DUTERTE TO CABINET: SEEK CLEARANCE FIRST BEFORE ATTENDING CONGRESSIONAL PROBES
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is requiring his Cabinet members to seek his approval first before attending congressional inquiries as lawmakers ramp up scrutiny of his administration’s pandemic deals.
“I will require every Cabinet member to clear with me any invitation and if I think he will be called for walang silbi except to harass, to be berated in front of the Republic, eh hintuin ko na ‘yan at pagbawalan ko na,” Duterte said in a taped address that aired Tuesday.
He added that he would not allow Cabinet members to appear before congressional investigations if they have “no other purpose except really to ramble on, to stretch the hearings because that is good for the elections.”
Duterte cited the case of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, whom he said “has not been in control of the workings” of his department as he has been busy attending congressional hearings which have largely centered on the government’s procurement of pandemic supplies.
Duterte’s move to potentially bar Cabinet members from attending congressional hearings is not unprecedented as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had also enacted a similar policy during her term.
Macapagal-Arroyo issued on Sept. 28, 2005 Executive Order No. 464 which prevented Cabinet members and other government officials from attending congressional probes unless given permission by the president.
GOV'T MULLS VACCINATING 'GENERAL ADULT POPULATION' VS COVID-19 FROM OCTOBER
MANILA — The government is studying expanding the COVID-19 vaccination drive to the general public by October, President Rodrigo Duterte said.
The immunization program currently covers 5 priority groups, including health workers, the elderly, people with health risks, essential workers, and indigents.
"I’d like the people to know we are studying the possibility of vaccinating the general adult population as early as October if there is a stable vaccine supply," Duterte said in a taped speech that aired on Tuesday.
But authorities "have to keep equity in mind," he said.
"Dapat unahin na natin ang walang-wala at mga mahirap," said the President.
The government expects to take delivery of some 61 million COVID-19 jabs between September and October, vaccine "czar" Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said.
Authorities have received some 59.7 million vaccine doses, of which around 38.7 million have been administered. At least 16.7 million people are now fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
The Philippines, which has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, is battling its worst surge in infections, overwhelming hospitals and healthcare workers.
METRO MANILA UNDER COVID-19 ALERT LEVEL 4 IN NEW SET-UP FROM SEPT. 16
MANILA — Metro Manila will be under the second strictest of 5 COVID-19 alert levels in a new set-up meant to better curb infections and spur business activity, the interior department said on Tuesday.
The capital region's nearly 13.5 million people will shift to Alert Level 4 quarantine from Sept. 16, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
Metro Manila will serve as pilot area for the alert system and localized lockdowns. These will replace the existing 4-degree classification imposed on large groups of cities and provinces, the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 earlier said.
Areas where Alert Level 4 is hoisted have high or increasing coronavirus cases, and have high utilization of their hospital and intensive care, said the IATF.
"Ang basis po ng Alert Level 4 ay yung ating average daily attack rate, yung pagtaas at pagdami ng kaso sa bawat araw, at yung pinaka-important d'yan, yung healthcare utilization rate," Densing said.
"Nasa high to critical ang basehan po n'yan. Ang (healthcare utilization) ng Metro Manila ay nasa 76 percent overall. Yun primarily ang magiging basehan muna, at least sa panimula."
The task force said minors, people above 65 years old, individuals with comorbidity, and pregnant women are not allowed to go out in areas under this alert level, “provided, that they shall be allowed access to obtain essential goods and services, or for work in permitted industries and offices.”
People not in those categories may be allowed to travel within and outside of areas under Level 4, subject to the regulation of their destination's local government unit.
Outdoor exercises are allowed for residents, regardless of health and vaccination status, but only within their village or barangay. They should also observe basic COVID-19 protocols, such as wearing face masks and avoiding crowds.
Establishments and activities prohibited under Alert 4 include indoor tourist attractions, cinemas, internet cafés, casinos, wedding receptions, gyms, and cosmetic clinics, among others.
