Solon: Crackdown on leftist groups will lead to more abuses

DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat that he will go after groups he accused of being legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) spells “open season” for individuals who are fighting for the poor, a party-list lawmaker said on Sunday.

“The President’s statement is clearly declaring an open season to further justify atrocities against activists and legal mass organizations in the country,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao told the Inquirer.

Upon his return from India on Saturday, Mr. Duterte said he would “go after the legal fronts,” referring to groups with alleged ties to the CPP.

The President said these groups were involved in illegal activities like collecting taxes for rebels.

He said he was just waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court on his proclamation branding the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups.

Mr. Duterte said the “enemies of the state” could expect the full force of the government because “my orders are really to destroy, to destroy the apparatus.”

More rights abuses seen

Casilao, a townmate of the President, said these pronouncements would worsen human rights violations under the Duterte administration.

He said 126 cases of extrajudicial killings, of which 110 targeted farmers and indigenous people, had taken place since Mr. Duterte became President in 2016.

Tyrannical rule

“By ordering such crackdown, he virtually gives the military, the police and state-sanctioned paramilitary groups the green light to run after members of mass organizations from the city and mostly in poor rural areas,” said the Anakpawis lawmaker.

 

Casilao said the President was endorsing the commission of human rights violation against the people. “It’s a one step closer move to an open fascist-tyrannical rule.”

He noted that this was not the first time that Mr. Duterte had urged the military to commit human rights violations.

“He wanted to bomb lumad schools accusing it as rebel institution,” Casilao said.

Instead of blaming progressive groups for the insurgency, Casilao said the President could have simply looked at the roots of the social unrest, such as widespread poverty and income inequality in the country.

He said poverty was being worsened by antipoor government programs like the new tax law.

Revive peace talks

Casilao suggested that Mr. Duterte revive peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the CPP.

“It is not too late to reconsider the resumption of the peace talks as it will resolve the root causes of the decadeslong armed conflict,” he added.

The President suspended peace talks with the NDFP in May last year, accusing communist rebels of attacking government forces while holding negotiations.

Last Nov. 23, Mr. Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 that formally terminated the talks.

Eleven days later, he issued Proclamation No. 374, declaring the CPP and the NPA terrorist organizations.

The suspension of the talks dashed hopes of ending the almost five decades of communist rebellion in the country. —Allan Nawal

 

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CBCP to PNP: Please, no more ‘Tokhang’ kills

PROTEST VS KILLINGS Relatives of slain drug suspects light candles to remember their loved ones at a Church-sponsored gathering in Manila. —RICHARD A. REYES

Catholic bishops have appealed to the authorities to ensure that a fresh crackdown on narcotics will not lead to a further “waste” of human life as the Philippine National Police relaunches “Oplan Tokhang” on Monday for a more active role in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless war on drugs.

In the old “Oplan Tokhang,” police visited homes of drug users and suspected drug dealers anytime and sought their surrender.

This time, however, the visitations will be carried out only during daytime and under new guidelines aimed at preventing the killing of suspects, such as the carnage that characterized the first 18 months of the war on drugs.

 

In a statement issued in Cebu during the plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Sunday, Archbishop Romulo Valles, the new CBCP president, urged the police to always follow the law in dealing with drug suspects.

“We pray that the police follow the prescribed steps in implementing the law … steps that should be done in exercising their responsibility as policemen,” Valles said.

“Let us inspire them to follow the necessary steps when they need to apprehend and as much as possible, we make sure that we do not waste any lives,” he added.

‘Reign of terror’

The CBCP has sharply criticized Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, calling it “reign of terror” in poor communities.

The US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said the drug war has taken the lives of more than 12,000 people since the launch of the campaign in June 2016.

The PNP disputes the HRW figure, saying only 3,987 people have been killed in antinarcotics operations, while 11 percent, or 2,235, of the total 19,560 murders under police investigation are drug-related.

The bishops appealed for an end to the killings while calling for the country to “start healing.”

 

The killings abated after Mr. Duterte demoted the PNP from the lead role in the drug war last October after the execution of three minors in Caloocan City sparked widespread public anger that pulled down his ratings.

The President also disbanded the PNP antinarcotics force after several officers from the unit were involved in the kidnapping and killing of a South Korean businessman in an operation disguised as a Tokhang visit.

Mr. Duterte gave the pursuit of the drug war to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), a small force that PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa had openly doubted could effectively handle the country’s drug problem.

