Drilon wants Senate to summon PSG chief over COVID-19 vaccination

Robie de Guzman   •   January 1, 2021   •   621

MANILA, Philippines – The chief of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) must be summoned to the Senate’s inquiry into the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan to explain the controversial advanced vaccination of his unit, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said.

“The PSG Commander must be called and must appear in the investigation of the Committee of the Whole to shed light on this issue,” Drilon said in a statement Thursday.

“The most important ‘who’ and ‘how’ of the story remains a mystery. The PSG commander is deliberately withholding the basic questions of who and how from the public,” he added.

PSG commander Brigadier General Jesus Durante earlier admitted that some of the presidential guards “independently” inoculated themselves with an unregistered vaccine without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The PSG chief took full responsibility for the administration of the unregistered vaccine as he stressed that it was done without the knowledge of President Rodrigo Duterte or any other agency.

Drilon said Durante must be made to explain on how they obtained the vaccine and where it came from.

“All they give to the public are alibis, excuses and lies. There is more to it that will be revealed to the committee once Brig. Gen. Durante appears in our hearing. The Senate must summon the PSG commander,” he said.

“Who else was involved? How did unregistered Covid-19 vaccines enter the country? Who imported it from China?” he added.

Durante has yet to issue a statement in response to Drilon’s remarks.

The Senate Committee of the Whole is set to conduct an inquiry into the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the country on January 11. RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte public address postponed after some PSG members contracted COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   April 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed “Talk to the People” this week was rescheduled due to the surge of COVID-19 infections, Malacañang said.

Duterte usually holds his public address on Monday night but his spokesperson Harry Roque said this will not be held this week “in line with the rising number of active COVID-19 cases.”

“The physical safety of the President remains our utmost concern,” Roque said in a statement.

“In addition, the preparation for the Talk to the People Address entails a number of staff complement and we also take due consideration of their well-being,” he added.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Duterte’s former long-time aide, earlier disclosed that a number of Presidential Security Group (PSG) members have tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

He cited this as the reason for the postponement of the chief executive’s public address “to avoid putting him at risk.”

Go, however, assured that the president is well and that there is “nothing to worry about” when it comes to his health.

In a media interview on Wednesday, PSG Commander Jesus Durante III confirmed that some of his members indeed caught COVID-19 but they are not directly or closely detailed with the president.

He also said that these PSG members are not experiencing any adverse symptoms and that this incident has not hampered them from performing their functions.

Some members of the PSG have been inoculated last year with the COVID-19 vaccine from the Chinese state firm Sinopharm.

Drilon urges Duterte to call for special session to approve Bayanihan 3 Law

Robie de Guzman   •   April 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a special Congressional session for the immediate passage of the proposed third Bayanihan Law or the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act that seeks to provide emergency cash assistance to families affected by the stricter protocols against COVID-19.

“I urge the President to call a special session of Congress to pass the proposed Bayanihan 3 and expand the government’s cash subsidy program amid the spike in COVID-19 cases,” Drilon said in a statement.

The senator said there is a need to provide more funding for the government’s response against COVID-19 in order to help the poor and the vulnerable sectors of society and small and medium enterprises heavily affected by the pandemic.

“Kailangan tugunan ito. Sa akin, kailangang tumawag ng special session ang Pangulo para po matugunan ito. Mag-realign ng mga items na hindi kailangan,” he said.

Drilon made the call after Malacañang said that the government will not extend additional aid for low-income families despite the one-week extension of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna.

Drilon believes that affected families should continuously be provided with assistance due to difficulties they may experience amid the ECQ period.

In a radio interview, the senator also called for the realignment of some items in the General Appropriation Act to boost the government’s fund for COVID-19 response.

Under Article VI, Section 15 of the Constitution, the President is allowed to call a special session at any time.

Congress is currently on session break until May 17.

Drilon files bill seeking 10-year imprisonment for ‘red-tagging’

Robie de Guzman   •   March 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has filed a measure that seeks to make ‘red-tagging’ punishable by up to 10-years in prison.

Senate Bill 2121 or an “Act Defining and Penalizing Red-Tagging,” which Drilon filed on Wednesday, seeks to criminalize red-tagging and provide for penalties as deterrence “in order to fix the legal gaps, address impunity and institutionalize a system of accountability.”

It also seeks to disqualify persons convicted of this crime from holding public office.

The bill defines red-tagging as the act of “labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping, or caricaturing individuals, groups, or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists, or terrorists as part of a counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism strategy or program, by any state actor, such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary, or military personnel.”

“Any person found guilty of red-tagging shall be imprisoned for 10 years and shall suffer the accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office,” the measure stated.

“The passage of this bill will reverse the increasingly institutionalization and normalization of human rights violations and put a stop on the attacks against the members of the legal profession,” Drilon said in the bill’s explanatory note.

The senator said libel, or grave threats, is not appropriate when a state agent vilifies a person as an enemy of the state, thereby impinging an individual’s basic rights.

“It has resulted in serious human rights violations such as harassments, arbitrary arrests, detentions, and enforced disappearances. In some instances, being red-tagged is a prelude to death,” he said.

“The measure will likewise serve as a reminder to the government of its primary duty under the Constitution to serve and protect the people,” he added.

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