Barangay chairman tagged mastermind : Suspects in brutal killing of Mt Province mayor nabbed

>> Tuesday, January 29, 2008

PARACELIS, Mountain Province -- Three of the six suspects in the brutal killing of Mayor Cesar Rafael here Christmas Day last year were arrested Task Force Paracelis composed of Cordillera cops.

Supt. Joseph Adnol, provincial police chief bared suspects Bong Felix and Rene Yadao surrendered to the police on Jan. 21 in a prearranged meeting at the house of a Barangay Kagawad at Sitio Damsite Barangay Anonat here.

“Earlier, the task force learned that Felix and Yadao wanted to meet with Patrick Rafael, brother of the slain mayor, to clear their names and disclose the extent of their participation in the killing,” he said.

Some barangay kagawads of Anonat reportedly facilitated the meeting. Upon hearing this, the task force immediately located the slain mayor’s brother and escorted him to the meeting place.

The duo reportedly revealed there were six of them who actually participated in the gruesome ambush-slay. They served as lookouts while the other four were the gunmen. A barangay chairman allegedly recruited and paid them to kill the mayor.

The barangay chairman’s identity was withheld pending filing of charges against him. Adnol said on Jan. 22, the third suspect, named as Tirso Abalos was apprehended at Sitio Damsite in Anonat by virtue of a standing warrant of arrest. He was intercepted while on his way to Roxas, Isabela.

Identities of three other suspects and the alleged mastermind were withheld by police pending the filing of cases against them. But other sources identified the suspects to the media naming them as Danny Agabao, Tony Conti and a still unidentified accomplice.

A case for murder is now being prepared for filing in court against Felix, Yadao and Abalos. Mayor Rafael, 61, married, a resident of Poblacion, Paracelis was shot to death while driving his pick-up truck along an upgraded portion of the road in Sitio Sinigpit, Butigue, Paracelis at 2 p.m. on Dec. 25, 2007.

According to initial investigations, he just came from his farm at Capalaleyan, Palitud, Paracelis when the incident happened. His Cal. 45 pistol and cellular phone were allegedly taken away by his assailants.

Scene of the crime police operatives recovered of 72 shells from an M-16 rifle. The victim’s vehicle had 80 gunshot holes. Bone, brain and blood were splattered at the front passenger’s seat and dashboard as a result of the great volume of gunfire.

“With the arrest of the three suspects and with the continuous support of witnesses and community leaders, and with the unremitting investigations being conducted by the police, the family of the victim and the Cordillera police are hoping for the arrest of the other suspects and solution of the case,” Adnol said.


Principal suspended for collecting fees, caressing teachers


BAGUIO CITY – A principal of an elementary public school here was given a minimal suspension of sixty days by the Department of Education for caressing female teachers and collecting fees from a private affiliation school.

Virginia Gorospe, married and former principal of Pinsao Elementary School presently assigned at Dona Nicasia Elementary school was earlier meted six months suspension for simple dishonesty and simple misconduct on Sept. 27, 2007 but was reduced to two months on Dec. 26, 2007 upon the filing of a motion for reconsideration.

Regional Cordillera DepEd Director Benito S. Tumamao issued the order which was implemented by Baguio Schools Division Superintendent Ellen B. Donato on Jan. 9.

The teachers complained in March 2005 that Gorospe admitted students from a caregiver school in Pangasinan and gained from the transaction evidenced by unofficial receipts presented. Also, the principal was charged for caressing buttocks, cupping her hands on breasts, lifting skirts, and caressing legs.

Gorospe however countered the amount given from the caregiver students using the school was a token of appreciation. She added she was “neither a pervert or lesbian and her alleged malicious utterances and acts against female teachers were only jokes made between friends who have no malice in their minds.” She added “it is only in the minds of the complainants where they injected malice and lewd designs”.

The charges stemmed from a formal complaint of Pinsao Proper elementary teachers Jorelyn Pascua, Dominga Gravidez, Marissa Jorvina, Silverio Maximo, Nancy Pal-og, May Magdalena Agaguen, Brigette Galong, Herminia Ramon, Jovelyn Balantin, Cherry Baden, Jacqueline Gurang, John Kin-iway, Robelyn Gurang, Simona Wooden, Feliza Degawan, Rosalinda Atiwen, Marissa De Guzman, and Rose Graal Malidom.

Lawyer Anthony Wooden representing the complainants said they were not contented with the minimal suspension so they will appeal the decision to the Education Secretary.


2 Ecija execs, worker cheat death in ambush


CABANATUAN CITY – Police are now trying to establish identities of two men who ambushed two top officials of the provincial government and an employee of the provincial Capitol here in Gapan City night of Jan. 17.

Senior Supt. Napoleon Taas, newly installed OIC-provincial director, said those ambushed were engineer Vicente “Boyet” Santos, 48, OIC provincial engineer and engineer Roberto Lenocio, 48, assistant chief of the provincial general services office, both of Barangay San Roque, San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija and engineer Anthony Afaro, 26, chief Barangay Sto. Nino, Gapan. The three survived the ambush with no bullet wounds.

Supt. Marlon Bingcang, police station commander, said the ambush was staged by armed men at around 10:10 p.m. while the three were riding a gray Nissan Frontier pickup.

Bingcang said the vehicle, (SFC-823) and driven by Leoncio, was in front of Alfaro’s house when the two gunmen aboard a red Honda motorcycle (TMX-155) and who were wearing fatigue jackets and ski-masks drew their guns and fired at them. Three bullets pierced the vehicle, damaging its windshield.

The three ducked for cover and scampered towards the barangay hall in Barangay San Nicolas.
Police recovered from the crime scene empty shells from a 9 mm revolver and one bullet.

Lawyer Ferdinand Abesamis, a consultant of Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali, told newsmen Santos was appointed by the government to head the provincial engineering office shortly after the elections.


Benguet rivers contaminated;cyanide, mercury traces found


TUBLAY, Benguet — A study conducted by the University of the Cordilleras showed seven river tributaries in Barangay Ambassador here are not safe for human use due to the presence of cyanide and mercury.

The results of the study on water safety at various areas indicated traces of mercury and cyanide which are toxic, extremely harmful chemicals.

Dr. Teresita Doctor of the biology department of UC’s College of Arts and Sciences said the contamination might have been caused by improper waste disposal, use of pesticides, and commercial fertilizers in vast agricultural lands in the area and mine tailings from the closed Sto Nino Mines in the barangay.

The rivers in Tublay are tributaries of the Amburayan River which flows to the lowland, particularly La Union and Ilocos Sur, before it empties in the South China Sea. The laboratory findings discovered contamination in the rivers at Kilometer 17, Labey Creek, Mamuyod A, Palso Upper, Patad-el B, Sto. Nino I, II, and III, Sapuan, and Tabeyo I. The same findings showed Nalseb, Olman Kuros, Central, Patad-el, Babaten, Aquique, Tabeyo, and Kilometer 16 have generally safe water sources.

Some of the water samples were considered non-genotoxic, while the others were found safe for watering ornamental plants, but not for cooking or drinking. The study stated that the contamination may not be visible in the short term, but this has long-lasting effects, especially in the health of the people living in the areas.

In a related development, Mayor Ruben Paoad said there were attempts by some mining companies to conduct exploration to re-open mines in different areas of the town, but said he is against any mining activity in the town because it adversely affects the environment and livelihood of the people.

He said based on the experience of mining communities in the province, it is obvious that the mining areas have not benefited economically from mining operations. Instead, Paoad said, these mining communities are now plagued by health and environmental problems. UC has committed to assist local communities through various initiatives under Project HELEN which stands for Health Environment, Livelihood, Education and Nurturance.

The university has selected Barangay Ambassador as its pilot area for Project HELEN which aims to assist the residents through various trainings and workshops on organic farming, barangay peace and order, local governance, proper waste segregation and disposal, and alternative livelihood or entrepreneurship.


P’sinan execs push Alaminos airport

ALAMINOS, Pangasinan -- The highest policy-making body in Region 1 urged the immediate construction of an airport in this tourist town to boost economy in northern Luzon. Regional Development Council vice chairman Leonardo Quintos Jr. in a letter to aviation officials, sought to put the project in motion as soon as possible.

The RDC is the primary institution that coordinates and sets the direction of all economic and social development efforts in the region. It serves as the counterpart of the National Economic and Development Authority at the sub-national level translated into and integrated with national development activities.

“Whereas, the City of Alaminos is undeniably the trade, commercial and educational center in Western Pangasinan, and home to the world famous Hundred Islands National Part, one of Region 1’s major tourist attractions,” the resolution read. Moreover, a surge in the arrival of local and foreign tourists was officially reported, RDC members who signed the resolution said. They attributed the increase in the number of guests to the continued development of tourism facilities and amenities off the Hundred Islands.

