EVEN THE best intention can be a costly distraction.
“Martha, Martha’, Our Lord tells Mary’s sister, “ you are distracted by many things”.
And yet, Martha’s fault was simply asking Him to tell Mary, who was sitting by His feet, to help her prepare something for the visitors who came by their door unannounced.
Theologians and preachers have a lot to say about the biblical scene, and one of their best talking points is that our best effort fails when we fail to consider what’s our real priority.
In our time, there’s another Mary who knows too well the value of focus. Vice President Maria Leonor” Leni” Robredo is saying that we are the way we are in the crucible of the pandemic because the one on top of the job, President Duterte, is distracted by many things. And that, to her, gives the impression that he doesn’t have a sense of urgency about the plague.
The latest distraction is the controversy on the purchase of the alleged overpricing of medical supplies from a small company, depriving the government, according to Sen. Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon , about P280 million. The ongoing Senate hearing has lifted the lid on the Pandora’s box that shows one of the company owners has link to Malacanang.
The humungous anomaly has triggered a potential constitutional crisis as Duterte has threatened to not allow any member of his Cabinet to appear before the Senate investigation on account of alleged unfair treatment of Duterte’s men.
The Senate has, so far, stood its ground. The public waits like prize-fight wagers to see who blinks first. Senators Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson and Drilon, are in no mood to cut the President a slack. In fact, they seem ready to engage him mano-a-mano. Duterte’s threat remains in its sheath. Lacson, no doubt, is better motivated, if for political reason: he’s aiming for Duterte’s post when he leaves the Pasig Palace in June next year. That doesn’t mean patriotism isn’t part of the job. His political ad on line unmistakably carries the message: Heneral ng Bayan (The People’s General).
The expose on the overpricing controversy came after the Commission on Audit flagged the Department of Health on its disbursement, even parking, of funds it was given to address the adverse effect of the pandemic, especially in light of the dominant Delta variant.
The COA findings have rattled Duterte’s cage. As expected, insults and expletives have since flown fast and thick from Malacanang’s end toward the Senate, especially to the ‘fat’ one and to the other who allegedly has changed the way he combed his hair lately.
Don’t mind being ‘fat’, replied he who claimed to be a better- looker than the Pasig tenant. My hair hasn’t moved a bit since insanity has apparently set in one place office, the unfazed general threw back in a tit-for-tat.
Did Duterte mean well in his over-the-top tirades against members of an equal branch of government? Hardly, according to former Sen. Sergio Osmena, who remarked that Duterte was simply out of line in his response—unpresidential, so many put it—to the senators of the realm who were just doing their job. The COA didn’t even say, he said, there was corruption, but simply called the attention of DOH and others like the Senate that something could be wrong and must be investigated. When there is smoke, there must fire.
There must be another thing that makes the President lose his concentration or focus on the job. His non-renewable lease in Malacanang, and all the powers that go with it, are nearing their end day by day. The sword of Damocles coming from the International Criminal Court is still hanging ominously as his term gets shorter. The possibility of him being asked to face the court and account for violation of human rights in his war against drugs isn’t just imaginary.
In Duterte’s mind, he has two options to prevent that from happening. One option is to anoint a candidate who will protect him from any suit against anything from anywhere. The other option is run for vice president and short-circuit the Constitutional provision on no- reelection for any president. One way to avail of the first option is to have his daughter mayor of Davao City to be his successor. It seems doable, but not a walk in the park, although earlier surveys show good signs. The idea to have Senator Bong Go run for the presidency has fizzled out. The second option is now being shot by the opposition as a violation of the Constitution. Everything appears fluid and tricky ,and Duterte maybe in a ‘panic mode’ as one senator saw it.
To many, Duterte’s current distractions are bereft of any good intentions and are simply alibis and diversionary tactics to hamper any attempt to ferret out the truth in governance under his watch. The Delta variant is all over the archipelago and one medical expert is worried that government is just tinkering with all sorts of lockdowns,old and new, to beat it.
From Robredo’s perspective, there is lack of leadership to direct the efforts of agencies and task forces mandated to stop the virus. Obviously, Robredo yearns to be at the top of the action. It is said the vice president is the best job in the world because all she has to do is wake up in the morning and ask “ How’s the President Doing?”. You can’t blame Robredo, especially when what she sees is what she gets.
Sometimes , she fessed up , she wished she were given the opportunity to be directing the national against the virus, seeing the gaps in the implementation and coordination as if it were a headless chicken. She must have realized she needed to be the President to do that . That means she must decide,sooner than later, to run for the office. Otherwise, she will remain the best well-meaning critic of Duterte.