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The worst — and best — of times

This has got to be the worst of times. Murphy’s Law is in effect.  Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. As if living in the Philippines was not chaotic enough, there is the rest of the world to contend with. But it can also be the best of times, depending on how you look at it.

I can’t let go of the news. Mostly I wake up badly, to ANC, CNN or BBC reporting breaking news about a terror act in London, Afghanistan, Iraq,  or a crazed killer in San Francisco, or the latest tweet from the Oval Office by a man who still doesn’t know how to be president. But there are positive developments, if you care to find them.

One night, jetlagged and finally getting drowsy, I fought off sleep to watch the affable James Comey, the FBI director who was fired by Donald Trump, testify in earnest at the US Senate about his difficult relationship with his president. Then came Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General who was shifty and evasive, not inspiring confidence at all.

The best part of the current investigation in the US is seeing, amid the political chaos, democratic institutions at work. The courts and the bureaucracy are independent, civil society is well-organized, and the media are true watchdogs that use every means possible to get the story out.

I can only sigh with envy.

The horrible fire on the 24-storey apartment block in London kept me glued to BBC and CNN all day, sickened by the sight of the smoldering inferno where 120 families lived. That same night came the breaking story about the shooting spree by a very irate citizen who randomly shot at Republican congressmen and their staff practicing baseball at a field in Virginia, and a UPS employee in San Francisco who shot and killed four people in the office. But amid all this tragedy, the Washington Post broke another story that the Department of Justice’s special counsel, Bob Mueller, has begun investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice.

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Here at home, I carry, like an open wound, the pain of the war in Marawi, the loss of over 50 of our soldiers and policemen, and over 40 civilians so far, with hundreds still held hostage by the Maute terrorists. Every day brings new stories of loss that break our hearts.

However, we are also inspired by stories of courage, compassion, and generosity, of Christians and Muslims helping bring one another to safety, soldiers valiantly holding the fort and giving up their lives so that others may live, citizens finding ways to help the evacuees, cooking halal meals, donating shawls and scarves for the women who must keep their heads covered, preparing gift bags of food and basic needs for soldiers and evacuees, and getting school children to write letters to soldiers and children trapped in the war zone.

The nobility of our soldiers and citizens in Marawi and Iligan, and the public’s to their needs, are in sharp contrast to the shameful demeanor of government officials in Manila who have taken to blaming the opposition for the situation in Marawi by spreading fake news about them. The fake news epidemic, fomented by the administration itself, has unmasked a government that is insecure about its stances, and is seemingly unprepared to handle the crises it has had to face, many of which it has created. It took them four days to come up with a coherent explanation for Duterte’s protracted absence.

Ironically, instead of panicking over the extended absence of the President during a particularly woeful week, the public enjoyed days of relative peace and quiet, getting things done without having to hear the vulgar blather of one whose idea of calling a spade a spade is limited to rude misogynistic comments and calling everyone who disagrees with him a son of a bitch.

There were two other bright spots in the news last week: Rafa Nadal demolished Stan Wawrinka in three easy sets to win his 10th French Open title, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers to regain the NBA championship. Instead of mumbling invectives at lying government officials who spread fake news, it felt good cheering real heroes like Nadal, Durant and Curry, who gave their fans temporary respite from the grim realities at home and abroad.

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