Dengvaxia until 2015

Dengue fever symptomslooks clearer to me now, after my first article (link), the Senate hearing (link) and more research. After the 2012 SONA where President Aquino mentioned initial successes in dengue prevention, there were newspaper articles which mentioned a rise in dengue (link), doubting its success. What I wonder is if the increased spread of dengue is related to climate change and to rapid urbanization in the Philippines – with the slums that result, the stagnant pools of water you often have there and of course a population density that makes it easier for the mosquito to travel from person to person.

Phase 3 Tests

The development of Dengvaxia goes way back, but the two most important Phase 3 tests started in June 2011 – one in Asia and one in Latin America (link). CYD 14 (Asia) had over 10 thousand volunteers while CYD 15 (Latin America) had almost 21 thousand volunteers. The active phase of CYD 14 ended in December 2013, that of CYD 15 in April 2014, with Sanofi reporting the success of Phase 3 some months later (link). Phase 3 is needed to apply for approval. The Philippines played a key role in all three test phases (link): 3,500 children were from the Philippines, setting up clinical trial sites in Alabang, Muntinlupa City (Phase 1); Barangay Del Remedios in San Pablo City (Phase 2); and Barangay Guadalupe in Cebu City along with Barangay Del Remedios (Phase 3) with Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding, head of the Department of Microbiology of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM)  – an agency of the Department of Health – playing a key role (link), including writing key scientific papers (link) and even experiencing how her own child got dengue (link). Seems the most important seroprevalence data came from San Pablo (link).

Since national data on seroprevalence (how many % of the population had virus exposure) did not exist, it was extrapolated to some areas where dengue is endemic (link). Some might consider this a doubtful methodology, but then again such authorities as Balik-Scientist Dr. Edcel Salvana have mentioned approximately 87% as the seroprevalence (see my previous article) and I see no reason to doubt that they are right, give or take a certain margin. He also writes (link) about why he sees the vaccine as good – if used properly. What is also important, however, is that the Phase 3 studies (link) included an active phase of follow-up for one year after the last dose of vaccine in the series (25 months from dose 1) and include a hospital-based follow-up period of four additional years. The follow-up phase for the Asian phase 3 study seems to have ended in November 2017.

A related research paper (with Dr. Capeding as a co-author) says that in the ongoing longer-term follow-up (from year 3 to year 6) to assess safety, we are monitoring the incidence of hospitalization for dengue as a surrogate end point for disease severity in order to evaluate a potential predisposition in vaccinated persons to increased severity of disease. I do wonder if there is a relation between the planned end of the follow-up phase and the warning by Sanofi not to vaccinate seronegatives (people without any virus exposure) anymore due to risk of severe dengue.

Getting Things Ready

In July 2014, then-Health Secretary Enrique Ona (link) sounded quite confident about the new vaccine (link) and the hope then was that it would be out by July 2015. The success of the Latin American study was announced by Sanofi on Sept. 3, 2014 (link). President Aquino met with Sanofi representatives on Nov. 9, 2014 (link) which was pretty soon after these events, then a year later in Paris on Dec. 1, 2015 when he was there for the Climate Change Conference – a meeting that was openly mentioned in the Philippine press (link), not done stealthily as some are insinuating.

There also was a dinner in Paris in May 2015 (link) involving ex-Secretary Garin and Sanofi, and before that Sanofi submitted papers for Philippine FDA requirements in January 2015 (link). Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines (link) approved the vaccine in December 2015. The end of December brought a number of events which were seen as rushed, which President Aquino in the hearing explained as being in order to get things done in his term, saying the new administrations often lose time in the beginning, and also explained why budget maneuvers were needed (link).


Now for Questions

Assuming the best (which I do now after having seen how Aquino acted at the hearing) there are still a number of questions. There were still some years of observation being conducted, who knew about this and who was (not) informed including possible risk factors, if already known then? As for monitoring, Dr. Melgar who was with the DOH when the program started has this to say (link): I know that the Family Health Office and the Epidemiology Bureau of the DOH have been doing due diligence in monitoring all adverse effects from the beginning. Sounds properly done.

Dr. Salvana would be the right person to ask on seroprevalence, and on why certain extrapolations were considered OK. I am satisfied with that for now, what I computed in my previous article still stands – those who WILL get sicker should be few. And I believe Aquino didn’t know the science.

What one knows

depends on eyes, ears and brain – and on their human and man-made extensions, meaning the people who inform and educate you. We all know about the information overload modern social media brings with the world practically spilling into our brains, including all sights and sounds. What more is a President constantly subjected to a barrage of information? So he needs his people. To filter what is important and what is not, to give him what he needs to be able to make decisions. What if they mislead him? He has to counter-check if possible. Mayors in cities have it much easier.

