Silver lining
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2020 - 12:00am

It hasn’t happened yet. As of yesterday, we were 6,529 infections behind Italy. If we surpass the world’s former COVID-19 epicenter, we will have levelled up (down) to 17th place on the list of countries with the highest number of infections. Saudi Arabia is now 18th. We are far distant, though, when it comes to mortality rate. Italy’s toll is at 36,083 while ours stands at 6,069.

Yet, our National Task Force against COVID-19 is “building on gains,” trotting out a phase 3 of the National Action Plan for last quarter 2020. On the road to a new normal, the strategy is live and let live with the virus. Because, however high our rung on the COVID-19 ladder, the statistics, researchers and policymakers agree that we are on a downtrend.

NTF Chief Implementor Gen. Carlito Galvez professes that it’s not the reopening of the economy causing the infection surges but rather the non-observance of protocols. “We are seeing that once people are made aware of the health standards, they can go out now with confidence that they will not be infected by the virus… The most important thing is the changing of behavior.” An expensive lesson. Huwag pasaway.

Our national R-naught reproduction number is at 0.87, justifying the optimism that we are en route to flattening the curve. With that number below 1, it means every positive will infect less than one individual so that the virus eventually dies out. Metro Manila, densest metropolis in the world, is also on a slow crawl to détente. The Metro Manila R-naught is even lower at 0.82. We are one of the few countries in that milestone top 20 list with a decelerating infection rate. Countries behind us are catching up. So World 19th may be our summit (nadir) before fighting back to a more respectable number. There is your silver lining.

We haven’t caught a break for quite some time. Relish the ones we get.

Requiem for a heavyweight.

Flashback to twenty years ago, November 2000, when the House of Representatives found itself without a Speaker. In the aftermath of Speaker Manuel Villar’s “prayergate,” there was a motion to reorganize the House. All positions  were declared vacant and Congress chose a leader. That honor and the burden fell on one of its most respected members. In a face-off with Congressman (and future Speaker) Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of the Lakas-NUCD, the House chose its energy maestro, veteran Camarines Sur lawmaker Atty. Arnulfo “Noli” Palma Fuentebella of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

After the tumult of Speaker Villar’s bizarre (and literal) hail mary pass in the transmittal of President Joseph Estrada’s Articles of Impeachment, the congressmen settled down in the tempered hands of Speaker Fuentebella. In that 11th Congress, he was primus inter pares of a House that included Reps. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Benigno Aquino, III, Alan Peter Cayetano, Gilberto Teodoro, Francis Escudero, Ralph Recto, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Imee Marcos, Mar Roxas, Pantaleon Alvarez, Rodolfo Fariñas, et. al. Among Speaker Fuentebella’s strengths was how he was mentor to many and model to more. He was old school. He respected traditions and was a master parliamentarian. Tensions instantly diffused.

His term was short lived as Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her LAKAS party’s return to Malacañang carried realignments that first erupted in Congress. But it was a memorable stint, renowned for its fair, firm, considerate and just ethos. His valedictory, delivered extemporaneously from the rostrum, remains to be one of the finest examples of forensic excellence in both substance and style ever to be heard in the House of Representatives.

Today, the House is in disarray. This is not the first time. Ups and downs are its mystique, part and parcel of the democratic process. “Congress has always been and must always be the theater of contending opinions; the forum where the opposing forces of political philosophy meet to measure their strength; where the public good must meet the assaults of local and sectional interests; in a word, the appointed place where the nation seeks to utter its thought and register its will.” (US congressman, later president, James Garfield) But from the “undistinguished mass,” I’m sure, will rise statesmen of the highest order, infused with the conscience of our people to utter their will and uphold the chamber’s dignity.

Noli Fuentebella did that. He will be remembered as Camarines Sur’s favorite son, who traced the footprints of his father, congressman and governor Felix, and imprinted his own giant footsteps for two sons, congressmen Wimpy and Arnie, to follow. He will forever deserve his title as Speaker of the House.

First Filipina. Alexandra “Alex” Eala is the country’s first ever winner of a junior Grand Slam event in tennis. At this year’s Australian Open, in tandem with Indonesia’s Priska Nugroho, Alex ruled the junior ladies doubles. That performance capped a streak of brilliance that elevated our Filipina netter to 4th in the ITF junior world ranking.

Now at the French Open, second seed Alex continues to blaze her historic path. She is competing to become the first Filipina to win the marquee ladies juniors singles title. Already she has reached the semi-finals, the highest stage ever reached by a Filipina. It wasn’t an easy route to the final four – all but her first round match were decided in three sets.

Last year’s junior singles winner, Leylah Fernandez, was of Filipino-Ecuadorian heritage but she represented Canada. Should Alex go all the way at Roland Garros, it shall be the first time the Philippine flag is raised over a Grand Slam championship court.

Blue Diamond. The country welcomes its newest Associate Justice of the Supreme  Court. Congratulations, Hon. Ricardo Rosario. This proves again PRRD’s commitment to the judicial cursus honorum. Justice Rosario of Ateneo Law rose from the ranks, public service all the way. NBI, MWSS, prosecutor, MeTC Judge, RTC judge. His last stop was the Court of Appeals where he served for 15 years.

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