Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: February 2021
THE acquittal of former president Donald Trump by the US Senate is now part of its Congressional Records, an indelible historical blight that will haunt America for generations. That this trial doesn’t follow the conventional “trial by jury” enshrined in the jurisprudence of the US justice system is somewhat confusing. Let me elucidate.

The 100-member Senate is the sole body constitutionally mandated to try an impeached president, his “…removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor.” The senators sit as jurors while the “congressmen-managers” prosecute the case. Trump’s trial saw overwhelming evidence, which was never refuted by the defendant. But the outcome was never in doubt.

Guilty! But not guilty!
To convict, two-thirds of the jurors were needed. Fifty-seven went for conviction, shy of 10. Trump was acquitted. But was he innocent? Yes and no, implied the Senate Republican Leader Senator Mitch McConnell. He confirmed Trump’s role in inciting the mob to insurrection and attack the Capitol on which this impeachment and trial was based. His unequivocal declaration: “Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty… There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.” By these precepts, Trump should have been convicted.

But no. In an elegant sleight of semantics, McConnell propounded that the US Senate “…is not invited to act as the nation’s overarching moral tribunal… If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge… We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen.” So there. They are not arbiters of morals sitting in judgment on a president’s criminal act committed while in office.

The impeachment trial is a highly partisan “political exercise,” where power politics and numbers rule. Although the jurors are deemed impartial having sworn an oath, Trump’s Republican jurors helped his incompetent lawyers map out his defense — publicly. Damn the oath and damn the system! McConnell further stated that Trump “didn’t get away with anything yet,” insinuating that Trump can still be criminally prosecuted — said after he voted to acquit. This was McConnell’s way of having his cake and eating it too, appeasing his conservative Republican allies and the “money-bags” who want Trump out but terrified of him and his mob.

Chief Justice Renato Corona
While Trump’s trial was ongoing, the Philippine Supreme Court in some peculiar way vindicated the late CJ Renato Corona, saying his impeachment and conviction had been “…tainted with bribery allegedly initiated by then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd.” But the high court did not overturn Corona’s 2012 conviction, thus his reputation is still left in tatters.

To recall, the chief justice was impeached and removed from office and disqualified from ever holding any public office stripping him of all “…retirement benefits and other allowances, including the survivorship benefits of his widow, Ma. Cristina, [for an] alleged non-declaration of his bank accounts in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN)” (The Manila Times, Jomar Canlas, Feb. 28, 2021).

The real transgression of Corona was locking horns with President Aquino 3rd (PNoy) when his court ruled to assess to a much lower amounts by billions of pesos the payment for the crown jewel of the Cojuangco family holdings, the Hacienda Luisita, that had earlier been litigated under the land reform program. This sugar plantation has been in the hands of the Cojuangco clan (President Cory and President PNoy) for generations and is the primary asset and the political base of this oligarchic family.

President PNoy and his allies were the dominant political grouping when the Senate moved to avenge the family. Unlike the two-party system in the US, the Philippines is a composite aggrupation of politicians fused out of pure self-interest, ideologically undifferentiated, passing off as “political parties.” These were borne out of generations of political patronage that were at that moment under President PNoy’s tutelage. The chief justice was impeached practically on a minor slip-up, the non-declaration of his dollar deposits in his SALN (which the law says could be corrected), something over which senators and congressmen have been cavalier in the past.

Honorable rogues’ gallery
What was despicable was that the conviction was secured through bribery. Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada revealed in a privilege speech in 2013 that his colleagues who voted to convict Corona were given an additional P50 million in discretionary funds — through the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Senator Jinggoy’s declaration against interest was fatal but credible, admitting to receiving a bribe himself. Sheepishly, the senators who received the funds denied these were bribe money while keeping the amounts. The three who voted “not guilty” did not receive any: Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago, now both deceased, and Bongbong Marcos.

The rest of the 20 senators received from a low of P30 million to an average of P50 million to a high of P100 million. All voted “guilty”: Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, TG Guingona, Ralph Recto, siblings Peter and Pia Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Manuel Villar; Jinggoy Estrada, Greg Honasan, Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Serge Osmeña, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, Loren Legarda, Tito Sotto, Edgardo Angara and Koko Pimentel.

Similarities and differences
The US and Philippine impeachment process are similar as the Philippine version was merely an American copy. The difference could be in the nuances of execution and protocols. In Trump’s case, the Senate tries to hide its moral bankruptcy behind a thin veneer of pretense, obfuscation and blah-blah, citing exoneration of an immoral president as an act upholding the primacy of the US Constitution.

