Covid 19, Sara Duterte and running an LGU

With Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio almost a runaway winner for next year’s presidential elections at 28% in the latest Pulse Asia Research survey, it isn’t surprising at all that all guns are now being trained on her in a desperate bid to shoot down her possible candidacy.

Since three weeks ago, Mayor Inday has been visiting various parts of the country meeting with local leaders, and it didn’t take long before the purpose of her cross-country trips was to solicit feedback to help her decide on whether to heed the clamor or not.

Until her visit to Cebu City last July 9, Mayor Inday has been coy about the possibility of running for President. Her father, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, has expressed opposition to the idea, saying the Presidency isn’t for women, and he didn’t want to see his daughter suffer the insufferable insults and criticism that comes with the job description.

At the start of the year, when her name was on top of a Pulse Asia survey, Mayor Inday declared she had no intention to run and asked poll survey companies to remove her name from the list of probables shown to respondents.

It isn’t known if this request was heeded by the survey firms. But just the same, these survey outfits allow respondents to list down names of their preferences if he or she does not appear in their list.

Her name simply can’t stay off the lists of probables, and neither did it change in her topmost ranking. She emerged number one in the Pulse Asia survey for the first quarter of 2021 released last April. After a lapse of three months, Mayor Inday’s position stood in that same number one position.

Apparently, the clamor had reached a crescendo, making it difficult for her to ignore it. About three weeks ago, pictures of her visiting the family of San Pedro City vice mayor Art Mercado circulated on Facebook. Her trips were quite low-profile, with indications of where she had gone to visit only coming out in social media posts.

It was in Cebu City when Mayor Inday finally faced the media and admitted that she was “open” to the possibility of running for President and succeed her father.

Understandably, that drove the opposition nuts. When a possible presidential candidate could attract such strong support without even declaring her intention speaks volumes about where it would ultimately bring her — a landslide victory. It would be safe to assume that in the next survey cycle, her lead in the polls will get a tremendous boost, and her numbers could only go up more.

Hence, it’s not surprising to see a barrage of criticism levelled against her for supposedly going away for these consultation trips while her city is confronted by the Covid 19 threat. Without a doubt, her consultation visits are now seen as a real threat to their own political ambitions. Sara’s increased visibility in other parts of the country can only result in attracting wider support, and cause their own plans to evaporate into thin air.

The answer to these criticisms is a no brainer. As local chief executive, Mayor Inday can run the City of Davao as effectively if she were in the foothills of Mt. Pinatubo as she could from City Hall. In case these critics are still ignorant about technology (which is, of course, not true) a chief executive remains in charge of the LGU without having to stay in the city hall physically. With Zoom, virtual face-to-face meetings are now ordinary activities. Constituents can bring their complaints and appeals for help through Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram.

In short, it makes no difference anymore whether Mayor Inday stays in Davao 24/7 physically or not. She can make her presence virtually felt 24/7 through social media. And decisions can be made as quickly on virtual platforms as when she is inside the Mayor’s office.

And, Mayor Inday can delegate the day-to-day management of City Hall to her Vice Mayor. She said she has filed leaves of absences for the periods covering her trips. From the purview of the Local Government Code, she is not doing anything wrong.

If her absence from Davao on these short trips might look detrimental to the welfare of her constituents, the complaints should come from them, and not from politicians who are getting jittery about Mayor Inday growing stronger by the day.

Educating our children in the era of Covid 19

It’s been more than a year now since our schools had to close down because of the Covid 19 pandemic and confine the education of our children to our homes. Nobody had anticipated that the pandemic would last this long. This forced our education officials to hastily put together home-learning modules to allow children to continue their schooling.

But there has been constant pressure for government to bring back face-to-face learning in schools. Many parents have expressed apprehension that if this pandemic lasts much longer, the education of their children would suffer. For many, there is no better way to provide children with good education than in the traditional classroom setting. Any other way would jeopardize their ability to gain the knowledge and skills to navigate the world in adulthood.

