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20/20 beyond 2020

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SUFFICE IT to say that, basically, we should see substantively more of the same in the near, foreseeable future.

Like the poor, the pandemic virus will still  be with us, even with the promising vaccines on the horizon. Primarily, that’s  because the virus has increased their ranks via the ruinous effects on the economy like business shutdowns, loss of jobs and incomes.

The promise  of a vaccine is not exactly kinder to us. The golden rule will dictate: those who have the gold will get them first, regardless of ideology or creed. Obviously, the Philippines don’t have enough gold to meet the nation’s need, not to mention the logistical requirements. Too, there is the problem of geology: we are in the tropics while most of the promising vaccines are good in temperate climate.

In other words, there is more than just the financial hurdle that our leaders will have to jump over. On this alone, crossing the fingers is an additional motivation.

The immediate future will also be nearer our experience than our expectations

Expectation No 1: President Duterte will leave office in 2022. Don’t hold your breath. Duterte will not simply go quietly into the night.

In politics, a preposition is a verb, an adjective and, ultimately a noun. Look what’s has been going on in the last few days. The President has appointed allies in new position. Correction: they’re not just allies; they’re members of his expanded choir who will, no doubt, sing his tune.

There’s a new deputy in the Ombudsman, presumably being groomed for the highest post when the right time comes. There’s a new commissioner in the COMELEC who will come in handy in case. The latest appointee is former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who comes from the votes-rich Pampanga. You do the math.

 Duterte’s latest moves unmistakeably telegraph what’s in the offing when the political jingles start blaring around. Go, Go or probably not.

With the threat to freedom of expression and freedom of the press still hanging over Duterte’s critics’ head, and the Supreme Court taking a excruciatingly long time to resolve the various petitions against the anti-terror law, freedom angst will be felt by more people.

In the face of a new American president,  how China will pursue its  expansion in territories owned by the Philippines by virtue of an international court order, will continue to dog  our foreign policy, independent or not. One thing is certain : no jet ski will ever yet  be taken to reach  the West Philippine Sea by a Malacanang occupant. Not in our life. The voters were taken for a ride. Barnum was right: one sucker born every minute.

At least one thing is likely to be  widely weaponized in the coming 2022 elections, or even before: the anti-COVID vaccine, who get them and who have access to them first. Senate President Tito Sotto has given clue: two lawmakers had already been vaccinated and even before that, several of fhis colleagues were tested first for COVID 19. There’s a pecking order even among chickens. It used to be a vote for a meal or two; it will be a vote for a dose or two next time.

There appears to be no let up in harassing shutdown ABS-CBN. Presidential Legal Whisper Salvador Panelo is looking into the  alleged illegality of the network’s block time agreement with Bishop Eddie Villanueva’s station. Whether he has a point or not is not the whole  point. Bottom line: no media   spoiler  to whatever political plan the Duterte administration has now and in the near future.  They just wouldn’t let a   barking dog have a shaft of daylight.

The 18th century English philosopher John Stuart Mills knew why. The liberty of the press, he said is not compatible with diverse public opinions which an authoritarian regime cannot tolerate or afford. Contrarianism is a no-no in a non-democracy. The lesser the better. Less is more in terms of positive image for the despot  who calls the shot,not necessarily unembellished. Less is more also in terms of derogating, to say the least,  the opposition.

In contrast, if Christmas 2020 will  be quieter, Christmas 2021 will be noisier, mostly about politics and other primary concerns that will be at stake in the 2022 elections.  The noise will be dictated by who has the loudest and biggest megaphone — and has the key to the vaccine vault              

The future within our reach, which for now doesn’t exceed our limited grasp, may just be more of the same. Nothing, however, is absolutely certain in an imperfect world we live in.

The  poem “Invictus” may provide the hope and courage to make a difference. Who’s the master of the fate and who’s the captain of the  soul might tip the balance.

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