>> Sunday, September 30, 2007

Four big-time marijuana dealers nabbed in Tarlac
CAMP MACABULOS, Tarlac City – City police arrested four big-time marijuana suppliers here last week.

Senior Supt. Nicanor Ancheta Bartolome, police provincial director, said he earlier instructed the provincial drug enforcement unit to verify intelligence reports on the inevitable surge in marijuana selling as "shabu trafficking has become less profitable and very expensive."
Bartolome’s instructions led to the arrest of four big-time marijuana sources in three towns and in this city.

They yielded five kilos marijuana fruiting tops packed in one kilo bricks and in plastic sachets.
Bartolome said the recent arrests indicate that some of the remaining illegal drug traffickers in the province have shifted to selling marijuana following a decrease in the local supply of shabu.
Bartolome identified those arrested as Joy de Leon, Tarlac City, 1.4 kilos; Cornelio Defontorum, Concepcion, 1.3 kilos; Romeo Soriano, La Paz, 2.5 kilos, and Gregorio O. Taban, Paniqui, 9 grams, or a total of 5.3 kilos.

The four were arrested in separate operations led by the PDEU in said towns and this city, barely two weeks after Bartolome ordered the PDEU to clear the province of remaining illegal drug sources.

Bartolome said most of the illegal drug personalities listed in the order of battle were now in jail.
"Even as we have succeeded in wiping out brisk illegal drug trafficking in the province, I have given orders to our drug enforcement teams to clear Tarlac of illegal drugs on or before the end of the year," he said. – George Trillo

Cordillera police director commends meritorious cops
CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – Regional police director Eugene Martin commended police based in Cordillera provinces last week for arresting persons wanted for various crimes.
In Abra, arrested were Joel D Suyan and Manuel L Licwayan for robbery and physical injuries; Romel Siganay, Rocky Siganay and Reynaldo Siganay for attempted murder.

In Benguet, police nabbed Aron T Aten-an at Tawang, La Trinidad for robbery with violence; Frederick Espada of Barangay Buyagan, also of the town for violation of Republic Act 6539; Victorio Calicdan of Keymins Hill, Balatoc, Itogon town for reckless imprudence resulting to physical injuries and Gaspar Duenes Amballo of South, Baretbet, Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya for robbery with homicide.

In Mountain Province, police arrested Domdom L Sayaan for robbery with violence, Ariel Buking for acts of lasciviousness and Eric Cawilan for robbery with force upon things.

The Regional Mobile Group was also commended for the arrest of Malcolm Longgato, Allan B Adeban, and Riyadh Lizardo at Km 6, La Trinidad, Benguet for robbery with violence.
Kalinga police were also cited for the arrest of Aurelio B Marzan Jr at Ubbog, Tabuk, Kalinga for murder.

It was also known Ifugao police arrested Reynaldo Binwag for violation of PD 705 and Eldam O Collantes of North Fairview, Quezon City for murder.

In Baguio, cops were also commended for the arrest of Mariano Matayew at Petron Gas Station, BGH Rotonda for reckless driving resulting to serious physical injuries, Eleanor A Villanueva of Balacbac for robbery with violence, Sammy Mapili for robbery with violence, Maria Luz Japson and Sergio B Japson at the Athletic Bowl for robbery and extortion and Tita Marietta P De Guzman at Session road for theft.

Four packs of dried marijuana leaves in bricks form weighing around 20 kg valued at P500,000 were also confiscated along Marcos Highway in the city.

Young ‘rapist’ nabbed in Abra
LA PAZ, Abra – Elements of provincial investigation and intelligence branch and La Paz police led by Chief Insp. Melvin G. Napiloy and Insp. Lou Claro nabbed one of the most wanted persons here identified as Milky B. Beronilla, 21, single, laborer and resident of Barangay Ababeng in La Paz.

Beronilla was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest for rape with no bail recommended issued by Judge Coropuz Alzate of Regional Trial Court in the capital town Bangued, Abra.

Provincial police chief Alexander Pumecha said Beronilla was charged for raping a four-year-old girl on Oct. 24, 2006 at La Paz and had been evading arrest until intelligence operatives picked up his trail.

Police said Pumecha has made it one of his priorities in running after child abusers, whom he considers one of the worst type of criminals.

Pumecha urged victims or witnesses of such crimes to report these to the police and identify perpetrators so they would be arrested.

Police launches handbook for band and pawnshop owners against robbers
CAMP FLORENDO, La Union – A handbook on measures against bank and pawnshop robberies highlighted the Ilocos Region’s celebration of “crime prevention month.”

The handbook was authored by Senior Supt .Noel Talino, Regional Intelligence Division chief, while its publication was endorsed by Chief Supt. Leopoldo Bataoil, Police Regional Office 3 director.

"We will fight crimes with knowledge," said Bataoil.

The handbook was launched by the Regional Anti-Bank Robbery Special Operations Task Force and the Regional Intelligence Division in this camp. "It contains, among others, anti-bank and pawnshop robbery counter measures.

"The information contained in this handbook is very important, especially to pawnshop and banking groups," Talino said.

Talino said if only pawnshops and banks were fully aware on the procedures and strategies employed by criminal elements, it would be very difficult, or impossible, for any criminal group to consummate a robbery.

"This handbook ensures our presence in the minds of bank and pawnshop executives, the service the police is capable of rendering, and our concern for the protection of their property and safety of their lives," Talino said.

The 21-page handbook is loaded with tips on countering the modus operandi of various syndicates involved in bank and pawnshop robberies.

It tells about the way a notorious robbery group like the "Acetylene Gang" would undertake its crime.

He said the RID 3 did its best to produce the handbook and carried out a careful study on the past activities of the "Acetylene Gang" as well as an evaluation of police’s counter measures.

Likewise, the handbook will serve as guide for the local police, owners and managers of banks and pawnshops and other similar establishments as well as the local government units and the community in combating robberies.

"For the past five years, robberies were prevalent in Ilocos and victims were mostly banks, bank clients, pawnshops, convenience, stores and other similar establishments.

"The results were tragic, to some, because they suffered a financial breakdown," Talino noted.
Most of the successful robbery incidents were perpetrated by the Acetylene Gang which had gained notoriety not only in Ilocos but in the entire country.

"They have been very successful in most of their operations of their well performed modus operandi. Their presence served as hindrance to the attainment of a sustainable peace and development throughout the country," he added.

Police authorities in Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur recently busted two groups of the Acetylene Gang that resulted to the arrest of several persons and the confiscation of their equipment.
Sr. Supt. Romeo Espiritu, Task Force chief, said the impact of the handbook will make the Ilocos region "a dangerous place for robbers."

"The Task Force came up with this handbook to prevent robbery incidents in banks and pawnshops and to provide tips to clients and to our law enforcers," Espiritu said.
Among the tips cited in the book is "consider everyday as an opportune day for robbery and always bring companions in transacting business with banks and pawnshops.

Bataoil said the publication of the Book is another big step of enforcing laws, winning wars and touching people’s lives.

"I congratulate the people behind the publication of the book. The police values the support and assistance the Task Force provided specially in investigation. Our call of duty must be heard and heeded. Together we can do more, let us fight crime with knowledge," Bataoil said in his message during the program. – Mar T. Supnad



New rules bared on passports

The Department of Foreign Affairs-Regional Consular Office-1 in San Fernando, La Union has bared the new “machine readable passport” will be available to applicants applying for a Philippine passport for the first time and those renewing their old passports.

Under the new system, applicants, whether first timers or renewal applicants have to personally appear, sign and affix their thumbprints on their application form before a consular officer at the DFA regional office in San Fernando City.

In addition, applicants are now required to submit three copies of their passport-size photograph taken against a royal blue background, instead of the white background required in the old system. The photograph, signature and thumbprints of the applicant will be stored in the passport database.

Under the new system, a machine generated application form printed with the personal details of the applicant. The applicant has the responsibility to verify the correctness of the data printed on the form. The signature of the applicant on the form will indicated that he or she has read and verified the contents.

Any misprint on the passport shall be on account of the applicant. The passport fee remains at P500 for regular processing and P750 for overtime processing.

Due to the shift to a new system and the expected surge in number of applicants, applicants are advised to apply or renew their passports ahead of their expected date of travel. Applicants who apply for regular processing can get their passports after 20 working days while those who apply for overtime processing can get their passports after 15 working days. Once the flow has normalized, the processing time will be reduced accordingly.

Other requirements remain the same. For first time applicants, they will have to submit their NSO birth certificates and their documents of identity. For those renewing their passports, they have to bring their old passport for cancellation. Efforts are underway to reduce the application procedure from three to two steps – processing and payment.

Applicants in Region 1 may apply for the new machine readable passports at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs-Regional Consular Office 1 in the City of San Fernando, La Union after Nov. 15. Green or manually scripted passports shall remain valid until their expiry. For those who are planning to travel outside the country, be guided accordingly.



CPLA rearing its ugly head
Alfred P. Dizon

The Cordillera People’s Liberation Army is actually a paper tiger but it is once again rearing its ugly head due to criminal activities of its members and of course, posturing of its purported leaders so they could get more concessions and money from the government.

These characters in the CPLA who have been touting themselves as “saviors” of the Cordillera people have once again succeeded in their antics to get noticed by the government.
As a result, the regional peace and order council created a technical working group to make a study and make recommendations on what to do with this monster. All the while, we thought this monster’s wings and head have been clipped.
According to RPOC members, they would like to come up with a “common understanding, definite stand and resolution of issues concerning the CPLA” being raised by complainants and critics of this motley group of trying-hard characters.

The “TWG for CPLA concerns” is headed by Susan Marcaida, director for program implementation and monitoring office of the presidential adviser on peace process.

Its members are composed of representatives from the regional police, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Northern Luzon Command, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Justice, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas and Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club.
CPLA officer Corazon Balweg, chief of staff; Mailed Molina, chairman and Marcelina Bahatan, president were also included as members. I am confused why the media and CPLA officers had to be included in the TWG. As things stand now, even officers of the media and CPLA groups couldn’t police their ranks. What more to chasing a paper tiger? Ah! Anyway, we need entertainment every now and then to amuse us from the daily newspaper grind.

TWG officers said they were looking on reported recruitment and demand for integration and alleged involvement of some CPLA members in criminal activities. They can ask the hapless landowners at Dominican Hill in Baguio who have been terrorized by CPLA members into giving away their lands to them. Even the lot of the wife of a newspaperman’s family in Tiptop, Beckel in Baguio had been the object of speculation by CPLA members. But they didn’t pursue their bad intention when they came to know the lot was owned by the newsman’s kin.
There are a lot more we could cite here but let us leave the job to the TWG and since the group is funded by taxpapers’ money and they earn every centavo allotted to them.

Former mayor Gabby Ganggangan of the “inactive” Cordillera Bodong Administration had said it was high time the administration and the CPLA should level off and assess what happened since the government presented by former President Corazon Aquino signed a peace pact with the rebel group on Sept. 13, 1986.

According to Ganggangan, some objectives of the CPLA were gained but some were not. I have been covering CPLA issues as a newsman ever since CPLA members broke off from the New People’s Army in 1986 and formed the group.
I was there in Barangay Bugnay in Tinglayan, Kalinga when they formalized their break purportedly due to ideological differences with the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA. But sad to say, over the years, CPLA members have been charged with a lot of human rights violations ranging from murder, rape and torture. They have also been accused of landgrabbing, involvement in illegal gambling like rigging of cockfights and being bodyguards of political warlords. My personal experience with the CPLA: we were nearly massacred by this group in Cagaluan, Kalinga in 1987.
Cordillera regional police director Chief Supt. Eugene Martin said during the RPOC meeting that with involvement of CPLA in activities affecting peace and order, an assessment to determine how far government has complied relative to the Mt. Data Peace accord agreements and whether there was still a need to maintain the CPLA as an armed group.

The task force can look over newspaper clippings over the years and bleed.

Ms Aquino had signed the peace accord with the CPLA represented by rebel priest Conrado Balweg which formalized cessation of hostilities between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the CPLA. This led to the passing of Executive Order 220 creating the Cordillera Administrative Region.

The CBA was created as the political and mother organization while the CPLA with the CPLA as military armed component, but constitutionalists have pointed out there could only be one Armed Forces of the Philippines.
During the RPOC meeting, Bahatan was quoted as saying she was appreciative they were now being invited to join meetings to discuss their concerns but added she was surprised there were many meetings wherein CPLA issues were discussed they were not aware of.

National Police Commission director Rodolfo G. Santos, also the RPOC head secretariat, said this was because they did not know whom to invite as the CPLA had factions. As culled out from minutes of RPOC meetings, issues and concerns concerning the CPLA have been tackled since 2000.

In the same forum, Ganggangan said there was only one CPLA now headed by Molina, Balweg (wife of the late rebel priest who was gunned down by New People’s Army guerillas) and Bahatan.

But even as Bahatan and Ganggangan said there were no CPLA factions since 2003, Martin told them to “establish control over the group and police your ranks, before we can start talking.”

On CPLA involvement in illegal activities, Ganggangan said if indeed CPLA members were involved, they should be arrested and charged in court since the group ‘in principle’ does not tolerate criminal activities. The TWG members could ask the “high command” of the CPLA. They should know who the wayward members are.

The issue on determining the real number of the CPLA had been brought out. A Philippine Information Agency report said members were reportedly being recruited with the number now reaching about 4,000 but I doubt this. I guess, this is just a ploy to get more monetary concessions from the government.

The more so-called CPLA members, of course, the government would have to dole out more. But before the government does this, it should investigate first where funds intended for CPLA livelihood programs have been used in the past like those in Kalinga and Abra.

On livelihood for CPLA members, as part of provisions of EO 220, the the army Northern Luzon Command said some were implemented. The Nolcom earlier reported a P2 million seed money distributed to seven CPLA cooperatives in the region. The TWG could investigate if the money was judiciously spent.
On the integration process, based on a Nolcom report, 1,200 CPLA members recommended for integration to the AFP was accomplished. This included 246 fully integrated composed of 15 officers and 249 enlisted personnel and 528 CPLA members absorbed in six CAFGU active auxiliary companies currently deployed in the Cordillera. Of those who were integrated, four officers and 13 EP died or were discharged.



Government communications and livelihood projects
Ike 'Ka' Iking Seneres

How could government agencies communicate securely, economically and efficiently with each other? This appears to be the three main government considerations in communicating with each other, to make it secure, economical and efficient.
As it is now, very few agencies seem to be concerned about their data security, as evidenced by the fact that only a few agencies have their own proprietary encryption. Truth to tell, encryption is the way to secure both data and communications, regardless of how and where messages are sent. Logically speaking therefore, government agencies should invest more in encryption rather than in the bandwidth where messages are transmitted.
Long before Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) became popular in the public mind, the Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology was already available, with no government agency taking advantage of it. To this day, VPN is still available, and still no government agency is using it.
Simply put, VPN enables users to have their own secure network within any other network, commercial or otherwise. To be more specific, users could have their own VPNs within the networks of Smart, Globe, Sun Cellular, BayanTel and PLDT, and it would work securely, as if they have their own.
On the side of economy, users could run VoIP within a VPN, thus eliminating the need to spend for commercial calls within the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS). This is another issue, as the carriers may not like the idea of reducing their POTS revenues. Practically speaking however, the costs of National Direct Dialing (NDD) long distance costs within the POTS has already gone down to ten pesos for unlimited calls, thus making it very economical already.
Considering all the telecom options that are already available, the government should instead come up with a policy that would guide employees which options should be used to save money the best way.
Now, on livelihood projects. How could the government assist in the marketing of products coming from livelihood projects? The initiative of Sen. Dick Gordon to ship fruits from Mindanao using military aircraft is praiseworthy, but we need permanent solutions for this problem that could survive the test of time.
Since Gordon has taken the first step of arranging buyers for these goods to be purchased by supermarkets in Metro Manila, the government should step in to make this a regular program, making sure however that the government should only help in the trading process, and not to do the trading directly.
Way back in the mid-70s, I was Group Product Manager of Bliss Marketing Corporation, a private company that was funded by the government for the purpose of marketing products coming from livelihood projects. Although we succeeded in the early stages, we eventually failed as the government made the decision to directly engage in direct trading, rather than just assist producers in finding markets for their products.
In a free market economy, products could be sold by producers and delivered to any destination for as long as the selling prices are right, and for as long as the transportation expenses could be absorbed by the selling prices. Shipping the fruits from Mindanao using military aircraft is a good idea for humanitarian reasons, but in reality the selling price is not sustainable, because there is no shipping cost.
As the cost of airline tickets are going down due to the effects of healthy price competition, it may be a good time for shipping lines to bring down their own sea freight costs, as they are starting to be affected by the transfer of sea travel customers to the airlines.
It should take more than one energetic Senator to solve the problem of marketing products from Mindanao and from all livelihood sites. The government is giant machinery that should get its act together in solving the problem, so that it could do more than what one man has done. For more information about public governance, email iseneres@yahoo.com



Golf games and racial slur
March L. Fianza

Aside from the game itself, something else happens between the players in a simple round of golf. Recent revelations of graft and corruption involving President Arroyo’s men elicits questions from the man on the street who, in the end, suffers from the burdens brought about by the actions of his so-called “public servants.”

Some of the President’s men no longer play golf for sports but for something else. For a lucky Malacanang worker, his golf game has slowly turned out to mean another thing. This player aims for things important to his person and cares less about things that benefit the people he is supposed to serve.

I remember finishing just one round of golf in old Camp John Hay years before its fairways were scraped by its developers. That was my first and last round. Many days later, an invitation to another round came but I remember that my schedule did not allow me to finish it.

I do not play golf. That is the quick and ready reason I say when asked about my “handicap.” Although, there are other better reasons. First, there are no more free privileges given to Baguio newsmen, unlike in the past. Second, the membership fee which runs to hundreds of thousands of pesos is no joke. Another fact is that there is no extra money to spend for the green fee and caddie boy.

What is left for a less fortunate newsman is to have coffee at the golf shop and watch a game played by the more privileged mammals. While doing just that, my eyes witnessed a lot of scenes that one could have interpreted into many things. By the way, I remember seeing Bong Pineda play in one of the golf courses here in Baguio many years ago. In fact, the other newsmen who were with me were wondering why Pineda was in the fairways at a time when the city mayor and President Ramos were playing too.

While there were games played with no strings attached, there were rounds played by mayors, governors, councilors and police generals with the gambling lords or Jueteng operators. That was also the favorite game played by public works contractors against government engineers along with other local chief executives, especially congressmen.

In our local golf course, instead of hearing a statement such as “meron kang 200 dito,” maybe what you will hear is “nasaan yung 200 ko?” The first statement was what Romulo Neri, former NEDA boss, heard from Comelec chairman Ben Abalos at the Wacwac fairways in Manila.

While playing golf, they were talking about the controversial national broadband network Chinese project proposal pegged at a bloated price of US$15billion. But apart from what transpired at the Wacwac fairways, a question wanting to be answered is: “Is it SOP to overprice foreign funded projects to accommodate all kickbacks for Malacanang stalwarts?

After Joey de Venecia III who is involved in the communication business opened up and related his side of the story of a US$10million bribe offer, Neri admitted to the truthfulness of the same. Both offers came from Abalos. The next questions the man in the street wants answered is: “Who is the bigger if not the biggest man behind Abalos’ actions? Who else are involved in the scandal? What are the participations of GMA, Mike Arroyo and Speaker de Venecia? If they are involved, how much are they getting, respectively?

Whatever, it is good that people the likes of them play golf. In fact they should play more so that the people will expect more controversies. The more they play golf, the better for all of us.

An investigation on charges of bribery involving the President’s men is underway at the senate. Well, something very wrong while investigating the wrong happened in the senate. Senator Miriam Santiago blew her top accusing the “Intsik” – her own term, the oldest civilization as the ones who brought in corruption to the Philippines.

That, to me was an unfair remark from a supposedly intelligent former judge, now senator. I wonder what our Chinese brothers are up to now. Maybe they want a public apology? Maybe the ethics committee in the senate must act? Her statements about the Chinese which was picked up on national television did not only make her shrink or the senate become so small, it damaged Filipino-Chinese ties. – marchfianza777@yahoo.com



Begging in various forms
Edison L. Baddal

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- During the meeting last month of the Provincial School Board, the current Chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, who was among the attendees, strongly expressed her aversion to solicitation being done in offices by members of private organizations.
She bristled at solicitation as a way to procure funds, and the easiest at that, by organizations whenever its members have a program or project in the pipeline for implementation.

“There are more dignified ways in raising funds than solicitation. Organizations should be ingenious enough in finding means to raise funds like conducting sales and the like,” she said. She added printed warnings currently posted in office entrances prohibiting the entry of itinerant vendors should instead be changed to warn the entry of solicitors.

She reasoned said vendors should be tolerated in offices than solicitors. “The vendors are barely trying to survive or acquire cash through vending which is more honorable than soliciting which is tantamount of begging,” she said.

I took the occasion to take potshots against the abhorrent practice of open begging of Mountain Province folk in Manila, especially those who have already adapted it as a regular livelihood.
I suggested to a board member if the SP could craft a doable policy to regulate begging in Manila by our town mates. This is because I firmly professed that the practice “is giving a big black eye to the image of the people of Mountain Province even as those engaged in it do not even constitute one percent of the total population of the province.

To this, the provincial social welfare officer said that she would re-implement established provincial policies enunciated by past provincial administrations which her office usually implements vis-à-vis the issue.

She added the provincial government had been trying to regulate the practice ever since. In fact, the assistance of barangay officials, whose barangays the identified beggars come from, have been tapped on several instances but the latter were not so cooperative.

Surprisingly, her staff found out many of these professional beggars became rich. In fact, some have even produced many professionals and built boarding houses in Baguio City out of begging.
Many of these beggars wisely invested their solicited cash into fruitful pursuits.

Begging? The word struck a familiar cord in me. It seemed like a bolt of lightning hit me all of sudden from nowhere. Instantly, it evoked many poignant recollections of those old folks from Sagada and Dalican who made begging an occupation or livelihood in Manila.

Having sojourned in Manila for eight years back in the eighties as helper in my dad’s stall while studying at the same time, I usually espied them extending their palms for charity. This was done to bystanders, students, passers-by along boulevards, street corners, shaded walkways, or to customers of restaurants and street side eateries or to shoppers in arcades, buyers in street stalls or promenaders in parks.

Oftentimes, I saw them being shoved or shooed out of restaurants and other establishments like dogs as their owners detest them for inconveniencing customers. Uncertain as to who really started this practice, kinfolks intimated that many old folks from said places have been going to Manila to beg ever since the end of the World War 2, notably in the fifties.

However, the proliferation of beggars from Mountain Province supposedly started in the late sixties and in the seventies, many of them graduated to being professional panhandlers. According to stories, these beggars usually engaged in farming as their part-time livelihood.

During the planting, weeding and harvesting seasons, they were tied down to their farms then headed to Manila in-between said farm works to beg. During yuletides, though, not only old folks but many able-bodied men and women trooped in droves to Manila to panhandle.

On the pretext that they were there to carol, they entertained Manilenos through native dances executed to the rhythmic beating of gongs for loose coins voluntarily thrown their way by curious spectators.

Because of this, Mountain Province has been tagged as a home of beggars to a lot of Manila denizens. Quite humiliating and revolting, to say the least, this further added up to the prejudice that lowlanders have for highlanders, especially those from Mt. Province.

This is on top of our being regarded pejoratively by lowlanders because of our minority and ethnic social status. I can vouch for this as even in Baguio, which is literally an Igorot City, lowlanders have basically low regard for native Cordillerans (Read: Igorots) despite the fact that they are savoring the crisp climate that this Igorot city has afforded them.
Almost a month later, while acting as one of the facilitators in a training involving the members of the Provincial Poverty Reduction Action Teams and their municipal counterparts on Community-Based Monitoring Systems in Bontoc, one of the participants raised a question on the CBMS survey form.

This was on the indicator regarding the estimation of a respondent’s income which is among the 135 indicators in the said survey form. His question concerned the category of income in which one of the choices is stated as “others”.

He did not mention it directly but he indicated it by extending his open palm mimicking the act of begging. At first, I thought that he is referring to open begging but later he bluntly stated the term “SOP”. Of course, the SOP is that money given to authorities to grease their palms on the sly.

Ostensibly, this guy belied his aversion to SOP for having categorized it as begging in the same vein as the said alderman’s aversion to solicitation which she opined as tantamount to begging. If anything, it also related to my personal aversion to open begging. I was disconcerted on both occasions.