The President allowed the PNP to back up the PDEA. It’s unclear, however, why he has allowed the relaunch of Tokhang.

Killings never stopped

Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David earlier expressed concern that the daily killings might happen again with the relaunch of the police campaign.

“Tokhang was suspended but the killing of alleged drug suspects never really stopped. What to expect with [this] relaunching? Your guess is as good as mine,” David said in a post on Facebook.

David demanded an update on the cases of thousands of killings during the first two editions of Tokhang.

He said the lack of credible findings on those cases would only make the third iteration of Tokhang a cause for concern.

Police, however, are promising changes in the pursuit of the campaign.

Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, on Sunday said police officers would no longer conduct “One-Time, Big-Time” (OTBT) operations this time.

Thirty-two people were killed in 24 hours when the PNP launched the first OTBT operation in Bulacan province last Aug. 15.

In Metro Manila, 25 people were killed in similar operations two days later.

‘Oplan Galugad’

This time, however, “[t]hat ‘One-Time, Big-Time’ operation term is no more,” Albayalde said in a radio interview. “What we have is ‘Oplan Galugad.’”

“Galugad” means “search.” In police operations, it refers to the search for contraband or illegal drugs, Albayalde said.

He also said the list of suspected drug users used in Tokhang should not be considered an “order of battle.”

Lists of suspected addicts come from barangay antidrug abuse councils and are validated by the police and the PDEA every three months, Albayalde said.

“It does not mean that if you are [on] the list, it is like you are in the order of battle. It’s just a watch list. You are not guilty if you are included in the list,” he added.

Oplan Tokhang, he said, is different from the actual undercover antidrug operations like buy-busts.

“Oplan Tokhang now is when you go to the houses with drug dependents who are [on] the watch list. This is unlike before when you go anywhere and you knock on all the houses,” he said.

Only officers designated as “Tokhangers” may conduct Tokhang operations, Albayalde said.

“They should be in uniform and they are accompanied by barangay officials. If possible [reporters] and sometimes [members of human rights groups] or our churches [should also join],” he said. —With a report from the wires

 

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Duterte denies any hand in filing of raps vs Aquino on Mamasapano incident

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte–PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

DAVAO CITY – President Duterte on Saturday publicly denied any hand in the filing of charges against his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, in connection with the deaths three years ago of 44 members of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The charges for graft and usurpation of authorities against Aquino were filed by the Ombudsman at the Sandiganbayan on November 8 last year.

The Volunteers against Crime and Corruption (VACC) – whose officials were known to be close allies of Duterte’s – had also filed a complaint but the Ombudsman dismissed it in July after finding “no probable cause” to charge Aquino with reckless imprudence.

 

Speaking to reporters here after his arrival from a state visit to India, Duterte said he had no hand in the filing of the charges against his predecessor.

“It is not my style. It is not in my system,” he said, adding that he was also not behind the filing of the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombdusman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Duterte said he had also decided not to form the Mamasapano Commission to investigate the botched anti-terror operation that also killed 25 Moro gunmen and civilians.

“Not anymore because I realized that once again…anyway, it (the case) had been filed already. What more do you want?” Duterte asked.

“It’s already there, Pnoy (Aquino) had been sued,” he said.

It was on January 23 last year when Duterte – in a speech delivered before the anniversary of the now infamous Mamasapano incident – announced he was creating the commission “which would be like the Agrava Commission.”

“I will create a commission of seven. I will appoint men of integrity and honor. If they will accept it, I will choose mostly justices of the Supreme Court and few of the civilian sector, maybe a lawyer. I would not recommend someone I know,” he added.

“We will bestow to the commission the powers exactly given to the Agrava commission, during the time of Aquino’s death. Let us see,” he was, in reference to the Marcos-created board that investigated the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

 

But on Saturday, Duterte said even without the commission, “we can only presume that they (Aquino and former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima) did it in the wrong way.”

“Murphy’s Law. If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. Mamasapano, I can’t (understand). There’s only one regret,” he said.

Duterte said the Aquino government could have used all the resources at hand to save lives during the clashes.

“My sentiment is, because the place has many (Tactical Operations Group), of the Air Force,” he said.

Duterte said help did not come for the embattled policemen.

“Now, they were pinned down, started in the 11, maybe 10 o’ clock in the morning. They were already pinned down. Sunset came (and no help arrived),” he added.