Under Level 4, outdoor or al fresco dine-in services will be permitted at 30 percent capacity. Indoor dine-in services will only be allowed at 10 percent capacity and can only cater to those fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Personal care services only limited to barbershops, hair spas, nail spas, and beauty salons are allowed to operate also at 30 percent capacity if they operate in an outdoor setting. If they function indoors, only 10 percent of seating capacity is allowed.
Religious gatherings are allowed in the same condition.
SENATE PANEL ASKS DOJ TO PLACE MICHAEL YANG ON IMMIGRATION WATCHLIST, ISSUE HOLD DEPARTURE
MANILA - The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has formally asked the Department of Justice to place former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang on the Bureau of Immigration's watchlist in case the businessman tries to flee the country in the middle of congressional investigations.
"We would like to request the Mr. Michael Yang aka Yang Hong Ming, former Presidential Economic Adviser, be placed on the Bureau of Immigration Hold Departure Order, Watchlist or Lookout Bulletin, whichever is appropriate," Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon said in a letter to September 13, 2021.
Gordon also asked the DOJ "that the Committee be informed whenever he is about to leave."
Yang - who has a warrant of arrest from the Senate - skipped a Blue Ribbon hearing on Monday, where he was expected to answer lawmakers' questions about his involvement in the allegedly questionable transactions of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp with the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service.
LAWYER CHALLENGES DUTERTE: RELEASE YOUR SALNS OR ISSUE NOTARIZED AUTHORIZATION
MANILA — The lawyer who was given the run-around in his bid to secure the President’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) went straight to the source and challenged Mister Duterte himself to release his SALN or issue an authorization.
Lawyer Dino De Leon, in a letter dated September 10, pressed the President to reconsider the earlier decision of the Malacanang Records Office referring him to the Office of the Ombudsman.
“I respectfully request you to revisit the MRO’s earlier decision to refuse the issuance of your SALN. Instead, you can, motu propio, provide the undersigned with a certified copy of all your SALNs ever since you assumed office in 2016,” he said.
“Should you find this unacceptable for whatever reason, you are instead requested to provide the undersigned the necessary notarized authorization from you,” he added.
OMBUDSMAN 'LOST ITS PURPOSE' IN IMPOSING SALN RESTRICTIONS: CONSTITUTION FRAMER
MANILA — A framer of the 1987 Constitution on Monday slammed the Office of the Ombudsman for having “lost its purpose” in imposing restrictions on access to statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of government officials.
Lawyer Christian Monsod, who was a member of the 1987 Constitutional Commission, criticized Ombudsman Samuel Martires’ Memorandum Circular No. 1 issued last year which limited access to SALNS only to the public official who filed the SALN or his/her authorized representative, a court which issued a lawful order or the Ombudsman’s field investigation units, bureaus or offices.
In other instances, the memo said, a notarized letter of authority from the public official is required.
Monsod said this effectively limited access to SALNs to “public officials” who are not the “public” the framers of the Constitution contemplated.
“From the ConCom deliberations, the Ombudsman was never conceived as the protector of government officials from the people who want information about their qualifications for and performance in public office as well as their business interests and financial connections,” he said during an online forum organized by the Right to Know Right Now! Coalition.
“It seems that the present Ombudsman has forgotten that in a democracy, the people are the principals and the government officials are their agents, and not the other way around. Such as the rules on public disclosure which have evolved to limitations in the content and access to the SALNs as to put SALNs beyond the reach of the people in the constitutional design to make government officials accountable to them,” he added.
Malou Mangahas, co-convenor of the coalition, pointed out that Duterte was the first president in 30 years not to disclose his SALN.
Mangahas, formerly executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, said Duterte stopped disclosing his SALNs and those of his family in 2018, when PCIJ did a story about the first family’s wealth.
Recently, lawyer Dino de Leon tried to secure the President’s SALN from both Malacanang and the Ombudsman but he was given the run-around.
Martires, Mangahas added, is the first Ombudsman to restrict access to SALNs and to threaten jailtime against those who would comment on SALNs.
“Ang memo circular number 1 ng Ombudsman is an encumbrance on the people’s right to know. It contravenes provisions of the SALN Law, Republic Act 6713 na nagsasaad, obligasyon nila na magrelease ng SALN,” Mangahas said.
Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6713 imposes on public officials and employees the obligation to submit SALNs while the public has the right to know the contents of these SALNs as well as the financial and business interests of the pulic officials, their spouses and their unmarried children below 18 years old.
This provision is based on Article XI, section 17 of the Constitution requiring the President and other high-ranking officials to disclose their SALNs to the public.
'CRITICAL STATE': PRIVATE SCHOOLS SEEK SENATE PASSAGE OF BILL VS TAX RATE HIKE
MANILA — Private school groups have urged the Senate to fast track the passage of a bill rectifying a tax rate hike on their members, as they said enrollment in their sector this year has plunged anew.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue in July suspended provisions of its RR 5-2021 that would have imposed a 15% increase in private schools' income tax rate.
Part of the finance department's consideration was there are two pending bills in Congress that seek to clarify the matter, including Senate Bill 2272.
The turnout in private schools this year a day later would go up to now at 1.56 million, per data from the Department of Education, out of the 25.58 million in total.
"It is amidst these dire circumstances, and the country’s ongoing learning crisis, that we renew our appeal for the immediate passage of this most important legislative intervention," said Anthony Tamayo, COCOPEA president. "So that our member educational institutions can give full focus to delivering quality education for our learners."
Senators in June backed private schools against BIR's regulation, with now 13 members of the chamber co-authoring the SB 2272.
While COCOPEA had welcomed the suspension of the tax hike, they said the fight was not yet over as the bills had remained pending.
PACQUIAO FILES P100-M LIBEL CASE VS QUIBOLOY OVER ALLEGED SARANGANI PROJECTS
MANILA - Sen. Manny Pacquiao on Tuesday filed a libel complaint against Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, after the founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ claimed that the boxer-lawmaker had a P3.5-billion project in his home province Sarangani.
The complaint was filed before the Makati Prosector's Office.
Quiboloy earlier alleged that Pacquiao had been involved in anomalies after the senator, who is rumored to be running for President in 2022, drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte for saying there is corruption in government.
Pacquiao had said the building that Quiboloy showed on his social media posts, dated back to 1996 and was not the one that he had constructed for P300 million to P500 million.
Pacquiao worked as Sarangani representative from 2010 to 2016.
DOJ CHIEF: NO LEGAL ACTION VS PRC
MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said President Duterte’s directive to the Commission on Audit (COA) to audit the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is unlikely to trigger any legal action.
“I do not expect that these issues will necessitate any legal action… I believe that the personalities concerned will resolve these issues in a most cordial and professional manner,” Guevarra said.
Reacting to the President’s instruction, the state audit body said it has no authority to review the books of the humanitarian agency.
Guevarra said the PRC has already admitted that it receives donations from the government.
“The PRC is a highly reputable organization that is expected to manage its funds, whether private or public, in accordance with standard accounting methods and in pursuit solely of its statutory objectives. It is also duty-bound to submit an annual report of its activities and financial condition to the President of the Philippines as its honorary president,” the justice chief said.
As for COA, Guevarra said the Constitution is clear regarding its mandate.
FLAG: HARRY ROQUE ‘ILL-SUITED’ TO JOIN INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION
MANILA — The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) has raised objections to the nomination of presidential spokesperson Harry Roque to be part of a United Nations experts panel on international law.
FLAG chairman Chel Diokno and other officers of the group wrote to the International Law Commission in New York to show their opposition to Roque’s nomination, saying the Palace official “does not possess the qualifications for a seat at the Commission.”
The group said that while Roque has degrees in law and taught public international law, the presidential spokesperson is a “political partisan who has actively demonstrated contempt for the rule of law and has undermined the supremacy of human rights and international law.”
FLAG pointed out that Roque’s pronouncement as the mouthpiece of President Duterte, who is accused of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court, “ill-befit” him to become a member of their panel.
“His public defense of extrajudicial killings, his belittling of the competence and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and his cavalier disregard of the effects of domestic violations of human rights, among others make him ill-suited for the work of the Commission,” the group said.
“His pronouncements have been made, alternately, with sneering contempt for the plight of victims or a callous attempt to justify the same with misplaced humor,” they added.
Roque, the group claimed, used his knowledge of international law to undermine the protections that international law provides under a regime of human rights and the rule of law.
The group said these efforts are “clearly for political gain” as Roque has not been discreet about his plans to seek an elective post in the coming 2022 elections.
“All these demonstrate a patent lack of integrity and character that make him utterly unworthy to even be seriously considered as part of the International Law Commission,” the group said.
“He will bring no honor to the post he seeks, instead he will tarnish the same irreparably,” it added.
‘PHILIPPINES WORST PLACE FOR LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENDERS’
MANILA — The Philippines remains the worst place for land and environmental defenders in Asia, according to the latest annual report of the UK-based international human rights and environmental group Global Witness.
In the report titled “The Last Line of Defense,” Global Witness noted a total of 227 environmental defenders murdered across the world, the deadliest year on record.
The Philippines ranked third overall with 29 killings, behind Colombia (65) and Mexico (30), making it the country with the highest figures outside the Americas.
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, yesterday said: “Global Witness data demonstrate that the murder of environmental defenders doubled under the Duterte government compared to its predecessor. We clearly need a new leadership that will protect our nature’s frontliners and stop destructive projects that aggravate our country’s ecological, climate, and human-rights crises.” Kalikasan PNE is a leading partner of Global Witness in documenting environmental defender killings.
The report said the worst massacre on record occurred in the Philippines when nine indigenous Tumandok tribe leaders and members were massacred last Dec. 30, 2020.
The incident also led to the arrest of 17 other indigenous people, all of who have been vocal against the Jalaur mega-dam project in Panay Island.
It further noted that a total of 166 land and environmental defenders were killed since President Duterte assumed office in July 2016 until the end of 2020, which is double the number killed under the previous regime.
METRO MANILA COPS TOLD: COORDINATE WITH LGUS ON NEW QUARANTINE SYSTEM
MANILA — The chief of the Philippine National Police ordered police commanders in Metro Manila to assist in the information dissemination on the new guidelines on the quarantine alert level system in the National Capital Region where the new guidelines will be implemented starting September 16.
This comes after the national government on Monday night released guidelines on a new quarantine system that aim to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amid the continuous rise of cases in the past days. The alert level system was supposed to take effect last September 8, but the government's pandemic task force opted to defer its implementation as the guidelines for it were unfinished.
In a statement, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said he also directed police chiefs to come up with strategic enforcement and deployment in their areas of responsibility in coordination with local government units.
PBA PLAYER OF THE WEEK BOLICK POWERS NORTHPORT'S UNBEATEN RUN
MANILA – A Best Player of the Game on the eve of his birthday. Now, a Player of the Week a day after he turned 26.
Robert Bolick led NorthPort to a sweep of its three games in a week’s span following the team’s return to action in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The prolific guard from Ormoc averaged 19.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in the Batang Pier’s three straight wins that saw them hurdle Blackwater, Terrafirma and NLEX at the Don Honorio Ventura State University gym.
Bolick capped the team’s unbeaten run by matching his career high 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field in a 96-94 victory over the Road Warriors where he was named Best Player of the Game hours before he celebrated his birthday on Sept. 13.
With Bolick leading the charge in NorthPort’s sudden rise in the standings at 4-3 and back in contention for a quarterfinals berth, the 6-foot-1 combo guard out of San Beda is named Cignal Play-PBA Player of the Week for the period Sept. 8 to 12.
TnT Tropang Giga rookie guard Mikey Williams also got a piece of the votes in the weekly citation handed out by the group of men and women regularly covering the PBA beat, but not enough to dislodge Bolick for the individual honor.
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Much of the stress that people feel doesn't come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they've started. - David Allen