A sober, fact-based piece on the coronavirus threat

THANK God for social media, or I wouldn’t have chanced upon the following sober, knowledgeable and concise piece posted in Facebook on the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) threat,.

Well-researched and written, it beats any article or bulletin here and abroad I’ve read in informing the layman what the 2019-nCoV novel coronavirus is, and the threat it poses. It’s not that usual for a busy physician to write on a scientific topic that makes it understandable and concise enough for a busy layman.

The author is Bien Manlutac, an internist at prestigious hospitals in Manila. He should be the next health secretary.

Because of the topic’s extreme relevance at this time I am devoting this column’s space to his Facebook piece, which was entitled, “Should we push the panic button on the 2019-nCoV threat in the Philippines?” (more…)

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At long last, independence from the Eagle’s claws

I NEVER thought I would see it in my lifetime.

At long last we have a president that in more ways than one declared our independence from the United States. The American Eagle has dominated our foreign policy, much of our economy, our worldview and of course, our culture ever since they colonized us at the turn of the century.

He may or may not succeed in terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US and the more crucial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. His advisers may even succeed in convincing him that it may not be timely to cross the US at this time. It will certainly be at some economic and national security cost, we have to admit.

We also cannot after all underestimate the Americans’ ruthlessness — despite all their lip service to peace and the rule of law — in getting back at nations and world leaders they have concluded is their enemy.

They even invaded Iraq, killed its president and created the chaos in the Middle East that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, falsely claiming that Saddam Hussein had coddled Osama bin Laden and helped him in the 9/11 attack. And the US got to fool the world at the time, claiming that the invasion was necessary to save the world since Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction” — an allegation totally proven as a lie today.

The likes of US citizen Maria Ressa, Rappler, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Vera Files will undoubtedly get a boost in their finances from CIA-linked entities like the National Endowment for Democracy to intensify their anti-Duterte attacks. We cannot discount the possibility that the recent targets of Duterte’s wrath — the Ayalas and the Salim (Manny V. Pangilinan) conglomerate — will decide to go all out against President Rodrigo Duterte to take him out. After all, their conglomerates are under threat and the US is a powerful ally.

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Salim-MVP fights back Duterte, deploys media assets

THE Indonesian Anthoni Salim’s conglomerate in the country, which has been falsely portrayed as owned by his main executive Manuel V. Pangilinan, appears to have decided to fight President Duterte, who has threatened to take Maynilad Water Services Inc. from them over its contracts deemed to be onerous to the government and consumers.

On Saturday, TV5 cable TV — which Salim controls through PLDT Inc.’s pension fund — converted one of its talk show programs into a propaganda arm for two anti-Duterte political figures, losing presidential candidate and Yellow leader Manuel Roxas 2nd and the Yellows’ attack dog, former senator Antonio Trillanes 4th.

Evading the constitutional ban on the slightest participation of foreigners in media, Salim’s Hong Kong-based First Pacific has managed to build up what could arguably be the biggest multimedia conglomerate in the country that includes the Philippine Star, Business World, TV5, two dozens of radio stations and cable TV company Cignal.

In the interview, the failed two-time putschist called President Rodrigo Duterte a “psycho.” He claimed that toppling him should be the Filipinos’ crusade now.

An extremely obsequious interview with the anti-Duterte plotter at Salim’s TV5: ‘What makes you happy, Professor Trillanes?’ the interviewer Tony Abad asks the ‘fighter for democracy.’

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The ‘First Quarter Storm’ propelled the communist insurgency

YESTERDAY was the 50th anniversary of the so-called “First Quarter Storm” (FQS), the huge anti-government youth demonstrations in the first three months of 1970 when a significant sector of the Filipino youth found meaning in their lives fighting for a cause — the Revolution — much larger than their little selves.

To this day, the FQS is romanticized by many of my generation as a glorious period of selfless heroism for them, perhaps in the same way the veterans of World War 2 do the ‘great war.’

I write this piece not to denigrate the nobility of FQS participants but to demythicize that period and to lay bare its reality. After all, as the cliché goes, the truth will set us free.

One of the ‘First Quarter Storm’ demonstrations. Many would join the NPA.

