Sacked FDA chief Puno denies corruption allegations

Robie de Guzman   •   May 17, 2019   •   2105

MANILA, Philippines – Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Nela Charade Puno on Friday (May 17) denied accusations she is involved in graft and corruption.

Puno made the statement after she was fired on Thursday by President Rodrigo Duterte over corruption allegations.

READ: Duterte fires FDA Chief Puno over alleged corruption

She stressed that she has not been a subject of nor made aware of being investigated for corruption, but stands ready to face any charges in any forum.

“I take exception to the mention of so-called ‘corruption allegations’ because I am clueless as what these are. I have not been charged in any legal proceedings nor am I aware of any official investigation being undertaken in relation to corruption involving me,” she said in a statement.

“I served as the Director General of the FDA for two years and 10 months with complete honesty, diligence, dedication, and loyalty,” she added.

Duterte ordered Puno’s immediate termination as FDA head on May 15.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced this to media on Thursday and even read the letter signed by Executive Salvador Medialdea addressed to Puno.

Panelo, quoting from the letter, said the decision to fire Puno is “in line with the president’s continuing mandate to eradicate graft and corruption and to ensure that public officials and employees conduct themselves in a manner worthy of public trust.”

Panelo, however, did not offer any more details on the allegations against Puno.

The former FDA official confirmed she received the letter on Thursday afternoon, adding that she has accepted the president’s decision without any ill-feelings.

“As a presidential appointee, I serve at the pleasure of the President and therefore I accept his decision without any ill-feelings,” she said.

“I would like to thank the President for the opportunity and honor of having served the Food and Drug Administration as its Director General,” she added.

Puno noted in her statement that during her tenure, the FDA earned three ISO certifications and recognition as the fifth ASEAN nation member country whose regulatory standards were so accredited.

“I leave the FDA with a clear conscience and what I believe to be a clean record,” she said.

Puno was appointed by Duterte as head of the FDA in 2016.

READ: 3 cops killed, 3 others wounded in Camarines Sur ambush

She survived an ambush in October 2018 allegedly staged by the New People’s Army in Lupi, Camarines Sur. Her security detail was killed while three others were wounded.

FDA, NMIS checks on meat processing plants for African Swine Fever

Marje Pelayo   •   November 8, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) have been doing rounds in meat processing plants across the country.

According to Health Undersecretary and FDA Officer-In-Charge Eric Domingo, there is a total of 178 meat processing plants in the Philippines.

Tests have been conducted in 68 of these facilities and the results were negative of African Swine Fever (ASF).

“Tinitingnan natin ang kanilang mga planta tapos ang kanilang mga documents kung meron silang mga inspection at saka kung pasado sila sa lahat ng standards (We check their plants as well as their documents to determine if they do regular inspections and if they pass all the standards),” Domingo said.

The FDA is coordinating with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for assistance in monitoring supplies in local public markets in relation to the ASF.

Domingo admitted that it is difficult to identify if a product is infected with ASF that’s why it is better to choose a brand that is FDA registered.

One popular delicacy during holidays is the cured or glazed ham.

According to a retailers’ group, they already have taken orders of ham but only a minimal volume as compared to last year.

One reason for this is consumers’ fear of the outbreak of ASF virus.

“What is a bit difficult to estimate right now is how much ham should we order and how much ham will people buy,” lamented Steve Cua, President of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association.

Still, Usec. Domingo said ASF-infected meat may still be consumed.

“Hindi naman po ito nakakahawa ng sakit sa tao (ASF is not transferrable to humans),” Domingo clarified.

“Kaya po natin siya talaga pinipigilan kasi ayaw nating kumalat sa iba pa pong hayop sa Pilipinas (The reason for prevention is because we do not want it to infect other animals in the Philippines),” he concluded. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

FDA warns public vs use of candles with metal wick

Robie de Guzman   •   October 30, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday warned the public against using and lighting candles with metal wicks this Undas season as these may pose a threat to one’s health.

FDA Officer-in-Charge and Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said candles with metal wicks and those that are sold in canisters contain lead which poses health hazards, including neurological damage, intellectual disabilities in children and hormonal disruption, when inhaled as vapors.

“Iyong lead kasi kapag nalalanghap natin iyan pwedeng maging cause ng sakit iyan particularly iyong mga neurological illness,” Domingo said.

“So, ito iyong warning natin sa ating mga kababayan na tingnan nilang mbuti iyong binibili nilang kandila,” he added.

The health official said the FDA has been warning against the dangers of inhaling lead emissions as well as using products that are coated with lead.

“Iyong accumulation in the body causes, kapag iniinhale natin, pagtagal ng ginagamit natin nagkaka-cause ng neurological problems. Iyong hilo mostly sa amoy iyon or sa additives or kung mayrong allergy doon sa producta na sinusunog pero mas nakakatakot talaga iyong lead content,” Domingo said.

The World Health Organization previously cautioned that exposure to lead affects human health and could cause lifelong health problems. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

3 gov’t agencies in ARTA’s priority list for red-tape

Robie de Guzman   •   October 16, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – At least three government agencies are in the list of “priority” agencies of Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) that need their immediate attention due to red tape.

ARTA director-general Jeremiah Belgica said the agencies they are setting their sights on are the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Land Registration Authority (LRA).

Belgica said these offices are being focused on due to complaints, investigation results and confidential information.

He added that these agencies need reforms to make their transactions faster and less tedious.

“Nakita talaga natin na they really need to shape up because there’s really red tape inside these agencies,” he told reporters in an economic briefing Wednesday.

However, Belgica clarified that they are yet to thoroughly probe other agencies for red tape, adding that the body has only been investigating for over three months.

ARTA was created through Republic Act 11032, which was signed in May 2018.

It is mandated to ensure effective implementation of the law which is intended to remove red tape in government agencies and ensure the delivery of efficient services.

He also warned other agencies to implement needed reforms because some of them could be worse than the LTFRB, the FDA and the LRA.

“If we would say na they’re the most, marami pa ho kasing mga agencies na hindi pa natin na-thoroughly investigate,” Belgica said.

Meanwhile, ARTA revealed it is set to file a case before the Office of the Ombudsman against a provincial governor on Thursday for allegedly violating the Ease of Doing Business Act or the law that aims for optimal government transactions.

Belgica said the official was accused of delaying the release and processing of permits for some unknown personal reasons.

He, however, refused to divulge any more details including the name of the governor.

The ARTA chief said that since he assumed office in July this year, the agency has already filed cases against seven errant government employees and officials.

Belgica added they are also planning to conduct a weekly filing of cases against government officials who defy the administration’s order to deliver efficient government service and promote ease of doing business.

Belgica said violators of the Anti-Red Tape Act and Ease of Doing Business Act may face penalties as provided for in the law.

On the first offense, violators may face six months suspension while the second offense may mete out dismissal from service, permanent disqualification from holding public office, imprisonment of one up to six years and a fine of P500,000 up to P1 million. – RRD (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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