‘Out in the open, no more secrets’

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The past cannot be undone, but the future is very bright. Forgive and forget all that has been done in the past.

That was the essence of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ speech during his inauguration the other day at the National Museum, which was once the country’s legislative building.

His predecessors will not be blamed for their perceived mistakes, as he said his administration would be like a fish in a bowl. President Bongbong Marcos wants to reunite the country which has been torn apart, especially in the recently concluded elections.

“There were gaps in the response to COVID-19, we will fix them in the open, no more public health secrets,” the country’s 17th president said.

Without saying so, President Bongbong said that the past leadership of the Ministry of Health in handling the response to the pandemic left much to be desired.

The country, he said, would no longer be “caught off guard, underequipped and understaffed to fight the next pandemic.”

This means that public health would be one of the biggest concerns of the current Marcos administration.

Another focus would be on education as Bongbong said he would return English to the Filipinos by using it as the medium of instruction in all schools.

“What we have taught in our schools, the material used, needs to be re-taught… I am talking about the basics, the sciences, the sharpening of the theoretical attitude and the transmission of professional skills as in the German example “, did he declare.

Bongbong was apparently referring to a study that found Filipino students lagging behind their counterparts in science, math and reading.

* * *

On the issue of public health, Bongbong didn’t speak about it directly — he just said, “It wasn’t a walk in the park” — but he nearly died from COVID-19, which he contracted during a visit to Spain with his wife, now First Lady Liza Marcos, last year.

Going to the toilet from his bed meant that Bongbong had to stop halfway because he was too weak to walk, I remember Liza telling me that.

I don’t know if I should mention it, but part of Bongbong’s survival from the fatal disease could be attributed to a very bitter Chinese herbal tea that a Filipino-Chinese woman, Liya Wu, gave Liza.

(This tea has also saved a Supreme Court Justice, my son-in-law Vic, my daughter Cathy, their children, and many others. But that’s departing from the topic at hand).

I’m sure Wu will always be on Bongbong and Liza couple’s mind for saving his life.

The Marcos are a grateful family. They have an elephantine memory when it comes to favors done to them in the past, no matter how small. It’s in their genes.

I remember old man Ferdinand giving government sinecures in the early 1980s to a farmer’s grandson who hid him while the Japanese were looking for him during World War II. The old Marcos did not forget the farmer even after 40 years.

My father, Ramon Sr., was also a recipient of President Ferdinand Sr.’s high sense of gratitude.

Sometime in 1964, Major Ramon S. Tulfo of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) was given the unpleasant task of escorting then-Senate President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was campaigning for the presidency, in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“Unpleasant”, because other soldiers would have nothing to do with a guy who would be the rival of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Diosdado Macapagal.

Papa, who was then the deputy commander of Sulu’s PC, volunteered for the position because he was an Ilocano like Marcos, who was then considered an overlooked candidate by the re-elected, Macapagal, who was very popular with masses.

As Marcos was about to board a plane for Manila, he handed my father a piece of letterhead from the President of the Senate’s office. The note in Ilocano was short and sharp: “I never forget.”

My father was appointed commander of the CP in Zamboanga del Sur in 1966, a year after Marcos won the 1965 presidential election. He forgot the note, but not Marcos.

Without pushing for it, my father, considered a maverick by his peers, was given the most prestigious mission of the time. He was also promoted to lieutenant colonel.

* * *

Hopefully, even though President Bongbong has not singled out anyone for the ineffective response to the pandemic, it does not mean that we should abandon those people who stole money from the government in the midst of the scourge.

Let’s not forget Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which, despite small capital, was able to win a 10 billion peso contract to supply COVID-19 drugs and equipment to the government.

Pharmally sold the government 10 billion pesos worth of supplies, which it bought from China for a few million pesos.

Company executives bought luxury sports cars with brands like Lamborghini and Porsche as if they were buying toys.

A health department official was seen during a Senate hearing wearing a 13.3 million peso watch. A new Ferrari was seen in its garage in a gated village in Quezon City.

These crooks who stole people’s money committed economic sabotage which, according to our laws, is punishable by life imprisonment. One of them is a Chinese national who has probably left the country.

* * *

On the issue of reviving English as the medium of instruction, critics will probably wonder why we should do this, when we have our own language, Filipino.

Have these critics forgotten that the country’s main export is labour? Millions of Filipinos are employed overseas.

And since English is a global language, overseas Filipino workers would do well to master the global lingua franca.

If we want to produce scientists, we must excel in English, which is the medium of communication in science.


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