On a number of matters | Inquirer Opinion
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On a number of matters

/ 01:00 AM January 22, 2021

There are times when I cannot seem to think of what I really want to write about. I cannot procrastinate beyond a day or two because I have deadlines. Sometimes, too, there are many issues I want to tackle but I have to choose only one. Now is one such moment when I want to write about several matters, when I do not want to delay any of them by choosing only one. Let me address them all, then, in one article, and hope you and I do not end up confused.

The vaccines. There is so much speculation about the vaccines, not so much as the hope of the pandemic, but exactly the opposite flavor. On the surface, these speculations highlight favoring China, questioning the efficacy of Sinovac in the face of several claims of better efficacy from other brands, and bothered with the suspicion of that corruption through overpriced deals.

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The President emphasized that we should not be preoccupied with corruption because there is none in the intended purchases of vaccines. Despite his 91% approval rating, I do not think he can assuage the doubts or negative judgments related to corruption over vaccine transactions. I suppose he should remember that corruption in DOH has been a consistent topic practically the whole of 2020 from test kits, testing laboratories, inadequate compensation for front liners, and the mother of them all – PhilHealth.

I pity the vaccine czar, Sec. Galvez, because he stepped into a mess not of his own doing. I can only give unsolicited advice to him as he is drawn into the quicksand of slime – be as transparent as possible, offer the information before being asked.

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The canceled accord between the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of National Defense that had prohibited the military and police forces from operations inside the UP campus without prior notice to the school administration. It seemed to me like only a matter of time before the military would insist on abrogating that agreement. When peace talks ended, when government took a more determined move against organizations that had friendly, or more than friendly, relations with the communist rebellion, and continuing violent encounters in the field, where else could it have gone?

The conflict is not an issue of differences in political ideologies, it is the reality of armed conflict. It is not even an issue of right and wrong but the choice of killing or be killed. Both sides have put themselves in tight corners and they have nowhere to go but eliminate one another. In plain Pilipino, “Matira ang matibay.” Government and rebels have no more options without peace talks but to win and win at all costs.

The choice is with us – the Filipino citizens. We have to take sides because we will be forced to do so. Again, this is only a matter of time. Both sides are very jealous and paranoid. They dump on us that arrogant or desperate statement, “If you are not with us, you are against us.” We who are not yet bothered will be squeezed as the violence escalates from faraway to just around the corner – where the UP administration and students now finds themselves in. In the provinces, businesses confront double taxation or harassment, take your choice. The rebellion has been on for 50 years, and I suppose that its hardcore partisans will continue to kill or will be killed. I assume that government sees as its duty to protect but its own existence as well, doing so with all its resources.

The conflict will not end because the protagonists will not bend. The end can come but only after a decisive victory, and that will mean more Filipinos have to die first. The innocent will pay the most, as usual, and yet the same dead innocents are claimed to be the ones that both sides are trying to help. So, fellow Filipinos, prepare yourselves to make hard choices because a war rages. Or try to stop it by screaming at the top of your lungs to tell government and rebels to stop the killing, to sit down, and negotiate the best compromise for peace.

Poverty. Hunger. Why do we have to live with these as though they are pre-ordained? We are fed with statistics about poverty or the lack of it, its ridiculously low levels when many times that number say they are poor or feel poor. What are we really after – low poverty figures or higher well-being of our people? We have been told that poverty is below 20% yet only 16% of Filipinos say they are not poor. Why not just accept how people regard themselves because that anyway is how they will behave? Then, we can rearrange our economic and social priorities to focus on programs directly enabling productivity and opportunity for the majority.

Ultimately, productivity will erase hunger. That same productivity will also dismantle poverty. Meanwhile, only feeding the hungry who suffer from both lack of opportunity and low productivity can resolve the hunger of the innocent. They are innocent, you know, they have not deserved the hunger they suffer from, the hunger that stalks them forever. Let us not tolerate hunger. There are more than enough of us who are not hungry with the means to share our excess. We can even explore the possibility of pre-positioning food banks in communities that consistently go hungry.

It is a new year. We can reset many things; in fact, we should. As we plan forward, as we stimulate productivity, let us not forget what 2020 and Covid-19 taught us. The great lesson is that we survive together, not just some of us but all of us. That is what a nation is – togetherness. End the violence, end the poverty and hunger, end the exploitation of the other. As citizens, as communities, we have to make our choices. Let’s choose the good ones.

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TAGS: Carlito Galvez Jr., Chinese vaccine, hunger, Poverty, Sinovac
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