>> Monday, July 28, 2008

Four other police ‘protectors’ probed: Razon sacks Dagupan cop chief in large shabu haul
By Jerry Padilla and Mydz Supnad

CAMP DIEGO SILANG, La Union – Four more policemen are being investigated for their possible involvement in the operation of a shabu laboratory discovered in Naguilian, La Union July 9 in the biggest shabu haul in the country in recent years.

Supt. Jane Aunzo, Ilocos regional director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency however, didn’t disclose names of the four cops pending the probe.

Supt, Dionisio Borromeo, who was relieved as police chief of Dagupan City, is also under investigation after an arrested caretaker of the shabu lab tagged him as the one who allegedly looked for the warehouse in Barangay Bimmotobot where the illegal facility was put up.

Investigators have found strong evidence that would warrant the filing of charges against Borromeo, Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon Jr. said in Camp Oscar Florendo in San Fernando City, La Union.

A ranking official of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group said probers have at least five witnesses who implicated Borromeo in the operations of the shabu lab.

“We have collated all the evidence and we are now evaluating all of them,” said the CIDG official.

Borromeo was summoned at press time to the CIDG headquarters to give his side on the allegations against him. He denied the accusations and promised to answer them “to clear my name at the proper forum.”

Aunzo said there would be no whitewash in the investigation even if policemen were implicated in the shabu lab’s operations.

Seized from the lab were six truckloads of chemicals and equipment that can produce shabu worth about a trillion pesos.

Razon said Tuesday he has ordered a rigid probe on the discovered shabu laboratory including Borromeo among other officials acting as protectors of those operating it. Razon bared this to newsmen saying he ordered the relief of Borromeo who was tagged as an alleged protector of the shabu laboratory.

Razon tasked Chief Sup.Raul Castañeda, director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, to personally lead the investigation into the allegation of shabu lab caretaker Dante Palaganas that Borromeo was the one who looked for the warehouse in Barangay Binmotobot, Naguilian where the shabu lab was put up.

Chief Supt.Romeo Hilomen, Ilocos regional police director, said the investigation stemmed from Palaganas’ allegation that Borromeo was part of their operations.

Following his administrative relief from his post, Borromeo was reportedly assigned to the PNP-Holding and Accounting Unit at Camp Crame in Quezon City to pave the way for the investigation.

Supt. Sonny Verzosa replaced Borromeo as Dagupan City police chief. Razon said a Task Force was formed to look into the possible involvement of other police officials. “I think meron pang iba (there are others) so we ordered a deeper probe.”

Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr., chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council in the Ilocos region, said being one of the authors of the Dangerous Drugs Act and himself a retired police colonel, he was concerned about it considering the volume uncovered.

Razon said he is also looking into the connections of the discovered shabu laboratory in Real, Quezon recently and the Naguilian shabu laboratory.

Meanwhile, Dagupan City Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr. said he was surprised and downhearted when Borromeo was administratively relieved from his post pending the investigation.

Fernandez said Borromeo performed well as police chief, especially in the anti-illegal drug campaign but if a police officer is linked to illegal drugs, “that is the worst involvement.”

Hilomen meanwhile warned constituents on proliferation of illegal drugs like shabu saying if there is something strange in a neighborhood like a disgusting smell similar to rotten egg, methane or ammonia, they should call the police.

He added a foul smell led police to the clandestine shabu laboratory in Naguilian. Hilomen said drug syndicates usually run shabu labs near a hog or poultry farm to avoid detection.

“They would say it’s just a piggery farm,” he said.

Hilomen said an asset of Senior Supt. Noli Taliño, La Union police director, reported the strange odor in Barangay Binmotobot, prompting police to conduct surveillance.

Hilomen said a foul smell also led to the recent discovery of another shabu lab in Real, Quezon which, along with another illegal facility in Laguna, yielded shabu chemicals worth about P300 million.

Three Chinese and two Taiwanese nationals and a Filipino were arrested in the twin raids.

He said the suspects there could be operating other shabu labs in the Ilocos region.

Intelligence reports said the Naguilian lab had produced about 100 kilos of shabu from May to July last year. – With reports from Jerry Padilla, Mydz Supnad and Jennelyn Mondejar



DOTC lifts transport ban on Kennon Road
By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera office of the Department of Transportation and Communications has lifted its order banning garage vans from traversing Kennon Road, the shortest route from this mountain resort city to the lowlands and vice versa.

The lifting of the ban is expected to help operators save on fuel expense amidst the soaring prices of oil. Lawyer Federico J. Mandapat, Cordillera DOTC director, issued an order allowing vans to pass through the 34- km road to help them cope with increase in fuel cost.

Because of the ban on Kennon, the drivers of the passenger vans erlier had to travel through Marcos Highway, a circuitous route to and from this city.

Last year, Mandapat banned garage vans from passing through Kennon because of its reportedly unstable, delicate condition, using as basis a report that the highway is geologically unstable.

All vans were ordered to take Marcos Highway to ensure safety of the passengers.

In lifting the ban on Kennon, Mandapat said his campaign against colorum vehicles and road-safety violations committed by van operators and drivers is expected to be boosted.

The ban on Kennon had caused a misunderstanding and mudslinging between Benguet provincial leaders and DOTC officials who traded serious accusations the past several months. On the Baguio section of Kennon, meanwhile, the city government has banned six-wheel trucks and mini buses from traversing the highway.

This was to ensure safety of motorists and protect the road from further deterioration.

Van operators and drivers said passing through Kennon resulted in reduction in travel time and fuel expense.

Compared to travel on Marcos Highway, Kennon trip resulted in savings of over P300 in fuel expense and cut in travel time by 20 minutes of travel, they said.

Perfecto Itliong Jr., regional director of the Public Transport Affairs Office in the Cordillera, said Mandapat’s order was laudable because van operators and drivers can now earn more considering hard times when everybody has resorted to belt tightening amidst skyrocketing prices of commodities.

At the same time, he said, the rift between DOTC and the transport sector was considered settled and a harmonious working relationship was now a possibility.

Earlier, the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau reported that 85 percent of Kennon areas were geologically hazardous especially during rainy season,
This was caused mainly by existence of highly fractured rock formations located in the mountain slopes posing serious threat to communities alongside the road as well as motorists using the national highway.



Abra folks barricade cops out to nab ‘untouchable’
By Mar T Supnad

BANGUED, Abra- Tension gripped the town of Baay-licuan when policemen who arrested recently a former barangay kagawad who was facing multiple frustrated murder were blocked by an angry mob who apparently wanted to prevent the arrest of the fugitive dubbed by the police as top wanted person.

Sr. Supt. Alex Pumecha, Abra police director, reported to Chief Supt. Eugene Martin, Cordillera police director that police operatives of Ba-ay Licuan under Sr. Insp. John Ingtitan were sent to Barangay Subagan to serve the warrant of arrest against Jovencio Lucas, 49, issued by Judge Corpuz Alzate of the Regional Trial Court branch 11 of Bangued.

