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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, August 13, 2019
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Hongkong: A Paradise Lost?

Ninfa Leonardia

Senator Pia Cayetano has a bright (?) idea. She wants all government offices and agencies to put up close circuit television, or CCTV, as a means to prevent corruption. Does she really think it will work? Why, do people who bribe and who receive bribes do it openly, as if they were handing over a gift or paying their taxes? For all we know the “corruption” does not even take place in the offices, but somewhere else. And it needn’t be a cash transaction, you know.

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But what about the recent pronouncement of the president that it is all right to accept a gift as an expression of thanks or gratitude? He even said one can give a gift – no need for it be in cash – to policemen. A long time ago, I happened to be in government office waiting my turn when the clerk was attending to someone else. After they were through, the clerk pulled open a drawer of his desk without a word, and the client, also without speaking, dropped a roll of peso bills in it, and left. Maybe that kind of transaction the CCTV can catch. What if they choose to “settle it outside”?

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It was a beautiful sight – that one pictured in the media – of Muslims standing guard before the Baguio Cathedral to watch it after threats of an attack on it were heard. Of course there was reason to be alarmed, because so far, we have heard of some churches that have been attacked by terrorists. But this was not even their church and yet they were concerned enough to help guard it. It could be that they realize that their own church could also be attacked, nonetheless, that was a very meaningful gesture. And once more we are reminded of the saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

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The Deputy Consul General of China was quoted in the media as saying that the relationship between the Philippine and China is enjoying the best time in history. Speak for yourself, Sir. Do you mean that is because your countrymen are now flocking into our country in droves and are feeling so much at home that they even kidnap each other here? He also was quoted as saying that “This is a very, very rare, valuable and precious opportunity for us…”. Which is “us”, by the way?

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It was quite shocking to hear the report that cases of leprosy are rising in the Ilocos. In fact the Medical Center of Region I records show that the second highest number of patients seeking treatment are those suffering from leprosy! And all along we had thought that the disease is, well, “extinct” already in our country. Yes, I do remember a time when there was an island called Culion where patients suffering from leprosy were virtually exiled, because it was believed to be highly contagious and there was no surefire medication for it then.

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But the doctors in Region I are quite reassuring. Their dermatologists say patients are treated for free, and their families are checked to see if other members have also contracted the disease. Also, medication for it can now be easily obtained and after treatment, the patient is no longer infectious. Of course there is an awful stigma accompanying the disease because there was no cure for it before. Even the Bible mentions stories about lepers who were shunned by others for being “unclean”. Remember the story of the ten lepers who asked Jesus for help?

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“Worser and worser”. Ungrammatical as they may be, that is what best describes the situation in Hongkong now. Nothing seems to stop the protestors, they even paralyze flights in the airport and, despite injuries to some of them, their number seems to grow. But I think most countries sympathize with them because they are trying to protect their freedom, especially the rights of those who may run afoul of the law. All this started with the pronouncement that Hongkongers accused of crimes will be tried and penalized, not in Hongkong, but in the mainland, that is, China. How the people there must miss the days when they were still under British control.

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Most countries, if not all, except China, of course, sympathize with them. Not only are tourists shunning Hongkong now, affecting all sorts of business and activities, hotels are now empty, even the popular Disneyland is like a ghost town, tour cancellations continue, and nobody knows how the situation will end up. We sympathize with the Hongkongers, and hope China will not use an iron hand to quell their protests, otherwise it will be another Paradise Lost!*

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