Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Don’t be a Rapert and Gohmert

“Disobedience is essentially a prideful power struggle against someone in authority over us. It can be a parent, a priesthood leader, a teacher, or ultimately God. A proud person hates the fact that someone is above him. He thinks this lowers his position.”
Ezra Taft Benson

By Alex P. Vidal

EXCEPT for my two housemates, almost all New Yorkers I met in the streets everyday have been consistently wearing the masks.
Their obedience and discipline have helped New York State quickly overcome the ugly reputation as the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epicenter of the world in March, April, and May 2020.  
Like them, I will never question the authority of health experts who adhere to the scientific evidence that the only way to stop the spread of coronavirus is to wear a mask in public.
As long as there is a pandemic, I will continue to cooperate and abide by the guidelines, the rules and regulations on the mandatory wearing of a mask in public places.
I am aware that we are being asked to wear a mask because there is a pandemic, not because of anything else.
I am not a tig-a ulo (hard-headed) like some defiant characters we know here, there, and everywhere.
We are not being coerced to do the bidding of authoritarian rulers.
This is about a public health issue, the safety of everyone as the COVID-19 attempts to decimate a big bulk of the world population—unless a vaccine will be discovered soon and stop the virus in its track.
Plain and simple common sense and showing that we belong.

-o0o-

But my two housemates, an elderly woman and a young man, both firm believers of conspiracy theory, have refused to wear a mask. 
As they rejected the opinion of health experts that it is almost 100 percent sure the coronavirus won’t transfer from another person if we wear a mask, they went ballistic even before being reprimanded by people in the streets who think they exhibited a tinge of arrogance and recalcitrant behavior.
They love President Donald Trump so much and because the president does not wear a mask, it bolsters their belief that the COVID-19 is a hoax.
That the COVID-19 “drama” is being used as a political weapon by the Democrats to destroy Republican President Trump, who is seeking a reelection in November against presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joseph Biden.
They went to the extent of arguing, using an absurd assertion, that the COVID-19 was “intentionally” created “on instructions of former President Barrack Obama.” Tra la la.

-o0o-

We caution them not to suffer the fates of Arkansas Republican Governor Jason Rapert and Texas Republican Rep.  Louie Gohmert, two hardline anti-mask wearing Republic politicians who have been strongly advocating against the mandatory use of mask in public.
Refusing to wear a mask while walking through the halls of Congress and attending high-profile hearings with members of the White House administration, Gohmert reportedly tested positive for Covid-19.
Gohmert just attended a congressional hearing with Attorney General William Barr on July 28, reportedly tested positive for the novel coronavirus while being screened during a White House procedure on July 29 morning.
Rapert, who unsuccessfully introduced a bill to ban gay marriage in the US in 2017, was hospitalized with coronavirus and pneumonia on July 24.

-o0o-

As many states were beginning to take social distancing measures to attempt to control the spread of the virus, Rapert shared an article on Facebook that called the pandemic the “biggest political hoax in history”.
He has been critical of policies taken to stop the spread of Covid-19 in various social media posts over the last few months and was filmed last week not wearing a face mask at a church service, according to Raw Story.
Meanwhile, for taking off their masks, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler scolded Republicans at the hearing—an issue that has sowed controversy on Capitol Hill, with several members of the GOP refusing to wear face coverings while on the job.
A growing list of Republican lawmakers have meanwhile tested positive for Covid-19, including Tennessee Senator Rand Paul, South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice, Florida Rep Mario Diaz Balart and several others.
Damu gid man tig- a ulo.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Rodrigo Duterte wrong to use SONA to hit Franklin Drilon

“Mind your speech a little lest you should mar your fortunes.”
—William Shakespeare

By Alex P. Vidal

PUBLIC officials, journalists, lawyers, students, social media account owners, plain kibitzers were right to claim that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was wrong to use the recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) to lambast Senator Franklin Drilon.
It’s not the right venue, crooned Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao, an independent-minded leader.
Iloilo third district Rep. Lorenz Defensor, another brilliant mind in the House of Representatives, had expected the president to focus on the government’s plans and responses to pressing issues such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, not to zero in on an opposition leader in the co-equal branch of government.
Criticism by any government official of a fellow public servant or whoever in the government service is normal, moral, and necessary but should be done in the proper place and time. 
When a public official attacks a fellow public official, it’s politics.
And politics should have no room in the SONA.
Politics is mudslinging. 
SONA is nation-building.

