The police have arrested one man claiming the cadaver of one Manuel Santiago as somebody else entirely, one with a more purposeful life and certainly controversial.
The special Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) of the Quezon City Police Department (QCPD), which usually handles hig-profile cases, have arrested 49-year-old Paolo Fernando Colabres, a Caloocan City resident and volunteer community development worker, at dawn in La Loma, Quezon City.
According to the police, Colabres was with Luz Perez who represented herself as a lawyer and told personnel at the Pink Petals Funeral house in La Loma that they were relatives of the deceased.
The duo also told funeral personnel the cadaver was that of another man named Randall Echanis and that the whole thing had been coordinated with the CIDU.
An earlier police report identified Randall Echanis as one of two victims of a violent crime who died in the hands of an undetermined and unknown number of assailants the previous Monday also in Quezon City.
The Colabres and Perez duo insisted Santiago’s cadaver actually belonged to the slain Echanis who the activist group AnakPawis owned as their chairman, Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis.
The slain activist was a political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and was credited for helping craft the proposed Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.
The tandem successfully transferred Santiago’s remains to St. Peter’s Chapels along Quezon Avenue before the CIDU got word of what was happening and arrested Colabres who is charged with obstruction of justice, the police said.
Perez eluded arrest.
The case has already attracted the attention of President Duterte who was asked by Echanis’ wife to intervene on her behalf.
“In matters where there’s police investigation or criminal investigation is being conducted, it’s very difficult for anyone, including the President, to interfere. So, he will allow the process to continue,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a broadcast interview.
Echanis’ wife, Erlinda, asked the President’s help to gain possession of the remains of her husband that police officers seized ostensibly to confirm the man killed in Quezon City on Monday was indeed the longtime activist and peasant leader.
“On the claim of the bodies, because there are questions about their identity, we now have modern technology that will guide us if need be. I’m sure they can undergo or adapt DNA technology, DNA science to find out the true identity of the remains,” Roque said.
Echanis was stabbed dead along with a neighbor by unidentified assailants in the early morning hours on Monday.
“I think, the President, as a lawyer will allow the investigation to proceed unhampered,” he added.
Echanis, 72, and his neighbor Louie Tagapia were found dead inside his apartment in Novaliches.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered an investigation into the Echanis killing and directed the National Bureau of Investigation to confirm the identity of the deceased.
Another activist group, Karapatan, doubts the sincerity of justice officials looking into the killings and has asked the Commission on Human Rights to undertake an independent investigation of its own.
The group claimed hundreds of activists have died under President Duterte and that not a single perpetrator have been brought to justice.
with MJBlancaflor and Alvin Murcia
Go extends aid to acquitted OFW
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said he has met the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who just returned to the country after being acquitted of murder in Saudi Arabia.
Rose Policarpio was incarcerated for six years for a crime she did not commit, but was released last January of last year.
During an interview with DZRH Wednesday, Go said Policarpio finally returned last Tuesday.
Policarpio thanked Go and those who helped her.
“First of all, I want to thank the Lord, our government, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh led by Ambassador (Adnan) Alonto. They did not stop until I returned home,” Policarpio said.
She thanked Go for extending assistance and support to help her restart her life. She also expressed her gratitude to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and Department of Social Welfare and Development for helping secure her release and assisting her when she came back to the country.
Go told Policarpio that he was merely doing his job as a public servant. He encouraged Policarpio to come to him if she needs more assistance, such as securing employment and called on all concerned agencies to extend to her other forms of support the government could provide.
“It’s part of our job, Rose. We are happy that you finally returned. What is important is that you safely returned and you can ask what we can do to help you,” said Go in Filipino.
“My office can still help you in a small way and I’m asking government agencies to help you whatever they can. If you want to find job here, we will help you find one,” he added.
Policarpio, then 31, flew to Saudi Arabia in 2013 to work as a food server but ended up working as a domestic helper.
Three men broke into her employer’s house and killed the Lebanese woman.
Policarpio claimed she fled the scene of the crime because the perpetrators attempted to rape her.
Based on the official police report, Policarpio had gone to the police and reported the incident. However, she was arrested and jailed instead.
According to Alonto, Policarpio would have faced the death penalty had she been convicted.
Throughout the ordeal, the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, through the help of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, worked closely and made strong representations on her behalf.
Their timely legal assistance ensured her rights were protected under Saudi laws.
During the interview, Go expressed concern that there remained many cases similar to Policarpio, adding they are monitoring death penalty cases and other calls for help from Filipinos abroad.
He recalled a similar case he had personally helped which involved an OFW who had been convicted of murder in Bahrain.
Roderick Aguinaldo was imprisoned for four years before he received a royal pardon from the Bahraini government. Aguinaldo returned home to the Philippines last 7 June.
