When messaging and realities collide

“We have money” was the consistent mantra of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD). This was echoed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano as he boasted of the P275 billion funds under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan Heal as One Act of 2020. The biggest part of the funds, amounting to P200 billion, is allocated as a social amelioration package (SAP) in the form of emergency subsidies to low-income households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, the eagerness to share the ‘good news’ increased expectations that every household, will be entitled to the SAP. Frustrations increased when the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) imposed quotas to local government units (LGUs) on the number of families that will serve as beneficiaries. As a result, LGUs complained as the quota given them ranges from 30% to 65% of the household population in their respective jurisdictions. A poor village composed of 1,600 households in Legazpi City, for example, was given only 500 forms. The City of Manila with 435,237 households got only 185,000; Valenzuela with 155,000 households got only 95,000; and so on, and so forth. (Figures on the quota of recipients as against the total household population for some of the cities and municipalities in the greater Manila area are documented here.)

But the bigger problem is how PRRD casts a doubt on the credibility of the local officials. In his April 3, 2020 address to the public, he said “Pero maya ‘yung magdating doon makulang ang pera ‘pag ibigay mo 5,000, ibigay 3,000 lang. Kupit doon, kupit doon.” This puts the local officials at risks especially from the expectant and hungry public. Note that it was expectations and hunger that toppled the monarchy in France.

While we understand that the officials in the national government are consistently inconsistent in their messages and at some point undiscerning of their personal opinions and public statements, them holding their tongues in this trying times is in order. The national government passed on to the LGUs the responsibility of responding to the crisis. It will be more helpful if the national officials hold their acts together; assign and do not compete with a single mouthpiece from the Executive Department; and provide the appropriate policy and technical support to LGUs. Remember that the objective is to heal as one and not “epal everyone”. And, more importantly, note that we can only heal as one if we act as one.

Call for Urgent Unified Coordinated Action vs Covid-19: #PreventProtectHeal

Dok Eddie Dorotan | Covid19 Action Network (#weCAN!) | April 3, 2020

We are now into the 3rd week since Lockdown. To be exact, we are on Day 20 of Lockdown since March 15.

To date, 136 have died and 3,018 have been detected Covid+. This is a 12-fold rise in deaths (from 11) and 21-fold rise in positive cases (from 140) in just 20 days.

Seventeen (17) fellow doctors – many I personally know – have fallen. Nakakalungkot.

These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. In the following weeks, we will see more and more cases detected and more deaths. We can even go into deeper disaster if we don’t get our acts together NOW.

In this time of great uncertainties brought about by the disruptive Covid19, we need adaptive responses to the challenges that don’t have easy answers.

We recommend the following 6-point action:

  1. Don’t lift the lockdown until cases go down.

This may last for another 1-2months. We have to prevent the spread of the virus. Stay home. No mass gathering. Social distancing. Wear mask. Wash hand. But let the supply chain flow unhampered.

Consider the following criteria in lifting or modifying the Lockdown: Sharp reduction of cases as demonstrated by a consistent downward Covid infection slope; Increase capacity and ability of medical facilities to treat all patients, particularly those hospitalized which means having adequate PPEs, ventilators, testing kits, and the like; Testing of all people with Covid-19 symptoms; Effective monitoring and contact tracing Relevant information outside Luzon lockdown

  1. Test Test Test!

We need to know where the enemy is. Testing is Key! Given the limited availability of the testing kits, let us prioritize testing the (1) symptomatics with co-morbidities, (2) those in contact with positive case, (3) frontline health workers.

  1. Heal the Sick

For moderate to severe Covid+ : admit to dedicated Covid hospitals; don’t mix Covid with non-Covid cases

For PUM, PUI, mild Covid+ : home quarantine if they have enough safe spaces; for those without sufficient spaces at home, bring to community quarantine facilities (e.g. Ultra, PICC, World Trade Center) of the national government or to the community quarantine facilities of LGUs. Biosafety has to be in place.

  1. Protect the Health Workers

Many of our health workers get infected and die because they are not protected enough. Provide them with necessary personal protective equipment (PPEs) like gowns, cover-all, glasses, masks, gloves. They are sacrificing their lives so that others will live. Support them with food and prayers, too.

  1. Strengthen the frontlines through improved community management

Our first line of defense is not the hospital care. It is our last defense.

Our first line of defense is at the individual level, at our homes, in our communities and LGUs with our barangay health workers, our city/municipal/provincial health workers.

We need to reorganize our health system from a patient-centered model of care to a community system approach that offers solutions for the entire population, rich and poor, rural and urban.

  1. Take care of the poor and the vulnerable

The rich can take care of themselves during lockdown, but what about the poor, the unemployed and the vulnerable sector? Let us roll out cash transfers, food packages, health benefits, and others, from all corners: national and local government, private sector and civil society. This is the time to take care more of our brothers and sisters who have less in life.

To do all of the above things, we need to unite, cooperate, and collaborate. Do not be distracted with petty ramblings, fake news, politicking. We are not the enemy. Our common enemy is the Covid19!

PRRD Admin’s brand of “Federalism”?

According to William Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. The case, however, may not be true for federalism.