-o0o-

Since democracy was restored in the Philippines during the 1986 EDSA Revolution, no president has humiliated an opposition figure in the SONA.
A SONA is too precious to be wasted in haranguing a fellow public servant. 
A SONA must contain the “state of the nation”— where we are now, what we have achieved, so far; and where (or what steps are we going to take) we are heading too as a sovereign nation. 
People are interested about the substance, not the personality.
When they are hungry and hankering for a food to eat, they aren’t interested anymore who cooked the meal or what he did before entering the kitchen.
We expect the decent personalities among those who idolize Mr. Duterte to have the moral courage to tell the president he was wrong.
It’s not bad to be an avid supporter of a mercurial leader, but it’s morally wrong to keep quite and give that leader an Emperor’s robe-treatment if it is obvious he erred.   

-o0o-

‘THERE ARE SIX TYPES OF COVID-19.’ CBS News has reported that a new study of COVID-19, based on data from a symptom tracker app, determined that there are six distinct "types" of the disease involving different clusters of symptoms. 
The discovery could potentially open new possibilities for how doctors can better treat individual patients and predict what level of hospital care they would need.
Researchers from King's College London studied data from approximately 1,600 U.K. and U.S. patients who regularly logged their symptoms in the COVID Symptom Tracker App in March and April.
Typically, doctors will look for key symptoms such as cough, fever and loss of the sense of smell to detect COVID-19, according to CBS News.
The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, says the six different "types" of COVID-19 can vary by severity and come with their own set of symptoms.
The six clusters of symptoms outlined in the study are:
1.   Flu-like with no fever: Headache, loss of smell, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, chest pain, no fever.
2.   Flu-like with fever: Headache, loss of smell, cough, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, loss of appetite.
3.   Gastrointestinal: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, sore throat, chest pain, no cough.
4.   Severe level one, fatigue: Headache, loss of smell, cough, fever, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue.
5.   Severe level two, confusion: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain.
6.   Severe level three, abdominal and respiratory: Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain, shortness of breath, diarrhea, abdominal pain.
The U.K. researchers also found that only 16% of patients with type one COVID-19 required hospitalization, compared with nearly half of the patients with type six, CBS News added.
Patients in the severe clusters also tended to be older or with pre-exisiting conditions and weakened immune systems, compared to those in the first three.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)



Sunday, July 26, 2020

Ilonggo chess master Reylan Magbanua’s mysterious death

“You only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face.”
IAN FLEMING, You Only Live Twice

By Alex P. Vidal

THE magnitude of casualties during the critical months of the novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Elmhurst, Queens in March, April, and May, obscured the deaths of two known senior Pinoy chess players in New York City, but the cause of death of one of them continued to be the talk of the town until today.
Because of their age and the timing of their deaths, many friends of Danilo “Danny” Concepcion and Reylan Magbanua, who died in April one after the other, thought their deaths were “coronavirus-related”.
But sources could not confirm they were linked to the COVID-19.
Concepcion’s death was first confirmed to this writer on April 29 by his friend, Cesar Mariano, a national master from Iloilo City in the Philippines, who played in the 1997 World Chess Open in Philadelphia together with Concepcion, reportedly in his 70s when he died, and a mainstay of the Commercial Chess League of New York.
“My friend Danny has rested,” Mariano revealed. “I contacted our friend in New Jersey who confirmed the sad news to me. He died of a kidney failure.”