As soon as the policemen captured the wanted person who went into hiding for three years after being indicted for multiple frustrated murder by Judge Alzate, residents in the area began to group themselves, then tried to block the armed policemen who arrested the suspect.

As the policemen tried to go out of the area, the residents barricaded and refused to allow the policemen to leave with the arrested person that led to a standoff.

Additional reinforcements from the PNP’s Special Action Force and from the Provincial Mobile Group had then arrived in the area to support their beleaguered companions. The residents claimed that the case filed against Lucas was already amicably settled.

However, Pumecha said, because of the diplomatic dialogues of policemen with the belligerent residents and with the arrival of reinforcement of the elements of Police Provincial Mobile Group and Special action Force, residents dispersed and allowed the PNP personnel to take the suspect.

Records showed the crime was committed on Aug. 29, 2005 at Ba-ay Licuan when Lucas allegedly ambushed and shot a certain Ave Anquilliano, Reagan Bandril, Aloy Dugayen and Alejo Domingo. Quoting witnesses, police said Lucas who was drunk at that time, then barged into a prayer meeting held by the victims and created a trouble.

He was pacified and told to leave and went home. But he immediately returned with a firearm and shot the victims. He was now under the custody of Abra Provincial Jail on same date of captivity.



‘Low prices causing low rice production: Hike palay prices, traders urge gov’t
By Dexter A See

BAGUIO CITY – Despite threats aired to reduce their allocations because of their exposè about the alleged diversion of cheap rice to rice-producing areas, rice traders here urged the national government to increase the buying price of palay. They said higher palay prices would serve as incentives for farmers to continue and increase production of the staple.

Instead of wasting billions of pesos in taxpayer’s money for allegedly overpriced imported rice, traders and retailers here said government funds should be used to jack up palay prices.

This could prevent farmers from selling their lands to developers who convert the farms into industrial or residential areas, they said.

If the government spends $ 1,200 or P45,900 per metric ton of rice, they added, the amount saved could be used instead to increase the buying price of palay from P17 to P20 per kilo. The increase in price would help the farmers cope with the rising prices of basic commodities.

In such case, 80 kilos of palay, which yield 50 kilos or one cavan of rice, would cost P1,600, way above the prevailing 17 per-kilo buying price of palay.

Aside from increasing the buying price of palay, the traders and retailers cited the urgent need to flood the Metro Manila markets with sufficient rice supply to help reduce the skyrocketing prices of commercial rice in urban centers.

The traders said that Region II, particularly Isabela, has abundant supply of rice but they are puzzled why the stock is not being released to Metro Manila outlets, noting the big demand during this so-called "lean months."

While admitting that there is a P2-P3 reduction in the prices of commercial rice, they said the decline in rice prices is still very low because the supposed regular price is from P28 to P30 per kilo. The national government had been bragging about the existence of sufficient rice supply in the country brought about by the arrival of hundreds of tons of imported rice, but it appears that the imported rice could not stabilize the prices in the markets because of the failure of concerned government agencies to flood the markets, particularly those in urban centers, with the stock in rice-producing areas.

They asked the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority not to limit their rice allocation as sanction for exposing the diversion of rice, saying the reduced allocation would adversely affect the poor residents.

Instead, the DA and NFA should act decisively by reducing the excessive rice prices brought about by the limited supply. This could be done by releasing the tons of rice kept in warehouses in Region II, the said.


‘Inaccuracies’ about Ifugao: Lumauig urges DepEd: Recall 2 elementary school textbooks
By Juan B. Dait Jr.

LAGAWE, Ifugao — Two textbooks approved by the Department of Education for use in the public and private elementary schools have been vehemently protested by former Ifugao governor and congressman Gualberto B. Lumauig for what he claims are derogatory references and gross inaccuracies about the rice terraces.

The former Ifugao congressman mentioned the textbooks as "Ang Lahing Pilipino sa Nagbabagong Panahon," prescribed by the DepEd for Grade 6 classes; and "Ang Lahing Pilipino" for use in Grade 2 classes.

Lumauig said on page 40 of Ang Lahing Pilipino sa Nagbabagong Panahon, the Ifugaos are mentioned as living in the province of Benguet. He also said the book, on page 41, describes the Ifugaos as "kilala sa pamumugot ng ulo, mabalasik, at mapaghiganti" ("The Ifugaos are known as headhunters, fierce, and vengeful").

Lumauig quoted the following passage found on page 5 of the textbook Ang Lahing Pilipino: "Kilala ang mga Ifugao sa pagiging mabangis, kinatatakutan ng mga Kristiyano, walang kinikilalang Diyos at ang Banaue Rice Terraces naman daw ay matatagpuan sa Benguet."

("The Ifugaos are known to be fierce, feared by the Christians, godless, and the Banaue Rice Terraces are found in Benguet"). According to Lumauig, the story entitled "Ang Alamat Ng Mina Sa Baguio" found on page 40 of the Grade 2 textbook Yakal Pabasa is erroneously illustrated with a whole-page drawing of the Ifugao Rice Terraces.

The Ifugao ex-representative demanded that Education Secretary Jesli Lapus "recall immediately the three textbooks which are derogatory and demeaning to the Ifugao people".

Lumauig was interviewed July 19 at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan where he launched his autobiographical book entitled "Ifugao: Into A New Horizon" where he detailed his work as Ifugao’s governor, congressman and assemblyman for many years.

Lumauig said present-day Ifugaos have generally acquired college education, many of whom are working professionally abroad.

"Ifugao has produced generals, doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, nurses, priests and nuns and many others in various professions", Lumauig said. Anthropologist Jesus T. Peralta, consultant of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said in another interview that in the ancient past, when civilization had not yet reached the mountain homeland of the Ifugaos, the natives followed their tribal laws and practices. "But this was true throughout the country and even in other countries," Peralta said.



2 Brods killed by rebel returnee
By Mar T Supnad

LAOAG CITY- Two brothers were killed Tuesday night when a former member of the New People’s Army shot them dead in barangay San Isidro , Bangui , Ilocos Norte.
Police identified the victims as Julius Cascayan, 47 and Agosto Cascayan 27, both married and drivers.

The suspect was identified as Christopher Agoo alyas Cristo, 37, rebel returnee, tricycle driver and resident of Dumalneg, Ilocos Norte.

Based on reports sent to the regional headquarters, Julius had just arrived in his home from work when the suspect arrived and suddenly shot him.

Julius was able to ask assistance from his wife Joselyn inside their house, but the suspect followed him and shot him with M16 armalite rifle that caused his death.
Upon learning of the incident, the victim’s younger brother went to rescue his brother, bringing with him his brother’s licensed Cal. 45 pistol but he was shot also by Agoo in the head that caused his instant death.

