Few weeks ago Panglao Mayor Nila Montero became the focal point in the province’s combat against the so-called Covid-19 disease.
The soft-spoken mayor was crucified on social media postings and by local news reports as if she had done the most heinous of all crimes and had committed an unpardonable error.
Hearing all the Montero-devoted radio and newspaper reports and reading all the stream of harsh comments online, one may wrongfully conclude, if one doesn’t know about the history and legacy of the person being unfairly portrayed as disrepectful to province-ordained rules, that she’s the author of the pandemic circus.
Many may not remember that Nila Montero, long before she entered politics, was a private individual, a risk-taking entrepreneur who had seen the rise and boom of Panglao tourism, an industry she had helped achieve its potentials in her own countless ways as a beach resort owner and public servant.
When the controversy of her allegedly reckless travel to Cebu with a cabal of supporters and friends emerged as a talk of the town, the collective sentiment was rather unforgiving, and the ensuing condemnation of her reportedly Covid-protocol-violative acts could be viewed as unfair to a woman who had done more good to the people of Bohol than the amount of imaginary, presumed damage, if there was any, her action had inflicted on the health of the Boholano populace.
Why all the attention was on her lately?
We could only wish there were more solution-seeking discussion among vision-oriented officials and concerned pundits on providing concrete support to the more than 200,000 Boholanos who had lost jobs due to the over-extended quarantines than on the feared consequences of Montero’s Cebu escapade.
And we could only wish there were more public outcry over the taxpayers-funded billions of pesos lost under Philhealth’s management.
Sadly, there was only a faint cry, a whisper in the wilderness of calamities.
Just as there was no investigation on the blatant deception of an ex-mayor in the Third District of Bohol who, at the onset of this pandemic, managed to arrive in Tagbilaran City port at dawn, traveling from Cebu and pretending as a helpless OFW, on board a commercial boat together with the first batch of the so-called LSIs (locally stranded individuals).
Also, in the early days of the pandemic, a Manila-based family, stranded in a neighboring island, slipped through the Philippine Coast Guard’s patrolling eyes and reached a docking area in Tagbilaran City with the full assistance of a government agency worker. Without quarantine and compliance of any Bohol-carved health protocols, this family with well-placed connections in the corridors of emperial power was whisked to Panglao airport, escorted by the said government agency employee, catching one of the first sweeper flights mounted by the local government.
We all know, in open and in secret, there were other Covid-related violations done elsewhere in the province. The reason we don’t talk about these transgressions is because these remain unreported, concealed.
Whatever is the unfavorable outcome of Montero’s alleged expedition, if she’s proven to have violated certain policies, it will serve as lesson for all.
But to judge her and single her out as the sole epitome of lawbreaking individuals is not right.
Montero claimed she’s a victim of politics. That is also a misplaced argument. Perhaps she is. The 2019 election is not a distant past; and the 2022 voting should not get her distracted to her mandate to alleviate people’s sufferings and improve the economic conditions of her revenue-generating island that hosts a modern international airport.
In the end, she has to face the consequence of her action if it was contrary to law. If she’s blameless to all these hostile innuendos, she has to defeat those who are undermining her legacy and move forward and rethink her priorities.
And the province can move forward too. Perhaps it already did.
The latest casualty counting, according to a report, is that Bohol has lost an estimated P15 billion since the lockdown/quarantine was implemented, paralyzing the tourism-dependent economy and taking away people’s hopes of surviving another day.
What do we get out of the colorful life of a mayor in this time of extended uncertainty? Nothing.
One person’s mistake or redemption cannot repair the continuing damage on Bohol’s economy.
The problem we have right now is not about Montero’s travel decisions. It is not even about a virus.
The critical discussion should be centered on how to empower and guide every physically able individual on becoming self-sustaining by tapping the sleeping power of agriculture, in the age of life-sapping pandemic.