POSTSCRIPT / October 12, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Can Duterte defy the pull of gravity?

IT REMAINS to be seen if President Rodrigo Duterte is capable of levitation, enough to offset political gravity that seems to have started to pull him down.

One problem with most leaden figures is that once they start to drop in the esteem of the crowd waiting for promises to be made good, the only way to go is down. Their own deadweight might even accelerate the descent.

The questions playing in the minds of many people, especially the skeptics, are: Has Duterte reached this early in his term the tipping point beyond which there is no likely recovery? With the honeymoon over, will an annulment soon follow?

Signs of panic among the rats on board are too obvious to ignore. Many politicians who scurried to the side of Duterte after he won the presidency just 16 months ago have found their squeaky voice again, now backbiting and betraying their distress over his fumbles.

In the latest Social Weather Stations survey conducted Sept. 23-27 among 1,500 adults nationwide, Duterte suffered double-digit drops in his net trust (by 18 points) and net satisfaction (by 15 points) ratings compared to his standing in the second quarter ending June.

Duterte’s net satisfaction rating fell throughout the country, except in his bailiwick Mindanao, with the biggest drop in the Visayas at 30 points, followed by 22 points in the rest of Luzon, and 19 points in Metro Manila. The negative figures are too big to minimize.

In urban areas, his net satisfaction rating fell 20 points, while seeing a 16-point drop in rural areas. However, net satisfaction among economic Class ABC fell only by 2 points (!), but dropped among Class D (by 17 points) and E (by 32 points!), the poorest sectors where adulation for the populist leader is thought to be strongest.

Duterte may prove to be his worst enemy, with himself being the main reason for the precipitous drop in his trust and satisfaction ratings. It may be time for him to look in the mirror to check if the image that won him the presidency is the same persona that will help him keep it.

It may be time for Duterte to reinvent himself – if he could, because it might happen that he has reached his limit in a classic case of petering out.

His main attraction on the campaign trail was his tough talk, his articulating what the aggrieved masses wanted to voice out against the system and the ruling elite. His cussing and foul language accentuated his perceived willingness to fight – and kill if necessary – for the people.

But the time for talking is over. The time for action, for delivering on promises made, has overtaken us.

In the swelter of rising expectations, instead of “pagbabago” (meaning reform, not mere change), the people witness the on-site execution of thousands of crime suspects still presumed innocent; the obsessive pursuit of a brutal drug drive to the neglect of gut priorities like jobs, livelihood, mass transport, and corruption; the tolerated occupation of maritime areas by China in exchange for massive loans leading to a debt trap; the unnecessary spats with long-standing allies; the scaring away not only of investors but also tourists; and the peddling of false news and lies.

 FDA faces test on contraceptives

OFFICIALS of the Food and Drugs Administration are feeling the need for Solomonic wisdom, aside from technical expertise and moral rectitude, as they evaluate the overall effects of some contraceptives under a controversial reproductive health law.

One question is whether or not some contraceptives in the market or in government inventory prevent conception (the beginning of human life as defined by the Constitution) or induce abortion of the fetus when used or taken.

Various sectors, including the Catholic church and the drug companies that are manufacturing or selling contraceptives, have conflicting views on the matter and are pressuring the FDA to follow their respective lines.

With basic questions over some contraceptives unresolved, the Supreme Court has restrained the full implementation of the law. Some quarters are now blaming the FDA and the Department of Health for the delay of the law’s implementation.

When President Duterte explained the delay by pointing to the TRO (temporary restraining order) of the high court, the SC hit back, saying that all the FDA had to do was to recertify questioned contraceptives so the TRO could be lifted.

Officials of FDA, including Director-General Nela Charade Puno, have been evaluating some 50 contraceptives and started their recertification. The agency has asked all interested parties to submit evidence as to the safety or abortifacient effects of the products.

With the period for submitting evidence over, the FDA has reportedly started doing its own technical evaluation. Last we heard, the results of both certification and recertification processes may be coming out soon.

In doing their delicate jobs, FDA officials and technicians must be guided by the highest interest of the public – not by the pressure of religious and pro-life groups nor by the lobby of giant firms bent on recouping with enormous profits the billions they have spent on research, development and marketing.

If FDA and DoH officials need an unerring North Star, they can look up to the moral law, the Constitution, and their conscience.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 12, 2017)

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