That premise stands on weak ground.

The best education can in fact be obtained without our children having to leave home and toil from 8 to 4 p.m., tackling a number of subjects in 50-minute segments throughout the day and sitting in rows of chairs in the classroom in a fashion dating back hundreds of years.

With access to the internet, children can learn about every subject that interests them, at any time or length of time they feel is needed to fill their minds with an abundance of knowledge. I believe as much as 85% of households in the country own at least one smart phone. The problem is that many parents do not understand the power they possess in educating their children.

Truly, we live in a golden age in education. It breaks economic barriers because both rich and poor children can read the best books, listen to lectures, and watch videos about the world around us. No longer do children have to rely on outdated textbooks for their education. Why learn about the animal or plant kingdom through textbooks when there’s an abundance of excellent videos about them? Or why make children suffer through boring lectures on social studies and history when they can witness events through documentaries? And the possibilities go on and on.

I am not saying that we should altogether discard the traditional classroom setting. But as we face the current challenge of ensuring that our children’s education is not disrupted, we have to really craft strategies to take advantage of the opportunities that abound.

As I see it, the mistake being made by the Department of Education is trying to replicate classroom teaching on-line or the module system. That can only lead to disastrous results. Rather, teachers should learn how to tailor their lesson plans as guides to children on where to start and how to go deep into the woods of learning. This will allow teachers flexibility in how their “teaching” is done: fast-learners can take on a different path while slow learners can get more remedial instruction.

We should not be afraid of the pandemic and its potential effects on education. It will take some quick adjustments along the way, but we might be able to start something revolutionary for education. This pandemic can be a blessing in disguise in charting a better future for our children.

Duque

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III might not be the best person to head the agency, but I don’t think there’s a need for him to resign as what some senators are demanding. One of them, Senator Grace Poe, said that Duque “failed the minimum standard of leadership.” Poe and 14 other Senators signed a resolution calling for Duque’s resignation because he allegedly failed to get mass Covid 19 testing into place. He is also being accused of gagging medical personnel and dragged his feet on getting FDA approval for Covid 19 testing laboratories.

The Senators are playing politics. They are placing into the feelings of discontent expressed by some people, and twisted the facts out of proportion. The allegations against Duque are thinly disguised attempts to distract the government’s efforts to combat the corona virus. For a month now, Senators have been pushed back the national stage. Their only role was to enact legislation to support the government’s Covid 19 response program.

Must Duque be blamed for the lack of mass testing capability? In case these Senators haven’t noticed, the Philippines isn’t the only nation that struggled with mass testing capabilities. Even the great United States of America was stymied in that area. The Covid 19 is a new virus, and the production of mass testing kits was limited. The pandemic hit the whole world at the same time. In the mad rush for testing kits, the Philippines had to compete with other nations to get hold of these testing kits.

Maybe the Senators ought to be reminded that government procurement was hampered by stringent procedures before the emergency was declared. In fact, my friend Minority Leader Franklin Drilon was quick to tell the DOH it could not do away with RA 9184 in trying to procure testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). By the time the emergency powers were granted, the rest of the world was already ablaze with the disease.

This is the reason that we had to depend on donations from China, South Korea and other nations for our Covid 19 response capability at the start of this crisis.

On the matter of FDA approval for testing laboratories, the Senators must understand that it isn’t a matter of filling up application forms and pushing the paperwork around. There are strict protocols to be followed. And the FDA was overwhelmed by avalance of bureaucratic challenges that included evaluation of locally produced testing kits and potential drugs. It was like a squad of the Army being attacked by the entire New People’s Army at the crack of dawn.

No matter how great the pressure was on them, the FDA could not afford to take short-cuts, unlike what the government did when then DOH Secretary Janette Garin pushed for the early approval of Dengvaxia vaccine and pave the way for its anomalous procurement in 2015.

