Senators call for accountability in tagging people as communists, terrorists

THE military should punish its members who were behind the publication on social media of an unvetted list of people who are alleged members of the communist armed group New People’s Army (NPA), a senator said. “Apology is one thing, but taking action is another. If this goes unpunished, kung walang managot dito, posibleng mangyari lang ito uli (if no one is made accountable, it’s possible that this will happen again),” Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said in a statement on Monday. “Paulit-ulit na lang (It happens over and over again). Bad eggs should never be left unpunished,” he added, noting it was not the first time that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) published an unsubstantiated list. The AFP on Sunday evening released an apology over inconsistencies in the “List of Students who joined the NPA (Died or Captured),” which included mainly students from the University of the Philippines (UP). The article has been taken down and an investigation is underway to determine the personnel responsible. The AFP also said it is reviewing its procedures to prevent a repeat of the incident. Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said he is mulling on including a provision that will criminalize red-tagging in the draft committee report on the recent hearings regarding the issue. “We will have to ask the military to submit additional documents to validate reports on the personalities which they claimed during the committee hearings we conducted were killed, and if they were actually students of the universities mentioned,” he said in a statement. Mr. Lacson also recommended that given the military’s latest gaffe, the Department of National Defense (DND) should suspend the termination of its agreement with UP.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) also denounced the inclusion of three lawyers in the list and called on government institutions to establish clear policies against tagging people as communists. IBP President Domingo Egon Q. Cayosa said in a statement on Monday that “false and reckless publications, shortcuts, and questionable means destroy the very rights, public interests or principles that we all seek to protect.” The group categorically denied that lawyers Roan Libarios, Alexander Padilla, and Rafael Angelo Aquino are members of the communist group. “They are responsible and respected Filipino lawyers who serve well our country in various capacities and meaningfully contribute to nation-building,” Mr. Cayosa said. Mr. Libarios, a former IBP national president and chair of its 20th Board of Governors, was previously elected as vice governor and representative of Agusan del Norte. He was also a member of the government peace panel and the Consultative Committee on Charter Change. Mr. Padilla has likewise worked with the government as assistant secretary at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), among other positions in various agencies. Mr. Aquino, meanwhile, was a student leader from UP, a legal counsel of Rotary International District 3830, senior partner for a private law firm, and a volunteer lawyer at the Free Legal Assistance Group. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Trade chief insists economy needs boost from consumer spending

TRADE Secretary Ramon M. Lopez asserted on Monday that lockdown restrictions needed to be eased to boost the economy through higher consumer spending. In a televised press briefing, Mr. Lopez said the government has found a “good mixture between opening the economy and following health protocols,” citing August-December data. The national task force on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response has approved a guideline that will allow minors as young as 10 years old to go to shopping malls in areas under the most relaxed lockdown level. “When families go out, they account for about 30% to 50% of the sales of restaurants or enterprises. They account for a big part of sales,” Mr. Lopez said. A health professional, on the other hand, said it is “beyond questionable” to allow children to go to shopping malls while physical classes are suspended. “It is against logic and dangerous to allow children and more people in general in malls. More risk of infections,” Leonard D. Javier, a member of Health Alliance for Democracy, told BusinessWorld via Facebook messenger. “What we need now is to reframe the pandemic response approach to a medical and public health perspective. We need to still catch up on testing quarantine and isolation,” he said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

House committee approves bill on freelancers’ rights

A HOUSE of Representatives committee approved on Monday a consolidated bill that will strengthen the rights and protection of freelance workers. The House committee on ways and means approved the still untitled measure and will be sending it to the plenary for deliberations. “The bill makes enforcement of the rights of the freelancers easier… it likewise provides civil penalties for those who violate the act,” said Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher P. De Venecia, the bill’s sponsor. He noted that there are up to 1.5 million freelancers in the country who are at risk of getting exploited due to having no knowledge of their legal rights. Many fall victim to payment evasion by their clients, he added. The proposed law makes it mandatory to have a written contract between the freelancer and the client. Mr. De Venecia said this also benefits the contractor as the required services will be specified. — Gillian M. Cortez

Senator calls for DepEd probe on ‘ready-made’ research papers; House tackles shorter probationary period for teachers

THE Department of Education (DepEd) should investigate reports that teachers are buying off-the-shelf research papers to get a promotion, a senator said on Monday. DepEd “should immediately probe incidents of teachers allegedly buying ready-made action research papers for promotion or funding,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said in a statement. He said education agencies should come up with mechanisms that will vet research submitted by teachers. Mr. Gatchalian, who is chairman of the basic education panel, said the government should also introduce reforms that will lighten the workload of teachers to allow more time for research work. “Prior to the pandemic, they are already burdened with non-teaching tasks and the shift to distance learning proved overwhelming,” he said. He also pushed for Senate Bill No. 1887, the Teacher Education Council law, which intends to improve the quality of teacher education and training.

At the House of Representatives, private school and business sector representatives bucked the proposed measure that will shorten the probationary period for teaching personnel to a maximum of one year from the current three years. Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) Governor Antonio H. Abad, Jr. said existing guidelines and Supreme Court rulings provide that each private school “can set its own standards” when it comes to teacher tenure. “Because the quality of the school is dependent on the quality of the teacher and the quality of the teacher determines the quality of the students,” he said in a virtual hearing on Monday held by the House committee on labor and employment. On the agenda were House Bill 508 filed by ACT Teachers Part-List Rep. France L. Castro, and HB 2627, filed by Trade Union Congress of the Philippines Rep. Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza. Both bills seek to provide a probationary period for teachers in line with the Labor Code, which mandates up to six months before a worker should be regularized. “If the period is six months to one year for academic personnel, that would be alright because that follows the law. The law has long been violated… and there are too many policies… but our primary law is our Labor Code,” Ms. Castro said in Filipino during the hearing. The measures will still undergo further committee deliberation. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Gillian M. Cortez