-o0o-

Magbanua’s mysterious death reportedly on April 17 was confirmed in the Filipino community here only in the third week of July by a health worker who requested strict anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the details.
“Yes, Reylan Magbanua has died. Please don’t quote me. I don’t want to lose my job as I have no authority to disclose any information only his family should know,” appealed the health worker.
Magbanua’s death continued to be shrouded with mystery.
The 63-year-old national master, who hailed from Bacolod City in the Philippines, was reportedly found already lifeless in the social housing unit in Bronx where he lived alone.
He was reportedly “sickly and penniless and would always get involved in a melee with fellow residents in the social housing.”  
According to some of Magbanua’s friends here, the chess player had been hospitalized on several occasions in the past after being physically attacked by bums and chess hustlers in the parks and other public places where he was seen playing chess and believed to be “intoxicated.”

-o0o-

“We were always worried and sad each time we heard he was involved in a trouble or somebody had inflicted physical harm on him,” lamented Jun Galinea, founder of Elmhurst Chess Club.  
A fellow chess player from Silay City, Gilbert Gonzales said he hoped there was no foul play that attended Magbanua’s death.
“If they could not confirm that he died of coronavirus, then how did he die?” Gonzalez, 54, exclaimed. “They just reported that he was found dead. That’s all?” 
The health worker did not confirm Magbanua’s cause of death saying  “the hospital would reveal the details only to his family.”
Nobody had claimed Magbanua’s body, it was reported.
When he left the Philippines in the late 1990’s, Magbanua was one of the strongest chess players with a rating of 2310 in the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and was holder of I.D. No. 5200326.
He was one of the most feared blitz players in the Washington Square and Union Square in Manhattan, according to a Russian grand master I met in the Union Square who did not want to be quoted.
“Are you a Filipino”? the Russian GM asked me. “Yes, I am,” I retorted.
“So you know Reylan? Reylan Magbanua? Man, he is the fastest blitz player I’ve ever played.” 
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)





   
     

Saturday, July 25, 2020

We could have won our first gold after WWII

"Sport allows us to engage in dialogue and to build bridges, and it may even have the capacity to reshape international relations. The Olympic Games embody perfectly this universal mission." 
Richard Attias

By Alex P. Vidal

THE late former U.S. Olympic coach Lyle Draves was the husband of the first woman in history to win the Platform and Springboard gold medals in the 1948 London Olympics.
Victoria “Vicki” Manalo-Draves, who died in 2010 at the age of 85, was half-Filipina and half-British.
Had she represented the Philippines, we could have won our first Olympic gold medal after the World War II.
The highest that we have achieved, so far, were three silver medals courtesy of boxers Anthony Villanueva (1964 Tokyo Olympics), Mansueto "Onyok" Velasco, Jr. (1996 Atlanta Olympics), and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz (2016 Rio de Janeiro), and six bronze medals.
When Vicki was invited by President Elpidio Quirino in Malacañang in July 1949, she was feted like a Filipina Olympic champion, Lyle told this writer in a meeting in California in 2011.
Lyle, then 96, narrated his wife’s great exploits in an exclusive interview inside his unit in a retirement village in the City of Laguna Woods.
"My late wife was half-Filipina," Lyle volunteered.

-o0o-

He accompanied Vicki in the Malacañang visit and they were given a red carpet welcome.
“We hardly had any sleep then,” mused Lyle, the first pure diving coach in history who produced three Olympic gold medalists: Vicki Manalo-Draves (1948 London Olympics), Pat McCormick (1952 Helsinki Olympics and 1956 Melbourne Olympics), and Sue Gossick (1968 Mexico Olympics).
“We were herded from one party to another like real celebrities and almost everybody recognized us, especially Vicki. Man, I can’t forget that moment.”
Husband and wife visited the Philippines a year after Vicki Manalo-Draves made history: she became the first woman in history to win the Platform and Springboard gold medals in the 1948 London Olympics.
“I was her coach and Vicki narrowly beat (fellow American) Zoe Ann Olsen for the gold in her last Springboard dive,” recalled Lyle, who had been permanently enshrined in the International Swimming Hall of Fame at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 12, 1989. 
“I replaced the regular coach, Fred Cady, who got sick and could not make it to the Olympics that year.”
Lyle said Vicki was elected in the same highest sports pedestal in 1969.

-o0o-

On October 27, 2006, San Francisco mayor and now California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a proclamation naming a two-acre park as Victoria Manalo Draves Park in her honor on Folsom and Sherman streets in San Francisco where she was born.
Vicki's father was a Filipino musician from Orani, Bataan who migrated to San Francisco, California. Her mother was British Gertrude Taylor, also a migrant in the same state.
Lyle and Vicki have four sons – David, Jeffrey, Dale and Kim – all divers. They have eight grandchildren.
Prior to competing in the 1948 Olympics, Draves won five United States diving championships. 
Draves turned professional after the Olympics, joining Larry Crosby’s “Rhapsody in Swimtime” aquatic show at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1948.

-o0o-

When Vicki died on April 11, 2010 from complications of pancreatic cancer at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California, Lyle relocated to a plush retirement village at the Rushmore Towers in Laguna Woods, California where he has been living alone.
“I missed Vicki so much. But every night I talked to her,” sighed Lyle, who was partly deaf.
Lyle coached female divers to 12 Olympic medals and 35 National Championships. His Olympic silver medalists include Paula Jean Myers and Zoe Ann Olsen, each of whom took a bronze. His divers’ Olympic medal count reads 7 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze.
Lyle has been described as America’s first great diving coach beginning an era when diving coaches could specialize in divers and not coach swimmers too, or vice versa.
He was a Hollywood film editor and his showbiz background has helped his coaching or again, vice versa, since Lyle was diving in and then producing, top-rated diving water shows before he became a film editor.
An Iowa farm boy, Lyle met Fred Cady at a swimming meet in Iowa. Fred invited him to California where Lyle began coaching divers at the Lido Club at the famed Ambassador Hotel and at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

-o0o-

One of his first pupils was a 12-year-old girl named Zoe Ann Olsen. Next, they both moved to the Athens Athletic Club in Oakland where he met Vicki Manalo. He later married Vicki, who was given away by 1948 and 1952 platform winner Sammy Lee.
After the Olympics, Vicki and Lyle toured the United States and Europe with Buster Crabbe and Dick Smith.
He described the tours as “our great opportunity to travel as husband and wife since we have been traveling a lot together as coach and diver.”
Lyle returned to his coaching, first at tennis champion Jack Kramer’s Athletic Club and then at UCLA.
The Draves boys are Acapulco and World Champion high divers who have followed the showbiz side of their father’s heritage doing high and trick dives in such places as Magic Mountain, Sea World and Marineland.
Lyle described Fred Cady as “the most brilliant man” he ever met.
“He was the team coach during the 1936 (Berlin) Olympics and he was truly a great diving coach,” Lyle said.
The secret to success in coaching diving, Lyle emphasized, is “to follow Sir Isaac Newton and his third law of motion.”
He said, “Divers should know how to utilize the muscles inside their bodies by following the third law of motion.”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Wanted: A Pinoy Chris Wallace

“You've gotta understand--when you interview someone, it's not an interrogation. It's not the Nuremberg Trials.”
Joan Rivers

By Alex P. Vidal

IF we have TV and broadcast journalists in the Philippines who ask questions like Fox News’ Chris Wallace, brash-talking and fire-spewing Filipino politicians like President Digong Duterte and Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla would also be reduced to a sputtering, sweating mess like what happened to U.S. President Donald Trump recently.
Wallace’s combative interview with Mr. Trump on “Fox News Sunday” earned him almost universal praise for his willingness to real-time fact-check and push back against some of the mercurial American president’s wrong and ridiculous claims.
As of this writing, that sensational interview, viewed by almost six million televiewers, continued to be the talk of the town.
We could only gnash our teeth as we watched the tense interview imagining how Mr. Duterte, et al would wiggle out vis-a-vis a Chris Wallace-type interviewer in the Philippines.
Who would that Pinoy Chris Wallace be?
Would there be one—or would any Pinoy journalist dare to be one, in the first place?

