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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, February 12, 2019
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Word power


As we have seen in past couple of years, it has become glaringly obvious that the words of public officials have the power to change lives, inspire action, plant seeds of doubt and sow division, depending on how those words are used.

President Duterte’s wisecracks and “Bisaya” humor jokes may not exactly inspire Filipinos to be a better people, but as the country’s most powerful man, his words have undoubtedly changed lives. Filipinos, especially those who are said to be Bisaya, are now more tolerant of tasteless jokes and pointless jokes coming from high officials that we used to expect to be paragons of virtue.

I often wonder how the children who are growing up with these kind of leaders will turn out, but it will take some time before we see the effects of low quality words and expectations on the next generation of Filipinos. We can only hope that the genius of our leader that his followers are pinning their hopes on will somehow prevail and the deliberate use of gutter language will surprise the doubters when it produces an entire generation of outstanding and respectful young Filipinos who talk shit but mean well and can actually fix any problem within 3-6 months.

However, if you come to think of it, even the words of the most powerful man in the land are not as effective on children and the youth so it will probably take a few years for the effects of those words and manner of speaking to manifest on an entire generation of children.

What has been surprising in recent weeks is the discovery that the words of some public officials are more impactful than others and sometimes, the destructive power of those words can come from the most unlikely places.

Who would’ve thought that the words and hysterics of the head of the Public Attorney’s Office can have a more direct and immediate impact on the lives of young Filipinos than the president that appointed her and has, so far, allowed her to continue to hold her post despite the repercussions of her conveniently chosen “advocacy” that has more to do with toxic politics than fulfilling the noble mandate of the PAO.

The words and antics of PAO head Persida Acosta in her campaign to malign the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia and everyone from that she can pin to it, despite the lack of scientific evidence and confirmed deaths due to the vaccine, has resulted in a significant drop in the vaccination rates among parents of Filipino babies and caused Measles outbreaks in many parts of the country. Because she is a public official and a lawyer, which is supposed to magically make people competent in this country of gullible people, Acosta’s hysterical accusations and overly dramatic stunts have successfully enraged and frightened the public using the government’s clumsy deployment of a newly developed vaccine as an excuse to attack anybody from the previous government who was connected to the vaccination program. Mind you, the current government also continued the same program but Acosta is only going after everyone except the person who appointed her which makes sense because attacking the same person who has done nothing to stop her as she singlehandedly undermined the country’s vaccination program and caused a measles outbreak that has already killed more than 70 children would surely jeopardize her ambitions.

Unlike the unproven and imaginary death toll from Dengvaxia that non-medical-expert lawyer Acosta and her team of quack doctors are insisting has happened, the death toll from the measles outbreak is real and scientifically provable. The public attorney who has been caught posting on her Facebook page saying that vaccines are biological weapons now insists that she didn’t cause the drop in vaccination rate and ensuing outbreak. While we debate the pros and cons of her misguided campaign against Dengvaxia, more and more children are getting sick with measles, a disease that had been practically eliminated by vaccines. Many have died and many more are in crammed in infectious diseases wards of hospitals that are ill-prepared to deal with the outbreak of a disease that public health professionals had thought they had controlled through successful vaccination programs.

While all this is happening, the person who has fanned the flames with her words and hysterics still has her job. The genius who appointed her hasn’t even given her even just one of his signature rebukes so he apparently thinks she is still worthy of her job as a public official. Is this what it means to be the country’s best and brightest?

How many more outbreaks of diseases that had already been controlled by vaccines will this government allow before taking action that involves more than just lip service? Mind you, throwing in a few crispy putanginas will not stop an outbreak because unlike tsinelas-clad poor people who can’t fight back, viruses do not fear curse words and cannot be tokhang’d or EJK’d by death squads. They do not care if they are on a narco or drug list. The only thing that will work against them are vaccination programs that no longer work as they should right now because of indifferent governance and irresponsible public officials who prioritize their own agenda.

The power of words used by an irresponsible public official resulted in an undermined vaccination program that had until then, successfully protected Filipino children from preventable diseases like measles, polio, pertussis and diphtheria. Because she has a platform and a government office, Acosta’s words are instrumental in the outbreak that caused the hospitalization of thousands and the deaths of more than 70.

It’s painful to see the power of words in action under such circumstances. Acosta and her gang probably thought they were just going to capitalize on the Dengvaxia controversy to make their targets look bad but due to the combination of their positions in public office and the power of words, look at what they’ve wrought upon this country.

It’s a shame that words can’t fix this problem that they accidentally created as easily.*  

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