Bulacan barangay officials face graft charges over cash aid

THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) charged three barangay officials in Hagonoy, Bulacan with graft and corruption over anomalies in the distribution of the government’s cash aid for low-income families affected by the lockdown due to the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak. In a statement, NBI Officer-in-charge Eric B. Distor said those charged are Kagawad Danilo Flores, Executive Assistant Richard Bautista, and Chairman Jason G. Mendoza of Barangay San Agustin. Also charged before the Department of Justice last May 11 were former kagawad Levi Cosay and Mr. Bautista’s wife, Regine Bautista. State agents said there were three complaints filed against them, claiming that Mr. Flores, along with a certain Michael Perez, demanded P4,000 out of the P6,500 allowance received by each of the beneficiaries. The complainants claimed the official said P3,500 will be given to Hagonoy Mayor Raulito T. Manlapaz, Sr. and P500 to the town’s frontliners. Witnesses said Mr. Flores collected a total of P117,000 and turned them over to Mr. Bautista and his wife. The witnesses also said that as an executive barangay assistant who has earned the chairman’s trust, “Bautista could not have acted on his own without the imprimatur of his boss, incumbent Chairman Mendoza.” The NBI investigation also showed that Mr. Flores threatened the complainants of being delisted from all government grants if they refuse to give the demanded amount. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Health authorities say isolation facilities, testing capacity crucial as restrictions eased

DEPARTMENT of Health-Davao Region (DoH-11) officials said beefing up isolation facilities and testing capacity are key to controlling coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmissions as local governments begin to ease quarantine restrictions. “‘Yun ang mga dapat nating isipin at ‘yan ang ina-assess (These are the things that we should assess. But currently, the LCEs (local chief executives) of the region are doing their best to have enough isolation facilities,” DoH-11 Assistant Regional Director Lenny Joy J. Rivera said in a virtual presser following the national government’s announcement that the entire region could shift to the general community quarantine (GCQ) policy by May 16. “If we still continue to do the safety measures to fight this pandemic, probably we will actually stop the COVID-19 from spreading during GCQ,” she added. All five Davao provinces and Davao City have set up isolation facilities for probable cases and those under monitoring, while several testing laboratories are being readied in addition to the DoH-run Southern Philippines Medical Center. The region, with a population of about five million, has 43,644 beds in locally-managed isolation and general treatment facilities, and 1,348 beds under national government facilities for severe cases as of May 13. Among the testing facilities undergoing evaluation are the Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, and three others in Davao City. With the shift to GCQ, Ms. Rivera said, it is important that local governments have the capability to “detect, isolate as soon as possible, and manage the patients.” — Maya M. Padillo