-o0o-

Because of their usual sycophancy and probably fear of Mr. Duterte, most TV and broadcast hosts in Metro Manila would normally ask leading and safe questions rather than risk pissing off the lion during press conferences and studio interviews.
Even if they would sound friendly and their subservience was broadly pronounced, most Pinoy TV and broadcast journalists still could not escape from Mr. Duterte’s expletive-laced diatribe and insult.
Against a Chris Wallace-type “inquisitor”, Mr. Duterte might meet his match—and probably Waterloo. 
Wallace, who was also critical of the Obama administration, came armed with statistics to challenge Mr. Trump’s arguments about the mortality rate and testing for COVID-19.
A flustered Mr. Trump responded: “I’ll be right eventually” after being asked by Wallace to respond to clips of him making too-rosy predications about the spread of the coronavirus.

-o0o-

“No one works harder on an interview,” Associated Press quoted University of Maryland’s Bettag, the longtime producer of ABC’s “Nightline” when Wallace would occasionally sub for Ted Koppel as host. 
“He goes over and over on questions. He consults with as many people as he can. Most of all, he studies what his subject is likely to answer. He did a great interview because he worked his butt off getting ready.”
At one point, Trump denied it
When Wallace asked, “Why on Earth would your administration be involved in a campaign to discredit Dr. (Anthony) Fauci?” Mr. Trump denied it.
The intrepid American TV host then showed Mr. Trump a copy of an anti-Fauci cartoon shared on social media by a White House aide.
Wallace also kept many of his questions direct, less easy to slip away from: “Is the Confederate flag offensive?” 
“Would you consider a national mandate that people need to wear masks?” 
“Why wouldn’t you ... send more money so the schools would be safer?”
Wallace’s Filipino counterparts definitely have learned a lot from that swashbuckling one-on-one interview with the U.S. president.

-o0o-

IF the Western Visayas Regional Task Force (RTF) on COVID-19 and Regional Inter-Agency Task Force did not make an appeal, both Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia would still not have lifted the border restrictions they had earlier imposed one after another.
When Treñas issued a travel ban earlier for people crossing Iloilo City and Bacolod City, Leonardia followed suit “primarily in reciprocity”.
The lifting of travel bans from both city mayors occurred after RTF spokesperson, Atty. Roy Villa, had called for a meeting with various government agencies to address the issue where they agreed to make an appeal to both city mayors.
While travel restrictions were seen as one of the most effective means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from one city and province to another, economists were saying the local economy would be in the losing end as it would prevent and delay the transfer of basic goods and commercial commodities, in this case, in the islands of Panay, Negros, and Guimaras. 
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Monday, July 20, 2020

