Duterte wants NBI to probe lambanog poisoning incident in Laguna, Quezon – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   December 27, 2019   •   720

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the reported incidents on lambanog poisoning in Laguna and Quezon over the holidays, a government official said Friday.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed this is in a message to reporters.

The NBI was ordered to submit its findings immediately.

Around 16 people were killed and hundreds of others were hospitalized after ingesting lambanog or distilled coconut wine.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier revealed that five of the seven samples of lambanog tested positive for high levels of methanol.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said that lambanog poisoning is caused by residual methanol, which in high levels becomes highly toxic for humans.

Methanol is a naturally occurring substance present during the distilling process, that should be separated and removed thereafter, the DOH added.

The symptoms of methanol poisoning include vomiting, stomach pain and dimming eyesight.

The FDA has repeatedly issued warnings to lambanog brewers over its high methanol content, and urged the public to exercise extreme caution in purchasing and consuming the alcohol beverage.

It also advised the public to only buy lambanog brews that are registered with the FDA.

The sale of lambanog has been ordered suspended in the town of Rizal in Laguna where most of poisoning incidents were reported.

NBI exec, brother face raps over alleged pastillas scam

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed graft and extortion complaints against its official and his brother from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) over the alleged ‘pastillas scheme.’

Atty. Joshua Paul Capiral, NBI’s legal assistance chief, and his brother, Christopher John, an officer at the BI’s medical section, underwent inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning.

The brothers are facing extortion complaints under the Revised Penal Code, and violation of the Anti-Graft Practices Act, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Executive Order No. 608 which established the national security clearance system for government personnel with access to classified matters.

The two were arrested in an entrapment operation on Monday night for allegedly receiving bribes from individuals implicated in the pastillas scheme in exchange for exclusion from the charges.

Nineteen Immigration officers allegedly linked to the pastillas scheme are currently facing charges filed by the NBI at the Office of the Ombudsman last month.

The modus was called pastillas, derived from a Filipino sweet and sticky dessert, because the bribe money that some personnel receive were wrapped in paper.

The scheme allegedly takes advantage of Chinese casino high-rollers and offshore gaming workers who wish to be escorted to dodge the immigration screening process for a fee.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has ordered a reinvestigation into the pastillas scheme.

“Considering that the NBI investigation appeared to have been tainted, I will order a reinvestigation of the so-called ‘pastillas’ racket involving some unscrupulous BI employees,” he said in message to reporters.

Meanwhile, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente welcomed the development and assured support for the drive to cleanse the agency of corruption.

Morente also vowed to continue its campaign against corruption activities within the agency.

“We will continue to pursue our campaign against BI personnel engaged in corrupt activities in coordination with NBI and other law enforcement agencies in support of President Duterte’s desire to cleanse the agency,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Duterte hits gov’t critics, vows to uphold human rights at UN

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte blasted the critics of his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism, whom he said are using the human rights issue to discredit functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government.”

In a pre-recorded message aired at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Duterte highlighted the Philippines Anti-Terrorism Law which was passed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure drew criticisms, with several groups claiming this could be used to silence and prosecute political opponents.

“A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned,” Duterte said in his message.

This is the first time that Duterte participated in the gathering since he became president four years ago.

“They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected which in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support,” he said.

“These detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans; even using children as soldiers or human shields in encounters. Even schools are not spared from their malevolence and anti-government propaganda. They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through,” he added.

Duterte said his administration remains committed to protecting human rights and continue to take part in “ open dialogue and constructive engagement” with the United Nations.

“But these must be done in full respect of the principles of objectivity, non-interference, non-selectivity, and genuine dialogue. These are the fundamental bases for productive international cooperation on human rights,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte calls for equal access to COVID-19 vaccine at UN assembly

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – In his first appearance at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized that all countries, rich or poor, should have equal access to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine “as a matter of policy.”

In a pre-recorded video message to the UN convention that aired on Wednesday, Duterte stressed the necessity of coordinated international plans and efforts to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, which he called as the “biggest test the world and the United Nations faced since World War II.”

He also pointed out that ensuring universal access to COVID-19 technologies and products to combat COVID-19 would be “pivotal in the global pandemic recovery.”

“The world is in the race to find a safe and effective vaccine. When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy,” he said.

“The Philippines joins our partners in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the Non-Aligned Movement in raising our collective voice: the COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good,” he added.

Duterte also welcomed the launch of UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund which is designed to aid low and middle-income countries to overcome the health and development crisis caused by the pandemic as well as support those severely affected by the economic and social disruption it caused.

“COVID-19 knows no border. It knows no nationality. It knows no race. It knows no gender. It knows no age. It knows no creed,” he said.

“The Philippines values the role that the United Nations plays in its fight against the pandemic. As a middle-income country whose economic advances have been derailed by the pandemic, we welcome the launch of the UN COVID Response and Recovery Fund,” he added.

During his speech, Duterte also recognized the sacrifices of medical professionals and other workers who are on the frontlines in the fight against the pandemic.

“We salute all frontliners who put their lives on the line even in countries not their own. So also do we honor and recognize the healthcare professionals who selflessly answered the call to combat the COVID-19 pandemic despite its virulence and unknown characteristics,” he said.

The viral respiratory disease has so far infected over 31 million people across the globe.

In the Philippines, the number of COVID-19 cases has reached 291,789 as of Tuesday. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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