DBM approves P15 million:3rd drive for Cordillera autonomous region set

>> Monday, July 23, 2007

BY DEXTER A. SEE

BAGUIO CITY- The Department of Budget and Management has approved the release of P15 million from this year’s national budget for a third drive for the establishment of a Cordillera Autonomous Region as provided for in the 1987 constitution.

Juan Ngalob, interim chairman of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera and regional director of the National Economic Development Authority, said his office will bank on a new strategy to push concerns of the people in the proposed third organic Act for the creation of an autonomous region.

Instead of the controversial Cordillera bodies, particularly the defunct Cordillera Executive Board, the Cordillera Regional Assembly, and the Cordillera Bodong Administration, it would be the RDC which would spearhead the drive for a revitalized autonomy movement in the coming months.

Under the RDC’s strategy, a survey will be conducted on the grassroots level to determine what the people want in terms of governance and other aspects of autonomy.

The survey is expected to be completed December this year, and the results will serve as a firm basis to jumpstart a renewed campaign for autonomy that is acceptable to all sectors.

Ngalob said autonomy for the Cordillera is far better than the present administrative status of the region because most of the national functions would be devolved to the regional government.

He said the first two proposed Organic Acts that were overwhelmingly rejected by the people would serve as a good reference for the crafting of the third Organic Act.

The quest for self-governance was a product of a peace agreement entered into between the Cory Aquino administration and the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army headed then by rebel priest Conrado Balweg.

The peace pact was signed in the Mt. Data Hotel in Bauko, Mountain province on September 13, 1986.

However, Ngalob said, the autonomy movement will be done according in pace with how the people would accept self-governance, especially issues of devolution of functions and other sensitive issues over the proposed autonomous government.

The province of Apayao voted in favor of the first Organic Act in a plebiscite held on January 30,1990 while Ifugao province approved the Second Organic Act during the March 7, 1998 plebiscite.

Ngalob said all pressing issues that led to the rejection of the two autonomy laws will have to be reviewed and addressed before these could be embodied in the third Organic Act.

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Pampanga provincial board frowns on Panlilio's request for blanket powers on deals

BY GEORGE TRILLO

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga -- Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan here frowned on the request of priest-turned-politician Gov. Eddie Panlilio for “blanket authority” to enter into official deals.

Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao said in a meeting with SP members on July 16, Panlilio clarified his request for blanket authority to enter into official agreements was intended to cover only “donations from foreign and local sources willing to help the province.”

“But he has not withdrawn his formal letter to me, which clearly asked for a blanket authority to enter into memorandum of agreements, contracts, deeds of donations, and other transactions,” Guiao said.

Panlilio’s formal letter last week to Guiao, who is presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, said “in order for me to effectively carry out my duties, I shall need fully authority to enter into memorandum of agreement, contracts, deeds of donation, and any other transaction for the benefit of the province.”

“In this regard, may I request for the passage of a resolution granting me blanket authority to sign said contracts, memoranda, and/or deeds in order to facilitate the proposed resolution for your consideration,” Panlilio said in the letter.

On July 16, however, Panlilio issued a statement to the media saying “the scope of the request does not include purchase of property or the like, which involves bidding or expropriation but merely to ask for fully authority to enter into negotiations for acceptance of donations from foreign and local sources willing to help the province. The sole intent is to expedite transactions with donors so that services such as healthcare may be brought faster to the people.”

Guiao said Panlilio’s formal letter on the blanket authority issue negated the checks and balance principle between the executive and legislative branches of the provincial government and would be tantamount to reneging on the SP’s oversight functions.

He said Panlilio’s formal letter clearly indicated the request was for a blanket authority to sign agreements not only in regard to donations.

The SP will meet next week to tackle the formal request.

“Unless and until the formal request is formally withdrawn and altered, it will stand for consideration as it is by the SP,” he added.

In his statement, Panlilio said, “It is but a request, and may be granted or not by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. If in any case they do, however, with this authority comes accountability to the people. Parameters and a monitoring system may be discussed and set with the board, so as to maintain transparency to the public.”

Meanwhile, Panlilio’s information office came out with a report titled “Heal Pampanga,” which identified health, education and livelihood as priorities for his first 100 days in office. It specifically cited plans for nine district hospitals and one provincial hospital.

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Electric cooperative head shoots, kills self; cop slain

BY NORMAN CAGUIOA

MANGATAREM, Pangasinan--- A 55-year-old manager of a power cooperative here was killed last Tuesday morning of July 17 when his licensed firearm accidentally went off while he was cleaning it.

The Mangatarem police identified the victim as Antonio A. Saura, married, of Barangay Osmena, area manager of the Central Pangasinan Electric Cooperative (Cenpelco) with main office in San Carlos Pangasinan.

Initial investigation showed Saura was cleaning his licensed firearm in his room when the gun went off, killing him instantly.

His brother identified as Martin of Barangay General Luna visited his brother that day. He said he heard a gunshot after their conversation and while he was leaving the place.

Police theorized that Saura was killed when his gun slipped and he accidentally squeezed the trigger.

He might not have known that the gun was loaded with bullets, police said.

Policemen found at the crime scene the victim’ licensed firearm, an Amscor Cal. 45 pistol with serial no. 10338446, a spent shell, and a deformed Cal.. 45 slug.

Policemen were still investigating other angles in the death of the manager.

The gun is now in the custody of the police.

Meanwhile, in Bugallon, Pangasinan, a 47-year-old member of the Bugallon police station was killed by two unidentified men in Barangay Hacienda evening on July 15.

The police identified the policemen as Senior Police Officer 1 Nelson M. Labiano.

Investigation showed the policeman was sitting on a concrete bench in a waiting shed when the two men casually approached him and fired at him several times.

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Comelec finally proclaims Luna as Abra rep, including other May 14 poll winners

BY DEXTER A. SEE AND MAR T. SUPNAD

BAGUIO CITY – The Commission on Elections has proclaimed the remaining poll winners in conflict-rocked Abra, particularly in the congressional race and in the mayoral contest in remote Tineg town.

Former Lagayan (Abra) Mayor Cecilia Luna was proclaimed as the new congressional representative of Abra.

This came after the Comelec’s second division denied a pre-proclamation protest filed by former Abra governor Vicente Valera -- Luna’s rival, for lack of merit.

Luna’s proclamation had been delayed for over two months as a result of Valera’s petitions seeking to declare the canvassing of votes for the congressional race illegal and to order the correction of “manifest errors.”

Claiming he was robbed of victory in the May 14 elections, Valera said the proclamation of his opponent, Cecilia Luna, should be nullified by the Comelec.

Valera told newsmen the proclamation of Luna was null and void because, he said, Luna’s votes were increased and his votes were reduced.

However, the Comelec ruled that suspending further the proclamation of Luna was “unjustified intrusion in the exercise of the electorates’ will and would deprive the people of Abra of their proper representation in the hallowed halls of Congress.”

The order added there was no compelling reason to delay the proclamation of Luna, further stating that the proper remedy by the petitioner was an election protest an not a pre-proclamation controversy or a petition for correction of errors.

Valera sought the correction of “manifest errors” in the votes cast in the municipalities of Manabo and Bangued, alleging glaring discrepancies in the election returns, statement of votes, and certificates of canvass.

Earlier, Luna won by a slight margin of 610 votes over Valera in the May 14 elections.

Records showed she had garnered 34,103 votes, compared to Valera’s 33,493 votes.

At the same time, the special municipal board of canvassers of Tineg, Abra proclaimed the winning municipal officials in Abra’s remotest town.

The proclamation of winners came after the special board of canvassers chaired by lawyer Armando Velasco, Cordillera regional director, conducted the canvassing of election returns from three contested precincts in the town.

Incumbent Tineg Mayor Edwin Crisologo emerged victorious with 1,031 votes over his rival, Lenin Binwaren who garnered 950 votes or a margin of 81 votes.

Lawyer Estelita Cordero said that Crisologo was not around during the proclamation due to serious threat to his life.

Elected Vice Mayor was Mauro Gavino who garnered 605 votes, while his rival, Jesus Valencia, collected 524 votes.

This, as Valera said the votes were erroneously counted with the adding of 2,000 votes to his opponent’ summary of statement of votes.

Citing the statement of votes by voting precincts as recorded in the document (serial No. 0011663), Valera said Luna got 563 votes, but Luna’s votes increased to 1,563 or by 1,000 votes.

“So simple, they just inserted 1 before the number 1,563, votes,” Valera said.

He also said in another statement of votes (serial No. 0011666) by precincts, Luna garnered 649 votes, but in the summary of statements of votes, Luna’s votes increased to 1,649.

“The truth is,” Valera said, “Luna got only 4,660 votes in the summary of the statement of votes (Serial No. 0002103), but what appeared as grand total was 6,660. They erased the ‘4,’ and wrote ‘6.”

“They thwarted the will of the people, “Valera said.

The Comelec tally showed that Luna garnered 34,103 votes, while Valera got 33,493 votes. The margin was 610 votes, he said.

Through a ruling promulgated by the Comelec’s 2nd Division, Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Nicodemo Ferrer voted to deny the appeal and petition of Valera for lack of merit.

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Resuello, Velasco murders solved, says Ilocos cop head

BY FREDDIE LAZARO

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – Ilocos Region police director Chief Supt. Leopoldo Bataoil bared two-high-profile murder cases involving prominent politicians in the region have been solved.

Bataoil announced here at Camp Oscar Florendo the gun slaying of former San Carlos City Mayor Julian Resuello is almost solved, while the killing of Mayor Phillip Velasco and Councilor Marcelo Andaya of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte was solved.

“The Resuello case is half-solved because we have identified the gunmen and charges of murder and frustrated murder were already filed against them,” Bataoil said. “We are still conducting thorough investigations to identify the mastermind.”