Go lamented that while there are specific government programs that provide assistance (e.g. legal counsel and psychosocial counseling) to distressed OFW, they are scattered across various national agencies.
For this reason, the senator said he is pushing for the creation of a department which shall bring together these agencies and be entirely dedicated to handling the affairs of overseas Filipinos.
In 2019, he filed Senate Bill (SB) 202 which, sought to create this department. A second iteration, sb 1835, was recently filed which takes into consideration inputs from concerned executive agencies.
The proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos shall assume the functions of DFA-OUMWA, the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices under the Department of Labor and Employment, the International Labor Affairs Bureau under DoLE and International Social Services Office of the DSWD.
It will also exercise administrative supervision over the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and OWWA which shall be attached to the department.
Koko’s case submitted for resolution
Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon yesterday disclosed that the breach of protocol case of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel lll has been submitted for resolution.
Fadullon said he will submit to Office of Prosecutor General Benedicto A. Malcontento for signing.
Likewise, Fadullon said he is still awaiting the report of Assistant State Prosecutor Wendell Bendoval who told him to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
Earlier, the Department of Justice said it will look again into the complaint of breach in quarantine protocol filed against Senator Pimentel after receiving a report from the hospital the lawmaker visited in March while awaiting his COVID-19 test result.
The reopening of the criminal investigation was done after the National Bureau of Investigation received a copy of the incident report from Makati Medical Center Medical Director Dr. Saturnino Javier.
“In view of the foregoing and in line with the policy of admitting all evidence that could assist in the judicious resolution of complaint, the preliminary investigation of this case is hereby reopened,” Assistant State Prosecutor Bendoval wrote.
Pimentel visited the hospital in March to accompany his pregnant wife even though he was already showing symptoms of COVID-19.
He later tested positive for the highly-contagious virus, drawing outrage from the public for endangering patients and hospital personnel during his visit.
The senator was castigated by the hospital management for violating home quarantine rules, calling his action “reckless and unacceptable.”
Pimentel and the complainant, former dean of the University of Makati Rico Quicho, were then asked to submit their replies on MMC’s report by 21 September.
Legal experts previously said the senator may be fined up to P50,000 or face a jail term of one to six months for failing to disclose that he was suspected of having COVID-19 at the time.
For violating the enhanced community quarantine, he can be fined between P10,000 and P50,000 or jailed for up to a year.
LGU told: Accept travelers
The Department of Tourism (DoT) on Thursday announced that it is already working its way to convince more local governments to accept holiday-makers despite their fears over the coronavirus pandemic.
In a radio interview, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that “almost all” tourist destinations in the country are already under the least stringent coronavirus lockdown level.
“The problem is, they are a bit wary of opening to people outside of their province or city,” said Puyat. “We need to talk to all our local government units to agree to reopening their tourism industry to those outside their city, municipality or province.”
The DoT chief explained that international tourist arrivals have dropped by 75 percent due to the pandemic and out of 5.7 million tourism workers in 2019, 4.8 million have lost their jobs or suffered a pay cut as of Thursday.
She also noted that the mountain city of Baguio will start accepting tourists from neighboring Ilocos Region on 1 October.
Romulo-Puyat added that she would ask an inter-agency task force to allow Metro Manila residents to visit Boracay when it further reopens on 1 October and remove age restrictions for tourists in the island.
“We are working for the tourism industry to slowly reopen, safely but surely,” said Puyat.
Metro Manila is still under general community quarantine (GCQ), which prohibits leisure-related travel to contain novel coronavirus infections and those aged above 60 and below 20 are also barred from leaving their homes.
“We will ask the IATF to remove the age restriction, to allow those aged above 60 and below 20 to travel because Filipinos travel as a family,” said Puyat in the same interview.
“We will also request that aside from letting those from GCQ areas fly to Boracay, we will also ask for the age restriction to be removed,” she added.
Puyat explained that those who want to visit Boracay need a negative PCR coronavirus test result 48 to 72 hours before their trip and they also need to register online with any of some 200 resorts and establishments that the tourism department has certified.
The Tourism chief said that Boracay tourists should also wear anti-virus masks “all the time” and observe physical distancing and the opening is backed by the Environment and Interior departments and Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores.
“It’s a go. Hopefully I think it has a 99.9 percent chance of opening,” said Puyat.
The resort island in 2019 closed for six months to give way to a rehabilitation of its sewage system. It reopened in October 2019, only to be shuttered again by the pandemic last March.
20 private schools delay stipends processing
Twenty private universities and colleges remain noncompliant in their billing requirements to the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC), thus delaying the processing and disbursing of the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) stipends to 500 TES grantees for academic year 2019-2020, according to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).
