Residents in danger of avalanche, health risks: Baguio dump site folk file case vs mayor, execs

>> Monday, April 27, 2009

By Dexter A See

BAGUIO CITY -- Residents of Barangay Irisan here and neighboring barangays of Tadiangan and Nangalisan in Tuba, Benguet have petitioned the Regional Trial Court here to order the city government to stop dumping over 280 tons of waste at the 5.2-hectare Irisan open dumpsite.
Respondents were Baguio City Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., administrator Peter Fianza and Environment Officer Romeo Concio.

The residents stated in their petition for injunction with temporary restraining order, these officials violated their rights instead of averting more environmental and health disasters they have been suffering for so long,

The dumping, they said, poses serious threat to their health and lives.

The petition was filed by residents due to insistence by the city government to dump mixed garbage at the closed dumpsite.

This, after the dumping of the waste in Capas, Tarlac was stopped due to lack of funds.

The petitioners said the city government violated provisions of Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act as it continues to use an open dumpsite instead of a sanitary landfill or a controlled dump facility.

The residents said the law provides the operation of open dumpsites should be for a period of only five years since RA No. 9003 took effect in 2000.

The city government is operating the dump way beyond the deadline, they said.

Despite objection by thousands of residents of Irisan and neighboring villages in Tuba, Benguet, the city government forcibly opened the gates of the dumpsite and started dumping mixed waste to abort an impending garbage crisis in this city.

The residents of Tadiangan and Nangalisan opposed resumption of dumping at site because the city government failed to rehabilitate the dump, particularly the dilapidated retaining wall.

They said they feared garbage will spill over again in their villages during the rainy season.

They were the ones, they said, who cleaned the “garbage avalanche” that flowed down to their places the past years and the city government never extended any assistance to them.

Irisan residents barricaded the dumpsite last year temporarily stopping the city from further piling up garbage in the dumpsite which should have been closed since 2006.

They said the city government failed to adhere to earlier agreements with the city government to finally close the dump.

On April 1, residents claimed in their petition before the courts, the city started dumping garbage again at the site sending them into frenzy considering that rains were causing garbage to flow down to residents near the dumpsite down Tadiangan.

Potable water sources have also been affected, they said.

George Dumawing lawyer for petitioners said even after dialogues that forged agreements that the city government will stop dumping, this was breached.

But city officials argued the dumpsite had been closed but occasionally opened for rehabilitation.

Work there, officials said, were rehabilitation work and not dumping.

For more than nine months now since the “closure” of the dump, Baguio’s garbage had been hauled to a private-run sanitary landfill in Tarlac but budgetary constraints reportedly hampered the hauling.

Residents however said dumping never ceased posing “an eminent danger of erosion, other environmental and health hazards such as water pollution and diseases.”

This, despite the fact that the city mayor and officials, “know for a fact that the dumping is a clear violation of Section 37 of Republic Act 9003.”

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No witnesses: Fertilizer scam, politics eyed in Cagayan DA chief’s slay

By Joan Capuna

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Police are looking into angles on the ambush-slay of the Cagayan Valley regional director of the Department of Agriculture in Solana, Cagayan last April 14 as lawmen are having a hard time looking for witnesses who could provide information.

Motives bring eyed include Lasam’s being a witness against former DA undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante in the P728-million fertilizer scam.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, earlier bared plans to call for an investigation into Lasam’s slay, noting a number of people who had knowledge of irregularities at the DA also suffered the same fate.

There have been speculations, too, that Lasam’s killing could have something to do with a land dispute or his supposed plans to seek elective office in next year’s polls

Senior Supt. Moro Lazo, Cagayan police director, said they have been trying to convince farmers in Barangay Basi West, Solana town who could have witnessed how two motorcycle-riding gunmen waylaid 63-year-old Dr. Gumersindo Lasam.

Lazo said the farmers were already busy at work, thus some of them could have seen the ambush that happened around 7:15 a.m.

No one, however, has come forward to help in the investigation, apparently out of fear that the perpetrators may go after them.

The most senior among the country’s DA regional directors, Lasam, who was set to retire in 2011 after more than 30 years in government service, was ambushed while he was on his way to his farm.

Lasam, also concurrent DA assistant secretary for Northern Luzon, succumbed to bullet wounds in the back and left chest while being treated at the Saint Paul Hospital in Tuguegarao City, two hours after he was waylaid.

Meanwhile, Director Leopoldo Bataoil, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Northern Luzon, who was in the region for consultations with members of Task Force Lasam, said investigators were looking into all possible motives behind the killing.

“We don’t have any concrete lead yet but we will assure everybody, especially the bereaved family, that we are determined to get to the bottom of this case,” said Bataoil, reiterating President Arroyo’s offer of a P1-million cash reward for information leading to the arrest of Lasam’s killers.

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GMA kin 'third force' in Ecija governorship race

By Liam Anacleto

CABANATUAN CITY– A “third force” is in as an alternative in the grudge rematch between reelectionist Gov. Aurelio Umali and a member of the Joson clan.

The electoral aspirant is a relative of President Arroyo is seeking the governorship of Nueva Ecija to break the hold in the Capitol of Umali and the Josons.

Former three-term congressman Pacifico Fajardo, said he is seeking the governorship following what he said was the mounting public clamor from various sectors in the province.

Fajardo, a former administrator of the Light Rail Transit Authority and mayor for three terms of Palayan City, said he has given it serious thought after several groups of Novo Ecijanos, including farmers, non-government organizations and municipal mayors from Umali’s Lakas-CMD and the Josons’ Bagong Lakas ng Nueva Ecija (Balane), expressed support for his candidacy.

Fajardo, who sits as director of San Miguel Corp., is the father of Undersecretary Lorelei Fajardo, the Deputy Presidential Spokesperson and presidential assistant for Central Luzon. The younger Fajardo is the goddaughter of Ms Arroyo.

The former congressman was OIC-mayor of Palayan City in the late 80s. In 1992, he ran for congressman in the vote-rich third congressional district and won over former Supreme Court Justice Hermogenes Concepcion Jr., then considered a political heavyweight.

He was reelected in 1995 and again in 1998, then becoming the only congressman in the province to complete three terms.

At that time, the Fajardos were considered the third most powerful political dynasty in the province, after the Josons and the Villareals.

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Baguio-based thrift bank ordered closed

BAGUIO CITY -- The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has ordered a Ba¬guio-based thrift bank closed and placed under receivership of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.

This developed as Permanent Plans, a pre-need firm headed by the Madrigal-Vazquez family, has decided to take the option of settling planholders’ claims because of serious financial problems.

BSP deputy governor Nestor Espenilla said in Manila the financial problems of Accord Savings Bank Inc. were “deep and long-standing” and made worse by ownership dispute.

“We have been working with them quietly to put a proper rehabilitation program in place but ultimately to no avail,” Espenilla said.

“It hasn’t helped that there were ownership disputes,” the BSP official said.

Espenilla said Accord had to be closed because it was insolvent and no longer had the financial ability to continue operations.

“The bank couldn’t continue to operate without exposing depositors and creditors to further risk,” Espenilla said.

The BSP has been closing down one rural bank after another since late last year, but not all these banks were related to the Legacy Group, whose owners had reportedly duped clients through pyramiding schemes.

Espenilla said Accord was not related to the Legacy Group.

The BSP’s order, contained in Resolution 55, was dated April 19. The order covered Accord’s nine branches.

The BSP resolution indicated that Accord was shut down because of the failure of its owners to “restore the bank’s financial health and viability despite considerable time and due process given to them.”

The BSP order said the bank had insufficient realizable assets to meet liabilities and could not continue in business without risking the interests of depositors and creditors.

As the receiver, the PDIC would immediately start the inventory of accounts as well as take over the bank’s records to ensure that they were not tampered or lost.

Meanwhile, movie director Ben Yalung said he had already sold his holdings in the shuttered thrift bank.

“I have nothing to do with Accord Savings Bank. I sold all my holdings in the bank to (Rolando) Alaya-ay,” he said.

Yalung was reacting to news reports that the bank was still under his name.
“In fact, Alaya-ay who bought the entire bank failed to pay the entire amount until recently,” Yalung told the media. He declined to reveal the amount involved.

The deed of sale between Yalung and Alaya-ay was executed in 2006. The bank had declared assets of over P500 million prior to the sale.

Alaya-ay also controls EquityLink Holdings Inc., which also operates the Philippine Farmers Bank Inc., Winbank Inc. and Growers Bank.

The Chamber of Thrift Banks (CTB) said Accord had been dropped from its membership roster because of the bank’s failure to pay dues as well as submit a statement of condition (SOC) and other documents proving its financial health.

At Malacañang, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said they would do everything to assist uniformed personnel victimized by the Legacy scam.

“Rest assured that the government will do what it can to see to the needs of all the victims of Legacy, not just soldiers and policemen,” he said.

End of Permanent
Juan Miguel Vazquez, president of Permanent Plans and head of the Philippine Federation of Pre-need Plan Companies Inc., said they decided to wind down operations and stop selling new plans as early as February. The company, however, informed the SEC of its decision only last March 18 even as it stopped selling on Feb. 5.

“Permanent Plans no longer believes in the viability of the pre-need pension industry as currently set up and given the adverse operating environment it finds itself in,” Vazquez said.

The Securities and Exchange Commission issued Monday night April 20 an order prohibiting Permanent Plans from selling new plans. This followed the corporate regulator’s announcement during the resumption of the Senate hearing on the state of the pre-need industry that it had stopped Prudentialife Plans from selling pre-need plans.

