DBM releases P82.5M for swine fever measures

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) facade

THE DEPARTMENT of Budget and Management (DBM) released P82.5 million to the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday to fund measures relating to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

In a statement, DBM said out of the total fund released to the DA-Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI), P31.8 million is for the detection of meat products at international airports, P27.7 million for testing of meat samples, P17.6 million for surveillance and monitoring, and P5.4 million for an awareness campaign.

DA confirmed on Monday the first outbreak of ASF in the country after the Polymerase chain reaction test showed 14 out of the 20 samples submitted came out positive. A total of 7,416 hogs have been culled since Aug. 18 from Bulacan and Rizal provinces to prevent the disease from spreading further.

DA Secretary William D. Dar said they suspect that the outbreak was mainly from the use of swill or leftovers, especially from hotels. The government, according to DBM, has been implementing preventive measures since the ASF threat started in China, including banning of pork imports, avoiding swill feeding, blocking the entry of hand-carried meat, educating the people and monitoring through the submission of laboratory samples.

To minimize the country’s exposure to the disease, Bienvenido Datuin of Bureau of Customs (BoC) Public Information and Assistance Division said the agency has been releasing memorandums in controlling the entry of food scraps and pork products from ASF affected countries. These countries include Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, China, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Moldova, South Africa, Zambia, Belgium, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, Mongolia and North Korea. — Beatrice M. Laforga

SC denies Ampatuan bail petition

THE SUPREME Court (SC) has denied the petition of 2009 Maguindanao massacre suspect Zaldy U. Ampatuan to be granted bail. In a July 22 resolution released only on Wednesday, the court’s first division denied for lack of merit the appeal of Mr. Ampatuan seeking the reversal of the decisions of a trial court and the Court of Appeals (CA), which denied him bail as he is “probably guilty” of the charges against him.

Mr. Ampatuan said the lower court failed to comply with the parameters on the exercise of deciding his bail and maintained that the evidence against him is “at best weak,” that he is innocent and not a flight risk. “After a perusal of the records of the case, this Court resolves to deny the petition for failure of the petitioner to sufficiently show any reversible error in the assailed Decision and Resolution of the CA,” the high court’s decision read.

The court also said that it will be prematurely deciding the case “beyond the parameters of judicial review” if it decided on the bail application on the basis of the factual issues raised by Mr. Ampatuan. A former governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Mr. Ampatuan is among the principal suspects in the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons, including 32 media practitiones, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province. Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra last month said the trial for the case was completed on July 17, 2019 and was submitted for resolution on August 15. The department expects the decision to be released before the 10th anniversary of the massacre. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Duterte not certifying SOGIE bill as urgent, wants a general anti-discrimination law

MALACAÑANG ON Wednesday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte is not going to certify as urgent the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) bill, noting that the President wants a general anti-discrimination measure.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo issued this statement to clarify news reports that the President had said during a news conference at the Palace late Tuesday that he would certify the SOGIE Bill as urgent.

“He was referring to an anti-discrimination bill, not SOGIE Bill, much like the anti-discrimination ordinance existing in Davao City, which was passed when he was still the mayor there,” Mr. Panelo said in a phone message to BusinessWorld. Mr. Duterte said during the conference, “Mayroon ako, anti- discrimination. Bakla, iyang mga disabled. Nauna ako sa totoo lang (I have an anti-discrimination (in Davao). Gay, the disabled. I was first on that, in fact).”

He recalled that there were developers in his hometown who did not want to sell housing units to Muslims. “Sabi ko (I said), if you do not allow everybody na magtira diyan… Pilipino rin ito (to live there… They are also Filipinos). Humans — you might not like them but they are Filipinos,” he said.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, meanwhile, said Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea and Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go have also clarified that Mr. Duterte was “misquoted” regarding his support for the SOGIE bill.

“I am told by ES Medialdea and Senator Bong Go that the President was misquoted. He is supporting an Anti-Discrimination bill pretty much like the ordinance in Davao, which is encompassing,” Mr. Sotto told reporters on Wednesday.

Mr. Sotto also explained a certification of urgency by the President does not guarantee passage of a measure as it only allows the chamber to do away with the three-day rule in between second and third reading approval of a bill. He also reiterated his support for an all-encompassing Anti-Discrimination bill instead of legislating a measure centered on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender group, which he deems unconstitutional.

Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, a proponent of the SOGIE bill, said this “shows the policy confusion regarding how to address discrimination against the LGBT community.” — Arjay L. Balinbin and Charmaine A. Tadalan

Honasan breezes through confirmation

THE COMMITTEE on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday swiftly confirmed former senator Gregorio B. Honasan II as head of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

President Rodrigo R. Duterte nominated Mr. Honasan to the post in Nov. 22 last year, succeeding acting secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr.,. Mr. Honasan assumed as DICT secretary only last July 1, after his nomination lapsed in Dec. 2018 for failure to submit documentary requirements.

The House contingent of the CA panel, led by San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo B. Zamora, moved to confirm Mr. Honasan’s appointment, to which the Senate concurred. “There is no question that we are dealing with a singular individual, who is extremely qualified to take this position and the House contingent after deliberating the qualification and fitness of the respective appointee, we have concluded that we have no need for further questions,” Mr. Zamora said. This was concurred with by Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, who led the Senate contingent.

The panel deliberation concluded in under ten minutes. Mr. Honasan, for his part, said he plans to usher the Philippines towards the digital age through electronic classrooms and workplaces among others. “To allow the Philippines, since we have the potential, to leap frog into the digital age. We’re thinking about e-classrooms, e-workplaces, an e-work force, bukod sa tipid at transparency mare-reduce ang corruption, which is the battle-cry of this administration, mapapabilis talaga,” Mr. Honasan told reporters in a chance interview on Wednesday. He also said he targets improving internet speed to 15-20 mbps by the first quarter of 2020 from the current 3.5 mbps. “Well tayo ang pinakamabagal (We are the slowest). We need improvement. Tayo (We have) 3.5 (mbps), Singapore is 65. Pumalo lang tayo ng (We are targeting) 15, 20, by the first quarter of next year,” he said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Bill banning single-use plastics re-filed

A LAWMAKER has re-filed a bill seeking to ban the production, importation, sale, provision, and use of single-use plastics.

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Q. Velasco has filed House Bill 2396 or the “Ban on Single-Use Plastics Act,” which aims to gradually phase out single-use plastics with an interim period of three years. During the interim period, establishments shall charge P20 for every single-use plastic bag; P10 for food and non-food packaging containers, soda, and water bottles; and P5 for utensils such as straws, coffee stirrers, spoon, and fork.

The measure mandates local government units to take primary responsibility in implementation while the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will be the lead agency for enforcement. Establishments that will fail to comply with the ban will be fined P100,000 to P750,000, and face revocation of business permits for the third offense. The fines collected should be allocated as follows: 80% to the barangay where the establishment is located, for its waste management capability; and 20% to the national government. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras

DILG, BJMP express support for heinous crime jail

THE DEPARTMENT of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) said they would support the creation of a high-risk prison facility for heinous crime convicts.

The Heinous Crimes Penitentiary is planned to be set up in Palawan, near the West Philippine Sea. High-risk criminals currently detained at the New Bilibid prison in Muntinlupa will be among those who will be moved there. Face-to-face visitation, even for family members of the convicts, will be prohibited.

Mabuti po iyon para mas mabantayan natin iyong mga (That is good so we can keep watch on) illegal drug lords, CPP-NPA (communist insurgents and) terrorist groups,” DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said during the presentation of the proposed DILG budget for 2020 before the Senate committee on Finance. The DILG will also propose the integration of provincial jails to the BJMP to “professionalize and standardize the management of jails at the local level.”

Republic Act No. 6975, or the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990, mandates the BJMP to take operational and administrative control over all city, district and municipal jails. Under the Local Government Code, however, provincial and sub-provincial jails are under the management and control of the provincial governments. — Marc Wyxzel C. Dela Paz

Comelec to set up registration sites for IP communities

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) will put up satellite voter registration centers next week for indigenous people (IP) communities in far flung areas. In a statement on Wednesday, Comelec said they will have at least one registration site in every province identified to have an IP population from Sept. 16-20. “The project aims to intensify voter registration efforts within the different IP communities all over the country; to highlight the importance of IP voters as members of the electorate; and to increase awareness on the electoral issues and concerns of IP communities,” the Comelec said. The Comelec is still finalizing the list of areas where the registration sites will be set up. — Gillian M. Cortez