Thu. Sep 23rd, 2021


A survey of Covid-19 implications from an international perspective

by Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

Chapter 11

Trolls infest social media

As the world’s mainstream media teem with contradictions as to who Patient Zero was and where she originated, social media in the Philippines crawl with trolls.

Dan Gingiss, in an article that appeared in Forbes magazine, called trolls as “nasty creatures in search of an audience through incessantly negative banter. They don’t really want resolution; they want attention. Often their ‘complaint’ is so amorphous that it isn’t solvable anyway…” (in which case it also qualifies as spam).

“Spam” are deceptive comments or lies, junk information or, fake advertisements on your social accounts.

At the rate this survey is going, it could go on and on yet I have not yet made it clear what egged me to start banging the keyboards.

Simply put, it was fake news set ablaze by bigotry – the intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself. Its genre roots from differing ideas, races, genders, religions, politics, lifestyles or identity.

So, let’s continue sifting the weeds from the wheat.

National artist or dookie?

Just as millions were trying to seek safe haven in which to quarantine themselves in the face of an unseen but greatly virulent enemy that Francisco Sionil Jose inveigled in his short post at Facebook.

It was a joke from its very title: “China’s Ultimate Weapon. It’s not the Atomic bomb. It’s the Wuhan virus.”

Jose explains where he was coming from – history: “While we are making conjectures about the origins of this Wuhan pandemic, let’s look at it from a great distance—the longevity of Chinese Civilization fostered by a massive population—a billion and a half today. Some decades back, a Chinese general boasted that in the event of nuclear war, even if 500 million Chinese died, China would still have a billion people. China’s aim of dominating the world is driven by that country’s huge population.”

Duh? …but I agree with him, that was really a “great distance.” It is so far detached from reality that only bigotry could have woven the longevity of civilization and the mammoth population together to lead to something.

First he conjectures the death of 500 million humans, and then he factors that to be the driving force of a country dominating the world? A self-inflicted genocide gives birth to a hegemon? I sense something psychotic there.

China has the second largest population in the globe, next only to India. On its own, it became the only country that was able to free more than half its population from the contagion of poverty, becoming the second strongest economy in just 30 years.

The multi-awarded author continues with his offensive: “China must weaken the economies of other countries if it is to prevail.”

Just where did that come from except from the void. The international platform of China is to share the blessings of its economy not just with its own people, not just with Asia but the whole world. That is what the Belt and Road Initiative is all about.

It is not China, but another country, that promotes hostility in the planet in the hope of world domination.

Nonetheless, Jose finally comes up with his thesis: “The pandemic is the answer.”

The demon forces the issue: “It is for this reason why at its birthing, it was not internationally announced until China was sure it had already spread. In the meantime, China was prepared to contain it; the virus did not spread widely to other Chinese cities.

A prolific writer whose childhood memories of his hometown are the roots of his works of fiction, José has written more than 35 books – novels, short stories, poetry and social commentaries. His bio at the internet reveals the stuff he is made of – mainly a fiction writer.

I picked up two salient comments to his post.

Pol Llorente who admits he likes most of his writings says: “This kind has no place in major media. Unless his thesis is backed by solid evidence and not just conjectures and innuendos, it’s not helping. It’s sensationalism at its worst!”

Steven Edward Rogers, a foreigner who loves frequenting Sagada, a tourism spot north of Manila, said: “The weak point in the argument is that China’s economy is also in crisis, and is intensely vulnerable to a demand slowdown. It’s no good being the world’s factory when the world stops buying stuff. The economic crash is likely to hurt China more than the virus did.”

Rogers dumps Jose: “Never attribute to conspiracy that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”  Incompetence, indeed. A good narrator of fiction should not be left to his own devices, feigning analysis where conclusions come before premises and predicates. It is dangerous to expect results when processes have not been completed.

He might have been declared in the past a national artist, but when comes to contemporary China, his opinion is dookie.

F. Sionil Jose is a bigot.

The Pascual fallacy

Philippine Star columnist Federico Pascual would not be of any help. In his column last April 7, he wrote that here are interesting questions “swirling in the media” that the Chinese experts may want to address.

Pascual says “Distance from Wuhan to Shanghai is only 839 kilometers and Wuhan to Beijing the capital is 1,152 km. Wuhan to Milan (in Italy, the third worst-hit country after the United States and Spain) is 15,000 km, and Wuhan to New York (COVID-19 epicenter in the US) is 15,000 km.”

This is precisely the problem with arguing from conclusions to premises, or effects to the cause, instead of the other way around.