Duterte spared the military from blame saying “(t)he Army was not authorized to do anything because this was an exclusive affair.”

“Now we will know. I’m not prepared to accuse personally. My only question was why did you allow the (poliemen) to be pinned down and die?” he asked, obviously addressing Aquino./asu

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Sereno camp: Gadon ‘ignorant’ of legal process

(L-R) Atty. Justine Mendoza, Atty. Anzen Dy, counsel of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and spokesperson Atty. Josa Deinla arrive at the committee on justice in congress to file a rejoinder to the complaint of Atty. Larry Gadon. INQUIRER file photo / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is confident that the criminal case filed by principal impeachment complainant Atty. Larry Gadon will never prosper.

Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said Gadon was “ignorant” of the law and the processes when he filed a graft complaint against the top magistrate with the “wrong office.”
Gadon on Friday, January 26, filed a complaint for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees against Sereno before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“By filing a complaint with the Department of Justice against a government official immune from suit and filing it with the wrong office only reinforces and further exposes Atty. Gadon’s ignorance of the law and the processes,” Deinla said in a statement on Saturday.

 

“This is yet another desperate and laughable attempt by Atty. Gadon to push his sinister plot to remove the Chief Justice from office, fully aware that his impeachment complaint has no basis at all,” the spokeswoman stressed.

The lawyer said this was for her alleged failure to submit her statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN) for more than 15 years when she was a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).

However, Deinla said Sereno has been “accurately and properly” filing her SALNs since she was appointed to the Supreme Court (SC) in 2012 and when she became Chief Justice in 2012.

“Her earnings from private law practice before she became an Associate Justice are reflected in her ITR (income tax return) filings and only the assets remaining from these earnings are reflected in her current SALNs,” Deinla said.

Moreover, lawyer Carlo Cruz, another spokesperson for Sereno, said in a text message that the Chief Justice was given a Certificate of Clearance dated Sept. 19, 2011 by the UP’s Human Resources Development Office.

The clearance, Cruz said, affirmed that Sereno “has been cleared of all academic/administrative responsibilities.”

“This would of course, include the SALN requirements,” he added.

Deinla then skewered Gadon’s act as “just another publicity stunt to attract the attention of the public whose interest in the ongoing impeachment proceedings is waning.”

“They know that all the allegations against the Chief Justice are mere concoctions to unjustly oust her,” she said. /jpv

 

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Phivolcs warns of deadly lahar flow near Mayon

A resident tries to catch fish along a river near Mayon volcano in Daraga town, Albay province, south of Manila on Jan. 27, 2018. Millions of tonnes of ash and rocks from an erupting Philippine volcano are threatening to bury surrounding communities due to heavy rain, authorities warned January 27. AFP/Ted Aljibe
MANILA, Philippines — Heavy rains brought by the tail-end of a cold front have increased the dangers of lahar flowing “on all river channels” near the Mayon Volcano in Albay, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology warned Saturday.

In its advisory issued at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the Phivolcs said the lava, ashfall and other pyroclastic density current (PDC) materials spewed by Mayon Volcano for the last two weeks could turn into lahar if the heavy rains continue.

“These deposits can be remobilized by rainwater and generate lahars by themselves and or by incorporating existing erodible material on channel banks,” the Phivolcs said.

The Phivolcs said lahar and sediment-laden streamflows are possible “on all river channels draining the slopes of Mayon Volcano” especially in the villages of Buyuan, Missi, Mabinit, Basud, San Vicente, Buang, Quirangay and Masarawag-Maninila.

“Communities and local government units beside these river systems are advised to be additionally vigilant and to move residents to high ground when heavy rains occur,” the Phivolcs said.

Mayon remains at Alert Level 4, a notch below the highest alert level as of Saturday.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

The Phivolcs said the total volume of PDC deposits on the watershed areas near Mayon, mostly on the Buyuan and Miisi channels, have already reached nine million cubic meters, “excluding unverified deposits on the northern flank.”

Meanwhile, the total volume of ashfall on the western sector is estimated at roughly 1.5 million cubic meters.

“PHIVOLCS therefore warns of potential lahars and sediment-laden streamflows...that may be generated by heavy rainfalls brought about by the cold-front,” Phivolcs said.

Between 6:26 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. on Friday, three episodes of sporadic lava fountaining from the Mayon's summit crater have occured lasting 24 minutes to 40 minutes, the Phivolcs said in its 8 a.m. bulletin issued yesterday.

