PhilHealth abolition needs to be studied–solon

A congressman who played a significant role in the House of Representatives’ investigation on the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) corruption mess believes that the proposal to abolish the state-run firm would need to be studied thoroughly.

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers stressed this on Tuesday, after President Duterte floated in a recorded speech Monday night his plan of asking Congress to scrap PhilHealth altogether.

“We should study the proposal further,” said Barbers, a vice chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts. It was the Public Accounts panel that led last month the series of hearings on the alleged corrupt activities that have long been taking place at the government health insurer.

The Mindanaoan bared that the committee is actually nearing the completion of its report from its inquiry, which detailed the “mafia-like” abuse of public funds at PhilHealth. The persisting public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has further magnified the controversy.

“Malapit na matapos, this week siguro (It’s going to be finished soon, maybe this week),” Barbers said.

“There are other recommendations in the committee report like the filing of appropriate criminal and administrative charges against officials, reforms in the implementation of the disbursement of funds, etc.,” he added.

However, Barbers said the contents of the panel report would “definitely be affected if the President will push for the abolition of PhilHealth.”

Meanwhile, another Public Accounts panel vice-chairman, Kabayan Party-List Rep. Ron Salo, said Tuesday that he fully supports President Duterte’s aim “to address issues of corruption and to strengthen accountability of the officials and employees” in PhilHealth.

“Thus, I filed House Bill No. 7612, which seeks to reorganize Philhealth, to institute a performance-based retention system among its officials from managerial positions up, and to transfer PhilHealth as an agency from the Department of Health to the Department of Finance making the Secretary of Finance as an ex officio-Chair,” he said.

“The proposed measure was painstakingly crafted to provide permanent, not just band-aid, solutions to the woes that have continually hounded PhilHealth – from incompetency, lack of qualifications, and corruption. We need to entrust the management of PhilHealth funds which runs to more than hundred billion pesos and which increases yearly to officials who are not only competent but trustworthy,” said Salo.

Police visibility up in Metro Manila bus terminals

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has intensified the visibility of its personnel in all the bus terminals of the transport companies which were allowed to transport commuters to and from Metro Manila starting September 30.

Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, PNP deputy chief for Administration and commander of the JTF COVID Shield, said the move is to ensure order and discipline in bus terminals which are expected to be crowded with passengers heading to Metro Manila.

Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar
(PNP / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)

“We need to ensure that both the bus company employees and the passengers will observe the minimum health safety standard protocol especially on the aspects of wearing face masks and face shields and the observation of physical distancing inside the passenger buses,” said Eleazar.

At least 12 modified Metro Manila-bound bus routes were allowed to operate in a move to normalize the transportation and eventually revive the economy which was severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 12 modified bus routes include buses coming from Pampanga, Cavite, Batangas and Laguna.

The conditions set for the resumption of Metro Manila-bound bus operations include prohibition on picking up passengers outside of the terminals, no eating, drinking and talking inside the passenger buses and prohibition in making and taking cellular phone calls.

“We also remind the police commanders to make sure that the smoking ban and other minimum health safety standard protocols are also observed inside the bus terminals among the passengers, bus company employees and other people who are allowed entry inside the terminals,” said. Eleazar.

“Our presence in bus terminals and other possible bus stops is not only for peace and order purposes but also in compliance with the mandate given to us to protect as many people from coronavirus infection by strictly implementing the quarantine rules,” he added.

Eleazar said the police presence in bus terminals comes with the order to familiarize the areas and find an ideal place where the passengers could seek help and report quarantine violations for immediate response.

He also encouraged passengers to remain vigilant against those who defy the quarantine rules inside the bus terminals and inside the passenger buses.

“We already made it easy for the public to report quarantine violations through our jtf.cvshield Facebook page where they could report and even send photos and videos of the quarantine violations. We assure the public of our immediate response and proper actions for any quarantine violation reports and complaints we would receive with regard to the operation of provincial buses,” said Eleazar.

He said the public could also reach the PNP and the JTF COVID Shield through the following hotlines: PNP Helpline 16677, 0998-849-0013 for Smart users, 0917-538-2495 for Globe users and PNP-Highway Patrol Group Hotline 0926-225-5474.

The PNP and JTF COVID Shield could also be reached via ncovmonitoring@gmail.com and PNP2019nCoVARDopn@gmail.com. (Aaron Recuenco)

Israel minister says ‘no way’ virus lockdown will end soon

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday that there was “no way” the country’s second nationwide coronavirus lockdown would be lifted after three weeks as originally planned.

A picture on September 25, 2020 shows a deserted highway in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv amid a nationwide lockdown to contain a surge in coronavirus infections. (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

“There’s no way that in 10 days we’ll be lifting all the restrictions and saying it’s all over, everything is fine,” he told public broadcaster Kan.

Israel imposed its second lockdown on September 18 after the coronavirus infection rate soared. It was originally scheduled to end on October 10.

On Friday, the measures were tightened after the initial eight days failed to bring down the world’s highest infection rate per capita.   

Beyond shuttering schools and cultural events, the lockdown has closed the vast majority of workplaces, markets and places of worship.

Parliament was meanwhile due to debate a regulation limiting demonstrations, which could curb weekly protests that have been held against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership for months.

Convoys of vehicles were meanwhile heading to Jerusalem to protest the possible restrictions on demonstrations.

On Saturday night, Netanyahu acknowledged “mistakes” in the reopening of Israel’s educational system and economy following the first lockdown earlier this year.

“There might be some changes for the better, but this time, as part of the the learning process from what happened in April, we’ll exit (the lockdown) gradually, responsibly,” Edelstein said.

“The opening of the economy and our lives will be gradual and slow.”

Israel has recorded more than 233,000 infections and 1,507 deaths in a population of nine million.

According to military intelligence, not only does Israel have the world’s highest weekly infection rate per capita, its daily death rate per capita has passed that of the world’s hardest-hit country, the United States.

Duterte to meet with Cayetano, Velasco to solve House leadership impasse

The leadership squabble affecting the House of Representatives is expected to be resolved Tuesday night with President Duterte hosting a caucus to be attended by  Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and their respective trusted allies.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on September 28, 2020.
(ROBINSON NIÑAL / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

President Duterte will be hosting the meeting in Malacanang to resolve controversies that threatened to derail the implementation of the term-sharing agreement for the speakership.

Under the gentleman’s agreement that Duterte brokered last year, Cayetano was to be allowed to sit as speaker of the Lower House in the first 15 months of the 18th Congress.

Velasco was to takeover the top Lower House post by October and continue to hold the post in the next 21 months.

Cayetano will be accompanied by Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez; Deputy Speakers Lray Villafuerte and Rodante Marcoleta, and Reps. Mikey Arroyo (Lakas-CMD-Pampanga); and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado (NUP, Bulacan).  His wife, Taguig City Rep. Lani Cayetano will also lend support for the incumbent speaker.

Tagaytay City Rep. Abraham Tolentino has been included in the Cayetano Team although he is a member of PDP-Laban.

On the other hand, the PDP-Laban media bureau revealed that Velasco, head of the ruling party’s House contingent, will  be with his “most trusted team” in the Palace meeting.

Team Velasco will be comprised of Rep. Kristine Singson, representing the Northern Alliance; Deputy Speaker and 1PACMAN Partylist Rep. Mikee Romero and AAMBIS OWA Rep. Sharon Garin of the Partylist Coalition Foundation Inc; and Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano of the Visayas bloc.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition has authorized Reps. Mark Enverga of Quezon and Jack Duavit of Rizal to back Velasco in the caucus.

Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur and Cong. Doy Leachon of Oriental Mindoro, both PDP-Laban executives, will be with Velasco.

“The assumption of Cong. Lord Velasco as House Speaker is a realization of the party’s major accomplishment of heading the lower chamber of the Legislative Department simultaneous with the incumbency of party’s honorary chairman Rodrigo Roa Duterte as President of the Republic of the Philippines,” PDP-Laban said in a press statement.

Both sides did not include anybody from the group of Deputy Speaker and Davao City Rep. Paulo Duterte, son of the President.

The young Duterte is considered a third force that wields its share of strong influence among members of the Lower House.

Just recently, Rep. Duterte threatened to move for a leadership change but the neophyte solon said he merely aired the threat as an expression of his disgust over budgetary issues affecting the chamber.

Cayetano later threw the blame of the coup threat to Velasco, saying that this was the “third and fourth time” the Marinduque solon plotted a move to oust him even before the term-sharing agreement could be completed by next month.

COVID-19 cases in PH now at 309,303

Cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Philippines rose to 309,303 after 2,025 new confirmed cases were recorded Tuesday, the Department of Health said.

(JANSEN ROMERO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

A total of 290 recovered patients were reported, taking the recoveries nationwide to 252,930. There are also 68 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 5,448.

Active cases are now at 50,925.

According to theDOH, 81 percent of the new reported cases or 1,641 occurred within the recent 14 days (September 16 to September 29).

The top regions with cases in the recent two weeks were the National Capital Region (NCR) with 540 or 33 percent, Region 4A with 296 or 18 percent and Region 3 with 239 or 15 percent.

Forty-nine of the reported fatalities or 72 percent happened in September while 12 in August, 2 in May, and 1 in April.

The department said the deaths were from NCR with 26 or 38 percent, Region 6 with 13, Region 4A with 7, Region 3 with 6, Region 5 with 3, Region 9 with 3, Regions 7, 10, 12, 4B with two deaths each, and Regions 11 and BARMM with one fatality apiece.

“Ten duplicates were removed from the total case count. Of these, four recovered cases and a death have been removed. Moreover, 21 cases previously tagged as recovered were reclassified to deaths after final validation,” the Health department said.

Meanwhile, latest data showed that of the total active cases, 86.5 percent are mild cases, 8.8 percent are asymptomatic, 1.4 percent are severe cases, and 3.3 percent are in critical condition.

It was also reported that 47 percent of the total intensive care unit beds dedicated for COVID-19 cases in the country are used, while 41 percent of isolation beds, 45 percent of ward beds, and 24 percent ventilators are being utilized.

Ancajas, Marcial fly to US

Jerwin Ancajas during his fight with fellow Filipino Jonas Sultan in 2018. (Photo from Top Rank)

IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas is set to leave for the United States on Wednesday to resume training for a possible fight in the final quarter of the year.

Ancajas will head to Los Angeles alongside trainer Joven Jimenez and Tokyo Olympics-bound and recently-turned pro Eumir Felix Marcial after encountering delays in securing their US visas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Olympic-bound boxer Eumir Felix Marcial (MB File Photo)

MP Promotions president Sean Gibbons said during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum and later in a virtual sendoff organized by Big Boss Cement that he hopes to see Ancajas secure a fight before the year’s end despite the stacked schedule of Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.

“He’s just coming over here to train and prepare and hopefully we can get him a fight by the end of the year,” said Gibbons.

“The pandemic really set Jerwin back. We had some issues with his visa which we resolved. He has now. He lost his fight date. So at the moment, Top Rank doesn’t have any dates but we’re working on some stuff.”

Ancajas could face IBF mandatory challenger Jonathan Rodriguez, who was supposed to fight the Filipino late last year in Carson, California.

But the fight was cancelled after Rodriguez failed to secure a visa to come to the US. 

Ancajas, instead, faced Puerto Rican Miguel Gonzalez and won via a sixth round TKO in early-December in Puebla, Mexico.

The two were supposed to finally slug it off last April 11 in Las Vegas but was postponed due to the coronavirus.

“The key is to get him in the US and sort things out from there,” said Gibbons. 

Marcial, on the other hand, will train under Manny Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.

Gibbons said the primary focus is for Marcial to prepare himself for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Ancajas and Marcial have done limited training since the pandemic forced the government to impose community quarantine regulations.

The Boyz’s ‘Chase’ album sells more than 200,000 copies in first week

Eleven-member K-pop idol group The Boyz’s new album has sold more than 200,000 copies in the first week of release.

Korea’s Hanteo Chart has revealed that The Boyz’s “Chase: The 5th Mini Album” has garnered 212,666 copies in sales from Sept. 22 to 28, a personal record since their debut in 2017.

This is a whopping 338 percent increase compared to their first studio album “Reveal” that was released last February and had first-week sales of 48,538, or a difference of 164,128 copies. The “Chase” sold 64,652 copies on the first day compared to 14,827 for “Reveal.”

On Hanteo’s weekly chart from Sept. 21 to 27, “Chase” placed second overall with 210,325 copies sold.

“Chase” is led by the main track “The Stealer.” The official music video for the song has accumulated 12.46 million views as of writing since its release on Sept. 21, compared to their last MV “Reveal” which has garnered 7.89 million views since Feb. 9.

The Boyz (Twitter)

During their album showcase, Hyunjae compared “Chase” and “Reveal” albums, saying, “If the previous album ‘Reveal’ expresses the ambition of teenagers who are immersed in love, ‘Chase’ will talk about chasing love,” according to Osen.

“We had shown the boys’ instincts towards love, but this time we transform into ‘heart stealers’ who pursue love. Above all, the album contains our determination to conquer the dreams, ideals, and hearts of the public as a K-pop artist,” said Juyeon.

He added, “While the highlight in our previous album is ‘scene-stealer,’ this album’s notable point is the feeling when ‘your heart is stolen’ after listening to all the songs.”

Sunwoo, who participated in writing the lyrics for “The Stealer,” said, “I am grateful to write the lyrics for this song. The song’s highlight is the opposition between different parts. It’s the important verse before the third hook so I tried to focus on the contrast when writing the lyrics.”

Last June, The Boyz emerged as the winner on the Mnet TV program “Road to Kingdom,” which pitted The Boyz against six other K-pop boy bands.

For “Chase,” the goal of The Boyz is to win first place on TV music shows with Eric saying, “We plan to work hard to gain public recognition. If there is a wish, The Boyz hopes to win first place on music shows, including ‘The Show’ that Juyeon is hosting.”

AFP urges Facebook to ‘help gov’t end communist insurgency’

After the shutdown of social media accounts linked to the military and police due to “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday encouraged the management of Facebook to help the government in its anti-communist insurgency campaign which has hounded the country for over 50 years.

(Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP)

Major General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said the military leadership is thankful to President Duterte for his expression of support to their campaign to crush the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The AFP views Facebook and other social media outfits as platforms to disseminate accurate information that would empower our people to see through the lies (of) terrorist organizations masquerading as pro-people,” the military spokesperson said.

“FB (Facebook) could be the medium that will help consolidate people’s support to their armed forces as their true protectors and defenders of the state against its enemies,” he added.

On Monday night, Duterte scored Facebook for supposedly “encouraging” communist rebels to further their cause by removing the accounts that advocate against the NPA, which are causes that are also being pushed by the military and police.

“We allow you to operate here hoping that you could help us also. Now, if government cannot espouse or advocate something which is for the good of the people, then what is your purpose here in my country?” Duterte asked in his address to the public.

Duterte added that he intends to talk to the management of Facebook to sort out the issue, a move which was welcomed by the military.

“The AFP is one with the President in his call for FB executives to sit down and discuss with government how the Filipinos will benefit from the popularity of FB and its presence in the Philippines,” Arevalo said.

