Looking to 2022

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    I am confident that by July 2022 not only will we be rid of Duque, COVID will be under control as well, and the POGOs will be a thing of the past.’

    THE COVID-19 pandemic still remains a deathly reality for every Filipino but I am beginning to tune out. I feel like I’ve been “shouting” myself hoarse since the last week of January when the rising number of cases in China and the steps being taken in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and even Taiwan led me to make a series of FB posts on the threat. “Are we monitoring arrivals from China?” I asked in one post. “Do we have enough test kits?” I asked in another. “Will the world suffer a recession because of this?” I asked in a third.

    I became even more shrill in February, when I kept criticising the Secretary of Health over his apparent nonchalant attitude at a time when I felt he should have been like Chicken Little warning about the falling sky. Far from it; he was confident that the three cases of mainlanders we detected were the bulk of the ice cube rather than the tip of the iceberg. And his unwillingness to bar flights from China for diplomatic and political reasons was echoed by his boss. (Or was he the mirror?)

    Then things got worse, quickly, in March. Someone in Greenhills got infected, and yet the Secretary refused to admit to a “community spread” because it was “just one case.” This is where I coined the phrase “immaculate infection,” in honor of the stupidity of the idea. Sure enough someone in Northern Mindanao soon tested positive with links to Greenhills, and then someone in BGC tested positive too. By mid-March we were on lockdown and eager viewers of a new weekly show that some have dubbed “The Late Night with Rodrigo.”

    Meanwhile, the issue about POGOs resurfaced. First, a BIR official said that the POGOs have P50Bn in unpaid taxes. HUWAT??? How many Filipino businesses can get away with not paying taxes the way POGOs can? Then an unauthorised clinic was discovered in Parañaque, run by an unlicensed Chinese doctor, issuing unapproved Chinese medicines for COVID as well as STD. Said a friend of mine, formerly a staunch supporter of the administration: “I knew it! I was telling you about this all along – for sure the Chinese POGOists have not escaped the virus but where do they go for treatment? They must have their own clinics.” Which is true. He had been telling me that for weeks. And now there was proof.

    Then came the ABS-CBN closure, which for the second time (and perhaps this time intentionally) distracted us from the COVID battle. The franchise issue also revealed the hypocrisy of many OFWs who love to tell critics of government to “just follow the law;” when the universal health care law provision on mandatory contributions kicked in, they were the first to complain about it and demanded to be exempted.

    Finally I belatedly espied a Manila Times article reporting on the President requesting that Congress pass additional laws regulating the POGOs. Really? In response to the clamor against them, all of a sudden, government realizes there are loopholes in the law? To think they’ve been there since 2016 and a slew of full page ads paid for by PAGCOR boast that it was this government that decided to legalise POGOs in that year? Who benefited from the loopholes for four years? And how come they remain able to escape paying the right taxes? Who is protecting them, and for how much?

    Change has come indeed. But not the change I was looking for.

    Happily, despite all these issues my blood pressure remains very normal. My worst reading was in 2007, at a time when the PBA basketball team I was in charge of was in free fall; my reading was 170/110 at one time, and soon I was in Manila Doctors thanks to our office HMO and under the care of a Dr. Tony Leachon. These days my readings are 110-119 and 75-85 and I even use two different wrist gadgets just to validate.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve decided to focus on 2022, knowing that there’s no way POGOs will disappear under the current dispensation and that the curve of COVID wont flatten as quickly as we hope while Dr. Duque is the Secretary of Health. I am confident that by July 2022 not only will we be rid of Duque, COVID will be under control as well, and the POGOs will be a thing of the past. I know that that’s 26 months away but it’s enough to give me peace. And focus – focus on what I need to do to help bring the right changes through the ballot box and put this “long national nightmare” behind us.

    So let’s all stay safe and healthy and brace for the work ahead, taking encouragement from the knowledge that we have learned lessons (albeit the hard way) and things can only get better!!