THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
“Let us not despair.”
Those were words from President Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA). This was one of the shortest sentences in his speech – and which attracted much media attention and made it to the headlines.
That this particular remark caught attention showed several things: First, that it makes a difference when the highest government leader says it; second, that these are words that the Nation needed to hear at this time.
The President’s words were timely. They were valuable.
The President must have sensed that the virus of hopelessness must have started to creep in.
There is basis for this presidential perspective. After all, the number of people being infected by the COVID-19 virus in the country continues to rise. The steep rise happened just as the country was trying to reopen the economy. Balancing the efforts to save and protect lives while allowing enterprises to resume operations appears to be more difficult than ever.
The apparent sense of despair must have also been fueled by our collective fatigue – physical and emotional.
The fatigue seems to come from two things: Adapting to new habits and protocols; repeating them and not being a hundred percent sure they produce the results we had wanted.
The fatigue may also be fueled by seeing the reluctance and the recalcitrance on the part of some of our countrymen when it comes to complying with protocols.
If there is one who could see the complete picture of these trying times in our country, it must be the President, himself. So, when the President says we must not despair, those words must be heeded and given much weight.
The credibility and sincerity of that call by the President has gotten much boost from the inspiring show of humility.
It will be recalled that the President had admitted that “our actions (regarding the pandemic) have been far from perfect”.
The President’s humility has been mirrored by the more recent statement by the chief implementer of the government’s action program in response to the pandemic, former Army Chief Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
In a news item which we caught in a local television broadcast, Secretary Galvez was reported as admitting that the government’s response has not been completely adequate.
We would not fault the President and Secretary Galvez based on such admission. After all, we are all feeling inadequate in the face of a crisis no one had seen before.
As far as the present generations are concerned, the nature and proportion of this crisis has had no precedent. There is nothing from our shared experience from which we can draw insight and borrow tested methods. In other words, just like most of the rest of the world, we are feeling our way through this crisis in a collective effort to survive.
It would be grossly unfair though for anyone to say that the President and his team have not done their best and that they have no visible plan. The President’s Task Force has visibly done its best to come up with programs and protocols to balance the need to reopen the economy and to protect lives.
We also commend the President’s Task Force for listening to feedback from the public. For example, there was a clamor for the government to allow spouses and partners living in the same residence to share a motorcycle ride. The Task Force heeded this call. By allowing this, more people were able to go to their places of work and business.
We are confident that the recent call for the Task Force to withdraw the protocol requiring a shield between motorcycle driver and back-rider will be given due attention and consideration. We are sure that the Task Force is merely waiting for an opportunity to assess the effects of the measure and base their final decision on empirical data.
While media may not have given enough attention to this particular statement, we were elated by the President’s remarks where he assured us that “a vaccine for COVID-19 is just around the corner.”
We are also gladdened by recent news items saying the President has expanded his diplomatic efforts in a bid to make sure that countries who are able to develop a vaccine soon would put the Philippines in the priority list of beneficiaries.
The President did not pluck this statement from thin air.
Our monitoring of international news indicates that there is basis for the President’s sense of hope. Medical experts appear over-cautious about these developments and are quick to advise the public against unguarded optimism. However, for ordinary mortals like us, any development that brings us closer to a vaccine is cause for hope.
Hope is more than just a positive emotion.
It means doing our best to keep our brains working – working in search for solutions to a problematic situation. A crisis could paralyze our thinking processes. Deciding to stop looking for a way out is technically succumbing to despair.
In his latest SONA, the President has given us an example of the power of hope and humility.
Having seen that example, we can truly heed the call not to despair.
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