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 Pexels.com
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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”.

Digital divide and access to justice

I was invited to observe an online court hearing today and it was an interesting experience — it introduced me to learn another digital communications app, and it led me to reflect on the reality of digital divide. In fact it made me asked: How many of the accused will be wrongfully convicted because they do not proper, if not access, to digital communications technology? Or, asked another way, how many guilty people will be acquitted because they have state of the art equipments?

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Is Davao City the new bedrock of communism?

Davao City, the place where President Rodrigo Duterte served as mayor, is considered to be the safest city not only in tje Philippines but also im the world. So the claim goes.  With the 2021 budget, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has branded it to be the bedrock of communism. Did Sarah Duterte fail to sustain her father’s “legacy” or was there a script that, unfortunately, has gone wrong?

Since 2015, claims that Davao City is one of the safest in the world had been circulating in the Internet. Based on numbeo.com, it ranked 9th early in 2015 and jumped to the 5th spot by June the same year.

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Lorenzana’s logic

The unilateral abrogation by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana of the 1989 aagreement between the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of Defense was like throwing a stone to a beehive. Signed on June 30, 1989, the accord gives prior notice before police and military could enter UP campuses. With the bees stirred, Lorenzana is now on a defensive.

Lorenzana claims that the accord is a hindrance to providing peace and security to those inside the UP campuses, and that the state university is becoming a haven for communists. Netizens have been bombarding him with comments one of which is a piece by Atty. Wilfredo Garrido that summarizes everything. The piece is copied below.

UP DOES NOT OWE LORENZANA AN EXPLANATION

Secretary Lorenzana is being presumptuous demanding that UP explain why some its students join the NPA. UP is not in any way obliged any more than San Beda is obliged to explain why it produced Rodrigo Duterte.

UP doesn’t control the lives of its students outside the campus. It does have a say on its curriculum, and the faculty that implements it, and to this extent, it controls their education. But not a step farther.

What the students choose to do with their education, for ill or good, is entirely up to them.

In the same manner, the PMA does not owe the nation an explanation why it produced Delfin Lorenzana or why he turned out the way he did – a lackey of China who sold out the West Philippine Sea and opened up the military camps to Chinese spying. The PMA doesn’t owe us an explanation why it graduated Bato. Or Carlos Garcia. Or Honasan. Or Mancao. Or Lacson.

Lorenzana is asking for the impossible. For how can anyone explain destiny?

In the 1970s, Lt. Victor Corpuz raided the PMA armory and defected to the NPA. Did the military kill him? After being captured by Marcos and then released in the 1980s he was reinstated, promoted to colonel, then general and was even made chief of ISAFP by FVR.

In the 1990s, General Raymundo Jarque, who was notorious for human rights violations in Negros Island, defected to the NPA and was indoctrinated in communism but was later amnestied. Was he killed? No, he was allowed to retire.

Yes, General Carlos Garcia, former Army comptroller, jailed for plunder and whose wife was held by US immigration for trying to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dollars – which case was one of the sparks of the Oakwood mutiny.

The case of Ronald Cardema, kicked out of the PMA for harboring Communist thoughts, now a diehard DDS. We the public never demanded an accounting from the PMA for producing him and other misfits.

How hypocritical of Lorenzana then to demand an accounting from UP for producing bad apples.

All institutions have their share of bad apples.

Schools are repository of ideas. Ideas are food for the soul. How students turn up after they had drunk their ideas from the horn of plenty no one, but no one, can predict. They are not uniform products of a factory with warranty cards that guarantee they will function in a certain way. Each of them unique, with great potential.

It is part of academic freedom to tinker with, share, discover and express ideas. Let the military and police interfere with this sacrosanct freedom and it will only alienate the students away from their studies and turn the campus into the devil’s playground. UP will lose more of them to the enemies of the State and suffer an erosion of its academic standards.

Instead of an explanation for how some students go astray, which consist an infinitesimal portion of its population, what UP can do is guarantee Lorenzana that its students come from the cream of the crop, that they are taught to the highest standards of honor and excellence and that when they exit its august halls with their diplomas they will be a considerable force in nation-building, which they have proved time and time again.

Now, Mr. Secretary, do your part in nation-building and defend the West Philippine Sea.