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Samar court asked to bar entry of ICC probers

MANILA, Philippines —  The Philippine National Police is pushing for stricter regulations on the use of social media platforms and delivery providers to sell produ cts after the PNP observed the rampant selling of banned firecrackers through online platforms and courier services during the Yuletide season.

PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. has appealed to Congress to look into the possibility of crafting laws that would address the problem of individuals using these platforms to transport contraband.

“Maybe we can study further or maybe through coordination with the legislation how to regulate transactions with courier services and online sellers and what can be banned,” Acorda said over Rady o Pilipinas.

Acorda lamented that despite their intensified crackdown against prohibited fireworks during the holidays, more people were injured due to firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices which may have something to do with the sale of firecrackers through online platforms and courier services.

The Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) had arrested several people days before the New Year’s Eve festivities for selling firecrackers through Facebook.

The ACG insisted using Facebook to sell firecrackers is illegal, as the people involved did not secure permits from the PNP and local government units.

Acorda said drug traffickers are also using courier services to transport illegal drugs into the country.

MANILA, Philippines —  Transport group Manibela said it will continue operations despite non-compliance with the consolidation requirement under the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP).

Manibela president Mar Valbuena said they are still waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court (SC), thus they will continue to ply the streets.

The transport group said they are only defending their right to make a living that is being prejudiced by the Land Transportation Franchising an d Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Department of Transportation (DOTr).

They noted that traditional jeepneys are still roadworthy and that their franchises should be given back by the LTFRB.

The group said they have observed lack of jeepneys and options for commuters since the start of the year due to the Dec. 31 deadline for consolidation.

The LTFRB and DOTr have yet to release data on consolidation and the affected routes despite the yearend deadline.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III joined the call for the government to defer the program to allow stakeholders to collaboratively iron out pertinent issues surrounding the PUVMP.

Pimentel agreed that several issues about PUVs consolidation remain unresolved, like the establishment of cooperatives among jeepney drivers and operators and the jeepney routes.

“So suspend indefinitely (the PUVs consolidation). They can sa y that they will resume it after a certain number of months if they have fixed all the details,” he noted.

Transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) yesterday asked the SC to stop the implementation and ultimately void certain government orders related to the PUVMP.

Piston filed a petition for certiorari and injunction questioning the legality of the Dec. 31 deadline set for the PUVMP, and also sought a temporary restraining order to prevent its implementation until the petition is resolved.

The group also asked the SC to declare the order formalizing the modernization plan and circulars for the consolidation as null and void.

The LTFRB earlier gave assurance that there will be no transport crisis and that some reprieve has been given to unconsolidated PUVs.

Unconsolidated units will be allowed to continue operations for routes with less than 60 percent rate or those with no consolidated transport service entities.

However, the provisional authority and franchise of individual operators in routes that have more than a 60 percent consolidation rate shall be revoked and they will no longer be allowed to operate under memorandum circular 2023-052.

Pimentel said his office will also write to the DOTr to know the identity or identities of the supplier of the minibus which will replace the iconic jeepney as part of the PUVMP.

He noted that the “program imposed by the government… should have undergone public bidding, giving the best terms for those who will avail of the program.”

“We have seen the weakness of the program. What is the accusation of the people? If there is no bidding, the people would think the supplier is pre-arranged. That is why there is public bidding,” Pimentel added.

He pointed out that under the PUVMP, jeepney drivers and operators cannot even choose to retain the jeepney.

“From the looks of it, it was a minibus. They already know it will be loaned, there will be monthly amortization, therefore they already know the cost of the unit. Where does it come from? Who is the supplier?” he said.– Cecille Suerte Felipe

MANILA, Philippines —  A 10-month-old boy from the National Capital Region (NCR), who suffered eye injury, was among the 114 new cases of firework-related injuries (FWRIs) reported by the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday.

“The youngest on record is now a 10-month-old baby whose right eye was injured by the legal kwitis, lit by someone else at home,” the agency added.

The oldest FWRI victim on record, on the other hand, is a 77-year-old male from Ilocos region, who sustained injury from a legal whistle bomb also lit by a housemate, according to the DOH.

“Household use of fireworks is a risk not only to yourself, but also to your family. Our data further strengthens this observation,” it said.

