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Nationwide round-up (03/01/21)

NBI given until end of the week for report on PNP-PDEA shootout

THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has until the end of this week to submit its report on the shootout between police officers and agents of the drug enforcement agency last Feb. 24, where three law enforcers and one informant died while several others were injured. The incident happened early evening at a busy commercial area of Quezon City, putting civilians at risk. Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Monday that he has directed the NBI to give its initial findings within 10 days on what the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has labeled a “misencounter” during a drug bust operation. “I gave the NBI 10 days… from the time I issued a verbal order to the NBI on the night of the shootout incident… to submit an initial report, and progress reports thereafter until the investigation is completed,” Mr. Guevarra said in a mobile message. Mr. Guevarra also assured a fair probe saying, “the NBI will go anywhere its investigation will lead it” as it has handled such cases “many times before…that’s why the President trusts the agency.” PDEA and the Philippine National Police initially formed a joint team to conduct an investigation on the incident. However, President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered the NBI to be the sole government agency to handle the probe.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker on Monday said such “misencounter” could have been avoided had Congress already amended the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace S. Barbers cited his proposed amendments to the law through House Bill 7814 were approved on second reading a day before the shootout. Among the proposed changes is the mandatory wearing of body cameras by law enforcers during drug operations. “This could have aborted any seeming illegal activity that were intended to be perpetrated by any personality against law enforcers or could have recorded all activities during the entire operation. Unfortunately, even as we have called for its use years ago, our pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears, whether intentional or otherwise,” said Mr. Barbers, whose father was a former police officer. A Senate bill also proposes the creation of a single anti-drug agency led by the police. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago and Gillian M. Cortez

Senator asks Malacañang to reconsider ‘demotion’ of 3 holidays

SENATOR Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel on Tuesday urged the presidential palace to reconsider the decision declaring three holidays as “special working holidays,” which will cut the take-home pay of workers. In a statement, Ms. Baraquel said Proclamation No. 1107 making special non-working holidays Nov. 2, Dec. 24, and Dec. 31 as special working holidays is “nothing short of disastrous for workers already dealing with a pandemic and an economic crisis.” She added, “While we understand the need to increase economic productivity, demoting special Filipino holidays to special working holidays will only burden and demoralize Filipino workers, many of whom are already underpaid and struggling with high prices of goods. This is rubbing salt on the people’s wounds.” The senator noted that those who will be working on All Soul’s Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve will not receive the additional pay of 30% of their daily salary, among other benefits granted to workers during special non-working holidays. She also said that affected workers will include frontliners and essential workers, most of whom are minimum wage earners. The lower pay, she said, might also “disincentive and demoralize workers from reporting for duty, thus lowering economic productivity instead of increasing it.” President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday signed the proclamation which reduced the non-working days for the year, citing the need to recover from the adverse effects of the pandemic. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Supreme Court upholds estafa conviction of ex-DPWH exec, shop owner

THE Supreme Court has denied the petition of a former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) official and a car repair shop owner for a review of the anti-graft court’s 2016 ruling finding them guilty of estafa due to falsification of documents for fictitious vehicle repairs that cost the government P5.16 million. In a 31-page decision published on Feb. 23, the high court adopted the Sandiganbayan’s findings that the supposed emergency repairs on 39 DPWH vehicles in 2001 did not take place, and were labeled ‘emergency repairs’ and split into separate transactions to avoid the requirement of public bidding. The case involves Maximo A. Borje, who was chief of the Motorpool Section of the DPWH Bureau of Equipment, and Conchita M. Dela Cruz, owner of the repair shop that issued the sales invoices for the spare parts and emergency repairs. The Supreme Court affirmed that documents for 274 transactions that covered the alleged emergency repairs and purchases of spare parts of the 39 DPWH vehicles were falsified. Both petitioners denied any knowledge of the transactions. — Bianca Angelica D. Añago

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