ABS-CBN closure will strengthen our democracy

THE ABS-CBN media behemoth is an anomaly that has made a mockery of our democracy. This started in the late 1950s, when the landlord oligarch clan, the Lopezes, added to their empire what was then a new medium, television, which proved to be more powerful in reaching the masses than their Manila Chronicle newspaper.

We are the only country in Asia to have such a powerful oligarch as the dominant player in broadcast media, the most effective venue in the modern era for molding the masses’ political consciousness and choices.

Japan has the mammoth NHK, South Korea’s three major network are either government-run or funded, and Singapore’s broadcast and print media are subsidiaries of the government investment fund Temasek Holdings.

Here we have an oligarch clan (in ABS-CBN Corp.), a triumvirate of magnates in another (GMA7) and a foreign tycoon (Indonesian Salim in TV5).

Worse for our democracy, the Lopezes weren’t just ordinary oligarchs. They owned for many decades the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the monopoly electricity distributor in Metro Manila, whose fortunes were 100 percent dependent on government regulations.

When they were friends: Lopez patriarchs Eugenio and Fernando at the former’s 68th birthday party in 1969.

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Astonishing inanities on the ABS-CBN franchise issue

I CAN’T believe the astonishing inanities being spewed out by leaders of Congress claiming that ABS-CBN can operate even if its franchise expired on Monday. But these politicians are smart, or they won’t be in their posts.

Are their statements merely the kind of boladas cunning lawyers tell a client with a hopeless case, just to keep their PFs?

House Committee on Legislative Franchises Chairman Franz Alvarez on Monday insisted that only Congress could “grant, deny, extend, revoke or modify broadcast franchises.”

Referring to the resolution issued on March 10 by the Committee on Legislative Franchises that he heads, Alvarez said: “With the authority given by the House of Representatives, there is no reason for ABS-CBN to discontinue or stop their operations.” His vice chairman, Isabela Rep. Antonio Albano, echoed that view, pointing out that Congress has the “exclusive right and jurisdiction on legislative franchises.”

ABS-CBN champion: Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez

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‘Five things Duterte got right’

“FIRST, President Duterte has been frank about the true extent of the crisis, making it clear that unless we have a reliable, mass-produced vaccine, there is no return to “normal”: “Ang Covid hindi matatapos ‘yan. It will be here; it will stay until kingdom come pero kung may bakuna na, baka sakaling mauna tayo.’

“Second, Mr. Duterte has shown the political will to extend a difficult and economically devastating lockdown in order to protect public health. This stands in stark contrast to Trump’s itch to restart the American economic engine.

“Third, the President has shown a growing spirit of collaboration with scientists, most notable during his recent dialogue with former health secretaries, including at least one from the opposition.

“Fourth, while Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have been busy firing competent officials, Mr. Duterte has recruited competent and young technocrats to assist his ongoing efforts, such as Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and new [Acting] Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua.

“And finally, the President, in a rare sign of national unity, has rightly shown due respect and appreciation for Vice President Leni Robredo. There is so much room for improvement, but there is also reason to hope.”


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A reader lives a thousand lives

That most memorable quote spoken by Jojen in George R.R. Martin’s hit series A Game of Thrones in its entirety: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” Jojen was the powerful and natural-born “greenseer”, and could receive glimpses of the past, present and future in visions.

You’d be lucky and happy if you’re a reader, cooped up in one place for more than six weeks since the lockdown started. If you’re a reader, you would be living not in just one place, but in a thousand places. You could be roaming the earth, conversing with a thousand people. Of course that’s an exaggeration and in the past six weeks, I probably have been living only in a handful of places and conversing with about a dozen people.

Martin’s quote most probably was inspired by Joyce Carol Oates: “Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”

It’s not always fun, of course: after reading about 50 pages of Viet Than Nguyen’s best-selling The Sympathizer, I felt claustrophobic as if I — or rather the narrator, a young Vietnamese fleeing the fall of Saigon with his family — was still in that goddamn, crowded airport full of panicking, fleeing pro-United States sympathizers.


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600M face masks needed in immediate post-lockdown period

WE will need at the very least 600 million face masks just for the three-month period when the lockdown for the metropolitan Manila and the Calabarzon areas, the most infected regions in the country, is lifted, health department officials estimate.

This 600-million figure is a low estimate, based on the 7 million families in this area who would need at least one face mask per day. While the Department of Health (DoH) has been feverishly scrambling to stock up on such face masks, there has to be super-effort on the part of both national and local governments to secure those masks.

Other countries have already scrambled to secure as many face masks as they can. France, for instance, in March had ordered 1 billion from various companies, mostly in China.

My own experience is that none of the drugstores in our area have N95 masks and have only the surgical masks, with a customer allowed to buy only 10 pieces. The face masks I’ve seen more often worn are simple cloth masks made by enterprising sewers and tailors.

