Lao asks Blue Ribbon to withdraw arrest order

Maris Federez   •   November 23, 2021   •   266

MANILA, Philippines — Former Department of Budget and Management Usec. Lloyd Christopher Lao has asked the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to withdraw its contempt and arrest order against him.

In a letter dated November 11, 2021, addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon, Lao said he had been actively attending the committee hearings from August 25 to September 30.

He added that he had been truthful in answering the questions thrown at him, with the intention of providing information on the procurements of medical supplies made by the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He, however, lamented the insults and judgments that were cast on him and the way he was treated during the hearings as if he were a criminal devoid of rights.

He claimed to feel that the hearings have turned into a trial instead of just laying down queries in aid of legislation.

Lao further said that he never disrespected the Senate and that he is ready to testify if the committee will change the way it treats him.

Senator Gordon, on the other hand, said in a statement that it was Lao’s non-attendance in the four consecutive hearings that prompted the committee to cite him in contempt.

He said Lao’s non-appearance showed his disrespect to the Senate processes.

“After the citation and an Order of Arrest had been duly issued, you have made yourself even more scarce, exhibiting your lack of respect for legal processes of a duly- constituted authority,” Gordon said.

The lawmaker also insisted that if it is his wish to have the contempt and arrest order against him withdrawn, Lao must submit himself before the Senate Sergeant at Arms the soonest time possible.

“If it is your wish that the Committee acts on your Motion, we suggest that you submit yourself to the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms first at the soonest possible time,” Gordon said.

“In the meantime, the Order of Arrest will continue to subsist and the search for your person will not cease until the Sergeant-at-Arms is able to take you into custody,” he added.

To date, the Senate security team continues searching for Lao to have him under Upper Chamber’s custody.

The Blue Ribbon will conduct the 15th hearing on the issue on Friday, November 26. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)v

Duterte says NPA rebels may get excess supply of COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he will allow members of the New People’s Army (NPA) access to COVID-19 vaccine only if there is an excess supply.

During his taped meeting with some officials aired on Tuesday, Duterte said spare vaccine jabs can be given to NPA rebels so they can also get protection against the viral disease.

“Pagka may sobra, kung may sobra lang, hindi kayo puwedeng unahin kay kalaban kayo sa gobyerno,” he said.

“Tingnan lang ninyo at kung may sobra, ‘di ano. Pero tawagan ninyo na muna ako na kung may sobra, ibigay ninyo sa NPA para hindi ma-COVID-19,” he added.

During the meeting, Duterte also renewed his call on NPA rebels to surrender and avail of the government’s housing and skills training program for rebel returnees.

“This is my order to the military: If they want to surrender, give them the chance to surrender properly,” he said.

“I’ll give you a house, I’ll give you a job, temporary, may suweldo ka na. Kung wala kang alam sa skills, mag-enroll ka muna… sila ‘yung TESDA, magturo sa iyo kung anong klaseng trabaho gusto mo, technical, turuan kayo,” he added.

“Tapusin na natin ito, tutal sinubukan naman natin ‘yang barilan, wala mang nangyari,” he further said.

NCR reaches peak of COVID-19 cases — DOH, OCTA

Maris Federez   •   January 24, 2022

 

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) and the OCTA Research Group are in agreement that the National Capital Region (NCR) has reached the peak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

The two agencies said the number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila is now expected to go down come February.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said this development is brought about by the consecutive days wherein the 7-day average growth rate in the NCR has been seen to go down.

“Lumalabas nag-peak na at nakikita natin ilang araw nang sunod sunod na bumababa ang kaso ng NCR at lumiliit ang porsyentong iniaambag nito sa ating total case load,” Duque said.

Meanwhile, the latest projection of the OCTA Research Group showed that the growth rate of the virus in Metro Manila has decreased to -50 and the production rate has slowed down to 1.03.

OCTA said they expect the COVID-19 cases in the region to go down in the coming weeks.

OCTA fellow Prof. Guido David said that based on their monitoring, Metro Manila has reached its peak of COVID-19 cases on January 10, wherein the number of positive cases in the region breached the 18,000 mark.

“Simula January 14, masasabi natin na patuloy nang bumababa yung bilang ng kaso hanggang sa ngayon. Kahapon nga 5,000 na lang. So malaki na ang ibinaba from 18,000 down to 5,400. Ang laking improvement,” David said.

“At kaya nga yung projection natin hopefully patuloy na yan hanggang Valentines, baka less than 1,000. Baka end of February baka less than 500 na lang. At mababalik na natin yung kalagayan natin tulad nung nakita natin nung November and December sa buong bansa. Pero sa Metro Manila pa lang yan,” he added.

Based on their study, OCTA said that COVID-19 cases in the NCR will go down to as low as 1,000 by February.

This data, the group said, may be used by the government in determining whether to place the region under a more relaxed alert level restriction.

However, Duque said that this development is not yet a parameter to come up with the decision to ease the alert status in the NCR to Alert Level 2.

This, he said, still calls for the review and consideration by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

“Pero paguusapan pa rin yan mamaya sa IATF or rather on Thursday. Baka kailangan na kailangan ay tingnan na rin kung talagang malinaw na ang health care utilization ay nagkaroon na ng pagbabaklas o decoupling. Kumbaga tumaas ang kaso okay pa yung mga severe critical nasa baba so may decoupling, kung tawagin. Baka pagusapan yan pwede na at mababa to alert level 2,” Duque explained.

He added that based on the DOH monitoring, the hospital bed and ICU utilization in the NCR is now at low risk.

On the other hand, such is not the case in areas outside the NCR.

Duque said, healthcare utilization rate in several areas of the country are now at high to critical risk which the IATF is closely monitoring.

Meanwhile, OCTA Research also reported that decreasing COVID-19 cases are also recorded in the provinces of Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Aileen Cerrudo)

P150 million worth of fake COVID test kits, meds seized in Manila warehouse – BOC

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2022

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday said it has confiscated P150 million worth of fake COVID-19 antigen test kits, face masks, medicines and other goods from a Manila warehouse.

In a statement, the BOC said authorities raided the warehouse in San Miguel last Friday, January 21, pursuant to a letter of authority with mission order signed by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, in coordination with local barangay officials and police.

The bureau said the storage facility was found with thousands of Clungene COVID-19 antigen test kits, counterfeit LianHua Chinese herbal medicines, and fake 3M N95 face masks.

Authorities also found intellectual property rights infringed goods such as apparel from brands like Nike, Fila, Converse, Adidas, as well as Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags, wallets, phone accessories, and others.

The BOC said a Chinese national, who is said to be the owner of the warehouse, was arrested during the operation.

He will face various cases for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) Law and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules and regulations, it added.

“Definitely the owner of the warehouse will face the brunt of the law. This is not the first time and not the last time we will see these groups operating on our shores,” said Customs Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Raniel Ramiro.

“Our job here is to make sure these don’t get into the local markets, and to stop any future attempts at selling counterfeit goods to our kababayans,” he added.

The BOC said the warehouse was temporarily padlocked and to secure the imported products stored inside until the completion of the inventory of goods.

 

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