Faces of the News: Jan. 17, 2021
Carlito Galvez Jr.
As the country’s vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, Carlito Galvez Jr. has been helping secure a wide range of vaccines — from the Covovax shot developed by the Serum Institute of India and US-based Novavax Inc., to the Coronavac brand of Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, as well as the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines (the last being the common choice so far among local governments).
Early last week, the retired general spoke with certainty about the arrival and use of an initial 50,000 doses of Sinovac’s vaccine.
This statement, however, along with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s assertion that the government had already “sealed the deal with Sinovac,” seemed to be contradicted by Galvez’s disclosure to the Senate on Friday that the government has not yet actually paid Sinovac and has only secured a commitment from the company to provide vaccine doses to the Philippines.
As for the Pfizer shots, which on Jan. 14 were finally granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, Galvez has yet to address the question on who would receive those shots first.
—Jeannette I. Andrade
On the eve of the US Congress certifying Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 6, President Donald Trump pressured Vice President Mike Pence into upending the constitutional process and snatching victory for himself.
Pushing his claims of widespread cheating in the Nov. 3 polling, Trump urged Pence — who was to lead the joint session — to “reject fraudulently chosen electors,” “decertify the results” or “send them back to (individual) states.”
The vice president had other ideas, however. Pence echoed the president’s concerns and those of millions of Americans about the integrity of the elections; but he chose to let members of Congress decide whether to dismiss Electoral College votes.
The vice president let Republicans challenge the results and present evidence of irregularities, leading to debates that delayed the certification.
His refusal to go Trump’s way, reports said, prompted the president’s supporters to attack the Capitol and disrupt the proceedings.
Rioters shouting “Hang Mike Pence” came as close as 100 feet from him and his family. When the joint session resumed hours later, Pence confirmed the victory of Biden with 306 electoral votes against Trump’s 232 — fulfilling his constitutional duty.
The mother of the late Christine Dacera immediately drew public sympathy as she demanded justice for the 23-year-old flight attendant, who collapsed and died while in the company of gay friends (and male acquaintances she met for the first time) at a New Year’s Day party held at a Makati City hotel.
Many netizens rallied behind Sharon Dacera, some echoing calls for an end to what they considered the prevailing culture of rape and victim-blaming.
For the Dacera family, there were indications that Christine was a victim of foul play — that she was apparently drugged and sexually molested — based on the initial information they got from the investigators.
The police autopsy, however, stated the cause of death as ruptured aortic aneurysm.
Later, Sharon publicly faulted her daughter’s friends for the tragedy and called out the Makati police for supposedly mishandling the investigation, but she nevertheless expressed appreciation for the interest shown by Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas in the case.
The police proceeded to file a complaint for rape with homicide against a total of 19 respondents in the Dacera case, while the National Bureau of Investigation launched its own probe.
Business tycoon Ramon S. Ang, president of conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), celebrated his birthday on Jan. 14 marking an important milestone: the inauguration of the 18-kilometer Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3. Planned and built despite a myriad of challenges over the past decade and spanning various administrations, the elevated toll road was dubbed a game changer.
Linking the North Luzon Expressway and SMC’s South Luzon Expressway, the project significantly cuts travel time for motorists in Metro Manila and even nearby provinces.
The toll road can handle 200,000 vehicles per day or half the volume of Edsa, the Metro’s busiest highway. Financed by the private sector, the new Skyway is part of the government’s broader goal of reducing congestion in the capital.
Other projects are in the pipeline and sustainable transport advocates hope these will include better mass transit options and safer roads for cyclists.
As for Ang and SMC, more projects are on the way. Up next is the 19.4-km Pasig River Expressway to link the eastern and western parts of Metro Manila.
—Miguel R. Camus
Right from the start of the season, it was clear James Harden wanted out of Houston. The former NBA MVP had been completely disillusioned after yet another playoff exit in the previous season. And it seemed the Rockets were ripe for a rebuild.
For a brief moment, though, Houston tried to appease its star player and surrounded him with enough talent to make him consider another run with the team. The Rockets dealt away Russell Westbrook to Washington for guard John Wall.
Houston also inked big man Christian Wood to bolster a squad that elected to go small ball the previous season. But that didn’t work. Harden seemed disengaged the moment he returned to training camp.
Once one of the league’s most feared scorers, the three-time scoring champion’s output dropped to 24.8 points per game, almost 10 points below his previous season’s average and close to 12 points less than what he put up two seasons before.
Back-to-back losses to the LA Lakers this season prompted Harden to publicly declare that his Houston situation “can’t be fixed.” Less than 24 hours after that statement, he was shipped to Brooklyn, where he will be reunited with former teammate Kevin Durant.
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