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It was the students of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) who had declared an academic strike — they won’t attend online classes and neither would they submit course requirements — in protest against what they saw as government’s inept response to the disaster wrought by typhoon Ulysses. But it was the University of the Philippines (UP) President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to defund and at the same time accused of “doing nothing except recruit communists.”
The fourth in the month of November, Typhoon Ulysses was aptly named. Like the hero of Homer’s Odyssey, it meandered through a vast expanse of land and sea. Its broad rain band deluged almost a third of the Philippine archipelago, and as it crossed Luzon its winds destroyed crops and left entire provinces and regions in ruins, while the floods its waters brought cost thousands their homes and belongings and even took the lives of, at the latest count, 73 Filipinos.
Some Filipinos were rightly on tenterhooks over the United States of America’s 2020 presidential elections, but for the wrong reasons. Some were rooting for Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and others for Donald Trump. While it does matter, it is not so much who prevails in that contest, but how the most contentious US elections in decades are resolved that should really most concern the people of this country and those of the rest of the world. Because of Trump and the Republican Party, a crisis could develop in the US in the coming months that could have far-reaching consequences on the entire planet.
In 2016, then candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised to end corruption. That promise echoed that of his predecessor’s, Benigno Aquino III, whose 2010 campaign catchphrase was “Kung walang corrupt walang mahirap” (Without corruption, there would be no poverty).
The results of the September 2020 Ulat ng Bayan (literally, the People’s Report) survey of Pulse Asia released on Oct. 8 surprised — and, said one of their fellow political observers, even “appalled” — some of the polling firm’s own executives. Indeed, in response to the skepticism of those citizens aware of, and deeply concerned over the gross incompetence and corruption rampant in government, at least two of the latter went out of their way to try to explain what could have led to the unbelievably high approval and trust ratings of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration.
It doesn’t take much imagination to picture some of President Rodrigo Duterte’s officials shaking their heads or slapping their foreheads and muttering “why on earth did he say that?” when their boss of bosses blurts out something patently absurd, incoherent, or completely off during one of his late night television appearances. After all, not every last one of them is a dolt, an incompetent, and an imbecile, or a retired police and military man. One was in a previous life even a human rights defender and a passable academic.
Despite the people’s Constitutionally protected right to information, the Office of the Ombudsman has issued a memorandum restricting access to the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) of the officials that are in its custody, among them that of the President.
As if to mock not only the country and the people Ferdinand Marcos and his civilian and military thugs pillaged and victimized but also the very same government of which they’re supposed to be a part, the House of Representatives passed a bill declaring Sept. 11, 2020 as “President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day” in Ilocos Norte to mark the 103rd birth anniversary of the late dictator.
The call for a “revolutionary government” by the pompously named Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee may seem absurd and cluelessly sophomoric, but it is not just the joke some observers have described it to be. It is a deadly serious threat, as both the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Bar Association have warned, for espousing which, some lawyers have argued, the instigators should be charged with inciting to sedition.
Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año once again tested positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks ago. That development naturally led to questions on whether other members of the Cabinet, but most especially President Rodrigo Duterte, have also contracted the infection.
When made public, Resolution No. 62 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) provoked the curiosity and, worse, the skepticism of Netizens in social media. Few saw the need for it and attributed it to the sinister plot of further extending the reach of the already vast powers of the Duterte regime.
As the number of the infected swells and threatens to overwhelm the healthcare system, the country’s medical frontliners have wisely called for the reassessment and reform of what passes for the Duterte regime’s anti-COVID-19 strategy. But they did not include in their proposals the need to address the possibility that we may also be in the middle of a mental health crisis that will quite possibly have a long-term impact on Philippine society. The physical and mental well-being of its people is after all among a nation’s chief assets, since only mentally healthy citizens can function as productive and responsible members of the community.
As in many other countries reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 contagion, a wave of pessimism, fear, and hopelessness is sweeping vast sectors of the population of the United States of America. With over three million afflicted and the death toll rising to some 136,000 during the week of July 8 to 15, the number of COVID-19 cases in the US is way ahead of that of every country on the planet, including Third World countries with substandard healthcare systems. The pandemic has provoked analysts into taking a hard look at why the richest country in the world has fallen on such terrible times.
More than 9 million students in both private and public schools had enrolled online for schoolyear 2020-2021 as the month of June ended. The resumption of K-12 classes is scheduled for Aug. 24 this year, hence the Department of Education’s (DepEd) reserving the entire month of June for registration, and later extending it till July.
Unless reversed by a higher court, the conviction for cyber libel of Rappler’s Maria Ressa and its former researcher Reynaldo Santos, Jr. will further shrink not only the democratic space for free expression and press freedom but also the people’s right to be informed on matters relevant to their lives as citizens and as human beings.
