As two groups of doctors, scientists and professionals were briefing the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) on the deadly consequences of recklessly reopening the economy despite the ever increasing cases and higher peaks in daily infections from COVID 19, the presidential spokesperson whose task is to articulate for Rodrigo Duterte, virtually huffed, puffed, and blew his top. The scene was ugly, horrifying, and hair-raising. The principal government communicator directed vitriolic ire, disdain, even contempt for doctors pleading that the IATF do the right thing.
Ironically, Herminio “Harry’’ Roque was addressing the same sector that saved him twice from succumbing to the deadly virus, going as far as enjoying privileges and treatment when legions were dying in their cars, in pedicabs, in parking lots and along hospital corridors as healthcare workers were otherwise busy with priority patients. The venomous vexation was totally undeserved whether it was in the manner delivered or the substance borne.
The huffing and puffing reveals more than just the reprehensible manner by which he delivered his messages. It reveals character. Huffing and puffing is a 16th century phrase associated with the nursery tale “The Three Little Pigs’’ where the big bad wolf said, ‘’ I will huff, and I will puff, and I will blow your house down!”
Understanding its etymology provides a deeper appreciation of the verbal assault, dwelling on both manner and substance and rendering any half-baked apology insincere and unacceptable.
To huff means “to emit puffs of breath in anger” or blow out and discharge loudly. A puff is a short burst. Figuratively it means to inflate or ‘’make conceited’’. As an adjective as in ‘’puffed’’, it is a form of disapproval for persons excessively proud and self-important. Huffing and puffing are graphic. They add to the optics of one blowing his top or losing his temper.
In substance and in form, huffing and puffing impart an element of conceit, arrogance, delusional superiority, and pomposity. Recall the big bad wolf boasted he could demolish the little pigs’ homes. Not all tales however have wicked wolves. Or three little pigs. At least not three.
Losing his temper and control of the situation, Roque, in harrying the professionals before him, worsened matters for a government already under scrutiny for its pandemic failures and, related to that, tens of billions diverted to enrich individuals close to Duterte. Pandemic failures Roque had once described as ‘’excellent’’ and one in which they insist is absent of corruption.
We need not return to the incident. That would be like repeatedly frolicking like fat sea cows on a filthy mud-caked dolomite beach. The sound and fury of these optics offer a dead man’s chest of lessons, however ironic and paradoxical for one whose portfolio is simply to communicate.
Berating professionals who intend no harm, seething anger and losing composure and control following a series of miscommunications that range from contradicting one’s principal to denying obvious realities is far from communicating and impacts negatively not simply on the credibility of a principal and the offices one represents but also on one’s own standing and character. Add substantive elements of conceit and arrogance, and the sum is evidence of a civil servant ill-qualified and undeniably incompetent in that specific position.
About the Author:
Dean de la Paz is a former investment banker and the Managing Director of a New Jersey-based power company operating in the Philippines. He is the Chairman of the Board of a renewable energy company and is a retired Business Policy, Finance and Mathematics professor.