Being Right

“Gaslighting” means trying to manipulate a person, arranging circumstances, such that the latter begins to question his or her own sanity, self-esteem, judgment, and memory. The purpose, at least politically, is to establish control over people.

Now some politicians, having tasted absolute power for the last three months, are unabashedly resorting to gaslighting just so they could extend their unquestioned control over ordinary Filipinos.

This while scientific consensus is solidifying that lockdowns, as a response to this pandemic, is inutile.

To seriously damage the economy and shatter people’s lives for a coronavirus that seriously attacks a quite defined demographic (i.e., 60 years old and above, and those with underlying health conditions), is mild or asymptomatic 97.5%-99.5% of the time, and has an Infection Fatality Rate somewhere around 0.2% (a little above that of the flu), is a fool’s exchange.

Admittedly, caution would have perhaps justified it in the pandemic’s first month when data was scarce, but to extend it once, twice, or more was utterly unwise.

Assuming the Department of Health’s data is accurate, the more pessimistically inclined point to the 1,103 deaths (as of June 16, marking the third month of the lockdown) as justifying locking-up otherwise healthy people and closing schools. That’s tantamount to 367 deaths a month or roughly 12 deaths a day (June 3-16 saw around 15 deaths daily).

Yet compare that to the monthly average of 300 Filipino deaths by suicide, 1,000 from car crashes, 5,000 stroke, 5,333 cancer, 6,333 pneumonia and flu, and 7,000 heart disease. That’s around 10 Filipinos dying every day by suicide, 33 from car crashes, 167 stroke, 178 cancer, 211 pneumonia and flu, and 233 heart disease. This is despite having vaccines for pneumonia and flu, and cures for heart disease.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 19, 2019, there were 371,717 dengue cases, with 1,407 deaths, reported through the health department’s routine surveillance system, with a Case Fatality Rate of 0.38%. Of the deaths, 535 were children five to nine years old. We didn’t shut the economy then and neither were schools.

Compare that with the present pandemic: Of the total 1,103 coronavirus-related deaths in the Philippines, 25 were from 0-19 age group, 45 from 0-29 age group.

And yet we’re practically shutting down or severely depreciating learning for 53% of our population, from kinder to college age (0-24 years old), 53.8 million young Filipinos.

Our country was founded on the ideals of human rights and government by, for, and of the people. Yet many Filipinos, so pumped with fear by news media, public officials, and irresponsible “experts” are now presently willing to being kept under perpetual government control, what journalist Helen Andrews calls the “indefinite period in a twilight zone of half-freedom where lockdown orders have been lifted but aggressive safety measures remain — a ‘new normal’,” and attack those who dare speak up for our freedoms.

In this environment of uncertainty, with a citizenry softened up by porn panic and extended lockdowns, comes HB No. 6864, the “Better Normal Bill,” ostensibly to “ensure that pandemic recovery will lead to a greener, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable future;” and “give importance to other aspects of well-being of the people based on the Gross National Happiness indicators.”

Seemingly all benign. But details is key.

“Better Normal” in the context of a pandemic recovery planned for three years, “refers to transformative behaviors and interventions.” That transformation and interventions are to be effected by none other than through comprehensive additional government regulation.

Every aspect of our existence, from gathering, studying, eating, travel, work — would all require government permission, usually through the local government issued “Better Normal Permit.”

Private businesses and areas normally protected under the constitutional rights to property and contract now need government’s leave and monitoring to operate.

Before conducting business, one must submit to government details of the business’ property, personnel, procurement and work policies, and even a “management plan.” This within a Philippine regulatory environment that the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report revealed it takes 13 government steps and 33 days just to start a business.

Want to attend a lecture? Have Mass or spiritual retreats? Bury a loved one? Play basketball? Watch a movie? Have a family party? You need government permission.

Regulations even apply to “privately organized gathering[s].”

Disobey the Better Normal, then you’re fined or go to jail.

All this with Filipino lives already under the immense powers of the presidency, as granted by the still effective (as of this writing) Bayanihan Act, including the monitoring and regulating of speech.

People also need to remember RA 11313 (the “Safe Spaces Act”), which holds everyone liable for not subscribing to gender fluidity and transgenderism, without exemption made for religious beliefs or academic freedom.

Then there’s the inevitable Anti-Terrorism Bill.

Filipinos were so concerned with Martial Law they failed to see totalitarian control creeping over them by other means.

That total government control goes by the name of “Better Normal.”


Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.

Twitter @jemygatdula