DOJ Sec. Guevarra says Duterte ‘fully understands’ COA’s mandate

Robie de Guzman   •   August 20, 2021   •   576

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte is fully aware of the constitutional mandate of the Commission on Audit (COA) to safeguard public funds.

Guevarra issued the statement days after Duterte told COA to stop flagging government agencies while documents are still being processed.

Duterte on Monday said COA should not flag government agencies while documents supporting every official transaction are still being collated and filed as this could create a perception of corruption among the public.

Duterte’s remark was triggered by the commission’s audit report flagging alleged deficiencies in the use of DOH’s COVID-19 funds.

Malacañang later clarified that Duterte was only asking the independent government body to stop publishing preliminary reports and not the annual audit reports.

The President as a lawyer fully understands the mandate of the COA as a constitutional body. I think his chief concern is on the way the COA’s preliminary findings are presented to the public and the impression that it leaves in the mind of the people prior to full compliance by the agency concerned,” Guevarra said.

The Justice secretary also emphasized that in general, government agencies “exert a lot of effort” to comply with numerous auditing rules and regulations, although they are often hampered by the tedious process of collating and submitting documents in support of each and every official transaction.

“I understand that the COA recognizes this constraint and has expressed willingness to review and simplify its requirements, without sacrificing safeguards to promote efficiency, transparency, and accountability in government service,” Guevarra said.

COA earlier stressed it is not releasing its reports to the media but are merely being uploaded to their website. The commission is also not releasing any press statements unless it is meant to clear terms or avoid misinterpretation.

“My understanding is that the COA regularly reports its observations on a government agency’s compliance with standard auditing rules and regulations and with other regulatory processes such as in the procurement of goods and services,” the DOJ chief said.

“The COA also makes observations on the utilization of government funds and resources at the disposal of the subject government agency,” he added.

He, however, noted that the matter of determining whether any deficiencies noted in the course of audit constitute a possible violation of law devolves upon other organs of the government.

The issue on COA’s audit report and the agencies concerned are currently being discussed in separate inquiries in Congress.

24K expired AstraZeneca vaccine doses sa Western Visayas, susuriin kung maaari pang gamitin – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2021

Ipinapasuri na ng Department of Health (DOH)-Western Visayas kung maaari pang gamitin ang nasa 24,000 doses ng AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine na nag-expire noong November 30.

Bahagi ito ng libu-libong supply ng AstraZeneca vaccine na ipinadala sa Western Visayas noong buwan ng Oktubre.

Nasa 45,000 doses sa mga ito ang ipinadala sa Negros Occidental noong Nobyembre 8. Batay sa ulat ng provincial government, 14,920 doses pa ang natitira sa mga ito at hindi nagamit hanggang sa mag-expire noong Nobyembre 30.

Ayon kay Negros Occidental provincial administrator Atty. Rayfrando Diaz II, hindi ginamit ang mga nasabing bakuna dahil tumanggi umano ang mga local government unit (LGU) na tanggapin ito dahil sa nalalapit na expiration date.

“We value our vaccines. We want to use them. We do not delay, but we value more the vaccinees. We don’t want to inject vaccines that are about to expire,” ani Diaz.

Ang natitirang 10,000 doses naman ay nasa iba’t ibang lokalidad.

Ayon sa DOH regional office, ipinasasauli na nila ang mga nasabing bakuna upang masuri kung maaari pa itong gamitin.

Ayon kay Bea Camille Natalaray, ang tagapagsalita ng DOH Region 6, hihingan rin ng paliwanag ang concerned LGUs kung bakit hindi nagamit ang nasabing supply.

“Magpapasa sila ng incident report to explain bakit hindi nila na-utilize ang vaccine within the period of time. Ano ang mga factors konoconsider para next time maging part na siya ng ating mga guidelines or protocols or strategies,” ani Natalaray.