No such motherhood statements coat the Philippine impeachment trial and consequent verdict — just simply a blatant abuse of presidential power playing on the greed of the “honorable” senators. The apt colloquialism is “garapalan talaga.”

President Trump, a narcissistic psychopath who built up his cult of “baskets of deplorables,” was a vengeful leader bereft of ethical anchor. His own enablers, sycophants and spineless Republican caucus in fact were terrified by the wrath of this mob and his political clout more than the judgment of history and their better angels. In this impeachment, the American people and their justice system were the victims.

The Corona impeachment in May of 2012 was a crass, personal and petty display of naked political power by President PNoy. Aside from Corona’s decision against the Cojuangco estate cited above, Corona was also caught in the middle between the veiled fight for control of the Supreme Court and disdain of PNoy toward his predecessor. Corona was appointed by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo within the two-month period before the presidential election that PNoy won. PNoy considered this as a “midnight appointment,” one that should have been his prerogative. The Supreme Court decided otherwise. GMA, Corona’s sponsor, was later incarcerated during the PNoy regime.

What was despicable about the Corona affair was the process was a personal vendetta by a sitting president against the chief justice and the former president, using public funds to pervert institutions of government. Currently, nine of those who voted to convict still hold the title of “honorable” senators. The rest are in various high government positions of trust.
Published in LML Polettiques

IN the first part of this series last week, I critiqued President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s three pledges as monumental failures. “Operation Tokhang,” his flagship program on war on illegal drugs, left in its wake thousands of dead Filipinos, meriting him a possible indictment at the International Criminal Court at the Hague. But in fairness to PRRD, “universal values” permeating human rights are slanted towards Western cultural prejudices, distorting Asian standards.

But his pompous declaration of eradicating graft and corruption, his second pledge, turned out to be a politician’s bold-faced play to the voters telling them what they want to hear. There are many facets to corruption, but what is familiar and pervasive to our Philippine experience is the inherently defective systemic political structures that undermine good governance and democracy.

Political patronage
To better understand these concepts, we go back to our historical and cultural roots. Patronage was a feature in our society and existed in pre-Hispanic times when traditional filial ties inevitably morphed into dependence on a benefactor, the “patron,” to an even extreme relationship of subservience between maharlika/timawa and alipin sagigilid. In our political ecosystem, we evolve a complicated practice of political patronage where the people we elect to power dispenses state resources rewarding the populace, principally the voters for their support allowing their continued stay in power.

Neither an upright leader presiding over systemic structural defects will succeed, nor would an immoral leader over a structurally sound one. A moral man paired with a good system under the rule of law are the fundamentals for good governance. Duterte and the system fail on both counts. To be fair but flippant, “…even if you put Jesus Christ on top of the Philippine bureaucracy, he would fail.”

His third pledge — revisions to the 1987 Constitution — signaled his intentions that systemic restructuring and political reforms are a must. On this he miserably failed, too.

The rule of law
I quote excerpts from my column years back clarifying the Deegong’s role under the rule of law: “In a democracy under which we claim we practice, prudent laws are its foundation and the glue that binds a civilized society. It is imperative that the laws laid down by government must be followed by all its citizens. The simplicity of the concept of the rule of law is oftentimes made complicated by those authorized to uphold it. And the President by virtue of his ascendancy granted by the Constitution also has the primary guardianship of that Constitution conferred on him. He must therefore uphold its principles.”

This is key to advancing the President’s legacy — a purposeful grasp of the mechanics of the rule of law. He need not employ histrionics as adjuncts to his image to enforce the law. He is already feared. He just needs to be respected. Braggadocio doesn’t enhance great leadership, humility does.

His successes
Admittedly, Duterte has had many successes. I count among them his elevating Filipino pride severing our umbilical cord from Mother America. Not that we are ungrateful, but his pivot away from America toward an independent foreign policy posture perfunctorily terminates US colonial presence since 1898; although Western cultural influence remains pervasive still.

But this choice too is double-edged. We were handed a potent international legal weapon at the arbitral courts negating China’s nine-dash line. But for reasons only known to Duterte, he set this aside. By default, China could drive us inexorably back to America’s embrace.

Poverty, health and the economy
Duterte reduced poverty incidence in the country from 23.5 percent to 16.7 percent by the end of 2019 — a significant 6.8 percentage point reduction, or 6.1 million Filipinos. Covid-19 canceled these gains.

