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Nationwide round-up

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DoH warns vs bogus contact tracers; Duterte orders police to assist tracing teams

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) warned the public against individuals claiming to be part of the government’s contact tracing team and soliciting personal information that can be used for financial scams. In an advisory on Tuesday, the DoH said those who get contacted should verify the identity of the tracer from their village-level health emergency team. “If they introduce themselves as part of the LGU (local government unit) Contact Tracing Team, please verify basic information and ensure that they have been referred by your Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams,” DoH said. The department also asked those who will receive suspicious calls to report details to the DoH hotline so that authorities can investigate  and take legal action against these scammers.

POLICE HELP
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the police to assist LGUs in contact tracing through the use of their available resources such as vehicles. “Contact tracing means that ‘yung people who are doing the actual tracing will have to travel to the place where the person in question resides. Kailangan ito ng sasakyan (They need vehicles),” Mr. Duterte said in a televised talk late Monday. He added that the police can help in coordinating the entry of local officials from one area to another in cases where the contacts being traced live across local borders and have to pass through police-manned checkpoints. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez

Former Comelec chair Brillantes, 80

SIXTO S. Brillantes, Jr., former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair and was known for exposing the alleged cheating in the 2004 polls, passed away Aug. 11. He was 80. The Comelec confirmed on Tuesday the death of Mr. Brillantes, who battled the coronavirus disease. “This is to confirm the passing of former Chairperson Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr., today at a little past 11 a.m.,” Comelec Spokesperson James B. Jimenez said in a message to reporters. Before Mr. Brillantes was appointed to the Comelec in 2011 under the administration of then President Benigno C. Aquino III, he practiced election law and had a number of high profile clients, including former President Joseph E. Estrada and the Ampatuan family. Mr. Brillantes also represented the late actor and presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr., who contested his loss to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2004. The election lawyer raised cheating allegations against Ms. Arroyo, which became known as the “Hello Garci” scandal. — Gillian M. Cortez 

Supreme Courts sets oral deliberations on anti-terror law

THE SUPREME Court (SC) will hold oral arguments in September on the petitions against the law that expanded the definition of terror crimes. SC Public Information Chief Brian Keith F. Hosaka told reporters via Viber the deliberations will be held “on the 3rd week of September, at the earliest.” The court has consolidated the six latest petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act with the first 19 lawsuits filed, he said. There are two other petitions already submitted online but pending physical filling. The respondents were given 10 days to answer the petitions against the law that took effect last July 18. The assailed law considers attacks that cause death or serious injury, extensive damage to property and manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport and supply of weapons or explosives as terrorist acts. The government is also allowed to detain a suspect even without warrant of arrest for 14 days from three days previously. The law also creates the Anti-Terror Council composed of Cabinet officials, which can perform acts reserved for courts, such as ordering the arrest of suspected terrorists. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Killing of peace consultant Echanis muddled by identity confirmation

JUSTICE SECRETARY Menardo I. Guevarra said he has already ordered an investigation on the killing of Randall Echanis, a consultant of the communist organization National Democratic Front of the Philippines, but it will not start until the slain man is confirmed to be him. “In view of the emerging confusion as to the identity of the subject, however, we shall await confirmation by the family of the deceased that the subject was indeed peasant leader Echanis,” he told reporters via Viber. Justice Undersecretary Markk L. Perete said “forensic examination” may be needed to identify the victim. “We leave it to experts to complete this identification,” Mr. Perete said. The Anakpawis party-list, where Mr. Echanis was chair, said in a statement on Tuesday that his widow, Erlinda Echanis, already positively identified her husbands body at a funeral home in Quezon City. She described the remains as bearing “torture marks, multiple stab and gunshot wounds.” The police, however, “forcefully took” Mr. Echanis’ remains as there was supposedly no release order from their office and the body was still “under investigation,” according to Anakpawis. “I condemn the persistent harassment of PNP (Philippine National Police) La Loma-QCPD and their brazen act of snatching the remains of my husband,” she said in a statement sent to reporters past 11 p.m. Monday.

ID CARD
Policemen also arrested Jose Paolo Colabres, a member of the paralegal team seeking to claim Echanis’ body. He was brought to Camp Karingal where he is under investigation for obstruction of justice. Lt. Johanna Sazon, Quezon City Police District spokesperson, said the body was taken as investigators need to secure fingerprints and DNA samples to prove Mr. Echanis’ identity. Mr. Echanis was initially identified by the police as Manuel Santiago based on an identification card found beside him, and his companion, Louie Tagapia. The two were shot and killed by armed men at Mr. Echanis’ rented apartment in Novaliches on Monday. “Kailangan po natin ng proof to prove na siya talaga si Echanis na sinasabi po nila (We need proof to prove that he really is Echanis as they claim),” Mr. Sazon said in an interview over ANC. Former Anakpawis party-list representative Ariel Casilao said they have reason to believe the government was involved in the murder given Mr. Echanis’ background as a peasant leader and involvement with the communist political group. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR





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