Nationwide round-up (01/18/21)

Ombudsman clears Acosta on anti-dengue vaccination funds case

THE Ombudsman has dismissed the charges against Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida V. Acosta and other officials on the alleged misuse of public funds related to the controversy on the government’s anti-dengue vaccination program.

The Ombudsman said there was no sufficient evidence against the PAO officials to pursue graft charges and grave misconduct in relation to the Dengvaxia controversy.

“(T)he criminal and administrative complaints against respondents are hereby dismissed, for insufficiency of evidence,” the Ombudsman said.

The resolution was dated October 23, 2019 but only released to the public on January 14.

In 2018, a case was filed against Ms. Acosta for allegedly being responsible over the public hysteria towards the Dengvaxia vaccine.


The PAO chief has campaigned against the vaccine, which she alleges caused the death of inoculated children, and led the filling of cases against health officials and the manufacturer.

Ms. Acosta was also charged for forming the PAO Forensic Laboratory without legal basis. The Ombudsman, however, said the PAO had the authority to create the facility. — Gillian M. Cortez

NTC summons internet service providers over child porn sites

THE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has issued show cause orders against internet service providers for failure to stop access to sites hosting pornographic content featuring minors.

“Over the weekend, the NTC issued show cause orders to internet services providers for failing to install available technology, program or software that will block access or filter all websites carrying child pornography materials,” the commission said in an e-mailed statement.

It said the entities were required to explain in writing “why they should not be administratively sanctioned for such violation.”

“They were also required to attend hearings before the commission starting the second week of February 2021,” it added.

There are currently more than 500 internet service providers in the country. The country’s two biggest telecommunication companies have already reported steps taken to block child porn sites.

The PLDT Group said on January 13 that it took down 3,011 sites that hosted illicit content featuring children.

The group added it was also testing more technologies that could automatically block access to child pornographic content.

Globe Telecom, Inc. said on Jan. 14 that it blocked “2,521 sites that have been identified by law enforcement agencies, endorsed by the NTC for blocking, or identified through our own Security Operations Center intelligence.”

Globe said it invested $2.7 million in a content-filtering system “to support its ‘PlayItRight’ advocacy program, targeting illegal/pirated content and online child pornography.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte had ordered the NTC to direct service providers to immediately install available technology or software that would block online sites engaged in child exploitation.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin

Travel restrictions slow down human trafficking, illegal recruitment

THE number of apprehended Filipinos who were suspected victims of trafficking and illegal recruitment dropped by 70% in 2020 due to travel restrictions implemented by the government, the Bureau of Immigration reported on Monday.

The bureau said about 11,706 Filipinos were stopped from leaving the country last year, mainly at the international airport in Manila, lower than the 38,522 recorded in 2019.

“Travel restrictions and international flight suspensions imposed due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic naturally caused a tremendous drop in the number of Filipinos who traveled abroad in 2020,” Commissioner Jaime H. Morente was quoted in the statement.

Fortunato S. Manahan, Jr., intelligence chief and head of the travel control and enforcement unit, reported that 295 passengers were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking as possible trafficking victims.

Mr. Manahan said among the most common reasons for stopping the departure of a person are failure to present required documents, carrying fraudulent documents, and misrepresentation.

Mr. Morente reminded those who want to work abroad not to fall prey to illegal recruiters and human traffickers and coordinate with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to ensure registered and legal work.

The inter-agency task force (IATF) on coronavirus lifted restriction of non-essential outbound travel of Filipinos last October 21. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas


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