“A greater number of tourists is projected to visit the city and the surrounding tourist sites if only travel to Western Pangasinan is shortened to less than an hour relative to the other major tourist attractions in northern Philippines, like Metro Manila which is currently about five to seven hours away, Baguio City, about three to four hours away; San Fernando City, the regional center which is two to three hours away, and Vigan City, where the Vigan Heritage Village is located, three to four hours away,” the resolution stated.

Asian Spirit, represented by EVP Joaquin Ernesto Po, is offering its turbopop aircraft to Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza once the airport is built. “As this is now the trend in tourism, we hope that the proposed Alaminos airport will be able to accommodate our jet aircraft and enable us to fly in tourist from Korea to Taiwan direct to the home of the world-famous Hundred Islands. Asian Spirit looks forward to a mutually beneficial and fruitful relationship in the near future,” he said. -- MP


SC asked to stop Nueva Vizcaya mining project


KASIBU, Nueva Vizcaya -- A group of anti-mining activists asked the Supreme Court Wednesday to issue a preliminary injunction against a mining company in this town. Kasibu Mayor Romeo Tayaban and the Sang guniang Bayan said the gold-copper project of the Oceana Gold mining firm in Barangay Didipio lacks social acceptability and failed to get the consent of the municipal government.

In August 2005, the municipal council passed a resolution rejecting the project. “Despite its failure to secure an endorsement from the local government to its socially unacceptable gold-copper project, Australasia Philippines Mining Co. Inc., transferee of Climax Arimco Mining Corp.’s financial and technical assistance agreement, has ignored the will of the people and the authority of the local officials,” said the petitioners’ legal counsel, lawyer Francis Joseph Ballesteros.

The petitioners said the preliminary injunction would prevent “any further damage to the community.” They also asked the SC to remind the company to respect and comply with the demand of the municipal government and not to violate its local autonomy. The petitioners claimed that the operation of the mining company has displaced indigenous groups in Barangay Didipio and nearby communities.

“The actions of local government units should emulate the direct governance and will of the people. Nationally initiated government development projects should be required and subjected to local government clearances to prevent transgressions of the very authority and integrity of the elective offices of local government units to preserve democratic governance structures,” Ballesteros said. He said Kasibu town hosts two large-scale mining operations.

“In 2007 and at the onset of 2008, community resistance is evident as other indigenous people’s communities are physically preventing the entry of mine equipment and personnel encroaching in their villages. Communities in Barangays Paquet, Pao and Kakidugen have so far been successful in preventing the Oxiana mining company from entering their villages since July 2007 and after repeated attempts to break their resolve to defend their lands,” he said.

“Recently, villagers of Barangay Papaya have successfully driven away mine exploration equipment and personnel of Oceana Gold from their community,” he added.


Curfew set on La Union minors


SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union -- Children who are below 18 years old, are now prevented from loitering and roaming around the city from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. City Mayor Pablo C. Ortega bared this Wednesday saying enforcement of the ordinance on the curfew was not a punishment, but protection for minors from bad elements.

"This is part of the efforts to boost the peace and order and public safety program of the city government," the mayor said. "We just want them safe during those hours." "There is already an ordinance approved by the provincial government, so it also applies to the whole province," said Francisco "Kit" Ortega Jr., senior city councilor, who attended the 1st La Union provincial command conference in his capacity as an ex-officio provincial board member.

City Ordinance 2002010 provides "minors, aged below 18, are prohibited from roaming and loitering in the territorial jurisdiction of the city from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. without justifiable reason and providing penalty of the violation thereof."

"In short, they are placed only under protective custody during those specific hours." It was clarified that they are not under arrest like criminals when they are caught in the street without any reason late at night. "This is to take them out of the harm’s way, as it is not punitive but more of rehabilitative," Ortega said.

The provincial government, he said, is also taking other steps such as consulting with every municipality in La Union, through the local officials, religious sector, policemen, teachers and the Parents-Teachers Community Associations to tap support and coordination for its province-wide enforcement.

Councilor Ortega said this is also to address the many complaints from parents and educators in the province who want to take disciplinary actions on children. Mayor Ortega said barangays can also take the minors into custody, and the children are to be released when their parents fetch them.

"This is implemented only Monday to Thursday, usually during schooldays, and so they can have fun on weekends," he said. The mayor also said that it is the right of children to have fun, but they should also be disciplined to go home early. Minors who are accompanied by their parents or elders who are in emergency situations are exempted from the curfew violation.

Also exempted are minors who are traveling to or from the city; those undertaking school-related activities or in recreational activities sponsored by the school; and those involved in emergency-related incidents. Also exempted from the curfew ordinance are minors who were issued passes from their local officials.

"Initially, they are given warnings," the councilor said, adding that the children, who are the principal targets of the ordinance, will render a community service as a penalty if they cannot pay the fines, so in that way they will learn how to be responsible. Policemen and barangay tanods were deputized to strictly enforce the ordinance.



DOTC blocks 438 anomalous franchises from Ilocos Region

BAGUIO CITY – The regional Cordillera office of the Department of Transportation and Communications here has stopped the processing and issuance of at least 438 franchises for garage vans plying various routes from Region I to this mountain resort city due to alleged anomalies and alleged questionable transactions done within the land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board in Region I.

Lawyer Federico Mandapat, Jr., DOTC-Cordillera regional director, said processing of the franchises was highly irregular since it was done without proper consultation with his office and the local government of Baguio City to ensure availability of parking spaces for the vehicles.

Once the franchises would be released, he warned the huge number of garage vans would contribute to the monstrous traffic jams within the city which they are trying to address by weeding out vehicles with questionable franchises.

Mandapat said it would be unfair for the LTFRB in Region I to be freely issuing out franchises to vehicles plying various routes from Region I to Baguio City without first consulting the affected local government unit or DOTC office to iron out possible flaws in the franchises to be released.
The DOTC-Car has fielded four teams to check the operation of colorum vehicles plying the city’s streets and the squads are bound to check public utility vehicles even at night because of the observation that colorum vehicles usually operate at night when there is less presence of government personnel.

Numerous vans and taxis have already been apprehended by different teams for using the license plate number of another vehicle which is in gross violation of the certificates of public convenience issued to them.

Despite the hitches on the lack of personnel, Mandapat said they would vigorously push through with the campaign against colorum vehicles as they are now subjecting at least 100 franchises for cancellation due to anomalous documents.

It was learned almost all the anomalous franchises was allegedly processed and issued at the LTFRB in Region I prior to the creation of the LTFRB Cordillera office sometime in December 2002.

In order to circumvent the existing ban on the issuance of franchises within the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba (BLIST) area, Mandapat disclosed that some inserted their franchise case numbers in Region I prior to the circular which was issued sometime in 1998.

He vowed to work on operators with valid franchises but who misrepresented their documents especially on the attestation of the existence of their private parking areas for their vehicles.

DOTC personnel noticed most of the public utility vehicles are parked along roads which mean that operators have no actual parking area as attested in their affidavits meaning they have violated their franchises, thus, it is a sufficient ground to cancel their permits.

Metrobank starts search for outstanding teachers
BAGUIO CITY -- Now on its 24th year, the Metrobank “search for outstanding teachers” has started to bestow honor upon the teaching profession by recognizing teachers who manifest commitment to development of the youth through exemplary competence and remarkable dedication to their work and effective educational leadership.

Lorenzo P. Danipog, director IV of the Civil Service Commission bared this saying the search is open to all teachers who are Filipino citizens with full load in elementary and secondary schools, and colleges universities or higher education institutions. Nominees should have been actively teaching in the Philippines the last 10 years (inclusive of leaves not exceeding three years, providing the nominee is not on leave, actually teaching at the time of nomination).

However, nominees must not be on leave for more than two years immediately prior to nomination. For both the elementary and secondary categories, the basic educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree.

Winners of other searches conducted by reputable organizations for outstanding teachers at the national and/or international levels are deemed automatic second-round qualifiers, provided they meet the basic requirements. Performance rating should at least be “very satisfactory” the last five years.

The deadline for the submission to the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. is on or before Feb. 11. Queries and suggestions may be addressed to Metrobank Foundation, 15th Floor, Metrobank Plaza, Se. Gil J. Puyat Ave., Makati City, tel nos. 898-8898, 898-8855; telefax nos. 818-8686 /750-0837; or e-mail at

Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission –Cordillera is now accepting applications for the Career Service Examinations Paper and Pencil Test (PPT) for Professional (Second level) and Subprofessional (First Level) on March 9. Deadline for Application is Feb. 8. Test Center is Baguio City.

Those who have already passed the same or a comparable level of examination (like. licensure examinations given by the Professional Regulation Commission, and the Bar examination) need not apply.