The Phivolcs said the lava fountains generated ash plumes that reaching kilometers above the crater.

A total of ten volcanic earthquakes, 21 tremor events, three of which correspond to the lava fountaining events, one PDC from lava collapse, and 21 rockfall events were recorded by Mayon's seismic monitoring network.

The continuous volcanic activities have already displaced more than 18,000 families or more than 72,000 individuals from 57 barangays causing overcrowding in temporary shelters.

Mayon, located about 330 kilometres (205 miles) southeast of the capital Manila, is the most active of the country's 22 volcanoes -- and one of the deadliest.

Four foreign tourists and their local tour guide were killed when it last erupted in May 2013.

In 1814, more than 1,200 people were killed when lava flows buried the nearby town of Cagsawa. — with report from AFP

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Duterte's '42 virgins' joke an insult to Filipinas, says Akbayan Women

DUTERTE IN INDIA. President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during the presentation of business agreements after the Philippines-India Business Forum at The Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi, India on January 26, 2018. Photo by Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines – Activist group Akbayan Women slammed President Rodrigo Duterte after he joked about "42 virgins" as a "come-on" to visit the Philippines, during his visit to India.

In a statement on Saturday, January 27, Akbayan Women called the President an "international embarrassment" and said that he "has no respect for Filipino women."

Speaking to businessmen on his last day in India on Friday, January 26, Duterte joked that if Muslim extremists can lure followers with the promise of "42 virgins" in heaven, he would like to "attract" tourists to the Philippines with the same.

"Duterte dismisses Filipinas as mere goods for trade, that women are just sights for tourists," said Akbayan Women. "This insults millions of women who work hard to build our nation with honor only to be represented as virgin fodder for tourists by the President himself. This insults millions of overseas Filipino workers who have created a name in Filipino workmanship abroad."

They also said that his "deep hate" towards women "manifests in his repeated cycles of sexism." Duterte has a history of making sexist jokes and remarks about women. (RELATED: Accused of sexism, Duterte vows to fight for women's rights)

His joke in India, the group added, was "extremely worrying," saying that it "reinforces the culture of sexualization – treating women as sexual objects, devoid of dignity and human rights."

"We deserve a President who can represent Filipinos: men, women and LGBT alike abroad. We deserve a president who has a regard for women's rights and dignity," the group said.

Akbayan Women encouraged Filipinos of all genders to "resist all sexist actions that threaten our democracy and human rights."

"Let us show the world that we don't lie back when assaulted with violent, sexist language by those in power – we fight it! We can only win a free, fair, and just world when we stand for each other," said the group.

Duterte went on a 3-day official visit to India for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-India Commemorative Summit and to attend India's Republic Day. During the trip, he had a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. – Michael Bueza/Rappler.com

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Concerns over job readiness hound first batch of K to 12 graduates

Are they really ready?

As the country welcomes the first batch of Senior High School (SHS) graduates under the K to 12 Program this year, concerns on their job readiness are being raised by various stakeholders.

Contrary to the earlier “promise” of the K to 12 program, solons representing the teachers sector reiterated that the K to 12 system will not solve the rising number of unemployment in country. “It will instead worsen the problem with having a pool of laborers with no jobs or opportunities available to hire them,” said ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro.

Earlier, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (PCCI) expressed concern on the job readiness or competence of SHS graduates for employment. The PCCI – which is considered as the “voice of Philippine business” – raised issues in regard to the minimum number of training hours of SHS graduates.

Tinio said that the PCCI’s concern on the work readiness of SHS graduates is not surprising. “We have said it before and we will say it again, the K to 12 program will not solve the rising unemployment rate in our country,” he stressed. “It only pushes the youth to become skilled laborers working for cheap for foreign companies instead of educating them to become professionals that would help build national industries,” he added.

Meanwhile, Castro said that the government “foisted additional two years of schooling as the cure-all for our country’s problems including unemployment but it does not address job scarcity.” She noted that even college graduates prior to the implementation of the K to 12 “have a hard time looking for jobs with decent wages… how much more do we expect from Grade 12 graduates?” she asked.

Tinio also noted that the country has seen the effects of having a pool of skilled laborers with a government that does not provide enough opportunities for its people for decent jobs with decent salaries. “They are forced to risk their lives away from their families and serve in foreign countries as cheap laborers and are susceptible to discrimination,” he said. “Those who choose to stay in the country are also still vulnerable to contractualization, work for depressed wages, and unemployment,” he added.

