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Nationwide round-up (02/22/21)

Anti-terror law oral arguments moved to March as justices go on quarantine

THE fourth session of oral arguments on petitions against the anti-terrorism law scheduled on Tuesday has been moved to March as some of the Supreme Court justices “are on self-quarantine as a precaution against COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019),” the court announced on Monday. The Office of the Clerk of Court issued a notice saying “The Oral Arguments will resume on March 02, 2021 at 2:30 p.m.” The high court has yet to respond to questions on who among the 15 Justices are in isolation and what brought about the need for self-quarantine.

There will also be no weekly en banc deliberation on Tuesday. It will resume on March 2, SC Public Information Officer Jay B. Rempillo confirmed to reporters on Viber. The third session of the oral arguments last Tuesday ended with Edcel C. Lagman, one of the petitioners’ counsels, again asking the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 to block its implementation while the 37 petitions are still being deliberated. In response, Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta instructed the petitioners to file a written request for the TRO. The pending lawsuits are asking the high court to void the law that expanded the country’s definition of and regulations against terror. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Gov’t partners with private sector to end hunger by 2030

THE government and private sector on Monday synergized plans to combat hunger and malnutrition in the country. “Hunger is a silent enemy that can no longer be ignored… In our campaign against hunger, we should be all in, all out — anyone who can pitch in should help, and those who can help should go all out,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said at the virtual launch of Pilipinas Kontra Gutom (PKG), a multisectoral movement against poverty led by the government’s Task Force Zero Hunger. The task force, created last year through an executive order, mobilizes government resources to achieve zero hunger and end other forms of food deprivation. Mr. Nograles said the national government and its private partners have a “daunting task” to achieve zero hunger by 2030, which is consistent with the government’s National Food Policy. He said the movement will adopt a whole-of-nation approach to achieve its immediate and long-term goals of addressing involuntary hunger and malnutrition in the Philippines, an urgent concern given the millions of families that grapple with hunger in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. “With the strong synergy and collaboration between government and the private sector… we will be able to augment our resources and craft better plans and strategies so we can reach more and do more,” he said.

Since being organized in November last year, PKG has grown into a movement that involves around 70 partners from private companies, non-profit groups and various other organizations. Mr. Nograles said the anti-hunger movement’s programs aim to increase farmer income by as much as 20% within the year and double farmer productivity by 2025. Private companies will work with the government to “revolutionize” country’s disaster response “to facilitate a prepared, synchronized, and targeted action flow for food security when crises strike,” Mr. Nograles said. He also urged food establishments to allocate their “food surplus” for the movement’s food banks in the capital region. The founding members of the anti-hunger movement include multinationals and some of the country’s biggest companies such as Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc., Dole Philippines, Inc., Johnson & Johnson’s Philippines, Inc., McDonald’s Philippines, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. and San Miguel Corp. A Social Weather Stations poll in September last year showed that about 7.6 million Filipino families had experienced hunger in the second half of 2020. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

COVID-positive OFWs abroad reach more than 23,000

THE Department of Labor and Employment on Monday reported an additional 14,368 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have caught the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). International Labor Affairs Bureau Director Alice Q. Visperas said in a briefing that the figure is on top of the more than 9,000 COVID-19 cases among OFWs as of end-2020. She said of the total, 8,829 have recovered from the sickness while the death toll is 923. The Philippine Overseas Labor Office gave medical assistance to 5,236 of the OFWs who tested positive for the virus. Ms. Visperas said each OFW was given $200. — Gillian M. Cortez

BI consolidating list of foreign nationals in PHL

THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) is preparing a consolidated list of foreign nationals in the Philippines following a directive from the national task force handling the country’s coronavirus response. “This is a major step for the Bureau, as it has always been a challenge in monitoring aliens,” BI Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in a press release on Monday, noting that there are other government agencies with an independent authority to issue visas. “There are a lot of other government agencies that issue visas, without the need for registration with the Bureau,” which made it difficult to come up with the total number of foreign nationals in the Philippines, said Mr. Morente. These include the Department of Justice, Board of Investments, Philippine Retirement Authority, and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has ordered these agencies “to provide the BI a list of foreign nationals to whom they issued visas.” Mr. Morente said the IATF mandate would allow the bureau to be the central source of data on foreign nationals issued Philippine visas. The information is currently shared manually, but Mr. Morente said he “hopes that in the future, we will be able to automate data sharing.” The IATF has recently eased restrictions on the entry of foreigners, with most long-term visa holders and relatives of Filipinos allowed to fly in. Exit rules have also been adjusted with the presentation of a travel pass upon departure. Those holding an Emigration Exit Clearance need not present a travel pass “because they are leaving for good,” Mr. Morente added. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

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