In the case of Velasco and Andaya, he said the criminal investigation and Detection Group in the region filed double murder and multiple frustrated murders against the alleged mastermind, also a politician, and several others.

“We came to know the mastermind in the murder together with the names of the other suspects through a cellular phone confiscated from the gunman who was killed by Velasco’s escort,” he said.

Bataoil also that the killing of San Manuel (Pangasinan) Vice Mayor Bonifacio Apilado is still being investigated.

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Chopped bodies of 2 girls found in Bokod ravine

BOKOD, Benguet – The chopped bodies of two teenage girls were found by residents and policemen at the boundary of Bokod and Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya late afternoon on July 18.

The two victims both students of the national high school in Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya, had been missing the past two weeks.

Police said the chopped bodies were placed in a sack and dumped in a deep ravine at the boundary of the two towns.

The Bambang municipal police station earlier contacted the Benguet provincial police office in Camp Dangwa to provide assistance to determine whereabouts of the two victims who were reported missing by their parents.

Police officials did not identify the two “chopchop” victims but said the recovered bodies were those of the two teenage girls reported missing in Nueva Vizcaya because of the school uniforms found a few meters from the place where they were dumped.

Police probers were also looking into the possibility the two girls were victims of gang rape in Nueva Vizcaya. – Dexter A. see

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Baguio siblings 2 others drown

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – A six-year old girl from Baguio City and her 11-year old brother, drowned while they were swimming along the seashore in Barangay Pagdaraoan here afternoon of July 15.

Two teenagers aged 14 and 12, also drowned at the nearby seashores of Barangay Catbangen on the same day.

Rescuers identified the girl as Felly Rose Berto, 6, a resident of New Lucban, Baguio City, while her brother was identified as Ritch Mel Berto, 11.

The teenagers were identified as Sonny Boy Lebid, 14, and Jayson Punzalan, 12, both resident of Catbangen.

The girl and her brother were reportedly playing along the seashore accompanied by a family member when suddenly a big wave swept them away.

Rescuers said the strong current carried them to a deep portion of the sea. They were missing for several hours before they were found dead.

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POLICE ROUNDUP

Bus driver, conductor shot dead in Ilocos Sur
BY FREDDIE LAZARO

BANTAY, Ilocos Sur – A mini bus driver and his conductor were killed when they were gunned down by unidentified men in Barangay Rizal, Cabugao, Ilocos Sur here on July 13, a belated report said.

SPO4 Medardo Sumagit, chief investigator of Cabugao police station, identified the victims as Rolly Corales y Tabaco, 36, mini bus driver, of Barangay Namruangan, Cabugao and Denden Solis, 21, conductor, of Sitio Lubong Danao, Barangay Dardarat, Cabugao.

Investigation showed the shooting incident took place about 9 p.m. on June 13. The victims had just left a store where they drunk a bottle of beer each and were riding a motorcycle when they were shot by the assailants.

Corrales died on the spot, while Solis was dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.


Drunk laborer swept by big waves, drowns
CAOAYAN, ILOCOS Sur- A laborer drowned while swimming in the sea near the shore of Barangay Puetre, Caoayan, this province on July 16.

The victim was reportedly drunk when he was swept by big waves. Senior Insp. Pedro Rafanan, Caoayan chief of police, identified the victim as Frederick Galope, 23, of Barangay Tamag, Vigan City.

Investigation showed the victim and his friend Emmanuel Frio were having a drinking session at Puerte Beach when the victim went swimming in the sea.

A few minutes later, the victim was swept by the big waves and drowned. Frio tried to rescue him to no avail.

Later, the victim’s body was seen floating near the shore. Rafanan advised residents to avoid swimming in the sea due to big waves spawned by bad weather. -- Freddie Lazaro


Former councilor hit by stray bullets, killed
CABUGAO, Ilocos Sur – A former municipal councilor was killed by stray bullets fired by unidentified motorcycle-riding men who fired at a Land Cruiser vehicle parked in front of his store in Barangay Bonifacio here night of July 6.

The victim was drinking softdrink when the shooting incident happened. SPO4 Medardo Sumagit, chief investigator of Cabugao police station, identified the victim as Ricardo Somera, former sangguniang bayan member of Cabugao.

Investigation showed the shooting happened at about 10 p.m.. The victim was drinking softdrink while some friends, including reelected Councilor Jojie Santella, a certain Masong Somera, Elmo Lopez, and Carlito Corpuz, were having a drinking session in his store.

Police said the unidentified gunmen, riding a Black XRM Motorcycle, arrived and fired several times at the Land Cruiser vehicle parked in front of the victim’s store.

As a result, the victim was hit by stray bullets. He was declared dead on arrival. Sumagit said police investigators found three Cal.45 bullets at the shooting site.

The glass windows of the Land Cruiser were shattered. -- Freddie Lazaro


Man, his son buried alive in artesian well
POZORRUBIO,Pangasinan -- A man and his son were buried alive when soil eroded into an artesian well in Barangay Buneg here.

A report reaching the office of police provincial director Senior Supt. Isagani Nerez stated that policemen in Pozorrrubio immediately conducted a rescue operation in the area to save the two men.

Chief Insp. Frankie C. Candelario, chief of police, led the search and rescue operation for Andres Mendoza y Fernandez, 64, married, and his son Alex, 30, married, both artesian-well construction workers.

They were placing culverts in a 10-meter-deep hole for an artesian well in the backyard of Dominga Elorde y Aquino, 47, married, when the soil eroded, caved in and buried them.

Policemen of Pozorrubio and barangay folk led by Barangay Captain Fereras helped in retrieval operation for the victims but it was too late. Both were already dead. -- Jennelyn Mondejar


Trike driver stabbed, killed by his relative
PIDDIG, Ilocos Norte – A tricycle driver was stabbed to death by an allegedly close relative during a quarrel in Barangay Boyboy, this town, police reported.

Piddig police chief Jonathan Papay said the victim, identified as Saturnino Joel Santos, was fatally stabbed by suspect Gerald Bernardo of the same barangay.

The victim’s wife July alleged that her husband was watching an evening TV show when somebody stoned their house.

When he went outside to confront the suspected stone thrower, a quarrel ensued, resulting in the stabbing.

“It was a second violent death in our family,” said the victim’s mother, Salvacion, who sobbed before newsmen.

Her eldest son was fatally shot by a policeman in 1985. Meanwhile, Barangay tanod Romeo Agustin was reportedly shot and wounded in Barangay Estancia, this town due to an alleged personal grudge.
Police said two barangay residents were tagged as suspects in the incident. -- Jun Guiang


Laoag DWC student injured in oven blast
LAOAG CITY – A first-year hotel and restaurant management student of Divine Word College of Laoag here was injured when an oven used in his class’ cooking lesson exploded on July 16.

Mark Lester Pascual, who was treated at the Gov. Roque B Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital here, said it was an accident when the oven burst in flame as he prepared for the cooking lesson.

Doctors said the victim suffered second-degree burn in the right arm.

The school, through vice president for student affairs Romana Bitancor, asked apology from the victim and his family for the accident. – Jun Guiang


Policemen launch Oplan Bakal, arrest 3 suspects
BY MAR SUPNAD

CAMP QUIRINO, Ilocos Sur – Police arrested three persons last as it launched “Oplan Bakal,” to confiscate illegal firearms and lessen crime like murder.

Senior Supt. Jessie L. Cardona, police provincial director, said first to fall was Caesar Pascua, 36, of Barangay BArono, Tagudin, who was caught possessing an unlicensed gun in Linda’s Video bar, on the national highway, Poblacion.

Cardona said his men, led by Insp. Rolando BAttulayan, seized from the suspect a Cal. 38 revolver with six bullets.

In the second operation, Cardona and his men led by Chief Inspectors Marlo Castillo and Ricarte Marquez searched the house of Pedro Cabaccang in Barangay Dinalaoan, Narvacan town on the strength of a search warrant issued by Judge Francisco Ante.

As the policemen searched the place, one Ernesto Cabaccang yielded a shoulder bag that contained a Cal. 45pistol and live bullets.

Ernesto said the gun was pawned to him.

In another case, Cardona said, a man ran amuck and fired his gun in a bar in Barangay Rizal, Cabugao town, causing panic among the customers.

Policemen led by Senior Insp. William Nerona responded and arrested Alvin Soller allegedly while in the act of creating trouble in the videoke bar and firing his home-made Cal.38 revolver.

Cardona said Oplan Bakal was launched in compliance with a directive of Chief Supt. Leopoldo N. Bataoil, Region 1 police director, to rid the region of “loose firearms.”

Police also reported the arrest of four wanted persons in a series of operations in this province.

Senior Supt. Cardona reported that one of the arrested men was murder suspect, Jess Mark Rola, 26 of Barangay Bantaoay, San Vicente town, who was arrested by Insp. Dennis Riberal, municipal chief of police.

Rora was charged with murder in Criminal Case 6243 filed with Branch 20 of the regional trial court in Vigan City. No bail was recommended.

Second to fall was Artemio Aguirre of San Vicente, Lidlidda town, who was charged with rape.

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BAGUIO CITY

50% of Cordillera areas risky, unfit for habitation, says MGB regional chief
BY DEXTER A SEE

BAGUIO CITY – Thousands of residents in the cordillera mountain ranges are exposed to geohazards.

Engineer Neoman dela Cruz, regional director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said over 50 percent of the mountainous areas in the region are considered geohazards and unfit for habitation.

However, the fact remains most of the indigenous people’s communities are located in the different provinces of the region, and they prefer to build their houses at mountain slopes so that they could easily till the soil for the production of fruits and vegetables for their daily sustenance.

Dela Cruz said the dangers confronting the indigenous peoples include landslides, rockslides, ground subsidence or sinking, and flooding which put the people’s lives in great danger.

At present, the MGB office in the Cordillera is conducting geohazard mapping of all the areas in the region to pinpoint geologically hazardous places to guide the people where to build their houses.

