Senate questions P39 meal allowance of inmates

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 3, 2019   •   577

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)

Senators insist exemption from gag order plea on ABS-CBN franchise issue

Marje Pelayo   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators believe that they should not be covered by the gag order that Solicitor General Jose Calida is requesting in relation to the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation.

 According to Senator Grace Poe, the Upper Chamber is expressing its respect and support to the Supreme Court (SC) but based on the court’s previous ruling, the Senate should not be affected by the gag order.

Poe is planning to start the Senate hearing on the ABS-CBN franchise on February 27.

Several senators also agreed that discussions on the Kapamilya network’s franchise renewal should be given a chance.

 “I think it has to be established first, (before you curtail my freedom of expression), for me to speak freely,” expressed Senator Joel Villanueve.

“I think there is no compelling reason right now to do that,” he added.

“The Senate can pursue the oversight hearing in light of its oversight function,” believed Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa who is a known ally to President Rodrigo Duterte also supports the Senate’s discussion on the allegations against ABS-CBN.

“It concerns everyone, the public. So, hindi mo maiwawasan na pag-usapan iyan sa publiko, (You cannot stop the issue from being discussed in public,)” dela Rosa said.

“We have to give fair chance to everyone. Dapat malaman natin kung anong katotohanan. Pero pag sinabi mo na impluwensya ako sa desisyon ni Presidente, kayo may sarili kayong bias, ako naman (We should know the truth. But if you accuse me of being influenced by the President’s decision, like you having your own bias, I also am biased to my President,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, hopes that the Supreme Court will not include the Senate or any of its committees in the gag order.

“What may be covered, though, are the resource persons who will be invited to shed light on this instant case involving the franchise of ABS-CBN as they are not exempt from the sub judice rule, which covers litigants and witnesses, members of the bar and the public in general,” Lacson explained in a statement.

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who previously filed a joint resolution to extend the franchise of ABS-CBN to 2022, argued that the SC cannot bar a resource person from responding to a Senate invitation.

The Supreme Court cannot prohibit persons to appear and testify before congressional inquiries in aid of legislation. The petition cannot prevent the Senate from hearing the issues on ABS-CBN. The petition has no effect on the Senate,” Drilon said.

SC spokesperson Atty. Brian Hosaka, meanwhile, clarified that the Senate may still push through with their inquiry, even the House of Representative as they are not among the parties involved in the case.

The SC has given the Kapamilya Network five days to answer to the SolGen’s petition.

Meanwhile, Malacañang expressed support for the gag order.

“Tama naman siya doon kasi parang nagiging emotional ang issue on this particular topic,” Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

“If ABS-CBN has committed a criminal act then the President will exercise his right and pursue a case against it before the court. But he will not use his office to stop ABS-CBN from continuing with its service. That’s for congress to decide, not for him,” he concluded. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado / Rosalie Coz)

Senate adopts committee recommendation to file raps vs Faeldon, other BuCor and Bilibid officials

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has adopted the recommendation of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to file charges against officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) over the alleged abusive implementation of the Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

In the Committee Report No. 42 sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon on Tuesday, the panel recommended the filing of charges against former BuCor director general Nicanor Faeldon, BuCor Documents and Record Section chief Ramoncito “Chito” Roque, Corrections Senior Inspector Ma. Benilda “Mabel” Bansil, and Corrections Officer Veronica “Boday” Buno.

Also recommended to be charged were Bilibid Directorate for Health Services director Dr. Ernesto Tamayo, Medical Officer Dr. Ursicio Cenas and Nursing Attendant Meryl Benitez.

The panel wants Faeldon charged for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) for committing nonfeasance in not complying with the requirements of Department Order No. 953; Roque, Bansil and Buno for accepting money for the promise of early release of prisoners; and Tamayo, Cenas, and Benitez for accepting money in order for PDLs to be confined in the New Bilibid Prison Hospital.

“The New Bilibid Prison became a place of vulnerability. Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL), while they deserve to be in prison because of their crimes, does not mean that they should be exploited and be taken advantage of. Their vulnerable situation makes them prone to the many extortions done inside the Bilibid,” Gordon said.

To reform the penal system, the committee also recommended that:

  • There should be a Model System of Penology;
  • There should be full digitalization of the carpetas, which should be accessible to the public or the families of the concerned parties;
  • There should be transparency, especially with regard to the computation of time allowances and release of prisoners;
  • Full digitization of all prisoner records is a must;
  • Digitalizing records of BuCor and BJMP employees and personnel for easy monitoring and filing;
  • The New Bilibid Hospital should be maintained and be well-equipped with adequate medical services;
  • There should be an operations center which can monitor every prisoner;
  • The use of artificial intelligence, digital and video analytics with command center independent from each other, inside our prison facilities to ensure that the PDLs, guards, employees are constantly monitored; and
  • There should also be a Code of Conduct followed

Scientist sees coconut oil as potential nCoV treatment

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 7, 2020

A scientist is looking into coconut oil as a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Ateneo de Manila University chemistry professor Dr. Fabian Dayrit said coconut oil has antiviral agents which can help in the treatment of nCoV.

Lauric acid is a fatty acid found in coconut oil while monolaurin is a compound that is produced naturally when one consumes virgin coconut oil (VCO). It is also commercially available through chemical synthesis.

Dr. Dayrit said there had been several clinical studies proving the potential of coconut oil against various diseases including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Junin virus which is similar to nCoV.

“As far as the available literature is concerned, it is very promising. Kasi it had been shown to work in other viruses. So, wala namang risk. So, why not try it,” he said.

“It’s not a proof, but there is enough evidence that it might work,” he added.

Dr. Dayrit said that based on research, the said antiviral agents can potentially destroy the cell membrane of a virus and stop its maturity.

“It has been shown that lauric acid and monolaurin can inhibit the replication,” he said.

The Philippines is also abundant in coconut which can produce cheaper coconut oil.

According to the Philippine Coconut Authority, the Philippines is the number one exporter of virgin coconut oil in the world. Coconut oil is also safe for animals which is also used as food supplements for farm animals and pets.

Dr. Dayrit explained that for a proper clinical study you would need a few hundred subjects depending on study design.

“We don’t have that many coronavirus patients. So, I think we have to design it to test it out just to show that it can actually work and we can move on from there,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) is open to conduct clinical tests for the potential of coconut oil.

DOH USec. Eric Domingo said a lot of evidence is needed when it comes to treatment and management. He also calls on researchers to come up ways to look into potential treatments for nCoV.

“We are requesting iyong ating researchers dito kung pwedeng tingnan, (our researchers if they can look into it),” he said.—AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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