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Health before Wealth

“We need to immediately shift to MGCQ (modified general community quarantine, the second loosest quarantine level) for the entire Philippines. Perhaps starting March 1,” Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told President Rodrigo Duterte during a televised late evening Cabinet meeting last week, according to Philstar.com on Feb. 16.

China’s unilateral nine-dash line

“China unleashes another deadly virus…” retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio called out in his column in the Inquirer, that slow Thursday, Jan. 28. Another deadly virus after the Wuhan virus or COVID-19? That surely gripped the readers’ attention, in this tremulous time of the persistent pandemic.

COVID-19 tames Competition

I have not worn lipstick for nine months now. I cannot. Lipstick will only smudge under a face mask. Lots of clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry, fake and real, have been lying around unused. No occasion to show these off. What did I need all those for — before this protracted quarantine against the persistent COVID-19 pandemic?

Children are our future

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, Los Niños Inocentes, the very first martyrs in Christian religions. In Europe it is called Childermas or the Mass for the Children.

Silent Night, Holy Night

It was a silent night when He was born on a manger, in a stable in Bethlehem. Only the gentle lowing of the cows and the muffled braying of the donkey whispered welcome to the world. No crying out in pain by Mary, His Mother, who smiled in ecstatic adoration at the little Child Jesus, the Promised Redeemer of the world. Joseph held back an awed gasp at first sight of Him, whom he knew was his God.

A poverty beyond Poverty

“How are you doing, my friend? I was worried about you there in Naga, in this terrible Typhoon Rolly — hope you are OK?”

Lessons from an election

“STOP THE COUNTING!” Donald Trump said in all-caps in his Twitter account.

Debt at a time of coronavirus

It might have been death by coronavirus as the COVID-19 pandemic choked the economy and strangled many businesses to bankruptcy. But more than the abstraction that is the economy, or the corporate fiction that a business could be, the flesh and blood individual struggling with his threatened physical health even while anxious over dwindling material wealth is COVID’s ultimate victim.

Historical revisionism and fake news

History is always the most revered authority, and the ultimate teacher. It is empirical proof of expected results from conditions and contexts as naturally presented by science or as conjured and executed by minds. What has happened, has happened, and there is always a lesson learned.

Walking on water for the UNCLOS ruling

No, he did not “jetski to a disputed island occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea to plant the Philippine flag and stake the country’s claims” — a campaign promise made in 2016.

A chance for the environment

“No, it is not white sand that is being used to fill up the Manila Bay shoreline,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said when news photos flashed images of heavy machinery on the baywalk dumping what indeed looked like glistening white sand over the stony black murk of muddy sand.

Little Papua dares the giant China

Why should seemingly irrelevant news about Papua New Guinea refusing to pay a loan of $53 million from China be among the opening salvo of posts last Friday on various Viber chats among bored mostly middle class Filipinos quarantined and restricted for five months — and going — in this coronavirus pandemic?

GDP: Down, down, down

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III has always been known for saying it like it is. When he announced a 16.5% decline in the country’s second quarter GDP (gross domestic product) (in real terms, at 2018 prices) compared to last year — the news was shocking, but at least comfortably acceptable because it came from Mr. Dominguez. This is the worst contraction of the Philippine economy since 1981, during the debt crisis in the time of Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law. The country is now undeniably in a recession.

The leaning Tower of Babel

The Cyber Libel Law, or formally, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, has caused more confusion than the clarification it should have given the libel laws of the Philippines through their evolution and refinement since the Revised Penal Code was enacted in the 1930s. The chaos is most pathetic in this restrictive time of the coronavirus pandemic, when limited human communication and interaction has forced people’s concentration on the internet — now the most convenient, and at times the only, means of talking to the outside world from imposed isolation.

A pandemic in numbers

A global recession has been brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. In its latest Global Economic Prospects Report, the World Bank (WB) said in June that the global economy will shrink by 5.2% in 2020, representing “the deepest recession since World War Two.” Developed countries’ economic growth will decline 7%, and that of emerging markets and developing countries by 2.5% — their first contraction as a group in at least 60 years. Per capita incomes will fall by 3.6%, pulling some 60 million people down into extreme poverty, the report said.

Novel Coronavirus has the last say

On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global public health emergency due to the rapid spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan City (population: 11 million), in the province of Hubei (population: 50 million), in China. As of Saturday, varying television news reports said there are now close to 10,000 infected persons worldwide, with 200+ dead from the virus, for which a vaccine is still being developed. Novel Coronavirus -- nCoV -- has spread to 22 countries and regions, according to the WHO.

Gen Z: Lakas ng amatz

Amatz/amats = “tama” which in Filipino is the root of “tinamaan,” meaning “it hit me straight away” like the “kick” from drinking lambanog (Filipino “coconut vodka” which 80 to 90 proof, or as high as 166 proof after second distillation, they say).

A steamy ‘Meet-me-room’

It may summon lurid thoughts of a clandestine tryst at some secluded nest, where forbidden lovers unleash steamy passion. It must be very secret -- imagine if the wronged wife (or husband) discovered and witnessed the unfaithfulness. “In flagrante delicto,” meaning seeing the crime in flagrant commission, would justify killing of the illicit lovers by the betrayed. Possibly a lugubrious picture of a “meet-me-room,” in some prurient minds, for want of any connectivity of the word with some staid common usage.

