Comelec orders Kalinga vote recount over gov tiff

>> Sunday, July 25, 2021

TABUK CITY, Kalinga -- The Second Division of the Commission on Elections has ordered recount of votes after it found the post-election protest ‒ filed by Kalinga gubernatorial candidate and former vice governor James Edubba against proclaimed Gov.     Ferdinand Tubban right after the May 13, 2019 elections ‒ has merit and should be considered.
    The Comelec, in memo issued July 13, 2021, ordered continuation of the case and recount of remaining contested clustered precincts.
    Election records and statistics department was directed to print images of the ballots of clustered precinct No. 32080016 for its inclusion in recount proceedings.
    The results showed in pilot-tested recount of certain precincts, Edubba gained a total of 46 votes while Tubban was credited with an additional 17 votes.
    Comelec ruled considering earlier figures, it was Edubba who was now leading the gubernatorial race by 19 votes, which was derived by subtracting the margin of 10 votes and the additional 17 votes gained by Tubban, thus a recount was justified.
Edubba and Tubban were among four candidates for the gubernatorial position of Kalinga during the 2018 midterm elections.
After canvassing of votes, Tubban was proclaimed by the provincial board of canvassers as winning candidate, garnering 39,148 votes while Edubba garnered 39,138 votes where there was a slim margin of only 10 votes.
On May 24, 2019, Edubba, former mayor of Pasil town, filed an election protest, contesting the correctness of the election results in 100 clustered precincts out of a total of 250 clustered precincts in the province where the protested precincts cover all municipalities and a city that include Balbalan, Lubuagan, Pasil, Pinukpuk, Rizal, Tabuk City, Tanudan and Tinglayan in the province.


Du30 to PNP: Get gun-for-hire group in slay of Ilocos pols

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police to "get the head" of the Magpali gun-for-hire group allegedly using rogue policemen and military to harass or liquidate political rivals ahead of the 2022 elections.
    Duterte issued the directive after La Union Rep. Sandra Eriguel asked the President to probe the gun-for-hire group and the alleged assassination plot against her and two municipal officials.
    "The Ilocos region police was ordered by Duterte to 'get the head' of the 'Magpali gun-for-hire group' tagged in numerous slays in La Union and reportedly with a down payment to assassinate a lawmaker and two more town executives in that province," Eriguel said in a statement.
    "Catching the leader, dismissed police Col. Wilson Magpali, sources claimed, would lead authorities into the bottom of stemming the political killings in La Union way back in 2018," she added.
    Eriguel made the statement after she learned an assassination squad was regrouping in La Union in a bid to kill her and two municipal mayors in the province.
    She said the plot was uncovered by La Union police following the arrest of several members of the notorious Magpali assassination squad, composed mostly of police and military scalawags, on June 23, 2021.
    "Sana po ay matuldukan na itong mga karahasan na hindi po kanais-nais. Nakakatakot po ngayon, na parang bagong Abra po itong La Union. Sana po ay hindi mangyari ang ganoon (Please help us put an end to this spate of violence. It is truly frightening - it is as if La Union has become the new Abra. We hope this will not come to pass)," Eriguel said.
    "Nananawagan po kami kay Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte, kay PNP chief Gen. Eleazar at sa NBI para gumawa ng parallel investigation po dito (We are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte, PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar and the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a parallel investigation)," she added.
    Eriguel said the kill plot was reminiscent of the 2018 killing of her husband, former representative Franny Eriguel.
    Aside from her husband, she said Balaoan Vice Mayor Alfred Concepcion and Sudipen Mayor Alexander Buquing were also murdered in 2018.
    Eriguel and two other alleged targets of the Magpali gun-for-hire group asked for additional security details and upscaled security arrangements in La Union to thwart a possible wave of violence ahead of the 2022 polls. – Catherine Valente


