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NDFP: Esperon, Parlade in Europe to set up death squads

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) expressed fears high ranking Rodrigo Duterte government officials are in Europe to hatch terrorist plots and set up assassination groups against Filipino activist groups.

In a statement, the NDFP Information Office in Utrecht, The Netherlands said National Security Council chairperson Hermogenes Esperon and his newly-appointed vice-chairperson Antonio Parlade Jr. in Milan, conducting meetings with former government soldiers and police officers who have resided in Italy.

“This is not the first time that Parlade came to Europe to undertake terrorist activities against progressive forces based in Europe. Last year, the Duterte regime through its NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) traveled to several countries in Europe purportedly to set-up cells of the NTF-ELCAC,” the NDFP said.

The NDFP said these cells are aimed at undertaking surveillance and red-tagging activities against progressive compatriot organizations, foreign solidarity friends and entities, anti-Duterte individuals and personalities, especially open leaders of the NDFP and its peace panel.

Those who will be subjected to surveillance are possibly targets for assassination, the group added.

NDFP-supplied photo of newly-appointed National Security Council vice chairperson Antonio Parlade partying with OFWs in Milan, Italy. A check on the Facebook accounts of the persons identified in the screenshot did not show the photos or may have been already deleted.

Independent sources confirmed the two officials were in Milan and have partied with known Rodrigo Duterte supporters among Filipino migrant workers in the Northern Italian city where tens of thousands of Filipinos reside.

Parlade and Esperon’s trip was unannounced in the Philippines. The government’s top security officials have yet to respond to the NDFP’s allegations

Not the first time

The NDFP recalled at least two earlier circumstances when such plots were hatched and launched by the Philippine government against Europe-based revolutionaries and activists.

“Years ago, according to NDFP sources, the NDFP leaders based in Europe got hold of information that an assassination team has been formed in Milan and was ready to travel to the Netherlands to assassinate NDFP leaders,” the group said.

During the Joseph Estrada regime, a member of an assassination team the regime organized and sent to kill NDFP chief political consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, came forward to expose the plan after it failed, and after the Dutch police confirmed the plan’s existence, it added.

The NDFP also alleged a similar plan to assassinate Prof. Sison came to the attention of the NDFP leaders last year and was similarly confirmed by the Dutch police.

The Dutch police Sison to take precautions, it said.

Compatriots, the NDFP member organization for migrant Filipinos, said the Philippine government’s newest attempts to set up death squads in Europe are likely to fail.

“Like earlier attempts of Parlade and Esperon to recruit OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) to the NTF-ELCAC and possibly set-up a death squad or assassination team in Europe, their terrorist and fascist plan is sure to fail and will be foiled by freedom and democracy-loving overseas Filipinos and European friends,” Compatriots said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

REPORT: Philippine Army source of cyber-attacks vs. media outfits

An internet protocol (IP) address assigned to the Philippine Army was the source of cyber-attacks on media websites Bulatlat.com and Altermidya.net, a government agency confirmed.

Bulatlat and Altermidya said the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-PH), an agency of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), finally gave them a copy of its initial findings confirming earlier reports state agents were behind the attacks on their websites.

In an August 11 report, CERT-PH said its analysis and investigation revealed that IP address 202.90.137[.].42 that conducted unauthorized vulnerability scans of the said websites, was assigned to the Philippine Army.

“CERT-PH noted the 2182 lines of logs with destination bulatlat.com from the IP 202.90.137[.].42, which was submitted by the investigation requester,” part of the report said.

A vulnerability scan seeks potential weaknesses in the targeted network without permission from the system owner.

READ: Group reveals attacks on media and human rights websites

CERT-PH’s report said additional analysis of the incidents did not prosper due to Philippine Army’s refusal to reply to requests for “coordination.”

In a joint statement, Bulatlat and Altermidya said CERT-PH’s report validated findings made last June by their hosting provider, Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation.

The media outfits said the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the time feigned ignorance and issued a statement claiming it upholds press freedom.

The DOST, which provides the infrastructure to the Philippine Army, also refused to reveal the agency behind the IP space and to this day has not communicated with Bulatlat and Altermidya regarding its promise to ask the DICT for an independent probe, despite repeated requests.

“As of today, we have not received any communication from the DOST regarding its investigation, which we requested a copy of. We tried reaching out to them via office phone and email, but we have yet to receive a response,” Bulatlat and Altermidya said.

The media outfits said they condemn the Philippine Army for carrying out cyber crimes against independent media outfits.

“We take offense at the duplicity they have shown regarding this incident – publicly professing respect for press freedom but launching vicious digital attacks, and never cooperating with other government agencies,” the outfits said.