Agoo fled immediately to unknown direction bringing with him the firearm he used.

Police said the killings could have been caused by personal grudge between the victims and suspect.

But police are look into other angles while a manhunt operation is on for the arrest of the suspect.


Nursing student flees abductors in Cagayan

TUGUEGARAO CITY – A 20-year-old male nursing student of Cagayan Colleges here escaped from his captors in a remote southwestern town.

Police identified the kidnap victim as one Rufino Cabrera of Barangay Bassi, Solana town, whose July 16 escape led to the arrest of two of four suspects, one reportedly a cousin of the victim himself.

The arrested suspects were identified as Nestor Mallillin, the victim’s cousin and Leonardo Balubal, also of Solana town. The other two are still being hunted down.
Police said the suspects barged into the house of the victim around 8 p.m. on July 15, blindfolded him and then dragged him to a waiting vehicle.

They kept him at an abandoned school building in Barangay Talusay in Santo Niño town.

The suspects reportedly settled for a P1 million ransom when the victim escaped. He also recognized Mallillin as one of his kidnappers.

Senior Insp. Carlito Barsabal, Santo Niño police chief, said Cabrera freed himself while one of his captors guarding him was asleep.

He hit him on the head thrice with a club and later sought refuge with Santo Niño’s vice mayor. – CL



Scholar grants set for school

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Students enrolled at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College here who are not enjoying any scholarship grant will have the chance to avail of future slots provided they file their intention to be a recipient.

Dr. Nieves A. Dacyon, MPSPC president, bared this, adding the administration is doing its best to look for available scholarships for students.

Earlier, Kalinga Rep. Manuel S. Agyao, caretaker congressman of Mountain province, informed school and student leaders he will try his best to source out funds for the scholarship of the students who were not able to qualify for existing scholarship programs of the school.

With hard times taking its toll in the countryside, Dacyon said students deserve all the support from concerned groups and individuals to help them hurdle the expensive cost of attaining a higher degree of education which they would utilize to help spur economic development in the rural areas where they come from.

At least 2,000 students are currently enjoying the full scholarship program which was institutionalized by the late Rep. Victor S. Dominguez.

Sen. Manuel Villar had also facilitated the release of P7 million worth of scholarship grants to deserving students who are enrolled in various courses offered by the institution in order to provide the needed assistance for poor but deserving students to advance their knowledge and skills for productivity.

According to Dacyon, the application for future scholarships is still open but in case they will qualify with the available funds, their scholarship grants would be effective during the second semester of this school year.

“Education is the best inheritance that we could give our present generation, thus, we are doing our best to establish linkages with various groups and individuals who could support the education of our poor and deserving students,” she stressed.
With the influx of funds for scholarship grants, the MPSPC official cited the school could now implement various programs and projects aimed at improving instruction, research and extension and student development so that the standards of education would be at par with other private and public institutions in the different parts of the country.

Despite the smear campaign being done by some disgruntled sectors in the province against her leadership, Dacyon vowed to continue the implementation of programs, projects and reforms which would bring the institution to greater heights especially with the stiff competition in the education sector.

She branded her critics as irritants to the desire of the youth for better access to education and to become productive citizens of the country that would help contribute in spurring economic development in this landlocked province since the hope of development now lies in the present and future generations. – Dexter A. See



Soldier tagged in killing of Ilocos Sur cop, civilian
By Mar T. Supnad

BANTAY, Ilocos Sur – A female witness tagged a member of the Army’s 50th Infantry Battalion as the one who gunned down an Ilocos Sur policeman and a civilian last April 19, in a police line-up Wednesday. The witness pointed to the soldier, a certain Jake, from among 48 military personnel shown before her at the provincial police headquarters, as the gunman of SPO3 Joffrey Palacio and civilian Melchor Angala.

The witness said she had talked to the suspect prior to the shooting at the public market in Sta. Lucia town, said Senior Sup.t Virgilio Fabros, Ilocos Sur police director.

On the night of April 19, Insp. Joseph Cabreros, then the Sta. Lucia police chief, and three of his men responded to reports about the presence of armed men in a beerhouse, who turned out to be members of the 50th IB.

A misunderstanding allegedly ensued between the policemen and the soldiers when Cabreros questioned the military men for brandishing their firearms.

Apparently insulted, the soldiers left, but returned minutes later and fired shots. Lt. Col. Manning Tawantawan of the 5th Infantry Division and Lt. Col. Roy De Vesa of the 50th IB presented their men before the joint probe of the Army and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to dispel suspicions of a cover-up in the case.

“We are pursuing the angle that Jake, an alleged member of the Armed Forces deployed in Catayagan, Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur had an altercation with Palacio prior to the incident,” Fabros said.

Chief Insp.r Ricarte Marquez, the lead investigator, said the case against Jake would be finalized.

Fabros withheld the suspect’s identity pending a thorough probe and the possibility that more witnesses would come forward.

Maj. Gen. Melchor Dilodilo, commander of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, said they “won’t condone any wrongdoing among our men (if they are found guilty).”

“We were even the ones who offered that a police line-up be done for the witnesses to (identify who among) my men shot the two,” he said.

“It is wrong to claim that we are not cooperating. In fact, I even urged the Provost Marshall to push for the joint investigation (with the CIDG) to punish whoever is at fault,” he added.

Senior Supt. Marvin Bolabola, CIDG-Region 1 chief, said they had difficulty with the witnesses, who were guest relations officers in the beerhouse where the shooting happened, as they had transferred to Candon City. “We are now tracking them down,” he said.



Loakan airport closure stopped

BAGUIO CITY – The historic 70-year-old Loakan Airport won’t be closed, President Arroyo announced here, saying she was heeding pleas of local officials here even if it was seldom used by commercial airlines.

“We heard the cries of your local leaders,” the President said when she addressed Lakas and Kampi leaders of the Cordillera who met here July 18 to declare a Lakas-Kampi merger at Camp John Hay.

Baguio officials and residents earlier opposed the closure of the airport saying it meant a lot to tourism, business and sentimentalism.

They earlier petitioned the President to reconsider closing the 4.3-km. airport built at the former grasslands in Barangay Loakan in 1932.

Baguio Rep. Mauricio Domogan who signed in behalf of Lakas the merger declaration before President Arroyo earlier vowed political pressure on the President.

He had enlisted other Cordillera congressmen or urge Malacañang not to close

The national government earlier planned to close Loakan with the upgrading of the international airport in Poro Point, La Union.

The President told local officials if not for her reneging the closure, Texas Instrument within the Philippine Export Zone Authority in Loakan would be using the area for expansion of the US-based microchip manufacturing firm.

Domogan earlier insisted instead of the Loakan airport area, the abandoned mine sites of the Benguet Corp. in nearby Itogon town, in Benguet could have been used by PEZA for TI’s purposes.

