BELOW THE LINE
By JOSÉ ABETO ZAIDE
Instead of cursing the darkness, light a match!
The WHO reported that as of 9 February 2019, the measles outbreak in the Philippines reached over 4,300 cases and 70 deaths. But House Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano called on everyone to cease the blame game over the measles outbreak and restore trust in vaccination program. She cited the urgent need to end the “general feeling of distrust” among parents towards the government’s mandatory immunization program because while the debates go on, children die.
FOUR IN IN FIVE MOTHERS, TAKOT? Cayetano noted that in 2018, only 20 percent of Filipinos agreed to the safety and effectiveness of vaccines,
significantly lower than the 80 percent recorded in 2015.
Senator Richard Gordon chimed in, urging DOH to hype its measles vaccination coverage. He underscored a yawning gap in vaccination coverage in the country since 2014, which explains the measles outbreak in Metro Manila and in some regions in Luzon and parts of the Visayas. Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, said the DOH must boost its information drive on immunization and disabuse the people of ungrounded fears about vaccination. He said that the Dengvaxia controversy must have contributed to the significant drop in vaccine confidence last year; but a declining trend in vaccination coverage was already noted since 2014.
Measles is serious and highly contagious disease. It can cause debilitating or fatal complications, including encephalitis (infection causing swelling of the brain), severe diarrhea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear infections, and vision loss. Babies and young children with malnutrition and weak immune systems are vulnerable to complications and death. The disease is preventable with safe and effective vaccine.
Gordon enjoined parents to inoculate children ages between 6 months to 5 years old to protect them “against devastating, but entirely preventable diseases.” DOH and other concerned government agencies must join hands in an effective information campaign to educate mothers and families vaccination for their children.
Measles is not peculiar to the Philippines. In 2018, even the US experienced 17 outbreaks, three in New York State, New York City, and New Jersey. Cases occurred primarily among unvaccinated people in Orthodox Jewish communities from Israel, where a large outbreak is occurring. Eighty-two people brought measles to the US returning from other countries in 2018. This is the greatest number of imported cases since measles was eliminated from the US in 2000. Measles is recurring after Texas this week reported several confirmed cases. Texas is the 11th state so far to report a measles outbreak.
AUTOMATIC PHILHEALTH FOR PWDs. R.A 7277, aka the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability, was sent to Malacanan last January 24 for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature. The measure provides mandatory PhilHealth coverage for all Persons with Disability (PWDs). Senator Risa Hontiveros, who sherpad the passage of the measure in the Senate, is optimistic of its enactment into law. (If the President fails to sign it within 30 days, the measure automatically lapses into law.)
Under the proposed law, the national government would shoulder the contributions for all PWDs. (If PWDs are employed, the national government shares equal payments of the premium with the employer.) Funds for the implementation of the proposed Act would be sourced from tax revenues on cigarette and tobacco.
The bill mandates the DOH to also maintain database on PWDs and their health and development needs. Under the bill, DOH, in coordination with DWSD, DOLE, the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), LGUs and other concerned agencies shall conduct periodic monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the act.
The other week, my wife Victoria checked in at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center on an advanced pneumonia and ran a bill of P95.505.01. After deducting P16.614.16 senior citizen discount and another P15,000 coverage by PhilHealth, we settled at P65,890.85. In our autumn years, we have the senior citizen discount and PhilHealth to thank.
HONOR THY FATHER (AND MOTHER). Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that House Bill 8837 creating the National Commission on Senior Citizens (NCSC) was unanimously adopted by both the House and the Senate as the National Commission of Senior Citizens Act.
Over 8 million senior citizens stand to benefit, thanks to this new independent commission. Former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos presided as chairperson of the House Committee on Senior Citizens. Her co-authors are Reps. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. (PDP-Laban, Quezon City); Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay (Citizens Party-list), and Francisco Datol Jr. (Senior Citizens Party-list).
The bill guarantees the rights of senior citizens, including the implementation of laws providing economic benefits. The NCSC is a collegial body appointed by the President, but independently
tasked to address needs of the country’s elderly. It will be headed by a chairperson, assisted by six commissioners who will represent different geographical regions in the country.
The late AKO BIKOL Representative Rodel Batocabe was author of the bill for a specialized body to cater to problems of the senior citizens (e.g., violation of the grant and privileges to senior citizens and the lack of oversight over legal and administrative problems or matters concerning senior citizens at all levels of their organizations). Quezon City Rep. Alfredo Vargas, another principal author, underscored that unlike the youth, women and children, the elderly sector does not have an agency that “will primarily cater to the needs of our lolos and lolas.”
LOST IN TRANSLATION? Metro Manila police chief Guillermo Eleazar berated a Chinese lady who splashed taho on a policeman at a confrontation at the MRT Station in Mandaluyong City on Saturday. “You cannot do that to a policeman, and you cannot do that to anybody here in the Philippines,” Eleazar told 23-year-old Chinese Jiale Zhang.
Zhang, a fashion student, splashed a cup of taho at Police Officer 1 William Cristobal, who was explaining why she may not bring it in at the MRT Boni Station. The MRT management has a no-liquid policy security measure inside the station in the aftermath of the twin bombing at the Jolo Cathedral and elsewhere.
Eleazar commended Cristobal as exemplary of Manila’s Finest – one who kept his cool despite the aggression in the presence of passengers and MRT staff. Cristobal instead asked two colleagues to accost her.
Oscar Saplaco of Calasiao, Pangansinan, who identified as foster parent of Ms. Zhang, asked patience and understanding for his ward over the incident, saying she has been under duress. The plot thickens.