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Managing expectations

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MANY THINGS are invariably going awry, awkward and awful in our neck of the woods — largely because of an invisible virus, partly because of leadership, rudderless or what-not– government is apparently left to managing expectations.

And it doesn’t look like it’s doing a swell of a job.

If the task of managing expectations is a huge job in normal times, it should logically be even more so, if not impossible, during abnormal times such as the existential crisis that confronts us.

Ultimately, a most relevant caveat in such a dire situation is to always keep in mind Murphy’s Law: if things can go wrong, they will. The fraudulent schemes at Philhealth over the use of funds with the COVID 19 “war” used as pretext and trash COVID text kits strewn in some streets in Metro Manila very much validate this concept.

It seems those running the show at the government either has forgotten the warning or they’re not aware of it.

In the first place, government already violated a principle in managing expectations, fix the problem while it’s small. At the start, the virus from Wuhan was downplayed as health issue, lumped with flu. From poohpoohing the virus threat to politicizing it, the virus has spread today to infect more than 200,000 Filipinos and counting.

The first time, no less than President Duterte played with fire when he nonchalantly said he would just slap the veerus. Wrong pronunciation betrayed wrong-headed policy. Somehow, tongue and thinking are inseparable. Subsequently, when a lot of experts called the banning of flights from China, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III demurred, arguing on the basis of diplomatic grounds. Winnie the Pooh might be rubbed the wrong way.

And look where we are now.

The perspective of Vice President Leni Robredo has sense of urgency: we are adrift because our ship of state is without a rudder. Sink or sail safely to shore. But it begs the question: who’s at the stern?

Sounds like a therapist, for one. While talk is viewed as cheap, the President enjoys the verbal flourish and better done at close to midnight or recorded. He has played down people’s fear and keep their hopes up. The vaccine against the virus may be available before the year ends and Christmas this time around may be happy one. One is tempted to think of his assurance like a Pied Piper’s myth, considering everything, from alphabet lockdowns to joblessness to hunger.

Clumsiness had added to our injuries. It maybe that our main crisis is on health. But there are others, related and not. There is the crisis of misinformation with data inconsistencies breeding confusion and distrust. There is the crisis of misconduct as shown by the frauds and anomalies uncovered at Philhealth in connection with COVID. We have a crisesridden ecosystem that our leaders are either ill-equipped or are egocentrically in denial about.

So what do we get to hear instead?

The pandemic is blessing in disguise. We’re lucky there’s only 45 percent joblessness; it could’ve have been worse. Some people look at a glass half empty instead of half full. And so on ad nauseam.

Crises are bad enough without distractions. Yet we seem to shoot ourselves in the foot by unnecessarily creating ones. The timing is also off. You have an anti-terror law that has drawn more petitions from across the spectrum than any other law before the Supreme Court.

You have a charter change being pushed quietly by local government groups with imprimatur from the national government. You have a group of pseudo heroes pushing for a revolutionary government. The President isn’t interested in one yet wants a public debate on it. Hele hele bago quiere?

Then there’s footdragging, indecision, lack of prompt action that only engender suspicions. A case in point is that of the tenure of Duque who has long been called out by various sectors for failure of leadership or incompetence and, now, corruption. The Senate has made its recommendation to have him indicted.

But the President, who earlier threatened anybody in his government with a whiff of corruption will be fired, remains unmoved in his trust of Duque’s integrity. Unlucky ones had been removed from their posts for less infractions.

In the meantime, the Philippines is losing part of its territories day by day with the President claiming he’s inutile to fight for it. On top of that, he has hired Chinese companies doing China’s reconfiguration of the West Philippines Sea at our expense for big-ticket infrastructure projects in the country. Despite the position of Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin to blacklist the Chinese firms, Duterte is adamant.

Obviously, his claim of an independent foreign policy is an oxymoron.

Postmortems are 20/20 but are too late. Where leaders lack vision, people perish, an ancient proverb warns. Managing our expectations in this critical time say a lot about the kind of leaders we have and where the mea culpa lies. Some lessons in life are earned the hard way. Sadly.

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