Vazquez said the SEC order caught him by surprise, saying such was unnecessary given the company’s decision not to sell new plans anymore and limit its activity to servicing claims of its planholders.

“That is why on April 15, 2009 instead of filing a capital build-up plan, Permanent Plans formally informed the SEC that it has chosen to avail of the early and orderly settlement of claims option,” Vazquez said.

But SEC found Permanent Plans’ proposal unacceptable.

“Our concern is the protection of all our planholders and settle promptly and efficiently their claims,” Vazquez said.

“A major factor to this decision was a 35 percent loss of our trust funds last year as a result of the ongoing global financial crisis,” he said.

To make up for this for loss, Vazquez said Permanent Plans would beef up its capital and trust funds with additional assets in order to settle fully all the claims of planholders. “We expect to pay all our planholders in the form of cash and other assets in the next four to six months.”

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Thousands of residents to lose lots: CA ruling on expanded land titles in Baguio hit

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY -- Thousands of residents in three barangays in this mountain resort city stand to lose their lands which they have been occupying since time immemorial if a decision of the Court of Appeals upholding the legitimacy of the expanded titles of a subdivision developer is enforced.

This fear was aired as the CA was asked to reconsider its decision that granted Prime Peak Properties application for the validation of titles to a total of more than 51 hectares of land in Barangays Dontogan, Sto. Tomas Apugan and Outlook Drive here.

Juanito Ampaguey, head of the Register of Deeds in Baguio City, who also filed a motion for reconsideration on the controversial CA decision, said the appellate court erred on relying on a judgment by the Regional Trial Court because the RTC decision was based on an incorrect law, Section 108 of Presidential Decree 529.

The motion for reconsideration stated the CA cannot apply the doctrine of conclusiveness of judgment in the case since there was no identity of parties as well as causes of actions.

Moreover, it cannot be said that expansion of the areas in the questioned titles has been settled or passed upon by the RTC as it merely corrected the tie lines.

Ampaguey argued there was no statement in the RTC decision that the petitioner, Prime Peak Properties, has complied with the Public Land Act – that is if indeed Gloria de Guzman bought the five lots cited in the judgment.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Hakim Abdulwahid, the CA reversed for lack of merit its earlier decision that denied the application of Gloria de Guzman, general manager of Prime Peak Properties, for validation of titles to at least 51 hectares of properties in Dontogan, Sto. Tomas Apugan and Outlook Drive.

The decision granted De Guzman’s application for validation of the five controversial expanded titles which cover 511,586 square meters.

The same titles were said to be expanded from the original area of 10,300 square meters to include at least 51 hectares.

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Revocation Tadian lot titles pushed

By Glo Abaeo Tuazon

TADIAN, Mountain Province – The Regional Development Council urged the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately cancel Certificates of Titles of lots located at barangays Bellang and Masca, Sayapot, Dacudac here specifically titles of Nelson Palid, Agosto Palcacion, Peter Ngawa among others.

The RDC said the titles were issued despite the fact that the lands were covered by the watershed protected area.

In 2008 the RDC created a team to deal with the matter. A consultation among affected folk was conducted on July 22, 2008 and a memorandum of agreement was made to declare the area as Dacudac-Balili Watershed.

A joint resolution of the two mentioned barangays was agreed upon to this effect. In said consultation it was also established that lots of Palid and Palcasio were outside alienable and disposable lands based on existing land classification maps thus meriting cancellation of said titles.

In Dec, 3, 2008, the investigative report and draft complaint were submitted to the Office of the Solicitor General.

The RDC, in Resolution CAR-07 s.2008, said cultivation of these lands as assessed has caused the pollution of the water source of the community aside from the fact that the status of the lands in question were not within the purview of the A&D zone of the public domain.

The RDC said these reasons among others were the bases why these were in question.

With the joint RDC-Regional Peace and Order Council meet recently in Bontoc, the council agreed these matters have to be taken with greater caution and that the courts and DENR have better jurisdiction on the matters of its legality.

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Comelec urged: Reconsider decision on Abra poll protest

Comelec urged: Reconsider decision on Abra poll protest
By Mar T. Supnad

BANGUED, Abra – Two candidates for provincial board members in May, 2007 elections in this province have asked the Commission on Elections to reconsider its decision declaring their opponents as winners in the polls.

Dr. Ramon O. Dickson and Rogelio Elvena, both candidates for board member, filed a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec en banc after the Comelec’s 2nd Division issued a decision proclaiming Serafin Alzate and Patrocino Abaya as winners in the election for provincial board members.

“How come that the case was suddenly decided by the 2nd Division when it was pending and filed with the 1st Division? We were not even notified, and that no hearing was held at the 2nd Division,” Dickson and Elvena said.

They expressed surprise why the number of their votes recorded in the provincial canvass was different from the number of votes listed in the municipal canvass, saying their official votes were supported by the authenticated copies of the election returns and statement of votes obtained from the Comelec’s statistical division.

They stated in their motion for reconsideration that when their votes were transferred in the statement of votes, the numbers sharply decreased, and the votes of Alzate and Abaya increased astronomically.

They noted the dissenting opinions of Comelec Chairman Jose A.R. Melo as well as that of Commissioner Armando C. Velasco, saying “the mathematical computation by the provincial board of canvassers is incredulous and mind-boggling.”

“For the Honorable Commission en banc to close its eyes on the unquestioned, undisputed figures would certainly give premium to poll violators and fraud orchestrators and would relegate and bury the truth into the dust bin of political and electoral frauds,” stated Dickson and Elvena.

They quoted the opinion of Commissioner Velasco who said, “this is plain and simple ‘dagdag bawas,’ the evil practice which, for some reasons, the Commission seemingly cannot entirely eradicate. Now that it rears its ugly head again, the Commission must not and should not ignore or bury it under tons of misplaced condemnation for technical and procedural breach, rather the Commission must use all the weapons in its legal arsenal to finally wipe out this pernicious scheme and prosecute its plotters and perpetrators.”

The tabulation presented in the dissenting opinion of Chairman Melo and Commissioner Velasco shows that Elvena gathered 3,675 votes, Dickson had 5,393 votes, Abaya tallied 4,244 votes, and Alzate had 4, 947 votes.

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Isabela bank loses P.8 M to robbers

BURGOS, Isabela – Police are still trying to establish identities of five men who robbed a rural bank here of P800,000 late night of Aoril 19.

Ruben Carganilla, stay-in bank security guard of the Mallig Plains Rural Bank Inc., said two of the robbers, who entered the bank from the back, tied him and his wife at gunpoint, while the rest ransacked the vault of cash.

Reports said robbers also struck at another bank in Aurora town, about 30 minutes away, almost simultaneously. – Joan Capuna

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MORE NEWS, BAGUIO CITY

Mayor signs subdivision monitoring ordinance
By Felicidad Aquino

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. last week signed into law city council Ordinance No. 19 series of 2009 known as "The Subdivision and Development Monitoring Ordinance” which provides the guidelines in monitoring subdivisions and other real estate development projects in the city.

Authored by Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr., the measure also provided specific penalties for violations that will be committed by developers and proponents of all subdivisions, constructions and real estate development intended for sale or for commercial purposes that require the issuance of Preliminary Approval and Locational Clearance (PALC), Development Permit and/or Final Approval of Subdivision.

Cosalan said the guidelines are needed “to ensure strict compliance to existing laws including the city zoning ordinance and other applicable local resolutions and ordinances.” The measure mandates the creation of a monitoring team to be headed by the city planning and development office and the city council committee on urban planning, lands and housing as chair and co-chair respectively with the following offices as members: city engineer’s office, city buildings and architecture office, city administrator’s office, city assessor’s office, city treasurer’s office and a representative from the private sector.

The monitoring team will conduct periodic inspection of all subdivisions to which the city issued the requirements, will receive and act on complaints of violations, recommend to the city council and the city mayor the imposition of fines and penalties and will recommend to the city council legislative measures for effective monitoring of development activities of the real estate developers and contractors.

The measure also sets penalties for failure to secure the needed requirements. For the simple subdivisions, fines ranging from P500 to P3,500 were set while for complex subdivisions, the penalties range from P1,500 to P5,000.

The following acts will be the grounds in the imposition of fines:

*failure without just cause to secure, before any development activity, any of the clearances, permits or approval that are required by law or regulation from the city council or the city mayor;
*failure to comply with any or all of the conditions set forth in the clearances and permits;
*failure to complete development or non-provision of the required facilities, non-compliance with the approved development plan or altering plans without the approval of the city council;
*misrepresentation of facts and circumstance relative to the project at the time of application or monitoring; and
*failure to comply or obey orders issued by the city council or the city mayor after monitoring the existence of any violation.

The following will be the procedures:
*Upon receipt of a complaint of information of violation, the monitoring team shall immediately notify the violator and inspection shall be conducted;
*If there is any violation found, the fines and penalties for the first offense will be immediately applied;
*A 90-day period shall be given to the developer/owner/contractor to comply with the all the requirements or cause the needed mitigating measures. The fines and penalties for the second offense shall then be applied for any non-compliance;
*A 60-day complying period shall be set prior to the application of the fines and penalties for the third offense;
*Failure of any developer or owner to secure the necessary permits and clearance or to institute mitigating measures within 30 days after the third offense shall constitute just cause for the cancellation of the locational clearance, development permit and business permit and a recommendation for the revocation of the License to Sell and Certificate of Registration will be made to the Housing Land Use Regulatory Board;
*Violators may seek reconsideration of extension only on instances where the period of implementing mitigating measures is justifiably not enough provided any request for extension shall be exceed 90 days.


