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REPASO 2018: Dengvaxia scare, communist terrorism and the Martial Law

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

 

The trauma of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine has caused the government the public’s trust to its other vaccination programs.

Measles cases in the country soared by more than 300% last year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

This was because of the public’s fear of having the same fate as the alleged Dengvaxia vaccinees whose death remain uncertain to this day, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

“There is a significant drop in the confidence of our people in the immunization program of the DOH from 92% to measly 33%. Ang laki ng bagsak talaga,” Duque said.

It was a “lesson learned the hard way”, the DOH said, referring to the impact of the Dengvaxia controversy.

That’s why the agency wants to change how the public views of the agency.

 

A hearing on the controversial dengue vaccine

“Kung mag-i-introduce ka ng new health program, mag-i-introduce ka ng bagong bakuna,  bagong intervenyion kailangan talaga pag- aralan mo. Kailangan kompleto talaga ang iyong ebidensya. Kailangan alam mo ang magiging resulta. You have to communicate it properly doon sa mga recipients, kailangan naitindinhan din ng recipients kung ano iyong tinatanggap nila,” explained Health Spokesperson Undersecretary Eric Domingo.

But aside from the health concerns, the government also faced challenges in security this year.

President Rodrigo Duterte once again requested Congress to extend the declaration of Martial Law in the province of Mindanao for another year or until December 31, 2019.

IMAGE_UNTV_NEWS_110117_Marawi City

FILE PHOTO: Marawi City ruins (UNTV News)

According to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the extension is needed as terrorist groups like Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF), Daulah Islamiya and other terrorist groups sowing fear in the region.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the reality that Mindanao is still in the midst of rebellion,” Medialdea said.

Several lawmakers opposed the proposal but later on, martial law was extended for the third time in Mindanao since it was declared on May 2017 when the Maute terror group conquered Marawi City.

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) also remains a challenge to the Philippine government.

 

FILE PHOTO: New People’s Army in formation

The military revealed an alleged ‘Red October’ plot, an oust-Duterte movement allegedly formed by the communist rebels backed by opposition groups.The two groups denied the allegations but according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), they have recovered documents in some encounters with NPA proving that they were plotting a destabilization against the government.

Meanwhile, the government did not declare a ceasefire this year even after the communist group announced their declaration of a unilateral ceasefire.

According to the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) they did not recommend to reciprocate the communists’ ceasefire declaration because leftists were not sincere of their intention and they would just use the ceasefire to strengthen their arms.

Meanwhile, a resolution was submitted to Congress calling the President to revive the peace negotiations with the Reds.

But the President remained cold towards the proposed resumption of peace talks.

Instead, he said he preferred to create a hit squad to match the NPA’s sparrow unit.

“So mag-create ako ng sparrow (unit), Duterte death squad against the sparrow,” the President said.

In December, the President issued Executive Order 70 which created a National Task Force tasked to eliminate the rebel group.

This, despite the continuous surrender of NPA members in different parts of the country through the efforts of military on localized peace talks. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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Sen. Pimentel moves to scrap decades-old travel tax

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III seeks to abolish the 42-year-old presidential decree that imposes travel tax to Filipinos traveling abroad.

In his Senate Bill No. 1841, Pimentel cited that the provisions of the Marcos-era legislation no longer apply at present.

Pimentel argued that travel tax should have been scrapped way back in November 2002 when the Philippines, along with other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), signed the ASEAN Tourism Agreement.

The said agreement has already removed travel levies and taxes on nationals of member-states traveling within the region.

“It has been almost 14 years since the Philippines signed the ASEAN Tourism Agreement but as of date, travel taxes are still imposed upon individuals traveling to other ASEAN member-States,” he said.

Pimentel’s remedial legislation seeks to totally remove the imposition of travel tax on Filipinos who wish to travel to any other country around the globe.

Travel tax , which ranges from P300 to P2,700, was originally imposed to prevent unnecessary foreign travels and to conserve foreign exchange during the period of Martial law.

This provision no longer applies today, the Senator said.

