Free speech is still free in the Philippines, but take care . . .

[Photo source: Rappler]

By Joe America

The Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has summoned 12 people to explain their posts on social media, sending a bit of a Constitutional shudder through the free nation. Atty Chel Diokno will be representing one of the people summoned. He says these are ordinary citizens and the action is a clear threat to freedom of speech. We’ll find out more as the cases go public.

The Constitution says:

  • Article III, Bill of Rights, Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

That is pretty clear.

But times are tough. We are in a crisis. The new law empowering the President to deal with the coronavirus threats has some rather autocratic provisions if they are used for political advantage. This squelching of speech may be one such instance. Harassment of Pasig City Mayor Sotto (for tricycles) and Vice President Robredo (for donations) are other possible abuses.

The Government’s rallying cry for suppression is “fake news”. But there seems to be confusion between what is “news” and what is a person’s own, private thinking. Private thinking and private speech cannot be restrained. However . . . if a posting states what appears to be inflammatory information, then government authorities, under the stress of a crisis, might consider the expression dangerous. It would be like yelling “fire” in a crowded auditorium, or making a bomb joke in an airport.

If the posting is a brilliant meme in full color that makes the statement “The NBI is corrupt”, that is very different from a simple, unembellished statement that “I think the NBI is corrupt.”

  • The former is inflammatory in word, because it is stated as a fact, and it is inflammatory in style, because it is loud and showy. It is like the scream in a fake “fire” message in an auditorium.
  • The latter is just a recitation of what is in my mind, properly qualified as opinion, simply transmitting the words that are in my brain. The NBI cannot control what I think, or speak.

That’s the problem we have now. The hypersensitive Duterte Administration is feeling a lot of pressure from criticism over its handling of the coronavirus. Leaders believe any criticism might tip the nation into riot.

Social media has proved to be a powerful tool for reason the past two weeks, and would be a loss for democracy if its voices were to be silenced.

I think we have to take care with our messages. Strive for responsibility. Memes are great, but they are like advertising, or shouting fire. They can be a step beyond speech. And PERCEIVED by authorities as inflammatory. I don’t use them, myself, although I agree they can make a point powerfully.

The words we post should be framed with an awareness of what (authoritarian) readers might think. I’m not a citizen, so I’ve learned to take special care with what I write. I use a lot of qualifiers:

  • “It seems to me . . .”
  • “I think . . .”
  • “Am I the only one who sees this as . . .”
  • “I wonder if . . .”
  • “In my opinion . . .”

Any statement can be reversed into a question, removing any accusation whatsoever. Yet the point is clear.

We are still learning about the power of social media. Combined, they can be a superb democratic force for ideas, or they can be a form of peoples’ demagoguery. Like what we see from DDS trolls.

If we express ourselves responsibly, the Constitution is on our side. If we incite or inflame during a crisis, we lose that protection.

I’m personally thankful that a number of attorneys have stepped up and are willing to take on cases of social media users who receive an NBI summons for their postings.

The battle is clearly on. Free speech in the era of powerful social media is being tested. And defined.


78 Responses to “Free speech is still free in the Philippines, but take care . . .”
  1. Andres 2018 says:

    Stay home, keep safe everyone! But in second thought, how long will we stay home? What are the signs that we can go out? Made me question, is locking down the best way? How long the 270B will last? I am thinking, are we facing this pandemic the wrong way? What if we could not create a vaccine for this covid19, will we stay like this until forever?

    • The virus reaches peak in about three months then tapers off. Somewhere along the timeline, restrictions will ease, I’d guess. I think a lot of wrongs have been done so far, but what we have is what we have now. Stay at home. Learn to enjoy it.

      • NHerrera says:


        This properly belongs to the previous blog, but since there are two early entries here on covid19, I am placing this in this new blog topic instead.

        **Doubling Period for the virus infection**

        Irineo mentioned that in Germany it has taken as a measure for the easing of the CV infection cases, the Doubling Days or Period for the virus increase. The higher the DD the better. Thus, a 3-day DD means it takes 3 days for 1000 infected cases to rise to 2000; a 10-day DD means it takes 10 days for the same increase. In most countries the DD is in the neighborhood of 3 days for the strong or explosive phase of the virus spread. When the spread has matured corresponding usually with stricter health measures, the DD tends to increase.

        I have not done the plotting as I have done the two cases below but in South Korea in the later episodes the DD has increased to higher than 50. Now you may ask how one can claim 50 days in the calculation when the observation has been done in fewer days. [If one recalls his earlier math days, one can calculate the speed in, say, 60km per hour, without doing an hour’s worth of observation let alone measure a distance of 60km].

        I will not mention the method I used to do the calculations. I may mention though that I have done moving days averaging to smoothen the wiggles that one may expect of such charts.

        The first chart displays the DD for the US; the second, that for Spain. In the later days US DD is in the neighborhood of 5 and Spain’s is close to 8. Please note that I have done the total US, not individual states. I used as my source the coronavirus option of the worldmeter website.

        I have not plotted Germany’s case, but looked into the later part of the infection increases. The DD is in the neighborhood of 9.

      • Andres2018: “What if we could not create a vaccine for this covid19, will we stay like this until forever?”

        Joe: “Stay at home. Learn to enjoy it.”

        Personally, i think this whole thing has rendered two industries obsolete, education and finance.

        MMT will take over for finance; whilst it seems Google is taking over for the education sector; thus Wall Street and schools are no more.

        To answer Andres2018, we won’t stay like this forever, but it’ll be a different world that’s for sure afterwards; and I agree with Joe, appreciate your house more. From now on we’ll stay home more, and learn stuff virtually.

        Joe, how’s about maybe a blog on how things can be different in the Philippines from here on out, the otherside of this pandemic, but keep it on the bright side?

