Carvajal: Power-induced stupor

·3 min read

With Covid-19 receding, you would think Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año would welcome being relieved of the burden of enforcing health protocols on a whole nation. This responsibility must weigh heavily on his shoulders that he would want to be relieved of it not a day sooner.

Yet, that is not happening. His replacement at the DILG has been named, yet Secretary Año still nit-picks with Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on the hardly consequential issue of optional mask-wearing in wide uncrowded open spaces.

Why is he hanging on to his power of control and over a peripheral issue? Why can’t he let his already-named replacement at the DILG take care of this when the latter’s time comes?

Neither he nor Governor Garcia is a health professional. But Governor Garcia definitely knows her constituents better than Secretary Año. Besides, Governor Garcia, who had previously tussled with Año on health protocols, just got a fresh mandate as governor from Cebuanos, a sure sign they trust her to do right by them on matters affecting their lives.

Surely, Secretary Año cannot be thinking Governor Garcia and the Provincial Board are so dumb and irresponsible as to issue health guidelines without basis that he should be so high-handed in his reaction. He could easily have given Governor Garcia’s executive order (now a provincial ordinance) a chance. Nobody also would have minded it if he passed the problem on to his successor at the DILG.

Then, there’s the matter of local autonomy. Maybe at the start and up to the height of the pandemic, there was a need for centralized management of the problem. But now that the central government has effectively contained it, why can’t national agencies let local executives take over the responsibility of managing the health affairs of their constituencies?

If I must be candid about it, I think Secretary Año, not unlike many national agency people based in imperial Manila, like the feel of having power over “promdis” or people from the provinces. They feel diminished when they sense it slipping from their fingers. It’s almost like they want Covid-19 to stick around so they can continue to enjoy being giddy with power.

If Secretary Año had supported Governor Garcia’s optional mask policy, it could have been taken to mean centrally concocted and enforced health protocols have been a success. But by issuing a stern ultimatum to Governor Garcia, it’s like telling us centralized directives have been ineffective, hence the need for him to still lord it over the whole nation in controlling the pandemic from the top even to its smallest detail.

This is not the action of a conscientious and responsible government official. The issue is so inconsequential (of course, there’s no need for masks in wide open and uncrowded spaces) that this must be construed as consistent with the high-handed ways of government officials that need to wake up from their power-induced stupor.

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