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From Russia with vaccine

The image above sums up the process of how a vaccine is developed. Now that we’re living in a global pandemic, a vaccine is seen as something that will bring an end to lockdowns, economic downturns, and a return to normalcy. Hence the next image:

Scientists and vaccine makers around the world are racing to make one that is safe and effective against SARS-CoV-2 with the World Health Organization leading the global effort at an unprecedented pace. At the moment, there are more than 165 vaccines being developed of which 31 are in various stages of human trials.

The latest to grab international headlines is dubbed Sputnik-V which was announced by no less than Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 11 as ‘ready for public use.’ Much like how the first Sputnik satellite drew global attention back in 1957, Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine brought much shock and awe the world over.

The shock as scientists and medical experts has condemned Russia’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine that has skipped Stage 3 phase of clinical trials. Apart from the risks of side effects that could be harmful, a vaccine that turns out to be ineffective could undermine immunization efforts the world over and not just against the coronavirus. This would even play into the hands of anti-vaxxers to further their agenda. Overall, it threatens global health atop of the natural threat that is COVID-19 which has already killed millions, destroyed livelihoods, and caused worldwide suffering.

It didn’t help that President Durterte was quick to announce that Russia would be supplying the vaccine to the Philippines, something that he has been desperately clinging on to as his administration has struggled and miserably failed to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Never mind that even Russian health experts have voiced their opposition to fast-tracking Sputnik-V, Duterte even volunteered to be the first Filipino to get injected.

Days after his late-night address, his spokesperson confirmed that indeed the Philippines would be participating in the Phase III trials for the Russian vaccine. Ironic since the administration has used another controversial vaccine – Dengvaxia, to score political points against the opposition.

If this is not madness, I don’t know what else is.

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Opinion

Peace talks in the Philippines: It’s a trap!

In a last-ditch effort, seemingly out of desperation as it’s just two years in power, to end the longest running insurgency in Asia the Duterte administration has offered to resume peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDFP. While it is without question that peace talks are the best way to end the fighting, the offer reeks of insincerity. Given what the government has done since the last rounds of the peace talks were terminated November last year, the communist rebels are right to reject the condition that it be done here in the Philippines.

Admiral Ackbar - It's a trap

Why is this offer of resuming the peace talks suspicious:

  • EO No 70 is still in effect this needs to be withdrawn first.
  • The red-tagging campaign against legitimate dissent, critics, activists and progressive peoples’ organizations is still ongoing.
  • Consultants of the NDFP that have been arrested on trumped up charges and despite the JASIG are still in jail.
  • The administration has firm control of the courts – there’s no shortage of judges willing to issue warrants of search and arrest on very questionable reasoning at the request of the police and military.

On these critical observations the writings on the wall are clear: the spider has invited the fly to his parlor. Until the government drops the pre-conditions to holding peace talks, the rebels will not come to the negotiating table. So the fighting will continue, not solely because the peace talks will not resume, but as long as the current conditions that have bred the rebellion continue to exist.

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Opinion

For an independent & progressive Senate

On May 13, 2019 Filipino voters would troupe to election precincts and cast their votes for 12 new Senators of the Republic. Given what the Duterte administration has done in the last three years, what it is currently doing and what it intends to do for the remaining time it is in power, the results of the Senatorial elections will be very crucial. To put it lightly but bluntly, we cannot screw up.

A quick rundown of what the key issues are: our national sovereignty up for sale with our lands, waters and other resources being offered to China; changing our Constitution to favor dictatorial and tyrannical designs and to entrench the self-serving ruling class; the imposition of more laws that will burden the poor majority; the complete restoration of the Marcoses in power; the continuing attack on journalists, activists, human rights advocates and indigenous peoples; the truth that drug lords remain free to operate while thousands of poor have died without due process.

These will get worse if candidates who are not only imcompetent and undeserving of a Senate seat and worse, who by words, deeds and legislative record would just kowtow to Duterte’s desires and designs will be elected.

It is paramount then, nay, it is our duty and obligation to use our ballots to elect a Senate that is independent and restore some sense of dignity, duty and concern for the common good in our democratic systems.

To achieve this, I urge our fellow voters to consider and support the following candidates:

Neri Colmenares

Leody De Guzman

Ernesto Arellano

Sonny Matula

Allan Montano

Chel Diokno

Erin Tanada

Samira Gutoc

Pilo Hilbay

Nancy Binay

Bam Aquino

Serge Osmena

The list is made up of men and women of principles. They have exhibited intelligence and openness to working with others across ideologies and have shown independence of mind.

