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Nationwide round-up (01/20/21)

Bill filed to institutionalize agreement limiting police, military presence inside UP campuses nationwide

A MEASURE that will institutionalize the 1989 agreement between the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) that limits military and police presence in UP campuses nationwide has been filed in the Senate.

Bill No. 2002 will amend Republic Act No. 9500, the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008, to prevent the entry of security forces in the facilities of the country’s biggest state-run academic institution without prior authorization from the school administration.

“The UP-DND accord is not a ‘Do not enter’ sign that bars law enforcement from entering the campus. It is not a wall which obstructs justice or deters the solution or prevention of crime,” the explanatory note of the bill read.

“The proposed measure ensures that the procedural due process of UP students, staff and faculty are protected.”

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcers will also be banned from interfering in peaceful protests of individuals or groups within UP campuses.

Administration officials, meanwhile, defended the unilateral cancelation of the 1989 deal while the President’s spokesperson, a UP alumnus, offered to facilitate a dialogue between the parties.

Mr. Lorenzana, in a streamed press conference on Wednesday, insisted that the scrapping of the deal is intended to address the communist insurgency.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., in a separate interview, said mutuality is not a requirement to abrogate the over three-decade old pact because it is an “unusual contract” or  “extraordinary contract” between two parties.

Nonetheless, Mr. Roque said he is ready to mediate talks between the defense chief and UP officials.

The alumni of Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayan (SAMASA) and Nagkaisang Tugon (Tugon), rival political parties in the university in the 1980s, have added their joint voices in condemning what they called as “curtailment” of academic freedom.

“DND’s unilateral termination of the 1989 Agreement which is not only a barefaced betrayal of its commitments to UP, but also an assault in broad daylight on the academic freedom and institutional autonomy that are guaranteed by Congress through its charter,” they said.

Among the signatories are Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, former UP University Student Council Chair, former Cong. Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr., former Cong. Ibarra Gutierrez III, and DLSU School of Law Dean

Virgilio R. de Los Reyes. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Group files complaint vs BSP execs over national ID system

AN anti-corruption group on Wednesday filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against ranking officials of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for alleged failure to undertake a bidding process for raw materials that will be used in the national ID system.

The Stop Corruption Organization of the Philippines, Inc., (SCOPI) said Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno, BSP-Security Plant Complex (SPC) Bids and Awards Committee Chair Prudence Angelita A. Kasala, and other BSP officials did not undergo “competitive bidding” for the procurement of raw materials relating to the rollout of the Philippine Identification (Phil ID) system.

The complaint, a copy of which was sent to the media, was filed by SCOPI Chairman Ricardo D. Fulgencio IV on Wednesday.

The complaint also cited that BSP specified a brand in its Technical Specifications and Terms of Reference, which is prohibited under procurement laws.

“(R)espondents’ preference to Kinegram deprived other Phil ID suppliers of the opportunity to bid for the project and robbed the government of getting the most advantageous terms for the supply of such raw materials.  Clearly this is a corrupt practice of public officers,” the complaint read.

The BSP has yet to issue a statement on the complaint as of this writing. — Gillian M. Cortez

Comelec proposes inter-agency group to address cyber interference threats in 2022 national, local polls

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday proposed the creation of an inter-agency task force (IATF) to help counter cyber-related interference during the national and local elections in 2022.

“It is recommended that some sort of inter-agency election integrity task force be established to assist and perhaps advise the Comelec in dealing with cyber-related interference in the electoral process,” Comelec Spokesperson James B. Jimenez said in a Senate hearing.

Mr. Jimenez is speaking before the committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, which was tackling Senate Resolution No. 542.

The resolution proposed that Comelec and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) set up a tool to detect and repel potential foreign interference.

Mr. Jimenez said the commission has met with representatives of social media platforms to address disinformation on their sites.

He also proposed the passage of a measure requiring political advertisers to adhere to a set of integrity standards and to creating an archive for all advertisements that will be accessible to the public.

DICT Assistant Secretary Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic said the department has the tools to detect purveyors of fake news and manipulation of the election, but noted they have no investigative power.

“We have the necessary tools but we would need that proper mandate to do an investigation because the cybersecurity bureau does not have a law enforcement jurisdiction,” he told senators. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Justice dep’t takes steps to address ‘rash killings’ of lawyers

THE Department of Justice (DoJ) said it will be closely monitoring the cases involving the killing of lawyers in the Philippines and will look into extending better protection to the legal community.

“The DoJ will come up with an inventory of cases under investigation by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), under preliminary investigation by the prosecution service, and undergoing trial in court, for the purpose of monitoring their progress very closely,” he told reporters in a Viber message.

“Other issues, such as providing greater protection to law practitioners, prosecutors, and judges, will be tackled in subsequent joint activities with the IBP,” he added.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) recently held a virtual meeting with government officials to discuss lawyer security and justice, the group said in a Facebook post.

Mr. Guevarra said the meeting tackled issues on the “rash killings of members of the legal community.”

The IBP last month sent a letter to President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo seeking for a “more coordinated, effective, and sustainable solution to the pressing problem.”

More than 50 lawyers have been killed under the Duterte administration, the group noted in their letter. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

DSWD reports over 430K families benefit from Bayanihan II cash aid

MORE than 430,000 beneficiaries have received financial assistance through the emergency subsidy program (ESP), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported on Wednesday.

The ESP is a cash aid program under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II).

Citing the agency’s latest report as of January 19, Social Welfare Undersecretary Rene Glen O. Paje said they have distributed about P2.7 billion to 436,756 beneficiaries.

The beneficiaries included more than 71,000 Filipinos living under granular lockdown as well as 365,032 households that are not under the regular cash aid program called 4Ps, he said.

Mr. Paje also said the agency is currently distributing P15,000 each to displaced families through the Livelihood Assistance Grant (LAG) program.

“The grant can be used by beneficiaries who are looking for jobs or who want to establish small enterprises,” he said in Filipino.

Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has filed charges against more than 80 local officials allegedly involved in anomalies in the distribution of funds under the social amelioration program, another cash aid scheme in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Office of the Ombudsman has already ordered the preventive suspension of 89 barangay captains for six months. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Court orders arrest of Advincula for perjury in alleged ouster plot

A Manila court ordered the arrest of Peter Joemel Advincula, the man who appeared in videos linking the President’s family to illegal drugs, for perjury over his tagging of lawyers in the alleged plot to oust President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

In an order dated Jan. 18, the Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 17 issued the arrest warrant for Mr. Advincula and set the bail at P18,000.

In a resolution dated Feb. 17, 2020, the Department of Justice (DoJ) recommended charging Mr. Advincula for perjury based on a complaint filed by Free Legal Assistance Group lawyers Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Lorenzo R. Tañada III, and Theodore O. Te in September 2019.

The lawyers were also cleared by prosecutors from the complaint on conspiracy to commit sedition in February last year.

Mr. Advincula, who served both as a witness and respondent in the sedition complaint, was among the 11 indicted for conspiracy to commit sedition by the prosecutors.

The prosecutors said the allegation on participation in planning the ouster in a campus on March 4, 2019 “is an outright lie and perjurious,” noting that Mr. Diokno and Mr. Tañada were attending a forum for senatorial candidates that day.

Prosecutors also said the complaint of Mr. Te is valid as he only met Mr. Advincula after he received a request for his legal assistance.

The prosecutors also dismissed the perjury complaint against P/Col. Arnold Thomas C. Ibay, saying he was “clear and categorical” when he submitted records to the Department of Justice for investigation based on documentary evidence and claims of Mr. Advincula. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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