This intriguing question caught me in a bind. One consideration that I entertained was the difference of the three forms of begging. Solicitation is done by organizational members to defray the cost of a project which are oftentimes beneficial to the public. At other times, it is resorted by community leaders to help defray the cost of burial of a deceased but destitute man.

On the other hand, those old folks who trooped to Manila to beg belonged to the poor, marginalized sector. They were destitute farmers who eked out a living from their farms but their being devoid of cash forced them to go to Manila to beg.

Their farms could barely sustain their nutritional needs and were usually advanced in years. Having limited options for livelihood due to illiteracy, they were forced to beg in between farming activities. Meanwhile, the SOP is the lifeblood of crooks to boost their material, financial and socio-political stock.

Another consideration is that while those old, slogging folks (my emphasis is on the old folks, mind you) who go to Manila to beg do so for having been left out of economic opportunities due to illiteracy and ignorance while those who get AIDS through SOP do so out of plain avarice and undue advantage

The moral question then is, which among the three is considered more palatable? I dare say that solicitation, for as long as it is done for a worthy cause, is acceptable. There is no need to intellectualize the issue as the crux of the matter is the purpose not the means. On begging as a livelihood, morally and socially, it might be reprehensible.

But while am prejudiced against those professional beggars, it is logically acceptable for those old, illiterate folks from their ranks who can no longer do backbreaking works in field or construction projects due to old age.

It is a totally a different story for those crooks who engage in SOP business. For one thing, the SOP funds are meant to make those indulged in it richer as well as to boost their socio-political stocks. As these crooks have been entrusted with power and public authority, it is the most reprehensible and insidious act itself. These SOPs, being public money, is basically robbing the
taxpayers’ money.

It is also treachery of the people’s trust. Adding insult to injury, the SOP takers are already blessed with much and yet they want more by bamboozling the hoi polloi through shady deals, questionable contracts and substandard projects. Thus, the act itself is not only larceny and naked avarice but also an extreme case of perfidy.

There’s then the rub as to why the Philippines is still at the tailend in terms of economic development compared with her neighbors like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and even Vietnam which is a socialist country.



Execs who should resign in Baguio and Manila
Rudy Garcia

The decision of the Sandiganbayan on the Erap case can be a testing point in the credibility of the justice system. The non-guilty verdict for perjury can be said to be fair and square by some while the guilty verdict of plunder can be somehow a consolation for those who have already lost their faith in our justice system.

Looking back, it was then former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson who came out and accused Erap of pocketing millions of pesos from jueteng bribe money and tobacco excise taxes. In this case, the prosecution exhausted all the means to satisfy the three judges of the Sandiganbayan trying the case, hence the verdict.

While we are all for due to respect to the rule of law like decisions made by the Sandiganbayan, anyone can have doubt whether the judicial body’s verdict is fair or mere political persecution.
For how can we made to believe that it was fair and square when there are known allies of Malacañang who should also be investigated and put to trial, roaming scot-free, living normally and comfortably while some of them were even given juicy positions. What happened to the exposed fertilizer scam of Jocjoc Bolante, the controversial “Hello Garci” scandal of former Commission on elections top gun Virgilio Garcillano, the ZTE contract of Benjamin Abalos, the alleged graft and practice of former justice secretary Nani Perez, the questionable “Jose Pidal” bank accounts and so forth?

While the decision of the Sandiganbayan can be laudable, it is a matter of question why it was only Erap who was implicated. How about those who participated in the bribe giving? I am not a lawyer but what I understand, the bribe giver is equally liable as the bribe taker. Much more that the bribe money came from an illegal activity. Isn’t it also that the middleman of the transaction was also a part or an accessory in the case? If this is not political persecution, I don’t know how what to call it.

Now again, another “bombshell” was exposed recently by Joey de Venecia III son of House speaker Joe de Venecia regarding the multi million pesos ZTE broadband deal. The young De Venecia accused Abalos of having brokered the said project to gain millions of kickbacks.
De Venecia also accused Abalos of forcing him and his trading company to “back off” from the project and offered him 10 million dollars bribe money. He even mentioned Romulo Neri, former chief of the National Economic Development Authority and Leandro Mendoza of the Dept. of Transportation and Communications of having a role in the deal but he didn’t directly implicate First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

Abalos just laughed off the accusation and claimed that the young De Venecia was just sour graping and branded him a “liar.” I guess, that who ever is lying between the two is premature to determine at this point.

At the Senate, Neri said he was also offered a 200 million dollar bribe by Abalos for the NBN project and claimed to have rejected and informed the attempted bribe to President Arroyo. Here, it is interesting to know what appropriate action the president did when informed by Neri of the attempted bribery by Abalos.

The truth may come out in the ongoing senate investigation. As I can see, Neri seems in reluctant in revealing all he knows by making the executive order his shield while citing his right to confidentiality. The inconsistent testimonies of Abalos only made him prejudged by public opinion that he was lying under oath before the panel of senators.

Simply put, the controversial multi million ZTE broadband deal cannot push through and should not have gone this far if the concerned line government agencies did their part. If only one of them should have had the guts to do what the young De Venecia did. Look what they are doing now, they are pointing fingers at each other! The best thing these gentlemen can do is to resign now and make an honorable exit from their positions out of delicadeza.

Right honorables Mendoza, Neri, Abalos and Abaya ang Formoso of Budget and Finance?

You see, this NBN project was done the “short cut short circuit way.” It was alike a criminal case filled outright at the municipal or Regional Trial Court without the benefit of investigation, resolution and information from the prosecutors office.

Sen. Miriam Santiago may have been right when she said the Senate was only wasting time and effort in this investigation because this was the root of squabble by people going after big kickbacks. How I wish she also said the same during the investigation of Erap’s case.

How about conducting a senate hearing on this ZTE broadband deal at the detention cell of Sen. Trillanes? This can be a different venue for a different Senate session. Just the same, politics is politics. It can be dirty or not depending on the politicos who assume power and authority.

In the game of politics there is no end. You can be powerful, free or indispensable now but not for tomorrow. Bilog ang mundo. Remember that there is a universal law of retribution to everyone regardless of who you are.

To end this line I would like to borrow some of the lyrics from Mike Hanopol’s song “Mr Kenkoy” dedicated to all “kenkoys” of the ZTE Broadband deal….. “Hoy, hoy, hoy mga keykoy, bakit kayo nangangamoy, mga kenkoy?”

If the complaint of one of my field reporter is true that a new member of the Baguio City public order and safety division or POSD under the mayors office acted arrogantly against him during an operation at the Hanger Market at Hilltop in the morning of Sept. 21, then this abusive and arrogant POSD operative who was a former Baguio policeman should be given appropriate disciplinary action from their chief engineer Greg Delejero. In fact being a member of a task force in an office of public order and safety, this new recruit doesn’t deserve to stay longer in government service.

If I remember right, there was a POSD operative who was shot and seriously wounded by a Muslim trader years back apparently because of his arrogant and abusive manner in approaching an old Muslim vendor, yet some POSD members have not learned their lessons from what happened to their colleague.

They presumed that they were superior to lesser folks like us. Next time, you happen to cross path with a POSD member be sure to have your pants on otherwise, you may suffer the same fate as this fellow media member. Better still, if you know some members of the POSD who are be abusive and arrogant, don’t hesitate to report this directly to their chief Greg Delejero at the mayors office.

I’m sure he will entertain your complaints with utmost secrecy if you desire, and surely will initiate appropriate disciplinary sanctions on his erring personnel. Right Mr. Greg?



Life on Earth is fast disappearing
Paul Icamina

THE mighty Philippine Eagle is one of the five most critically endangered creatures on Earth, facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
And the squaretail coralgrouper, found on coral reefs in the Philippines and the Western Pacific, is considered vulnerable.

In the Philippines and the Western Pacific, the squaretail coralgrouper is popular on restaurant menus and exported to Hong Kong and mainland China where they fetch high prices. This species is now protected in Palawan and in Fiji .

The eagle and the grouper made it to the latest Red List, the most reliable evaluation of the conservation status of the world's species.

The list classifies them according to their risks, from extinct, critically endangered (“extinction is very close” like the Philippine Eagle) to endangered and vulnerable like the Squaretail Coralgrouper.

"Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken," warns the Swiss-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the latest edition of the Red List, the international catalogue of threatened wildlife, released mid-September.

Corals are included for the first time in this year’s list. Ten species from the Galapagos islands have entered the list, with two in the critically endangered category and one in the vulnerable category.

Gorillas, vultures, corals and Asian crocodiles joined thousands of other species on the slide towards extinction.

A grim statistic contained in the latest list is that the western gorilla has moved from endangered to critically endangered, after the discovery that the main subspecies, the western lowland gorilla, has been severely depleted by the commercial bushmeat trade and the Ebola virus.

Of the great apes, the orang-utan is in desperate trouble. The Sumatran orangutan remains in the critically endangered category and the Bornean orang-utan in the endangered category. Both are threatened by habitat loss due to illegal and legal logging and forest clearance for palm oil plantations.

In the last year, nearly 200 additions were made to the list, upping the number of threatened species worldwide from 16,118 to 16,306. In danger are one in four of the world's mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70 per cent of the world's assessed plants on the current list.

All in all, 16,306 species are threatened with extinction, but this may be a gross underestimate because fewer than 3% of the world’s 1.9 million described species have been assessed by the Red List.

Human activities threaten 99% of the species are at risk. Humans are the main cause of extinction and the principle threat to species at risk of extinction.

Habitat loss and degradation are the leading threats. They affect 86% of all threatened birds, 86% of the threatened mammals assessed and 88% of the threatened amphibians.

Another threat is the introduction of alien species. Some of the worst include cats and rats, green crabs, zebra mussels, the African tulip tree and the brown tree snake. Introductions of alien species can happen deliberately or unintentionally, for example, by organisms "hitch-hiking" in containers, ships, cars or soil.

Mining, logging, hunting and fishing for food, pets and medicine threatens many species. So do pollution and disease.

The most species threatened are in the tropics, especially on mountains and on islands. Over the last 20 years roughly 50% of extinctions occurred on continents: Central and South America; Africa south of the Sahara; and tropical South and Southeast Asia . They contain most of the Earth’s terrestrial and freshwater species.

The total number of species on the planet is unknown; estimates vary between 10 to 100 million, with 15 million species being the most widely accepted figure. Only about 1.7 - 1.8 million species are known today.

The Red List considers a species extinct when exhaustive surveys in known or expected habitats fail to record any individuals. The 2007 Red List documents 785 extinctions and 65 extinctions in the wild since 1500AD (when historical scientific records began).

This number doesn’t account for the thousands of species that go extinct before scientists even have a chance to describe them.

Stepping closer to extinction, many species have moved into the critically endangered category since 1996, the first time the Red List was published. It suggests that the situation is deteriorating for many species.

But many that have been listed as extinct have subsequently been discovered to exist. The Philippines bare-backed fruit bat, for example, was previously considered to be extinct after no records of the species since 1964. However, it was rediscovered on Cebu in 2000 and then on Negros in 2003. It is now listed as critically endangered.



DA to conduct study on malunggay for food export
Jason Santos

The Department of Agriculture will conduct a comprehensive study on the impact of the lowly malunggay to reduce malnutrition and increase incomes of farmers who would cultivate the hardy tree and supply local and foreign corporations with natural ingredients that have significant cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.

Malunggay, known in England as moringa and in India as sajina, has been found by biochemists and molecular anthropologists as rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, iron and high density lipoprotein (HDL) otherwise known in medical literature as good cholesterol, according to director Alicia Ilaga of the DA Biotechnology Program Office, which monitors all projects related to the development of agricultural biotechnology products.

Ilaga said a scientific study of malunggay would spark interest in the tree, which could potentially supply a variety of substances needed by food processors, pharmaceutical industries and even corporations engaged in the manufacture of cosmetics.

This early, Ilaga explained, DA is encouraging experts from the Department of Health, the National Nutrition Council, the Bureau of Plant Industry, the National Anti Poverty Commission, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Nutrition Center of the Philippines and Secura Philippines, Inc, a local biotech firm, to collaborate in pushing the wider cultivation and processing of malunggay.

According to Secretary Domingo F. Panganiban, NAPC chief, the cultivation of malunggay can be undertaken in the 10 poorest provinces of the country along with many communities in the National Capital Region since the tree can survive in hostile terrain and needs practically little attention.
Panganiban is at the forefront of the drive to reduce the poverty level of 800,000 families nationwide that government regards as the poorest of the poor and has batted for a cocktail of measures to reduce urban and rural misery.

The NCP has proposed a study on the efficacy of malunggay leaf powder and malunggay oil as additives to the diet in order to reduce the traditionally high micronutrient deficiency among Filipinos, young and old alike.

Ilaga said NCP is setting its sights on fortifying different types of food using the vitamin A, iron and high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol that are found in liberal quantities in malunggay.
She added the study is anchored at producing a science-based research that will guide government health policies on malunggay as fortifiant, which complements the DA’s objective of opening up the market for malunggay growers and boost industry formation.

Ilaga said the leaves, seeds and even flowers of malunggay for a number of byproducts and added that manufacturers of instant noodles are now using substances found in malunggay to fortify their products.

She stressed malunggay will not ony fight malnutrition but also generate jobs to millions of Filipinos, from planting to processing and distribution of planting materials for commercial production.

Under the law, rice, salt, flour and other commodities are required to be fortified with iron after government found out that many Filipinos are critically deficient in iron.

According to Ilaga, one of the components of the proposed study is the comparison of malunggay oil to other essential oils.

Ilaga said they are eyeing the support of legislators for funding the project, while Secura Philippines, Inc. a local biotech firm which is now offering contract to grow malunggay will donate materials, such as malunggay leaf powder for use in the study. -- biolife news service



Meat of the matter

Prima Gracia Sarmiento and Katrina Tan

By establishing a reputation as a reliable supplier of pork, the Serrano couple of Pitril, Tondo, grew their business as their customer list expanded Filipinos are among the biggest pork consumers, with annual per capita consumption of 14.5 kg (32 lbs.). Indeed their hearty appetite for pork sustains lucrative P100 billion swine-raising industry, which consists of several medium- and large-scale commercial farms as well as thousands of backyard hog raisers in various parts of the country.

But an important link between the hog raisers and the pork processors and consumers are the commercial pork buyers and sellers- the middlepersons who buy hog carcasses in bulk from farms or slaughterhouses, cut the carcasses to order, and distribute them wholesale to meat processors and wet-market vendors.

Among them are Alvin and Edith Serrano, the husband-and-wife owners of Aldith’s Meat Shop, a major pork wholesaler and retailer based with outlets in Divisoria and Tondo, Manila. From a volume of only one or two hog carcasses daily when it started in 1985, the business now handles daily volume of 120 carcasses.

The couple buys them from their network of hog suppliers, then butchers them for distribution to meat processors, food-service establishments, and end-consumers in Metro Manila. Currently, the business employs 20 people and now also has a meat-cutting plant at the ground floor of the three-story building that the Serrano couple had built in Pitril, Tondo.

Edith Serrano comes from a family of pork suppliers. Along with her two brothers who are also pork wholesaler and retailers like her, she learned the business from her parents. The Linsangans sold pork in a small stall in Divisoria, and Edith recalls that when she and her five siblings were young, her father required all of them to work in the family-owned meat shop. She thus learned the intricacies of the pork supply business as she grew up and got her formal education.

In 1985, shortly after getting her management degree, Edith set up her own meat shop in Divisoria. Three years later, she married her boyfriend, Manila policemen Alvin Serrano. She asked him to help out in the business, but Alvin decided to keep his regular job and only assisted her whenever he could after his working hours. “Tinulungan ko siyang mag-retail, doon din ako natutong maghiwa ng baboy [I help her do retailing and also learned pig butchering in the process],” Alvin says.

Working on a revolving capital of P3,000 and a profit margin of only 10 percent, the couple at the start would dispose of an average of two hog carcasses a day on retail – just enough to sustain the business and out food on the family table. But Alvin and Edith were ambitious and wanted to grow their business beyond simple retailing. “Sa retail kikita ka, pero hanggang doon
ka na lang {There’s money in retail, but that’s just about it},” Alvin says.

To expand their market, the Serranos worked hard to establish supply lines for their pork to canteen concessionaires. Alvin, acting on tips he got from acquaintances, would make cold calls to prospects or visit them, offering supply them pork at process slightly slower than those at prices. By 1991, the couple had become suppliers to several canteen concessionaires, and they used P40,000 of their personal saving to keep up with the demand for hog meat from their costumers.

The business continued to grow and from 1991 to 1995, the Serranos were turning over 10 to 15 carcasses a day, mostly to canteen concessionaires; the rest they sold through their meat stall in Divisoria. Although the couple already had three worker then, the couple had to work long and stressful hours to keep up with the growing volume of the business.

The year 1996 gave the Serrano couple an even bigger opportunity to expand their business. “Dumating ang panahon na dumagsa ang baboy. Maraming nag-aalok [That was the time when the demand for pork became so strong and we got so many offers from suppliers],” Edith recalls. Her brothers, who at that time had already been supplying pork to several meat processors, encouraged her to go into the same business as they themselves had been having a hard time keeping up with the fast-growing demand for pork meat.

Alvin and Edith didn’t pass up the opportunity. They borrowed P350,000 from acquaintances and immediately bought 30 carcasses to initially supply one of the meat processors. The couple developed a reputation as a reliable pork supplier, and soon they were getting supply contracts from other to recover their initial investment and settle their debts in only a year’s time.

Today, 11 years later, Aldith’s Meat Shop has became a thriving business. The proceeds from the venture had enabled the Serrano couple to built their won house in Tondo, where they also run a meat ship retailing pork to their neighbors. They also derive extra income from renting out rooms in a three-story apartment building they had built. Because business has been good, the Serranos are able to send their two children to study in private schools.

Apart from the financial rewards of the business, Edith says she also feels fulfilled in having succeed in a business that she had grown to love over the years. “Sa totoo lang, hindi ko maisip and sarili ko sa ibang negosyo maliban sa pagiging magbababoy [I can’t see myself doing any other business than being a pork meat buyer and seller], she say.

Carving a name in animation
The animation process is tedious. Animators spend a great deal of time on the drawing board doing digital inking, two-dimensional and three-dimensional animation, and several other steps before they can breathe life to a narrative in the form of a full motion picture. Although animation as a business has been around for two decades, it is only now that the Philippines fund itself on the brink of carving a name in the global animation arena.

As an outsourced service, animation has a huge market. Worldwide, it’s a $70-billion industry, and “grows 70 percent every year,” says Grace Dimaranan, President of the Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc. (ACPI), a non-profit organization promoting Philippine animation here and abroad. “When computers and the internet were introduced, [animation] was no longer confined to TV or movies, but [spread] to mobile and Internet content, special movie effects, and the number one billion-dollar industry, video and online gaming.

This significant surge in demand has led to a rise of outsourcing jobs to China, India, and other Asian countries. The Philippines possesses several competitive advantages in the animation field. Aside from providing affordable services, the country boasts an ample supply of skilled and creative workers, and a strong affinity with the Western Culture, language, and humor. In fact, Filipinos have already done a lot of work for international companies, the likes of Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros., and TOEI Japan. They have also played a part in creating several hit movies, including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Pirates of the Caribbean; as well as a number of popular cartoons, such as Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry, and The Flintstones.

Animation is also one of the five sectors of business process outsourcing (BPO) – the others being back office processing contact center, engineering design, medical transcription, and software development – on whose strong performance the Philippine government is hoping to hitch on the country’s economic recovery. There are currently 25 ACPI members, including production studios, training center, and equipment distributors and around 50 animation production houses in the country, majority of them based in Metro Manila, according to Eric Tansingco of Take one Animation.

“Animation is long term investment. Don’t expect to get regular monthly income – you may get several million for one project, and nothing the next months,” says Mina Caliguia of ArtFarm Asia, an animation company that used to be content production and training firm. She says one should expect to invest anywhere between P3 million and P100 million on computers, scanners, printers, tables, chairs, concept and cork boards, among other equipment, as well as on operation costs.

Although business registration requirements are similar with other businesses, new players must take care to acquire the proper software licenses.

Business owners must also produce good, sellable work. Dimaranan agrees that the animation business survives through the talents and skills of animators. Don’t attempt to enter the business by just setting up and buying the equipment, without the [right] people to handle the job.”

Caliguia, for example, glimpsed a future in animation when her husband, Nelson, kept bringing home a monthly income of as high as P60,000 to P70,000 from his job as a freelance animator. After a friend offered a place in which to set up, the couple opened Artfarm Asia in 1994 with less than 10 employees. The first few years were difficult, but after just one major project for a Roger Corman movie in 1996, ArtFarm was able to earn its initial investment.

“It’s crucial for outsourcers to tie up with at least one foreign company to have regular work,” says Caliguia. “Another difficulty is that clients will always expect you to finish everything to the last detail. Animation, although it’s done by hundreds of people, must end up looking like it was done by one person.”

ArtFarm now counts around 30 employees and 15 to 20 freelance animators. To ensure a steady income, ArtFarm also offers training and commercial and music video production, which Caliguia refers to as “trip” projects. “Training brings in about 60 percent of our earnings,” she says,

Indeed, the animation industry looks primed for growth not only in outsourcing but also in developing original content. “If we continue competing with lower pries, we will eventually lose out other countries,” says Caliguia. “I believe our strongest competitive advantage is design and concept. We should come up with our own original content for the global market.”

As for those looking to animation as a short-term investment, Transingco says your company’s value would depend on its poll of clientele and site of set-up. “But I personally don’t
have any plans of selling [the business] because I can see potential expansion in the next few years.”


Tribal war averted with murder case settlement

>> Wednesday, September 26, 2007


BONTOC, Mountain Province – A tribal war was averted between two feuding tribes after a murder case was solved here last week following indigenous settlement.

A “hearing” to settle the case was held here at the municipal plaza on Sept. 17 headed by Mayor Franklin Odsey and the council of elders of Bontoc representing “atos” of Bontoc composed of barangays Bontoc Ili, Poblacion, Caluttit, and Samoki.
This resulted to the resolution of an inter-barangay conflict between Gueday, Besao and Lias, Barlig, all of Mountain Province, arising out of the murder case.

Earlier, the murder was reported on July 13 at the Bontoc police station against suspect Leo Ateneo of Lias, Barlig by Charlene Mi-ing Addag, wife of the late victim - Sammy Addag, a native of Gueday, Besao.

Two separate meetings were previously conducted prior to the settlement attended by the elders and officials of feuding barangays, with close relatives of the suspect and the aggrieved party. No settlement was agreed upon during the two occasions.

During the third encounter and after a long and animated discussion that ended after seven hours, both parties agreed on the following conditions: The suspected party would pay the aggrieved party P250,000 as amicable settlement money and that the suspect would pay in advance P170,000 with an acknowledgement receipt.

It was also agreed that the balance of P80,00 would bee paid on or before Nov. 17 and that after full payment of the settlement money even before the due date agreed, an affidavit of desistance and other pertinent documents required by court for the dismissal of the case shall be submitted.
Officials and representatives from both parties agreed to facilitate the request for the postponement of a court arraignment scheduled on Sept. 18.

Both parties also agreed to observe indigenous rituals to formally forge a peace pact to strengthen the friendship or brotherhood of Lias and Gueday.

Tribal elders said after the full settlement of the demand of the aggrieved party, the four affected central barangays of Bontoc will later demand from Lias an additional P160,000 as penalty and in compliance with the existing memorandum of agreement of barangays Samoki, Bontoc Ili, Callutit, and Poblacion.

This penalty was embodied in the “pagta” (agreement) imposed under the “pechen” (peace pact) used by Bontoc barangays when settling cases with tribal implications.


P2B cable car project in Tagaytay or Benguet


LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Owners of Shoemart (SM) are planning to build a P2-billion cable car system either in Tagaytay City or in this vegetable-producing province.

This was reported by Gerry Lab-oyan, general manager of the Benguet Cooperative Bank.
Lab-oyan said Sammie Lim, president of the Philippine chamber of Commerce and Industry disclosed SM patriarch Henry Sy’s plan for a cable car system to members of the newly organized Benguet Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

However, the factor that will determine the place where to build the state-of-the-art cable car system would depend on investment climate of whether Benguet or Tagaytay has the better investment climate.

Businessmen here said one negative factor against Benguet is that it has no attractive investment code.

Officials of the Board of Investments recommended immediate creation of a provincial investment promotion coordinating and advisory council which could be the body tasked to draft an investment code for Benguet.

Business groups here have urged the provincial government to come up with measures that could attract investments to Benguet and improve land transportation.

At present, the national and provincial governments are giving priority attention to improvement of road networks in the province, particularly the Halsema Highway, the Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya Road, and the Acop-Kapangan-Kibungan Road.

These vital roads need immediate rehabilitation.

The cable car system had been previously identified as one of the Cordillera alternative transport mode as envisioned by the Regional Development council in the Cordillera.

Recently, the Department of Tourism announced its plan to build a P50million cable car system in Banaue, Ifugao, site of the world-famous rice terraces.

It could be a facility that could attract foreign and domestic tourists to visit the world-heritage site.
Lab-oyan said operation of the P2-billion cable car system in the province could y perk up economic activities in far-flung communities and could lead to the discovery of potential tourist spots such as the Palina Rice Terraces and rock mountains of Tacadang, Kibungan including the historic Mount Kabunian in nearby Bakun town.


American student dead in room

San Carlos, Pangasinan – A medical student with a US citizenship certificate was found dead in his rented apartment on Bonifacio St. here last week.

Police investigator SPO4 Jose Resultan said the victim was Innocent Iketchi Nwokeocha, 43 who was discovered dead at about 9 a.m. on Sept. 15.

Investigation showed the body bore blood in the mouth and was totally naked. An autopsy was conducted but results were not known at press time.

An initial report by Dr. Juan M. de Vera of the Rurul Health Unit I however stated the cause of his death was cardiac arrest.

His landlady, Melchora Samson, said she found the body when she was about to deliver the electric bill to the apartment.

“Kumakatok ako para ibigay ang kaniyang bill sa Cenpelco, pero hindi siya lumalabas kaya napilitan akong tumawag ng mga lalaki, subalit hindi pa rin magbukas ang pintuan, kaya kami tumawag ng pulis,” Melchora said.

When a policeman forcibly opened the door, they found the student dead. Police said there was no sign of mauling, stabbing or confusion in the room.

It was learned that representatives of the US embassy arrived on Sept. 17 to investigate the death of the victim. -- Jennelyn Mondejar


NPA couple surrenders to cops, mayor in Ilocos

SAN JUAN, Ilocos Sur – Two members of the New People’s Army operating in Cagayan Valley and Northern Luzon surrendered on Sept. 14 to the mayor and police here.

Police identified the surrenderees as Alfredo Dularte y Quinonez, 37, native of Barangay
Mabbayad, Echague, Isabela and Crisanta Subac Dulatre, 33, native of Pinili, Abulog, Cagayan.
Both were reportedly members of the Samahang Yunit Propaganda 1, Southern Front, Cagayan

Valley Regional Committee operating in Echague, Jones, San Guillermo, and San Agustin, all in Echague.

They are married to each other. San Juan Mayor Benjamin V. Sarmiento facilitated the surrender of the couple after intelligence operatives of the Army and police confirmed that they were members of the NPA.

“After a series of negotiations, we were able to convince them to return to the fold of law,” Tremor said.

Both rebels have been hiding since 2000 and “lain low” as rebels due to hardship in the mountain.
The surrenderees have been placed under the custody of the police. -- Freddie Lazaro


Bauang under rabies calamity

BAUANG, La Union- Town officials here declared on Sept. 13 the entire municipality under a state of calamity due to the alarming incidents of rabies infection, which claimed seven lives.

Mayor Bobby De Guzman said the municipal office has recorded 94 cases of rabies infection since January.

“Bauang has been declared under a state of calamity because the incident of rabies infection is very alarming,” De Guzman said. “This is what we want to address so I called on the municipal council and barangay officials to assess the situation.”

Authorities here said three died this year to rabies from dog bites, while four other deaths were recorded last year.

Vice Mayor Bonifacio Malinao said the municipal council held a special session last Sept. 13 to approve the resolution.


Unscrupulous millers, sellers behind 'vanishing' NFA rice

TABUK CITY, Kalinga- A large portion of rice stocks released by the National Food Authority to the market through its accredited outlets ended up in the open market after it was remilled and resacked by unscrupulous accredited NFA rice dealers.

This was bared by a local rice retailer, who requested anonymity and explained the case of the vanishing NFA rice.

The government rice has become scarce in the Tabuk market. People have been looking for it because of the sharp increase in the price of commercial rice.

The cheapest commercial rice now in the Tabuk market is sold between P1,200 and P1,250 per bag as compared to the normal price of P1,000 per bag some weeks back.

The retailer said after withdrawing their regular allocations from the NFA, the unscrupulous NFA retailers passed on the stock to the local rice millers who remilled the government rice to improve the color and then resack it.

Then they sold it to the big millers in Region 2.

The retailer said with quick work, the retailers could make as much as P125 per sack because the government price is P875, but they could pass it on their financiers at P950.

The source said the millers could make more by mixing the government rice with the little commercial rice and selling the mixed rice as commercial rice in the local market at as much at P1,200 each sack.

Retailer Manny Onalan confirmed the practice, saying recycling of NFA rice was not only happening in Tabuk but also elsewhere in the country because the improved quality of NFA rice was prejudicial to poor people who look for cheap rice.

Kalinga NFA OIC-assistant provincial manager Enrique Baliang said some of the rice they distributed went to the wrong hands and found its way to the open market, but that the NFA was practically helpless against the practice.

“We cannot keep watch over the retailers on a 24-hour basis,” Baliang said. -- EAJ


Ifugao gov tells folk: Nab jueteng bettors, collectors

LAGAWE, Ifugao -- Gov. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. gave the go signal for citizens to arrest jueteng operators or collectors in the province.

This after the governor’s “End of August” ultimatum to Ifugao policemen to stop the illegal numbers game lapsed with no visible result.

Baguilat said that he was now taking the fight against jueteng “with his own hands,” after getting disappointed with the policemen’s apparent inaction.

“I will be using my own men to run after juetengeros (operators and Kobradores),” he said.

Jueteng operations in Ifugao, like nearby Nueva Vizcaya province are reportedly run by operators “guerrilla style.”

Last week, civilians deputized by Baguilat, reportedly rounded up kobradores (bet collectors) in Kiangan town and were warned to stop their operations or be jailed.

Earlier this week, Baguilat dispatched volunteers of the provincial capitol to round up jueteng bet collectors in Kiangan but failed to catch anyone.

But on their third day, a kubrador was collared but was released by Kiangan police for lack of evidence.

Baguilat said he was irked that kubradores were operating visibly as he saw some of them on his way to the capitol.

The governor’s information officer-Robie Halip said, Kiangan is at the moment “jueteng free” but continuous patrols were needed to ensure total cessation of jueteng in the town.

“The crackdown operation against jueteng in Kiangan is a strong indication that the governor means what he says,” Halip said.Baguilat said the crackdown in Kiangan now being mainly undertaken by civilians was just the start in the province, adding other operations would follow in other Ifugao towns.


Isabela deeds registry chief nabbed for bribe

ILAGAN, Isabela – Police filed bribery charges in court on Sept. 17 against the chief of the provincial registry of deeds who was nabbed in an entrapment on Sept. 13.

Charged was lawyer Rodolfo Serrano who was caught in the act of receiving P18,000 in market money he had allegedly demanded from a landowner in exchange for favorable and immediate disposition of a land dispute.

Serrano’s aide, Felimon Agbayani, was also arrested and charged.
Serrano also faces a case of illegal possession of firearm for failing to show legal papers for a Glock handgun seized from him. – Joan Capuna



Cordillera council pushes organic act for autonomy

BAGUIO CITY September 21 – The Regional Development Council in the Cordillera is pushing for a third organic act to make the region autonomous and has reactivated debates and discussions to amend Executive order EO No. 220 or the presidential issuance that created the Cordillera Administrative Region efore the submission of an acceptable measure to Congress for consideration.

The RDC’s special committee on autonomy chaired by Juan Ngalob, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority and interim chairman of the RDC, with Presidential Assistant for the Cordillera Tomas Killip is implementing the RDC’s decision to revive the proposed amendment of the CAR law.

Earlier, Baguio City Rep. Mauricio G. Domogan expressed his willingness to spearhead the filing of the bill to amend EO 220, together with other Cordillera congressmen, provided that the initiative will come from the grassroots level to erase misconceptions on the motive to amend the law.

The RDC called on various sectors in the region to start initial discussions relative to the proposed amendment of EO 220 and submit their respective proposals at the proper time so that the special committee will not be loaded with voluminous documents.

