Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he was “taken aback” by the huge crowd during an event that he attended in Bantayan Island, Cebu last Friday.

‘Open air’ naman daw! Harry Roque defends crowded Bantayan event

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By Prince Golez

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he was “taken aback” by the huge crowd during an event that he attended in Bantayan Island, Cebu last Friday.

In a statement Saturday evening, Roque said he followed quarantine protocols and reminded the audience to observe the minimum health standards.

“The venue was open air as it was held by the beach but I had to reiterate for the audience to keep on their masks,” the Palace official said a day after his photos with a large number of people drew flak online for violating the ban on mass gatherings.

“Also, I did not shake hands and I wore a face mask,” he added.

This was not the first time that netizens criticized Roque for alleged quarantine violation. Early this month, a video of him singing inside a bar amid the destruction of typhoon “Ulysses” in Cagayan Valley went viral on social media.

“The activity where I was seen speaking before a crowd was organized by the local government, which I had no control as a guest. I was later informed that the local official/s mentioned in interview/s that they did not expect the huge turnout of people as well,” said Roque.

“Be that as it may, they advised the public to wear face masks and there was general compliance, as seen in the pictures that came out,” he concluded.

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Makabayan bloc seeks probe on ‘tokhang’ order vs leftists in CAR

The six-member Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives has filed a resolution to condemn and investigate the resolution issued by the Cordillera Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (RLECC) to implement tokhang operations against left-leaning individuals.

The RLECC resolution, the solons said could open the floodgates for another wave of widespread rights violations and extrajudicial killings against activists and critics of the government.

“It is imperative for members of Congress, as representatives of our people, to defend the rights of our people and check on excesses and violations committed against them, especially in the time of crisis,” House Resolution 1607 read.

The solons said laws and rules should serve the interest of our people and should not be weaponized to suppress their rights and oppress them.

The Makabayan bloc claimed the activists in CAR have been subjected to trumped-up charges, harassment, and threats to their life by state armed forces. On January 20, 2021, Cordillera police allegedly issued a shoot-to-kill order against known indigenous Cordillera leader Windel Bolinget, chairman of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.

The solons said Bolinget has been facing trumped-up murder complaints in Tagum, Davao del Norte, a place Bolinget asserts he has never stepped foot.

The RLECC on February 24, issued Resolution 4 series of 2021 to conduct tokhang operations to address the insurgency problem in the region.

Oplan tokhang was implemented by the police as part of the Duterte government’s war on drugs. Police would go door-to-door to visit the residences of suspected drug personalities and drug-related offenders. It was blamed for the death of around 20,000 drug-linked individuals.

Dapat priority: Find out 11 measures Congress should pass by June 2021

The Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) has identified 11 revenue measures that could be approved before the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte.

House Committee on Ways and Means chairperson and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the priority measures are:

1. Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives for Distressed Enterprises (GUIDE)

2. Package 3 (Valuation Reform)

3. Package 4 (Passive Income and Financial Intermediaries Taxation Act)

4. Public Service Act

5. Retail Trade Liberalization

6. Foreign Investment Act

7. Agri-Agra Law

8. Medical Reserves Corps Act

9. Creation of a Disease Prevention and Control Authority

10. Tax regime for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) and for Off-cockpit Betting Stations (OCBS)

11. Pension reform for military and uniformed personnel

Of the 11 measures, Salceda has filed 10 before being prioritized by the LEDAC.

Salceda said the enactment of the revenue measures, particularly the tax regime for POGOs and OCBS, are crucial to help the government monitor the industry more strictly.

“Right now, absent any regulations, POGOs and OCBS are free to do much of what they want, and we are unable to tax them right. The TRO on POGO taxation also complicates the matter. The laws we are trying to pass are TRO-proof,” said Salceda.

Salceda said tax policies that generate revenue but do not hurt the people are needed to expand the economy and expedite recovery.

Paano nag-aaral? SWS: Nearly 10M students lack gadgets for distance learning

A survey by the Social Weather Station showed that 42 percent of enrolled students in November do not have an electronic device for distance learning.

This is equivalent to around 9.9 million of the estimated 23.8 million students enrolled when the survey was conducted in November.

Of the 58 percent of students who have gadgets, they either own (27 percent), bought (12 percent), borrowed (10 percent), given (9 percent) or rented (0.3 percent) the device they are using at the time of the survey.

By area, the percentage of students who use devices for distance learning is greatest in Metro Manila (96 percent), compared to Balance Luzon (64%), the Visayas (43%), and Mindanao (41%).

The survey was conducted from November 21-25, 2020 using face-to-face interviews of 1,500 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide. It has sampling error margins of ±2.5 percent for national percentages.

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