300 lawyers to file suits Vs government agencies
By Dexter A See

BAGUIO CITY April 24 – At least 300 lawyers from different parts of the country will be simultaneously filing a string of cases against numerous government agencies for their continuous failure to strictly implement 300 environmental laws come June 5, 2009, in time for the celebration of World Environment Day.

This was bared by lawyer Antonio Oposa, a famous environmental lawyer, at the close of the Forum on Environmental Justice sponsored by the Supreme Court (SC) which was held at the University of the Cordillera (UC) here.

According to Oposa, it is disheartening to know that only one percent of the 300 existing environmental laws is being implemented, thus, unscrupulous and enterprising individuals and groups are now making a killing in irresponsibly exploiting the country’s rich natural resources.

Oposa hailed the SC for initiating a timely move to enhance the implementation and conviction of environmental laws which could help spell the difference on how the people will preserve and protect the environment.

Aside from the simultaneous filing of cases against government agencies and companies violating the country’s environmental laws, Oposa disclosed on October 24, 2009, which is in time with the celebration of United nations Day, numerous individuals and groups will also be filing cases against individuals, groups and governments all around the world to serve as a wake up call for humanity to be vigilant about what is happening around them and to protect Mother Earth.

The staunch environmental lawyer, claimed it is not yet too late in the day to wage an all-out war against environmental degradation, the land, air and water, thus, it is high time to inform and educate the people that there exist laws that protect the environment for the sake of future generations of humanity.

Oposa emphasized those in the legal profession must be attune to existing environmental laws that need to be strictly enforced for the sake of the future generations, thus, the handy work of the SC in initiating a simultaneous forum on environmental justice deserves the highest recognition.

Results of the forum in Baguio, Iloilo and Davao showed the lack of awareness among stakeholders as well as the lack of information and education campaign on existing environmental laws.

Oposa explained the present generation seems not to think of the coming generations of humanity, thus, they work at will in exploiting the rich natural resources of the country thereby depriving the children and the unborn children of their right to a balanced and healthy environment.

Prior to the simultaneous filing of cases against government agencies and companies violating environmental laws, Oposa’s group will be holding a series of organized commitments in the Visayas and Mindanao to solicit the active participation of lawyers in the nationwide crusade that could merit an environmental revolution among the people.

What is needed now, Oposa asserted, is a true revolution for environmental protection.


93 % poor Cordi kins enrolled in PhilHealth
BAGUIO CITY -- More and more poor families in the Cordillera continue to enjoy higher PhilHealth benefits as 93.5 percent of the entire poor population or 81,426 families are enrolled under PhilHealth’s Sponsored Program through the initiative of various local government officials and and private sponsors in the Region.

The figure translates to around 423,415 beneficiaries who are covered of quality health care services from PhilHealth’s accredited hospitals and professionals including Rural Health Units.

PhilHealth Cordillera made this announcement as PhilHealth is actively gearing towards Universal Coverage or coverage of 85% of the entire population by October this year, four months earlier than the February 2010 deadline set by RA 7875.

As of March, Ifugao and Benguet achieved Universal Coverage as data shows that the two provinces registered into the program more than its entire poor population with 195 and 123 percent respectively.

Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao sponsored 9,980 families while mayors and some barangays of the Province registered 4,959 families into the program.

This figure also includes 6,587 families under the provincial government which is awaiting renewal.

In Benguet, Gov. Nestor Fongwan in partnership with the province’s 13 mayors enrolled 8,688 of the province’s 11,963 members, thus making them and all their qualified legal dependents eligible to avail of preventive and curative services from the province’s twelve accredited regional helath units and hospitals nationwide.

In Kalinga 13,378 families were enrolled under initiative of Gov. Floydella Diasen, mayors and Rep. Manuel Agyao.

In Mt. Province 9,986 poor families have been given access to health insurance through Gov. Maximo Dalog in partnership with mayors. An additional 10,353 families in in the province are expected to be enrolled this year with the implementation of a tripartite memorandum of agreement among local government unitis and the office of the congressman.

In Abra, 27 towns enrolled 14,490 or 64% of its poor families enjoying maximum allowances for hospitalization benefits that include room and board, drugs and medicines, x-ray laboratories and others, operating room fee including subsidies for professional fees.

Abra Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin is enrolling an additional 2,300 families into the program, making the Province’s total enrollment to 16,790 families or an estimated 87,308 individuals.

In Apayao, 53% or 6,520 poor families are now bonafide members through the auspices of Rep. Elias Bulut Jr.

Another 2,575 poor families are enrolled as facilitated by the province’s six town mayors.

Baguio City has a total enrollment of 835 poor families, short of 443 families in achieving Universal Coverage.

PhilHealth Regional Vice President Elvira C. Ver has urged local chief executives to partner with PhilHealth in providing quality health care.

She said with the LCEs’ investment in health care, the LGUs constituents are protected by the country’s premiere social health insurance provider.


Baguio mayor says Irisan dumpsite activity in order
By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. Thursday maintained that the activities the city is undertaking at the Irisan dumpsite are all in order and are not violating any law.

In his Ugnayang Panlungsod press briefing last Thursday, the mayor upheld that the dumping of residual wastes at the trash site is part of the rehabilitation project to complete the closure and development of the area and not just a thoughtless move to reopen the dumpsite in the absence of a facility after the cessation of the hauling operation at Capas, Tarlac early this month.

The mayor’s statement was in reaction to the move of Irisan and Asin barangay residents to petition the court to stop the city from dumping the wastes at the facility. The residents sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order to stop the city from further dumping and when this was denied by the court, are now seeking the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.

The mayor assured that the city has been exercising caution in dealing with the trash to safeguard the health and lives of the residents in the area.

The mayor said the residual wastes are indeed being used to fill up recessed or open spaces in the dumpsite with the construction of the perimeter fence around the area.

“I think leaving the piles of garbage uncollected poses more danger to our city,” the mayor said.

The mayor also lauded the city council for approving a string of measures for the waste management program of the city during their sessions held from April 20-21 in Clark, Pampanga.

The measures are:
*To urge the City Environment Management Office to continuously collect the wastes as long as these are segregated;
*To authorize the CEMO to hire emergency workers to do the segregation;
*Support the immediate approval of the agreement between the city and the Department of Agriculture to bring the city’s biodegradable wastes at the Baguio Dairy Farm for a P300 per ton tipping fee. The body also authorized the city mayor to enter into the agreement and to pay the necessary fees subject to availability of funds;
*For the city to send a representative to negotiate with San Fernando City for the hauling of a limited amount of wastes in its facility;
*For the CEMO to identify areas where small-scale composting can be done in coordination with the barangays;
*To request the mayor to prioritize the rehabilitation and operationalization of the common materials recovery facilities in Irisan;
*To urge the concerned department particularly the Bid and Awards Committee to fasttrack the bidding for the construction of the MRFs and for the purchase of composting machines;
*To urge barangays to organize into cooperatives for the waste livelihood project;
*Urging the General Services Office to consider the direct acquisition of necessary equipment for the solid waste management program from the DOST;
*For the CEMO to assist the barangay clusters in identifying the sites for MRFs:
*For barangays without cooperatives, the barangay officials are urged to undertake the waste management program; and
*To allocate funds for giving rewards to barangays that comply with segregation policy and those that implement composting. The body also adopted the composting practice of punong barangay Fred Fangonon as one of the alternatives in managing biodegradable wastes.


Cops looking for grenade lobbers; 2 killed, 5 hurt
BAGUIO CITY – Police are still trying to establish identities of perpetrators who lobbed a grenade at a group of youngsters here dawn Monday resulting to death of two young men.

Vio Joe Mendoza, 20 and Deo del Mundo, 21, died at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, six hours after they were rushed with five others due to serious shrapnel wounds from a fragmentation grenade.

Police said suspects aboard a pick-up truck lobbed the grenade around 3:30 a.m. along Leonard Wood Road.

The five other victims were: Rey Anthony Carino, 19; Raul Andrade, 21; Jerome Santos, 22; Mark Dave San Mateo, 23; and Lyndon Neocina, 23, all students.

Jocelyn Mendoza, mother of the 20-year-old victim urged police to solve the case so justice will be served.

Explosives and Ordnance experts said the grenade was an MKII-type fragmentation grenade, the same type lobbed against students inside a computer shop in November 2007 by gangsters because of a heightened rivalry between youth gangs in the city.

Twelve students were hurt during the incident including a notorious youth gang leader in the city.

Police said victims were drinking along the famous “Stairs To The World” steps leading to Upper Session Road from Leonard Wood Road when another group passed by and lobbed the grenade.

Police are now tracking down the suspects who were reportedly aboard a pick-up truck.

Rival street gangs here reportedly engaged each other violently daily along major streets in the city and barangays.

Crime watch groups in city barangays proposed

BAGUIO CITY - Councilor Nicasio Aliping Jr. proposed an ordinance institutionalizing the Neighborhood Crime Watch Program by establishing the Baguio City Crimewatch Council and branches in the barangays..

Aliping said the council is needed to design concrete programs for the community to be actively involved in preventing and fighting crime by encouraging all neighbors to work together against neighborhood crime and to cooperate in law enforcement.

As proposed, the council will be composed of the city mayor as honorary chairman, the Sangguniang Panglungsod chairman of the committee on public safety and human rights as chairman and chief executive and presiding officer , the ABC president or his authorized representative, the Sanguniang Kabataan Federation or his authorized representative, the city director of the Department of Interior and Local Government, the chief of police , and the president of the Senior Citizens Federation as members.

Aliping said the involvement of the barangays in the anti-crime campaign can be achieved by “organizing the residents into as much crime watch groups as would be possible in every barangay.”

