Nalzaro: Gwen has to ‘strike a balance’

·5 min read

EACH and everyone of us, in whatever profession, has our own function and role to play. Based on my professional experience in the broadcast media, when I was still an ordinary anchorman (program handler), my concern was just how to handle and improve my daily program to be competitive in the rating games. But when I was given a supervisory position, my horizon expanded and my responsibilities became bigger. My concerns now include the entire operations of the station, the technical aspects, sales and revenue. I have to address even some personal problems of my subordinates and co-employees. I have to do a “balancing act” between being a manager enforcing the company’s rules and being an employee because, although, I am holding a supervisory position, at the end of the day, I am still an employee. As the Spiderman motto says: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I think our political leaders share the same situation as mine. In these times of the pandemic, they have to “strike a balance” between protecting public health and letting the economy grow and see to it that ordinary people will not go hungry.

Amid these uncertain and challenging times due to the pandemic, we are asking: How can our leaders respond in the short term to keep people safe and the economy afloat? What policies could help all of us recover in a way that is inclusive and equitable? And how can families and communities become more resilient to health, economy, even climate as we seek to prevent them from happening again?

Our leaders should underscore the need to strike a “reasonable balance” between safeguarding public health and restarting our economy as the country continues to grapple with coronavirus pandemic and work quick economic recovery on the back of a health care system better equipped to keep community transmission of the contagion under control.

If you strike a balance between two things, you accept parts of both things in order to satisfy some of the demands of both sides in an argument rather than all the demands of just one side. And I think that’s what Gov. Gwen Garcia has been doing. Being the leader of this progressive province, she has to strike a balance between the livelihood, the economic condition and welfare of her constituents, in general, and at the same time protecting public health. That’s why without hesitation she opened the province’s economy, specially the tourism industry.

The issue of her quarantine policy for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs), which displeased and got the ire of some national officials, especially from the Inter-Agency Task Force, is the classic example of this situation. For those national officials who are not happy with her policy, Gwen is their typical “kontrabida” (villian) in a movie for “defying” their guidelines. But for ordinary people, especially those concerned sectors who have benefitted from her policy, Gwen is their “superhero.”

From the medical point of view, Gwen may be wrong because she did not “toe the line” and conform to the IATF’s guidelines for swabbing arriving OFWs and ROFs on the seventh day. Under the guidelines, the OFWs and ROFs should be quarantined for 10 days and that he/she will be swabbed on the seventh day only. Why on the seventh day? Because, according to heath experts, there was a better chance of passengers testing positive on those days as the viral load was high on the seventh day or eighth day of infection.

But Gwen “modified” these guidelines and imposed her policy that OFWs and ROFs should be tested upon arrival and if the result came out negative they would be released to be continuously monitored in their respective local government units (LGU) and would still be swabbed on the seventh day. What’s the justification of Gwen? Because she just wants to “lessen the burden of these people” by not spending too much on their hotel quarantine and give them precious and valuable time to bond with their families as some of those who went home just want to have a short vacation and for emergency reason. Those medical experts do not understand and have no concern on this aspect, especially if they lack interaction with the ordinary people. Gwen is a workaholic. She frequently visits her constituents even in far-flung areas and she knows their concerns.

Yes, we cannot just disregard medicine and science in these times of the pandemic, but what will happen to people’s livelihood and our economy if we will mainly rely everything on the two aspects? That is the reason the IATF keeps on changing its policies to conform with the times. Gwen did not totally disregard medicine and science-based evidence by still requiring a swab test, in fact, she requires double swabbing.

Manila people, especially those Cabinet members and health officials who are against Gwen’s policy, do not feel her sentiments being a political leader. It’s not because Gwen is playing politics, she is just responding to the sentiments of the concerned and affected sector. She did not disregard IATF’s guidelines, but what she is doing is a balancing act between the economic condition and maybe the emotions of her constituents and at the same time protecting public health. But some national officials who are projecting themselves as experts and knowledgeable in all fields, but only confined in their air-conditioned offices are against her policy because they felt insulted that here’s a local chief executive “defying” their order. Isn’t that a case of forcing us to take an unnecessary medication?

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