Dangerous proposal

Meanwhile, the solons also scored the PCCI’s proposal to increase the students training hours to give them enough time to train and improve their skills. The current curriculum only gives the pupils 80 hours of training.

“This is a dangerous proposal,” Castro said. “This will pave the way for companies using the labor of students for free or way below the minimum wage, which we observe as currently practiced in some establishments,” she added. The Congress, she noted, should “use its oversight function to investigate and conduct an inquiry on this matter.”

Due to this, the solons are once again urging the government through the Department of Education (DepEd) to junk the K to 12 implementation.

“We must continue to oppose and to call for the junking of the neoliberal K to 12 system of education as it does not serve the interest of the Filipino youth and the people for decent jobs with decent wages and national industrialization,” Tinio said.

Instead of implementing the K to 12, Castro said that government should put up a “nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented curriculum and system of education” and “create more decent jobs with decent wages through national industrialization which would make available millions of jobs for Filipinos.”

Ready as can be

Amid these concerns, the DepEd maintained that the first batch of SHS graduates is “job-ready and life-ready.”

In a statement, DepEd said that it recognizes the PCCI’s regarding the minimum number of training hours of SHS graduates but maintained “its confidence in the strong partnerships it has forged and continues to foster with different industry partners” that enable SHS graduates “to strike a balance between theory and practice” – specifically through Work Immersion.

DepEd is also keen to note that the K to 12 Basic Education Program has equipped SHS graduates with values, knowledge, and skills that communities, businesses, and industries need through its four exits: higher education, entrepreneurship, employment, or middle-level skills development.

“The first batch of Grade 12 learners are about to become full-fledged contributors to social development and nation-building,” the DepEd said. The K to 12 Program – which was crafted in close coordination between the DepEd, Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), TESDA and representatives of business community – aims to “produce lifelong learners who are locally and globally competitive, and ready to pursue their desired path.”

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Cimatu reiterates call to miners to reduce impact on environment

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu (Czar Dancel / Manila Bulletin file photo)

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu urged mining companies to conform with the law to gain a positive perception among the public.

In a consultation meeting with the members of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), he said mining companies should promote responsible mining and ensure their operations have minimal impact on the environment and local communities.

He said it was not enough for mining firms to pay higher taxes as this does not contribute to improving public perception towards the highly extractive industry.

 

“It’s not about money; it’s about the attitude of the mining companies to show that you are doing something, not only in greening, but also with your water discharge and tailings disposal,” Cimatu told representatives of COMP member companies.

According to the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, several mining companies are guilty of the following: damage to land and private properties; siltation and discoloration of water bodies; dust generation; non-submission of reports; inadequate information, education and communication campaign; poor implementation of social development and management program; and operation beyond or outside their declared feasibility areas.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier warned mining companies to take responsibility to rehabilitate mining areas they destroyed or he will put an end to mining.

Cimatu said the President was “really mad at those who are destroying the environment.”

“The areas you disturb are visible or shown to the public and this easily causes a bias against you. Do not disturb areas which you do not plan on using immediately, so that you minimize the damage,” Cimatu said.

In response, miners agreed to undertake “progressive rehabilitation” in order to accelerate restoration of disturbed areas.

Progressive rehabilitation requires miners to expose only the maximum area allowed by the MGB at any given time, and prescribes a standard time in leaving such areas exposed.

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26 Dengvaxia child vaccinees have died

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III following the the DFA's suspension of the sale of Dengvaxia for 1 year, and imposing a P100,000-administrative fine on Sanofi for failing to comply with post-marketing authorization requirements for the vaccine.(photo by ali vicoy)
 

Based on records of the Department of Health (DOH), five more children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia have died, driving the total to 26.

“As of January 24, 2018, from the total of 837, we have admitted cases of 725 and out of that, 26 died. From March 2016 to January 19, the reported deaths were 21. But since last week until this week, we have another five deaths. So a total of 26… from March 2016 to January 24, 2018,” Health Assistant Secretary Maria Francia Laxamana disclosed in a press conference today.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, on the other hand, clarified that there have been recorded dengue deaths even before the Dengvaxia was given to the children.

“The 725, these are the AEFI, these are the Adverse Effects Following Immunization. The way to contextualize this, even without Dengvaxia, there is a case fatality ratio. May namamatay talaga dahil sa dengue. You want to do a comparison, makikita ninyo the case fatality ratio is still below one percent,” Duque stated.

