Guevarra on order to probe corruption in entire gov’t: ‘Toughest task from Duterte’

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2020   •   120

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said that the order for him to conduct a government-wide probe of corruption is his “toughest” assignment ever received from President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a taped speech aired on Tuesday morning, Duterte directed the DOJ to expand the role of its task force, which probed the alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), to cover the entire government.

He also authorized the DOJ to decide on which allegation to investigate taking into consideration the gravity thereof and their impact on the delivery of government service.

The chief executive also granted DOJ the power to create as many panels as necessary and direct other government agencies to be part of such committees.

Duterte said his directive will remain in effect until the end of his term on June 30, 2022 unless sooner lifted or revoked.

“Apart from my usual responsibilities as SOJ, this new assignment is the toughest I have ever received from the President,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

“I will need all the support and cooperation of the entire government machinery to achieve this singular objective of substantially reducing corruption in government,” he added.

Considering the scope of the task, Guevarra said he will first determine the overall strategy and the order of priorities as well as the setting up of the expanded anti-corruption task force.

“Tentatively, I am thinking of creating several strike forces that will simultaneously attack various corruption-prone agencies,” he said.

Guevarra also said that he intends to immediately focus on the organizational set-up and mechanism that will carry out the president’s directive.

The Justice Secretary added that it would also help if government workers and other people would come forward to provide the task force with the necessary information to uncover corrupt activities and identify perpetrators.

“The new and expanded anti-corruption task force will take it from there,” he said.

The DOJ already leads an inter-agency task force, formed in August, that probed alleged corruption in the PhilHealth which resulted in the filing of complaints against several officials, including former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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Duterte wants cops, soldiers to be first to get COVID-19 shot

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte wants to include policemen and soldiers in the list of sectors to be given priority in the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mass vaccination, citing their importance especially during times of emergencies.

“I need a healthy military and police kasi ‘pag magkasakit lahat ‘yan, wala na akong maasahan, wala na tayong mautusan kung gawin ‘to, gawin doon,” Duterte said during his meeting with the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) on Monday.

The president described the police and the military as the “errand boys of the Republic,” since uniformed personnel are at the forefront in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as rescue and relief efforts in areas affected by recent calamities.

“Kita naman ninyo ‘yung baha sa Luzon, several, nakita ninyo ‘yung military, Coast Guard, lahat na pumupunta na doon, pulis. And then they have to take care of the law and order situation,” he said.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said they will make use of geographical and sectoral strategies in the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

Areas with high cases of COVID-19 such as Metro Manila, Davao, and Cebu will be prioritized in the distribution of the vaccines.

Once the infected areas have been selected, vaccines will then be distributed to the target beneficiaries including essential workers, poor and vulnerable sectors.

Galvez earlier projected that the vaccine supply can be made available by the second quarter of 2021 once an agreement with vaccine developers has been signed.

Duterte calls for universal access to COVID-19 vaccine at APEC meeting

Marje Pelayo   •   November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte in his intervention at the first virtual summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting on Friday night stressed the importance of a comprehensive recovery process for all countries.

He called on APEC economies to ensure that medical supplies, COVID-19 vaccines, treatment and technologies related to the prevailing pandemic will be made available.

“We have to ensure the unimpeded flow of medical supplies and technologies, especially COVID-19 vaccines. It is folly to assume that there can be pockets of safe havens in the face of a global pandemic,” President Duterte said.

“We have to defeat the virus everywhere, or no one is safe. To do this, we need to strengthen partnerships to make vaccines a global public good,” he added.

He added that there are a number of mechanisms in place that can be maximized to improve regional cooperation on a universal access to vaccines.

Apart from this, the president also stressed the need for economic push to boost the economy and way of life in the region through free trade.

“The APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 recognizes the pressing challenges of today and foresees those of the future. Through this Vision, we reaffirm our support for a free and rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization as its vanguard,” he said.

US President Donald Trump, who attended the summit, agreed on the free trade pact while Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged each nation to defend multilateralism as well as participation in the creation of an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Zone.

This year’s APEC forum, hosted by Malaysia, approved the Putrajaya Vision 2040 – a 20-year growth vision.

It replaces the Bogor Goals and pushes for free trade and regional connectivity. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte OKs advance payment, emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   November 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the release of advance payments to the developers of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines to ensure that the Philippines will get a supply once these become available in the market, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the announcement following reports on successful trials of the vaccine by several developers.

Roque said the president did not want the country to be left behind in securing vaccine supply.

“So medyo, pumayag na po tayo na magkakaroon po tayo ng advance kasi pag di tayo pumayag baka mangulelat tayo sa mga bansang makakakuha ng vaccine,” he said.

Duterte previously rejected pharmaceutical companies seeking advance payments for COVID-19 vaccines, but Roque said the president changed his mind after seeing the list of countries that paid in advance.

“Alam ko po nung una, ayaw ni presidente yan [… ] importanteng masiguro na mayroon tayong bakuna, pumayag na po siya sa tinawatawag na advanced payment,” he said.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said the Philippines has communicated with countries, including China, Singapore and the United States of America, about the possible procurement of potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Galvez said the country is looking to purchase up to 50 million vaccines which will be funded through various financing modes.

“Kapag nakuha po ang advanced commitment this November, ang target po namin at the end of November, dalawa o tatlong kumpanya ang makukuha natin,” he said.

According to Roque, Duterte has also allowed the emergency use of coronavirus vaccines, and an executive order expediting its use in the country will be released.

“Kung mapipirmahan po ang executive order na ito, 21 araw na lang po, magagamit na rin natin sa Pilipinas,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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