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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
Asia’s Rise Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the West’s Decline
Friday, January 15, 2021
Asia’s Rise Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the West’s Decline

Funabashi Yoichi, journalist and Chairman of the Asia Pacific Initiative, in The Japan Times (January 13, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Shealah Craighead/The White House)

Asia’s Rise Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the West’s Decline

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a growing geopolitical perception of Asia’s rise and the decline of the West. While the pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to economies in both the East and West, East Asia has a much easier path to recovery. China is acting as an engine of growth. After emerging from the dark tunnel of the pandemic, East Asia may well be hailed as the winner and the West the loser.

The Covid-19 crisis could solidify the perception of Asia-Pacific Asianism that has arisen with China’s evolution into a global superpower. But the post-pandemic world is no seesaw game in which East Asia rises and the West falls. First, the pandemic is not yet over. No country in either East Asia or the West has found the optimal response to the pandemic that balances the three concerns of protecting citizens’ lives and health, the economy and livelihoods, and freedom and privacy.

The US-China conflict is another unknown. American distrust of China, which has deepened over the course of the Covid-19 crisis, is unlikely to lessen under the Biden administration. American values and strategic interests have been threatened by China’s military-civilian fusion industrial policy and its expanding “closed sphere of influence” in the Asia Pacific, its growing threat to the American way of life, and the weakening of the US network of alliances. Meanwhile, US allies and partners have high expectations for an American comeback in Asia.

East Asia has no desire to exist within a dichotomy, whether in relation to the United States and China, China and Japan, or East Asia and the West. Many East Asian countries rely on the US for their security and on China for their economy. They must retain some ambiguity to walk a delicate diplomatic tightrope.


The Helplessness Americans Feel
Thursday, January 14, 2021
The Helplessness Americans Feel

Rafia Zakaria, attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy, in Dawn (January 13, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Joe Flood)

The Helplessness Americans Feel

Ever since 9/11, and arguably even prior to that, Americans believed that terrorism was a Muslim problem. Such was this belief that in the post-9/11 years the Department of Homeland Security was created to protect the US from Islamist militancy. And as everyone in South Asia and the Middle East experienced, that was hardly all of it.

In Afghanistan, where the 9/11 terrorists had hidden, a military campaign (still ongoing) killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. In Iraq, a functioning infrastructure of governance was dismantled, nearly a million innocent Iraqis were killed and several millions more rendered refugees. The weight of the cumulative carnage spanned decades and its true measure is still not known. In the US, every Muslim became a terror suspect, and mosques were filled with undercover FBI agents trying to find terrorists.

Those days lasted until Jan 6, 2021. Until then, and despite the rising number of home-grown white supremacist terror attacks, Americans still believed that terrorism was a Muslim problem, inextricably tied to something about the faith. If anyone, particularly a Muslim, interjected, the retort would be something like, “Yes, maybe not all terrorists are Muslim, but so many are”. It would be the beginning of a pointless argument, the only value of which was how it exposed the extent of American Islamophobia.

Perhaps Americans who are watching in disbelief can use this time to consider the position of Pakistanis who watched their country slip into chaos and carnage for the entire duration of America’s so-called war on terror. The helplessness they feel is the helplessness that Pakistanis felt – wanting to do something but not knowing what to do, also knowing that the intoxications of extremist ideology are such that those who have been affected by them cannot be easily converted to reason and rationality.


The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod (January 10, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: The Government Public Relations Department, Office of the Prime Minister)

The Government Has Caused Enough Confusion about Covid-19

Confusion, confusion and more confusion can be expected if the government does not learn from its missteps. As it tries to contain the second outbreak of coronavirus, new regulations were passed, then hours later repealed. It was not clear which parts of the country would be in lockdown, when in-house dining at Bangkok restaurants would end, or whether use of the contact-tracing app is mandatory. Things change with little notice.

