Local health officials and the secrets they keep

For sure, the Catanduanes Tribune regretted making that mistake of reporting that there are already Delta variant COVID-19 cases in the province.
That is why it immediately issued a correction, and an apology, upon realizing the error.
American poet Nikki Giovanni rightly points out: “Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.”
On hindsight, it was probably good that this paper committed that faux pas, of failing to check its facts, for it finally forced the Department of Health (DOH) provincial officer to finally say something.
He confirmed the fact that there are now Alpha and Beta variants in this geographically-isolated province, no doubt brought in by non-essential travelers from the mainland or the scores of seemingly immune Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs) who journey to and fro on a daily basis.
In denying the Tribune’s initial report, Dr. Robert John Aquino at least made the effort to hand the local media a dry bone shorn of its meat.
His revelation was bare, devoid of the details that legitimate journalists expect from the subjects they cover.
He did not even tell the public how the Alpha and Beta variants are with respect to the dreaded Delta.
But at least, the DOH provincial officer managed to open his mouth, unlike the top officials of the Provincial Health Office (PHO) who prefer to hide in their caves at the EBMC compound when not attending meetings at the Capitol.
What is so secret about COVID-19 updates anyway that it takes months before Governor Joseph Cua’s top health officials to face the press?
The entire country remains in a state of emergency due to the pandemic. It does not take a genius to understand that, unlike in a war, the pandemic situation demands that the public be regularly updated about what is happening around them and what the government is doing about it.
A local broadcast journalist who once worked in the mainland recalls that officials of national agencies and local government units, including those in the health services, are always available for interviews and are often volunteering to take advantage of free airtime.
In this island, some of so-called servants of the people actually shy away from talking with the press, much to the latter’s frustration, while others are selective about the journalists they meet.
This attitude is a disservice to the oath they swear during Monday flag-raising ceremonies and a roadblock to the transparency in public service that every government should practice.
Shunning the press is the same as depriving the people of their right to know the truth especially in critical times such as this pandemic.

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