        I’m forecasting some pretty nasty stuff if the economy tanks here, lots of guns here (not there),

        • I agree it will be different, and nasty stuff may be an outcome of continued non-performance by aid agencies, or economic collapse. Moodys ha downgraded the banks in some 17 nations to ‘negative’. The Philippines is one of them.

          I’ll reflect on the ‘how it will be different’ article and see if I get inspired by that subject. It is a rather fascinating topic.

          • I’m seeing more kids just walking around over here. NO malls, no parks, so they just walk around. They are not gathering in groups, more like 3 to 5 kids just walking and talking. Which seems healthy, they look like they’re enjoying not going to school.

            Before some bright folk came up with the idea to herd all the kids to schools, i believe this is what kids did just hung out.

            So i’m very excited at the possibility that schools (even colleges) will cease to exist. As a PhD in Google myself, I can vouch for the autodidact Google approach. I’m sure subtracting schools from the picture, will fruit more creativity thus innovation too.

            I’ve long been convinced that schools stunt kids’ growth. I hope you do write this blog, Joe.

            • kasambahay says:

              parents die and kids must learn to be independent and support themselves, and would need to go to school to become airline pilots, doctors, nurses, 4star generals, scientists, economists, professors, engineers, agriculturalists, etc. earn a good living, be contributing members of society, and propagate the specie.

              schools are integral part of childhood, filipino parents believe so and religiously send their children to school.

              my friends believe colleges and universities are good hunting ground for spouses of caliber. while kapolisan here think colleges and universities are breeding ground for communism and want them shut.

              schools and education centers are jobhub for many, allocated budget and pay taxes.

              lifelong friends are found at schools too, enemies as well.

        • NHerrera says:

          Thanks, Joe and Lance.

          This coronavirus thing may just give a big quantum jump in the evolution of the human species and how they will go about doing things.

          I’ve long been convinced that schools stunt kids’ growth. The traditional schools, that is. I too believe there is some element of truth in that observation.

          Here is another glow-in-the-dark chart. This time it is about the Philippines. In the early days as happens in other countries there is a phase towards longer Doubling Days, until later when perhaps with more testing the infections deteriorate to shorter DD. [Note that with a base of lower infection numbers — 2633 on April 2 and smaller in the early days — the squiggles are more pronounced. I used a moving average to smoothen the curve.]

          In the PH we may be stuck with a doubling of infection cases between 3-4 days until later when we too may have increases in this parameter. I hope we don’t get stuck in a 3-day doubling period for 15 days since there are five 3’s in 15. Meaning that with infected cases of 2633 on April 2, we would have, in 5 cycles of doubling:

          2633*2^5 = 84,000 cases.

          In 30 days, 10 cycles of doubling yields 2.7 million. I hope we do not come close to that. But the counter to this hope is the Philippines has 1/3 the population of the US with a much bigger area for the latter. The US now has 245,000 cases.

          • caliphman says:


            This chart kind of speaks for itself. When growth of confirmed cases in the world , US, and in the Philippines are compared against each other, the effects of limited testing capacity and lack of access to health care are significant distortions. In the US, it’s a matter of limited but rapidly catching up testing capacity catching up with symptomatic cases that steepens its curve. In the Philippines, the very flat curve reflects most likely extreme undercounting of symptomatic cases due to lack of healthcare access and extremely limited testing capacity.

            • NHerrera says:

              Caliphman, thanks for the link. From there I viewed this connected link which shows the latest doubling days of the total confirmed deaths for countries. There is of course no good correlation between the doubling of the confirmed deaths and confirmed cases which I looked into because the official confirmed case total is not the real case; and in the case of deaths, the variable days of time lag from getting the virus until death.


            • NHerrera says:

              I may add that the world’s [current, mathematical “instantaneous”] DD for deaths ranges from 1 to 48 with these sampling: World at 7, China 48, South Korea 16, US 4, UK 3. The DD numbers are color coded with the darkest red the lowest DD number. The numbers are likely to change at different times/ days of viewing.

            • NHerrera says:

              The link I posted above is rather rich in statistical information on covid19. I mentioned the doubling days period of the confirmed deaths from covid19. There are a lot more if one goes down the contents of the link.

              For example, as to the bending or the turning around of the covid19 for countries, the link shows a chart which displays the 7-day running average of the confirmed deaths. This, to my mind, may be a better measure because unlike official confirmed cases, it is generally known/ suspected that these official infected cases only shows a part of the real infected cases, for reasons of testing and the matter of asymptomatic cases [not to mention intentional manipulation of the case data] not factored in — but which contribute to the disease down the road, etc.

              • caliphman says:

                If the primary intent is to come up with an indicator of when the CV apex is reached, it is important that it is highly correlated to the true infection growth rate. Also that it is not so lagged so many days behind it is suited less for planning and more for academic purposes. As such, using indicators hospitalizations or beds are better lagging indicators than confirmed deaths because hospitalization occurs between 7 to 12 days when acute symptoms usually manifest themselves. Granted even if a small percentage of those infected have access, can afford, or want to seek hospitalization, it can be an adequate indicator if that percentage is more or less constant. The problem is in the Philippines, hospital or bed capacity is very limited and cannot keep pace with the exponential growth of new infections. It is inevitable that bed capacity will be completely swamped like in Madrid early on during the contagions early stages and this indicator will cease to have any meaning. Now confirmed death rates can also be used as an indicator if they can correlate to actual contagion growth but will lag three to four weeks behind actual hospitalization assuming ventilators and adequate treatment is available. Then of course, timely and accurate reporting introduces further distortions and delays as there are too many deaths to record. If for some reason these issues can be overcome, the apex will have have been a reached a month or more before this indicator would have flagged it.

