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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Duterte’s political playbook

Since 2013, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte had been claiming that he is not interested to run for President. Indeed, the Dutertes who filed their certificates of candidacy last October 2015 were for local posts. On November 21, 2015 or more than a month after the filing of candidacies, Mayor Duterte officially launched his presidential campaign and six days later filed his certificate of candidacy as a substitute candidate for Martin Diño of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan or PDP-Laban.

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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”.

Is there an ancient pyramid in the Philippines?

Who says that one of the ancient pyramids in Southeast Asia is in the Philippines?

The discovery of ancient pyramids enable us to have a peek in the life of the past. The 2018 discovery of Wahtye’s tomb in the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt, for instance, offers a view on the life of a priest 4,500 years ago and how the Egyptians venerated cats one of which turned out to be a mummified lion cub. Netflix’s documentary, “Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb”, also reveals over three thousand artifacts, and what might be the world’s oldest traceable case of malaria.

But the pyramids of Egypt, including that of Saqqara, are humbled by the age of the Indonesian pyramid — Gunung Padang. Previously misinterpreted as a natural rock formation, Gunung Padang is a layered series of structures built over consecutive prehistoric periods. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the uppermost layer could be up to approximately 3,500 old years old, the second layer somewhere around 8,000 years old, and the third layer to be between 9,500 and 28,000 years old. There is another layer but it is said to be composed of natural rocks.

Image credit: Danny Hilman Natawidjaja,
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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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