Mandatory face shields — for profit or for health?

Yesterday’s Senate hearing on the questionable Pharmally procurement revived the face shield debate that started last year. Can the piece of plastic really protect us from COVID-19?

There was no easy answer. Even the Secretary of Health, Francisco Duque, was unsure despite being one of the policy makers who mandated the wearing indoors and outdoors. Otherwise, he would have just answered directly the question of the Senators on why use face shields rather than point to Dr. Edsel Salvana and others. Even President Rodrigo Duterte, claimed by his supporters as the “best and the brightest” heading a team of “best and brightest” officials, had been changing his mind on the use of the plastic being uncertain if it really works (see also this link). Because of the mandatory face shield policy, the Philippines appears to be only country in the world that mandates the use of said plastic as a protection against COVID-19. But are plastic visors really effective against the new coronavirus?

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CBMS and evidence-based planning and decision-making

It is easy to make a plan but difficult to develop one that addresses a specific concern that is not based on accurate data or information. A case in point is a local government unit (LGU) from Mindanao, which could no longer benefit from programs of a funding organization because the former failed to deliver a vaccination project with at least 1,000 children up to five years old as beneficiaries. Because the target was not based on verifiable data, the LGU could only vaccinate around 600 children, some of whom were not even qualified because they were already seven years old.

To prevent similar incidents from happening, the Philippine Government enacted Republic Act 11315, otherwise known as the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) Act. The law aims to ensure that LGUs will have a concrete and verifiable basis for a comprehensive poverty analysis and needs prioritization. With the CBMS Act, it is expected that data collection, data sharing, and information management will be systematized. CBMS is defined as the “organized technology-based system of collecting, processing and validating necessary disaggregated data that may be used for planning, program implementation and impact monitoring at the local level while empowering communities to participate in the process.”

It is not a new system and has existed since 1994 with the pioneering efforts of Dr. Celia Reyes of the Angelo King Institute of the De la Salle University (AKI-DLSU). Seeing the potential of CBMS to address the need for localized poverty-related data, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) entered into a partnership with AKI-DLSU and became advocates of the system. The partnership was a success and became instrumental to the development of local programs that cost less but produce long-term results.

A case in point is the CBMS implementation in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi which led to the counting of the Badjaos — a group of indigenous people known as sea gypsies, living either in small houseboats or houses on stilts built along the shores. In 2015, the Badjao population in Bongao numbered 3,650 and of this number, only 15% were registered. Because of their non-registration, the Badjaos had difficulty accessing services and programs, particularly those that require a proof of identification. Using this data from the CBMS and knowing the location of the unregistered Badjaos, then Mayor Jasper Que conducted a civil registration program — a simple activity with almost no additional cost to the local government. With birth certificates in their possessions, the Badjaos were able to access local and National Government programs, including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and PhilHealth.

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Politics can wait — PNoy

In my few decades of existence, I only met in person three Philippine Presidents – Fidel Ramos, Noynoy Aquino, and Rodrigo Duterte. I gained a lot of management-related insights from Ramos while from Noynoy, I was taught to look more into different perspectives and appreciate better the simplicity of life. 

Noynoy debunked all my notions and stereotype of an elitist and high ranking Noynoy debunked all my notions and stereotype of an elitist and high ranking politician. His tiffs with Jesse Robredo and Butch Abad in the management and the scheduling of activities during the 2010 electoral campaign, and how he makes moves to reach out to them despite some disagreements simply showed that people like Noynoy are ordinary human beings, too, and not some cold-blooded and ruthless creatures portrayed in propaganda machines. He laughs at jokes, smiles at simple things, and even blushes when special persons close to his heart are mentioned or visit him unannounced.

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When  the viber group is missing

More than a year after the declaration of one of the world’s longest lockdown, the Philippine government has yet to decide whether or not faceshields are necessary to control the spread of COVID-19. This is still the case in the Philippines while some parts of the world are already enjoying concerts and football matches.

The debate on faceshields simply indicates the poor internal communication system under the Duterte Government. As netizens have been saying, the national government officials lack at least a group chat or a viber group.

The issue on face shields also came after the realization of President Rodrigo Duterte the importance of face masks.

The Trillanes’s Gambit

In chess, there are situations when some pieces have to be sacrificed just to protect the king. The same is true in the game called politics and for that reason, some high ranking officials in the Philippines sold their integrity just to protect their boss. So they twisted facts and became peddlers of misinformation and even made this practice an official policy of the government.

But if protecting the king is a practice , a different move surprised everyone in the Philippine political chess game — protecting the Queen. And many fell for it. Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV announced Wednesday, May 12, that if Vice President Leni Robredo will not run for President in 2022, he had decided to convey to the 1Sambayan Coalition to change his status from being an alternate candidate to a principal candidate for President.

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