Last week, Facebook shut down hundreds of accounts and pages with links to some Chinese individuals, the Philippine military and police for alleged government intrusion through politics, and for supposedly spreading disinformation about an array of topics including the Anti-Terrorism Law, and the CPP-NPA among others.

A network of accounts were reportedly used to create fake engagement, spam, and artificial amplification of audience reach to influence public opinion about a certain issue, individual or a group of people.

Foreign social media activities traced in Fujian, China were monitored by Facebook to be posting contents about the United States election, West Philippine Sea, and the rumored 2022 presidential campaign of Davao City Sara Duterte-Carpio, the President’s daughter.

Meanwhile, Facebook also found domestic inauthentic behavior where accounts linked to some active personnel of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) were posting contents “red-tagging” government critics and activists as terrorists, and favoring the Anti-Terror Bill, which was passed into law last July 3.

At least three active members of the AFP were identified as among the administrators of a network of accounts engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior, including Captain Alexandre Cabales, the social media chief of the Philippine Army.

It was bared that Cabales was the administrator of Kalinaw News, the Army’s social media platform, and the advocacy page “Hands Off Our Children” which is a community of parents whose children were allegedly recruited by the NPA.

Cabales’ personal Facebook account, where he regularly shared the contents of Kalinaw News and Hands Off Our Children, was among those closed by Facebook. The Hands Off Our Children page was also shut down.

However, the military had denied Cabales was involved in spreading fake news and contents, and insisted that all information he was releasing on his social media accounts were truthful.

The military also asked the Facebook to review their policies and reinstate the closed accounts.

Villar cites Las Piñas river as ‘vital life artery’

Senator Cynthia Villar has cited the Las Piñas-Zapote River and its vital significance to Las Piñas City.

Sen. Cynthia Villar
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a statement following the celebration of the World Rivers Day, she called the river as a “life artery” for her bailiwick Las Piñas City and its people.

“While we no longer have a river as pristine as (it used to be) in the 70’s, back in the time when the river (was) teeming with fish, the river continues to provide for the city through livelihood projects that sprung out of our project to rehabilitate the Las Pinas-Zapote River,” Villar, also chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said.

The “Sagip Ilog” project was launched in 2002 to resuscitate the Las Piñas and Zapote Rivers thru the collection of garbage, plastics and water lilies in the river.

The water lilies collected from the river are also used as a material for weaving handicraft which also serves as a livelihood project for housewives in the city. Organic fertilizers are also made from the coconut husk thrown in to the river.

The Sagip Ilog project won for Villar, who was then Las Piñas City representative, and her husband, former Senate President Manny Villar the United Nations “Best Practices Award” in 2011.

Villar also initiated the construction of the Las Piñas River Drive, a five-phased, 20-kilometer road project with the twin objective of easing traffic congestion and reducing flooding in Las Piñas City during the rainy season.

“Through this new road, we are certain of a shorter and a more convenient travel time for the people of Las Piñas and for all those who travel to and from our city. This road infrastructure development makes Las Pinas more attractive to investors,” she said.

The road project, which follows the curve of the river bank, involved the resettlement of informal settlers and clean-up of the Las Piñas River. 

“We hope that through our projects that transformed our once murky and dirty river to a useful water system, we are raising awareness on the need to better care for our water resources for it to continue to provide us with necessities of life,” Villar said.

World Rivers Day is celebrated every fourth Sunday of September to highlight the many values of rivers and also to encourage the improved stewardship of rivers around the world.

One Cherry, One Ecosystem

As the brand steps into a new decade, Cherry has taken a full transition to further serve the Filipinos by continuously innovating and building an ecosystem of products that will meet the needs of its evolving market, making their life easier and improving the overall lifestyle of the progressive Filipinos. 

Guided with the vision of its founder and Chief Executive officer, Maynard S. Ngu, the new CHERRY will continue to be a cut above the rest, but this time with a bigger goal in mind: to dominate the Philippine market by offering wide range of products and services that will cater to its evolving market under a conglomerate. “Since the groundbreaking catapult of Cherry Mobile in 2009, we are happy to announce that our vision to create one ecosystem for the Filipinos is now a reality. CHERRY carries an array of brands and services under its belt: Cherry Mobile, Cherry Prepaid, Cherryroam, Cherry Home, and Cherry Pet, offering extensive variety of products in communication technology, Internet of Things (IoT) system, home, health, personal, and even pet essentials.

Cherry will continue to offer relevant products and pursue innovation to meet the needs of its evolving market and improve their overall quality of life. The new logo and name signify the start of the company’s mission to further reach out to our market through the same value-for-money and quality innovations that we’ve been offering since then. CHERRY will be the same brand that Filipinos have loved from the beginning. The brand has evolved and remains a proudly Filipino brand, for the Filipinos,” Ngu proudly shares.

The New Logo: Stability and Balance

One of the notable changes in CHERRY’s new logo is the icon which has a subtle resemblance to the Yin & Yang symbol. The brand has dropped the iconic fusion of “Cherry” and “Mobile” on the icon and replaced it with a combined swoosh of its original pantone colors of red, white, and gray. “The new logo signifies the balance, stability, strength and unity of brands, with the company’s mission to further reach out to our market through the same value-for-money innovations that we’ve been offering since then. CHERRY will be the same brand that Filipinos have loved since then, only this time we’re going bigger and better,” Ngu added.

