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Duterte asks PNP: Ferry contact tracers

MJ Blancaflor



President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered policemen to provide transportation assistance to the government’s contact tracers, saying they should “walk the extra mile” to boost one of the country’s strategies in addressing the pandemic.

The President’s orders came after Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who serves as the country’s tracing czar, lamented that some local government units have only traced around four to five close contacts of COVID-19 patients.

These figures are far below the benchmark set by Magalong, who said that 30 to 37 close contacts of each COVID-19 patient should be identified.

In his public address Monday night, the President said the Philippine National Police (PNP) could aid to track down individuals who had physical interactions to COVID-19 patients.

“Contact tracing means that people who are doing the actual tracing will have to travel the place where the person in question resides. We need vehicles,” Duterte said.

“The police can take the contract tracer to the nearest boundary of the next town or city. Beyond that, another policeman can provide the ride from that station to aid the person looking for the close contacts,” Duterte added.

The President admitted that he did not want to put an additional burden on the police force, but he said the uniformed personnel, as well as barangay chiefs, have the resources to aid in contract tracing.

“If only we had money and vehicles, I wouldn’t trouble the police. But since there’s none, the police has to sacrifice and contribute to the solution of the problem now,” Duterte said.

“I’m just asking for your help our country now. Walk the extra mile to help our country,” he added.

Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said the Philipines aims to have the best contact tracing efforts in Asia.

“We acknowledge that e need to intensify our tracing efforts. If the we have thr highest number of actual tests in Asia, not just in Southeast Asia, we also aim to have the best tracing efforts based on the model of Mayor Magalong,” Roque said in a televised briefing Tuesday.

Magalong noted that poor contact tracing could have contributed to the continuous rise of COVID-19 cases in the country which soared to over 136,000 on Monday evening.

“Assuming that there is a 10-percent positivity rate among close contacts, if there are 2,500 unaccounted individuals in 10 days, we’re looking at 250 potentially infected persons who go about publicly and are unaccounted,” Magalong said in a radio interview last Friday.

Magalong also expressed frustration over incomplete details of some close contacts for Metro Manila patients that were encoded in the COVID KAYA Information System, a case and contact tracing reporting database launched by the Department of Health.

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1,200 medical workers allowed to depart

Raymart Lolo



More nurses and medical workers will be allowed to depart the country for employment abroad once President Rodrigo Duterte approves the recommendation of expanding the deployment ban exemption, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Friday.

During the Laging Handa public briefing, Bello said they expect more than 1,200 healthcare workers to be deployed abroad if the exemption is extended to 31 August.

“[We] are still waiting for IATF approval for their recommendation to extend extension,” he said.

Bello stressed however that only healthcare workers with perfected documents including visa as of 31 August will be allowed to leave.

“Our nurses should have acquired clarified contract of employment, visa and also OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate) coming from the (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) POEA. Once they completed the documents, then they can be deployed,” Bello said.

According to the labor chief, the government has initially allowed the deployment of at least 900 nurses and medical workers with employment papers secured as of 8 March.

Last April, the POEA issued Resolution 9, temporarily suspending the deployment of all healthcare workers “until the national state of emergency is lifted.”

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LGU chiefs laud DU30 declaration

The circumstances that led to the declaration of a State of Calamity on 16 March remain present, and it’s clear that we need to extend it as it expired last Tuesday, 15 September.

Kristina Maralit



A group of local chief executives welcomed yesterday the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend the validity of a declaration placing the entire country under a state of calamity, saying the move would enable local government units (LGU) to sustain their efforts against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) national president and Quirino Governor Dax Cua said the extension provides for LGU to utilize their Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Quick Reaction Fund (QRF) uninterruptedly meant for aiding their constituents while also mitigating the impact of the contagion.

“The circumstances that led to the declaration of a State of Calamity on 16 March remain present, and it’s clear that we need to extend it as it expired last Tuesday, 15 September,” Cua said in a statement Friday.

“Our efforts and cooperation in slowing the spread of COVID-19 is non-stop. Extending the state of calamity gives us the resources we need to overcome this pandemic and properly care for all our constituents,” he added.

The President last 16 March issued Proclamation 929 putting the entire nation under a State of Calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This authorizes local governments to spend the QRF and other available, appropriate funds for their disaster preparedness and response efforts to arrest the spread of the viral respiratory disease, especially in providing basic services to those hardest hit by the crisis.

Proclamation 929 also enjoins concerned government agencies and LGUs “to render full assistance to and cooperation with each other and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate disaster response aid and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of Covid-19.”