Economic reforms, particularly the Tax Reform Law (Train), allowed middle- and low-income citizens to keep more of their income for consumption and savings. Tax was shifted to goods on sugar-sweetened drinks, cigarettes, cars and fuel. still burdening the poor while relieving the lower end with cash transfer assistance. The Rice Tariffication Law removed monopolistic rice importation pressuring prices downward, the biggest budget item in food consumption. But while this greatly helped the populace in the urban areas, the effects on rural palay farmers may turn out to be adverse.

The poverty-stricken were alleviated by the enactment of the Universal Health Care Law allowing the poorest Filipinos access to hospitals and medicines. Added to these are free college education and increases in pay for teachers, policemen and soldiers.

Aware of the need for the country to grow and invest in the future, an aggressive infrastructure was put in place; power, telecommunications, roads, and bridges under the Build, Build, Build program. These were financed from borrowings from institutions with complete trust on the Philippines’ capacity to pay. The country achieved its highest ever credit rating — BBB+ in April 2020, despite Covid-19.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles recited a litany of accomplishments, including the construction and rehabilitation of thousands of kilometers of roads, bridges, flood mitigation structures and classrooms. The information superhighway connects the internet to people and provinces, providing opportunities for economic growth.

The endgame
These achievements, with many still in the pipeline, indeed enhance Duterte’s legacy. But in the next 15 months, more still has to be demanded of his leadership. He needs to decouple from the ugly maelstrom of politics now engulfing his presidency; for one, the singular ego-driven thought that he alone can finish what he started. This thought process is fed by the enablers and sycophants who have been presenting a scenario for succeeding himself in the next administration. The permutations are infinite: as mentioned, daughter Sara runs, with him as her vice president; then, son Polong will run, or son Baste or eventually another family member.

Off hand, the Deegong’s legacy must not involve the perpetuation of his political dynasty. This was once central to his belief in changing the constitution. John Raña, his close friend, has this to say: “A Duterte-Duterte tandem will be seen as the ultimate political dynasty…while there are precedents in the case of the Macapagals and Aquinos, there were long intervening periods between the terms of parents and offspring….”

As initiated by Congress, constitutional amendments are possible only for inputting liberalized foreign direct investment or FDI provisions to attract quality investments. Congress will not allow constitutional revisions for federalism, parliamentary government, and other critical political reforms. The center has won. The Centrist Democrats (CD) and the periphery have lost. Perhaps another time, beyond our lives.

Gauging performances is a subjective exercise. Maintaining 80-percent approval rating is not a mark of greatness — just a sign of popularity any actor can achieve. But the Deegong is to be judged harsher than a mere mortal — in exchange for our gift of the presidency. To date, his monumental failures on unfulfilled promises far outweigh his achievements which by reason of his ascendancy are expected of him. Boy Scout merit badges are not awarded for triumphs but failures demand condemnation. Such is the burden of leadership.

In the end, with his legacy repaired, this Davaoeño may yet surprise us — not as an ordinary president but perhaps a great one. But that is a long shot!