His main point has already been begged (Latin: petitio principii) — “The corona virus scourge erupted in Wuhan…”

And then Jose connects his hypotheses: “…yet inflicted no significant toll on nearby Beijing and Shanghai the economic capital. All business areas of China are safe and appear to be going back to normalcy.”

The steps that China undertook, has been blaring for the past four months. Short of martial law, writers have called it “draconian.” In fact, Pascual himself uses the word “lockdown.” I can grant that word will not have an impact on him because he is writing from the United States where he has migrated.

Linear thinking and liberal democracy will never fathom the implications of anything martial or draconian. But to deny using such where the unseen enemy is not only virulent but murderous, applying an innuendo reveals that he is another bigot: “It has been asked if the figures being reported by Beijing reflect the situation on the ground and if its communist leaders have resorted to inhuman measures to force down the numbers.”

Pascual’s bias generates a false assumption: “Assuming the doubts are baseless, perhaps China’s visiting public health experts could share with their Philippine counterparts…how they drastically cut the number of people infected and killed by the virus.”

Then he maliciously implicates the Philippine president: “Duterte, an admirer of things Chinese, might be encouraged to adopt their methods.”

One month and two days before the World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 12, the Philippine president already announced that first the government was “on top” of the “idiot” corona virus threat, second he would tap the military and police to ensure public order in the country in the event the 2019 novel corona virus outbreak becomes a pandemic and doctors should work double-time to find a cure to the virus.

Come March 12, Duterte announced a month-long lockdown of the whole of Metro Manila. Land, domestic air, and domestic sea travel to and from the National Capital Region were suspended from Sunday to April 14, while mass gatherings have also been banned.

On March 16, he expanded to the entire island of Luzon in the Philippines under “enhanced community quarantine” (ECQ) which is effectively a total lockdown, restricting the movement of the population with exceptions. The ECG was originally set until April 12 but as of this writing he already extended it to April 30 (and again to May 15 -Ed).

The president calls it “community quarantine” but if this were not authoritarianism, what is it? I have known Dick Pascual since I started writing publicly, and I know he was not born yesterday.

So, can I at least surmise something more complicated going on in his mind because he is definitely not un-educated.

Communism 101

F. Sionil Jose and Federico Pascual can start learning Communism 101 from Rigoberto Tiglao, our former Ambassador to Greece and Cyprus.

In one of his columns in the Manila Times, Tiglao has a message for all the bigots who still peddle Sinophobia during a world crisis: “Blame China all you want, rant that the virus ‘originated’ from Wuhan.”

Despite the West ridiculing the two-month lockdown from the rest of China and the world of Wuhan City as a panic reaction of the Chinese leadership and a draconian move that violated the human rights of the city’s 11 million people, China’s authoritarianism allows it to make decisions swiftly, and for its government to act in total unity. “

Tiglao defines it a democracy in essence but a peoples’ democracy in form and praxis — “the sui generis nature of China’s government, which has at its core 91 million members of the Communist Party of China (CPC), steeped in the ethos that it exists, as the Maoist slogan put it, ‘to serve the people’. When the Chinese leadership moves, it is not the huge unwieldy bureaucracy it first mobilizes but its 91 million communist party-men.”

Video clips in social media of Britons partying in a pub or of young Americans in a Florida beach defying their governments’ “stay at home” pleas, illustrated vividly the core problem of liberal democracy proving individual choices do not necessarily lead to collective good.

What we see across the seas, however, is that the lockdown in a peoples’ democracy has enabled a quick recovery of China from the specter of the virus.

Thereupon, the Chinese wasted no time in mobilizing its factories to produce as many face masks, personal protective equipment, ventilators reverse-engineered from German products, needed for its 1.4 billion population if the plague would recur.

China is now awash with such crucial medical supplies and equipment to fight the virus and most importantly, it shares with the rest of the world.

(To be continued)


Ado Paglinawan is a daily commentator at Radyo Pilipinas1, and a regular columnist at the country’s newest daily news website and its partner magazine The Sovereign. He is a former Philippine diplomat, serving in the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York as press attaché, spokesman and special assistant to Ambassador Emmanuel N. Pelaez. He has served a strategic consultant to Agriculture Secretary Luisito Lorenzo, Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon and Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo. He studied for 1 5 years at San Beda College from grade 1 to 4th year college majoring in English and Philosophy, minor in political science and history. He is a veteran of the First Quarter Storm, participating as president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.  Ado has taken continuing studies in world politics and diplomacy, international public relations, information technology and remote sensing, and Eastern Christianity and Islamic studies, from various universities in Washington DC.


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