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Nationwide round-up (12/22/20)

PHL to get 30M doses of Novavax

AROUND 30 million doses of the Novavax vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to be manufactured in India, will be sent to the Philippines next year.

Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr., appointed head of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement and distribution program, said they are securing the deal this month with Novavax, Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in the United States.

Novavax will team up with the Serum Institute of India, which will produce the vaccines next year.

“They assured they will give us 30 million doses,” Mr. Galvez said in a televised meeting on Monday with the COVID-19 task force and President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

He added that a deal with UK firm Astrazeneca Plc may be finalized by the end of the month, which would ensure an additional 30 million doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccines. — Gillian M. Cortez

IBP appeals to Duterte to take action vs rising number of lawyers killed

THE NATIONAL organization Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) asked President Rodrigo R. Duterte to address the spate of killing of lawyers under his administration.

In a letter dated Dec. 17, the group said more than 50 documented lawyers have been killed since the start of the term of Mr. Duterte, himself a lawyer, in 2016.

“We appeal to our brother-lawyers in all branches of government who occupy positions of great authority and power to take concerted action to decisively address attacks on lawyers,” the letter read.

“We hope to hear from and work with you or the appropriate official from your good office toward a more coordinated, effective, and sustainable solution to the pressing problem,” it added.

The letter was also submitted to Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, also a lawyer.

The IBP said they appreciate ongoing efforts to improve the criminal justice system but “much can still be done.”

For its part, IBP said it is implementing a Lawyer Justice and Security Program, which includes agreements with security, investigation, and law enforcement agencies, lawyer security training and assistance, a P25-million fund for crucial information and witnesses legal assistance, among others.

The program helped in the timely resolution of the killings of lawyers Eric Jay Magcamit in Palawan and Joey Luis Wee in Cebu City, it said.

“We hope to see similar dedication and resoluteness in other cases” it said.

The IBP noted that “certainty and timeliness of accountability and punishment is a proven antidote to criminality and impunity,” aside from addressing the root causes.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said he also received the letter and will invite the leadership of the IBP to coordinate action on the increasing number of lawyers killed. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Peralta asks law enforcers to ‘press on’ with probe of CA justice’s murder

SUPREME Court Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta condemned the killing of a former Court of Appeals justice who was reported missing in late October, urging law enforcers to continue with their probe on his death.

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Spokesperson Ferdinand M. Lavin, in a text message late Monday, said the body found in Tarlac on Oct. 30 was confirmed to be former CA Associate Justice Normandie B. Pizarro through DNA test.

“The killing and murder of any person is never tolerated by law. In fact, our courts will always condemn it,” Mr. Peralta said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I ask our law enforcement agencies to press on with their investigation so that the perpetrators of this barbaric act can be caught and brought to justice,” he added.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told reporters via Viber that the NBI is focusing on four persons of interest, one of whom “is willing to divulge what he knows.”

Mr. Guevarra also said the NBI  “is looking at all possible angles,” including the victim’s previous work at the appellate court.

Mr. Pizarro ruled on controversial cases, including the acquittal of pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and affirming the dismissal of the enforcement of a Hawaii court ruling granting $2 billion damages to Martial Law victims, among others.

Mr. Pizarro retired in February 2018.

The Supreme Court in March 2018 ordered the former justice to pay a fine of P100,000 after he was found guilty of gambling, following an anonymous letter-complaint. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Over 2,500 bills processed in House so far

THE HOUSE of Representatives processed more than 2,500 measures since the start of the 18th Congress in 2019, of which 40 were signed into law.

Another 453 have been approved on third and final reading.

Under Philippine rules, a bill passed at the House of Representatives will have to be referred to the Senate. Both chambers must approve the law before submission to the President for signing or veto.

“Despite this challenging year, we remain unfazed and true to our mandate to enact laws that will improve the lives of the Filipino people. The accomplishments that we have this year would not be possible without the hard work of our Speaker, our colleagues both in the majority and minority, as well as our staff,” House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez said in a statement on Tuesday.

Among the bills passed into law this year were the Bayanihan Acts, which contain response measures on the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Romualdez cited that among the notable measures that hurdled final reading include the following: House Bill No. 8136, the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act; HB 7302, an Act Rationalizing the Disability Pension of Veterans; HB 7068, the Tax Amnesty Act; HB 5989, which creates the Department of Disaster Resilience; HB 7679, which recognizes abandoned children with unknown parents as natural-born citizens of the Philippines; HB 7406, which strengthens and modernizes the Bureau of Fire Protection; and HB 7440, which improves the confirmation process for imperfect land titles. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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