Oligarchy and how it exists in the Philippines

When is the oli­garchy’s judg­ment day?
Let us begin to de­fine oli­garchy, for it has be­come vogue (“I dis­man­tled oli­garchy”) yet de­fined se­lec­tively. Those who rely on its Aris­totelian def­i­ni­tion (rule by the rich) need a crash course on up­dat­ing. 
That mean­ing has been su­per­seded in the early 20th cen­tury when oli­garchy was ex­panded to how the po­lit­i­cal elite in a democ­racy abuse the sys­tem to trans­form them­selves into the rul­ing class con­cerned with pro­tect­ing their own power.
For the ben­e­fit of po­lit­i­cal pyg­mies and their trolls (have they been paid now?), let us cherry-pick the eas­i­est def­i­ni­tion ever. Mer­riam-web­ster de­fines oli­garchy in only four words: gov­ern­ment by the few (Greek oli­gos: “few”). 
It pro­vides a sec­ond mean­ing to clar­ify the brevity: a gov­ern­ment in which a small group ex­er­cises con­trol es­pe­cially for cor­rupt and self­ish pur­poses. Mer­riam-web­ster can be charged with ter­ror­ism.
And that is where we are, when po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties bend even the small­est of laws such as the req­ui­site res­i­dency for elec­tion can­di­dacy. 
A mar­i­tal bed is split into two dis­tricts such that the wife is con­gress­man of one dis­trict, the hus­band of the other dis­trict. The twain shall never meet so that their pork bar­rel mul­ti­plies us­ing this for­mula: P90 mil­lion per year x 3 (years) x 2 (dis­tricts). 
Then add more if one is speaker or deputy speaker of the House (P750 mil­lion in an­nual pork bar­rel). Add some more if one sis­ter is se­na­tor and a brother is mayor. The re­sult is 20th-cen­tury oli­garchy: What they pro­tect is ob­vi­ous.
That is only one lo­cal­ity. An­other is ap­par­ent: Fa­ther is pres­i­dent, daugh­ter is city mayor, one son is deputy speaker of the House, and the other son is vice mayor. 
All the voter needs to re­call are the first names on the bal­lot, be­cause the sur­names are all the same.
That is the real mean­ing of oli­garchy. Aris­to­tle’s def­i­ni­tion has be­come ob­so­lete be­cause it was re­placed by a term to sig­nify a later emerg­ing re­al­ity: plu­toc­racy (ploutos, “wealth”; kratos, “power”), a so­ci­ety ruled or con­trolled by peo­ple of great wealth or in­come. 
It is where the oli­garchy of po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties in­ter­sects with plu­toc­racy, for it is an open se­cret that in the Philip­pines, pol­i­tics is an or­ga­nized crime and the most cer­tain path to wealth.
This, too, is as con­tro­ver­sially oli­garchic: A re­li­gious sect as­sumes power by in­duc­ing the pop­u­lar vote through the bloc vot­ing of its mem­bers. 
A con­gress­man-mem­ber of that sect can block the fran­chise of a me­dia net­work when his church takes in­ter­est to se­cure that same fran­chise for its own broad­cast net­work.
Po­lit­i­cal elites who freely in­ter­pret the laws like toi­let pa­per rule the Philip­pines. 
We are no doubt an oli­garchy, but those who de­fine it de­fine it in such a way that we do not see the ele­phant in the room. In fact, there are herds of ele­phants, not just 70 but thou­sands of them. 
They are con­spic­u­ous but they are de­lib­er­ately over­looked be­cause it makes them un­com­fort­able, hence the need for an anti-ter­ror­ism law. 
A so­ci­ol­ogy and psy­chol­ogy of re­pres­sion is in­ten­tion­ally cre­ated on a macro scale to hide the true grotesque oli­garchy. The re­jec­tion of ABS-CBN was a smoke screen in re­defin­ing oli­garchy.
The longer the decades dy­nas­ties rule us, the dum­ber we will be, for dy­nas­ties dumb down our po­lit­i­cal cog­ni­tion and stan­dards. In the process, we for­get that democ­racy is about hav­ing a voice and a rule of law that ap­plies to all, that no one is above the law.
These oli­garchs will flatly fail the test of even cir­cus tri­als like those of the House com­mit­tee on leg­isla­tive fran­chises, be­cause they know no other lan­guage but ly­ing. 
A bo­gus democ­racy like ours may vomit from the cor­pu­lence of its po­lit­i­cal thiev­ery and im­punity. 
We do not wait for its self-im­mo­la­tion. Nei­ther do we wait for bal­lots sold with money stolen from us.
We wait rather for the judg­ment day of the oli­gos. When jus­tice is the aim, the wronged re­dressed, and the or­phan’s plea heard, it will come. 
It is when the peo­ple will turn in­flam­ma­tory and rage with days of wrath on the cho­sen few thieves of democ­racy. Next week is the State of the Oli­garchy Ad­dress (SOOA).
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippines Jul 20, 2020 A9 AN­TO­NIO J. MON­TAL­VAN II On Twit­ter: @An­to­nio­j­mon­tal2. Email: an­ton­monta@gmail.com

