Duterte tells Cabinet execs to get clearance first before attending Senate hearing

Robie de Guzman   •   September 14, 2021   •   137

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered Cabinet members to seek his clearance first before attending Senate inquiries.

 “I will require that the Cabinet members invited to your [Senate] hearings that he will clear the invitation with me,” Duterte said in a taped public address that was aired on Tuesday.

The president issued the statement as he once again criticized the Senate for holding investigations into the government’s pandemic response for the alleged anomalous transactions and purchase of pandemic supplies.

Duterte said he is not questioning Senate’s authority to conduct investigations in aid of legislation. However, he noted that some officials invited as resource persons, especially those coming from the Executive department, have attended the hearings for hours but are not given the time to say their testimonies.

He also acknowledged the upper chamber’s power to cite a person in contempt but stressed that as the president, he can also exercise his authority over his Cabinet members.

“May option kayo to cite the person in contempt. Ako na magsabi. Ako ang may utos na hindi mag-attend,” he said.

“I think I can do it as a president really if there is an abuse of authority there or exceeding the authority of the reasonable time that the Congress conducts hearing I will limit what you can do with the Rxecutive department of the government,” he added.

He also accused lawmakers of “stretching” the hearings as part of their strategies come 2022 elections.

“Tingnan ko kung pabalik-balik na lang with no other purpose except to ramble, to stretch the hearing because that is good for election until may be the election itself. Okay man yan because you are entitled to your own strategy,” he said.

Duterte likewise said he will campaign against Senator Richard Gordon for being an “unfit” lawmaker.

Gordon is the chairman of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that is holding a probe into the government’s COVID-19 response.

Quezon City gov’t looking into possible causes of COVID-19 spread in 2 convents

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

The Quezon City Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit (CESU) is currently looking into the possible causes of COVID-19 outbreak in two convents in the city, the local government said Thursday.

In a statement, the city government said massive contact tracing efforts are underway to contain the further transmission of the virus.

A total of 114 individuals, including 64 nuns and 50 staff members, tested positive for COVID-19 at the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) in Cubao.

At the Convent of the Holy Spirit, 22 individuals were confirmed to have caught the virus, including 13 nuns and 9 staff members.

The city government said both facilities have been placed under lockdown.

CESU chief Dr. Rolando Cruz said they became aware of the situation after the cases were recorded in the surveillance data reported by a testing laboratory.

“Hindi po tayo ang nag-swab sa kanila. Nagpa-test po sila sa iba at nang lumabas na ang resulta sa laboratory, na-record ito sa surveillance data,” he said in the same statement.

“Now, our team is conducting an investigation and intensive contact tracing to get more details about the matter,” he added.

Cruz said part of the ongoing investigation is to determine if any of the positive individuals had any close contact with anyone outside of their facility.

Initial investigation revealed that a nun at the Convent of Holy Spirit passed away due to COVID-19 in early September. A physical therapist in the facility was reportedly exposed to the patient.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte earlier ordered the CESU to conduct active surveillance of closed settings in the city such as nursing homes and convents after 122 people, including 99 children, in an orphanage tested positive for COVID-19.

Philippines won’t cooperate with ICC probe, Palace maintains

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday maintained that the Philippine government will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines and its decision to authorize an investigation into the killings under the government’s war on drugs is interference into the country’s domestic affairs.

He also stressed that the country has already withdrawn from the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the ICC.

In March 2019, the Philippines effectively withdrew from the Rome Statute after Duterte cancelled the country’s membership of the ICC’s founding treaty.

Under the ICC’s withdrawal mechanism, the court retains jurisdiction over crimes committed during the membership period of a state.

The ICC on Wednesday said that its Pre-Trial Chamber 1 has granted then Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to formally conduct a full investigation into the Philippines’ drug war.

Bensouda previously argued that there is a reasonable basis to believe that murder has been committed in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 in the context of the state policy.

But Panelo said the ICC can only conduct an investigation if the state’s judicial system is no longer functional, which is not the case in the Philippines.

It must also be proven that the state is unwilling to prosecute suspects in order for the ICC to launch a probe.

Panelo said ICC probers will not be allowed to enter the Philippines. He also believes that the investigation was politically motivated.

COVID-19 reproduction rate in NCR slows down to 1.28 – OCTA

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The reproduction number of coronavirus disease in the National Capital Region (NCR) has improved in the past few days, the OCTA Research Group said Thursday.

In a report posted on Twitter, OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David noted that NCR’s reproduction number, which refers to the average number of secondary infections by each positive case, eased to 1.28 from Sept. 9 to 15.

This rate is lower than the 1.39 reported during the period covering Sept. 2 to 8.

David also noted that the one-week growth rate of NCR dipped to 9 percent from Sept. 8 to 15, compared to the 14 percent recorded from Sept. 2 to 8.

“Kapag bumaba iyong reproduction number kumakaunti ang hawaan, bumabagal ang hawaan. The growth rate will also decrease like ngayon sa NCR, 1.28 reproduction number growth rate is 9% kapag bumaba ang reproduction number to 1 iyong growth rate naman pababa to 0% then magiging negative,” David said in an interview.

“Kapag negative na ang growth rate ibig sabihin kumakaunti na ang cases natin… In fact, nationally 6% na lang ang nadagdag,” he added.

David also said that the capital region recorded an average of 5,819 cases per day over the past week, while the daily attack rate per 100,000 population climbed to 41.66 from the previous 38.24. It also registered a positivity rate of 25 percent.

He noted that the NCR has not yet peaked but there is hope that it may happen in one or two weeks.

“We might be getting close to the peak nationally… That’s why we have renewed again hope that we might not hit 30,000,” he said.

“Most likely today we’ll see 20,000+ cases […] even up to 21,000 to 22,000 but we hope na it will be controlled in the sense it will not exceed the previous high 25,000-26,000. Maybe the trend will start to decrease,” he added.

David also expressed hope that the country’s health system will be able to take a breather by next month if the downward trend continues.

“Based on the trends that we are seeing, by October I am predicting —hindi ito projection, may kasamang hope and prayer — that by October, downward trend na tayo,” he said.

“Pero iyong hospitalization will still remain high for foreseeable future up to the next few weeks,” he added.

He, however, called on the public to continue adhering to the minimum public health and quarantine protocols to help curb COVID-19 infections.

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