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Duterte fires FDA chief Puno over alleged corruption

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Nela Charade Puno | Courtesy: PNP Directorate for Personnel and Records Management

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has fired Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Nela Charade Puno for alleged corruption, the Malacañang said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced this during a press briefing on Thursday by reading a letter signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea addressed to Puno.

“Dear Ms. Puno, please be advised that upon the instruction of the President, your appointment as director general of the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Heath is hereby terminated effective immediately,” the letter dated May 15 stated.

“This is in line with the President’s continuing mandate to eradicate graft and corruption, and to ensure that public officials and employees conduct themselves in a manner worthy of public trust,” the letter added.

Puno was also directed to turn over all official documents, papers and properties in her possession to the office of the Undersecretary for Health regulation of the Department of Health “to ensure uninterrupted delivery of public service.”

Puno was appointed by Duterte as head of the FDA in 2016.

READ: 3 cops killed, 3 others wounded in Camarines Sur ambush

She survived an ambush in October 2018 allegedly staged by the New People’s Army in Lupi, Camarines Sur.

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Jayme pleads ‘not guilty’ to sedition charges

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Rodel Jayme, the webmaster of the website which first shared the “Bikoy” videos

MANILA, Philippines – Website Administrator Rodel Jayme, who was accused of sharing internet videos linking the Duterte family to narcotics trade, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of inciting to sedition.

Jayme on Tuesday, entered the plea when he was arraigned before the Parañaque Regional Trial Court Branch 258.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the inciting to sedition rap in relation to the anti-cybercrime law, an offense punishable by a prison term of six to 12 years.

The DOJ said Jayme’s posting of videos is not an exercise of his freedom of speech and expression but a “clear act to arouse among its viewers a sense of dissatisfaction against the duly constituted authorities.”

READ: Prosecutors find probable cause to indict Jayme for violation of Art. 142 of RPC

The 27-year old webmaster admitted to developing the website which was later used to host the series of online videos entitled, “Ang Totoong Narco List,” where a certain ‘Bikoy’ implicated some members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s family and close associates to the illegal drug trade.

However, he denied involvement in the uploading and subsequent sharing of videos that have gone viral on social media.

READ: Rodel Jayme denies knowledge of uploaded Bikoy videos

READ: Jayme possible as state witness but no assurance yet – NBI

Jayme earlier expressed willingness to turn state witness to help apprehend the individual who spread the videos. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it will evaluate if Jayme is qualified to become state witness.

Meanwhile, the court also ordered Jayme’s transfer to the Parañaque City Jail from the NBI.

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FDA, PNRI urged to release list of synthetic vinegar brands

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release the list of vinegar brands that are produced, not from natural fermentation and “biogenic” ingredients but from synthetic acetic acid, citing protection of local vinegar-makers and the safety of consumers.

“I believe that there is simply no legal or moral basis for FDA to withhold the release of the ‘sour condiment’ brands which PNRI (Philippine Nuclear Research Institute) found using non-biogenic acetic acid,” Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said on his social media account Tuesday (May 21).

The Secretary said: “The release of the names will not only be in compliance with the Consumer Protection laws but also the observance of that very basic provision in the Philippine Constitution which bestows upon every Filipino the Right to Know.”

“The list of the “non-biogenic sour condiments” being passed off as vinegar in the market, whether they are safe for human consumption or not, should be released now,” he added.

The Agriculture Secretary noted the Department of Health’s (DOH) statement that synthetic acetic acid-based vinegar is “not totally unsafe.”

Given that statement, Piñol said agencies concerned agreed that the classification standards for commercial vinegar sold in the market to be changed to “biogenic” for those which use acetic acid produced through a natural fermentation process and “non-biogenic” for those which are made out of synthetic compounds.

Piñol stressed that while vinegar is always understood as a sour-tasting liquid made from natural ingredients and process of fermentation, any other product which offers the “sour” taste but did not go through the natural fermentation process should be properly labeled as synthetic acetic acid or “sour non-biogenic” condiment.”

“Thus, it is my position as Secretary of Agriculture that sour condiments made out of synthetic or non-biogenic acetic acid should not be labeled as “vinegar” or “suka,” he emphasized.

