POSTSCRIPT / October 11, 2020 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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PHL takes #19 slot in Covid world tally

WHILE we were not looking, the Philippines (334,770 cases) overtook Turkey (330,753) the other day to move up from #20 to #19 position in the global tally of COVID-19 cases, and has stayed No. 1 in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

But comparing their number of cases per one-million population to flatten the distortion due to size, the ranking is reshuffled: Turkey (3,910 cases/1-M pop) ranks globally at #95, or better than the Philippines (3,044 cases) at #110.

Indonesia (1,184 cases/1-M pop) which is No. 2 in the ASEAN total count, ranks #137 globally or worse than its neighbor the Philippines whose estimated 109,990,600 population is about half of Indonesia’s 274,305,900. In the ASEAN count, Indonesia beats the Philippines in number of active cases.

Comparing the rise and fall of COVID numbers does not mean we are running a race against the 216 countries and territories being monitored by world0meter, our statistical reference.

We are actually taking an acid test of how well we Filipinos (the government and the people together) follow the accepted global anti-COVID norms and look after one another.

Pulse Asia said days ago its latest survey showed that 92 percent of Filipinos believe that President Duterte has “done well” in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. We hope the virus heard that too, so the 92 percent of us can now sleep well.

Also, eight in 10 Filipinos (84 percent) have a “positive opinion” of the Duterte administration’s response to the pandemic, according to the Pulse survey conducted Sept. 14-20 nationwide among 1,200 adults representing some 65 million Filipinos.

The other major polling outfit, the Social Weather Stations, later reported on its own survey conducted Sept. 17-20 nationwide by mobile phone among 1,249 respondents. All adults without phones and those with bad or no connection were excluded.

The Pulse Asia survey was done through face-to-face interviews. There was no explanation, however, if this was done indoors or outdoors, how long each interview was, if with or without facial masks and proper distancing per protocol.

The SWS survey report steered clear of measuring the people’s approval of or trust in the Duterte administration. Or maybe it also looked into that red-hot item but did not report its findings.

That was a politically adroit SWS sidestep, seeing how Pulse Asia flew smack into a public opinion turbulence when it reported 91-percent approval and trust ratings based on its survey.

The SWS reported instead that 77 percent of adult Filipinos consider it risky to go to the grocery store or market because of the pandemic. It added that 16 percent think it is a little risky and four percent not risky at all. Two percent said they do not go to the grocery store/market.

By area, the proportion of those who consider it risky to go to the grocery store/market right now was highest in the rest of Luzon at 80 percent, followed by Metro Manila at 76 percent, the Visayas at 75 percent, and Mindanao at 74 percent.

Today being Sunday, the Church must note that 69 percent of respondents said it is risky to attend religious services at present. Eighteen percent believe it is a little risky and eight percent not risky. Five percent said they do not attend religious services.

How does this detail jibe with the Third Commandment to keep holy the Sabbath? Is any law or right violated when the government tells the Church whether or not its places of worship shall open and, if opened, how many devotees may enter?

Add to the compendium of fact-based opinion that of the OCTA Research team calling attention to what it said was the declining number of new COVID cases nationwide, but recommending stricter quarantine measures in selected areas.

The OCTA group, composed of academics from the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas, said “the situation in the NCR has improved as the rate of transmission, the number of cases, as well as the positivity rate are all on a downward trend.”

Special session for budget or showdown?

WHY did President Duterte call a special session, and specifically from Oct. 13 to 16, when the 18th Congress is already in session and has not been adjourned?

The decision of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to suspend his chamber’s deliberations did not adjourn the current session. The House of Representatives cannot unilaterally adjourn the session without the concurrence of the Senate.

The call to a special session — presumably based on Article VI whose Section 15 says “the President may call a special session at any time” — gave as reason the desired early passing of the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

Issuing Proclamation No. 1027, Duterte ordered a special session “to resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on the prompt passage thereof in accordance with the Constitution and applicable laws.”

He took to television Thursday to express frustration over the possible non-passage of the budget before the All Souls’ Day break. He said: “Either you resolve the issue on your impasse of the budget, legally or constitutionally, or I will do it for you.”

Duterte also certified the budget bill as urgent, thereby allowing its passage on second and third reading on the same day. Normally the approval on the two readings must be separated by at least three days.

What was left unsaid was Duterte’s patience growing thin with the refusal of Cayetano to abide by a gentlemen’s agreement brokered by him for the Speaker to turn over his post to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco after 15 months which ended Sept. 30.

Some congressmen said that Cayetano suspended the session to prevent Velasco’s sympathizers from revamping the House leadership and replacing the Speaker. The turnover is supposed to be on Oct. 14, which is within the four-day time frame of the special session.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 11, 2020)

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