Experimental one-way traffic scheme set to control flow

BAGUIO CITY- Reinaldo Bautista, Jr. last week has issued an administrative order enforcing an experimental one-way traffic flow around city hall from February 2 to March 2, 2008. This is due to an “urgent need to alleviate urban traffic congestion, particularly in the vicinity of City Hall,” AO 12, s. of 2008 stated. City Engineer Leo Bernardez proposed the scheme with city hall as center, and Yandoc, Shuntug and Abanao streets carrying vehicle traffic counter-clockwise.

Reviewed by the Traffic and Transportation Management Committee, the scheme recommended for approval of the proposal through a resolution. All vehicle owners and the public, are enjoined to comply with the one-way traffic scheme as roads designated are: Yandoc street from Quirino highway junction to Legarda road junction; left turn to Shuntug street up to Abanao street junction.

Vehicles should go up one-way, passing along the Baguio Jail Management and Penology Office, Baguio City Police Office, up to Camp Henry road junction; back to Yandoc street-Quirino highway junction. The perimeter roads lateral to the BCPO entering city hall frontage and from Kayang street to Justice Hall are also considered one-way only.

Signs, pavement markings and temporary barricades, as to the enforcement of the order shall be prepared by the City Engineers Office, while the Traffic Management Branch of the Baguio City Police Office shall assign personnel to man the junctions in the implementation of the scheme. Another traffic advisory as to a one-way scheme along Session road for implementation in March 2008 shall also be released after finalization. Said scheme is seen to decongest traffic in portions of the Central Business District.

Baguio- Benguet traders score perennial conduct of trade fairs
BAGUIO CITY -- The Baguio-Benguet chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (BBCCII) here declared their opposition against perennial conduct of trade fairs and exhibits utilizing various parks and areas in the city which are beyond the commerce of man.

The group said the conduct of various trade fairs caused undue competition to legitimate businesses in the city thereby resulting in huge losses.

Ironically, most trade fairs are being undertaken in the guise of social responsibilities of the organizers including market encounters during the various staging of the Panagbenga or Baguio Flower Festival.

The BBCCII added the city government and the organizers of the trade fairs and exhibits are grossly violating, if not, contradicting existing policies which provide there will be no trade fairs in the city’s central business district.

The business group recommended that the city government through the Panagbenga executive committee formulate healthy and productive activities or programs within the immediate business environs such as encourage the business owners along major streets, particularly along Abanao, Harrison, Session, Magsaysay avenue including Bonifacio among others to upgrade and beautify their establishments outside or fronting their areas of business operations consistent with the theme of the said festivity.

At the same time, Panagbenga organizers must formulate programs and activities that will help promote Baguio’s exotic sceneries by beautifying or upgrading various parks within the central business district including but not limited to Botanical garden, Prayer Mountain at Dominican Hill, Bayan Park by encouraging non-government organizations, multi-national companies operating within the city and national government agencies to assign areas and beautify and upgrade these parks and introduce some laudable and sustainable year-round programs.

The BBCCII challenged festival organizers to encourage all businesses operating within the city’s public market to formulate programs and activities within their modest ranks, and, alongside other business areas consistent with the existing policies of the city government.

Furthermore, the BBCCII cited that ambulant vendors are now getting big slices of the income of those legally operating businessmen in the city, thus, they must be prohibited from using sidewalks, vacant lots and main roads to help improve peace and order and smoother flow of traffic and pedestrian movement if not avoidance of untoward accidents or road mishaps.

The group said sidewalks are definitely beyond the commerce of man, thus, the city government must be firm in implementing existing policies against rampant sidewalk vending since public places are definitely beyond the commerce of man.

Instead, the business sector called on the city government to look for an alternative to be developed and utilized as a flea market area where ambulant vendors could be relocated and organized vis-à-vis their trade.

The city government was also asked to adopt an urgent and effective process in the clearing of the sidewalks including the vacant lots that would benefit the public. -- Dexter A. See

First lot title issued to old CJH resident
By Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- The city register of deeds has released the first lot award title under Executive Order 64 issued by President Gloria Arroyo in 2001 that declared the Scout Barrio portion of the Camp John Hay Reservation as housing site for bona fide occupants. City register of deeds Juanito Ampaguey issued the title last Jan. 18 in favor of Angelita Yabut, widow of Alfredo Yabut, covering an area of 528 square meters, according to Froilan Gasmena, head of the Scout Barrio Neighborhood Association.

Gasmena said the title is the first of 41 awards initially being worked out for titling following the issuance of deeds of absolute sale signed by the Bases Conversion Development Authority, the government office authorized to dispose of and develop former military camps like John Hay.
In her proclamation, President Arroyo, through then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, noted that “BCDA has expressed its intention to dispose of the occupied portion (of John Hay) to the legitimate occupants who have been living in the area even before the enactment of the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992”.

Gasmena said 97 of the 163 beneficiaries in Scout Barrio have fully paid for the lots they have occupied for long.

Most, if not all of the allocatees, are former or present civilian employees of the former United States military base occupying a total of about 15.9 hectares.

Gasmena said the occupants were supported by the barangay council headed by then punong barangay Ramon Corpuz in their push for the release and titling of their lots.

Corpuz wrote President Arroyo last June, saying that while “a number of beneficiaries had already received photocopies of certificate of lot award and a photocopy of trans certificates of title, having completed the preliminary requirements and payment of lots, yet, they feel that these are mere tokens of ownership over the land which is rightfully theirs”.

He requested the President’s “direct intercession on this predicament to once and for all settle our seemingly unending predicament with finality”.

With the release of the first TCT by the city register of deeds, the allocatees are on the way to fully owning their residential lots, Gasmena said.

Controversial flyover in Baguio City finally opens

BAGUIO CITY – The controversial P172.2M flyover at the Baguio General Hospital rotunda was finally opened to all types of vehicles Friday morning by Highways Secretary Hermogenes E. Ebdane representing the President.

The bridge opening was postponed thrice awaiting President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for the formal ribbon cutting and first motorist to drive through but DPWH failed to get the President’s itinerary for January and February.

Ebdane was ordered by the President who is on travel abroad to immediately open the bridge and ease traffic in the area after attaining the 28th day curing period. “Kailangang buksan na para mahusgahan,” referring to opposition from Baguio residents.

Apart from easing traffic, Ebdane justified that the multi-million flyover design with log finished guardrails, modular blocks, and another unique design from the first Baguio flyover has added to the natural attraction of the city.

Ebdane was accompanied by Baguio Rep. Mauricio Domogan, Vice Mayor Daniel Farinas, Undersecretary Ramon Aquino and Dept. of Public Works and Highways regional director Mariano Alquiza.

The 271 linear meter bridge was designed in 2002 to cost P88.4 million. Initial funding came from a P43M savings from the Marcos Highway rehabilitation.

Even President Arroyo tried to stop the project upon lobbying by former Mayor Braulio Yaranon. Protesters have been clamoring to stop the said project, because of environmental concerns, such as tree-cutting, destruction of springs and water basins, and the threat of an earthquake. The President even ordered a realignment of the funds to finance road networks in remote Benguet and Kalinga towns.

Domogan said delays caused by opposition to the project affected construction prices increasing the project cost to P172M. He gave credit to the President for pushing through with the project and finding other fund sources for the Kapangan, Benguet and Tinglayan, Kalinga committed road projects.

“We suffered the consequences of delays”, Domogan said, but the finished structure will now ease traffic and address the growing population and motorists of the city consistent with a study accordingly conducted by a European Planning Experts. Contrary to fears from protesters, Domogan said all the matured trees were not cut.

Fongwan regales YMCA officers during induction

BAGUIO CITY -- Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan regaled members of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Baguio Jan. 19 during induction of club officers. For starters, he admitted he was never invited to join the local branch of the international service organization. He recalled he once enrolled in karate at the gym but quit, unable to bear the shouted orders of the blackbelt instructors.

He then asked the local branch of the 154-year old international service organization to extend its programs not only to the province but to its 13 towns. Specifically, he cited the need for an outreach project to address the health problems of one secluded community where he found a widespread incidence of goiter.

The governor was in for a surprise. After saying his piece, Fongwan received his life-time membership plaque from newly inducted chapter president, Dr. Tedler Depaynos - even before his honor could sign the application form. YMCA office administrator Aida Aquino had the membership citation engraved as soon as the governor accepted to serve as installation speaker.
“You will have to pay P5,000 to validate your life-time membership,” the governor was later advised.

Earlier, out-going president Eliral Refuerzo also reminded Depaynos that the gavel he was handing over was not only a symbol of authority. “This is also a hammer that nails you to the YMCA’s cross of leadership that I am now relieved of,” he said.

Depaynos promised to pursue a long-range plan to establish at least a YMCA chapter in La Trinidad, Benguet’s capital town. He enumerated several probable tie-up projects with the province, including the revival of a school for the disabled and a summer mass circumcision for young boys.

In his initial meeting with the board, Depaynos said such community programs should erase the mistaken notion that the Y exists only for its physical fitness and sports facilities.

Following YMCA tradition, the new set of officers were installed in a candle-lighting ceremony, by four inducting officers headed by past president and regional trial court judge Edilberto Claravall. Claravall, who will be sworn in as first vice-president of the national YMCA on Feb. 2, will also head the chapter’s long range planning and development committee, with Refuerzo as co-chair.

Refuerzo served as co-inducting officer, together with city councilor Erdolfo Balajadia, life-time member Jaime Narvaez and past chapter president and educator Reinaldo Bautista Sr. Other officers, whose term will be for a year, are Engr. Antonio Bautista – first vice president, broadcast journalist Robert Tabay – second vice president, Ramon Dacawi – corporate secretary, banker Emil Ruff – treasurer, Dr. Lauro San Jose – asst. treasurer, and lawyer Matias Angiwan – auditor. In the board are past president Ben Caguioa, Engr. Rex Ludaes, Fr. David Tabo-oy, Engr. Jose Tagudar, martial arts instructor Ruben Tindaan, and Refuerzo as ex-oficio member, together with youth directors May Anne Cacdac, Balsonn Cabato, and Rev. Robert Sison.

Fongwan also swore in the members of the performance review committee headed by past president and retired city schools superintendent Jose Olarte. With Olarte are lawyer Joseph Rulla, Ernesto Toquero, Jose Agoot and Wilfredo dela Cerna.

Partial schedule for Panagbenga fest out

BAGUIO CITY -- More than 80 events are lined-up for the 13th edition of the Baguio Flower Festival BFF, as to the schedule given out by the Panagbenga Secretariat during the press conference held last week at the Golden Pine Hotel.

Among the major events are: Opening parade and elimination for street dancing participants, and, Blessing of Market Encounter, Feb. 1; “Ipitik” and Pony Boys activities, Feb. 11 to 17; Barangay activities, Feb 14 to March 2; Abanao nights, Feb. 22-24; Grand Parade, 8 AM, Feb. 23; Parade of Floats and Bands, 8 AM, Feb. 24; Opening Ceremonies and Opening of Session Road in Bloom, Feb. 25; and, Closing Ceremonies and Synchronized Fireworks Display, Mar. 2. Traditional and creative activities would include: Blooms and Brews, Event Center SM, Feb. 1 top March 2; Dog and Cat show, 3 PM, Feb. 3 and 17 at Abad Santos Drive, Burnham Park; Baguio Fil-Chinese Spring Festival Parade, 3 PM Feb. 8, along Session road; Lion and Dragon Dance, at SM City, Feb. 9; Parada ng Mga Gulay, Prutas at Iba Pa-Kids Mascot show at Abad Santos Drive, Feb 9; Japanese Culture Days at SM Baguio, Feb. 10-11; Barangay Fluvial Contest, with Ballet Show in the Lake, Feb. 14; and Philippine Military Alumni Homecoming, Feb. 14-17. Sister cities South Korea’s Taebaek and Japan’s Hanyu shall also bring in their delegation with cultural exhibitions during the activity.

According to members of the panel and event organizers during the press conference which includes, among others, Police Superintendent David Mariano, Baguio Tourism Officer Benny Alhambra, Business people Cathy de la Rosa, Baguio Country Club’s Anthony de Leon, BFF Chief of Staff Amboy Guevarra, and John Hay’s Freddie Alquiroz; all things are in place and every possible detail is being taken care of.

Preparations would include security measures and police presence, traffic and transportation plan implementation, guideline issuances for concessionaires, waste management measures, and proper coordination between and among volunteers and legitimate coordinators. The theme for this year: “Celebrating 13 Years of Caring,” was also expounded on as the carrying on of the flower festival tradition, and a challenge to the general public to support all the activities of this year’s festival and future ones, as well.

Activities involving fashion and clothing would be: Shirts up! Flower up your shirt competition, at SM City, Feb. 1-21; Touch of Cordillera Children’s Casual Wear, at Abad Santos Drive, Feb. 2; Masferre Fashion Show, Event Center, SM, Feb. 16; Touch of Cordillera Children’s Sunday Wear, at Abad Santos Drive, Feb. 16; Search for Mr and Ms. Fashionista 2008, Baguio Convention Center, Feb. 23; Cordillera “Luplupot” Fashion Show, at Abad Santos Drive, Feb. 23; and, Narda’s Fashion Show, Session road, Feb. 26. Sports activities lined up are; Basketball tour in Baguio and Benguet Schools, Feb. 3 to March 26; Balloon flying ritual, Abad Santos Drive, Feb. 7; Arnis de Mano, Malcolm Square, Feb. 10; Airsoft Panagbenga Cup, Feb. 23; Dance Sport in Bloom, Session road, Feb. 27; Flower Tee Golf Tournament, Camp John Hay, Feb. 28; and 7th Panagbenga Open Scrabble Tournament, Baguio Country Club, March 1 and 2. Concerts and events lined up are: Lala Tour, SM City, Feb. 2; Blue Grass Band at Abad Santos Drive, Feb. 13; Soothing Music, Events Center, SM, Feb. 14; Sadiwan Disco Revival, Abad Santos Drive, Feb. 14, 15; Pop Fiesta, Athletic Bowl, Feb. 22; Taebaek Korean Choir, Event Center, SM, Feb. 22; K-Lite in Bloom with Itchyworms, Central Park, SM, Feb. 23; Handog ng Bombo Radyo at Star FM sa Panagbenga, Feb. 23; Cordillera Cultural Dancers, Dragon Dance of Dynamic Acrobats, Music of the Heart, Concert, Bloom To Be A Singing Star, Smooth Concert, all at Session Road, on Feb. 25 and 26; Love Radi’s Hatid Saya, Melvin Jones, Feb. 27-28; High School Chorale and Acoustic night, Session road, Feb. 28; Aloha Grand Polynesian Concer, SM City, Feb. 28; Music of the Heart, Session road, Feb. 29; PUP Banda Kawayan, Session road, Feb. 29; Campus Radio Bulaklak Rock, Melvin Jones, Feb. 29; Band2Band with SpaceFlower & Hilera, Event Center SM, Feb. 29; Filipino Cultural Dancers, Session road, March 1; Concert at Session road, March 1; Floriade Street Party with Freestyle, Central Park SM, March 1; Love Radio’s Hatid Saya at Melvin Jones, March 1. Lectures scheduled are: Information Campaign on Good Governance, Good Environment and Good Citizenry, at People’s Park, Feb.1 to 29; How to Start Your Business by Department of Trade and Industry and Chamber of Commerce, Feb. 5; Basics of Franchising, Feb. 12; Consumer Rights, and Feb. 23; Intellectual Property Rights. All lectures by the DTI shall be at the Abad Santos Drive, Burnham Park.

A Medical Mission and Environmental Awareness shall also be conducted at the Malcolm Square, Feb. 18 to March 2. Other activities may be arranged through the Panagbenga Secretariat at the Baguio Convention Center, tel. nos. 442-4315, 442-4259.

City council allows mayor to bid out Dominican Hill

BAGUIO CITY – The city council last week granted Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. the authority to bid out the operation of the 32,402-square meter Dominican Heritage Hill. The committee on laws chaired by Councilor Richard Carino which recommended the move said the development of the property should be in accordance with the plan prepared by the city environment and parks management office and must be subject to the city council’s confirmation.

The move was based on the proposed resolutions of Vice Mayor Daniel Farinas and Councilor Galo Weygan noting the need to pursue the development and use of the long idle property. The council asked that the terms of reference for the bidding be drafted on the level of the city mayor and returned to the body for confirmation.

The ownership of the idle Heritage Hill was transferred to the city government by the national government during the administration of former mayor Braulio Yaranon The transfer was worked was initiated by former city mayor Bernardo Vergara and Rep. Mauricio Domogan as a means for offsetting the national government’s obligation to the local government.

Farinas said the city has received offers for its development and management as heritage site and nature park. Weygan wants the city to strike a deal with the Heritage Conservation Society for the design and plans preparation as a heritage landmark. The Baguio-Korean Businessmen’s Association also submitted a proposal for a build-operate-lease scheme on the property.

‘City police chief, bocap want case whitewashed’: Angeles newshen gets death threats over cops’ extort case By George Trillo ANGELES CITY – The life of an associate publisher of a local newsweekly is now reportedly in danger after her newspaper came out last week with a story about three local policemen caught redhanded extorting from illegal drug suspects, amid claims this city’s police chief and a barangay official here want the case whitewashed.

The Angeles City Press and Radio Club, Inc. issued on Jan. 21 Resolution No. 01-2008 “strongly condemning the death threats, harassments, and other similar acts preventing media practitioners from performing their duties as members of the “Fourth Estate” allegedly committed against Sipol newsweekly associate publisher Grace Santos by city police director Senior Supt. George Gaddi and the official from Barangay Pulung Maragul.

The resolution said Santos had been receiving death threats in her cell phone and that unidentified suspicious men on board a motorcycle have been monitoring her residence at Timog Park since her newsweekly came out last week with a story about the three local cops from the Drug Enforcement Unit allegedly caught extorting from illegal drugs suspects in their headquarters.

Santos has reportedly gone into hiding in an undisclosed place and her cell phone has remained turned off for days now.

The resolution noted that the story was based on the official complaint of illegal drugs case suspects Annaliza Sullano and one Danilo Soriano who hinted that three policemen from the DEU asked for some cash from her in exchange for her liberty. The policemen were identified as PO3 Oliver Desilos, PO1 Rene Manuel and PO1 Mervin Manaloto of the DEU’s intelligence division which, the resolution noted, was “under the direct supervision of Gaddi.”

Central Luzon police director Chief Supt. Errol Pan confirmed the arrest of the three cops arising from the extortion complaint saying regional police operatives were the ones who caught them.
“As a matter of fact, I was the one who sent by text message to Grace the information on the operations,” Pan said. The three cops allegedly asked for P20,000 from the suspects, but this was reduced to P10,000 which was marked by the regional police office for the entrapment operations at the DEU here.

The APRC resolution cited Sullano’s sworn affidavit submitted to Senior Supt. Silvestre Primero accusing the barangay chief of persuading them to withdraw their extortion complaint against the three cops and saying the barangay official allegedly revealed Gaddi asked him to do so.
The press club resolution said they would hold Gaddi and the barangay official liable for the safety not only of the Sipol associate editor but also of Sullano and Soriano.

Local newsmen said they tried to get the side of Gaddi, but none from his office could say where he could be reached. There was repotedly also no return call from his office as arranged with his secretary.

Pan urged Santos to file a formal complaint against Gaddi, even as he vowed to look into the case. “A formal complaint could be handled by the independent Internal Affairs Service Office. I tolerate no abuse of police power, but we must exercise due process,” he said.



Outbreak of violence in Abra inevitable, says police official

BANGUED, Abra -- The occurrence of violence in this conflict-stricken province is still inevitable despite efforts of police and local officials to prevent acts that will lead to loss of lives and damage to properties.

Supt. Jesus Cambay, Jr., intelligence chief of the Cordillera police regional office bared this adding, the best way to combat violence especially among politicians and influential individuals is to always be careful in their daily activities.

According to him, the primary reasons for prevalence of violence in Abra are the intense political rivalry, jealousy, ambition of some politicians and individuals among others.

While it is true that the police were instrumental in the disbandment of numerous private armies operating in the different parts of the province, Cambay said people in the province could not afford to forego violence to fulfill their ambitions and other goals in life.

The past decades, Abra has been branded the “killing fields of the North” due to violent activities that resulted in loss of innocent lives, mostly politicians as well as damage to properties.

Police in the province were able to facilitate disbandment of nine private armed groups commissioned by various politicians especially during elections.

But Cambay said disbandment of private armies is not a concrete guarantee for the attainment of lasting peace because of the presence of certain elements that could turn the tables around.

At present, provincial and municipal officials successfully complied with their commitment that they will work hand in hand in attaining peace in the province the past eight months because of limited violent activities committed in the province.

Senior Supt. Alexander Pumecha, provincial director of the Abra provincial police office, said common crimes in the province were those related to revenge or as an offshoot of misunderstanding among families and friends.

He said if peace will reign in the province, it could become one of the most developed provinces in the country due to the presence of rich resources that are worthy of exploring by various companies intending to invest in the province.

Investors planning to pour in huge capital for the development of the province’s natural resources reportedly have second thoughts on doing business due to the unstable peace and order situation in the province.

Cambay said police and military are now beefing up their capabilities to track lawless elements in the province so they would be neutralized. -- Dexter A. See



‘City police chief, bocap want case whitewashed’: Angeles newshen gets death threats over cops’ extort case
By George Trillo

ANGELES CITY – The life of an associate publisher of a local newsweekly is now reportedly in danger after her newspaper came out last week with a story about three local policemen caught redhanded extorting from illegal drug suspects, amid claims this city’s police chief and a barangay official here want the case whitewashed.

The Angeles City Press and Radio Club, Inc. issued on Jan. 21 Resolution No. 01-2008 “strongly condemning the death threats, harassments, and other similar acts preventing media practitioners from performing their duties as members of the “Fourth Estate” allegedly committed against Sipol newsweekly associate publisher Grace Santos by city police director Senior Supt. George Gaddi and the official from Barangay Pulung Maragul.

The resolution said Santos had been receiving death threats in her cell phone and that unidentified suspicious men on board a motorcycle have been monitoring her residence at Timog Park since her newsweekly came out last week with a story about the three local cops from the Drug Enforcement Unit allegedly caught extorting from illegal drugs suspects in their headquarters.

Santos has reportedly gone into hiding in an undisclosed place and her cell phone has remained turned off for days now.

The resolution noted that the story was based on the official complaint of illegal drugs case suspects Annaliza Sullano and one Danilo Soriano who hinted that three policemen from the DEU asked for some cash from her in exchange for her liberty. The policemen were identified as PO3 Oliver Desilos, PO1 Rene Manuel and PO1 Mervin Manaloto of the DEU’s intelligence division which, the resolution noted, was “under the direct supervision of Gaddi.”

Central Luzon police director Chief Supt. Errol Pan confirmed the arrest of the three cops arising from the extortion complaint saying regional police operatives were the ones who caught them.
“As a matter of fact, I was the one who sent by text message to Grace the information on the operations,” Pan said. The three cops allegedly asked for P20,000 from the suspects, but this was reduced to P10,000 which was marked by the regional police office for the entrapment operations at the DEU here.

The APRC resolution cited Sullano’s sworn affidavit submitted to Senior Supt. Silvestre Primero accusing the barangay chief of persuading them to withdraw their extortion complaint against the three cops and saying the barangay official allegedly revealed Gaddi asked him to do so.
The press club resolution said they would hold Gaddi and the barangay official liable for the safety not only of the Sipol associate editor but also of Sullano and Soriano.

Local newsmen said they tried to get the side of Gaddi, but none from his office could say where he could be reached. There was repotedly also no return call from his office as arranged with his secretary.

Pan urged Santos to file a formal complaint against Gaddi, even as he vowed to look into the case. “A formal complaint could be handled by the independent Internal Affairs Service Office. I tolerate no abuse of police power, but we must exercise due process,” he said.



Region 1 police bags 5 major awards in nat’l PNP search

CAMP OSCAR FLORENDO, La Union – For the first time in the history of the Philippine National Police, Region 1 (Ilocos Region) police took the grand slam in the nationwide search for the Best PNP Unit by bagging five major awards.

Chief Supt. Leopoldo Bataoil, Ilocos regional police director based here, said the command’s awards were officially relayed to him Wednesday night through a written communication from Camp Crame.

The awards approved by PNP chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. are the following: Best Regional Police Office; Best Regional Mobile Group for the Region 1 Mobile Group led by Senior Supt. Edgar Basbas; Best Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Unit for the CIDG-Region 1 under Senior Supt. Marvin Bolabola; Best Provincial Police Office for the Pangasinan police under Senior Supt. Isagani Nerez; and Best City Police Station for the Dagupan City police headed by Supt. Dionicio Borromeo.

Bataoil described 2007 – the basis for the evaluation for the awards – as a shining moment for Ilocos police. He said the awards will be handed out by President Arroyo during the PNP Day at Camp Crame on Feb. 6. “It’s a grand slam (with the Region 1 police) getting almost all the unit awards and ‘back-to-back,’ with us being the defending champion in 2006,” Bataoil said. “This shows that our policemen are working.”

The Region 1 police carried out various programs that made its members be “felt, seen and experienced,” including crime prevention activities anchored on the battle cry “Enforcing Laws, Winning Wars and Touching People’s Lives.” Bataoil said the centerpiece of their police service delivery is Mamang Pulis, who he describes as “firm and aggressive against criminality and organized crime groups, responsive and friendly to the community.”

He said 2007 – highlighted by the national and local elections – brought out the best of the Region 1 police with its various pro-active interventions, which resulted in the arrest of 1,385 wanted people, the neutralization of 37 crime gangs, and the seizure of 428 assorted firearms from gun ban violators and criminal elements.

He said major crimes were solved jointly by the regional police, CIDG-Region 1 and other support units such as the killings of Mayor Jolly Resuello of San Carlos City, Pangasinan; Mayor Philip Velasco of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte; and municipal treasurer Felicidad Picar of Bauang, La Union. A number of suspects have been arrested or neutralized, while others are still being hunted, he added.

On the insurgency front, Bataoil said they won the hearts and minds of 12 New People’s Army and Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan regulars and their 47 supporters, who have returned to the fold of the law. On touching people’s lives, Bataoil took pride in their Pulis Ko, Titser Ko project, which has gained prominence nationwide and worldwide, as police officers teach in remote villages that lack teachers.



