"The senator should not bank on what the US Embassy apparently told him."
I should have returned to the Philippines by this day. Originally, I was told the plane would land in Mactan, where after a PCR test at the international airport, I would proceed to my hotel of choice, there to await the results. If I tested negative, I would then be allowed to board another plane to Manila, where supposedly no further PCR test would be done, but with the caveat that I have to self-quarantine for I do not know how long.
I followed former DPWH Usec. Karen Jimeno’s travails as she came home from two years of study in the US of A. Karen is probably the age of my daughters, and I am no spring chicken, even if I can still climb mountains on foot, as I did for the past two weekends.
But I had to abort my travel plans after seeing the number of Covid cases rise beyond my friend Harry Roque’s head in a matter of days after his “victory” cheer. As I write, last night’s case number rose to 54,222.
Better to be safe here in Taiwan, where mandatory face mask wearing has been lifted in open spaces, although still required in air-conditioned places where transmission possibilities are yet a danger. Both my family in the Philippines and my staff here in Taipei advised against a return at this time.
I have been in Taiwan four months straight, and there are matters I need personally attend to back home, but in these times, one’s health and peace of mind are paramount.
* * *
President Duterte, himself a motorbike enthusiast and a daring rider, probably did not even know that his minions came up with a hare-brained pillion riding rule.
From what I read in the online news, only husbands and wives could ride in tandem, provided they wore the mandatory face mask protection. But they had to bring along a copy of their marriage certificate, in case they are stopped at some checkpoint.
That is a sure-fire violation of human rights. What the hell does government care whether couples riding in tandem are married or not, provided they wear face masks? Do our government enforcers not know that in Metro Manila, most poor couples never bothered to get married, and just live together for decades without benefit of sacrament or legal civilities? And that such is not a crime?
On second thought, they allowed live-in partners, even LGBT partners, provided they had proof they were living in the same household. Why such piecemeal decisions? What thought process comes up with such rules?
How about a son bringing his father or mother, sister or brother, to the doctor—bawal din? And be at the mercy of some stupid traffic enforcer who thinks his power of discretion makes him the new king of the road?
* * *
Catholic faith tells us that we are born with original sin. But our priests also tell us that the underlying reason for a priest-rendered baptismal ceremony is to erase the original sin and render us spotless until we commit our mortal sins thereafter.
Such is the problem with the war against COVID. When the original sin is committed, such as not closing our borders to the source of the virus soonest, and not preparing the needed equipment, it becomes very, very difficult to fight the raging contagion. And this coronavirus strain is not only novel, it is an actively mutating, scheming and unpredictable enemy.
Those countries most notorious for their nonchalance, owing to mercurial, devil-may-care, perhaps slightly off-their-rocker leaders have condemned millions of their countrymen to the viral contagion. Why the powerful US of A plus huge and resource-rich Brazil together have more than 40 percent of the world’s 12.5 million cases as I write this!
Which is why one really has to doff hat to Vietnam, which shares a 1,400-kilometer land border to the original country of the virus, China. They moved quickly, closed land and air borders, effectively isolated pockets of contagion, and their health system managed a zero mortality report card out of a miniscule 367 cases, despite a population of 96 million.
But then again, reviewing the history of their tough and conflict-hardened people, one is not too surprised. They fought the Chinese in border wars for a thousand years, fought and drove out the French colonialists, and defeated the most powerful armed forces run by the wealthiest country on earth, the US of A.
Now they are the biggest beneficiaries of foreign direct investments in the Asean region from all over the world, including their historic adversaries.
* * *
Senator Bato makes such a big fuss about his US visa, which was cancelled early this year and prompted the President to use as an excuse for cancelling the VFA, which he had planned to cancel all along. Senator Bato’s visa was just a mischievous take-off the President utilized for drama.
Now the US Embassy apparently told the senator to please re-apply for his visa, as they are re-considering earlier State Department and congressional prohibitions.
Don’t bank on it, Senator Bato.
A US Embassy-granted visa does not automatically allow you entry to the land of our former colonial masters. The Homeland Security people manning their airport gates can still disallow your entry despite your visa, never mind if you are a senator from the land of their “little brown brothers.”
Besides, as the social media activists warn rather nastily, you might get infected with the raging COVID, if you are allowed entry. And by the time it might be safer for your health to enter the US of A, Joe Biden will be president and Trump in the dustbin.
Then the US Embassy and the State Department to which it answers, may not be too considerate anymore.