MANILA, Philippines – Scientist Renato Solidum Jr., President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s nominee for secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), came to his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, December 7, perhaps prepared to prove his qualifications and share his plans for the S & T sector.
Instead, he had to field unusual, if not cringe-worthy, questions from congressmen who were members of the Commission on Appointments (CA).
From why a geologist like him was not appointed to the environment department instead, to whether food pills could keep the poor going without food for weeks, to whether puncturing volcanoes would prevent disasters, here are the exchanges that Solidum had to endure in his full hour in the hot seat.
The CA confirmed Solidum’s appointment.
Aren’t geologists better off at DENR?
Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte Jr.: You’re a licensed geologist and your background basically is geological sciences or geology. I think you are more fit to be DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) secretary than DOST.
Solidum: Mr. Chair, Mr. Congressman, being an earth scientist covers many fields of science. As a practice when I was in the university where I went, at the University of California San Diego, we have to know many different sciences so that we can work together with many other scientists to really provide solutions to problems. So that’s the background that I took from the US.
When I went back to Phivolcs, I dealt with many agencies to promote not only disaster risk reduction but most importantly focus at the DOST-level the organization development where we can maximize all our efforts from across the different agencies of the DOST to support many of the sectors that would really propel our economy.
Villafuerte: Don’t you think an engineer should be more fit to head DOST?
Solidum: Any scientist can head the Department of Science and Technology as long as they have a complete background of what the department should be focused on and they can lead other scientists, ensuring what needs operationally to be done.
Villafuerte: What are your favorite movies [on] Netflix?
Solidum: Mr. Chair, I’m more into investigatory series, especially on many aspects of security, like I’ve been watching Blacklist.
Villafuerte: So dapat po sa ano kayo, PNP Cyberlab or something?
SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta: Have you viewed Designated Survivor?
Solidum: Partly, but I did not finish…
Marcoleta: What about The Manifest?
Solidum: Not yet, Sir.
Marcoleta: The Good Doctor?
Solidum: Not yet
Marcoleta: Extraordinary Attorney Woo?
Solidum: Yeah, sometimes, with my wife, Mr. Chair. Crash Landing On You, I did, Mr. Chair.
Inventions by Filipinos, or so they heard
Villafuerte: Is it true that the fluorescent lamp [was] initially invented by a Filipino with a family name Claude Flores, but eventually was not patented?
Solidum: Mr. Chair, I’m not sure if it’s true.
Villafuerte: I heard that the karaoke [was] invented by a Filipino.
Solidum: That was also mentioned that it was, indeed. But, for sure, the video phone was invented by a Filipino way back in the 1950s.
Food pill that would keep hunger at bay
Marcoleta: Ano po ba ’yung mga kinakain ng mga astronaut sent to orbit?
Solidum: May mga ano sila, vitamins and compacted food.
Marcoleta: Kasi kaya ko tinatanong ’yon, they are in orbit, they spend days, even months, without cooking their food kasi hindi naman p’wede magluto doon sa kanilang spaceship, tama po ba?
Solidum: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Marcoleta: I am thinking aloud na kung sakaling makaimbento po tayo ng kinakain nila, ibibigay ko po sa mahihirap na mga kababayan natin – even for months hindi sila kakain, hindi sila mamamatay. Mayroon po ba tayong gano’n? Makakagawa po ba tayo ng gano’n?
Solidum: Mr. Chair, what we have right now is ready-to-eat [products] for disaster victims that have a shelf life of six months. Hindi na po lulutuin.
Marcoleta: Ibig ko ho sabihin, minsan niya lang po kakainin, aabot po ng six months?
Solidum: I don’t think we have that…
Marcoleta: Kasi po ’yung astronauts, ’pag kinain niya ‘yon, it will last for several days, several months…. Kung sakaling matulungan natin the poorest of our poor, then naimbento ’nyo po ’yung pill or whatever…’pag ininom po ’yun ng mahirap, two weeks lang na hindi siya bumili ng pagkain, hindi siya nagluto, ang laking bagay na po niyan. ’Yun po ang aking tinatanong: Makakagawa kaya tayo ng gano’n?
Solidum: We have to look into that, Mr. Chair, because we are into nutrition and food security, so we’ll ask our scientists what their long-term program is.
Rocket material to puncture volcanoes
Camiguin Representative Jurdin Jesus Romualdo: Gusto ko lang ho tanungin, ’yung mga materyal po na ginagamit ng rocket, na hindi nalulusaw sa init sa biyahe nito papuntang buwan, ’yung materyal na‘’yon, p’wede bang gawin natin sa mga bulkan – bubutasan ’yung bulkan, lalabas ’yung lava para hindi pumutok ang bulkan.
Solidum: Mr. Chair, we can know it will erupt if there’s so much pressure and high temperature…. The energy below the volcano, the magma is so much [more] enormous than whatever trigger we want to do…. In fact, it might cause the volcano to explode as we lessen the pressure. If we lessen the pressure on the top of the volcano, it will trigger the sudden rise of organic magma, it will explode. That’s why nobody has tried to do that.
After an hour-long exchange with congressmen, Solidum was confirmed by the CA, with Villafuerte taking note of the wide range of topics that the hearing covered.
“When we started this committee, all topics [were] discussed – from Netflix, to lava, to robotics – so I think it’s about time, dear colleagues,” that Solidum’s appointment be confirmed, the Camarines Sur congressman said. – Rappler.com