PEAC processes the TES billings of private Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and endorses these billing claims to CHEd and UniFAST for payment, and those private schools that have already received the TES stipends are those TES billings that have been endorsed by PEAC to the UniFAST Secretariat and CHEd.
A total of 253,585 continuing and new TES beneficiaries from 1,247 private HEI nationwide were validated for academic year 2019-2020 to receive the TES grant.
To date, UniFAST has processed 91 percent of the billing claims endorsed by PEAC for 234,436 grantees in 943 private HEI.
The 20 schools are part of the remaining nine percent that consists mostly of billing claims yet to be endorsed by PEAC to UniFAST from 304 private HEI with a total of more than 15,000 grantees.
“The CHEd and UniFAST staff have been reminding these HEI to immediately comply with their billing submission requirements so their student-grantees can immediately receive the subsidy due in their last academic year especially now that classes for academic year 2020-2021 have started,” CHEd and UniFAST Board chairperson Prospero de Vera III said.
PEAC has reached out to these private schools to follow up on their submissions. While some of the schools are in a rush to comply, most of them were unavailable to answer calls.
While CHEd recognizes that the quarantine imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic may have delayed the submission by these private HEI, nine months have passed and these HEI still have not complied. The TES Management System Portal was opened in January for these HEI to submit their TES billing documents.
Their students continue to suffer from their inaction. The Commission will now look into how these HEI can be penalized for not following their responsibilities in the memorandum of agreement they signed with CHEd.
Students enrolled in private HEIs who are eligible in the TES Program will receive P60,000 per academic year if they belong to the Department of Social Welfare and Development – National Household Targeting Office Listahanan 2.0 or they reside and study in private HEI in cities and municipalities where there is no existing public university or college.
200,000 OFW have gone back home
The number of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were sent back to their respective provinces after testing negative for the coronavirus has reached more than 200,000 as of Thursday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said.
According to the labor department, over 40,000 OFW tested negative for COVID-19 were sent to their provinces this month alone, including the latest batch of 1,440 OFW who were transported on Wednesday.
In total, 218,205 OFW were already assisted by the DoLE since it started sending home OFW en masse in May.
The OFW returnees were provided with accommodation, food, transportation, and COVID testing upon their arrival in the country.
To help OFW financially, DoLE has also been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program to OFW whose incomes were affected by the pandemic, both on-site and those stranded in the country.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said more OFW will benefit from the AKAP program following President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 law.
Bello also said that alternative overseas job markets for displaced OFW have already opened including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kingdom of Bahrain, China, Japan, Czech Republic and Taiwan.
Go backs OPAPP, Mindanao agencies’ proposed budgets
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Wednesday threw his support behind the passage of the proposed budgets for the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) for 2021, stressing allocated funds would institute reforms vital in bringing in more economic opportunities and lasting peace and stability in the southern tip of the country.
During yesterday’s hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Finance, Go reminded fellow lawmakers that “Mindanao and its people have suffered decades of injustice and social inequity” and passing the proposed expenditures of the said agencies would pave the way for the much needed reform and development in the region.
He pointed to the government’s “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program,” an initiative aimed in decongesting Metro Manila and highly urbanized areas, as one way of encouraging investments and promoting economic opportunities in all regions to motivate Filipinos to reside in their provinces particularly those in Mindanao — something the OPAPP and MinDa can work side-by-side with.
“To do this, I emphasized the need to boost the development in our rural areas by ensuring peace and order in the area, creating jobs, incentivizing businesses to invest in the countryside, and providing support for micro, small and medium enterprises, among others,” stated the Senator.
“No matter which part of the country they’re in, it is imperative that we provide our countrymen with comfortable and progressive lives,” he added.
Go then commended the SPDA for promoting the development of southern Philippines through its various programs and projects and urged the agency to further assist in the development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Labor chief lauds ‘kafala’ scrapping
We wish to thank the state of Qatar for this significant reform in their employment laws.
Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are among the thousands of migrant workers in Qatar who will reap benefits from the recent abolishment of the “kafala” system, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said on Wednesday.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, in a statement, said the Qatar government’s move to scrap the “kafala” system, or the stringent monitoring of migrant laborers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors, is seen as “a giant step towards improving the work condition of Filipino workers” in the Arab state.
It is an employment sponsorship system used to monitor migrant laborers working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in Gulf Cooperation Council member states and a few neighbouring countries, such as Bahrain and Kuwait. The system requires migrant workers to get permission from their employers should they decide to change jobs.
“We wish to thank the state of Qatar for this significant reform in their employment laws. This is a giant step to improve the work conditions of migrant workers, especially our OFW,” Bello said in a statement.
Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Qatar, Bello noted Qatar’s enactment of Decree Law 18 and 19 of 2020 amending some provisions of Labor Law No. 14 and 21 series of 2004.