Published in LML Polettiques
THIS regime ends in 15 months. Before that, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) becomes a lame duck unless he is perceived as still powerful and influential in shaping the next administration, either as a “surrogate president” under the harebrained proposals his sycophants are pushing, or for him to run as vice president to daughter Sara or become an outright dictator under an even more outré idea of a revolutionary government or revgov. PRRD’s intention to retire and cautioning daughter Sara not to run for the presidency, has the DDS — diehard Duterte supporters — in panic. Losing their sinecures in government, forced to abandon their corrupt ways once his presidency ends, is simply unconscionable.
Repairing his legacy
Duterte barely has enough time “to dot the I’s and cross the T’s” writing a lively finish to his legacy. At 75 years old, going 76, I suppose this is what should preoccupy him. There comes a time when old men facing the twilight of their lives, the judgment of their creator and the verdict of history must take stock of what they have done for their people. Or at least what each one leaves behind for his own family. These are not mutually exclusive.
Historical figures are celebrated not so much for commonplace successes, but for grand failures inevitably invalidated as in MacArthur’s debacle in Bataan, later to exalt him with his “I shall return.” The Deegong is no MacArthur, but Davaoeños want him to be remembered as a Davao mayor-president who did great for the Filipino people. I take pride as a Davaoeño myself and for a time the mayor’s neighbor in one of his residences. He has never invited me to his house, nor have I ever invited him to mine. But when he retires, we may both find time to be neighborly — and perhaps discuss, as two old men are wont to do, what good was done instead of what could have been done.
Politician’s promises
On this note, I now gently remind Duterte of his promises that motivated Filipinos to gift him the presidency. I distinctly remember his “Change is Coming — Ang Pagbabago”: war on illegal drugs, elimination of corruption in government, and federalism and charter change. This column is not meant to award his administration a simple pass/fail report card but a critique to fill in the gap before his time is up.
Eradicating forbidden drugs, averting the country’s slide to a narco-state, controlled by drug lords is his top priority. He estimated 4 million drug- impaired Filipinos, while the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) listed 1.7 million nationwide. The president’s position was technically inaccurate in the imprecise delineation of drug abuser, addict and drug dependent. This loose distinction contrasted with the DDB’s data led to fatal public policies.
Human rights violations
One such is “Operation Tokhang,” the high-profile campaign against illegal drugs that projected Duterte as “a strong-man, an alpha male, with street-cred and an iron political will,” a role he played to the hilt to the delight of his admirers but painted a negative image to the world as the bodies began to pile up. Human Rights Watch began to count the dead accusing him of violations while conducting “…vigilante-style killings perpetrated by police officers themselves or by killers linked to the authorities.” Authorities admitted to 7,000 deaths at the height of the operation (2019) while critics claim at least 30,000 killed.
He could be indicted by the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity” after his term. His contempt for the law is betrayed by his “calls on the police to ‘massacre’ drug suspects and not to worry if they are accused of abuses since he will pardon them.”
Yet the regime is opaque as to the magnitude of this operation — its conduct, result, and effects. Rumor has it that the drug lords and their allies in government are biding their time until he leaves office.
In conjunction with his war on drugs is the concomitant hiring of approximately four dozen star-ranked retired military officers seconded into the cabinet and bureaucracy. Ostensibly knowledgeable on the workings of syndicates, their mandate was to apply their competencies to their respective civilian offices not only to avert the influx of prohibited drugs but to instill discipline, organization and logistics — for which they have been trained. It is unfortunate that some were in cahoots with syndicates smuggling banned drugs in.
Whiff of corruption
Months into his administration, Duterte proclaimed in his signature expletive-laden language that he will “…not tolerate any corruption in his administration and he will dismiss from office any of his men (women) who are tainted even by a ‘whiff of corruption’; and he is ready to sack any public officials even on a basis of false allegations of corruption.” This was an electrifying and welcome declaration. But his words proved to ring hollow, incongruent with his subsequent actions. His own people involved in shady dealings have gone scot-free with nary an investigation and a mere slap on the wrist. Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan mockingly refer to them as the “corrupt and incompetent untouchables” starting with Secretaries Francisco Duque 3rd and Mark Villar (“so rich he won’t steal”) and a veritable rogues’ gallery of PRRD’s subalterns: Nicanor Faeldon kicked out from the Bureau of Customs then reappointed as Bureau of Corrections Chief; Customs Commissioner Lapeña; National Food Authority head Jason Aquino; PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde; all implicated in alleged irregularities in their respective agencies but were simply shuffled around. These are sample cases whose “whiff of corruption” never did disturb the presidential nostrils.
Federalism and Charter revisions
But the one big issue that launched his presidential bid and fired up his base in Mindanao and those in the periphery was his battle cry — federalism, a catchword for freedom from the clutches of “Imperial Manila.” He was conversant with the arguments for systemic structural changes that would address the centuries-old dominance of the national central government, where power and authority are concentrated, over the regional and local governments.
He had to go through a charade of forming the 2018 Consultative Committee to recommend revisions to the 1987 Constitution, which he subsequently allowed his dominant congressional allies to quash. PRRD simply dropped the ball.
The pandemic
The recounting of Duterte’s three major pledges is meant to refocus the shaping of his legacy. At this juncture a debate on the successes and failures of this government would almost be moot, as both partisans, the DDS and the “yellows” will most certainly argue till hell freezes over. History will still be the final arbiter. But we can’t wait that long. There is the CD or Centrist Democratic nonpartisan side. We care less for who wins or loses the debate than how the debate is shaped and conducted, producing positive results. I suggest therefore looking at PRRD’s legacy through the prism of the greatest threat today — the contagion; helping him see his way clear. And our survival will not be a matter of debate. He solves the pandemic, and he leaves the Filipino a much better legacy. One we could even be all proud of.
Next week: A case for repairing his legacy


Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 03 February 2021 09:16

House panel Oks Cha-cha resolution

The joint resolution that seeks to amend certain “restrictive” provisions in the 1987 Constitution was adopted by the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Tuesday.

