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Nationwide round-up (03/09/21)

Consumer group turns to anti-red tape agency to speed up discount guidelines for online buys of seniors, PWDs

A CONSUMER group has turned to the government’s red tape watchdog to flag inaction on its request to issue guidelines on providing the mandatory discount for senior citizens and persons with disability (PWD) when buying online. In a letter to the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) on Mar. 5, Laban Konsyumer, Inc. President Victorio A. Dimagiba asked the agency to intervene after four months since filing their request to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Laban Konsyumer, a non-profit organization focusing on consumer rights, sent its request to the Trade and Social Welfare departments in October, asking for clear and uniform rules for discounts for online purchases. Under Philippine laws, senior citizens and PWDs are entitled to a 20% discount and are exempt from value added tax on certain goods and services. In physical shops, beneficiaries are required to present their special ID. Both departments, the group said, have acknowledged the request. Trade Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo said guidelines would be released by the end of last year, ABS-CBN news reported in December. Ms. Castelo has not yet responded to requests for comment.

“Up to now [there has been no] public consultation on online shopping guidelines for seniors’ privileges,” Mr. Dimagiba said in a statement on Monday. Online sellers, he said, “do not know what and how to grant the discounts.” More consumers have been buying goods online due to restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The Trade department in August last year said that senior citizen discounts apply to online transactions and purchases done on behalf of senior citizens. Laban Konsyumer noted that the National Council on Disability Affairs said that the discounts do not apply to delivery charges for goods bought online. — Jenina P. Ibañez

Lawyers of anti-terror law petitions ask high court for TRO

LAWYERS involved in the petitions questioning the Anti-Terrorism Act asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday to immediately issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the law, citing escalating attacks on members of the judicial sector as well as those allegedly linked to armed rebel movements. More than 60 counsels of the anti-terror law petitioners said the country’s highest court must intervene and help stop the violence against lawyers, judges, and those who have been subject to police operations and said to have “fought back.” In a statement, they called on the SC “as the constitutionally-appointed guardian of civil liberties and protector of the legal profession to take immediate measures to stop these attacks including those committed against petitioners and counsel in the ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act) petitions.” They added, “The issuance of a TRO on the enforcement of the ATA pending the final adjudication of the 37 petitions could help address the worsening situation.” The lawyers also expressed grave concern over the killings and arrests of subjects during the simultaneous raids conducted in the provinces of Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite on Sunday. They noted that “these are members of groups also petitioning the (court) for the invalidation of (the ATA).” The signatories of the statement include the seven oralists for the ATA petitioners, former Solicitor General Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz, retired SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, retired Ombudsman Conchita C. Carpio-Morales, and former Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, Sr. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

Indigenous people to get legal support from renewed DoJAC and IBP

THE Department of Justice Action Center (DoJAC) was reactivated on Monday to provide legal aid to members of indigenous people communities and others who do not qualify for the services of the Public Attorney’s Office. “From a program on the brink of dissolution, the DoJAC has been revived to become an important component of our government’s commitment to a people-centered leadership,” Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said in his message during the agency’s 36th anniversary celebration. The renewed center has partnered with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the official organization of all Philippine lawyers. Under the memorandum of agreement signed Monday by IBP and the Justice department, DoJAC would be responsible for endorsing clients to the lawyers’ group and guide them with the IBP’s rules and regulations. “(The) DoJAC as a frontline service assists our marginalized and disadvantaged countrymen in resolving many legal issues and concerns, including those arising from their dealings with any bureau or agency under the DoJ or with other government agencies,” Mr. Guevarra said. “The delivery of swift and fair justice — especially to those who have no resources to consult, much less litigate, their concerns — is DoJAC’s reason for being,” he added. The IBP will first evaluate the endorsed cases based on the group’s means and merits tests, among other factors. If the clients do not qualify for IBP’s legal aid, they will be referred to other lawyers or law groups who are willing to handle their case under reduced legal fees. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

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