VP Robredo wants Oplan Tokhang scrapped

Marje Pelayo   •   November 8, 2019   •   1002

A Filipino who had exhibited suspicious behavior raises his arms in front of operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during an anti-illegal drugs operation in Makati City, east of Manila, Philippines, 06 April 2017.Operatives were in pursuit of two alleged drug pushers in the area, as one female suspect was arrested and at least three other individuals were held by authorities after exhibiting suspicious behavior while the anti-illegal drugs operation was conducted. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has started her duty as the newly appointed co-chairperson of the government’s anti-drug campaign.

First in her agenda was to convene all members of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Drugs (ICAD) together with her co-chair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino.

During the press briefing, Robredo called for a replacement of the Operation Tokhang or Oplan Tokhang as a method of apprehending drug personalities.

“Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, parang naka-reach siya ng certain level of notoriety na kapag sinabing ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor,” Robredo said.

(Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, it seems to have reached a certain level of notoriety that when you say ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor.)

“It is incumbent upon us na mabago iyong kaisipian na iyon. Baka panahon na para pag-isipan natin iyong pagpalit ng isang kampanya na mas epektibo pero walang namamatay senselessly,” she added.

(It is incumbent upon us to change that notion. Maybe it’s time to think about replacing this with a more effective campaign that is without the senseless killings.)

Robredo said she wants to believe that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to hand over the anti-drug campaign implies that the Chief Executive is “open to listening to a fresh perspective about the entire campaign.”

And although she said she wants a vigorous campaign against illegal drugs, it should be within the bounds of the rule of law.

Robredo also emphasized the need to consider the problem of illegal drugs as criminality but a medical and sociological problem.

The Vice President requested to be briefed on the current status of the government’s anti-drug campaign and be provided with access to all data and documents in relation to the program.

“Gusto ko pong malaman kung saan ako magsisimula (I want to know where to start),” she said.

Despite being a staunch critic of the campaign, Robredo commended the ‘successes’ of the administration’s drug war specifically the recent haul of illegal drugs from various operations.

But Robredo expressed concern over the increasing number of drug dependents despite the efforts and resources that have been exerted by all anti-drug agencies working on the campaign.

“Why don’t we re-assess? Ano ba iyong mabubuting ginagawa? Para iyong mga effective na ginagawa ay ipagpapatuloy natin. Pero ano ba yung mga ginagawa na hindi nagbibigay sa atin ng desired results?” she said.

(Why don’t we re-assess? What are the good things being done? So that the effective ones will be continued. But let us think also of the things that we were doing that didn’t bring us our desired results.)

“Iyon ang pag-isipan natin (We should think about those things),” she said further.

After Robredo addressed the media, Aquino requested them to leave to give the Committee time to discuss important matters in relation to their duty.

The PDEA chief promised to take questions from the press alongside Robredo after the meeting.

PET orders Comelec, SolGen to comment on Robredo-Marcos poll protest

Robie de Guzman   •   September 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to comment on the bid of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos to nullify the election results in three provinces in Mindanao.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the PET ordered the Comelec to submit in 20 days its comment on issues related to annulment of elections in connection with Marcos’ third cause of action in his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo, which is the annulment of election results in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao due to alleged terrorism, intimidation, voter harassment and pre-shading of ballots.

The tribunal also directed the poll body and the OSG to comment on whether the PET has the power to declare the annulment of elections without special elections; and the failure of elections and order the conduct of special elections.

The PET likewise asked the Comelec and the OSG whether the tribunal’s declaration of failure of elections, and an order for special elections, will violate the poll body’s mandate under the constitution.

The tribunal also ordered the poll body to report to the justices if petitions for failure of elections were filed in the three Mindanao provinces; if the petitions were granted or denied and if special elections were held in the said areas, and the results of these special elections.

It likewise directed that the Comelec and the OSG be furnished copies of its Oct. 15, 2019 resolution and of the separate memoranda submitted by camps of Robredo and Marcos on the said resolution.

In a statement, Robredo’s camp welcomed the development, saying it will help fast-track the resolution of the election protest.

“We will comply with the High Tribunal’s order and wait for the comments of the Commission on Elections and the Solicitor General on the pending matters,” said lawyer Beng Sardillo, Robredo’s counsel.

