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On Thursday, August 26, the group Gising Maharlika staged a protest in front of the Senate building in Pasig City. This in itself isn’t all that unusual—all sorts of groups big and small regularly convene in front of both chambers of Congress to let their views be known, as is their right. These protests sometimes make the news, but often they don’t.

Gising Maharlika, which describes itself as “a non-political, non-partisan group [who] act as an Independent News and Media alternative” isn’t one of the more prominent activist groups around, so perhaps it wouldn’t have been a surprise if their protest against mandatory vaccinations didn’t get any media coverage.

But the group had a well-known face at the protest yesterday: character actor Pen Medina, who has had a long and illustrious career in both film and television.

Medina—whose list of qualifications do not include a medical degree, and whose Facebook profile pic is currently the Q-Anon logo—attracted the attention of radio station DZBB, and took the opportunity to tell the DZBB reporter about his “research” on masks and vaccines.

“Napag-aralan ko na, kasi po ‘yung face masks, malalaki, ayan ganyan,” he said on the reporter’s video, overlaying his splayed-out fingers to demonstrate a loose weave. “‘Yun pong coronavirus, ang mga virus, maliliit po. Kung baga, hindi pa ito nai-identify. Kung baga sa lineup ng pulis, hindi pa na-pinpoint kung sino ‘yung criminal na virus. Ito pong virus na ‘to, para kang naghahanap sa buhangin sa isang beach na pagkarami-raming buhangin, at ‘yung buhangin, microscopic—hindi mo makikita sa mata mo lang. Hindi pa po nila nakita ‘yan, tapos may sinasabi na pong variant. At ‘yan po, lulusot kahit anong mask, dahil sobrang sobrang pagkaliit-liit.”

(“I’ve studied [it], face masks are big [loosely woven]. The coronavirus, viruses, they’re small. They haven’t been identified, so to speak. If it were a police lineup, the criminal virus hasn’t been identified. This virus, it’s like you’re looking for [a grain of] sand on a beach with many grains of sand, and the sand is microscopic—you can’t see it with just your eyes. They haven’t seen it, and now they’re talking about variants. And that will pass through any kind of mask, because they’re so small.”)


Now it’s hard to pick apart Medina’s argument—not because of an abundance of logic, but because, well, there’s just so much going on there. First of all, while he’s correct that viruses can’t be seen by the naked eye, electron microscopes exist. And genome sequencing, too, which has allowed scientists to identify the different strains and variants of coronaviruses.

But most of all, masks work—not as a perfect filter against viruses, but against the spread of droplets, which is how the virus gets around. Mask-wearing is not a perfect solution, but it is very effective at slowing down the contagion. (Don’t take it from us; take it from actual scientists.)

While Media has stood firm and defiantly challenged his “bashers” to a public debate, people on social media have also criticized DZBB for even giving the actor airtime.

“This is very irresponsible. DZBB you have the platform to educate people but you are choosing to show opinions from unqualified people,” reads one tweet.

“Why did DZBB air/post this interview? it’s obviously BS. And why did @dzbbsamnielsen not challenge and correct what this actor said?” said another.

And another replied, more succinctly, “Wag mo kaming idamay kung gusto mo nang mamatay.” (“Leave us out of it if you want to die.”)

 

 

This is not the first time this month that a radio station has been called out for giving a platform to anti-vaccine sentiment. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was radio station DZRH that faced a backlash for an interview with retired professor Romeo Quijano, who said on air that he thought that “the vaccines being deployed now are worse than the virus itself.”

Read: Doctor responds to criticism over the latest online outrage about his anti-vax stance

This article, Actor Ping Medina’s anti-mask, anti-vax sentiments got undeserved airtime, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.

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