FASTLANES: Officer ungentleman

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 02 August) — Getting onion-skinned is the least of Mayor Oca Moreno’s traits. Even when political losers go very foul against him, he just dusts it off his shoulders — to the chagrin even of his closest allies.

But that is Oca Moreno, steadfast to the point of being stubborn. He is and has always been in his elements in the COVID-19 response. Politicizing COVID is the least of his concerns. But when the criticisms already undermine City Hall’s strategy, expect Oca to fight back. Remember the doctor who in his panic at the onset of COVID spread false information and called into heavens for a lockdown? He had already apologized, even buying opinion real-estate of the city’s leading newspaper for public apology.

Moreno’s oft repeated line that at this time of pandemia is he does not govern to be popular but to lead. The buck stops with him.

And Cagayanons should not be too harsh on themselves and lose that capacity to be grateful. That, even with these surges, possible overwhelming of the health system, the city still has one of the lowest cumulative cases among highly urbanized cities nationwide. That the city government has been trying its best to increase the critical care utilization capacity of the health system not just of the city but of Northern Mindanao.

As most local governments beg for more funding for hospitals and health facilities from the Department of Health (DOH), the city government — perhaps the only one in the country — donated a hospital for COVID 19 to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center — a hospital owned and managed by the DOH — the 100-bed City Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Disease (CEREID) in Barangay San Simon, a facility originally envisioned by Mayor Moreno as Mindanao’s counterpart to the San Lazaro Hospital and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

As the pandemia rages on, this time with a more powerful variant, everyone should participate, cooperate in the fight against the virus. We need more participation from the civil society to augment the medical frontliners.

Then came this colonel of the city police. On record, he attends the meetings of the city’s COVID 19 Emergency Operations Center (EOC) — always smiling, not the talkative, deliberative type, according to other EOC members. I would not give value to comments of some members of the EOC intimating mental health issues but his sudden outspokenness seems discordant to his outward personality. Some are even asking whether there is something in between his ears whispering funny things.

The EOC is the venue for him to articulate his “suggestions” for granular lockdowns, based on his claim from a DILG directive for such. Mayor Moreno, in last Saturday’s press briefer, said he does not remember of any intervention from the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (COCPO) to that effect. He even said he was unaware the said person sat in their meetings. But the mayor admits there were suggestions of granular lockdowns or focused containment in areas where some residents caught the Delta variant.

On record, Mayor Moreno did not say no to those proposals. In last Friday’s briefer, responding to questions from the media, he said he had asked medical experts in the EOC and Incident Management Team – lead by the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council – to study the matter.

And then the mayor said they are considering better interventions — isolation, and enhanced and active surveillance, and contact tracing. Makes sense, as the city was among the first in the country to practice granular lockdowns, starting with Pinikitan in April last year, followed by 40 more such lockdowns. And lessons have been learned from those. Foremost was the difficulty of implementing it 24 hours for 14 days. The COCPO has not been successful in these places at all times. But that is understandable, it has other things to do.

And when this colonel went to the media supposedly to air his gripes that the city is not cooperative to their suggestions of a granular lockdown, many, including the mayor asked surprisingly: What is his agenda? At whose bidding sir?

If he is man enough, he could have argued his case in the EOC.

I consider the act of this colonel POWER TRIPPING. Not really new in a national atmosphere where security experts are called upon to the frontline of a medical and health emergency. The good thing is that Mayor Moreno is not taking an iota of this colonel’s BS.

The mayor’s consistent stand against total economic shutdown is pro-poor. I have written about this in a previous column:

I agree with the mayor that the colonel better strip his uniform and become a politician. Col. Lemuel Gonda is unprofessional, incompetent and too arrogant to hold to his post at the COCPO. RESIGN!

Pata-asay man sa ihi nang imo colonel. Go relieve yourself.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. BenCyrus G. Ellorin is a former journalist and former consultant of the City Government of Cagayan de Oro. He is now chair of the advocacy group and think tank Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and the Environment / Pinoy Aksyon. FB: @NoypiAksyon; Twitter: @PAksyon)