Bakun elders press talks to settle shutdown of Hedcor power plants

BAKUN, Benguet -- Tribal elders are pushing for a 'win-win' resolution over operation of Hedcor’s three mini-hydro power plants recently shut down by a cease-and-desist order issued by the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR).
    The ongoing conflict over the matter between the municipal government, the Bakun Indigenous Tribes Organization (BITO) and Hedcor Inc.had affected the country’s power supply.
    "We are hoping for a win-win resolution kasi kawawa din kaming mga landowners na may inaasahang additional income from Hedcor's land lease payment kung paalisin ng lokal na gobyerno namin ang Hedcor," said elder Amos Bita-a, 73, founding member of BITO.
    This, following alleged refusal of other BITO members to talks with Hedcor for the operation of the power plants.
Earlier, landowners, concerned residents and employees of the company raised concern on BITO's rejection to customary 'tongtongan' (talks) to settle the matter.
    Some said they were not included in earlier consultations as legitimate members of the organization.
Other landowners expressed hope the conflict between the municipal government, BITO and Hedcor will be resolved the soonest for the greater interest of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in the locality.
Over the years, Hedcor has been renting some six hectares of land from around 100 landowners.
The power firm infuses around P3 million to the domestic economy of the municipality as direct income to landowners on whose properties stand the three power plant facilities of Hedcor.


Baguio sets charges vs fake vax card holders

By Gaby Keith

BAGUIO CITY – The city government is set to file charges against individuals who use unauthorized or falsified Covid-19 vaccination cards in transactions including gaining entry to the Summer Capital.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong issued the warning after online posts openly selling fake vaccination cards circulated nationwide.
    "People might jump at this opportunity to fake their vaccine passports and enter the city without undergoing testing thereby putting everybody else at risk," the mayor said.
    He said the city's triage is equipped to determine the authenticity of vaccination cards by double checking the QR codes and validating the hotline numbers indicated in the cards.
Holders of cards that cannot be validated through said means will have to undergo testing and will be turned away if they refused.
Those with fake vaccine cards will be charged accordingly, he said.


Sagada: Why only 250 folks given cash?

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province -- Despite having a number of corn farmers here, Sagada netizens asked how and why only 250 corn tillers from this town benefitted from the cash and food subsidy for marginal farmers and fishers program (CFSMFFP) of the Dept. of Agriculture.
    In distribution activity two weeks ago by the office of the municipal agriculturist (OMAG), 250 corn farmers were each given P2,000 worth of a half cavan of rice, two frozen dressed chicken and two trays of eggs and P3,000 cash for a total of P5,000 CFSMFFP aid.
    The P3,000 cash is received by the beneficiary through a voucher that he signs.
    Netizens urged the DA to provide the same assistance to all corn farmers asking why some beneficiaries were given food and cash subsidy despite having availed of other social amelioration programs.
    Netizen Mylene Simeon Demot-Galgala said, “all should be given so no one complains.”
    An eligibility criterion of the CFSMFFP requires a farmer is not a beneficiary of any other amelioration program from any government agency aside from being a registered farmer with the DA in a fourth to sixth class municipality or 5th to 6th class city.
    Netizens also asked why only 250 farmers were given assistance when most in town plant corn.
    A list of 2,075 corn farmers was forwarded by the office of the municipal agriculturist to the regional DA office.
    Some 4,000 farmers here registered under the RSBSA (registry system for basic sectors in agriculture) of the DA.
 Corn is a traditional crop planted by most farmers here in this town during the rainy season.
Asked how the 250 corn farmers were selected, Carmen Pomeg-as, municipal agriculturist said the DA central office identified the beneficiaries from the RSBSA forms the farmer submitted.
 The 250 corn farmer beneficiaries were from six out of 19 barangays of this town -- southern barangays of Balugan, Ankileng, Ambasing; northern barangays of Bangaan Aguid and eastern Antadao.
Balugan got the highest of 100 farmer-beneficiaries followed by nearby Ankileng of 77 claimants.
DA chief of Regional Agriculture and Fisheries information section Aida Pagtan said beneficiaries were verified by the OMAG from the RSBSA list the regional office forwarded and OMAG having submitted back the verified list of corn farmer beneficiaries to the DA regional office.
 The verified list delisted 71 corn farmer beneficiaries who availed of the same cash and food assistance given early this year, municipal agricultural staff Scarlett Buteng said.
Earlier, 100 farmers among them 71 corn farmers and fisher folks and indigenous peoples (IP) beneficiaries received the same P3,000 cash and food subsidy worth P2,000 March this year.
The OMAG is not familiar with the criteria of the CFFMFFP that to qualify as a beneficiary should not have availed of other amelioration subsidy, Buteng added.
As a criterion, the CFSMFFP beneficiary shouldn’t have availed of any social amelioration aid from any government office including the Covid-19 adjustment measures program (CAMP) or the tulong panghanapbuhay sa ating disadvantaged/displaced workers (TUPAD) from the Dept. of labor and employment (DOLE) or social amelioration program (SAP) from the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development. 
Thus the doubling of CFSMFFP assistance to a beneficiary even if he/she received SAP, CAMP or TUPAD aid earlier.
Sagada netizens also asked what ‘marginal’ farmer means, saying one beneficiary was a full time vendor and another is a senior citizen on pension.
The CFSFFP defines a marginal corn farmer as one who tills landholding one hectare and below.
Eva Acosta, officer in charge of the corn program of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) said 1,373 corn farmers of the province availed of the CFSMFFP subsidy with the corn producing town of Paracelis having received the highest with 564 beneficiaries followed by 328 corn farmers from Sagada.
 Submitted number of corn farmers from municipalities and the low number of beneficiaries indicate the limited number of beneficiaries per municipality.   
There are 28,515 corn farmers of the province in a list submitted by municipal agricultural offices to the DA region with the highest from the corn producing town of Paracelis with 11,374 corn farmers followed by Bauko with 2,376 and Sabangan with 2,250 corn farmers, OPAG records reveal.
The DA received P24 billion funding under the Bayanihan to Recover as One 2 to provide direct cash assistance or low-interest rate subsidies to qualified agri-fishery enterprises, farmers and fisher folks registered under the RSBSA.
Of the P24 billion fund, a 6.5 billion stimulus package was allotted for agriculture poured into the agency’s social amelioration projects for marginal farmers where P4.5 billion was allocated for CFSMFFP.  




Kalinga general is new Region 2 PNP director

By Victor Martin

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Brig. Gen. Steve Ludan has assumed as chief of Cagayan Valley police.
    Ludan, a native of Tanudan, Kalinga and member of the Philippine Military Academy’s “Tanglaw Diwa” class of 1992, replaced Brig. Gen. Crizaldo Nieves who reached his mandatory retirement age of 56 Monday.
    Lt. Gen. Israel Dickson, deputy chief for administration of the Philippine National Police, led the turnover ceremony at Camp Adduro in Tuguegarao, Cagayan.
    Ludan, former chief of the PNP Crime Laboratory, vowed to intensify the campaign against illegal drugs in the region.
    In a message, President Duterte commended Nievez for serving the country well.


Council: Suspend P50-M Baguio bike lane project

By Jordan G. Habbiling

BAGUIO CITY -- The city council recently passed a resolution urging the Baguio City bids and awards committee for Infrastructure to hold in abeyance awarding of the contract for  Phase 1 of the bicycle lane project worth P50 million.
    This, after the council learned recent guidelines of the Dept. of Public Works and Highways were not considered in preparation of the plan.
    Engineer Orlando Genove of the CEO said the project had already been bidded out, but the contract was not awarded yet to the winning bidder.
    The DPWH-Baguio City District Engineering Office received a memorandum on July 3, 2021 from the regional DPWH office directing all district engineers to consider updated guidelines and standard drawings for bicycle facilities in the design of national roads for installation of bike lanes.
    The DPWH-BCDEO furnished the city council with a copy of the updated guidelines.
    Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said the plan prepared by the CEO should conform with said guidelines.
    Genove said the plan was patterned after the earlier guidelines of the DWPH contained in Department Order No. 88 Series of 2020 (Prescribing guidelines on design of bicycle facilities along national roads).
    However, DPWH-BCDEO district engineer Rene Zarate and engineer Cesario Rillera also of the DPWH-BDEO said updated guidelines should be considered.
    Under updated guidelines, prior to installation of bicycle facilities, a feasibility study shall be undertaken by concerned office to determine applicability on  proposed roads.
    Several members of the council questioned the move of the CEO to bid the project out without conducting any feasibility study.
    The councilors cited importance of conducting a feasibility study to ensure the safety of cyclists and motorists when the bicycle facilities installed and ready to be utilized.
    Under the updated guidelines, there are three classes of bike lanes. These are “shared use path” which is completely separate from the roadway, separated bike lane which is a portion of the road designated exclusively for bicycle use and shared roadway.
    According to the DPWH-BCDEO, only the third class, shared roadway, is applicable to the roads in Baguio City.
    A shared roadway is a portion of the road that has been officially designated and marked as a bicycle route but can also be used by motor vehicles as there is a limited carriageway width.
    Under the plan prepared by the CEO, shared roadways with a total distance of 6.45 km and separated bike lanes with a total distance of 7.25 km have been designated along the six identified routes.
    This does not conform with the prescription of the updated guidelines as portions of the proposed roads are designated as separated bike lanes which, according to the DPWH-BCDEO officials, are not applicable to the city’s roads.
Councilor Mylen Yaranon, however, commended the CEO for having planned ahead.
    She said the CEO already started planning for the installation of bike lanes using certain design standards as their starting points prior to the crafting and issuance of guidelines by the DPWH.
    The council urged the CEO to present to the city council, the city goverment’s  modified plan for installation of bike lanes taking into consideration guidelines and requirements set forth by the DPWH for national roads and suggestions of barangay officials on barangay roads.
    The routes identified for the phase 1 of the project are the following:
    Loakan-Apugan Barangay Hall to Leonard Wood Road; BGH Rotonda to Panagbenga Park via Military Cut-off; Justice Hall to Kalaw Street via Harrison Road; Governor Pack to BGH Rotonda; Harrison Road to M. Roxas via Magsaysay Street/ Bonifacio Street; and City Hall to Marcos Highway via Legarda Road.


Tesda sets P35-M for Benguet folks’ livelihood trainings

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) has P35 million for livelihood and technical trainings in Benguet.
    Benguet caretaker congressman and Anti-Crime and Terrorism through Community Involvement and Support party-list Rep. Eric Yap said this will provide opportunities for residents to acquire skills and knowledge to make them more productive and improve their economic situation.
    Yap, who chairs the House committee on appropriations, said funds should be utilized until the end of the year to allow at least 2,000 technical-vocational enrollees to complete prescribed training in their chosen courses.
    He added availability of technical-vocational courses will depend on demand. Interested individuals can visit the Benguet Congressional District Office to ensure inclusion to beneficiaries list and scholarship program.
    There will be more funds set by Tesda for technical-vocational scholarship program in Benguet next year so more residents can avail of it.


Baguio warns 'wide-scale lockdown' if folks ignore Covid-19 regulations

By Liza Agoot 

BAGUIO CITY — The local government here said it will declare "wide-scale lockdowns" if residents continue to ignore minimum health standards to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong said “wide-scale lockdowns will continue to be implemented over areas that will exhibit uncooperative behavior as the city tightens measures in anticipation of new surges due to increased people mobility and the presence of new and more dangerous variants."
    This, after the city government ordered the lockdown of three purok (sub-villages) in Barangay Irisan with several residents not complying with health protocols.
    Irisan is the city’s biggest village out of the 128 with over 35,000 population.
    Aileen Refuerzo, public information office chief, said in recent months, the city’s lockdown orders had been limited to the household or workplace of the positive cases but special cases such as overt and repeated violations of health protocols warrant wider scope lockdowns based on the recommendations of the medical officers.
    Observance of basic health protocols include proper use of face masks, face shields, and physical distancing in public places.
Refuerzo said the lockdown of the three sub-villages is not the same as the hard lockdown in the past.
    The order wasfor a week and will not include the APORs (Authorized Persons Outside of Residences), and a member of each affected family will also be allowed to go out to buy necessities.
    “Lockdown impositions had been included in the city’s Covid-19 control strategies and the mechanism was based on the     Application of the Zoning Containment Strategy of the National Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases,” Refuerzo said.
The city had 543 active cases, as of July 9. -- PNA



