Mountain Province governor blames implementors : WB freezes loans for Halsema road projects over 'anomalies'

>> Friday, November 30, 2007


BAGUIO CITY -- The World Bank has suspended release of $ 232-million loan to the Philippine government for implementation of the remaining two phases of the controversial Halsema Road rehabilitation project following reports of irregularities and anomalies in its implementation.

This, after President Macapagal Arroyo was urged last week by provincial constituents to personally inspect and initiate dismissal proceedings against regional and provincial Highways officials involved in the implementation of the “anomalous” P600 million Mt. Data-Bontoc Road project.

The action of the President on the matter was not known on the matter as of press time, but last week, the country’s top executive was urged to suspend top regional and provincial Dept. of Public Works and Highways officials involved in the alleged scam.

The two phases of the project were affected by the suspension of the loan were the P1.3-billion Mt. Data-to-Bontoc section and the P780-million Bontoc-to-Banaue section of the 170-kilometer road that stretches from Baguio City to Banaue, Ifugao passing through Benguet and Mountain Province.

The loan was intended to fund road-improvement projects undertaken under the National Road Improvement Project of the Arroyo administration.

Engineer Mariano Alquiza, regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the Cordillera, said the suspension of the loan was unfortunate, adding Cordillera was supposed to be a primary beneficiary of the loan package.

He said it was unfair for the WB to make a conclusion on the existence of corruption in the bidding and implementation of vital infrastructure projects without the conduct of an extensive fact-finding to verify allegations.

But Alquiza said despite the setback caused the suspension of the WB loan, the implementation of the projects would be pursued because these were intended to boost economic development in rural areas.

Alquiza said the suspension of the WB loan prompted President Arroyo to tap local funds for implementation of the projects which would improve accessibility to top tourist spots in the region such as the Sagada Caves in Mountain Province and the Ifugao Rice Terraces in Banaue.

The DPWH has already programmed the completion of rehabilitation work on the Halsema Highway in 2008 and 2009 as set by the President.

“If there are delays in the projects due to unavoidable circumstances,” Alquiza said, “the project could be completed in 2010 before the President steps down from office at the end of her term.”

For 2008, the DPWH has allotted at least P734 million for the Halsema Highway projects. The national government has spent a little over P340 million for the initial civil works of the projects in preparation for the concreting work.

In Bontoc, Mountain Province, Gov. Maximo Dalog “It is no longer the fault of the President if the road is not as what it is expected to be and it is not the failure of the President of the pressing issues surrounding the but the implementors.

Dalog said this before the employees and heads of government agencies last week in a flag ceremony saying no one but only the President should be commended for pursuing the road project.

“We commend the president in the release of fund that is intended for the unfinished roads but that implementors should be responsible so that no more additional controversies will come out,” the governor added.

Dalog said if Mt. Province roads would be improved, it could boost development and business not only in the province but the region.

Earlier this month, the governor wrote a letter to Alquiza and DPWH district engineer Leonardo Leyaley to “institute measures to improve the conditions of the Mt. Data-Bontoc and Bontoc-Banaue roads.”

The governor here was moved to write the DPWH after receiving complaints among motorists and commuters that the road project was irregular and traversing the highway had become dangerous due to substandard implementation of the projects.

Observers said concentration of the work was more on the concreting of one side of the road while disregarding the other side mostly used by heavy vehicles.
The Mt. Data-Bontoc section is allotted more than a billion pesos for widening and concreting works.


2 rebels killed in Ilocos encounter


NUEVA ERA, Ilocos Sur – Two members of the New People’s Army were killed while three government troopers including a paramilitary man were slightly wounded in an encounter held at Sitio Dapulang, Barangay Poblacion here on Nov. 17.

The Army troopers also recovered from the NPA rebels four M-16 rifles, two
ICOM handheld radios, improvised explosive devices with blasting caps, voluminous subversive documents and personal belongings after the encounter.
Col. Roy T. Devesa, Commander of the Army’s 50th Infantry Battalion based in San Juan, Ilocos Sur, said in his report to newly-promoted Brigadier General Loreto G. Rirao, Commander of the Army’s 503rd Brigade based in Barangay Sulvec, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, that his troops led by Lt. Belmonte were on patrol in the area after receiving a report from the residents in the area about the presence of the NPA rebels in their locality.

Upon reaching Sitio Dalupang, the troops chanced upon the group of around 30
fully NPA guerillas and engaged them in a fierce gun battle.

The firefight reportedly lasted for almost an hour until the enemy hurriedly withdrew, leaving two of their dead comrades behind.

The troops also recovered four M16 assault rifles, and several subversive documents from the encounter site.

The two government troops wounded in the encounter were identified as private first class Pejeh U. Cervantes and private Jeffrey B. Annang.

They were treated at the Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz Hospital in nearby Narvacan town. The bodies of the communist terrorists were turned over to the local government officials in the said village for proper disposition.

Maj. Gen. Melchor J. Dilodilo, Commander of the 5th Infantry Division said he was grateful for the cooperation Nueva Era in reporting presence of the NPA.


Police hunt down gunmen in shooting of radio anchor


DAGUPAN CITY – Police authorities are now hunting the gunman of Dr. Heart of Love Radio Dagupan after he was identified by some witnesses and the victim.

Alan Sison, 40, of Lucao District said when interviewed at the hospital by upt. Dionicio Borromeo that he was able to describe the gunman but details were not revealed to the media.

The mother of Alan who refused to be named urged people behind the shooting to remain calm.

“Maging mahinahon sila at huwag nang magplano ng masama sa anak ko, mabait siyang tao at matulungin sa kapwa, kung mayroon man siyang nasaktan, pag usapan na lang,” the mother said.

Records showed Allan was facing charges of homicide after he allegedly killed a suspected robber, a teenager who had trespassed his residence.

Meanwhile police said the shooting may not have any involvement with the present job of Sison.


Coal polluting La Union coast as group removing barge spill meets problems


SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union —A task force formed to remove a barge causing a coal spill, 200 meters from the shorelines of Barangay Lingsat here is experiencing difficulties in extracting effluents from the marine sanctuary where it ran aground.

Valmar Valdez, city environment officer, said a tug boat, equipped with a crane which came from Lingayen, Pangasinan to help in the rescue operation proved futile despite the gradual lightening of the trapped barge by the manual unloading of at least 3,000 of the estimated 9,607 metric tons of coal on the barge.

Valdez said retrieval operations may not be finished before the arrival of another storm.

Cloudy weather and rains and the afternoons were experienced in this city since Nov. 17.

"Worse is that, it a typhoon may further cause damages not only to the barge and underwater ecosystem but also cause danger to life and property of coastal residents in the area," Valdez said.

Task Force Kabayan composed of divers formed by Mayor Pablo Ortega for clean-up, reported balls of coal of at least 1,000 metric tons have already covered the sea grass beds and corals dropped in the area.

The retrieval operation is now going in its second week.

The boat, B/Nava Ratna 3, departed Souh Kalmantan Port, Indonesia last Oct. 19. Its barge ran aground while towing it, during the height of typhoon Kabayan on Nov. 6, when strong winds and waves carried it from the vicinity of Poro Point Pier.

Valdez added it cannot forcibly tug or yank the barge even at high tide due to damages it will further cause on the ship’s hull or the underlying live corals.
Task Force members initially planned to employ manual method, unloading the cargo carried by men through sacks.

City Councilor Francisco Kit Ortega, Jr., an ex-officio provincial board member, initiated a probe of the incident that would summon representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Coast Guard, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Holcim Cement and Sea Pine Shipping Corp., coal owner and barge transporter, respectively, in the board’s next session, Thursday.

Ortega said no charges were filed against the transporter of the Indonesian barge and Holcim because they have promised to help in the cleaning of the spillage and rehabilitation of the affected area.


Ancestral landowners demand city government: Vacate Asin hydro or we'll barricade area

TUBA, Benguet – A group of ancestral land owners here demanded that the Baguio City government vacate premises of the Asin Hydro power plant project after negotiations on payment of rentals of lands traversed by the plant bogged down.

The group said they may barricade premises of the plant if their demands were not met.

In a resolution, Baguio officials headed by city mayor Reinaldo Bautista were told by the Tadiangan-Nagalisan Hydro Ancestral Land Owners Association that they have lost interest to dialogue with the city government and demanded that the latter vacate the area in 30 days.

The resolution said a dialogue was held last month with the city officials headed by the city administrator Peter Fianza failed to arrive at a common and acceptable understanding among parties.

“The members and officers have thoroughly evaluated matters discussed during the dialogue and they have come to the conclusion that they were leading to nowhere and that the city government appears to evade the ancestral land claimants of the damages and compensation claims,” the resolution added.