Councilor wants ban on drinking, gambling in Baguio funeral parlors
By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Councilor Nicasio Aliping Jr. last week filed an ordinance prohibiting drinking of liquor and gambling activities within the premises of funeral parlors here. In his proposal, Aliping said drinking of liquor and gambling activities were rampant in wakes held at funeral homes.

Aliping said wakes are for mourning, grieving, sympathizing and condoling over the loss of loved ones but said intentions were supplanted when drinking sprees and gambling activities occur.

“As observed in funeral parlors, drinking of liquor and gambling are rampant and when drinking and gambling start, noise, rudeness and other violent reactions are triggered where trouble and conflicts arise,” Aliping said.

“In order to properly observe the wake practice and to mourn with the bereaved family members in a solemn, peaceful and orderly manner, drinking and gambling within the funeral parlor premises need to be prohibited,” he said. As proposed, these activities will be prohibited with notices and signages to be posted in funeral parlors.

Proposed penalty for violators is P500 or imprisonment of five days or both.

The measure will be discussed on first reading by the city council soon.

Samaritan delivers relief to poor laundrywoman

By Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- A Samaritan went out of his way Tuesday afternoon to look for Elena Solis, a 45-year old laundrywoman, while she was washing clothes in a church compound along Dangwa St., Guisad Valley here. “He handed P4,500 for my daughter’s treatment, but declined to give his name,” Solis, a mother of three girls, said, “He’s quite handsome.”

The handsome amount will be enough for the daily maintenance dose of Manellaine, Elena’s eldest. The 20-year old girl, an out-of- school who dreams of becoming a teacher, is suffering from lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys caused by a disease of the immune system.

Elena doesn’t know if the donor was the same Samaritan who had somebody call her two Wednesdays before, to pick up P4,000 from a government office here. She just knows she’s been lucky this month.

Manellaine is resting in their two-room rented house at 20 Pucay St., Central Guisad, recovering from the effects of that first four-hour chemotherapy done last July 7. She has five more quarterly treatment sessions, the second scheduled early October.
Somehow, her parents shouldered her initial six monthly chemo rounds since the illness was diagnosed in 2005. It left the family in deep debt. Her father Manuel earns P184 a day as a security guard, while her mother averages P300 a week - hardly enough for the basics and the house rental.

Like Elena, banker Rolly de Guzman can’t figure out who another Samaritan is, and admits he doesn’t even know if the kind soul is a he or a she. For months now, he or she has been sending Rolly, through a courier, amounts ranging from P6,000 to P8,000 for indigent patients. “Adda pay la gayam tao nga kasta,” Rolly said, awed by the regularity of the support.

Of the donor’s latest support of P8,000 , cancer survivor Linda (not her real name), a widow with nine children, used P4,100 for her check-up that cleared her breast cancer two years after she underwent surgery and chemotherapy.

A total of P1,503 paid for the maintenance dose of one-year old encephalitis patient Ruth Acyapas; P1,883.19 for kidney patient Filbert Almoza and P539 for the infant formula of one-year old Jason, whose mother can not breast-feed him as she’s into psychiatric medication.

“Adda pay la gayam tao nga kasta,” also exclaimed Pok Chan, a former concert-for-a-cause organizer. He was reading a few months back e-mails from an Ibaloi woman in the United States and from Baguio boy Freddie de Guzman in Canada.

The Ibaloi lady, who is raising her daughter, sent $250 last June, her latest in a series of remittances since April the other year. Converted by the drawee bank at P10,718.81, the support went to Almoza’s dialysis (P2,716.81), Jason’s milk and her mother’s psychiatric pills (P3,000), baby Ruith’s medication (P1,502), and post-cancer treatment tests for former day care worker Rose Ann Cordova of Outlook Drive (P3,500).

Bulk of de Guzman’s latest support of P19,000 was broken down as follows: P8,000 for victims of a bus accident that killed 12 persons last April, P5,000 for baby Irish Garcia who is afflicted with congenital heart ailment, P1,468 for Jason’s milk and food for his family, and P3,000 for Almoza’s dialysis.

A nurse who goes by the chat room name “Princess Lea” had allowed $500 (P22,000) of the remaining amount from her fund used for the heart surgery of 10-year old Santy John Tuyan to go to other patients.

The bulk went to the chemo of cancer patient Divina Amor Sabado (P13,000), transport of biliary atresia patient Kenneth Robeves (P2,000), post-chemo check-up of Cordova (P4,000), and infant formula for Jason (P1,000).

There’s another woman out there who, last February, wrote a check for P50,000 at a time she was having her own medical check-up. Partial use of the same was earlier reported. Those who would like to take the cue from last Tuesday’s unknown Samaritan may ring Elena’s cellphone number 09207034496.

Cordi DPWH head cries foul over ‘smear drive’
By Dexter A See

BAGUIO CITY – A top official of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the Cordillera cried foul over a series "of misinformation and baseless allegations" hurled against him by some groups.

Engineer Mariano Alquiza, regional DPWH director, said it was unfortunate there were people who wanted to discredit his good performance by circulating lies "to advance their personal and business interests that could prejudice the implementation of vital projects in the region."

Earlier, a group of alleged contractors requested DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. to transfer Alquiza to another region "because of alleged graft practices in the implementation of flagship projects of President Arroyo."

The letter sent to Ebdane was unsigned and obviously designed to create disunity and disrupt the momentum of the Cordillera DPWH office in the implementation of infrastructure projects in the region, he said.

The DPWH official added the unsigned petition was a direct attack on his person and credibility as a public servant.

He challenged anonymous petitioners to file charges against him at the proper forum.

Alquiza said he was willing to face his accusers and answer charges provided confrontation was done fairly and squarely.

Alquiza said he would file the charges against people who publicly accused him of graft and corruption, adding, they could not prove their allegations and continued to spread misinformation against him.

PMA entrance exams on Aug. 31

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City – The Philippine Military Academy entrance examinations would be held Aug. 31in 30 exam centers nationwide.

Lt. Col. Joseph Villanueva, PMA assistant chief of staff for civil military operations bared this saying the “PMA is offering a well-rounded, free college education and stipend while studying in the academy. It will usher them into a progressive career as an officer in either the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy or Philippine Air Force and the rare privilege to serve the motherland.”

To qualify for admission to PMA Class 2013, applicants must be a natural born Filipino citizen, of good moral character, physically fit, single and never been married, at least 5’4” for males and 5’2” for females but not more than 6’4” tall, at least 17 years old but not a day older than 22 years on April 1, 2009, high school graduate with a general average of 85 percent and able to perform the minimum requirements for a physical fitness test.

Villanueva said walk-in applicants are accepted. Applicants should bring their Form 137, NSO birth certificate, and 2”x 2” ID picture with white background.

