NBI ordered to investigate food price manipulation

THE Justice department has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the possible manipulation of food prices, especially pork and other basic supplies. Under Department Order 029 issued on Monday, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra authorized the investigation and case build-up against those who could have been involved in activities that prompted the recent spike in food items. NBI Officer-in-Charge Eric B. Distor has been assigned to lead the investigation and “to file the appropriate charges against persons found responsible therefore,” Mr. Guevarra said in the directive. Possible charges will be for violations of the Price Act and of the Revised Penal Code, specifically on Monopolies and Combinations in Restraint of Trade. The NBI is required to submit a report on the investigation within 30 days. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago 

Senators call for suspension of privatized vehicle inspection system

SENATORS on Tuesday recommended the suspension of the new vehicle inspection system, which is now through private centers accredited by the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and Land Transportation Office (LTO). There has been an outcry from vehicle owners over the increased fees for inspection that is required for the annual renewal of registration. Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares said the implementation of Department Order 2019-002 authorizing private centers to conduct motor vehicles inspection should be put on hold pending consultation with stakeholders. She also cited that the number of accredited centers is still inadequate. “These are the things that we will look into and I feel that pending the submission of these, I think it is quite reasonable that we suspend this in the meantime,” she said during a hearing of the public services committee. Ms. Poe also questioned the timing of the implementation given the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Senator Ralph G. Recto, for his part, questioned the legal basis of the government for giving the authority to private companies to undertake the vehicle check. “Meron bang batas? Ang tingin ko overreach masyado yan (Is there a law, I find it an overreach),” Mr. Recto said. He added that the executive orders and other legal provisions cited by transport authorities do not explicitly support the privatization. Mr. Recto filed a resolution early this month calling for the suspension of the new testing process. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Bill filed to recognize virtual weddings

A LAWMAKER on Tuesday pushed for a bill that will recognize virtual weddings as valid, citing the need to adjust to the times with available technology for online marriage ceremonies amid a coronavirus pandemic. In his sponsorship speech during a virtual hearing on Tuesday, Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron P. Salo said he filed House Bill 7402, the Virtual Marriage Act, to amend the Family Code of the Philippines. “(T)he proposed amendments seek to expand the meaning of ‘presence’ and ‘appearance’ which is currently limited to physical presence or appearance, to include virtual presence within its meaning, thus giving the couples an alternative to the traditional conduct of wedding ceremonies,” he said. The proposed law will still require the couple to be physically present together, but the solemnizing officer and witnesses may be located elsewhere during the virtual ceremony. — Gillian M. Cortez