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Nationwide round-up (12/15/20)

Rappler CEO skips plea

RAPPLER Chief Executive Officer Maria A. Ressa declined to enter a plea on her conditional arraignment for a second cyberlibel case.

A Makati trial court entered a not guilty plea on her behalf, her lawyer Theodore O. Te told an online news briefing on Tuesday.

Since the arraignment is conditional, Ms. Ressa did not waive her motion to quash the case, which had been submitted for resolution, he added.

Her arraignment came as a condition of the prosecution for her request to travel abroad to visit her parents in the US on Dec. 19, which the court granted.

Ms. Ressa told the same briefing she still had to seek permission from other courts where she has pending cases.

The second cyberlibel case was filed by businessman Wilfredo D. Keng over a social media post containing a screenshot of an article about Mr. Keng’s alleged involvement in illegal activities.

Ms. Ressa and a former Rappler researcher were convicted in June for cyberlibel in a lawsuit also filed by the businessman. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

House seeks tax on e-gambling

THE HOUSE of Representatives approves on final reading bill taxing off-site betting on cockfights, other electronic gambling.

The House on Tuesday approved on final reading a measure seeking to tax off-site betting involving cockfights and other electronic gambling to fund the government’s pandemic response.

With 215 positive votes, 1 negative and zero abstention, lawmakers approved House Bill 7919, which will change the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 to clarify the tax treatment for off-site betting.

The measure imposes a 5% tax on gross revenues derived from off-site betting activities on locally licensed online games, aside from taxes required by local governments and regulatory fees imposed by government agencies.

Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who authored the bill, earlier said the government had been unable to maximize the revenue potential from online cockfight and other electronic gambling “because the regulatory framework” for such activities has not been clarified. —  Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Post-vaccination plan sought

A SENATOR on Tuesday asked the government to create a post-vaccination plan for the coronavirus over concerns that inoculated people could still spread the virus.

“Vaccination is not the magic bullet to putting an end to the pandemic,” Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a statement on Tuesday. “We must create sustainable strategies for safely co-existing with COVID-19 while we roll out vaccination.”

Vaccinated people could still infect others, the lawmaker said, citing an editorial published in the Nature Journal last month.

“To my layperson’s ears, it means you can be protected from COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) but you can pass it on to others,” Ms. Baraquel said. “I imagine that there are specific populations that cannot be vaccinated, like the very young.”

She questioned the capability of the national task force on COVID-19 and the Department of Health (DoH) in delivering vaccines to isolated and disadvantaged areas.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan on Monday pushed the Senate to convene the committee of the whole to tackle funding for COVID-19 vaccines and other concerns such as logistical support, private sector mobilization and digital infrastructure. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Rules on ‘emergency use’ out

THE FOOD and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday said it had released the rules on the emergency approval of coronavirus vaccines.

At least three vaccine makers have inquired on the emergency application, FDA Director General Rolando Enrique C. Domingo told an online news briefing.

The requirement would be “country specific” and the approval of vaccines that got the nod of established food and drug regulatory boards from other countries would be targeted, he added.

“They will need some time to build the documents for each and every country they have applied in,” Mr. Domingo said.

The President issued Executive Order 121 this month allowing the FDA to approve emergency use for COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.

Mr. Domingo said the authorization is not a certificate of product registration or a marketing authorization, which means EUA-approved products can’t be sold in the market since they are still under trial.

He said Sinovac Biotech Ltd.,  AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer, Inc. have emailed the FDA regarding the applications but had not formally applied for emergency use. — Gillian M. Cortez

Face shields made mandatory

THE INTER-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Tuesday issued an order for the mandatory use of face shields and masks outside their homes.

“All persons are mandated to wear full-coverage face shields together with face masks, earloop masks, indigenous, reusable, or do-it-yourself masks, or other facial protective equipment,” according to a resolution.

Most establishments including malls have required face shields even before the IATF order. The task force said it would be up to local governments to impose penalties on violators.

The body also approved face-to-face examinations of insurance agents.

“Insurance agents’ qualifying examinations shall be allowed to resume in areas under general community quarantine following the health and safety protocols as may be prescribed by the Insurance Commission,” it said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Anti-communism bill filed

A MEASURE seeking to outlaw communist groups in the Philippines has been filed at the House of Representatives.

Duterte Youth Party-list Rep. Ducielle Suarez-Cardema filed House Bill 8231, which seeks to criminalize membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which had represented rebels in past peace talks.

“If we want peace in this country, we must finally destroy the entire capability of the CPP-NPA-NDF to wage war on all fronts, against our government and our people,” the lawmaker said in a statement on Tuesday.

The bill outlaws legal organizations and criminalizes support for the maoist group in their recruitment, operations and financial transactions.

Violators will be jailed for as long as 12 years and disqualified from holding public office. The properties of those found guilty of being affiliated with rebel groups will be seized.

The measure also bans people and groups from preparing documents or publications promoting subversive objectives. The measure “will not address the root causes of armed conflict,” Party-list Rep. Arlene G. Brosas said in a statement on Tuesday. “It will only intensify the state-funded red-tagging campaign.”

She said the measure is a “push back against historical gains made by the peoples’ movement.”

The Duterte Youth Party-list “comes again by being the mouthpiece of the Duterte agenda” by pushing the draconian legislation, Party-list Rep. France C. Castro said in a statement.

“From its name to its game, it’s very obvious that Duterte Youth merely acts as the tentacles of the Duterte administration in Congress.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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