By Melvin Gascon

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri. Screengrab from YouTube

Amid widespread reports of line-jumping in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout especially among local officials, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday said the Senate should also now be allowed to conduct inoculation of senators and their staff to allow them to continue legislative work in the coming months.

In his manifestation, Zubiri, said the Senate had already ordered 5,000 doses of the Russian vaccine brand Sputnik V, which would be enough for two shots for the senators and all Senate personnel.

“Even barangay volunteers are now getting vaccinated ahead of the Senate, Congress and the representatives’ secretariats……

By Melvin Gascon

A Senate bill has been filed to make “Red-tagging” a criminal offense, pushing back against recent efforts and pronouncements of the police and military accusing certain individuals of being a member or supporter of the communist insurgency and terrorist organizations, often with little or no proof.

COURTS UNDER ATTACK. Lawyers’ groups have condemned the Red-tagging of Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio, who has earlier dismissed charges and ordered the release of two activists who were also Red-tagged by the military. Photo courtesy of Bayan Muna page.

The measure makes the act punishable by up to 10 years in prison and aims to stem “the increasing institutionalization and normalization of human rights violations,” according to its author, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

The phrase ‘’Red-tagging’’ has come into use under the Duterte administration to describe how state…

By Melvin Gascon

The president and chief executive officer of an Australian firm whose large-scale mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya have been halted after failure to secure renewal of its license has resigned, the company announced March 19.

In a statement, OceanaGold Corp. announced that Mick Wilkes, president and CEO, has quit his post and the board “for personal reasons.”

Wilkes’ resignation came at a time that the company is in financial distress, as its major mining portfolio in the Philippines, the Didipio gold-copper project in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, has halted operations since last year after failing to secure…

Protesting residents hoist banners that express their dismay over the “sham” public hearing held by the House committee on indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples, which was held inside the mining compound of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. in Didipio village in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya on Friday, Feb. 28. Photo courtesy of United Peoples of Kasibu, NV.

By Melvin Gascon

Environment and civil society groups on Saturday denounced what they described as a “rigged” hearing by the House committee on indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples that sought to investigate the alleged human rights abuses committed by an Australian mining firm in Nueva Vizcaya province.

Anti-mining group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment slammed the alleged bias shown by lawmakers who attended Friday’s hearing held inside the compound of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. in upland Didipio village in Kasibu town . …

Buhay party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza on Saturday again blasts supposed efforts of his colleagues in the House of Representatives to stall deliberations on the franchise of ABS CBN. “I urge the public to come visit Congress to see for themselves how many of the members do not even attend sessions; how measures are approved despite the apparent lack of quorum,” he said. Photo courtesy of Phil. Star.

By Melvin Gascon

A party-list lawmaker on Saturday denounced what he called “back-channel” talks among members of the House panel whom he accused of “sitting” on the application for renewal of the franchise of media network ABS CBN.

Buhay party-list Jose “Lito” Atienza wondered what has been keeping the House committee on legislative franchises from tackling the 11 pending bills on the ABS CBN franchise renewal, hinting that the delay was supposedly to allow “shady” deals.

“There’s a saying, ‘a fish is caught by its mouth.’ It was they (committee members) who said the measures have been stalled as…

Members of Congress belonging to the majority bloc flash the Duterte fist while posing for photo after their closed-door meeting at SM Aura in Taguig City on Aug. 21, a day after the Lower House received the draft national expenditure bill for 2020. Photo from Speaker Cayetano’s Facebook page.

By Melvin Gascon

Lawmakers belonging to the majority coalition on Wednesday met in what they termed as a “caucus,” a day after the executive department submitted to the House of Representatives the draft 2020 national budget and amid reports this has been laden with about P35 billion-worth of pork barrel funds.

In a text message sent to lawmakers, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd Dist Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte invited members of Congress to a meeting at the Kalayaan Hall of SM Aura in Taguig City, supposedly to discuss “the (national) budget and other pertinent matters.”

For unspecified…

A local court has sided with residents, local officials and environment advocates in their attempt to stop the illegal operations of Australian mining firm OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., with its site in Didipio village in Kasibu town, Nueva Vizcaya seen here. Image grab from Google Earth.

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — A regional trial court in this province on Thursday (July 25) denied the request of an Australian mining firm to continue its operations despite the lapse of its mining license and opposition from local host communities.

In a 10-page resolution, Judge Paul Attolba, Jr. said OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. failed to prove it was entitled to a “clear and unmistakeable right” to be protected after it was ordered to stop operations by the provincial government.

“There is no sufficient evidence on record to support that (OceanaGold) is indded authorized to continue minimg operations pending the renewal by…

Residents, local officials and environment advocates join hands to protest the ongoing illegal operations of Australian mining firm OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. in Didipio village in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, despite the non-renewal of its mining license. Photo courtesy of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment

By Melvin Gascon

Environment and civil society groups on Friday slammed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for supposedly coming to the defense of a foreign mining firm and allowed it to resume operations despite the lapse of its 25-year mining license.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the MGB’s endorsement of the continued operation of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. at its gold-copper mining site is an “insult” against the people of Nueva Vizcaya, who are calling for its stoppage.

“This dubious endorsement it is being used by the mining company to insult the people of Nueva Vizcaya by…

Local officials, students, residents and environment activists join a protest march on June 20 in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, to press the stoppage of operations of Australian firm OceanaGold at its gold-copper mining project in Barangay Didipio in Kasibu town, Nueva Vizcaya, following the lapse and non-renewal of its 25-year mining license. Photo courtesy of Kalikasan PNE

By Melvin Gascon

Residents and environment activists on Monday denounced Australian firm OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. for supposedly continuing its mining operations in Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya despite the lapse of its license on June 20.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said OceanaGold has been conducting illegal activities since the expiry of its financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA), prompting the provincial government to alert the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the local environment officers on the company’s operations. …

By Melvin Gascon

Local officials, tribal leaders and anti-mine advocates on Tuesday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to reject attempts of an Australian firm to extend its gold-copper operations in Nueva Vizcaya province due to alleged violations in its expiring mining contract.

The groups urged Filipinos to unite and stand up against the renewal of the financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) granted to Australian firm OceanaGold Philippines Corp., which expires on June 20.

“We are calling on President Duterte, since he used to say that mining is very destructive. Mr. President, if that is your sentiment, we hope you…

Melvin Gascon

Writes for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, part-time journalism instructor and lecturer

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