the chill

Manila, 12 July—Every week, as I sit down to write this weekly letter, I always seem to have to ask myself some permutation of the question: How did we get here?

On Friday, in the latest instalment of Horrible Things That Have Been Happening To The Philippines, a Congress committee has finally voted to deny ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. An overwhelming 70 representatives voted YES to deny the franchise, while 11 representatives voted NO. Two inhibited, while one abstained.

Of the 200+ congressmen, only the members of the House committee on legislative franchises had the chance to vote. I couldn’t even take to task my own representative for his vote, because he wasn’t involved in it.

This vote is at the heels of Maria Ressa’s cyberlibel conviction on June 15 and the signing of the Anti-Terror Law on July 3. It’s like the government has a checklist for the upcoming SONA.

Whatever they plan to say, perhaps with the Banaue Rice Terraces in the background—well, I don’t feel like the government is doing right by me at all.

That’s because all of that is smokescreen to mask the government’s utter inability to handle the Covid-19 health crisis. It seems that the Health Department has been more concerned about dressing up the figures instead of—I don’t know, maybe flattening our Covid-19 curve—the actual problem, as anyone with eyes would readily point out.

Instead, we get an Anti-Terror Law nobody even asked for, and a chill across media, with Maria Ressa’s conviction and ABS-CBN’s non-renewal of franchise. This is amid the surge in cases as they relaxed quarantine restrictions—no amount of data manipulation will help them. Between the end of June and today, I think we added more than 10,000 cases—so much for Roque’s glee at beating the UP’s end-June Covid prediction of 40k cases. Sure, we were a bit under 40k when June ended, but it hasn’t been 14 days and we’re now at over 50k, and tallying record-high new cases by the day. There’s really no other way to put it—it’s the relaxed quarantine, idiots. Even the DOH agrees they can no longer pinpoint the source of the breakout because it is fucking everywhere.

I wish the government didn’t spread itself too thin, unnecessarily, by concerning itself with all these preoccupations that are not even related or important. And I’m willing to bet that the President will go to town about his wins against terror and media, and, you know, maybe say two sentences about Covid, come SONA.

That’s just irrelevant, man. I think the coming SONA should be a reckoning of the government’s Covid-19 response, nothing more, nothing less. Anything that will not be about what they have done to address Covid and its attendant issues—unemployment, locally stranded individuals, shuttering of small and medium enterprises, poverty and hunger—would be irrelevant. And the only relevant plans and promises will be about rebuilding given Covid’s impact.

The upcoming SONA is why I’m disappointed that our polling firms have not done any sort of survey on the performance of this administration where Covid response is concerned. (READ: Due to lockdowns, we don’t know Duterte’s approval ratings during pandemic)

To SWS’s credit, they have been releasing results of their Mobile Phone Surveys, which “completely redesigned the Social Weather Report Survey questionnaire to focus on the effects of the pandemic on the people.” (READ: SWS May 4-10, 2020 Covid-19 Mobile Phone Survey - Report No. 1: Technical Details)

The survey, released in 13 parts over May to July, was conducted from May 4 to 10 nationwide, using SWS’s database compilation of mobile phone numbers of persons “from previous SWS probability samples who had given permission to be surveyed by phone at a future time.” Respondents were randomly drawn from within regions from this SWS Database.

One can argue that this survey method excludes non-mobile phone owners and I think you would be correct. I think that’s why SWS was so careful about qualifying that it’s a Mobile Phone Survey. I have high respect for people who do surveys, and I appreciate the care with which they worked on this entirely new survey method at a time of crisis. SWS mobilized 116 team members who were involved in the non-commissioned project that was undertaken at SWS’s own initiative. That’s a pretty big team.

I’m just frustrated that their items did not include Net Satisfaction Ratings of top officials usually surveyed during the Social Weather Survey. Or if they wanted to, maybe just assess the IATF and the DOH as the lead organizations in this response? I’ve had to endure the nonsense of Duterte’s high approval ratings—and I’m still hoping that maybe Covid has turned the tide, so to speak.

I don’t know—maybe they want their face-to-face surveys to do a more credible job at breaking this finding? Maybe. Perhaps that would be the more fool-proof way to do it.

And so I live in hope.

Related Media

🎥 Alyx Ayn Arumpac’s documentary on the drug war, Aswang, is gritty and heartbreaking. Lest we forget this was where we came from before Covid-19.

↗️ I compiled all of the President’s reports for the BAHO Act from March to June. Sharing this download link for those interested: BAHO Act Reports

🔖 Recommend someone’s blog or newsletter to the 2020 Blog Roll. Or, I don’t know, add yours:

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