The barangay crime watch groups will be headed by the Barangay Crime Council to be composed of the barangay captain as chairman, the Sanguniang Barangay chairman on the Committee in Peace and Order as vice- chairman, the barangay SK chairman with the barangay Chief Tanod and the President of the Senior Citizens Association in the Barangay, duly accredited with the barangay council, as members.

“These crime watch groups will supplement the over-all crime prevention and control program of the Police Organization and the Barangay Tanod Brigades with the main purpose of creating communities whose members protect each other and serve as an efficient intelligence network combating and suppressing lawlessness in their respective areas of jurisdiction,” he said.

The Neighborhood Crimewatch Unit would be known as “Timpuyog”. -- Zarette Baniya A. Marie Vennis Hamchawan F.Judith Tugade


Low prices of goods at ‘diskwento’ fair
BAGUIO CITY -- A government-initiated market fair where manufacturers can sell their products at discounted prices has been set at the Baguio Convention Center grounds on May 2 to 4.

Manila-based and traveling manufacturers will offer big discounts on bread, canned sardines, noodles, processed meat products, cooking oil, milk, beverages, toiletries, medicines and other basic and prime commodities.

Dubbed “Diskwento: Presyong Panalo sa Mamimiling Pilipino,” this Malacanang initiated project is aimed at easing consumers of rising prices of basic commodities and to increase the buying power of the peso.

Preparations for the sale have been made by the Department of Trade and Industry regional and provincial offices with more than twenty manufacturers in order meet the expected demand of market goers.

Local SMEs and producers will also join the fair and other products under the One-Town-One-Product program to be sold at a discounted rate.

The program is a component of the non-wage benefit program that helps easing the financial burden of low-income earning Filipinos.

Successful "Diskwento" fairs have been held nationwide. -- Art Tibaldo


SM job fair set May 1
BAGUIO CITY -- The SM Supermalls will celebrate Labor Day, May 1 with a nationwide job fair at its 33 malls around the country.

SM Malls have been a catalyst in creating employment and business opportunities in all areas where they are located, and the job fair is one way in which it can do its share for the community.

Held in cooperation with the Department of Labor and Employment, the Public Employment Service Office, and local government units, the fair aims to honor the Pinoy Working Force, and to help as many people as possible find employment.

With more than 800 companies participating, the event will encourage people to join the Proud Pinoy Workforce.

At SM City Baguio, booths will be set up and staff from different companies will be ready to receive applicants and enlarge their work force from 10 a,m. to 5 p.m.

Among those participating are SM companies like SM Supermarket, SM Cinemas, SM Foodcourt, SM Department Store, SCMC Administration, SM Surplus, Toy Kingdom, Intercontinental Hotels Group and Baguio Country Club.

This is the second nationwide job fair that SM Supermalls organized. In last year’s job fair, a total of 822 companies participated.

A total of 29,617 registered, of which 70% were hired.

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MORE NEWS, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE, IFUGAO

MP, Ifugao mayors sign accord for dev’t

BONTOC, Mountain.Province – “Clustered” towns of of Ifugao and Mt. Province will launch the “Palmanaba” on May 11 to boost economy of these areas.

Mayor Charles Cattiling of Alfonso Lista, Ifugao, who is president of the group said Palmanaba stands for the towns of Alfonso Lista, Mayoyao, and Aguinaldo in Ifugao and Paracelis, Natonin and Barlig in Mountain Province.

According to Cattiling, Palmanaba aims to assist low income municipalities to consolidate their resources for economic entrepreneurship development and improvement.

Moreover, Palmanaba has adapted the “one village, one product” approach as a means of establishing and strengthening enterprise and livelihood development efforts of the six municipalities.

National line agencies serve as advisory board to Palmanaba including congressmen and governors.

Signatories in the framework plan are the six mayors of the towns: Cesar B. Rafael, Paracelis; Ronnie Lumayna, Mayoyao; Federico Jugulad Jr., Aguinaldo; Patrick D. Baguingan, Crispin Fias-ilon, Barlig and Cattiling. -- Shirley S. Dayao and Welington Gayob

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MORE NEWS, IFUGAO

DPWH, Ifugao execs agree on quarrying to hasten proj

BANAUE, Ifugao – Officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the provincial government here agreed on a regulated and limited quarrying at Mt. Polis to satisfy the aggregate requirements of contractors implementing the State of the Nation Address (SONA) projects of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the cordillera so that they could meet the prescribed deadline given by the President by the end of this year.

However, Gov. Teddy Baguilat said the provincial government will not issue the permit to conduct limited quarrying activities at Mt. Polis until such time that Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. shall have secured clearance from Malacanang and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) amending the Proclamation declaring Mt. Polis as a protected area.

In his recent visit here, Ebdane recognized the role of the municipal and provincial governments to protect the environment of the province being a prime tourist destination as well as the cease and desist order of issued to all quarrying activities in the area.

But he assured municipal and provincial officials that he will make the necessary representations with Malacanang and DENR to immediately amend the Proclamation declaring Mt. Polis as a protected areas and allowing limited and regulated quarrying activities in the area for the sake of the immediate completion of the SONA projects, particularly the 39-kilometer Bontoc-Banaue section of the Halsema highway.

“We will just allow the quarried area to be stabilized by the removal of loose rock formations to prevent further erosion. The limited quarrying activities would cover the aggregate requirements of the SONA projects in the province,” Baguilat stressed.

Ebdane informed local officials the President wants all her SONA projects in the region to be completed by the end of this year so that people and tourists will be able to enjoy the benefits of improved infrastructure in the countryside in the future.

Earlier, Presidential Management Staff (PMS) chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. asserted the need for both the local and national governments to work out “win-win solutions” in order to comply with the presidential directive to work 24-7 to make sure that the SONA projects will be completed as ordered.

The rehabilitation of the Halsema highway from Baguio City to Banaue, Ifugao is part of the Cordillera Road Improvement Program (CRIP), the blueprint of the development of road networks in the region, which was crafted by the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera in the early 1990s.

The RDC-CAR is calling for commuter vigilance so that the implementation of all SONA projects will be completed in due time with the highest quality so that the 20-year struggle of the region for national recognition of the need to improve cordillera roads will not be wasted.

Baguilat said they respect the desire of Malacanang to complete the project the soonest but it should not be to the extent of sacrificing the state of the environment, in the province so that the future generations will have something to treasure. -- Dexter A. See

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Road construction pollutes Tuba rivers
By March Fianza

TUBA, Benguet -- Excavated soil from a new road opening which connects to Asin road at Barangay Tadiangan here has literally covered about half of a portion of the Bucan river, a tributary to the touristic Asin river.

Messrs. Cortez Dagupen and Paquito Moreno, engineers from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s environmental management bureau estimated the road excavation last week to be about 200 meters in length and about 2.5 meters wide.

They fear that with volumes of soil polluting the rivers, marine life has been destroyed and to a certain degree water qualitydownstream is not so healthy now as before the construction.

“We can not also discount the fact that animal and human existence has been distressed economically because Bucan and Asin rivers are sources of livelihood, aside from being the swimming paradise for both local and foreign tourists,” the EMB officials said.

Alarmed road-users, passers-by and local residents gave conflicting reports saying the earth-moving by heavy equipment of the Yubos construction is a “farm-to-market” road funded by a politician in Benguet. However, residents are not aware of any farm in that area.

Unidentified residents reported that the new road led to a proposed subdivision. But, Tadiangan Punong Barangay Zaldy Guileng said the road opening is a “private undertaking” by the contractor that leads to his lot property.

All these speculations however, were erased after DPWH-Benguet District Engineer Alberto N. Gahid told this writer that George Yubos, the son of the contractor informed him that the “road opening is a municipal project of Tuba.”

EMB Engr. Dagupen who saw the project immediately conducted site investigation and required the contractor to clean the area of loose soil of which the latter agreed.

He said Yubos signed a commitment to put in place mitigating measures to protect the river from pollution during their technical conference last month. In a follow-up inspection last week, Dagupen saw that the area was cleaned up.

“But still, heavy soil erosion was not prevented from spilling into the Bucan and Asin rivers and polluting the same because loose soil in the excavation were washed down by rainwater,” Dagupen observed.

When asked why the project started without the contractor securing first an environmental compliance certificate, the EMB engineers said ECCs are only required for earth-moving that is about 200 meters or more.

They said the problem with the government policy is that contractors whose projects are less than 200 meters in length but require earth-moving by heavy equipment, no longer report their activities to authorities because they are not required to do so.

“This is always the case, even if the earth-moving project is beside a river, as in the case Bucan and Asin rivers in Tuba,” Dagupen said.

Another technical conference will be conducted in the presence of the contractor where an environmental impact statement (EIS) will have to be agreed on.

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MORE NEWS, CAGAYAN

Plane crash victims’ remains retrieved; rescuers trapped
By Armand Tamaray

TUGUEGARAO CITY– A 42-member rescue team is now trapped at the crash site of an Islander twin-engine plane in the jungles of Cagayan amid the bad weather that has caused flash floods in some lowland areas in the province, the Office of Civil Defense said Thursday.

The rescuers, composed of policemen, Army men and civilian volunteers responsible for the discovery and retrieval of the remains of the seven people on board the ill-fated plane, were reportedly still in the vicinity of the crash site in Sitio Baying, Barangay San Miguel in Baggao town.

Melchito Castro, OCD director for Cagayan Valley, said two helicopters tasked to fetch the rescuers were having a hard time to land because of bad weather.

