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Nationwide round-up (01/06/21)

Senate to prioritize PhilHealth hike deferment bill

THE Senate will prioritize the bill that will defer the scheduled rate increase for Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) contribution when sessions resume, a Senate leader said on Wednesday. “We will prioritize the bill filed yesterday on the deferment of the additional increase of monthly contributions during the time of the Pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told reporters over phone message. He said the rules committee will immediately refer Senate Bill No. 1968 among other bills that seek to amend Republic Act No. 11223, the Universal Health Care Act, for committee action. “Once the committee report is done, we can finish in plenary within two to three weeks of debate and amendments,” he said. PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer Dante A. Gierran on Tuesday officially announced the deferment of the rate increase, in line with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s directive. “We will implement the suspension until Congress passes a new law that will allow the deferment of the scheduled premium adjustment,” Mr. Gierran said  in a statement in Filipino posted on PhilHealth’s official Facebook page. The rate increase will be implemented should Congress fail to pass an amendment to the UHC law, he said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

House resolution filed for inquiry on vaccination program

A RESOLUTION seeking to conduct an inquiry into the status of the government’s coronavirus vaccination program has been filed in the House of Representatives. Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo filed House Resolution No. 715 to look into the details of the use of funds allocated for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, including procurement, and preparation of equipment and personnel. Ms. Quimbo said the inquiry is intended to provide “necessary oversight to ensure sufficient capacity for nationwide distribution, and an overall cost-effective implementation.” While there are reported negotiations ongoing with various pharmaceutical firms to acquire vaccines, Ms. Quimbo said a clear plan is needed “for how to maximize available funds across vaccine types” and to provide guidance on the amount of funds still needed. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Senate resolution filed to probe unregistered vaccine purchase

A RESOLUTION seeking to investigate the procurement of unregistered vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) inoculated to Cabinet officials, military and Presidential Security Group (PSG) members has been filed in the Senate. Resolution No. 603 was filed to look into those behind the smuggling of the vaccine and its distribution, which detained Senator Leila M. de Lima deemed as a danger to national security. “Those who have been vaccinated are senior officials of our country who are essential to the functioning of our democracy. As such, to have them vaccinated with unregistered and unvetted vaccines constitutes endangerment not only to themselves but also to our national security,” she said in a statement on Wednesday. This comes after President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the PSG not to attend a Congress hearing that will investigate the use of COVID-19 vaccines not yet certified by the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, for his part, said he is more concerned on the smuggling issue rather than the prioritization of PSG personnel in the vaccination. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Senator falls victim to credit card hacking

A HACKER was able to access Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian’s credit card details on Tuesday and used it for over P1 million worth of transactions from delivery firm Food Panda, the senator said on Wednesday. “My credit card has just been hacked! May nag order ng P1M worth of food sa Food Panda in less than an hour,” Mr. Gatchalian said in a social media post. In the same post, he showed that four transactions worth P300,851, P356,517, P323,247 and P96,265 to Food Panda were charged to his credit card issued by the UnionBank of the Philippines. Mr. Gatchalian said the hackers changed his mobile number through his online account to allow them to redirect the one-time pin (OTP) sent during the transactions. He narrated during an online briefing Wednesday that notifications from the bank regarding the phone number change came through while he was at the Senate for a hearing. The senator will file the police report on the incident on Thursday at the Valenzuela Police Station. He said UnionBank immediately deactivated the credit card and is now investigating the hacking. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Makati court judge inhibits from Ressa case

A MAKATI City trial court judge inhibited from hearing the second cyberlibel case of Rappler Chief Operating Officer Maria A. Ressa after receiving an email that contained a death threat. Judge Maria Amifaith S. Fider-Reyes, in an order, said she received an email on Dec. 4 asking her to junk the case against Ms. Ressa, including a threat to her life. She received a second email from the same sender thanking her for allowing the journalist to travel for the holidays. “To avoid the impression that the decisions of this Judge are influenced or affected by the correspondence received from this e-mail address, the judge finds just reasons to inhibit from the case,” the order read. “Whoever is responsible for this e-mail is severely reprimanded for lack of respect to the judicial process,” she added. Ms. Ressa, in a statement, said she doubts that the messages were from a supporter and she would “never condone nor tolerate attempts to manipulate the rule of law.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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