OPINION: Sobriety over Dengvaxia

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Feb 02 2018 08:41 PM

The recent brouhaha over a vaccine called Dengvaxia (touted to be the world’s first Dengue vaccine) is a classic example of the deleterious effects of malice in social media morphing into near hysteria. 

When a scientific problem that ought to have been dissected and discussed coldly and dispassionately is subjected to an overdose of venom and vitriol cast by mercenary trolls and grandstanding pols, the solution to the apparent imperfection of the medicine was assigned a secondary role. Denigration and disparagement of political foes, aspersions upon the integrity of former government incumbents took center stage. For a considerable while, Dengvaxia ceased to be a cure while it was being weaponized as a political tool.

Going for brass tacks, the fact is that to this day, there has not been a single instance of a death proven to be directly, conclusively and absolutely caused by the use of the vaccine Dengvaxia. In the meantime, vaccine and vaccination have gotten a bad rap. An erosion of faith in the efficacy of established cures and medical procedures is counterproductive.

That is why the statement issued by some 58 respected medical doctors and scientific experts is most useful although somewhat tardy. They expressed concern over “unsubstantiated” claims against the Vaccine. They support the suspension of the immunization program but not pulling out the medicine from the market. 

Limits to Servile Gratitude

Repaying a debt of gratitude (‘utang na loob,’) need not go beyond the boundaries of common courtesies. 

Recognition of a favor expressed with a heartfelt ‘thank you’ would have sufficiently met polite society’s requirement for ‘urbanidad,’ (good manners and right conduct) civility and courtesy. Okay, maybe gifting of a memento or a token. But Filipinos can indeed be faulted with the propensity to exaggerate, even when expressing ‘utang na loob’. And, we do. Do we not? 

Unfortunately, public perception was spawned over the recent spate of unpopular Supreme Court decisions. Fair or not, there arose reasonable scuttlebutt that such judicial renditions were tainted with servile gratitude towards Malacanang’s wonts and wishes, along with those of political power brokers like the Marcoses and ex-President Gloria Arroyo.

How many more times must Justices of the Supreme Court alluded to continue to say “Thank you?” Having already displayed compliance and obeisance, is there no limit to servile gratitude?
This commentary is occasioned by Malacanang’s suspension of the Deputy Ombudsman M.A. Carandang, (for grave misconduct) despite a Supreme Court ruling (Gonzales III vs. the Office of the President) that the Deputy Ombudsman is beyond the administrative authority of the President, in fact declaring that particular provision of the Ombudsman law as unconstitutional.

Without skipping a beat, the trio of dog-whistling Duterte political operatives--Spoxman Harry Roque, Solicitor General J. Calida and Legal Counsel Sal Panelo--have cockily expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will reverse the existing jurisprudence. And this, even before the brewing showdown has attained official recognition by the High Court. 

Did I just say “dog-whistling?” Let me then employ a meaningful metaphor. Are not these three stooges treating the Supreme Court like a kennel full of Pavlovian puppies?

Nota Bene for the NBI

It is highly recommended that our stalwarts in law enforcement at the NBI take the time to observe, study and internalize the dynamics of the on-going tussle between the White House and the F.B.I. , most especially over matters undergoing rigorous investigation of the President’s personal behavior. This scenario may not happen in the Philippines but it is no idle dream to want to ratchet up operational standards of the NBI. 

A President’s desire for exhibited personal loyalty to him is mightily frowned upon in the U.S. In our political immaturity, to exude blind compliance and slavish conformity with the political powers that be is the stairway to perks and promotions.

Of course, it is simply foolish to even imagine the head of the NBI (or any of its senior officers) standing up to President Duterte in matters of the law, legal proprieties and procedures, including professional ethics in what the agency may collectively believe to be legal, righteous and moral that may not be in consonance with the Chief Executive’s bent.

There are, up and down the ranks of our NBI, dedicated professionals whose moral moorings are challenged by machinations from above, from the Department of Justice as well as from the Office of the President, in the performance of their tasks. The sum of which is that the NBI becomes compliant tools of Executive caprice, oftentimes partisan and vindictive, depriving them of the independence essential to evenhanded administration of justice.

The Senate Spotlights Social Media

Our week was highlighted by a Senate public inquiry into “fake news,” “social media” and the blogging phenomenon. I am uncertain as to the objective of this in-aid-of-legislation exercise. Was it to sincerely learn about what many senators are ignorant about concerning journalism as a profession, or was it an opportunity to accost and upbraid some journalist-resource persons who may have made fun of them and called attention to their follies? Be that as it may be, it is prudent to simply await some legislative outcome.

It would be a useful educational tool, principally for students of journalism and communications, even professional practitioners, if the proceedings were to be compressed into a concise manual, and be required supplemental reading material. 

Of all the resource person-participants in attendance, I would like to single out and cite my long-time friend and esteemed colleague Ellen Tordesillas (appearing for Vera Files.) That is because her topic--No. 1 Source of Fake News--is close to my heart. Let me quote Ellen: “……lies are concocted to deceive the public…..they disempower them from making informed decisions.”……“Most of the sources of disinformation is being perpetuated by government officials on taxpayers’ money.”

I have likewise taken note that something similar has been undertaken by much of mainstream media in the US, vis-a-vis President Donald Trump. In the lead is the Washington Post, having tallied in excess of 2,000 instances of false claims, exaggerations, prevarications and outright lies committed by President Trump.

In her straightforward statement, Ellen named President Duterte as the “No. 1 Source of Fake News” enumerating instances such as his accusations that Rappler is funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), that Rappler is “fully owned by Americans, ” both claims being totally untrue. 

I found great significance in the revival and the reiteration in Ellen’s recitation of Duterte repetitious assertion of “4 million drug users and addicts,” the “raison d’etre” for the most prominent and the most visible of presidential posturings. In stark contrast, the validated official statistic/empirical data of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has been consistently 1.8 million. That DDB Chairman Ben Reyes was fired for citing such data does not alter its veracity. Pertinent government personnel, effectively intimidated, no longer make use of Chairman Reyes’ statistics!

Very elucidating and instructive is an official statement from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (quoted by Amnesty International/Oct 7, 2016): “The Philippines has a low prevalence rate of drug users, compared to the general global average.” 

This is absolutely abhorrent because it proves that the very cornerstone of President Duterte’s principal domestic policy--his war on drugs and the extrajudicial killings it has spawned--has been based all along upon a bloody, blatant lie!

Shadow boxing towards the sunset!

Senator Manny Pacquiao, bible-thumping pugilist extraordinaire, may be cooling his heels for a longer time yet, awaiting that last ‘main event.’ There is a lingering possibility that it could be a long wait if not one that will eventually be fruitless, depriving him of access to additional wealth. What creeps is unstoppable. Age. Manny will be forty before the year is over.

So far, there appears to be no takers for a match. Has Manny shed off his once attractive box-office cachet? Aside from the eight world boxing titles (in different weight classes) and a successful entry into Philippine politics, Manny is known to be generous but an extravagant spender. And sadly, there too is an ugly fame that is gaining common knowledge worldwide. Manny is a deadbeat. He stands accused of tax evasion. His tax cases are presently on appeal and accorded attention.

His last bout may well be: Senator Manny Pacquiao versus the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.