Duterte admits vaccines from China, Russia will not be free

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte has backtracked on his earlier pronouncements that vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), particularly those from China and Russia, will come free once these are fully certified. “I will ask my friend (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin and (Chinese) President Xi Jinping to give us… a credit line, but we will pay not in one payment but by installments,” Mr. Duterte said in a televised talk late Monday evening. He said last week that Russia offered its vaccines for free. The Philippines will take part in the phase 3 trials in October of the Sputnik V vaccine being developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in July the government is planning to allocate up to P20 billion to buy vaccines against COVID-19. — Gillian M. Cortez

Human rights lawyers, activists seek TRO vs anti-terrorism law

HUMAN RIGHTS lawyers and activists are challenging before the Supreme Court the validity of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which expanded the definition of terror crimes in the country. In a 77-page petition, the petitioners — composed of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, Ateneo Legal Services Center, and human rights defenders — asked the court  to issue a temporary restraining order and prohibit law enforcers from implementing provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act. They argued that the creation of the Anti-Terrorism Council and the powers granted to it violate the principle of separation of powers. They also said Section 12 in relation to Section 3(e), which makes any person providing “material support” to terrorists liable to terrorist acts, is “overbroad.” The Supreme Court previously announced that it will hold oral arguments “on the 3rd week of September, at the earliest” on the more than 20 petitions filed against the Anti-Terrorism Act, which took effect last July 18. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Mayors urged to make contact tracing a priority

THE NATIONAL task force handling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response on Tuesday called on local officials to prioritize contact tracing in their areas, a key component in mitigating community transmissions of the virus. Baguio City Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong, appointed to head the contact tracing program, said while they have seen a significant improvement in tracing activities, local government leaders should make a conscious effort to put this at the forefront of response measures. “Sana yung (I hope) mayors will be directly involved sa contact tracing,” he said in a briefing on Tuesday. At the same time, he acknowledged that there are local government units that do not have the resources for sufficient and skilled contact tracers. A training program on contact tracing for local government teams is ongoing, done through online instruction or on-site lectures. — Gillian M. Cortez