‘Eh buhay ka pa na­man…’

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION -

HOW can one ever for­get the hor­ri­ble scene of death and de­struc­tion in Ta­cloban when typhoon Yolanda slammed that coastal city? How can one just sim­ply dis­miss how gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials wan­tonly al­lo­cate among them­selves the bil­lions of pe­sos from for­eign aids and emer­gency funds and leav­ing the dead and the hun­gry walk­ing the path of des­o­la­tion like zom­bies.

The stink of the dead pol­luted along with the pu­trid smell of de­cay­ing canned and other food items that were un­earthed. Mil­lions worth of goods were dis­cov­ered buried by the gov­ern­ment wel­fare agency be­cause it was too bur­den­some to dis­trib­ute them to the sur­viv­ing but starv­ing vic­tims of the scourge of Yolanda. What a de­spi­ca­ble act of ap­a­thy.

Four years had elapsed since the Novem­ber 8, 2013 most dead­li­est and ex­tremely pow­er­ful typhoon that hit the coun­try, but the images and barefaced cor­rup­tion com­mit­ted by of­fi­cials in charge of search, res­cue and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion re­mained en­sconced in the mem­ory of a help­less na­tion. Nei­ther the tragedy nor the lar­ceny can­not just pass into the cat­a­combs of for­get­ful­ness as these ruth­lessly dam­aged Leyte and ev­ery mod­icum of de­cency.

But that is not the un­kind­est cut that shook us all. Amidst the hope­less­ness and loot­ing, a busi­ness­man, Ken­neth Uy, who helped stave off hunger and the pain of those who lost their love ones, made the mis­take of re­lat­ing to then Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III that he was shot at while try­ing to buy gaso­line for the gen­er­a­tors in his ho­tel, which he of­fered to res­cue vol­un­teers, as their head­quar­ters. In­stead of get­ting a sym­pa­thetic re­marks what he got was an abra­sive and im­pas­sive re­ply: “Eh buhay ka pa na­man, di ba (You are still alive, right?),” Aquino barked at Uy.

Such in­sen­si­tiv­ity is res­ur­rected in the na­tion’s con­scious­ness when late last week the alarm about the deng­vaxia vac­cine was is­sued by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and health au­thor­i­ties. It hit us like a thun­der­bolt since over 700,000 young school chil­dren were re­ported to have been vac­ci­nated. It re­ported that those who have not had dengue fever are likely to suf­fer se­vere at­tack if they get dengue af­ter they are in­oc­u­lated. Of course the knee­jerk re­sponse of the Aquino pub­li­cist was that 90 per­cent of those who were in­jected with deng­vaxia had had dengue.

As they say, the fish is caught by its mouth. No one will ever be­lieve the claim of Aquino’s de­fense ward that 90 per­cent of the school chil­dren from the re­gions where the im­mu­niza­tion pro­gram was car­ried out. The par­ents of the kids know bet­ter than the story teller of Aquino’s health of­fi­cials. The ed­u­cated guess is that those who had had dengue could even be less than 10 per­cent.

Things are get­ting us more cu­ri­ous and the im­broglio is get­ting closer and closer to Aquino him­self. From the ac­counts that sur­faced re­cently, the for­mer Pres­i­dent him­self met with the of­fi­cials of Sanofi, the drug com­pany that made deng­vaxia, and that there was an un­usual hurry of buy­ing the vac­cine de­spite the fact that it is still un­der­go­ing test. As a drug un­der­go­ing test and eval­u­a­tion, the Aquino ad­min­is­tra­tion bought it at an ex­or­bi­tant P3-bil­lion plus and be­cause DOH did not have funds for it, the Bud­get Man­age­ment was or­dered to source out the funds from else­where.

Why the hurry de­spite the many un­cer­tain­ties sur­round­ing the drug is re­ally mind-bog­gling. Some quar­ters the­o­rized that elec­tion was com­ing and they have to build a huge war chest. That is spec­u­la­tive.

rea­sons there might be, is not good enough to make our chil­dren the guinea pigs for an ex­per­i­men­tal drug called deng­vaxia. Two things should be done. The Na­tional Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion and the De­part­ment of Health must look deeper into why our chil­dren were of­fered to be ex­per­i­mented on. The In­te­grated Bar of the Philip­pines must file a class suit against Sanofi. We should not take the reason that “buhay pa na­man ang mga bata” as an ex­cuse.

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