The government of General Prayut Chan-ocha is like a cook trying to come up with a dish by catering to various tastes. In this case, the prime minister is trying to strike a balance between protecting public health and safeguarding the economy. Face it – the government cannot keep on borrowing money and avoid the economy sinking into an abyss. Prayut must have learned that by now you cannot save people if you push more of them into unemployment and destitution.

So instead of imposing a nationwide lockdown, the government will not even use the word because doing so would imply there would have to be state compensation for workers. Bear with Prayut and his men while they try to figure out how much of a non-lockdown lockdown is too much or too little. We could have expected better communication among themselves, better coordination and more certainty before issuing orders.

Confusion over restaurant dine-in rules, for example, shows that Prayut, despite trying to relegate authority to all governors to decide how best to control the outbreak, still clings to power and will reverse decisions by others to whom he relegated powers if he disagrees with them. For Prayut, decentralization is easier said than done. Let us hope there will be fewer U-turns, more listening, greater sincerity and less confusion. The public deserves better.


Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence

Elrika Hamdi, energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) Indonesia, in The Jakarta Post (January 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: US International Development Finance Corporation)

Neglecting Renewables Could Undermine Energy Independence

The government is arbitrarily creating a domestic market for energy products that other countries are moving away from. But undergoing an energy transition is now inevitable for every country. No country is immune to the rapid disruption occurring in the global energy sector. Renewables are now cheaper than any fossil fuel in most parts of the world.

Indonesia is no exception. The sharp decline in power demand due to slower economic growth has forced the State Electricity Company (PLN) carefully to rethink its investment plans. Going forward, it is committed to providing clean and sustainable energy for Indonesia in line with government expectations, a measure likely to be attractive to ESG (environment, social and governance) investors.

Despite this, the government appears to favor the opposite strategy. While nations across the globe are competing to accelerate the development of inherently deflationary technologies in solar, wind and storage, the Indonesian government seems to be focusing on centuries-old technologies that have previously failed to gain market share.

Indonesia is blessed with many energy options. The government’s concerted effort to use conventional domestic fuel sources, albeit with good intentions, is contrary to the global, technology-driven energy trends of the last five years. Indonesia has many renewable and sustainable fuel options that could be prioritized instead. For instance, solar and wind are free and have no related price risk.

When considering investments in increasingly obsolete energy infrastructure, the government should weigh the costs of achieving energy independence and the subsidies required to feed fuel sources of the past. Investing in cheaper, deflationary renewable energy projects is the better option for PLN and the government.


Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US

Sandip Roy, radio host and novelist, in The Times of India (January 9, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer)

Do Not Gloat Over Disarray in the US

The images of rioting Donald Trump supporters running amok through the halls of the US Capitol were shocking. But many around the globe were surely smirking that the self-appointed moral policeman of the world not only had feet of clay but also wore Viking horns and furs.

Many parts of the globe from Chile to Iran know only too well that the United States happily jettisons its own pieties about democracy when inconvenient. Ever since the bitter elections and its chaotic aftermath, the US has been understanding the meaning of schadenfreude, the pleasure one feels in the misfortune of others. A Chinese state-owned tabloid put out side-by-side images of Hong Kong protesters storming the city’s legislature in 2019 and Trump supporters inside the Capitol building.

The Indian police have been accused often of watching passively when people were being beaten up by goons. We shake our heads when Trump tweets, “There are things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots.” But an Indian Prime Minister once seemed to downplay a full-on massacre when he said, “When a big tree falls, the ground shakes.”

What happened in the US might feel shocking but it is not so surprising. Trump’s election had given majoritarianism on steroids a new mainstream respectability. But we gloat at our own peril. While we point fingers, in the words of the poet WB Yeats, at what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards the Capitol to be born, we forget that this creature, pumped up by conspiracy theories, fake news, and nationalist resentments, is not unique to America at all. Neither is it just slouching anymore.


Trumpism: A second American Civil War?
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Trumpism: A second American Civil War?

Richard Heydarian, political scientist, in his Horizons column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (January 12, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Trumpism: A second American Civil War?

“America, the rock against which fascism crashed in the last century, may have begun to slide,” former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright cautioned a few years back. But despite its political troubles, America’s formal democratic institutions have remained largely intact. This is not a Weimar Republic.

Yet, one cannot fully discount the prospect of a “second civil war” in a country with a long history of civil strife; not to mention, notorious levels of gun violence and heavily armed far-right militia groups, who recently descended on Washington, DC. And when combined with toxic partisanship, where up to 40 percent of the electorate sees the other side as downright “evil”, you get a particularly precarious situation.

For the past four years, outgoing President Donald Trump has been largely described as a “populist”. His liberal critics, however, have gone so far as to portray him as a fascist. The circumstances of Trump’s rise to power are telling. For years, he skillfully established a cult of personality combined with his unique brand of “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) nationalism. But the element of para-military violence was largely missing. Nor did Trump employ the kind of state-sponsored violence seen in post-Weimar Germany or its Italian counterpart. Courts and the opposition-controlled Congress also remained functional.

However, the violent assault on the Capitol, the ultimate symbol of American democracy, has raised serious questions as to whether Trump is just another “populist”. Perhaps a better way to understand what is happening is to refer to a much older concept: demagoguery. Demagogues like Trump do not go gently into the night. They fight back, often at the expense of the whole nation.

America is a flagship democracy; the world has a direct stake in hoping that ultimately the better angels of America’s nature prevail.


This Year's General Election Will Hinge on the Coronavirus Situation
Friday, January 8, 2021
This Year's General Election Will Hinge on the Coronavirus Situation

Noguchi Takenori, political journalist, in The Mainichi (January 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Official Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet)

This Year's General Election Will Hinge on the Coronavirus Situation

What kind of questions will Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide be posing to the public when this year’s general election comes?

Suga has not wavered from his time as chief cabinet secretary to Abe Shinzo in brushing off concerns of a renewed spread of infections and introducing the Go To Travel campaign. It was not so much that he fell one step behind in implementing measures, but rather that he took a confident gamble that economic activity and prevention of infection could be compatible – and lost.

After falling short in November-December's three-week challenge to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the Suga administration’s approval ratings plummeted. There have been murmurs within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that they cannot fight an election with Suga as leader. If approval ratings continue to stay low, it may spark discussion on who will be the "face" of the party in the election. That would mean efforts to bring Suga down, either through the September party leadership election or even sooner than that, before the general election.

How would Suga respond? He will likely ask the public to evaluate his main policy achievements, such as bringing down cellphone rates and establishing a digital agency. If the Tokyo Olympic Games are held this summer as planned, there may well be economic fruits of the Go To Travel campaign as well. Suga thus far has taken the stance that if one gambles and wins, public opinion will follow without further explanation. Just because he is now prime minister, his way of thinking and operating cannot be expected to change overnight. Even if he faces protest from his own party, Suga likely wants to put everything he has to a referendum – or a snap general election, but it will all depend on the coronavirus situation.


The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?

Satur C Ocampo, activist and politician, in his At Ground Level column in The Philippine Star (January 2, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Simeon Celi/Presidential Communications Operations Office)

The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?

Did President Rodrigo Duterte blow the whistle? He disclosed that many soldiers had already been inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine. Immediately, there was widespread uproar:

At least two Cabinet members, three military officers and the presidential spokesman tried to do damage control, confirming what Duterte had said but giving varying justifications. We learned from their uncoordinated responses that the vaccine had come from China’s state-owned pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm, and that they had been administered to the president’s close-in security personnel without registration or authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as required by law.

A judge ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate. The FDA and the Bureau of Customs said they would do their own probes. Sounding like a whistle-blower, the president was quoted as saying in a meeting with the FDA and other health officials: “I have to be frank. I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Many [soldiers] have been vaccinated.” Then he hastened to add that the vaccination was “just for the select few, not all soldiers, because it is not yet policy”.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon did not find the statements of Duterte’s men credible. “They have twisted themselves into knots trying to find excuses,” he said. “They are lying through their teeth in a bid to protect those who are principally involved in the illegal shipment of the unauthorized vaccines to the country. They cannot hide the truth.” Those who caused the illegal importation and use of the unauthorized vaccine must be held responsible, he stressed, concluding that “otherwise the environment of impunity is enhanced”.

Let us wait and see what will happen in the promised investigations, impelled by Duterte’s perhaps inadvertent whistleblowing. Remember what happened to other whistle-blowers in the past: They get ignored.


Why Britain’s and Europe's Attitudes Towards Beijing Differ
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Why Britain’s and Europe's Attitudes Towards Beijing Differ

John Ross (known in China as Luo Siyi 罗思义), senior fellow, Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, and from 2000 to 2008, director of economic and business policy for the mayor of London, in Global Times (January 4, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China)

Why Britain’s and Europe's Attitudes Towards Beijing Differ

UK relations with China have gone from the best in Europe to among the worst. Meanwhile, the EU rejected US pressure over the EU-China investment treaty. 

The US has launched aggressive policies to block China's national rejuvenation and has subsequently forced other countries to adopt similar measures. Yet, these measures also damage the countries pursuing them. The risks in doing so have been made worse by the recession caused by Covid-19. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that, in the period up to 2025, China will account for 31 percent of world growth, with the US at only 11 percent. 

Any country subordinating its economic policy to the US is therefore aligning itself with a relatively stagnant economy. While it is clearly economically irrational for any country to give into US pressures, a number of countries such as Australia and Canada are constrained by their political and military links with the US. In many developing countries, however, governments are successfully refusing to adopt anti-China policies.

Between these contrasting extremes, Europe presents a complex situation. Economically, it is logical for the EU to seek good relations with China. Yet, the EU also believes it must rely on the US for military protection. The EU has attempted to establish a path where it follows an independent economic policy, which has led to a successful investment treaty with China, while refusing to be drawn into any political clash between Beijing and Washington.

Historically, London has been far more subordinate to Washington. Today, the UK’s medium-sized economy is unable to pursue an independent path from the two huge economies of the US and EU. As US-EU tensions mounted, Britain once again chose Washington. If the US is hostile to China, the UK will inevitably follow suit. The EU, however, will follow its own path.


The Missing Policy Pillar in the Time of Covid-19
Thursday, December 31, 2020
The Missing Policy Pillar in the Time of Covid-19

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan, journalist, in The UB Post (December 24, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Byamba-ochir Byambasuren/ILO)

The Missing Policy Pillar in the Time of Covid-19

All policies carried out by developed, developing and emerging markets can be categorized into two main pillars: supporting households and citizens, and supporting businesses and keeping jobs. When the pandemic hit, the government leaned more towards supporting households, through increasing the child money allowance, improving food coupons and such. On the employment side, the government reduced the social security premium and assisted through unemployment support, which lasted till November. Although household support will continue through to the end of the presidential election in June 2021, there is not much policy targeting retainment of jobs, supporting businesses, and avoiding bankruptcies.

Unless the government addresses the missing pillar, a vicious cycle will harm the people and economy alike in the medium to long term. A cycle of poverty usually starts with unemployment as businesses shed employees or close doors, which concurrently pushes households into poverty as unemployed workers struggle to find a new job.

What is missing – money or political will? It cannot be true that there is no support to save businesses because politicians are such cowards and refuse to spend. If Mongolia is to become a country that propels children to compete on the world level in the near future, we must ensure that their parents at least have a secure job to facilitate that opportunity.

If ailing jobs and companies disappear, it will be at least few times more expensive to create new ones and, more importantly, it will take years to recover to levels prior to Covid-19. Meanwhile, the socio-economic costs will devastate not just the poor, but everyone except the super-rich. In seven months, our country may have a new president, prime minister, and minister of finance. For those seeking the top jobs of the country, one message: Do the right thing and do it now!