One has asked his countrymen to use face masks, the other hasn’t. Whose country has by far the worst case of the pandemic?

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Has the US lost control of the pandemic?

LOOK at the figures and what the Americans have been doing, and you decide if the United States has become that proverbial frog being boiled alive, not realizing its quagmire until it’s too late.

At the start of March, the US had 73 Covid-19 cases; by the end of this week, there will most likely be a million Americans infected (960,651 the other day). Only six Americans died from the disease on March 1; as of the other day, 54,256 did. (We have our 7,294 cases and 494 deaths so far.) Think about it: if just a third of 960,651 infected with the disease get to infect more people, how can the US ever get to control its spread?

The US now is the Sickest Man of the world, given the most infected citizens, which account for a third of the 2,920,954 human beings now afflicted with the coronavirus.

The leadership of the US government, embodied by President Donald Trump, is panicking at the same time that it is deluding itself that the disease will just go away. Or dreaming that some magic vaccine will be invented soon, or the Lysol kind of disinfectant will be found to be useful in fighting it by simply ingesting it, as its president remarked. Only a few cities — New York and Chicago — have been locked down in the way Wuhan was when it had only 20,000 cases.

Cases of and deaths due to Covid-19 as of April 26 SOURCE: JOHNS HOPKINS

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National ID delay cost Pernia his job

FORMER Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia was booted out of his post last week by President Duterte because of the delay in the roll-out of the national ID system that was enacted into law Aug. 19, 2018.

As expected of course, a Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial the other day rushed to make him some kind of hero: “Though couched in politesse, Pernia’s words unmistakably hint at simmering tensions in the Palace over fundamental lapses in leadership and policymaking, made more acute now that the Philippines is being battered by unprecedented disruptions.”

As usual, hogwash.


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Contact tracing must be intensified

At the end of the day, and all the blah-blahs, is authoritarianism, a collective

CONTACT tracing — identifying all the people one person may have infected — has been proven in many countries, South Korea and Vietnam for example, to be a crucial tool for containing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Singapore and Hong Kong have espoused contact tracing, and so has Germany. All those countries have had relatively low death rates so far. The World Health Organization says it should be the “backbone of the response” in every country.

I’m afraid I haven’t seen any good report from the Department of Health (DoH) regarding whether this is being done, how it is being done or what their plans are for this effort.

If it is doing this kind of effort, there should be a daily report, publishing how many people the DoH staff has traced and interviewed who have been in touch with a Covid-19 patient, down the chain of encounters; how many have been told to quarantine themselves and given strict orders to take their temperatures and report it every morning and evening. This kind of work has been done in Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore.


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Vietnamese lesson in fighting Covid-19: Nationalism

VIETNAM has emerged as a model — without the expensive mass testing — for stopping Covid-19 in its tracks: This country of 97 million has, so far, only 298 cases and no deaths from the disease at all.

However, one must note that one difference between Vietnam and the Philippines is that the former has not been as “globalized” as our country has been, which made it easy and fast for the virus to travel across nations’ borders.

That explains also why Myanmar and Cambodia — really still practically isolated from the rest of the world — each have only a hundred-plus cases.

Certainly it’s an anecdotal argument, but the fatalities of Covid-19 I know have been those who were so unlucky as to have traveled to Europe when the virus reached that continent. Also, in the past few years, business and tourist relations between the Philippines and China, where Covid-19 originated, had boomed.

Vietnam though does have very important lessons for us to learn from to defeat this pandemic. Two of these — involving nationalism and some suspension of Western notions of human rights — are, however, anathema to the Yellows and to the globalist elite hysterically trying to put down the administration’s successes in fighting Covid-19.

I quote verbatim from the research of two very knowledgeable writers on what Vietnam did to defeat Covid-19.


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Lockdown defied by many?

WHILE mainstream media is showing alarming signs of going to the dogs, as I rued in my column last Wednesday, there are remarkable gems of reportage and opinion pieces on Facebook written by non-journalists.

This is good for our democracy, although the weakness of social media is that writers there do not have editors. By this I mean not just those who edit their pieces, but those who provide them guidance, based on their many years of experience in the field. Despite this though, one can still find once in a while pieces that hardly need any editing nor guidance.

The following is a piece that was posted yesterday by Mark Cabuloy, who, from his profile picture, is probably in his 20s, and who curiously has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in marketing communications, practically unedited (chart was included in his post).

Cabuloy piece
“As of April 15, the number of Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases and deaths in the Philippines continues to rise without any clear signs of slowing down. As we are in the four-week point of the enhanced community quarantine, we are just beginning to see the results of our collective effort and cooperation.

It seems that the government has addressed some major issues already, but have we overcome the worst yet? Or are we headed toward grimmer scenarios?


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