San Roque Dam hits critical level

By Eva Visperas

SAN MANUEL, Pangasinan -- The San Roque Dam here has not released water for irrigation since July 15 due to low water level.
    In an advisory released recently, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said there was also no generation of the contracted power capacity of 115 megawatts by the San Roque Power Corp. (SRPC).
    “This unwanted situation may prevail until sufficient amount of rainfall will occur at the San Roque Dam watershed,” the NIA said.
    Tom Valdez, SRPC vice president for corporate affairs, said the dam’s water level was at 225.40 meters above sea level, which was not sufficient to generate power.
    Power generation will resume as soon as the water level rises, Valdez said, adding that rains brought by tropical storm Fabian irrigated the farms.
    A similar situation happened in 2007 when the reservoir elevation dropped to 225.42 meters.


Baguio, LTO execs set MOA on unclaimed license plates

BAGUIO CITY -- The city government and Cordillera office of the Land Transportation Office are set to forge an agreement to dispose increasing number of unclaimed license plate numbers of motor vehicles confiscated by police operatives and deputized personnel of the Public Order and Safety Division (POSD) and barangay officials.
    LTO-CAR regional director Francis Ray Almora said terms and conditions of this agreement are being finalized by both parties prior to scheduling of its signing.
    He said the agreement is part of efforts of the agency to strictly implement the policy on the no-detachment of license plates attached to motor vehicles as license plates are considered the private property of the owner and that it is also classified as permanently attached to the vehicle where it rightfully belongs.
    Almora added the non-detachment of license plates is in line with the implementation of the government’s no-contact policy in preparation for the eventual shift to the use of the LTO management information system for the online registration of motor vehicles, application for issuance of driver’s license, among others.
    Under the said agreement, the city, through the Baguio City Police Office–Traffic Enforcement Unit, will be allowed to use the LTO management information system to tag and alarm the license of plate number of motor vehicles that have violations and whose owners shall be compelled to settle their obligations before being they can renew the registration of their vehicles.
    Amora said law enforcers will no longer be allowed to confiscate license plate numbers of motor vehicles as the same are considered to be permanently attached as part of the private property of the vehicle owner.
    Earlier, BCPO traffic officers sought assistance of the LTO-CAR on how to appropriately dispose the license plate numbers of motor vehicles earlier confiscated due blatant violations of traffic rules and regulations as well as ordinances, which continue to pile up in their office as owners have refused to claim the same.
    According to the LTO-CAR, previously confiscated license plates of motor vehicles because of violations by the registered owners shall be tagged and alarmed under the LTO management information system so that the owners will be compelled to settle their fines and penalties before the removal of the alarm and for the owner to be allowed to renew the vehicle’s registration.
    The LTO-CAR regional director said the LTO management information system is part of ongoing reforms being introduced by the agency towards implementation of the no-contact policy in the apprehension of violators of land transportation and traffic laws, rules and regulations ensure the safe travel of motorists on all roads in the country.


LTO online transaction to curb corruption in Cordi

Enforcers start use of body cams in ops 

By Liza Agoot  

BAGUIO CITY – The Land Transportation Office in the Cordillera Administrative Region (LTO-CAR) is implementing online transaction to address corruption, including the issue of “fixers” and possible collusion with office personnel.
    Francis Rae Almora, regional director of LTO-CAR said last week online transaction, the LTO is doing nationwide "removes the possible participation of middlemen offering services for processing of documents”.
    Vehicle registration, driver’s license application or renewal, and settling a traffic rule violation are now done online, according to a hand-out provided by LTO.
    Almora said it is the government’s initiative to provide the public ease in transacting with LTO without physically queueing in long lines at its offices. He said the only time a client needs to visit the office is when the agency needs to get their biometrics.
    “There is no way a fixer can process a transaction for another person considering that the account of the person is specific and can only be used by the client,” he said.
    The director said the online account of an LTO client requires an email address, which will receive a reminder from the agency to renew a license or a vehicle registration when due.
    For those applying or renewing a driver’s license, the officer said the requirements will be uploaded and there is no way any person can fake a document because the provider will furnish the link and code of the transaction, which assures the authenticity of the document, he said.
    This, as LTO-CAR enformers have started using body cameras to show proof of a driver’s violation, legitimizing the apprehension and the public’s protection against misbehavior of personnel.
    Almora said they have equipped their law enforcement officers who implement the land transportation laws on the national roads with body cameras.
    Aside from proof of legitimacy of the apprehension, their personnel’s manner of performing their job is also recorded, guiding the office in case of complaints from the public.
    “They wear body cameras because there are some sarcastic drivers who assert improper apprehensions especially for the seatbelt law,” he said.
    He said the office bought an initial 16 body cameras, which are used by enforcers in the region when they are on duty.
    “There are drivers who when flagged-down by enforcers for non-use of the seatbelt already use them while parking their vehicle and when the enforcers approach the vehicle, the seatbelt is already connected and argues for being illegally apprehended,” he said.
    “The body camera is a protection against sarcastic drivers and protection against accusation of illegal apprehension because the camera can record everything even before they are flagged down,” he said.
    Almora said penalty for non-use of seat belts depends on the type of vehicle and the violator -- driver or front-seat passenger.
    He said the driver of a public utility vehicle whose passenger is not using a seatbelt is penalized with P1,000, and if it is a front seat passenger who is not using a seatbelt, the driver will be charged P3,000 on the first offense--P2,000 for the driver and P1,000 for the passenger.
    He said the amount increases for repeat offenders. -- PNA 


Baguio pushes ‘win-win’ tax issues solution

BAGUIO CITY --  The city government’s local finance committee crafted a proposed “win-win” solution on the issues raised by the business sector on implementation of the revised schedule of market values on real property taxes under ordinance 16, series of 2020.
    City Assessor Maria Almaya Addawe, a member of the LFC, said the city government crafted the proposed measures to balance the city government’s need to collect taxes and heavy impact inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic to operation of businesses in the city.
    Earlier, officials of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) and city officials led by Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong met to thresh out possible solutions on the issues and concerns raised by the former on the implementation of the revised schedule of market values on real property taxes that took effect this year.
    During the meeting, the city chief executive requested HRAB officers to come up with their counter proposal on how the city government can address tax issues and concerns.
    Under the LFC proposal, no surcharges or penalties will be charged and instead of the 2-year implementation of the increase, the same will be spread in 3 years with 50 percent of the increase taking effect this year and 25 percent each will be effected next year and 2023.
    Based on ordinance 16, series of 2020, the revised schedule of market values on real property taxes will take effect in two years with 70 percent of the increase to take effect this year and the balance of 30 percent to be effected next year.
    But Addawe said the city government is still waiting for the HRAB position paper on revised schedule of market values although there will be another meeting between both parties to continue the ongoing dialogue on how to address issues on the matter.
    In an earlier position paper, the HRAB called on the local government to provide reprieve in implementation of the revised real estate tax measure taxes as the approved increase is allegedly excessive, oppressive and confiscatory, especially in the light of the impact of the pandemic on the economy that caused almost all businesses to either significantly reduce their operations or close their establishments.
    The city had not been implementing the required increase in the schedule of market values on real property taxes since 1996 despite the mandatory adjustments that should be made every 3 years causing the finance department to issue negative advisories against the local government on the said matter.
    In case the city implements the above proposal, the city government incur a 22.5 million deficit on its annual budget on the second year and another P27.25 million deficit on the third year of implementation, thus, the need for the city to consider the non-implementation of certain projects that are not important to have a sustained balanced budget in the next two years.


