A year ago, when the deadly coronavirus was rearing its ugly head everywhere in the world, not a few people honestly thought, and arguably with good reason, that Armageddon was just around the corner. At that time, people were dying worldwide every day. There was no known cure for the virus and a vaccine was still a pipe dream.
Overnight, quarantine restrictions governed daily life in the Philippines. All that the people could do was to stay home and hope the virus will not go their way.
Amid death and despair all over the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte created an inter-agency task force to address the Covid-19 menace. The best scientific, creative and economic minds of the country became part of that task force.
Eventually, the task force formulated a master plan to keep as many people safe as possible. The plan included zonal quarantine strategies, large-scale medical attendance and social amelioration programs, among others.
It also included a massive information campaign about hygiene, safety measures and how dangerous the coronavirus really is.
By keeping the Filipino people safe and constantly informed, the task force was also keeping the people sane. Losing one’s mind or will to live during a pandemic can be just as terrible as catching Covid-19.
Among those who dutifully kept the people informed about the national health situation daily was Dr. Teodoro Herbosa, a respected medical practitioner who graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.
Whenever he appeared on nationwide television, Herbosa spoke frankly about the health situation, but without stirring panic among his listeners, thanks to his credibility as a doctor of medicine.
Although Herbosa called a spade a spade when the health situation was far from improving each day, his jolly face, charming demeanor and pleasant voice somehow mitigated the public’s anxiety at a time when such mitigation was needed most by many.
Hearing the bad news has a way of liberating the mind because, at the end of the day, it’s the truth that’s important, even if the truth is distressing to hear.
Herbosa first gave us the bad news about Covid-19 in mid-2020, but as the months passed, he started delivering some badly awaited good news — that many afflicted Filipinos were recovering from the deadly virus.
Indeed, Herbosa was among the most visible anti-Covid-19 task force officers who kept us safe, kept us informed, and kept us sane, when we were all worried and afraid.
As the Executive Vice President of UP, Herbosa arranged the temporary conversion of some facilities in the UP campuses in Diliman, Los Baños and Manila to confinement and treatment facilities for many Covid-19 patients who could not be accommodated at the regular hospitals.
When the now-ubiquitous “community pantries” first attracted public attention, Herbosa issued a warning via the social media that if the beneficiaries who line up at those pantries disregard quarantine rules, those pantries can become life-threatening.
Herbosa was proved right, after a senior citizen later on collapsed while waiting in line under the infernal sun for his turn at a community pantry in Quezon City organized by a television personality to mark her birthday.
Upon hearing the bad news, Herbosa took to social media anew to emphasize the truth of his warnings. His remarks were hardly improper under the prevailing circumstances.
Instead of appreciating what Herbosa said, several UP faculty and alumni began hitting him hard in cyberspace.
Herbosa publicly apologized for any hurt feelings his online posts may have caused, but he emphasized that he had public safety in mind when he posted his warnings.
Sadly, Herbosa’s apology wasn’t enough for his online critics from UP. Like any typical angry mob, those critics demanded Herbosa’s resignation as UP EVP.
It is not certain if UP President Danilo Concepcion defended his beleaguered EVP. Be that as it may, Herbosa chose to resign.
Herbosa’s departure from UP officialdom is a big loss to the state university. UP’s loss, however, is the country’s gain because, as pointed out by many, Herbosa now has more time to address the Covid-19 problem that continues to threaten the nation.