One of the campaign slogans of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) in the 2016 elections is transforming the Philippines into a federal government — a move met with mixed reactions as this will topple the balance of power that is currently Manila-centric. Federalism is a form of government where powers are distributed between the central government and the states or local governments with the latter enjoying a greater degree of autonomy and/or independence as against unitary systems.

Only one in every four, however, knows what federalism is and from those who know, many are wondering what flavor of federalism is the PRRD administration offering. For that reason, the government, with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) embarked on a nationwide information and education campaign on the subject matter — only to draw flak with the “pepe and dede” federalism drive of then Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson. Even the Senator Nene Pimentel, one of the strong advocates of federalism and earlier endorsed Uson,’ found himself eating crow, as a “filthy” video made by the sexy-dancer-turned-Duterte-administration-official supposedly promoting the proposed change in the form of government burned like wildfire on the internet.’

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Continue reading “PRRD Admin’s brand of “Federalism”?”

COVID-19 panic attacks

The simple visit to the grocery yesterday to buy a few items for a dinner’s menu was a disaster. Stocks were depleting and queues to the cashier were long. The plan of cooking as a form of family bonding ended up to dining in a restaurant which, interestingly, was almost empty.

What spoiled our plan was the panic buying that resulted from the government’s interesting response to the Corona virus disease (COVID) -19 and spiced up by the proposal of Congressman Joey Salceda (Albay, 2D) to lockdown the National Capital Region, and the press conference-cum-lecture of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) last Monday night.

The President, who was silent the previous days, finally came out, suspended the classes at all levels in Metro Manila, and shared that the COVID-19 is a way of “cleansing humanity” the way the Spanish Flu and Bubonic plague did. Though he mentioned that scientists around the world are busy looking for cure, he was tacky enough to say that the “contagion” is continuing local transmission and that there are only a few testing kits. Hence, instead of getting assured, the people panicked.

The panicky mode increased when some grocers started buying larger quantities of isoprophyl and ethyl alcohol, canned goods and tissue papers. It indeed created a bandwagon effect that people appeared to be preparing for a situation similar to a zombie apocalypse.

But in fairness to the President, he opposed Salceda’s proposal saying it is too early considering that there are only 24 official cases of COVID-19 infections. He said he may agree with the lock down if the deaths from COVID-19 reaches 5,000. The announcement, however, did not stick well to the attention of the people more than the limited testing kit. Worse, the President’s message that he will not declare a lock down was further diluted by his rants against Sinophobia and his preference for the Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGOs) which consumed a significant amount of time than original focus of the press conference — the government’s preparations for COVID-19.

So will the panicky atmosphere dissolve? Perhaps not in the next few days.

Lessons and top stories for January 2020

The first two weeks of January 2020 was greeted with a number of events that filled the newsrooms, newspapers and the Internet. Among them is the death of the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani due to the drone attacks of the United States and the eventual retaliation of Iran against American facilities located in Iraq; the losing of Croatia’s incumbent President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic who once shook the internet for her gorgeous looks and support for football; and Australia’s bush fires that displaced thousands of residents, killed more than 20 people and burned more than 6.3 million hectares (63,000 sq km or 15.6 million acres) of bush, forest and parks . In the local, the report of Vice President Leni Robredo on the administration’s War on Drugs. These, and the others, created messages that either united or further polarized both the civilized world and the uncivil Internet-sphere.

Indeed, US President Donald Trump’s impeachment case was “drowned” because of Soleimani’s death. So is the “looks” of Grabar-Kitarovic because her message that centered on history was drowned by the message of his opponent, Zoran Milanović, that anchored on the struggling status of Croatia in the European Union. Clearly, the Croatians prefer a candidate who is more concerned of the present and the immediate future rather than the past.

The bush fires also led to the rise of people like Instagram Model Kaylen Ward who raised more than $700,000 by sending nude photographs of herself to anyone who donates more than $10 to one of her chosen charities and sends her the receipt. Ward, however, was eventually disowned by her family and was attacked in the social media by conservatives and pretending-to-be-righteous people who haven’t lifted a finger to save the koalas. Her Instagram account was also deleted because accordingly, the social media platform prohibits the dissemination of nude photos.

But most polarizing is the report of Robredo stating that the Philippine Government’s war on drugs is a failure — a reiteration of President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim last April 2019. The President argued, however, that it is a failure because it is a “worldwide problem”. Because of the report, trolls and pundits from both sides of the political fence woke up and started arguing against each other.

In all cases, the acceptance and ridicule of the facts behind those stories depend on the perspective of the viewer. This brings me to a story of former US President Gerald Ford which is as follows:

There was a man travelling barefoot one harsh winter day. Along the way, he saw an almost frozen bird, picked it up and used his hands to give warmth to the animal. The bird weakly responded and thinking it needs more warmth, placed the bird inside his pocket. Eventually, the man thought the bird will just die in his pocket so finding a fresh manure, put out the bird and covered it with the shit.

The warmth of the shit was effective that in a matter of minutes, it started chirping. The chirping grew louder and more frequent that the sound caught the attention of a hungry wolf. The wolf looked and found the bird, took it from the shit, and ate it.

According to Ford, there are three possible lessons from the story:

  • Not everyone who puts you in deep shit is your enemy.
  • Similarly, not everyone who takes you out of the shit is your friend.
  • Most importantly, if you are in deep shit, stop making unnecessary noise and just keep quiet.

Happy New Year, everyone!