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DOH DENIES ORDERING HOSPITALS TO KEEP COVID-19 DEATHS SECRET; DISCOURAGES PUBLIC SPRAYING, MISTING

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By Joey Natividad

Allegedly issuing orders to hospitals to keep COVID-19 deaths secret was denied by the Department of Health (DOH).

On Saturday, April 11, DOH said, in an official post in its website, “there have been circulating reports that a hospital based in Metro Manila was allegedly instructed to stop counting COVID-19 deaths.”

“DOH clarifies that it has never issued any order to stop the census or reporting of deaths, or any case related to COVID-19 to any health facility,” the official statement said.

“We urge the public to exercise discretion when sharing information, to fact-check and verify first through DOH’s official channels and legitimate sources,” DOH reminds the public.

The DOH denial came after media and TV newscaster Arnold Clavio said in an Instagram post about a hospital was allegedly instructed by DOH to stop counting COVID-19 deaths. Similar postings were monitored in the social media.

DOH claimed it has contacted Clavio for clarification.

DOH said it is a mandatory policy requiring hospitals to report on matters related to COVID-19 cases, including data on admitted patients, recoveries, and deaths.

Meanwhile, DOH discourages public spraying and misting being done by town/city level health personnel.

The agency says it does not recommend spraying or misting. There is no evidence to support that spraying of surfaces or large scale misting of areas, indoor or outdoor with disinfecting agents, kills the virus.

Spraying or misting has an additional health concern as it can:
1. Cause pathogens to be dispersed further during spraying
2. Result to skin irritation and inhalation of chemicals
3. Cause environmental pollution

DOH advises to soak objects or disinfect surfaces to kill the virus.

“POOREST AMONG THE POOR”: ‘MANTRA’ POLITICS

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By Joey Natividad

“Poorest among the poor” has become the most used and abused cliche’ by bureaucrats and politicians in order that more money can be squeezed from the national treasury.

The words “poorest among the poor” have turned into a “mantra”, their mere utterances by repetition on the “whereas” clauses can already unlock the treasury vaults.

There is much mystique behind the “poorest among the poor” than the generalized usage of “poor”.

But, that “mystique” vanishes when the “poorest among the poor” start demanding their dues, whom the bureaucrats and politicians are inclined to deny them, except for crumbs already allotted for them.

This is the cliche’ that has glazed the “social amelioration package” making its objective “noble” that would calm down the social discontent already brewing on the streets.

But, poverty survivors have known there is a wide gap between the “poorest” and the “poor”, also the gap between the urban poor and rural poor.

For instance, the “urban poor” are highly vulnerable when there are turbulences affecting their stomachs and incomes, while the rural poor can manifest resiliency amid the lockdown owing to their backyard animal-raising, vegetable gardens, small lots planted with food crops – these things the urban poor do not have.

The rural poor can still manage their food security from animal-raising and small farms, while the lockdown disables the capability of the urban poor to produce their own food when there are work shutdowns, lost income and unemployment, and the strong order to stay home amid threats of penalty if quarantine measures are violated.

The “poor” in general can be quantified by their monthly income, but the statistics are deceiving that they may be employed on contractual basis, below minimum wage, or a wage rate a little bit higher, but its end-of-contract period may extend for several weeks without jobs.

The “poor” are close cousins of the “lower middle class” who easily slide down toward the “poor rank” when the economy takes a downturn.

In normal times, the “lower middle class” work so hard to keep themselves afloat, maintaining their dignified “middle class” status, despite being lower, rather than slide down at the level of the “poor”.

These are the favorite target sectors by politicians, technocrats, and bureaucrats who want to dip their hands into the national treasury by justifying the much-repeated phrase “urgency of the situation to address the needs of the poor and the poorest among the poor”.

It is fair game among the states men to use the “poor” as excuse or justifications to adorn the objectives of their development programs as to make their programs “pro-poor”, the perfect mantra to open the vaults of the national treasury.

By crafting development programs, the middle class, the rich are ignored in the justifications, but in the final end, these affluent social classes benefit more from these government programs, while the poor will be cast aside temporarily, to be used again as “justification” for the next program-development cycle.

For the bureaucrats, politicians, and technocrats, the “poor and the poorest among the poor” shall be maintained at their level, never to be alleviated since they are needed as target justifications in the next cycle of project developments to be cooked up yearly.

