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How low can they get?

NATURAL disasters are supposed to draw the noblest in humanity, as these remind us that while humanity is nothing really special in the face of nature’s wrath, or its total uncaring, we are one species with empathy and reason to care for each other.

Instead, the Yellows and the Reds take disasters, as in the recent Typhoon “Ulysses” devastation, as opportunities to pillory government and in the case of the most fraudulent vice president we’ve ever had, Leni Robredo, to portray herself as a more caring successor to President Duterte.

In the morning after Typhoon Ulysses hit, the Yellows launched their #NasaanAngPangulo social media campaign, apparently thinking that Duterte’s age and seeming frailty would keep him at home.

While I don’t think that really gained traction — and certainly not Duterte’s habit with his long experience as mayor — it is a testament to the power, or illusion, of social media that Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. had to debunk that campaign’s implicit claim that government was doing nothing to help the victims of the disaster.

Opportunity not to be missed, of course. CARTOON BY STEVEN PABALINAS

I won’t waste space to show that government did pre-position its resources and that Duterte got all hands on deck swiftly to address the rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Just think of the Yolanda disaster that killed 6,300, in which — hilarious if not for its devastation — Aquino’s top sidekick Mar Roxas and his defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin for their stupidity nearly drowned in the storm surge in Tacloban, sound asleep when it hit.

If there’s a major mistake in government’s response, it was its failure to take into account that dams are operated independently, that there are claims that the quick release of waters from the Magat Dam was a major factor in the flooding of Cagayan. Its operator, the Magat River Integrated Irrigation System, argued, however, that water had to be released when the reservoir overloaded up to 193 meters, which could have broken it and resulted in catastrophic inundation of the area.

What was scandalous in the past days were Robredo’s very obvious efforts to take advantage of the disaster by pretending to be the country’s leader in the rescue efforts. She even claimed in her tweet that she “deployed our security personnel to coordinate with AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) all the calls for rescue.”

I don’t think ordering her bodyguard, a military man, to call up his Philippine Military Academy (PMA) classmate, a Marine official, to ask about rescue efforts in Cagayan qualifies for leadership in such a crisis.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the AFP chief of staff should just pretend getting a bad signal if Robredo or her staff ever call them, or they’ll read the next day that she had ordered them to secure the West Philippine Sea from the Chinese.

Either Robredo is so dense, so desperate, or so gullible to her PR operators that she keeps doing what Filipinos have come to detest so much about her: posed photos of her pathetically trying to portray that she is helping Filipinos. Filipinos have even invented a word for that, epal, evolved from the “pumapapel,” or an attention-getter.

How low can Leni and her Yellow and Red followers get?

Military men in government
A netizen tried to be witty when he posted on his Facebook page a photo of US President-elect Joseph Biden’s 16-man Covid-19 task force, with the sarcastic comment: “No ex-military men?”

For starters, I don’t think we can look to the US for any tips on how to fight the pandemic, what with this superpower on the brink of a total breakdown, with its 11 million Covid-19 cases and nearing 250,000 deaths from the disease — and increasing every day.

I would even suggest to Duterte that he send Roy Cimatu, co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), to the US to help our beloved ally, the way the ex-general did in Cebu a few months ago.

Duterte’s practice of having ex-generals in the IATF as well as in his entire government is one of the smartest things he has done for the following reasons.

The practice enables taxpayers to recoup what they have invested in the training, through schooling and experience, of a military officer. Government spends at least P3 million for a PMA graduate — and often for scholarships for masters’ degrees — who eventually becomes a general.

Government in effect kisses that investment goodbye when that military man reaches the mandatory age of 56. His skills, at the peak of his mental and physical prowess, are then appropriated by private businesses which recruit him as a security consultant, or even as a member of its board of directors (as in the case of former army vice commander Leo Alvez in San Miguel Corp.). Often also, they use their skills and network to go into business for themselves or in their family’s businesses.

In contrast, of which that sarcastic netizen is ignorant about, US military men’s mandatory retirement age is 64 — and most of them decide to just live a life without worries as their pension amounts to $240,000 annually, or a very comfortable monthly stipend of P1 million. In contrast, if they were not corrupt or have no so-called “pabaon,” retired Filipino generals must live frugally with a pension of about P50,000 monthly, and therefore prefer to go on working.

Most military officials through their years of experience have also etched in their minds the habits and strict protocols for organization and execution of missions — playbooks ordinary civilian executives often do not have. While there are of course those who’ve become jaded, most military officials have a DNA of eschewing politics, with not a few having a disdain for politicians because of their experience in provincial posts during which they see up close how arrogant and corrupt politicians are.

My Exhibit A here is Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, the head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, who I think has been the most apolitical and efficient head of that department ever dealing with politicians of all stripes and colors.

It is only Duterte who could have been so bold as to have several ex-generals in his government. The Yellows and the Reds have demonized the military for three decades since Marcos fell, with the former painting them as” agents of martial law,” and the latter as their enemies —of course, since it is military men who have gone after them.

Duterte’s is a valuable precedent, as taxpayers get to use their investment in making general work longer for the country. Unless of course the law — ironically decreed by Marcos 40 years ago — requiring their mandatory retirement at 56 years is amended.

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