Bulatlat and Altermidya also expressed disappointment with the DOST for “covering up for the Philippine Army.”

“DOST should not allow its infrastructure be used to suppress the truth, and should impose penalties for agencies found to commit abuses,” they said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CERT-PH’s report.

Global rights group: Duterte committed more violations than Marcos

An international group accused Rodrigo Duterte as not only the new face of martial law in the Philippines but that his government has caused more human rights violations than the 14-year Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.

In a statement marking the 49th anniversary of the imposition of Marcos’ martial law, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) enumerated various cases of rights violations in the country.

As Marcos declared martial law in 1972 to counter alleged threats by the then newly re-established Communist Party of the Philippines, Duterte imposed martial rule in Mindanao on the pretext of fighting armed groups that took over Marawi City.

ICHRP said that Duterte’s own martial rule led to an alarming increase in human rights violations that were not limited to the displacement of Moros and the bombing and destruction of Marawi City.

“Indigenous people’s schools (in Mindanao) have been shuttered and their communities remain under attack and occupation by the Philippine Army…While peasants in Negros and Panay islands are being arrested and massacred as they defend their right to till and their ancestral domain,” ICHRP global chairperson Peter Murphy said.

Murphy added that Duterte has also unleashed a war against the poor through his drug war that claimed more than 27,000 lives, including children.

“Worse, the country is now one of the most dangerous places in the world for human rights defenders,” Murphy said.

Unlike most presidents after the 1986 uprising that ousted Marcos, Duterte is an avowed Marcos admirer who permitted the dictator’s controversial internment at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).

Murphy said that justice is yet to be served to the victims of both martial law impositions, as the Duterte government refuses to cooperate with the formal investigation launched by the International Criminal Court based in The Hague, The Netherlands.

“We call on Duterte and his cohorts to end the repression now in the Philippines and to take accountability for all the human rights violations they committed against the Filipino people. We challenge him to face the ICC,” Murphy said.

The ICHRP also called on governments of the international community to stop supporting Duterte through military aid to the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Int’l community urged to press investigations on PH rights violations

The 52 drug war cases investigated by the Department of Justice only comprise .9% of the 5,655 cases of drug-related killings it admitted before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2020.

There is no effective domestic mechanism to deliver justice and accountability for human rights violations in the Philippines, making investigations by the international community necessary and urgent, rights alliance Karapatan said.

Despite repeated promises of cooperation made by Philippine government officials to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the country’s domestic mechanisms remain ineffective and inadequate in delivering justice.

Palabay said that both the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Administrative Order No. 35 (AO 35) and the inter-agency panel on the drug war have yet to show any significant progress in holding the perpetrators of human rights violations accountable.

Palabay called on the UNHRC to press on with its plan to conduct investigations on the state of human rights in the Philippines to coincide with the International Criminal Court’s own investigations on the thousands of deaths resulting from President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs campaign.

Slow pace of investigations

From the creation of the AO 35 task force in 2012 up to December 2019, the group has handled only 385 cases, including cases that date all the way back to 2001 under the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Palabay revealed.

Citing government’s own reports, Palabay further revealed there were only 13 convictions while 127, or 33% of the cases, were dismissed and the perpetrators were either cleared or acquitted by the courts.

She also noted the slow progress of majority of the investigations and prosecution, with 111 cases archived while 89 are still under investigation.

Recent cases added to the list include the brutal killings of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randall Echanis, Karapatan human rights worker Zara Alvarez, the massacre of nine Tumandok tribes people in Panay Island, and the killings in the Bloody Sunday raids in Southern Tagalog region—all perpetrated during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

“[T]he task force fails to uphold its mandate when the same violations continue with even more brazenness, especially under this murderous regime which issues clear directives for State forces to kill, kill, and kill,” Palabay pointed out.

UNHRC promise going nowhere

Palabay also scored the apparent failure of the Duterte government to deliver on its promise to the UNHRC’s 44th General Assembly in July 2020 of “public transparency and full accountability” on drug-related killings.

On August 16, 2021, justice secretary Guevarra, in behalf of the Duterte administration, announced it has reviewed 52 drug war cases forwarded by the Philippine National Police to his office.

“[But] no report has been made public by the DOJ (Department of Justice). The 52 drug war cases comprise only .9% of the 5,655 deaths cited by Guevarra in his June 2020 statement before the HRC,” Palabay complained.

 “These cases are a mere drop in the bucket of reported drug war killings, and yet a year since the drug war panel has been in place, the public has not seen any report and has not heard of any substantial effort to hold the perpetrators accountable,” Palabay said.