Applicants are advised to prepare for the examination covering Algebra, Geometry, Grammar, Composition, Reading Comprehension, and Verbal/Numerical Reasoning and Pattern Analysis.

Free application forms are available at AFP and PNP units around the country or online at



Mine firm sets projects for Benguet town folks
By Mar T. Supnad

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet---The Royalco Philippines, which is conducting an exploration in Barangay Gambang, Bakun in this province will initiate more development projects for the villages in the town as stipulated in the memorandum of agreement signed among elders, the firm and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

The consensus was made during the re-consultation done at the Benguet Provincial Capitol recently among b
arangay officials of Gambang, council of elders, NCIP, the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) and Royalco representatives with the perticipation of Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan who served as mediator during the re-consultation.

The NCIP and Royalco have agreed to the request of Barangay Gambang chairman Alvaro Paquito for barangay officials to be allowed to add to the conditions cited in the MOA, which was earlier signed. Paquito said the Gambang barangay council was not able to outline the conditions it wanted from Royalco to fulfill because the company failed to consult with the barangay officials and get their endorsement to the exploration.

He said the barangay was made to understand its endorsement for the project was a requirement in the grant of an exploration. NCIP lawyer Severino Lumiqued, however, said a barangay endorsement is not required for exploration. He said the consent of the people, through the conduct of a Free Prior Informed Consent would suffice.

MGB Regional Director Neoman dela Cruz, said barangay endorsement is only
required when a company applies for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement, or when actual mining operations start.

De la Cruz added Royalco firms have completed all the requirements needed in the exploration and it did not commit any violations, saying they allowed the company to do the exploration along the sprawling 986 hectares at the four Sitios in Barangay Gambang, Bakun town. Among projects that would be undertaken by the firm are road rehabilitation and irrigation, among the programs cited in the MOA. Royalco's exploration permit is valid for two years, which is renewable until six years.

As this developed, Ruben Quitoriano, supervising engineer of the Royalco Philippines said they are much willing to sit down and talk with the barangay council provided the 10 council of elders representing the affected areas will also be part of the re-consultation.

“Our office is open to any discussion we are much willing to hear the peoples sentiments “, Quitoriano said.



Vendetta eyed in slay of Abra bocap

LANGIDEN, Abra -- Police are eyeing vendetta behind the ambush-killing of a barangay captain and his kagawad in Langiden, Abra last July 9. Senior Supt. Alex Pumecha, Abra police director, said tanod Alfredo Puedo, who survived the ambush that left barangay chairman Ronilo Baruela and councilman Samuel Lopez dead, pointed to a certain Samuel Palecpec, alias Willy, as their alleged attacker.

Palecpec, who also hails from Barangay Malapaaw, is facing murder charges before the provincial prosecutor’s office for the killing of Baruela’s brother, Avelino, in July 2007.

Three months later, Palecpec was ambushed but survived.

In a report to Pumecha, Insp. Sebastian Alcedo, Langiden police chief, said Palecpec suspected that the barangay officials were behind the failed slay try on his life. Alcedo ordered 24-hour security for Puedo.



Survey results inaccurate; MP folks silent on wealth
By Angel Baybay

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Officials urged residents to conscientiously answer survey questionnaires or correctly give out information to interviews regularly conducted by government offices so socio-economic situation of the province could be appraised better.

This, after policy-makers and planners observed data collected on some areas of the province in previous years did not to reflect the real scenario on that particular place.

Gov. Maximo Dalog earlier urged constituents to cooperate with barangay officials, health workers, day care workers and data gatherers.

He also ordered barangay secretaries to help monitor and document special events that may occur in their respective barangays. Special events include births and deaths and the circumstances of such deaths particularly if it is related to any disaster.

This was again reiterated by the Provincial Planning and Development Office in its radio program recently saying that plans are based primarily on data gathered or submitted by the municipal and barangay governments.

Mary Jane Tumapang of the PPDO revealed that one of the reasons why plans do not answer the real need of people or that social programs do not cater to the priority needs of communities is because of incorrect data.

Aside from policy and planning purposes, data submitted by municipalities are also used in determining possible recipients of special programs and aids. It would be recalled that some municipalities were surprised with the selection of less needy towns as recipient of the services offered by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

But as it was in other instances, the selection was based on available data. Some towns simply refuse to continuously update its data base. Worse, some would “freshen” it believing that a not so good data reflect poor performance among officials.

From past experiences, data collectors found difficulty gathering information most especially those with regards to the economic status of families. “People tend to withhold or give incorrect information that has relation to their economic standing,” one barangay official complained.

But some officials said community people usually refrained from giving out information indicative of their actual economic worth for fear that will be used for taxation purposes.

Others said that it is in the culture of the people not to talk about their wealth. “No one, even a millionaire will ever say that he is rich,” the officials said.

The fear of using collected data as basis for taxation was however allayed by data collecting offices. These are used solely for planning and policy formulation.



Ex-worker main suspect in murder of gas station guardBy Liam Anacleto

CABANATUAN CITY – Police have identified the prime suspect in the July 23 break-in at the Petron gasoline station in Barangay Aduas Sur here which led to the killing of a young security guard. Police Supt. Eliseo Cruz, Cabanatuan police chief, identified the suspect as JR Santos, a former employee of the gas station.
A manhunt has been launched for the capture of Santos.

Cruz said Santos has been tagged for the murder of security guard Christopher Aquino, 19, of Barangay Ganduz, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. Aquino was employed with the security agency Regent Protective Service, Inc. Aquino’s blood-spattered body was found lying inside the comfort room adjacent to the gasoline station’s office at 5 a.m. that day. He bore a one-inch incision on his left eyebrow.

Cruz said Santos was terminated as an employee in February after his employer found out he had been swindling his boss of earnings from the gas station.

He said Santos was able to tamper the gas meter by inserting a chord in the gas pump which showed erroneous reading. Because the gas pump has been tampered with, the actual gas sold to consumers would not reflect in the company’s computer.

With this, Cruz said, Santos was able to pocket the money paid for by vehicle owners who would gas up at the station. The anomaly was later discovered by the management which fired Santos. Cruz said it was possible Santos broke into the gas station’s office and burned the evidence necessary in the filing of a case against him by management.

He said his men are still gathering additional physical, testimonial and circumstantial evidence, including fingerprints that would help pin down Santos and his cohorts.



C. Luzon dengue cases up; 2,167 folk affected
By George Trillo

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – There have been 2,167 cases of dengue fever in Central Luzon this year, or 273.6 percent higher than last year’s wherein two deaths were reported. The DOH regional office based their data from the seven Central Luzon provinces in an updated report, citing Pampanga as having the most number of dengue cases.

Nurse Marilou Pajarillaga, of the DOH regional epidemiology surveillance unit, said, however, mosquito-borne dengue fever has not yet reached epidemic proportions in the region.

According to the latest statistics, there have been 796 dengue cases this year in Pampanga, 481 in Bulacan, 394 in Nueva Ecija, 177 in Tarlac, 172 in Zambales, 140 in Bataan, and only seven in Aurora.

Pajarillaga said the number of deaths rose to 17 from 15 a month ago – five in Pampanga and four each in Bataan, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija.

“We have observed clustered dengue cases in Barangays Pulong Santol and Sta. Cruz in Porac, Pampanga, but it seems officials have already done some fogging in these areas,” she said.

Pajarillaga said the latest figures indicate a 273.6 percent increase from the same period last year when Central Luzon had only 580 dengue cases.

She said most of the victims were school children. To address this, the DOH held at the provincial capitol here an anti-dengue forum attended by public school teachers from all over Pampanga. Similar fora for teachers are being held in other Central Luzon provinces.

During his recent visit to Angeles City, Health Secretary Francisco Duque warned the number of dengue cases this year could be “phenomenal” and could surpass the 1998 record. “Our highest (number of cases) was in 1998. Let’s cross our fingers and hope we don’t reach that, but there are indications it could reach, even surpass (the record),” Duque told reporters during the inauguration of the 11-story Dr. Evangeline Macapagal medical tower of the Angeles University Foundation Medical Center in Angeles City. “Let’s brace for the worse, but we are not helpless,” he said.

Duque added: “The trend (has been) going up since 2005 because of global warming which causes mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus to become extremely hyperactive. Because they are hyperactive, they have to feed more and bite more.”

Apart from global warming, he said the increase in dengue cases could also be attributed to urbanization and congestion.

“We now have more people, more congestion so mosquitoes do not have to travel far to transmit their virus,” he said.

He said in 1998, nearly 40,000 dengue cases, 500 of them fatal, were reported, noting that the DOH then had only “very few reporting satellites,” which are government clinics and hospitals which report dengue cases to the DOH. Statistics from private hospitals were not even reflected in the 1998 figures.

The DOH noted that nationwide, more than 15,000 dengue cases have been reported in the first six months of this year, or 43 percent more than the same period last year, with Metro Manila still topping the list with the most cases.

Other provinces with high numbers of dengue cases are Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon. But the dengue fatality rate remains low at one percent, which the DOH attributed to the quick response of the patients’ families and health workers.

Police tag crime gangs in Pampanga ‘salvagings’

By George Trillo

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – Criminal syndicates operating in Angeles City could be behind the “salvaging” (summary execution) of two men whose bodies were dumped in Magalang and Porac towns recently. Senior Supt. Keith Singian, Pampanga police director bared this saying the victims could have been killed as a result of conflicts within these syndicates.

One of the bodies, without a head, was dumped in Magalang. Supt. Rodney Louie Baloyo IV, town police chief, said the victim could have belonged to a robbery-holdup gang operating in Angeles City.

The second victim, whose body was found at the anti-lahar megadike in Porac, was reportedly also involved in illegal activities, according to local police chief Supt. Rolly Mendoza.

The bodies of three other men also surfaced in Arayat town recently. Police said the victims could have been abducted and killed in Nueva Ecija and their bodies dumped in Porac to mislead investigators.



Villasis farmer shot dead in wake
By Jennelyn Mondejar

VILLASIS, Pangasinan – The identity of a hooded armed man who recently shot dead a 58-year-old farmer while the he was sleeping at a wake in barangay Pias here is still being determined by police.

Police identified the fatality as Robinson Tugare of said place who succumbed to multiple bullet wounds in the body.

Investigation showed Tugare was then sleeping on a chair at the wake of the late Conrado Orial Sr. when the gunman approached the victim and with no apparent reason shot him several times.

The victim who sustained bullet wounds in the body was rushed by responding policemen to the Polymedic Hospital and Trauma Center where he was declared dead on arrival.

The suspect fled on foot after the shooting. Recovered at the scene were four spent shells for Cal. 45 pistol.

This, as three suspected members of the Budol-Budol gang are now in jail after they were arrested by police authorities in Poblacion, Manaoag.

Supt. Mateo Casupang, Manaoag chief of police, identified the three suspects as Marites Lazo, 35; Rosalie Nayo, 31; and Aida Balayo, 32; all residents of Barangay Lasip Grande, Dagupan City.

Casupang said the three were arrested July 11 after victim, Erlinda Cortez, reported to the police.

He said a follow-up operation resulted to the arrest of the three women.

Casupang said two male companions and another woman eluded arrest. Confiscated from the three arrested suspects were four pieces of fake gold rings, a fake gold necklace with pendant and a cellular telephone.

The three were placed under police custody while charges were readied for filing against them. Casupang said four other swindling victims also showed up at the police station and positively identified some of the suspects.



Ilocos Sur PNP chief orders probe on murder of bocap
By Freddie Lazaro

CAMP PRESIDENT QUIRINO, Ilocos Sur — Ilocos Sur police director Senior Supt. Virgilio G. Fabros ordered Tuesday police investigator to conduct deep probe on the killing of the barangay captain of Pug-os, Cabugao, Ilocos Sur last Monday evening.

Barangay Captain Ely Agustin Y Sinco, 40, was shot and killed by unidentified motorcycle-riding men while he was about to bring home his cow along the national highway at Sitio Bessang, Barangay Pug-os about 7:15 p.m.

The killers, who used a Cal..45 pistol, immediately sped away.

"Don’t leave any stone unturned in the investigation," he told investigators.

"I am appealing to the witnesses to come out and help shed light in the probe of the shooting," he said.



Gunmen shoot dead another village chief

ILAGAN, Isabela – Police are still clueless as to the suspects in the killing of a barangay chairman of an interior town last week, the sixth village chief killed here in less than two years.

Artemio Garcia Sr., first-term barangay chairman of Capuseran, Benito Soliven town, was shot dead by still unidentified men at around 5:30 a.m. while returning from a barangay night patrol.

Police said Garcia, a barangay secretary before winning the village chairmanship in last year’s barangay elections, was hit three times.

Senior Insp. Ronald Laggui of the Benito Soliven police, meanwhile, said police investigations appear to point to a 2007 land dispute and politics as possible motives for the killing.

Garcia had reportedly been receiving death threats before his killing.

Further, a 42-year-old carpenter was stabbed dead after a scuffle in San Felipe, Echague town, around 11 a.m. also on Wednesday.

Police said that Santiago Guirang, 18, allegedly stabbed dead Federico Barbosa as a result of an altercation between him and Guirang’s elder brother, Jose, with whom the victim reportedly had a grudge during an earlier gambling session at a wake here. -- CL



Providing public transport through conversion of vehicle engines to LPG

The national government is now being urged by concerned sectors to subsidize conversion of diesel engines into LPG-run machines to help jeep and taxi operators and drivers cope with high oil prices which had adversely affected their operations.

According to Perfecto Itliong Jr., coordinator of the Public Transport Affairs Office in the Cordillera, conversion of diesel engines into LPG-fed machines is very expensive. While admitting that a good number of jeep and taxicab operators are contemplating on converting their diesel engines into LPG-run engines, he said the over P200,000 needed for the change is beyond their financial capability.

For this reason, he said the government should come out with a viable package to assist the operators. At present, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) costs P35 per liter, much lower than the P63 per liter of gasoline and P58 per liter of diesel. In Baguio alone, hundreds of gasoline-fed taxi units have reportedly been converted into LPG-fed vehicles and are earning reasonable income.

He admitted continuous rise in the prices of fuel oil in the world market has greatly prejudiced their operations with the minimal fare increase not sufficient to cover the increased cost of petroleum products.

Taxicabs reportedly use 35 liters of auto gas for a maximum period of 36 hours in Baguio with a full tank of gasoline is consumed in less than 24 hours. Despite the peculiar terrain in the city, LPG users said performance of their vehicles was the same as with the use of regular or high-octane oil products, noting the high combustion rating of auto gas.

The conversion of gasoline-fed vehicles into LPG-run machines costs between P28,000 and P35,000, but the conversion of diesel engines into auto gas costs over P200,000, according to the transport sector.

The mass transport sector is hit hard by the economic crisis, according to operators, so there is need for government to provide assistance, which would enable jeep and taxicab operators to continue serving the commuting public.

Observers have noted a significant decline in the number of jeepneys and taxicabs plying the streets and many operators and drivers have opted to temporarily stop operations. The reason cited was they could no longer making good income as their daily gross collections are eaten up by the high cost of gasoline.

According to operators, the recent fare increase granted by the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board is not enough to cover operational expenses of vehicle owners in the Cordillera because of the region’s steep terrain. This, they said, is aggravated by the unabated increase in the prices of vehicle spare parts and maintenance cost.

There maybe merit in the operators’ complaints and request for subsidy, but how about the more marginalized sectors who need the money more in this time of hardship?



Of high prices and text jokes

We are still lucky – poor, hapless constituents of this Banana Republic as compared to other countries. In Zimbabwe – believe it or not – an egg now costs $36 billion due to hyperinflation earning it a spot in the Guinness Book World Records.

I wouldn’t be able to earn even one percent of that amount in my lifetime. That is why in this country where local officials are making decrepit programs just to earn a slot in the Guinness, even if everything like oil and other basic commodities are going up, we can still count ourselves fortunate.

We can still eat three times a day. But then, the number of families getting poorer by the day is increasing. It is pathetic when we hear news every now and then about men and women stealing, mugging, coercing, kidnapping or killing, so they can have something to feed their families.
Cost of living is getting harder by the day. In the Cordillera, the Dept. of Trade and Industry said prices of prime commodities in the Cordillera continued to increase the past several weeks. The price increases were attributed to domino effects of soaring prices of oil in the world market.

Consider these data as culled by the DTI: canned goods, which prevailed at P10.50-P11 a few months ago, increased by as much as P1.64 while an increase of P3-P6 per can was also recorded in the price of processed condensed filled milk. A hike of P3 was registered in the price of evaporated milk and those for babies. Not a good time for creating babies.

Prices of detergent bars was up by P0.50, soap increased by P2 per piece, while loaf bread recorded the biggest price increase at P9 for the 400-gram loaf during a period of three months and P18 for the 600-gram pack. If you can take it, you can wash your pants once a month but then, you would be depriving a soap manufacturer of profits aside from being the object of ridicule.
Despite rocketing rice prices, we still can’t become Americans and substitute bread for rice. For soap, we might as well learn how to make it from plants. But where to get plants when only a few own backyards and forests are supposed to be protected areas? Sanamagan.

The price of flour rose by P230 per 25-kg bag compared to its price over a month ago. Compared to the price three months ago, the current rate is P90 less. Sugar now costs P40 a kilo, while brown sugar is sold at P32. Three months ago, the prices were P38 and P29, respectively. We might as well learn how to make do without sugar. Better for the health and we wouldn’t be candidates for diabetes.

The price of canned beef increased by P1.50 per can compared to its price over a month ago. A P1.50 increase was also recorded for instant noodles. Might as well eat vegetables since price of the staple crops go down every now and then. Blame it on foreign “invasion” (importation of veggies) due to globalization – no thanks again to our technocrats and officials who dragged us into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade when we should have had protectionist policies.

The GATT has made life miserable for this country’s constituents like farmers, businessmen and exporters. But then again, nobody, not even the Senate can question our executive officials on account of “executive privilege” granted by Malacanang.

If the then booming shoe business in Marikina is a thing of the past, blame it on cheap imitation shoes from China, Vietnam and other countries who could export and sell these at low prices in the country due to cheap labor and materials in their countries of origin.

On construction materials, cement prices remained stable until several days ago when prices increased by P16 per 40-kilo bag. The prices of steel bars went up over three times as compared to the prices several months ago. For the moneyed, not a good time to build a house even if price of electrical supplies remained steady.

The prices of meat, fish and vegetable products recorded an increase of 10 to 15 percent. Afficionados would be happy to know that no increase of coffee products was noted, but then, Starbucks noted dwindling sales. We might as well not eat or drink, but then, we still have a lot of obligations.

According to the DTI, if oil prices would increase the coming weeks, prices of basic commodities would also rise. This would lead to a very difficult situation for poor families who would be deprived of basic goods. It might ignite another Edsa Revolution, but this is improbable considering that people have become immune to excesses committed by government officials like graft and corruption and are just waiting for the 2010 elections.

Aside from effects of rising prices of fuel, the agriculture sector is hounded by the devastation caused by calamities. This is aggravated by Pagasa projections that more typhoons are expected to hit Luzon the next two months. \
Pundits have noted that every time a woman became president of this blighted republic, our lives have gone from bad to worse. We might as well elect a male president next time around.

I’m running as president, err -- janitor, hehehe -- of my fans club at Le Fondue along Session Road in Baguio where I sing Thursdays. See you there if you like 70s and 80s folk, jazz and blues music. It could somehow make you forget problems spawned by You-Know-Who. Maybe, we could come up with something… like a political group for next elections. Ever wondered why … won every election? Joke only, hehehe.

Now for some text jokes sent to my cheap cell phone and diligently spelled out by Yours Truly for your convenience: Official announcement: The government is changing its emblem from Narra to Condom because it accurately reflects the government’s political and economic programs. A condom allows inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks and gives you a sense of security while you are being screwed.
Sabi Chinese feng shui: Kung salamin nasa hagdanan, swelte, glasya akyat. Kung salamin nasa pintuan, swelte, glasya pasok. Kung salamin nasa kisame, ikaw sobla swelte talaga … nasa loob ka motel.
INA: One to 10, di mo kayang bilangin? ANAK: Mas bobo si itay, nay, kasi, nadinig ko minsan sabi niya, “Tama na Inday… hanggang 3 lang kaya ko.”



