VP Robredo defers drug war report in earthquake’s wake


VICE PRESIDENT Maria Leonor G. Robredo on Monday deferred the release of her report on the government’s drug war, citing the need to focus first on assisting those affected by Sunday’s earthquake in the Davao Region. In a press conference, Ms. Robredo said in Filipino that it would be “very wrong timing” to tend to the report on the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) amid the calamity. “Meron pa namang panahon para pag-usapan ito (There is still time to talk about this),” she said. Ms. Robredo was appointed co-chair of ICAD by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last November 6, but was fired after 19 days for supposedly failing her duties. Her designation came after she criticized the government’s anti-drug campaign, specifically on the alleged high death toll. Ms. Robredo was not given access to the list of high-value targets of the anti-illegal drugs campaign during her stint. Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo criticized Ms. Robredo’s decision to postpone the release of her report, hinting that she has nothing irregular to reveal. “As I said, kung meron siyang ilalalabas na masama o iregularidad, dapat (if there is something bad or irregular, it should be that) from the very time of discovery, dapat nilabas niya (she should have revealed it then). Apparently, wala naman (There is none),” Mr. Panelo said at a briefing in Malacañang. — Genshen L. Espedido and Gillian M. Cortez

House committee approves consolidated OFWs department bill

THE HOUSE of Representatives’ committee on appropriations approved on Monday the appropriation provisions in the substitute bill that will create the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and Foreign Employment. The still unnumbered substitute bill, which consolidates 39 measures, will be known as the Department of Filipinos Overseas (DFO) Act of 2019. Under the bill, the new department will be tasked to formulate, recommend, and implement national policies, plans, programs, and guidelines that will ensure the protection of OFWs and their families. Section 23 of the substitute bill states that “the amount needed for the initial operation of the Department shall be taken from the current years of appropriation of the agencies, entities, divisions, sections or bodies subsumed with the Department,” adding that “sums as may be necessary for the continued implementation shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.” Rep. Mario Vittorio A. Mariño (Batangas, 5th District), chair of the committee on government reorganization, noted during the hearing on Monday the major economic contribution of OFWs through their remittances, which account for 10% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas show that OFW remittances grew by 4.6% in October year-to-date. Mr. Mariño also said the creation of an OFW department would address persistent problems, particularly human trafficking and inadequate safety nets for displaced OFWs. — Genshen L. Espedido