[OPINION] D'OH! The sick act of politicizing our health

During the height of the the Dengvaxia scare caused by government officials, polio reemerged after almost two decades. The issue, which was highly political in nature since it involved smearing the previous administration, caused parents to reject and even demonize long-standing vaccines.

In other instances of politicizing health, an official blamed the rise of teen pregnancy on immorality, while another official proposed swapping handshakes for Romanesque greetings instead to avoid the spread of germs. There was also the Philhealth corruption scandal.

Now, there have been arguments over politicians' distribution of face masks due to the Taal ashfall, not to mention governance woes over the coronavirus outbreak

Recently, there was also a price surge on face masks in the Philippines because the government gave away thousands of masks as humanitarian aid to China. And in spite of the current crises, the Speaker of the House prioritized a full-blown overnight memorial for the late Kobe Bryant instead.

This repetitive arrogance and ignorance from our officials, alongside huge budget cuts on our health care, show us that the government doesn’t seem to have a stance on or plan for the wellbeing of the nation.

It’s hard to get sick in the Philippines. As some have put it, many of us are one hospitalization away from being poor. Horror stories of hour-long waits in ERs and dilapidated hospitals are very familiar to us. While a regular check-up should be a right for us, it is often a privilege. (Filipino resiliency does not mean that we are disease-proof – we are even subject to more diseases due to pollution and our working conditions.)

In light of this, Filipinos are often confused over what to do during epidemics and natural calamities. Worse, social media has become a hotbed of confusing and misleading information. The public's growing panic has also caused detrimental effects such as hysteria and even xenophobia. It doesn’t help that the people who know best about the situation are being bombarded with political attacks, when instead they should be supported and heard.

Honestly, there is no shame in admitting that we are uninformed about a certain topic. No one is an expert in everything, not even the President. The cost of Filipino people's lives is immeasurable, and to blindly legislate and execute plans without prior advice from our experts – just because we would rather politicize the issue – would be downright foolish and deadly. 

Tackling the problem starts with learning what the problem is and what possible steps can be taken after that. It is time to let go of politicking and seek our experts' advice to find a coherent and unified plan for protecting people from unwanted elements and diseases. – Rappler.com

Gillian Reyes is a registered librarian who works at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He often writes stories for children, and hopes to build a library for kids someday.