It likewise allows the fast-tracking of buying essential goods and payment of needed services vital in the LGUs’ respective anti-coronavirus initiatives.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque last Thursday, 17 September 2020, said the extension order is “probably signed by now” and is just awaiting transmission to the Office of the Executive Secretary for implementation.

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Sinas promotion a PNP prerogative — Eleazar

Elmer N. Manuel @tribunephl_lmer



Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Chief for Administration Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Friday clarified that the reported promotion of National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Major General Debold Sinas is the prerogative of the PNP’s top cop.

In a television interview, Eleazar stressed that the promotion of Sinas — who was previously involved in a controversial mañanita that allegedly violated health protocols — is up to PNP chief Police General Camilo Cascolan.

Cascolan announced that Sinas “deserves” a promotion despite holding a birthday party that went viral on social media for violating quarantine rules.

“That is the prerogative of the Chief PNP. He is the head of our organization and he knows who should occupy PNP positions,” Eleazar said.

Sinas previously drew the ire of the public over a pre-dawn birthday serenade at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City that reportedly breached the 10-people limit on gatherings meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, President Rodrigo Duterte refused to sack Sinas, even while Luzon was, at the time, still under strict lockdown.

The NCRPO chief also made headlines in July over his viral confrontation with the family of a retired officer that he and his men asked to leave from a government compound in Taguig City.

Cascolan said he earlier reshuffled 11 or 12 PNP officials due to the retirement of some of their colleagues. He said he also transferred 2 or 3 officers so he could put “the right person for the right job.”

“We need people that are snappy, good and has that moral ascendancy, and at the same time, service reputation to lead,” said Cascolan in an earlier statement.

Cascolan disclosed that he cancelled a “midnight appointment” by Gamboa concerning the PNP’s health service. He declined to name the officials involved, saying they were “also a victim.”

“I don’t have people that I choose. They’re all my people. I am a father and brother to all of them,” he said.

“All officers come and go. They know for a fact that when we have already served and we are being assigned for promotion, that will be good for us and we always follow orders.”

Eleazar, for his part, stressed that there will be really a movement of personnel in the PNP.

“When somebody retires, there will be a movement of personnel, especially if the position is occupied by a two-star general. A 1-star general will take his place and that could lead to a reshuffle,”he said.

In a related development, the PNP on Friday launched the “Bayaning Pulis Foundation, Inc.” – an initiative aimed in making sure children and dependents of police personnel who perished or permanently disabled while in the line of duty will stay in school.

The foundation will provide educational assistance to the beneficiaries from elementary to college. In partnership with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI),
“This is a high impact project as part of the realization of PNP P.A.T.R.O.L 2030, and this time, it aims to secure the welfare and benefit of dependents of PNP personnel who died or permanently incapacitated in line of duty,” Cascolan said during the PNP and PCCI’s signing of the Articles and Incorporation and By-Laws of the foundation held at 8 Meridian in Pasay City.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation ordered the PNP to implement physical distancing in public transportation to ensure compliance.

The order came after the reduction of the minimum social distance from 1 meter to 0.75 meters that started last Monday. From 0.75 meters it will also be reduced to 0.5 meters starting 25 September and from 0.5 meters it will be reduced to 0.3 meters starting 12 October.

With Paula Antolin, Kristina Maralit

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CHR welcomes media welfare bill

The current health pandemic emphasizes the importance of a free media in ensuring the dissemination of timely and factual information.

Francis Wakefield



The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday welcomed the filing of Senate Bill 1820, which aims to create a basic compensation scheme to include the adequate compensation for hazardous media coverages and guarantee the security of tenure or regularization for all media workers.

Atty. Jacqueline de Guia, CHR spokesperson, said the proposed Media Workers’ Welfare Act, a legislative measure filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto, also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to create a News Media Tripartite Council to cater to the concerns of media stakeholders to ensure that the labor rights of media workers are protected.

De Guia said that the current health pandemic emphasizes the importance of a free media in ensuring the dissemination of timely and factual information to help educate the Filipino citizenry on the health impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the ways to prevent its transmission.

She said the adverse economic effects brought about by the pandemic, however, has led to the enactment of retrenchment policies by several media entities and franchise holders leaving numerous media professionals with no income and support system to weather the negative economic effects of COVID-19.

“This problem is compounded by massive layoff of media workers by media entities that practice unfair labor practices that mislabels longtime employees as contractual employees — denying them employee-employer relationship and benefits despite multiple years of successive contract renewals indicating the desirability and necessity of the practitioner’s work,” De Guia said.

De Guia said as a country that prides itself with having a free press, ensuring the protection and just compensation of media practitioners is essential in ensuring the protection of the freedom of expression and the right of individuals to access of information.

