"The target is to increase the daily vaccination rate from the current 322,929 to 500,000 in the next few months."
We have good news on the health front, particularly with regard to our COVID-19 response.
We’re glad that the government has already signed a contract for the delivery starting this October of 40 million doses of the vaccine developed by American multinational Pfizer Inc. and German biotechnology company BioNTech SE.
According to Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, this is the “biggest and most decisive deal we have for 2021. The vaccines from Pfizer will significantly boost our national immunization program and will enable us to realize our goal of achieving herd immunity by year-end.”
The target, of course, is acquiring herd immunity by inoculating up to 70 percent of the country’s estimated 110 million population, hopefully by the end of this year.
What we know is that the government has already purchased 113 million vaccine doses this year, including the 26 million CoronaVac, 10 million Sputnik V, 20 million Moderna and 17 million AstraZeneca doses.
The COVAX global vaccine pool has also committed 44 million doses, which brings the total number of expected doses to 157 million, or more than the number of doses needed to achieve herd immunity.
The country has so far received 9 million CoronaVac, 2.6 million AstraZeneca, 2.5 million Pfizer and 180,000 Sputnik V vaccine doses.
Moreover, negotiations are ongoing for the supply of an estimated total of 16 million doses from US companies Novavax and Johnson & Johnson.
More than 8 million Filipinos have so far been inoculated, but only 2.1 million have received their second dose, according to the National Vaccination Operations Center.
The target is to increase the daily vaccination rate from the current 322,929 to 500,000 in the next few months.
Is the target doable? We really don’t know, considering the delays in the arrival of vaccines for one reason or another.
And here’s the not-so-good news, according to the UK-based think-tank Pantheon Macroeconomics: “The relatively slow pace of vaccination in the Philippines implies that early 2023 probably is the best the archipelago can hope for (achieve herd immunity).”
More trolls coming
The bad news is on the political front.
We’re referring to the revelation by Sen. Panfilo Lacson that a certain undersecretary in an unnamed department is now busy—sub rosa, definitely—organizing two troll farms in every province, obviously to unleash a fusillade of hateful comments in social media against critics of the administrations, with special attention, no doubt, against the standard bearers of the opposition, whoever they may be.
We’re not surprised at all by this revelation. We’ve expected a development such as this, considering that the same tactic was employed in the 2016 and 2019 elections.
But to say that we’re not surprised is not to say that we should simply concede and accept that previous elections and those in the future cannot but be contested in social media and therefore should now be seen as an ineluctable part of the political landscape.
What we find disturbing is that the troll farms are likely to be bankrolled—you guessed it—by taxpayers’ money, with no accountability on the part of its key operators.
We therefore support the initiative of a militant party-list group in the House of Representatives to seek an investigation of the alleged involvement of the Cabinet undersecretary in the creation of internet troll farms for the 2022 elections, with the House Committee on Public Information urged to conduct the investigation.
“The Philippines has become a haven for internet trolls. The young, educated, English-speaking workforce that made the Philippines a global call center hub has become a go-to center for influencing political campaigns. The use of government funds for such projects is not only reprehensible but also an illegal [use] of people’s money. Government officials involved in this sinister act that aims to undermine and subvert our democratic process should be revealed, exposed and be subject to a prompt and impartial investigation,” the lawmakers said.
We agree: The manipulation of information in social media “threatens internet freedoms” and could lead to further “Red-tagging” that “has resulted in actual killings or incarceration of many, including activists, lawyers, and other government critics.”
And further: “The use of paid commenters and bots to spread anti-democratic propaganda and suppress dissent is dangerous to our democracy and people...Most importantly, these troll farms that deliberately peddle lies and disinformation clearly undermine and subvert our democratic processes and institutions, which Congress should not only denounce but stop.”
While at this, we might as well ask: Will the International Criminal Court also seek out the trolls who defended the alleged murders in the administration’s bloody war on drugs? Hmm.