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Reality checks in 2022

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AT LEAST, there are three reality checks Filipinos must studiously consider as they look forward to what the new year will bring upon the country: will it be a make or will it be a break? Will it be a tiger economy future or the kangkungan?

Reality One is the omicron. Reality Two is the end of President Duterte’s term in June. Reality Three is the disqualification move against the survey-leading but embattled presidential bet Bongbong Marcos. All three highly challenging realities will impact in a big way whether the Philippines will become a first-world country, as former President Arroyo foresees it, sooner than later. Or never.

We had been there before; it was short-lived and we vaguely remember it, or not at all. But look where we are now, and it’s not about because of the debilitating COVID 19. “If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us,”wrote Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians,” is that wishing doesn’t make it so.” Unfortunately, it’s a political season and every politician encourages everyone to engage in wishful thinking engendered by their sweet promises.

First, the omicron. If you go by how experts or scientists describe it, you might as well consider this new variant a blessing in disguise, if a disease-causing germ can actually be that. Doctors from across the globe, including one of our own, hail it as the beginning of the end of the pandemic. With the omicron, according to an American doctor ,the pandemic will scale down into endemic. The difference is scale and existential.

According to Dr. John Campbell, a British doctor widely followed on YouTube, the omicron is more good news than bad. First the bad news: it is exponentially more transmissible than the Delta variant. The good news: 1) it is less pathogenic or deadly, 2) it is usually mild in effect, about 93 percent of cases, ) and doesn’t attack the lungs but inhabits the upper respiratory tract mainly. More importantly, the omicron prevents the Delta variant from infecting a person.

Considering how the Delta bug has been hard and deadly on people, it seems like the omicron is an answered prayer, a mercy right from above, which as St. James said in his epistle, is a good and perfect one, though the omicron isn’t really perfect given its downside.

At this point in the game, when. everybody is mining the last barrel for confidence, the omicron provides some of it. The economy is still very much down there, down to 4 percent in terms of the GDP from the projected ambitious 6 to percent growth. People’s unbridled movement and productivity are the key. Omicron is fortunately, providentially a leash, not a lock.

Duterte’s bright boys and girls in the health department should be able to figure out how best to manage the omicron variant without sacrificing the economy with the on-and-off lockdowns of all forms and shapes that nearly did people’s source of living in. Public policy hammers, in hindsight, have been tried and tested, and found wanting. Apparently, even the mild -mannered and ever-obedient DILG Secretary Ed Ano is wiser now. The omicron challenges the intellect as well as common sense. It’s time we showed the world we have both inside the cranium. One more thing: divisive, partisan politics should not be given a chance to rear it ugly head, not this time at least.

In his historical book about the 1918 pandemic “The Great Influenza”, American author John Barry said that two things are crucilal in dealing with the pandemic: leadership and truth. “You don’t manage the truth,” he said” you tell it.” Our experiences, sad, bad or glad, and better watch out, in the last two years or so should tell us how the Duterte administration led the nation and told the truth in this context.

The controversial Pharmally issue is an eye-opener in the corruption game. Profiteering, flip-flop diplomacy and public relations seemed to have taken precedence over trust, public health and what was right. Sen. Richard Gordon, who is presiding over the Senate probe that has uncovered multiple anomalies on the Pharmally pandemic transaction, and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan who’s just as relentless in pursuing the matter, have been singled out by Duterte as those who don’t deserve the people’s votes. Nihao?

The fundamental lesson of the 1918 pandemic,Barry wrote, is that those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing and to try to manipulate no one. Let us count the ways this administration has failed to do just that.

With the omicron seen as “a rescue at the right time” it’s equally fortuitous that Duterte will exit the country’s politics as the leading impresario in June this year. Filipinos can redeem themselves from the mistake egregiously made six ago by ensuring no similar mistake will be made in the May 2022 polls. Santayana resonates time and time again: you forget the past, you repeat it as the future. The Russian roulette is sometimes mistaken as a low-risk game. Consider the source.

Relevant to this conversation is the disqualification move against Bongbong Marcos who is currently leading his rivals by a mile in the recent surveys. He garnered more than half of the respondents who favored his return to Malacanang as successor to his once president/dictator father,the battlecry of his nearest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo. No wonder even a slight cold stopped him from the hearing his case at the COMELEC. No virus should spoil his life quest.

His case has the kind of simplicity even non-lawyers can very well appreciate. He was convicted of a crime for tax evasion. He admitted it and subsequently allegedly paid the corresponding penalty for the crime, but not the punishment. He was supposed to have been imprisoned and disqualified from public office, permanently. Didn’t happen, and was even allowed (isn’t that supposed to be the job of the COMELEC?) to become a congressman and senator, and ALMOST a vice president. In a democracy, miracles happen, or money talks.

The honorable West Philippine Sea champion Antonio Carpio, not an ordinary lawyer or judge, but a former Supreme Court justice is clear and firm on what should have happened and should happen this time around. The tax law BBM broke says anyone who breached it is banned from voting and running for public office permanently. No ifs, no buts. In Carpio’s book,the law is clear,it should settle the Bongbong issue, once and for all.

It’s about time the rule of law is supreme over the land. Otherwise, the omicron will remain as the only equal opportunity provider left in the land of many promises. That’s strange; it doesn’t even have life.

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