Pimentel also cited that then President Ferdinand Marcos imposed travel tax in 1977 “in order to provide adequate funds for tourism-related programs and projects to enhance the country’s competitiveness as a major tourist destination.”

However, the Senator argued that Section 73 of RA 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009 already provides for alternative funding sources for tourism-related programs and projects funded by the travel tax in the event that the collection of such is halted.

Pimentel added that traveling Filipinos should not be made to carry additional burden in providing funds for projects supposedly shouldered by the government such as tourism facilities and infrastructure.

Likewise, he noted that agencies like the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) shouldn’t be getting a percentage from the travel tax collection as their functions are not related to travelling.

These agencies should be receiving funds directly from the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Pimentel said that if the bill is enacted into law, travel tax collected on or after its effectivity and those collected prior to the effectivity, shall be refunded. – Marje Pelayo

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DOJ clears Ubial on Dengvaxia case

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Former Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed a criminal complaint against former Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial on the controversial Dengvaxia case.

Ubial was one of the Department of Health former and present officials who were accused of being liable in the deaths of school children who got inoculated with the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

In a seven-page resolution signed by Assistant State Prosecutor Claire Eufracia Pagayanan, the DOJ said it found no probable cause to charge Ubial with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide based on the complaint filed by former Health Secretary Janette Garin.

The resolution reads, “considering that Garin failed to show the existence of the corpus delicti of the crime of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide, the complaint against Ubial shall be dismissed for lack of probable cause.”

The DOJ explained that in order to establish Ubial’s liability on the crime charged there must be a direct causal connection between such negligence and the reported deaths.

The resolution further pointed out that “Garin failed to name a single victim who reportedly died as a result of Ubial’s alleged negligent approval and implementation of community-based Dengue immunization program.”

In her complaint, Garin stressed that the Department of Health (DOH) implemented a school-based dengue immunization program but, when Ubial took over, there was a reckless decision to have it expanded into a community-based program which resulted in the reported deaths.

“Deaths were reported soon after the implementation of Sec. Ubial’s Community-Based Dengue Immunization Program. It must be emphasized that the deaths started during Sec. Ubial’s term as DOH Secretary and afterwards,” Garin pointed out.

Garin further said that the DOH, during her time, preferred the school-based dengue immunization program “because the physical and organizational structure of such a program is already in place considering that Dengvaxia is already the sixth (6th) vaccine introduced in schools.”

It can be recalled that on February 11, the DOJ inked a resolution of finding probable cause to charge Garin and nine other Health officials on the Dengvaxia vaccine mess. – Maris Federez

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Martial law victims might receive more from the Marcoses’ wealth in Hawaii

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2019

Martial law victim applying for compensation claims at the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board. (UNTV News)

MANILA, Philippines – Rights abuse victims during the Marcos regime were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief when President Rodrigo Duterte approved to extend the distribution of claims until the end of the year.

According to the group, Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensuon at Aresto (SELDA), around P234 million from the P10 billion total amount of reparation pay are yet to be claimed by around 170 recognized claimants.

“Ang mga grantee noon (ay) may mga kulang pa talagang mga documents daw so hinabol ng iba iyong mga kulang ng documents,” explained SELDA’s National Coordinator Danny dela Fuente.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is now planning the process and finalizing the timeline for the distribution of the remaining claims.

Apart from this, the rights group said the 7,500 Martial law victims who were among those who filed a class action lawsuit in Hawaii may still be able to receive an additional amount from so called ‘ill-gotten wealth’ of the Marcoses deposited in the island state.

SELDA noted that each recognized claimant might receive P75,000 each from the US$13.75 million dollar earned from the auctioned paintings of the Marcoses.

This would be possible if the court will rule in favor of their petition expected to be announced in March.

It can be noted that the complainants were given an initial amount when the Hawaii court ruled in their favor against the Marcoses in the Hawaii case.

“Ang tawag ngayon doon (ay) Marcos estate, iyong inihabla namin sa Hawaii. Nagkaroon nga ng favorable decision ang court of US federal district of Hawaii na kami ay ma-award ng $1.9B. Walang panggagalingan iyon kundi ang kanilang ill-gotten wealth,” dela Fuente concluded. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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