With no hint of irony did Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. declare on June 3, or a scant nine days before this year’s anniversary of Philippine independence, that the regime he’s been so faithfully serving has decided to suspend the termination of the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States. He said this decision by President Rodrigo Duterte was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “heightened superpower tensions.”
The Philippine government has eased restrictions on people’s movement and allowed the operation of some businesses in Metro Manila, Cebu City, and Laguna by putting these areas under what it calls a modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ). Some provinces that used to be under ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) have been placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
THE American writer William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was also a lifelong doctor of medicine. In one of his short stories, “The Use of Force,” the narrator-physician recalls making a house call to check on a little girl who, her parents suspect, has caught diphtheria during an outbreak of that disease among children.
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon headquarters of the US Department of Defense came the virtual reversal of the global trend towards liberalization and democratization that had characterized the last two decades of the 20th century.
A sovereign citizenry’s right and duty of monitoring and evaluating public issues and problems, and of commenting on them and proposing alternative approaches and solutions, are best served by a free press. But because their hold on power partly depends on being perceived as infallible, most governments -- including the Philippines’ own -- detest criticism, hence their antipathy to press freedom and free expression.
The Department of Health (DoH) has stopped the local government of Marikina City from testing its residents for COVID-19 despite the considerable efforts and costs of setting up the facility. The DoH said it should be located in a separate building all its own.
With over 500 cases in the Philippines, the COVID-19 threat is already serious enough to concern everyone. But its unwanted presence has also further exposed Filipinos to the authoritarian virus that to this day has survived the 1896 Revolution, World Wars I and II, the EDSA civilian-military mutiny of 1986, and the untiring efforts of human rights defenders, independent journalists, committed artists and academics, civil society organizations, and social and political activists to combat it.
It’s been said before, but has never been taken seriously by the members of a community whose egos are as vast as cathedrals: those in the media criticize anyone and anything except themselves. In more times than can be counted, irresponsible and ethically clueless practitioners excuse their own behavior no matter their consequences to the public they’re supposed to serve. They argue that they’re merely doing their jobs in behalf of the people’s right to know and the exercise of their rights to press freedom and free expression.
Perhaps the most outlandish lie ever concocted by one of the most notorious disinformation hirelings of the Duterte regime is that the Marcos kleptocracy was overthrown in 1986 because of the “fake news” that the communists and the “yellows” had supposedly been spreading about Ferdinand Marcos, his wife, his family and his government.
To most Filipinos who have become only too, too familiar with dishonesty in government, it may look like just another symptom of the corruption that is still metastasizing throughout the civilian and military bureaucracy that then candidate for president Rodrigo Duterte promised to end in 2016.
A 17th-century English writ that challenged a person to prove by what authority he holds a public office, a power or a franchise, a quo warranto plea has been used in this country for the second time in two years in an attempt to silence and penalize another Duterte-perceived critic.
He has made the police his security guards and the military his private army, while both remain cogs in the killing machine that keeps him and his ilk in power and things the way they are and have always been. He controls both houses of Congress and has the Supreme Court majority for accomplices. Unscrupulous judges and even worse lawyers have surrendered their independence to speak for him and do his bidding.
It should be more than evident by now that much like its predecessors, doing nothing until things get worse, and then blaming everyone else except itself is what passes for the Duterte regime’s principle of governance. As the last three years of its benighted rule have amply demonstrated, it has neither a sense of urgency nor purpose except power and self-aggrandizement. Only indifference, if not contempt, is what it has for the people it should be serving. But have Filipinos, particularly President Rodrigo Duterte’s die-hard, fact-resistant, untutored hordes, even noticed?
President Rodrigo Duterte’s making the cancellation of the US visa of the former enforcer of his murderous “war on drugs” the basis for the revocation of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States may be as absurd and as mindless as the rest of his so-called policies. But among its unintended consequences is the opportunity it provides for the country to seriously look into its foreign relations as a domestic concern. The public attention Mr. Duterte’s unashamed decision to make the interest of one person the basis of the Philippines’ dealings with another country will hopefully also knock some sense into his stubborn constituency and encourage the engagement in the debate over public issues of some of the uninformed millions who make up the majority in this benighted land.
As if to remind the Philippine press and media of the challenges they face during his troubling watch, President Rodrigo Duterte began the new year by urging the owners of ABS-CBN to sell the network. He had earlier threatened to make sure that the House of Representatives majority he controls doesn’t renew its franchise, which expires on March 30 this year. One of his accomplices in that House of ill-repute has in so many words assured him that they will do exactly that.
In another demonstration of unpresidential pique, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Bureau of Immigration to stop United States Senators Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy from entering the country. Messrs. Durbin and Leahy were the most instrumental in the decision to include in the 2020 US budget act, which Duterte phone pal Donald Trump has signed into law, a provision ordering the Secretary of State to deny entry into the US anyone in Philippine officialdom involved in the persecution, arrest and detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima.