Suspects spotted in Abra town:Valera charged for murder of Bersamin but not nabbed

>> Tuesday, February 26, 2008

BANGUED, Abra -- Former Abra governor Vicente Isidro Valera was charged with the murder of former Abra representative Luis Bersamin Jr. before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office on Feb. 19 but wouldn’t be arrested unless an arrest warrant is issued by a court against him and several suspects.

Also charged with Valera were Leo Bello, Jerry Turqueza, and men known only as Jun, Jeff-Jeff and Mel.

Valera and the other suspects, who remain at large, were also charged with frustrated murder for wounding bystanders Allan Sawadan and Rolly Labaja.

Turqueza shot Bersamin, police said.

Bersamin’s bodyguard, SPO1 Adelfo Ortega, also died during the attack at Mount Carmel Church in Quezon City on Dec. 16. 2006.

Deputy Director General Jesus Versosa, Philippine National Police deputy chief for administration, said in Camp Crame that two arrested suspects, former vice mayor Freddie Dupo of La Paz town and Sonny Taculao, have pointed to Valera as the mastermind of the killing.

“Clearly, it’s political,” he said when asked about the possible motive behind the killing of Bersamin.

“Dupo and Taculao gave details of the movements of the assassins and support group before and after the murder.”

Investigators have recommended to the Department of Justice that Dupo and Taculao be considered for the Witnesses Protection Program because they helped in the filing of charges against Valera and other suspects, Verzosa said.

Dupo and Taculao, who were arrested in Baras, Rizal last year, said Valera through Bello sent them P15,000, P10,000 and P25,000 while they were in hiding.

Bersamin’s daughter Rosario said they knew all along that Valera had masterminded the killing of her father. “We never doubted (That it was Valera,)” she said. Earlier, police authorities said an arrested suspect, the alleged mastermind and other persons involved in the murder of Bersamin and his police bodyguard met in a beach resort in La Union a few days before the assassination.

Some employees at the Nalinac beach resort in San Fernando City, La Union positively identified Dupo as one of the men who met in the resort several days before the killing of Bersamin and Ortega. Police investigators presented the picture of Dupo to the employees of the beach resort and that some of them positively identified him as one of those who attended the meeting.

In his statement given to investigators, Dupo allegedly said that he and the mastermind, including other persons involved in the Bersamin murder, met at a beach resort in La Union to discuss the assassination plot. Police said resort employees described the other men who met with Dupo, including the mastermind and other political figures in Abra who were linked to the crime.

Police intelligence agents, together with elements of the Rizal Provincial Police Office and other police units, arrested Dupo and his cousin, Sonny Taculao, in the mountains of Baras, Rizal some months ago. The policemen seized from them a Cal.45 pistol which reportedly matched the firearm used in the Bersamin killing as shown by tests conducted by the police crime laboratory. Dupo had requested the police to ensure the safety of his family so that he would inform them of other vital information on the mastermind.

Almost all suspects in the murder of Bersamin are former members of the New People’s Army and they are spotted in Abra, an official of the Quezon City Police District said Thursday. This, as Bersamin’s daughter Rosario claimed that Valera, is now based in Metro Manila.

Supt. Franklin Moises Mabanag, chief of the QCPD-Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, however, told Manila newsmen the eight suspects charged with two counts of murder and two counts of frustrated murder the other day before the Quezon City prosecutor’s office still cannot be arrested pending the release of a warrant. Mabanag belied media reports that a warrant of arrest has already been issued against the eight suspects.

“I just received information that all those charged and identified only through their aliases are now in Abra… They are all former NPA rebels,” Mabanag said. Mabanag was referring to the suspects identified only as Uncle, Jun, Jeff-Jeff, Mel and Ka Dado.

The suspect named Uncle is said to be a former NPA commander in Abra, he said. He said they are still verifying the real identities of these five suspects. Apart from the five and Valera, also charged were the alleged triggerman, Jerry Turqueza, and Sgt. Leo Bello, who allegedly gave suspects-turned-witnesses Freddie Dupo and Sonny Taculao money while they were in hiding. Rosario Bersamin, in a separate interview, said their family hopes that a warrant would soon be issued against the suspects now that the case has been filed.

“According to (PNP deputy chief for operations Deputy Director General Jesus) Verzosa, Valera is here in Manila but sometimes he still goes back to Abra,” she told newsmen. While the filing of the case against the suspects gives hope to their family, Rosario said it also brings back the loss that they felt when her father was gunned down. Rosario added that it also helps that the Valeras are no longer in power in Abra, saying the former governor could easily evade arrest if his family still rules the northern province.

Both Valera and his wife lost when they ran for congressman and governor, respectively, in the 2007 elections. Valera’s wife was beaten by Rosario’s uncle, Kip Bersamin, in the gubernatorial race. Rosario said her uncle has also been receiving death threats since the last elections. When the charges were filed the other day, Rosario directly accused Valera of “ordering the killing of my dad.” She said they never doubted that it was the former governor who was behind the murder, saying, “No one else had the agenda to do it.”


Arson not discounted: Cops probe P100 million Baguio school noon fire

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – Arson investigators are looking into the cause of a four-hour fire that injured five persons and destroyed three buildings of the University of Baguio shortly before noon on Feb. 16. Damage to property was initially estimated at over P100 million.

As of Feb. 17, arson probers of the Baguio fire department had yet to determine the cause of the fire which reportedly started on the second floor of the UB high school building. They were looking into three possible causes of the fire — arson, faulty electrical wiring and explosion.

The UB preparatory high school and the Dap-ayan theater, were reduced to ashes, while the Fernando Bautista and Rosa Bautista buildings were heavily damaged. The fire destroyed the seven floors of the wooden structure and caused heavy damage to the nearby 10-storey Rosa Bautista building, which housed the allied and medical departments and a hotel-and-restaurant simulation laboratory.

The high school building was among the first buildings of the prestigious education institution. The fire broke out while school officials were reportedly holding consultation with the students on the proposed tuition-fee increase. Immediately, the school administration ordered all the students having Saturday classes to leave the school premises.

However, five persons, whose identities were not immediately known, were reportedly injured during the rush for safety because some of the students reportedly panicked upon learning that their building was on fire. With building made light materials like wood, the fire quickly spread to the RCB building and the nearby structure at the Dap-ayan Theater.

The situation was aggravated by the fact that the firefighters allegedly ran out of water. Some 40 firetrucks from various fire stations in the city and La Trinidad, Benguet battled the fire to spare other structures in the school premises.

But a portion of the nearby Dangwa terminal was also damaged by the blaze, said to be one of the biggest fire incidents in this mountain city. The fire was the third to hit UB. A fire also gutted the old administrative building shortly after the July 16, 1990 killer earthquake. Another fire razed the science high school building and its adjacent structure near the SLU’s Sacred Heart Hospital in 2005.


Dagupan City officials outlaw ‘freedom of spit’

By Jennelyn Mondejar

DAGUPAN CITY – Spitting in public areas is now banned in this city, considered the bangus capital of the country. “Welcome to Dagupan, alagaan ang kalusugan, bawal ang dumura sa lansangan (Take care of your health, spitting in public is banned)” will greet visitors to this city as reminders drawn in tarpaulins to be posted at entrance points of the city.

City councilor Jesus Canto, author of the ordinance banning spitting in public places here, said the amendment he introduced in the old ordinance of the city banning spitting here under Ordinance Number 1453-93 entitled “Prescribing and Penalizing Acts and Omissions Inimical to Cleanliness and Sanitation” has been approved by the city council recently.

Canto, a medical practitioner and a retired hospital director of Region 1 Medical Center in this city, said violators will be fined P300 plus 24 hours of community service for the first offense, P500 plus 48 hours of community service for the second offense and P1,000 plus two weeks of community service for the third offense. He said massive information dissemination is going on and teams of government men overseeing health and sanitation in the city are deployed around to arrest violators.

If the violator is a minor, the adult accompanying him will be fined, according to Canto, as adults or their parents are the ones responsible in educating their children. Section 1 of the ordinance prohibits any person from spitting in public places such as parks and playgrounds, plazas, roads, public markets and other similar places.

When they spit, they should use a piece of tissue paper and throw these in garbage cans or receptacles, he said. He said there is a need to correct this bad habit of spitting in public places since it poses hazard to public health because of germs that may carry diseases through the saliva.


Mentor and son shot to death

By Jerry Padilla

BACNOTAN, La Union – Unidentified suspects, riding in tandem a motorcycle shot to death a 24-year-old professor and his one-year-old son in Barangay Casiaman here Tuesday morning. La Union police deputy director Supt. Pedro Obaldo identified the casualties as Allan dela Cruz, 24, an instructor at the St. Louis College in San Fernando City, and his one-year-old son Timothy Jarius.

Obaldo said the incident happened at around 9 a.m. while Dela Cruz was playing with his son in front of their house. “The gunman suddenly appeared and shot them immediately with a 9mm pistol after which he escaped toward a waiting motorcycle driven by a companion,” Obaldo said.

“We are still looking into the motive of the incident.” The father was reportedly the main target who suffered four gunshot wounds, one in his head and three in the chest, while the child was hit by stray bullets in his ear and head.


Displaced tribes urge Napocor execs: Fulfill promises 51 years ago

By Dexter A. See

ITOGON, Benguet — Ancestral land claimants in this town and nearby Bokod town, who were displaced by the construction of the Ambuclao and Binga dams more than 50 years ago, urged executives of the National Power Corp. to show to them the same compassion they had shown to the people in Magat, Isabela, and San Roque, San Manuel, Pangasinan.

The displaced residents, members of big clans, said they have suffered too long from the humiliation caused by Napocor to them when their properties were taken by the government to pave the way for the construction of the two dams 51 years ago. Several big properties owned by the tribal elders were used as ricefields and livestock-raising area in the 1950s, and people were then living with honest means.

The properties were later bulldozed when Napocor established its presence the two towns in 1954. Former Napocor executives had promised the displaced landowners that they will be relocated and given jobs but the promises have not been fulfilled. Many of the displaced landowners who were relocated to Palawan in 1982 came back to Benguet because the government had failed to provide them adequate assistance.

On the promise to give them employment, clan leaders said that they knew of only two of the displaced residents who were actually employed at the power facilities. The landowners complained that they still remain displaced and humiliated because of Napocor’s unfulfilled promises.

They said Napocor was more compassionate in the case of the communities affected by the construction of the Angat Dam in Bulacan, the Magat Dam in Isabela and Ifugao, and the San Roque Dam in San Manuel, Pangasinan. They said that after 51 years of suffering, it is about time for Napocor to show compassion to them.

While Napocor continues to argue that it has already paid compensation to the legitimate land claimants, representatives of the different Ibaloi clans came out in the open and disputed the claim, saying that they were just given false promises and their appeal for the fulfillment of the commitments fell on deaf ears.


Displaced workers press suspension of MP execs

By Dexter A. See

BONTOC, Mountain Province – A number of displaced workers in the Barlig municipal government petitioned the provincial board to issue a preventive suspension against several municipal officials to prevent acts of oppression, abuse of authority, destruction of evidence and tyranny in public office and in the interest of justice.

Barlig town mayor Magdalena K. Lupoyon, Vice-Mayor Edmundo C. Sidchayao and councilors Rockybal S. Dakillay, Fernando Y. Cablog and Ben C. Banya-ao have been charged before the provincial board for grave misconduct, abuse of authority and oppression for allegedly deliberately deleting the positions of four permanent employees appointed by the previous administration without just cause and due process.

In a rejoinder to an earlier complaint, Minda Bagano, Pablo Festiken and Remicio N. Chalway argued that the concerned municipal officials have the same thinking in upholding the acts of the mayor in protecting her reported despotic and whimsical exercise of her powers which is to the detriment of permanent employees like them.

The municipal council reportedly passed an ordinance abolishing the positions of the four employees even if the Commission on Audit and the Civil Service Commission came out with an earlier position that the municipal government could appoint them to their respective positions even without the approval of the 2007 municipal budget provided that the positions they are supposed to occupy are included in the budget.

The complainants pointed out that there is no need to presume what demeanor the officials have by perusing all the records. Certainly, the municipal budget officer did not sign the certificate of availability of funds for the salaries of the affected workers because from the very start, she allegedly intended to delete their positions from the executive budget.

Worst, the mayor allegedly constructively dismissed Bagano by assigning her to act as a midwife in one of the remote areas of the town in order for her to be unable to pursue the case.

Under the guise of streamlining the rank and file, she allegedly disallowed the Bagano to perform her duties as a sanitary inspector by not recognizing her reports.

Ironically, the mayor appointed a certain Julieva Tumayab to act as the sanitary inspector to replace Bagano, thus, the approval of sanitary permits in the town has now been prejudiced because of the refusal of the designated municipal health officer to approve Bagano’s reports due to the alleged oppressive orders of the mayor in constructively dismissing her.

Barlig has now two sanitary inspectors performing the same functions, one who is acting in a permanent capacity which happens to be Bagano and another appointed in a contractual capacity who happens to be Tumayab.

The provincial board is currently conducting an investigation on the administrative case filed against Barlig municipal officials but the complainants asserted that preventive suspension is a necessary remedy in cases where respondents have eminent and actual premeditated attempt and design to influence evidences against them.


Police fired at while uprooting marijuana

BY Jerry Padilla

CAMP FLORENDO, La Union – Policemen uprooting some P90 million worth of marijuana plants were fired at by unknown gunmen Thursday while they were uprooting marijuana plants. Two Philippine Air Force helicopter gunships, as a result, flew to the hinterlands of Alilem, Ilocos Sur to assist the lawmen.

Regional Mobile Group 1 members led by Senior Insp. Christopher Rebujio said their attackers could have been protectors of the five-hectare marijuana plantation at the boundary of Alilem town and Cayapa, Benguet. Rebujio sent text messages Tuesday afternoon to the regional command here about the incident and requested for more cops to the area.

He said they fought back, forcing the gunmen to flee to a forested area. Chief Supt. Leopoldo Bataoil, Ilocos regional police director, led the reinforcement force that scoured the mountains at the Alilem-Cayapa boundary on board the PAF helicopters Thursday. Bataoil said no one was injured among the RMG men, who were still pursuing their attackers.

Bataoil said at least 310 kilos of fully grown marijuana were uprooted, some immediately burned. “This is in line with our relentless drive to eradicate marijuana and all kinds of illegal drugs in the region. I commend the RMG personnel for their effort and in risking their lives just to eliminate this illegal plant,” he said.



Company has not secured prior consent of residents: Benguet folks oppose mining firm’s drilling
By Dexter A. See

ITOGON, Benguet – Thousands of residents here are opposing on-going drilling operations here of a mining company because it did not go through the required process of consultation and had no prior consent by the community. Despite the opposition to mining operation and related activities in indigenous cultural communities in this province, Anvil Mining Corp. proceeded with its initial drilling in Barangay Dalicno here.

Concerned indigenous people in the affected community, who are opposed to the drilling, have petitioned the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in the Cordillera to intervene and address their plight. The firm’s exploration activities must pass through the required process as prescribed in the Indigenous peoples Rights Act (IPRA), they said.

The petitioners said the intervention by the NCIP in the brewing conflict is needed to clarify the contention of the company that it is exempted from the consultation process. The residents said the exploration permit granted to the company allegedly exempts it from the requirement of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) that companies must comply with before they can conduct any development activity in indigenous cultural communities.

But the affected indigenous people asserted that "the exemption" granted to the company does not prohibit them from exercising their rights over their ancestral domain which is affected by the exploration activities.

The Dalicno villagers want the Anvil drilling operations to stop pending the holding of a dialogue between them and the company’s management to address issues over the utilization of natural resources in their domain.

Furthermore, the tribal people said that the drilling operation of the company would result in the depletion of their limited sources of water as well as environmental problems. Indigenous communities in the mining areas and prospective mining sites in this vegetable-producing province have become more critical of proposals for the renewal of mining activities and other related operations because of their sad experience in the past.

Most mining communities in the province are now suffering from water pollution and environmental degradation which have greatly affected the sources of livelihood and the living condition. Benguet is considered one of the mineral-rich areas in the country, but it remains as a second-class province because the big mining companies exploiting its natural resources are not directly remitting the share from the national wealth tax to the concerned local government units. Large- and small-scale mining is one of the major sources of livelihood for thousands of people in the 13 towns of the province.

Beneco gets P21M from Sec Reyes as school is energized

TUBLAY, Benguet -- Department of Energy Sec. Angelo Reyes and National Electrification Administrator Editha Bueno released a loan of P21, 968,907.55 to Benguet Electric Coop. general manager Gerardo Verzosa and board president Benny Bomogao in Baguio City Wednesday, students of this small sitio at Barangay Tuel witnessed the energization of their school.

Though done in a simpler program, the energization of the Balangabang Elementary School emphasized the difficult terrain facing Beneco in its mission to energize rural areas. The BES has 48 students.

“Though the sitio is only a few kilometers from our main office in Alapang, the road just recently opened, and the funding used that was initially from our Internally Generated Fund was made possible with the initial releases from our P100 million approved loan from NEA,” said board member George Montes.

His area of responsibility covers Tublay municipality where Balangabang belongs. It was though Montes’ initiative that triggered the inclusion of Balangabang in Beneco’s’s energization project expansion.

“The Balangabang Elementary School was the priority and first to be given electricity, while the homeowners complete the connection requirements,” said engineering department manager Melchor Licoben.

“Even teachers do not want to be assigned here due to lack of electricity. Maybe because it makes it doubly difficult for them to prepare their daily lesson plans at night and they have to do it during the day on top of their teaching duties during the day,” said Flora Sim.

Sim, 42, is the president of the Parents Teachers Community Association of the school. Despite studying every night using gas or candles Sim’s daughter Maybelle, 10 years old, was the salutatorian of her grade 4 class last year.

“Very behind dagitoy ubbing compared kadagidiay students dita Baguio ken other areas. Ta nu ag-solicit kami iti computer, madi da ta awan kuryente. Nu adda masapul nga ipa-computer mi ket masapul apan kami pay idiay Baguio ,” lamented teacher Lorna Domingo, 26, who is handling grades 1 and 2 classes.

Their school was established in 1942, according to Sim and Domingo. Sim, like her daughter studied in the same school.

The BES serves students coming from “nearby” sitio’s like Dig-ong and Salabao.

Tiffany Pasiw, 10, Maybelle’s classmate and class valedictorian, comes from Dig-ong has to hike for an hour since Dig-ong is located in another nearby mountain, to and from school. “Narigat (It’s difficult to study),” Tiffany shyly described how she review her lessons every night by candle light.

“We are grateful for the arrival of electricity, because in the past we used to go out and look for pinewood to light our evening meals because gas is expensive. Secretary Reyes could have seen how difficult our road if only he was able to come)” said Carpeta Calado, 70 and resident of sitio Balangabang.

The P21.9 million awarded by Reyes was the third release of the P100 million loan granted by NEA to help Beneco fulfill its mission for rural electrification in Benguet.

About 134 sitios in Benguet are targeted to benefit from the loan, including Balangabang, whose releases commenced in 2007 with P50 million, P32 million in 2008, and P18 million in 2009. Project implementation is until 2010.

Benguet town folk, execs support takeover of dams

BOKOD, Benguet — Municipal officials here and residents living around the Ambuclao Dam in this town have expressed support for the impending takeover by SN Aboitiz Hydro Power, Inc. of the hydroelectric plant here. They said that the takeover would result in more revenues and benefits for the town compared to the time when it was operated by the National Power Corp. (Napocor).

The municipal government is expected to generate additional revenues and support from the affected people in the communities surrounding the dam. Local officials pledged support for the rehabilitation of the dam, saying it would provide an added source of power for the Luzon grid. They welcomed executives of the power company at a recent acquaintance meeting.

Earlier, SN Aboitiz executives reported that the company is investing at least $ 200 million or P8 billion in the rehabilitation of the 50-year-old power plant so that it could generate a maximum output of 225 megawatts. The residents have unsettled land problems with Napcor, but Aboitiz will be concerned only about the land where the power plant or other facilities are located.

However, the municipal council and executives of the company will sit down to address common concerns in relation to the operation of the dam. Corporate officials reiterated their commitment to ensure that environmental protection, livelihood, education and health programs are pursued hand in hand with the host communities.

Specifically, the fisherfolk community in Ambuclao which is engaged in the raising of tilapia will be provided training and technical support to enable them to improve the quality of their produce and to expand their market. Provincial officials have called on both the company and stakeholders to ensure that host communities will enjoy the benefits derived from the use of their natural resources.

Aside from the Ambuclao Dam, Aboitiz will also operate the Binga Dam located in Itogon, Benguet which is in the Agno River. This would boost the country’s power supply and avert a looming energy crisis in the next two years. The two dams which were constructed in the 1950s suffered heavy damages after the July 16, 1990 killer earthquake which caused heavy siltation.

Since, the dams have never regained normal operation. At present, the Ambuclao Dam is not operating, while the Binga Dam is operating in a minimum capacity. Ironically, the communities surrounding the dams were supplied power only in the mid-1990s or 40 years after the construction of the two dams.

With the new investor, local officials and other stakeholders are optimistic that they will not experience the disappointment caused by the false promises made to them by Napocor officials. The promises were about the payment for their properties gobbled up by the construction and operation of the power plants. – Dexter A. See



Vizcaya quadruplets turn 9

BAGABAG, Nueva Vizcaya – Probably the oldest quadruplets in the country, Mary Joy, Mary Grace, Mary Flor, and Mary Jane Cerezo marked their ninth birthday the other day with a modest celebration at their residence in this gateway town to the famed Ifugao Rice Terraces. The Cerezo quadruplets of Barangay San Geronimo were brought to the limelight when their mother sought help from authorities for her sickly babies.

The Cerezos are probably the country’s only all-female, identical quadruplets. There are reportedly two other sets of quadruplets in Naguilian, Isabela and in the Visayas, but it is not known whether they are identical.

“We should be thankful that the quadruplets have all grown normally despite their formerly dire health situation. It is a blessing for us all in Nueva Vizcaya to have the Cerezo quadruplets living among us, and I wish them the best of health and many more years to come,” said Rep. Carlos Padilla, one of the government officials who helped the Cerezo family and even put up a trust fund for the quadruplets’ education.

The father of the quadruplets, all now in Grade 4, was killed in Manila when they were still infants. – CL



Breakthrough in natural feeds to make tilapia culture cheaper

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan – Cagayan Valley’s tilapia growers no longer need to content themselves in shouldering the ever-rising price of feeds and other inputs in their fishponds. This came as a result of a successful farm trial in Iguig town here which showed duckweeds to be an effective alternative diet of tilapia, also known as Saint Peter’s fish, in lieu of commercial feeds.

The results of this experiment conducted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Iguig’s experimental farm would redound to some 50 percent savings for tilapia growers in the region which is slowly becoming the tilapia capital of the country. Duckweeds (scientific name: Lemma spp) are small floating plants in fishponds which contain 40-45 percent of crude protein and are ideal as alternative feeds for tilapia, said researchers from the BFAR regional office here led by Dr. Jovita Ayson.

Romeo Pizarro, farm manager of the experimental farm, said that after a series of experiments involving different mixtures of dry and wet duckweeds with commercial feeds, it was seen that a mixture of 50 percent fresh duckweeds and 50 percent commercial feeds was the most economically viable mix for tilapia growers.

“Repeated experiments showed that a 50-50 mix of fresh duckweeds and commercial feeds offered the best possible economic return for fish farmers,” Pizarro said. Pizarro said that the said combination offered an even higher growth rate for tilapia than those grown purely on commercial feeds, signifying much greater revenue for the farmers in five to six months. He said the production expense using duckweeds is only 76 centavos per kilogram including labor costs compared to P25 per kilogram for commercial feeds.

Moreover, Pizarro said those interested in propagating duckweeds as alternative feeds for their tilapia in Cagayan Valley can just visit their experimental farm in Iguig to obtain for free the plant’s so-called propagules, or seedlings from the BFAR staff. Propagation of duckweeds, Pizarro said, merely means transferring them to the planting site, whether this is a pond, tank or secured body of water.

Five kilograms planting material can be enough to cover 1,000 square meters. Duckweeds propagate rapidly, doubling their volume in only two days, meaning one has to harvest them every now and then. Pizarro also said that when producing duckweeds in ponds, the water must be fertilized at a rate of 100 kilograms of chicken manure and 10 kilograms of ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) per month per 1,000 square meters for best results. Water must be totally changed every month.

Pizarro said that although duckweeds can be produced in the same pond with fish, this is not very efficient since any form of mechanical aeration of the water (i.e. paddle wheel, aerators) disturbs the growth of the plants. Likewise, their photosynthetic activity blocks oxygenation of the water which the fish need. -- CL



Lubuagan water project to benefit 100 households
By Peter A. Balocnit

LUBUAGAN, Kalinga – The long wish of residents of Barangay Tangadan here for water supply in their households is expected to be realized by March, thanks to President Macapagal Arroyo’s Priority Program on Water (P3W) through the Department of Public Works and Highways. Engineer Roy Dickpus, project facilitator of the Kalinga District Engineering Office said Tangadan was chosen beneficiary for this year’s P3W after Sumadel 1 and 2 in Tinglayan, whose level 2 water system project was completed July last year.

He said the Lubuagan Level 1 project will benefit 100 households including those in adjacent sitios of Barangay Poblacion. “It will commence work on February 4 and targeted to be completed on March 25, this year,” he said adding the project amounting to P497,149.44 sourced out from the DPWH regular infrastructure allocation.

Carlito Banao, project engineer said the scope of work covers the construction of an elevated water tank with 22.5 cubic meters capacity and installation of pipelines and distribution pipelines and 10 communal faucets to serve cluster households. “Water supply will be sourced from a mountain spring that is free from water borne diseases.

He said 12 laborers will be hired under the employment generation scheme. Engineer Ruby Uyam of the construction and maintenance section of KDEO said the lack of water supply in the community makes life difficult for the residents specially Kalinga women who carry the burden of fetching water from a far source.

“With water supply within a few steps away from the kitchen, household chores will be easier to do and the time saved for working mothers and children will be utilized for other productive endeavors,” Uyam said.



Ifugao rural bank offers loans to gov’t employees
By Vency D. Bulayungan

LAGAWE, Ifugao -- The Lagawe Highlands Rural Bank is now offering salary loans to government employees. Fidel Dincog, manager of the LHRB said the bank decided to pursue its plan to offer salary loans to employees of local government units and other institutions. ‘

The frequent requests for salary loans among employees from different offices prompted the bank to open a window for salaried clients without the need of hard collateral,” Dincog said. Dincog said a memorandum of agreement will be executed between the bank and the institution or employer for the purpose.

He also said that employees who are permanent, 60 years old and below and must have a take home pay of not less than P3,000 after deductions can avail of the said loan. Also known as Banco Lagawe, the bank aims to provide alternative source of loans with low interest.

With an interest rate of 15 percent and a service fee of 5 percent, Dincog said loans need the endorsement of the accountant and treasurer. “The term of loan is 12 months to 24 months and the maximum loan amount is 1/5 or 20 percent of basic salary times the number of months to pay.



MP gov ‘first’ among Cordi execs in showing support to PGMA
By Roger Sacyaten

BONTOC, Mountain Province – The provincial governor may have shown the first verbal show of support to President Macapagal Arroyo amid the series of alleged anomalies hounding the First Family and other government officials.

“Never in the history of the province had there been a president as supportive as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” said Gov. Maximo Dalog when interviewed to gauge his sentiments on political developments in the country.

Criticisms on alleged corruption in the national government have besieged the administration as calls for her resignation are still mounting. In a statement of support to the administration dated Feb. 14 and sent to Malacanang and the League of Provinces of the Philippines, Dalog said that the administration must get the firm support of the officialdom and people of Mountain Province now more than ever.”

He said the President is capable of administering the affairs of the government as manifested by the robust economy and the implementation of developmental programs and projects in the province.

Dalog said the national government has heeded the pleas of Mountain Province officials for improvement of the roads leading to and from the province. Recently, more than P3 billion pesos have been allotted to improve the Mt. Data to Bontoc Phase II of the Halsema Highway, the Bontoc-Banaue Phase 3, and the Bontoc-Kalinga road. Works on all are ongoing.

The Cervantes-Sabangan is also being improved on the roads leading to this hinterland province and connecting the Cordillera region to the Ilocos. “Once completed we expect tremendous progress in tourist arrivals and economic boom for our people in the province”, Dalog said, adding the province could graduate from “Club 20” group of poorest provinces in the country.

Dalog, who is chairman of the Regional Development Council said “dark forces” working against the administration may soon realize that unity and solidarity of the officialdom and entire citizenry is needed for the country to progress.

In related developments, the chief executive of the province convened a two-day barangay consultation in the capital town to be abreast with the pulse of the grassroots on the latest political and economic developments in the province and countr



Gov’t forces ‘reclaim’ Abra town from NPA

TINEG, Abra – After many years of being under the control of the New People’s Army, the government has “reclaimed” this town from communist rebels. This, after a task force composed of different government units “invaded” the town last week to restore government control. Government officials inaugurated the first police station in Barangay Caganayan Wednesday, a police official said.

Senior Supt. Noel Manabat, Task Force Abra commander and Cordillera police deputy director for operations, said over the years, government operations of the town were transacted in Bangued, Abra’s capital town. Most upland town mayors of Abra maintain houses in Bangued for residents and where they could transact government business.

For this time, Manabat said, police will spearhead local governance in Tineg. Task Force Abra has designated as “caretaker police chief” Senior Supt. Ernesto Gaab to oversee local policemen, who were accused earlier of siding with warring politicians. Around 80 policemen from the Special Action Force, Police Mobile Group, Regional Mobile Group among others will temporarily compose the local security force.

Manabat said satellite and cell phones will be installed in the police station for quick communication, site of skirmishes between law enforcers and rebels including hired goons of politicians. He added all private armed groups would be neutralized not only in Tineg but the whole province so local government officials could perform normal functions. Tineg town could be reached by traversing bumpy dirt road for around four hours.

Caganayan, the new site of the police station and where a town hall is being built could be reached by foot for another one to two hours.



Town set to get corn grill Guinness
By Ding V. Micua

STO. TOMAS, Pangasinan -- The people of this town are confident that they have established a new world record to be included in the Guinness Book when they put up a close to five-km corn barbecue here on Feb. 10. Some 20,000 people, including vacationing overseas Filipinos, lined up the whole stretch from the boundaries of Sto. Tomas with Rosales and Sto. Tomas with Alcala to witness the feat that will erase the existing world record of two kilometers put up last year by Hermocillo, Mexico.

"We are confident that based on account by the documentation team, we had broken the existing world record," said jubilant Mayor Vivien Villar, wife of Undersecretary Antonio Villar Jr., chief of the Presidential Anti- Smuggling Group. Vice Mayor Timeoteo Villar, chairman of the committee on the corn barbecue event, said the documentation of the whole activity will be submitted soon to the Guinness Corp.

The mayor and vice mayor thanked the people of Sto. Tomas, including their guests for their support for the activity that took them more than one year to prepare. The "Longest Corn Barbecue" event was the top feature of the festival that highlighted the town’s 10-day centennial celebration from Feb. 1 to 10. Rep. Mark Cojuangco (5th district) and Provincial Board Member Chu Carancho joined Mayor Villar in lighting the fire that signaled the opening of the activity.

Martin Valera, regional director of the Department of Tourism, hailed the unity and sacrifice of the people of Sto. Tomas so their town would have a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Put up by the people of Sto. Tomas was a corn barbecue measuring 4,938 meters but only 4,800 meters were actually utilized for the activity as organizers ran out of corn ears. Nevertheless, the organizers said world record was already in the bag for the town.

The activity promoted corn, the town’s chief agricultural crop, which is planted in the town’s more than 400 hectares of land. There were 2,024 grill units used, all made of indigenous materials. Each grill unit was used to roast 60 ears of corn at one time or a total of 121,444 ears. Roasting was done three times, so more than 300,000 corn ears were used in the activity.

There were 800 sacks of charcoal spread in all these grill units and poured with 1,050 liters of kerosene to make them burn easily. Aside from this, organizers also poured firecracker powders in the charcoal so when lighted, the first grill exploded. Well-rehearsed and well-executed up to the last detail, there were 7,000 grillers, including the supervisors. Each of them wore green shirt and brown apron.



Pampanga prov’l officials set court raps vs governor
By George Trillo

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — The Sangguniang Panlalawigan here passed last week a resolution paving the way for the filing of charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against Gov. Eddie Panlilio for his alleged refusal to implement the provincial ordinance to distribute taxes from local quarry operations. Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao told newsmen charges will be filed as soon as possible and will be signed not only by members of the provincial board but also by members of the Pampanga Mayors’ League.

“The governor has to be answerable for his failure to execute the law (Resolution No. 176 which the board passed into law in September last year) and be compelled to implement it,” Guiao said.

Resolution No. 176, titled “An Ordinance Providing for the Equitable Distribution of Quarry Taxes Imposed by the Province of Pampanga for the Extraction of Quarry Materials and for Other Purposes,” was initially endorsed by the PML headed by its president, Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda on Aug. 28 last year and was passed into law by the provincial board on Sept. 21.

Panlilio immediately vetoed the resolution. The provincial board members, however, used their override function on Panlilio’s veto. “There is no more excuse for the executive not to implement the local legislation.

The contention that implementing rules and regulations still have to be done is a lame excuse,” said Guiao who has been at odds with the priest-turned-governor since day one of the Panlilio administration in July last year. “They (in the provincial executive department) brought the matter to the Court of Appeals which dismissed their complaint, and then also to the Department of Justice which rendered a decision in our favor.

Now they’re saying that implementing rules and regulations are still needed,” Guiao noted. The resolution scrapped the P150 administrative fee share of the provincial government from the P300 fee imposed on each truckload of lahar sand taken from various quarry sites in Pampanga. Under the old scheme, the provincial government collects its P150 share from the P300 in additIon to the 30-percent share from the remaining P150 which is also divided among the host municipal government and the barangay at a ratio of 30 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

The new ordinance also removed from the governor the power to supervise the collection of quarry taxes and transferred this power to the mayors where the quarry sites are located. Guiao said that the provincial board had given Panlilio up to last Jan. 30 to implement the local law. “But he has not only communicated with us on this deadline; he has ignored us. As governor, it is his mandate to execute the law,” Guiao also said.

Guiao said that the resolution passed by the provincial board last Monday was the first step in the filing of formal charges against Panlilio before the Ombudsman. “The next step would be the actual filing by our designated lawyer, and we want this done soonest,” he said. Guiao said the board has yet to decide on its lawyer, but said it would probably be Vicente Macalino, who was also once Pampanga’s acting vice governor.

Over the weekend, Panlilio’s information office announced that his seven-month-old administration was about to break the record of P150.488-million income from lahar sand quarrying, that was set by government-owned Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC) in 1999. Panlilio said he introduced last Friday a new measure to safeguard against anomalies in the collection of fees from lahar haulers in this province through the use of monitoring tickets as an additional safeguard in the proper payment of tax and fee on sand that are hauled out of the province.



Nueva Vizcaya bishop remains firm against mining, gambling
By Luis Jose

CABARROGUIS, Quirino – Bayom­bong Bishop Ramon Villena said he is still firm in his stand against mining projects and any form of illegal gambling. Reacting to allegations that Catholic bishops were turning a blind eye to corruption in government, Villena said, “We are relentless as ever in calling for an end to irregularities in government.”

Villena, whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction covers this province and Nueva Vizcaya, was appointed by President Arroyo as chairman of the Regional Development Council of Cagayan Valley. Mining, a priority of the Arroyo administration, has become a controversial issue here, with Villena leading anti-mining groups against the entry of more mining firms in this province and Nueva Vizcaya.

But local officials in Nueva Vizcaya said they supported the mining industry, as the province now hosts three major mining ventures – the Didipio gold-copper project of the Australian-New Zealand-owned Oceana Gold Philippines at the Quirino-Nueva Vizcaya border; the exploration of the British-owned MTL-FCF in Runruno, Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya; and the project of the Australian-owned Royalco-Philippines in the Pao-Kakiduguen area.

Meanwhile, jueteng is no longer rampant here and in Nueva Vizcaya as a result of the relentless drive of the Church against illegal gambling, Villena said. Villena, a ranking official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, denied allegations that he has sought financial favors from President Arroyo.

“I never asked money from the President, and I will never do it,” he said in reaction to accusations by Fr. Robert Reyes, the so-called “running priest,” that some clerics have asked money from Mrs. Arroyo. If he would request for something from the President, Villena said it would be for the poor, not for any personal interest.

In an interview, Reyes claimed that some bishops were benefiting from Mrs. Arroyo’s “financial generosity” and even said that she funded a bishop’s project to build a church. These favors, according to Reyes, are “probably making the Church, especially the bishops, go slow or careful in taking a definite stand and making a categorical statement” against corruption in the Arroyo administration.



‘A web of lies’

A lie to cover up a previous lie. This is how Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang and his public relations boys react whenever their implausible claims are questioned. For instance, Nolcom claimed it dismantled seven guerilla fronts in 2007. Two of these fronts were allegedly in the Ilocos-Cordillera Region.

In a rebuttal statement, Martin Montana, spokesperson of the Chadli Molintas Command of the Ilocos-Cordillera NPA Operational Command, pointed out the incongruity that the two supposedly dismantled guerilla fronts covered only 15 barangays. He clarified that a guerilla front usually comprises five contiguous towns or the equivalent of a congressional district. This simple fact is clearly beyond the comprehension of Lt. Gen. Maclang and his public relations boys.

To cover up the embarrassment caused by their obvious blunder, Lt. Gen. Maclang and his PR boys again resorted to cooking up spurious data using the "dagdag-bawas" formula that has become the trademark of the corrupt Arroyo regime and all its lackeys and cronies. In a recent press release, Lt. Gen. Maclang and his parrots alleged that I made a statement published in national dailies claiming that guerilla fronts throughout the country increased from "100 to 230"! I never made such claim.

But as Comrade Martin Montana had stated earlier, Lt. Gen. Maclang most definitely learned his arithmetic from the Commission on Elections. Obviously, simple math is a daunting task for Lt. Gen. Maclang and his sycophantic psywar propagandists. Instead of wasting their time spinning a convoluted web of lies that will only embarrass them further, Lt. Gen. Maclang and his lackeys should ponder the current political crisis, rethink their loyalties and position, and follow the noble example of Jun Lozada by exposing the endemic corruption in the AFP.

They can start by looking into how their Commander-in-Chief diverted funds for the housing program of AFP and PNP personnel to fund the anomalous ZTE-NBN project. They can also look into the recent multi-billion peso helicopter procurement scam among many others. The officers, men and women of the AFP should do well to withdraw their support for Gloria Arroyo.

Or else, they can join the evil Gloria Arroyo on her pending trip to hell. Oplan Bantay Laya II, touted by Arroyo and her doggy generals as their "end-game strategy" against the revolutionary movement, will surely fail. It will be defeated by the well-disciplined and committed New People's Army, together with the entire Filipino people.

The AFP is demoralized, factionalized, wracked by never-ending corruption, and incompetently led by an isolated and fake Commander-in-Chief and her mercenary generals. If there is an end-game strategy here, it is this – the Arroyo gang will be battered by one crisis after another until it is brought down by the revolutionary forces and the people.

Simon "Ka Filiw" Naogsan

Cordillera People’s Democratic Front

Reeking sickness

It’s a reeking sickness, the antidote of which seems to be out-of-reach. We hear and read it in the news again and again, get nauseated about, and see it in action. It gave birth to the phrase, “the rich get richer. The poor get poorer.” Diagnosed but with no prescription, corruption is the ailment of many of our politicians. Greedy, thick-faced, and scheming, they are those who wear fake smiles and pleading looks on campaign day, shake hands with you on election day, and ditch you after their victory.

Like magicians and even better than Harry Potter, they whisk away hard-earned cash from the tattered and patched pockets of the mass and let them smoothly fall into their already bulging designer wallets.

Before you can even say Abracadabra, it transforms into luxurious cars, flashy clothes, jaw-dropping mansions, grand vacations, and for some dirty old men, alluring mistresses. On the other side of the coin, wretched victims struggle with yawning poverty. Their stomachs groan, their sickness lays uncured because treatment does not come cheap, they live in the streets, their children do not go to school, and if worse gets worst, they die without even a decent funeral (coffins are dear there are also the mourners).

Then what’s for us to do? Loan our guns and shoot them, bang! Throw them into a deep ravine, or maybe mimic Robin Hood and steal their wealth? Definitely, the answer is a big no, they are criminals in their own way, and we should not follow their footsteps. Our bullets would be wasted on them anyway.

Right now, there are many ways on how our money is being corrupted. In fact, politicians are not the only ones who practice corruption. Any person dedicated to public service is a candidate for this appalling act. In the local government, it can manifest in the form of bribery, given in order to gain an unfair advantage or to bypass laws and regulations. Some also use extortion wherein threats or harm are inflicted to unjustly obtain something; blackmail included.

A politician can awfully use public funds to his advantage and get kickbacks from misappropriated funds through corrupt biddings. This can also be in the form of nepotism, wherein some officials give privileges and positions of authority based on relationships and regardless of their actual activities. Blah, blah, blah, there are so many ways wherein these corrupt do it under our noses.

Again, the question is what then should we do to stop these greedy people from dipping their hands into the public coffers, aside from us plotting evil deeds and making a mess out of things? How do we stop thee, let us count the ways.

First of all, don’t lose hope. The Lord up there in Heaven is looking after us and will never forsake us. While you’re reading this, He is smiling and is very much willing to help us. He knows if you are willing to help or not, and He wants you to help. But of course, the decision is in your hands.

Next step, be informed. Read the news and find out what is happening around you, especially those that concern the government. Learn about the allocated budget for the different departments this year and how will it be spent, the projects being implemented and being discussed about, about allegations of corruption and other government issues. Have a scrutinizing eye and as they say, have the hose for news. It may surprise you and may cause a minor headache (especially if you’re watching TV and the senators are screeching at each other) but it’s worth the effort.

Don’t forget to do your duties as a citizen. This includes indicating and paying your real Income Tax Return., among other things. You may say that it will be corrupted anyway, but then it is your responsibility to the country. Forget those scum, they shall pay for their sins soon, what is important is that you have done your duty. You can’t expect yourself to wage a fight against them if you are a law breaker yourself.

Disseminate information. Share articles to other people and educate them about this topic. The more people that you can convince, the better. It can be hard to do it, but summon your courage. Some people may slam their door at you because they don’t want to be involved but remember, it’s their loss, not yours. Ask pamphlets from government agencies and distribute it; many people in the government are still honest and they are willing to clean their ranks, too. Be creative, you can write your comments to the newspapers, send e-mails, text brigades, anything under the sun.

Here comes the most important part, do your responsibility on election day. Don’t get fooled by their big grins, by their incredible promises, their give-ways, their famous endorsers and their awe-inspiring speeches. Who cares if they promise to give you the moon, the sun, and the stars and if they shower you their goodwill?

Their platforms and their records are the most important thing you should know about. Never vote those politicians who give bribes. They will regain triple the money they spent after they are seated in public office. Remember, our right to vote is a very important power that we should use wisely.
Waging a fight against corruption is not easy, but is not impossible. It can’t be done in just a stroke of a magician’s hand, and it can also be very dangerous.

