by Louie Dy

“Pandemic Priorities & Persons”, a joint Universitas Lawyers Quarterly (ULQ) and Universitas Doctors Forum (UDF) Colloquium, was held online last November 14, 2020 (PST) with at least 70 participants via Zoom webinar and Facebook Live.

In the context of Philippine society continuously struggling with the consequences of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), leaders have the herculean task of balancing seemingly competing goods including public health, economic recovery and personal privacy. Thus, through this colloquium, Universitas brought together panelists from medicine, law and governance, and philosophy to provide a closer look at the pandemic and see how the genuine good of persons may be given due regard.

Atty. Joel D. Arzaga, ULQ project manager and moderator of the webinar, introduced the participants to the event and its house rules. He noted that in light of the devastation that Typhoon Ulysses wrought, and in solidarity with our suffering countrymen, Universitas committed to donate part of the event’s proceeds to the typhoon victims particularly those in Isabela, through the office of one of the panelists.

Mr. Francisco Angel P. Socrates, Project Development Officer and Executive Director for International Linkages of Universitas, then introduced the foundation, highlighting its mission and vision, activities, programs, and international collaborations.

Dr. Kathryn-Daphne M. Ong, MBE, who previously placed at both physician and medical technology licensure exams, started the series of talks. According to the general psychiatrist at Mind Care Club Telemental Health Services, bioethical principles should not be compromised during pandemics. Instead, these circumstances are avenues to apply them.

Dr. Kathryn-Daphne Ong highlighting the importance of ethical principles in medical practice

Dr. Ong elaborated on how the COVID-19 pandemic became an opportunity for connection and relationships, medical prudence, medical fortitude, medical temperance, medical justice, and solidarity. Doctors always think of what is best for the patient and employ judicious planning on the sort of care to be provided while allocating resources equitably. All these are towards the common good of persons.

The insightful expositions were then continued by Hon. Atty. Sheena P. Tan, the representative of the 4th Congressional district of Isabela starting last July 2019. She narrated numerous programs done in the wake of the pandemic. Assistance was extended to patients in need of hemodialysis and chemotherapy.

Hon. Atty. Sheena Tan speaking on the role of the government during the pandemic

Last but not the least Dr. Josemaria Arsenio G. Mariano, PhD, an Emeritus Full Professor of University of Asia and Pacific (UA&P) and the first honorary fellow of Universitas, continued the brilliant discussions. He then tickled the minds of the audience by stating that the COVID-19 pandemic, in many ways, is a test – a global test.

“Because as government and social commentators debated about how to confront this global crisis, the real question took shape: “How valuable, really, to “global mankind”, is the individual human person?” And here we’ve been encountering different takes. We can call them communitarian, libertarian, utilitarian, traditionalist – which is often regarded as naïve.” – Dr. Mariano

The course director of Universitas’ Great Books Seminar then discussed each of these four different views, and notes how the pandemic is a test for educators on the pernicious type of “social distancing” with an erosion of trust in an environment where accustomed sources of truth are so heavily compromised due to fake news and misinformation.

Dr. Jose Maria Mariano sharing insights on the pandemic as a global test

Dr. Cary Amiel G, Villanueva, project manager of UDF, then moderated the ensuing lively and though-provoking panel discussion, with questions ranging from the intrapersonal and the interpersonal to the systemic and the societal.

After the panel discussion, Atty. Nicole Gonazles, project manager of Project SLEIGH, shared the plans for the upcoming outreach project with abandoned women at the Sanctuary Center in Mandaluyong.

Atty. Angela Butalid, CEO of Universitas Foundation, closed the event and thanked everyone especially the speakers for the providential and successful event. She also invited everyone to the Great Books Seminar, which the colloquium gave but a “sample” thereof, and Universitas’ foundational course, Back to the Basics. The session ended on a high note after a photo-op with all the participants.

Universitas Foundation, Inc. with its professional fora, Universitas Lawyers Quarterly (ULQ) and Universitas Doctors Forum (UDF), seeks to form future leaders with competence, stable moral character and a clear conscience who will contribute to nation-building.

Group photo of some of the attendees of the colloquium with the panelists