                So it’s not clear to me what indicator makes sense for the Philippined. I believe one based on daily new confirmed cases to the the extent that testing capacity growth is unlimited or keeping up with contagion growth. Such is the case in the US and many other first world nations,

          • Your doubling days chart looks strikingly like my beds freed chart. Well, they both are trying to find the same point, when relief can be found. I’ve been struggling to understand why DOH reports so few recoveries. Well, a person first has to be confirmed in order to recover. So anyone who lost the symptoms before (or without) testing, even if they had the disease, is not ‘recorded’. I think a lot of these cases have already ‘cured’, but won’t ever be counted unless comprehensive testing is done to see if people had the virus. Which I suspect won’t happen.

            • This morning’s doubling days for the “Top 10” countries, from the SZ:

              USA 5.0
              Spain 8.2
              Italy 15.8
              Germany 11.2
              China N.A. (no more doubling)
              France 7.7
              Iran 9.8
              UK 5.1

              The highest doubling rates are for the countries whose public healthcare were ravaged since Reagan and Thatcher and I don’t think it is a coincidence.

              Call it neoliberal like Micha does or Social Darwinism like they said in the 19th century, that might be the differentiating aspect, not democracy or dictatorship. The East Asian countries that tamed the monster either have good public healthcare or are Communist.

              Unlike the Western countries which were caught by surprise they had prior experience with SARS and MERS, and institutions better geared to handle stuff.

              I still don’t think it looks good for the Philippines. Statistically warm weather seems to lead to slower transmission but I think population density hastens it. Think New York. In New York I think travel also played a role, like in Western Europe. Think Germans coming home from skiing in Northern Italy and Austria, or Spaniards at a soccer match in Bergamo, Italy. Or Germans and Englishmen vacationing in Spain.

              Anyhow two-class medicine like in US and UK, as well as lack of national ID and residency registration (nonexistent in US and UK too, normal in Continental Europe and most East Asia) which hampers contact tracing, will give the Philippines a hard time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Philippine curve easily reaches the UK value of today in about two weeks. Hope the UK manages not to be where the US is now by then. This is getting very scary.

  2. karlgarcia says:

    I slowed down in Twitter even in my numerous retweete and likes.

    Now should I also slow down here?

    A part of me is mad at the PACC/VACC man who thinks the VP is undermining the administration.
    Did I say a part of me? That is 99 percent plus 1 percent part of me.

    I am quite disappointed on the news about the NBI investigating Vico for a possibly retroactive violation of a new law.

    • You do not have to slow down here. You are an anchor to discussion most days, as I relegate my computer to my kid for home studies. I share your disappointment in some of the shenanigans going on. Playing politics during a deadly crisis is stupid. A also see they are now up to 17 on the number of people posting social media posts that they are summoning. But not Mocha Uson for her fakery. Good that Chel Diokno and other attorneys are willing to take up these cases. They are a stupid autocratic waste of time.

    • kasambahay says:

      good news, karlg. you must have heard by now the pacc man who is – envious? wants to bring down vp leni to a lower notch? has been given the marching order by the president hesself. fired the pacc man and would no longer officiate. pacc man’s co workers are distancing themselves from him and said they dont share his view on leni.

      we are supposed to fight coronavirus, and not bring down the very people working hard to lift up the morale of our front liners and providing them with much needed equipment to make their work safer.

  3. karlgarcia says:


    Since the big players of elearng had already partnered with the institutions all over the world, maybe they would not want to end those partnerships for now.

    While as to MMT, I was the first one other than Micha herself to initiate a discussion (by basically letting Micha answer all the tough questions).
    In the US
    Many are applying for unemployment benefits even those who might think this is just short term.
    This is on top of the one time 1000 Dollar checks,

    Here, I wonder how they will do it without a National ID.
    Maybe they start with those in the DSWD database then go house to house thru the baranggays.
    They lan to start with the 4Ps beneficiaries, then the homeless (good luck with that) then the farmers,fishermen, underground economy vendors, hawkers…again good luck..

    Maybe we will learn from all of this.
    We already know that the president is all talk and all bluff and knows nothing of empathy even if he tried hard because all he can say is shoot all troublemakers as if Ejk never happened.

    Yes we obey, but we are not to do obey without questioning the questionable and we do not want to sink with the captain if he would not stop the ship from sinking.

    • karl,

      I think i can forecast the irrelevance of teachers and schools. Sure schools now are using Google classroom, that’s after trying out various apps, but Google classroom is the go to now. that’s not really partnership.

      Teachers are trying their best to be relevant, but actually all the stuff they are doing in Google classroom now there is already either a website or a youtube video for it. So their relevance now is in their ability to give a grade , pass or fail, A or B or C grades. move on to the next grade.

      Before teachers are rendered irrelevant, their power to give a grade (arbitrarily if they are union, quality if they are private school), has to be rendered useless. No schools, no metrics, no metrics, no funding, thus useless… and with Google classroom, redundant.

      With the power to give a grade squashed, no need for diplomas.

      The next question is how do you express knowledge and expertise without diplomas, well job interviews simply need to be more thorough… but think further, karl, if the new economy will mostly happen online from here on out, then most people will be expressing their value to the

      new economy , not thru jobs and paychecks,

      but thru their own relevance (expertise, skills, knowledge, etc. ) online. For example, NH’s blue glow-in-the-dark stuff should be worth paying for. So to use the Cam Soda model of economy, if we appreciate NH’s analyses we simply send his account some coins, which he can convert into useful items, like red glow-in-the-dark, or yellow squiggly lines, to mix it up some. 😉

      Now that’s Micha’s purview, but I think of Cam Soda right now and how direct the “money” exchange is, imagine NH on the website but explaining his glow-in-the-dark graphs to people, instead of what others are using the website for currently.

