Malacañang leaves it to PAO Chief to decide on resigning amid corruption complaint

Marje Pelayo   •   August 15, 2019   •   1011

Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is letting Atty. Persida Acosta to decide on whether or not to resign as Chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) following complaints of corruption.

PAO lawyers filed the complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman accusing the PAO Chief and forensics chief Erwin Erfe of corrupt practices in relation to the disbursements and allocation of the PAO budget.

Acosta and Erfe allegedly committed a ‘systematic scheme’ in diverting P13 million of the agency’s budget for office supplies for drafting Dengvaxia-related cases.

Presidential Spokesman Secretary Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, said that knowing President Rodrigo Duterte, his trust in his officials remains unless reports of irregularities are proven.

“Si President, hangga’t walang findings of probable cause, palaging andun ang trust (President (Duterte’s) trust on a person remains unless there is no finding of a probable cause),” Panelo said.

“Pero kung may probable cause na, ibang usapan iyon, then there will be suspension galing sa Ombudsman. Hindi naman teritoryo ni president iyon (But once a probable cause is established, that’s a different story. There will be suspension coming from the Ombudsman. It is no longer the President’s territory),” the Palace Spokesman concluded. – MNP (with details from Mai Bermudez)

Duterte relieves BI employees tagged in ‘pastillas scheme’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 20, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has relieved the officials and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) who are linked to the ‘pastillas scheme’.

The so-called ‘pastillas’ bribery scheme provides ‘VIP treatment’ to Chinese nationals who will pay P10,000 to Immigration officials.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, charges are also expected to be filed against the involved personnel.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has relieved all officials and employees of the Bureau of Immigration who are involved in the latest bribery scheme where they purportedly facilitate the entry into—and exit from—Philippine territory of foreigners working for Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) for an unauthorized fee,” he said.

The Palace official did not mention the identities of the involved Immigration employees or how many were relieved from service.

“May nag-report, may nag-reklamo (Someone filed a report, complaint), and apparently the proof constitutes probable cause. That’s why they were sacked,” Panelo added.

Meanwhile, Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts BI Chief Jaime Morente. However, there will be a follow-up Cabinet meeting to discuss the present situation in the Immigration Bureau.

“The present situation in the Bureau of Immigration, as well as how it is being run by Commissioner Jaime Morente, will be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting,” he said.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte issues EO imposing medicine price cap

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 18, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has issued an executive order that will impose price cap on medicines.

Based on Executive Order (EO) 104 or Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP) price regulations will be imposed through a maximum retail price (MRP) and maximum wholesale price (MWP) system.

“Access to affordable and quality drugs and medicines is now a reality under the Duterte administration. This is part of the real and lasting reform, which President Duterte has instituted in order that all Filipinos can live decent and comfortable lives,” according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

The EO is expected to lower the cost of medicines as much as 56 percent by May. In the first phase of MDRP, 87 medicines for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung diseases, major cancers, and other diseases have been included.

The Department of Health (DOH) has proposed 122 medicines and is reviewing to include more.

“DOH, together with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and stakeholders, was also tasked to review the price reduction of the remaining 35 drugs to finalize the list covered by the EO,” according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The DOH is set to release the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the said EO.

Duque also warned pharmaceutical companies or drug stores not abiding by the EO may face up to 15 years of imprisonment.—AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Duterte to visit tourist sites to boost tourism amid COVID-19 threat

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 17, 2020

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte prepares to board a helicopter after gracing the inauguration of the Sangley Airport Development Project in Cavite City on February 15, 2020. ALBERT ALCAIN/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte will visit popular tourist sites in the Philippines to promote local tourism amid the COVID-19 threat.

READ: It’s more fun in the Philippines: Duterte invites Filipinos to visit local tourism sites amid Covid-19 fears

The President may travel to Boracay, Cebu, and Bohol to attract more visitors and potentially make up for the losses of the current travel ban in China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

“He’s a magnet. His presence attracts people from attending an event,” according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Usec. Art Boncato said they will schedule a trip as soon as possible.

“We’re of course lining up destinations like Boracay, Cebu for instance even Bohol, as the initial list of destinations for the president most probably visit within the next couple of weeks,” he said.

READ: Duterte asks local carriers, hotels to help boost PH tourism amid COVID-19 threat

Tourism industry stakeholders agreed to help boost domestic travel by offering discounted airfare and hotel rates following a meeting with President Duterte.

“Come with me and be my travel companion. I’ll be traveling around the Philippines. Pasyal tayo dito sa atin. Unahin natin ‘yung atin. Mabuhay ang Pilipino. Mabuhay ang turismo ng Pilipinas,” Duterte said on his video message.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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