The resolution was made after a meeting last week of the land owners at Barangay, Nangalisan here.

Present during the meeting were association officers Roger Sinot, chairman; Olga Dangwa, vice chair; Juliana Guzman, secretary; Dario Saingan, auditor; Job Culbengan, assistant auditor; Oscar Mainis, press relations officer and Angie Marino, assistant secretary. -- AD


Dismissal of many drug cases alarming

LAOAG CITY -- Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Anselmo Avenido Jr. said he was alarmed there were many illegal drug cases being dismissed in the country and something must be done or more youth would become drug addicts.

“Clearly, something is wrong somewhere,” Avelino said, adding of the 90,020 total drug cases filed as of Oct. 31, only 15,065 cases have been disposed and of these, only 35.6 percent resulted in conviction.

Avenido said he was disappointed over the dismissal of illegal drug cases during a seminar for judges, prosecutors and law enforcers on Drugs Law at the Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel here.

“The dismissal of cases has been mainly due to the non-appearance and inconsistencies in the testimonies of witnesses, illegality of the arrest or search, wrong information filed in court and failure to prosecute due to insufficiency or absence of evidence,” he said.

Avenido cited as example the four Chinese nationals who were recently acquitted a year after being arrested during a raid on a shabu laboratory in Dilangalan, Aurora on Aug. 30, 2006.

In addition, the Court of Appeals in its decision dated May 22, 2007, acquitted and released from detention another seven Chinese earlier sentenced to reclusion perpetua with P5-million fine per person for possessing illegal drugs.

The police raided on Chinese national’s house in San, Juan Metro Manila and recovered 800 grams of shabu along with equipment used to produce illegal drugs.

The appellate court decided against the prosecution based on the illegality of the search performed by the law enforcers.

To address similar drug-related issues, integrate efforts of the Criminal Justice System especially in the field of prosecution and criminal investigation, and in keeping with RA 9165’s (Dangers Drugs Act) mandate to conduct continuing seminars and consultations with the judges and prosecutors, the DDB jointly organized the Nov. 21-23 seminar-workshop for judges with the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Philippine Judicial Academy and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Dangerous Drugs.

Aside from gaining updates on RA 9165, the participants to the fifth workshop this year, included 60 judges, 45 fiscals and 25 law enforcers from Regions 1, 2, 3, and the Cordillera Administrative Region.

They were apprised of the new regulations passed by the DDB.

The law enforcers were from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, National Police Commission, Bureau of Customs and Anti-illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force.

The participants were briefed on rules on investigating a drug offense, prosecuting and trying a drug case, and other issues and concerns on drug-related cases.


Dengue afflicts 45 folk in Bontoc


BONTOC, Mountain Province – The dreaded dengue disease has afflicted 45 residents at latest count and the number is rising, health officials said.
Nenita Lizardo, head of the provincial health office bared this saying this was alarming.

Lizardo said health personnel earlier recorded 30 cases in September but this went up to 45 in October with 55 percent of these cases from Bontoc.

Lizardo said that there is a need to advocate the 4-S program to against dengue. The 4-S means “search and destroy” to include eliminating all breeding sites for the mosquito, proper waste disposal, covering of water containers, and cleaning of roof gutters and drains.

Under the program protection measures advocates use of long sleeves and pants, installing screens on doors and windows, use of mosquito nets and
adapting a healthy lifestyle to boost resistance.

Lizardo advised constituents to seek consultation as there was no drug or vaccine for dengue.

“Dengue suspects must be brought to the nearest health facility immediately and that there should be no self- medication,” she said, adding indiscriminate fogging should only be done during outbreaks and epidemics.

Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted from an infected human to another human by the female Aedis mosquito.

Claudio Pancho, Dept. of Health representative to this province said the aedis mosquito is a day biter and prefers to bite just after sunrise and before sunrise.
One distinct characteristic of this mosquito is the black and white stripes all over its body and its breeding sites are clear stagnant water. “Once the mosquito is infected, it is infected for life,” he said.

Signs and symptoms of dengue are high continuous fever lasting from two to seven days, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, muscle and joint pains, pain behind the eyes, abdominal pain, body weakness, nose or gum bleeding and rashes.

With the rising number of dengue fever cases in this town, an information campaign is underway initiated by provincial health officials on awareness and prevention of dengue fever.



BCDA execs urged: Allow John Hay settlers to improve houses

BAGUIO CITY – The city council last Monday approved a resolution asking the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) to allow qualified occupants of lots within the 13 barangays situated within the Camp John Hay reservation to improve their houses.

In the resolution authored by Councilor Nicasio Aliping Jr., the body said several requests have been made through various resolutions from the city council for the segregation of the barangays for eventual award of the lots to qualified occupants.

The said resolutions are Resolution No. 91 series of 1996 requesting the BCDA to cause the immediate segregation of said barangays and for the issuance of titles to qualified occupants; Resolution No. 298 series of 1997 endorsing to the BCDA the joint resolution of Baguio Country Club associations to facilitate the segregation of their barangay; and Resolution No. 79 series of 1999 which reiterated the request to the BCDA.

However, the planned segregation appeared to have not taken off as planned. The last report of the committee then formed to facilitate the segregation process noted problems on the identification of the legitimate lot occupants and conflicts over the lots.

In view of the delay in the process, several lot occupants are now clamoring for permission to undertake improvement, repair and restoration of their houses in the areas. The said activities were stopped at the beginning of the segregation
process to fully identify the legitimacy of their claims.

They said over the years, the houses now need repairs and renovation and the
permission should be given since the segregation process has now dragged on.
The council apparently saw merit in the request of the residents and approved the resolution.

The 13 barangays are Camp 7, Country Club Village, Green Water Village, Happy Hallow, Hillside, Loakan-Liwanag, Loakan-Apugan, Loakan Proper, Lucnab, Scout Barrio, Sta. Scholastica, Lower Dagsian and Upper Dagsian.

CAR stat whiz kids ready for nat’l quiz
BAGUIO CITY — The top three statistics whiz kids in the Cordillera were selected from among first year college students here Nov. 13 to represent the region in a national level competition on the first week of December.

Cesar Higoy Jr., an Electronics and Communication Engineering freshman of Saint Louis University led two others namely Sybel Ngaseo, a BS nursing student of Benguet State University, and Alexis Massagan, a BS Education freshman of Kalinga-Apayao State College, Bulanao campus, emerged as second and third placers, respectively.

Dr. Freddie T. Bernal, OIC-regional director of the Commission on Higher Education, said the result of the Statistics is indicative of the effectiveness of teachers and schools in teaching Statistics as a component of preparatory Mathematics in secondary education.

With 15 participating schools and 29 individual contestants, the statistics quiz promotes and instills awareness and appreciation of the importance and value of statistics, especially in development planning. – Mike Guimbatan Jr.

Baguio UC athletes shine in Philippine olympic festival

UC athletes bag numerous medals in the recently concluded Philippine Olympic Festival, a nationwide sporting event at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, Manila, adding up to the glorious track record of highland athletes in the fields of athletics and alliedsports.

Freshman and 16 year old sprinter Rhemelyn Soriano managed to out-runco-competitors coming from different provinces in the country in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash, surprising other athletes with her first appearance in such an event by bringing home two gold medals.

Seemingly incidental, the young sprinter follows the tracks of Baguiopride and marathon queen Christabel Martes.

In the field of archery, April Lynne Sacpa and Jennifer Nagyasan targeted the gold medals, and went away with it for the Olympic round and over-all competition, respectively. In addition to the golds, a total of four silver and three bronze medals were also earned by thearchers in the persons of Joshua Mangomoc and Japeth Batallang.

The University of the Cordilleras has been known to churn off international athletes in the field of Wushu Sanshou for numbers of years now that even in the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China and the South East Asian Games, three players in the person of Benjie Rivera and Mariane Mariano in the former event, and the addition of Mark Eddiva for the latter.

This will be the first appearance of the athletes with the exception of Eddiva as his second appearance in the SEA Games. Along with them is Eliezer Sunang to represent the country in shot put, also a UC student.

Not only is UC limited to Wushu, one silver plus four bronze medals were also won over in judo women's division in the POF. That is in addition to the two gold and bronze medals and a silver that the team secured in the National Judo Youth Championship in the same venue.