Sa ngayon ay hinihintay pa ng DOH-6 ang magiging desisyon ng central office kung dapat bang managot ang mga LGU sa pagkasira ng mga bakuna. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Lalaine Moreno)

2.5 million vaccinated in day 1 of PH vaccination drive – DOH exec

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – More than 2.5 million individuals were inoculated against COVID-19 on the first day of the government’s three-day nationwide vaccination drive, a Department of Health (DOH) official said Tuesday.

In a public briefing, DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said a total of 2,554,023 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered on Monday.

This is 2.5 times the daily average last week, she added.

Of the total doses, the biggest chunk was administered in Calabarzon, followed by Central Luzon, Western Visayas, and Bicol regions.

Cabotaje, who also chairs the National Vaccination Operations Center, noted that the only “major challenge” they encountered in the first day of the vaccination drive were reports that some walk-ins at vaccination sites were not given the shots.

“Meron pong direktiba ang ating Presidente to vaccinate everyone… We allow walks-ins. Dapat po, walang uuwi na nakapila na hindi nabakunahan,” she said.

The government on Monday kicked off its three-day vaccination campaign, dubbed as “Bayanihan, Bakunahan” program, which aims to inoculate around 9 million people.

The campaign will end on Wednesday, December 1.

The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 earlier said the vaccination drive will only be the first leg of the program, which is focused on scaling up the inoculation rate of local government units for the first vaccine dose by covering up to 70% of their target populations.

The second leg of the vaccination event will be held from December 15 to 17, which will focus on ramping up the number of fully vaccinated individuals to achieve the government’s target of fully vaccinating at least 54 million Filipinos by year-end.

Duque says entry of Omicron variant to PH ‘a matter of when’

Robie de Guzman   •   November 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III believes that it is only a matter of time before the newly discovered Omicron COVID-19 variant reaches the country.

“It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ okay? It’s a matter of ‘when’,” said Duque when asked by President Rodrigo Duterte on the possibility of the Omicron variant entering the Philippines.

“So talagang iyan po, papasok ‘yan just as we have experienced with Alpha, Beta, Delta among the more compelling variants of concern, Mr. President,” he added.

Duque said that with the looming threat of the highly mutated and potentially more contagious variant, the Philippine government should intensify its major interventions against COVID-19.

These include the strict enforcement of the minimum public health standards, including the continued wearing of face masks and even face shields.

“Ang talagang face shield ay under the three 3C — 3Cs context in the closed spaces, mga-face shield, in crowded areas, in close-contact settings just like in the transport sector where people as we have increased the carrying capacities of our public utility vehicles. I think now with the threat of this Omicron variant, it will be an added layer of protection that will really be good for the public,” he said.

Duque also underscored the need for the country to widen its vaccination coverage to achieve herd immunity and have an edge against the new coronavirus variant.

“Massive vaccination rollout under your directive, Mr. President; we need to really widen and increase the vaccination coverage to reach population protection,” he said.

“Of course, the first milestone by the end of December 31st, we hope to be able to completely jab 54 million Filipinos and then by February of 2022, we should be able to realistically achieve 77 million Filipinos to be completely inoculated,” he added.

He then emphasized the importance of strengthening and preparing the country’s health systems capacity.

“Let’s take advantage of our low number of cases and prepare the health systems capacity again for the worst-case scenario,” he said.

The Omicron variant has yet to be detected in the Philippines.

To prevent its entry into the country, the government has expanded the Red List of countries that have reported the presence of the variant.

The Philippine government has recently expanded the Red List to include Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy. This is in addition to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique that were earlier placed in the Red List due to the threat of Omicron, which was first detected in the region.

The Red List, which is effective from November 28 until December 15, means that travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, coming from or who have been to the Red List areas within the last 14 days prior to their arrival will not be allowed to enter the Philippines.

Only Filipinos returning to the country via government-initiated or non-government-initiated repatriation and Bayanihan Flights may be allowed entry. However, they will be subject to the prevailing entry, testing, and quarantine protocols for Red List territories.

 

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