POSTSCRIPT / September 20, 2020 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Motorbike photos not proof of health

THOSE night shots of President Duterte trying to balance himself on a motorbike parked in the Malacañang grounds across the Pasig River with four security men assisting him speak volumes about various concerns.

But presidential spokesman Harry Roque was asked in a media briefing Thursday specifically if the photos of Duterte on a motorbike would dispel all doubts about his health, which arguably is the top-of-mind topic among Palace-watchers.

Roque the lawyer said: “Res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself… Hayaan ninyo na pong makita iyan ng taumbayan (Let the public see for themselves) and they can make their own conclusions about the President’s health.”

Instead of ending speculations, Malacañang’s handling (such as mounting the photos and making those statements) fanned the discussion about the President’s health.

One problem with sending random images and messages is that noise and other distractions get in the way. Note that even the President’s own staff tag people as either friend or foe, either faultfinder or follower, red or yellow. Messaging tainted by biases cannot but falter.

If the intention of Duterte’s loyal aide in posting the motorbike pictures on his Facebook wall is to elicit sympathy for him or to show him to be still in fine physical form, he has to come up with more convincing materials.

In October 2019 a motorcycle spill that supposedly hurt the President passed as an excuse for him not to complete the enthronement rites of Japan’s Emperor Naruhito (after Manila’s tardy responses failed to get all the seats it wanted). Another bike story this time may not work again.

In social media, we noted that not a few netizens who saw the FB pictures said the President looked like he was suffering from some illnesses. The fact that several men had to assist him while sitting on a parked motorbike added to the dire thoughts.

Then the aide’s claiming that the President was raring to go for a spin on the grounds of the Presidential Security Group did not help quell skepticism about his wellness. Trying too hard to project him as hale and hearty only fed suspicion that he was not.

In the waning years of Ferdinand Marcos, whenever his handlers trotted him out in a gym getup and made him bare to the press his mini-Charles Atlas physique (sorry for those who never heard of Atlas the body-builder), we looked at one another — something must be hurting him?

Similarly, many of us now suspect that something is bothering Duterte. Why would his boys take him out in the middle of the night for picture-taking propped up on a parked motorbike? Why take only still shots for release and not a video of a breezy cruise on the PSG grounds?

Maybe they should give their 75-year-old boss a chance to catch his breath and wind down gracefully. The Mayor has lived practically two lifetimes in his bruising climb to the presidency. Having done a lot for the country – and for the boys — he deserves some rest.

As his ventriloquist has said, “Res ipsa loquitur”.

 How good is Duterte’s air purifier pendant?

EVER wondered what is that device hanging from the neck of President Duterte? We’ve been told it’s an air purifier that filters out viruses and other pollutants.

We read yesterday an item in the South China Morning Post about similar portable devices and experts’ answer to whether the gadgets can save a user from the new coronavirus.

Hong Kong’s Consumer Council was reported by the SCMP as advising potential users: “Don’t waste your money.” The device reportedly provided only limited help in removing bacteria and pollutants, and should not be regarded as a health amulet.

Gilly Wong Fung-han, the council’s chief executive, said the test environments used by the manufacturers were very different from where users would normally wear it. Ten air purifiers were tested in a small, confined space and their overall performance found disappointing, with bacteria removal rates of 70 to 80 percent.

Wong said even if the negative ions generated by the devices could make pollutants negatively charged and adhere to nearby particles or bacteria, thereby sinking as they got heavier, the tiny and light particles could still float right back up with the wind.

She added that when pollutants stuck to the surface of human bodies and clothing, users also risked exposure by touching themselves.

Her advice: “When you wash your hands, wear masks and maintain social distancing, the effects (in guarding against pollutants) may be better than wearing the device.”

The council said it found the measured bacteria removal rates of the 10 tested devices were between 64.9 percent and 74.9 percent after operating for 15 minutes in a sealed test chamber sprayed with Staphylococcus aureus – a common bacteria – in the air.

The size of the chamber was roughly equal to a small room, with a floor area of 6.5 sq. ft. and a height of 2.5 meters. But even after running the devices for an hour, the best performing model could only record a rate of about 80 percent.

In another round of tests on containment, particles of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, six models recorded a removal rate of less than 5 percent after operating for half an hour in a tiny, sealed test chamber.

The chamber’s size was equivalent to that of a room with a floor area of 13 sq. ft. and a height of 2.5 meters. Running for two hours in that space, the removal rates of the six gadgets were still below 15 percent.

In a reply to the council, one manufacturer said the testing standards adopted by the council were for air purifiers in households and could not be applied to portable devices. It has submitted its own testing reports.

The manufacturer of another gadget with a neck strap said that running its device for 30 and 120 minutes, its removal rates were 5.6 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 20, 2020)

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