The Judokas were Jhona Dew-alan, Johara Taynan, Clarence Onanat,Maribel Posedio and Olivia Joy Lapurga. And though the Tae Kwon Do Jins only garnered two bronze medals in the Olympic festival, the team was the over-all champion in the Luzon CPJTae Kwon Do Championship with eight gold, seven silver and seven bronze medals which was held in Nueva Viscaya on August and champions in the senior division in the Luzon Inter-School Tae Kwon Do Championship in La Union last month with 11 gold medals, four silvers and six bronze. The team is headed by playing-coach Joel Likigan.

UC Athletic Director Yul Benosa says that "unlike before where support is limited to basketball and volleyball, the support for athletics and allied sports have drastically increased over the past two years which creates a venue for the school to develop the potentials of its students not only academically, but to become national and international athletes as well."

No parking zones designated : Traffic number coding suspended in Baguio

BAGUIO CITY-Mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Jr., last week issued Administrative Order 218 suspending the number coding system for private vehicles from Nov. 22 to Jan. 19 next year.

This is to allow members residents to come together for family and school reunions, alumni get-togethers, sports events, and balikbayan activities, “to renew and revive the spirit of unity, peace, love and sharing.”

Bautista also bared with the grand “Christmas in Baguio” to be launched this December, various activities have been lined up, thus, tourists are expected to flock to the city.

First on the list is the 58th Annual Men’s Fil-Am Invitational Golf Tournament which started November 24 up to December 10 in the city.

More than 1,000 participants to the event are expected to arrive, from United States Mainland, Guam, South Korea, Japan, Australia and the Philippines. Vehicles of said golf enthusiasts are exempted from the traffic number coding scheme for the duration of the activity.

Earlier also, the mayor issued AO 212 which set the guidelines for vehicle parking along the Central Business District.

He said vehicles shall not be allowed to park along Lower and Upper General Luna Road; along Upper Mabini St. from Gen. Luna road junction up to the entrance of Mabini Pay Parking, and right side of Upper Mabini Street from
Mabini Bowling Lanes up to Session road junction at all times.

The stretch of Session road from Upper Mabini street down to Perfecto street (Mercury Drug) shall also not be allowed to vehicle parking, at all times.
The said AO was issued as to the recommendation of the Traffic Management Branch of the Baguio City Police Office, to address the constant critical traffic situation in the CBD.

Appropriate signs and markers shall be installed by the City Engineering Office in coordination with the TMB-BCPO to guide motorists, the AO also states.



Lepanto readies mine rehab


MANKAYAN, Benguet — Mined out areas of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. here will be returned to a self-sustaining eco-system.

Officials of the country’s oldest and biggest mining company made this assurance in support to the government’s call for sustainable and responsible mining.

Lepanto has reportedly launched an information-education campaign for the formulation of a final mine rehabilitation-decommissioning plan..

Administrative Order 96-40 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources requires mining contractors and permit holders to formulate and submit FMR-DP with corresponding budgetary allotment.

The FMR-DP shall include a decommissioning plan, a final mine rehabilitation plan, a social plan and a maintenance and monitoring plan.

In compliance, Lepanto mines launched an information education campaign endorsed by the provincial board of Benguet through Vice Gov. Crescencio Pacalso.

Beneco charging cheaper than other power firms
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The consumers of the Benguet Electric Coop. are being charged 70.30 percent OR P1.0042 (peso) less compared to consumers from Manila , Cebu , and Davao .

General Manager Gerardo Verzosa bared this in response to a letter of the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, wherein he pointed out that considering Beneco is a non-stock, non-profit electric cooperative, it has no profit margin included in its computation of the rates it charges to its consumers.

In reference to the findings of the study made by the Freedom from Debt Coalition that “Meralco rates seen to be RP’s highest” published in the August 27 issue of the Inquirer as basis, Verzosa told the Nasecor through its local chapter President Emerita Fuerte, “Beneco member-consumers are better situated than the others, in terms of services translated into the lower rates they pay.”

The FDC study compared Meralco’s rates to other power distributors in urban centers like Cebu (Aboitiz’ Visayan Electric Co. or VECO) and Davao (Davao Light).

Using the data from the FDC published in the Inquirer in comparison to that of Beneco, the Corporate Services Department found Beneco is charging its customers 70.30 percent less than Meralco, 7.90 percent (P 0.113) lesser than VECO, and 2.70 percent (P 0.0379) lesser than Davao Light.

According to the article, the figures in the data were “derived from the electric bills of actual consumers in the Meralco, VECO, and Davao Light franchise areas.

The group (FDC) said according to the power industry experts it consulted for the study, Meralco should actually be charging less than its Cebu, and Davao counterparts as it had greater economies of scale. The MERALCO franchise area is larger, more modern, and more compact…it has more customers per kilometer of distribution lines. Their distribution costs per customer, therefore, should be a lot less than the smaller cities of CEBU and Davao ,” the experts were quoted further.

“Considering the FDC arguments, Beneco should be charging more as its franchise area is smaller, a lot less modern and a lot less compact, especially in the province of Benguet . The terrain is mountainous and has a lot less customers per kilometer of distribution lines. But Beneco, true to its mandate of rural electrification, extended its lines even to unviable areas of Benguet and still charges its consumers less,” Verzosa said.

As of 2006 alone it has spent P17. 5 million to energize 26 sitios in Benguet, 1-Atok, 3-Bakun, 1-Bokod, 5-Buguias, 2-Kabayan, 4-Kapangan, 5-Mankayan, 1-Tuba, 1-Tublay, according to engineering department field services supervisor Artemio Bacoco.



Ifugao villages have few health workers


LAGAWE, Ifugao — The presence of at least one midwife or any health worker is good enough to minimize deaths, but in almost all the eleven municipalities of Ifugao, one Barangay based-midwife will serve over three barangays.
In Mayoyao town for example, only nine midwives were hired to service the 24 barangays.

The observation was shared by Marceline Dulnuan, a local representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

She said the manpower of the health department should be enhanced considering that health services is one of the major needs of the province.
According to Dulnuan, the case in the province is that there is one midwife or a barangay health worker to cater to the health needs of two to three barangays.
Clustered houses in most of the barangay here are located far from each other.

Dulnuan made special mention of the municipality of Mayoyao which has 24 barangays with nine midwives to attend not only to maternal needs but also serve as the nurse and sometimes as a physician in her catchment of two to three barangays.

However, most local government units of Ifugao despite the need and availability of applicants are prevented from hiring additional personnel due to lack of income and pure dependence on the limited Internal Revenue Allotment.

Only 40 percent of the local government fund can be used for personnel services but the amount is already exhausted for municipal employees.

"This is the predicament of most local government units here in the province because they cannot afford to hire more health workers," Dulnuan said.



Major road projects on to hasten Cordi development


TABUK CITY, Kalinga — A portion of one of two road network commitments of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been completed, local public works officials said.

According to the Department of Public Works and Highways – Kalinga District
Engineering Office’s report, the concreting of the Bontoc-Lubuagan-Tabuk road as committed by PGMA is their priority program.

The Balani section of the Tabuk-Bontoc road network costing P10 million, was also completed while two other sections totaling P29 million are ongoing.

The other SONA commitment of the President is the Baguio-Banaue via Bontoc road also under construction.

Engineer Ruby Uyam of the Construction and Maintenance Section of KDEO said that as of October this year, the Gonogon section of the Tabuk-Lubuagan stretch amounting to P14 million is 78 percent accomplished.

She said the slow progress of work is due to heavy landslides occurring at the projects site caused by typhoons Hannah and Ineng.

She said another sub-project, the P15 million Manangol-Lubuagan-Walis road rehabilitation located at Lubuagan that registered a 75 percent accomplishment was suspended due to typhoons and occasional rains causing the site to be unworkable.

"Work on these remaining projects could be further delayed after the onslaught of typhoon Kabayan that hit heavily the province," Uyam said.

However, she said their office urged their contractors to fast track construction until December.

Fifteen infrastructure projects funded by DPWH regular funds this CY 2007 amounting to a total of P188.7M including six SONA identified projects were completed.

These are the concreting of the New Tanglag, Tabuk section along the Calanan Junction-Pinukpuk road amounting to P5 million; concreting of a section on the Calanan-Enrile road along the Mt. Province-Kalinga-Cagayan road costing P5 million; improvement of the P10 million Calanan-Tuliao road; a P10M improvement of another section of the Tabuk-Bontoc road and rehabilitation of the Camalog-Kapanikian road costing P10 million.

Uyam said nine others with a total project cost of P91.7 million are ongoing while five with funding amounting to P45M have not yet started. Accomplishment of the ongoing projects ranged from 50 to 90 percent as of October. Preconstruction activities of the remaining five are underway, she said.

Once complete, the Tabuk-Bontoc road is projected to spur trade and tourism in both areas.



Teves ruling on forfeiture of Malaysian ship scored

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – Bureau of Customs deputy commissioner Celso Tempo said here on Nov. 21 the owner of the Malaysian vessel that was ordered forfeited recently in favor of the government has filed a motion for reconsideration contesting the ruling of Finance Secretary Margarito Teves.

Templo, who visited the ship, MTUG Sungai Julan 1, at the pier here said the government can’t auction the vessel yet because of the appeal of the owner.

“Nag-file sila ng motion for reconsideration against the decision of Secretary Teves and that’s their right,” Templo said referring to the Nov. decision of Teves affirming the forfeiture of Edward Baltazar, BOC district collector.

Teves’ decision favored Baltazar’s ruling and overruled the Oct. 7 reversal decision of BOC Commissioner Napoleon Morales who ordered that the ship be released upon the payment of its owner of P10,000 fine.

Templo said lawyers of the ship owner filed the motion at the legal department of the Department of Finance after Teves handed down his decision.

He, however, said once the appeal is junked, the BOC can now auction the vessel and the proceeds will be additional revenue for the government.

“This ship was already forfeited by the District Collector and was already affirmed by Secretary Teves. It will be sold through auction and should we be able to sell it, we will realize additional revenue for some P110 million,” Templo said.

Templo visited the Port of San Fernando here because he is the deputy commissioner assigned to oversee the Port’s collection and operation.

“I congratulate the district collector and his staff here because I notice that they would be able to surpass their collection this year. This is one port where I exercise my supervision,” he said.

Baltazar said their target collection is P985 million but they incurred losses early this year since the Sual Plant in Pangasinan has stopped importing coal because it has undergone major repair.



Magat Dam reaches critical level as heavy rains continue

ILAGAN, Isabela – Incessant rains the past few days have caused water in the Magat Dam in Ramon town to reach dangerous levels, forcing authorities to release excess water to prevent damage to one of the country’s vital sources of power and irrigation.

Engineer Edwin Pasion, flood forecasting officer of the National Irrigation Administration said water had reached critical level of 193.29 meters, forcing them to continuously release water at a rate of 1,355 cubic meters per second.

“We are doing this to prevent the possibility that the water would go over the top. By that time, we would not be able to open the gate valves of the dam,” he told newsmen.

Pasion said failure to do so could lead to serious damage to the structure and flooding in the region’s downstream towns, especially in this province and neighboring Cagayan.

Reports said the valve outlets in the dam’s six spillways have been opened to prevent damage to the structure from accumulated water pressure as rains continued to hit the region since last week.

Once Asia’s first and biggest, the almost three-decade-old Magat Dam provides irrigation also to Quirino province.

Besides its irrigation component being managed by the NIA, the dam’s power generation, which the national government has sold to the SN Aboitiz Power consortium, provides at least 300 megawatts to the Luzon grid.

According to reports, among the towns that may be suffer flooding in case the dam overflows are Echague, Angadanan, Ilagan, Tumauini, Reina Mercedes, San Pablo, Naguilian, Cabagan, San Mateo, Aurora, Roxas and Mallig, all in Isabela; and Enrile, Solana, Iguig, Camalaniugan, Alcala, Gattaran, Lal-lo and Aparri, all in Cagayan.

The cities of Cauayan and Tuguegarao may also be affected.

Passion, however, said the danger of flooding in these areas has been minimized with the continuous steady release of excess water, to bring the dam’s water elevation to the safe level of 193 meters.

Passion said the Philippine Atmospheric, geo-physical, Astronomical Services Administration has noted that water in most tributaries of the Cagayan and Magat rivers is already receding, while the dam’s water “is now slowly going back to a more manageable level.”

Passion said continuous rainfall the past days was caused not be a low pressure area but by a cold front brought about by La Nina, which weather experts predict would last until the first quarter of next year.

Just a few months ago, during the long dry spell, the Magat Dam’s water level suffered a seven-year low of 159 meters, drying up nearly all farmlands in the region, especially in this country’s major rice and corn-producing province, which suffered nearly P1 billion in crop losses.



8 nabbed as CIDG 3 starts major sweep of region’s wanted persons

AMP OLIVAS, Pampanga — The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Luzon has invigorated a Philippine National Police campaign to arrest wanted persons.

This developed as Senior Supt. Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, chief of the CIDG in Central Luzon, said the region’s implementation of "Oplan Pagtutugis" scored a major breakthrough in the campaign against wanted persons with the arrest of eight notorious criminals in its area of responsibility.

"Oplan Pagtutugis," a national PNP operation, had started under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

It is intended to improve the arrest rate of the PNP in its current anti-crime drive and provide a significant a reduction in the backlog of unserved arrest warrants.
Under the PNP campaign, all police stations nationwide have been directed through provincial police offices to submit monthly reports on arrests of wanted persons and they are also expected to initially bring down respective backlogs of archived cases by at least 20 percent.

Eleazar said three of the arrested persons were in Tarlac, three were in Nueva Ecija, one in Bataan, and one in Zambales.

Arrested by Supt. Benjamin Villasis of the CIDG in Nueva Ecija was Cpl. Oscar Quinones, for murder.

His arrest warrant was issued by Judge Alipio Yumul of the regional Trial Court Branch 66 in Capas, Tarlac.

Also arrested were Rolando Jimenez, 46 of Latore, Talavera, for the crime of estafa; Reynaldo Longalong of Dimasalang, Cabanatuan City and Rosales Joven, 35 of Valdfuente, Cabanatuan City, also for estafa, whose warrants were issued by the RTC Branch 25.

Cops pose as sex customers; rescue 9 minors in raids
CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga- The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, often posing as customers for sex, recently rescued nine minors from various prostitution dens in the region.

Sr. Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar who ordered the raids said the rescue operations were in line with "Oplan Sagip Anghel."

One of the minors rescued in a sex den in Barangay Tiwala, Balagtas town, by the Bulacan CIDG led by Supt. Richie Posadas, CIDG chief in Bulacan, was 16-year-old Roseann, a native of Bangkal, Malolos City.

She was employed as guest relations officer at the Trust videoke bar.
The owners of the bar identified only as Francis and Beth Julia were not present during the raid and are now being hunted by the CIDG.

Roseann was later turned over to the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development for proper disposition.

In a separate operation, the CIDG team led by Senior Insp. Ricky P. Neron reported that one Jessa, 16 of Samar, Leyte , was also rescued when they raided a number of bars along the DRT highway in Pagala, Baliwag.

The operator of the bar identified as Nerissa Palyvos was also not around during the raid.

Eleazar said that charges of violation of R.A. 7160 and R.A. 9231 are being prepared against the bar owners.

In Concepcion, Tarlac, Eleazar reported they also arrested one Romeo Esguerra, 30, who allegedly raped his own daughter, a 12-year-old pupil.

Eleazar said that a separate raid was also conducted in Peace Jazz videoke bar located along Cagayan Valley road in Sto. Cristo, Pulila, Bulacan, resulting to the rescue of one Janeth, 18, of Saluyoy, Meycauayan.

She was caught nude as she was about to have "sex" with a CIDG poseur customer.

Aside from Janeth, five other GROs were also rescued in the same operation. They pointed to one Susana David as owner of the bar but was not around during the raid.

Prior to the raid, Posadas told Eleazar that some clubs and restaurants were also engaged in pornography and prostitution along the area.

Cases of violation of R.A 9208 (Anti-trafficking of Persons Act of 2003) was filed against the suspected maintainers.

Panlilio wants to reconcile with Pampanga mayors


SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – Gov. Eddie Panlilio’s Provincial Development Council will continue to map out its Pampanga Annual Development and Investment Plan for 2008 despite prospects of another snub from the Pampanga Mayors League, Members of the PDC executive committee, except Minalin town mayor Edgardo Flores who represented the PNL, met last Nov. 9 and approved in principle the use of some 20 percent – or about P181 million – of the provincial development fund for next year’s ADIP.

Before the Nov. 9 meeting, PML president Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda wrote the executive committee that Flores would not be able to attend.

Pineda is the son of former provincial board member Lilia Pineda who lost to Panlilio in the last gubernatorial polls and has since filed an electoral protest against him.

Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao earlier accused Panlilio of “alienating” himself not only from the provincial board, but also from the mayors.

Panlilio has been at odds with Guiao, the provincial board and some mayors over lahar quarrying operations in the province, among other issues.

But Panlilio told the media he is keeping his doors open to reconciliation with the provincial board and the mayors, saying it is Guiao who refuses to do so.

The PDC is composed of the mayors of this capital city and 20 towns, the congressmen of Pampanga’s four districts, the chairman of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s committee on appropriations, and 13 sectoral representatives.

Panlilio’s information office said next year’s ADIP would focus on the “upgrading, improvement, rehabilitation and construction of important provincial roads traversing various municipalities, as well as the construction of essential provincial structures, such as the Legislative Hall, the Environment and Natural Resources building, and an infirmary.”

PDC will convene again on Nov. 23 “to crystallize the target projects and benefits under ADIP 2008,” the provincial information office said.

It noted that the PDC convened for the first time in 12 years on the very first month of the Panlilio administration.

“This is part of his campaign promise. The PDC’s main task is to set the tone and direction of the progress of Pampanga through various projects to be implemented throughout the province,” said information officer Rommel de Jesus.

“It also sets the process and the setting by which the governor can consult and involve various stakeholders of the province, including the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, local executives and non-government organization representatives,” he added.

The PDC has identified more than 68 priority projects focusing on the upgrading, improvement, rehabilitation and construction of municipal and barangay roads.

“These projects have already been scheduled for bidding and work will commence before the year ends,” De Jesus said.



Eliminating violence against women

Nov. 25 is international day to end violence against women. It was first declared by women of Latin America in their gathering in 1981 to commemorate the death of the prominent three Mirabal sisters (The Butterfiles) who were killed for opposing the dictatorship of Gen. Trujillo in the Dominican Republic on Nov. 25, 1960.

The declaration made by women from Latin America spread throughout the world and as such November 25 became an international day of action for the elimination of violence against women. In 1991, through the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, women from 23 organizations gathered to declare Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 as 16 days of activism for the elimination of violence against women.

The UN General Assembly on Dec. 17, 1999 designated Nov. 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

In this year’s IDEVAW, we highlight the violence suffered by women due to increasing hunger and poverty. Majority of indigenous women in the Cordillera fall part of the 53% population of the Philippines who self-rate themselves as suffering from poverty (SWS) and 21.% who rate themselves as hungry.

Economic reports say that 15 million of Filipinos live on 1 US dollar a day (P45.00) while 40 million Filipinos live on 2 US dollars a day (P90.00). The government justifies that a Filipino can live with P39.00 a day (less than 1 UD dollar).

Majority of women wallow in poverty and hunger, yet it was easy for Malacanang to distribute cash gifts amounting from P200,000 to P500,000 each to local government official and members of the House of Representatives.

This is happening at a time that new impeachment proceedings and the anomalous ZTE-NBN contract were being discussed. In the midst of an increasing poverty, the Arroyo government has yet to answer graft and corruption charges against her government including the involvement of her husband.

The Philippines has been rated the most corrupt government in Asia a few years back and a World Bank report says that at least 20 percent of the national budget is eaten by corruption. This is bureaucrat capitalism at work where those in power are running government as if it was their own business.

The unresolved issue of corruption in government bureaucracy indeed contributes to the hunger and poverty of the common women. There exists already the problem in budget prioritization where the most needed budget areas for women get the least allocation like basic social services. Economic programs have yet to reach the poor to the poorest section of women.

Stretching of the family budget is already impossible and this is even made more difficult with the recent oil price hike making it the 16th times to increase prices of gasoline products this year and a total increase of P10.00 per liter of gasoline this year. Diesel, kerosene and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) prices have hiked 13 times with a total of P6.60 per liter of diesel products and P6.30 per kilo of LPG.

Given the wide-ranging effects on the economy, the most to suffer will be the ordinary women wage-earners, farmers, small entrepreneurs, drivers and their families. What we see is lesser food on the table, inability to seek medical and other important services, and a bleak Christmas for their families.

Hunger and poverty now comes as the number one violence against women and children. This violence of hunger and poverty makes women and children vulnerable to other forms of violence like domestic, sexual, mental and psychological violence.

With corruption eating people’s money, what services do distressed women expect from government? When they raise their voices, they face political repression calling these acts as acts of terrorism.

The 16 Days of Activism for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is a time to act on the cause of our violence. Let this be a time to get women’s attention on the oil price hikes, on the corruption issues, on livelihood, services and welfare and security for women. We also join the widows and orphans of victims of political killings, Pepe Manegdeg and Albert Terredano, who are still crying for justice, two years after their slay on Nov. 27 and 28, 2005 respectively.

Let us bring to the public and get their support for the 3 House Bills against the oil price increase proposed by the progressive partylist groups, Gabriela Women’s Party, Bayan Muna and Anakpawis.

Vernie Yocogan-Diano
Mila Lingbawan



World Bank puts squeeze on government over ‘anomalous’ Halsema road projects

If the World Bank suspended release of $ 232-million loan to the Philippine government for implementation of the remaining two phases of the controversial Halsema Road rehabilitation project following reports of irregularities and anomalies in its implementation, blame it on implementors

Substandard works, irregularity in bidding among others have been the objects of gripes by constituents. This, as the action of President Macapagal Arroyo on the issue of initiating dismissal proceedings against regional and provincial Highways officials involved in the implementation of the “anomalous” P600 million Mt. Data-Bontoc Road project is still being awaited.

It took a foreign entity like the WB to make the government realize that public funds should be well accounted for in relation to road projects like the Halsema Highway. With the WB’s action, a deeper probe on the road anomalies should be done and those responsible should be identified, charged and prosecuted.

A deeper probe on alleged Halsema project anomalies could be made by the government as a showcase that it is cleaning itself of scalawags and misfits and that corruption has no place in society.

Views from Ilocos Region officials on ‘Christmas cash gifts’ in Malacanang

Call it old hat, but unless issues particularly those concerning government are addressed, these won’t go away, like the controversial cash gifts at Malacanang. The chairman of the Region I Development Council recently lamented the "unwarranted controversy caused by the distribution of cash gifts to congressmen and provincial officials in Malacañang.

Salvador T. Duque, president of the Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities of Region I, said "granting that the cash gifts came from the President, she is expected to be generous, give cash gifts freely to the poor and even all sectors of society. It’s realpolitik, and it would be unnatural and unreal if she is stingy, selfish, and unreachable by poor people.’’

Erlinda Estonactoc, a top APSCU official in La Union, shared Duque’s view, saying "probably, it was the timing of the cash-gift giving that stirred up the controversy, but I could not see anything wrong with it. There was no bribery. If it were bribery, the congressmen would not have accepted the cash gifts. To accuse the President of wrong-doing due to her generosity is stretching the point. Cash gifts "should be viewed from the standpoint of history, tradition, and accepted practice by former presidents and political leaders.’’

More from Duque: "It is inappropriate for any one to talk of impeaching the President because of these cash gifts, and on the other hand, she should be commended for doing so. Even the good book, the Bible says ‘it’s better to give than to receive,’ on Christmas, we give gifts as a matter of tradition. Local officials usually ask for projects – new roads, bridges and municipal buildings, etceteras – to the tune of millions of pesos, and the Office of the President gives fund releases as part of the ordinary course of events,’’ adding "the President leads in generosity in answer to people’s request, and it’s part of the power and authority vested in the President.’’

According to Duque, “The President, being a daughter of a former President of the Philippines, is familiar with realpolitik, and giving is inherent in the Office of the President. They’re what public servants are for. In a democracy, people want to see their leaders attend to their constituents and provide for their needs. It would be abnormal if the leader ignores the people and their needs as all presidents know their obligations to their constituents, and they have social funds authorized by law and tradition. Congressmen are also authorized to receive cash gifts for their constituents and for their district offices which are the center of the processing requests for assistance in urgent needs such funeral, medical, dental, food, and others."

The issue of whether it was the Office of the President, the League of Governors or the Kampi gave the cash gifts has not yet been resolved. Officials have gone overboard in trying to make the controversy die down and stretched their rationalization beyond imagination. Public funds are public funds and these have to be accounted properly. If the funds were “private,” then the giver must have had a big heart.



Riding P19.6 luxury vehicles

As if this Banana Republic didn’t have enough of exposes on government corruption, comes now this report that members of the Baguio City council railroaded the appropriation of P19.6 million to purchase luxury cars as their service vehicles.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the officials are blaming each other following public criticism over their allegedly self-serving action. Mayor Reinaldo A. Bautista Jr. denied to media he had knowledge of the council’s appropriation of funds for the purchase of vehicles for their official use.
Bautista said he was surprised to know his office was allotted P4.6 million for the purchase of a new service vehicle. The mayor said he did not know the intention of the council in including his office as beneficiary of the controversial appropriation measure.

Maybe, our honorable councilors did it in the spirit of the season since Christmas is just around the corner and everyone should have a giving heart even if the money was taken from the cookie jar. Or since he is the youngest mayor Baguio ever had, it may have been an incentive from the elder members of the council as manongs.
Councilor Galo Weygan admitted having authored the ordinance appropriating the amount for the purchase of the vehicles. But the councilor-priest said it was with the knowledge and consent of the city mayor and other members of the city council. Pundits are now saying the two should toss a coin to determine who is telling the truth.