Resolution of Both Houses 2 (RBH 2), introduced by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, got the vote of 64 members of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments. Three lawmakers voted against it, while three abstained.

RBH 2 amends Articles 12, 14 and 16 to ease restrictions in the foreign ownership and management of lands of public domain, public utilities, educational institutions, and mass media companies. Inserting the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in certain provisions in the Constitution would allow Congress to enact laws lifting prohibitions on foreign entities.

The committee excluded the original proposal to ease restrictions in the foreign ownership of private lands under Section 7, Article 7 of the Constitution.

The panel conducted three hearings and listened to resource persons from the legal, economic and business sectors.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chairman of the constitutional amendments panel, said he expects RBH 2 to be tackled in the plenary in the second or third week of February.

The approval of the resolution coincided with the 34th anniversary of the ratification of the 1987 Constitution.

In filing RBH 2, Velasco sought to liberalize the restrictive economic provisions to open up the country to foreign investors and to attract foreign capital that is “critical” to support recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente “Joey” Salceda, chairman of the ways and means committee, projected that the passage of RBH 2 might lead to an additional average annual foreign direct investments of P330 billion and could generate 6.6 million jobs over a 10-year period.

Garbin said it was wise for Congress to amend the Constitution by adding the phrase “unless otherwise specified by law.”

This, he said, gives the government “flexibility to consider different circumstances prevailing at different stages of our road to economic development before formulating policies that should be time bound.”

“When the people ratify the proposal to amend the Constitution to insert the phrase ‘unless otherwise provided by law,’ the people will be expressing their desire to make the limitations on foreign ownership and participation less rigid and will be choosing to delegate to Congress the determination of what the appropriate limitations should be. It would be an acknowledgment that, in these particular instances, the specific limitations are no longer wise, and that there is a need for quick, decisive but deliberative action,” Garbin explained.

During the hearing on Tuesday, former 1986 Constitutional Convention member and retired Supreme Court justice Adolfo Azcuna said that when he first proposed the idea of amending the Constitution to then House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, “the whole idea is to render changeable by legislation those restrictive economic provisions in our Constitution.”
Azcuna said these include “specific details, as distinguished from bedrock principles, which should not be changed by legislation.”

“The details can be changed by legislation — and should be changed by legislation — since they are not meant to last for a long time,” he said.

Highlighting the importance of reviewing the economic provisions amid the effects of the pandemic, Azcuna said the “economic policy should be flexible; it should not be written in stone.”

Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, one of the lawmakers who voted against RBH 2, said charter change, or Cha-cha, would not solve the economic crisis.

“If Cha-cha pushes through now then foreigners would have a heyday and gobbling up wholesale of what is left in our already much liberalized economy. Our national patrimony would be put on sale to the highest foreign bidder at the further expense of our local industry.”

Published in News

Last of 2 parts

THIS second part on the Covid-19 vaccine puts into perspective the need for massive vaccination as a precondition to lifting the lockdowns and reviving the global economy.

Lockdowns, the knee-jerk solution to the pandemic, have exacted an intolerable toll assaulting the global economic jugular, and these are not altruistic. Oxfam International reports that “…this crisis is aggravating inequality, with the richest quickly getting richer while it will likely take years for the world’s poorest to recover…the 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses within just nine months, but it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover.”

The path to global economic recovery is clear. And experts now agree that lockdowns should be lifted simultaneously or in tandem to be effective in stimulating international trade. Leaving pockets of the contagion will just allow it to spike all over again.

Vaccine nationalism — first to the privileged

We also outlined the inequitable access to the cure. Pragmatism comes into the picture as the dynamics of the market allow preferential treatment for the industrialized countries being the catalysts for economic recovery — the United States, China, Russia, the European Union, India, the Asian Tigers and Japan representing 70 percent of the world’s GNP.

Trump’s executive order set the tone prioritizing access to US-made vaccines for Americans. Europe is pursuing the same. The effect of preordering billions of doses to protect their own citizens’ lives several times over is tantamount to exclusion against poor nations, while pushing prices up. But this is the name of the game. Big Pharma and public health are big business. So, in a world of disparities, the rich comes first, simply following the dictums of Darwin’s truisms.