She added denying media workers the fair compensation and benefits not only violates labor laws, but also makes journalist vulnerable to certain financial obligations that may affect the objectivity of their news reports.

“In ensuring the protection of labor rights and a free press, the Commission continues to reiterate its support for the protection and promotion of the rights of media workers,” De Guia said.

“Together let us remember that in line with our constitutional rights to freedom of expression and information the protection of our media workers is necessary to ensure a free and fair media,” she added.

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Go backs bill on rank classification

For our uniformed personnel, rank is not simply a rank, it is a symbol of leadership and duty.





Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has expressed support for Senate Bill (SB) 1833 under Committee Report 112 providing for the rank classification and organization of key positions in the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

“For our uniformed personnel, rank is not simply a rank, it is a symbol of leadership and duty. Therefore, it is just right that we classify the key officers of the BFP and BJMP at par with the rank classification of the PNP,” Go explained during his co-sponsorship speech of the measure during the Senate regular session last Wednesday.

Citing the need to address the inequality in the rank classification in these bureaus, Go said that the bill will improve organization efficiency and effectiveness in the BFP and BJMP by eliminating confusion in ranks.

“We need to address the inequality in the rank classification and show our fire and jail officers that we appreciate their devotion to their duty and their sacrifice, dedication and service to the country,” he said.

“It will also uplift the morale of every uniformed personnel in the BJMP and the BFP,” Go added.

If passed into law, SB 1833 will amend several sections of the Republic Act (RA) 9263, or An Act Providing for the Professionalization of the BFP and the BJMP, Amending Certain Provisions of Republic Act No. 6975, Providing the Funds Thereof and for Other Purposes.

This includes the amendment of Section 3 which provides for the organization and key positions of the BFP and the BJMP; and Section 12 which provides for the standardization of the base pay, retirement and other benefits of the uniformed personnel of the BFP and the BJMP.

The Senator expressed hopes for the measure to motivate uniformed personnel in the fire and jail service to provide effective and efficient public service.

He then commended Senator Ronald dela Rosa for sponsoring and prioritizing this measure. Go also requested to be made a co-sponsor of the bill.

During the same Senate session, Go co-sponsored the Fire Protection Modernization Bill, a measure which seeks to strengthen the mandate and capability of the BFP.

Go, who is the principal author of the bill, said that now is the right time to modernize the BFP, as he emphasized that the government should be proactive in combating any kind of catastrophe in the country.

Under the Fire Protection Modernization Bill, the BFP will be responsible for implementing a fire protection modernization program, which would be beneficial not only to the firefighters, but also to the public.

“The said bill will include hiring of more personnel, acquiring modern fire equipment and training for our firefighters. It also mandates the BFP to conduct monthly fire prevention campaigns and information drive in all local government units,” Go said.

“Thus, it is fitting that our firefighters at the frontlines be given the best tools to ensure their own safety and the safety of our fellow countrymen,” he added.

Previously, Go backed a proposed bill modifying the minimum height requirements for applicants to the Philippine National Police, BFP, BJMP, and the Bureau of Corrections, saying that it will help augment and strengthen the country’s law enforcement and firefighting forces, and other first-responders in times of emergencies and calamities.

“I want to commend the good sponsor for pushing for this measure and I wish to manifest my support and my intention to co-author this bill modifying the minimum height requirement for PNP, BJMP, BFP, and BuCor personnel,” Go said in a separate co-sponsorship speech of the bill on 4 September.

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PAF aids chopper crash victims

Kristina Maralit



The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday vowed to extend all kinds of aid in its disposal to the families of the four personnel who perished in the helicopter crash in Lantawan, Basilan the other day.

“The men and women of the Philippine Air Force, led by its Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Allen T. Paredes, PAF, are greatly saddened with the loss of our four gallant airmen and extends its greatest sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families,” PAF spokesperson, Lt. Col. Aristides Galang Jr., said.

“The PAF will be giving necessary assistance to the bereaved families,” he added.

The Air Force’s S-76A Sikorsky helicopter took off from Zamboanga City and was headed to Sulu province to airlift wounded soldiers when it crashed into a hilly portion of Basilan, instantly killing all four personnel aboard.

“Initial reports show that the weather was bad that time. But we can’t categorically say that it caused the accident. It’s just one factor being looked at during the course of the investigation. We are considering many things like the weather, the environment factor, human factor, and another one is the material factor,” noted Galang.
“Reports that have been coming up are still being checked by our investigating team,” he added.

Galang identified the fatalities as pilot Maj. Jessie Miller, co-pilot 1Lt. Mack-Ar Ferrer, and the two crew members, SSg. Miguel Bañas Jr. and A2C Benedicto Leal Jr.

The ill-fated chopper belonged to the Air Force’s 505th Search and Rescue Group.

Paredes had already ordered the grounding of the PAF’s two remaining Sikorsky helicopters due to the incident.

“That’s the standard operating procedure,” Galang said. “If one of the aircrafts get involved in any incident, (the others) will be put on hold and will be grounded.”

“Until the investigation is finished, the Sikorsky helicopters will remain grounded, but once the investigation and inspections are finished, then they will be placed on call,” he added.

The PAF spokesman cannot determine yet until when the two helicopters will be grounded.


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China, ASEAN discuss sea CoC

Gabbie Parlade



The Chinese Embassy welcomes the negotiations aimed at establishing a Code of Conduct (CoC) by stakeholder countries on the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea, it said on Thursday.

In a statement, China stated that it has been in constant dialogue with other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) where territorial and maritime disputes have been discussed through “bilateral mechanism.”

“Good progress has been achieved,” it said.

The Embassy stated that although initiatives were hampered by the new coronavirus pandemic, China is “committed” to pushing further consultations with other ASEAN members through the CoC.

“We are happy to see that good headway has been made with the completion of the first reading of the Single Draft CoC Negotiating Text (SDNT) and the commencement of the second reading of the SDNT last year,” the statement said.

The SDNT serves as a basis for the CoC’s adoption includes parts of the full document that entail the prevention and management of disputes within the ASEAN countries and China.

Although initiatives were delayed by the pandemic, it said that China and the ASEAN countries will be resuming their meetings on the matter.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. affirmed that the discussions made for the CoC will be “comfortable” to all parties involved.

“China has my word on that and it will be a CoC with which the rest of the world will be totally comfortable, friends and enemies alike,” he wrote on Twitter.

Last Wednesday, 9 September, Locsin stated that the Philippines remain firm in pushing for developments under the CoC in resolving disputes in the South China Sea.

He reiterated that ASEAN countries as well as China should be dealing with these matters through observing the international laws that have already been made effective.

It includes the United Nations Hague tribunal award which granted the Philippines ownership of the disputed sea. China, however, has continuously been calling the decision as “illegal and invalid.”

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Court seeks Pimentel NBI paper comment

Alvin Murcia



Senator Koko Pimentel was ordered by the prosecutor looking into his breach of quarantine protocols to submit on Monday his comments on the additional evidence submitted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Assistant State Prosecutor Wendell Bendoval, who is handling the preliminary probe, directed Pimentel and complainant lawyer Rico Quicho to submit their comments before coming up with a decision in about 60 days.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra disclosed this development to the media after the preliminary investigation was reopened recently.

Pimentel was accused of violating quarantine protocols on 24 March when he went to the Makati Medical Center with his pregnant wife Kathryna.

She was scheduled for a checkup before gave birth on 29 March.

Pimentel, however, was supposedly placed in quarantine during that stretch after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Quicho filed the complaint against Pimentel on 6 April for violation of the Republic Act 11332, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, and its implementing rules and other Department of Health (DoH) regulations.

Bendoval sent the case for resolution in July but had to order the re-opening of the preliminary investigation after the NBI submitted on 4 September its additional findings, including the incident reports from MMC medical director Dr. Saturnino Javier.

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Danao takes on any PNP assignment

Kristina Maralit



CALABARZON police chief PBGen. Vicente Danao is leaving it up to the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership to decide whether he should stay on as regional director of the Police Regional Office 4A (PRO-4A).

PNP chief PGen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan earlier floated the possibility of Danao succeeding PMaj. Gen. Debold Sinas at the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).

Sinas is being eyed for a key position at the PNP’s Command Group at the national headquarters.

“I will leave up to the appointing authority on where he thinks I am best fitted to be of help,” Danao said in a statement Thursday, referring to Cascolan.

“Rest assured that in whatever capacity your humble public servant will always do his best to enforce the law without fear and favor, maintain peace and order, prevent and control crimes, and ensure public safety and internal security with the active support of the community,” he added.

Cascolan was praised for “doing good” and a “very competent person” in leading the CALABARZON police. CALABARZON is made up of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.

Apart from the NCRPO, the PNP Chief said Danao also seems like a good fit in the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

“Whether it’s CIDG or NCR, it’s good. But I would rather choose him for NCR because he’d be better in leading the NCRPO,” noted Cascolan.

Danao is tagged as one of the “Davao cops”, along with former top cop and now Senator Roland “Bato” de la Rosa, the recently retired PGen. Archie Gamboa, and Cascolan — being the last Davao City chief of police of then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Prior to leading PRO-4A, Danao served as district director of the Manila Police District.

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