Sinning again, intentionally?

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    IT was for the April 6 issue of Malaya when I first wrote about the “Original Sin.” I was not referring to the Biblical apple-eating that condemned the rest of us to being sinners from birth. I was referring to the fact that throughout January — while China was revealing more and more about a novel respiratory disease affecting residents of Wuhan and countries like Germany, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam were weighing into action — we were engrossed in the fate of ABS-CBN and debating online as well as in sessions of our legislature whether the network should be granted an extension or renewal of its franchise.

    Most Filipinos didn’t know it yet, but in January of this year the most serious threat to our society was NOT the franchise issue and its relation to freedom of speech and expression and press – it was the disease that was unfolding across the West Philippine Sea and that was soon to envelop the world.

    `But most of us weren’t paying attention to what was being said out of China. Most of us were more interested in what was being said in a Senate hearing.’

    But most of us weren’t paying attention to what was being said out of China. Most of us were more interested in what was being said in a Senate hearing.

    Maybe we didn’t know better. Only a few of us were “hysterical” enough to try to draw attention to news out of China.

    As a result, in a span of 60 days, we have seen the official count of total COVID-19 infection cases rising from a mere 3 (all mainland Chinese visitors) to over 10,000 with no plateauing, much less a decrease, in sight. Worse, we have one of the highest death rates in Southeast Asia, and one of the worst rates of fatalities for health care workers in the world. We have one of the worst testing rates as well, though some progress has been made with certified laboratories now counting 22 when it used to be only RITM (or RITM plus the UP NIH). But yes, the “original sin” that was the distraction created by the ABS-CBN franchise issue in part is the reason why we rank among the world’s bad examples of containment.

    Rather than paying attention to what the Health Secretary was doing – or more accurately, not doing – we were focused on what steps the Solicitor General was taking.

    That was bad enough. Then we do it again.

    Nearly 60 days after the first lockdown was imposed on Metro Manila and at a time when the number of infections continue to rise, here we are again all agitated about the franchise issue. Don’t get me wrong: it is a valid issue that we all must try our very best to understand and take a stand on, and yes a free and even riotous press is part and parcel of a healthy democracy. But this should have been a time when all our attention should remain focused on the coronavirus since most of us would like to see the country reopen but in a manner that creates the least risks for the most at-risk segments of our population.

    It should have been a time when we are focused on asking our authorities: where are the SAP assistance to the most needy of families? How have the billions of public funds been spent? Have the POGOs paid their P50B in taxes that the BIR says they’ve yet to pay? (Also: has Usec Badoy returned her visa?)

    And we should also be asking why the policy of “aggressive contract tracing and mass testing” aggressive only, it seems, in briefing papers.

    We are not asking these questions. Because here we are, distracted again.

    Makes me wonder: is it intentional this time?