PACC’s Belgica says no probe on VP Robredo over COVID-19 initiatives

PRESIDENTIAL Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco B. Belgica said they will not investigate Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo over initiatives in helping respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, contrary to a statement by another PACC commissioner. On Thursday, PACC Commissioner Manuelito R. Luna said a probe should be done on Ms. Robredo’s “actions that compete with, or calculated to undermine national government efforts in this time of public health emergency or national calamity.” Mr. Belgica, on the other hand, said in a statement, “It was a PERSONAL opinion and request made by one of the Commissioners of PACC that DOES NOT reflect the sentiments of the Commission.” Ms. Robredo has organized free shuttle services for medical workers and organized a donation drive for personal protective equipment for frontliners in the fight against COVID-19. — Gillian M. Cortez

NBI summons over a dozen for social media posts on COVID-19


THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it has summoned “more than a dozen” people over social media posts relating to the government’s response on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). “I understand more than a dozen (were summoned),” NBI spokesperson Ferdinand M. Lavin said in a mobile phone message. Mr. Lavin also confirmed the subpoena posted by human rights lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno, saying it was issued by its cybercrime division. Mr. Diokno said the NBI is going after “ordinary citizens” who air their sentiments online. “Tinanggap ko ang kasong ito dahil ‘di na makatao ang nangyayari. Ang dami nang namamatay, pati frontliners, pero imbis na COVID, kritiko ang gusto nilang puksain (I accepted the case because what is happening is inhumane. So many people are dying, including frontliners, but they are attacking the critics instead of the virus),” Mr. Diokno said in a social media post. In a subpoena dated April 1, the NBI asked Mr. Diokno’s client to appear at its office on April 7 for alleged violation of Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code or the unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterance in connection with the client’s post on “alleged misuse of government funds.” The NBI said that it continues to conduct operations against those who are involved in hoarding and selling of overpriced medical supplies and those subpoenaed by its cyber crime division in connection with “Fake News investigations.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

DA beefs up price monitoring

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it has strengthened its price monitoring efforts amid reports of suggested retail price (SRP) violations by traders and retailers. “With a stronger Bantay Presyo Task Force, we hope to apprehend erring retailers, unscrupulous traders and hoarders, and file appropriate charges against them for violating the Price Act or Republic Act (R.A.) 7581,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said on Thursday. As part of the government’s response measures to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, a price freeze policy was set for basic commodities through a joint memorandum circular by DA, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Health (DoH). The task force is composed of three teams that are mandated to conduct price monitoring, law enforcement, and adjudication of violators. Those found guilty face a fine of between P5,000 and P2 million and imprisonment of five to 15 years. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

Face mask now a must when out of the house

RESIDENTS OF areas under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) are now required to wear a face mask when going out of the house. “For areas places under ECQ, the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) hereby adopts the policy of mandatory wearing by all residents of face masks, earloop masks, indigenous, reusable or do-it-yourself masks, face shields, handkerchiefs, or such other protective equipment that can effectively lessen the transmission of COVID-19,” IATF Spokesperson Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in a briefing on Thursday. Local governments under ECQ are directed to issue an executive order or ordinance on this policy. — Gillian M. Cortez

Salceda proposes P20B fund for OFWs displaced by COVID-19

ALBAY Rep. Maria Clemente S. Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, is proposing a P20 billion allocation for the assistance programs for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) displaced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. He cited that about 420,000 OFWs are expected to return home as other countries grapple with the economic fallout from COVID-19. Mr. Salceda said one of the major negative impacts of the crisis that could “persist and inflict structural damage on the economy” is the loss of income and aggregate demand, and remittances of almost $5 billion per year. “That may take 2–3 years before we can restore it to normal levels. We’re highly exposed because some of our best-paid OFWs are sea-based, and that relies on tourism and global trade, which would suffer lingering effects within the next 24 to 36 months,” he said. Mr. Salceda is also proposing that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases adopt a unified protocol for handling returning OFWs. — Genshen L. Espedido