It is I think possible to get an intuitive feel for a city. Mayor Duterte may have known Davao in and out, therefore being instinctively able to tell bullshit from truth. At national level it isn’t that easy. Spurious drug lists have shown the limits of an intuitive, seat of the pants approach to governing. At national level and even more in specialized areas, one may need to have additional sources. Seems that the Presidential Management Office would have specialists (link), even if I am not sure if they are used as extensively and as focused as the staff of Germany’s Federal Chancellery (link) which has the job to (translated from German) obtain and keep ready the information the Chancellor needs for his/her work. Its divisions mirror related ministries and directly contact them for detailed information: Division 1 for interior and justice, Division 2 for foreign, defence and development affairs, Division 3 for social, health, labor, infrastructure and social matters, Division 4 for financial and economic matters, Division 5 for Europe and Division 6 for intelligence matters. With a nerve center like that, no need to rely only on Ministers – who are also politicians after all.

How one leads

Could it be that Aquino relied too much on his Cabinet members alone? A second opinion is good not only when one goes to doctors privately! It may be even more crucial in matters of state. The fact that ex-Secretary Garin now seems to have connections to the other side is a bit interesting. Somewhat like how PNPs Napenas was a candidate for an opposing party in the 2016 elections. Trust, but verify is usually better. And even a highly efficient apparatus can be sidelined at times, as was shown recently by the controversy in Germany regarding the herbicide glyphosate (link).

Another possibility is what I sense – that Aquino tends to push through with things he wants to do, at some point no longer reconsidering. That is a very Filipino trait which his successor also has, as in the Philippines, too much reconsidering can make one lose respect. The other side dislikes it, yes. But there is to me not much evidence of significant counter-indications known at that time, at least in a form understandable to laymen or managers. Specialists speak in details, managers think in terms of consequences, that gap must always be bridged whether in IT – my field – or elsewhere.


My personal opinion

There are terms like “lighthouse customer” for those who adopt a certain product first. Sometimes vendors (in any industry including mine) manage to make lighthouse customers pay normal prices. Other customers negotiate a deal which fairly considers their role in being one of the first to buy. Possibly the Philippines bought too many vaccines to soon at a slightly too high price. Asking for a refund is a maximum demand Sanofi will probably not accede to. But maybe a rebate as not all things were really made clear, since around 800 thousand kids will have to be monitored and a few, hopefully very few, may have to be hospitalized, is an idea. Sanofi does not want the PR damage from a long public conflict – nor does the Philippines want to look like a backwater where they accuse foreign firms of witchcraft. There are many ways forward. But let us look at 2016-2017 next.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 15 December 2017

Tags: ,

Speaker Barry Roque

Lechonwas served as lechon in Balintawak by the KFF on Human Rights Day 2018. “He was a pig, not human”, said the Punong Tagpaghusga of the Kalookan Freedom Fighters in Filipino. “sabi niya tutulungan niya kaming mga mahihirap samantalang ang dami sa aming mga pinapatay nila.”. “Bakit naman nila sinasabing mga terorista tayo, kung pinagtatanggol lang natin sarili natin?” isinagot ng Punong Tagapagtanggol, sabay shabu. “at heto naman, kailangan natin ito para hindi tayo mapagod, at walang tigil ang laban”. Sinigaw niya: “mabuhay tayo! mamatay ang kalaban!”.

“Putang ina kayo” sabi ng Pangulong Duterte sa isang talumpati sa Federal Palace na nasa Mactan. “pati Speaker ko kinain na ninyo”. “Bakit hindi kasi si Franklin Drilon ang patulan ninyo, iyong dilawan dapat ang parosahan huwag kami rito” itinuloy niya “iyang mga naglalason ng kabataan, kaibigan ng mga drug lord na ilegal pati na iyong mga drug lord na ligal kuno na galing sa pisteng EU na iyan, mga Sanopi.” Pinahid ng Pangulo ang pisngi niya. “they gone to an international court, can you imagine that? We are a sovereign country with our own justice system and witnesses!”.

“We even have forensic evidence but they say we are planting our evidence. Itanong ninyo kay Secretary Mariano what we are planting. Rice, kamote, coconuts, so use your coconut you stupid EU de puta dilawan who kill our children with vaccines!” Duterte continued. “and that crazy EU really removed our GSP+ privileges and are asking for us to pay duties, sons of BITCHES, what business do they have teaching us about human rights if they poison Filipino children? Tell me!”. Duterte looked at the audience. “Now they should not complain if our customs asks extra money”.

“Customs and traditions, kasama na doon ang corruption”. Napatawa si Anselmo sa harap ng TV. “Sa Catbalogan tayo tumuloy bukas” sabi ng kasama niyang si Ricardo. “Nasa may Sorsogon na ang Kano, nasa bandang Leyte na ang Tsino”. “Kailangan i-secure natin ang Samar to prevent landing”.

In the port of Catarman, Ricardo and Anselmo loaded the French Exocet missiles unto the harmless looking coast guard vessel. The rest of the crew were waiting in Calbayog, hopefully not too drunk. The last sighting of Chinese ships had been off the coast of Bogo City. There was little time left.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 10 December 2017

 

Tags: ,

Up to 200 Filipino children risk severe dengue

Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes (26444925321)based on three numbers: 730K vaccinated, 87% previously infected (link) and 2 of 1000 risk (link) of severe dengue according to Sanofi among those vaccinated but not previously infected: “The increased risk identified from the new analysis translated to two additional cases of ‘severe dengue’ out of 1,000 previously dengue-uninfected people vaccinated over five years of follow-up,” the company said in an emailed statement. Certainly not good, but a far cry from the panic in a video (link) by “major blogger” Sass Rogando Sasot implying that 700 thousand kids were at risk.

Who said what

997 children got sick after vaccination (link) say a Philstar headline – in the article it says that the Department of Health (DOH) reported that between March 18, 2016 and Aug. 20 of the same year, there were 997 “adverse events following immunization, 30 of which were considered serious cases that needed hospitalization.” The 30 serious cases included two deaths. But the DOH said these “were not related to the immunization program,” which was launched in early 2016. Other cases are claimed outside the DOH statistics, and insufficient monitoring is alleged.

There is also a difference between articles that claim WHO recommended Dengvaxia (link) and clarifications by WHO itself that it (linkdid not include a recommendation to countries to introduce the dengue vaccine into their national immunization programs. Rather, WHO outlined a series of considerations national governments should take into account in deciding whether to introduce the vaccine, based on a review of available data at the time, along with possible risks. Among other things recommending to vaccinate in areas with over 70% dengue exposure.

When what happened

Who published its position on the dengue vaccine in July 2016, based on a preliminary advice by an expert group from April 2016. The Philippines started vaccinating in April 2016 (link) – ignoring or setting aside opinions like those of UP College of Medicine Prof. Dr Antonio Dans, who warned that while the vaccine could reduce the number of dengue cases, it could later increase the disease’s severity, a phenomenon known as “antibody- dependent enhancement” – or Dr. Anthony Leachon who said the DOH should first wait for the WHO study – which came out in July 2016.

Further doubts Dr. Leachon had were also about long-term safety (link) especially with previously non-infected persons. Studies in September 2016 (link and link) and articles in CNN (link) and Voice of America (link) in late 2016 also mentioned those risks, but the DOH under a new administration continued the program (link) while having doubts on efficacy. There was a Senate hearing in December 2016 (link) but it seems it was more about the way the program was funded.  The decision to end the program after the third round of vaccination was taken in May 2017 (link).

Still, it seems that 67 thousand kids in the Central Visayas got vaccinated in August 2017 (link). Other countries like Malaysia (link, June 2016) and India (link, Oct. 2016) were more reluctant – even in April 2017 (link) and November 2017 (link). Brazil was the other country that vaccinated, the observations from there are going to be interesting. Sanofi was right to pull the brakes in late November 2017. Imagine if, let us say 20 million Filipinos had been vaccinated at a prevalence of 80% – that would have been 0.2% of 20% of 20 million at risk of severe dengue, meaning 8000.


Science and Risk

ICE4 FrontA major derailment happened in Eschede in 1998 (link) when the German speed train or ICE was hardly a decade old. A train derailed and folded together at high speed due to wheel fracture (link). 101 people died, tabloids reported scenes of horror. Yet no witch-hunts. Causes (link) were analyzed and consequences (link) – also legal ones – were decided upon. The program was not stopped, instead ICE model 1 was improved, later new models came out, new routes were built. This Friday, the Munich-Berlin route (link) shall cross 623 km in about 4 hours. Using ICE 4 (link) trains.

A book I read (link) mentions how the aircraft industry and airlines improved a lot of things by analyzing black boxes from airplane crashes and other incidents – but mentions issues in introducing similar measures in medicine. I wonder if the touch of arrogance attributed to the medical profession in the book also applies to the pharmaceutical industry. Many circles also accuse the pharma industry using third world countries as guinea pigs. But only a modern, evidence-based approach will help prove what is true. And pin down possible accountability. 

Capulet and Montague

There will probably be a hearing in aid of legislation at the Philippine Senate – once again. Which I do not expect much from. The usual political stuff, names of Presidents and Health Secretaries. VACC loudly claiming deaths NOW from last year (link) added to the fray, hardly looking credible.

Better not just allege deaths without proof as in hard evidence. Sanofi might go for an international case. Not like the De Lima case or the wannabe impeachment against Sereno. Real lawyers will be needed – like Sereno for Fraport or Carpio for ITLOS. The kind of talent the country hates (link).

One should also see that around half of the vaccinations were during the Aquino administration, the other half during the Duterte administration. Finding out the entire truth will be a long process – if the Filipino public is really interested in the truth and not just own emotional or group needs.


Galileo and Newton

The modern world is too complex for the petty village mentality on show in Filipino politics, the lack of getting the big picture. India seemed to have dealt with Dengvaxia way more maturely – but then again they send rockets into space (link). How could one deal with this in a rational manner?

200 kids are at risk, if one is to believe a certain set of numbers. What is the solution? First – monitor things. Senator Hontiveros wants that to happen in form of a database (link). Possibly, measures from this experience could be used to improve health monitoring in the Philippines.

Second – all lab data on present alleged cases (link) should be gathered in a transparent manner. Just in case there really was negligence on part of Sanofi, it can be proven in an auditable way. There is a certain self-discipline needed here, as Filipinos very often lack objective attitudes.

The Big Picture - The Noun ProjectThird – look at the big picture. Few newspapers, few experts, few leaders in the Philippines are good at that. Data is not information is not knowledge is not wisdom. This Rappler timeline (link) of what happened locally is at least information. Knowledge? We know a little, need to learn more.

In some papers I read about 3.5 billion being for vaccines only. In some I read it was for the vaccines and the entire program including monitoring for five years. Some state that monitoring was insufficient in the beginning. How was the experience in Brazil? And the more cautious countries?

India wanted to make own tests with monkeys before starting, later on Assam state decided to make a random test to check for at least 70% prevalence before going for vaccination. Malaysia wanted to wait for fourth phase tests. All in the sources quoted above. Where is the best balance?

Finding scapegoats is too easy as well – especially if the issue could be caused by weak institutions with systemic problems (link) that go beyond individual leaders. Maybe Dengvaxia could be an opportunity to learn and reform some things? There is a lot of ground to be covered I think.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
Munich, 6 December 2017

Tags: ,

The New Constitution of the Philippines

Fisherman bugasongwas enacted on Mactan Island on November 30, 2018, in a ceremony presided over by Prime Minister Pimentel, President Duterte and Chief Magistrate Calida. In Accordance with Article II, Section 1: “The Philippines is an Asian democracy. All sovereignty resides in the barangays.” the three took their oaths in front of the 42 thousand plus barangay captains of all islands. In return, they assured all barangays of full legal autonomy in matters of communal cohesion, including the disposal of dissenters, drug addicts and other nuisances. Over 42 thousand fists greeted in return.

The BIR no longer existed. Tax collection has been given to the barangay captains, under the supervision of mayors, governors and state prime ministers. In his long, rambling speech, President Duterte once more defended the system, saying “the national budgeting system was too complicated, and it was also leaking – let us better be honest and let everybody have their cut”. COA, PCGG and CHR have been replaced by the Office of General Audit of Government (OGAG), with the President saying “just one check and balance is enough, so that nobody abuses too much!”

The President emphasized the importance of Article III, Section I: “Only real Filipinos have the right to life, liberty and property. Real Filipinos are free of the wrong ideas of Western liberalism and the temptations of drug addiction” and of Section II: “the right of the barangay to inspect the houses of its citizens to ensure peace, order and harmony shall not be abridged by any laws”. “This is finally a Constitution that is true to our way of life and customs”  said Duterte: “truly free of the ungodly Western temptations of liberty that led our youth to liberal disrespect and drugs”.

Outside the zone of the ceremony, a fisherman watched. Strange, thought Anselmo. No mention of the Bikolano separation, declared in Naga the day before by State Prime Minister Robredo and State Interior Minister Trillanes, a week after Leila de Lima was found hanged in her Crame cell. No mention of wide areas of Manila under Martial Law since the the May insurrections of Caloocan that spread throughout the Metro area after police shot a large number of middle class children. No curses yet in his speech, thought Anselmo: nothing to disturb his false picture of peace and order.

Chinese ships in the surrounding sea joined the Philippine Navy in giving the new Philippine Government a salute. We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of the People’s Republic of China against colonial Western oppression.. was after all how the new Constitution started. Nonetheless, the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier was docked in Legazpi harbor, waiting for orders. Anselmo took a load of fish from his boat to take them to market. Then he would visit a woman he knew well. Better to wait for the high alert stage to end first. Then he would slip away.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 1 December 2017

Tags: ,

Italian-American Vanessa Hessler

Vanessa Hessler @ Wind Music Awardsor “Alice” was fired by Telefonica Germany in late 2011 for publicly supporting the Gadaffis, calling them “normal people”. One of the sons of the dictator (link) had been her ex-boyfriend. Certainly normal compared to the likes of Uday Hussein of Iraq. Most people are normal if you don’t care about what they did – I am sure the Marcos family is friendly in person. Vanessa Hessler, blond, looong-legged, blue-eyed, was simply “Alice” to me then as the face of the new brand Alice DSL – later to become O2 DSL after Telefonica / O2 bought the original Hansenet.

Showbiz and politics

Miss Philippines Rachel Peters told Filipinos to “trust Duterte” (link) and to “give Mocha Uson a chance” months ago. Now I will admit that I found the reaction of the German public, which pushed Telefonica to fire “Alice”, exaggerated in 2011. And that she was close to a powerful man like the son of Gadaffi wasn’t anything special to me. My values still were a bit different then. Guess the person I was six years ago would not have cared about Rachel Peters being the girlfriend of Governor Villafuerte of Camarines Sur – the political family Leni Robredo (link) once challenged.

Binibining Pilipinas-International Mariel de Leon went against Mocha Uson in May (link): “She insults those who are against her. I’m not for her, I’m not for the other side (whatever that may be).. it breaks my heart to know someone like her got a position in the gov’t. There are so many [other] unbiased, educated, and respected (and respectful) people who deserve her place.” and got flak for it. Inday Sara Duterte, Mayor of Davao and Presidential daughter, even admitted to (link) a “Schadenfreude moment” when Mariel de Leon did not become Miss International. Wonderful.

Politics for people

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Sereno is under attack (link) by the Philippine Congress. What she already has done in terms of reforming the justice system (link) is recommendable, as the issues clogging the justice system and keeping it far from the masses have lead to an attitude of distrust. Probably her efforts were not fast enough to dispel Duterte and his extrajudicial shortcuts – most especially the approval for such within the population – but one must give her credit for work done. It takes time to rehabilitate run-down systems and organisations. Did she have enough support?

Most of all, she understands something many may NOT have understood yet (link): protection of human rights can only be fully accepted by our people if we have a truly functional justice sector. A justice sector does not function if the investigative and prosecutorial services are not doing their jobs. When people complain about criminality, it means they are clamoring for genuinely effective investigation, case build up and prosecution. Impunity is engendered because no one is being caught for crimes that our hapless citizens are suffering from. And when murders and rapes are being committed in such frequency and gore, you must expect people to be angry. They will not understand if you try to protect the right to life of a drug suspect, when the community is of the belief that drug addicts are the perpetrators of these crimes.

Hope more on the liberal and law-and-order sides of Philippine politics realize this way is correct. Even Rizal realized this in his time, criticizing the Spanish colonial justice system and praising the British colonial one. The one Singapore still has, to name a city idolized by so many Dutertians.

Politics for show

For the opposite of result-driven politics, Grace Poe comes to mind first. The Dutertian side will name Leila de Lima as a drama queen. She did have her CHR work, and as SOJ a hand in the German-sponsored draft of a better Penal Code (link). Even then I wonder why Duterte was seemingly no longer being investigated in the time of President Noynoy Aquino. Could his support for him have been the reason (link), the threat of possible investigations guaranteeing his “loyalty”? There is the term moro-moro for staged political confrontations, based on a folk drama (link).

I watched a moro-moro in Ilokano once at the UP Theater as a child. Lots of bluster by the Christian and the Muslim king, to the respective other king and to his followers. Then loud, smashing music like Blue Rondo a la Turk or Balkan folk music, both kings and their followers rise, move back and forth on the stage, crossing swords but never fully bumping into each other, with one group running away backwards at the end. It was funny, with both kings jumping exaggeratedly and pushing their bellies forward. Abroad in 1986, I asked myself if EDSA was just moro-moro.

Marcoses were allowed to return. The pursuit of their ill-gotten wealth was very slow I think, skeptics like me then tend to ask if it was just for show. Imelda acquitted in the Philippines. Nowadays, I wonder why Roxas and others only show their teeth now, when they are charged (link) – having tolerated a bit too much, too long in my point of view. Where I am skeptical, many directly affected are cynical (link) as little seems to move forward. More of the likes of Sereno – and  VP Leni and Risa Hontiveros – are needed I think. Also, less drama and beauty queens in politics.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 26 November 2017

Tags: ,

Close to Collapse

Munich subway GBRis what Munich’s underground is according to a local paper (link). It is “not that bad” (link) Harry Roque might say if he rode here, as the elevators and escalators mostly work. Meaning that among 100 underground stations in 100 km. of underground, a non-working escalator is pretty rare. Yet people do crowd a bit more recently. The reason is that some new wagons don’t work yet (link). Haha, in Germany? Yes, from Siemens. Wagons of the C2 series from Siemens that look space age. While the quaint 1970s style old wagons keep on going it seems. What is happening over here?

Voltage spikes and squared wheels

U-Bahn-Wache

Munich U-Bahn after a soccer game

Well, the electrical transmission of the C2 series seems to generate voltage spikes that could cause the trains to stop or even damage the electrical systems of the Munich U-Bahn or underground. They are in the yards for maintenance, while the old wagons are stretched thin. People are not yet waiting up to the streets though like in Metro Manila. That only happens during the Oktoberfest. Then, extra staff make sure drunk people don’t push each other onto the rails. Central Europeans – which Bavarians are – are not as patient in waiting as Filipinos. And tend to like their own space.

What also happened according to a speaker of the MVG or Munich Transport Corporation is that when autumn came in, the sludge from rain and autumn leaves on some overground stations (yes, the underground also has stations above ground) caused “squaring” of wheels while braking. Making train wheels round again is specialized metalworking. Took some work in depot to get the wagons back into full function. Good thing, even if there was some inconvenience for everyone, as I can imagine the damage squared wheels can do to rails. Or voltage spikes to transmission systems.

Politics and colors over here

Well, is the Reichstag in Berlin discussing this under its modern dome? Is the Maximilianeum (link) in Munich, the Parliament of the Free State of Bavaria, going up in (self-)righteous anger? After all, the ruling party there is different from the ruling party in Munich city hall, so why not? Strangely it is a party that is not ruling that seems to make occasional comments about the SPD or Social Democrats, whose friends in the Philippines are Akbayan. It is the FDP or Liberals or if one wants yellow color – same party whose Naumann Foundation invited VP Leni to South Africa.

But one only knows that if one reads a bit deeper in some papers. No buzz in social media. If ever people are mad at yellow, it is at the OBikes (link) from Singapore which anyone can book and use via simple App. Tourists and others just leave them all over the place. And conveniently, they are of the color some Bavarians will think all Asians are – yellow. Yellow and Chinese, or maybe Japanese. You are only Japanese though if you take pictures of the central square, the Marienplatz, in spring. Now you finally know why Irineo sees the world so differently. I am on the other side, so to speak.