“We fully believe that the High Tribunal will uphold Vice President Leni Robredo’s victory as seen in the 2016 results and in the recount of ballots. In 2016, our lead was 263,473 votes. And after the recount, our lead increased to 278,566 votes,” Sardillo added.

Marcos’ camp, on the other hand, views the order “with extreme reservation,” as it added “another layer that would cause tremendous delay” in referring the matter to Comelec and the OSG.

Marcos’ spokesperson, lawyer Vic Rodriguez said their protest is under real threat of becoming moot and academic because there is a very thin time left in the term of the contested position.

“May threat na po ang aming election protest na maging moot and academic sapagkat nariyan na po sa paligid ang events of 2022 (elections), nalalapit na po yung filing of candidacy nariyan na po yung campaign period and eventually the conduct of national election,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Robredo urges DepEd to realign budget to fund blended learning, address health concerns

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to realign the items in its budget to finance the distance learning program and respond to the needs of teachers and students as the country shifts to a blending learning system amid the pandemic.

In a letter dated August 10 addressed to DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, Robredo said the department must realign its P29-billion budget for rehabilitation of school buildings to procure gadgets and other equipment for distance learning and hazard pay for teachers.

“Around P29.5 billion was earmarked for the rehabilitation of school buildings for 2020. Given the shift to distance learning, many of these school buildings will be left without children to occupy them, thus deprioritizing the need for the rehabilitation of physical spaces,” she said.

“This amount can be used to procure the needed gadget and equipment for distance learning as well as address the health concerns of educators,” she added.

Robredo also noted that 61% or around 14 million households do not have access to the internet, adding that 74% or some 34,700 schools do not have the infrastructure to engage in online learning.

“While we understand that the department has set up the DepEd Commons learning platform for students to access lessons on their worn, we have received reports that only 7 million students have so far subscribed to this platform,” she said.

“This constitutes only 35% of the estimated 20 million public school students in the country,” she added.

Aside from access to internet connection and self-learning modules, Robredo also called on DepEd to protect the health and safety of educators by conducting mass testing, with testing and distribution of results done before classes start; providing sufficient fund for physical check-up and medicine; providing supplies such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers, among others; distributing hazard pay on time, and; establishing a system for the health and wellness needs of the teachers.

She said such initiatives can be funded by realigning DepEd’s P700 million budget allotted for teachers’ trainings.

“Many of these trainings have already, or will be, shifted to online modalities, thus freeing up resources that would otherwise have been used for travel and accommodations,” Robredo said.

“Rest assured that we understand the complexity of the challenges before us. We submit these insights and recommendations in the spirit of solidarity so that we may all, as one nation, build the better normal that our people deserve,” she added.

In response to the vice president’s recommendations, Briones said they cannot just make any significant realignment in their budget without consulting the Department of Budget and Management.

She also said they have allotted P9 billion fund for the reproduction of modules and that these have been forwarded to DepEd regional and division offices.

Briones likewise assured they have laid out programs to ensure the safety and health of educators as she reiterated that no face-to-face classes will be implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been paying hazard pay before COVID-19 for teachers who are in places na malayo ang sasakyan, malayo sa urban area. May standard kasi yan,” she said.

“Ulitin ko walang face-to-face until hangga’t walang vaccine yun ang sinasabi ni president; therefore, the teachers will not be exposed as a result of teaching. If they will be exposed, there might be other causes,” she added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

OVP purchases P14-M worth of COVID-19 test kits developed by UP scientists

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 24, 2020

The office of Vice President (OVP) Leni Robredo has purchased P14 million worth of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test kits developed by the scientists from the University of the Philippines (UP).

In a statement, the OVP said the test kits will be delivered to hospitals certified as laboratories for COVID-19 testing. These include San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, V. Luna Hospital, and Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory.

The testing kits will help in conducting a total of 10,000 tests.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) previously said the UP-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) and Philippine Genome Center aim to increase test kit production as well as increase COVID-19 testing capacity per day.

“With the deployment of the test kits, UP-NIH will increase its capacity to run more tests per day, as each unit of the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit can run 25 tests at once and provide results within two hours,” the DOST said in the statement.

Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center Dr. Raul Destura said there is 8,000 to 10,000 tests produced daily and they aim to increase it by 16,000 tests per day by May 1. AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

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