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‘Very good’

The opposition has thrown about everything they have in their arsenal. but the net satisfaction rating of President Rodrigo Duterte has remained constant at “very good” in the 1st quarter 2018 poll survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The President’s gross satisfaction rating fell only 1% for the period with 70% of the 1,200 respondents nationwide giving him a “satisfied” rating while 14% said they were “dissatisfied”. This translated to a net 56% net satisfaction rating for this survey period, or 2% lower than his previous net satisfaction rating of 58% in December 2017.

This only establishes one thing: Filipinos approve of the way President Duterte is running the country. The issue of extra judicial killings that led the International Criminal Court to open an investigation in February this year clearly had no effect on the President’s popularity. It’s as if nothing could shake the people’s confidence in the man.

What does this imply?

For one thing, Filipinos want a tough leader to confront the illegal drugs problem. For many, the casualties in the drugs war are a necessary evil. The problem cannot be licked with the so-called rule of law, which is very weak in the first place, and drug syndicates have always managed to run circles around law enforcers with their money and influence, and well-paid lawyers. That’s not to mention rampant corruption in law enforcement, the national prosecution service and even the judiciary.

And, as we have seen, putting drug lords and pushers to jail is hardly making a dent on the problem. Even while in jail, drug lords continue with their business, running their operations with the use of cell phones smuggled inside jails. Sadly, nothing much has changed after President Duterte deployed the Special Action Force, the elite PNP unit, to guard the National Bilibid Prisons. The corruption is frustrating the efforts to stop illegal drugs.

In simple terms, the government is severely handicapped in this war against illegal drugs if it sticks to the rule-of-law approach. And Filipinos understand this. They realize violence is a necessary evil in fighting the illegal drugs syndicates.

It’s just too bad that many of the casualties are poor. That’s because they are vulnerable to the lure of easy money that the illegal drugs business offers.

Another reason why President Duterte enjoys high trust ratings despite the barrage of issues thrown against him by the opposition is that Filipinos have grown sick and tired of the rhetoric of the yellows, particularly the Liberal Party. The nation saw one of the worst corruption in its history in the six years that the Liberal Party was in power. Worse, the Liberal Party cheated in the last two elections in a vain effort to perpetuate themselves in power.

And it was the Liberal Party that orchestrated the P3.5 billion Dengvaxia mass vaccination that is believed to have caused dozens of deaths among Filipino children and put the lives of thousands more at risk.

President Duterte is not perfect. I have said this time and again. But he is the best option for the country right now. The worse thing that could happen to the Philippines is allow the Liberal Party to retake power.

 

 

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Dengvaxia: corruption kills

No amount of explaining made by former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and former DOH Secretary Janette Garin can erase the obvious fact that the P3.5 billion procurement of Dengvaxia vaccines that were later administered on 830,000 school children was rushed with amazing speed while disregarding potential hazards to those vaccinated.

Gordon and garin

No responsible government official would gamble on the health of its people with a drug — supposedly a miracle drug — that had yet to be proven efficacious, with no risks that could bring death, or serious illness, to beneficiaries. It is clear from the testimonies of Mr. Aquino, Dr. Garin and other officials during the two public hearings conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that the Philippine government purchased Dengvaxia with a deadline to beat. The deadline wasn’t an epidemic in which every day that went by caused thousands of death; it was December 31, 2015 after which the funds they had set aside was going to revert to the public treasury.

We have heard the saying, “haste makes waste.” In this case, it became “haste is deadly.”
What makes it more painful for the Filipino people is that the deadly haste was motivated by insatiable greed. The officials who pushed this program through were fully aware of the objections raised by experts. And still they chose the color of money over the lives of innocent children.

There’s even no need to delve deep into the scientific issues about the drug’s efficacy. Just one look at how the procurement was undertaken is enough to prove the corruption. Among the cardinal principles of the government procurement law are transparency and competitiveness. And the law requires that any purchase must be included in the annual procurement plan of the agency. In addition, funds must have been appropriated for the purpose.

The timeline as revealed by Blue Ribbon chairman Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon shows that the entire procurement activity was shrouded in darkness and undue haste. Documents like the SARO (Special Allotment Release Order) from the Department of Budget and Management for the entire amount, the FDA certification and Formulary Exemption Council (FEC) exemption were issued as if these were just pieces of paper picked up from the shelves of a store, within a few days of each other. Those who transact with the FDA will tell you a certification even for vitamin supplements that are already being sold in the United States could take one to two years! In this case, the FDA certificate was issued in about nine months! And that’s for a drug that was yet not proven safe.

But the corruption now takes the backseat as an entire nation stews with anger over the potential health hazards posed by exposure to the vaccine. The manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, had issued an advisory warning that vaccinating children with Dengvaxia with no previous exposure to dengue could lead to more virulent strains of dengue. This has caused widespread fear and worry among families of the 830,000 children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia. While no deaths have been reported as a direct result from Dengvaxia vaccination, the Sanofi advisory was enough to trigger an outrage never seen before.

The only sore point in this scandal was the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he didn’t think Garin is culpable. What she did was done in good faith, Pres. Duterte said. With due respect, Mr. President, only a naive individual could possibly buy that theory. Garin is guilty as a principal in this grand conspiracy, along with Mr. Aquino, former DBM Secretary Butch Abad and other officials who made it happen.

Must the blame game continue to escalate?

Must the blame game continue to escalate?

We have to remember PNoy sent Mar and Volt to Tacloban City to make sure every measure was taken to minimize casualties. What happened? Were Mar and Volt remiss, too? If they saw things were not OK, they still had time to carry out evacuations. Or were they there just for the TV cameras and the publicity? Just the same, tapos na yun. Our energy and focus should now stay on the relief operations, which are still slow as they are despite the influx of foreign assistance. PNoy should focus his attention on speeding up the movement of relief goods to the affected areas. And he must be reminded that it’s not just Tacloban, or Leyte and Samar, that’s been badly hit.