Chief Supt. Roberto Damian, Cagayan Valley police director, said the military helicopters would wait for good weather before taking off to the crash site, about 15 minutes from the city airport, to fetch the rescuers.

The plane owned by Chemtrad crashed last April 2 while on its way to Maconacon, Isabela, claiming the lives of its pilot, Capt. Tomas Yañez, co-pilot, police major Ranier Ruiz, and their five passengers.

The police-led search teams recovered late afternoon April 20 all seven bodies of passengers and crew of the ill-fated light plane that crashed on April 2 in Baggao town in Cagayan.

Chief Supt. Roberto Damian, Cagayan Valley police director, said the bodies were taken to the landing zone several hundred meters above the crash site in the jungles of Sitio Baying, Barangay San Miguel.

The remains, Damian said, were transported by helicopter to Tuguegarao Airport for laboratory identification tests at the police regional office in Camp Adduru, Tuguegarao City.

Those to be identified were the bodies of Captain Tomas Yañez and his co-pilot Captain Ranier Ruiz, and their passengers Councilor Abelardo Baggay, SPO2 Rolly Castaños and Celestino Salacup, all from Maconacon, Isabela; barangay chairman Joel Basilio of Sapinit, Divilacan town, also in Isabela; and James Bakilan of the Divilacan  local government.

“(The) bodies were entangled in the wreckage (which was strewn at an altitude of more or less 5,200 feet) necessitating the transport of special tools,” said Damian, also the head of the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council spearheading the retrieval efforts.

The search teams only located the remote crash site on April 14, almost two weeks after the Chemtrad plane went missing while on its way from Tuguegarao airport in Cagayan to Isabela’s coastal Maconacon town on April 2.

The twin-engine Islander plane was believed to have slammed into a mountain ridge in Baggao while trying to avoid bad weather on the way to Maconacon town.
“Low cloud cover and rains in the crash site hampered retrieval operations,” said Damian.

Police have asked the help of relatives in identifying the seven passengers who died after the ill-fated Chemtrad plane crashed along the heavily vegetated area of Cagayan.

Cagayan Valley (Region 2) police director Chief Supt Roberto Damian said the bodies on board the search and rescue helicopter of the Philippine Air Force were already in an advanced state of decomposition.

Damian said the bodies were laid at the landing area of the airport while waiting for a priest to bless the remains. -- CL



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MORE NEWS, ILOCOS NORTE

21 foreign traders in Ilocos get SVEGs

LAOAG CITY – At least 21 foreign businessmen in Ilocos Norte were granted special visas by the Bureau of Immigration during the launch of the BI’s Special Visa for Employment Generation program here at Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino on April 22.

Foreigners availing themselves of the job generation visa are exempt from securing re-entry and exit permits whenever they enter and leave the country.

Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan said foreign businessmen employing at least 10 or more full-time or regular Filipinos could qualify for the SVEG, an indefinite visa that the government introduced to encourage more foreign investors and generate jobs for Filipinos amid the financial crisis.

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MORE NEWS, BULACAN


Sy-Alvarados clarify Bulacan State University scholarships
By George Trillo

MALOLOS, Bulacan – Provincial Vice Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado and his wife, Rep. Marivic Sy-Alvarado, denied that ulacan State University incurred P7 million in losses due to unpaid scholarship grants.

In a statement sent to media outfits through Rep. Alvarado’s chief of staff Sherwin Samson, the Alvarado couple said it was not them as benefactors, but the Commission on Higher Education that pays for tuition of their scholars.

“The standard operating procedure in scholarship grants for state colleges and universities is that the benefactors do not pay the tuition of their beneficiaries but the CHED,” Samson said.

As standard operating procedure, Samson said, “There is always a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the CHED and the sponsoring members of Congress for the former to include in its annual budget an account for the latter’s scholarship fund for inclusion in the General Appropriations Act that is mandatory (to be) deliberated upon during congressional budget hearings.”

“The money does not even pass through the hands of the Sy-Alvarados because the payment comes from the CHED and directly picked up for collection by the BSU which is the payee of the check,” Samson said.

In a four-page audit observation memorandum dated last Feb. 9, Commission on Audit supervising auditor Bernardo Garcia said the BSU, one of the province’s leading tertiary education institutions, has accumulated account receivables amounting to P7,158,809 from several scholarship benefactors.

Of the P7,158,809 unpaid scholarship grants, Garcia said P5,846,543 has been incurred from 2007 to 2009 by the scholars.

COA records showed that the Sy-Alvarados’ scholars failed to remit to the BSU the tuition and other expenses for the second semester of school year 2007-2008 and for the first and second semesters of school year 2008-2009.

But Samson said that as early as September 2008, “the money has been lying idle in the CHED under Special Allocation Order No. SARO-BBMB-B-08-0008982, and ready for release under Order No. CHEDRO-111-2009-21 dated Oct. 29, 2008.”

“It was only on March 30, 2009 that a Landbank San Fernando, Pampanga check No. 1405248 bearing the amount of P6 million dated March 27 for a March 24 release of payment order was picked up by the BSU (or two days before the story came out),” Samson said.

Samson said the audit observation memorandum is not an “official audit report” because there was no formal audit yet.

In the statement, Samson attached a copy of a BSU certification issued last March 31 by BSU cashier II/collecting officer Helen Valentin indicating that the BSU received last March 30 a Landbank check (No. 1405248) dated March 27 for P6 million drawn against the account of the CHED, Higher Education Development Fund (HEDF) regional office III representing the allotment for the Sy-Alvarados’ scholars in the university.

COA earlier had warned that the BSU scholars would be trimmed down to prevent continuing financial losses by the university.

“We recommend that the accounting division closely monitor the collection of these scholarship grants to avoid an accumulation which result in bad debts. A written agreement with scholars’ benefactors must be executed to bind them with their obligation and ensure prompt payment,” the COA said.

The COA also recommended that the BSU’s accounting division prepare an accounting entry to recognize the unpaid amount of P7,158,809 “as accounts receivable and accordingly adjust the affected income account.”

“The BSU officials should adopt a concept of a legally binding contractual agreement with the university and such benefactors concerning such grants. The list of benefactors comes from private and public sectors, majority of whom are elected officials,” the COA said.

“While scholarship contracts (are) entered into between the student and the university, no agreement is signed between the benefactor and the university which could lead to possible abandonment of the benefactors’ responsibility and subsequent loss of income to the university,” the COA said.

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MORE NEWS, PANGASINAN

Lingayen’s citihood bid boosted
By Mar T. Supnad

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan- The move for citihood bid of this capital town has gained ground with support from businessmen, provincial, local and the local folk who are pressing smooth conversion of Lingayen into a component city.

Mayor Ernesto “Jonas” C. Castaneda, Jr., said Gov. Amado Espino committed to support citihood bid of this town which he dreamed of becoming a premiere city in the future.

The only town chief executive who ran unopposed due to the all out support of the local leaders and the residents here, Castaneda said conversion of this capital town into a component city is in the offing with the improving economic development the town has gained for the past several years as proven by the sprouting like mushroom of various business establishments, tourism facilities, increased income of the town, among others.

Castaneda said Lingayen is now more than qualified to become a city and can even surpass the other towns that have been converted into a component city..

Castaneda said Lingayen started from a poor 4th class municipality in 1992, then became gradually an economic tiger since he assumed the mayorship in the early 90s after what he called initiating revitalizing the economic programs aimed at upgrading the living conditions of the people here, livelihood for the poor-farmers and fishermen, among others.

Breaking what observers said a political record, Castaneda ran unopposed last May, 2007 elections, after all local leaders and politicians here had united as one and moved for the running unopposed of Castaneda.

Castaneda cited the pouring in of various investments opportunities, the rising of a number of hotels, restaurants, the arrivals of tourists-foreign and local- and the sprawling of various infrastructures in and around the town as the concrete proof that Lingayen can now be qualified to become a city.

The soft-spoken mayor has also cited the peaceful environment of the town as he lauded the police leadership under Supt. Harris Fama for their efforts in maintaining peace and order in the capital town which is one of the most peaceful towns in the country.


Gov hits renaming of P’sinan Agbayani Park

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Second district Rep. Victor Agbayani has criticized a provincial board ordinance renaming Governor Aguedo F. Agbayani Park here to Governors’ Park, saying its authors showed their ignorance of the law.

Agbayani, who also served as governor for three terms, said his father, Aguedo, was the longest serving governor of Pangasinan – for a total of 17 years.

In a press statement, he said the park was named after his father through an ordinance in 2005 for “historical, not political” reasons.

He said the proposed resolution approved on first reading on April 20 showed its authors’ alleged ignorance of the law as Section 13(d) of the Local Government Code “prohibits the changing of the name of public places within a 10-year period. – Jennelyn Mondejar

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MORE NEWS, PAMPANGA

Chopper with Mar forced to land
By George Trillo

ARAYAT, Pampanga -- A five-seater helicopter bearing Sen. Manuel Roxas II was forced to land on a ricefield here morning of April 23 after encountering an hour of zero visibility and struggling to avoid clouds and Mt. Arayat.

In a statement, Roxas’ office said the senator left the Manila Domestic Airport at around 8 a.m. aboard the private helicopter, which was expected to land at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac some 40 minutes later.

But thick clouds due to the inclement weather obstructed the pilot’s view of the landing area.

At around 9:30 a.m., the pilot, who was not identified, found an opening in the thick clouds and landed the aircraft safely on a ricefield in Barangay Arenas near Mt. Arayat.

Roxas’ office said a “good Samaritan,” resident Dennis Sula, helped the senator travel to Tarlac City, where he was scheduled to address graduates of the Tarlac State University.

