Malacañang expects Go, Bato, Tolentino to be independent as senators

Robie de Guzman   •   May 16, 2019   •   1844

(L-R) Former Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, former presidential adviser Francis Tolentino, former special assistant to the president Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday (May 16) said it expects incoming senators, particularly those who are close allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, to be independent when it comes to issues involving national interest.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement following concerns that the check and balances in government may be affected as administration-backed Senate bets look set to join the upper chamber of Congress.

Partial and unofficial count from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed that nine Senate bets endorsed by Duterte are in the top 12.

These are reelectionist Senator Cynthia Villar, former special assistant to the president Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, former Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, former presidential adviser Francis Tolentino, House Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, reelectionist senators Sonny Angara and Koko Pimentel, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and former Senator Bong Revilla.

Three of them – Go, Dela Rosa and Tolentino – are known close allies of Duterte.

Panelo, however, believes that the three will do their job well and always put first the best interest of the nation.

 “It’s just happened that they are very close to the president but that doesn’t mean they will be subservient,” he said.

“Whether or not Senate or Congress is dominated by the allies of whoever is incumbent, we expect them to pass economic reforms that will be beneficial to the Filipino people. The issue on whether you are an ally or not should not be discussed,” he added.

Panelo stressed that the mandate of the Congress is to pass laws that will be beneficial for the people.

“It’s about time to eradicate the discussion on parties’ consideration. That is where we fail,” he said.

Aside from Duterte’s allies, other senatorial candidates who are in the winners’ circle based on partial tally are reelectionist senators Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, and former senator Lito Lapid. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Gov’t assigns anti-COVID-19 czars to boost fight against virus

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 14, 2020

The Duterte Administration assigned anti-COVID czars to intensify the country’s response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Malacañang admitted that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continues to rise but it assured that the administration is still in control of the situation.

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. introduced the four anti-COVID czars, namely, Secretary Vivencio Dizon as Chief Testing Czar, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as Chief Tracing Czar, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar as Chief Isolation Czar, and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega as Chief Treatment Czar.

Roque explained that all four anti-COVID czars will be directly under the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) led by Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

Mas malawakang targeted testing, mas maraming isolation centers, mas matinding tracing, at mas matinding treatment para sa mga nagkakasakit. Lahat po yan sa ilalim ng NTF, sa ilalim ng ating Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez (More extensive targeted testing, additional isolation centers, improved contact tracing, and better quality of treatment for patients. All of these will be under the NTF, under Chief Implementer Secretary Galvez),” Roque said.

Chief Testing Czar Secretary Dizon reported there are now 85 COVID-19 laboratories nationwide, with nearly 1 million tests done as of July 11. Daily tests as of July 9 reached 25,000, nearing the 30,000 daily tests target by end of the month.

For tracing, Chief Tracing Czar Mayor Magalong said they are seeking to intensify skills training for contact tracers and use a contact tracing e-system composed of a COVID-19 data collection tool, a GIS (geographical information system) platform, and a Link Analysis Tool.

Chief Isolation Czar Secretary Villar said they plan to construct more quarantine facilities nationwide. Aside from the existing 129 regional evacuation centers, they are also building quarantine facilities in Region 7, Region 8, Region 10, and in Region 12.

Meanwhile, Chief Treatment Czar Dr. Vega said expanding hospital capacity will be one of his priorities. He also introduced One Hospital Command which will be in charge of both public and private hospitals and quarantine facilities in terms of planning healthcare capacity among others.

Galvez also said the NTF will also focus on the economy and social recovery of the country.

Nandito po tayo sa sitwasyon na dahan-dahan nating binubuksan ang ating ekonomiya. Bagaman nandito po ang threat ng virus, kailangan na nating i-recover ang ating mga ekonomiya para manumbalik po ang negosyo at trabaho ng ating mamamayan (We are in a situation where we are slowly opening our economy. Even though the threat of the virus is still there we still need our economy to recover so that businesses and jobs will reopen for our citizens), he said. –AAC

Malacañang admits shortcomings in not building more laboratories soon enough

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 9, 2020

Malacañang admitted the government had shortcomings in not building more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing laboratories to boost the country’s response against the pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the country only began having more testing laboratories last March, adding that the country should have already boosted its testing capacity when the first COVID-19 case was reported.

Inaamin po natin na medyo naging mabagal ang proseso sa lumipas po na dalawang buwan (We admit the process has been slow in the past two months),” he said.

“If I were to look back, what could have we done better? Siguro po noong nagkaroon tayo ng unang kaso imported case ng COVID, dapat pinalawak na natin ang testing capacity natin agad (When we had the first imported case of COVID-19, we could have already boosted our testing capacity), Roque added.

The country only had one COVID-19 laboratory in January. As of July 7, licensed RT-PCR laboratories across the country have reached 78. The Palace official said the government is improving its COVID-19 testing, treatment, and contact tracing to better the response against the virus.

The Duterte Administration also called on the public, local government, and business establishments to be more responsible in following minimum health standards including social distancing, wearing face masks, and hand washing.

Roque also announced the government will further boost its targeted testing.

Bukod po sa 10 million na naorder natin at 1 million na na-deliver na PCR testing, magkakaroon ng mas malawak na targeted testing na iaanunsyo po natin sa mga darating na panahon (Aside from the 10 million we ordered and the 1 million PCR testing that has been delivered, there will be wider targeted testing which we will announce soon), he said. –AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Tolentino seeks tax deduction for WFH employees

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 7, 2020

Senator Francis Tolentino is proposing a tax deduction for work-from-home (WFH) employees, particularly on electricity consumption, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Tolentino said he would file a bill with committee chairman Senator Sherwin Gatchalian that aims to “provide a reasonable deduction on the gross income of any taxpayer who has incurred additional electricity consumption while working at home.”

Ito pong ginastos ng ating mga nagtatrabaho sa bahay, pwedeng ikarga bilang deductible expense sa pagbabayad ng buwis dahil po nabawasan ang gastos ng kanilang pinapasukan (The expenses of the WFH employees can be accounted as deductible expense because their companies are saving up on costs),” he said.

READ: Meralco apologizes for ‘bill shock’; to explain bill computation

Meanwhile, the senator also asked Meralco to make its messaging clearer and simpler for consumers after the confusion over its monthly billing during the lockdown period. AAC

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