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Opinion

Face shield: Symbol of graft, corruption

POSTSCRIPT - Federico D. Pascual Jr. - The Philippine Star

Don’t throw away your COVID-19 plastic face shield even when it has grown foggy and grimy with use. Keep it.

The face shield you are required to wear on top of a fabric face mask is the proof and reminder that the leeches feeding off this emaciated country never stop looking for a chance to suck more bloody millions from us hapless victims of the pandemic.

And when you go to the polling precinct on May 9 next year to cast your ballot, wear your face shield to remind you of who to vote for and who to kick out.

Ugly details of the administration’s purchase of personal protective equipment, including face shields and masks, have been exposed in the Senate inquiry initially focusing on Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., the supplier of reportedly overpriced and low-quality PPEs.

Because the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) bought them at high prices, it has been having a hard time selling them to government agencies. The face shields and masks have ended up as “slow-moving” supplies.

The solution? The administration has required all persons going out of their houses to wear face shields on top of their face masks. This redundant measure that Duterte’s police have been enforcing was not based on sufficient scientific study.

The imposition of “granular” lockdowns whose variations have not been clearly defined is another of those experiments using hapless members of targeted communities as “guinea pigs” of task forces testing their lame theories.

We ask whoever concocted this newfangled rule of wearing face shields on top of face masks to stand, identify himself and defend his genius.

In many advanced countries and in medical-scientific circles, a face shield is deemed unnecessary when one is wearing the right face mask. Its use is even reported to heighten the possibility of catching the virus carried by the wind current between the shield and the face.

Plastic shields do not absorb the droplets in the breath as well as a cloth face cover does. They deflect some of the droplets to the opening at the bottom, allowing germs or viruses in a person’s breath to escape. Some of the viruses stick to the plastic and stay alive for days.

One aerodynamic study showed that if infected air comes from a cough of someone behind you, the shield will catch the germs or viruses and flow them to your face.

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Pharmally is a Chinese company set up in 2019 with a paid-up capitalization of only P625,000, yet it won over P8.7 billion in 11 supply contracts. Michael Yang, President Duterte’s Chinese investment adviser since his Davao days, has been linked to the firm.

The questioned purchases were made by Malacañang’s PS-DBM although the end-user is the Department of Health. Instead of buying the supplies directly, the DOH transferred the funds to the PS-DBM then headed by undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao to handle the deal.

By Duterte’s admission, Lao worked with him when he was Davao mayor and helped in his 2016 presidential campaign. Duterte said he saw nothing wrong with repaying a debt of gratitude to him.

As for Yang, Duterte vouched for his good character, while firing potshots at Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigating the mess. Yang has declined to appear before the committee, claiming to be suffering from high blood pressure.

It would be interesting if Gordon’s committee is able to identify the middleman in the Pharmally transactions who must have gotten the fat commission.

In his testimony, Lao is often unable to recall details. Gordon may need documents and testimonies of others to jog Lao’s memory.

The committee focused initially on such COVID-19 response funds as the P42 billion transferred by the DOH to the PS-DBM and the P8.7 billion paid for PPEs. It has now gone deeper into the background of Pharmally.

One wonders why President Duterte, who claims that just a whiff of corruption would send him on a cleanup frenzy, seems to be more interested in defending the Chinese suppliers than protecting government interests.

Duterte also wants the Commission on Audit to look into the operations of the Red Cross, a non-government humanitarian organization, just because Gordon is its chair and chief executive.

US gives PH vaccines as sendoff

At least the Philippine diplomatic and defense officials who went to Washington to mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Phl-US Mutual Defense Treaty will not come home empty-handed.

The White House has rushed the shipping of a “balikbayan box” of 2.58 million more doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global distribution program. Talks on military hardware and such security items sought by Manila will continue.

The latest vaccine shipments bring the total number of doses sent by the US to just over 9 million, although the number is below what is needed for the country to achieve herd immunity before the yearend as promised by President Duterte.

President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Philippine foreign and defense officials. Discussions were held on upgrading security capabilities of the former US colony in the context of aggressive Chinese expansionism.

The Philippines wants an updating of the MDT to make clearer commitments in case of armed attacks on either partner as well as the faster upgrading of its defense capability.

Manila has long felt Washington has neglected it, having seen the pouring of trade, aid, investments and security hardware to its neighbors that were shooting enemies of the US not long ago.

The security partnership of the two countries suffered a major setback in 1992 with the pullout of US bases in the Philippines one year after the expiration of the military bases agreement.

One obstacle to the nurturing of more amiable relations is the stance of President Duterte, who had publicly announced his personal dislike for the US and, with the neighborhood watching, flew to the waiting arms of Beijing a few weeks after he took office.

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NB: All Postscripts are also archived at ManilaMail.com. Author is on Twitter as @FDPascual. Email: fdp333@yahoo.com

CORRUPTION COVID-19 GRAFT
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