Finally, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gets himself vaccinated. The 76-year-old chief executive got the jab on Monday, May 3, with a dose of the now legendary Sinopharm vaccine.
That is good news for two reasons. One, the presidential inoculation should convince non-believers that COVID vaccines are good for them and for the country. Two, it marks a turning point or an inflection point in the country’s struggle against the worst pandemic in 100 years. There is a glimmer of light at the end of a long dark tunnel. Cases are rising at a much slower pace now. Deaths are much fewer than before.
Why is Sinopharm legendary? The vaccine has not been licensed for use in the Philippines and yet it was injected into the presidential arm. Sinopharm seems to be better than the much disliked Sinovac, which has an efficacy rate of just 50% and which George Gao, the chief of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, concedes needs to be reinforced. So maybe, we will get a “Sinovac Plus” soon.
On the other hand, the Sinopharm vaccine has an efficacy rate of 79%, according to a New York Times report. Sinopharm uses an inactivated COVID-19 virus mixed with an aluminum compound which is introduced into the human body to stimulate antibodies which then swallow the dead virus. It uses an old technology, similar to that developed by Dr. Jonas Salk for the Salk polio vaccine.
So I guess now, Mr. Duterte can be called “Ang Mandirigma” (“Mr. Warrior”), just like Manny Pacquiao, the only man in history to be an eight-division world boxing champion, defeating 22 world champions, making him the world’s greatest boxer, ahead of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Muhammad Ali. He is also boxing’s second richest man, after Mayweather.
Pacquiao, however, is no match to Duterte, who is history’s—and the world’s—most popular and trusted leader, before and after Jesus Christ.
With 91% job approval and trust ratings, thanks Pulse Asia, the one-time prosecutor and long-time mayor from Davao, is more popular than Jesus (who lost an election), Genghis Kahn, Hitler, Mussolini, Khadaffy, and Saddam Hussein during their time in power. Pulse Asia wanted to push the rating up to 95% (only 5% did not like Digong), but that would have been pushing the hyperbole too far.
The Aluminum Man
Anyway, since Duterte’s Sinopharm vaccine also has aluminum, the President can be called the Aluminum Man. Hey, the Iron Man is the best of the Avengers.
Mayor Digong, Ang Mandirigma or our Aluminum Man by the polluted Pasig must now battle if not conquer the growing public outrage about his management of the coronavirus pandemic. It is the worst in Asia, according to cynics. That notoriety could dim his daughter Sara Duterte’s bid for the presidency, which is bankrolled by trolls from China (Facebook shut them down).
The Philippines has often been compared with India as regards pandemic management.
Duterte thinks we are doing better. “Compared with other countries, which is not really the time to make comparisons, we’re doing good in the fight against COVID and Secretary (Francisco) Duque is the hero there,” declared Tatang Digong in his televised talk to the people last Monday, May 3.
Duque the hero?
There are two problems there: one, “we are doing good” (we are not, yet) and two, “Duque is the hero there” (he should have been fired a year ago).
In April 2020, 14 senators demanded Duque’s ouster—for incompetence, inefficiency, and the corruption at PhilHealth—the single largest cash cow of the corrupt. “Hilo (crazy or confused), not hero,” sneered Senator Panfilo Lacson who as the one-time chief of the 120,000-strong Philippine National Police knows when a man has seen better days.
Heroes, of course, can be fired. Harry Truman fired World War II hero Douglas MacArthur, for insubordination. The commander of the UN forces wanted to pursue the retreating Chinese communists right inside mainland China during the Korean War. Truman said stop. So we have now a North Korea, a perennial pain in the ass for US presidents.
Bad and deadly management
Why makes the D-D (for Duterte-Duque) pandemic management bad and deadly?
In the entire ASEAN, the Philippines has 158 deaths per million, the second highest in the region after Indonesia’s 167. The 158 deaths are almost the same as the 160 deaths per million of India—today, the ground zero of the global covid pandemic.
The true measure of pandemic management is deaths per million. The Philippines has one of the highest COVID deaths per million in Asia and in the world. With more than one million cases and more than 18,000 deaths, 18 out of every 1,000 Filipinos die from COVID. At the peak of the pandemic in the first two weeks of April this year, as many as 50 for every thousand were dying.
120,000 Filipinos will die
Previously, I predicted up to 100,000 Filipinos will die from COVID this year. That is on top of the 20,000 COVID casualties last year, per data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). A toll of 120,000 is more than the 100,000 combatants who died in 50 years of the Muslim and communist insurgencies, and more than the 57,000 combatants who died in the Philippines during World War II. This makes Duterte’s the Deadliest Presidency.
Still, President Digong thinks he is doing all right. “There has to be some sense in, you know, what we are doing,” he said in his speech last Monday.
You know the rules in one-man rule? No. 1, the boss is always right. No. 2, if the boss is wrong, refer to Rule No. 1. Same rule in cursing. Duterte said he is the only one who should curse.
Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin cursed the Chinese for their habitual intrusions into the West Philippine Sea. Teddyboy is not allowed to do it again.
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