Palabay further questioned the DOJ’s ability to inspire confidence among victims and their families to cooperate with its investigation, more so that its task force includes those who are accused of being violations perpetrators themselves.

“It raises the issue of the task force’s credibility and independence, and therefore, its effectiveness in fulfilling its mandate,” Palabay said.

‘Good luck’

President Duterte and his spokespersons however rejected calls for investigations by the international community on the human rights situation in the country.

Duterte himself threatened to either block, arrest or slap experts brave enough to come to the Philippines.

Presidential spokesperson Herminio L. Roque Jr. is no less derisive of the planned investigations, declaring the Duterte government will not cooperate with the ICC.

“For its own good, they should drop the case rather than prove to the world that the local courts are inutile… Good luck on obtaining the cooperation of the Philippine state,” Roque said.

Presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo also said investigations from abroad are blatant interference in Philippine domestic affairs.

Life-saving

Palabay however pressed for both ICC and UNHRC investigations to proceed to stop the Duterte administration from its unending killing spree.

“We call on the UN Human Rights Council and the international community to press for an independent international investigation, in line with the recommendation of (UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle) Bachelet that in the absence of clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanisms, options for international accountability measures should be considered,” Palabay insisted.

“The international independent investigation by the UN Human Rights Council is an important and life-saving step and approach to address the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

UP classes have started, but group asks for postponement

A group of students and teachers asked the University of the Philippines (UP) to move the start of the new semester even if it has officially started last week.

Rise for Education Alliance – UP Diliman (R4E-UPD) said it sent the university administration a petition for a “consultative, proactive, pro-UP academic roadmap of AY 2021-2022” and “recalibration of the academic calendar,” among other demands.

“A significant number of UP students, faculty, and staff are facing challenges that affect their readiness for the semester. These challenges exist because UP itself is not ready,” University Student Council officer Ken Palomia said in a statement.

The alliance said the petition was signed by more than 4,000 individuals and was sent to the offices of UP’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

The group said students, faculty and staff faced numerous challenges before the start of the semester, including limited class slots for enrolees.

The situation forced students to compete for slots, many of them starting the semester with an “underload.” Many students also underwent a long and tedious waitlist process with no guarantee of getting the slots and units they need, R4E-UPD explained.

Some students have yet to acquire online accounts and the university’s official electronic mail service, the group added.

“These difficulties are mainly caused by the numerous budget cuts, especially in the middle of the pandemic, combined with the demands of remote learning,” R4E-UPD co-convenor Tie Santos said.

The Rodrigo Duterte government has proposed a P1.3 billion budget cut for the UP System for 2022. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Prisoners’ support group asks poll body to extend voters’ registration

A prisoners’ support group asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend the deadline to the ongoing voters’ registration to allow persons denied of liberty (PDL) to vote in next year’s national and local elections.

With just two weeks before the September 30 deadline, the group Kapatid said an extension shall allow prisoners’ to still “make a difference” through their votes

Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said, “It is important for PDLs, especially those wrongly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit – the Philippines’ political prisoners – to register and have their votes counted in the 2022 elections.”

“Imprisonment does not disenfranchise them of their right to vote and to have a say in the outcome of the upcoming crucial presidential elections,” Lim explained.

Kapatid’s request is the latest in the growing clamor for the Comelec to extend the deadline after a series of recent pandemic lockdowns severely limited the number of registrations the poll body could accept.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez however said the election commissioners are firm in sticking to the deadline as a strict preparation schedule has already been set for next year’s polls.

But Lim said the big number of eligible voters among PDLs may run of time to register or reactivate their registration within the remaining two weeks.

She said their group received reports that voters’ registration forms were being distributed in some jails.

“But as prisons remain in continuing lockdown, the Comelec has to move the deadline of registration and also push voter education to draw in more detainees eligible to vote,” Lim said.

Kapatid said about 74% of the country’s over 200,000 PDLs are still qualified to vote as they are still under trial while an undetermined number of those convicted have their cases under appeal.

“There are over 148,000 votes out there in jail facilities, and count in the votes too of their eligible family members. If they can all cast their ballots in May 2022 and vote for ‘worthy’ candidates, along with their relatives, they can make a difference,” Lim said.

Lim, wife of political prisoner and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad, said next year’s election is crucial as voters, including PDLs, can hold politicians responsible for illegal arrests and murder, accountable for their “crimes against humanity.”