Upon the determination of geohazard areas, the regional MGB will identify the appropriate relocation sites for affected communities.

The concerned local government units will then undertake the relocation of their affected constituents.

The conduct of a massive geohazard mapping was prompted by a series of huge landslides in the different parts of the country that claimed thousands of lives over the past several years.

Dela cruz advised individuals and companies planning to build structures in mountainous areas to first subject the site to geological assessments to determine the possible mitigating the measures that would be undertaken to prevent accidents in the future.

Last year, the MGB declared that some 60 percent of the total land area of Baguio City as geohazard.

With the findings, the city government and other stakeholders must be careful in constructing their structures especially at identified landslides and subsidence prone areas, he said.

Except flooding, Dela Cruz said, low lying areas in the region, particularly those in Abra, Apayao, Kalinga and Lamut, Ifugao are relatively safe.

The MGB has also identified sinking areas on main roads of the region especially in several sections of the Baguio-Bontoc-Banaue Road, popularly known as Halsema highway due to natural and man-made activities.

He appealed to the local government units in the region to strictly implement the recommendations of the geological team to prevent losses in lives and properties in the event of calamities.


Baguio multimillion road controversy:Ebdane orders Cordi DPWH execs: Hasten flyover project
BY DEXTER A SEE

BAGUIO CITY – Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. ordered officials of the Cordillera Department of Public Works and Highways to hasten completion of the programs of work and detailed estimates for the P64 million remaining balance to complete the construction of the controversial flyover project at the rotunda of the Baguio General Hospital here.

Ebdane also ordered DPWH-Car regional director Mariano Alquisa to fastrack the pre-construction works at the project site in preparation for the release of the P64 million to complete the flyover structure.

The DPWH Secretary issued instructions to Alquisa that funds for the completion of the project will be sourced out from other sources of funds to ensure the second flyover in this mountain resort city will be completed before the celebration of its centennial anniversary in 2009.

In 2000, the project cost for the completion of the flyover was only P88 million, P44 million coming from the savings of the P1.2billion Marcos highway rehabilitation project and the rest will come from the DPWH regular infrastructure fund.

However, the stiff opposition of some previous politicians and civic groups here caused the delay in the implementation of the project for the past six years that resulted to the increase in the project cost to P180 million brought about by the unstable prices of construction materials.

Alquisa disclosed that the early completion of the project would be one of the major gifts of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the people of Baguio during its centennial anniversary on September 1, 2009.

The BGH flyover project was proposed by a European urban planner who came to the city in the early 1990s to ease the projected traffic congestion in the area in the near future.

Alquisa added that they are doing their best to comply with Ebdane’s order to ensure that the agency would be able to meet the deadline for the project’s completion in time for the city’s centennial anniversary.

Aside from the P88million earlier budgeted for the project, the DPWH has earmarked P20 million from this year’s national budget to ensure that continuous works will go on so as not to cause inconveniences to the motoring public.

Alquisa appealed to the local residents and tourists especially those inconvenienced by on going construction activities at the flyover area to bear with them because there will be smooth flow of traffic in the area after the project’s completion.


Curfew set for Baguio youth
BY DEXTER SEE AND MIKE GUIMBATAN

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Reinaldo A. Bautista Jr. ordered the enforcement of an experimental curfew for minors, that would begin at 7 p.m. instead of the usual 9 p.m. in the next 30 days to decrease rapidly increasing crime incidents involving the youth.

If the experiment bears positive results, the mayor would recommend to the city council that it makes the 7 p.m. curfew permanent through an amendatory ordinance.

Senior Supt. Moises Guevarra, director of the Baguio City Police Office, said that the earlier curfew hours was agreed upon by various sectors in the city during a recent meeting on the alarming increase in the city’s crime rate.

School officials, parents and teachers groups, and youth organizations, among others, hailed the new curfew and said that this could be a more proactive and definite step in addressing the proliferation of gangs and fraternities in this mountain resort city.

Bautista said various youth groups in the different schools here are considered as gangs, not fraternities, because they refuse to register with school authorities and prefer to operate underground so they could pursue their clandestine activities.

Initially, school officials requested for more police visibility in their respective campuses especially during the time their students enter classes, during noon break and when they go home in the afternoon.

Under the new rules on curfew, the only minors who would be exempted are youths who are accompanied by their parents or guardians and those who would be authorized by their schools to conduct co-curricular activities or practices beyond 7 p.m.

Ordinance No.71, series of 1991, earlier mandated curfew for minors from 9 pm to 5 am daily.

However, the ordinance has been implemented only intermittently or on an “ningas-cogon” basis.

It is usually enforced only after a series of youth-related violent incidents such gang wars occurred.

Guevarra said his policemen will strictly enforce the new curfew order to instill discipline in the youth and to maintain peace in this prime tourist destination.

He said that with the new curfew order, he expects the number of crimes involving the youth as victims or offenders to go down.

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BENGUET

BSU graduate is among top nutrition awardees

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- For the fourth time in a decade, another alumna of the Benguet State University was awarded as one of the 2007 Outstanding Nutrition Students by the Philippine Association of Nutritionists.

Jean P. Pol-as who graduated cum laude with the degree, BS Nutrition and Dietetics in April this year, was recognized for her achievements during her student years.

She has been a recipient of the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines Foundation, Inc.’s (NDAPFI) financial scholarship since her junior year, awarded as Best Nutrition Student in BSU (graduating category), and was President of the BSU-based PAN – Beta Zeta Chapter for SY 2005-06.

The other Outstanding Nutrition Student Awardee is Ms. April Grace Eman of UP Los Banos.

The award is given to nutrition and dietetics students of good scholastic standing who are active members of the PAN Student Chapter and who actively participate in the chapter’s service-oriented nutrition related activities.

Joy Wilwayco of the University of Santo Thomas was awarded as the Most Outstanding Nutrition Student, the highest award given by PAN to students.

BSU was a recipient of this award in 2005 through its student, Bella Basalong.

Pol-as’ medal and certificate of award was received by Dr. Ma. Corazon Somyden, Dean of BSU’s College of Home Economics and Technology, during the 60th Annual PAN Convention in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on July 5.

The PAN is an organization of professionals and non-professionals working for the cause of nutrition. Among its thrusts include improving family nutrition caring practices, providing legislative and LGU support for improved nutrition, and retooling members and affiliates for better understanding of the nutrition situation and improved service delivery.

Students taking up BS in Nutrition and Dietetics organize into chapters. Of more than 40 schools offering the course nationwide, BSU is among the 15 schools with an organized chapter, the PAN – Beta Zeta Chapter.

Incidentally BSU’s PAN – Beta Zeta Chapter was awarded as Outstanding Student Chapter in Nutrition in 2005. Other student chapters who were recipients of the award include Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Centro Escolar University and for the last two years, UST. – Imelda Degay

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MOUNTAIN PROVINCE

More Mt Prov farmers into organic technology
BY JULIET SALEY

BONTOC, Mt. Province - The use of organic fertilizers is now being popularized by farmers, ornamental and fruit growers in Mt. Province.

Mary Buanzi of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist said production of organic fertilizers in the province started in 1985 which was done manually. “Materials used in preparing the organic fertilizers were chopped resulting to low production. It was not even sufficient to supply the OPAG’s nursery.”

To help facilitate production of organic fertilizers to meet needs of farmers, ornamental and fruit growers, the provincial government constructed a fertilizer production center and purchased a shredding machine.

“The shredding machine is of great help in the preparation of organic fertilizer. More cuts are done and shredded materials are finer,” Buanzi added.

A minimal price for composted fertilizer is charged according to classification. A 35 kg bag of screened compost is sold at P200.00 while the 35kg bag unscreened compost is sold at P100.

Buanzi said using organic fertilizers in growing vegetables, rice and citrus is health beneficial compared to synthetic ones.

Organically grown foods have higher nutritional value than commercially grown foods, she added.

Aside from OPAG, the Bontoc-Lagawe Apostolic Vicariate has also been strongly advocating organic farming technology to its lay faithful.

The promotion of this technology was spearheaded by Fathers Marion Buyagawan and Valentin Dimoc. They had conducted series of trainings on organic farming technology in the different mission stations of Mt. Province and Ifugao.

The two priests had also conducted trainings on how to prepare organic feeds for pigs which they themselves have been doing in raising pigs .

An accidental beneficiary of this training was Agnes Saley of Sabangan who happened to be visit her relatives in Sagada when she was invited to attend the seminar on how to prepare organic feeds which was conducted by Fr. Buyagawan.

After the training, she tried it and found out organic feeds were cheaper and safer than commercial feeds.

She pigpens were without much odor. She said it needs patience in preparing this kind of feeds but it also pays in terms of lesser expenses for feeds resulting to bigger income for the pig raiser.

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NUEVA ECIJA

Nueva Ecija court orders recount of Talavera poll votes
BY LIAM ANACLETO

STO.DOMINGO , Nueva Ecija – A Regional Trial Court in this town has ordered the recount of votes in the mayoral elections in Talavera town.

Branch 89 Judge Nelson Tribiana created a three-man revision committee chaired by OIC-clerk of court Marietta Atayde to conduct revision of ballots in mayoral polls in the town won by re-elected Mayor Nerito Santos.

Santos, an ally of former three-term governor Tomas Joson III of Bagong Lakas ng Nueva Ecija (Balane), garnered 20,949 votes to win by 374 votes over comebacking former three-term mayor Manolito Fausto of the Lakas-CMD.

Santos won his first term by beating Fauto’s wife Alma in the 2004 elections.

Santos was proclaimed by the Municipal Board of Canvassers on May 18, despite the objections of Fauto’s counsels.

Santos claimed that Fausto did not file an appeal regarding his proclamation and in fact, could not show proof and notices of the appeal.

Fausto said his camp did file a protest but this was not accepted by the Commission on Elections.

Fausto later lodged an elections protest with the court, claiming massive electoral fraud and irregularities. He said material defects in numerous election returns (ERs) were detected in 111 of the town’s 286 precincts.
Santos, through his counsels Rosita DF Torres and Rodolfo Soriano, has filed a counter-protest involving 98 precincts.

Fausto, through his counsels Bener Bauto and Ricardo Atayde Jr. claimed that the errors in the tabulation of votes in the precincts level would warrant the revision of the ballots and the ERs.

Santos will present nine witnesses while Fausto four witness in the revision.

The court has laid down the ground rules for the recount, including daily revisions from Monday to Friday. It shall be conducted in the session hall under the strict supervision of the court, the revision would proceed even without a part or substitute revisor from any of the two camps provided the chairperson and one party revisor is present.

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NUEVA VIZCAYA

Nueva Vizcaya citrus growers alarmed over spread of deadly pests
BY JOAN CAPUNA

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Citrus Growers in this province’s mountainous town of Kasibu are alarmed over the spread of a viral disease wreaking havoc on their produce.

The disease, called huang long bing or citrus greening disease, is capable of destroying 30 percent of harvestable citrus fruits.

Its spread could potentially destroy the province’s citrus industry, farmers said.

Affected citrus plants experience sudden yellowing of leaves, resulting in low harvests.
Local authorities said the fungal disease affected almost all of the 1,200 hectares planted to citrus in Kasibu.

Felipe Borja, assistant provincial agriculturist, said the spread off huang long bing has become alarming that a team from the agriculture department’s regional office went to Kasibu last Wednesday, July 18, 2007 to assess the situation.

Besides the disease, citrus plantations in Kasibu are also being hounded by the citrus tristeza that was spread by the black citrus virus which destroyed some 50 million citrus trees worldwide in 1981.

Fernando Sison, general manager of the Malabing Valley Multi-purpose Cooperative, said citrus planters in Malabing and other parts of Kasibu town are on top of the situation, having been aware of it since the last quarter of 2006.

Sison said they requested the Bureau of Plant Industry to verify the diseases, and even contacted a virologist from thee University of Taiwan about them.

“The told us that we indeed were positive with the viral disease, but our consolation, they said, was that we don’t have to worry too much about it as it is something we could solve,” Sison said.

Among the solutions being proposed, according to Sison, include the cutting down of infected trees and their immediate replacement with disease-free seedlings.

“This has been done in Malabing and is now being done in Wangal (another village Kasibu),” he said.

Sison added they also banned the self-propagation by farmers of their own seedlings to prevent the spread of the diseases.

Ironically, one of the first to raise the alarm over the spread of the plant diseases was the Australian –owned mining firm Oceana Gold (Philippines), which initially planned to put up more citrus technology demonstration farms in Kasibu.

Lucy Esconde, Oceana Gold environment manager, said the diseases discouraged them from pushing through with tier plan as part of their social development and management program.

The plant infestation has also put on hold the planned expansion of 2, 000 more hectares of citrus farms, said Dr. Elena Sana, assistant professor of the Nueva Vizcaya State University (NVSU).

To help the citrus farmers, Oceana Gold is now coordinating with the Department of Agriculture and the provincial agriculture offices in both Nueva Vizcaya and neighboring Quirino to devise ways to eradicate the diseases.

Aside from this, the NVSU, Kasibu municipal government, the Malabing Valley Farmers Cooperative also created Task Force Sagip Citrus to contain the spread of the citrus diseases.

Sana, however, said the task force direly needs more funds to implement a citrus disease eradication plan.

“We also need a legal entity to have the personality to raise funds for this purpose,” she said, adding that former Rep. Rodolfo Agbayani provided the initial funds.

“Many things are being done to solve the problem, which may indeed become serious as feared if nothing is done to solve it. Our only fears that the news of the disease may discourage financing agencies from extending further assistance to us,” Sison said.

Authorities intend to fully operate the disease detection laboratories donated by the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Laguna by the end of the year.

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PAMPANGA

Pilgrims, tourists flock to Shroud of Turin exhibit
BY MAR T. SUPNAD

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga – This city is set to be the first of four Philippine cities to host the upcoming Shroud of Turin exhibit, where tourists and pilgrims from all over the world are expected to attend to witnesses the exposition

After presenting in New Zealand, Shroud Exhibits International, Inc. presented the Philippine exhibition of the Mystery of the Shroud of Turin, which opened Friday at SM Pampanga.

Revered for hundreds of years as the burial shroud of Jesus Christ, the Shroud of Turin is locked away in a cathedral in Italy, publicly displayed only three to four times a century. On these rare occasions, pilgrims and foreign tourists from all over the world troop to Turin to witness the exposition.

However, Filipinos need not wait until the next official exposition in 2025, as they have the chance to view the replica of this artifact together with over 80 other exhibit items from the collection of Barrie Schwortz, the official documenting photographer commissioned by King Umberto II of Savoy, the Shroud’s previous monarch-owner.

The Philippine Exhibition of the Shroud of Turin will be taken to SM Mall of Asia from Sept. 8 to Dec. 9; SM City Davao from Jan. 18 to Feb. 3, 2008; and SM City Cebu from April 4 to 27, 2008.

Managed by Primetrade Asia, Inc., endorsed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education, and for the benefit of Sisters of the Holy Face Congregation, The Holy One of the Lord Catholic Foundation, Inc., and the Diocese of Paranaque, the exhibit is a 445-minute lights and sound show that also features exclusive video clips and other special artifacts.

The exhibition allows visitors to journey with the Shroud’s history, discover the facts and myths behind the most studied archaeological artifact of all time, and unravel the mystery behind this treasured piece.

Visitors will be taken on a module by module tour of the historical pilgrimage of the Shroud including the Way of the Cross, and the various theories based on art, science, technology, and the bible that aim to shed light on this historical, scientific and ecclesiastical phenomenon.


Pampanga cops nab 17 drug suspects, bust ‘shabu talipapa’
BY MAR T. SUPNAD

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga – Police dismantled a “shabu talipapa” and arrested 17 suspected drug pushers last week at Ilang-Ilang St., Barangay Dau, Mabalacat town.

Senior Supt. Keith Ernald Singian, Pampanga police director, said the busting of the shabu talipapa (market) came as a result of a tip by civilians who noted the proliferation of illegal drugs in the province.

“This came about as a result of information from concerned citizens regarding the existence of a shabu stall where the selling of illegal drugs, particularly shabu, is rampant,” he said.

Immediately after receiving the information, Singian coordinated with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and organized a team, composed of elements from the intelligence branch, Special Weapons and Tactics, provincial mobile group, and the Mabalacat police station for the conduct of the operation.

During the “buy bust” operation, Chief Insp. Jovencio Flores, chief of Mabalacat Police Office, served as ground commander of the team.

Other members of the team acted as backup and security.

The swift operation resulted in the apprehension of the 17 suspects.

Singian said his men posed as buyers and were able to purchase suspected “shabu” for P2,000.

After confirming the existence of the “shabu talipapa” Singian said his men moved in and confiscated pieces of evidence which were documented by Pampanga police investigators.

Charges of violation of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, and illegal possession of firearms and bladed weapons were filed against the suspects.

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ISABELA

Despite logging, Isabela virgin forests still intact, says DENR
BY JOAN CAPUNA

ILAGAN, Isabela – Despite rampant illegal logging all over the province, Isabela has maintained its forest cover at 230,000 hectares, which make it still among the biggest forest areas in the country.

There were also more than 40,000 hectares of second growth forest, which were then the subject of large-scale logging concessions during the 1960s. Together, there were 300,000 hectares of forest cover in the province.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources scored big against illegal loggers with the confiscation of some P500,000 worth of illegally cut lumber abandoned along the Pinacanauan River here last week.

Forester Felix Taguba, provincial environment and natural resources officer here, said the recovery of the forest cover here is a result of the concerted efforts of various government agencies and non-government organizations of reforest the once-denuded forest cover of the province.

Taguba said the provincial environment and natural; resources officer here has con tenuously maintained a nursery to service the needs of this ongoing reforestation effort, which has gained the support of other government agencies and non-government organizations.

The said nursery had also been helpful in filing the requirement of the provincial DENR office in connection with the Department’s Green Philippines Highway program with its area of jurisdiction.

Taguba said this recovery of forest cover is not immediately noticeable in the western side of the Sierra Madre where the bulk of the population is located, what with the seemingly rampant illegal logging going on.

But along the remote pacific coast, on the Sierra Madre’s eastern side, the achievement of the recovery efforts could more fully appreciated, he added.

“The heavy pressure (of the population) is on the western side of the Sierra Madre Ranges, which is where most of the illegal logging is taking place. But if you go to the eastern side along the Pacific coast of Isabela, you will see the effect of what several decades of replanting have done,” Taguba said. “Now, it’s no exaggeration to say that if a plane falls along the eastern side of Isabela, one can’t easily trace it anymore.”

The reforestation efforts were also a result of the creation of the Northern Sierra Madre Biological Corridor along the northern side of the Sierra Madre as a area of protected plants and wildlife.

Taguba said hundreds of species of flora and fauna within the said Bio-Corridor are considered to be highly and endangered. “This is why the area is considered one of the world’s ecological hotspots,” he added.

Meanwhile, Taguba said the confiscation of some 5,799 board feet of prime narra lumber by elements of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Naguillan town last week showed the department’s determination to maintain and protect the forest cover of the country’s second largest province.

Narra, the national tree, is one of the tree species banned from being commercially logged due to its few remaining standing trees and the relatively long time to replenish.

The narra flitches were found abandoned along the banks of the Pincanauan River in Barangay Allingigan here, which is a traditional woodworking site.

“The wood was abandoned along Pinacanauan River where some of our men chanced upon them. Nobody questioned our action despite many people found along the riverbanks,” Raguba said.

The confiscation took place more than a week after Gov. Grace Padaca announced the relaunching of her administration’s campai8gn against illegal logging and all other environmental hazards with the help of the DENR, the Army and the police here.

The confiscated lumber haul, said to be the biggest so far this month and one of the biggest since the start of the year, is not part of the joint team efforts of the provincial government and the other government agencies.

But it may still be considered as a contribution towards the provincial government’s goal of stopping illegal logging or timber poaching.

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LETTERS

Human Security Act ‘dangerous’

A pall of unease, uncertainty and fear blankets us these days. As a people traumatized by the cruelties of Martial Law, we have time and again vowed never to be brutalized by reign of terror.

Lives and dreams were sacrificed in the hope that generations after the Marcos dictatorship would live and breathe in a more humane and just society. We thwarted attempts by post-Marcos administrations to foist iron- fisted rule upon us because as a people we knew our power would let democracy prevail.

Today, past regimes pale in comparison to the viciousness of the Arroyo government with its record of human rights violations. Aping the global police stance of American President George Bush who unleashed the unpopular borderless and all-out war on terror, the Philippine’s commander-in-chief has allowed military agents to go on a rampage of unabated killings and enforced disappearances of civilians suspected to be sympathetic or associated with militant or progressive organizations.

Worse, the government does not discern combatants from civilians and perceives sectors and organizations voicing dissent against an unjust and oppressive system as enemies of the state, rendering them hapless targets for annihilation.

The killings, disappearances and torture persist with impunity. And as if these were not enough heinous crimes of the state against the people, the Human Security Act of 2007 or Republic Act No. 9372 is vaunted by President Arroyo and her militarist advisers as “an act to secure the state and protect our people from terrorism.” Despite major questions on its rationale, implication and impact on civil liberties, this shall take effect on July 15.

We dare ask, who defines terrorism, who brands one a terrorist? Amid the people’s unrelenting call for an illegitimate leadership to step down, in the din of protests over policies that spell further poverty and social injustice, is it not just and imperative for citizens to demand reforms and change in leadership?

Why does the state reply with bullets and an ominous law that will stifle freedom to express grievances? The existing Penal Code suffices for the persecution of criminals and lawless elements who wreak mayhem like the Abu Sayyaf. The enactment of the HSA is a sinister move towards another martial law era; it is an official declaration of GMA’s autocracy. It portends of another dark passage in our history.

Let not this threat paralyze us. Let not the HSA make us cringe in fear, nor drive us into our comfort zones. We must constantly remind ourselves that this government has gone this far only because we are allowing it to trample on our rights as a people, as a community.

Let us find our voice again as we did before the death throes of Martial rule when we mustered strength and courage and found power on the streets. Let us find our voice again as we repelled the evils of corruption, plunder and inept leadership. Let us altogether lift this blanket of doom that dares silence us. Let us resist the Human Security Act!

Tongtongan ti Umili
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Search on for the best gov’t agency program

The Civil Service Commission-Cordillera Administrative Region has issued regional memorandum circular CSC – CAR 2007 – 002 announcing the conduct of the 2007 Search for Best Agency PRAISE Committee in the CAR.

Launched in March 2005, the search is aimed at recognizing best performing agency PRAISE committees in the Cordillera and to highlight the critical role of agency PRAISE committees in the implementation of the honor awards program in the region. The four pioneer Search winners were recognized during the conduct of the 2nd PRAISE committee convention in the CAR on March 2006.

This year’s search for best PRAISE committee in the CAR shall apply to all PRAISE committees established under CSC MC No. 1, s. 2001 in the Cordillera.

CSC MC 1, s. 2006, underscores the imperative existence of an agency PRAISE Committee as an absolute requisite for agencies to nominate or endorse nominations of its officials and employees to the honor awards program while CSC MC 1, s. 2001 requires agencies to submit status reports to CSC on agency PRAISE committee accomplishments.

Under the new search policy, agencies need not be nominated to the search. Agencies shall submit a documentation of accomplishments of the agency PRAISE committee for the period 2002 to 2006. These reports shall be submitted to the CSC Field Offices and shall serve as agency nomination to the Search. Accomplishments prior to 2002 may be included. Entries shall compete regionwide.

Winners shall be recognized on September during the regional recognition rites in Baguio to coincide with the recognition of the 2007 HAP awardees and semifinalists from CAR. Prizes include plaques of recognition, cash and other non-cash incentives.

Entries must be submitted to the Civil Service Commission – CAR field offices on or before July 30.

For inquiries on the Search, please contact the CSC-CAR Search secretariat at Tel Nos. 443-5982 & 442-8012 local 25.

Atty. Lorenzo S. Danipog
Director IV
CSC-Cordillera

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Going hard against illegal squatters in Baguio City

“Baguio Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. has vowed to strengthen the city’s campaign against illegal settlers in the hope of making a dent on the perennial squatting problem,” said an article presumably from city hall.

We hope the city government would indeed go hard against illegal squatters who have mocked the laws and even ejected legal owners from their lands through their sheer number, arrogance and shamelessness with help from their political patrons.

Bautista, in the article, said priority targets for the drive will be the parks, watersheds and the road rights-of-way. The mayor said he also intends to beef up the anti-squatting committee facilitating the implementation of demolition procedures by assigning city administrator Peter Fianza as head of the team.”

Bautista said Fianza, whom he reappointed as city administrator will be supported by two other appointees of the mayor, acting city legal office Melchor Carlos Rabanes and lawyer Ronald Perez whom the mayor eyed to serve as his secretary.

For the past two years, Rabanes reportedly headed the committee composed of representatives from the office of the city engineer, city police, public order and safety division, community affairs division, and Philippine Commission on Urban Poor as regular members with the secretary to the mayor and the head of the city demolition team as ex-officio members.

More on the press (praise?) release: “The mayor said he specifically assigned the three lawyers to said job in the hope of speeding up the facilitation of demolition proceedings normally involving legal issues. As team head, Fianza was given the authority to sign in behalf of the mayor notices of demolition, demolition orders and other issuances and documents prepared and reviewed by the city legal office. The mayor had issued Administrative Order No. 73 delegating to Fianza “the ministerial signing of documents relative to the efforts of the City Government against illegal constructions and squatting activities.”

The city mayor is empowered to order the demolition of buildings and other structures illegally built on public and private lands by virtue of section 455 of the Local Government of 1991, LOI No. 19 and LOI 691 in relation to Presidential Decree No. 1096, Republic Act No. 7279 and other related laws, issuances, rules and regulations and jurisprudence.

The city government should indeed go hard against illegal squatters who have become bold and brazen. If the mayor in sincere in waging the war against squatting in the city, he should also watch out how some honorables in the city government would act. As things stand now, some officials have been blamed for the proliferation of squatters for being “protectors.” Mayor Bautista could also look deep at motives of some people in the city council and city government. He could be amazed at what they have been doing in the past relative to squatting or acquisition of lands.

Name withheld on request

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EDITORIAL

Exploiting children for labor a bane to society

The Department of Labor and Employment has announced the agency would have a more focused action plan to eliminate child labor in agriculture, particularly the worst forms.

Better late than never. In the province of Benguet in the Cordillera, children working in vegetable farms have been documented by Dr. Charles Cheng, as having been exposed to hazardous pesticides which made them sick.

It had been years since the good doctor released results of his study, but to date, the use of harmful pesticides on vegetable plants is still a practice in the province. The use of organic fertilizers had been encouraged by the Benguet State University and the Dept. of Agriculture as a result of Dr. Cheng’s study, but some if not most farmers found it hard to change their practice of using pesticides above the allowable limit.

A DOLE dispatch said partners of the agency from the private sector signed a document -- a “call to action” to eliminate child labor in agriculture during a recent multi-sectoral forum at the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Quezon City.

Labor and Employment Secretary Arturo D. Brion, was quoted in the dispatch as saying the agreement was a manifestation of the social partners’ desire and commitment to combat child labor, especially in areas where children work in hazardous situations.

A message read by Executive Director Reynaldo Ubaldo of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board said the signing of the document was a “great leap forward in elimination child labor.”

The other signatories were Secretary Arthur Yap of the Department of Agriculture, Undersecretary Gerundio Madueno of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Employers Confederation of the Philippines president Sergio Ortiz Luis, Jr., Trade Union Congress of the Philippines vice-president Alejandro Villaviza, and Federation of Free Workers national treasurer Jose Cayubit.

It was noted that more child workers are working in agriculture than in other sectors. About 53 per cent or 2.1 million children out of the four million economically active children 5-17 years of age were reportedly found working in agriculture, hunting, and forestry, based from a national survey conducted by the National Statistics Office in 2001. Yes, 2001. Talk of timeliness in government.

“These children,” the dispatch said, “usually work long hours alongside their parents in farms and plantations and are often exposed to dangerous tools, toxic pesticides, loud noise, and extreme hot and cold weather without protection. The children are also deprived of access to quality education.”

To help the children and ensure success in the drive against child labor in agriculture, the Labor Chief called on the agency’s social partners to extend more efforts in giving quality educational opportunities for child laborers, as well as sustainable employment for the parents.

Ubaldo said full cooperation and support of all sectors, including non-government organizations, would boost the national program against child labor. Brion expressed gratitude and appreciation to program partners for their contributions to the program seeking the elimination of child labor in the country.

He also recognized the support of the International Labor Organization-International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor. The DOLE heads the national child labor committee. Members of the committee include employers and labor groups, NGOs, and local government units.

Let us see what the DOLE and other agencies could do with the agreement. The Dept. of Social Works and Development should also strive better to address child labor and exploitation. In Baguio alone, children barely out of their cribs have been seen asking for alms along Session Road after being forced to beg by their parents. Government should come up with more doable programs than uttering sugary pronouncements.

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BEHIND THE SCENES

Intono mi / Enticing foreign students
Alfred Dizon

It always amazes me when government officials make grand announcements or promises like our favorite Speaker who never ceases to entertain us when he is on TV. He has copycats in the Cordillera but then, we would like to reserve that for another topic. The latest amazing statement was that of the Regional Development Council: “after two tries, autonomy for the Cordillera would now be attained.”

Maybe, our RDC officials have come straight from Disneyland during a junket that they were still thinking of Mickey Mouse and forgot their history and realities of the day. Or maybe, they have become immune to criticisms that they think every barb is a comic joke which could be made into money-making idea.

]You see, the Dept. of Budget and Management approved the release of P15 million from this year’s national budget for a third drive to establish a Cordillera Autonomous Region that people are now saying “Ada manen maitono, kalla pinikpikan (There would be something to be broiled like chicken cooked the indigenous way.) I guess some of our comedians are again formulating magic tricks in creatively using this huge amount of money like making it disappear into thin air.
***
Don’t get us wrong, but in the past, staff of government officials who have been privy to how funds were allocated for the purpose of getting sentiments of the people on past autonomy drives, said these have been naituno. Pigs have been butchered asking Kabunian (God) to show the way in the quest for autonomy. Of course, some so-called tribal elders were reportedly paid just to see how the bile was positioned, utter a few mumbo-jumbo and say all would be well.

To our non-Ilocano-speaking readers, the drift – government money in large amounts without specific details on how to use it could disappear courtesy of a treasurer, an accountant or auditor who knows to weave magic. To erase suspicions that money would be pocketed, the RDC should come up with a detailed plan on how they propose to use the funds in relation to making the region autonomous. I wouldn’t mind attending a media kapihan wherein they could explain how to use the moolah. Maybe, I could improve my math during the occasion.

If they are thinking of going to the US to get the sentiments of our kakailians there on autonomy and justify their spending spree, they better forget it. It maybe a creative idea – a global one at that but then, one shouldn’t discount the investigative powers of those who were left out.
***
You see, when an official embarks on a junket, any foreigner who sees how some of our officials spend money would think twice whether this Banana Republic is really bankrupt. The P15 million autonomy fund is so juicy that according to our bubwit, some of our elected magicians are holding caucuses on how to spend it. I would like to give unsolicited advice on how to spend the money not necessarily on autonomy. But then, I guess, it is late in the day to propose how the money would be used judiciously. You see, the DBM specifically mandated that the fund would be used for the drive to make this region autonomous.
***
The autonomous setup is provided for in the 1987 constitution but another thrust to attain autonomy this time would be a waste of taxpayers’ money. It would be like another shot to the moon using an expensive but broken arrow.

Juan Ngalob, interim chairman of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera and regional director of the National Economic Development Authority is saying his “office will bank on a new strategy to push concerns of the people in the proposed third organic Act for the creation of an autonomous region.”

“Instead of the controversial Cordillera bodies, particularly the defunct Cordillera Executive Board, the Cordillera Regional Assembly, and the Cordillera Bodong Administration, it would be the RDC which would spearhead the drive for a revitalized autonomy movement in the coming months,” he was quoted as saying.

According to Ngalob, the RDC will conduct a survey in the grassroots level to determine what the people want in terms of governance and other aspects of autonomy. He said the results will serve as basis to jumpstart a renewed campaign for autonomy that is acceptable to all sectors.
***
Sure, the RDC can conduct surveys anytime they want. But for sure, another proposed Organic Act would be rejected by the people. I’m betting my last centavo it would not be ratified by regional constituents if subjected to a plebiscite. If I had my way, the money could be used for livelihood or housing projects for marginalized sectors in the Cordillera.

But then, since the part of the money would be utilized, I hear, to buy pigs and hold canaos to appease Kabunian so that he would show us the way to govern ourselves as a region, at least, people can forget their hunger for a while they engage in “cultural talks.” Bring out the gongs! P15 million deserves at least a celebration.
**
I received an email saying the Commission on Higher Education started a program to make the Philippines an alternative educational destination where neighboring countries could send their overflow student populations.

The CHED program seeks "to position the Philippines as an alternative education destination to China or Russia where most Korean students normally go" and complement the government’s tourist promotion program.

In Baguio alone, there are a lot of Korean students and language schools. The country, according to the CHED, is an "attractive alternative" destination for Korean students because of three main factors: the short distance between Seoul and Manila, the affordability of Philippine education, and the Filipinos’ fluency in English.

Already, an estimated 100,000 South Korean students are reportedly enrolled in various private and state-run colleges and universities in the country.

Chinese students are also expected to arrive as the Philippine government and China’s Ministry of Education signed recently a memorandum of agreement "allowing Chinese students who could not be accommodated in China’s universities to study in the Philippines."

According to the CHED, Chinese students find it very attractive to study in the Philippines, considering that they would be paying only half the price ($1,000 per semester in the Philippines compared to $2,000 per semester in China.

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye earlier cited the need to raise the level of the country’s educational system to world standards, but then, one can always dream. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s "initiatives in education" program also targets the four education levels- daycare, grade school, high school and college-- with specific plans and programs for development. These initiatives are encapsulated in her 2004-2010 Medium Term Philippine Development Plan.

Well and good. But government should clean up its act like on education. There are petty bureaucrats who think they own the country. It is a pity when members of this ilk like those in the TESDA make it hard for those who are starting private schools by not granting their accreditation or permits citing insignificant requirements.

Proponents of one school I know were only able to get their TESDA permit after eight months despite submitting all requirements. I should know because I personally followed up the permit and had to play bully just to get it.

One reason why the permit took so long to be approved was because one trying-hard lady in the department said an adverb was not exactly placed in a sentence in the proposed curriculum making it ungrammatical. I didn’t see anything wrong with the sentence so I asked her to define what an adverb was. I said if she could tell me exactly what was wrong with the sentence and explain why, we would change it.

She got red in the face and became speechless. Since I felt her embarrassment compensated for our difficulty in getting the permit, I let it at that. We later got the permit since there were no more petty requirements after that. So much for government bureaucrats.

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STRAIGHT FROM THE BIG CITY

Building global Filipino communities
Ka Iking SeƱeres

Way back in the late 80’s, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) organized Science & Technology Advisory Councils (STACs) in key diplomatic and consular posts abroad, for the purpose of involving the Filipino communities abroad in the national development programs back here.

Originally, the intention was to fill in the vacuum that was created by the abolition by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) of its network of Science Attaches. Eventually however, the goal of continuing with the function of science diplomacy in particular was expanded to cover the broader function of economic diplomacy in general.
**
At that time, I volunteered to join the New York STAC Chapter, and that was how I got involved in national development work again, after I left the University of Life and the Ministry of Human Settlements.

Along with other STAC Chapters worldwide, we were able to bring back projects and technologies to the Philippines which were needed by national development programs back here. From my vantage point as a volunteer in New York, I saw the basic weakness of the global organization, and that was the lack of an enthusiastic receiving end back here. It appeared then that the career diplomats at that time had some difficulties in adjusting to the new genre of economic diplomacy, after working so long in the environment of traditional political diplomacy.
**
To cut a long story short, the network of STAC chapters has practically died already, and along with it died the private sector component of science diplomacy in particular, and economic diplomacy in general.

I am happy to say however that out of that organization, outstanding STAC members such as Dado Banatao, Paco Sandejas and Dennis Mendiola eventually found their own ways to bring back their talents and technologies back to the Philippines, thus infusing new life into our ailing economy. Dado has gone into joint ventures with the Ayala Group, Paco has established high tech companies here, and Dennis is the prime mover behind Chikka.
**
I have no doubt that there are thousands of Filipinos abroad who are willing to help and support national development programs here, if only there is an organized receiving end back here. The success of Gawad Kalinga (GK) in gathering support from Filipino communities is an example of this, and it is very easy to explain that the attraction of GK is its strong receiving end here. Other than that, GK has the added advantage of having well organized communities abroad.
**
On the practical side, it would be reasonable to say that Filipinos abroad would need a receiving end here to get help for their own needs and for the needs of their relatives. Very few would need help in linking with national development programs back here, and that is why we should leave the door open for this possibility. Hopefully, we could popularize development involvement to a point where everyone abroad could just join the bandwagon.
**
Considering the fact that there appears to be no system or procedure that could be used by Filipinos abroad to bring home national economic development inputs to the Philippines, is there a need to put up one? My answer is yes, with a caveat that this time around, it should make use of advanced communications technologies in order to make the system work better.
**
Sendeo Media is a software company that specializes in building online “social communities” composed of members from all over the world. To start with, these communities should be real in the sense that there should be actual people who belong to it already, and the only remaining challenge is to build “virtual” communities online, on top of the “real” communities that are already in place.
**
Next Mobile is a communications company that is licensed to provide inbound and outbound international direct dialing (IDD) services using the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, an innovation that has drastically cut the costs of global communications. They now offer their services to 22 countries where Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are concentrated.
**
Marinduque is the first province that has agreed to join our Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) program. As a result of our training and financing services, we could expect many farms in this province to join the agricultural productivity bandwagon and before we know it, OFWs from Marinduque would also want to jump in.

With the help of Sendeo Media, we could now build online social communities for the province, so that Marinduquenos from here and abroad could keep in touch with each other and help each other in business and in development.
**
With Sendeo serving as their online “meeting place”, Marinduquenos who live in the 22 countries serviced by Next Mobile could also have the added advantage of calling their relatives, friends and business partners back home, for a fraction of what IDD calls would normally cost them. Looking at it in another way, IFS is actually a form of organic farming but is perhaps better, because not all organic inputs are clean and environment friendly. With IFS as an alternative, OFWs could avoid the already crowded businesses such as taxis, jeeps and tricycles.
**
With the advantage of having IFS, it is now actually possible to plan the economy of Marinduque in such a way that it would set targets to increase access to public services and utilities in line with the Philippine Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

What is best for the province to do now is to already measure its benchmarks, so that it could compare its prospective improvements as higher productivity from IFS would increase the personal incomes of its residents.
**
Just like the proverbial field of dreams, I am sure that Marinduquenos from all over the world would visit the virtual online community of the province if we build it. Just build it, and they will come, as the saying goes. When that happens, no one could ever guess how these loyal compatriots would act and move to bring home economic development inputs to their provincial homeland.

