The Senate Committee of the Whole will proceed with its investigation Monday (January 11) on the government’s roadmap for COVID-19 vaccination, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

‘Di tumiklop Senado! Tito Sotto disputes Roque: Probe on PH COVID-19 vaccination plan still on

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The Senate Committee of the Whole will proceed with its investigation Monday (January 11) on the government’s roadmap for COVID-19 vaccination, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

In an interview over dwIZ radio Saturday (January 9), Sotto denied Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s remark that the Senate had gone soft on the controversy surrounding the Presidential Security Group’s (PSG) clandestine COVID-19 vaccination.

“Ewan ko pati spokesman nya may dagdag na salita na tumiklop daw kami, ano saan kami tumiklop, wala kami sinasabi na ganun,” Sotto said, referring to Roque.

The Senate President said senators are more interested in finding out the specifics of the government’s plan to vaccinate Filipinos against COVID-19 than what the PSG did.

“Ang issue ano ang roadmap? Gusto makita ng Senado saan gagastusin ang P72.5 billion na inilagay namin sa budget para sa vaccine. Paano bibili, paano distribution, sino gagamitan, ano efficacy,” Sotto said.

Duterte earlier warned Congress against investigating the PSG for vaccinating themselves against COVID-19 even if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve a brand for use in the Philippines.

The President said he will order the PSG to either snub a hearing that will be called by Congress or stay silent during questioning by lawmakers.

Sotto said around 18 resource persons have been invited to the hearing.

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Drilon: Assassination attempt on rights lawyer has chilling effect on legal profession

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon on Friday condemned in the strongest terms the assassination attempt on lawyer Angelo Karlo “AK” Guillen.

“The attempt on the life of Guillen sends a chilling effect on members of the legal profession – lawyers, judges and justices,” he said in a statement.

“When lawyers can no longer do their job freely and without fear of being killed, that is when the rule of law begins to weaken,” Drilon said.

He urged the authorities not let this “horrific attack” on members of the legal profession continue.

“Guillen’s case should not just add to the strings of unresolved cases of killing of and assassination attempts on lawyers in the country. I urge the authorities to bring those responsible to justice,” Drilon said.

“The assassination attempt on Guillen is particularly disquieting in light of the issue on red-tagging. Guillen, a human rights lawyer, has been ‘red-tagged,’” he added.

“His case lays the basis for the need for a stronger policy against red-tagging. Congress should provide sufficient remedies to protect the victims of red-tagging activities,” Drilon said.

Gatchalian blasts ‘constant poor internet service’ of telcos

Three months after the President’s ultimatum to the telecommunications companies to improve their services, consumers continue to suffer from unreliable internet connectivity in the country, Senator Win Gatchalian said on Friday.

Add to this, he said, is the poor customer service afforded by telcos to its subscribers who lodge complaints over data concerns and deficient broadband services, among many others.

“To say that the public is not getting their money’s worth is an understatement. The lackadaisical attitude in the face of the subscribers’ problems is appalling especially at this time when we are all aware of the necessity of internet services in every household and commercial establishment in the country,” Gatchalian said.

He noted that in the case of Valenzuela City, residents had to seek the intervention of the local chief executive out of frustration just to have their internet connection fixed.

Despite reports that internet speed has seen improvements with the Philippines’ global ranking in mobile internet speed as of January 2021 moving up to the 86th spot from being in the 111th spot in the same period of 2020, Gatchalian said this significant improvement “does not seem to reflect marked changes in actual services to customers.”

Data from Ookla Speedtest Global Index, on the other hand, showed that the country’s fixed internet or fixed broadband global ranking remained at 100th.

Gatchalian said internet service providers (ISP) remain slow in addressing customer complaints as it would often take weeks and, in worse cases, even months before they could receive any feedback or appropriate services from the technical crew.

The social media pages of PLDT and Globe Telecoms have been flooded with complaints since last year over the slow response from network service personnel for the much-needed technical repairs.

“Sobrang haba na ng pisi ng mga tao. Hanggang kailan pa tayo magdurusa sa problema ng internet connectivity?” Gatchalian said.

“Baka naman nabakunahan na tayong lahat kontra Covid-19 tapos hindi pa natatapos ang problemang ito. Hindi katulad ng singil sa kuryente na maaring installment, ang mga subscrbers ng telcos ay buo ang binabayad. Sana suklian naman nila ang mga tao ng karampatang serbisyo,” he said.

DOJ forms 3-man prosecution team to handle cases vs PDEA, BOC over P1B shabu shipment

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento has assigned a panel of prosecutors who will be handling the criminal complaint filed against Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Wilkins Villanueva and Bureau of Customs (BOC) Rey Leonardo Guerrero over the 2019 shipment of illegal drugs hidden among tapioca starch.

Malcontento said on Friday (March 5) the panel will be composed of three prosecutors who will be conducting the preliminary investigation of the complaint filed by National Bureau of Investigation-Task Force Anti-Illegal Drugs (NBI-TFAID) before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last Feb. 23.

They are Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rassendel Rex Gingoyon who heads the panel and Assistant State Prosecutors Mary Jane Sytat and Ethel Rea Suril.

In the complaint, the NBI-TFAID accused 21 persons including Villanueva and Guerrero of having violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Their co-respondents include former PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino and BOC Deputy Commission Raniel Ramiro.

The NBI also recommended that all 21 be administratively charged with grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Aside from these, the NBI also accused Aquino, Guerrero and Ramiro of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Government Officials and should also administratively charged with serious dishonesty.

The NBI also named nine persons whom it recommended to be indicted for violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2012 including two persons for violating the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

The shipment arrived in Cambodia in January 2019 and was declared as tapioca starch. But it was later was found containing 171 kilos of shabu.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson back in 2019 questioned the decision of the PDEA and BOC to auction the shipment despite getting information that it contained illegal drugs.

Lacson did not believe the claims of the PDEA and the BOC that it was a controlled delivery and accused the agencies of allowing Chinese drug lord Jacky Co, who was behind the shipment, to leave the Philippines.

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