Those politicians may laugh out loud and continue to sit in comfort because they discern themselves as untouchables. But remember your history, even David was able to topple Goliath. Unity, shrewdness, and guts are our weapons. Not to mention, we have the ever powerful God as back-up.

If you’re still undecided, listen to this. Millions of money is shaved from the fund of the government due to corruption. That can build buildings and infrastructures, repair roads and bridges, improve health care and education, improve services, boost the economy and do a lot of things.

It can clothe and feed many malnourished and impoverished children especially those living and sleeping on the dangerous streets. It may sound like a fool’s dream and a thing out of sci-fi movie, but this reality we must fight with. Now, will you play safe or will you join in the clash against corruption?

Libnah Oakes
La Trinidad, Benguet



Transparency among house reform priorities

A five-man House of Representative reforms committee has cited accountability and transparency as among the key areas that would be placed on top of its house-cleaning priorities.

Created last week by Speaker Prospero Nograles, the ad hoc special committee is composed of Assistant Majority Leaders Abraham Mitra (NP, Palawan) and Jesus Crispin Remulla (NP, Cavite), Representatives Florencio “Bem” Noel (An Warray), Joseph Emilio Abaya (LP, Cavite) and Roberto Cajes (Lakas, Bohol).

Noel said the first order of business would be to review the House rules and policies of the chamber. “We have been asking our colleagues for their ideas. There will be consultations because we want to start with the right foot forward,” the lawmaker said.

Noel said Nograles wants House reforms to devolve on five priority areas. These are: public participation in legislation, strict accountability and transparency, efficient access to information, legislative competence of members, and efficient human resources.

Nograles has ordered an audit of the House funds as he vowed to open the books of accounts of the chamber to all members. The new Speaker said the panel will be tasked to “collect, process and classify” the proposals for reforms to improve the image of the chamber.

The Davao City solon implored critics and supporters to give him sufficient time to carry out the reforms they are demanding, saying these reforms will be done with the help of the committee that will be formed soon.

Nograles’ office has reportedly been “swarmed with written proposals” on which areas in the legislative process should be prioritized. The lawmaker said transparency in the handling of funds and improving the performance and image of the chamber rank high among his priorities.

“There are several proposals about what we will do, including matters on internal affairs of the House, about the employees, apart from the internal concerns of congressmen. Hinimay-himay natin ito, and we are now accepting all these proposals,” said Nograles.

A reorganization of committee chairmanships appeared to be the least of Nograles’ concern. In fact, the Davao City lawmaker revealed to the media that he would reject courtesy resignations expected to be filed as of press time by Rep. Bienvenido Abante, chairman of the House Committee on Public Information, and Rep. Edno Joson, vice chairman of the agriculture panel.

Nograles said there will be no movements yet as far as the issue on committee chairmanships is concerned, adding that any revamp should be in consonance with the reform action plan that will be implemented.

The center of discussions would be reforms that the Lower House needs to immediately implement and not the reorganization of committees, he said. If there will be reorganization, it will be in harmony with the reforms that we want to put in place. “Reorganization will require a little time. For now, what we want to do is unify first the House and heal the wounds,” Nograles said.

At the rate Nograles is going, it seems unity is farthest from his mind but to cater top the whims of Malacanang.



Re-discovering Ilocos Norte

(Cristina Arzadon was my colleague in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She still writes for the PDI and is also with the provincial office of the Philippine Information Agency based in Laoag City. Alfred P.Dizon)

Ilocos Norte is more than white beaches and centuries-old churches. Old-time tourists used to say that when you’ve seen Pagudpud beach and Paoay Church, you’ve seen them all. Pagudpud beach, as all tourists probably know, is the home of the white sand beach which had been an all-time favorite spot of frolickers in the North. The world-renowned Paoay church is the most important religious and historical structure in that town famous for its centuries-old baroque church.

But there’s more to Ilocos than the iconic churches and beaches that any tourists would be naturally drawn to. As former Ilocos Norte Governor-now Congressman Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. loved to pitch: the sites, which have been Ilocandia’s best kept secrets, are endless. This northern province offers alternative destinations for people who would want to explore and pause from the pressures of city living.
The northernmost town of Pagudpud is a fitting route to those who would want to make a historic journey back to the landing site of the USS Stingray submarine which was instrumental in liberating the Philippines from Japanese invasion in World War II. The sea vessel beached undetected in Caunayan Bay in Pagudpud town on August 27, 1944 and unloaded assorted weapons for Ilocano bolomen who, along with American forces, fought Japanese atrocities.

Their stories of heroism are etched in a monument built in their honor on the site where the Stingray unloaded arms and ordnance that Filipino guerrillas used in fighting the Japanese forces in Northern Luzon. Crowned with an anchor, the marble stone and pebble marker was unveiled last year during a seaside ceremony attended by remaining war veterans both from the Philippines and the United States.

Its crown symbolizes the anchor that the submarine dropped off the waters as it left the Pagudpud bay.The US submarine decided to drop the anchor after unloading armaments along the bay because lifting it would create too much noise and, in the process, attracted the attention of the Japanese troops patrolling the area.
At the end of the long and winding scenic Patapat Bridge also in northern Pagudpud, motorists stop for souvenir items and cool down at three waterfalls believed to have healing powers. Motorists cannot miss a stretch of stalls selling native products, fruits and trinkets made of shells and colored pebbles before cooling themselves at the falls flowing from a mountainside where the road turns into a canyon.

Margie Calventas, who has been tending her stall for more than five years now, says the falls, locally known as “Paraiso ni Anton,” is a natural attraction for motorists cruising along the Ilocos Norte-Cagayan route. “Motorists would always bring along empty bottles of mineral water, tin cans and plastic pails and fill them up with cool water from the falls on the belief that their illnesses would be healed,” Calventas says. Locals also believe the “Paraiso” is enchanted that motorists would not miss sounding their horns when approaching and leaving the falls. ***
Going South, the next spot would be the Bangui wind power plant which was built in 2006 by Danish investors. President Macapagal-Arroyo takes pride that the Philippines is home to the first wind power plant in Southeast Asia so she flew to the northern most part of the country last year and saw for the first time the first clean energy in the country.

The President had committed to put up other wind farms in Ilocos Norte noting her administration’s support to environmental-friendly wind generation. A first in Southeast Asia, the wind power plant is composed of 15 turbines, each standing 70 meters or equal to the height of a 23-story building. The wind farm can generate a maximum capacity of 25 MW.
To this day, the over a century-old Burgos lighthouse (known locally as the Cape Bojeador lighthouse) remains a mute beacon to seafarers. It is also a source of provincial pride after the National Museum declared it a national cultural treasure in December 2005. Perched on Vigia de Nagpartian hill in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, the lighthouse, is composed of a 160-m tall light tower, living and office quarters and a courtyard.

Completed on March 30, 1892, the lighthouse was built by Guillermo Brockman from a design by Magin Pers y Pers. It is made of locally fabricated bricks and accented with cast metal grillwork. Motorists driving north through the province of Ilocos Norte can catch sight of the lighthouse which dominates the Burgos skyline. From its top, one can easily take in the sweeping panorama of the sea and the surrounding countryside.
Gamet (black seaweed) surfaces in patches along Burgos’ cliffs periodically from September to February, also a period when the Burgos Bay is rough and the waves are swelling. The equivalent of Japanese nori (the world’s most popular seaweed, according to a Japanese website), gamet comes as a black and flat seaweed sheet when dried. The splash of waves combined with cool rain showers are said to be favorable to its growth and quality.

Gatherers would wait for the waves to retreat before they start picking the seaweeds stuck deep in the fissures of rocks and corals. Gamet commands a higher price at the onset of the gamet season when the seaweeds are scarce and the first harvest is said to be of the best quality. The gamet harvest is usually traded to balikbayans who take with them long mats of gamet abroad and give them as presents.
The Department of Tourism started promoting the Caangrian Falls also in Burgos town as an eco-tourism site because of its natural wonder. Located in the Paayas village, which is five kilometer-drive from Burgos proper, motorists would have to leave their vehicles at the head of the trail and start a four kilometer-hike to the falls. The waterfalls are everywhere creating semi-circles of water that cascade down multi-layered rocks. ***

Capurpuraoan Rocks which means “White Rocks” were naturally carved by time. The massive mounds of rocks are made of corals that jut into the sea. Burgos officials have made the dazzling white rock a dramatic backdrop for photo shoots with visiting movie stars namely Jericho Rosales, Heart Evangelista and singer-actress Regine Velasquez. The sight of the massive rock-mountain could be mistaken for a scene from a sci-fi movie or could be an ideal location for the legendary Panday movies.
The Paoay Heritage House has been fully restored to its original glory after the structure has gained national fame for its bubble-topped octagonal house built by the owners’ patriarch the late Constancio Duque in the early 1940s. Locally known as the Duque house, the American period architecture was given tribute as one of three heritage homes in Paoay along with the well-preserved twin Bahay na Bato (white houses to locals) owned by the family of Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.