      So, I hope Micha can jump on and address how Wall Street will become irrelevant. Wall Street is already pretty much just for show, 90% percent is actually MMT now, and Micha’s correct they’re just not calling it MMT, but it is already practiced in finance so just run with it now. Embrace this new conception of money.

      I can project learning in the future, but not this financial stuff.

      Season 3 of West World, seem closest to what we’re talking about here, so if you have HBO do catch up (episode 3 right now, just youtube S1 and S2 for summary, no need to watch it really, S3 is stand alone.)

      • Micha says:


        1. Not exactly sure how your conception of virtual economy works. Who’s going to produce the milk, veggies, bread, shoes, roof tiles, steel, cotton swabs, medicines, etc?

        2. Wall Street banks might indeed become redundant in the new economy but those parasites will not surrender their power, which is enormous, just yet. We need to pry the vault key from Mnuchin’s cold dead fingers before that happens.

        The $6 trillion corona emergency slush fund that congress created is, for the most part, a gift to Wall Street. It’s a doubling down – a bailout of the 2008 bailout.

        “Taken in conjunction with the CARES Act, the Fed and the Treasury were now positioned to become a major ongoing buyer of everything from mortgages to U.S. government debt to exchange-traded funds to corporate bonds to money-market funds.

        We’re about to find out that the American economy has been living off dying, dysfunctional, or hyper-leveraged markets for more than a decade. The Trump administration just bought this undead economy at retail prices and committed the Fed and the Treasury to sustaining it.

        It’s been estimated, for instance, that as many as 16% of American companies are “zombie companies,” i.e., they don’t have enough revenue to even pay interest on their debt.”

        • I agree with 2.

          On 1. i think all economy will be local economy now, Micha. much of food stuff and drinks will be local; other stuff that won’t have to be local are stuff created in clean rooms, like pharma, electronics and with companies like Beyond Meat, meat too.

          Clothing manufacturers here, even shoe companies like New Balance, are now using their materials to make masks.

          So let’s take this as example, masks, masks that need to be scaled for medical use must come from factories; otherwise most people will kindly sew masks, then either sell, give or trade with people. That’s gonna be the new economy.

          Look into Centivax, they are crowd funding their research,

          • Micha says:

            From your link:

            “Fundamentally, we think that national governments should pay for anti-COVID-19 therapeutics…”

            Fundamentally, they think right.

            • I caught an interview where the talking head essentially blamed the food industry here in the US. Blaming them for these deaths of COVID19 complications indirectly because of the crap they are selling us and making available for consumption.

              I thought that was a good argument.

              After corona virus pandemic, I think sugary and crap food will have to be deemed not only obsolete but illegal.

              ps. Micha, I gotta feeling any vaccination or antibodies will come from companies funded by the Bill and Melind Gates foundation. Just a hunch.

      • Micha , this is a blog I follow though don’t really bother commenting in, but it’s good view of the local economy stuff i’m trying to describe,

        this blog topic in particular is relevant now, but explore the whole blog.

        • NHerrera says:

          A house with basement and other parts filled with long-shelf-life food preserves for months of living without going to the grocery story. Only in the US, I say. Did he mention electric generators and fuel for this in case the electric grid conks out for days, weeks, months? I guess he has that one provided for too.

          The great hassle. Why not plan on leaving this place quietly for paradise?

          • I hear ya, NH. seems a lot of hassle for nothing. Every time i go out to buy stuff, all food stuff and drinks are still available. Only thing really that’s always missing (or you gotta line up early in the morning for over here) are toilet paper, dish soap, vitamins, over the counter stuff, and some choice can goods (Spam there’s plenty of, different flavours too!).

            But if you drive around a bit (gas is really cheap now!) then you’ll find what youre looking for, not really that bad.

            I dont think he’s a prepper like folks who live in the boondocks out here, he lives in SF in the city forchrissakes! , so i doubt he’ll have a generator and fuel, his stash isn’t really for prepper type consumption, more like home economics on steroids, its lifestyle not end of the world scenario, NH.

            But fast forward a year or two, I think this guy’s onto something. re the new economy we’re trying to describe and redefine here. This isn’t Mad Max time per se, it’s more like Julia Child and

            • Or fast forward farther, and it’s Asimov’s

              “There were thousands of robots for every Solarian. Almost all of the work and manufacturing was conducted by robots. The population was kept stable through strict birth and immigration controls. In the era of Robots and Empire, no more than five thousand Solarians were known to remain. Twenty thousand years later, the population was twelve hundred, with just one human per estate.

              Solarians hated physical contact with others and only communicated with each other via holograms. A few hundred years after Elijah Baley’s visit to the planet, Solarians retreated from the Galactic scene and fled underground. The Solarians genetically altered themselves to be hermaphroditic and have the ability to use telekinesis. They specially made robots that were made to kill any foreigners who came to the planet.”

              • They literally went to fuck themselves.

                I read “The Naked Sun” where Elijah Bailey, an inhabitant of super crowded Earth which is basically one big megacity by then, come to help investigate a murder as he is a cop and the Solarians have no police.

                in that era they still have married couples living together and children growing up and playing together in a kind of day care estate. Otherwise the estate owners never visit each other. They view each other via a kind of whole-wall Zoom. Bailey is treated as smelly and low class, as a potential carrier of disease, by the snooty Solarians – a bit like The rich Koreans in Parasite towards the poor. The Solarians and other Spacers keep Earth people from moving out, it is Bailey who starts the Settler movement to leave crowded Earth later.