It can also be seen that the brand has removed the word “mobile” on their new logo, with an all-caps “CHERRY” dominating the design. This symbolizes the company’s direction to gear towards a bigger vision and serve the Filipino market through a variety of products and services fitting to their needs and lifestyles. Further, the removal of the word “mobile” on the logo does not mean that the brand will no longer provide smartphones, but is a kickoff to better and bigger innovations from CHERRY.

The new logo has made an initial debut on the brand’s newly released Cherry Ion Personal Wearable Air Purifier, an everyday new norm essential. Moving forward, all products will also carry the new CHERRY logo. 

The Ecosystem of Brands: Bigger and Better

What started out as a mobile phone brand in 2009 with only four (4) units to showcase, CHERRY now carries an array of brands and services under its belt. Including Cherry Mobile, Cherry Prepaid, Cherryroam, Cherry Home, and Cherry Pet.

Seeing beyond the sole desire to bring innovative devices and affordable technology to the Filipino market, Cherry establishes solid partnerships with the most trusted technology leaders in terms of hardware, software, and peripherals. It has ventured on its telecommunication services through Cherry Prepaid, a data-centric prepaid sim, in partnership with Globe Telecom. Cherry Prepaid provides affordable prepaid data services to the Filipinos across the archipelago since 2015 and has activated more than five million subscribers nationwide. “Our goal is to provide Filipinos with a diversified prepaid mobile service from data, call and text packages at affordable prices allowing them to be connected every day of the year”, Ngu shared.  Later on, it has widened its global reach through the Cherryroam, your ultimate travel WiFi roaming device with fast, stable and secured internet connection to over 160 countries worldwide.   

Understanding the need of today’s household modern lifestyle, CHERRY launched its IoT Internet of Things) arm through the Cherry Home brand last 2019, providing its consumers the security, convenience, and peace of mind they truly deserve. These products are connected and integrated in one platform that works well with different IoT systems. From switches, sockets, to cameras, locks, and even home appliances. Cherry Home is set to bring a life full of convenience in a smart way.

The New Normal: Resiliency and Relevance

The current situation that has created public health risk and anxiety. And with the so-called new norm, CHERRY has recently launched products that offer added protection. From Cherry Ion and Cherry Ion Lite, both personal wearable air purifiers to room air purifiers, UV lamps and more. “The severity of the situation has given us humanitarian challenge in all aspects of our lives right now. The duration is still unknown. All we can do is to manage it seriously by ensuring that we are protected and safe. Thus, CHERRY is providing health essential devices that are relevant as added protection at very affordable price points. We want to make sure that every one has access and is able to own these essentials as their added protection,” Ngu added.

As CHERRY expands its horizons, it continues to uphold better customer care and its after-sales through a big number of service centers nationwide accessible to all their consumers in the country. 

NCR needs ‘stable decline’ in virus cases before it shifts to MGCQ – Zamora

Metro Manila mayors want a ‘stable decline’ in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases before the National Capital Region (NCR) shifts to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora said.

(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an interview over ANC, Zamora credited the “very sharp decline” in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the NCR to their effective interventions.

“Under GCQ (General Community Quarantine), we’re seeing a sharp decline. That means even if businesses are reopening, a lot of people are out already, the numbers can still go down,” Zamora added.

“This means our interventions are working, our mass testing is working, our strict implementation of guidelines,” he noted.

The San Juan chief noted that the public is also now getting used to imposed protocols and realizing “they can actually live with the virus.” 

“We can actually continue to live our lives, go out, work, do business, without having to really worry about getting infected because the numbers are going down,” he added.

However, Zamora said that the Metro mayors still want to see a stable decline in COVID-19 cases in the NCR.

“I think what Metro mayors want to see is a stable decline in the numbers. If and when we see that indeed the numbers continue to go down, then, we can now re-allow some industries and businesses to reopen,” he added.

Zamora said the mayors are also “being very careful” to avoid another uptick in the number of active cases like what happened when Metro Manila reverted to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from GCQ last August. 

On Monday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,073 new infections bringing the total  number of COVID-19 cases to 307,288.

Senators echo Duterte’s frustration over corruption, red tape in gov’t

Senators echoed on Tuesday President Duterte’s frustration over corruption and red tape in government.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he shares the President”s exasperation on the prevailing problems in the bureaucracy despite the enactment of the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Act.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri (Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Last night, my dear colleagues, the President once again showed his dismay, his frustration, so much so that he even mentioned a resignation or he wants to resign out of sheer frustration,” Zubiri said in opening the Senate hearing on the proposed grant of special power to the President to further streamline government processes and release of permits and licenses.

“As author of the EODB Law, I am quite frustrated why our law has not been very fruitful,” he added.

Senator Christopher Go said Duterte also expressed to military officials during a command conference his desire to step down from office.

