BIFF declared persona non grata in Maguindanao town
COTABATO CITY – Residents of a town in Maguindanao frequently harassed by the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Tuesday stood up against the group’s terror activities.
“Enough is enough,” said officials and residents of Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao, led by Mayor Yacob Ampatuan, as they marched around town in a peace rally and condemned the atrocities carried out by BIFF against their community.
Carrying placards and banners, the residents denounced the atrocities of the BIFF, which has also been harassing and mulcting farmers during harvest season.
Village officials, business people, women’s groups, non-government organizations, former Moro Islamic Liberation Front members, and Muslim religious leaders attended the peace rally.
Academic freedom assured sans DND-UP agreement
MANILA – Academic freedom is not, in any way, curtailed with the termination of the almost 31-year old Department of National Defense (DND) and University of the Philippines (UP) agreement barring military and police from entering UP campuses.
“UP will still be able to execute these rights even in the absence of such agreement – UP is still free to choose who may teach, what is taught, how such lessons are taught in class, as well as who may be admitted to such a prestigious institution,” State Solicitor Gabriel S. Villanueva said in a statement Tuesday.
Reacting to criticisms on the termination of the DND-UP agreement by DND Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana on Jan. 15, he said academic freedom is protected by the Constitution.
“‘Academic freedom’ is right of the school or college to decide for itself, its aims and objectives, and how best to attain them free from outside coercion or interference save possibly when the overriding public welfare calls for some restraint,” said Villanueva, who is also the spokesperson of the Office of the Solicitor General for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC).
PH records biggest jump in Covid deaths
MANILA —The Philippines reported Southeast Asia’s biggest daily jump in Covid-19 deaths on Monday, January 18, prompting government authorities to issue a warning of possibly more fatalities in the coming weeks even as local officials scrambled to verify thousands of suspected cases and pressure grows on hospitals after the easing of lockdowns during the holidays and early this month because of religious festivities connected to the country’s adopted patron—the Child Jesus or Santo Niño.
According to the government and several large hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR), critical care capacity had been reached thus adding to fears of being deluged by the increasing number of patients afflicted by the novel coronavirus or nCoV and even other ailments.
The increase in Covid deaths is a growing trend in other countries as well as the United Kingdom, where a new variant of Covid-19 has recently been discovered, reporting a new daily high of fatalities at 1,610–the biggest figure reported in a single day since the pandemic began. This means that the UK’s total number of deaths by that measure is now above 90,000.
The health department has reported 162 new deaths that were confirmed on Sunday, January 17, plus another 65 the following day, with 2,960 additional infections. The Philippines over the past week has reported higher daily infections than Indonesia, which has Southeast Asia’s highest number of deaths and cases.
Hontiveros urges gov’t to obtain final Sinovac data before accepting jabs as ‘gifts’
MANILA — “For the record, China continues to bully us in our own waters and maintains a telecom deal in our own military camps. We should be wary of gifts it gives us in the name of friendship kung ipinagkakait nila ang importanteng datos tungkol sa bakuna. If China is really our friend, they will go through all the steps to make sure the vaccine is safe before giving it out for free. ”
So said Senator Risa Hontiveros who insisted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) wait for peer-reviewed data of the Phase 3 study of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, before granting Emergency Use Approval (EUA) or accepting the vaccine as a gift from China. The DFA reported that China promised 500,000 free jabs to the Philippines.
Sinovac has not released the results of Phase 3 trials it conducted in Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey which contain important information regarding side effects and duration of effectiveness.
High prices of prime commodities add to Pinoy’s economic woes
MANILA — Although the government is initiating efforts to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn caused by the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic and lockdowns, minimum-income workers are now outraged over the exorbitant prices of prime commodities, including food, that has exacerbated the hardships of most Filipino families.
The majority of Pinoys are now urging government authorities to address the problem of runaway price increases in order to assuage the difficulties and hardships being experienced on a daily basis by the public.
Labor groups have observed that in Metro Manila, food price have skyrocketed with a kilo of pork now equivalent to seven hours of work for a minimum wage earner and a kilo of cabbage, eggplant, string beans, or ampalaya tagged as worth three hours of work.
“Even a kilo of galunggong is now equivalent to the minimum wage for a half a day’s work and outside the National Capital Region; the price of a kilo of pork is higher than the minimum wage. How can the jobless afford that?” Partido Manggagawa (PM) president Rene Magtubo asked.
De Lima seeks probe into current COVID-19 diagnostic testing
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Congress to look into the current state of COVID-19 diagnostic testing in the country to assess, recalibrate and enhance the country’s testing abilities in light of the emergence of COVID-19 variants.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 612, De Lima said it is imperative to evaluate and assess our current diagnostic testing protocols because the new strains and variants of COVID-19 may affect the quality and reliability of COVID-19 testing results.
“There is a need to conduct a Senate inquiry into these matters to ensure that our testing capabilities and results are reliable and up to date in order to preserve the health and safety of the general public and ensure that the health protocols in place are still effective and responsive,” she said.
SMC extends free toll to medical front-liners on Skyway Stage 3; toll fees waived to date reach P156M
MANILA — San Miguel Corporation (SMC) president Ramon S. Ang yesterday said that some 10,400 medical practitioners at the frontlines of the continuing battle against COVID-19 pandemic will be allowed to use the newly-opened Skyway 3 for free indefinitely, the same way they have been allowed to use all SMC expressways toll-free since the pandemic hit the country in March last year.
This means that even when the expressway starts collecting toll fees after the current free use period for the public set by Skyway 3, medical front liners will still continue to benefit from the toll-free passage.
Ang reported that as of January 18, 2021, or some 10 months since SMC started the program in March 2020, the company has waived a total of P156 million in toll fees for doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other medical workers fighting the pandemic.
Since mid-June 2020, SMC has been the only toll operator still implementing a “no toll fees” policy for medical practitioners at its expressways, namely the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR), the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), the Skyway system, NAIA Expressway (NAIAX), and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).
Diokno leaves hospital ahead of schedule
MANILA – Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno was discharged from hospital Wednesday, ahead of expectations, after a successful operation following a minor head injury.
In a statement, the central bank said Diokno was sent home earlier than expected “amid his steady recovery from a successful medical procedure.”
“The Governor is now recuperating at home and may preside over the Monetary Board meeting as early as next week,” he said.
Last Monday, the central bank said Diokno went on medical leave after an operation to remove a blood clot last Sunday.
Citing Diokno’s medical report, BSP said “prognosis for the Governor’s complete recovery is “very good” as he was awake and conversant an hour after the procedure.”
He was “expected to be discharged from the hospital in four to five days and is anticipated to return to work subsequently.” (AI/MTVN)