Not a time for fence-sitting | Inquirer Opinion

Not a time for fence-sitting

/ 05:02 AM October 02, 2021

I believe I speak for most physicians when I say that we are happiest when we are making our patients happy. Aside from being with people we love, we feel most fulfilled when we are doing what we swore to do, which is to heal the sick. For those of us in the surgical fields, we are also privileged to help the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the incomplete become whole again. These are feats which, in biblical days, were achieved only through miracles. And even to this day, we are but instruments of the divine.

It is therefore so easy for us to get caught up in our little worlds, our eyes, ears, hands, and minds focused on our patients. And even if we did just that, our lives would make a difference.


But we are again being called to step out of our comfort zones, painful, disturbing, and dangerous though this may be. The most difficult part of doing so is the pain we feel just from seeing what we cannot avoid confronting. I refer to the epic corruption exposed before our eyes. Yes, we know that corruption has been there since the dawn of civilization. We know that there will always be corrupt people in every administration, just as there will always be upright public officials who struggle to perform their duty while having to dance with their unsavory colleagues.

But the corruption that we have been allowed to see of late is of the worst kind. It is heinous. It is the kind that flourished and took advantage of the suffering of millions in order to make quick money, even if it meant depriving our country of the best and the most timely response, supplies, and infrastructure that could have given us a better chance of emerging from this pandemic faster, and in so doing lessen the devastating economic downturn we have experienced.


Some of us take refuge in cynicism and apathy. How often have we heard naysayers say: “Don’t think about it lest your blood pressure go up.”; “Don’t make any comments for fear of reprisal from some powerful people. It doesn’t concern you anyway”; “You have such a good life, why even bother to care?” I for one have looked the other way so many times—choosing to help government the best way I can, even if it meant working with those whose names have been linked to corruption so foul. We all help for the sake of public welfare. After all, medicine and health care should be above politics.

But there comes a time when blinders have to come off.

We simply cannot stay apathetic. We are at the forefront of this pandemic. It matters not what our specialties are. Today, therefore, more and more health care professionals are daring to feel and daring to hope again. We are reflecting the general mood of many Filipinos who see the coming elections as another chance to change an otherwise bleak future. This is clear in the record number of first-time voters who are lining up, even in the wee hours of the morning, just to register with the Commission on Elections. May 2022 is not just an election. It is a major battle. Those of us who are battle-scarred veterans of many peaceful uprisings and who have been wounded over and over again have found a second wind. One more fight, for our sake and the sake of future generations.

Our hearts are wounded, yet on fire. And we need leaders who will inspire us to keep the fire of hope burning. This is certainly not a time for fence-sitting. We do not want aspiring leaders who criticize just for the sake of criticizing; but we cannot support aspirants who cannot even comment on the most glaring of crimes being committed against us. For sure, there are no perfect candidates. But once the dust has settled and the final list of potential leaders is out, there will be those among them who had spoken out when it was necessary to speak out against injustice and corruption, whose actions and convictions through the years speak much louder than any gimmick or TikTok post. There will be those who steadfastly performed their duty, whether in the public or private sector, without fanfare, and whose work has made a big difference in people’s lives. These, rather than sponsored surveys and social media followers, ought to be the measure by which we choose our leaders.

Am I hoping too much? Perhaps. But without hope, we might as well not even have elections. Without holding on to a dream of better leaders, we might as well tell our children and grandchildren that we don’t even want to try to start climbing together out of the deep abyss we are in, toward a brighter future.


Dr. Minguita Padilla is a co-convenor of Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare. She is a clinical associate professor of the PGH-UP College of Medicine and an active consultant at the St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City.

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