“Sinabi niya gusto na niyang bumitaw dahil po sa korapsyon, dahil talagang exasperated na po ang ating Pangulo tuwing merong naririnig na korapsyon sa ating bansa (He said that he wanted to resign because of corruption, because our President was really exasperated everytime he hears of corruption issues in our country),” said Go, who served as Duterte’s special assistant.

“‘Yung three days to one week lang, dapat three days to one week lang po (If the prescribed period is three days to one week, then the process should be completed within three days to one week). Iyon ang gusto niyang mangyari kasi minsan inaabot ng ilang taon, ilang buwan, pinapatulog po yong mga papeles (That’s what he wants to happen, because sometimes, agencies sit on the document for weeks or years even). Something is wrong ibig sabihin (That means something is wrong),” Go said.

“That means there is inefficiency at best and corruption at worst,” he added.

The EODB Act, Republic Act 11032, reduces processing time and actions on application for permits and licenses from three to 20 days. It was enacted in 2018.

Zubiri maintained that while the EODB law is relatively new, he said its provisions are enough to curb delays in the bureaucracy.

“There must be a communications problem to the people and the President” on the coverage of the law and the authority it gave to the government to streamline transactions.

He asked the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) to communicate to the President and the people its programs and the provisions of the EODB Act.

Zubiri said the President has the authority to discipline and suspend erring officials who delay government processes.

“You can see the sheer frustration that we are feeling now, I, as an author of the EODB, it seems that it is not moving forward, and of course, I’m echoing the statements of the President last night and the previous meeting that he had with Congress,” Zubiri said.

The Senate Civil Service, Government Reorganization, and Professional Regulation subcommittee was deliberating on Senate Bill No. 1844 which seeks to authorize the President in the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications.

Netizen reports 2 Bulacan residents for regular hosting of drinking sessions

Two residents of Marilao town in Bulacan are now in trouble for frequently hosting drinking sessions, the photos and videos of which were sent to the Joint Task Force COVID Shield.

(UNSPLASH / MANILA BULLETIN)

Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, commander of the JTF COVID Shield, said a netizen sought their assistance through a private message to the COVID Shield Facebook page about the frequent social gathering in their community.

The netizen reported that those who attend the social gathering usually ignore the use of face masks and face shields and even the physical distancing which are part of the required minimum health safety standard protocol that must be observed in public places.

“Coordination was immediately made with the Marilao Municipal Police Station to inform them of the quarantine violations based on the complaint,” said Eleazar.

The Chief of Police of Marilao Police Station, Lt. Col. Dominador Ignacio, immediately sent his men to proceed to the Lhinette Subdivision in Barangay Saog but the social gathering was already stopped by the barangay officials.

The two suspects, Racquel Rivera and Cesar John Rivera, were invited to the barangay hall while the owner of the house was also warned by the local police.

The local police are now waiting for the action of the barangay officials as the netizen who reported the quarantine violations decided to file a complaint at the barangay and pursue the case.

Eleazar expressed gratitude to the netizen who reported the quarantine violations for contributing to the government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and heeding the call of the JTF COVID Shield to protect each and every person in the barangay from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“As promised, we will immediately act on your complaint through our Facebook page. Just send a message, and if possible, including the photos and short videos of the quarantine violations, and we will do the rest, including the protection of your identity,” said Eleazar.

Since the creation of the COVID Shield Facebook page on September 11, a total of 97 cases of quarantine violations based on netizens’ complaints and monitoring of viral photos and videos were acted upon. Most of the reports were in Metro Manila with 61, and CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) with 16.

Most of the cases, however, were settled at the barangay level through warning and the imposition of fine as penalty.

DepEd lauds initiatives of students, schools for the opening of classes

The Department of Education (DepEd) commended the efforts of students and schools nationwide to help ensure the smooth opening of classes in public schools on Oct. 5.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the DepEd recognizes the efforts of various students, teachers, and schools in making sure that education will be delivered to the learners.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones
(DepEd / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“As we approach the opening of the school year on October 5, we keep hearing good news,” Briones said – noting the efforts of various stakeholders in helping the department as the opening of classes approach.

In particular, DepEd cited the initiatives by youth leaders to assist fellow students in the New Normal. In response to help their fellow learners, two youth leaders shared in a recent DepEd press briefing their respective efforts to assist their schools and communities.

Ilocos Sur Supreme Student Government (SSG) president and incoming Grade 12 Alliah Sayo shared that their organization spearheaded several donation drives including “Kahon ng Karunungan” which is a project to help fellow learners in their education amidst the pandemic by distributing school supplies and hygiene kits.

“We will also be uploading online tutorial videos for the students about certain topics in their lessons and also we will be sharing learning materials like e-books and PDF files that can help them in the distance learning for the School Year 2020-2021,” Sayo said.

Likewise, San Pablo City Science Integrated High School SSG President Anna Abigail Ticzon highlighted “SciHigh on the Net” which aims to fully utilize social media pages and to connect more with schoolmates despite not seeing them in person amid the pandemic.

“Institutions have a responsibility to provide inclusive quality learning while students have a role to learn,” Ticzon said. “And with us being the student leaders, we are assigned to help in connecting these two ends and make it as one,” she added.

DepEd also cited the efforts of its Schools Division Office in Navotas City. To intensify info-advocacy on the milestones of the SDO Learning Continuity Program and on-going preparations for the Oct. 5 opening of classes, the Division recently launched “SDO Navotas Kwentong Navobox” which is a bite-size weekly social media video feature.

Meanwhile, DepEd Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio thanked all the stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, and school leaders – who continue to support DepEd’s Basic Education -Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP).

“Palagi nating aalalahanin na ang trabaho talaga ng DepEd ay ihanda ang kabataan para sa kanilang mga kinabukasan at kung handa po ang isip, handa sila bukas (Let’s always remember that DepEd’s real job is to prepare the youth for their future and if the mind is ready, they will also be ready for their future),” San Antonio added.

DoLE assures assistance to Filipino migrant workers

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) on Tuesday said the government continues to extend assistance to Filipino migrant workers infected with the coronavirus disease while working in host countries.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III
(ROBINSON NIÑAL JR. / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said DoLE is closely monitoring the status of COVID-19 cases as he is being updated by the 39 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO).

In the Middle East, Labor Attaché Gregorio Abalos, Jr. of POLO Oman reported to Bello that 122 OFWs have recovered, while four have succumbed to the disease.

He added that 107 OFWs have received the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) financial assistance, which is a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid to OFWs whose incomes were affected by the pandemic.

In Israel, Labor Attaché Rodolfo Gabasan said there are 65 recorded infections in the Filipino community, with 56 recoveries and one death.

The latest confirmed cases include two Filipinas who are both quarantined at Prima Park Hotel in Jerusalem.

Gabasan said a total of 336 OFWs have received the AKAP financial assistance as of September 27.

In Qatar, the POLO has recorded 3,052 OFWs who have tested positive of the disease and 17 OFWs who died of COVID-19.

In Europe, POLO Spain reported that among the 100 Filipinos monitored, 85 have recovered, while two tested negative and seven tested positive of COVID-19. There are also six recorded deaths among those OFWs monitored.

In France, eight OFWs have recovered, while six died of COVID-19; in Germany, 80 Filipinos have recovered; while in Belgium, seven Filipinos have recovered from COVID 19.

In Asia, 11 OFWs were infected with the coronavirus in Taiwan.

The POLO in Taiwan also reported that “all arriving OFWs from the Philippines will no longer be swab tested upon arrival, except for those who have symptoms; and that quarantine cost for arriving OFWs is free, a rule which is different from that imposed on other nationalities.”

Withdrawal of US funding will not affect PNP — Cascolan

No United States funding assistance? No problem.

The leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is banking on what it describes as continuous support of President Duterte as a good and reliable alternative should the US government decide to pull out its assistance to the police over human rights issues in the drug war.

Police Lt. Gen. Camilo Pancratius Cascola
(Facebook / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

PNP chief Gen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan stressed that the operation of the police will never be affected even without the assistance of the United States.

“For as long as the PNP has the support of the President, there’s no problem,” said Cascolan.

The official was reacting to the Resolution filed by at least 24 US lawmakers to withdraw the funding assistance to the Philippines due to reports of human rights abuses especially in the campaign against illegal drugs.

More than 5,000 drugs personalities were killed in police operations since 2016 while thousands more died at the hands of vigilante groups. More than 100 minors were also killed as ‘collateral damage’.

Aside from the United States, the European Parliament also proposed to withdraw the tax trade perks of Philippine products over the same concerns.

Cascolan said the US assistance was in the form of trainings, seminars, schoolings and conferences of police officers.

“If they pull put their (US) support from us, it will in no way affect the PNP,” said Cascolan.

“As long as we have the support of our President, we will be doing our job and the morale of the PNP is still very high,” he added.

Duterte has been supportive of both the police and the military. Aside from increasing the salary of policemen and soldiers, Duterte also ensure the funding of operational needs of the PNP that include the purchase of 10 helicopters.

Angat to reduce water allocation for domestic, irrigation uses

The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) will be reducing water allocations coming from Angat Dam for domestic and irrigation uses starting Oct. 1.

Angat Dam (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“Considering the level of the Angat Dam at around 3 meters below the minimum operating level of 180 meters and to manage relatively low level of the dam, the Board approved the allocation of 44 cubic meters per second (cms) for MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System) and 25 cms for NIA (National Irrigation Administration) for the month of October,” NWRB Executive Director Sevillo David Jr. said on Tuesday.

The 44 cms allocation for domestic use and 25 cms for irrigation are slightly lower than the current allocations at 46 cms and 30 cms, respectively, David added.

Angat Dam supplies the domestic water requirements of at least 16.5 million consumers Metro Manila and some parts of Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and Bulacan; irrigation needs of 28,000 hectares of agricultural land in Bulacan and Pampanga; and hydropower generation from its by-product water releases.

David assured that Metro Manila and nearby provinces will have sufficient water next month amid Angat Dam’s low water level.

He added that irrigation water may also only bring minimal effect on farms in Bulacan and Pampanga as it is already harvesting season in these provinces.

Based on the monitoring of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the water level in Angat Dam has slightly increased from 177.81 meters Monday to 177.94 meters on Tuesday.

However, its water level remains below the rule curve elevation at 185.7 meters.

PAGASA explained that the rule curve elevation is the minimum reservoir elevation needed to maintain by dam operators to ensure availability of water for irrigation, power generation, and domestic supply.

Too many subjects!

MEDIUM RARE

Jullie Y. Daza

To five-year-old Marco I ask, “And when will you read me a story?” He’s in kindergarten but, because his mother took advantage of the long lockdown to drill him on sight-reading, he can easily read grade-four-level words.

To my question his reply comes with a swak: “When COVID is done.”

Next question, “What subject do you think you can do without?”

Answer: “Meditation. I fall asleep.”

Marco has two sisters, ages 14 and 9. Among his cousins are a girl, 18, and a boy, 14. I ask Marco’s sisters and cousins, “Do you think kids can do with a simplified curriculum in the time of coronavirus?” Their answer, a resounding and unanimous “Yes!”

Education used to be classified as public or private. Now it’s either tech-driven or tech-deprived. Without going into the problems of blended learning, without considering the slow Internet speed and weak or no signal, and taking into account the headaches facing teachers, parents, and learners, it would be helpful if we did not saddle our young with too many subjects. The objective of early learning is not those big words, Success In Life, but knowing how to be safe; that’s it, that’s all. The rest can come later, even through self-discovery. Some of the most learned, interesting men I have met and worked with didn’t finish high school, but they were great, charming conversationalists.

Marco’s 18-year-old cousin, a UP coed, proposes a beginner’s curriculum of math, science, English. Three disciplines that should round off basic education for children in the grades. Going to school should mean tickling the curious bone, not a chance to let hoary adults control kids just because they have the power. Surviving the pandemic in a world turned upside-down by an invisible killer is tortuous enough for teachers and parents in their daily lives outside of teaching and supervising – why pull the children into the pressure cooker with them? Let them play, let them read, count, invent, and discover with their books but give them time to be left to their own devices, too. Let them be children first and foremost.

Millions of schoolchildren will be going “back” to “school” in a few days. The “new normal” is not normal. I wish them a more happiness-oriented DepEd.

Metro Manila, 5 other places to stay under GCQ

President Duterte has approved keeping the National Capital Region (NCR) under the general community quarantine (GCQ) along with five other areas for the entire month of October.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ALBERTO ALCAIN/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

In a statement, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to place the following under GCQ:

* National Capital Region
* Batangas province
* Tacloban City
* Iloilo City
* Bacolod City
* Iligan City

Lanao del Sur, including Marawi City, is still under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

The rest of the country, meanwhile, is under the modified GCQ (MGCQ) or the quarantine level with less strict protocols implemented.

Metro Manila, Batangas, and Tacloban were under GCQ during the last quarantine period (September 1 to 30) while Bacolod City and Iligan City were both under the MECQ.

Iloilo City, meanwhile, also reverted to GCQ after being placed under the MECQ on September 25. The MECQ period was supposed to last until October 9.

To date, the Philippines has recorded 307,288 COVID-19 cases, 5,381 of whom died while 252,665 recovered.

Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had recommended keeping Metro Manila under the general community quarantine (GCQ) along with one province and four cities for the month of October.

President Duterte met with Duque and the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases before approving the updated quarantine classification on Monday evening.

Top Visayas drug dealer killed in Negros Occidental

Police intelligence operatives killed an alleged top drug trafficker in Central and Western Visayas, who was also tagged as responsible for the killing of a former intelligence chief of Cebu province last year.

(photo from PRO6)

Brig. Gen. Rene Pamuspusan, director of the Western Visayas regional police, said Jinnefer Mercader tried to shoot it out with  policemen in a raid in his safehouse in Barangay Minoyan in Murcia, Negros Occidental on Monday morning.
 
Pamuspusan said Mercader was included in the list of Top 10 High Value Individuals in Central Visayas and was also involved in the distribution of illegal drugs in some provinces of Western Visayas.
 
Seized from Mercader during the operation were eight plastic sachets containing shabu with a street value of almost P500,000, a .45 pistol, and a shotgun.
 
Mercader used to be the barangay captain of Barangay Lugo in Borbon, Cebu. He was on the order of battle of the local police for his alleged involvement in illegal drugs activities.
 
In 2017, Mercader was arrested for illegal possession of firearms. The policeman who worked on his arrest was Police Lt. Col. Joie Yape, then the head of the intelligence unit of the Cebu Provincial Police Office.
 
Yape was gunned down in Cebu City in November last year. He was already assigned to the Internal Affairs Service at Camp Crame but was in Cebu City that time for a three-day seminar.
 
Pamuspusan said Mercader was a self-confessed hitman who did a lot of dirty work for various local politicians. One of his victims was allegedly Yape.
 
“We always consider him as armed and dangerous,” said Pamuspusan.
 
Based on the intelligence reports of the Western Visayas regional police, Mercader was involved in several drug activities and was able to evade operatives in the buy-bust operation on August 27 this year in Barangay Taculing, Bacolod City.
 
A case was filed against him for violation of RA 9165 (Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002). Since then, intelligence monitoring has intensified to locate him.