Duterte must look into joblessness
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2017 - 4:00pm

Why is pessimism prevalent that nothing will come out of the Senate and House of Reps inquiries into the dengue vaccine mess, that the investigating politicos are just grandstanding as usual, that summoning an ex-President and ex-Cabinet secretaries to explain themselves was just a sideshow, that press statements about no mercy for those who endangered 830,000 young lives are just blah-blah, that present super-majority lawmakers who pressured the health department to inoculate and so imperiled their constituents as well would be absolved, that the maker of the lemon Dengvaxia would be threatened to recompense the public but would be spared upon bribing the probers, and that the victims would be left to their own devices in the end?

Telltale signs of whitewash are there. Two committees each in the two chambers of Congress already had questioned the sloppy immunization months ago. All did not conclude their inquiries; all had no final reports; all were just waiting for people to forget. The Christmas holidays are the right distraction from the scam.

So forget that a past health secretary, presently an administration consultant, had ordered P3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia injections although she had no official allocation for it. Forget that the total state fund for 12 other vaccines – against pneumonia, flu, polio, small pox, mumps, measles, etc. – was much less at only P3 billion. Forget that the dengue vaccine was then not even listed in the National Formulary of drugs that the government may purchase. Forget that an undersecretary connected before and after with Dengvaxia’s local distributor sped up its FDA licensing for local sale. Forget that only two weeks later the budget department unusually already had the cash for the purchase. Forget that the P3.5 billion was coursed through the children’s hospital whose yearly operating budget was less than half at only P1.5 billion. Forget that the Dengvaxia brand name had not even been coined then. Forget that the 830,000 nine-year-olds were not blood-tested prior to vaccination if they safely had been infected before or were at risk because of no previous infection. Forget that two congressmen expanded the vaccination to 130,000 more children, and demanded reorders of the dangerous drug. Forget that Sanofi Pasteur should be made to return the P3.5 billion then fund the potential hospitalizations of thousands of imperiled victims. Forget that at least five vaccinated children died of hemorrhagic fever soon afterwards.

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The 12,000 persons killed in drug busts and gang wars since July 2016 were not stereotype criminals. Their families wailed of losing sole breadwinners. They were parents or elder offspring putting food on the table or sending younger ones to school. In short, they were committing crimes out of duty to the family. This is not to condone drug pushing but to put it in the bigger context of the poverty that plagues the land. Not all the poor, and certainly not only the poor, turn to lives of crime. A good number do fall for temptation, going by the government’s drug statistics, because of weak will and knowing nothing else to do. Witless and skill-less, so to speak.

About 8.7 million, one in five Filipinos of working age, were jobless in the third quarter of 2017. They either were fired or had resigned or couldn’t land first jobs since turning adult. That latest poll of the Social Weather Station mirrored the figures of the same period last year: 3.4 million were jobless then. At Christmas time last year too around 3 million lost their jobs. It’s so miserable to be out of work during the season of merriment. Will pollsters get the same figures a few weeks from now?

Only a small percentage of the jobless are witless and skill-less to turn to drug pushing. Many are even fresh college graduates out to face the bright futures they were promised. Prolonged unemployment would push them into poverty. How long before they too turn desperate?

The problem of widespread joblessness has been analyzed to death. It has been traced to investor unfriendly policies, unease in doing business, high electricity costs, lack of industries, poor infrastructures especially Internet connection, government neglect, and bureaucratic ineptness and corruption. Experts have gone as far as blaming runaway population growth, failure to industrialize starting with steel, criminality, social indiscipline, and irresponsibility of the political elite. Others have pointed to simple jobs mismatch.

Whatever are the causes, the Duterte administration must address joblessness once and for all. It has been in office for a year and a half. It promised change from the old ways. Foremost of which is apathy towards the people’s basic problems. Jobs are basic.

President Rodrigo Duterte has focused on criminality, in particular drug and terrorism. He has left his economic managers to handle the areas of trade, investments, agriculture, industry, energy, transportation, telecoms, revenue collection, and spending. Yet, their ballyhooed P2-trillion infrastructure “Build-Build-Build” has been nothing but “Dream-Dream-Dream.” The 18.9-percent jobless rate shows that those managers have failed.

If only because joblessness can worsen the drug menace, and even terrorism, perhaps Duterte himself must solve the issue. He has proven effective in raising funds for drug rehab and war reconstruction. In certain instances he directly confronted tax evasion and oligarchic abuse. Perhaps he can kick the subordinates into action on the economic front.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA


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