"Has the President’s patience with El Duque worn exceedingly thin?"
A visibly well-rested President Duterte announced last Friday, in a delayed telecast of his meeting with some cabinet members, that vaccines against the deadly COVID-19 are fast being developed, and relief may come as early as December.
Coming as it does after a much ballyhooed SONA (I read somewhere that PCOO Sec. Andanar billed it as the most important SONA in 60 years) where anticipated prescriptions for recovery were drowned out by the President’s broadsides against “oligarchs” and Sen. Frank Drilon, beleaguered Filipinos could only exclaim: Sana.
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Here in Taiwan, the latest coronavirus “imports” came from nearby: one from Hong Kong, another from Guatemala, and four from the Philippines (returning Taiwanese). And one that could be a case of local transmission after 110 days of none, that of a Belgian national who has been here for the last two months.
As usual, government authorities immediately went to work, and in less than 24 hours, all the persons who could have been similarly infected in the plane they took, including the crew, were tracked, tested, and required to self-isolate.
Would that we were half as effective in testing, tracing, isolating, and treating, with our panoply of health experts led by our DOH secretary, assisted by almost everyone from the military our president could enlist, plus my friend, the over-worked BCDA’s Vince Dizon, whom Harry Roque has proclaimed one of the Covid “czars”.
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But Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero, the former senator with a Heart, is not assured. He wants the president to please, pretty please, sack El Duque (because) “You/we/I deserve better po!” So that Filipinos who cannot have corpore sano until they are immunized, could at least have mens sana still.
Mincing no words, Escudero flatly accused the DOH under the Duque that it is just “riding out the COVID until a vaccine is invented…it must lead in a pro-active way and not be content with merely reporting out statistics.” Then, when DOH reported a “mass recovery adjustment” of 65,265 cases—to somehow neutralize the shocking impact of a total of 98,232 cases!—Chiz rightly called it “only in the Philippines” and felt insulted, as did other senators.
I have been wondering what keeps Duque from resigning. In an article written in this space months ago, I resigned myself to saying we may have to endure him until 2022. But in last Thursday’s late night briefing which was seen Friday morning, media noted that El Duque never spoke, nor was called upon to say anything, and spox Harry did the talking on the new quarantine guidelines.
So they speculated, led by my good friend, Philstar’s Edith Regalado, who always out-scoops everyone from her Davao perch, that the President’s patience has worn exceedingly thin. Edith says the silent treatment is akin to doghouse treatment.
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BSP Governor Ben Diokno allays our fears about the near future of the economy laid moribund by the virus. “The worst is over,” Ben states the day after the SONA.
Of course, all our economic managers and all of government cannot be jeremiads of gloom. They have to be a reassuring voice at a time when people are stressed and depressed, which even without an SWS survey proclaiming the same, everyone knows and feels in his gut.
Gov Ben tells us that after this second quarter, the economy will start picking up, just as the quarantines have been gradually lifted like a reverse striptease.
“I see a hockey stick-like recovery,” said the former budget secretary of two presidents. Media, knowing that tropical heat sufferers do not understand hockey, preferred to liken it to the Nike logo “swoosh”. Ingenious symbolism in a country where every millennial dreams of owning a Nike. But what if it’s an Under Armour?
You know, a U with a long sloping downward and upward swing, which is not as lifting as Nike’s upward swoosh. Because many businessmen believe recovery will be more like the upper U of the Under Armour logo, looking forward to 2022. Pwede na rin sana.
Trouble is, the logo has an A, which is the opposite of the U. And it is like the present state of the economy, not only of the Philippines, but almost all of the universe. And it intersects with the more upbeat U.
If the vaccine does not come by December, or if the billions of doses manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, Astro-Zeneca, BioNtech, and others are gobbled up first by a desperate Trump who even wants to postpone the November elections which he is likely to lose, vainly rushing to vaccinate all his red-neck believers. With other wealthy countries scrambling for the vaccine, which experts call “vaccine nationalism”, then woe unto us poor Filipinos. Huwag naman sana.
But the President has talked to his friend Xi Jinping, and the day after his SONA, a Chinese lower official declared that the Philippines, being a dear friend, will be a priority when Sinovac and Sinopharm finally produce their vaccines.
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Even as we are in the realm of hoping, we are saddened by first, the death after a long bout with cancer, of our friend Tommy Joson, former governor of Nueva Ecija, whose mortal remains were interred last Wednesday.
Meanwhile too, former Pres. Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan, finally bade goodbye to his beloved land after 97 years, which he led through a peaceful and deliberate transition from one-party rule to democracy from 1988 to 2000. He is regarded as the architect of Taiwan’s democratic society.
It was Lee who first encouraged Taiwanese businessmen to invest in the Philippines, and the bounce of Subic Bay as an economic zone right after the closure of the US naval base it owes partly to this past president.