DoJ comment on anti-terrorism bill out Wednesday

THE Department of Justice will submit to the Office of the President on Wednesday its comment on the anti-terrorism bill, which will become law with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signature. Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said they are done with the review and are now drafting the comments. “I am confident that the President will wait for and consider not only the comments of the DoJ but also those of other government agencies whose comments were requested by the office of the executive secretary,” he told reporters via Viber. Mr. Guevarra said the department’s comments are classified as “highly confidential” and will leave it to the discretion of the executive secretary if they would disclose the basis of the President’s decision. Mr. Duterte certified the bill as urgent. Human rights and lawyers groups, among other sectors, have expressed opposition to the proposed law, citing concerns on infringements of constitutional rights. The bill expands the coverage of terror acts and forms an Anti-Terror Council, which can order the arrest of suspected terrorists, a mandate that is granted to courts. Meanwhile, Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said more local government officials have expressed support to the bill. In a briefing on Tuesday, he said 784 local officials composed of 43 governors, 68 city mayors and 673 municipal mayors back the proposed law. The country has 81 governors, 146 city mayors, and 1,488 municipal mayors. In a separate interview with CNN Philippines also on Tuesday, Mr. Roque said the President is likely to sign the bill, but is awaiting comments from the DoJ and the Office of the Executive Secretary — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez

Senator seeks review of gov’t OFWs reintegration plan

A SENATOR on Monday sought to look into the government’s plan to reintegrate some 300,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) expected to be displaced by the global economic downturn due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Under Senate Resolution No. 445, Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel pushed for a review of plans for workers forced to come home, which should include livelihood, social and mental health assistance. “It is essential that the government’s return and reintegration programs take the needs of OFWs and their families into account in developing and implementing financial aid programs for households in distress,” she said in a statement. She said this long-term program is necessary on top of facilitating their return. The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday assisted the arrival of 2,281 Filipinos from Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Barbados. This brings the total number of repatriated workers to more than 44,000 since February. Further, the senator said the government should bring focus to the reintegration of female workers, citing the paper entitled “Women, Migration and Reintegration” that found majority of Filipina migrants have more difficulty in adjusting to the lack of economic opportunities in the Philippines. In a separate resolution, Ms. Baraquel sought to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women, including the rise of abuses and online sexual exploitation. Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva on Sunday said the committee on labor will be inviting the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the labor department to discuss skills training programs among other interventions for OFWs. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

President aims to buy radios for alternative schooling in remote areas

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte plans to buy transistor radios for students in far flung areas, particularly those that do not have internet or even television broadcast access, to serve as an alternative education system as classroom sessions remain uncertain with the continued threat from the coronavirus disease 2019. However, Mr. Duterte, in a late night address on Monday, said the government will still have to look for fund sources for the radio procurement. The Department of Education is preparing for “blended learning” for students in the new school year that will open in August. It will utilize online classes, printed modules, television, and radio. — Gillian M. Cortez

Pew Research survey shows 54% of Filipinos think religious diversity makes PHL a better place to live in

MORE than half of Filipinos, at 54%, said having an increasing number of people of different religions in the country makes it a better place to live in, according to US-based Pew Research Center. Another 32% said increasing diversity made no difference to the quality of life in the country, while 12% said diversity made it worse. Pew Research Center conducted its survey in late 2018 among 28,122 adults across 11 emerging countries. For the Philippines, it focused on Christian and Muslim groups, which comprise 92.6% and 5.5% of the population, respectively. Despite welcoming diversity, 61% of Filipinos said they rarely or never interacted with people of other religions. Thirty-eight percent said they occasionally or frequently interacted, while the remaining one percent said they do not know. Asked about these seemingly contradicting results, Pew Research Center Senior Researcher Laura Silver told BusinessWorld in an email, “One thing that we find in this report is that those who interact with people who are different from them — racially, ethnically or religiously — tend to have more positive opinions of refugees or migrants in their country. But, personal interaction is certainly not the only reason people might say that having an increasing number of people of different races, ethnic groups and nationalities makes their country a better place to live. For example, in some countries, we also see that younger people or more educated people tend to have more favorable views toward diversity.” The study also reported that favorable views of Christians were nearly universal (97%), while 57% said the same of Muslims in the Philippines. The results of the survey was released June 16 in a report titled The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050. — Genshen L. Espedido

LabX launches health hotline for coronavirus concerns

RAPID TEST distributor LabX Corp. has launched a hotline for coronavirus-related consultations, which opened June 16. The hotline 09177235539 may be contacted for medical advice and for rapid test supplies, the company said in a statement. LabX, distributor of Cellex rapid test kits, said callers may request assistance should they wish to be tested. “We want to provide timely medical assistance to Filipinos, with our services, we can help provide much-needed information that will enable health authorities to deliver proper patient diagnosis and treatment and ultimately contain the spread of the virus,” Hector Thomas Navasero, chairman and CEO of LabX Asia said. Cellex is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and Philippines. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas