Ex-Kalinga town mayor charged with malversation

>> Wednesday, January 2, 2019

TANUDAN, Kalinga -- Former Mayor Francisca P. Cawi of this town has been charged with malversation before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly misappropriating P2.9 million worth of public funds.
She was slapped with a violation of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code in the charge sheet filed by assistant special prosecutor Anthea Magpantay.
From June 2004 to June 2007, Cawi was accused of abusing and taking advantage of her official position when she obtained custody of Landbank of the Philippines checks issued in her name with the total amount of P2,905,243.83.
These checks represented cash advances received from the coffers of Tanudan, supposedly to defray expenses and municipal obligations.
However, Cawi failed to liquidate the account despite demands for her to do so.
Magpantay said in the charge sheet that Cawi “converted the money to her personal use and benefit, to the damage and prejudice to the government.”
Her bail bond for her temporary liberty is P40,000.


Sagada regulates tourists’ entry due to overcrowding

SAGADA, Mountain Province – The local government of this town has regulated the number of tourists coming here starting the Yuletide season.
Mayor James Pooten said this was due to experience of the municipality during long weekends and holidays where thousands of tourists flocked to scenic town filling up tourist destinations with vehicles clogging narrow roads.
An incident during the long weekend on Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, showed thousands of tourists stuck in a sunrise viewing peak posted on social media.
 “The municipality of Sagada through its tourism council came up with interventions to limit the entry of visitors in Sagada,” Pooten said in an interview.
The mayor said from the weekend before Christmas to the first week of January, personnel from the local government unit were stationed at entry points of tourist destinations to act as gate keepers and count visitors coming in and out to make sure areas will not be overcrowded.
He said the local government started implementing restrictions in tourism destinations particularly in areas filled up or which reached their carrying capacities.
 He said they started monitoring carrying capacity of tourist destinations such as the sunrise and sunset viewing areas, trekking and eco-trail areas and even water bodies and caves. “This will help in the crafting and implementation of the municipal plans particularly on tourism, environment conservation and developments thru the partnership of the different national government line agencies,” he said.
 Pooten also called on tourist operators from the different parts of the country bringing in tourists to  Sagada to register their clients at the Sagada Tourists Center before going to destinations to ensure  they are counted and also for their safety.
Local officials urged tourists to leave their vehicles in their hotel areas or parking sites and use local jeepneys in visiting destinations to avoid traffic jams and clogging of narrow roads. Pooten said tourist arrival in the municipality sometimes goes up from 4,000 to as high as almost 9,000 so they are also calling on establishments to follow their bed capacities.
Latest survey of hotels, inns and other accommodation establishments in the municipality recorded 3,800 registered bed capacity.
The mayor urged tourists to respect people, place and the culture and tradition of Sagada and maintain its clean and  environment.   
In a social media post from the Sagada Tourism they posted general guidelines to be followed by visitors of the municipality to remind them of what to do and not to do and also guide them while they are in Sagada. -- JDP/RMC- PIA


PCL, Liga compelled: Submit Panagbenga financial statements

By Dexter A. See 

BAGUIO CITY – Officers of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. (BFFFI) urged the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) and Liga ng mga Barangay (LMB) Baguio City chapters to submit to the local government’s finance committee their audited financial statements governing funds said groups received and gained from operating part of the week-long Session Road in Bloom and the extension of the month-long Baguio Blooms Exposition and Exhibition, respectively, of last year’s  23rd edition of the Panagbenga Festival.
Freddie Alquiros, member of the foundation and Panagbenga organizing committee, said the BFFFI submitted its financial statement to the local government’s finance committee pursuant to rules imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
He said based on SEC guidelines, the end of their calendar year June of each year that covers the period of the flower festival, thus, the preparation and audit of the financial statement has to go to a process aside from the fact that the foundation did not yet return to the organizer of the Baguio Blooms Exhibition and Exposition the P850,000 bond that was paid because of the alleged failure of the organizer to secure the necessary clearance from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
Alquiros added, to remedy the situation and not  delay submission of the BFFFI’s financial statement to the local government, the amount was instead deposited in escrow until such time that the organizer will secure the necessary BIR clearance that will allow for the submission of the required financial statement to the local government’s finance committee
Anthony de Leon, co-chairman of the Panagbenga POC and general manager of the Baguio Country Club (BCC), claimed the foundation never incurred deficiencies in their submission of said financial statements with the SEC and this is proven by the clearances given by the BIR that shows their sustained adherence to the government’s transparency and accountability program.
Both BFFFI officers said the PCL and LMB chapters must also adhere to the similar policy by submitting their own financial statements on how the funds that accrued to the two groups from the proceeds of partly managing a portion of the Session Road in Bloom and the extension of the Baguio Blooms Exposition and Exhibition were used.
BFFFI is supposed to be tax-exempt but Alquiros claimed that because of the tedious process in securing the tax exemption certificate due to previous controversies involving pork barrel funds being channeled to foundations allegedly used as conduits for questionable projects, the foundation continuous to pay the taxes from whatever income it generates from the staging of the festival events.
For this year, BFFFI paid to the BIR over P1.1 million in taxes from the income it earned from the 2018 edition of the flower festival.
The PCL and LMB Baguio chapters were supposed to have used the funds coursed through them for the implementation of their various civic projects for the welfare of their members, among others.


8 hurt in La Union highway accidents

By Freddie Lazaro

CAMP DIEGO SILANG, La Union – At least eight persons were injured in separate vehicular accidents in La Union before and during the celebration of the Christmas day here.
Chief Insp. Silverio Ordinado, spokesperson of the La Union Police Provincial Office, said seven persons were hurt after two four-wheel vehicles collided with each other along the national highway in Barangay Amallapay, Tubao, La Union at about 9:10 a.m. on Monday, December 24.
Injured were Romeo Cariaga, 63, and driver of a closed van; and his passengers: Aurora Bernal, and 59; Leonard Estoesta, 27; Stephen Ngilangil, 38, driver of the other van the figured in the accident; and his passengers Lailanie Ngilangil, 25, Lacki Larice Ngilangil, 5, and Jessa Mae Bajong, 15.
They were brought to La Union Medical Center in Agoo, LU for medical treatment.
On Christmas day, Roniketh Cruz, 27, was hurt after his car was accidentally hit by a vehicle being driven by Gil Nayan along the national highway in Barangay Lomboy-Patac, Santo Tomas, La Union at around 4:45 a.m.


Pastor gyps Chavit, spends x’mas in jail

By Mar T. Supnad

BALUARTE, Vigan city- A suspected swindler who claimed to be a “pastor’ of the Pentecostal Church spent his Christmas in jail after trying again to gyp cash money from former governor Luis "Chavit" Singson.
Senior Supt. Clint Bayacsan, Ilocos Sur police director, identified the suspect as Franklin Lopez Valencia, 42, of Laoag city.
Bayacsan said the suspect was charged with estafa and for using fictitious name.
The arrest of the suspect who identified himself to Chavit as Pastor Rey Cabrera of Pentecostal Church based in Barangay Orense, Narvacan town, came after trying again to ask money from the former governor intended supposedly for the construction of their church.
Since the intention was for the Church, Singson gave an amount not only once but several times until the political kingpin became suspicion about the Pastor's motive when he asked money again last Monday.
When Singson asked the identification card of the suspect, he could not produce any.
The suspect also mentioned that he knows a lot of prominent figures in the province, but when Singson counter checked it, they did not know the suspect prompting Singson to report it to the police.
Security officers of the former governor also checked the suspect's rented car, and found an extra car plate number inside his service car.
Singson said he wanted to publicize the name and modus operandi of the suspect to prevent him from victimizing others.


Cagayan councilman shot dead; Ilocos peer unhurt

ENRILE, Cagayan -- Benito Ardilles, 48, chairman of Barangay Kinama in Rizal, Kalinga, was driving his motorcycle when he was shot dead by unidentified men on a motorbike here in Barangay Roma in Enrile on Dec. 23.
Norwel Balagso, 30, councilman of Barangay Caray, Nueva Era, Ilocos Norte, was unhurt in an ambush on the same day.
Balagso was driving home his Toyota Altis from a Christmas party at the barangay hall when he was attacked.
Reports said Balagso sped off from the scene, where five bullet shells for an M16 rifle were recovered. – Raymund Catindig


AFP, PNP in Cordillera on full alert against NPA

BAGUIO CITY -- The Armed Force of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in Cordillera said they are still on full alert  even as the holiday season is ending as the communist New People’s Army could still attack.
                 The commander of the 503rd Infantry Brigade and the director of the regional police bared this last week.
 “Alert na ang mga sundalo in coordination with the PNP, LGU (local government unit) katulungan din natin sila para maipatupad ang peace and order na mandato natin (The AFP is now on alert and in coordination with the PNP, LGU, whom we are working with to implement our mandate to maintain peace and order),” said 503rd IB acting commander Col. Henry Doyaoen at the sidelines of the 4th quarter joint meeting of the Cordillera Regional Development Council and the Peace and Order Council at The Mansion House here before Christmas.
Doyaoen added the law enforcers are also working with the Dept. of Tourism.
“Kasama din natin ang DOT, ine-ensure natin na magiging kaaya-aya ang pagbisita nila [tourists] lalo na ngayong pasko and hopefully ma-prevent natin yung kung meron man silang iniisip na gagawin katulad sa ibang lugar, sana hindi mangyari dito sa ating lugar, unahan natinsila na ma-prevent yun (Together with the DOT, we are ensuring that the visit of the tourists this holiday season will be worthwhile. We hope to prevent whatever crime the terrorists are planning to do, like what they did in other places. We are hoping that such will not happen here. We will prevent them),” Doyaoen said.
The military officer also called on the public, village officials, and everyone in the community to report any possible threats.
“We call on the other agencies, the public, to provide us with information, which will help prevent criminal activities from being perpetrated by the terrorists,” he said.
 The Police Regional Office in Cordillera was on “heightened alert” starting Dec. 24 until Jan. 1
Chief Supt. Rolando Nana urged the residents not to allow the NPA in their homes and in their communities.
Nana also urged the NPAs not to cause disorder in the communities that will affect civilians.
 Dayaoen said from Oct. 1 to Dec. 14 this year, no violent incident with the NPA was recorded. "We hope wala sanang mangyari (We hope nothing bad happens),” he said.
Instead, he said several members of the NPA had voluntarily surrendered.
They are provided with assistance by the government through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
The E-CLIP is an inter-agency collaboration to give surrenderers assistance, such as livelihood training and ladderized education system to let the younger ones finish their studies.
During the Cordillera leaders' meeting, Nana cited President Rodrigo Duterte's Executive Order 17, which provides for “a whole of government approach to end insurgency."
He all provinces are establishing half-way houses, where the surrenderees can start a peaceful life anew.
"Our surrenderees laid down their arms because they hear of the government’s programs and the sincerity of President Duterte to end the insurgency and have peace and development in the country,” Nana said. -- PNA


No closure of Baguio, mayor says as Panagbenga preps on

By Pamela Mariz Geminiano

BAGUIO CITY -- Mayor Mauricio Domogan debunked anew speculations that Baguio would be closed like what Boracay underwent this year.
"I will reiterate there is no such declaration nor order coming from the officials [of any national government agency]," Domogan said last week, adding such speculation will not in any way affect the city's preparations for Panagbenga 2019, the summer capital's yearly event also known as the Baguio Flower Festival.
The next flower festival will open on Feb. 1, 2019.
The mayor said the city has lots of problems but that does not mean the city will be closed like what was done to Boracay to give way to its rehabilitation.
                 For one, Domogan said, the hotel accommodations in this mountain resort city are unlike the ones in Boracay, where the sewage treatment plants drain directly to the sea.
Also, he added, Baguio is an education hub, hosting most of the Cordillera's universities.
The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) agreed with Domogan's opinion, adding establishments that do not comply with environmental laws must be the first to be called out.
“Their attention should be called and there should be rectification and compliance that should be done by the establishments. The rehab should start from there,” HRAB spokesperson Andrew Pinero said.
Pinero said closing Baguio ala Boracay is unlikely to happen.
 “That is quite impossible to do, with Baguio City being the gateway to tourist destinations to the Cordillera. There is going to be an effect in terms of tourist arrivals not only in Baguio but its nearby provinces,” he said.
                 He also agreed with Domogan saying Baguio is not just a tourism hub, but an educational center as well.
“Where are we going to bring the students who are enrolled here and how will the universities and the teachers cope with this? Unemployment is going to be an issue here,” the hospitality executive added.
Pinero said the tourism sector employs over 40 percent of Baguio City's workforce.
He said pushing the establishments to comply with environmental laws is the way to go.
He said the HRAB is happy that state agency Environmental Management Bureau has been so far strict on its regulations.
He said EMB-Cordillera chief Reynaldo Digamo had been meeting with establishment owners, particularly members of the HRAB, informing them on new issuances and asking for their cooperation by complying with the law.
Meanwhile, Domogan said the city government of Baguio has approved a study to assess the carrying capacity of the city.
"Tourists are (of course) welcome, but we have to work together in maintaining peace and order and provide 100-percent satisfaction to our constituents and visitors," he said. -- PNA


‘Cordi autonomy bills have slim chance of passage by Congress’

As preps for May polls start 

BAGUIO CITY – Bills filed in both Houses of Congress to make the Cordillera autonomous have slim chance of being passed before the  May 2019 polls.
This, according to Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan and Rep. Mark Go, during an assessment of the autonomy process here at Ridgebrook Hotel on Dec. 20 by autonomy advocates headed by the Regional Development Council and regional National Economic Development Authority. 
According to both officials, it is just a few months away to May polls next year and legislative officials of the House of Representatives and Senate are busy preparing for their campaign.
During the assessment, it was agreed that a more aggressive campaign for Cordillera autonomy should be done to enhance progress for the region.
But according to Cordillera NEDA regional director Milagros Rimando, the budget for the campaign for 2019 was trimmed down to P12 million.
Rimando pushed for more creative and aggressive ways to inform regional constituents on regional autonomy.    
During the assessment, it was agreed upon that there was need to search for more local, regional and national leaders who are willing to sacrifice their time, effort and resources to make the Cordillera autonomous.
This, following resignation of Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza, a staunch ally of the RDC and Regional Peace and Order Council in bringing to the attention of national leaders the clamor of the people for self-governance.
Domogan, the RDC-CAR and RPOC-CAR chairman called on members of the two regional bodies to join forces in searching for national figures who are willing to champion the region’s renewed quest for autonomy to lobby lobby for passage of pending autonomy bills in both chambers of Congress.
Dureza, who was an adopted son of the Cordillera and given the local name ‘mensapit’ or peacemaker, vowed to be a champion of the region’s quest for autonomy in the national scene.
He initiated the gathering of peace and autonomy pioneers in Mount Data, Bauko, Mountain Province on April 24, 2017, the first meeting of Cordillerans with President Rodrigo Duterte in MalacaƱang on July 18, 2017 and celebration of the 32nd anniversary of the historic Mount Data ‘sipat’ at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) last Sept. 13
“We really need someone who can sustain our aggressive quest for autonomy, especially at the national level, so we can send the right message to our decision-makers that Cordillerans want the immediate establishment of the autonomous region to ensure the better pace of development in our region,” Domogan said.
Dureza was also instrumental in facilitating the Cordillera Autonomy Forum with senators in coordination with the Office of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, the Cotabato-based Institute of Autonomy and governance (IAG) and the RDC-CAR that paved the way for the filing of number of counterpart bills in the upper chamber seeking the establishment of the Autonomous Region in the Cordillera.
Last August 14,, the House committee on local government conducted an initial public hearing on House Bill 5343 or the Lower House version of the Cordillera autonomy bill authored by all Cordillera lawmakers which Mindanao lawmakers committed to give their unrelenting and support for passage of the proposed law.
Since the initial public hearing of the House committee on the proposed autonomy bill, the same was never calendared for further deliberations by the committee because the lawmakers were preoccupied with the budget deliberations for the proposed 2019 national budget and the proposed extension of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
RDC officials and autonomy stalwarts said they were of the hope that pending autonomy bills in both chambers will be cleared for deliberations in the committee and plenary levels right at the start of the regular session next year even if the chances of the bills having to be enacted into law remains bleak at this point due to the limited session days as the campaign period for the May 219 mid-term elections starts.


Land Bank Kalinga aids more farmers

CITY OF TABUK, Kalinga --Small farmers are now served by one of the government’s lending institutions giving low interest for agriculture production, equipment and machine loans.
Albert Galut of Land Bank’s Cordillera Administrative Region Lending Center here said a lot of small farmers are now availing loan assistance since the establishment of the lending institution here.
More than 500 farmers from Kalinga, Apayao and Mountain Province have applied for the Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) that grants P1 million maximum loan, he said.
ACEF only requires security of loan like title and for the borrower to execute a sworn affidavit that he has no outstanding loan from other lending institutions.
Lily Herjoan Caguay, also of the lending center, reported during the Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises Development Council meeting that six re-lending cooperatives loaned under the Agrarian Production Credit Program and 18 irrigators association from the Sikat Saka Program.
She said The Agricultural Fisheries Financing Program (AFFP) ceased to exist and was replaced by ACEF to provide loans at a much lower interest.
The AFFP catered to 32 organizations that loaned a total of P37 million for palay production.  
 Galut also bared that the Accessible and Sustainable Lending Program (ASL) will be implemented next year after it was piloted in Isabela and Vizcaya.
Like ACEF, it only requires guarantee or insurance as loan security.
“This is much bigger. Individual small farmers including agrarian beneficiaries can avail of 90 percent of the total project cost at 6% interest per annum,” he said. -- PIA Kalinga


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