2,000 cops pulled out from Taal-affected areas return to normal duties

Robie de Guzman   •   January 30, 2020   •   360

MANILA, Philippines – The 2,000 policemen who were part of the reactionary standby support force (RSSF) deployed to assist in the evacuation of families affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano have returned to their normal duties, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.

In a statement, PNP Spokesperson Brigadier General Bernard Banac said the recall of the cops was ordered by Police chief General Archie Gamboa on Wednesday night in compliance with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte had ordered the withdrawal of policemen and cops stationed in communities affected by the volcano’s unrest as he expressed concern for their respiratory health after possibly inhaling volumes of ash spewed by Taal while performing their duties.

Banac said the policemen would undergo medical check-ups to ensure that they have not acquired any ailment during their deployment in the Calabarzon region.

He added that all members of the RSSF will return to their respective units effective Thursday.

The PNP assured that local government units and police forces assigned in Calabarzon will continue to provide security and assistance in the relief operations for those still affected by the activities of Taal Volcano.

The move was implemented after Taal Volcano’s status was downgraded to alert level 3, which means a decreased tendency towards hazardous eruption.

The lowered alert level allowed residents outside the 7-kilometer danger zone to go back to their homes.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, however, said the downgraded alert level should not be interpreted that the unrest has ceased or that the threat of a hazardous eruption has disappeared. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

Malacañang allays public fear of possible Facebook ban

Marje Pelayo   •   September 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has allayed public fear of a possible ban on social media giant Facebook following President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks on Tuesday night (September 29) expressing his disappointment over the platform’s policy.

“You cannot lay down a policy for my government. I allow you to operate here. You cannot bar or prevent me from espousing the objectives of the government,” Duterte said. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President wants to have a talk with Facebook to clarify issues regarding its censorship policy against pages that support the government.

“Number 1 po kasi tayo sa buong mundo sa Pilipinas so kung wala tayo, malaking kawalan yan sa Facebook [The Philippines is the number 1 user in the world. It’s a big loss to Facebook],” Roque said.

“Pero at the same time, dahil nga number 1 tayo, marami ring Pilipino ang gumagamit ng Facebook. Maapektuhan din. So sinabi naman ng president, pag-usapan iyan [But at the same time since we are number 1, many Filipinos are using Facebook. It will affect us. So the President wants a discussion about it],” he added.

Among the accounts that have been taken down is the advocacy group Hands Off Our Children, a page which aims to protect minors from recruitment by extremists who entice youths to become combatants and fight the government.

Meanwhile, Malacañang has again questioned Facebook’s choice of fact-checkers— online news platforms Rappler and Vera Files— who are critical of the present administration.

Roque said the government is now contemplating on commissioning fact-checkers of social media platforms in the country similar to what other countries are doing.

“Pag-aaralan po natin kung dapat gawin natin iyan dahil di po tayo makakapayag na ang fact-checkers ay tanging mga laban lamang sa gobyerno [We will take that into consideration because that has to be done. We cannot allow that fact-checkers are only those who are all against the government],” Roque concluded. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Lacson, Sotto to Duterte: Don’t resign, just apply anti-graft laws to both friends, foes

Robie de Guzman   •   September 29, 2020

MANILA, Phillippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said that President Rodrigo Duterte should just implement the anti-graft laws to all violators instead of resigning if he wants to end corruption in the government.

READ: Duterte admits offering to resign over endless corruption in government

“Instead of resigning, the President only needs to be consistent in applying the anti-graft and corruption laws to both friends and foes,” Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson issued the statement after Duterte said he has offered to step down from office out of frustration over the rampant corruption in the country.

“Ewan ko kung sabihin ko ito sa inyo. I offered to resign as president. Pinatawag ko yung lahat, sabi ko, ‘Kasi nagsasawa na ako. In my years of government […] talagang wala na katapusan itong korupsyon. Mahirap talaga pigilin,” Duterte said during his public address late Monday night.

The president’s remarks follows on the heels of fresh allegations of irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Duterte earlier promised to fire officials over just “a whiff” of corruption.

“Strong words and warnings may work, but only when backed by political will and followed by concrete actions. There is no better way,” Lacson said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also said that it is the corrupt officials who should be resigning and not Duterte.

“Dapat ‘yung mga corrupt sa gobyerno makaisip noon, hindi siya. He was elected by the country, he cannot turn his back on the specified task by the Filipinos! I don’t think he means it,” Sotto said in a message to reporters.

As for Duterte’s offer to appear before a Congressional hearing to tackle corruption, Lacson said it may not be necessary.

“In fact, the Senate is already proposing in a bill to give him Bayanihan-like powers to address red tape in government,” he said.

Lacson was referring to Senate Bill 1844 which seeks to authorize the president to expedite the issuance of national and local permits and licenses in times of national emergency to address corruption and red tape in the government. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte admits offering to resign over endless corruption in government

Marje Pelayo   •   September 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has mentioned more than once in the past, wanting to step down from his post due to massive corruption in government.

He repeated himself on Monday evening (September 28) during his late night public address.

“I offered to resign as president. Ipinatawag ko ang lahat. Sabi ko, ‘Kasi nagsasawa na ako. In my years of government, talagang wala na katapusan itong korupsyon. Mahirap talaga pigilin (I called everyone and said, “I am getting tired of it. In my years of government service, corruption is endless. It’s very difficult to eradicate),” the President said.

Specifically, the President expressed deep dismay over corruption and irregularities in the management of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

He said he is keen on proposing to Congress to dissolve the state insurance agency as he admits privatizing it cannot be an option. 

PhilHealth, I am going to propose to Congress to abolish [it]. Kung i-privatize mo naman, walang pera (If it will be privatized, there is no money), he said.

PhilHealth is facing a big revamp or reorganization among its officials and employees following a series of hearings and investigations on the anomalies within the agency.

Meanwhile, the President defended the government’s move to sell several state properties. He cited the need to raise funds to support the health sector’s COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and response plan.

“That is why we are selling properties. That’s the reason why we are selling real estate properties in Japan — because we have to raise money,” he said.

Wala nang pambayad diyan sa PhilHealth na iyan. Kaya walang ibang remedy diyan (There is no more money to pay for PhilHealth. There are no other remedies). It must be a surgical move,” he said. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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