As if on reciprocal cue, the meltdown of China—the world’s most powerful, nontransparent, repressive state now forced to bare its naked hegemon before the world it has contaminated—concurs with the governance collapse of Rodrigo Duterte.Obtuse pronouncements by the Duterte administration on the novel coronavirus (nCoV) contagion left many bewildered if we still have a government in the service of the Filipino people.
Mr. Duterte on Jan. 29: not keen on banning flights to and from China. Elsewhere, British Airways, Lufthansa, Lion Air, airlines from Myanmar and Nepal, have all suspended flights.
“I am not for it. It would not be fair.” Unfair to what, to whom? To China? On Jan. 30, he relents with a calculated “temporary ban,” but only on passengers from Hubei. What passengers from Hubei? The province is on lockdown and no travelers come from there.
Instead, Mr. Duterte bans his Cabinet from traveling to the United States, including members of their families. While the country teeters on tenterhooks, he is busy with the visa of Bato dela Rosa, an issue more important to him than the Republic of the Philippines. His issues are personal and have nothing to do with national interest. Meantime, his daughter Sara without an H frolics at the Lincoln Memorial. Personal indeed.
Pretending to stand up to a superpower but quivering at China, he is innately mimicked by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. Duque insisted there was no need to deny entry to visitors from mainland China. On Tuesday, Jan. 28, 778 passengers aboard the World Dream cruise ship were allowed to roam Manila’s streets. Yet what does Duque recommend for repatriated Filipinos from Wuhan (unrepatriated at this time while other countries have already done so)? Quarantine them, but not the arriving Chinese. Say that again, Mr. Minister of Health for the People’s Republic?
In contrast, Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino Jr. appealed to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority not to allow the same cruise ship from docking. “Let us err on the side of caution,” and he is right. A report by World of Cruising magazine said that a number of cruise lines around the world have already canceled trips to China over 2019-nCoV fears.
Consider another contrast: The Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte has declared itself off-limits not only to Chinese tourists but to visitors from other Asian countries as well. The reason given: to protect the local populace, something a panicking people need to hear from the government.
Jan. 30, Bong Go goes asinine: “It’s hard to single out China. Other countries, too, have cases. China is not the only country hit by the virus.” Somebody please show him a cartolina matrix: China is ground zero. Define for him what ground zero means because he is chair of the Senate committee on health. Provide statistics: over 300 dead, more than 14,000 infected. Show him the table of countries with confirmed cases.
When it took a while for former president Benigno Aquino III to visit ravaged Tacloban in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” anger was vented his way. Compounding public discontent was his indecision perceived as reluctance to set foot in Romualdez-Marcos territory. He was vilified as insensitive who placed political interests over that of an anguished public. Filipinos have the propensity to amplify their gauge of leaders in moments of crisis. It is a culturally correct instinct in a country hit yearly by natural disasters. They know the vast power at the president’s disposal is a last resort to marshal a weak public safety infrastructure mired in politics, corruption, and bureaucracy.
Thursday, Jan. 30, when the contagion spread across all provinces in China (including illegally occupied Tibet) and our first case was confirmed, the failed Duterte mantra resonated: “Ang problema natin hanggang ngayon ay drugs (Our problem until now is drugs).” Who is politicizing? Surely not the critics and not the erstwhile Duterte Diehard Supporters who now say Mr. Duterte cannot rule. Last Friday, Jan. 31, #OustDuterte trended No. 1 on Twitter.
On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2, email: [email protected]
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