As I write this…

Journalists do not serve as publicists or as tools of propaganda for even the most popular leader of any country. ~ Pulitzer Prize-winner Manny Mogato, “In times of crisis, journalists do their best work,” The Philippine STAR

Warn them that literature is fire, that it means nonconformity and rebellion, that the raison d’être of a writer is protest, disagreement and criticism. ~ Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, Making Waves: Essays

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As I write this, Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte prepares to deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) in isolation later this afternoon.

As I write this, reports are coming in attesting to several positive cases of Covid-19 of people slated to attend the SONA, forcing the President to either deliver the message in the Joint Session of Congress or in Malacanang.

As I write this, Covid-19 cases have reached a cumulative 80,448 cases, with a net active figure of 52,406, based on current numbers released by the Department of Health.

As I write this, several key hospitals, including St. Luke’s, Makati Medical Center, the Lung Center, and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital announced that they won’t be able to accommodate Covid-19 patients due to ‘full capacity’.

As I write this, thousands of stranded Filipinos, deprived of social distancing measures, remain holed up on the bleachers of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex as beneficiaries of the second batch of the Hatid Tulong program, increasing tenfold the risk of infection.

As I write this, government agents raided the Pinoy Weekly bureau office and confiscated copies of the newspaper for critical stories against this administration.

According to a statement released by Kenneth Roland A. Guda, the paper’s editor-in-chief, “Secondly, either the police chief is ignorant of the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press and freedom of expression, or he chooses to trample upon it. Either way, he and his men are committing a crime.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) calls it out: “The law’s vague provisions grants too much leeway for interpretation by agents of the state who mistakenly believe their mission is to stifle criticism and dissent, not protect these as part of the people’s basic rights.”

As I write this, funeral wreaths were delivered to the ABS-CBN station in Cagayan de Oro City following a motorcade and noise barrage conducted there.

The NUJP said, “The wreaths, which were brought to the station by the florist’s delivery service at about 7:30 pm, once again linkes the network’s protesting employees and workers, as well as several other groups who have expressed support, to the communist New People’s Army. Security guards at the station said the delivery service personnel told them that the people who paid for the wreaths did not identify themselves. No person or group has come forward to claim responsibility for the wreaths.”

As I write this, protests against the ABS-CBN Network shutdown continue each day amid efforts by the Lower House to justify its refusal to grant the Lopez-owned network the needed franchise. Roughly 11,000 employees of the network, including hundreds working in businesses located within the periphery, were forced out of a job as a result of the shutdown.

As I write this, roughly 7.3 million jobless Filipinos have been recorded since April 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic. The Department of Labor and Employment estimates job loss due to Covid-19 at a whopping 10 million.

That’s a largely conservative figure given that foreign direct investments into the country have taken a steep plunge amid Covid-19 jitters, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas data. The closure of 3,000 companies puts the economy at risk of failing to recover even after the enhanced community quarantine is over.

As I write this, April 2020 cash remittances from overseas workers dipped 16.2% compared to the same period last year due to the closure of many foreign businesses and the massive repatriation of Filipinos as a result of the pandemic.

As I write this, the Alternative Law Groups (ALG) filed the 17th petition against the new Anti-Terrorism Law, saying, “We are the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), a coalition of 18 legal resource NGOs that engages in developmental law in pursuit of social justice while working alongside marginalized sectors.

“We ask the Supreme Court to declare Republic Act (R.A.) 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as null and void. The law should be struck down as unconstitutional as it authorizes violations of the people’s fundamental liberties. The ALG believes that the law is detrimental to the space where civil society operates.”

As I write this, the same Anti-Terrorism Law is being chided as favoring China, based on a report in the South China Morning Post: “Antonio Carpio said he could be charged with ‘inciting to commit terrorism’ because of his ‘impassioned activism’ in fighting for Philippine territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea, the term used in the Philippines to refer to the eastern reaches of the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China.”

And as I write this, the revolutionary world mourns the passing of Fidel Agcaoili, chairperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) Peace Negotiating Panel at Utrecht, The Netherlands.

As I write this, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, has tested positive of the Covid-19. Bishop Pabillo, an outspoken critic of the Duterte regime, recently challenged the government to sue the Church after the government’s legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, criticized Pablo Virgilio S. David’s pastoral letter.

Bishop David is the acting president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines. His July 2020 pastoral letter said, “The return of ‘warrantless detentions’ through this new law cannot but remind us of the initial moves in 1972 that eventually led to the fall of democracy and the rise of a dictatorial regime that terrorized the country for fourteen years. It all began when an elected president also legalized the ‘ASSOs’ (arrest, search and seizure orders). It was from there that we gradually sank into the mire of authoritarian rule. Knowing how, in just the recent past, the law has been used too many times as a weapon to suppress legitimate dissent and opposition, we cannot but share in the apprehensions expressed by the lawyers and ordinary citizens that filed the petition against the said infamous law before the Supreme Court.”

As I write this, thousands of activists and protesters gather at the University of the Philippines to protest against the administration’s shenanigans and clear inability to handle the Covid-19 crisis.

As I write this, the Terror Law goes full throttle, tagging dissent and criticism of government as terror acts. Inside the Quiapo Church, a woman protester who decided to hear Mass before attending the SONA march was harassed by Manila police, confiscating her placards. A delegation on their way to UP Los Banos to protest on the day of the SONA was blocked, some herded into the police station.

To add, a number of jeepney drivers were arrested while on their way to the protest site.

As I write this, Duterte’s bogus war on drugs and assassinations remain a third threat to the virulence of Covid-19 and the newly installed Terror Law. Just hours before the SONA, “National Center for Mental Health chief Roland Cortez and his driver were shot dead this morning in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, QCPD Station 3 chief Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Gabriel confirms to Rappler.”

As I write this, the regime prepares the sell us a twisted view of the state of the nation. Again.

Don’t buy it.

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Joel Pablo Salud

Joel Pablo Salud

Joel Pablo Salud is the author of several books of fiction and political nonfiction. His opinions in Medium.com are his own.