Residing among the cracks
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2019 - 12:00am

Diptheria killed a 10 year old in Manila, within hours from diagnosis. We’ve seen 40 cases since January 2019. 

If vaguely familiar, diptheria is the D in the DPT vaccine we had to take in our early years. P for pertussis (whooping cough) and T for tetanus. Unlike polio which was vanquished locally since 2000, diptheria has never really been defeated. But its levels have seen significant reduction since its heyday in the 1950s. 

Its return to prominence is unsettling. Though not in epidemic, outbreak or resurgence quantities, we see increased levels from last year’s statistic. There were 167 cases from January to September this year, in contrast to 122 from last year.

We’re not being alarmist. The problem globally is limited supply or expired supplies of the diptheria anti toxin. For the pharmaceutical companies, there are shrinking incentives for a shrinking market. The early success in battling the disease has become a curse for those who are just getting exposed. At the Senate, Dr. Anthony Calibo of the DOH confessed to anti toxin availability issues.

Medical historian Dr. Vargha called it: “a newly neglected disease that still resides among the cracks of the most privileged health systems.”

So diptheria never left. But this upward trend is unacceptable. Currently, we have a measles outbreak, a dengue epidemic and also a polio epidemic (polio free since 2000, the one case in Lanao and the environmental samples in Manila and Davao testing positive for poliovirus qualify as an epidemic). It’s sad that this happens because of the impression that we get up to 26 inoculations in early childhood.

Apparently, not everyone is as lucky. Polio which wasn’t supposed to be around has a surprisingly low vaccination rate. For children OPV (oral polio vaccine), it is 66% when 95% is the ideal. It’s even lower for IPV (inactivated polio vaccine). We’ve been below 50% since 2016 and only at 23% in 2019. Its not a happy report card. The diptheria victim in Manila did not receive the necessary vaccine dosage.

This is not the time to let our guard down. More than ever, the DOH vaccination campaign must be strengthened. Hence, the unease with the DOH P10 billion budget cut for 2020. Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo assures, however, that the slash shall not affect the vaccination program.

Safe havens. The SOGIE wars are not localized. In the US, the battle lines have been drawn and redrawn. The City of Charlotte, North Carolina allowed the use of bathrooms corresponding to gender identity rather than biological sex. It was part of the LGUs anti discrimination ordinance. 

The North Carolina State Legislature promptly overturned the city ordinance, criminalizing the use of public restrooms different from your gender at birth.

Title IX of the 1972 civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. There was a time that the federal government supplied an interpretation of this clause as applied to the LGBT+ community. The US Department of Education under the administration of President Barack Obama gave the guidance that Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.

President Donald Trump has withdrawn this guidance. This federal action is emblematic of the rollback of civil right gains under his administration. At the UN General Assembly, the US presented a joint statement, with Russia and 17 other countries, declaring that there is no international right to abortion and decrying the continued resort by the UN to euphemisms – such as sexual and reproductive health and rights – in reference to abortion. And his DOJ has argued before their Supreme Court that termination of employment on the basis of being gay or transgender is not sex discrimination under Title IX.

Life imitating art. “I submit to you that whoever wrote that memo has never seen the working end of a  Soviet made Cuban AK-47 assault rifle. On the record, I tell you that I discourage the practice… Off the record, and tell you that its an invaluable part of infantry training.” 

This was Col. Nathan Jessup, in the Aaron Sorkin Classic “A Few Good Men” discoursing on the merits of handling issues “within the unit” even if doing so would run counter to explicit directives. But he would not readily accept fault for the death that ensued from the soldiers taking matters into their own hands. The military term was “code red’.

In the case of the death of Cadet Darwin Dormitorio at the hands of his fellow cadets, the complicity of PMA is clear. Under the latest anti-hazing law, the Philippine Military Academy is categorically among the organizations to which the anti-hazing provisions apply.

The Military leadership is correct in causing the relief of Lt. General Ronnie Evangelista who initially did not appreciate the gravity of the tragedy and refused to even consider stepping down. This is in stark relief to Commandant of cadets Brig. General Romeo Brawner. Bravo to his declaration of war against hazing.

But what do we do with Senator Ronald De La Rosa and General Oscar Albayalde whose diabolical defiance defeats our hope that this practice could be ended? At a time like this, they would speak out on behalf of the practice. 

The way of the warrior. The state before self. In time of war, the utility of this philosophy is critical and accepted. Its also true that in time of war, the law of the jungle prevails and humanity is compromised. In times of peace, there is no cause that would justify the diminishing of a life.

They would extol the virtue of conduct which has been declared by policymakers to be criminal. Hazing molded them into what they are today. What to do with these declarations that would inspire action contrary to law?

De la Rosa now writes the law. Albayalde implements it. It is immutable that for these two fellows to be effective in their jobs, they should first learn to respect the law.

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