Senate approves proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act

Marje Pelayo   •   February 23, 2021   •   363

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines approved, on third reading, the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act that seeks to expedite the process of vaccine procurement in the country.

Twenty two (22) senators voted in favor of the measure.

Under Senate Bill 2057, local government units (LGUs) may procure COVID-19 vaccines for 75% of their target population.

Also, the LGUs will be allowed to make advance payments to the vaccine manufacturer.

The bill also provides a COVID-19 national vaccine indemnity fund or payment for damages should the vaccinee experienced serious side effects.

The House of Representatives on Monday (February 22) approved its own version of the bill after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the proposed measure as urgent.

12 senators seek probe on troll farms spreading fake news on social media

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Twelve senators want to investigate reports that public funds are oiling the operation of troll farms that spread fake news and misinformation on social media.

The 12 senators signed the proposed Senate Resolution 768 asking the appropriate committee to conduct an inquiry on the alleged state-backed and state-funded spreaders of fake information.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, and Joel Villanueva, on signing the resolution, said the issue should not be dismissed especially when the spread of fake news would heavily affect Filipino citizens.

Senator Panfilo Lacson previously reported that “a government undersecretary has been organizing internet troll farms across the country to target political rivals or those not aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.”

Based on the resolution, a social media troll is someone who creates conflict on various social media sites by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking an emotional response from other users

“Filipinos should know why government spends public funds on troll farm operators disguised as ‘public relations practitioners’ and ‘social media consultants’ who sow fake news rather than on Covid-19 assistance, health care, food security, jobs protection, education, among others,” reads the resolution.

Senator Francis Pangilinan stressed that misinformation and fake news do harm to the country especially as it faces the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We must not let pass the use of taxpayers’ money to malign and harass people who are critical to the government. This is dangerous for democracy, especially that elections are upcoming next year,” he said.

Advertising firms We Are Social and Hootsuite, in their 2020 annual report, found that Filipinos spend an average of four hours and 15 minutes each day on social media – topping the world rankings for the sixth straight year. The Philippines is also the highest in the world in internet usage with an average of 10 hours and 56 minutes. -AAC

Only one Estrada should run for office, Jinggoy says

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines —Former senator Jinggoy Estrada has signified his intent in running for a Senate seat in the 2022 national elections.

In an interview on Wednesday (July 7), Estrada said he still has unfinished business in the Senate and was encouraged by the continuous support of the public after several surveys still include him in the winning circle.

However, the former senator said only one Estrada should run for office, pertaining to his brother former senator JV Ejercito.

“Mabuti na ‘yung iisa lang ang Estrada ang tumakbo kasi minsan nalilito ang ating mga botante kung sino sa aming dalawa. Siguro, it’s high time that we get to talk to each other,” Jinggoy said.

Ejercito, on the other hand, said in a tweet that it is the right of anyone to run for public office and the people will decide which candidate they will vote for.

“Everyone has the right to run for public office. But it is the prerogative of the people to choose a candidate with integrity, honesty & track record,” Ejercito said. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senators call for fast-tracking of AFP Aircraft modernization

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senators are calling on the government to fast-track the aircraft modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) following the recent military plane crash in Patikul, Sulu on July 4.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri reiterated his call for aircraft modernization and urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to find the budget necessary for the Air Force to replace their aging fleet.

The senator noted that the country already lost over 70 personnel in military aircraft accidents.

Zubiri recalled these incidents which include the one that took place in Isabela in July last year where four lives perished. Four were also killed in Basilan in September and 1 in Lanao del Sur in November of the same year. This year, seven were killed in a mishap that happened in Bukidnon in January, which was followed by another tragedy in June when a Blackhawk helicopter crashed in Tarlac and took the lives of six military personnel.

“It is unthinkable that we’d left our soldiers to use 50-year-old helicopters and aircraft for so long. Is this how we value our military?” he said.

Senator Imee Marcos also called for the end of procuring cheap aircraft to ensure the safety of the country’s military.

“Stop buying these ‘flying coffins’! Tigilan na ang pagbibili ng mura. Tinatawaran natin ang buhay ng sundalo. Binubuwis natin ang buhay ng mga pulis,” she said.

(Stop buying cheap [aircraft]. We are haggling the life of soldiers. We are sacrificing the lives of the police.)

The C-130 aircraft is among the second-hand military plane procured by the country from the Security Cooperation Assistance of the United States (US) government.

Meanwhile, Malacañang urged the public to wait for the formal investigation before taking necessary actions to address the issue and prevent military plane crashes.

“Antayin po muna natin ang pormal na imbestigasyon na isinasagawa doon sa lumagpak na Blackhawk tsaka po dito sa C-130. Kung wala po ang resulta ng pormal na imbestigasyon hindi po tayo makakagawa ng proper steps para maiwasan itong bagay bagay na ito,” he said.

(Let us wait for the formal investigation on the Blackhawk and C-130 plane crash. If there is no result from the formal investigation, we cannot take the proper steps to prevent similar situations.) -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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