Dagupan employees to take yearly exam

DAGUPAN CITY — At least 600 City Hall employees will be required to take general-knowledge examination which will cover, information about the national anthem. City Administrator Alvin Fernandez said the examination will be conducted yearly to assess the level of knowledge of the employees in an effort to improve their skills and competence.

The examination will involve 20 questions on basic mathematics, sentence construction, grammar, general information, abstract reasoning and 15 fill-in-the-blank questions about the National Anthem and the Dagupan Hymn.

Earlier, Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr. launched a comprehensive program that will further develop the city’s workforce. "The results of the exams will be included in the employees’ 201 file and will serve as one of the references for performance evaluation," said Ryan Ravanzo, city information officer. – Jennelyn Mondejar



Game of the generals

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon boasted that 13 guerrilla fronts have been dismantled nationwide as a result of Oplan Bantay Laya. Nolcom chief Lt. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang quickly claimed credit for dismantling six of these fronts in his backyard Northern Luzon, followed immediately by 503rd Brigade chief Brig. Gen. Loreto Rirao claiming credit for two of these in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions.

But of course, ambitious and self-serving generals would never admit defeat! Being masters of the one-upmanship game of the generals, it is natural for them to lie and cheat so as to advance their lucrative and money-raking careers. In the AFP's mercenary tradition, advancement comes from simply making bootlicking reports to the commander-in-chief.

CPP spokesperson Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal hit the bull's-eye when he said, "AFP Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon has been feeding media with claims of supposed victories against the New People's Army in order to shore up his bid for the extension of his term as AFP Chief of Staff." In their rush to score "pogi" points, the generals could not even get their lies straight. For instance, Maclang did not even deign to specify the exact location of the supposed guerrilla fronts except to say that these were somewhere "in the boundaries of Ilocos Norte and Abra, and in Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province." Rirao desperately tried to back up his claims by saying that the AFP had seized 15 NPA camps and cleared three barangays in these areas.

Well, sorry to disappoint Rirao, but 15 camps and three barangays do not make two guerrilla fronts. Unlike AFP camps, NPA camps are temporary shelters, as a matter of guerrilla tactics. The loss of a camp is no big deal, given the NPA's wide area of maneuver in the countryside whose mountain fastnesses, forest strongholds, and organized masses shelter the NPA guerrillas.

To further enlighten Rirao, a guerrilla front is equivalent to a congressional district or at least five municipalities. Such fronts are fluid and flexible politico-military areas rather than fixed territories, at times contracting or expanding, dividing or merging. The military has concentrated its ruthless attacks on the Ilocos the past year. By paying too much attention on the narrow Ilocos coast, however, the enemy has left the much wider area in the east for the emergence of guerilla base areas and guerilla zones.

Maclang claimed that 22 NPA rebels were killed in Northern Luzon last year. But Rirao, in his eagerness to please his superiors, audaciously claimed an even higher body count for his smaller area of operation – 25! Rirao must have learned arithmetic from the Comelec. In truth, 60 enemy troopers (equivalent to a company) were killed in action, 38 were wounded, and four were captured, and 12 firearms seized in 25 battles last year. In 22 of these battles, the NPA held the initiative.

By employing guerrilla tactics, flexibility, mastery of terrain, and unbreakable links with the masses, we have managed to preserve ourselves and we have repeatedly dealt heavy blows on the enemy despite Oplan Bantay Laya's constant heavy pressure. And if the AFP is winning the war, why did Army chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano announce recently that the Philippine Army had to enlist 3,000 more soldiers and 20 more CAFGU companies? Well, a number of CAFGU militiamen are secretly cooperating with us.

Our policy towards the CAFGU is to exert every effort to frustrate its establishment and, if the enemy still succeeds in establishing it through coercion, to maintain secret contact with the CAFGU militiamen, get information from them about AFP operations, and instruct them to join the NPA with their arms at an appropriate time. What truly exposes the AFP's glaring lie is the open admission made by the head of the AFP's military operations, Maj. Gen. Jogy Leo Fojas, that only three guerrilla fronts have been dismantled nationwide as of October last year. He openly expressed doubt that the AFP could defeat the CPP-NPA by 2010.

Even Yano has admitted that the AFP might not achieve victory over the NPA by 2010 due to its other military campaigns, especially in Mindanao. For once, Yano is right! The revolutionary movement is even far stronger in Mindanao than in Northern Luzon. This concerted but lame effort by AFP generals to conjure up the illusion of military victory is just another part of the Arroyo regime's pretensions to a strong republic. Like Arroyo's unbelievable lies of economic growth, the AFP's boastful claims serve to cover up a stinking military bureaucracy wracked by internal squabbling and rivalry, graft and corruption at the highest levels.

Military operations are not just a huge waste of public funds, but a plague to the people who are victimized by military abuses, extrajudicial killings, abductions, forced evacuation, looting, disruption of livelihood, harassment and intimidation. The AFP's fascist forces are parasites that feed on the blood of the masses. The AFP's so-called victories are empty as clanging cymbals – "pagtataas ng sariling bangko."

Oplan Bantay Laya may have disrupted the NPA's revolutionary work, seized a number of camps, killed some of our precious comrades and Red fighters, and trampled on the rights of the people. But it is the corrupt system, stupid, that makes the revolution live and spread like a prairie fire.

Martin Montana
Spokesperson Chadli Molintas Command
New People's Army Ilocos-Cordillera Region

In defense of our kailyan and fellow journalist Dana Batnag

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines’ Baguio-Benguet Chapter (NUJP-BB) condemns the authorities’ statement implicating Dana Batnag, a reporter of the Jiji Press, in the escape of Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon after the November 29, 2007 Makati standoff at the Manila Peninsula. We view the move as a part of a systematic witch-hunting campaign to intimidate media and disallow them to perform their task to bring relevant information to the public.

The accusation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that Batnag aided Faeldon in his escape is devoid of merit. The video showing her allegedly aiding Faeldon obviously recorded a normal interview witnessed by several others who were in the hotel. Despite the accusations against her, we are even proud of Dana, our kailyan from Besao, Mountain Province, who bravely covered the conflict.

It is proof enough that she unquestionably performed her task of bringing information to the public. We are proud of Dana here in the Cordillera region, not only as a kailyan but more as a committed press freedom worker. Earlier, the PNP floated the names of journalists Ces Drillon and Ellen Tordesillas as the ones who allegedly aided in the escape of Faeldon. These PNP acts reveal an insidious campaign to intimidate media which is either aimed to threaten their performance or simply silence them.

We challenge the PNP and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a case against any media person believed to have aided Faeldon in the same way weurge them to stop the witch-hunting. We urge members of the press to stand firm against this campaign of intimidation and to remain true to our calling to advance the people’s right to know.

Arthur L. Allad-iw

Kathleen Okubo



Protecting northern Luzon forests from fires with summer just around the corner

The expected occurrence of forest fires during the dry season is once again a threat to forests and watersheds in northern Luzon.

Barangay officials and community leaders play a vital role in preventing damage on the environment caused by forest fires. Destruction of newly-planted and growing trees in numerous plantation sites like forests in the region would derail environment programs.

Growing trees would be burned in a few hours with a stroke of a match or the throwing of cigarette butts in grassy portions of mountains. As pointed out by environmentalists, constituents must have a sense of responsibility in preserving and protecting the environment because it is the trees that give life to our surroundings.

Concerned government agencies could pool their resources in coming up with a dedicated effort to inculcate among the people the importance of protecting the remaining forests and expanding them for future generations.

The government could provide more funds and start effective programs to protect the environment from further degradation. Community participation is also needed to sustain implementation of a holistic environmental preservation and protection program. There is dire need to pursue such effort because of the alarming state of northern Luzon’s forests and watersheds that might result to more serious problems in the future.

Foreign and local researchers warned that a disaster is expected to happen within the denuded forests of the region in the next five to ten years if unabated cutting of trees which hold the top soil continue at a fast pace.

As pointed out by environmentalists, numerous trees are being cut without being replaced to pave the way for slash and burn farming in mountain slopes which is also hazardous to safety of people in the community.

Massive soil erosion and lack of water are warnings of the occurrence of worst case scenarios in the future if the people will not act to preserve and protect forests and spare young trees from devastation due to carelessness.

While the younger generation is being taught the basics of environmental protection, the national government could provide necessary resources to ensure successful implementation of a sustained ecological preservation program that will see future generations benefit from the fruits of the efforts of the present generation.



High profile killings of MP folk/RDC dilemma

Mountain Province has recently been in the national news due to high profile killings. These included the ambush-murder of Paracelis mayor Ceasar Rafael, suicide bombing of Sagada native Zennia Aguilan in Afghanistan and slay of Arcelie Laoagan, whose blood-soaked body was found by subway train workers behind a church in Calgary, Alberta.

