Should people cut public officials some slack and accept that mistakes will be made because they are dealing with an overwhelming health crisis?
Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales does not believe so. In her commencement address at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law on August 28, she said that public officials must never use the pandemic as an excuse for their failures.
“Indeed, these are unprecedented times. This pandemic is a first of its kind in recent times. Given the novelty of the global dilemma, others are positing that we can afford to give our leaders some slack, considering that nobody had heretofore dealt with this gargantuan problem of this magnitude,” she said.
But Morales added, “I must say that it is, however, not an excuse for incompetence. It is not an excuse to run roughshod of the fundamental laws. In fact, it is in dark hours that competent leaders are tested under extreme circumstances.”
Morales also encouraged people to closely watch how the country’s “power wielders” exercise the newly-legislated powers on top of the existing government powers. And when they do so, she said that they need to be held accountable.
“The people deserve to check whether these public officials pass or fail this test. If they seriously fail and commit abuse of such power, they should not go unpunished,” she said.
Morales recalled a post made in an online forum, wherein a netizen noted that the pandemic did not break the country’s system – rather, the health crisis exposed only what was broken in the system.
“Perhaps, to some extent, the observation may be true,” she reflected. “The series of unfortunate events may have led us to realize how poor the delivery of health services is in this country. This goes to show that the health sector has witnessed years of neglect.”
The former Ombudsman stressed that it is high time for the country to beef up its health system, especially since the pandemic proved just its vulnerability to the citizens’ detriment.
“It is about time this country should invest more in the health and well-being of its citizens. It is about time that this country should aspire to become a medical haven itself, amid the decades-long diaspora of medical professionals abroad,” she said.