He arrived more than two hours late for the 9 a.m. graduation rites.

Roxas thanked the people who assisted him and his party on their safe landing, saying it “reinforces my faith in the Filipino.”

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EDITORIAL

Restart peace talks with NDF, MILF;government can’t fight multi-front war

The government should reflect on its war policy against major insurgent groups and initiate moves aimed at resuming peace talks with the communist National Democratic Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Newspapers and other forms of media have been laden with gunfights between the NDF, MLUF among other insurgent groups and the government is hard-pressed in fighting a multi-front war.

As Sen. Chiz Escudero said, “Perhaps, the best legacy this administration can hand down to our people is to initiate the resumption of talks with main rebel groups which can lead to an enduring truce that will last until next year’s elections.”

Escudero pointed out the military may be overstretching its forces and resources in its current campaign against theAbu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan even as it hunts down MILF renegade forces in Maguindanao and Lanao del Surand helping the police in battling the New People’s Army (NPA) throughout the country. The police is also hard-pressed in performing its other law and order duties because of the communist insurgency. “We did this during the time of President Fidel Ramos and reaped peace dividends. Why can’t we do it now when we are faced with multi-front war?,” Escudero asked.

Indeed, the government has to contend with poverty, corruption, and rising criminality amid a deepening economic crisis and a potentially divisive election season. The billions of pesos being spent for waging war could instead be used for critical development projects. The administration can implement confidence-building measures, such as a unilateral ceasefire, to show its sincerity in achieving a peace settlement with both rebel groups.

Exiled communist leader Jose Ma. Sison earlier welcomed Escudero’s proposal for the administration to endorse the lifting of the terrorist tag on Sison and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to break the impasse in the negotiations.

“The removal of the terrorist tag would greatly improve the atmosphere for the peace negotiations and would encourage progress of the process in terms of further substantive agreements,” Sison said in a statement from Utrecht, the Netherlands. “The Arroyo government should heed the advice of Sen. Chiz Escudero.”

As for the negotiations with the MILF, the senator said the government must make sure that the local government units in the affected regions are consulted on what it will offer on the table before the resumption of negotiations.

What does the government say about these? The perception is it is busy with Charter change (Chacha) to extend terms of incumbent officials while the country reels from poverty and violence.

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BEHIND THE SCENES

Alfred P. Dizon
Garbage, officials and environment

While Baguio City officials say they want more tourists to perk up its economy, visitors are literally being driven away by the unsightly sight and stench of piles of garbage on roadsides. Even Session Road, considered the showpiece of the former cleanest and greenest city in the country, a hall of famer at that, is no exception.

Much had been written about the garbage. But talks persist there is no solution to the problem in the immediate future. Local officials are saying city coffers are hard-pressed meeting daily payments for transport of the trash to Central Luzon.

The thinking of the executives, it seems, is that the only solution to the mess is a huge landfill. An area is being eyed at Mt. Sto Tomas but before anybody could dump garbage there, it would take a long process like having consultations with local folk and procurement of an environmental compliance certificate. This as the garbage piles up and the stench becomes more unbearable.

The idea of a zero-waste management program in the city is just that – an idea. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier asked local government officials to adopt more affordable and viable methods of implementing effectively the government’s solid waste management program. The President said there are cheaper and practical ways LGUs can adapt in solving garbage problems in their respective areas.

The Chief Executive proposed establishment of material recovery facilities (MRF) for areas that do not yet have a sanitary landfill, to solve waste disposal problems. “If you don’t have a sanitary landfill, I am proposing a big MRF as substitute compliance that can help sort out and process the garbage in the open dumpsite,” she said. “When there is no land for sanitary landfill, let us plan for barangay level MRF.”

The MRF approach to solid waste management is much cheaper compared to sanitary landfill, the President said, citing as example the P10-million cost of Cotabato City ’s MRF which can serve the city’s 37 barangays.Under the 60-40 LGU-national government sharing, Cotabato City will only shoulder P6-million while the national government will contribute P4 million.

The Chief Executive also proposed the use of charcoal briquetting machines as another solution to solid waste management. “With such machines, it is easier to address the garbage problem rather than spending millions of pesos in dumpsites at the barangay level.”

According to Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Manuel Gerochi, one charcoal briquetting machine costs P63,500, much cheaper compared to other solid waste management systems. The machine is a simple energy- and money-saving device used in converting biodegradable waste and other organic materials into solid fuel briquettes.

Aside from reducing volume of wastes to be disposed, Gerochi said, charcoal briquetting also helps eliminate or minimize use of forest products as raw materials for charcoal like wood. “Charcoal briquetting can also serve as an additional or alternative livelihood project to help alleviate poverty,“ Gerochi said.

With a production capacity of 300 kilograms per day, he said, briquetting can generate substantial earnings. Local Government Units are mandated to comply with Republic Act 9003, otherwise known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. As to the next step Baguio officials will take to get the trash out from the streets, that remains to be seen.
***
In a related development, Ramon Dacawi, chief information officer of the Baguio City government and my neighbor in this corner invited me to sing during Earth Day celebrations Wednesday at the city jail along with Brian Aliping, March Fianza, lawyer Bubut Olarte, Prosecutor Rolly Vergara among others but unfortunately, I was not able to make it.

So to make up, with or without the garbage, I would like to cite some facts, figures and “speculations” on the environment by government officials who said the Philippines is gaining headway in its bid to meet by 2015 the United Nations Millenium Development Goal (MDG) of ensuring environmental sustainability nationwide.

According to National Economic Development Authority Director Erlinda Capones who recently reported this matter at the 10th National Convention on Statistics at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City, the country will likely meet such goal.

MDGs are time-bound and measurable targets which UN member-countries committed to meet so poverty, hunger, diseases, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women can be addressed.

Capones presented data available as of September 2007 on the country’s “progress” in making sustainable development principles as part of its policies and programs on reversing loss of environmental resources.

The data showed proportion of the country’s urban population with access to improved sanitation already exceeded the MDG goal of 83.8 percent as this soared from 67.6 percent (1990) to 86.2 percent (2004).

Proportion of Philippine population with sustainable access also improved water source jumped from 73 percent (1990) to 80.2 percent (2004) which is about 6.3 percent below the 86.5 percent MDG target by 2015.

While that of forest-covered land nationwide rose to 23.9 percent (2003) from 20.5 percent (1990) while area protected to maintain bio-diversity increased to 12.7 percent (2006) from 8.5 percent (1990) of the Philippines’ total surface area.

Data also indicated that consumption of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons dipped to 681 tons (2006) from 2,981 tons (1990) and proportion of households using solid fuels for cooking decreased to 42.1 percent (203) from 66.2 percent (1990).

Capones also identified ways to accelerate implementation of MDG-related programs and projects. These include curbing high population growth rate, improving agricultural performance, boosting efforts to push reforms on basic education and health and ensuring transparency and accountability in government transactions.

She also said strengthening local government units’ capacity to deliver basic services and bolstering government’s links with other nations and the private sector are needed to accelerate the Philippines’ bid to meet MDG goals.

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PERRYSCOPE

Perry Diaz
Requiem for the Equity Bill

Sixty-three years after the Rescission Act of 1946 was passed into law, the surviving Filipino veterans of World War II finally, albeit belatedly, got their “recognition” for their military service under the US flag. And with that “recognition,” they received a one-time lump sum amount.

If there was one word to describe what they did, it was “patriotism.” Ironically, unlike their counterparts in the regular American armed forces, the Filipino veterans who fought under the command of the legendary “American Caesar” -- Gen. Douglas MacArthur -- were singled out and denied the benefits entitled to American military veterans.

MacArthur once said during the Korean War, where several battalions of Philippine soldiers fought under his United Nations command, “Give me 100 Filipino soldiers and I will conquer the world.” Hyperbolic as it seemed, it was a testament to the Filipino fighting men whose loyalty to the United States was beyond question and whose bravery in war was par to none.

But what remained a big question in the past 63 years was the United States government’s inequity to the 250,000 Filipino soldiers who were conscripted into the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) by the late president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Their primary mission was to hold the invading Japanese at bay while America recovered from the crippling blow suffered by its navy from the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Last Feb. 17, the 18,000 aging survivors -- mostly in their 90’s now -- received news that President Barack Obama had signed the $787 Stimulus Package which included a provision for $198 million for one-time compensation to the surviving Filipino veterans. Seemingly, the veterans were happy. Why not? After all, the last battle they fought in Congress -- which they almost won -- last year for full equity was sidelined by politicians of both parties in the waning days of the 110th Congress.

After failing to reach a compromise and the apparent lack of determination on the part of the House leadership, all hopes were lost in the wake of the financial meltdown that ripped the US economy last October 2008. When the 110th Congress adjourned, the Equity Bill died as it had died in every Congress since it was first introduced in the 103th Congress by Sen. Daniel Inouye as the “Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 1993.”

In 2008, S.1315 -- known as the “Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007” -- passed the Veterans subcommittees in both chambers for the first time since 1993. And also for the first time, it passed the full Senate! As the House of Representatives debated the bill, which would have provided the surviving Filipino veterans monthly pensions for the rest of their lives, a group of Filipino-Americans from San Francisco drove a polarizing -- and debilitating -- wedge which stopped the passage of the Equity Bill.

On the eve of the House floor vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi received a letter from a certain Regalado Baldonado asking her not to support S.1315. Mr. Baldonado’s letter was not authorized by the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) and US-based Filipino veterans organizations who were part of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity, the primary advocate and lobbying group for the Equity Bill. In the aftermath of the furor that erupted, Mr. Baldonado claimed that he merely signed the letter prepared by two San Francisco-based organizations, the Veterans Equity Center (VEC) and Students Action for Veterans Equity (SAVE).