I admit Duque lacks certain qualities that inspire public confidence. But I don’t think it amounts to critical leadership lapses that endangered people’s lives. We must not lose sight of the fact that we have effectively contained the virus after a month, notwithstanding the failure of local government units in Metro Manila to strictly enforce the home quarantine. The numbers do not lie. The Philippines still ranks low in terms of Covid 19 infections.

Finally, these Senators need to be reminded that Duque needs only to have the full trust and confidence of one person: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. If he has accountability, it’s to the President of the Republic, unless, of course, he has broken laws. So far, the issue is more of his perceived lack of leadership by standards imposed by Senators who don’t have a clue about what the situation demands. It’s a matter that’s outside their league.

It would be better for them to let the crisis end before Senator Poe gets back to her practice of unproductive investigations in aid of legislation.

Martial law

I would bet that majority of Filipinos applauded the statement of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte last night (April 16, 2020) that he might place Metro Manila and Luzon under martial law because of the still big number of quarantine violators, including some who were caught engaged in illegal cockfighting (“sabong”) and drinking liquor despite the ban.

The country suffers from a serious problem arising from a lack of a collective, national discipline. In the view of many people, there’s too much democracy in our society. This leads some Filipinos to take authority for granted. They put too much weight on human rights and freedom at the expense of society’s right to self-preservation. Nowhere is this more apparent than what we have witnessed during the last one month.

It’s a sad testimony to the deterioration of Filipino society to a point that “self” tends to feel more important than “us”. As President Duterte said in his message to the nation, the quarantine is not only to protect individuals from catching the corona virus disease; equally as important is making sure a carrier of the disease, unaware that he or she is infected, does not spread it to others.

I think President Duterte should not delay this decision. He must place Metro Manila particularly under a state of martial law. Not only will this enable the military and police to enforce the lockdown. It will also suspend the laws and make it possible to arrest those who undermine the government’s effort to contain the disease. This power should cover individuals who spread fake news to sow fear and panic.

For quite some time now, I have advocated that President Duterte establish a revolutionary government. This is the perfect time to do it.

Decisive leadership

When this crisis is all over, the Filipino nation will be grateful that we have President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the helm when the deadly corona virus (Covid 19) swept all across the globe.

As I write this, the total number of infections is close to 2 million, and the death toll stood at 126,000 people. The hardest hit is the United States, followed by Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. China, where the virus had originated, has gone down to number seven in the list.

It is our good fortune that the Philippines is just number 35 in the list, notwithstanding the fact that international air travel to and from China wasn’t suspended until late January this year. And after a month of community lockdowns in the entire archipelago, the incidence of infections seems to have slowed down. The latest figures from WHO placed the number of Covid 19 cases at 5,223, and 335 dead.

I have been studying the movement of the corona virus closely even before the WHO raised its spread to pandemic level. And it is clear to me that the decision of President Duterte to impose a lockdown effective March 15 was an effective brake to slow down the pandemic in the Philippines.

Right from the start, the idea was met with criticism and opposition. Senate President Tito Sotto described it as “over-reaction”. It was ridiculed by media critics Karen Davila and Richard Heydarian. The members of the opposition and the left joined the chorus.

Vice President Leni Robredo also questioned why policemen and soldiers were deployed on the streets to enforce the quarantine. The pandemic called for a medical response, and not a military show of force, Robredo said. Well, it was a ridiculous statement. Did Robredo expect doctors and nurses to man checkpoints?

Anyway, countries that closed its borders and imposed strict stay-at-home quarantine measures have turned out to have lower Covid 19 infections compared to the others that lingered too long on the decision. New Zealand and Denmark stand out to prove the point that a lockdown is the most effective way to contain the disease. On the other hand, the United States is the best illustration of how deadly the delay in the lockdown turned out to be.