Mother: Not just an input of GDP

The unpaid household chores and care work rendered by women is valued at 20% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP), according to Research Fellow Michael M. Abrigo of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (BusinessWorld April 2, 2019). This is quantified at nearly P2 trillion. According to 2015 data, only 2% of males help out with the house and care work of their spouses and mothers (Ibid.).

This human settlements thing

Just for nostalgia: what was done on May 1, Labor Day, in Martial Law? From the National Library archives, “The President’s Week in Review: April 27 – May 3, 1981,” President Ferdinand Marcos in his Labor Day speech said he “will ask the Batasang Pambansa for early approval of a bill restoring the right of workers to strike.” (officialgazette.gov.ph/1981/05/04). Marcos had just “lifted” martial law in January, and was unraveling what had gone on for nine years as what he called a “benevolent dictatorship.”


But we are already talking about it -- what we all can do for the environment. At the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), April 22, the day after Easter Sunday, was a whole-day focus on Mother Nature, in communion with the celebration of World Earth Day.

A rite of passage

A solo bassoon moans a prolonged melancholy cry, as of a dull pain inside the soul. Its plaintive aching and hurting seems from some broken heart whose fears are magnified in the steady thumping of the basses -- bows thrust over strings stayed by numbed fingers on the bridge -- in repetitive pulses like anxiety gripping the throat. The drums could have pounded the insistent rhythm, but they only offer muffled sympathy.

Poverty and taxes

Today, April 15, is the deadline for payment of 2018 income taxes. There is no extension -- better file your income tax returns (ITR) or else, for even one day later, you suffer the one-time 25% penalty/surcharge plus 20% interest per annum until payment. You must pay income taxes through a BIR-accredited agent bank (AAB) who will credit BIR with your payment. Mind that whether you have taxable income or none, or if you have a computer or access to a computer or not, you have to separately file an electronic ITR, to immediately and officially register your filing with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). You can go to any BIR “E-lounge” for assistance and guidance on the filing of your ITR, but you will still have to pay first (if you have any tax to pay) through an AAB before electronic filing. No escape except death (though your heirs cannot escape inheritance taxes either).

For universal health care: No pork

A colonoscopy cum endoscopy at a private hospital cost a total of P67,500: P5,000 for the ultrasound, P25,000 for the hospital procedures, P25,000 for the doctor and P12,500 for the anesthesiologist. The self-employed young professional with no special health insurance (only PhilHealth) could hardly afford this. PhilHealth stepped in for P5,400 deductible from the patient’s bill, 8% of total, but that did not go to her. The 30% of P5,400 is for refund to the doctor of Professional Fees (PF) over what was billed to the patient and 70% is refunded to the hospital on top of what was charged to the patient. For surgical cases, it would be 40% for PF and 60% for hospital costs. Crazy, but it feels like PhilHealth is for doctors and hospitals, and not for patients, because patients don’t see, feel and touch the PhilHealth “refund.” It is like a flat “commission” paid for services rendered by doctors and hospitals -- while they would still have the freedom to charge higher than the PhilHealth maximum base rates per the immutable chart of coverable diseases and procedures. Since September 2011, PhilHealth started implementing its policy of paying fixed rates or fixed amounts to accredited hospitals and clinics for 11 medical cases and 11 surgical cases charted under its reimbursement scheme called Case Rates Payment (workingpinoy.com June 2, 2014). Refunds have been cut down drastically from 2003, since deductibles (purportedly for the patient, but actually a “bonus” to doctors and hospitals) have been whittled down. Poor patient!

The Phoenix on the Nile

Egypt is an old soul in an old body that would not die. The idea of mummification is 3,100 years old, Egyptologist-archeologist Mohammed Abdel Aziz (not Arabian, not African, but proudly Egyptian) says, as he points up to the heavens to emphasize Eternity. In Saqqara, north of Memphis, there are 118 pyramids to house the sarcophagi of mummified pharaohs and noblemen. The Djoser pyramid capped with luminescent limestone to mimic the rays of the morning sun towers 62 meters (203 feet) but still the Khufu pyramid of Giza, the largest Egyptian pyramid and one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, reaches up an awesome 146.7 meters (481 feet). A narrow shaft that comes from the pinnacle to the burial chamber directs the sunlight to the deceased pharaoh’s mummified body and lifts his soul to the heavens and to the gods. It is the story of Resurrection and Eternal Life.

The banks always win

Big banks posted another banner year in 2018, with profits growing by a tenth at a time of higher borrowing costs and a weaker peso. Total operating income grew by 14.9% to P564.202 billion from P491.227 billion the past year, central bank data showed (BusinessWorld Feb. 11, 2019).

Is there an Imperial Manila?

Is there an Imperial Manila? It sounds traitorous to call Manila “Imperial,” as if Manila were not Filipino but a state apart, like the foreign imperial colonizers that Filipinos -- united as a people -- fought against to win independence and recognition as one country and one nation.