“The elections in 2022 could be a make or break as our country’s fragile institutions take a beating as never before in the hands of a President who pretends to shun the onus of accountability and culpability for his manifold human rights violations,” Lim said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP peace consultant Suaybaguio walks free

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Esterlita Suaybaguio walked to freedom at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) offices at past 5 pm Friday afternoon, cleared of charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

With no available Quezon City barangay available to witness her release by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the CHR agreed to be the venue of the process yesterday.

BJMP and CHR personnel complete the process to release NDFP peace consultant Esterlita Suaybagio last September 17. (Photy by Defend Jobs Philippines)

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 219 judge Janet Abegos-Samar acquitted the women’s rights advocate of charges stemming from a search warrant issued by controversial QC executive judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert in 2019.

Suaybagio, alleged by the military as a high-ranking officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was arrested in an apartment building in Cubao, Quezon City early morning of August 26, 2019.

Suaybaguio told the court police officers pushed and pinned her to the sink after storming in, preventing her from viewing the commotion inside her apartment.

The activist said she was shocked to learn later that a police officer had allegedly found a 9MM firearm and a hand grenade inside her bag.

Suaybaguio’s acquittal was a triumph over government’s policy of trumped-up charges against activists, particularly NDFP peace consultants, her lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said.

“Her acquittal adds to the victory in a string of cases against activists which have been recently dismissed…We hope the dismissal of other fabricated charges (against other political prisoners) will follow,” the PILC said.

The law center noted similar warrants issued by Burgos-Villavert against journalist Lady Ann Salem and NDFP Negotiating Panel staff members Alexander and Winona Marie Birondo have been dismissed earlier.

Burgos-Villavert has been accused by rights defenders as a “warrant factory” after meeting with former police general Debold Sinas and subsequently issuing warrants used by the police to arrest activists.

The most controversial warrant issued by the judge was used to arrest women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino in 2020, who was then 7 months pregnant. Nasino gave birth while in detention to her child River who died weeks later. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP demands Loida Magpatoc’s release

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel demanded the release of its peace consultant arrested by the military and the police in Quezon, Bukidnon on Wednesday, September 15.

NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julie de Lima said Loida Magpatoc is a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reform and should be immune from arrest.

“[S]he is a member of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, by virtue of which she is protected by the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).  She should therefore be released,” de Lima told Kodao.

Magpatoc was reported arrested by a composite team of the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the Quezon Philippine National Police and the military’s intelligence units in Purok 3, Barangay Paitan in Quezon town.

An old warrant issued by Branch 7 of the Bayugan (Agusan del Sur) Regional Trial Court on September 3, 2001, was reportedly used for her arrest.

A Rappler report said the same warrant was used when Magpatoc was first arrested in July 2013.

The same report said the military alleged that Magpatoc is head of the New People’s Army’s Far South Mindanao Committee.

Last May 13, the GRP’s Anti-Terrorism Council named Magpatoc and 18 others as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Committee.

Loida Magpatoc (right, wearing a black jacket) during the GRP-NDFP’s 3rd formal round of Negotiations in Rome, Italy in January 2017. (Kodao file photo)

Land reform and rural development expert

Magpatoc was among the NDFP peace consultants released in August 2016 by President Rodrigo Duterte to be able to participate in the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

Then government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III told Kodao they working to release Magpatoc and nine others through the JASIG.

Magpatoc was present during the negotiations’ third formal round in Rome, Italy in January 2017 when both parties agreed on free land distribution for poor farmers, a high point in the negotiations.

De Lima said Magpatoc is an expert on land reform and rural development who helped draft the NDFP’s version of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms with fellow peace consultant Randall Echanis and others.

Echanis was brutally murdered in August 2020 in Quezon City.

De Lima said that in the NDFP Negotiating Panel’s subcommittee on land reform and rural development, Magpatoc and Echanis were most active in advancing peasant rights and welfare.

“We call on the Filipino people to demand her immediate release. We call on all peace loving people’s to campaign for her freedom, together with all political prisoners,” de Lima said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers, activists hail ICC decision to investigate Duterte’s war on drugs

Neri Colmenares, a lawyer for the families of the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the Philippines, hailed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to initiate investigations on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

In his reaction to the ICC’s decision Wednesday night, Colmenares said justice may be near for the victims, estimated to be between 8,000 and 30,000.

“This ICC decision to investigate the EJKs in the Philippines is a major step to justice! The families of thousands of EJK victims have long asked for the accountability of the killers. Malapit na po!” Colmenares said.

The former Bayan Muna Representative serves as lawyer for the group Rise Up for Life and for Rights that was among those who filed complaints with the ICC in 2018.

In earlier interviews, Colmenares said at least seven families have identified police officers involved in the killing of suspected anti-drug operations and have resolved to press charges before the international tribunal despite threats and intimidation.

The ICC’s pre-trial chamber decision.

In a September 15 decision issued from its The Hague, The Netherlands headquarters, an ICC pre-trial chamber authorized the commencement of an investigation of the alleged crimes between November 1, 2011 and March 16, 2019 in the context of Duterte’s so-called war on drugs campaign.

The period also covers the time when Duterte was still Davao City mayor.

Prior to her retirement in June this year, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested for judicial authorization to proceed with investigation regarding the country’s situation in relation to Duterte’s drug war. 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., fierce critic of Duterte’s drug war, also hailed the ICC decision.

“This is a historic moment for the Philippines and a crucial step towards justice and accountability,” Reyes said.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) likewise welcomed the ICC decision that came as the country’s biggest group of human rights lawyers observes its 14th founding anniversary today, September 16.

It was the NUPL that first expressed alarm over the rise of extrajudicial killings mere days into the Duterte presidency.

“It was July 4, 2016 when we first publicly called out against the madness of the extrajudicial killings in the bloody drug campaign against the poor. Now the ICC has opened the doors for a new beginning. It has been a long and tortuous journey so far,” the NUPL said.

The group’s jubilation however is marred by the killing of yet another member and officer in Mindanao, reportedly the 75th lawyer to be killed under the Duterte administration.

Human rights lawyer Atty. Juan Macababbad was shot dead by two assassins on board a motorcycle in Surallah, South Cotabato at 5:30 pm Wednesday.

Davao Today reported the victim was about to close the gates of his home in Zone 2, Brgy. Libertad when the assailants fired seven shots that killed the lawyer.

Macabbbad was vice-president of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and NUPL founding member.

Duterte said he does not acknowledge the ICC’s authority to prosecute him, more so after the ordered the country’s withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute the established the tribunal in March 2019.

The ICC however said that the Philippines was still a signatory to the treaty when a complaint against Duterte and his police officers was filed in 2018. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Senate reveals more questionable Pharmally deals

Controversial medical equipment supplier Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. bagged more questionable contracts from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the ongoing investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee revealed.

At the investigation’s sixth hearing last Monday, September 13, Senator Panfilo Lacson observed that Pharmally may have actually won contracts worth around P12 billion despite having no established record in the business and having only P625,000 in paid up capital when it incorporated in 2019.

Lacson made the observation after Senator Franklin Drilon bared additional P4 billion in test kits contracts were awarded to Pharmally that were not included in the Commission on Audit’s 2020 report flagging questionable transactions between the corporation and the DBM procurement service.

In addition to earlier revelations that Pharmally has bagged more than P8 billion in contracts, Drilon said the following purchase orders were awarded to the company:

  • P300 million worth of KN95 masks at P100 per piece issued on April 23, 2020;
  • P2.88 billion for 41,400 test kits at P69,500 per kit on June 9, 2020;
  • P245.85 million for 312 test kits at P787,968 each on June 10, 2020; and
  • P774.35 million for 17,000 test kits at P45,550 each (no date cited).

“This is not in the COA report. What happened to this?” Drilon asked former DBM undersecretary Christopher Lao who was its procurement service head at the time of the transactions.

While acknowledging that Drilon’s documents may be official DBM records, Lao denied having any idea about the contracts.

Drilon however said Lao himself signed at least two of the contracts.

The Blue Ribbon Committee investigation was triggered by state auditors who revealed “deficiencies” in government spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Duterte gov’ts corruption

In his summary of Monday’s hearing, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Pharmally still has to explain its incredible fortune with the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“Pharmally still could not explain where it got money to pay its Chinese suppliers. The ‘buy now, pay later’ explanation is hard to believe at a time when the demand was highest,” Reyes said.

Reyes rued that former Duterte economic adviser Michael Yang again chose to skip the Senate hearing to explain his role as go-between between Pharmally and the DBM while possibly being the company’s funder.

“One can’t help but ask, is Pharmally, which was underfunded and incapable of manufacturing medical supplies, just Yang’s dummy?” Reyes asked.

Reyes also noted questionable procedures revealed at the Senate hearing, such as “same day deliveries” of overpriced face masks despite the absence of purchase orders.

“DBM-PS was still asking for quotations and here was Pharmally delivering half-a-million face masks within three hours. It looked like a deal was already in the bag,” he said.

Reyes said that instead of spearheading the defense of Yang, the scale of his administration’s corruption during the pandemic should already be obvious to Duterte. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)