It was not long ago

Munich subway Goetheplatz

Munich’s oldest underground station today

In fact, I am red. Red as in Bayern München, not DDS. More a sympathizer than a fan or a diehard. Reds crowd the very same U-Bahn wagons – or underground trains – as commuters crowd daily when there is a game up in the Allianz Arena. The plans for the a north-south line were really old. Goetheplatz station was finished between 1938 and 1941 (link). The regime behind that probably never said “Bauen, Bauen, Bauen” (Build, Build, Build) as it sounds too much like barking, even if the one who shouted a lot did not come from the Bavarian Forest, where some say people “bark”.

The war stopped the project. Goetheplatz station and the tunnel to Sendlinger Tor were made part of the new underground lines built for the 1972 Olympics. Until now, Goetheplatz station is a little bit longer than the standard full underground train, as it was planned for another kind of wagons. And the design is more similar to Berlin underground stations built before the war. More cramped, and not always with escalators. The modern norm is deeper and with escalators always, often with elevators for PWDs, mothers with children and bikes. I don’t know if yellow OBikes are allowed.

Almost yesterday

Karte der S-Bahn München

The Munich suburban train network

another system in Munich was the subject of complaints. The Munich S-Bahn or suburban train. 150 stations and 434 kilometers into the suburbs of Munich. The trunk line or Stammstrecke (line) was also built for the 1972 Olympics. That was a Build, Build, Build period – without dictatorship. Half of Munich, especially the Marienplatz where U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines converge in a common station under the city hall, was excavated or tunneled then. No space for Japanese to make fotos. But then again, it is mostly the S-Bahn or U-Bahn that brings them there, escalators bring them up.

Almost yesterday is a decade ago or more. I don’t even remember the exact years when the S-Bahn was catastrophic as I lived outside town then – it only affected me when I went in on weekends. Frequent delays. Often the signalling systems at the Ostbahnhof (Eastern train station) got stuck. Electrical and signalling systems in the trunk line, the busiest train route in Germany they say, had to be renovated step by step as they had aged since the early 1970s. There was a time, I think an entire year, where the S-Bahn trunk line was closed for entire weekends – technical overhaul.

Some were bothered

Bothered me a bit coming from outside, as I had to switch to the yet seemingly perfect U-Bahn when I rode into the city. But new rails, signalling systems and more improved the S-Bahn. Meanwhile, the U-Bahn increased stations, covering more and more of the city, always having interoperability in mind – with the S-Bahn which belongs to the Deutsche Bahn or German railways, and of course with busses and trams, which together with the U-Bahn all belong to the MVG (Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft / Munich Transport corporation) which is city-owned.

I have heard that Günther Beckstein (link) used to take the tram 19 to work in the Maximilaneum. Very probable during the time he was in the parliament, even when he was Bavarian Interior Minister. It is a beautiful ride which I won’t tell the Japanese about, passing historical monuments. Used to be the main ride between the East and the West of Munich, before the S-Bahn was built. Now a second Stammstrecke is being built to increase capacity, get the suburbs connected better. This goes until 2026, work has started. Even if it may get delayed, I think it will never just stop.

Tram München - Baureihen P, R und S - Betriebshof Einsteinstraße - April 2014

Tram depot Einsteinstraße with different generations of wagons

Why should it stop? And why should relatively young systems like the Munich U- and S-Bahn fall apart. What is 1972? 45 years ago. Berlin has really old systems. A major line of the Berlin S-Bahn had to be closed for MONTHS, also about a decade or so ago for complete overhaul. Under the management of Communist East Berlin, the citywide system had rotted. Not as much as New York (link) it seems which is of similar vintage. How Filipinos lost the late 19th century Spanish railway to Dagupan, the 1930s railway to Legazpi and may lose the MRT is another story. A sadder one.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 November 2017

 

 

Tags: ,

25 people died

Crystal Meth Rockdue to crystal meth last year in the Free State of Bavaria where I live. The police here didn’t shoot them, although they once helped the Philippine National Police (link) professionalize. A program that is suspended now – good as I don’t like my taxes helping Tokhang. Some Filipino hardliners might say, yeah yeah, Germans and especially Bavarians were really good before, but were forced to become bleeding hearts by the Allied Powers who defeated them once. Well, let us have a look at things and then compare. First of all at the main source of the drugs.

Sources and Effects

Vietnamese markets in the Czech Republic seem to be the main source of meth in Europe (link) as a high police official says in a feature by münchen.tv, a local internet TV station here in Munich. The buzz one hears is that Vietnamese gangs (link) are behind meth production in the Czech Republic. Bavaria and Saxony are most strongly and increasingly affected (link) for a number of years now. Cross-border police cooperation helps. Czechs have 200 more investigators now, Bavarians say. Czechs say Poland should improve controls on certain medicines used as precursor chemicals.

