Senators slam NBI over summon on Pasig mayor

LAWMAKERS on Thursday hit the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for summoning Pasig City Mayor Victor Ma. Regis N. Sotto for alleged violation of lockdown rules against tricycle operations. Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III on Thursday said that if no law was violated, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) should be in charge of reprimanding local officials. “If a local official has not violated any law, the DILG is the Department that has jurisdiction over him. Not the DOJ (Department of Justice),” the senator said in a social media post. Senator Sotto, an uncle of the mayor, said the Pasig leader did not violate the law as claimed by NBI, considering the incident occurred before the March 24 enactment of Republic Act No. 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. Mayor Sotto appealed to exempt tricycles from the lockdown rules so they could ferry health workers to and from work. The national government denied his appeal on March 18. Senator Francis N. Pangilinan also said in a social media post Thursday that the NBI move is in violation of the 1987 Constitution, particularly Section 22 of Article 3 that states, “No ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan

3 big event venues readied as COVID-19 quarantine centers

THE Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Thursday said three large-scale venues in Metro Manila will be ready after next week for quarantine use. IATF Spokesperson Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in a briefing that the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), World Trade Center, and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex will be converted into quarantine facilities as cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continue to rise. “We would like to report that the PICC will be ready by April 10; the facilities are being prepared by the DPWH and EEI Corporation and when completed this will have 700 beds. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex being readied by PRIME — BMD or Razon Group will be ready by April 10 as well, and will be able to house 600 beds,” he said. Mr. Nograles also said that for World Trade Center, this will be ready on April 12. He added “It is being set up by ICCP and Ayala or Makati Dev’t Corp, and it will have 650 beds.” Other venues eyed by the government as quarantine areas are the Philippine Arena, Philippine Sports Complex, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex. — Gillian M. Cortez

Bohol sets up village-level isolation centers

“THE POLICY of Bohol is aggressive prevention.” This was a statement posted by Governor Arthur C. Yap on his Facebook page on March 27 as he called on residents to “assume that we are all asymptomatic COVID-infected individuals,” which is why there is a need for such measures as social distancing, wearing of masks, and undergoing quarantine. Bohol, among the first local governments to have entry restrictions including temporarily closing its airport on March 16, has so far managed to have no person afflicted with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) after one case, a Chinese tourist, tested positive but has since recovered. Another measure that is being undertaken in the island province, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, is setting up at least one isolation center in every barangay where persons under investigation or monitoring (PUI/PUM) could be housed to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. “The provincial government of Bohol is requiring an isolation room in each household and if it’s not possible, an isolation area in the barangay should be available,” Mr. Yap said. A total of 1,168 village-level isolation centers are being readied in the province’s 1,109 barangays. “If there are spill outs, municipal isolation centers should also be available,” the governor said. Bohol has one city, the capital Tagbilaran, and 47 municipalities. The provincial capitol’s annex building has also been set up as an 80-bed medical facility to augment the 250-bed Gallares Hospital, which has been designated as the COVID-19 treatment center. As of April 1, the province had 446 PUIs, with 20 admitted in hospital and the rest in home isolation. PUMs, all on home quarantine, were 934. Meanwhile, the provincial government has also set up its Offshore Boholanos Coordinating Team, which is tasked to help locals outside the province, with priority for students and displaced workers, in coming home. Mr. Yap said he has also been discussing with officials of the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, and First Consolidated Bank “to find ways on channeling funds” to provide economic packages for micro, small, and medium enterprises as well as those in the agriculture and fishery sectors. — MSJ

Rufus asks DoH to expedite approval of more COVID-19 test labs in Northern Mindanao

CAGAYAN de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez asked the Department of Health (DoH) to immediately approve more coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing laboratories in the Northern Mindanao Region. “While the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) in Cagayan de Oro has been selected as a COVID-19 referral center, up to now, it has no testing laboratory and no test kits. The swab samples are still sent to Davao City, causing much delay,” he said in a statement on Thursday. Based on DoH data as of March 31, four institutions in Cagayan de Oro City, the regional center, are still in the self-assessment stage of accreditation. These are NMMC, Xavier University, Polymedic Medical Plaza, and the TB Reference Center. Self-assessment is the first of five stages, with the 5th covering full-scale implementation. — Genshen L. Espedido