Blurred lines and confusion

I was already 200 words into a sincere “Thank You” to the IATF for being considerate enough to give Filipinos a one-week notice before enforcing a “hard lockdown” on Aug. 6 but then out of the blue I heard a news flash last Saturday evening July 31, informing listeners that DILG Secretary Ed Año had ordered the PNP to immediately set up border controls at midnight. The checkpoints surrounding the National Capital Region would be in preparation for the transition of NCR Plus from “heightened” GCQ into ECQ-hard lockdown on Aug. 6. This essentially muddled things up because the idea or thinking of ordinary people about the one-week notice was to allow people to make the necessary adjustments, appointments, bank transactions, doctor’s visit, etc. The one-week notice was also meant to prevent or avoid the recurrence of people becoming LSIs or Locally Stranded Individuals. In other words, it was meant to give people enough time to get out of town or vice versa after doing whatever was needed to be done.

It seems that the IATF and Sec. Eduardo Año are operating based on their multi-level rulebook of varying quarantine restrictions, classifications and applications. In other words, even after they announced the one-week notice, they can change or do what they want to do as long as it fits their plans. And they did exactly that, forcing many people to abandon plans to do necessary or essential quick trips to Metro Manila for fear of being turned back at some “border” into Metro Manila or vice versa. I don’t know why they even had to declare the border controls at midnight of Saturday instead of Sunday, which is normally what they have done in the past. We are all on the same page as far as fighting COVID-19 is concerned but please try to be more considerate and sensible about these things.

We cannot continue blurring the lines or pumping people with confusing rules and regulations that fit your need for control but are blind to the needs of people. The announcement was that NCR shifts to ECQ Aug. 6 so most of us simply assumed that we are still allowed to travel between GCQ to GCQ areas or areas of similar quarantine status. Being vaccinated was supposed to be a plus point for travelers. But as of midnight last Saturday we were essentially being locked down or locked-in! Just because you can, does not make it right to do what you want. Be considerate.

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The Bible warns us that “Pride comes before the fall” and in a manner of speaking it seems that the “Pride” of the Duterte administration in terms of highlighting or bragging about their “Build-Build-Build” program during the State Of the Nation Address has made a number of people realize and think that President Duterte and his Cabinet spent billions of pesos prioritizing the pouring of concrete and building roads, bridges, airports, terminals, etc., instead of spending all that money and prioritizing getting vaccines rather than begging and asking for vaccine donations. In short, we had the money to window dress the country for investors but the Duterte administration held back from investing on public health and fighting COVID-19.

Whether or not this issue snowballs or grows into a big issue, chances are some legislators and public figures will be pushing for the 2022 budget to be centered on or prioritize the acquisition of vaccines and mass vaccination. Filipinos have a saying, “Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo?” (What good is grass to a dead horse?) In much the same way, we all need to oppose any further funding for “Build-Build-Build” in 2022 because we need to prioritize public health and saving lives.

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There is no corruption in the Duterte administration or in the government because just like the Mafia and the Yakuza, the corrupt people in government have learned to sanitize their business model. Instead of the limited “cuts” and “commissions” that only gain them so much, today’s enterprising politicians and government officials have resorted to relying on their “Kamag Anak Incorporated” or relatives and friends to set up corporations, trading companies, etc. or play as consolidator-brokers to corner projects. They no longer ask for commission, they commission the projects. Another dirty “open secret” is a form of “insider trading” where politicians, government officials and private business come up with development projects such as highways, major by-pass roads, airports and townships.

But before anything else they buy up all the land in the area using their Kamag-Anak Inc. or their dummies. Once they have secured all the adjacent properties, they move to have the project pushed by legislators, supported by government officials and finally laws are passed, budgets approved and the work commence. What’s interesting is how shameless or obvious the whole deal is because oftentimes a “residential project” rises along the by-pass even before the road or highway is officially opened or a ribbon cutting ceremony takes place.

Sadly, in the Philippines many politicians themselves talk about the level of corruption out of frustration. On at least two occasions a governor and a congressman told me about the countless delays in the completions of certain airports and roads because a governor, a congressman or mayor was still busy “land banking” or buying up the property adjacent to the “proposed” government project. While the Duterte administration is bragging about “Build-Build-Build,” the opportunists in government and politics are busy going “Buy-Buy-Buy.”

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