The FQS was in fact the hijacking of Filipino student power by the fledgling Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) led by Jose Ma. Sison, who had broken away two years earlier from the pro-Moscow Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP). Sison had been the head of the PKP’s Youth Section and his experience in that task made it easy for him to hijack the FQS’ unleashing of student power during that period.

Despite paying lip service to Marxist theory that the “proletariat” would be the vanguard of the Revolution, Sison since his founding of the CPP believed that the student sector could be the spark for the revolution. He therefore focused his first circle of cadres into organizing that sector. Thus the main organization of Sison’s CPP in its early years was the Kabataang Makabayan (Nationalist Youth) that focused on organizing cells at the University of the Philippines (UP) and then in the University Belt. This is in contrast to the old PKP that focused on organizing peasants in the countrysides. (more…)

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Historic president, historic times

LOVE him or hate him, the opinion polls, especially the most recent one by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), inarguably show that President Rodrigo Duterte is now the most popular president ever in our Republic’s history.

This conclusion was prodded by the December 2019 SWS poll, which found that 82 percent of Filipinos are satisfied with his performance, the highest ever rating for any president in the post-EDSA period.

His rating has risen from the 76 percent in the first SWS poll during his presidency in September 2016.

Of course we don’t have similar data about the popular support for pre-EDSA presidents, but it is safe to say that all these presidents — even the CIA-backed Ramon Magsaysay, whom the elites disdained — couldn’t have had such a phenomenal 82-percent satisfaction. I suspect though that support for the strongman Marcos in 1976, four years after he imposed martial law when the economy surged at an average of 7 percent, approached that of Duterte now.

Add the 10 percent “undecided” on his performance — which means they’ll likely go with the majority when push comes to shove — Duterte has the backing of 92 percent of the nation. This is nothing short of phenomenal.

One way of putting Duterte’s 82-percent satisfaction rating in context is to compare this to the SWS net satisfaction ratings of all presidents since Cory Aquino at similar periods of their presidency, at their midterm. (Net satisfaction is percent of those satisfied minus dissatisfied. However, this psychologically underestimates popular support. For instance, while 82 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with his performance, 10 percent were not, so his net rating is 72 percent. This, however, could be easily mistaken that only 72 percent are satisfied with him.) (more…)

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Pass Disaster Resiliency bill now!

Phivolcs not an NDRRMC member
IF there’s any big lesson from the Taal Volcano eruption, and the continuing threat of a bigger one, it is this: Congress must pass asap the Disaster Resiliency bill that President Duterte endorsed in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July. Duterte’s words in that SONA seem a bit prescient now:

“I am calling on Congress to expeditiously craft a law establishing a new authority or department that is responsive to the prevailing 21st-century conditions and empowered to best deliver an enhanced disaster resiliency and quick disaster response.”

The utter failure of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to issue an emergency alarm in the early hours of January 12, which I wrote about last Monday, is just one symptom that this entity is so unwieldy and has little authority to confront what has been our country’s geological bad luck.

We are in the so-called “Ring of Fire (its scientific term, the Circum-Pacific Belt), a major area in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean characterized by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. The majority of the earth’s volcanoes and earthquakes take place along the Ring of Fire. We are also smack in the path of typhoons generated in the Pacific Ocean, that a 2006 United States government study concluded that our country is the worst hit by this terrifying natural phenomenon, in terms of both frequency of occurrence and extent of destruction.

With natural disasters so obviously the biggest, really inescapable, threat to our people, guess what has been the state agency assigned to tackle this? (more…)

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Emergency alert system on Taal eruption failed

An eyewitness account
I WRITE this at this time not to blame the government agencies in charge of it, but in order for them to fix their emergency alert system asap, given the uncertainty that, according to our volcano experts, there is still the possibility of a more violent eruption than the one that occurred on January 12.

If such a second eruption occurs, and they haven’t fixed their emergency alert system yet, I’m certain that this time around, there will be huge casualties, caught flat-footed because they hadn’t been warned on time.

The emergency alert system the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) operates didn’t work last Sunday to warn residents that could be affected by Taal’s eruption.

I was an eyewitness to this as I happened to be in Tagaytay that day playing golf at the Splendido Golf Club, whose coffee shop had a spectacular view of Taal Lake, when the volcano exploded.

