Senate probe sought on recent ‘unlawful killings’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 19, 2020   •   339

Several senators are seeking an investigation the spate of ‘unlawful killings’ of lawyers, doctors, and other victims of alleged ‘red-tagging’.

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Imee Marcos filed separate resolutions following the slay of Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband in Negros Oriental.

“At a time of the biggest health crisis the country has ever seen, I am alarmed that this anti-communist agenda reigned over the literal health and survival of the Filipino people,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

The Senate also seeks to probe into the killings of lawyer Atty. Jovencio Senados, activist Randall Echanis, and others.

Marcos said she also wants an investigation into the slay and/or disappearance of members of the legal community, such as the case of Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Maria Theresa Abdilla.

“Huwag na tayong maghintay pa ng mga susunod na krimeng masasangkot ulit ang mga nirerespetong miyembro ng legal community bago pa tayo umaksyon sa hindi magandang insidenteng tulad nito, (Let us not wait for another incident of crime where respected members of the legal community are the victims before taking action),” she said. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate adopts resolution seeking immediate pilot test for in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   March 3, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved a resolution recommending the resumption of face-to-face classes through the immediate launching of pilot testing in areas with low or zero COVID-19 cases.

The Senate Resolution No. 663, adopted on Tuesday, supports the “holding of pilot testing of localized, limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas as identified by the Department of Education (DepEd) under risk-based assessment.”

The upper chamber said the resolution will enable DepEd to “gather evidence on the ground and design a framework for the safe reopening of schools.”

The resolution, however, stressed that the holding of pilot run for physical classes should still follow the “stringent mitigation measures, strict health protocols, and guidelines of the Department of Health (DOH) and of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).”

This is a blended version with Senate Resolution No. 668 filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Francis Pangilingan, Grace Poe, Pia Cayetano, Joel Villanueva and Sonny Angara.

In sponsoring the measure, Sotto recognized that distance learning has its advantages especially at a time of pandemic where health and safety are utmost priority, but stressed that face-to-face learning remains a necessity for education.

“It is important to consider that not all households have the same resources and access to internet. Moreover, allowing teachers to see their students face-to-face, even on an intermittent schedule, will enable greater opportunities to check on the learning progress of the students and to provide needed instructional supervision and interventions,” Sotto said.

“Likewise, the customary face-to-face classes prevent gaps and remove the inequality between those students who can afford an effective remote education and those in the marginalized sector,” he added.

For his part, Gatchalian, who heads the Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, stressed that this resolution does not seek to railroad the return of face-to-face classes nationwide.

“We cannot allow Filipino learners to be left behind any longer. In the long and harrowing road toward ending the perennial education crisis in our country, the implementation and normalization of face-to-face education in the New Normal is a pivotal milestone that can only be achieved if we are willing to take the first brave step of launching the pilot testing of localized limited face-to-face classes,” Gatchalian said.

The resolution states that “the prolonged pandemic school closures have adversely affected the learners’ education, but impacting more severely the most vulnerable and marginalized learners and their families and aggravating the already existing disparities within the education system such as gaps in nutrition and childcare.”

The resolution cited the report of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) during a recent Basic Education Committee hearing, which shows the Philippines as the only country in the East Asia and Pacific region where schools have remained closed since March 2020, and that globally, there are only 13 other countries that have not opened schools since their respective lockdowns last year.

It was also reported during the said hearing that as of February 9, 2021, there are 433 municipalities and three cities in the country with zero active cases of COVID-19, and that the identified 1,065 schools that are projected to participate in the pilot study for localized limited face-to-face classes represent only around 2.2 percent of all public schools nationwide.

The resolution said the pilot testing will guide the DepEd to set specific standards and health protocols, in coordination with the DOH and IATF-EID, to reopen schools safely, including the provision of safe learning facilities and public health supplies such as adequate supply of safe water, sanitation areas, hand washing stations, soap, alcohol, and other cleaning materials.

It also stressed that pilot testing shall be implemented in low risk areas, and that the learners’ participation shall be voluntary and with expressed permission by their parents and/or guardians.

“To ensure that this endeavor will progress through shared responsibility with the LGUs and will be implemented on a case-to-case basis, the provincial school board, the city school board, and the municipal school board shall assume the major task of assessing and recommending whether to reopen, adopt selective school or localized lockdowns, and resume face-to-face classes in their respective localities, taking into consideration local conditions and resources,” the resolution said.

Senate probes distance learning quality, deferment of proposed resumption of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate panel will conduct an inquiry on Wednesday on the quality of distance learning, other psycho-social concerns, and the implications of postponing the resumption of face-to face classes amid the threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said that during the hearing, he will urge the Department of Education (DepEd) to use all available tools and resources to avert a looming ‘learning crisis’ as part of its next steps in mitigating the “pernicious effects” of distance learning.

Gatchalian earlier expressed fears that a huge chunk of more than 25 million learners in the basic education sector might end up “unprepared” for their next level of schooling.

While DepEd has exhausted all possible steps to provide for continued education amid the pandemic, Gatchalian stressed that several challenges still hound the rollout of distance learning, including the inadequacy of connectivity, lack of enough guidance from teachers, and the quality and effectiveness of self-learning modules, among others.

“Dahil ipagpapaliban muna nating muli ang pagkakaroon ng face-to-face classes, mahalagang magkaroon tayo ng kaliwanagan sa kung ano ba ang magiging pangmatagalang epekto nito sa ating mga mag-aaral, lalo na’t hinaharap nila ang maraming mga hamong may kinalaman sa epektibong pagpapatupad ng distance learning,” Gatchalian said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

“Ang ating layunin sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon sa gitna ng pandemya ay masigurong natututo ang ating mga mag-aaral at maging handa sila para sa susunod na antas ng kanilang pag-aaral,” he added.

Duterte earlier thumbed down fresh proposals to resume face-to-face classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque relayed the president’s decision not to allow any in-person classes until the vaccination program has been rolled out in the country.

Roque, however, said that face-to-face classes may be considered in August this year after the launch of the immunization drive.

A pilot test of limited face-to-face classes was supposed to be held by the government last January but was ordered suspended by Duterte due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

Senate approves proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act

Marje Pelayo   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate of the Philippines approved, on third reading, the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act that seeks to expedite the process of vaccine procurement in the country.

Twenty two (22) senators voted in favor of the measure.

Under Senate Bill 2057, local government units (LGUs) may procure COVID-19 vaccines for 75% of their target population.

Also, the LGUs will be allowed to make advance payments to the vaccine manufacturer.

The bill also provides a COVID-19 national vaccine indemnity fund or payment for damages should the vaccinee experienced serious side effects.

The House of Representatives on Monday (February 22) approved its own version of the bill after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the proposed measure as urgent.

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