Helter skelter is coming
A residual saving grace of our much-eroded democracy is that, for all their authoritarian instincts, our officials are talkative, starting with the President himself. He got the mystery of the Chinese vaccine rolling by being the one to mention that some officials and soldiers had been vaccinated against COVID-19, ahead of any vaccine being officially accepted by our FDA. Our institutions are still so accustomed to being asked questions, and feeling compelled to answer them, that the media and the public have been able to piece together some parts of the story: Some presidential guards got vaccinated; at least one, unnamed, member of the Cabinet has been vaccinated; it seems the vaccine used was the Chinese one. But all this took place, quite disturbingly, without the FDA’s authorization for the vaccine, or, it seems, the knowledge of the top brass of the Armed Forces, who ought to know and approve the giving of vaccines to some of its troops.
This comes on the heels of the government as a whole appearing even more uncoordinated than usual, caught in finger-pointing over allegations of “dropping the ball” when it came to securing an allocation of the Pfizer vaccine, as well as other vaccines, although two things seem clear: First, we belong to an alliance organized by the World Health Organization meant to ensure sufficient allocations of the various vaccines for its members, and second, the President, for his part, has been content to focus on the Chinese and Russian vaccines as guaranteed by their friendly governments to be available in sufficient quantities and at a friendly price, as a token of esteem for him.
But this also means that, having decided that the Chinese vaccine is not only fine and dandy but also a demonstration of his success at diplomacy, the President has sent the signal that it can be used. And now it has been used, as a strategy — as the Armed Forces lamely put it — to protect the commander in chief. That this might have required procedural lapses is something for his people to fix — and their fix is a tried-and-tested one: You might think it’s illegal, but it’s actually legal, because it’s not exactly prohibited especially as regulations cover the selling of medicines, and since the vaccines used weren’t sold but were given, no rules were broken, so there!
Another news item involves PNP chief Debold Sinas and Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo agreeing in principle that gambling operators should course their license applications through the PNP, supposedly as a response to the proliferation of unregulated online gambling that happened during the pandemic. Now, anyone applying for a license will have to do it through the office of the PNP chief. The PNP says it will clear potential raids with Pagcor, while Pagcor says the PNP will check if applicants meet its requirements. In the good old days when, whatever the honesty, or lack of it, of senators, they knew the public pulse well enough to smell a racket a mile away, a deal like this would have led to a three-thing investigation, but today’s Senate is a far tamer institution.
For its part, a tame Senate is nothing compared to the Anti-Terrorism Council’s decision to declare the CPP and the NPA as terrorist groups, for the purpose of freezing their assets. In a sense, this is piling on designations on top of existing ones, including designating the NPA as a terrorist organization by foreign governments (the United States, the European Union, and New Zealand). But a Justice undersecretary said that they would leave it up to banks and financial institutions to identify and freeze terrorist assets—something banks aren’t equipped to do, or ought to be allowed to do.
Which leads us to the opening of the 2022 campaign with an online trial balloon: a video of Sen. Manny Pacquiao, with a presidential cameo giving a thumbs-up, in which Pacquiao states that his heart is for the poor as he came from the poor, and pitching the removal of VAT and to lower personal and corporate taxes. The result? About 7.3 million views in three days. The economic team that some continue to point to as a justification for supporting the current administration, which is considering anointing Pacquiao as the man to succeed it, just saw its death sentence.