The Duque patriarch got the design in Chicago where he lived for 20 years. The old Duque is said to have hired, skilled carpenters to execute the architectural design that he had kept only in his mind. The octagon-shaped American architecture is made of wooden stone-cut façade with a bonnet of a roof.
Guling-guling Festival is an annual celebration that reminds Catholics among Ilocanos in Paoay town that merrymaking is over and that it is the beginning of the 40-day Lenten season marked by fasting and penitence. Residents end the day of earthly pleasures on the eve of Ash Wednesday with a mardi gras before marking the season of sacrifice.

“Guling-guling” means to smear the sign of the cross on the forehead using the ashes of burnt leaves. Instead of lining up before a priest, however, festival participants receive the imprint made from wet, white rice flour called the “bellaay” from the town mayor. Traditionally held the day before Ash Wednesday, the celebration gathers the old and the young on the streets for a day of dining, wining and street dancing. Town officials, however, kick off the event as early as February to generate attention throughout the Lent.



Human settlements

MANILA -- Contrary to popular belief, the human settlements concept is not an invention of former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It is actually a development approach that is practiced up to now in many countries, being another term that describes integrated area development. Unfortunately, the concept became a victim to political decisions in the Philippines , simply because it was identified with the Marcos regime.

In a remote village somewhere in the mountains of Zambales, the human settlements approach is about to be reborn in this country, thanks to an initiative led by a patriot named Manueldatu (MD) Rebueno. Simply put, the project will apply appropriate technologies so that the basic needs of the villagers could be provided, thus enabling them to have a sustainable way of life.

I remember from the old days of the Ministry of Human Settlements that former Director General Chitang Nakpil of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) said that technology is simply a “better way of doing things”. How right she is, because technologies need not be “high-tech” always, as long as it is used as a means of doing things in a better way.

In the project initiated by MD, the organizers are going to put in place a village cooperative that will go into the business of providing gas, electric, water, internet, cable TV and telephone services, among others. It will also go into the business of producing and selling organic feeds and fertilizers, organic poultry and livestock and organic fruits and vegetables.

The role of the village cooperative in this project is very crucial, because it is going to be the instrument for creating wealth among the villagers, which is a way for them to build and sustain their economies in the family and village level.

The anchor component of the project is a centralized biogas production facility that will produce gas and electricity, and will in turn power the water filter plant and telecoms infrastructure. All told, the mix of utilities will make the village partially self-reliant from the outside world.

There are more basic community needs aside from what the project is initially addressing, but suffice it to say that this is already a good start. In a world of show and tell, what is important is to build a proof of concept, so that other communities will later on be convinced that it is a good thing to do. Good luck to MD and to all the other organizers.
A three in one package of benefits awaits local communities that would have the wisdom to appreciate it. By planting cassava and sorghum as a tandem of crops, they could produce not just ethanol, but also flour and feed ingredients, all money making products with proven demand. By some stroke of scientific luck, both crops could produce the three products, actually making it a six in one package if planted together.

Although this might sound like a trivial matter to some people, the significance of this opportunity could be measured in terms of the potential value of substituting our importation of oil, wheat, corn and soybeans, all ingredients for producing gasoline, flour and animal feeds. Saving money from the importation of these goods is one thing to consider, but on top of that, the package could potentially strengthen not just our food security, but also our national security in terms of our energy supply.

I say that this is an opportunity for local communities, but I say that with a wish that our national government agencies would also discover the benefits of this package, for the good of the nation. Since this opportunity cuts across multiple concerns such as energy, trade and agriculture, this should perhaps be taken up in a cabinet cluster, or perhaps even in the National Security Council (NSC).

The opportunity to produce flour locally also opens up yet another opportunity of producing rice substitutes such as noodles and buns, considering the many health problems that a pure rice diet brings. This being the case, it may be a good idea for the Department of Health (DOH) to join the cabinet cluster that would talk about steps to be taken.

On top of all the benefits that could come out of this package, there is also the prospective benefit of producing organic flours that will in turn produce organic breads, aside from producing organic feeds that will in turn produce organic meats.

One might say that this package of benefits is too good to be true, but it does not take a scientist to prove that this is for real. It also does not take a genius to discover that this is do-able, if only the local communities and the government agencies would realize the simplicity of these technologies.
In whose hands could we entrust these opportunities? Following the norm in the other countries, we should fund our universities and task them to turn these ideas into realities for all of us to take advantage of.



Igorot slant II

Names hurt when applied with derision and contempt. As one black or African-American pointed out, he loves waking up to his wife’s greeting: “Good morning, my sweet Nigger”. It’s different, he says, when he’s on the job and a fellow worker acknowledges him with a sneer dripping with racial slur: “Hi there, Nigger!”

Tags and labels can also hurt when they tend to stereotype. When he was mayor of Sagada, Mt. Province, now presidential assistant Thomas “Champag” Killip was swamped with text messages demanding him to rectify a national news headline.

It was about the arrest of suspected robbery gang members poking their guns on tourists along the Halsema Highway. The news head identified them as “Sagada-Kalinga Gang”, a term coined by the police who presented the suspects in a press conference.

Killip verified and then called a press conference to announce that while the suspected gang leader was born in Sagada, he never grew up there. The police label, picked up by the media, was as unwarranted and unfair as those that ethnically identify marijuana bust suspects as “Igorots”, but not when the culprits are Tagalogs, Bicolanos or what.

I remember that time a school principal approached me after she visited Kiangan. She said it surprised her to find the old Ifugao capital was so clean, free from red beetle nut spittle, contrary to what she thought. She apologized, perhaps not knowing I trace my roots to Hungduan. Or she must have thought all Ifugaos are Kiangans.

While the debate lingers over the term “Igorot” (which means one from the mountains), it seems the furor has died out among indigenous peoples of America over their collectively being labeled by their European colonizers as “Indians”.

They don’t blame Christopher Columbus who mistakenly thought he had landed in India or the West Indies. As there’s no negative connotation to it, no American also seems to protest that his nationality was coined by German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller in honor of Genoan and Italian voyager Amerigo Vespucci.

The negative connotations of “Igorot” was also borne out of the ignorance of those who do not know us. Still, some of us are as guilty as those who believe we are descendants of an inferior race with tails who climbed down from trees only recently. Some of us still believe some women from Capiz are “manananggals” who, at night, detach themselves from the waist up and, with their bat wings and fangs, fly out against the moon-lit sky in search of blood to suck.

It simply sucks that some of us still attempt to detach and distance themselves from being called Igorot. The least we can do is turn the tables when the occasion comes. I like the sweet subtlety with which Igorot anthropologist Picpican did it when some students from the flatlands visited the St. Louis University Museum of which he was the curator.

The students were amused seeing some artifacts – wooden spoons and ladles. The group broke to hearty laughter when one quipped in wonder, “Ang laki siguro ng bunganga ng mga Igorot, ano?”

“Bakit, wala ba kayong nakitang ganyan sa bayan n’yo?” Ike gently asked after approaching them to tone down their glee. “Wala, sir.” “Wala kayong nakitang kutsara ng mga ninuno n’yo sa museum n’yo?” Wala kaming museum, sir.” “Meron naman siguro . Alangan namang hindi gumamit ng kutsara ang mga ninuno n’yo.”

One time, while on the boat to work in Venice, my son Boogie texted he felt proud to be an Igorot. He was wearing a “pasiking” (rattan backpack) and Italians and tourists on board were admiring its flawless craftsmanship.

Yet when he was young, Boogie was bothered being an Igorot for a different reason. While renting out his pony “Soliko” at the Wright Park, Boogie confronted me with questions about his identity. In their drinking sprees, the other pony boys, mostly Kalanguyas, ribbed him for claiming he’s half-Ifugao yet can’t speak Tuwali, his father’s native tongue. So he steeledhimself with gin, to muster courage to ask why I never taught him the dialect. .

I’m really sorry, it was my mistake, I told him, groping for answers. We’re the only Ifugao family in this (Pacdal Forest Nursery) neighborhood and I doubt if your uncles can speak Tuwali, I added, quite lamely.

He remained inconsolable. How can he be truly proud to be Igorot when he can’t speak the dialect simply because I didn’t bother to teach him? I’m so guilty now as I was then, while grateful to my old man for teaching me.

I can only hope Boogie’s wife, Lovelyn, would teach my grandsons Lukie and Dylan – and Boogie - her native Kalanguya tongue. They’re learning Italian and English, as they have to, and I shudder over the thought that the two boys would later ask the question Boogie had posed.

I’m sure the young couple will tell and remind the kids they’re one-half Kalanguya, one-fourth Ifugao and one-fourth Tagalog – and are Igorots I am certain, too, that my daughter Beng is proud of her Ifugao and Igorot descent.