The 25 died because of the dangerous drug methamphetamine. Some of the things a Filipino former user described (link) and more are summarized in recent articles in the Bavarian press (link): aggressiveness, nausea, hallucinations, sleeplessness, risky sexual behavior short-term; organ damage, heart attack, stroke, teeth falling out, paranoia and impotence in the long-term; also with the possibility of severe damage to unborn children during pregnancy. In the extreme, it can lead to delusions and psychosis (link) leading to aggression and violence – as bouts, or even longer.

Bavaria fights back

Bavaria has now practically declared meth to be a state enemy. So should the Bavarian police shoot me, or the Indonesian tobacco vendor next door, to scare off potential Vietnamese drug gangsters? First of all, newspaper reports clearly mention that there are even groups of drug users who take short trips to the Czech border to get meth in Vietnamese markets. For that (link) there is a lot of undercover work going on in the border area, with Bavarian and Czech police forces cooperating. Health centers offer help to users. Seems police and health centers work together closely also.

I can imagine that a person who falls into the trap of addiction is more likely to help the state if he or she trusts them not to punish him or her – and can assume they are not in the pay of drug lords themselves. Of course nobody will say how often tips from health centers help police find dealers, and how dealers either singing or their mobile phones revealing the routes they drive and the people they call, meaning their suppliers. A recent movie on Bavarian TV, and recent movie spot sponsored by the Ministries of the Interior and Health of Bavaria, additionally raise awareness.

Conservative versus reactionary

What a contrast with the still prevalent attitude among some Filipino authorities, that raising awareness will make people even more curious and teach them how to do it – for example “draags”. My late teen years in Germany, when heroine was the dangerous drug, showed me otherwise. Novels and movies like Christiane F., based on the life story of a former junkie and teen prostitute in Berlin, warned young people of the dangers. A combination of health and police work dried out the scene. I worked at McDonald’s Bonn near the train station in the mid-1980s, saw the junkies.

Heroine is not much of an issue anymore in Germany, it seems. And yes, there was also the policy of giving methadone to junkies as a bridge to kicking the habit. There were even stations where junkies could get clean needles – to prevent AIDS from spreading more. Bavaria as far as I know never gave out needles like more liberal states did. Bavaria is conservative. What Bavaria is NOT is reactionary. The present Filipino drug war approach of half-truths, misinformation and fear-mongering is reactionary – and hardly effective, I think. Let time tell which approach succeeds.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 18 November 2017

 

Tags: ,

Black and arrogant

Obama Portrait 2006is what Duterte called Obama (link). Or what he said to jeepney drivers (link) makes it even weirder. Misguided pro-poor, pro-Filipino officials, journalists and academics have gone too far at times in blaming the rich, educated (link) or white people (link) for everything, reasoning with “oppression”. But this is more like the attitude some Filipino upstarts show, claiming higher rank where possible. Lorraine Badoy’s (link) or Krizette Laureta Chu’s (link) towards Pinoy Ako Blog are very similar. So much for a group ostensibly against “elitism and pretentiousness.”

The Duterte crowd looks more and more like a group of wannabes who want privilege without any of the usual reasons for it: performance in the case of a meritocracy, service to the people in the case of a truly pro-people movement – or self-control and bearing for traditional, aristocratic elites. Duterte will have seen the degree of self-control the Japanese imperial couple exercise at all times. He will have seen the performance of Prime Minister Abe, what a work schedule he keeps, while Duterte is reportedly often two hours or more late for speeches in Manila (link) for no reason.

What remains if there is no performance, service or bearing. Pure force? Possibly intimidation. Force will hardly work since the military is not going to help with a revolutionary government (link) while low-key intimidation through continued “drug” killings and political chicanery might work. And Philippine territory shall not remain protected, as recent events are showing (link) – and now? Those who voted him will have to ask themselves whether all of that was worth a few junkies less. The economic situation may even go to worse (link) and if it does, what was this bumpy ride all for?

To hit back, even if it is just with jokes, against the “colonialists” of yore (link). Or to feel like the “white man” just for a short time by making stupid comments about Obama? Or feel like oligarchs by making comments about Jover Laurio of Pinoy Ako Blog who looks like – an average Filipina!? To feel like the sidekicks of the rising superpower China, when all they want is access to sea lanes? Which is what everybody coming to the islands wanted – Brunei, Spain, England, the USA, Japan – and China. Is basking fake victories satisfying – while all one has for the MRT is a prayer (link)?

That is as fleeting as the high of a drug addict. Based on the assumption of no real achievements. This includes the constant misleading nonsense propagated by trolls. And the planned reliance mainly only loans from abroad, and trains one has no capability to maintain, like with the MRT. Why not work in small steps and enjoy the small victories, like VP Leni with her programs (link)? That finally leads to solid successes. But many a Filipino has a wounded ego, similar to Duterte. Dislikes confidence and basks in mediocrity as if nothing else were possible. But is that a solution?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 11 November 2017

Tags: ,

Morals and Action

Daraga Church Albayoften seem incompatible in the Philippines. Women pray rosary, men act. Read the Bible or Constitution for theory, use the gun or fake witnesses to get things done. Be concerned about what the UN and the US think and deny EJKs – boast about them when one is with one’s “own people”. Colonial residues, when some Spanish priests used morality to make people subservient, while sneaking up on the wives even of chieftains – alluded to in the Noli with respect to Padre Damaso and the mother of fair-skinned Maria Clara, officially the daughter of dark-skinned Kapitan Tiago.