Former president Corazon C. Aquino signed EO 220 on July 15, 1987 creating the CAR hich comprises the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain province and Baguio city from Region I and Apayao, Ifugao and Kalinga from Region II.

The RDC is the policy-making body of the region that outlines the pertinent directions of the cordillera en route towards a progressive region and for the attainment of autonomy.

Domogan said there are objectionable provisions in EO 220 that must be removed through an act of Congress but he will await the sentiments of the Cordillerans so the proposed amendments would be acceptable to the people.

The RDC’s special committee on autonomy holds the heavy task of preparing the region for a third attempt to self-governance and one of the major steps towards a sustained effort to convince the voters to vote for autonomy in a future plebiscite is to amend EO 220 for it to be acceptable to the people.

Cordillerans have overwhelmingly rejected autonomy in two plebiscites scheduled on January 30, 1990 and March 7, 1998. In the first plebiscite, Ifugao province voted yes for autonomy while Apayao voted for autonomy in the second plebiscite.

However, the RDC is contemplating on adopting a scientific way of convincing the people to vote for autonomy, particularly in the conduct of sample surveys to be followed by tracking surveys and formal research with local government units on the viability of the region becoming autonomous.

Bocaps to get fresh mandate; dads push merger plebiscite


BAGUIO CITY – The long-overdue merger of barangays in this city may not happen this year but the city government is bent in pushing through with the plebiscite on the matter.

Vice mayor Daniel Farinas bared the city is negotiating possibility of holding the plebiscite with the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections with the Commission on Elections.

He added the city council is currently deliberating the P8-million appropriation for the local polls.

During the council session on Sept. 17 however, deliberations on a P71.6-million supplemental budget which included the proposed appropriation for the polls was sidelined.

This, after councilor Erdolfo Balajadia said the Commission on Elections has its own budget for the Oct. 29 elections and “the amount may be appropriated for other priority projects of the city.”

The council is set to tackle the supplemental account on Sept. 17 after the council agreed to give it a week’s furlough.

Farinas said holding the plebiscite simultaneously with the Barangay elections would spell savings for the city.

Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government said barangay end-termers will have fresh mandate” should the merger be realized.

DILG undersecretary Austere Panadero in a Sept. 5 opinion addressed to DILG-Cordillera director Everdina Doctor said this is “because they will be running in a new territory with a new electorate.”

On the determination of “majority of votes cast,” Panadero said existing jurisprudence provides that “the plebiscite should take into account not the majority vote for each Barangay, but the majority votes for all affected barangays.”

Corollary, “it is the plurality result of votes in several barangays taken altogether and not the
result per Barangay” that would prevail in a situation where a Barangay affected decides to vote against merger.

Panadero said, “Politically, barangays merged will be governed by only one set of elective officials.”

“The Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) share of the several barangays will be cancelled and the resultant Barangay will be entitled to only one share of the IRA based on the formula prescribed by the law and the Department of Budget and Management,” the undersecretary added.

Local Government Code experts meanwhile say that a simultaneous elections and merger plebiscite bestows winning candidates of the October elections vested rights.

They said a merger during the incumbency of 2007-elected officials would abruptly halt powers and duties of said elected officials.

“Thus,” they added, the “merger would probably take place in the next scheduled elections, at the end of the terms of 2007-elected officials.

POSD clamps down vs illegal vendors onBaguio roads, alleys

BAGUIO CITY – After weeks of warning of an impending clampdown to clear city easements of illegal vendors, the mayor’s office last week conducted a series of “clearing activities” taking Baguioans to virtual time travel – when streets were clear of vendors and unsightly encroachments.

Public order safety division head Gregorio Deligero said clearing activities were in line with Mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Jr.’s thrust to “bring the city back to its glory as a tourism city.”

Armed with hammers, bolt-cutters, and their signature ball-cap and black uniform, Deligero’s unit composed of 17 POSD men, 25-volunteers, and 10-cops braved Burnham Park Sept. 18, yielding materials used by illegal vendors for temporary shelters and shelves enough to build a house with.

On Sept. 19, the group transformed the sidewalks of Session Road and its interiors into an “honest to goodness promenade,” earning praises from passersby and tourists alike.

As of press time, the team was clearing the city market of illegal vendors so the roads could fit two-way traffic while sides-streets would be enough to accommodate hundreds of market-goers.

He added before conducting “dismantling and confiscation sweeps,” his team members first go around asking vendors “politely” to voluntarily dismantle their make-shift tents and shelves.

As this developed, a measure prohibiting owners and administrators of residential and commercial establishments along easements from coddling and allowing informal traders to use any part of their frontage for ‘guerilla’ selling activities is undergoing deliberations in the City Council.

The same measure proscribes selling in parks and penalizes those in charge with its maintenance from being instant legislators – amending statutes transforming city parks “within the commerce of man.”

Councilor Elaine Sembrano in the proposed ordinance said, “Our existing laws just aren’t enough” the alderman said in a separate interview adding, “The problem [with illegal vending] could only be addressed by expanding punitive sanctions to cover even those who allow or tolerate hawking. The city government needs to enforce anti-peddling laws and ordinances without favor, without exception or procrastination, regardless of personal relationships, political affiliation or economic status.”

Deligero thanked efforts of legislators “to make their jobs much easier” observing, “we’ve had a hard time accosting vendors who surreptitiously hide in legitimate establishments.”

“The measure, once approved, would surely give us leverage against hawkers and their coddlers.”

He appealed to Baguio folk, “to help our vendors look for alternative sources of livelihood by not buying from them and in the process, averting any arrests and penalties that we have no choice but to implement.”

“We likewise appeal to our vendors to set a good example to our kids by not indulging in illegal activities. In the same manner, we want to remind them not to expect rewards for acts which are punishable by local and national laws.”


LTO sets status quo on vehicle user fees

BANGUED, Abra – The Land Transportation Office has maintained a status quo on the motor vehicle users’ fees as provided for in Republic Act 8794 of 2004, known as the Motor Vehicle Users’ Charge.

Eusebio Bidalen, LTO provincial chief bared this in a radio interview saying except for computerization fees, the LTO has not yet imposed any increase in whatever fees motor vehicles are supposed to pay, he emphasized.

Bidalen, who succeeded Pedro Mailed who retired from the government service last week, warned vehicle owners to avoid transacting business with alleged “fixers” who disguise themselves as LTO personnel.

The acting chief also reminded the vehicle owners to present all their documents to the LTO for evaluation before subjecting their vehicles for emission testing.

The emission test is a requisite for the registration or renewal of the registration of motor vehicles.

Bidalen also announced new developments relative to motor vehicles registration particularly the reduction in the amount of accident insurance premium payments but with a double amount of compensation for accidents.

However, he cited the importance of having a driver’s license. Because, the premium payment for accident insurance alone, does not guarantee the payment of compensation on accident if the driver has no driver’s license or his license is expired.

As regards law enforcement, the ‘No plate, No travel’ policy of the LTO stays. In fact, LTO has tightened the enforcement of said policy by detailing an additional staff for the flying squad in Abra equipped with a new COP Patrol motor that would run after traffic violators and unregistered vehicles as well as passenger vehicles operating without franchise.

Abra officials alarmed at CPLA recruitment

BANGUED, Abra – Officials of a remote town in the province bared they were alarmed of an alleged cooperative of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army now recruiting members which they said, could bring more destabilization to the province.

Bucay town officials, during a provincial interagency meeting here last week said the recruitment could be a scam to mislead unwary recruits.

For several years, cause-oriented groups called for the dismantling of the CPLA which they said had committed a lot of human rights violations.

Regional police director Chief Supt. Eugene Martin said he would raise the concern when the technical working group of the joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police committee convenes.

At least 27 mayors attended the meeting called by Gov. Eustacio P. Bersamin at the provincial capitol here.

The mayors joined regular peace and order council members in reviewing the province’s proposed integrated area community public safety plan.

Various mayors later raised issues from their municipalities, which they deemed required assistance of the Provincial Peace and Order Council.

Issues included the Manabo town boundary dispute with neighboring Boliney which the PPOC
decided to elevate to the regional peace and order council as it required action from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Land Management Services.

The dispute involved two barangays of Boliney, namely Dumagas and Baoyan, which were reportedly part of Manabo but inadvertently included in the Boliney political boundary cadastral survey in 1991.


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