Nationwide round-up (04/08/21)

Hospital claims fast-tracked



THE PHILIPPINE Health Insurance Corp. has created a debit-credit payment method to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to healthcare facilities amid a coronavirus pandemic, the presidential palace said on Thursday.

This after President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered it to fast-track the payment of hospital claims in relation to the health crisis.

“Through this measure, we are confident there would be continuous delivery of healthcare services, especially in identified areas of concern, amid the rising number of coronavirus active cases,” presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said in a statement.

The facilities must be in regions identified by an inter-agency task force such as the National Capital Region, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga and Rizal, he said.

The healthcare facilities must be attending to COVID-19 patients or providing the SARS-COV-2 testing package and their accreditation is not suspended during the period, Mr. Roque said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Hundreds of graft complaints filed

AN ANTI-CORRUPTION task force of the Justice department has received as many as 240 complaints, Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar told reporters on Thursday.

The complaints were trimmed to 180 because a number of these covered the same subjects, she said.

Of the 180 complaints, two have been endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman, Ms. Villar said. One involved irregularities in the purchase of land by a municipality and another dealt with allegations that some congressmen had been favored in certain public work contracts.

“The cases have just been referred to the Ombudsman and we have not received any update on whether they have commenced the investigation,” she said.

One complaint involving engineers at the Public Works department had also been forwarded to the National Prosecution Service for preliminary investigation.

The other complaints were still being evaluated. Some of the cases require more information from concerned government agencies.

“Some major complaints are quietly being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation for case build-up,” Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Cities urged to honor data privacy

THE NATIONAL Privacy Commission (NPC) wants local governments to refrain from disclosing sensitive personal information on beneficiaries of government aid on social media amid a coronavirus pandemic.

The agency has received six reports about local government units publishing sensitive information about the beneficiaries online, including their home addresses, ages and disabilities.

“Local government units (LGUs) must determine the types of personal data that they will disclose, particularly when the original list of social amelioration program beneficiaries contains sensitive personal information,” the commission said in a statement on Thursday.

Low-income families in Manila, the capital and nearby cities and provinces have been getting a new round of state aid after these were placed under a strict lockdown amid a fresh surge in COVID-19 infections.

The commission had asked the local governments to take down the posts, spokesperson Roren Marie Chin told reporters in a Viber group message.

The Data Privacy Act does not bar the government from disclosing information for transparency, the agency said.

“Nevertheless, LGUs should be mindful of its concomitant responsibilities as personal information controllers,” it added.

The law provides that disclosed data should be “adequate, relevant, suitable, necessary and not excessive in relation to a declared and specified purpose.”

“The LGUs, barangays and other authorities must be able to justify the need to disclose such personal data,” Ms. Chin said. — Jenina P. Ibañez

Bikers need not wear face shields

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) on Thursday said bikers and other active transport users need not wear face shields given safety risks.

“With increasing reports of cyclists and other active transport users being arrested for not wearing face shields, DoH reiterates that active transport users are not required to use face shields due to their potential safety risks,” it said in a statement.

The agency cited a memo issued last year that said some vehicles were exempted from wearing face shields along with those engaged in “strenuous activities/work” and “fine workmanship.”

The same memo provides for exemptions because face shields could cause vision impairment.

Face shields must be worn before and after cycling or other similar activities, according to a joint administrative order issued by various government agencies last year.

“DoH further reminds active transport users that the use of face masks and the observance of physical distancing, respiratory hygiene practices, and other appropriate health interventions must continue to be practiced while cycling or engaging in other forms of active transport,” it said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Associate justice post opened

THE JUDICIAL Bar Council (JBC) has opened the application period for the Supreme Court associate justice post vacated by Alexander G. Gesmundo, who was promoted chief justice.

Applicants may apply online until May 10, the council said in a statement. Required documents may be mailed or sent electronically.

The position of associate justice was opened after President Rodrigo R. Duterte named Mr. Gesmundo the new chief justice. His predecessor Diosdado M. Peralta retired on March 27. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Lawmakers seek bigger aid

A group of congressmen on Thursday sought the passage of a bill that seeks to give poor families in the capital region another round of cash aid worth P10,000 amid a strict lockdown.

“The call of the Makabayan bloc is that it should be P10,000,” Party-list Rep. Ferdinand R. Gaite told an online news briefing, adding that the P1,000 being distributed now was not enough.

“They have started to give out P1,000 aid in some parts of the National Capital Region Plus but this is not enough for the poor and low-income families who are still mired in the crisis brought by the pandemic,” Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas said in Filipino.

Ms. Brosas said the government should realign its budgets for other programs such as on infrastructure so people can get more cash aid. Intelligence funds worth P8.5 billion and contingent funds worth P13 billion could also be used, she said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Scrutiny of China policy sought

A COALITION of opposition forces on Thursday vowed to judge candidates in next year’s elections based on their foreign policy stance on China.

“We in 1Sambayan will ensure that anyone who seeks the presidency in May 2022 must have the fortitude to defend our sovereign territory and sovereign rights against foreign aggressors.

They cited how “brave Filipinos, even in the face of superior forces, defended Bataan and the rest of our country in World War II,” as the country marks the 79th anniversary of Bataan Day or the Day of Valor.

A national task force overseeing border disputes with Beijing earlier reported that more than 200 Chinese militia ships had moored at a Philippine-claimed reef in the South China Sea.

The presidential palace said the ships were fishing vessels merely “seeking refuge” from bad sea conditions.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. this week said President Rodrigo R. Duterte sees no need to use force against the Chinese vessels occupying Whitsun Reef, which the Philippine calls Juan Felipe.

Mr. Roque said the issue could be resolved through peaceful means. Mr. Duterte would continue to assert Manila’s 2016 legal victory at an international tribunal,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. on Wednesday said he would file another diplomatic protest against China.

“We strongly support the protest of Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and members of the Senate and the House of Representatives against this latest violation of our sovereign territory,” 1Sambayan said.

The coalition said the protests would be weakened without a similar action from the country’s top leader himself.

It asked Mr. Duterte to abandon the country’s pivot to China and chart a truly independent foreign policy “that gives primacy to safeguarding our sovereign territory and sovereign rights.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza