Justice dep’t forms core group to investigate state corruption


THE DEPARTMENT of Justice (DoJ) has formed a “core group” that will lead investigations of various agencies for corruption, in line with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s earlier order, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

Justice  Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra met with senior officials of the agency on Tuesday, including Prosecutor General Benedicto A. Malcontento and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Officer-in-Charge Eric B. Distor to discuss how to proceed with the probe.

The officials discussed “methods of securing information regarding incidences of corruption in government, and possible approaches for the conduct of the investigations,” DoJ said.

The probe will take into account the gravity of the allegations and their  impact on the delivery of government services, according to the statement.

The core group will consist of  members of the task force that probed corruption allegations at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

The group will be headed by the DoJ and its members are the NBI, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), Office of the Special Assistant to the President, National Prosecution Service and Anti-Money laundering Council, DoJ said.

“The task force shall also invite the Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman to work together with the task force, with due consideration for their independence as constitutional bodies,”  it added.

Mr. Duterte on Tuesday ordered the Justice department to probe all agencies for corruption, effective until 2022.

The DoJ was also authorized to create separate task forces for the probe.

Mr. Guevarra, whom the President ordered to probe the Agriculture and Public Works departments, earlier said the job was the toughest he had received from the President.

In a televised speech on Monday, Mr. Duterte read a memo for Mr. Guevarra asking him to investigate “the entire government” until his six-year term ends in less than two years.

Mr. Duterte flagged former officials from PhilHealth, adding that their resignation does not absolve them of the charges.

The President, whom critics have faulted for failing to disclose his net worth despite his vow of transparency, earlier ordered the DoJ to form a task force that investigated corruption at the state health insurer.

Lawmakers allegedly involved in corruption at the Public Works department get as much as a 15% cut for every infrastructure project, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica told the ABS-CBN News Channel this week.

District contractors and engineers also get kickbacks, he added.

Mr. Belgica said only half of the fund goes to the infrastructure project, resulting in substandard work.

He said the agency was investigating the entire Public Works department and was building up its case against some officials.

Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar on Tuesday said he had formed a task force that will probe the allegations.

The investigation will cover all engineers regardless of their ranks, he told GMA News, adding that they won’t favor anybody. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights commissioner to investigate Ambulance Victoria harassment allegations

The Victorian equal opportunity and human rights (VEOHR) commissioner will conduct an independent investigation into allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment within Ambulance Victoria.

The Victorian Ambulance Union said it was “absolutely bombarded” with examples of discriminatory behaviour in a recent call-out to members.

Danny Hill, the general secretary of the union, said he had seen a lot of examples of “harmful” treatment that left some members “traumatised”.

He cited the example of a woman who had to get a medical certificate to justify breastfeeding because she needed a flexible work arrangement.

“For a health service, that’s a disgrace,” he said.

The VEOHR commissioner Kristen Hilton has agreed to the request from Ambulance Victoria board chair Ken Lay and chief executive officer Tony Walker to conduct an investigation.

“I want to be very clear that these behaviours and actions have no place in the Ambulance Victoria I lead,” Mr Walker said.

Ms Hilton said she expected the review to examine sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in the workplace.

“Independent reviews are a valuable tool … they can help an organisation embed a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion and that respects women and people of all genders,” the commissioner said.

Mr Hill said there was a view in some levels of the service that having children was an impediment to career progression.

“There seems to be an attitude … that you can either be a parent or you can be a paramedic but you can’t do both,” he said.

Gendered harassment ‘woven’ into Ambulance Victoria

Paramedic Rasa Piggott wrote to Mr Lay calling for an inquiry, saying there was a culture of “widespread bullying” and gendered discrimination.

“Our workplace is unsafe and it is breaking paramedics,” she said.

“Sexual and gendered harassment is woven into the fabric of Ambulance Victoria.”

She said when she was a graduate her breasts were “ogled” and she was warned she could not progress her career and have children at the same time.

“When I embarked on a recent attempt to further my career, I was counselled about the inconvenience of maternity leave for team settings and careers,” she said.

Ms Piggott said she had been trying to gain traction on issues such as bullying and harassment for three years and had been “punished by middle management for doing so”.

“My colleagues are exhausted. Through tears, they have shared their stories — some have experienced abuse beyond the imaginable,” she said.

Complaints Ambulance Victoria workers don’t feel ‘safe or respected’

Mr Hill said some women had been subjected to demeaning and insulting behaviour when they tried to advance their careers to become a MICA paramedic or team manager.

“They’re literally sniggered at and humiliated and embarrassed for not being devoted to their own children.”

Danny Hill says workers are now having conversations about the problem, which is a good sign.(ABC News: Bridget Rollason)

Mr Walker thanked those who came forward to speak out about the behaviour.

“In recent years, we have worked hard with various external organisations to address some deep cultural challenges,” he said.

“It is distressing to hear that despite all this work, there are still colleagues who don’t feel safe or respected.”

Mr Hill said it was a systemic problem and change was needed across the ambulance service.

“We need to have systems in place to allow people to negotiate rosters for the purposes of looking after their family,” he said.

“We also need a real cultural shift in attitude.”

He said since they had surveyed the workers, there had been a lot of discussions happening in ambulance stations and branches.

“It’s important that people are turning to one another and asking, ‘Has this ever happened to you?’

“That way we understand that, yes, this is a really big problem.”

Last year, the Human Rights Commission finished a five-year review of sex discrimination in Victoria Police.

“We have seen the transformative change that is possible within even one of the state’s largest and most complex public institutions,” Ms Hilton said.

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Victoria Police says it won’t investigate Vatican wire transfer claims

London: Victoria Police says there is no evidence to warrant an investigation into allegations that Vatican funds were used in an attempt to secure the conviction of Cardinal George Pell.

Italian newspapers La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera earlier this month claimed a rival of Pell’s, former cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, was suspected of arranging for €700,000 ($1.1 million) to be transferred to people in Australia to support the prosecution of child sex abuse charges against Pell.

The papers did not provide any evidence to support the claims, which have been circulating privately among Pell’s supporters for several years.

Australia’s financial crimes watchdog, AUSTRAC, recently examined the reports and provided “information” to the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police.

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Victoria Police to investigate DHHS public servant after leak of coronavirus restrictions roadmap

An investigation into a Victorian health department employee who allegedly leaked a top secret document has been labelled a “witch-hunt” by the State Opposition.

The ABC understands the department referred to the matter to Victoria Police after it discovered the breach, which is against the Victorian Public Service (VPS) code of conduct.

“Victoria Police can confirm it has received a referral from a government department in relation to unauthorised access of information,” a police spokesperson said.

“This matter is being investigated by the E-Crime Squad and as this investigation is ongoing.”

In September, a document featuring a draft of the Victorian Government’s roadmap out of restrictions was leaked to the Herald Sun newspaper. But neither police nor the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would confirm whether the investigation related to that leak.

Although the Government initially said it was a “working document” and Premier Daniel Andrews described it as having “no status”, many key proposals in the document — such as case thresholds and reopening dates — were put into effect.

Government ‘dysfunctional and secretive’, Opposition says

DHHS confirmed it was aware of an alleged code of conduct breach by a staff member who provided administrative support.

But it said it would be inappropriate to comment because the issue was now a police matter.

Shadow Attorney-General Ed O’Donohue said the reports of the investigation were concerning.

“The increasingly desperate, dysfunctional and secretive Andrews Labor Government will do anything it can to stop Victorians from knowing the truth,” he said.

At his daily press briefing, Mr Andrews said he was unaware of the investigation or the referral of the matter to police.

“I don’t have thoughts on those matters, they don’t involve me,” he said.

“It’s not a matter that I’m particularly concerned about.

“Cabinet in confidence documents, are under law, very important documents that need to be appropriately protected, not just now but every day of every year, that’s been the case for decades.”

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Police investigate after two women stabbed in incident under Eiffel Tower

French police have launched an investigation after two women were stabbed near the Eiffel Tower in an apparent racist incident.

The victims were injured with a knife near the famous Paris monument on Sunday, after an altercation involving “an unleashed dog”.

Police confirmed in a statement that they had intervened “following a police call for help for two women with stab wounds at the Champ-de-Mars” around 20:00 (CET).

Two other women are in police custody on Tuesday, according to the Paris public prosecutor’s office, and an investigation for attempted intentional homicide has been opened.

Paris firefighters confirmed on Tuesday to AFP that they intervened around 20:50 in Paris on Sunday to rescue two women.

No information about the incident was initially released by authorities, which led to some criticism from online users.

It follows rising tensions in France over the beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty in the Paris suburbs last Friday.

Members of the country’s Muslim community have complained of increased Islamophobia caused by a government clampdown on mosques and Muslim organisations.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the “Cheikh Yassine Collective” would be dissolved due to its “direct” implication in the attack on Samuel Paty, and stated that further measures against radical Islam are to be taken in the coming days.