While Padre Damaso was sad when Maria Clara decided to become a nun after Ibarra was “dead”, Kapitan Tiago increased his consumption of opium until he eventually died. A barangay captain who was a drug addict, in Rizal’s novel? Yes! Nothing is really new under the sun. Or in Pilipinas. Will the disente people always be not decent as in good, but simply the rich who hobnob with the hypocritical Church, while the poor are subjugatedly obedient and polite? While the true heroes are pistoleros who tell Church and the disente to fuck themselves, and free the people into rudeness?

This simplistic interpretation has been handed down by generations of educators and activists, ignoring for example the role of Filipino priests in helping free their own people since the First Propaganda Movement – before the Second Propaganda Movement (link) of the intellectuals. Completely going back to the Philippines before 1521 is impossible, and stripping the country of elites developed during colonialism leaves us with Kapitan Tiago, probably on a stronger opiate, making rape jokes about a white missionary, or a mestiza (link) – to get even with Padre Damaso?

One would forget how the Filipino church has gone native since the Second Vatican Council, developing Filipino liturgy and preaching not in Latin anymore, but in a language the people understand. Like today’s homily by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas (link): Kapag ibinuhos ng tao ang dugo ng kanyang kapwa, wala itong dulot na biyaya, kundi sumpa at parusa. One would forget that the time a socialite beauty contestant said “I speak Tagalog only to the maids” is past. But yes, the gap between action and morals remains. Nice words in theory, shortcuts in practice.

The ruling groups have taught the Filipino to be so obedient, so patient – until he no longer is, like in a recent riot (link) in the Quezon City jail. Was the rage that led to Duterte something similar? Morals is not about being nice always, especially not to Padre Damaso or Kapitan Tiago on opiates – they can also mean saying NO, setting limits. The Filipino I think is still learning to resist steadily – instead of exploding in useless rage. Grassroots groups against drug killings (link) or VP Robredo’s projects (link) are examples. The future may yet come, not loudly but in small steps. Let us see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5 November 2017

Tags: ,

Atio Castillo died

Christian crosson Sept. 17, 2017, probably because of hazing. The details make me angry in their sheer perversion (link) and as Justice Secretary Aguirre himself does not want the details of the affidavit upon which the article is based made public, I am reprinting it as a comment after this article. Why so bad? It isn’t just the sheer physical brutality, it is the degradation of the person that shocks me. Not that he had to run errands for his brods – this is something also known, for example, from biker clubs. There is a final point where I would have said no, creatures like you can never be my brothers:

A glass is passed around. Atio sees masters spit inside the glass. What he doesn’t know is there is a second glass containing egg white. Atio is then blindfolded and is told to drink the content of the glass, which he thinks is full with saliva but in fact only contains albumen. The light is turned off. Masters tell Atio to remove his clothes. As Atio becomes naked, the light is turned on, then turned off, and on again.

This sounds almost as humiliating as something a self-confessed pimp in a shocking Austrian autobiography admitted he did to a woman he was making part of his “stable”. Also a kind of evil initiation. A little later, Atio allegedly passes out after being hit a number of times between posterior and knees with a so-called wooden “paddle”. But what if it was different? What if he, wanting to remain at least a bit of man, said stop and they reacted? This is what they allegedly did before the final stage:

Atio goes around, as if begging with his hands held together. The masters then beat Atio’s fingers using a wooden spatula while he is being indoctrinated by his lords. The masters then tell Atio to again do stretching and pumping exercises. They order Atio to “hold your balls” before he goes to the next stage of the final initiation.

“His lords”. “Masters”. This has shades of a sadomasochistic ritual. Undertaken by future lawyers of the Philippines, no less. One wonders what really happened. Because there are those in the Philippines for whom the slightest protest, even lack of subservience is disrespect. Remember Kian delos Santos, whose last words were “leave me alone, I have exams tomorrow”? Men who are used to playing God might see the slightest resistance as “arrogance”. The Filipino was made to be either timid or domineering based on position. But true character like that of Trillanes also exists.

Obviously PMA does create a number of individuals of character. If at all, this is what initiations are for. Teaching young men how to face adversity, how to face the world, strengthen them. Not to make subservience and thuggery, twin banes of the Philippines, values in themselves. German fraternity rituals of fencing in order to scar faces (Mensur) at least had man-to-man combat. Or going back to the Philippine past, the first batok or tattoo usually meant risking your own head in real combat. There is a world of difference between teaching warriors – and teaching torturers.

There is a certain sort of loathsome bully common in the Philippines today, used to abusing power. Probably hardly able to truly hold his own in a real fight, or lead a group to victory in battle. Probably not even a good leader in an office setting – just used to making others do the hard work, like the servants to the dirty work at home. Would Filipino tokhang police stand a chance against truly well-armed drug dealers like some in Rio de Janeiro? Or even just armed ones? I doubt it. What are the Aegis Juris hazers? Deranged boys from Lord of the Flies, I think. Not real men.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 Nov. 2017

 

Tags: ,