Senate questions P39 meal allowance of inmates

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 3, 2019   •   286

Filipino jail guards salute as inmates sing the national anthem during a peace accord event to stop violence amongst gangs inside the New ‘Bilibid’ Prison’s maximum security compound in Muntinlupa city, south of Manila, Philippines, 27 December 2018. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

Senators on Thursday (October 3) questioned the P39 meal allowance of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) which was supposed to be P60 per meal a day.

In 2018, more than P1 billion was allotted for the Food Subsistence Allowance of persons deprived of liberty (PDL). However, during the bidding, the allowance was cut to P39 per meal a day.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also said the meal allowance had been increased to P70 per day in the 2019 national budget.

Hindi ko ma-reconcile bakit papakainin mo lang ang preso ng P39 worth of meals, when bina-budgetan na ng gobyerno. Saan napupunta iyong balance?” he said.

(I could not reconcile why you would give P39 worth of meals to inmates when the government has an allotted budget for it. Where does the balance go?)

Former BuCor Officer-in-Charge Rafael Ragos has revealed in the Senate hearing that the BuCor director receives P1 million from catering services.

Caterer, Angelina Bautista, recalled that they won the bidding for the provision of catering services to the Correctional Institution for Women in August 2018.

However, she said, they were disqualified after refusing to give “kickbacks” to officials.

Another catering service provider said they were also blacklisted in 2017.

“We cannot participate during the bidding because of the politics na nangyari nga po (that was happening),” according to Lisa Dizon of Mang Kiko Catering Services Inc.

However, former BuCor Chief Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa said that no one offered him any ‘kickbacks’ during his time as the BuCor Chief. He also said he did not accept any bribes.—AAC (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

Senate OKs Malasakit Center bill on final reading

Robie de Guzman   •   November 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to institutionalize the establishment of Malasakit Centers in hospitals run by the Department of Health (DOH) across the country.

The Senate Bill No. 1076 or the Malasakit Center Act of 2019 was approved with 18 affirmative and zero negative votes.

The measure seeks the establishment of one-stop-shop centers for medical and financial assistance provided by the DOH, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in all 73 DOH-run hospitals nationwide.

“We are a step closer towards making quality health care more accessible and affordable for all Filipinos, especially the indigent and poor patients in need of medical assistance from the government,” Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, the author and sponsor of the bill, said in a speech after the bill was passed.

Citing a 2017 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Go said that out-of-pocket payment accounted for 55 percent of health expenditures despite benefits provided by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“To clarify, we are not providing additional funds for assistance, we are merely establishing a one-stop-shop for medical and financial assistance,” he further stated, adding that there are currently 50 Malasakit Centers nationwide serving 160,000 patients.

Under the bill, hospitals run by local government units (LGUs) and other public hospitals may also establish their own Malasakit Centers provided that they guarantee the availability of funds for the operation of their centers including its maintenance, personnel, staff training, among others.

Patients who would be admitted to LGU and other public hospitals but are eligible for medical and financial assistance could also seek assistance from the Malasakit Centers.

Among the functions of the Malasakit Centers would be to provide patients with a referral to the health care provider networks as well as information on membership, coverage and benefits packages in the National Health Insurance Program.

The bill hurdled the Senate after it adopted amendments introduced by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Franklin Drilon.

Hontiveros said that Malasakit Centers should provide “critical information on healthy behaviors and conduct health promotion activities in the hospital” as well as “further enhance the health promotion function of the center.”

Drilon, meanwhile, said the measure should not limit the “access to or availability of medical and financial assistance only to indigent and financially incapacitated patients referred through Malasakit Centers.”

PNP assigns 14 cops involved in cellphone smuggling in NBP to SEAGAMES

Maris Federez   •   November 6, 2019

NCRPO chief Debold Sinas

The 14 police officers who were implicated in the alleged smuggling of mobile phones inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) are now back to work.

NCRPO chief Debold Sinas said the forensic examination result of the PNP-Anti Cybercrime Group investigation showed that the cellphones seized from them are their personal property.

“Lahat po ng cellphones doon ay may interactions, may discussions with their family, friends at ganito so more or less ginamit ito for personal use, wala kaming nakitang irregularity doon,” said Sinas.

With this, Sinas said that the 14 police officers will just be meted out with an administrative case of less serious neglect of duty for not abiding by the specific guidelines in the NBP.

Additionally, the 14 will be assigned to provide security at the SEAGAMES.

The other four officers, including the two senior officials who were confirmed to have been caught in the act of smuggling liquor and cigarettes inside the national penitentiary, will be charged with grave misconduct.

“Tapos na actually ang investigation, hinihintay na lang yung findings ng crime lab na iblack and white nila,” Sinas added. (from the report of Lea Ylagan) /mbmf

Health, environmental advocates urge not to burn trash in cemeteries

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 28, 2019

Health and environmental advocates urge the public not to burn trash especially in cemeteries during the observance of Undas.

In a joint statement, public health expert Dr. Maricar Limpin and zero waste campaigner Jove Mendoza said there are health and environmental dangers in burning trash.

Exposure to these pollutants can cause breathing difficulties and trigger asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses, especially among children, the elderly and those already suffering from weakened immune systems,” Limpin said.

Meanwhile, Benosa reiterated that burning trash in public is prohibited. He said among the laws banning and penalizing open burning are Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act.

“Instead of burning discards, we appeal to cemetery administrators and visitors to follow the provisions of RA 9003, which requires the segregation of discards at source and their ecological management such as by composting the biodegradables and recycling the recyclables,” said Benosa.—AAC

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