Police, PDEA ready to comply with Duterte’s order to destroy all drug evidence in storage

THE PHILIPPINE Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the police are ready to immediately destroy all the shabu, the local name for the illegal drug methamphetamine, being kept as evidence against suspects in compliance with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s directive.

PDEA Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva is confident that they can finish the process within the one-week deadline set by the President.

“We will beat the deadline,” he said in a text message.

Mr. Duterte, in a televised talk on Monday evening, gave the order saying  the seized contrabands must be destroyed immediately so as not to give rogue law enforcers an opportunity to smuggle and resell these.

“I want all the shabu, residual or otherwise however minimal, destroyed the whole of it by next week,” he said.

Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a briefing on Tuesday, said there are already existing legal orders and guidelines that support Mr. Duterte’s directive. He added that the Supreme Court has a ruling that allows for the destruction of drugs seized by police.

Around 800 kilos of shabu valued at P5.4 billion seized from law enforcement operations were supposed to be destroyed this month but this was postponed after the judge who was asked to witness the process begged off because of another schedule, according to Mr. Villanueva.

A new date for the disposal activity is being set.

PDEA also called on Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra to give a directive to some prosecutors hampering the destruction of around 540.6 kilos of shabu worth P3.67 billion, which are related to archived cases.

“We are likewise  seeking the guidance of the Honorable Secretary of Justice to issue guidance relative to the propriety of the refusal of some prosecutors to move for or at least conform to the motion of PDEA for ocular inspection, taking of representative samples and subsequent issuance of court order for destruction in archived cases,” the agency said in a statement.

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Camilo P. Cascolan, meanwhile, said they will coordinate with PDEA officials on how to implement Mr. Duterte’s order. “We must eliminate or lessen the ‘recycling’ (of seized drugs),” Mr. Cascolan said in a text message.

Police units have confiscated 25,106 grams of shabu and 21,249 grams of marijuana worth P173.2 million in over 4,000 law enforcement operations last month. — Emmanuel Tupas/PHILSTAR and Gillian M. Cortez

Local governments have used P18-B fund under COVID response law

OVER P18 billion under the Bayanihan Act, the law covering the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response, have been utilized by local governments.

As of September 30, the fund utilization reports came from 837 local government units (LGUs) covering a total of P18.058 billion, based on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s first report submitted Monday for

Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

The report indicates the amount was “48.78% of the total Bayanihan grants released to the LGUs.”

Over half of the ultized funds at P9.3 billion went to food assistance.

The first Bayanihan law, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act contained in RA No. 11469, provided over P275 billion for the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bayanihan 1 expired in June and Bayanihan 2 was signed by Mr. Duterte on Sept. 11. — Gillian M. Cortez 

Red Cross to lower testing fee for COVID-19

THE PHILIPPINE Red Cross (PRC) is looking at lowering the price of its RT PCR testing services between P2,000 to P2,5000, according to Senator and PRC Chair Richard J. Gordon.

In a Palace briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Gordon said he wants the fee slashed by up to half the current rate.

“We will probably try to bring it down to P2,500 to P2,000. Kinocompute pa namin yan (we are still computing this),” he said. PRC currently charges P4,000 per test for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Mr. Gordon also said that they are waiting for the Department of Health’s approval for them to use saliva tests, which will further drive down the testing cost.

He also reported that the PRC has so far conducted 1,003,754 tests, which accounts for over 26% of the total 3.8 million COVID-19 tests in the country. — Gillian M. Cortez 

Inter-agency team on coronavirus response orders resumption of motorcycle taxi pilot study

THE INTER-AGENCY Task Force (IATF) handling the coronavirus response called for the resumption of the pilot study on motorcycle taxis, responding to a request by mayors in Metro Manila.

Palace and task force Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said Resolution No. 77, issued on Tuesday, endorses the return of motorcycle taxis under a trial period.

Mr. Roque said Metro Manila mayors made the request to improve mobility in the nation’s capital while legislation allowing motorbikes for public transport use is still pending in Congress.

“The IATF endorsed to the House of Representatives committee on transportation the request of local chief executives of Metro Manila for the Department of Transportation to continue the pilot study on motorcycle taxis,” Mr. Roque, speaking in mixed English and Filipino, said in a briefing on Tuesday.

Under existing law, two-wheeled vehicles are limited to private use. — Gillian M. Cortez

Task force acknowledges hunger-joblessness correlation

THE ZERO Hunger Task Force has acknowledged that the rise in the number of households that experienced hunger in the past three months is closely tied to joblessness, supporting the need to reopen more economic activities.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles, who chairs the task force, cited the September reports of the Social Weather Station (SWS) on hunger and unemployment.

“It looks like the severe and moderate hunger ng SWS in the same period, umakyat na to (went up to) 11.2% (or) severe, 7.1% (or) moderate, kapag walang (if there is no) job or livelihood,” he said at an online webinar with BusinessWorld and Philippine Star on Tuesday.

He mentioned in particular the Visayas, where the increase in joblessness and hunger rate is likely linked to the impact of the lockdown on the tourism sector.

In response to this, he said, the government is gradually working on opening up tourist destinations, beginning with Boracay.

“We’re looking at other areas as well, if we start opening these things up, and we get tourists to come, then hopefully, that will revive both the formal and informal economies dependent on tourism,” he said.

The Zero Hunger Task Force will be launching the National Food Policy on Oct. 16, which will contain the roadmap to end hunger in the Philippines by 2030.  — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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