              • Sounds very practical and streamed line, Ireneo. I’m wondering what the singles scene will be after all this. I can’t picture folks fucking with masks on. Maybe something like the way Hassidic jews procreate, with hole in a blanket. But with COVID-19 its gotta be a pretty thick blanket. LOL!


                NH, more on food storage, that guy above is no Mormon, but it seems for Mormons food storage is something basic, and encouraged. Now i know there’s plenty of Filipino Mormon converts, having seen a bunch of Mormon churches in Mindanao.

                I wonder if for those Filipinos (LSD affiliated) i wonder if they’ve taken to food storage as lifestyle as well. I don’t see panic or stupid stuff going on in Utah and Idaho, nor northern Arizona. Mormons know how to live well.


      • karlgarcia says:

        The only thing that prevent this is this is the digital divide.

    • Micha says:

      Giving money away is a political policy decision and sits on the margins of MMT recommendation.

      At its core, what MMT provides is the recognition that a sovereign national government that issues its own currency by fiat has the unconstrained ability to fund congress legislated programs.

      Whether those programs are actually useful or economically productive is left to the wisdom of congress members.

      In the policy debate about providing Medicare For All, for example, the issue shouldn’t be bogged down by how are we gonna pay for it but rather, and more importantly, whether it is a socially desirable project.

      Does providing or ensuring health care for all your citizens in the best interest of the country?
      Politically? Economically? And yes even, for that matter, to the extent that well-being is tied up to our wholeness as same organic creatures of the universe, spiritually?

      The answer, I’d reckon, in this age of corona, will be all on the affirmative.

      So, instead of congress and political players wasting precious time debating on how are we gonna pay for it, as Sleepy Joe oftentimes reprises, it must instead focus its debating energy on the project’s desirability.

      That holds true for programs like infrastructure, education, farm subsidies, defense hardware, medical research, etc.

      As far as national government is concerned, money’s not a problem.

      • karlgarcia says:

        I kept on going on show me the money path.But I have been schooled longer than LCX on MMT.

        First renegotiate foreign debt with local banks, the local banks them selves know the government never defaults so they gather all their resources and shoulder our foreign debts,the older the debt the better then eventually they can go pay the newer ones.

        After making foreign debt a last resort
        The DBM must submit to congress a budget that should be more than enough to cover everything.

  4. NHerrera says:

    A JOKE (?)

    Early in my college days, I was living with my parents and siblings in Tondo, the place — part of now Metro Manila — considered as not only a slum area but the area of thugs and various types of criminals.

    This anecdote is not about that notoriety but about ailments that relatives, friends, and foreigners fall into after a visit in Tondo. We have personal knowledge of these from relatives and friends who visit and stay for some days in the area.

    My father had a simple explanation. We live here and we, like most people in Tondo, have more antibodies against the common diseases, but not so common anymore to our relatives who live in a rather antiseptic world of the US and other such places.

    Well, we will know soon enough how covid19 will fare in India and in the PH. Anyway, the rich politicians and corporate people have already crowded out St. Lukes and Makati Med; no room for people from Tondo.


    Love cut short by the coronavirus.

    • the Japanese and South Koreans have really weak immune system because they are so clean, but they are keeping COVID19 at bay so maybe being clean also has its virtues, NH.

      Also they are very obedient. Not here. We just got a shout out from Dr. Birx, saying California and Washington are keeping COVID19 at bay becuz we are following social distancing, I just went to Walmart this afternoon,

      no we’re not. So i’m sure something else is keeping COVID19 at bay, nor are we dirty thus with strong immune system.

    • There was an Italian study that confirmed that children exposed to some degree of dirt while playing and children with siblings have stronger immune systems. Probably there is also some degree of natural selection involved in areas like Tondo, long term. When I look at the Old Southern cemetery of Munich close to my place, it is not only interesting because of scientists like Ohm (electrical resistance) buried there. One can also see how many middle class families had seven-nine children but lost three, with family graves bearing witness. The age of cholera in Munich was the 19th century up to around 1870, when modernized sewage systems and the new science of hygiene stopped the epidemics that raged every ten years, more or less. But probably there was also a bit more immunity among survivors.

      Though the young and strong were not spared. The most striking grave in that cemetery is that of the military adjutant of King Otto of Greece. The Greeks had no royalty left so they imported a Bavarian prince when they became independent of Turkey. The lion, family symbol of the Wittelsbach dynasty, is crying on the gravestone of Elias Mavromichalis, a member of a Greek clan who were local rulers during the Ottoman era and politicians up to the highest level after independence. They were Maniotic Greeks, descendants of Spartans, and rebels from 1770 onwards. The gravestone is in German on the other side and describes Elias as a “Spartan”. BTW the efforts against cholera gained traction in Bavaria after the queen herself got sick and died – just after attending a mass for epidemic victims.

    • sonny says:

      Field study suggests strongly:

      In 2010, using data from a long-running study in Cebu, Philippines, McDade and fellow Northwestern anthropologist Chris Kuzawa published the first-ever study showing that babies surrounded by germs grow up to have lower levels of inflammation in later life.

      “Prior research had shown that being exposed to certain types of germs and parasites during early life might, somewhat paradoxically, reduce one’s risk of suffering from allergy later in childhood and adulthood,” Kuzawa says. “Our research in the Philippines extended this work by investigating whether inflammation — another aspect of immune function that has broad health impacts — might also be altered in response to these exposures.”

      How does playing in the dirt as children make us healthier throughout our lives? Kuzawa and McDade say inflammation is the key. …

      … Inflammation has been identified as a frequent indicator of trouble at our body’s cellular level. More and more studies like McDade and Kuzawa’s link inflammation in our bodies to increased risk for a whole host of diseases, from asthma to dementia. But exposure to germs, especially in early life, educates our immune system and helps it regulate inflammation more effectively.