OCTA: Laoag City ‘very high risk’ for Covid-19

By John Michael Mugas

LAOAG CITY -- This capital city of Ilocos Norte was tagged by independent research group OCTA as one of the local government units in the country with “very high” Covid-19 infection rates.
    In its monitoring report released July 11, the OCTA Research Group noted Laoag City has a “very high” infection rate at 2.07 percent, followed by Mariveles at 1.83 percent, Lapu-Lapu City at 1.62 percent, and Cebu City at 1.40 percent.
    The group also noted Laoag City’s “very high” incidence rate or average daily attack rate at 40.03 cases per 100,000 population.
    OCTA also noted average daily cases in Laoag City almost doubled from 46 on July 11 to July 17 compared to 25 cases from the previous week.
    The research group, however, observed a low intensive care utilization rate in the city.
    It is in Laoag City where Ilocos Norte’s highest number of active Covid-19 cases were reported at 533 as of July 17, according to data from the provincial government.


Court junks slay cases vs CPA chief, 5 others

>> Saturday, July 24, 2021

A local court in Tagum City, Davao del Norte dismissed murder charges against six activists due to lack of probable cause.
    In a decision dated July 12, presiding judge Sharon Saracin of Tagum Regional Trial Court Branch 30 junked the murder charges against Lutgardo Jurcales Jr. of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Windel Bolinget of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Agnes Mesina of Makabayan Cagayan Valley, Jackie Valencia of Karapatan, Reynaldo Garneng of Danggayan to Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley and Albert Mandin.
    Saracin granted the motion for the dismissal of the charges following reinvestigation report by prosecution attorney James Noel V. Morente saying it is highly unlikely the accused can participate in the alleged killing of Garito Tiklonay Malibato in Kapalong, Davao del Norte on March 22, 2018.
    In separate affidavits, the six activists denied their involvement in the killing of Malibato.
    They said the case was filed to silence critics, noting local police filed the charges two years after the incident.
In a statement, the CPA, which Bolinget chairs, lauded the decision of the Tagum court.
    “True enough, the dismissal of the case is a step forward, but there is much to be done that necessitates our collective action and continuing calls for accountability and justice,” the group said.
    The dismissal came almost two months after the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Tagum City, submitted its recommendation to the court to drop Bolinget’s name from among the accused on May 24, 2021.
    “While our cases were dismissed, we have already been unjustly incarcerated and our families and organizations have been viciously attacked as a result of the trumped-up cases. Sadly, there is no let-up in these attacks and threats to our lives just as many innocent Filipinos especially indigenous peoples continue to be extra-judicially killed and imprisoned.” Bolinget said in the statement.
    Bolinget also extended his gratitude to the individuals, institutions, and organizations that helped him in facing the trumped-up case.
    He said, the campaign to red-tag, delegitimize, and malign CPA and other progressive organizations and individuals continue.
    Recently, a tarpaulin red-tagging and falsely declaring CPA as persona-non-grata was reportedly found posted near CPA’s satellite office in Baguio City.
    Bolinget said dismissal of the case was “proof of the fact that cases filed by the police and this government against activists and civilians are merely fabricated. The same is true with the trumped-up case of illegal possession of explosives filed by the police against Betty Belen in Kalinga province, which was also dismissed early this year.
    “But while our cases were dismissed, we have already been unjustly incarcerated and our families and organizations have been viciously attacked as a result of the trumped-up cases. Sadly, there is no let-up in these attacks and threats to our lives just as many innocent Filipinos especially indigenous peoples continue to be extra-judicially killed and imprisoned. Hence, we must continue to call for the release of political prisoners and a stop to extrajudicial killings. As peace-loving citizens and human rights advocates, it is our duty to expose and stop these trumped-up cases and to end impunity.
    “We thank the local government units, LGU officials, organizations and individuals who defended and supported me. We especially thank my lawyers in Davao City and our brave human rights lawyer Jose Molintas, who served as the lead counsel for my case. We also thank the National Bureau of Investigation-Cordillera Administrative Region and its regional director Atty. Hector Geologo for the protective custody of myself.
    “Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the United Nations experts, national and international partners of the CPA, various local and international organizations and human rights activists and advocates whose overwhelming support have pushed this case to a favorable conclusion.


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