He signed the letter as “San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commissioner,” a position that had nothing to do with S.1315. In an attempt to justify the Baldonado “hit piece,” the VEC Chairperson remarked that the National Network for Veterans Equity (NNVE) and VEC “are leading the community in calling and urging the office of Pelosi to stand uncompromisingly behind the Filipino veterans’ clamor for full equity.”

However, from my first-hand knowledge as a member of the Steering Committee of NAFVE, the representatives of bona fide Filipino WW II veterans’ groups were willing to settle for lesser pension amounts as embodied in S.1315.

In my column, “Betrayal of the Filipino Veterans” (June 13, 2008), I said: “The Filipino veterans must have felt the pang of betrayal once again, this time not only from the representatives of the American people in Congress but from their own people. The Filipino-Americans who claim to be ‘advocates’ for full equity for the Filipino veterans have once again played the only game they have been playing for the past eight years, ‘All or Nothing.’ They would rather see the Filipino veterans get nothing unless it was ‘full equity’.”

After S.1315 failed, the authors of the Equity Bill introduced a new bill in the House that would provide a one-time lump sum payment to the Filipino veterans. But it was too late, the 110th Congress ended without acting on the new bill.

Realizing that the Equity Bill would not have a chance of passage in the new 111th Congress, the bill’s authors opted to pursue the lump sum payment and include it in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the Stimulus Package. When the news of their action spread in the Filipino-American community, it was received with bittersweet reaction.

Those who had been in the forefront in the battle -- NAFVE and the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV) -- for the Equity Bill’s passage during the previous 110th Congress welcomed the insertion of the lump sum payment provision in the Stimulus Package. Interestingly, the advocates of “All Or Nothing” had quietly resigned to the fact that “All” was lost and they achieved “Nothing.”

The lost battle for the “Equity Bill” should serve as a lesson to leaders of the Filipino-American community that political empowerment can only be achieved when they get their act together. The battle was ours to win but disunity within our ranks sent the wrong message to Congress that our community leaders were only interested in pursuing their personal agenda and not the best interests of the Filipino veterans. In the end, Congress unilaterally acted to decide how to compensate the Filipino veterans for their wartime services; that is, one-time payments of $15,000 for Filipino veterans with US citizenship and $9,000 for non-US citizens.

But all is not lost. Losing the battle for the “Equity Bill” has given us the wisdom to look back and recognize our failings and to strive to work together in future endeavors. The question is: Is the community ready to work together? I fervently hope that our community would mature and become a potent political force in this land called home by more than four million Americans of Filipino descent. (PerryDiaz@gmail. com)

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BENCHWARMER

Ramon Dacawi
Family roots

The YMCA of Baguio has opened a crash course on Cordillera dances and culture as part of its annual “Summer Frolics” concentrated on basic training in martial arts and ball games. . The class on culture, originally set for a week, has been extended until May 13, timed with the closing of the sports-oriented over-all summer program.

This means you - yes, you - can still sign up, The course can help fill that void we commonly feel when we lay claim to being Cordillerans, yet can’t distinguish a “solibao” from a “gangsa”.

Aimed at heightening cultural awareness, sensitivity and a sense of identity, it drew several kids and youth here and in Benguet. Some were brought in by their parents who appeared more excited than the enrollees. On the first day, the kids were asked to interview their parents on their family roots and submit a written report the next morning on what they found out about genealogy.

Here’s one piece, from 21-year old Freda Dao-ines who recently passed the nursing board examinations: “When meeting people from (the) “il”i (village), two questions are bound to be asked: “Taga-ano ka (From where are you)?” and “Makin-anak ken sik-a (Whose child are you)?” The first question often bugs me, and, with the latter, I could only give my parents’ and grandparents’ names but couldn’t determine their roots.

“I guess I made a sort of progress with my “identity” issues when I enrolled at YMCA’s cultural dance program, hoping to make a small dent on my ignorance. As part of the course, we’re to trace our lineage (which I’m as ignorant of as with most things concerning my ethnicity). With dad’s assistance, we were able to trace up to six or seven generations in my dad’s side of the family, although a bit crude.

“I’ve always thought I’m e-Mt. Province (from Mt. Province) but recently found out my paternal ancestors were e-Benguet! Boliklik was e-Pan-ayaoan (a sitio of Loo, Buguias). He married Dangayan and from this marriage came Sayudot. Sayudot had three wives; his third wife bore him a son named Ganawed.

“Ganawed married a woman from Dakudak, Tadian where they settled. From this union came Polawes Dao-ines, simply known as Dao-ines. Dao-ines traveled as far as Kabayan, Buguias, Bakun, and Kibungan because of his herd of nuangs (carabaos). The late Dao-ines Awal, once a prominent citizen of Buguias, recalled how he was named after Polawes Dao-ines. According to him, Dao-ines happened to pass by their home at the time of his birth and Awal’s parents thought they’d name their baby after their visitor. I was told it’s an honor then to name your child after the sort of person with several nuangs.

“Polawes Dao-ines married thrice – to Simona, Tupayna, and Bodakan. My grandfather, Santos Dao-ines, was Polawes’ son with Simona from Dakudak. The family decided to use Dao-ines as their family name.

“Santos married Lubaya, the only daughter of Baguyos and Acnaya, from Cadad-anan. Unfortunately, that’s the only information we were able to dredge up on my paternal grandmother. Santos and Lubaya settled in Pandayan because that’s where most of my grandma’s rice paddies were. My father Fred, their fifth son, married the late Aida Gaengan from Besao.

“All the while, I thought my ancestors were “pure” e-Mt. Province, making me one. My parents just settled in Loo, Buguias because that’s where their teaching jobs were. I used to be embarrassed whenever I was asked “e-Buguias ka?” just because I spent my formative years in Loo. There’s a running joke that, basta e-Buguias (if from Buguias), one has an Elf or two and tracts and tracts of vegetables (something we hardly own!).

“On the other hand, I sometimes find it awkward to say I’m from Mt. Province when I don’t know much about my parents’ ilis. I was born in Besao so technically I’m e-Besao. I’ve only visited Besao and Tadian during summers when I was younger. Some people use the local idiom “chopsuey” on me, and I myself, am confused as to where I am really from. I guess now, knowing my ancestors and from where they came, it shouldn’t really matter if I’m e-Benguet or e-Mt. Province – I could lay claims on both!”

A 10-year old girl wrote: “I was named Melody Grail (Apilis) because my mom said she would name me Patricia Grail but my father said Patricia Grail would be more beautiful when changed into Melody Grail.”

Melody’s class couldn’t wait to try the gongs. The expected cacophony immediately rang out of the Y audio-visual room when a complete set arrived Tuesday. Soon, the discordance began to fade away, given the patience and passion to pass on the Cordillera rhythm of culture-bound volunteer teachers Manny Gayao, Gilbert Gano and Jason Dumling (e-mail: rdacawi@yahoo.com for comments).

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LETTERS FROM THE AGNO

March L. Fianza
‘My’ farm-to-market road

“When the cat is away, the mice will play.” That seems to be what happened in the earth-moving activity by the Bucan River , a tributary to the Asin River . Only that, this time the ‘mice’ surreptitiously went ahead in doing their act before the ‘cat’ could make his move.

This is about the new road opening that connects to Asin Road at Barangay Tadiangan. Tuba. According to conflicting reports gathered from road users and passers-by, the road construction leads to a proposed private housing subdivision.

Others said it is a farm-to-market road funded by a politician in Benguet. Well, there is not even any farm leading to that site.

Thinking that farm-to-market road projects were usually listed as projects under the office of the concerned engineering district of the DPWH, I checked with Benguet District Engineer Alberto N. Gahid and this is what I found out.

According to him, he was told by George Yubos that the new road is a municipal project of Tuba. I am more inclined to believe Engr. Gahid because it was the son of the contractor who informed him that the road opening is indeed a municipal project. Yubos is the contractor for the project.

If it is a government project, how come the required billboard that is supposed to provide all the necessary information was not installed? If it is a private road project, all the more that a billboard should be there “for the entire world to see” so to speak, so that the government may not falsely be blamed for unwanted circumstances that could happen anytime in the future.

On the other hand, Tadiangan Barangay Chair Zaldy Guileng said the project is a private road being undertaken by the contractor for his own lot property. Now, who is telling the truth – the contractor’s son who is directly connected to the project or the chairman of the barangay where the project is located?

I strongly feel there is an attempt to hide the truth about something from public scrutiny. What it is, I can only suspect. Are there VIPs here who might be badly involved, I do not know.

Whatever, what concerns us is that big volumes of excavated soil were dumped directly into the Bucan River . I do not have the means to compute how much volume of excavated soil polluted Bucan and Asin rivers. But, I am 100 per cent sure that marine life has been destroyed and to a certain degree water quality downstream is not so healthy now as before the construction.

We can not also discount the fact that animal and human existence has been distressed economically because Bucan and Asin rivers are sources of livelihood, aside from being the swimming paradise for both local and foreign tourists.

It is never too late, however, for the authorities to require the contractor the necessary mitigating measures in order that Bucan and Asin rivers may be saved from pollution.

In fact I was informed by Messrs. Cortez Dagupen and Paquito Moreno, engineers from the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR-Cordillera that Terio Yubos had signed a commitment to clean up the mess that he did to Bucan and Asin.

By the way, what caught people’s attention was how come the project started without the contractor securing first an environmental compliance certificate? Here, I was told that ECCs are only required for earth-moving that is about 200 meters.