The DOH said the additional cases pushed to 557 the total number of FWRIs recorded nationwide during the 2023-2024 holiday season – 555 due to fireworks, one due to watusi ingestion and one due to stray bullet.

The bulk of the FWRIs came from the NCR with 306, followed by Ilocos with 55, Central Luzon with 42 and Calabarzon with 39.

Almost all or 98.86 percent of the cases are males while 97 percent of these new cases occurred at home and on the streets.

More than half or 52 percent of cases were due to legal fireworks. About nine percent of individuals were hospitalized due to their injuries.

The DOH noted that 97 percent of FWRIs happened at home and in the streets, mostly by males with active involvement.

It said that it is still getting reports of FWRIs even though its surveillance for this holiday season is done.

It added that it would use the surveillance report to strongly push for measures meant for Christmas 2024 and New Year 2025.

Illegal fireworks caused four out of every 10 cases, while legal fireworks caused more injuries, according to the health department.

Meanwhile, FWRIs in Bulacan have risen to 141 for the Dec. 21-Jan. 2 period, according to the provincial disaster risk reduction and management (PDRRM) office.

PDRRM officer Manuel Lukban Jr. said that based on the Bulacan FWRI surveillance report, a total of 106 of the victims were males and 35 were females, while 65 of them were injured actively and 76 were injured passively.

The most number of victims belong to the 10-19 age group, followed by 33 from those aged less than 10 years old, 29 from the 20-29 age group, 19 from the 30-39 age group, 12 from the 40-49 age group, eight from the 50-59 age group and five from the above 60 age group.

A total of 124 victims suffered blast injuries without amputations, 12 suffered eye injuries, three had multiple injuries (blast without amputation and with eye injuries and two suffered blast injuries that needed amputations).

The fireworks products that caused most of the FWRIs were sky rocket (kwitis) with 40 victims, followed by 5-star with 25, luces with 17, fountain with 15, pla-pla with 10, boga with five and bawang and kwiton with three each.

There were two victims each for pailaw, atomic bomb, giant whistle bomb, Judas’ belt, piccolo, super lolo, whistle device,  unknown firecracker and one each for baby rocket, Goodbye Philippines and poppop while four were for other types of firecrackers.

In Negros Occidental, the number of FWRI had increased to 89 as of yesterday, according to reports of the provincial health office. – Ramon Efren Lazaro, Gilbert Bayoran

MANILA, Philippines —  A petition to bar the entry of International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators has been filed before a Samar court.

Lawyer Fernando Perito yesterday filed before the Regional Trial Court of Calbayog City a petition to bar the entry of ICC probers who would investigate the reported killings during the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

In the 12-page petition, a preliminary injunction is being sought to prevent ICC investigators and officers from entering the Philippines or having them deported if they were already in the Philippines.

“With all our laws and rules, policies in order, are we to succumb to international pressure to ignore our existing laws, rules and procedures, simply because that international court is so powerful,” the petition read.

Petitioners also argued that the government should not entertain “any propaganda, outcry or calls” that would allow any ICC prosecutor to resume its investigation, particularly on the “alleged culpability of a very protective President Duterte to his people.”

They challenged human rights advocates to prove their claim that there were at least 30,000 killings during the anti-illegal drugs campaign by filing complaints before the courts in the country.?Petitioners also claimed that accusations of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations against former president Rodrigo Duterte were just “exaggerated hyperboles.”

The Philippine government has maintained that the ICC no longer has jurisdiction after the country withdrew as a member-state.

In January 2023, the ICC decided to resume its inquiry into the Philippines’ war on drugs.

In July of the same year, the ICC’s Appeals Chamber denied the Philippines’ appeal against the investigation of crimes against humanity.

The Office of the Solicitor General, which filed the appeal, had pointed out that the Philippines had already withdrawn as a state-party to the Rome Statute and this took effect on March 19, 2022, before the ICC prosecutor ordered an investigation.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said the Philippines has “no legal duty” to cooperate with the ICC.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III yesterday said he found nothing wrong if ICC probers entered the country to investigate reported drug war deaths during the previous Duterte administration.

“I find nothing objectionable if they are here,” Pimentel said at a virtual briefing.

He was asked for a reaction to a former presidential spokesman’s claim on social media that ICC investigators entered the country despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

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