Our bubwits at city hall are saying the plan to buy service vehicles for all elected city officials was discussed during an out-of-town executive-legislative planning workshop recently held in Subic.

The aldermen may have thoroughly discussed the prudence of the matter before they went to the former American military camp. They must have agreed the beckoning shoreline of the prime resort with the bikini-clad beauties had a stimulating effect on their brains to come up with better legislation and programs for the city. Camp John Hay is laos so better try something new.
You see, the matter was again reportedly deliberated at several meetings in the city and even in the mayor’s office after the Subic sortie. Under the plan, the city mayor’s office was allotted P4.6 million for the purchase of a brand-new service vehicle, while the members of the city council, including the vice mayor, were allotted P1 million each.

Of course various sectors in the city denounced the use of public funds for the purchase of luxury service vehicles for the city officials, calling the act "immoral and improper." They also accused the officials of abuse of authority.
The P19.6 million earmarked to buy the service vehicles of city officials was taken from the P25.2-million internal revenue allotment (IRA) surplus of the city government.
What my favorite bubwit can’t understand is why only P5.6 million was appropriated by the city council for the implementation of infrastructure projects of some barangays while the city government could afford to pay P19.6 million for luxury cars.

But then again, maybe, the vehicles were indeed needed so that our honorables could roam around city barangays so they could determine the constituents’ needs. You wouldn’t want any of our officials riding a tricycle to determine the state of the barangays so they could come up with appropriate legislation would you?
It would be a shame if any of their lowland counterparts visit Baguio and see the aldermen riding the trikes. Not good for projecting the city as one of the wealthiest in the country. Clothes determine a man, an adage says.

Anyway, Councilor Erdolfo Balajadia said the city government no longer needed additional dump trucks to improve garbage collection as these were enough. Maybe, that was one of the reasons why the council allotted the P19.6 million for the luxury vehicles.

I guess the good councilor must have been joking since everywhere along city roads, there are lots of stinky garbage strewn nowadays. Besides, with windows of the vehicles closed, our honorables wouldn’t be able to smell the fragrant aroma of the garbage.
Concerned sectors are now saying instead of buying luxury vehicles for local officials, the city government should have utilized the fund for the purchase of five dump trucks to improve garbage collection in the city’s 128 barangays.

I don’t think our city officials are trying to look for scapegoats to save themselves from criticisms by the residents as our bubwits allege. Just try talking to some of our friends in the council. They say the issue is nothing as compared to those in the national level. Don’t you agree? At least they are telling the truth. Public officials are supposed to tell the truth. And when they do this, the subterfuge is lost.
So when any of those expensive vehicles pass you by with your favorite official with a contented smile riding and waiving on board, you can tell yourself at least, your taxes are being used and you had made another man happy.



Poverty and livelihood

Are we fighting poverty, or are we providing livelihood? This is the philosophical question that I asked my brother Roy, and he gave me an answer that settled the question in my mind once and for all.

Roy said that fighting poverty is like going against a tsunami whereas providing livelihood is like creating a ripple, albeit it is a ripple that could be created many times, and no matter how small the waves it will create, it still amounts to doing something for God’s brethren, an indirect way of doing something for God. Adding more philosophical twist to his answer, Roy said that fighting poverty is too big of a challenge for any person or group, because as big as it is, it is really the job of the government to do it.
There is no doubt about it, providing livelihood is really the way to get people out of poverty (and consequently to free them from hunger). Many politicians talk about providing livelihood, but do they really get around to providing the complete supply chain of the livelihood business process? Sad to say, many politicians seem to be unaware that livelihood involves both a supply chain and a business process.
In theory, any household that is the beneficiary of a livelihood project could be liberated from poverty if and when their combined household income exceeds the threshold of the poverty line.

That being the case, it is possible to objectively target the number of households that could be liberated from poverty, at the same time achieving poverty reduction goals.
The business process of livelihood involves five elements, namely planning, training, financing, marketing and consulting. Planning should be the logical start of the process, and consulting should be the continuing exercise that should sustain the life of projects over the years.
The supply chain of livelihood involves the materials used for the production component of the project, all the way to the delivery of finished products to the intended markets. The hard part really is to sustain the supply chain, because without this sustenance, the business process will also die.
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Pampanga OFW projects/ Passports for Tarlac folk

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga -- From indications, the provincial government and the private sector here are determined to ensure a better future for would-be and currently deployed Kapampangan overseas Filipino workers and their families as multi-sectoral efforts to consolidate all programs and services for the protection of their rights and welfare are being boosted.

The exponents of the Church-initiated Pampanga Inter-Agency Council for Migrants Concerns buckled down to work as it met for the third time last Nov. 20 to discuss the immediate formation of the migrants’ concerns committees on Information and education, welfare and protection, reintegration and sub-
committees on economic and family integration, as well as lobbying advocacy.

To lead in these committees are the provincial public employment services office and provincial social welfare development office respectively. Accordingly, the Pampanga Archdiocese Migrants Desk, lead convenor of PIAMCO, plans to take up with Gov. Eddie Panlilio the five-point Capampangan migrants agenda that it had earlier submitted to his office. This includes the establishment of a Migrants Desk or Office that would provide and facilitate the delivery of various forms of services to the OFWs and their families.

The PIAMCO initiative is in line with the provincial government’s intensified efforts to push for the advancement and better protection of the rights and welfare of would-be and currently deployed Kapampangan OFWs and families.
Last week, Gov. Panlilio signed a landmark memorandum of understanding with the POEA to strengthen and intensify the anti-illegal recruitment campaign in the province through barangaylevel information dissemination.

Fr. Arnie Serrano, director of Pampanga Archdiocese Migrants Desk and the presiding officer of the meeting, said "PIAMCO is very much like the provincial government’s PAMISAUPAN program. Its success lies on the commitment and the concerted efforts of all who have genuine concerns for our OFWs and their families."

Government agencies represented in the PIAMCO were the Department of Labor and Employment, National Labor Relations Commission, PhilHealth and Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Also present were the representatives of the provincial offices of the Department of Trade and Industry, Technical Skill Training and Development Authority, while the Pampanga Provincial Cooperative and Entrepreneural Development Office and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office represented the provincial government.
In Tarlac City, the Department of Foreign Affairs Regional Office No. 3 issued passports on Nov. 17 to some 500 applicants here in line with the program of the city government to assists its residents who intend to seek overseas employment or travel abroad.

This was made possible through the holding of a one-day passporting and releasing activity at the city hall held in cooperation with the DFA office in Region 3 headed by regional director Ernesto Belardo. City Mayor Genaro M. Mendoza said this is the fourth occasion wherein the city government, in cooperation with the DFA, had conducted passport processing and releasing in one day.

Belardo said Mayor Mendoza has taken the initiative to help his constituents avail themselves of the opportunity to have their travel documents processed right where they are residing, which also saves time, as well as expenses for meals and transportation. Lorrie Ledesma, Tarlac City Licensing Division chief, said this passport processing and releasing project of Mayor Mendoza had started last year, in cooperation with Director Belardo.



Warming up for the yuletide

A call from Hong Kong about this time three years ago warmed me up for the yuletide. We were on the road, midway to Banaue, when my cheap cellphone rang, telling me I hadn’t lost it yet.

“Kindly include how you can be contacted when you rite something about patients like Tofi,” the woman aller said. She was almost complaining over the maze she took to get my number from colleagues in the Midland Courier where Tofi’s story appeared.

“I remitted P3,000 through which you can now withdraw from this bank for the kid,” she said. I’m also a mother can feel for Tofi’s parents.Don’t mention my name; I just want to help.”

So be it, I said, thinking that was it. Yet she called again, twice, to advice she had two more remittances. With people like her, Tofi Estepa, then four, finally got rid of a pesky tumor that kept on re-growing in his brain despite two surgeries.

We hit Banaue early afternoon. Then mayor Jerry Dalipog guided us to two families who had just lost two kids in a landslide that buried their common house along the road near the terraces viewpoint.

Just one look at the scene and a glassy eyed widow and her sister in mourning clothes and former world karate champion Julian Chees knew we came to the right place. He pulled out a wad and handed it – P70,000 in all – to the mothers of the two families – Irene Duyugen and her sister-in-law Juliet.

Irene’s family was staying with Juliet’s own in the latter’s house when the landslide struck. They were evicted from their own home when they couldn’t pay a loan they tried to start a woodcarving buy-and-sell business with.

When they saw footages of the typhoon devastation on television, martial arts students of Julian in southern Germany pooled about 1,000 euros for him to deliver to victims on his annual homecoming to Baguio and his native village of Maligcong in Bontoc, Mt. Province. The amount enabled Irene to reclaim her home and for her sister to figure out how to start rebuilding her own.

On the way to Maligcong from Banaue, the late Baguio newsman Willy Cacdac couldn’t wait to write the story for The Manila Times. Peewee Agustin, who had been onsimilar missions before, knew the mission made his yuletide.That was Christmas past.

Recently, general manager Gerry Verzosa of the Benguet Electric Cooperative was on the road when he heard over radio station DZWT an appeal for blood donation. He called up cooperative nurse Gertrude Tello, who rang up employees with type B blood. One shed 450 cc., enough for a lawyer needing transfusion, while two others were on standby should more be needed.

The other week, John Hay director Enrique Sobrepena learned the fund drive for three-year old heart patient Rheanne Derricke Briones was P20,000 short of the P200,000 set up by the barangay council of Scout Barrio. He wrote a check for P30,000 that overshot the goal for the kid’s surgery. It was reason enough for barangay chief Ramon Corpuz to toast with friends onhis 54th birthday the other Saturday.

Out there in Northern California, Baguio folksingers had just netted $2,800 in their concert for patients back here. Band coordinator Joel Aliping set aside $400 for Rheanne, while distributing the rest to others. Down south, in San Diego, couple Gabby and Josie Ruliva sent P5,000 for the girl.

Baguio boy Freddie de Guzman, now raising three daughters with his wife in Canada, was preparing to drive to his St. Louis University alumni reunion in Vegas when he heard of Rheanne’s plight.

He sent P16,000, the latest in a series of remittances for the needy he began last year. Irwin Ilustre, another Baguio expatriate, regularly monitors reports and then courses his support to the needy through his sister here.

Like Freddie, an Ibaloi woman raising her daughter in Kentucky, appears to be a stranger to donor fatigue. She regularly sends amounts which, she says, is her own way of celebrating her triumph over breast cancer.

Her most recent transmittal of $200 came just when Ericka Madriaga, a 10-year old stricken with osteosarcoma, was due for her fifth round of chemotherapy. And just when a man needed support for his recovery from a stroke, Connie Angeles of Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko fame and her sister Cristy sent him a brand new wheelchair through SM Foundation.

Now, Julian is back here, a little earlier than in previous Christmases. He had to be after learning his mother Emilia just had a stroke, while his three-year old niece Mechede was nursing bruises on her face after a hit-and-run Elf Isuzu truck driver swiped her father Gideon’s motorcycle.

So he canceled several karate training engagements and rushed to the Frankfurt airport, but not before assuring that his students were ready to complete Rheanne’s fund should the target fall short.

Merry Christmas, dear Santa in karate uniform. Blessings, too, to the family of a Baguio lady who has been cleared of cancer. While on therapy, she was reaching out to other patients. For her family, the spirit of sharing has never been seasonal. ( for comments).



On leadership

(Speech delivered by this author on Nov. 20 at Tadian municipal ground on occasion of the mass oath-taking of barangay and sanggunaing kabataan officials. The mass oath-taking was administered by Mayor Constito Masweng. Though written in English, it was generally delivered in mixed Kankana-ey and Iluko.)

Congratulations on your victory during the just concluded synchronized SK and Barangay Elections last Oct. 29. There is no substitute for victory and winning is everything, as they say, as all attendant privileges and benefits that accompany such victory always go to the winner. I’m sure that from the hour of your proclamation up to this time that you took your oath, you are still feeling euphoric and exhilarated of your victory.

But, as we all know, the sweet savor of victory is always accompanied by the heavy burden of responsibilities as well as rigors of leadership which will manifest themselves when you start dispensing your functions and duties this coming November 30, 2007.

On this occasion, it is proper and fitting to talk about leadership or plainly about being a leader itself. Good and effective leadership, that is. On leadership, many definitions have been crafted but the most encompassing one which I like the most as it virtually integrated, one way or the other, the basic concepts on leadership given by others:

“A leader is someone who sets direction in an effort and influences people to follow that direction while leadership is the activity of influencing people to cooperate toward some goal which they find desirable.” This definition was given by Ordway Treade.

Perhaps before your election to your respective positions, you might have been looked up in some ways or regarded with respect in your community. For, notwithstanding other factors behind your victory, a good deed, an initiated act, a model quality or trait or a vast experience or wisdom on your part may have registered in the perception of your constituents.

Or perhaps, you may have behaved honorably and interacted well with the people around you in the community and never showed any bias to anybody because of closeness, relations or other factors which eventually paved the way for your election. Whichever, such favorable perceptions of your electors was rewarded with the position for which you took your oath now.

And also such leadership traits that people noticed in you concomitantly earned their full trust in you. They deemed such meritorious traits to be of better use for public service, mush less to the good of the majority and not only to a few individuals.

Nevertheless, with your election, such glorious traits should be complimented by other traits even as they should be matched by corresponding, worthy actions as well. It should be borne in mind that not only are leaders should be the epitome of good traits but should be able to inspire or influence others to get things done. By all means, a leader should have the inherent quality to inspire or to command others to get things done for the community. Which brings us to the qualities of a good and effective leader.

First and foremost, a good and effective leader should be armed with a vision and a mission.

A vision is an ideal state that the organization or, in our case, your barangay aims to achieve. It is a dream or a picture of what you would like your barangay to be in the future. It serves as a guide for officials and people to take action but which has the support of the people in the first place.

Example of a Vision is this: “By the year 2010, Poblacion, Tadian shall be an economically stable community with morally upright, healthy and happy families living in a peaceful, orderly and ecologically-balanced environment.

A mission, on the other hand, identifies the big objectives that will lead to the realization of the vision. It determines the steps you must take today that will move you closer to your ideal tomorrow. It spells out the plans, programs and activities that your barangay will undertake and which residents will likewise support to attain the vision.

Example of a mission is this: “Barangay Poblacion, Tadian shall implement all programs, projects and activities that will redound to the greatest number of its people, promote multi-sectoral partnerships, and mobilize resources through a strong political will and oneness of purpose.”

In the formulation of a vision and mission, there is a need for the punong barangay and the barangay kagawads to fuse their own individual vision and mission into a clear, concrete and broad statement. Same case with the SK chairman and the SK kagawads.

Practically and in effect, the vision and mission of the barangay officials and the SK Officials will eventually become their constituents’ own as they are literally geared to their distinctive constituencies which are the barangay residents and the youth, respectively.

By and large, it is my firm belief that you took the risk to run for the position you have been elected to because you have your own personal vision and mission for your Barangay. This could have stimulated your burning desire and eagerness to serve your barangay. Simply put, you aspired for an official position in your barangay because you want to contribute to its development by having your own design or personal vision integrated in its future development.

Secondly, an effective leader should have the following qualities in which you may have one or two among them that paved the way to your election. These qualities are lumped together in the acronym called IMPACT wherein I stands for Integrity, M for Maturity, P for Pro-Activeness, A for Accountability, C for Competence and T for Trustworthiness.

Integrity is the quality of having self-value and self-commitment. It is making a promise and being honorable enough to do all things possible to bring to fruition what one promised. It is walking the talk. So that the things you vowed to do when you just took your oath awhile ago, you must try your level best to do them as warranted. Precisely, your individual oath was not uttered to be heard only but to be seen as well through concrete and tangible actions.

Maturity is the quality of being firm, steadfast and precise in making decisions. A mature leader does not rush into making a decision. He does not make a decision at the spur of the moment. By all means, he should have the prudence and sobriety to consider both sides of an issue at hand before he makes a decision. But once he arrives at a decision he should stand by it having thoroughly considered the pros and cons of the issue thereof.

Pro-Activeness is the quality in which a leader initiates an effort or action and anticipates possible problems for which he has ready and reserved solutions thereto. For instance, a leader may allow the establishment up of videoke bars in his area but imposes strictly an early curfew which should not be beyond the regular sleeping hours of the people in the neighborhood as he is aware and anticipates a backlash if done otherwise.

Accountability on the other hand is the quality which refers to the sense of responsibility of a leader. Such responsibility is manifested in seeing to it that he attends to all his responsibilities, tasks and duties as religiously as he could. His responsibilities should have primordial significance over his personal comfort and convenience. He should be cognizant of the huge sacrifices that he must incur in the performance of his task and duties.

Competence is the quality by which a leader should possess the basic skills which he will utilize to make the performance of his duties more effective. These skills are basically called for especially in the case of the punong barangay or else he will be deceived by the barangay Secretary or the barangay treasurer.