For sure, none of them would want to be left behind as their province would move forward, thanks to the fact that their newly reelected Governor, Bong Carrion had accepted IFS early on. Same goes for Eastern Samar, as their reelected Governor Ben Evardone has also accepted.
**
Thanks to the research work of Engineer Bong Yambao, we have found a good use for the lowly “kuhol” that is now considered as a pest in farmlands. Yambao discovered that by drying its meat and pulverizing its shell, we could have a good source of protein and calcium that would now be used as feed ingredients by farmers who would be mixing their own animal feeds.
**
Tune in to "Gulong ng Kabuhayan" on DZXL (558 KHZ) Mon to Fri 6 to 6:45 PM. Join the InterCharity Network. We assist you in starting a small business, in financing and in marketing. Email ike@kaiking.net or text us at 09196466323.Unit 324, Guadalupe Commercial Complex, EDSA, Makati.

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BENCHWARMER

Scenes after the quake 17 years ago
Ramon S. Dacawi

The journey to the grave, set in motion by birth, matters not how long but how. As eulogists remind the living during wakes, it's not the number of years in a life, but the life in those years that counts. And the quality of life is not measured by how thick the cushion one accumulates to ease his own travel but by the degree of comfort he shares with fellow passengers.

In the aftermath of the earthquake devastation 17 years ago last Monday, lives were recounted as deaths were counted. They were actually slices, episodes of heroism and sacrifice triggered by that terrible shake on ordinary lives. And there were plenty of stories to share, as communities affected were not wanting of heroes then.

In the disorder and confusion, some quiet acts of heroism remained unrecorded. In the push towards stability - picking up the pieces, shedding mourning clothes, getting back on track and moving - some were eventually forgotten. Others were kept and remembered each time mid-July comes.

In one rescue site, volunteers working with shoddy tools felt they were digging for eternity. After-shocks just slowed them down, as they had to scamper to safety each time a rubble or damaged building shook. We can't work this way, thought Capt, Jeff Tamayo, then of the Philippine Military Academy. He called the rest of the volunteers working on the upper floors of a building. With dispatch, they agreed on a protocol: Whoever runs each time things get bouncy might as wellquit.

Everyone then returned to the grisly task and somehow found rhythm with the earth's dribbling. Close to two weeks into rescue and retrieval, foreign experts said the possibility for survivors was less than remote. Nonetheless, miner Pablo Binwag, now retired from Philex Mines, had to dig on with his fellow tunnel experts.

After all, there were still bodies to be retrieved. A news account said he followed an itinerant fly to where he should clear debris. In the dark of night, his team at the Hyatt Hotel extricated two survivors. Both were too weak but alive. It’s positive, we have two survivors, radioed Gen. Juanito Aquias, the regional police chief. News reporters waiting in the wings rushed to the scene. Aquias had to lift a photographer for a Hail Mary shot behind the miners and medics, just before the rescue van closed.

The next February, reporters featured Emer Mundo, a blind sweepstakes vendor making his sales pitch before then mayor Mauricio Domogan and people along Session Rd., the city's main street. The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office had set a “Love Draw” to help Baguio and the rest of the earthquake-damaged localities get back to their feet.

Told his photo appeared in the Baguio Midland Courier, old man Elmer said, “Wen, nakitak ngarud ket gwapo ak gayam. Alaen yo man manen picture ko ta no marupaan dak tattao ket gumatang da.” Just three days after the temblor struck, Lakay Elmer felt he it was time to resume his normal rounds.

He tap-tapped his way to city hall where he met two reporters typing dispatches on the ground floor. The two had positioned themselves near the open door, ready to rush out in case of an after-shock. Outside, people were lining up for relief goods. "Tiket, tiket," Elmer announced his entry. The two journalists stared at him, dumbfounded. Then they looked at each other and shook their heads.

“Sino met ngata ngay ti gumatang ti tiket ita nga tyempo?,” Willy Cacdac of the Philippine Star wondered aloud.

"Maka ketdi ta ipila ka tapno adda met iyawid mo nga relief goods.” “Madik ti lilip," the Lakay Elmer answered, revealing his tribal origin. "Kayat ko aglako manen ti tiket." His message began to sink in, and then took its toll. As if on cue, the two newsmen emptied their pockets and bought, save for some loose coins for the jeepney fare for home.

“Ayan mo ngay ken ania ti inaramid mo idi naggin-gined,” Willy asked. “Daak idiay Magsaysay, sango ti Tiongsan, aglaklako,” Elmer recalled. His voice was normal, yet sounded like he was about to pull another clincher. "Nagbuteng diay agtrap-trapik nga pulis ket timmaray. Kapilitan, syakon a ti nagtrapik."

Again, Willy popped into a grin. He then rushed out and talked to somebody in charge of the relief distribution. He came back and handed to Elmer an apple-green, hand-me-down sweatshirt.

“Munsingwear dayta,” he said and then shifted his questioning to a one-in-million probability: "No mangabak daytoy tiket mi, ania ngay aramidem iti balatom? "Igatang ko ti kamera ta nalaklaka samet agpotograper laengen idiay Burnham," Elmer replied.

Elmer, who got used to vending by his lonesome in Bangued, Abra and San Fernando, La Union, has not been around for quite sometime now. A friend, also blind, revealed the old man succumbed to illness last year. . Willy used to spend each July 16 at the Busol Watershed, to help kids plant memorial trees for those who died in the quake. Last year, five days before the date, he followed Elmer.

Last Monday, Willy's widow Rency and daughter Ma'an joined kids, teachers and his media colleagues at Busol. The two women repaired to a secluded patch of green and talked to Willy, before a growing pine sapling planted in his memory. (e-mail: rdacawi@yahoo.com for comments)

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LETTERS FROM THE AGNO

Crisis appointees, crisis peso
March L. Fianza

I always believed that sensible leaders make sound decisions and provide chances for civil service personnel to lead in their field. We wish to point out that there are hundreds of qualified men and women in government who can bail Filipinos out from their difficulties today. But we seem to be lacking of it as the President appoints Secretary Angie Reyes to the Department of Energy.

It may be that his fourth appointment to the cabinet is not of his own liking, so he may not be faulted if he is indispensable. In the words of Sen. Jinggoy, the President is beholden to Reyes. One thing, he is at liberty to use the worn-out statement that echoes in my mind: “I am at the mercy of the appointing authority.”

Reyes, after serving as army chief, was appointed to the defense department. He quit the post after disgusted soldiers who participated in the so-called Oakwood Mutiny demanded for his resignation. He later became head of the interior and local government, then environment secretary.

Former Manila mayor Lito Atienza, another ally of the President, takes over the DENR. Atienza is opposed by environment groups as he is being blamed for cutting a number of mother trees in Arroceros park years ago, where a building for teachers now stands. He said they planted trees to replace those that were cut, although it is without doubt that only God can bring back the life of fully grown trees and the benefits that they provide their killers.

We are not in any crisis as to say that we are lacking of able appointees. There are hundreds of them in the civil service who rose through the ranks. But Reyes and Atienza are indispensable men as they have yet to be paid fully of their contributions to her presidency. Whatever those contributions may be, I do not mind anymore. As the song goes, “a lesson too late for the learning,” but that is what people get for revolting in Edsa, thinking that this country will be better of even if it will not.
* * *

Weeks ago, this column talked about the news headlines about a stronger peso. Last week, Malacanang was elated saying that the peso has gained more power against the dollar. Strong or not, the peso according to families of OFWs, does not buy more food and commodities. Our OFWs who are greatly responsible for the surge in the exchange rate feel cheated.

On TV news, one foreign worker said her family used to receive P50,000.00 which buys more than the P40,000.00 that her family receives now that the peso has become stronger. Why is this so? It is because prices of commodities do not stop to go up. In effect, Malacanang’s strong peso is bogus.

As we said in our column weeks ago, the pronouncement of a strong peso seems artificial since its effects are not felt – not even by the rich. To check the peso’s strength, why not try the market. Find out the truth that your peso is unable to buy more. You do not even have to buy a thing. Just go ask the sari-sari store tindera about prices and she will tell the truth about government lies and statistics. What Gloria does not feel, the tindera feels.

In fact the pump price of one fuel distributor in the country has gone up fifty centavos again last Wednesday. In June, we experienced four consecutive increases in fuel pump prices with a total of two pesos and 49 centavos from P36.14 per liter to P39.82 per liter. If the rest of the fuel distribution companies also increase their pump prices, may the Good Lord be with us. – marchfianza777@yahoo.com

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THE MOUNTAINEER

Cordillera dilemna: Autonomy or regular region?
Edison L. Baddal

July 15 is yearly commemorated as Cordillera Day and for this year it was the 20th foundation day of the Cordillera Administrative Region.. On this historic date, Cordillera provinces were yanked out from Regions I and II and were made to comprise the CAR two decades ago. Executive Order 220 issued during the Aquino Regime formed the legal basis for the political and territorial aggrupation.

The upshot of a tradition-inspired sipat agreement between the then fledgling Aquino Regime and erstwhile Cordillera People’s Liberation Army leader Conrado Balweg, this political structure was established to pave the way for the eventual formation of the Cordillera Autonomous Region.

The latter was ensured and guaranteed under Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution. With the resounding ratification of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on Feb. 2, 1987 (which dislodged the much-hated 1973 Marcos Constitution), autonomy for the provinces constituting the Cordillera Administrative Region became sort of a perquisite for the native Cordillerans.

The constitutional assurance of an autonomous Cordillera region (juxtaposed with the establishment of an Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao) then led to the installation of appropriate political bodies.

These were intended primarily to formulate measures, policies, relevant rules as well as effective mechanisms that will operationalize it. These bodies like the Cordillera Executive Board, Cordillera Regional Assembly and Cordillera Bodong Association. They were also envisioned to work hand in hand for Cordillera autonomy.

Nevertheless, the efforts of the aforementioned bodies dismally flopped when autonomy was rejected in two plebiscites held at large in the entire Cordillera in 1990 and in 1998. Ifugao alone voted for autonomy in the 1990 autonomy plebiscite but the Supreme Court ruled that one province could not legally constitute an autonomous region.

In the 1998 autonomy plebiscite, autonomy was soundly rejected in all six provinces and Baguio . In the second plebiscite, the highest votes were registered in Abra and in Baguio City which was expected as these are populated mostly by lowlanders.

With the twin setbacks, the temporary set-up of the CAR was threatened. In fact, there was even a plan some years back to revert the CAR provinces and the city of Baguio to their mother regions.

Thanks to vigorous lobbying, moves of high officials whose who were prejudiced against the Cordilleras were neutralized. The sinister plan was shelved for the meantime though the threat continues to seethe and any anti-Cordillera bigwig can always waken up the imprudent proposal.

As things stand on the status of the CAR is concerned, it is in an awkward situation. Its status is a paradox as it is purportedly a region yet an administrative one. For political expediency it has no regular personality. Therefore, neither an autonomous region nor a regular region, its status hangs in limbo. Its fate virtually hangs in the balance. This is the consequence of the sound rejection of autonomy in past plebiscites and thus the quest for an Cordillera Autonomous Region reverted to square one.

Any attempt at this time for a third plebiscite might be an exercise in futility as can be gleaned from the collective sentiments of the voters in the aforesaid plebiscites. To illustrate the uncertain status of the CAR, it is like a car with its front wheels hanging loosely from a road edge with the rear wheels restrained by slabs of stone to prevent it from hurtling down a ledge.

Corollary thereto, the pestering question that begs to be asked with regards to the uncertain status of the CAR is this: What now CAR – autonomy or regular region?
****
Fact is, those who fervently campaigned for autonomy on both occasions were traditional politicians whose reputations and probity were questionable. The Cordillera electorate then, except in some areas, were cynical of the motives of the politicians. They were downhearted and distressed at the mumbo-jumbo of the politicians who strongly pushed for Cordillera autonomy.

Particularly disheartening was the manner in which they kept pounding in their sorties the supposed billions of pesos that will be given by the national government in the event that the Cordillera Autonomous Region materializes.

The passion displayed by the latter during the campaigns for autonomy only buttressed the collective perception of the electorate that they were only eyeing the dangled largesse to line and bulge their pockets. The largesse as the main point of the campaigns galvanized the people’s opposition to autonomy as there was the common fear of the harpies getting enriched further in the process.

The involvement of the politicians in the campaign for autonomy during the two plebiscites vitiated the moral ground of the campaign. Also, they were skeptical if the national government could really provide the promised billions for the region once it becomes autonomous as the ARMM experience proved otherwise.
***
Relatively, there was no doubt the aggrupation of the Cordillera ethnic provinces into an administrative region was nothing short of an achievement by the Aquino regime. For aside from ethnic similarities, it has been the age-old hue and cry of the Cordillerans to be grouped together into one region after they were arbitrarily clustered with lowland provinces during the Marcos dictatorship.

This collective aspiration was borne out of the fact that Cordillerans have been generally treated with disdain, demeaned, harshly discriminated and looked down as second class citizens by lowland Filipinos when CAR provinces were spread out to Regions I and II.

This discrimination almost bordered even on bigotry in some areas. In fact, in regional offices where some Igorots were lucky enough to be employed, promotion was hard to come by as lowlanders were always preferred over ethnic Cordillerans as the latter had no stalwart kingpin to back them up. Furthermore, among all Igorots who were employed in regional line agencies in La Union before, only one was lucky to be promoted as head of office.
***

The installation of CAR and the subsequent set-up of regional offices enabled a plethora of talented and gifted Igorots to became regional directors, division and section chiefs in different regional field offices. This was a far cry when CAR provinces were clustered with lowland provinces.

Hence, it was with the formation of CAR that native talents were maximized and sharpened which could have been impossible had the CAR provinces remained with their respective mother regions.

With the foregoing adverse scenario, the planned reversion of CAR provinces to those regions where they formerly belonged is definitely out of the question. Besides, as past experience showed, the BIBAK (Cordillera) provinces were stalled in their development efforts as well as initiatives in almost all aspects when they were still under their respective mother regions.

As Cordillerans, they were then treated as second class citizens. So too were development concerns for the BIBAK provinces which were virtually relegated to the background as they were often least prioritized in the allocation of funds. The lowland provinces always got the lion’s share in funds from the national government.

The obvious reason being that those charged with allocating development funds were lowlanders who were political minions of the powers-that-be who were themselves lowlanders. Having been subjected then to various sorts of condescending and pejorative ways of the lowlanders towards highlanders (Igorots), it is not probable now that Cordillera provinces would opt to go back to their mother provinces.
***
With EO 220 as the only legal basis propping up the CAR, it is high time our solons mull the possible future of the CAR as a region. The legal ground having been rendered flimsy with the rejection of autonomy on two counts, this merits serious attention on their part.

They could not regard this cavalierly as it is the fate not only of the region that is at stake but that of all the native Cordillerans. The harrowing pain of discrimination under the patronage of lowlanders in the mother regions should be eschewed at all cost.

One obnoxious face of discrimination was that a native highlander could not freely enter nor be openly welcome in a lowlander’s home in the past. This was because there was always the tinge of inferiority accorded to the former which was the reverse when a lowlander entered a highlander’s home.

In the latter case, the former was feted like a special guest with all the amenities proffered. This could be the reason why local officials in the highland municipalities of Abra maintained rented rooms in Bangued. They railed against this because when lowland officials visited the highlands, they were generally treated and accommodated well.

At this juncture then, with autonomy being a no go having undergone two rejections, the only recourse is to have the CAR converted into a regular region. This is the most coherent option now rather than reversion of the LGUs of CAR to their mother regions. It’s either a regular region anytime for CAR or nothing. I do hope that other native Cordillerans share this sentiment.

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CALIFORNIA DREAMING

The bitterness and sweetness of education
Benito ‘Jong’ Molintas Jr.

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet” is an adage from Aristotle which I tried my best and likewise a relative to clobber into the mind of my cousin Philip for him to be cognizant that education is relevant in everyday undertakings.

Indeed, he was finally prodded to make up his mind and study. The ESL subject is his stepping stone to a higher ladder of education which will surely let him explore and enjoy the essence of life, more so that he is here in United States.

What is the bitterness in studying and what is the sweet part of it? Bitterness is when you are taken away from your daily activity. You are responsible to read a lot so you can cope up with the discussions, home works, projects and all. But, the good part of it; when you are a professional, you can live better and enjoying life.

I accompanied him to his classroom and asked the instructor if I could sit in. Good my request was granted. I was so impressed with this accommodating and energetic ESL instructor, Fred Morales, who is from Puerto Rico.

I was contemplating that my cousin’s instructor would be a white one, but it turned out to be our brother -- a Hispanic influenced race, teaching English. I was so impressed with the determination of the 10 students who were mostly Mexicans.

I was talking to one student, Felipe and asked him in front of his friends why he was going to school. They said that he was so lucky because his father didn’t want him to work but to concentrate instead on his studies.

Certainly, with reason, Puerto Ricans and other non-white people residing in the US want to get rid of discrimination or oppression because of their tongue or race. Apparently, discrimination is still everywhere. If you are a Filipino, you are considered a house helper or a caregiver.

A Mexican is usually stereotyped as a carpenter, construction worker or other jobs that are belittled. But, with the strong-willed personality of the students I met, someday they would be able to stand taller than those discriminatory Americans. They can prove to their selves that they deserve better. It is because of this that they sacrifice to attend classes so they can become respected people someday.

This reminds me of our Philippine representative, who went to London for a speaking competition. She became a winner by beating contestants from English- speaking countries. This showed we could beat the “native” English speakers in their own game and we Filipinos should be proud of that.

She said we are the builders, the architects, doctors and educators building the future of other nationalities and races in different parts of the world. The young particularly, should study hard so they would be guided to the right path – a destiny made not through luck but hard work and sacrifice.

Participating in the class discussion was an unforgettable privilege. The instructor asked me some questions which I blissfully answered. I was eager to answer because I missed something which I was used to do – teaching English.

Sharing my experiences with these students during their break – courtesy of Mr. Morales, was not hard as they could communicate in English as compared to those times when I was teaching in Korea International School in China.

It was really difficult. It was just fine for the high school level because most of the students studied in London or other parts of the world. During the seat in, I was asked to awaken their past lessons in reading and grammar. It was really an experience particularly when the instructor said, “even if they are English speakers, they commit a lot of grammatical errors like the superlative good, which they say is “bestest.” But then, even if we are English teachers, we also commit blunders. I say, it is just a matter of practice.
***
In the Philippine setting, we are known to be the top English speaking country in Asia. But, can we prove it? I appreciate those folks especially in the countryside who were educated by the Americans during their regime -- they are able to work in the offices and educators in the schools, but now?

Even if some have master’s degrees, few could gland good jobs because they couldn’t speak English well. I challenge the youth to study hard and someday you can go to other countries and be a promising professional, if we can’t apply our better profession and education in our country.

Let us be determined to set our minds to the harsh realities so they we can face life squarely. Indeed, education, as Aristotle said, “is sweet.”

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