In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights

Usman Hamid, Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, founder of Public Virtue, and lecturer at the Indonesia Jentera School of Law, in The Jakarta Post (December 20, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Presidential Secretariat Press Bureau)

In 2020, National Leaders Abandoned Human Rights

This year Indonesia witnessed a rollback of human-rights reforms. Marking this regression was President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s security approach to tackling Covid-19, opting for an economic agenda and the imposition of hyper-nationalism, which resulted in a further turn towards authoritarianism and state control of the internet. 

Covid-19 exacerbated this through the securitization of all social and political life, enabling security actors to clamp down on political opposition by means of legal instruments, including handling the pandemic. Instead of implementing science-based policies, President Jokowi chose a military-dominated structure that produced a hardline security approach to public-health matters. 

In April, the National Police headquarters instructed officers to act against “hoax spreaders” and those who insulted the president and his administration. The police launched criminal investigations into around 100 cases related to the government’s response to the pandemic. The government and the House of Representatives passed the Job Creation Law to strengthen further business interests, while undermining workers’ and environmental rights. The National Police issued another directive intimidating and criminalizing critics of the law, increasing the rise of cyber-authoritarianism. 

All of this happened against a backdrop of increasing online intimidation in many forms that included credential theft, spam calls, digital harassment, as well as abusive intrusions into online discussions. Criminalization by the state apparatus under a draconian cyberlaw is not the only instrument of internet control. Media reports have implicated the government in the deployment of an army of pro-regime trolls, trained to debate anti-government forces on the web. 

While 2020 will no doubt be remembered as the year Indonesia – and the world – faced an unprecedented health crisis, we should remember it as a year when the country’s human rights crisis deepened, when our civic space for protests and public criticism shrank, and when Indonesia’s leaders abandoned human rights. 


Wellness is the Key Component to Covid-19 Recovery in Asia
Monday, December 28, 2020
Wellness is the Key Component to Covid-19 Recovery in Asia

Sawada Yasuyuki, Chief Economist, Asian Development Bank (ADB), in The Asahi Shimbun (December 18, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: tokyoaaron02)

Wellness is the Key Component to Covid-19 Recovery in Asia

While more than 2,000 Japanese deaths are attributable to Covid-19, the pandemic has taken a toll of severe economic, social and emotional impacts on large segments of the population, which may have led to the higher suicide numbers in recent months.

The reasons behind suicides are multi-faceted and complex, but evidence repeatedly points to the deterioration of mental health as one of the critical risk factors in Japan and around the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has induced social isolation, fear, uncertainty, anxiety and economic hardship, causing a lot of mental stress globally, which could lead to a global mental health crisis. What is worse, while physical distancing has proven effective in reducing contagion, it undermines real-world social interactions, networks and bonds among people.

This highlights the importance of promoting “wellness”, which is the pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of overall health. Wellness is multidimensional and leads to holistic health, happiness and well-being. It is central to development and is, in fact, one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (goal No. 3).

To keep high levels of wellness even while social distancing, access to digital platforms such as social networking services will be crucial. Digital learning opportunities will also be essential to ensure that students continue to study at home during the pandemic. Governments can play a critical role in mitigating the digital divide – the unequal access to online services – by increasing investment in information and communications infrastructure and making their services affordable and inclusive. Governments can support public infrastructure that promotes overall wellness, including walkways, bicycle lanes, parks, recreation centers and free sporting facilities.

Wellness will not only improve the physical and mental health of Asians but can also act as an engine of growth. It is vital for Asia’s post-pandemic recovery.


Seeing India and Pakistan History Through the Lens of Caste
Monday, December 28, 2020
Seeing India and Pakistan History Through the Lens of Caste

Faisal Devji, Professor of Indian History at the University of Oxford, in The Indian Express (December 27, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Seeing India and Pakistan History Through the Lens of Caste

What would the history of India look like if seen through the lens of caste? Banias changed India’s modern history was the development of the Indian National Congress as a mass organization under Mahatma Gandhi. The Kshatriyas displaced by colonialism had by then been replaced in politics by Brahmin lawyers and administrators. The first Bania to take power from the Brahmins who dominated the party, Gandhi gained for it the support of India’s traders.

