IN A nation that badly needs healing, and not just in a medical sense when corruption sounds to be more pronounced in a time of plague, the arrival of a doctor on the national political scene is a welcome development, like a gentle, healthy breeze.
Tis’ the excitable season of dreams and ambitions where great needs are met with even greater promises, and people are made more vulnerable, both by the pandemic and sweet talk, of the politicians’ persuasive but deceptive suave.
The doctor is in, and he’s running for vice president. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Willy R. Ong, the popular every Juan’s physician on YouTube or Facebook. He comes to the protean virus-blighted landscape, not as a politician but as a physician, more like as an antiseptic rather than as an anesthetic. He is seen as a curing and healing agent where most predictably promise to numb the pain or make you forget them.
In addition to regular hand washing, Ong might just recommend as well mouth washing from time to time for national leaders to improve the health of public conversation. Halitosis isn’t just a hygienic condition but also a political one. And that includes both the spokesperson and his principal. Never mind those around them who can bear with the intoxicating bad breath.
So, right off the bat, he prescribes two simple, straightforward solutions to what ails us, both in the flesh and in the soul. Fire the one in charge of the health department and let go of the head of the inter-agency task force versus the virus. He says why: there are the long- standing twin issues of trust and expertise that must be addressed head-on, and soon. You can’t win the war against the pandemic without these two important qualifications on the resume of those leading the war. A health secretary whose head is buried in the sand like the ostrich and a kind general that looks like more like a square peg in a round hole are the perfect team for failure, if not disaster.
It isn’t just the opinion of Dr. Ong. A recent report by Bloomberg showed the Philippines with the worst performing response against the pandemic among 53 countries in the world, and the last in five countries in Southeast Asia.
In the meantime, the President of the Republic is depending a Chinese-owned rinky dink firm which is being investigated by the Senate blue ribbon committee for alleged overpricing and other questionable practices that are not consistent with purchasing procedures allowed by law.
It has not only resulting to mutual mudslinging and downright personal insults but is shaping to be leading to a Constitutional crisis. Duterte has announced he would bar any Cabinet member from attending the Gordon-led probe. He had also ordered the police and military not to implement any arrest warrant by the Senate.
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, the fast rising political star that threatens to punch a hole in Duterte’s flaunted Teflon –like political invincibility, has chosen Ong to be his running mate in the 2022 polls. Ong has enough on his political resume to explain why Moreno threw a curveball.
Ong made an impressive, respectable showing in the 2013 election as a senatorial bet when he placed 18th despite being a new, largely unknown political combatant. He garnered the second highest number of overseas vote, beaten only by Ronald de Rosa, who was 5th, mainly due to the Duterte influence. Ong has also 16 million followers on YouTube and Facebook and has more than 2 million faithful base on his Health Tips on Facebook where he dispenses medical tips on how to reduce belly fat and improve aging men’s performance, on and off the bed.
Ong knows too well what and who he is up against, President Duterte, who is sliding to the second highest post in the land, and Senate President Tito Sotto, who’s eyeing a higher perch. Duterte’s bid is expected to be challenged in court by those who’s ready to thwart the backdoor attempt for being unconstitutional. Sotto, meanwhile, is the top choice for vice president, according to the latest political survey.
The doctor is unfazed. He has not only the prescription. He is appears to be the prescription himself at a time when there is a dearth in both science and moral sense, highly critical in the war against the existential threat of COVID 19 whose trajectory continues to defy experts and self-proclaimed prophets.
Ong is realistic about himself. He is willing to give way to a possible replacement that Moreno will choose over him to win in his presidential bid. If that happens, he is willing to run as senator again, this time probably liking his chances of making it with a fatter and wider political and social resume.
Anything can happen before the final date for final substitution. So far,Moreno’s camp isn’t worried about their man’s chances even as the latest survey put Sara Duterte and Bongbong Marcos in the top and second slots for presidential preference. In fact, in their own interpolation and interpretation, the survey only showed that Moreno is really the man to beat.
The other thing about Ong is that, with his image as professional more than as politician, there are other presidential bets with no running mates who may adopt him as their guest candidate, like Senator Manny Pacquiao and Vice President Leni Robredo.
Ong may just turn out to be a man of destiny. Despite the awkward combination of initials and a Chinese name, he sounds like the right idea for Moreno, and for millions of Filipinos who believe in him, and arguably the best time for the nation led by pernicious politics for the longest time.