Meanwhile, consumer group Laban Konsyumer expressed its support to the DA in its call for the release of the list of vinegar brands using “non-biogenic” acetic acid given that the PNRI claims that such ingredients do not cause cancer or harm consumers’ health.

The group’s president Atty. Vic Dimagiba also called on the agencies to take responsibility and address the public for the confusion that the issue has caused.

“Dapat din humingi ng paumanhin sa publiko ang PNRI sa maling ulat na galing sa kanila dahil nagdulot ito ng pagkabahala o anxiety sa mga konsyumers,” Dimagiba said.

(The PNRI should make a public apology because of their erroneous report that caused panic or anxiety to consumers.)

“Sa FDA at DOH, ilathala din ang sinabi nilang mislabeling violation ng mga bramds ng suka at recall and patawan ng multa ayon sa Food Safety Law at Consumer Act,” he concluded.

(The FDA and DOH should also publish what they claim as mislabeling violation of these brands of vinegar, recall and fine them according to the Food Safety Law and Consumer Act.) – Marje Pelayo (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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DA wants ‘fake’ vinegar removed from market

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) wants the removal of fake vinegar from local markets.

This after the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) revealed the result of their tests on over 360 vinegar samples available in the Philippines.

The PNRI’s study showed that 8 out of 10 of the tested vinegar brands are fake or synthetic and not from natural sources.

Raymond Sucgang, Section Head of the PNRI Nuclear Analytical Techniques Applications Section explained that: “Condiments usually undergo the process of fermentation, and the raw materials must come from fruits and other natural products.”

His research team explained that vinegar and other condiments from natural or plant-based sources are safer than those derived from petroleum-based sources.

“One can only imagine all the impurities and residues from the petroleum by-products, which can be the source of various degenerative diseases,” he added.

The PNRI did not mention the brand names of the products used in the test but it assured that the results of the vinegar studies have already been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Vendors at Kamuning Market in Quezon City expressed concern on the health safety of their customers so they opt to sell branded vinegar, but some attest that there really are synthetic vinegar out in the market.

“Ang gusto po nilang mangyari dapat lahat ng mga tinitinda naming mga suka may mga brand na siya. May mga label, may expiration date, at saka may nakalagay kung ano ang ingredients,” noted stall owner Lizette Tedera.

(They require us to sell branded vinegar, equipped with label, expiration date and specific ingredients.)

“Mayroon talaga nyan. Hindi maiiwasan iyan kasi negosyo nila iyan. Iyong mga tinatakal-takal lang sa bote, iyon ang peke. May halong tubig at saka iyong gamot na hinahalo nila sa suka,” revealed Marrie Cleofe, also a store owner.

(It exists and it’s inevitable because it’s their business. Those sold in retail are synthetic. It contains water and a certain liquid used to make synthetic vinegar.)

But Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, in a statement, advised consumers “to exercise caution and discernment in buying vinegar from commercial establishments.”

Piñol stressed that pending the validation by the FDA of the study conducted by the PNRI, “a market advisory should be issued and the brands using Acetic Acid must be pulled out of the market” to ensure public safety as mandated under by the Food Safety Act of 2013.

The Agriculture Secretary recommends that consumers buy natural vinegar made out of coconut sap and water, sugarcane, nipa and fruits which are readily available in the market.

For its part, the Department of Health (DOH) said once the PNRI study has been validated by the FDA, they will order the pull out of vinegar brands proven synthetic from local markets.

The DOH stressed that only vinegar made from natural acetic acid are the ones allowed for sale and consumption, not those made with synthetic acetic acid.

At present, there are a total of 274 vinegar brands duly registered by the FDA.

“Kasi ang suka kapag ni-register sa FDA, ang classification natin kailangan dyan (gawa) sa natural fermentation ang acetic acid,” explained DOH Usec, Eric Domingo.

(For a vinegar (brand) to registered in FDA, its acetic acid content must be made through natural fermentation.)

“Kung totoo na mayroong mga brand dyan na gumagamit ng synthetic na acetic acid then mayroong mali sa kanilang labeling at saka sa kanilang rehistro at kailangan talaga nating imbestigahan,” Domingo concluded.

(If it’s true that some brands are using synthetic acetic acid, then it follows that there are errors in their labeling and registration thus we really need to investigate) – (with details from Rey Pelayo) Marje Pelayo

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