Duterte to respect findings of Task Force PhilHealth – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   September 14, 2020   •   649

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will respect the findings of the task force he created to probe the allegations of corruption hounding the Philippine Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the task force was given fact-finding powers and he believes that the president will accept its probe results.

“Binigyan nga po niya ng kapangyarihan na maging fact-finding yung task force na binuo niya, and I think dahil siya naman po ang bumuo niyan, he will accept the factual-finding of his own task force,” he said.

The task force, which was formed in early August and headed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, submitted to the chief executive its report on fraud and allegations against PhilHealth executives on Monday, Sept 14.

In a statement, Guevarra said the outcome of their 30-day investigation will “attempt to present the general environment at PhilHealth which enables fraud and corruption,” as well as the specific instances where fraudulent or corrupt acts have been perpetrated.

However, he did not divulge any details of the report or name of those they would recommend to be charged.

The task force last week concluded its hearings on the alleged anomalies within PhilHealth after interviewing several witnesses and resource persons, and gathered some documents. It also used the transcripts of records provided by Senate and House of Representatives panels that conducted separate investigation into the PhilHealth mess.

Its probe included the alleged inability of PhilHealth’s IT systems to detect fraudulent claims, and the thousands of cases against erring agency employees and healthcare institutions that have remained unfiled.

Although the task force has already concluded its probe, Guevarra said investigations and special audits on PhilHealth transactions will continue.

“But our composite teams will continue their ongoing investigations and special audits and file legal actions as they finish one case after another,” he said.

Task Force PhilHealth is a multi-agency team composed of representatives from the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission and the Office of the President, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, Office of the Special Assistant to the President, Anti-Money Laundering Council, National Bureau of Investigation and the National Prosecution Service. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Duterte calls on Congress to pass remaining priority economic, public service bills

Robie de Guzman   •   June 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has urged lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the remaining economic and public service measures that are included in his administration’s legislative agenda.

Duterte made the call during the re-enactment of the signing of several laws that were already enacted in May.

“I hope that when both houses of Congress resume sessions this year, priority will be given to the remaining flagship programs of my administration,” he said in a speech at the Malacañan Palace on Wednesday.

These bills include the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investments Act, and the Public Service Act.

Duterte said he wants to sign these measures “at the earliest possible time.”

During the ceremony, the president also thanked members of Congress for their efforts in ensuring that his administration’s legislative agenda will be translated into relevant policies and programs that will improve the lives of Filipinos and revive the country’s economy from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Duterte described Wednesday’s event as a testament to the “fruitful collaboration between the legislative and executive branches of government.”

“These laws – which open more opportunities for our people to serve in government and enable some of our LGUs to render more efficient and inclusive service – are part of our vision of bringing government closer to the people,” he said.

The president expressed optimism that more government agencies cooperate as the country takes more concrete steps to revive the economy and help the people recover from the effects of the pandemic.

“Now, more than ever, we need to follow the whole-of-nation approach in ensuring an inclusive and seamless response to the current challenges facing the nation,” he said.

“To the Filipino people, let me assure you that your government will continue to pursue measures that will improve and enhance your way of life,” he added.

Duterte also expressed confidence that with the help of Congress, his administration can pursue its legislative agenda that will improve and enhance the lives of Filipinos and promote the nation’s progress.

Among the recently signed laws that the President ceremonially signed were Republic Act (RA) 11549 or An Act Lowering the Minimum Height Requirement for Applicants of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor); RA 11544 or An Act Converting the Municipality of Calaca in the Province of Batangas Into a Component City To Be Known as the City of Calaca; RA 11545 or An Act Reapportioning the First Legislative District of the City of Caloocan Into Two Legislative Districts; and RA 11546 or An Act Reapportioning the Province of Bulacan Into Six Legislative Districts.

Congress will resume session on July 26 when the president delivers his final State of the Nation Address.

Opposition open to alliances; must go beyond anti-Duterte platform in 2022 polls – Drilon

Robie de Guzman   •   June 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said the opposition group “must go beyond an anti-Duterte platform” in next year’s elections.

“The opposition must go beyond an anti-Duterte platform. The opposition must present a platform, which says that we can do better in the pandemic response because this is where the errors are committed and this is what we are going to do,” Drilon said in a television interview.

When asked to comment on observations that there is no one strong opposition candidate at this point, the senator said that having one opposition candidate is “desirable” but admits to it being a “very difficult task.”

“… [I]t is desirable to have one opposition candidate. That is what the 1Sambayan is trying to do. That is a very difficult task. They have taken upon themselves that difficult task. We support their effort,” he said.

“We do hope that the opposition can come up with only one candidate. As in any election in the past, the administration would always have the advantage. We must exert every effort to have one candidate to oppose the administration candidate,” he added.

Last week, political coalition 1Sambayan revealed their list of presidential and vice-presidential nominees. The list includes Vice President Leni Robredo, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos, Senator Grace Poe, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, and CIBAC party-list Representative Eddie Villanueva.

If Robredo decides not to run in 2022 polls, Drilon, who sits as Liberal Party vice chairperson, said the Liberal Party is open to alliances.

“That is the reality of politics today. As we said, we should only have one candidate. We cross our fingers that VP Robredo will decide to run for president and we believe she is the strongest and, hopefully, she can unite all the non-Duterte candidates,” he said.

“If she does not run for the presidency, then the LP will have to meet and see where we will go from there,” he added.

Duterte gov’t finds ICC prosecutor’s call to probe Philippines’ war on drugs ‘regrettable’

Marje Pelayo   •   June 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The outgoing prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda has sought permission to open a full investigation into the Philippines’ drug war under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The official argued that there is a basis to believe the government’s war on drugs has committed ‘the crime against humanity of murder’ which she claimed had killed thousands of people, including innocent children.

Just in time for her last day in office as ICC prosecutor on Tuesday (June 15), Bensouda argued “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Crime Against Humanity of murder was committed” in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019, based on a that a preliminary probe that began in February 2018.

That same period was when Duterte ordered the withdrawal of the Philippines from the ICC.

In response, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday issued a statement saying that the Philippine government finds Bensouda’s announcement “regrettable”.

The statement underscored that the Inter-Agency Review Panel headed by the Secretary of Justice is still conducting reinvestigation on cases involving fatalities in the campaign against illegal drugs, and that the Panel should be allowed to finish such work.

“The International Criminal Court is a court of last resort. The States Parties to the Rome Statute envisioned a court with a complementary, not primary, jurisdiction for the prosecution of the persons most responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern,” the statement added.

“The Rome Statute requires the Court and the Office of the Prosecutor to respect and defer to the primary criminal jurisdiction of the concerned State Party, while proceedings are ongoing in the latter. The precipitate move of the Prosecutor is a blatant violation of the principle of complementarity, which is a bedrock principle of the Rome Statute,” it further said.

The department also said enumerated what it called concrete and progressive steps the Deterte administration has taken to address concerns in the conduct of the anti-illegal drugs campaign. It added that the government has recently finalized with the UN a Joint Program on Human Rights.

All these, the department said, “affirm the Philippines’ adherence to human rights norms and its long track record of constructive engagement with international and regional partners in human rights promotion and protection.”

“The midnight announcement by the current Prosecutor on the eve of her end of term also preempts the prerogative of her successor to make a full evaluation of the cases that he will prosecute. By her act, the outgoing Prosecutor likewise undercuts the attractiveness of the Rome Statute to States that may be considering accession,” the DFA said.

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