The day, month, or even year a volcano erupts is of course unpredictable, as our volcano experts have emphasized in their briefings, since, unlike typhoons, the explosive magma’s movement towards the surface cannot be seen, and can only be surmised by its effects, such as earthquakes, changes in the land’s elevations, and cracks on the earth’s surface.

Taal eruption, photo taken at 5:51 p.m., January 12, 18 km from crater. No emergency alert from NDRRMC. Phivolcs would raise alert level from 3 to 4 only at 7:30 p.m. (Photo by author.)

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Yellow trio helping China’s case in South China Sea disputes

BY the “Yellow Trio,” I mean the three who have been clamorously claiming that China is out to devour our territories in the South China Sea. These three are:

1. President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s foreign secretary Albert del Rosario who pushed for the filing of an arbitration case against China over our disputes with that country in the South China Sea in his attempt to cover up for his loss of Scarborough Shoal because of his bungling in 2012;

2. Former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio, believed to be the architect of that suit; and

3. Former Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, who seems to think her role in her post-Supreme Court years would be as her colleague Carpio’s partner in shaming China.

Wittingly or unwittingly, their actions have only served to advance China’s claims in the South China Sea, while trying to demonize China as an expansionist power. If this is the kind of “patriots” we have, we are in big trouble.

Apparently to maintain media attention for their narrative of Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea — after the arbitration ruling in July 2016 proved to be useless and even harmed our national interests — del Rosario and Carpio-Morales last March filed a complaint again Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) “for crimes against humanity over environmental damage in the South China Sea.” The two claimed the suit was filed “in behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Filipino fishermen persecuted and injured by the People’s Republic of China.” (more…)

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Carpio persists in lying about arbitration ruling vs China

TO be honest, I find it a sad commentary on our Supreme Court as an institution that a person like Antonio Carpio, who served as justice there for 17 years and purportedly wrote important court decisions, continues to ignore the facts, and because of his pro-United States stance, chooses to fan the embers of anti-Chinese sentiment in the country.

He has been doing this by spreading lies about the decision on an arbitration case that the Philippines brought against China over our disputes in the South China Sea.

In a recent article in his favorite newspaper, Carpio insists that the arbitration panel ruled that Subi (Zamora) Reef is part of our sovereign territory. The Chinese have, since the turn of the century, claimed Subi Reef and have occupied it since 1988, and have reclaimed land to build massive installations on it right after the Philippines filed its arbitration suit against China in 2013. We claim it as one of the features of our Kalayaan Island Group, which President Marcos annexed into our territory in 1978.

Carpio struggled to extract this claim by pointing out in his article: “The tribunal categorically declared that Subi Reef is part of the territorial sea of Thitu Island, which is also known as Pag-asa Island, the largest island occupied by the Philippines in the Spratlys.”

He argued: “Paragraph 373 of the award declared…that ‘Subi Reef would fall within the territorial sea of Thitu as extended by basepoints on the low-tide elevations of the reefs to the west of the island’.” (more…)

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Robredo’s massive failure of mind

IN a report from her 18-day stint as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo has concluded that President Duterte’s key program, his war on illegal drugs, was a “massive failure.”

It seems though that, based on one of her main arguments for that, she has demonstrated a massive failure of mind.

Robredo claimed in her report: “More than 1.2 million users had surrendered since 2016, while 300,000 had been arrested in police operations, for a total of 1.5 million. If we use the 4 million estimate of drug users and pushers, and only 1.5 million had been accounted for, where are the 2.5 million?”

That the 1.5 million had been “accounted for” means that number of addicts and pushers has been taken out of the population involved in illegal drugs. While there would definitely be backsliders, it is very reasonable to assume that most of these have stopped being addicts and therefore users, and sellers of illegal drugs.

That means approximately a 38 percent reduction in our illegal-drugs world. To use Duterte’s metaphor of war, that means that more than one-fourth of the battlefield has been won by the Duterte administration.

That’s certainly not bad at all. The past Yellow regime in its six years of power had allowed it to prosper. Why, its Justice secretary, Leila de Lima, according to the government charges against her, even protected the drug lords, and allowed its prison to be the nerve center of the trade. After decades of fighting it, other countries with similar scourges — Mexico is a prime example — have seen it even worsen, giving rise to that term “narco state,” or governments controlled by the drug lords.

Yet Robredo claims that she’d give this administration a success grade of 1 percent. (more…)

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