POSTSCRIPT / October 4, 2020 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Today, rest and pray for the COVID world

LIKE the flu, the COVID-19 scourge will soon pass like a season slipping away, taking with it several thousand lives. But trust President Duterte. He and his motley inter-agency advisers know how to handle the sneaky veerus.

Don’t fret that from way down on the list of 200-plus countries being monitored, the Philippines with its more than 315,000 infected residents, and counting, has risen to #20 on the global tally of the increasing number of COVID cases.

Aside from throwing in more generals to lead the anti-coronavirus fight and waiting for a vaccine to drop from the sky, President Duterte says he is taking steps to protect the nation from the COVID-Economy double whammy. He may just stumble on a random solution.

Today is Sunday, a day of rest for everyone, including the obviously fatigued mayor. Take time to pray even if you have also questioned God about your human condition, or cursed Him publicly as Duterte had done. Ask Him to lighten the burden that you and all of us carry.

You may want to include in your prayers President Trump of the great United States who has been flown to the hospital for treatment of the COVID infection that went around his missing facial mask and unheeded social distancing to test his 74-year-old immune system.

With Trump at Walter Reed medical center, the constitutional succession line has been reeled out. If he would be permanently disabled, Vice President Mike Pence takes over. How we wish such a smooth and simple phase-in were possible in our deeply divided Philippines.

My barber says Trump won’t die of COVID, but might just lose to Joe Biden. This early, Trump could sort of secretly plea bargain with his Democratic rival so if he’s haled to court later and convicted, Biden may be inclined to grant him a pardon. Or something like that.

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, the Philippines overtook Pakistan to grab the #20 place in the world’s listing of the most number of COVID-19 cases among 215 countries and territories under watch. The Duterte administration has held on to the dubious distinction with flying colors.

As of Friday, Oct. 2, the Philippines (316,678 cases) was still #20, a slot below #19-Italy (319,908), one of the early COVID epicenters in Europe, and now above #21-Pakistan (313,431), #22-Germany (297,081) and #23-Indonesia (295,499) that were all ahead weeks ago.

Unless specified otherwise, data used here is from the world0meter website tabulating official reports of 215 countries and territories. In the tracker of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the Philippines is also the #20 country with the highest number of cases.

On Friday, as the Philippines overtook Pakistan to take the #20 place, topping the global list were #1-United States, 7,508,662 cases; #2-India, 6,438,968; #3-Brazil, 4,849,229; and #4-Russia, 1,194,643. (China, where it all began, placed #44 with 85,424 cases.)

Based on the mortality analyses Friday of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the Philippines ranked #18 with 1.8 percent in observed case-fatality ratio, followed by Russia and India. Mexico ranked #1 at 10.4 percent mortality ratio, followed by the United Kingdom with 9.3 percent, Iran at 5.7 percent, France with 5.3 percent, and Spain with 4.1 percent.

Malacañang has explained that the Philippines is high on reported COVID cases because it has been doing comparatively more testing and has a bigger population than many other countries logging fewer patients.

Based on its 2,880 number of cases per one-million population, the Philippines (pop. 109,945,900) placed lower at #109, compared with its sprawling neighbor Indonesia (pop. 274,250,639) that placed higher at #79 with its 1,077 cases per one-million population.

World0meter has it that the Philippines has conducted as of Friday 191,473 tests per one-million population, compared to Indonesia’s 12,272 tests and Pakistan’s 16,130.

Peso as legal tender good for bus fare

THE PHILIPPINE peso, in banknotes or coins, is legal tender. Peso cash must then be acceptable as payment for the fare on such public transportation as buses, jeepneys, taxicabs, and trains.

That’s my view as a non-lawyer consumer or passenger. I sympathize with passengers who insist that cash must be accepted as payment for the fare on buses equipped with gadgets that honor only beep or electronic cards with peso value stored in them.

Questions marked Thursday, the first day that only beep cards were allowed to be used on buses plying Edsa and other bus lines. Most passengers accepted the rule, but some who were caught by surprise complained.

One complaint was that a passenger had to pay for the beep card at something like P30-P50 in addition to the amount stored in the card representing fare value.

At a bus stop in Muñoz, Quezon City, beep cards were reportedly selling at P80 each without load. Others said cards were being sold by scalpers for P170, preloaded with P70, which means the card alone costs P100.

For buses on Edsa, beep cards require a P70 maintaining balance, or the minimum balance based on the maximum possible fare on the route.

These are details that can be solved without revamping the system. But the basic question remains: Why is a passenger not allowed to pay in cash when the peso is legal tender for paying debts and monetary obligations private or public?

That there is the COVID infection lurking is insufficient argument because that is a temporary problem that can be avoided in many other ways.

On buses in other countries, for instance, there is a transparent box beside the driver near the front door where the exact amount can be dropped through a hole or slit if the passenger has no card. If one does not have the exact fare, sorry na lang, he forgoes getting the change.

There will always be passengers who, for any reason, will not have a beep card but have the cash for the fare. Why should not their peso, which is legal tender, be accepted?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 4, 2020)

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