Digressing a little, what the world really faces now is more complicated than just the scarcity of vaccines for everyone.

Life before the vaccines

Prior to the vaccines, we were helpless and naked to infection and death; now there are more than 102 million cases worldwide resulting in 2.2 million Covid-19 deaths. This fear was borne out of our collective memory singularly driven by several pandemics in the last millennia. The 1918 Spanish Flu killed 50 million and we extrapolated the kill rate to the current contagion. The “Black Death” of the Middle Ages conjured up similar images of dead bodies collected daily from houses and burned in piles or buried in common graveyards.

The present-day equivalent gruesome images are of bodies taken out from the ICUs after detaching the intubated ventilators from the lungs of the dead, and the shrouded bodies sent to the morgues, or stacked up in refrigerated vans taking up the slack as mortuaries have become congested. The lucky families get to escort them to the crematoria. Loved ones could not even be visited at the hospitals. We see terrible lonely deaths. Our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters without us at their bedsides at the moment of death. No goodbyes and lingering farewells. These are the vivid images that create fear. These fears are real, not self-induced.

Vaccine-induced fear

But after traumatic months of waiting, the vaccine is now being rolled out in millions of doses. Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, the Big Pharma complemented by Sputnik, Sinovac and Sinopharm — all dispensed under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), a valid health protocol to skirt the years normally required to have a vaccine thoroughly tested and brought to market. It is akin to a license for Big Pharma with governments’ consent for public use with no liabilities attached, just inherently acceptable risks; with choices left to each individual — to be vaccinated or not. But our perspectives have suddenly changed. Our fears have become self-induced.

Antivaccine movement

Forty percent of Americans don’t plan to get vaccinated (Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, December 2020). An American reflecting the opinions of the many doesn’t want to be “…a science experiment for a vaccine against a virus that has a very high survival rate.” Vaccines which were meant to alleviate the fears of infection and terrors conjured up over the months have morphed our fears. Vaccines kill people — infected or not. So, the fear of death by Covid-19 infection is substituted by the fear of death by vaccination.

The antivaxxer movement has always been vocal on the fringes regurgitating pseudoscientific data. In America it was motivated by some spurious study that vaccinations produce “autism spectrum disorders (ASD)” in many children. This false claim originated in the late 1990s principally by a certain Andrew Wakefield, a British physician whose misinformation and half-truths were widely circulated, gaining traction. Earlier in 2020, conspiracy theories shaped around Bill Gates, supposedly abetted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, proliferated, purportedly creating both the coronavirus and the vaccines in secret laboratories; implanting the latter with microchips to be injected to billions of people to track their movements. The MAGA, QAnon movements and rightist cohorts swear by these.

Herd immunity

But known to the medical profession are the imperatives of a cure. What constitutes treatment for the pandemic is not as simple as it seems. Although scientists are not unanimous, herd immunity is pursued as the best course to arrest the spread. Accordingly, “Herd or community immunity, is when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease. If enough people are resistant to the cause of a disease, such as a virus or bacteria, it has nowhere to go.

“While not every single individual may be immune, the group as a whole has protection.

This is because there are fewer high-risk people overall. The infection rates drop, and the disease peters out. Herd immunity protects at-risk populations. These include babies and those whose immune systems are weak and can’t get resistance on their own.” (WebMD).

There are two ways to build immunity. When one is infected and recovered, the antibodies that fought off the infection avert another attack. The second method is vaccination to build resistance making the body immune to the disease. Epidemiologists suggest that 50 percent to 67 percent of the population need to be resistant before herd immunity becomes viable and infection rates start to go down.

PH situation

In the Philippines, a Pulse Asia survey showed that almost half of the population are not inclined to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Social media proliferates with horror stories of their deleterious effects and the risk of dying. There is a precedent to this doubt as there were instances of kids dying after being vaccinated by Dengvaxia — a corruption-driven vaccinations initiative against “dengue fever” by the health bureaucracy several years back.

The way things are going, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is in the process of ordering the vaccine — from God knows where and at what prices, costs and firm commitments. These are all supposedly confidential, a nice euphemism to cover for possible corrupt negotiations.

What should bother our political leadership is that unless herd immunity is achieved, lockdowns must stay in place and the economy further deteriorates with no recovery in sight. Thanks to the pasaway and our antivaxxers, we revert to our “Bahala na, matira ang matibay.” And in the end, we will all be dead anyway!

Published in LML Polettiques