Let’s move on, transcend the debate that wouldn’t die over our collective name as Igorots, and dwell on more serious issues confronting us in the Cordillera - the loss of our environmental and cultural heritage, including our native tongues.

On this, the words of Dr Lawrence Reid , researcher emeritus of the University of Hawaii, resonate. Dr. Reid, who lived for years in Guina-ang, Bontoc, noted during the recent International Conference on Cordillera Studies at the University of the Philippines Baguio:

“But what I find most disheartening are not the new words and new ways of saying things that are being used today, these are just part of the natural course of events as a result of intensive language contact. What disheartens me is the loss of traditionalknowledge."

Not only is ritual knowledge fast disappearing, but common terms for traditional baskets and their functions are no longer known by young people. The names for all but most common of the flora and fauna of the region are no longer known, or have been replaced by equivalent Ilokano or Tagalog terms. In other words, the unique richness of the dialect isbeing compromised.

Further on, he said: “Who are the people working on Cordilleran languages today? There are relatively few. SIL, Philippines has linguists operating in a few locations, but there is a great need for local people, such as each of you, to take a keen interest in recording the distinct language used in each barangay that marks it as distinct from others.

Remember that there is strength in diversity, and by discovering all of the features that mark that diversity, we are not only celebrating our unique identities, but we are building a hedge against the forces of globalization that eventually would destroy our cultures and what remains of the language we speak.”

He ended: “If you perceive yourself to be part of an indigenous group, whether or not the group is truly one of the original groups in the Philippines or part of the Austronesian cultural minorities, now labeled as indigenous, then you have a basis for claiming these rights, and hopefully recovering some of your fast disappearing heritage to pass on to your children.”

Finally, that quote from columnist Jose G. Dulnuan posted on the IGO website should sort out the debate: “I am an Igorot. Let me be treated as I deserve – with respect if I am good, with contempt if I am no good, irrespective of the name I carry. Let the term, Igorot, remain, and the whole world will use it with the correct meaning attached to it.” Period.– (e-mail:



Gambling in tourist town

Cordillerans from the international community supported the plea of Sagadans to rid the tourist town of gambling operations. Posting their signatures on the net via BIBAK and Mountain Province nets, Cordillerans based in the US, Australia, Canada, forwarded their support to the petition of the residents of this tourist town.

Residents of this peaceful village wrote town Police Insp. Eduardo Tufay to stop gambling operations in their hometown. Apparently, gambling has reached a point where savings of families and their properties as well are being pinched off for gambling.

Truly, this move by the residents deserve to be supported for the basic reason that a person works for what he receives. This is cultural, moral, and legal as well. With a people who are known for their hard work and industry, gambling just isn’t a way of livelihood in order to get by among the people in this village.

Work means getting up as early as 5 a.m., preparing food for the family and preparing to work in the fields as well. Land is farmed regularly from weeding to tilling to harvest with women, men, and the children taking part in the farm work. Eating from the toils of the soil goes along with the value of work and getting what one deserves from the work one has placed in.

One who goes outside of the soil and works in other legitimate occupations in and outside of the village including migrant work takes on that discipline one has learned at home. This gambling where one sits and tosses on those gambling dices and cards seemingly does not speak of what work means -- culturally and morally.

It’s not a surprise that people in this town are taking this illegal practice seriously. Although grumbling has been heard among some people for quite some time, a signature campaign such as this has gone to a real proper petition to do something about it.

People in this community are known for their frugality as well. Which thus explains their plea to “save the countless families of their savings and properties”. Where the letter is directed to the police inspector to consider gambling being “rampant”, this means policemen have to be serious about it and do their job, pronto and nothing more, nothing less.

It means the law should be upheld and the culture to be upheld as well. In the same manner, it means the peoples’ legitimate and valid sentiments have to be upheld as well and not to be subservient to the wishes of a few gamblers. Calling on Insp. Tufay to act on the petition against gambling.



It's time for Gloria to face the music

If only President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo knew that Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada would surface and spill everything that he knew about the ZTE-NBN corruption scandal, she would have kept Jose de Venecia as Speaker of the House of Representatives. As the saying goes, "Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer."

That's what she should have done with de Venecia, after all de Venecia had always been a loyal supporter of Arroyo -- from the time Arroyo was de Venecia's vice presidential running mate in 1998. In that election, Arroyo won and de Venecia lost to Joseph Estrada. Arroyo and de Venecia became close political allies, each one needing the other to maintain their hold on power.

In 2001, when Joseph Estrada was deposed as President, Arroyo was elevated to the presidency and de Venecia was elected Speaker. In 2005, when Arroyo was on the brink of losing her grip on power during the "Hello Garci" election cheating scandal, de Venecia together with former President Fidel Ramos, several congressmen, and local officials rushed to Malacanang and stood behind her. She survived.

Now, with the blistering testimony of Lozada, Arroyo is once again mired in another scandal, the magnitude of which is much greater than the "Hello Garci" scandal. Lozada testified before the Senate and implicated First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and former COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos in brokering the overpriced $329 million ZTE-NBN contract which was allegedly padded with a $130 million kickback for Abalos and Mike Arroyo.

Lozada also claimed that government security people abducted him -- he insisted he was "kidnapped" -- at the international airport on February 5 upon his arrival from Hong Kong. Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon, Jr. claimed that the family of Lozada had requested for security.

But when Razon was asked why he ordered Lozada "secured," he said that Environment Secretary Lito Atienza made the request on behalf of Lozada himself. However, on February 15, Romeo Hilomen -- chief of the Police Security Protection Office -- admitted that Lozada's family did not make a request for security for Lozada. Hilomen further admitted that he asked Lozada to sign a "letter of request seeking his protection."

Recently, an airport surveillance video was released showing Lozada in the company of five men, one of whom was positively identified as a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG). Lozada's testimony implicating Mike Arroyo and Abalos lends credence to the testimonies of Jose "Joey" de Venecia III and Romulo Neri, former head of the National Economic Development Authority, before the Senate last October.

Joey claimed that Mike Arroyo and Abalos brokered the ZTE-NBN contract. Neri testified that Abalos offered him a P200 million bribe for his approval of the $329 million deal. Neri said that he called President Arroyo and told her about Abalos' bribery offer. He said that the President told him not to accept the bribe but to go ahead and approve the contract.

When he was pressed by the Senators for details, Neri invoked "executive privilege." Recently, Neri publicly stated that he had suspicions that the ZTE-NBN contract was overpriced. He claimed that at the time he approved the deal, he didn't have any evidence or documentation to support his suspicions. That's hogwash.

He should know better that there are no paper trails in this kind of deals. They're all sealed with a handshake and a kickback. But betrayal happens all the time especially when large amount of money is involved and that's what happened in this sweetheart deal. Originally, Joey de Venecia was part of the deal and ZTE was not.

But because he couldn't go along with the $130 million "commission" for Abalos, his bid was rejected. He said that to pad his Build-Operate- Transfer (BOT) proposal with that amount, he would lose money on the project. Abalos then went to ZTE officials who were more than willing to accommodate his demand for a humongous kickback.

Since the ZTE proposal was not a BOT, all ZTE had to do was add the "commission" to the contract price. And to secure Malacanang's endorsement of the overpriced ZTE-NBN deal, Abalos allegedly offered a $70 million grease money to his good friend Mike Arroyo. So all that Abalos needed was Neri's approval of the ZTE-NBN deal.

The testimonies of Jun Lozada, Joey de Venecia and Romulo Neri have damaged the credibility of President Arroyo beyond repair. A direct link to Arroyo was established by Neri. Joey de Venecia linked Mike Arroyo to Abalos. Lozada linked Mike Arroyo and Abalos to ZTE officials. Is it then fair to presume that Gloria Arroyo already knew what was being cooked when she told Neri to approve the deal?

For all we know, she could have told Neri, "Don't accept Abalos' bribe; approve the deal and Mike will take care of you." There is no denying that the ZTE-NBN deal was endorsed by President Arroyo. Although Arroyo canceled the ZTE-NBN contract after Joey de Venecia exposed the graft, attempts to cover up the stinking deal have brought to the forefront of debate Gloria Arroyo's moral ascendancy to govern the Filipino people.

She betrayed the people and transformed the country into her family's fiefdom. But the façade of invincibility that she built around her administration is now showing some cracks. Demands for her resignation have intensified. The people want to know the truth. Yes, President Arroyo has to tell the people the truth about the ZTE-NBN deal.

But for her to tell the truth, she has to ultimately face the music and ask the people for forgiveness, and abdicate the presidency that she usurped in 2001 and extended in 2004 by cheating in the election. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has had her chance to clean up the corruption that pervaded at every level in her government. But instead of stamping it out, she turned a blind eye to the corruption around her. She used patronage -- and bribery -- to maintain her political supremacy. Arroyo must resign now. For the sake of the country, that's the only option left for her. (PerryDiaz@gmail. com)


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