If Gandhi’s rise to power signaled the emergence of a new national culture for Hindus, Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s rise accomplished the same for Muslims. The culture of learning and honor that had characterized the League’s Brahmin and Kshatriya elite was replaced by a Bania focus on contractual politics.

Religion has come to define national culture in both India and Pakistan, allowing different castes to identify with each other by excluding minorities. While Hinduism provides a home for many sectarian cultures in India, Islam in Pakistan is exclusive.

While Christians and Hindus are discriminated against and even persecuted in Pakistan, as Muslims and Christians sometimes are in India, they are not seen to represent any serious threat to Islam. This means that Islam comes to dominate politics in such a way as to obscure both caste and religious difference.

If the suspect religious minority in Pakistan is to be found within Islam, non-Muslim groups come to represent not religious but caste difference. Christians and Hindus also serve as repositories for the caste identities of Muslims, who escape their status by displacing it onto them. While caste differences in India are also displaced onto a religious minority, in Pakistan this displacement locates the minority within and caste outside Islam.

Caste really does allow us to see history anew.


Countering the Indian Threat
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Countering the Indian Threat

Zahid Hussain, journalist and author, in Dawn (December 23, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Gabriele Giuseppini)

Countering the Indian Threat

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has again warned of an Indian plan to launch a “surgical strike” on Pakistan. For a Pakistani leader to describe an Indian plan of blatant military aggression as a “surgical strike” is beyond one’s comprehension. Surely the foreign minister did not realize what the term might convey, but in diplomacy one needs to be extremely careful about the nuances. It is indeed a grave situation and one that needs to be handled more seriously.

Any military incursion into Pakistan would be a risky gamble by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Such reckless action would also be in danger of spiraling out of control and turning into a full-blown military conflagration. The underlying calculation of Modi’s escalation is that India can afford this brinkmanship given the country’s diplomatic clout. But it is hard to believe that any blatant act of aggression will go unnoticed.

A major challenge for Pakistan, however, is how to respond to the Indian bellicosity. There is no doubt that Pakistan’s armed forces are fully capable of effectively countering any Indian military adventurism. But foreign aggression cannot be defeated by military means alone. The country’s major vulnerabilities are its weak economy and perpetual political instability.

There is a need for a broad consensus on key national security issues. Lack of clarity on national security is a failure of our leadership. It is mainly the responsibility of the prime minister to provide leadership. Instead of taking parliament into confidence on the Indian escalation, the political leadership has relied more on media and tweets to inform the nation about the threat. Our diplomatic efforts have also been hampered by the lack of a robust foreign policy. We need a more proactive approach to meeting the serious security challenge while refraining from creating panic.


The Saddest Christmas Ever
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
The Saddest Christmas Ever

Sara Soliven De Guzman, Chief Operating Officer, Operation Brotherhood Montessori Center, in her As a Matter of Fact column in The Philippine Star (December 21, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterjans/Pixabay)

The Saddest Christmas Ever

To many, this will be the saddest Christmas. Covid-19 has disrupted our lives. It has created such a crisis, destroying homes, work and the human spirit. Christmas will not be the same this year. Our homes will be silent, our tables half empty, but we must not let the darkness take over the light that should continue to shine in our hearts. We need to feel that hope and to fight the feeling we have in our hearts. We need to do this not only for ourselves but also for our children.

On the brighter side, we have family to support each other. The simple celebration around the table with prayer and reflection will cleanse our spirits and hopefully make us better. It is during a crisis when our “will” or “might” can be tested. The life that we have now should bring us closer to God. 

This will be the first Christmas for millions of families around the world to spend without their loved ones who were taken by the virus. Let us light a candle or two for all those who have gone this year.

The sad part is that some people do not even feel the hardship of the times. They continue to go out and party like there is no tomorrow. These past days have shown us how many of our countrymen continue to ignore social distancing. They have forgotten about Covid-19. Surely after the holidays our Covid-19 cases will spike again. Do not forget we have not even gotten the vaccines yet.

So this is Christmas. Love is the strongest weapon we have in order to survive this pandemic.