But the problem with that policy is that project contractors who use heavy equipment will no longer report to the authorities their activities even if this is beside a river because they are not required to do so, as in the case Bucan and Asin rivers in Tuba.

Engineer.Dagupen said, Yubos indeed cleaned up his mess but still, heavy soil erosion was not prevented from spilling into the rivers and polluting the same because loose soil in the excavation were washed down by rainwater.

The EMB officials estimated the road length to be about 200 meters and 2.5 meters wide. Another technical conference will be conducted in the presence of the contractor and an environmental impact statement will have to be agreed on.

Under RA 9275 or the Clean Water Act, undertaking development activities of earth-moving and expansion of projects without the necessary permits are clear violations thereof.

In relation to soil excavation, fines and penalties for failure to clean up operations willfully is punished by imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than four years. This includes a fine of not less than Php50,000.00 and not more than Php100,000.00 per day of violation.

Failure or refusal to clean up which results in serious injury or loss of life or lead to irreversible water contamination of surface, ground, coastal and marine water is punishable by imprisonment of not less than 6 years and 1 day and not more than 12 years, and a fine of Php 500,000.00 per day for each day the contamination or omission continues.

With such amounts aside from imprisonment, I believe that Yubos, the contractor of the “my farm-to-market road,” will choose to clean up and perform his work to the best, rather than suffer the consequences. – marchfianza777@yahoo.com

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HAPPY WEEKEND

Gina Dizon
Who informs who on regional autonomy?

SAGADA, Mountain Province -- This time, with National Development Authority regional director and Regional Development Council chairman Juan Ngalob as special guest during the Cordillera Day held here at barangay Suyo, both the militant Cordillera Peoples Alliance and the government sang a happy tune as they joined hands to celebrate the momentous event.

RDC conducted an information-education campaign on regional autonomy with the Movement for the Advancement of Inter-Tribal Unity and Democracy (MAITUD), an organizational member of CPA last April 23. MAITUD is an organization of elders in Mountain Province.

Interesting. RDC informing the elders about what is regional autonomy or is it the other way around? CPA and some MAITUD members including Fr Eduardo Solang, one of the CPA pioneers of regional autonomy in the 1980s, were in the forefront pursuing Cordillera autonomy in the halls of Malacanang. Eventually, the Cordillera social activists’ moves gave way to the inclusion of regional autonomy for Cordillera and Mindanao in the 1987 Constitution.

Cordillera Day held here in the village of Suyo was attended by Fr Solang also a former Mountain Province board member, and MAITUD elders Peczon and Nelson Yocogan who graced the occasion during the MAITUD –RDC session on regional autonomy.

MAITUD officer and Suyo barangay captain/ ABC Chair Jaime Tigan-o Dogao delivered his message commemorating the event. Other special guests also included Sagada mayor Eduardo Latawan aside from RDC Chair Juan Ngalob.
Cordillera Day now is being separately celebrated per province of the Cordillera with discussions of similar related issues on human rights violations, environment and agricultural liberalization.

Back to the question. Who is doing the teaching this time? Is it the RDC? Is there something new that CPA or MAITUD has to learn from RDC about regional autonomy? For the past two plebiscites on regional autonomy held in 1990 and 1998, CPA opted to stand in the sidelights and maintained a critical stand. The RDC-led campaign now implies that CPA or MAITUD has to learn something new, or wants to get in the government’s version of what it initially did not support.

Or is RDC going to be the one to be enlightened about what is regional autonomy? We see the government through RDC and the CPA through MAITUD, forging a reconciliatory position on how to go about the government ‘s version of regional autonomy.

Whatever way, the drive for regional autonomy will be a plus factor in favor of the government with RDC being favorably welcome in the 25th celebration of the militant Cordillera Day held by the Cordillera People’s Alliance.
***
With the P15 million autonomy fund not having been approved by the Senate for the General Appropriations Act 2009, yet earlier passed by the House of Representatives, we see the drive for autonomy in the dark. Yet, Ngalob is hopeful to wait for the finalization of the 2009 budget. If the Senate did not approve it, chances are, it will have a hard time getting some approval in the final 2009 budget.

And to wait apparently, is an endless wait which seemingly ends in a nowhere result of which might be. And so obviously, the practical way is to realign the savings in RDC’s 2008 budget, otherwise, the information campaign for regional autonomy gets stalled.

Which will however set a precedent that realignment of funds can be done again next year and budget allocation for advocacy of autonomy will not be a ready act of the Senate or the President. And so the best way is to lobby for the funds to be specially allocated, much more so that the move for regional autonomy is constitutional anyway.

Which brings us back to the question of how the initial P15 million educational funds for autonomy were spent. It would be good if Ngalob comes out with a statement how the initial P15 million was spent. This way, the public will be enlightened of how autonomy funds are being spent and the public may come out with better ways to advocate autonomy than how the government -led advocacy is being done.

(Note: As I write this opinion, I am thankful to Patrick Pooten, principal of Ankileng National High School, and also a former and still is a social activist for Cordillera rights and welfare, for providing photos which set basis for me to write this column.)

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BULL’S HIT

Rudy Garcia
Weather weather

Rainy days have come early. The climate is unpredictable so this summer of 2009 becomes the summer of 69 which means it’s the opposite or baligtad. It is unusual to experience rains while the sun shines at its brightest. Maybe this is what they call climate change and global crisis which need not be explained.

Simply put, Mother Earth gave us the message during the recent celebration of World Earth Day last April 22 at Baguio’s Malcolm square where most spectators went home dripping wet but having slight sunburns on their skin for watching the celebration. But what was more funny to watch were people covering their noses every time they passed by those uncollected large piles of garbage after watching or joining the activities.

People keep on complaining but we are doing nothing to help in solving this garbage problem. No, we don’t urge them to go and shout at these sanamagans who deserve to be at the garbage bin, but rather make some noises in front of their office doors to wake them up.

We should be learning our lessons now. We don’t need these clowns who would treat us again to a circus come 2010 election just like what they are doing now at City Hall. But mind you, no amount of any bone-breaking circus act from them would lessen the disgust of the madlang pipol in Baguio over this garbage issue. The Baguio citizenry deserve a better political climate change. As Erap said “Weather weather lang yan”, and we deserve political good weather.
***
Anyone who does not know the truth is not in the position to tell or guess what really happened to Trinidad Etong, wife of popular broadcaster/journalist Ted Failon. I bet if even the famous Madame Auring could peep at to her crystal ball and tell to the people if she saw is suicide or not like the Public Attorney’s Office big boss who came to the rescue and earned the ire of Department of Justice big boss Speedy Gonzales.

The DOJ chief could be happy, now that the investigation is turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation that is under his jurisdiction. Lt us see if the probe would be fair and square and let the wheels of justice take its course whatever the findings. Meantime let’s wait and see if the NBI is better to rely upon than the police.

On the other hand, the obstruction of justice case filed by the police is now undergoing investigation at the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office. Failon and his co-respondents already submitted their counter affidavits and they are set to be heard as I write this column.

I don’t want to comment or give any opinion on this case as this was already filed and it could be prejudicial anyway I would like to express my disgust to those policemen who arrested the relatives and housemates of the Failons. Based on what I saw on the television footage, the acts of these police officers from the Quezon City criminal investigation unit are unbecoming.

It is harassment with intimidation and I could imagine how Failon felt when these abusive cops did their Martial Law style of picking his housemates and in-laws who were perceived suspects. Holy cow, there are a lot of big time politicians, government military and police officials who obstruct justice and yet they do nothing?

Like Failon and other journalists who are vocal in their opinions against erring officials and policemen, this lowly columnist was once a victim of policemen at compact IV, Station 7 of the Baguio City Police Office. Weeks after I wrote remarks on my article of my column against bad eggs in uniform, some policemen at the aforementioned police station picked me up in the middle of the night despite identifying myself as a media practitioner.

I was lucky at that precise time for I have friends who were able to witness the arrest the reason why I was directly turned over at the city jail, otherwise if not, I could be another person who mysteriously disappeared.

Nevertheless, I believe that there are still a lot of good eggs among our policemen, and I know that they are having thoughts of getting rid of their rotten peers. Mahirap na kasing mahaluan ng bugok o bulok ang mga ito. Right, BCPO Station 7 Chief Insp. Engelbert Soriano? Kilala ninyo ba kung sinu-sino ang mga bulok at hindi sa iyong nasasakupan?” Itanong nyu na lang po sa mga bubwit ko..
***
It’s funny for DILG Chief Ronaldo Puno to be insisting now there was no ransom paid for the freedom of Notter. He said Notter was able to escape from his captors, but it was more funny for Notter to say that he didn’t know how he was able to be flee and the funniest thing was for the military to conduct full blown offensive against the bandits when there was still a remaining hostage in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf. So if Vanni vanished, what would be the next story?

It seems that we need to add more budget to the military especially now that terrorists are bound to carry out their plans like what they did at the Iligan City premiere bridges. If the theory of the military that the recent blasts of the two bridges were done by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao under Commander Bravo then it is high time the national government give full support in terms of financial budget to the military so that the latter would be able to operate on crackdown against terrorists in Mindanao.
***
I am not saying that the helicopter used by the supposed presidential advance party that crashed in Ifugao was obsolete. I am not also saying that some of the equipments and armaments of the military are useless and need to be replaced with good ones. I am not also asking where the money intended for them went, and I don’t say that it went to other’s pockets. What I am only asking is for the Department of Budget and Audit to do its job, not for Malacañang or the Queen’s Husband to do the job for them. Period.

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