      “The developing immune system is similar to the brain,” McDade says. “No one questions that a baby needs exposure to language to drive the neurological processes that underlie the development of speech. The immune system is similar; its development is driven by exposures from the environment. In this case, the key exposures are microbial. Without those exposures, it doesn’t work quite right.”

      McDade says poorly educated immune systems, and poor regulation of inflammation, partially explain the rising rates of celiac disease and allergies, as well as chronic diseases — or, as McDade calls them, “diseases of affluence” — that we see in the U.S., where germs are religiously scrubbed away at home and at work. Those trends don’t show up elsewhere, in places like the Philippines, where children are exposed to more dirt and bacteria from birth.

  5. NHerrera says:

    As if in answer to the query in TSH’s previous blog, here is an April 3, 2020 NYT article titled

    Are Countries Flattening the Curve for the Coronavirus?

    showing charts of countries worldwide with more than 50 covid19 cases.

  6. Micha says:

    US economy is in a deep hole, 10 million unemployed and counting, bankruptcy filings galore, mortgage defaults shoots up but the science-averse idiot in the White House continue to politicize his response to this pandemic as if the virus knows how to discriminate between red and blue.

    That he dithered and belittled the threat early on, calling it a hoax, and then fumbled on measures when the virus was already on his stupid face means he’s directly liable for those thousands of deaths and the suffering of millions as the economy nosedives into hard ground.

    “This will be regarded as the worst public health disaster in America in a century,” said Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “The root cause of the disaster was the lack of readiness to understand where, how and when the disease was spreading.”

    Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who led the US government’s response to international disasters between 2013 and 2017, said that stark contrasts in outcomes between different countries in terms of illness and death have been determined not by Covid-19 itself, but by how seriously each government took the risk and how early they acted.

    “On that score we failed badly,” he said. “You can have the best system in the world, but if you give the virus an eight-week head start it will eat you alive.”

    • mel says:

      like any war there are collateral damages. this pandemic war on the unseen enemy, one of the collateral damages is the economic plight of the people. on the tools to metigate, the freedom of movement and distancia amigo contributes to the insanity and depression of people. it is a blessing that the radio airwaves is not the travelled path of the unseen enemy directly, but the vitrioles travel thru the airwaves. i hope and pray that the freedom to travel the airwaves does not become a collateral damage too. LET US TAKE A PAUSE TO PRAY FOR THE DEAD AND THE SICK, THAT THE DEAD FIND ETERNAL PEACE AND THE SICK BECOME WELL AGAIN AND THAT WE THE NON-SUFFERERS CONTINUE TO BE STRONG AND NOT BE AFFLICTED BY THIS VIRUS, WE ASK THIS IN THE NAME OF THE ALMIGHTY LORD. AMEN. God is Great.

      • mel says:

        cyber wake, cyber pakikiramay, ciyber pamamaalan sa mga huling sandali, cyber praising, cybermass, cyber medical consultation, etc…cyberity na marami.

    • NHerrera says:

      Micha, thanks for The Guardian link. These links — authored by Pueyo, Stanford University consultant — that Guardian referred to have lots of good statistics on covid19, a joy to read for one who is fond of numbers and charts on our critical topic of the times [provide some political and economic nuances too]:

      View at

      View at

      • NHerrera says:

        Pueyo published the first link above in March 10, when the official confirmed cases in the US was only about 1000, was remarkably good in seeing to the scale of the numbers in the US and other countries in the days/ weeks to come. Stanford chose a good consultant in Pueyo. By the way, Stanford University is a good university — I came from there. 🙂

        • caliphman says:

          Manong, Stanford MA and NotreDame PhD?Very impressive academic credentials particularly in mathematics or quantitative science. If not, what schools if you don’t mind my asking. I have a JD/MBA myself from the Farm and a PhD in economics on the opposite coast. As I stated in my comment above, Pueyo’s use of confirmed deaths to estimate current infections suffers from the fact that it is a 3 to 4 week lagging indicator. Furthermore as I pointed out several weeks ago, high death rates in Washington early on did not indicate uncounted viral contagion but simply that CV infested a Kirkland elderly home where it ravaged and exacted a hideous troll among its 80 plus residents .

          Many of his points on the importance of testing and contact tracing to suppress initial infection clusters and the need to mitigate when failure in the former results in community contagion, I agree with and pointed out in my posts some weeks ago. But he is right that the lack of a timely and effective Federal response will result in a human and financial cataclysm of unprecedented scale n the United States. As I posted before, Trump and his supporters have sowed the wind and now they and all of us are reaping the whirlwind

          • caliphman,

            Had Hillary been elected in 2016 what exactly could she have done different???

            The west coast is experiencing this quiet before the storm now precisely because Trump stopped incoming flights from China. I saw this first hand here in malls, especially outlet stores where Chinese tourists are dropped off by the bus loads, all of February no Chinese buses. Also in places like Disneyland and Universal.

            So we’re seeing it in NYC because COVID19 took the scenic route, was repelled here (but not for long).

            Either way, COVID19 was gonna get here, i refer you to karl’s question re containment several weeks ago. Because of the way the world has been engineered, globalization.

            COVID19 is just so perfect as a virus,

            that unless you actually hole yourself into your house, nail up the doors and seal windows, with 2 years of provisions, you’ll get it. Now if you did in fact hole up inside, trust me you’ll still get it. Like i said this isn’t a pandemic anymore, it is endemic, meaning its here to stay.

            In time, we’ll all experience COVID19. BUT,

            It will spread here in the US more than other part s of the world, precisely because we are Americans and don’t like being ordered to do things we don’t wanna do. it’s just in our DNA.

