ACTING Health Secretary Jannette Garin may be faulted for many things, such as being careless and a publicity hog, but certainly not a coward. Who else in their right mind has the cajones to possibly stare down Ebola as she visited without wearing any protective gear the Filipino peacekeepers in quarantine after recently returning from Liberia? No less than Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang that’s who. Not even the more than 2,800 death toll in West Africa scares these two intrepid and dedicated public servants. After all, Garin told the media that she had consulted with the World Health Organization (WHO) about quarantine protocol, and naturally, Catapang relied on military intelligence.
Evidently, the senators and perhaps many members of the House are made of less sterner stuff. After Garin carelessly risked her life, she may be made to secure a medical certificate before going to the Senate for her Department’s budget hearing. Perhaps the senators were not impressed that she and Catapang spent only 10 minutes with the quarantined troops. In order to fully evaluate their condition, visiting officials should have spent the entire day with them or at least slept there overnight. Any public official worth her so-called salt would not do anything halfway.
The same should apply to the country’s present batch of lawmakers, particularly some senators. They should not only welcome Garin at the budget hearing scheduled next week. They also should show her some love and appreciation by embracing her and giving her a beso-beso. As their televised hearings and populist bills suggest, the senators are keenly aware that the 2016 election is practically around the corner, a mere 18 months away. They cannot afford to appear spineless in the public’s eye now.
Still, the lawmakers should not forgo prudence altogether. For efficiency’s sake, the senators should hold two hearings at once – one for the budget, another for the pork barrel scam that has dragged Garin’s name to the growing list of alleged recipients of misappropriated public funds. This will not only save time but also provide the public with double the entertainment value.
Of course, the holding of combined Senate hearings will require more lawmakers to attend. Great, right? Even better is the idea that doing so will require the Senate to also summon Janet Lim Napoles to the same hearing. Her presence is required so that she may confirm or deny knowing Garin. We recommend they sit together, very close together. Napoles has nothing to fear, given that she will be wearing a bullet-proof vest.
Along this line of thought, the Senate might as well conduct the budget hearing for the Armed Forces on the same day as Garin’s. It is highly doubtful that the senators would muster enough courage to mingle with Garin and Catapang on separate occasions. The media should not worry about covering three consecutive hearings that might last a long time, because it is fairly certain that the senators will want to conclude any encounter with those two public officials as quickly as possible. This allows lawmakers put up a brave front and at the same time minimize their contact with those two geniuses.
And just in case the lawmakers do not exhibit any fever, nausea and vomiting, or diarrhea in 21 days after Monday’s hearing, they should look into preventing a similar threat from happening again. To be specific, they should visit Liberia and examine the peacekeepers’ living quarters there. They should also consider a side trip to Guinea and Sierra Leone. We hear that the weather in those countries is lovely this time of year. And like Garin and Catapang on Caballo Island, the senators should also shun wearing any protective gear. But just to be on the safe side, Garin should first consult with the WHO.
Of course, the peacekeepers should not accompany the senators to West Africa. Why not? They are in quarantine.