Rafael was killed Christmas day last year, Aguilan a few days later and Laoagan on Jan. 17. According to Canadian newspapers, Laoagan, also a Sagada native, was the second migrant worker killed in Canada in recent months.

Laoagan was reported missing on Jan. 17 when she didn’t return home. An online report of the Calgary Herald said she called friends when she was attacked. Train workers later found her sprawled near the Grace Baptist Church. Laoagan’s children flew to Calgary last week to identify her body.

Newspaper reports said Laoagan, who had resided in Calgary for four years, had two jobs to sustain here family back home. The regional Cordillera office of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration had records of Laoagan being deployed to Hong Kong by a local recruitment agency in 2004. Laoagan reportedly worked for two years as a maid there. ***
In the case of Rafael’s murder, it is a welcome development that Cordillera police headed by regional police director Chief Supt. Eugene Martin and Mountain Province police director Supt. Joseph Adnol solved the case. (See page 1 for details.)
Much ado had been talked about by some cause-oriented groups in the Cordillera on how ancestral lands should be apportioned and titled. The argument of one group is that indigenous customs and traditions like those related to ancestral lands should be enhanced so tribal folk would not fight or kill each other over these. No beef with that, but indigenous tribes, clans or families are now at odds over lands even over tayan (communal lots) due to greed of some members. It is called agum in the local kankanaey dialect.

And it is a shame that some so-called elders have been used by the agum to forward their vested interests during settlement meetings for a few pesos. When the elders are tapped to talk on land ownership to settle land disputes, the corrupt among them side with the moolah giver. Indigenous customs and traditions (like on settling land ownership) are on the wane and for those who got an education, the courts are the preferred venue in settling such disputes.

“Bringing back the culture” among the natives is the romanticized thrust of some non-government organizations who rely on foreign funding to exist, but then, what are funds for? Romanticism is no crime, but then, the harsh reality -- it is a dog-eat-dog-world in the arena of ancestral land ownership not only in the Cordillera but elsewhere in the country. ***
Settling ancestral land disputes is not an easy task for indigenous groups or government agencies. That is why, it maybe worth watching what the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera would do after urging the central offices of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to hasten issuance of guidelines for implementation of section 12 of Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

According to the RDC, there is urgent need to issue a joint DENR-NCIP joint circular because of the specified 20-year period for the implementation of IPRA whose period would end on October 2017. During the Aug. 22, 2007 meeting of the regional peace and order council in the Cordillera, it was the consensus that absence of a government land-tenure instrument for indigenous peoples over their lands was one of the root causes of social unrest and insurgency in the region.

The RDC executive committee earlier issued a resolution following up a joint commitment of the DENR and NCIP to issue a joint circular on the implementation of Section 12 of the IPRA which provides the option to the indigenous peoples to secure certificates of title to their ancestral lands under provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 141 as amended. Several consultations, according to RDC members, had been conducted by the regional and central offices of both agencies to facilitate the issuance of the joint circular, but up to the present, not such circular is forthcoming.

A recent meeting of the indigenous peoples’ sectoral committee and the RDC executive committee was held and queries were asked on status of the DENR-NCIP joint circular, but no firm commitment was made by top officials of both agencies despite a draft being provided to them. The draft guidelines were earlier prepared by the Cordillera offices of the NCIP and DENR. RDC officials said a long delay in the issuance of the guidelines might result in failure to implement the IPRA.
It is quite confusing why the RDC is pushing the said guidelines when at the same time, it is pushing autonomy. From the point of view of autonomy advocates, this is pushing the cart ahead of the horse. Their bone of contention is if the RDC is indeed sincere in realizing the creation of a Cordillera autonomous region, why is it pushing the land guidelines? Such guidelines, they say, should be crafted first in an organic act and subjected to the people for ratification in a plebiscite.

A P15 million budget had been allotted by Malacanang for information drives on autonomy but then, like in the land guidelines – tungpal bilin. Pundits are now questioning how the P15 million was spent when there were no massive information drives on autonomy in Cordillera provinces.

Maybe, the RDC, even in a press release could enlighten us on the matter like if a pig or two were butchered on such occasion. If members are transparent enough, they could post a detailed accounting of how the funds were spent, so the jesters and the critics would keep their mouths shut. At this time the silence of the RDC on the matter is deafening.



Mono-culture vs bio-diverse forests

MANILA -- A debate is now raging in the media on the pros and cons of planting renewable feedstock for bio-fuel production. Proponents of bio-fuels claim that there is really no issue about losing agricultural lands to bio-plants, because they say that they are going to utilize vacant lands, instead of using the existing farm lands.

As I see it however, the real issue is not whether or not vacant lands will be used. The real issue I think is whether or not to grow bio-plants using the mono-culture approach, or the bio-diversity approach. This is not the first time that the issue has cropped up in our midst, because we have already seen how soils die after continuous planting to rice, a problem that has awakened us to the need for multi-cropping, also known as mixed cropping.

In the provinces of Agusan Del Norte and Agusan del Sur, there is a popular myth that the Gemelina tree variety is no good, because it depletes the soil. As it now turns out, it is mono-culture that is to blame, and not the tree variety itself.

An American named Joseph J. Reynolds has successfully developed a vacant property in Occidental Mindoro into a bio-diverse forest, and his project now stands as a solid proof that large volumes of desired tree varieties could be produced in a mix of many other varieties, in effect avoiding mono-culture.

The logic behind the Reynolds project is actually very simple, because it simply restores a previously denuded area back into its original condition, back to what God had made it to be, so to speak. Just as the commercial loggers of yesteryears were able to harvest large volumes of trees in the natural forests before, Reynolds is able to do the same thing now, albeit in a man made forest now, made the natural way.

Adding to the appeal of the Reynolds approach is the fact that the existing residents of the denuded areas are the same people that he hired to become the tree farmers and caretakers of the project. These people now actually receive salaries for their work, even while the trees are still growing, but on top of that, they also get a share of the harvest, as if they are part owners of the tree farm. For the first time in my life, Reynolds was able to convince me that it is possible to restore a lost forest to its original, natural form. Hopefully, his model could be replicated nationwide.
I am very much impressed by the development work that the Canadian Executive Service Organization-Business Advisory Program (CESO-BAP) has done in the Philippines for the past three years. Working closely with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), the Canadians recently turned over the program management to the latter; hence it will continue from now on as the PBSP-BAP.

I saw in the BAP experience a working model of effective cooperation between an embassy, a foundation, several local governments and a good number of beneficiaries. Inspired by the model, I see that it could still be improved by bringing in the universities as development partners, and this is where I think the University Consortium for Resource Networking (UNICORN) could have a role to play.

By doing this, I think that it would form a complete supply chain of cooperation between and among embassies, foundations, universities, local governments and beneficiaries. Over the years, I have seen a trend wherein embassies are now working through foundations to deliver and implement development programs, bringing in the local governments as well as cooperators.
While it is true that foundations could very well hire their own people to work as local operators, the universities have the advantage of having qualified people who are already working locally.

As I see it, the prospective involvement of universities in the delivery of development programs would have a win-win effect, because they could use the extra income from more professional engagements, aside from the added advantage of having a sustainable source of dependable program staffers. Starting with a member school in Quezon City , UNICORN is going to implement a community-based waste recycling project in cooperation with the local government, which at the same time would create livelihood opportunities for beneficiaries coming from the local community.

Following a model developed by Municipality of Los Baños , the project will exchange recyclables with coupons that are redeemable in cash or kind. Sad to say, this appears to be the only approach that could encourage popular cooperation, after seeing that voluntary or optional compliance has not worked over the years. As an innovation, the school will accept the coupons as credits in payment of tuitions.




BAGUIO CITY -- Then Senator Juan Flavier, the Baguio boy and Cordilleran, was the principal author of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. Let’s stress that fact and remember it, lest it be overlooked, as it’s appearing to be, now that the landmark piece of legislation has become the model for indigenous peoples all over the world in fighting for their rights amidst the onslaught on their resources in the name of development.

The IPRA “has been a breakthrough in the attempt to correct the historical injustice in the state’s non-recognition of the indigenous people’s ancestral lands and ancestral domains”, noted esteemed Igorot anthropologist June Prill-Brett.

Such remark reflects the substance of Flavier, once voted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as the “Filipino of the Year” for his innovative work in public health.. He towers among our public servants and leaders, yet his stature has also been overlooked, perhaps because of his diminutive height. Or his irrepressible gift of humor, reason enough for someone to dismiss Flavier’s potential when one who knew better The Doctor to the Barrios floated his name for President.

Flavier and his co-authors fought and won a good fight, for a law that many believed would never get to first base. Its legality was questioned, until the Supreme Court deemed it constitutional. While he and Congress provided us indigenous peoples the legal arm to assert our rights, the fight is far from over. We need to read and discuss it, see that it really gets off the ground and implemented, even amended and strengthened for it to be relevant to the issues ofchange now confronting our region.

