A strong Republic emerges through four fronts

WE are living in historic times, in, as Lenin remarked, “weeks where decades happen.”

That’s a bit exaggerated. It is the past several months or so where decades happened: A strong republic is finally emerging in what has been this sorry land.

The Republic against the four: Lopez, Sison, Ressa and Covid-19.
photo credits: ABS-CBN, Wikipedia, AP

And by a strong state, I mean, as political scientists define it, one that has two main features. First, it is a state that is autonomous of dominant classes and sectors, most especially independent of the oligarchs. Second, it has the capacity through a strong bureaucracy and military to protect and serve the Filipinos’ interests.* The importance of a strong state is that there has been no developed country that didn’t have a strong state in periods of their growth.

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Enough of this ‘chilling effect’ nonsense: Media is a pack of wolves, not sheep

FROM the likes of Sen. Franklin Drilon to an obscure never-heard reporter of ABS-CBN network talking to BBC to the bogus organization of “journalists,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, we’ve been hearing this claim that the Congress’ decision not to give that oligarch-owned network the privilege to use the nation’s radio frequency spectrum would have a “chilling effect” on press freedom.

That chilling effect cliché is one urban legend, actually in the same genre of an outright superstition that a black cat crossing your path means bad luck.

Take it from me, as I’ve been a journalist since my teens, even during martial law. If you believe in this chilling effect hogwash, you don’t know how media works, you’re a middling “journalist” with not enough experience in the business, or you’re simply a mouthpiece of the Lopezes of ABS-CBN shamelessly trying to hide the fact that Congress has boldly decided to disarm an oligarch of its media weapon.

President Corazon Aquino testifying at a hearing of her libel suit against Philippine Star columnist Luis Beltran
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Never again an oligarch-owned ABS-CBN

Solon alleges 200M bribe
THE House of Representatives, especially its committee on franchises, would be making history if it rejects the demand of the oligarch-owned ABS-CBN Corp. to authorize its use of our Republic’s radio spectrum as a broadcast network.

To be frank, I had never thought I’d see in my lifetime a Congress that would disarm an oligarch as powerful as the Lopez clan of its more potent weapon, its media behemoth. This is especially so since the House of Representatives has been such a tool of the rich and powerful since the founding of the Republic and easily vulnerable to bribes.

Indeed, ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap the other day issued a statement claiming that somebody had called him, introducing himself as an emissary of ABS-CBN and asking him to vote for ABS-CBN’s franchise. In return, he would be paid P200 million, Yap said.

ABS-CBN issued a terse one-sentence denial: “ABS-CBN did not send an emissary to bribe any lawmaker to vote in favor of our franchise.” But did the Lopezes?

I do hope Yap discloses who this emissary is.

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A gullible and irresponsible Makati Business Club

IT is sickening and the height of irresponsibility for the Makati Business Club (MBC) — or perhaps a cabal there that dupes its members  — to have issued statements against the Ant-Terrorism Act, against Rappler head Maria Ressa’s conviction for cyberlibel and for the Congress’ refusal (so far) to grant ABS-CBN Corp. another 25-year broadcast franchise.

MBC’s current trustees: They in effect claim that there is no rule of law in the Philippines.  Photo from MBC website

Or has the MBC finally shed its true nature as the big-business propaganda arm of the dying Yellow Cult that it so willing to bash anything identified with the Duterte government?

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Political will or plain discernment?

“WITH all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti-Terrorism bill into law, at the end of the day, it is President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s strong political will that mattered most,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the bill’s principal author, said in a message to reporters on the day the law was enacted. “I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration.”

Indeed, Duterte in the four years that he has been leading the country has done crucial things that obviously required much political will, all of which you can describe exactly with Lacson’s “with-all-the-pressure-coming-from-different-directions” phrase.

Among these: the prosecution and incarceration of Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Justice secretary Leila de Lima for connivance with drug lords; Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani; the war against drugs; ending the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) owners’ illegal but lucrative hold on a Makati commercial center; the siege of Marawi; the collection of P30 taxes owed by tobacco manufacturer Mighty Corp. and the P6-billion unpaid aviation fees by magnate Lucio Tan’s Philippine Airlines; the “pivot” away from the United States and the country’s rapprochement with China; his refusal to reopen peace talks with the communists; the six-month closure of Boracay island; the clean-up of Manila Bay and Pasig River; and the four-month quarantine (of different intensities) of many major cities in order to contain the coronavirus.

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The low-tech way that Japan managed to tackle coronavirus quickly

ON our 110th day of different degrees of lockdown, any unbiased observer would rationally conclude this administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic could be graded 7 to 8, in a scale in which 10 is perfect.

I didn’t pull this grading from out of the blue. Going by worldometers.info’s data and tabulation, the number of Covid-19 cases for the planet’s 7.7 billion population is 1,386 per 1 million population. That’s four times of ours, which is 351. For deaths per 1 million population, it is 67 for the world; ours is just 12.

