WE only have four living ex-presidents—Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph “Erap” Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno C. Aquino III. Regardless of our political orientation and belief, each of them occupies a special place in our history, not exactly on Mt. Rushmore, but in a hallowed spot nevertheless reserved only to former residents of Malacañang. Undeniably, they still command a sizable following that continue to revere them, rejoice with their good fortune and grieve with their pain.
The sad announcement last week that President Erap has been stricken with the coronavirus has brought sorrow to his legions of supporters. His two sons, two former senators of the Republic, had given separate interviews confirming the tragic news and appealed for prayers for the former Chief Executive. As of this writing, President Erap has been intubated due to severe pneumonia and his condition remains critical per his sons. The former president himself met the press earlier while in bed and assured his partisans not to be concerned and instead told them to stay safe from the virus. It’s vintage Erap—looking after the interests of the poor and the downtrodden. President Erap is 83 and he will be adding one more year to his age 10 days from today. There’s no more bounce in his steps, the swagger is gone and the smirk and the grunt are just the shadows of the old Geron Busabos, Kumander Alibasbas and Asiong Salonga. We may disagree with some or many of his actions in the past but now in his twilight years, bedridden by Covid-19, our hearts sink as he battles the toughest fight of his life. Let’s offer our collective prayers for the complete healing and speedy recovery of President Erap.
It’s revolting when people who are not yet supposed to receive vaccination skip the line and get their shots ahead of the most vulnerable sectors of our population. We should not allow vaccine patronage to disrupt the orderly and equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines. It’s disheartening to read about actors or celebrities and government officials throwing their weight around, or powerful individuals exerting their influence to get ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, this sorry state of affairs also happens in many countries. Even in the US, vaccines meant for a poor community in Chicago were diverted by a public hospital to some residents of a plush condominium tower and employees of a luxury jewelry store and a famous steakhouse located in Chicago’s ritziest address. All this occurred because these special people happened to have connections to the hospital’s Medical Director who lives in Trump Tower condo in the city and who shopped at the jewelry shop and dined at the five-star steak house. It’s a classic case of favoring one’s friends and knowing the right persons. You may recall that many months ago when swabbing was still scarce, Governor Andrew Cuomo of NY allegedly diverted some Covid -tests to help his family and friends. Likewise, Governor Ron deSantis of Florida rolled out vaccines to his wealthy political supporters that should have been administered to others in the priority list. Given the scarcity of the vaccine in our country, it’s almost criminal to divert vaccines to the less deserving individuals when frontliners who risk their lives get severely ill and die from Covid-19 everyday. The hottest place in hell should be reserved for the rogue people who take advantage of their position, status and connection to get vaccinated ahead of those in the priority list.
The headlines read that the vaccine will not end the pandemic. Getting a jab or two may give most people false security. We should not let our guard down even after getting vaccinated. Everyone should strictly comply with the tried and tested health protocols such as wearing a mask and face shield and observing physical distancing. We have just recorded the highest number of deaths from Covid last Tuesday at 382 casualties. This month of April, we have been averaging over 10,000 new cases each day. When OCTA Research predicted this last month, we listened to their spokesman with disbelief and regarded it as another scare ploy of the academics. Recently, OCTA Research says that we will hit the 1 million mark by the end of this month, and now nobody takes it with a grain of salt. This is truly worrisome and the thought that the situation will get worse before it gets better has alarmed most people. Our hospitals are full, afflicted persons are now seeking admission outside NCR, drugs like remdesivir and dexamethasone are running out. The IATF and our pandemic czars know exactly our deficiencies and should ramp up the testing, intensify contact tracing, fast track the acquisition and roll out of the vaccines. On top of these, our country has imposed the longest lockdown in the world, which is implemented by the police, with former top brass of the military leading the battle against the pandemic. Maybe we should have covered Covid-19 by the Anti-Terrorism Act.
The current pandemic surge is staggering. Our health-care system and medical services can no longer cope with the demand. More people are getting sick and dying. Kin, friends and colleagues close to us who we exchanged Christmas and New Year greetings have succumbed to coronavirus. It rends our hearts to revisit their texts and viber messages, which had given us so much joy and hope not too long ago. Now, our chat groups talk of nothing except about our acquaintances who have been stricken by the virus and the round-the-clock monitoring of their health conditions. Prayers and goodwill have replaced the jokes and humor that we used to recycle to our circle of friends. Before, social media spread mirth; today, they bring gloom. What a difference a pandemic has made to our lives.