All Talk, No Action

Written by: Alfonso Bello

Illustrated by: Cedric David Cortez

May 5, the 2022 elections. We would be choosing the fate of our history, whether it would be remaking it or reliving it. When then-president-elect Marcos won, there was plenty of heartbreak, disappointment, and fear but in that mix, there was also celebration and hope that went around. All I can say is that I am thankful that although many speculated that violence would break out, there was no mass violence. Thankfully, even through all those emotions, we had to accept the results of this election.

Despite this, I empathized with those who were disappointed. It took me a while to see these results for what they were, to process what had just happened. I had constantly questioned myself about what would occur, secretly hoping that something would turn things around because nightmare scenarios filled my head. As someone who has repeatedly criticized his family, I was at a loss for words by the sheer magnitude of his win. Eventually, I knew that regardless of what was happening, this was the time to get involved and it no longer mattered to me how little I may contribute to the conversation, as long as I was part of it and listening. 

Information remains to be key. Be informed, stay informed. The first 100 days of the presidency had already passed. So, being in my curiosity as an aspiring scientist—passionate about science, medicine, and the environment—what has been happening with regard to these?

There isn’t much. The only basis we’ve had so far is from his own words throughout recent years because the President is all talk, no action. Let me show you.

All for show

The President has acknowledged the country’s lack of scientists and its problematic education system. The Philippines has less than 80 scientists per million people whereas in other countries, scientists number in the thousands. This issue heavily disrupts the information ecosystem with fewer professionals in the public eye. Marcos has also repeatedly said that there is a lack of focus on STEM. To combat these issues he has said that he wants to open up more science high schools around the country and increase the budget of the Department of Education. The last of his goals in education relate to the development of a National Education Portal and the increase in digital mastery of students and teachers in school. He said it will help students adapt to this climate.

Education is only one of the many fields that were affected by the pandemic. Throughout its whole, issues revolving around healthcare were also given more clarity and, in most aspects, these issues were worsened. The President mentions increased budgeting of the healthcare system in coordination with medical research. This increased budget in his “Tawid-Covid, Beyond Covid” program prioritizes improving the salaries and benefits of frontline medical workers. Beyond this, he said that his primary medical goal is specifically aimed at the country eventually producing its own vaccines against COVID by citing support from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and UP’s Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

Finally, he addresses the environment. He said that he will propose the creation of a new department, one centered on prioritizing nature, a Department of Disaster Resilience similar to the United States’ FEMA. Likewise, he said he plans on cracking down on illegal activities and lessening damaging activities against nature such as logging and mining, mentioning the need to balance economic development and environmental preservation. He has also said that he will collaborate with stakeholders in these businesses to prevent abuse of the environment. Lastly, he said that he will create a Department of Water and Resources Management as a type of middle ground between all these changes and the Filipino people.

Bare-bone solutions

His solutions do not bring mention of the flawed curricula of our education system, which has also brought about the faulty and standardized modular system that has been criticized repeatedly throughout the pandemic for its costs, contents, and delays in its delivery. DepEd has repeatedly struggled to maintain its facilities and systems even with budgetary increases. How can we be sure that merely increasing its budget again will solve its problems and, in addition to existing problems, help prioritize STEM? The National Education Portal is a great idea in theory. Still, it fails to tackle the key problems of why the modular system–the primary component of the portal–is underdelivering. Science in particular is hard to learn in the online setting because it is predominantly empirical, how exactly should we tackle this? 

Access, to begin with, is also lacking and is another key factor that has been underlooked concerning education. When the pandemic hit, the education sector did not bode well to change because it had not received the proper precautions for non-in-person classes. This was largely due to its affordability and accessibility. In this way, I don’t believe the increase in budget will be able to cover all the other utilities involved with the plan to further give access to teachers and students. How will they go to school? How can they access the internet when it is inaccessible in their area? How can we be assured that the infrastructure to be built is environmentally friendly?

No, instead, they focus on implementing ROTC.

The solutions to our health crisis are just as underwhelming. Is that it? How about our DOH secretary? Are we suddenly in the business again of putting cronies into high positions they don’t deserve to hold? How can the country benefit from developing its own vaccine when we are already heavily reliant on the support of other countries? Do we even have enough money to keep this all up? It’s all questions with empty answers and it’s terrifying. Our frontline medical workers have been out there on the field dying from exhaustion and risking their lives every day to face the horrors that COVID and, now, Monkeypox afflicts on others yet there is very little mention of them. Don’t get me wrong, better compensation and benefits are a good thing but how about their overall conditions? There is no guarantee that increasing these two things will increase the employment of medical workers, we are desperate and it shows. Philippine hospitals have been struggling with patients since the onset of the pandemic, and I have witnessed this firsthand as someone who has been frequent to hospitals. I see frontliners taking short seated breaks before having to run down halls; I see them reusing masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs), even improvising them. Is it not unfair that those who have risked so much still receive so little with respect to something as important as their safety? It’s no wonder they flock abroad. 

There is also the problem of mass disinformation with regard to health. There is zero mention of how the President plans to solve this issue and, to begin with, how can someone with a record in disinformation networks address such an issue anyway?

I expected more from the man who put himself as the Secretary for the Department of Agriculture. Are we not going to address how farming in the Philippines is dying? How our environment is being exploited? Despite his willingness to create new departments to aid in environmental preservation there have been contradicting thoughts about all of this. The President has vowed to continue the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program which, so far, has been nothing but destructive to the environment.  We replace farms, healthy forests, and ecosystems with high-rise buildings, industry, and massive resource-gathering plants. To add fuel to this fire, part of the program is the President’s vow to reopen the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, an unnecessary, environment-damaging source of energy that will not help in the Philippines’ energy crisis. When we focus specifically on the resource-gathering portion of Marcos’ solutions, there is no guarantee that businesses will follow what the President asks of them–let alone if the President will even push through with said plans. 

In all of that, you begin to ask: where will he even get the money in the first place? How about the economy? How about the Filipino people? 

Searching for hope

It seems like only yesterday when I watched the news on the silly questions on the modules, frontliners being exhausted to death, and the dolomite beach continuing its construction despite the lack of funds we already had for the pandemic. I relived moments of the pandemic that had opened my eyes and I cannot imagine families who, now, have had to relive history as well. I researched for answers to the state of science and came back with even more questions. 

It has been more than one hundred days, where are these solutions? We stand here with a President that pretends that COVID is no longer a threat, he parties like his fellow countrymen and women aren’t starving and dying, and they have the audacity to request for unprecedented amounts of funding that they cannot back up. Most of all, it is shocking that so many people are forced to relive the past while they watch as history is revised in front of their very eyes. It has been more than one hundred days and there is no accountability for the lack of progress and the utter chaos that the country is in. It’s always: “he said he will” but never: “he did”, so what is it that the President and his administration has actually done? Where are all those promises?  

The President rallied millions under the pretense of “unity”, he won and is in the spotlight yet I can count the notable things of his administration on two of my hands. This is not to say that we have no role in all of this. We, as a people, must demand accountability for everything. It is my hope that people see this and put the administration to the scrutiny that it deserves. The scientific community deserves better. The educational, health and environmental sectors deserve better. We, Filipinos, deserve better. Mr. President, respectfully, do your job—it’s high time to talk the talk and walk the walk.


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