This has been shown in previous instances wherein punong barangays were placed in compromising situations due to having affixed their signature in counterfeit documents.

Hence, barangay officials, especially the punong barangay, should be equipped with basic knowledge on barangay budgeting, resolution-making and ordinance-making.

Trustworthiness is a trait of a leader which refers to honesty. This is being honest enough in small things as well as in big things.

Other things required of you aside from those mention are nothing less than the focus, dedication and commitment which you should also invest in your job. Needless to say, much is expected of you notably in the light of the many national services, functions and facilities devolved to the barangays by the Local Government Code.

On the other hand, while these concerns occupy most of your time and efforts, being an official in the barangay is not financially rewarding. This is one of the downsides thereof as the honoraria you will be receiving will not be tantamount to the heavy responsibilities you will be burdened with on a 24/7 period. In fact, barangay officials are even busier than the municipal officials, including the Mayor, even if he will disagree with me on this (This caused a guffaw of laughter from the crowd.)

Before closing, may I share with you the story of a barangay tanod who won the Lingkod Bayan Award in 2002. He is the only barangay tanod to receive the award. He received the award for having converted an idle park into a manmade fishpond which paved the way for a viable livelihood for fisher folks in his own purok. He trailblazed this unique livelihood opportunity not only for himself but also for his purokmates. He is Joaquin Morga of Barangay Telbang, Alaminos, Pangasinan.

Finally, allow me to share with you the kind of a leader that an average citizen expects in a statement synthesized by a writer: “The average citizen expects a leader to have the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of David, the strength of Samson, the patience of Job, the leadership of Moses, the faith of Daniel, the diplomacy of Lincoln, the tolerance of the Carpenter of Nazareth and the kindness of the good Samaritan.”

Godspeed then to your governance of your barangay for which I hope you will provide mature, competent and pro-active leadership.



Expensive ABC elections

There is widespread sentiment among barangay constituents that public service by their neighborhood officials today has adopted a new impression. In the recent barangay polls, Comelec offices were swarmed by registrants from all walks of life – all wanting to “serve” as chairman or kagawad.

This was unprecedented from the time the late President Marcos re-invented the barangay system where the position of kapitan del baryo was typically contested by prominent barangay residents. In the last barangay elections, the list of candidates included many contractors, engineers, doctors, retired teachers, lawyers, retired policemen, and even former councilors.

While many of the candidates wanted to perform genuine public service, the rest had plans, not for their barangay but for their own interest – or maybe both. Aside from improvising styles of barangay governance, most if not all candidates for kapitan were after public works contracts, other perks plus money-making ventures, including jueteng of course.

That is partly the result of the notorious manipulations and postponements of barangay elections in the past. But that is nothing compared to what our kapitanes in Baguio have become, as some of them have turned into gambling lords – legally and otherwise. In fact, the masterminds of the barangay bingo-jueteng structures have started influencing their counterparts in Benguet, Pangasinan and La Union.

As we write, the tests encountered in the recent barangay polls are far from over. Today the kapitanes look forward to still another election to choose from among themselves the officials for the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC). This is one of the motivations that persuaded some lawyers and former councilors into winning the top seat in the barangay – to be ABC president.

Although this part of the whole barangay election process is not so politicized as compared to other parts of the country, it has become expensive. Although ABC elections in the country have been tainted by vote buying, we limit our discussion to what has been and what still happens in Baguio and Benguet.

According to some kapitanes friends, ABC presidential contenders have started offering their supporters cash or checks to the tune of P10,000 each. There are 128 barangays in Baguio . Contenders may wish to raise the offer to P15,000 or P20,000 or more, for as long as the candidates have cash to dole out.

That is also true in Benguet. Here, the candidates dole out more than their city counterpart because the greed for power does not stop in a seat in the munisipyo. Of course after money changed hands, it is expected that the candidate who “reached out” to more has insured himself a seat in the municipal council. Now, as ABC president, he prepares to buy his way up to a seat in the provincial legislature. There are 140 barangays in all 13 municipalities in Benguet.

Aside from the ABC, the Sanggunian Kabataan (SK) winners submit to the “advise” of their elders and succumb to corruption by replicating the ABC election affairs. This is especially true for SK candidates whose parents are contractors. In most cases, the SK chair who sits in the council or provincial board heads the “silent committee” and becomes a mere “stamp pad” for the parents who make the decisions.

The recently concluded campaign and elections for the League of Councilors in the 13 towns of Benguet was also stained with vote-buying. Now, with everyone buying each others support, try computing the amount of money that changed hands during the elections of presidents for kapitanes, SK and councilors’ league.

Except for those who simply wanted to work as plain kapitanes or SK chairs, it is not easy to believe that the presidents of the ABC, SK and councilors’ leagues – after tedious and expensive elections, will render sincere and honest to goodness public service. To recoup what has been spent in the elections is a priority agenda. –



2 lawyers drown in Pagudpud

The nation is in deep crisis due to rampant graft and corruption, greed and mismanagement of officials in power. These are the root causes of poverty, lawlessness and economic stagnation that stalked our economy for many decades. The Philippines, the Pearl of the Orient Seas, is now the “Economic Basket Case of ASEAN” considering that it was one of its more progressive members some years ago.

So many pseudo leaders or candidates are claiming to be qualified as leaders in government but are they really serious in serving the country? The barangay election was successfully undertaken but there is need to educate winning candidates on concept of effective leadership, duties and responsibilities on proper implementation of the Local Government Code in their areas.

Notwithstanding the incompetence and impertinent behavior of some elective officials, there is need for them to attend seminars of symposia so they could be educated on proper parliamentary decorum within their jurisdiction.

In the wider perspective, the people can avoid the vicious cycle of corruption, greed and incompetent administrations if they are provided with clear and well-defined guidelines for selecting the most qualified candidates.

A leader with intellectual and moral preparedness can have the capability to inspire the people to set aside their differences and unite them towards the attainment of common goals and the ability to tackle politically unpopular issues but which are deemed beneficial to the general public.

Integrity must not be tarnished by involvement, either as public official or as a private person in any transaction where public interest is subordinated by personal gain. The capability to subordinate personal gain, glory or ambition when it conflicts with national interest or common good should be emphasized.

To be a member of a lawmaking body in the powerful chamber of local governance is a privilege and one should be called honorable in the right sense of the word – not a sitting dishonorable.

A popular lameduck sometimes gets elected into office not so much for his or her competence but due to brandishment of material wealth and deceptive charisma. Don’t let any hypnotic spell or forgetfulness beguile us in our pursuit of a great leader. Our search is beyond political biases.
I would like to extend my congratulations to a good friend, newly elected barangay kagawad Napoleon Uy of Laoag City and Maricor R. Labayan who successfully passed the board exam for certified public accountants. No a CPA, she is thankful to her alma mater Maraino Marcos State University for the knowledge and guidance in attaining her dream. To God, all things are possible.
It was a tragic incident in the town of Pagudpud when two lawyers were drowned a the shore of Sitio Malingay in a beach resort. It was reported in the town police station by lawyer Abigael N. dela Cruz and brother Josh dela Cruz, both residents of Barangay Nalupta, Batac City that between 11:45 a.m. and 12:25 p.m., lawyers Analy Mangalindan, 27, single and James Fernandez, 27, residents of Makati City and Pinili, Ilocos Norte respectively were accidentally drowned due to strong waves.

Mangalindan was immediately rushed to the Bangui District Hospital for treatment after she was rescued by companions and concerned locals but was pronounced dead on arrival by the attending doctor.

Until now, the body of Fernandez who was believed carried away by strong waves is still being searched by rescue teams. This is an isolated case. I hope that this painful experience will not again be duplicated and dampen tourist arrival in northern Ilocos.

There is a lesson from this. Warning signs and life guards must always within the perimeter of the beach to protect tourists and local folk.
According to psychologists, the need for touch is a fundamental human need – a primary mode of communication. It communicates a wide range of meanings which lovers can’t fully understand.

But touching is not good when people of wealth and power use this to victimize innocent girls to satisfy their lust. I was touched by the unfortunate life of a girl named Marianeth who hanged herself due to poverty.

It is a great irony indeed when powerful mortals distribute money to poverty-stricken people with the intention of exploiting them. The young girl, the journey to eternity was a far better and acceptable option rather than to suffer the reality of hopelessness and agonizing poverty.

The challenge is at hand. The gap between the rich and the poor is worst than in past decades. It is high time for everybody, particularly the rich and the powerful to initiate or give a better future for the less fortunate segments of our society.


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