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Is the UP administration afraid of the Reds?

By Louis "Barok" Biraogo / Manila Standard

"Herbosa wasn’t against the community pantries. He was against allowing the mushrooming of pantries that operate without any regard for quarantine protocols."

Last week, Dr. Teodoro Herbosa resigned from his post as Executive Vice President of the University of the Philippines.

Dr. Herbosa is an industrious and efficient university administrator. Through him, UP officials, faculty, students, employees and alumni were always kept abreast of the latest developments about the COVID-19 pandemic during those dark months of March to June 2021, when the pandemic seemed like the beginning of the end of the world.

A noted Doctor of Medicine, Herbosa’s periodic advisories gave hope to the many who feared every tomorrow at the height of the pandemic.

Like many UP technocrats, Herbosa uses social media to express his views and ideas, confident in the knowledge that UP is a zone of freedom of speech and expression, and the last place in the country where people will be condemned for their views.

Herbosa was mistaken. UP is no longer the zone of freedom he thought it was. It is now a campus of intolerance, where only radical views and activities are allowed, and where the university administration itself is afraid of leftist elements surrounding it. In the UP of today, one can get condemned for what he says, by those who don’t like what he said.

It all started with the now famous “community pantry” first created by a UP alumna along a street inside UP Teacher’s Village in Diliman, Quezon City.

After a newspaper reported the success of the community pantry, the idea caught fire and soon enough, many similar community pantries mushroomed all over the metropolis.

When Herbosa learned that quarantine protocols were not being properly observed by the crowds lining up at those community pantries, Herbosa warned, among others, that the pantries can end up deadly to many.

Meanwhile, a television personality decided to celebrate her birthday by putting up her own community pantry, also in Quezon City. While her much publicized pantry attracted a very huge crowd, news reports said the required quarantine protocol of social distancing was not observed.

The sad news is that a 67-year-old man collapsed while waiting in line. He was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead upon his arrival there. It appears that he may have suffered a cardiac arrest, and that if he had been advised to have someone else stand in line for him in view of his age, he may not have died.

Thereafter, Herbosa posted his reflections on the incident on social media. In his unique, straight forward style of expressing himself, Herbosa reiterated his previous warnings that if health protocols are not properly observed at those pantries, they become threats to life and public safety.

Herbosa’s remarks did not sit well with several UP alumni, who bashed him online.

One basher was a former member of the UP Board of Regents whose appointment to the cabinet of President Duterte in 2017 was rejected by the Commission on Appointments. Some sectors believe that she is a known sympathizer of the left. From the way she spoke, it was as if she embodied all that is right and proper in the UP community. Such audacity!

Another basher was a faculty member whom some UP alumni suspect is aligned with the left. He styles himself as an alleged expert on the mass media, and gives skewed interviews on television news programs.

On close scrutiny, however, there was nothing wrong or legally objectionable about what Herbosa said online.

As confirmed by news reports, quarantine protocols were not observed in the actress’ community pantry, and this fact already made the pantry a threat to the safety of everyone who was there.

That publicized pantry, held to mark a movie celebrity’s birthday, was bound to attract a multitude, senior citizens included, to form a very long line, which was what happened. Add to that the blistering summer heat and you have a recipe for health problems.

Herbosa wasn’t against the community pantries. He was against allowing the mushrooming of pantries that operate without any regard for quarantine protocols, a view shared by Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte. It just so happened that Herbosa’s choice of words did not sound nice to those who dislike officials of the government, and to those who are not familiar with the details of the event.

Take note that Herbosa is a bureaucrat, not a politician. He simply said what he had in mind, without using the specious, sugar-coated language which traditional politicians are known for. There was nothing libelous or obscene in what he posted online. What he said was, undoubtedly, speech protected by the Constitution.

Why then should Herbosa be faulted for what he said online?

The more important question is, why didn’t UP President Danilo Concepcion defend Herbosa? Is the UP administration afraid of the reds? It looks like it is.


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