Sunday, July 19, 2020

NYC ‘wakes up’ after 5 months

“I love New York. You can pop out of the Underworld in Central Park, hail a taxi, head down Fifth Avenue with a giant hellhound loping behind you, and nobody even looks at you funny.” 
Rick Riordan

By Alex P. Vidal

WE witnessed how New York City “went to sleep” for the first time in the history in March.
With COVID-19 at its highest peak, it was bizarre and spine-chilling, to say the least. 
When the most glamorous metropolis in the world “woke up” on July 20 (Monday U.S. time) during the Phase 4 of the reopening of economy, we would be witnessing it as well.
We began the count down as scheduled on June 8 with strong optimism during the Phase 1, when everything seemed uncertain and unpredictable.
During the phases two and three, we continued to adhere to the wearing of mask and social distancing guidelines as the number of cases and deaths declined. 
After four phases, there’s no stopping the Big Apple now from rolling back to the mainstream even if dramatic spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases have been reported in some Southern and Western states.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said: "We're continuing to progress forward through the COVID-19 pandemic in the face of a continued explosion of cases throughout the United States, and that's reflected in today's hospitalizations—the lowest number since March 18—and rate of positive cases.” 
"During these confining and frustrating times, I know it's tempting to be tired of the many rules and guidelines the state has issued, but I reiterate that this pandemic is far from over, and the incredible compliance and fortitude of New Yorkers are key parts of our ability to fight COVID-19. Socially distance, wear a mask, wash your hands and stay New York Smart."

-o0o-

Cuomo hailed the development as “a hallmark for us,” though he said the state is still on guard for a possible resurgence of the virus.
Upon entering New York, people from 16 states that have seen case surges must undergo a two-week quarantine.
In Bronx, meanwhile, honest monkeys, insincere giraffes, kindly elephants and more would be allowed to greet New Yorkers once again.
Along with zoos, botanical gardens would be permitted to swing open their gates and pro sports teams would play ball, minus in-person spectators.
Movie and TV crews would also be allowed to shoot on the city’s scenic streets, some four months after life in the Big Apple ground to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus outbreak.
However, indoor dining at restaurants, along with museums and malls, remains off the table amid ongoing concerns about COVID-19.
“We’ve got to strike a balance and we’ve got time to look at the evidence, watch what’s happening around the country, watch what’s happening here in the city and make further decisions on some of these pieces and we’ll do that very carefully with the state of New York,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a video shared Sunday on Twitter.

-o0o-

IT’S good that the Iloilo City Government did not raise a whimper and there was no major stir when the 123 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) arrived in Iloilo City on July 20 by commercial plane and ship.
As long as the quarantine facilities can accommodate them, Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas told the local media he didn’t mind welcoming the returning Ilonggos.
In other cities and province, the return of even a single LSI has created a lot of furor and finger-pointing as if a person with a malignant disease has escaped from an asylum for communicable diseases facility.  
The mass hysteria is now being accepted as a “normal” reaction because of the scary statistics of coronavirus pandemic infection which continues to give nightmare to people from all walks of life.  
Treñas, meanwhile, continues to get applause from Ilonggos anywhere who believe that if not for his “effective” leadership and management of the pandemic, Iloilo City would have suffered the fate of Cebu, now the COVID-19 epicenter in the Philippines.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)


