Nationwide round-up

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Duterte to talk about human rights before UN General Assembly

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte will be attending and addressing, both for the first time, the United Nation’s (UN) General Assembly that starts Tuesday, with human rights among the topics of his speech.

Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Eric A. Borje said the President is scheduled to talk on the first day of the event.

“President Duterte will articulate principled positions of the Philippines on a wide range of issues and I do not want to preempt the President. But these are the ones of key importance to the country and I will identify them. That will be global response to the coronavirus pandemic; peace and security including terrorism and geopolitical developments in the Asia-Pacific; sustainable development and climate change; the rule of law, justice and human rights, including the situation of migrant workers and refugees as well as peace keeping and United Nations reports,” Mr. Borje said in a briefing on Monday.

“This will be the President’s first time to address the UN General Assembly, the main deliberative board of the UN where all the 193 member states are represented. This year’s UN GA is of historic significance  as it marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations,” he said.

The high-level general debate of the UN will begin September 22 and run until the 26th.

Mr. Duterte has previously launched tirades against the UN, among other international organizations and foreign institutions, over criticisms of alleged human rights abuses under his administration’s war on drugs. — Gillian M. Cortez 

Adjusted date for overseas-bound health workers approved

THE EXTENSION of those exempted from the ban on healthcare worker deployment has been approved, now allowing those with contracts signed on or before August 31 to leave for jobs abroad.

Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said in a briefing on Monday that President Rodrigo R. Duterte granted the expanded exemption period as recommended by the Department of Labor and Employment last week.

Yung mga meron na papeles at kumpleto ang documentation as of August 31, 2020, pinayagan na po ng Presidente na makaalis sa trabaho nila abroad (Those whose papers and documents are completed as of August 31, the President is allowing departure for work abroad),” he said.

Prior to the announcement, only those with signed contracts as of March 8 were exempted from the ban.

The Labor department said around 1,500 healthcare workers will benefit from the extension. — Gillian M. Cortez 

State of calamity stays until COVID-19 vaccine becomes available

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte will only lift the national state of calamity when a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) becomes available, his spokesperson said on Monday.

The state of calamity, first declared March 16 and was supposed to lapse September 15, has been extended to September 2021.

Habang wala pang bakuna, habang may sakit, nandiyan pa rin ang banta ng COVID-19 (While there are no vaccines, while there is still sickness, the threat of COVID-19 is still there),” Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said in a briefing.

Several companies and countries worldwide are in various stages of developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Mr. Duterte has said he will prioritize buying from Russia and China. — Gillian M. Cortez 

BuCor chief Bantag positive for COVID-19

BUREAU OF Corrections chief Gerald Q. Bantag has tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“Confirmed,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that his result came out Sunday.

Mr. Bantag said he was tested last week as his driver, a close-in security, tested positive.

The prison chief said he experienced “chilling” for two nights, with high body temperature, mild coughing, and headache.

He took paracetamol and Vitamin C, he said, and the symptoms were gone on the third day, he said.

Mr. Bantag is staying at the director’s quarters of the national penitentiary.

BuCor’s spokesperson, Gabriel Chaclag, also tested positive for COVID-19. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Lawyer Peloto nominated new Comelec commissioner

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) announced on Monday the nomination of lawyer Michael B. Peloto as new commissioner who will hold the post until February 21, 2027.

Mr. Peloto, appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as a member of the board of directors of the Philippine Reclamation Authority in 2018, will take the post vacated by former Commissioner Luie Tito F. Guia.

His nomination letter was signed by Mr. Duterte on September 17.

The Comelec calls Mr. Peloton’s nomination a “timely addition” to the poll body given his background in law and information technology.

Comelec Spokesperson James B. Jimenez said since Mr. Peloto’s appointment was made during the regular session of Congress, he cannot assume his Comelec post immediately.

“He must first be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments,” he told reporters via Viber. — Gillian M. Cortez