President Duterte has had to manage this crisis with plenty of distractions from the yellow opposition and the left. As I have been saying in my YouTube videos, there is a destabilization plot right in the middle of this crisis, obviously funded by the oligarchs and led by media giant ABS-CBN. President Duterte had his hands full every minute during this period.

But things are improving. We have deflected the usual trajectory of the corona virus infections. Instead of a spike as we have witnessed in other countries, the infection curve in the country is more like a road hump that gradually rose before levelling off. It is a positive indication that the lockdown in working.

Had the President hesitated, nightmare scenes that we have seen in the U.S. and Europe and Latin America would have sprouted all over the country, with Metro Manila as the epicenter. It was a tough decision to make. Just thinking how things would have turned out if a Mar Roxas was our president is enough to give me the chills.

Yes, the President’s decisiveness at a most crucial moment was a life-saver for the country.

Stigma

I found it distressing to read about some people in Lambunao, Iloilo throwing stones at the residence of a family stricken with the Covid 19 disease. It shows the worst in the character of these people. It puts them at a level much lower than humanity. It is a behavior borne out of ignorance. They have no place in civilized society.

From what I read, this family is grieving, having lost a parent to this disease. The rest of the household have been found positive for the corona virus. Nobody could possibly be in a worse situation than where they’re in. They don’t deserve to be treated this way.

What the surviving members of the family needs is sympathy. It isn’t their fault that the disease found its way into their family. It happened because the fatality had travelled from Manila as the pandemic broke out. He just had the msfortune of being at an airport or some other place where large numbers of people gathered. An airport or a church or a conference hall are the most conducive places for the virus to spread.

I hope the LGU will assert its authority and provide the family protection from this kind of assault. We cannot allow the Covid 19 disease to put those it has infected under a stigma, or scorn from their fellow human beings. We have to show compassion and understanding. They need the support of the community to survive this crisis.

As I write this, there is plenty of reason to believe the pandemic is slowing down. The statistics of the last two days (I’m writing this on Wednesday, April 8) indicate that the number of new Covid 19 positive cases have started to slide. After three weeks into the lockdown, our statistics are encouraging. While it can’t be avoided that there are infections, and deaths, the numbers are far lower than what we’ve seen in other countries.

In the United States, for instance, an estimated 400,000 people have been infected. A little over 12,000 have died. And a big factor why this happened is because the U.S. government was slow in imposing strict quarantine measures. We’ve seen the same experiene in Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, France and other European nations. It puts beyond doubt that a lockdown is the most effective way to fight the virus.

When President Rodrigo Duterte ordered that Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon be put under an enhanced community quarantine, or lockdown to be more precise, there was considerable grumblings that the government was over-reacting. One of those who called the measure as a case of “over-reaction” was Senate President Tito Sotto. Other figures in the political opposition also questioned the wisdom of the lockdown.

While it might be too early to call the government’s response a success, the figures that are being reported by the Department of Health are reassuring. We have done a good job stepping on the brakes and prevented the number of cases from spiking to the level of thousands of new cases in a single day.

No government in the world was prepared for this pandemic. Compared to the U.S. and the wealthier nations, the Philippines had almost nothing in its medical arsenal to deal with the pandemic. We lacked testing kits and our hospitals were inadequately equipped, especially personal protective equipment (PPE). If infrastructure and medical supplies were to be the gauge, our country was a candidate for the worst-case scenario.

When this is over, those who had criticized the President’s directive for enhanced community quarantine will likely thank him for being decisive. And credit must go to our doctors, nurses, hospital staffs, the police and military, our LGUs and other government workers who responded to the call to wage battle with Covid 19. Words are inadequate to describe the heroism you have displayed. The country owes you a debt of gratitude.

Filipinos are a resilient people. We have always bounced back from every calamity. This one is no different. Our collective suffering might be a great deal heavier during this period. But I am confident that once we recover, we will emerge a far stronger people and nation.