We have to discuss. So if you’re reading this, please register and attend the First International Conference on Cordillera Studies (or issues), to be hosted by the University of the Philippines Baguio, through its Cordillera Studies Center (CSC), on Feb. 7-9.

The presentations - 140 papers organized into 42 panels – are mostly from the wealth of studies done over the years by the CSC, making the conference a fitting way to mark the centennial of the country’s premier educational institution.

From their titles, the topics range from the serious to the light, or both. Prof. Brett will focus on “The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and Legal Pluralism in the Northern Philippines”. Janice Bagawi will discuss “Shiyay Ak Mango: A Semantic Study on the Affective Meaning of the Ibaloi Expression Mango”.

Brett’s discourse is on a really urgent, ticklish but overlooked issue which government agencies and villagers should do well to now address. Changes and conflicts are fast emerging on the application of either state or indigenous laws on rights and access to resources like water and land, be it among neighbors of the same village, between or among neighboring villages, or villagers against outside forces and interests.

The grounded relevance of Brett’s studies became clear during the efforts to establish a Cordillera autonomous region and during the crafting and passage of the IPRA. It was fitting, therefore, that UP Baguio launched last Thursday afternoon “Cordillera in June,” a book of essays on Cordillera issues that celebrates her as an anthropologist.

In his preface, book editor B.S. Tapang pointed out: “Every paper in the collection resonates with a theme that she has worked on as a scholar of the Cordillera. In her season of grace, we at UP Baguio celebrate June through this collection of articles contributed by her peers, colleagues, and one of her former students.”

Prof. Tapang also noted that June – and July – are the months of traditional rice harvest in the Cordillera. “Thus, these months are a season of grace; in the mountain villages, this is reason to celebrate.”

There’s something for everybody in the conference presentations. Consider these: “Lesbians, Gays and Transgenders in Tadian, Mt. Province” by Jennifer Josef; “ “Two Cordillera Songs – Dung-aw and Uggayam: Bridges of Understanding” by Jennilyn Dula and JaimeRaras; and “Constructing Igorotness in Popular Culture”by Jimmy Fong.

There’s a three-topic panel on “Muslims in the Cordillera”, three papers on Benguet history and four on Cordillera languages. One of the topics under the Social and Political Movements panel touches on whether indigenous peoples’ organizations can be prime movers in Baguio’s development.

In her “Tourism in the Cordillera”, Prof. Julienne Dulnuan of UP Diliman most likely will present the downside of an industry almost of all of us tend to espouse. It’s an industry that makes us immediately link the potential of beautiful things we discover or have – such as a wondrous, untouched cave full of stalactites and stalagmites. Most likely, too, Anita Pleumarom of the Tourism Investigation and Monitoring Team based in Thailand .will present examples of how nature and culture can be turned into commodities to boost tourism.

Because the panels will be simultaneous – four or five at a time- some delegates may find themselves torn between the “Baguio History” and “Gender Issues in the Cordillera” panels. For sure, the hosts headed by conference chair and CSC director Delfin Tolentino, Jr. will eventually make available all the presentations so delegates can read on panel topics they’ll miss.

There are four panels on Natural Resource Management and one on Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices in Ifugao, which is set at the same time as the second panel on Cultural Heritage.

The forum format will be enriched by presentations on the experiences of other indigenous peoples. It will help us locals relate to and compare them with our own coping with the forces of change and modernization.

Panel 19, on “Enabling Communities To Be Heard: An Australian Perspective”, will offer a glimpse of the plight of the Aborigines Down Under. Hopefully, the topics will touch on the so-called “Killing Time” and the “Stolen Generation” so vividly captured by “Kanyini”, an award-winning documentary. The film stars Bob Randall, a half-Aborigine and traditional co-owner of Uluru, the famous rock sacred to his people, the Yankunytjatjara.

Randall belongs to the “stolen generation” of aboriginal children who were taken away from their parents and brought to special schools – to be educated according to the norms of their colonizers. Since he was plucked from her, Bob never saw his mother again.

In forums, Randall speaks without bitterness, making his presentation more impressive. Like Flavier, Bob oozes with humor and laughter, perhaps his way of coping with the tragic past and the complex issues his people face today as a result of their subjugation.

“The purpose of life is to be part of all that there is,” Randall said during a lecture last March at Schumacher College in Devon, England. “Our parents said we are connected to everything else, and the proof is being alive. You’re one with everything there is.”

The film, directed by Melanie Hogan, a white Australian, comes out with Bob’s message: “We need to heal together.” After all, “Kanyini” means interconnectedness to - and love for all creation : land, family (kinship), belief systems and spirituality.

Interconnectedness. Perhaps that’s what the conference at UP Baguio is all about. The sharing dispels the notion that academic researches –like some government plans - only end up in library shelves after they fulfill the requirements for courses, and to be later used as reference for other studies. ( for comments)



Regionalize Cordillera and stop begging

I beg to disagree with the proposition by our esteemed Cordillera officials that a third shot on regional autonomy will alleviate the region. This appeared in the editorial of the Northern Philippine Times. In the same editorial it quoted Sagada boy Tom Killip, Presidential Assistant for Cordillera Affairs who said: they will try to raise funds through the first-ever donors’ forum to be held in Manila.

These two separate ideas were motivated by a report by the Regional Development Council (RDC) that various Cordillera LGUs need at least P33.9 million to fund small poverty alleviation projects that would “spur economic development” in their areas of jurisdiction.

This writer however, acknowledges and appreciates the efforts of our RDC officials. Indeed they are performing a mandated job to improve life in these boondocks. There is no argument with that, but the manner by which we do that is not exactly acceptable. There is something wrong when we say that the Cordillera can not always depend on the government’s program on poverty alleviation – and then shift to a so-called strategy of accessing funding from foreign donors.

To me, both efforts appear as “beggar strategies.” As a rich region with natural assets to boast of, we can not continue to be beggars. Not through autonomy which can come later, and not through any donors’ forum. It is quite difficult for many people to understand why our public officials, especially the unelected ones, endorse multi-billion government and private projects such as dams and mines, and then wind up begging in the end. It is also wrong to put the Cordillera region on the same level with Muslim Mindanao in terms of getting our share from national government support.

While the two regions are indigenous areas, both behave differently and have diverse cultures. The lands bought by Luzonians and Visayans in any part of Mindanao have been plowed and continue to be improved. Muslim lands today remain idle. Believe. For almost two decades now, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) existed as a politically autonomous region. The national government allotted additional funding thru the general appropriations act on top of its income derived directly from its own resources.

Still today, despite the huge fund support, the region does not look alleviated – not in terms of its economy, politics and the ever-increasing number of people killed by the war. Is it now safe to say that autonomy as claimed by their leaders has resolved any of the region’s woes?

In fact, I see that our Muslim brothers are more “autonomous” along Session Road. Ask anyone of them, they will tell you a true story. In terms of contributions to national wealth, the Cordillera is ahead in the line as the gold mines and biggest hydro-electric dams have shown. Tax contributions do not stop as long as these companies continue to exist, especially now that they have been privatized.

Other regions do not contribute as much as Mindanao and the Cordillera do, but they are able to survive and provide for their people. While countries such as the Philippines need to alleviate the plight of their people, they must not resort to begging. I am quite sure that with the help of economists and political analysts in the academic sector in the region; Cordillera may be able to focus on better means to provide for its people – but not to beg.

By the way, the academic team can study and suggest to government the use of intelligence funds by the police, AFP and the office of the National Security Adviser. Sometimes, my mind wanders and suspects that these agencies keep repeating statements about the existence of terrorists and destabilizers just to keep the funds flowing. Gambling funds, casino funds, Pagcor funds or whatchamacallit are also misused.

What do the LGUs get from it? Ambulance vans that merely become the private cars of the yayas of politicians who solicit them. It also ends up as tourist cars for the politician’s family, who go to Tagaytay. The same are used to come up to Sagada or Baguio so the politician’s chef can fill it up with a month’s supply of highland salad vegees. The funds can be put to proper use. Poverty alleviation becomes elusive if the manner by which to address it is wrong at the outset.

Truth is it has turned out to be more of a political tool by tradpols who see to it that their vested interests are served while the program is being implemented. Or do we have an attitude problem or culture problem when it comes to delivering project funds for impoverished communities? It is enough that in the past, we Igorot Cordillerans were the subject of ridicule by our lowland brothers who thought of us as street beggars.

Instead, our esteemed officials may sponsor a study on how the other Cordillera provinces can open up their resources like Benguet, and share in regional stability. Eventually, we can become a regular region and stand up on our own feet. Maybe become an autonomous region, maybe a federal regional government or whatever – but please, Juan does not have to beg. –


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