Moreover, Laxamana noted that not all the 725 cases are dengue cases.

“Mayro’n kaming confirmatory…. Sa 725, ang na-confirm lang is 412 cases. So iyong iba roon hindi talaga maa-attribute sa dengue kasi nag-negative sila sa test,” she said.

‘Unfinished Dengvaxia trial’

Meanwhile, Duque said that the Phase 3 clinical trial period on Dengvaxia was not yet finished when the mass dengue vaccination program, involving over 830,000 children, began.

“Iyong clinical trial nagsimula po sometime June of 2011. That’s supposed to be a six-year study for the Phase 3 clinical trial period. That’s six years or 72 months,” he said.

The DOH chief said the officials could have just waited for the conclusion of the third phase of the Dengvaxia clinical trial before the vaccines were given to children.

“They started giving the Dengvaxia as early 2016, March. The findings on the severe dengue came out after they concluded the Phase 3 in September of 2017. So if they had waited 2017, then they would have known they can’t give these Dengvaxia to children who never had dengue in the past, because that is exactly what the advisory of Sanofi says,” he pointed out.

It can be recalled that the mass dengue immunization drive started in April 2016.

Asked if he thinks that the administration of Dengvaxia among children was rushed, he answered, “Well, it appears that based on these information, they could have waited until the phase 3 clinical trial concluded.”

On November 29, 2017, the Sanofi Pasteur announced a “new finding” on its vaccine Dengvaxia.

“The analysis confirmed that Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefit against dengue fever in those who had prior infection…. For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection,” Sanofi said in a previous statement.

On December 1, 2017, Duque put on hold the government vaccination drive.

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Gag order at DFA following Duterte’s threat to withdraw OFWs in Kuwait

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (FEDERICO CRUZ / MANILA BULLETIN)

A gag order is now in effect at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) following the statement made by President Rodrigo Duterte threatening to withdraw overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) working in Kuwait amid series of reported abuses, with some resulting in deaths.

When asked to comment on the President’s statement and the actions that the department had taken on the status of OFWs in Kuwait, the DFA’s Office of Public Diplomacy said they defer to Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano for any pronouncement concerning the issue, which to some experts may incur “diplomatic repercussions.”

“Per OUMWA (Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs), they would rather have pronouncements on this matter come from SFA (Secretary of Foreign Affairs) himself while discussions on this matter are still ongoing between Kuwait and PHL officials,” the Office of Public Diplomacy told the Manila Bulletin.

Cayetano could not be reached for comment since he is currently in India as part of the presidential delegation.

Before embarking on his trip to India for the ASEAN Commemorative meeting on Wednesday, Duterte appealed to Kuwait and other countries in the Middle East to treat Filipinos workers as “human beings.”

The President’s statement came following the suspension of deployment of OFWs to Kuwait pending probe of reported four deaths and several other cases of abuse committed against Filipino workers.

Cayetano was apparently not consulted prior to the President’s statement on the Kuwait issue.

“I hope I am not committing a diplomatic faux pas,” Duterte said after acknowledging the presence of Cayetano in his pre-departure speech at the NAIA.

A senior diplomat, however, disagreed in the government’s handling of the situation, saying that the President or any other agencies of the government may be “ill-advised” in making hasty pronouncements without prior consultations with the DFA and the government of Kuwait.

“I think DOLE’s (Department of Labor and Employment) suspension of deployment of OFWs on account of the death of 4 HSWs (Household Service Workers) without first seeking clarification from appropriate Kuwaiti authorities is ill-advised,” said the retired diplomat who is well known for his deep knowledge of the country’s policy in the Middle East.

The former envoy, who also served in various positions under several administrations, explained that “not all OFWs in Kuwait are HSWs.”

“Perhaps (DOLE) Sec. (Silvestre) Bello may wish to consider instead, the deployment ban of female workers who are Household Service Workers (HSWs) but not the OFWs as a total Migrant Workers,” the diplomat said in a text message.

This view was shared by Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa who said that the ban on deployment may only apply to HSWs (formerly known as domestic helpers), being the “most vulnerable” among the categories of workers being deployed in Kuwait and in some other countries in the Middle East.

Villa told Kuwait-based media that he is still awaiting instructions from Manila regarding the ban and is ready to comply as soon as he receives an order from the DFA and DOLE.

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