people whom they should be serving. Neither is any discussion of Supreme Court magistrates useful. They are irrelevant during periods of actual disturbance. Some of their decisions are disturbing enough.
Instead, focus must be on our professional civil service employees who toil every day to make government effectively function. They are true public servants. No epal, show-offs, and grandstanding, but dedicatedly fulfilling their jobs. Even without any prodding from high officials, they work hard always conscious that what they do is a sacred vocation, not a source of power and privilege. With clarity of purpose, they perform.
Taal’s eruption glued us to our radios, televisions, and social media for news. Who did we see and hear? Our government meteorologists, volcanologist, seismologists, health officers, engineers, and others. They were in the forefront, painstakingly explaining in detail what was done, being done and will be done.
For example, after the eruption, Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division Chief Ma. Antonia Bornas thoroughly briefed the media on Taal’s history of previous eruptions, what the seismologists noticed the past months such as the frequent earthquakes, cracking of the soil, and prevalent smell of sulfur. She made well thought-of statements and warnings without unduly alarming us but still relaying the situation’s seriousness. When some reporters asked irrelevant questions, she quickly responded politely that Philvoc’s job is monitoring and assessing the explosive situation, then relaying valuable findings to the proper authorities, and, later, to the public at large. Time was not wasted. It was reassuring to see Bornas intelligently explaining the situation without relying on “codigos,” unlike other high officials who seemed to relish the limelight dishing out information but , obviously,devoid of any depth as shown by their constant reading from notes supplied to them.
It was also very enlightening to hear National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) spokesperson Mark Timbal explain in my Radyo5 noontime program the coordination among the Local Government Units, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), and the NDRRMC so that the public will know the flow of responsibilities. That was important. Also, Undersecretary of Health Eric Domingo assured the public of the sufficiency of face masks in the worse — hit places and the readiness of public hospitals to treat victims. Their utterances were comforting.
President Duterte’s public utterance, on the other hand, was not informative at all. Regarding the ash-fall that poses health hazards to the public, he reportedly bragged: “Kainin ko pa ‘yang ash-fall na ‘yan. Pati ‘yang Taal na ‘yan ihian ko ‘yan. Bwisit na ‘yan” —-a cockiness not at all uplifting to the morale of the most injuriously affected.
When the US-Iran conflict threatened the lives of our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), our consuls and members of their staff in the affected regions immediately went to work, alerting them to take precautionary measures and, later, the possibility for repatriation. Their dedication to serve our OFWs was simply automatic. Our diplomats worked under pressure with the calm composure demanded by the alarming developments. Because the situation was violently unfolding, there was clearly great effort to avert panic.
Meantime, in the Philippines, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin was in the news again. He confronted the vociferous but peaceful protesters demanding better treatment and protection for our OFWs. He shouted “O sige bugbugin mo ko,” then again angrily bellowed “OUT” followed by hand movements as if to say “come to me” in a challenging and provocative way. The chief of our diplomats was not at all diplomatic, defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “employing tact and conciliation especially in situations of stress.” His combative stance invited violence and a potentially explosive situation. Fortunately, the protesters’ self-control and non-abrasive mind-set prevented such eventuality. Nothing can justify violence against the non-violent exercise of our citizens’ constitutional right“to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances”.
Indeed, we can be proud of our public servants in crisis situations. They are exemplars of public service worthy of emulation especially by their superiors with disgusting demeanors discordant with the dignity of their high offices. President Duterte can also learn one or two things from them in making his comments on dire situations demanding the highest sensitivity.