FIRING LINE: Who says COVID ain’t real?

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

I, for one, value Easter for the Good News it reveals – that of the Resurrection of Christ, which establishes the truth of our faith. With this in mind, I am rocked by the lies and false news making the popular rounds on social media this Easter Week.

The first is the case of a physical therapist who refers to himself as “Dr. Ron” in his vlogs, dispelling the fact that COVID-19 risks are real and dissuading the public from taking the vaccine and the government’s health and safety protocols seriously. He has been branded a “COVID denier” by the most respected professionals in the medical field. And just the other day, the Philippine Physical Therapy Association, Inc. disowned Dr. Ron and dismissed his views as “clearly unfounded and without medical value.”

I have yet to hear from the Professional Regulation Commission, but perhaps its action is required here.

The other uncanny source of untruth is Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III, who tries to boost the government’s image in handling the health crisis by telling critics that the Philippines is doing better than other countries in battling the pandemic. But it was news without a leg to stand on when challenged. So, when Vice President Leni Robredo did, Densing fires back by saying that the pandemic was “a problem with no solution on hand.” Isn’t that disputing his earlier statement? The DILG has since disowned both remarks, stating it was the undersecretary’s personal opinion.

What’s frustrating for me as a member of media is how a considerable audience latches on to these untruths and spreads them as wildly as the coronavirus itself. It begs me to question how the public perceives media today. And I’m afraid the answer to my question would be even more depressing.

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Journalists are committed to telling the truth, whether it is appreciated or not. The painstaking process for us to arrive at the stories we publish requires an awful lot of effort down the assembly line. It is always about the story, not ourselves, so much so that many reporters are on the frontlines, braving all the risks to do the legwork.

The truth is, I believe legitimate media should be on that vaccination priority list. Without taking anything away from the daily heroics of medical professionals and other public servants battling this pandemic in the frontlines, members of media are striding along to keep the public informed, guiding every Filipino to get through this.

And another truth is, we in media are often exposed and unprotected. We hold the same tools we did before this plague – pen and paper, laptop, camera, videocam, recorder, and guts. Sadly though, our bodies are not ironclad against this invisible enemy.

It’s not a wonder that our brothers and sisters in media are not in the news, even if many of them have fallen victim to COVID-19. None of us, I guess, vlog about it. And once we survive it, we’re back to the studio the next day, back to the beat, back to the newsroom banging on the keys.

This is not about exalting media to a pedestal but sharing the truth that there are TV newsrooms where dozens have been hit by COVID-19, and not all make it back to work. There are father-and-son photographers who succumbed one after the other after infection. Anchors who disappear from the airwaves for weeks in isolation.

I’m friends with two editors in chief, both hit by COVID-19. One of them is former Press Secretary Crispulo J. Icban Jr., who, at 85, survived the virus but not pneumonia it gave him. He served the Manila Bulletin for 47 years and even tried writing the paper’s editorial while in ICU confinement.

All of these people live and die to deliver the news – stories of truth we’re committed to telling. So, please, don’t spread and share all the cacophony ideas out there that this pandemic isn’t real.

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at https://www.thephilbiznews.com

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