Saturday, July 18, 2020

A columnist’s chilling analysis about ‘end of democracy’

“Democracy passes into despotism.”
Plato

By Alex P. Vidal

ONE of the most emphatic and forceful opinions about the 
ABS-CBN debacle and the ongoing debate whether it was proper to deny the network’s application for renewal of franchise, was expressed recently by Ilonggo columnist Archil B. Fernandez.
In his column published in The Daily Guardian entitled, “End of democracy” published on July 18, 2020, Fernandez pointed out that ABS-CBN “was deprived of a franchise on the whim of Congress.”
“This is the worst display of arrogance of power, grave abuse of authority. The closure of ABS-CBN is a naked display of raw power,” lamented the hard-hitting Fernandez.
Unlike other opinion writers in the country who are afraid to link President Digong Duterte to the network’s franchise mess, Fernandez, my esteemed former colleague in the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) in 1987, directly slammed the mercurial president: “ABS-CBN was closed because Du30 want it silenced – his vendetta against the network.”
Fernandez, former editor of the country’s oldest campus publication, The Central Echo (founded in 1910), warned that ABS-CBN’s closure “signals the end of democracy, liberal democracy in the country.”
“Going beyond the arrogance of power, the closure of ABS-CBN is not only an assault to press freedom but signals the end of democracy, liberal democracy in the country,” Fernandez wrote.

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He stressed: “Congress closing down ABS-CBS is a major attack on press freedom. This is evident during the hearings. Representatives complained of the unfair portrayal of politicians in the network’s shows and alleged bias of its news. What they want is to control and dictate the contents of the news and programs of the station.”
“If journalists have no control over the contents of the news and write only what politicians want, there is no more freedom of the press. Politicians dictating news content is not just censorship but the transformation of news into a public relation job or worst becomes propaganda.”
“But the most serious implication of the closure of ABS-CBN is the death, the end of democracy in the country. What we have today is a managed democracy. The Philippines is only a democracy in form but not in substance. The institutions of democracy exist but these institutions do not function or do not function in a real democracy.”
He furthered fired: “The principle of check-and-balance is the cornerstone of democracy. The three branches of government – executive, legislative and judiciary- are independent of each other and check each other to prevent excesses and abuse of one branch. But the Philippines under Du30, the executive is in absolute control with Congress and the judiciary bending the knee if not cowed by the executive.”
“Under Du30’s authoritarian rule, the legislative and judiciary are only appendages of the executive. The denial of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise is the latest evidence that the Philippines is a managed democracy. Despite a lack of evidence on the allegations against the network, its franchise was killed by Congress. ABS-CBN was closed because Du30 want it silenced – his vendetta against the network,” explained Fernandez.
According to the Ilonggo columnist, the “Philippines is no longer a democracy.” 
“Du30 reigns supreme with a pliant Congress and judiciary bowing to his whims and caprices. By closing down ABS-CBN, Du30 is telling everyone that he gets what he wants, that he has ultimate power. Denial of ABS-CBN franchise heralds the end if not the death of democracy in the country,” he concluded.

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The Long wait is over. We will finally reach the Phase 4 of the reopening of New York economy on Monday, July 20, even as White House health advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, praised our state for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying we responded “correctly” to bring its outbreak under control. 
Fauci told “PBS NewsHour” Friday evening, “We know that, when you do it properly, you bring down those cases. We have done it. We have done it in New York.
He continued: “New York got hit worse than any place in the world. And they did it correctly by doing the things that you’re talking about.”
New York was once the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States with more than 10,000 new cases a day during its peak outbreak in April. The state has dramatically reduced daily new infections to 776 as of Thursday. 
New York is one of nine U.S. states that has the virus under control, according to the tracking project Covid Act Now. Less than 1 percent of New Yorkers tested for the virus were positive July 16, down from a high of more than 40 percent.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)