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What is happening to our country, General?

/ 04:05 AM February 01, 2021

In July 1982, while returning home from a dinner hosted by Foreign Secretary Carlos P. Romulo, former vice president Emmanuel Pelaez was seriously wounded in an ambush near his home in Quezon City. Two carloads of armed men blocked his car and fired at the occupants, killing the driver. Pelaez survived and was rushed to St. Luke’s Medical Center where during an interview, he asked “What is happening to our country, General?” referring to the deterioration of the rule of law, rising unsolved killings, cronyism in the economy, and the growing poverty in society. The officer was Brig. Gen. Tomas Karingal, at that time, Quezon City police chief. Today the same question is on the minds of people.

Last week we asked Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the “vaccine czar,” why with over 10,000 COVID-19 deaths in the country, we are behind Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, in the rollout of a vaccine that would protect our people and hasten economic recovery? So far, there has been no reply although I imagine it would be a difficult question for anyone in government to answer. One of our readers sent in his own question for Galvez: “Is there a National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan and Program? I ask this as a senior citizen and as chair of a rural bank with around 500 frontliners in the financial services sector operating principally in the CARAGA region. Or, is it every man for himself?” The last query sounds like one coming from a man in a sinking ship with the captain nowhere in sight.

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One does not know when the vaccines will actually be available to our people. General Galvez says we should have one to three million doses of Sinovac sometime this month. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez says we may get some 56 million doses from American pharmaceutical companies sometime in May. Local government units have their own plans and vaccines of their choice, mostly Western brands. People are confused, concerned, and uncertain about government pronouncements. They are not inclined to simply accept what the government is pushing even when told not to be “too choosy.”

—————-Last Jan. 15, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana wrote UP president Danilo Concepcion, informing him of the termination of the 1989 UP-DND Agreement that bars security forces from UP campuses without prior approval from university authorities. Initially, Lorenzana was not too keen on meeting with Concepcion to discuss the termination but after awhile, he had a change of heart and agreed to a dialogue without conditions or explanations from UP officials.

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Last week, the AFP Information Exchange posted a list of 28 UP graduates who were allegedly members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, who were killed or captured in military operations. Many on the list turned out to be very much alive and active in their respective fields. Lorenzana called it an “unpardonable gaffe,” and ordered the relief of Maj. Gen. Alex Luna, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, or J-2, whose office was the source of the list. Lorenzana said his decision was based on the principle of command responsibility, explaining that “a commander is responsible for what his unit does or fails to do.” This reminds me of the tragedy of Marawi City in 2017. More than 200 soldiers and civilians perished in the five-month siege, with a beautiful, historic city left in ruins. Not a single senior officer was held responsible or accountable, and the principle of command responsibility was not invoked or implemented.

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When China passed a new law authorizing its Coast Guard to fire on, or inspect, foreign vessels in China-claimed waters, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said “It was none of our business.” A few days later, he executed a 180-degree turn and decided to file a diplomatic protest, saying that while the law is a sovereign prerogative, “it represents a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law.” This reverse action was followed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken informing Locsin in a phone call that the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, which obliges the United States to defend the Philippines against attack in the Pacific, also applied to the disputed South China Sea. A good friend suggested that Locsin changed his mind after being read the riot act by his State Department handler in Washington, DC. How else can one explain the abrupt shift in the DFA position?

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TAGS: COVID-19, General Carlito Galvez, vaccines
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