            My point, regardless who the President would’ve been, COVID19 would still make it here, after that it’s all cultural, Trump or Hillary, don’t matter, you just can’t herd Americans period. So this notion that its Trump’s fault is ridiculous, i agree he could do better, but what’s better exactly? what’s the number of deaths you’ll

            define as better, caliphman??? because no matter how you quantify there would never have been a zero deaths scenario. Knowing Hillary, her pattern, she would’ve already nationalized this and militarized crowd control.

            Trump may be dithering and his hunches retarded, but he understands his audience. You don’t herd Americans, you’ll get the opposite effect.

            • Oh, and on your testing and contacting tracings. Sure there are viruses and other diseases that you can contain by these means, but not COVID 19. it’s moot. how long will places like Vo, Italy hold out? answer, it’ll get there eventually.

              COVID-19 the way it spreads before and after, and thru asymptomatics, renders all your contact tracing and testings all moot, at least as far as saving lives, sure for statistics and being able to generate a good graph and glowing squiggly lines, yup i agree wholeheartedly, you need more data, otherwise you’re just drawing lines. But all moot in saving lives is my point.

              COVID19 and Americans are a match made in heaven, in East Asia COVID19 can be controlled; in the EU same same, maybe. UK played around with herd immunity, letting the virus just burn, backed out; Americans will die a lot of deaths, caliphman, they’ll either come out of this more like East Asians or more like Europeans,

              but not w/out testing our most prized constitutional right . that’s the 2nd Amendment.


              your posed counterfactual here, that of Hillary at the helm now, i can already tell you she’ll do what Hillary has always done, imposed her will and hunches albeit spoken intelligently with less to zero press conferences (accounting for her pattern most of the time wrong, ie. Arab Spring, Iraq War, Af-Pak, etc.) , and we’d be here 2nd week of April under martial law.

              thus, butting up against the 2nd Amendment too early on, unnecessarily militarizing all this. So Trump’s way albeit not very intelligent, but thru regular press conferences, allows Americans to gauge where he is at all times. Thus, Trump is better for this very fact.

              Say what you will about Trump, but he’s transparent. Micha’s right sure, others may be taking advantage of Trump’s stupidity during crisis , but the very fact that he’s on TV every day is a boon. We know exactly what he’s thinking.

          • NHerrera says:

            Caliphman: a PhD in economics, I am impressed. It goes with the quality of the postings here. To answer your query: a Stanford PhD in Mechanical-Nuclear Engineering. [NHerrera is an internet-avatar name; N stands for my nickname in the family, Herrera for my mother’s maiden surname.]

            • caliphman says:

              Manong, I remember past characters in this blog who were none too shy to flash their academic pedigrees here. One of my favorites was Johnny Lin. Your facility with numbers is only exceeded by your kindness and humility, Manong. These are trying times and those qualities behoove the commentary here.

            • sonny says:


              NH, PhD in Mech-Nuclear Engineering who enjoys Mitch Miller and the gang? Definitely my kind of egghead anytime. Cheers! Hats off to you too, caliphman; a triple threat, no less.

          • mel says:

            it seems like people looks for the federal gov for all the answers to these kinds of problems. i can agree to the fact that the federal gov has many resources specially brain thinktank and logistics supply n infrastracture and mostly it is the political decision makers who calls the shots…is it good for my political ambition or is it good for the majority of the people or is it good for the country is what governs the decision. is the good for the country good for the majority of the people or good for the few less majority. shall we take risks or take what is popular, and who dictates what is popular…the loud mouths who just barks n barks so people will bark the same way they do. is there a correct federal response, effective and timely…again this is on the eyes of the beholder…half empty or half full…depends how one barks. only history can judge our actions n history is not us but for the distant offsprings of us, i would say what is doable, practical, logical n common sense are key to these responses. we do not need to wait for somebody to tell us what to do so you can blame someone if it fails, let you yourself tell yourself what you need to dooo as long as it doable, practical, logical n common sense, yourself is the ultimate decision maker and yourself has to blame or praise yourself if it is failure or success. to wear or not to wear a face shield aka mask, bandana, scarf, or similar is up to you. in a crowd yes i will, in my privacy no i will not. but i will wash my hands to protect me and not you.

  7. Micha says:

    “And the lies were almost like a currency in Washington. People would lie to you, and, I mean, people within the government would lie to you. And you would know they were lying. And they would know that you knew they were lying… And they would lie nonetheless.”

    Neil Barofsky, Inspector General of 2008 TARP program, expressing apprehension that the $2 trillion 2020 Corona rescue fund will be subject to corporate abuse and corruption enabled by the culture of lying in Trump’s swampy Washington full of parasites and crooks like Steve Mnuchin.

  8. Bill In Oz says:

    NEWS ! The WHO says “Wear Face Masks ” Maybe they will sack Tedros next for incompetence !

    • Exactly, Bill in OZ, the rule should be medical masks for medical folks, and home-made masks for regular folks who should be staying home,

      if you doubt the efficacy of masks, then at least know that it does slow down transmission if you have the virus, the jury’s still out if the droplets are floating around in the air it’s not like you’re walking around with a rubber seal to your face. but at least you know you’ll not be spreading the virus if you’re wearing a mask, of whatever kind, just block your nose and mouth from spread the virus inside you.

      • I think the jury is no longer out with WHO agreeing face masks cut down airborne transmission, per science research.

        • Coming in is the issue, Joe,

          because in the end its not like wearing a gas mask, where you have a rubber seal. These medical masks don’t adhere to your face as such, little droplets still make their way in.

          Going out, no need for seal really if you think about it, it hits cotton, or whatever fabric you got around your face, thus stopping, maybe not completely but considerably.

          Coming in, harder to stop; Going out , easier to stop.

