Almost self-inflicted

August 12, 2020

What happened in Beirut, Lebanon is too painful to accept. The terrible tragedy was one that could have been prevented if not for the corruption of government officials that the Lebanese people have been fighting for it has been a bad habit so deeply imbedded into the political system.

The explosion came from a warehouse loaded with 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, “a chemical compound with the formula NH4 NO3, and it’s made by combining ammonia with nitric acid. It is most commonly used as fertilizer for agricultural purposes.” But for some reason or another, the ammonium nitrate was held in the warehouse for a long, long time for years. The port authorities just allowed these despite complaints against it knowing how dangerous and explosive the ammonium nitrate was. Nagpabaya talaga.

Why the warehouse loaded with ammonium nitrate was allowed to be stored for seven years needs to be explained. According to the news, it’s “under investigation.”

For years I have been hearing from my friends in Lebanon that corruption was rampant; and it became part of life in Lebanon. High government officials have been used to seeing rallies and demonstration to a point of accepting them as a way to ventilate the people’s frustration. Said demonstrations and rallies were allowed and reached a point of becoming part of life in Beirut.

People just got used to such rallies and demonstrations. The government officials have become too calloused that nobody was paying attention nor listening to charges of corruption anymore. Manhid na sila.

According to some friends in Lebanon, one of whom was a classmate in the university in the U.S.; and a couple of doctor friends who told me that the government has the wrong attitude which has become part of life in Lebanon. As Europeans used to say and turned into a song “Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be…” But that’s only regarding a love song. But we are talking of a deadly and explosive ammonium nitrate.

It seems that a song is strong enough to change the attitude of some poorly developed minds.

***

I was told that the wearing of the face shields if declared compulsory is quickly becoming big business. Suppliers are hoarding, awaiting for the declaration making face shields compulsory for all, on or about August 15. 

It started at 20 pesos, gone up to 35, 45, 60 pesos and I found out, suppliers are hoarding for it can reach over a hundred after August 15. We don’t know at what price it will finally settle down.

Pity the people. Most of them are hard-up. Let the LGUs give them for free or peg the price at P20 or a little over. Some LGUs might take advantage of the pricing. They have been capturing the supply. I hope that if they decide to give it to the people for free, hopefully they account for it with the correct amount from the government funds. And see to it that the face shields were actually given to the public or their constituents.

The people fear that the government will declare the use of face shields compulsory together with the surgical masks. Investors are hoarding the face shield before they dump their supplies in the market, on or about August 15 when the announcement will come out making the wearing of face-shield compulsory once a person steps out of the house.

There will be two facial gadgets to wear by August 15, they say – the mask and the face shield.

Because of cottage industry or home-made face-masks, the price has gone down to reasonable level for the face masks. But a secondary requirement is coming out soon and many are speculating on the jacking up of the price for the face shields.

Since it is compulsory, the government through the Department of Trade must exercise price control for it’s the poor people who will be victimized and taken advantage of. I read in the newspaper, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said that the face shield must be approved by the FDA. Let’s hope the price is regulated like prices of canned goods and other items. We are in very critical times. 

Maawa naman tayo sa kapwa. Sabi ng nakakaalam, tataas at tataas daw ang presyo. Nag-umpisa sa 20 pesos, nagpabili ako para ipamigay, pero ang sabi nong inutusan ko ubos na raw at sa Divisoria ay 70 pesos each na daw.

According to information, the cost in China is only 8 to 10 pesos each, or 1 to 2 dollars each. As to how much the Department of Trade will control the pricing, we do not know. It’s the DTI that regulates the prices of goods, lalo na po dito sa face shield as it has been mandated by the government to be compulsory. Honestly, the government must give these face shields for free to the people thru the LGUs to prevent speculation. Otherwise, it will be a tremendous burden to our people for it has become a lucrative business and it should not be for it’s a government requirement and the government through the Department of Trade should be able to put the price on it to prevent speculators.

In Vietnam, face masks can be availed of by the people for free via ATMs. The people can only press a button and out comes the mask. Up to 5 per person.

Having been in government service myself for about a decade and a half, I’ve found out how government officials make money whenever there are calamities, typhoons, Dengue epidemic, SARS or what have you. If we are not careful, this Covid 19 is another opportunity to commit corruption. From the misery of the people, doon naman sila nagpapayaman. Bastards talaga. I cannot find another name to call them. It takes a cruel person to do that.

There are government officials who find opportunities in such happenings to make money. Terrible but true.

The Yolanda alone, just to give an example, most of foreign assistance ended up in the wrong hands. Ang daming nangyari. Mga foreign donations of canned goods were not given to the victims but sold and replaced with cheap goods. Maraming ibenebenta sa Divisoria.

It’s a long story to tell. May mga tao na masasama ang ugali. Masakit sa kanila magbigay ng mga tulong sa ibang tao, so much so nabulok sa katatago nila that they rotted and had to throw them away by burying them. It really happened, according to my police and military friends.

If only the military, the police and social workers could talk, you will not believe how cruel some people in power are. It hurts them to give to the needy. It’s an inborn disease. They are takers, not givers. The authorities know what happened to the Yolanda donations. Parang may pumipigil sa kanilang puso tumulong. Bakit ina-appoint ‘yang mga ganyang tao na “matapobre”? Hindi dapat ina-appoint sa government positions. Ganyan din ang nangyayari sa face-shields ngayon.

When I was appointed PCSO Chairman in January 21, 1994, I found out the corruption of my predecessor’s boardmembers and other heads of departments. It’s a long story to tell.

Since then, I made it a practice during my term for a COA representative to join every medical mission that the PCSO often conducted. It was a program I had implemented to have a medical mission every weekend to different barangays, complete with doctors, nurses, social workers, dentists to serve the community for free. It was a very successful program most awaited by our people.

I trusted our medical teams and social workers, but I added an extra protection of making one or two COA representatives to join our medical missions kasi po not only to ensure that the mercy mission is conducted honestly, but free the PCSO from intrigues.

No one complained and the program ran smoothly for many years. It was not only in Metro Manila but in the entire country for we authorized the PCSO managers in the different regions to conduct PCSO medical missions as well, with a COA representative, including the managers of the PDO, Provincial District Offices of the PCSO all over the country.

Sad to say, our successors in 2010 changed things around – for themselves ONLY!

***

Before I end this column, allow me to extend my deepest condolences to the family of the former Manila Mayor, former senator, former NBI director, and my good friend… more known as Mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim. He passed away last Saturday at the age of 90.

As Mayor of Manila, he often dropped by my place here in Quezon City. He was a very thoughtful, considerate and grateful person who never forgets how the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) helped his constituents of Manila; including the medical and hospital assistance extended to the people of Manila.

As I always told Mayor Lim, PCSO is there to serve the people of our country. And indeed, we did from Batanes to Jolo, during our time.

Rest in peace. God be with you.

For comments and suggestions email at mlmorato@yahoo.com