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Police investigate forest camera thefts

Rural Crime Investigators from Grafton are investigating after numerous monitoring cameras were discovered stolen from Marengo State Forest.

On Wednesday 19 August 2020, police received reports that the Reconyx HP2X cameras had been stolen from the area sometime within a six week period prior to this date.

The cameras were part of a research project into a number of Government supported control projects including Saving our Species, Preparing for Reset and the NSW statewide Aerial Baiting and Post-fire predator control and were housed in individual security posts along various trails.

A Google map of the Marengo State Forest

If you can provide any assistance to police in respect to this theft, including dashcam footage from the area between July and August 2020, please contact Rural Crime Investigators at Grafton on 02 6642-0222 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Someone has to know something about this … please call us

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Territory Families failed to investigate alleged rape of child, inquest hears

A Territory Families senior executive has admitted it was a “significant failure” the organisation did not investigate allegations a 12-year-old girl had been raped by someone living in the same house, later testing positive to an STD.

Warning: This story contains details which may be distressing for some readers.

It was the first of multiple child protection failings conceded on day three of a joint inquest into the deaths of 12-year-old Master W, 13-year-old Master JK and 17-year-old Ms B, who died in separate Arnhem Land communities in 2018 and 2019.

“I consider this to be a significant failure,” Territory Families northern region director Karen Broadfoot told the court.

“It was unacceptable.”

Ms Broadfoot said a “critical opportunity” was missed to connect with Ms B after she disclosed the alleged sexual assault in April, 2014.

“Ms B in particular has had really significant trauma in her life, I would have thought that would be a causal factor in her VSA [Volatile Substance Abuse],” she said.

Ms B was found sniffing petrol on an oval by police two weeks after reporting the alleged sexual assault.

She died by suicide at 17.

The court also heard Master JK was the subject of six Territory Families notifications.

Ms Broadfoot confirmed the first notification, when then-10-year-old JK was found sniffing opal fuel mixed with orange juice, was screened out because he had no history of behaviour of sniffing and there were no allegations of parental harm.

The court heard JK was found sniffing petrol out of soft drink bottles at the age of 11 and sniffing from petrol bowsers by the age of 12.

NT Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie leaves Darwin Local Court in October, 2020.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Chief Health Officer takes the stand

Northern Territory Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie also took the stand at the inquest today, telling the court he “personally takes responsibility” for Ms B’s death.

Under the Volatile Substance Abuse Prevention Act, all patients at “high risk of severe harm” should have their cases raised with the CHO.

Despite multiple interactions with different government departments over a number of years, none of the three children ever had a treatment plan in place or had their cases elevated with Dr Heggie.

Dr Heggie told the court that if he had been made aware of “all the details” in the case of 17-year-old Ms B, he would have taken steps towards providing the child with a management program “within days”.

He said he was never provided with information relating to Ms B in a consolidated way.

“I’m sad, I really feel for the family, they were reaching out, as Ms B was, for someone to keep her safe.

“I wish I had been aware of all of this story. Seeing all the story together, I would have said ‘something needs to happen’.”

Richard Campion is wearing a blue patterned shirt and leaves Darwin Local Court. He is holding a black folder in his hands.
NT Health’s Richard Campion conceded all three children should have had their cases upwardly referred.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

‘Guidelines and the act are not being complied with’

Dr Heggie also admitted to signing off on assessment documents that did not meet current health guidelines or the law.

He said he received “hundreds” of assessment documents every day, many of which were “lacking information”.

The vast majority of these documents, Dr Heggie said, related to low-risk matters.

Counsel assisting the coroner Kelvin Currie said the period of time between when an application for assessment was received and when the assessment was finalised should be no longer than two months.

In one of the documents Dr Heggie had signed off relating to the three children in the inquest, the time between when the assessment was received and then finalised was two years.

Mr Curried questioned: “On the face of the documents, it’s often clear that the guidelines and the act are not being complied with.”

Dr Heggie replied: “Yes, I would accept that.”

The Chief Health Officer also apologised to the court for his late submission and any grammatical errors contained within, explaining that he had been busy managing the NT’s COVID-19 response.

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SA Health to investigate coronavirus travel exemption granted to AFL players’ parents

South Australia’s public health chief says an external review will investigate how and why 11 Victorian-based parents of Port Adelaide AFL players were granted exemptions to coronavirus travel restrictions while other families are being denied.

Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier yesterday revealed 11 relatives of Power players had been approved by SA Health to enter the state, ahead of the club’s qualifying final against Geelong at Adelaide Oval next week.

After finding out about the “absolute mistake”, Dr Spurrier revoked the exemption for six of them, while the other five — who have already arrived — will be able to continue their 14-day hotel quarantine.

The South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) this morning shed more light on the situation, saying the head of Events SA had played an initial role in the process but was not responsible for the decision.

Premier Steven Marshall apologised for the “error of judgement” by an SA Health employee.

“I’m very sorry this has occurred,” he said.

“It was an inappropriate approval — I acknowledge that, the chief public health officer acknowledges that.”

The bungle coincides with the lifting of travel restrictions from New South Wales into SA, with people in NSW now allowed to cross the border into SA without having to do 14 days’ quarantine.

It has also prompted a backlash from others still stranded in Victoria — where restrictions still apply — who have accused authorities of double standards.

Angela Mead, who resides in the Victorian town of Echuca, said she has not been able to hug her 10-year-old daughter, who lives in Adelaide with her father, since May.

“There’s a lot of people like me people in worse situations,” she said.

Angela Mead (right) visiting her daughter Alannah across the South Australian-Victorian border at the start of the month.(Supplied)

She said it was unfair she could not enter South Australia but Power relatives, along with cross-border sports players, could enter the state.

Ms Mead has put in another application to visit Adelaide, where her father is terminally ill, but it is yet to go before the SA Health panel that decides on exemptions.

Dr Spurrier said someone from outside SA Health would review departmental processes around border exemptions to prevent the Port Adelaide situation being repeated.

“We’re very keen to review this,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning.

Events SA boss spoke to families

The SATC this morning released a statement confirming Events SA executive director Hitaf Rasheed, who previously worked at the Port Adelaide Football Club, helped the players’ families contact SA Health.

“She helped to initially connect a representative of the families to SA Health and then left the decision-making process to the relevant health officials to work through,” a spokesperson said.

Ms Rasheed declined to be interviewed but SATC chief executive Rodney Harrex said she had done nothing wrong.

“Hitaf was approached by some family members and she provided the advice for the appropriate contact at SA Health,” Mr Harrex said.

“I think it’s very important to note here that the SATC has no involvement in any decisions that are made around this — they are decisions made by SA Health.”

Dr Spurrier said it was her understanding that the person from SA Health who gave the exemption “had no connection whatsoever” with the Port Adelaide Football Club, including as a member or a fan.

South Australia's Chief Health Officer speaks at a press conference.
Nicola Spurrier said finding out about the exemption upset her.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

“This was a mistake — it was a poor judgement,” she said.

She said disciplinary action was a matter for the department’s chief executive, Chris McGowan, not her.

She will meet with him today, and will rejoin the committee that decides on exemptions.

The Premier said the findings of the investigation would be released publicly.

“There is no suggestion whatsoever there has been any interference or personal gain from this,” Mr Marshall said.

Premier has questions to answer: Labor

Earlier this morning, Labor health spokesman Chris Picton said Mr Marshall needed to answer questions about any involvement from the Government in the matter.

“There are so many people that haven’t been able to see dying loved ones, who haven’t been able to go to funerals — how was it that people within the Marshall Government viewed football games and watching a football game as more important than those situations?” he said.

Port Adelaide general manager of football Chris Davies said neither the club nor Ms Rasheed had done anything wrong.

“Let’s be really clear: SA Health were the ones who received the exemption request and SA Health were the ones who made the decision on the exemption,” Mr Davies said.

“So, at the end of the day, I think it’s a decision and a discussion that will continue to be had but it needs to be had with the right authority.”

Two new cases of COVID-19 were reported in South Australia yesterday.

A woman and a man tested positive after arriving in Adelaide from overseas on Sunday — but a child who was travelling with them has so far not tested positive.

They bring the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases since the virus was first detected in SA to 468.

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Police Investigate Homicide After Protesters Clash in Denver, Colorado


Police Investigate Homicide After Protesters Clash in Denver, Colorado

Police in Denver, Colorado, investigated a homicide after a shooting took place in the courtyard of the Denver Art Museum where two groups of demonstrators clashed on October 10. Two suspects were in custody in relation to the shooting, police said. Footage shows the two groups, identified by local news as pro-police and anti-police demonstrators, facing off outside the museum. “Trump and Klan, hand in hand,” one group chants in a video. Other footage uploaded to Twitter shows a man being detained by police. Credit: @kellyindependent via Storyful

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