Nationwide round-up (10/14/20)


COA flags NTC’s purchase of 44 smartphones, mostly not used for service testing project

STATE AUDITORS called out the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for its procurement of 44 smartphones amounting to P2.1 million, only four of which were used for the supposed research project. In its 2019 audit report, the Commission on Audit (CoA) noted that only four units were used for their intended purpose of monitoring the performance of telecommunications networks. “None of the central office personnel with issued mobile phones conducted validation and measurement of broadband speed as no mission orders were issued to them,” the report read. CoA further cited that only three out of 13 NTC engineers assigned to conduct tests in the National Capital Region got a smartphone unit, with the rest who were actually involved in the task had to “borrow units issued to the other personnel during the times they will conduct the validation.” According to the report, the NTC disclosed that it was their branch directors, officers-in-charge and technical staff who received the phones. “This condition manifests that the number of mobile phones procured may be excessive for the intended purpose and that there may not be a necessity to procure new mobile phones in Calendar Year 2019,” the report said. The high-end smartphones were procured to conduct tests “anytime and anywhere” in line with drafting policies that would improve broadband services, NTC said in its reply to state auditors. CoA, however, said the use of such smartphones — 15 units of Samsung Galaxy S9 and the 29 units of Samsung Galaxy S10 — for research on broadband services should have been documented. “We believe that there should be documentations prepared as a result of these activities to be used as inputs in the formulation of new policies or regulations,” CoA said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

PhilHealth calls on public to register, update data for UHC law

ABOUT 94 million Filipinos, or 86.16% of the population, are registered with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), the state-owned agency said as it announced plans to expand coverage. Under the Universal Health Care (UHC) law that took effect this year, all Filipinos are automatically covered under the insurer. PhilHealth Vice President Oscar B. Abadu, Jr. said as of September, more than 52.1 million out of 110 million Filipinos are registered as PhilHealth members while around 42.7 are enlisted as dependents. Mr. Abadu called on the public to update their registration “to have at least an accurate data so that as we move forward for the progressive realization of the UHC that we are able to provide services to the right people with the right information.” He also said PhilHealth will expand the facility participation of point-of-service updating and registration systems. It will also ask local governments, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and employers for assistance in updating records. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

De Lima seeks probe on hunger incidence rise

SENATOR LEILA M. de Lima has filed a resolution seeking to conduct an inquiry on the increasing hunger incidence in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic. Under Senate Resolution No. 534, the detained lawmaker asked the Senate to look into the impact of the lockdown on hunger in order to provide immediate relief and improve long-term policies already in place. “The Philippines has already been dealing with issues of chronic poverty and food insecurity among a significant portion of its population even before the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) pandemic arrived,” Ms. de Lima said in a statement. “These conditions were only further exacerbated as the virus spread among our poorest and most vulnerable sectors and were compounded by the government’s own misguided and misinformed policy decisions.” She cited a Sept. survey, conducted by the Social Weather Stations, indicating that around 7.6 million Filipino households experienced hunger during the pandemic. This is a 9.8 percentage point increase to 30.7% in September from 20.9% in July, and the highest since March 2012, when the country hit 23.8%. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Court reduces Nasino’s furlough period

THE MANILA regional trial court reduced the time it gave a detained activist to attend her child’s wake and funeral following a request from the jail warden that cited inadequate security manpower and health considerations. In its ruling, the court only allowed Reina Mae Nasino to visit her daughter’s wake on Oct. 14 and funeral on Oct. 16, both from 1 to 4 p.m., trimmed from the initial three-day furlough it granted. A support group for families and friends of political prisoners called Kapatid said the ruling is “gross injustice and heartless.” Ms. Nasino, charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, was arrested on November 5, 2019 and gave birth in detention on July 1. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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