For them, the poor sectors are needed, to be used as mantras to open up the national treasury for more funding.

Sorsogon signs deal with physicians on family health

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SORSOGON CITY – Governor Chiz Escudero, representing the Provincial Government of Sorsogon, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) earlier during the PAFP Annual Convention at the PICC.

The MOU is about the Family Medicine Residency Program in Sorsogon under the Universal Health Care Law (UHC).

Under the MOU, the PAFP will assist the provincial government in establishing a family medicine residency training program while the latter will provide the necessary infrastructure for its implementation.

In his speech, Escudero shared the ongoing experience of Sorsogon in its UHC implementation and recognized the importance of PAFP as health care frontliners.

Present during the signing are PAFP President Policarpio Joves Jr and Sanofi General Manager and Country Chair Amal Makhloufi Benchouk. [Bicol Today]

Noel Dreu charged for illegal logging, grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority and for dishonesty

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SORSOGON CITY — The celebration of a retirement party of Noel Dreu today will be a somber one knowing that an administrative case against him was filed at the Civil Service Commission, yesterday, March 9, for grave misconduct, dishonesty, grave abuse of authority and for illegal logging by Attorney Roberto Labitag, city legal officer. The filing was expected.

Labitag verified complaint was based on the fact-finding investigations of the City ENRO of the illegal logging activities at Barangay Cabarbuhan, Bacon District this city that Dreu was involved in the illegal activities without an official permit from an appropriate government agency. The cut trees were turned into lumber and converted for his personal benefit estimated to be worth millions of pesos. Forty-seven trees were cut.

There were 28 narra trees, some are centuries old, 8 bilwang trees, 5 hamogni trees, 2 lanete trees, 2 santol trees, 1 balig-ang tree, 1 buro-balete tree, a kalantas tree andf a carunot tree were illegally cut.

The complaint stated that several chainsaws were used to cut and one of which with Dreu’s direction was borrowed from the disaster management office of the city through his subordinate Michael D. Sincua. The vehicle used to transport the trees which are now turned into log and lumber, respondent Dreu used the city garbage dump trucks, the drivers and crew are job order personnel of Sorsogon city and under his supervision as the project manager of the clean and green program and as a de facto deputy city administrator for Bacon District.

According to the city legal officer, the action of Dreu was unbeknownst to his immediate superiors and contrary to law.

There are 19 annexes as documentary evidence consisting of judicial affidavits of Cabarbuhan Barangay officials, inspection report, DENR Transmittal letter to the Office of the President; RE: complaint 8888, the cutting of trees at Cabarbuhan, Bacon District, request form signed by Michael D. Sincua in behalf of Dreu for the release of the chainsaw by CDRRMO, letter of invitation of DENR-PENRO to City ENRO Gerona, Office Order No. 180, series of 2019, Deed of Absolute Sale of Real Property, letter to EMB Regional Director Roberto Sheen, ECC of Sorsogon City Nature and Wildlife Park and Sorsogon City council Resolution No.223-2012.

In a related development according to a source, Dreu anticipating a verified complaint started processing his clearance for property and money accountability but may find a hard time to secure the signature of the city legal officer. [Felix’Boy’ Espineda, Jr.]

A demi-god falls from heaven

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Marginal Note
By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda Jr.

The revelation that a department head at Sorsogon City hall was involved in the illegal logging at the eco-park and forest reserve of Sorsogon City last Tuesday by City ENRO Ronando Gerona, was a classic case of a government employee abusing the little authority repose in his delegated position thereby dragging the reputation of the residents of San Roque of Bacon District to sarcasm for their son who wields power and strut authority in the corridors of city hall is a master of ploy.

It was a lesson that many are weary for those who possess power and authority may have a criminal lurking mind waiting to punch at best timing believing that it will not be noticed and be off the hook if ever. The action was gigantic in scope, initiating ploy by using underlings for the dirty works, taking advantage of their loyalty without consideration to the little integrity to their names. Commandeering government vehicles, equipment and manpower to hide the misdeed were calculated to give a semblance of order but such was notorious that upon discovery the sweat was more than the ordinary and become a cry baby.

It is comparable to an elephant stomping the ground of Cabarbuhan smothering the tiniest of creatures. That behemoth leaves nothing but fools the community that what was done is for the interest of the public given his position and authority and closeness to the power that is. By that, he becomes a vulture prying the innocent and a triumphant howling wolf.

What was left are the carcass among the proud hardwood trees of Cabarbuhan and San Vicente, what remains are comparable to a victim of a hungry jackal that similar vultures would not dare touch. On it lies years to rehabilitate depriving the vegetation of its elegance and pride. The act insulted the community and the people of Sorsogon City. It was utter disrespect comparable to a two-headed hydra with one looking innocent, the other devilish, unremorseful and full of deceptions. It was comfortably dumb.

Flaunting power, wealth and gold showcase a lifestyle that drools many, in the same vein, it also smacks more of negative for not out of envy but consternation. They say why not fashion a ring, necklace, bracelet and other knickknacks out of the sturdy felled trees. By that, you are promoting the value and abundance of Sorsogon forest products. Perhaps your entrepreneurship ability can do that as what was done to secure the value of the missing lumber. The forest product should be accounted for a good measure.

As revealed an administrative case will be filed and any delay for its filing is a victory of sort for the inglorious soul but will not stand well with the conscience of Sorsogon. It is expected that heads should roll for the gravity of the offense calls that justice is served. Needed now is to “walk the talk.”

That is now the most desired answer, where did it end-up, who benefitted most, what was promised after the deed and importantly who ordered.

But the hands are tied knowing that the tragedy calls for a scapegoat, a pawn move by the shadow, clearly no more than an ilk out of the desire to prove to a master and of course to take a bigger slice. Pity yourself, you are now holding an empty bag, your whims and caprices are gone, no one dares to touch you with a ten feet pole, feel the antagonism of city hall employees. All that belongs to you are the accusing fingers, the cases to be filed and shame to your name.

You entered a labyrinth of complex extreme that a virus of greed seeps the veins, it is bleeding not of blood, but that of the tree sops that cleansing it with sawdust cannot erase the stigma of culpability no matter how innocent you insist.

Tagging you as involved vindicated the lowly people who have no illusions to your scheme, they are not only rejoicing but looking forward that you become as repentant, lowly and humbled. They are not for vengeance, they are telling real stories against fiction and tales. Calling you to face squarely the public outcry for what is for Caesar is for Caesar.

To cut clean now is improbable, it could have been easy years ago for early retirement but, that hunger to wield and bully your way around was too much to pass. You become immune to the dictum that “what goes up must come down” believing that as a demi-god, nothing bad will befall from heaven but the truth is: the Demi-god has fallen and out of the graces of the kings’ court.

ATULAYAN ISLAND: So Near, Better Alternative to Caramoan

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SAGÑAY, Camarines Sur – If you find Caramoan too far and tiresome to travel while bringing along the family, try Atulayan Island.

Within an “arm’s reach”, so near, Atulayan Island is only 60 minutes drive from Legazpi City Airport in Albay Province, or 35 minutes by car from Pili/Naga City Airport in Camarines Sur, or 9 hours drive from Manila.

Atulayan Island at Sagñay, Camarines Sur, is very much nearer than Caramoan, saving you shorter precious hours in travel time when rushing back again to Manila.

From Legazpi City, the most favored route is the zigzag mountain road via Tiwi, Albay to Sagñay, Camarines Sur where you can enjoy the picturesque, panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. Tourists say the mountain road is similar to the French Reviera, zigzagging with the cliff side dropping deep into the sea.

Getting off at Barangay Nato in Sagñay, from here, Atulayan Island is only 15 minutes by boat where you and the family can enjoy, as soon as possible, frolicking in the crystal clear water, the white beach of corrals, still virgin barely untouched, undiscovered, and shielded from the noisy, maddening “Boracay crowd”.

Arriving at Nato, tourism coordinator Ms. Mary Grace S. Chavez will arrange for your boat ride to Atulayan while your van gets a secured parking space at the Nato Wharf. For inquiries, the Nato tourism office can be reached by email: otc.nato@gmail.com

Atulayan beach is cool, breezy, with crystal clear water, and the waves gentle and tamed. The place is family-friendly and eco-friendly, a better alternative if you find Caramoan too far to reach. [Rebecca Sabella-Natividad]

Administrative case awaits Dreu

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SORSOGON CITY — The retirement of Noel Dreu this March 10, 2020, upon reaching the mandatory age is now in limbo after an insider disclosed that his application for retirement clearance will be set aside for now because of his involvement in the illegal logging at Cabarbuhan and San Vicente Bacon district

Dreu’s name was tagged by Ronando Gerona, City ENRO during his appearance last Tuesday upon the invitation of the city council here as the person involved and of those who hauled the lumbers using city government vehicles and equipment. It now becomes clear that an administrative case will be filed against him with the civil service commission.

The filing was upon the instruction of the City Mayor Ester Hamor to Atty. Roberto Labitag, city legal officer who revealed that information on the same venue that day using the evidence gathered by the inspection team of the city environment office.

Without naming Noel Dreu as the subject of the administrative case, but because of the disclosure of the city ENRO and other witnesses that he was responsible, it will be his administrative case.

Articulating the course of action taken, the legal office prepared a concise judicial affidavit of witnesses was on hand describing the destruction’s of the eco-park preserve. the affidavits were believed given by barangay officials.

According to a lawyer who was monitoring the case even the Barangay council of the affected barangay can file the case either to the city council or at the civil service commission for administrative sanction, the court or that of the ombudsman for criminal liability. However, the first one to conduct among them shall have the jurisdiction of the case. [Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr. / Bicol Today]

PENRO-DENR Sorsogon rep failed to name names

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SORSOGON CITY — The strict adherence to protocol of PENRO-DENR Sorsogon representative at the hearing conducted during the session by the city council Tuesday, March 3, 2020 for public disclosure of their investigation and technical conference reports as to who are the persons liable for the illegal logging at the eco-park in Cabarbuhan and at San Vicente Bacon District that sometimes government is not on the side of the public.

Even with the pinpoint questions, it insists that there are rules as an internal policy for them that the release of investigation and technical reports or any documents related to that need the approval of the regional office prompting East District councilor Joven Laura to say that he fears a whitewash.

The resource person invoking several times the exemption clause to divulge certain information to the public did not name names of the persons involved in it being the lead agency who conducted the investigation. The investigation centered on the violation of PD 705, the Forestry Act that carries a criminal liability for those found guilty. The severity of the penalty depends on the amount the least is one-year imprisonment for every ten thousand peso value.

It was this reason that the names were withheld for the regional legal department will be responsible to determine if there is a probable cause out of the evidence gathered can be hauled to court was the excuse given.

When asked why they cannot file a case with the pieces of evidence on hand, it skimped on the issue again repeating the internal policy of their office much to the irritation of Councilor Nestor Baldon saying that in his years as a police officer, with the evidence on hand, they can file a case outright while your office needs the blessing of higher-ups before a case can be file considering the magnitude of the offense. Questioning of councilor Franco Eric Ravanilla was replied the same. The posturing was all base on internal rules.

Laura also added that simple cases citing his defense for small-time offenders were summarily hauled to court by environment department people without securing the authority to file from regional people thereby again believe that the inability to reveal and furnished the council copy of the investigation further leads to a whitewash. That doubt persisted for the council was not afforded a copy of the internal memorandum citing the prohibition.

The only assurance that the reports will be transmitted to the regional office and can be acted for an undetermined period of time and they to determine if court action is warranted.

When asked why as the lead agency they were not able to monitor the incident the reply was the oft-repeated line that they lack personnel and it added that it is also a responsibility of the landowner to make sure that it be safeguarded from illegal logging. [Felix ‘Boy” Espineda, Jr. / Bicol Today]

Sorsogon City ENRO tagged Noel Dreu for illegal logging

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SORSOGON CITY — With a jam-packed crowd to hear who was behind the illegal logging of hardwood at the city-owned forest land in Barangay Cabarbuhan and San Vicente at Bacon District, Sorsogon City. Ronando Gerona, City Environment and Natural Resorouces Officer (CENRO) identified Noel Dreu, secretary of the city council who was also designated as deputy administrator for Bacon District also the in-charge of the clean and green program was behind the illegal logging of seventy-nine fully grown trees.

Gerona said, that it conducted three inspections of different dates at the affected areas upon the directive of the city mayor when it received reports of the illegal activities reported by the residents of the barangays, that they conducted interviews with the barangay officials who revealed that vehicles with Sorsogon city markings were seen hauling the cut lumber. The driver was also identified as a job order employee at the city hall and a close confidant of Dreu, as certain Resty Gonzales.

The report was made public after the go-ahead from the city administrator present and the city legal officer.

Also identified are Severino Detera and a Nonoy Detera and a certain Hubilla, all of San Roque, Bacon who are all job order employees helped in transporting the lumber on several occasions was the information given by one of the barangay officials when asked by Bicol Today, adding that they are very close to Dreu. Julieta Rosas the caretaker of the Cabarbuhan eco-park alleged that it was Noel Dreu who ordered the cutting and was informed by him that the lumber will be used by the city for the construction of stalls.

Rosas was overheard at the hearing saying that during the investigation at PENRO-DENR Sorsogon office he already pinpointed Dreu as the person who ordered the illegal logging at Cabarbuhan and he was there inspecting the progress of the cutters.

Another revelation was the use of the city disaster office of the chainsaw which was released to Michael Sincua in behalf of the request of Dreu. The unit was released on January 7, 2020, and was returned February 17, 2020, the timeframe of the illegal activities at Cabarbuhan and San Vicente. The release was made that it will be used by the team of Dreu to clear portions of certain areas devastated by typhoon Tisoy was the reason given by Sincua.

On his part, Dreu accused Gerona, City ENRO; Atty. Roberto Labitag, City Legal Officer that they have an ax to grind against him, he resorted for a radio interview naming former city councilor Manuel Diolata, Jobert Bercasio, a mediaman, his assistant secretary Nonoy Sipoy and some media entities for over-reporting. [Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr. / Bicol Today]

International human rights group raises red flag on PH new anti-terror bill

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LEGAZPI CITY — The Senate’s new anti-terrorism bill is designed “to arm-twist” legitimate dissent into submission, “weaponizing” the law to suppress critics and activists, says an international human rights group.

If approved to become a law, it is tantamount to training the gun barrel on rural Filipinos under suspicion of supporting rebellious groups, and impacting a “de-facto martial law” on areas under military operations. These are the possible outcomes once the anti-terrorism bill is approved into law.

The International Coalition of Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemns the recent approval of the anti-terrorism bill in the Philippine Senate, a statement was sent Tuesday to Bicol Today in Naga City.

“We are appalled by how laws that further curtail the freedoms of the Filipinos are being railroaded under the Duterte government,” said ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy.

According to ICHRP, the proposed law seeks to amend and bolster the country’s current Human Security Act, a repressive law that has been repeatedly used to justify arrests and file trumped up charges against activists and government’s critics.

If made into law, the new version allows violations of human rights such as the right to security and privacy, curtailment of the freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to due process. It legalizes warrantless arrest and detainment and even allows wiretapping and other surveillance in extended periods of time.

“This erodes the freedoms and liberties of Filipinos which are inalienable, guaranteed by its Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other internationally agreed upon instruments to which the Philippines is a signatory,” ICHRP said.

Grassroots organisations and progressives have spoken up against the proposed bill. Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance of the Philippines notes that “this draconian law will surely be used to intimidate, silence and jail critics, political dissenters, members of the opposition, critical media, and anyone that gets the ire of the President.”

While the biggest organisation of farmers for land reform KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines insists that “it will give wide authority to categorise otherwise legal acts, profession and business, as criminal.”

According to the farmers, it will also institutionalize the branding and tagging of activists especially of the rural poor who are plagued and traumatized by massive militarization.

Recently, people rights alliance Karapatan joined other concerned groups to call for the junking of the law as counterpart bills are pending to complete its full passage.

“It infringes on and effectively curtails people’s democratic rights and lays the legal groundwork for a de facto martial rule,” says Karapatan in a press conference.

ICHRP supports the Filipino people in their fight to defend their civil and political rights and oppose the weaponization of the law against its citizens.

“We have seen the political killings; heard the accounts of survivors and family members; and felt the growing discontent of Filipinos. This law will not in any way protect civilians from acts of terrorism, instead, it will only intensify the already deplorable human rights situation under the Duterte government,” Murphy said.

ICHRP is calling on other freedom loving peoples around the world to condemn the anti-terrorism bill. It pledges to garner more support for the Filipinos in resisting attacks and in defending their basic human rights.