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Harry Roque should not be summarily condemned

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Last week, the President’s spokesman, Secretary Harry Roque, lost his cool and berated two physicians who joined him and others in an online meeting about the country’s war against Covid-19. That meeting was covered by the media.

The physicians suggested that a very strict form of quarantine lockdown should be reinstated for at least two weeks in order to contain the spread of the disease.

They also insinuated that the government has not efficiently addressed the pandemic that has traumatized the Philippines and the world since March 2020.

Irked by that insinuation, the usually patient and composed Roque lost his temper and chastised the physicians. A stricter lockdown, Roque said, will aggravate the economic plight of many low-income Filipino families who are already suffering from the continuing lockdown.

Roque stressed that it is unfair to insinuate that the government has not been doing anything substantial to address the pandemic. He emphasized that the government is doing its best to mitigate the problems of the people, and unfair criticism is uncalled for during these very difficult times.

After releasing steam, Roque apologized for the incident. He said the tense situation in the country got the better of him.

It is the right thing to do. Since there are occasions when one cannot help but lose one’s temper, one should at least apologize for doing so.

Roque emphasized, however, that his apology was for the way he angrily comported himself during the meeting, and not for the substance of what he stated.

A news outlet known for its anti-administration stance quickly publicized the incident. Many personalities in the medical sector got angry at Roque, conveniently ignoring his earlier apology. Agitators joined the frenzy and demanded Roque’s resignation.

Other agitators had a heyday bashing the government. They equated the incident to other perceived shortcomings of the administration.

It has been several days since that incident. A sober assessment of the event may now be in order.

All humans are prone to lose their cool at some time in their lives and utter strong words to express their displeasure. An apology, however, should eventually follow. To repeat, Roque did right by apologizing for losing his temper.

Admittedly, the government has its share of shortcomings in the ongoing war against Covid-19. President Rodrigo Duterte himself has already publicly apologized for any of those perceived shortcomings. Even the World Health Organization acknowledges that the global fight against the deadly disease and its variants remains an uphill battle today.

It’s easy for the critics of the government to find fault in the way it is fighting Covid-19, and in the manner by which social priorities and concerns are being addressed. Just look at the latest television commercials of ex-House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. His commercials show a smiling, happy Cayetano telling the nation that the government is losing its war against the coronavirus.

Senators Franklin Drilon and Richard Gordon are also known critics of the government, but it’s been 26 years since Drilon worked in the Executive department, and Gordon has yet to answer “easy” questions about the way he manages the Philippine Red Cross.

Another noisy senator, the hollow Risa Hontiveros, is scoring the administration for the same reasons so as to generate publicity for herself, in anticipation of her reelection bid in 2022.

The bottom line is that the Covid-19 pandemic is unexpected, unprecedented, and unwelcome, and there is no textbook solution to it. Governments the world over will just have to figure out what, in their well-considered view, is the best way to solve and survive this extraordinary health crisis in their respective territories.

Given those premises, Roque should not be summarily condemned for his outburst. What happened simply confirms that unfair criticism against the government, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, can take its toll on the patience of even the most patient of government officials.

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