          I’m for wearing masks, just realize that unless you have a tight seal, these masks loose efficacy fast. And that tight seal is pretty uncomfortable. but better than nothing, so wear these masks!

        • josephivo says:

          It’s not the false dichotomy mask or no mast, but a continuum from wearing a correct mask correctly over no mask at all to wearing the wrong mask incorrectly. It seems that many types of mask are more or less effective in not giving the virus even if the are less effective in not getting the virus and effectiveness is continuum from 100% to 0%. The minus sides of masks are the false feeling of safety, “I can take this risk because I’m protected” and the danger of becoming a “hot” item by collecting the virus or by irritating and making you touch your face much more often.

          Here I see again and again people walking with a mask and as soon as they meet a (trusted) friend the put the mask on their chin to talk more easily. Not realizing what they are saying: “I care not to contaminate strangers, dogs and birds, but you my friend I would like to infect”. (same as the US president: “I feel strong and will not wear a mask” meaning “I don’t care if I infect others” and/or “I’m too stupid to wear a mask correctly”)

          • My comment was to ‘the jury is out’. Regulators and medical experts have concluded wearing masks is important. It can reduce transmission. The jury is in.

            • josephivo says:

              Just watched a 15 min explanation by Lex Fridman on the modes of virus transmission and the difference in masks. Extremely convincing WEAR MASKS.

              So convincing that I believe more time should be spend on wearing a masks CORRECTLY, not on your chin!

              • Good video, thanks josephivo! source control vs. ppe, is better than my going out vs. coming in, lol!

                So person A sneezes, person B is close by and person C is farther out.

                Both small droplets and big droplets infect person B and the tinier droplets infect person C.

                But let’s say person B was also talking thus much of the sneeze droplets went into his stomach; whereas person C was inhaling deeply when the cloud of tiny droplets from the sneeze moved thru, so most of the virus went straight to person C’s lungs.

                So let’s quantify it like this, arbitrarily (i don’t know how many viruses fit in a droplet big or small)

                1. Person B got 1,000 individual coronavirus in the lungs (assuming stomach acid eats up the virus, thus renders it dead in stomach).

                2. Person C got 100,000 viruses in the lungs.

                Question assuming both are healthy (no pre-existing conditions), let’s say they are even identical twins.

                Does Person C get more sick than Person B??? thus, Person B just gets a fever and is fine afterwards, whilst Person C develops complications and dies.

                Is the number of individual virus that finds refuge in your body the difference in who kicks COVID19 and who doesn’t and succumbs?

              • NHerrera says:

                Much thanks, josephivo! Well worth spending 15 minutes of one’s time, especially now that many people are sheltering in place. My takeaway:

                With all wearing masks appropriately [with exceptions of course]:

                Your mask protects me; and my mask protects you.

                The aerosol is the scary part.

  9. mel says:

    there are 2 school of thoughts on the crown of crowns of pandemics. 1. distancia amigo or 2. rock economy to roll. both have good objectives- prevent ilnesses and or deaths. distancia amigo to mitigate pandemic spread. rock economy to roll to prevent cancer of the bulsa to mitigate despiration, depression n suicidal thoughts due to hopelessness.
    distancia amigo affected entertainment economies e.g. sports, concerts, movie theaters, etc. (one can still watch reruns on tv as subs), tourism economies e.g. cruises, airlines, hotels, restos, etc., socio-religious economies…mass, congregation meeting, pilgrimages funerals, weddings etc…collection plate nada (one of course can do them cyberically…telemass, teleparties, telewakes, teleconsult, teleschool, tele etc.),
    your money or your life. work to live or leave work to live. it is your choice poor people. handouts are not forever.

  10. NHerrera says:


    Each country with its particular circumstances responds differently to the pandemic. We at TSH wrote about the probability of more antibodies to bacteria and virus in countries where many poor are “packed like sardines” in slums. Well, India seems to have that in mind, in this bit of news. The probability of herd immunity hopefully may help India while still undertaking the conventional medical approaches used in the developed, not so overpopulated, countries.

    India is likely to start rapid antibody testing on Thursday, with people in high-risk areas (containment zones), “large migration gatherings” and evacuation centres expected to be the first to get undergo this simple blood test that checks the presence of antibodies created by the body to fight the Sars-Cov-2 virus.

    Unlike the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test that detects the virus’s genetic material (RNA) in throat and nasal swabs to diagnose a current Covid-19 infection, rapid antibody tests indicate if a person has been infected in the past and has developed immunity to the virus.

    It may be wise for PH Health Authorities to watch this development while contacting immediately its India counterpart.

    Live and learn.

  11. NHerrera says:


    If President Trump lent an ear — instead of just from the likes of Hannity and Limbaugh — to his crippled intelligence community and health officials early on and marshalled the US resources like in war time against the covid19, he not only would have insured his reelection but the thanks of Americans — democrats, republicans, independents alike — and the world community for a lot less expense. And provide a big positive to his Presidency when historians write about him. Washing out part of the stain of his Impeachment, among others. [This is not to say that he still has a fair chance of being reelected. My opinion.]

    But I am indulging on a cheap 20-20 hindsight.

    I wrote the above on reading this article titled,

    “The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged”

    • sonny says:

      ‘I really get it’

      NH, thanks for sharing this powerful after-report. That sentence pretty spells what the president will live down from hereon.

      Reading through it reminds of the time the race to develop the product of the Manhattan Project was happening. It was the point when it was discovered what the carbon rods were to be used for. Our current status of being at the threshold of really understanding the ramifications of living in the time of Quantum technology in the social context of our culture. Apologies for the sphinx-like statement. It is time for our political leadership to school themselves about how the physical world operates and learn to listen and respect the findings of their science counterparts.

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