POSTSCRIPT / May 23, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Suppress vital info, reap the whirlwind

A BASIC lesson in public information to be learned from the events of the past two weeks is that the world abhors a vacuum. Suppress vital news and you stir up a tempest of speculations.

Watch nature restoring balance when it is disturbed. Out at sea, when a low-pressure area develops, the surrounding air rushes in to fill the near-vacuum, often generating a typhoon, hurricane or such destructive weather phenomenon.

Hide the President of 108 million Filipinos, keep him unseen and unheard from for a week without a plausible explanation, create a news vacuum – and you reap a whirlwind of ugly rumors.

The unkindest gossip fueled by the total lack of information on why President Duterte had been missing for a week was that he was either dead or dying. Both guesses have turned out to be without basis, but the damage has been done.

It did not help that the proclamation of his winning bets in the senatorial election set Tuesday had to be delayed till the next day (yesterday) because, the cynics insisted, their patron was not yet well enough to join them in their moment of triumph.

To break the week-long news blackout, Duterte appeared in an undated picture released yesterday by Malacañang showing him at the presentation of credentials of new Ambassador Vasin Ruangprateepsaeng of Thailand.

Whoever directed the photo-op forgot to make sure the President looked fresh, instead of showing him haggard in a crumpled barong with rolled up sleeves while the ambassador and Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. looked dapper and proper.

Old hands in the Malacañang press office know the value of keeping the newsmen covering the president busy processing the flood of reports released to them, thereby allowing them less time to snoop around and explore naughty angles of the news.

No point invoking the legalism of presidential spokesman Sal Panelo and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra whose eyes are riveted to Section 12 of Article VII that says: “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health.”

Why wait for the President to fall into near-coma before updating the citizens on his health? Precisely, the framers of the 1987 Constitution did not want a repeat of the macabre scenario of Marcos attempting to govern from his sickbed.

If indeed your people love you, it is safe to confide to them. Tell them, so they will understand. Do not let them get sucked into an information vacuum of your own creation.

Guevarra says that unless the President is in critical condition, his health is a private matter.  Excuse me po, but his state of health or mind is of public concern.  Being the President of the Republic 24/7, he is every minute a public person.

 Comelec sucked into another vacuum

ANOTHER sample of an information vacuum generating a storm of questions is the mysterious seven-hour hiatus when the parallel server of the election-watch citizens’ group was getting zero feed from the main Comelec server that was already churning out voting results.

The two servers were designed to work in tandem, with the watchdog server giving the people through the media a sense of transparency, assuring them that the voting and the counting were quick and honest.

But 10 days after the election, we have not seen an official report on what transpired during those seven long hours, much less a sharing of the error logs that some sectors have been demanding to examine.

An expert programmer familiar with the system, guided by a codigo, can perform a miracle in seven uninterrupted hours – and still have time to cover his tracks. Why cannot the Comelec explain that yawning time gap and the technical glitches that are too numerous to ignore?

The information vacuum forces many of us to speculate that the automated May 13 election has been compromised.

 COPD info for ready reference

MILLIONS of Filipinos are suffering from COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – without being aware of it. A few others have it, but are hiding it, or are dismissing it as just emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

We are sharing these notes on COPD, the third leading cause of death in the United Sates, for your precautionary reference. Somebody you know might just succumb to it.

According to the EverydayHealth website, frequent coughing or wheezing, excess mucus and shortness of breath are hallmark COPD symptoms. A person’s particular symptoms and their severity can be signs that the condition is worsening.

COPD can be early, moderate, severe, or very severe depending on the symptoms, the number of exacerbations, and one’s lung function. In early COPD, a person may have chronic cough and phlegm but may not be aware he has reduced lung function. Sometimes symptoms are dismissed as part of aging.

Symptoms cannot be ignored in severe COPD. A person with severe COPD can have shortness of breath even while walking slowly or getting out of a chair.

There is no cure for COPD, but there are treatments to address symptoms. If you take steps to quit smoking, to exercise, and to improve your diet, you can increase your life expectancy and have a better quality of life.

Avoiding exacerbations, when symptoms flare up or worsen, is a major part of slowing the progression of COPD. Exacerbations can happen within hours or days. Exacerbations are often triggered by viral or bacterial respiratory infections due to exposure to pollution or secondhand smoke.

These signs may indicate that a person’s COPD is getting worse: increased shortness of breath, wheezing, changes in phlegm, worsening of cough, fatigue and muscle weakness, edema, and feeling groggy upon waking up.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 23, 2019)

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