Grace Poe pumapapel sa gitna ng krisis

Kumukulo ang dugo ko dahil sa pagbatikos na naman ni Senator Grace Poe sa Department of Health sa binili nitong mga protetive personal equipment o PPE para sa ating mga doctors, nurses at iba pang frontliners na lumalaban sa Covid 19 pandemic.

Overpriced daw ang binili ng DOH sa halagang P1,800 bawat set ng PPE. Sa kanyang canvass daw, ang bawat isa ay pumipresyo lang ng P400 hanggang P1,000 per set. Pero hindi naman niya sinabi kung saan siya nag canvass, at kung ano ang material na ginamit para dito.

Sa paglilinaw ni DOH Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire, hindi pare-pareho ang paggawa ng mga PPE. Ayon sa kanya, itong binili ng DOH ay top-of-the-line. Pinakatibay panglaban sa mga infectious disease. Kaya may kamahalan

Oo nga naman, Senator Grace.

Kahit sa anong gamit, iba iba ang presyo. May fake na Rolex na mabibili mo sa halagang P500. Yung genuine at hindi mo mabili ng mas mababa sa P250,000. Meron pa nga milyon-milyon. It’s the same thing with cell phones and many other gadgets. May peke. May genuine. Siyempre mura ang peke.

More than that, we are living in dangerous times. And that danger is nowhere more present than our hospitals where Covid 19 patients are being treated. Our doctors, nurses, medical technologists, staff and even janitors are exposed to the virus 24/7.

Hindi na kailangan pang ipaliwanag ang panganib na hinaharap nila. As of last night, 19 na yata ang mga doctor na namatay dahil sa sakit na ito.

Sa ganitong sitwasyon, time is of the utmost essence. Rush, rush, rush. At lahat na bansa ngayon ay nag-aagawan para makabili ng PPEs para sa kanilang mga hospital frontliners. It’s the basic law of supply and demand at work. The DOH just had to buy by the hundreds of thousands of sets ASAP. Wala nang panahon upang makipagtawaran.

Gusto lang talaga ni Senator Poe na magpaporma at the expense of the government’s efforts to combat this pandemic. What is she trying to prove? That she is for clean government? Holy shit! Puro Senate investigation na nga lang ang ginagawa niya. Wala namang positive output.

For example, she conducted hearings into the drug situation in Iloilo just before the 2016 elections. She was running for President, and apparently, she figured it would help varnish her image if she looked to be tough on illegal drugs.

Subalit wala namang nangyari pagkaraan ng limang taon. Poof! The issue vanished into thin air.

Kaya Madam Senator, please keep your mouth shut at this time.

We heal as one, but dilawans keep pulling nation down

Two days ago, inulunsad ang isang serye ng mga online concerts na may tema na “We heal as one” sa gitna ng krisis dulot ng Covid 19 pandemic sa bansa.

Indeed, this is a time for everybody to close ranks and fight this disease as one people. Mas malubha pa sa pandaigdig na digmaan ito. Kailangan magtulongan tayo upang masugpo ang sakit. Sana makalimutan muna ang political divisiveness. Malaking kahirapan ang nasa harap natin, pero kailangan maging matatag ang kalooban natin at mag-tiis. This requires big sacrifice.

Kaya nalulungkot ako na makita ang mga dilawan at mga leftist groups na patuloy na ina-atake ang ating gobyerno on the propaganda front. Uma-agaw eksena sila sa bawat pagkakataon. Walang pahinga sa paghanap ng dahilan upang maka reklamo. Gusto nila ipalabas na hindi ginagawa ng gobyerno ang katungkulan nito sa taong bayan.

There will be a time for accountability. But not now.

Bigyan natin ang gobyerno, lalo na si President Duterte, ng pagkataon na mamuno na walang hadlang at abala. Kung may kapalpakan sa mga ahensiya, nakakasiguro ako na nakikita yan ni President Duterte. Hiindi nakakatulong ang pag-iingay.

LET US HEAL AS ONE.