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More reasons to be hopeful

While I was reflecting on what to write for this column, the news and video of the Paniqui, Tarlac double murder by a policeman went viral. Like many, this depressed me, but when the President quickly called this out as “a grave offense” and instructed the Philippine National Police to arrest him, saying “ikulong ninyo, huwag niyong bitawan,” I felt some relief. He further reminded the PNP to “do your duty, enforce the law, your actions must be in accordance with the law.”

While many of my human rights advocate friends will scoff at these remarks, I say to all, “yes, Juan and Maria, there is hope.” As a person who has always said that defending our democracy includes respecting the will of the people—despite my many deep concerns with our President, I must say thank you, Mr. President, for calling out this incident as a brazen crime, and reminding the PNP in very clear terms that such killings are not part of their mandate that some, like this senior master sergeant, have arrogantly adopted as part of their police powers.

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Mr. President, such abuses by persons in authority who are supposed to protect the people were precisely why the global community of nations conceived the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948. I hope that this extremely serious incident helps clarify the appeals of human rights advocates. We are not red or yellow. We are not conspiring to subvert your government.

Ask the survivors of the Holocaust and the victims of martial law era abuses in the Philippines. Human rights are nonpolitical. They are the universal principles that lift all of humanity, whoever and wherever you are.

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But it does not stop here, Maria and Juan. There is light at the end of this dark COVID-19 tunnel. Through a not-for-profit public-private partnership, leaders of government and industry are working double-time to ensure that the Philippines will have vaccines available next year and will not be left behind. More and more companies are joining the GoNegosyo and BDO Foundation-led initiative dubbed “A Dose of Hope.” Millions of doses are being “reserved,” so to speak, for the Philippines, and will be funded by the private sector. Of this procurement, 50 percent will go to the government for their priority list such as frontline health workers and senior citizens, and the other 50 percent will be used for frontline essential staff and employees in the private sphere. It is estimated that the vaccines will be available by the last quarter of 2021 or even as early as mid-year.

I understand, though, that it doesn’t stop here, as there are efforts as well to procure vaccines from China and India. And we are being assured that all these should have passed the global standards for emergency use of vaccines before our own Food and Drug Administration would approve any rollout.

While we wait, another private sector-led communications initiative dubbed “Ingat-Angat” has been rolled out; it has not only become an opportunity to genuinely walk the talk of responsible corporate citizenship, but has also become a platform for competing companies to unite against the pandemic. Shell and Petron, Coke and Pepsi, McDonald’s and Jollibee, BDO and BPI, and Globe and Smart, to name just a few of the more intense industry rivalries, are together in videos being spread on all social media platforms to tell Filipinos that with religious practice of safety protocols, we can all do our share to get the economy going again as we await the vaccines. The campaign encourages everyone to stay safe with masks and face shields, social distancing, and proper hand-washing so we can get out of strict quarantines and help get the engines of the economy going again. Thus, it exhorts us all, “ingat, angat” for a better Philippines.

Almost exactly a year ago, on Dec. 28, 2019, I wrote in this same column that we have more reasons to be thankful. I say this time that there are more reasons to hope. Focus on the hope. Your Christmas 2020 and New Year 2021 celebrations shall only get better and better.

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is public affairs director of the Phinma group and former executive director of the Makati Business Club.

Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).

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TAGS: COVID-19, hope, human rights, pandemic, Philippines, vaccine
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