Senator accuses immigration officers of human trafficking

A SENATOR on Tuesday accused some immigration officers of involvement in human trafficking. Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, who has previously initiated a probe on the illegal entry of Chinese nationals by paying off members of the Bureau of Immigration, said they were able to reach three Filipino women who were brought to Syria without their consent. Ms. Hontiveros said they will conduct a committee hearing over the trafficking scheme to identify the estimated number of victims and the involved officers. “This is a case of large-scale trafficking, and trafficking in syndicate. Life imprisonment ang parusa dito (is the penalty here),” she said in a statement. In an online briefing, one of the victims is cited to have said in an interview with the senator’s staff that she was promised work in Dubai but only found out that she will be brought to Syria during a stopover in Malaysia. She said her recruiter paid P50,000 to the immigration desk at the airport. The two other testimonies will be presented in a Senate hearing. Ms. Hontiveros-Baraquel also called on the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice to immediately address the matter. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Negros Occidental representative seeks probe on alleged land grabbing by local officials

A LAWMAKER has filed a resolution calling for an investigation on alleged land grabbing schemes by local officials in various towns and cities. In a statement on Tuesday, Negros Occidental 5th District Rep. Ma. Lourdes T. Arroyo filed House Resolution 1653 asking the House of Representatives committee on local government to probe “the abuse in processes made by local officials in serving notices of tax delinquency to land owners intentionally designed not to be received by them, causing them to lose their hard-earned properties due to alleged non payment of local real property taxes.” The resolution was filed after allegations of a land-grabbing incident by a syndicate linked with the Muntinlupa City Treasurer’s office was reported last month. “The lack of a concrete and credible response from the local government agencies involved herein have caused untold hardships and heartaches to law abiding citizens who have been victimized by these schemes,” the resolution stated. — Gillian M. Cortez

Bayan asks Justice dep’t to meet with families of Calabarzon raids

THE group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), which has representation in the House of Representatives through the party-list system, has urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) to meet with the families of those who were killed or arrested in a series on police raids on Mar. 7 to prove its seriousness in investigating the incidents. Bayan, an alliance of left-leaning organizations, also called on authorities to place those involved in the operations “under preventive suspension so that they could not influence the investigation.” “As far as we know, no effort on the part of the national government has been made to ensure the safety of the survivors and witnesses,” it added. Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, in a mobile message on Tuesday, said he will consult the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on the matter as the special team leading the investigation “by itself has no such power to issue suspension orders.” The DILG, as a regular member of the committee, “can do it on its own,” Mr. Guevarra said. The investigating team is a Justice department-led task force on extrajudicial killings created under Administrative Order 35.

Meanwhile, Karapatan, a group promoting human rights in the Philippines, questioned the government’s sincerity in investigating alleged human rights violations in the country due to its rejection of intervention by international bodies. “If the Philippine government is truly and genuinely conducting these investigations for the interest of justice and accountability, then they must have no problem with international human rights bodies and civil society efforts probing these killings and the human rights crisis in the Philippines,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a separate statement on Tuesday. Mr. Guevarra participated in the 46th United Nations Human Rights Council (UN-HRC) meeting in February where he presented his department’s findings on alleged extra-judicial killings, particularly those involving the government’s drug war. The Justice chief also asserted at the UN gathering that the country rejects “any attempt by any external entity to assume jurisdiction over internal matters which are being addressed more than adequately by our national institutions and authorities.” — Bianca Angelica D. Añago 

FDA maintains impartiality in e-cigarette guidelines

THE Food and Drug Administration (FDA) head on Tuesday said they are not partial to any entity in crafting the guidelines on e-cigarettes after lawmakers said agency officials received allegedly unlawful grants from international anti-tobacco organizations. “Walang binabayaran na utang na loob ang FDA (The FDA is not indebted to anyone),” FDA Director General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo said at a hearing held by the House of Representatives committee on good government and public accountability. House lawmakers said the agency requested and received funding from private entities regarding its programs and research on tobacco control and the regulation of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS/ENNDS) products, more commonly referred to as e-cigarettes or vapes. Mr. Domingo said the FDA did receive funding from such organizations in 2016 and 2017, but this was in accordance with existing laws allowing the agency to receive funds and other endowments from local and external sources. Nueva Ecija 2nd District Rep. Estrelita B. Suansing, who filed the Hose resolution on the probe, said during the hearing, “We would like to find out if those grants affect the jobs of FDA in regulating products… for consumption of the Filipino people.” — Gillian M. Cortez

Justice dep’t warns vs fake ‘Records Center’ sending out emails

THE Department of Justice (DoJ) warned the public against individuals and organizations who send out emails claiming to be the “Records Center” of the department using the address “Online job seekers who were contacted by these persons… were offering to provide an Identity History Check and the issuance of an Employee Certificate of Registration in exchange for an amount,” DoJ Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar told reporters on Tuesday. The amount sought could be as much as P49,000. The DoJ’s Communications Division has reported the matter to the Office of Cybercrime. Ms. Villar said such identity history check is not a service provided by the DoJ. Recipients of these fraudulent emails are requested to report to the Office of Cybercrime through or telephone number 8524-8216. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

SC says search warrant issuance and implementation ‘2 different acts’

THE issuance of search warrants by judges and the implementation of such court orders  by law enforcers “are two different acts,” Supreme Court (SC) Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said in a report submitted to Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta Friday and made public Tuesday. Mr. Marquez explained that “the issuance of search warrants is judicial in nature,” and that “judicial remedies are available to those aggrieved by their issuance.” The report was made upon Mr. Peralta’s order following the Mar. 7 police raids, based on search warrants, where nine people were killed and several others were arrested. Mr. Marquez’s report indicated that the cops used 42 search warrants obtained in Manila and four from Antipolo. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago