De Lima camp assessing effect of Jaybee Sebastian’s death on her drug cases

Robie de Guzman   •   July 21, 2020   •   439

MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima said her lawyers are now assessing the effects of the death of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian on the drug-related charges filed against her.

“My lawyers are still assessing the effect of Sebastian’s death on the cases against me, considering that he is or was the Duterte regime’s supposed ‘star’ witness,” De Lima said in a dispatch from Camp Crame on Monday.

“However, all testimonies coming from the inmates and some other so-called witnesses are all fabrications anyway. One less fabrication might be good in my case, but let us not forget all the other testimony fabrications. Whether the fabricator is dead or alive does not change the fact that their stories are all lies, and that the cases against me are all fake,” she added.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday said that Sebastian was among the nine high-profile inmates of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City who succumbed to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made the confirmation following a meeting with Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag on Monday afternoon. 

Bantag earlier refused to reveal the name of inmates who died from COVID-19 citing Data Privacy Act.

Guevarra has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation into the deaths of the inmates after Bantag informed him of the protocol in the event of an inmate’s death from coronavirus disease which include the mandatory cremation of the cadaver within 12 hours to prevent the spread of the infection.

Sebastian was the key witness in the alleged Bilibid drug trade and drug trafficking cases against De Lima which are currently pending before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

The senator, who is one of the Duterte administration’s vocal critics, has been detained since 2017.

“The Duterte regime can have 100 live witnesses for all I care. But this still does not change the fact that the charges against me are absolutely false and fictitious. Conversely, the regime’s witnesses can all be dead, but this will not prevent Duterte and his operators from inventing other evidence to keep me in jail,” De Lima said.

“My point is, under normal conditions, these cases would have been dismissed a long time ago. But under conditions of a dictatorship where it is the dictator himself who has a very personal stake on the cases, and given the state of our justice system, I will not wonder if dead witnesses can still be made to rise from the grave and made to testify,” she added.

Meanwhile, De Lima raised alarm anew over the “dire conditions” existing in the country’s jails during the public health crisis, and even the pre-pandemic times.

“COVID-19 is not a joke, as the Duterte regime has treated it, especially in our prison system that hosts the perfect conditions for the spread of the virus,” she said.

“Regardless of who the dead are, whether free citizens or PDLs, they shall remain to be counted as the victims of the incompetence, indifference, and impunity of the Duterte Administration in dealing with the pandemic that has resulted in more suffering for our people, not to mention the devastation of the economy after months of lockdown but with absolutely nothing to show for it,” she added.

She then called on the Duterte administration to “step down, and hand over the reins of government” to Vice President Leni Robredo.

No need for testing, quarantine for Pinoys from countries with low COVID-19 cases — DOH

UNTV News   •   October 20, 2020

Filipinos returning from countries with low coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases no longer need to undergo quarantine and testing, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

DOH Spokesperson Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire said the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued classification on different prevalence levels of each country for the department to determine which countries have low COVID-19 cases.

“For those low to medium prevalence countries na may COVID-19, kapag dumating ang mga OFWs dito maaari nang hindi na muna i-test. Mag-comply ng minimum health standards, they can go back to their provinces, (For those with low to medium prevalence countries with COVID-19, OFWs from those areas no longer need to be tested. Just comply with the minimum health standards and they can go back to their provinces),” Vergeire said.

However, the Health Department reiterates that Filipinos who return to their provinces still need to follow the minimum health standards and symptoms monitoring implemented in the area. Vergeire said the local government units (LGUs) will be in charge of monitoring their condition and COVID-19 testing, if necessary.

It is also under the LGUs mandate to test individuals entering their areas to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Whatever the local governments would require for them to enter into their province, they have to comply,” Vergeire said.

She added LGUs have their own guidelines for domestic travelers, including those who are coming from areas with high COVID-19 cases, such as the National Capital Region. -AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Baguio City, tatanggap na ng turista mula Metro Manila, iba pang panig ng Luzon simula Oct. 23

Robie de Guzman   •   October 20, 2020

Simula sa Biyernes, Oktubre 23 ay maaari nang bumisita sa Baguio City ang mga turistang magmumula sa Metro Manila pati na sa Cagayan Valley at Central Luzon.

Ayon sa lokal na pamahalaan ng Baguio City, layunin nito na muling pasiglahin ang industriya ng turismo at iba pang sektor na malubhang naapektuhan ng coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Paalala ng mga otoridad sa mga bibisita, sumunod sa health protocols at iba pang panuntunan upang maiwasan ang pagkalat ng COVID-19.

Ang mga bibisita sa lungsod ay kailangang dumaan sa mahigpit na screening process.

Obligado rin silang mag-register online sa pamamagitan ng Visitors Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA) website, at magkaroon ng confirmed booking ng accommodation at designated hotel bilang bahagi ng monitoring sa mga bisita.

Kailangan ring magpakita ang mga turista ng negative confirmatory COVID-19 test result na isinagawa bago bumiyahe.

Limitado lang sa 200 turista ang maaaring pumasok sa Baguio City kada araw.

Una nang binuksan ang turismo sa lungsod noong Oktubre 1 para sa mga bisita mula sa Ilocos Region. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Grace Doctolero)

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Duterte promises to settle PhilHealth’s multi-million debt to Philippine Red Cross

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte assures the public that the government will settle what it owes to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing. 

The President said the government will present its plan to the Commission on Audit (COA) and will look for funds through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Itong Red Cross, wag ka mag-aalala, babayaran ito (To the Red Cross, don’t you worry. You will get paid). We’re just looking for a way to present the solution to COA pati sa Budget. Do not worry we will pay. It will take time but we will pay, we will look for the money,” he said during his public address, Monday evening (October 19).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the government hopes to settle at least 50 percent of more than P930 million owed to PRC as soon as possible.

“We hope to settle at least 50% of that amount as soon as possible. And the rest also within reasonable time,” he said.

The arrears came from expenses incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to the PRC in relation to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR testing for coronavirus infection.

The President reiterated that the government’s priorities amid the pandemic are providing medical attention to the Filipinos and procuring medical equipment.

He also believes that the PRC through its chairman Senator Richard Gordon will understand the government’s position on the matter.

“What I’m really trying to say is we will pay. Sabi ko kay Senator Gordon, because he heads the Red Cross, na babayaran ko ito,” the President said. 

Nonetheless, the government has assured the public that the COVID-19 testing in the country will not be affected by the debts owed to the PRC.

Specimens from returning overseas Filipino workers as well as from frontliners which used to be accommodated by the PRC will now be sent to more than 100 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country for processing. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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