Check out the accompanying table and we’re obviously doing much, much better than the United States, United Kingdom, Italy as well as most of Western and Eastern European countries.

We’re doing better than Indonesia. But Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and, of course, Vietnam’s performance have been spectacular. Can you believe that Vietnam has only 355 cases and no deaths?

These figures, however, all mean that the government’s performance is not just average but at least two notches higher than average, which would be 7 to 8. The 9 and 10 grades are obviously for Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam.

Which brings up to what should be the top concern now of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), which is to determine — and tell the public — why we still haven’t been able to contain Covid-19 on the level that Malaysia, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam have done.

Reprinted below is a June 24 article from the Japan Times titled “The low-tech way that Japan managed to tackle the virus quickly” which I hope could contribute to the IATF-EID’s efforts.

What I found promising is that the “low-tech” way discussed in this article is simply contact-tracing, undertaken through Japan’s 450 community-level “public health centers.”

We have a similar institution, called the Barangay Health Center, which had been mandated to be set up in each of our over 40,000 barangay by a Marcos letter of instruction in 1973. While I cannot find data on how many such centers have been set up and actually running, these are ubiquitous in Metro Manila and its adjacent provinces, functioning as most barangay residents’ first point of health service.

Covid-19, July 2, 2020 Source: worldometers.info
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Ressa, Coronel and Rappler concocted false ‘27,000 killed’ number in anti-drug war

IT was astonishing to hear Rappler Chief Executive officer Maria Ressa claim in her recent interview with BBC’s Stephen Sackur — which was disastrous for her credibility — that “27,000” Filipinos were killed in President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

She said that figure was according to the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.

I had thought that figure had long been proven wrong and buried six feet under. In fact saner anti-Duterte critics had stopped using that outrageously  exaggerated figure.

Indeed, “human rights violations” has receded as an issue for  the Yellows to beat President Duterte with since they couldn’t prove that the number of casualties in the anti-drug war has been excessive.

But Ressa’s insistence is an indication of delusion, a syndrome of insisting on a particular thing even if she is presented with concrete evidence that she is totally wrong.

The Philippine National Police’s (PNP) figures — done by an independent unit within the organization — reports only 5,655 “persons who died during anti-drug operations” from July 1, 2016 to March 21, 2020.

How credible is this figure? 

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Red nun: Not just a communist ally

COMMUNICATIONS Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy was wrong to have referred to Sister Mary John Mananzan as a “longtime ally” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

I suspect she is a ranking official of the Communist Party and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she is a member of its central committee. Of course, I don’t have access to the Communist Party’s “personnel files” or to military intelligence dossiers, but I’ve known her since the mid-1970s when she often visited us political prisoners at the military detention camp called “Ipil Youth Rehabilitation Center.”

Did she deny that she is a Communist Party member? No, certainly not. If she’s not a party cadre, her achievements in furthering the advance of the communist insurgency are more important than an official membership.

Just another one of those rallies: Sister Mary John Mananzan
PHOTO BY MARK SALUDES, UCAP WEBSITE
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Bitanga: The magnate behind Ressa

MY fellow columnist Ramon Tulfo reported yesterday that Wilfredo Keng, the businessman libeled by Rappler, disclosed to him that it was  tycoon Benjamin Bitanga who invited him to invest P100 million in the internet-only news site. That wasn’t surprising at all.

 He (Bitanga, left) bankrolled Rappler, and made Ressa the Duterte-basher, its CEO and executive editor.
PHOTOS FROM WIKIPEDIA AND TIME MAGAZINE FRONT COVER

In short, Bitanga is behind Rappler, and without Rappler, there wouldn’t be a Ressa. He is therefore the tycoon behind Ressa.

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After 108 days: Time to end lockdown

IT is definitely time to end the lockdowns that started March15, modified in various ways, aimed at containing Covid-19. It will be the 108th day of the quarantine on June 30, and we’re setting some record on the longest such lockdowns.

The Wuhan lockdown, the first such measure to contain the pandemic, lasted only 79 days. European countries with much worse outbreaks — with total deaths more than 35,000 — have either totally lifted their quarantine or eased restrictions drastically.

In our case, deaths have totaled “only” 1,177. The richest and most developed nations on earth like the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy have had 122,610; 43,000; and 35,000, respectively. Our ranking in terms of number of cases has been the same since March, in the 39th-40th slot (No. 1 being the worst, the USA), going by Worldometers’ data.

While perhaps morbid, it is the statistics on number of deaths — and the nature of Covid-19 — which I think are important to determine whether we have contained the pandemic, enough to lift the quarantine that has frozen much of economic activity and made Filipino’s lives miserable.

The course of Covid-19 has shown its two major features. First is that it is highly contagious, unlike its coronavirus cousins like the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and even the common cold. Second, it is not as deadly as SARS (10 percent fatality rate) and MERS (34 percent), with a fatality rate for the Philippines of 3.9 percent, lower than that for the world of 5.2 percent.

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