The new legislations allow all migrant workers to change jobs before the end of their contracts without first having to obtain a “No Objection Certificate” from their current employer, and provide greater clarity regarding the termination of employment.
AFP, PNP downplay Facebook purging
We in the AFP are looking at that report by Facebook in removing certain accounts and posts in its platform.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday insisted they continue to abide by the rules on social media use and promote proper decorum and cyber etiquette in all their engagements on all online platforms.
This, after Facebook announced its recent purging of accounts with alleged links to the military and police over “inauthentic behavior” with regards to posts related to domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed unit the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).”
AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said they are now looking into the matter and assured all the military’s official social media accounts are “up and running.”
“We in the AFP are looking at that report by Facebook in removing certain accounts and posts in its platform. In so far as the AFP is concerned, there are no accounts that the AFP maintain that were shutdown or removed by Facebook. All of them are up and running,” Arevalo said in a statement.
“The AFP upholds truth and accountability of network and SocMed account managers as to the contents of postings in our websites, pages and accounts,” he added.
Facebook’s Head of Security Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, disclosed in a webinar that they have taken down accounts, pages, and profiles on Facebook and Instagram with supposed links to the AFP and PNP.
Gleicher, however, did not reveal up to what extent the reported level of involvement the military and police has with the deleted accounts, some of whose activities were traced in China.
The PNP, meanwhile, maintained that all of its official accounts on Facebook and other social media platforms are compliant and will continue to adhere to follow policies concerning representations made on behalf of the organization online.
“We recognize social media as an effective tool that technology can offer, especially at this period of health emergency, to establish proactive information, and awareness activities as well as to build harmonious relationships with the community. As far as we are concerned, official Facebook pages of the PNP and those of our lower units remain compliant with standards and continue to serve its purpose along these objectives,” acting PNP spokesperson PCol. Ysmael Yu said in a separate statement.
Marawi mayor throws support behind Del Rosario
While it can be admitted that there have been delays in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi’s most affected areas, these should not be attributed to the chairperson’s fault.
Despite opposition coming from some civic society groups, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra expressed his strong support to the appointment of Eduardo del Rosario as Secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD).
During the continuation of the Commission on Appointment’s committee hearing on Del Rosario’s (ca) appointment yesterday, Gandamra defended Del Rosario from claims of some critics that the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) has been “ineffective” in its rehabilitation of the war-torn city.
“They said the Task Force Bangon Marawi has been ineffective because of the delays in the rehabilitation of Marawi City. They are even asking him (Del Rosario) to step down as chairperson,” Gandamra said.
“While it can be admitted that there have been delays in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi’s most affected areas, these should not be attributed to the chairperson’s fault,” he justified.
He pointed to the bureaucracy as the main culprit for the delay of the reconstruction of the city three years after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi from the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group.
Even the downloading of funds for the war-torn city’s rehabilitation faced difficulties due to layers of bureaucracy, Gandamra lamented.
He said this was the reason why they were invited by the Chief Executive to his office to “lobby” their concerns to fasttrack the infrastructure projects in his jurisdiction.
The Marawi mayor said that Del Rosario should not be solely blamed for the delays in the rehabilitation as the TFBM is composed of members from different national agencies.
“The Task Force Bangon Marawi, in spite of the shortcomings, has been successful in many ways through its projects and initiatives from the time of the siege and beyond,” expressed Gandamra.
“The delays are caused by circumstances that are beyond the TFBM’s control as it is under the national government.”
He further noted that Del Rosario has been meeting with different sectors including traditional, religious and other leaders of the local government to consolidate their views in the reconstruction of the city.
“We have worked alongside him and the members of his team. And we believe that the accusations and opposition directed towards him and the Task Force Bangon Marawi are no longer relevant as of this time,” Gandamra said.
Last week, several groups of internally displaced persons (IDP) have opposed the confirmation of Del Rosario as Housing Secretary, citing his alleged poor track record in the government’s effort to rehabilitate the war-torn city of Marawi in Mindanao.
Gandamra asked for unity among his constituents until the rehabilitation of Marawi is completed.
He said there is no room for “strife and divisiveness” instead, constituents of Marawi City should encourage TFBM in attaining their task to rebuild the Islamic City.
Previously, Del Rosario mentioned the construction of three bridges, 24 barangay complex, Grand Padian Market, Peace Memorial Park, Marawi Museum, four-story buildings, as some of the infrastructure projects that are currently under construction within Marawi’s most affected area.
Del Rosario also informed the CA panel that P5 billion has been allotted for the Marawi rehabilitation for 2021 under the budget proposal submitted by the Executive Department.
For the second time, Del Rosario’s appointment was not endorsed to the plenary due to time constraints.