Palawan Plebiscite: The ‘nays’ have it

Partial and unofficial results of the plebiscite held last March 13, 2021 show that the majority of the people of Palawan do not want their province split into three. A total of 133,278 or 58.6% was delivered by those who opposed as against the 94,176 for those who favor.

The proposed division of Palawan. (Source: Felipe Aira and Hariboneagle927, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The plebiscite is a mandatory requirement for Republic Act No. 11259 or “An Act Dividing the Province of Palawan Into Three (3) Provinces, Namely: Palawan del Norte, Palawan Oriental, and Palawan del Sur” to take effect.

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IRA, pizza and the Palawan gerrymandering

As the plebiscite for the division of Palawan drew near, my piece “CamSur partition: It’s not the economy, stupid!“. It is expected because the dividing areas into political and administrative territories also have implications — some of them life changing. Unfortunately, and no matter where and how you look at it, these changes will only benefit politicians or those holding political power.

But if politics is addition why would these politicians opt to gerrymander?

File:Palawan Partition.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
The proposed division of Palawan. (source:
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COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis in governance

The world is currently in chaos as apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, protests are happening here and there. Though the pandemic is not the direct cause, it is the trigger of at least three major crises — health crisis, social crisis, and economic crisis. Unfortunately, the same pandemic revealed another crisis — the crisis in governance.

Source: Khan et al, 2021
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How heroes are treated under the Duterte Administration

Do heroes become heroes because of the level of sacrifices they faced? If so, should we add more burden to them so that they become more of the kind of heroes we want them to be?

Apparently, President Rodrigo Duterte’s “government of the best and the brightest” has an answer — yes to both. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite being considered as heroes, more and more burden are given to the health care workers (HCWs). These include delayed benefits and incentives accorded them by law, treating them like commodities in exchange for vaccines (though this was later denied by labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III), and making them lower class citizens compared to the military personnel and their families.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on
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Argumentum ad Lazarum

“Hindi tayo mayaman.”

So goes the argument of President Rodrigo Duterte in defending the government’s lackluster response to COVID-19 during his recorded message to the Filipino people last February 1, 2021. According to Mr. Duterte, the Philippines can only do as much because the country is poor. But should poverty be an excuse?

Based on 2017 data, the nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of the Philippines is $314 billion. It is almost the same as Malaysia with $315 B and almost a $100 B higher than the GDP of Bangladesh. Both the Philippines and Malaysia are considered to be Developing Economies while Bangladesh is considered as a Least Developed Country. In a sense, the Philippines is not dirt-poor but is a middle class country courtesy of the economic fundamentals set by the administrations of Gloria Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino.

There is not much difference between Bangladesh and the Philippines in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases. The Philippines has 557,058 cases while Bangladesh has 543,351. Malaysia has 277,811. The only difference is that Bangladesh, the poorest of the three countries, has started vaccination against COVID-19 while the Philippines has not. As of this writing, Bangladesh was already able to roll out 2.08 Million doses.

Bangladesh is not the only poor country that was able to control COVID-19. Below are the 15 countries considered to be COVID-19 free as of January 2021 almost all of which are poorer than the Philippines if the GDP is considered as the indicator of development. Three of these countries — Saint Helena, Palau and Micronesia — even started inoculating their citizens. Below are the countries with zero COVID-19 case and their respective GDPs.

  • Tuvalu (GDP = $40 M)
  • Turkmenistan (GDP = $37.93 B)
  • Tonga (GDP = $428 M)
  • Tokelau
  • Saint Helena
  • Samoa (GDP = $841 M)
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Palau (GDP = $290 M)
  • North Korea
  • Niue
  • Nauru
  • Kiribati (GDP = $186 M)
  • Micronesia (GDP = $336M)
  • Cook Islands
  • American Samoa (GDP = $634M)

So why would Mr. Duterte resort to the fallacy of argumentum ad lazarum? Two words — “Interests”, and “incompetency”.