Neri Colmenares is one of the most popular candidates from the opposition. A veteran of the parliament of the streets, he made his name for being a human rights lawyer himself being a victim of rights abuses during the martial law years of the Marcos dictatorship. His track record in the House of Representatives is proof that he is a champion of the poor and marginalized – increased pension for SSS, opposing unreasonable rates increase by Meralco, Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act and many more. Despite being red-tagged by the government and targeted by misinformation campaigns, Colmenares remains untainted by corruption.

From the Labor Win coalition comes Leody De Guzman who heads the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Ernesto Arellano, founder of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Sonny Matula, president of Federation of Free Workers and Labor lawyer Allan Montano. Electing them to the Senate will ensure that laws will be crafted to serve the common good and the common man. Living wages, ending ‘endo’ and strengthening unions will be much easier to achieve if these leaders would get a Senate seat. They are free of corruption and are not beholden to any oligarchs or private interests.

Samira Gutoc has really captured my interest with her fiery passion about the issues besetting Mindanao and our Muslim brothers. Chel Diokno will ensure the respect for due process and the rule of law will be on the Senate’s agenda. Erin Tanada and Pilo Hilbay will help secure and defend our sovereignty. Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay and Serge Osmena will be great assets to ensure an independent Senate.

I enjoin everyone to look into their backgrounds and track records. Their positions on the key issues enumerated earlier are worth the consideration, so much so that it would merit your vote.

Karl Marx once wrote that “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” Come May 13, we get the chance to select leaders that will truly represent us and help us struggle against our own repression.

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Opinion

#HINDIdependenceday – Can we repeat something we did 122 years ago?

History doesn’t repeat itself, we repeat history.

It’s my favorite quote by historian Ambeth Ocampo which, to me, simply means that if we do not learn anything from history or our past, we are bound to repeat it. Tragically or ironically or both, we Filipinos seem to have the collective habit of repeating the ‘bad parts’ of our history.

Take yesterday for example, our “Independence Day” commemorating the proclamation of independence by Emilio Aguinaldo 120 years ago. To be clear, that “independence” was from Spain which had colonized and ruled our islands for almost 400 years. We say and put emphasis on “independence from Spain” because shortly after that proclamation at Kawit, Cavite, we came under American occupation and colonization.

Ironically, the Act of Declaration of Philippine Independence contained the following:

“And having as witness to the rectitude of our intentions the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and under the protection of our Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, The United States of America, we do hereby proclaim and declare solemnly in the name by authority of the people of these Philippine Islands,”

Our history textbooks call this “benevolent assimilation”, the US subjugating our islands, robbing us of our independence, pillaging our natural resources and murdering thousands of our forefathers. Ironically, again, the same history textbooks fail and are even completely silent about how the US occupation was facilitated by our past leaders, led by the man who made the proclamation 120 years ago. He did not only proclaim our so-called independence that was “dependend” on a foreign power, he also proclaimed himself “egregious dictator.”

Which brought us to yesterday’s June 12, 120 years later independence still continues to be something complicated for our nation, succinctly captured in this photo by Christine Avendaño for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, taken before Rodrigo Duterte delivered his Independence day speech:

In the ordinary course of things, the photo would have been just one of the many that will serve as a memory of today’s programs. However, in the context of what has happened and what is happening in terms of the Duterte administration’s ‘pivot to China’ vis a vis China’s occupation of territories in the West Philippine Sea, one cannot find it hard to say that we, at the very least our leaders in government are repeating history once again.

We commemorate our ‘independence’ with all the formalities, speeches, parades, photo-ops, holidays, the whole official brouhaha, yet we find our so-called leaders embracing foreign powers that threaten our security, plunder our resources and steal outright from our citizens. We have a representative government yet its Chief Executive has acted and continues to do so in the fashion of a dictator. Dissent and criticism is dealt with violence, political persecution and oppression.

Like Aguinaldo before him, both leaders are surrounded by representatives of the ruling faction of society who has taken turns plundering our national coffers to protect their business interests, propagate themselves in power, collaborate with foreign interests setting aside and perverting the causes for which the Revolution began: freedom to steer our national destiny, taking our place in the family of nations and serving the common good so our people would prosper and our citizens are able to take on the pursuit of happiness.

120 years on, it is clear that the ‘independence’ we commemorate, despite the material and visual trappings, the parades and speeches, remain shallow and wanting. 120 years on our national project remains a complex and complicated work in progress. 120 years on we find ourselves repeating the shameful and disgraceful events of our history. 120 years on, can we not for once repeat something else? Can we not repeat that glorious act we took 122 years back? If you our history, you’d know what I am referring to.