All in the Family

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga -- In an age where just about everything is powered by electrical energy, it is no wonder that the stage has been set for total -- or perhaps absolute -- control of the Philippines' energy industry. The ongoing battle for control of Meralco -- the country's largest distributor of electric power -- is just the tip of the iceberg. So far the Lopez clan has managed to maintain control of Meralco. The question is: how long can they remain in charge?

The Lopez's control of Meralco has made them one of the most politically powerful families in the nation. It's not surprising then that the Arroyo administration is determined to wrest control of Meralco through GSIS President Winston Garcia.

One government agency that plays a pivotal role in the energy "power" play is the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). It's official mission is to "promote and protect long-term consumer interests in terms of quality, reliability and reasonable pricing of a sustainable supply of electricity." It's objectives are:

1) To promulgate/approve rules, regulations, guidelines and policies;
2) To enforce rules, regulations including issuance of permits and licenses;
3) To resolve cases (rates and other cases) and disputes;
4) To promote consumer interest; and
5) To become a dynamic organization of professional people with the highest degree of technical competence and integrity. With these objectives, whoever is appointed head of the commission would wield immense power in the fast-growing -- and very profitable -- energy industry.

With the spiraling rates of electricity, public distrust of the government has increased tremendously. A recent poll conducted by IBON Foundation showed that seven out of 10 Filipinos have trouble paying for their electric bills. However, the government has been blaming Meralco for the high rates which was the basis for the aborted takeover by the government. But one of the major reasons why Meralco rates have been going up is because of state-owned Napocor's alleged overpricing schemes.

Not too long ago, Napocor -- the country's largest provider and generator of electric power -- awarded two coal supply contracts totaling P1.27 billion to Transpacific Consolidated Resources Inc. (TCRI), a very small company with a paid-up capital of only P62,500. According to a news report, Napocor invited TCRI to bid a coal supply contract worth P319 million. TCRI was awarded the contract. Two weeks later, TCRI was awarded another contract for a whopping P956-million. Although, Napocor claimed that the first contract was awarded through competitive bidding, it's not clear if the second -- and larger -- contract was awarded in the same manner as the first.

TCRI was incorporated in Cebu on October 25, 2007 using an address at the business center of Danara Hotel, a small hotel in Quezon City. The incorporators were Leslie Ducut, Ressie Ducut, Lilia Yolanda Tuadles, Wilfredo Tuadles and Lorna Arceo. Four months after TCRI came into existence -- and with a zero track record -- it bagged the "second biggest contract in Napocor's coal procurement" history.

Nobody paid too much attention to the TCRI transaction until recently when President Arroyo appointed Zenaida Ducut, her deputy chief presidential legal counsel, to head ERC. Right after her appointment, fireworks flared up from all sectors. Ducut's appointment was branded as "politically motivated" and perceived to serve Gloria's political agenda. It is said that whoever controls energy power controls political power.

Aside from being a town mate of Gloria, Zenaida Ducut is a close political ally of Gloria's son, Congressman Mikey Arroyo. Ducut was a three-term congresswoman of Pampanga's second district. Termed out in 2004, she was succeeded by Mikey. A lawyer by profession, she practiced law for a while and her biggest client was the reputed "Jueteng King" of the illegal numbers game, Rodolfo "Bong" Pineda. Incidentally, Gloria, Bong and Zenaida all hail from Lubao, Pampanga.

As to Zenaida Ducut's relationship with Leslie and Ressie Ducut, Zenaida did not only deny that she was related to Leslie and Ressie, she also denied knowing them. Lubao is a small town where virtually everybody knew one another. Since Zenaida served as the second district's -- which included Lubao -- representative in Congress for nine years, would it not be fair to presume that she would know Leslie and Ressie? After all, the three of them share the last name "Ducut," a surname that is not as common as "Garcia" or "Santos."

With Gloria calling the shots in Malacanang and the powerful -- and influential -- House Energy Committee dominated by her two sons, committee chairman Mikey and Dato Arroyo, and her brother-in-law Iggy Arroyo, Ducut could become the perfect puppet of the Arroyo family. However, Ducut asserted that she will remain neutral and independent. If she would be able to maintain neutrality and independence, then more power to her. Her first order of business -- and first test of her "independence" -- should then be to look into the anomalous TCRI contract.

Was there overpricing involved in awarding the P1.27 billion contract? And, are the Ducuts only acting as "dummies" for certain people? If so, who were the real people behind TCRI? (PerryDiaz@gmail. com)



The subjects of our conversation

MANILA -- This is a continuation of my previous column, where I invited everyone to have a conversation with me, about giving charity to others, and about nation building. It may be difficult to establish a connection between these two topics, but suffice it to say that development is all about giving access to public services, and giving access to others as a way of sharing is both an act of charity aside from contributing to nation building.

I will leave it up to the Circles and Clubs to choose their own beneficiary targets. As a matter of fact, they could also choose needy individuals as their direct beneficiary targets. Preferably however, it would be best for them to provide assistance in any of the five main programs, so that we could support them at the national level.

It is part of human nature not to talk about our own acts of charity, which we usually keep close to our hearts. This is not a problem, but since we need to hear about what each of us is doing, we should encourage the members of the Circles to talk about what they are doing as a group, or what their friends are doing as individuals.

As part of our conversations, I am going to talk about individuals who have come to me for help. I will also talk about groups that apparently need help, even if they have not approached me. I will list down these individuals and groups, and the members of the Circles could choose which ones they would want to help.

In order to be able to keep track of all our conversations, let us all agree to post our comments in the following website, listed below. In order to limit the number of conversations in our website, let us avoid talking about our plans to help. Instead, I would encourage the Circles to talk about their experiences and the problems they are encountering in implementing their own programs.

The internet is already full of loose talk; let us be different by balancing our talks with our actions. In a manner of speaking, our public services do need the charity of our citizens, because of the usual reason that government budgets are always lacking, not to mention that these public funds often fall victim to graft and corruption, thus leaving very little to actual public expenditures.

Charity to persons is almost always urgent in nature, and would always need urgent actions. While it is good to respond to subjective needs, let us balance our actions with objective purposes, and we could do that by helping our local institutions with their physical and material needs, that way we could help more people as they are able to service more people in need.

Examples of local institutions are the local governments, the court systems, the prosecution offices, the police units and the health services in your own villages.

Examples of infrastructures are roads, bridges, buildings and other physical facilities, including school buildings and hospitals, among others. It’s not a very easy goal, but I am now trying to integrate what I am doing in my TV show, in my website and in my syndicated column. The purpose of my TV show is to bring out “The news behind the news”, but since I am a practitioner of developmental journalism, I always try to pick issues that have something to do with national development and nation building.

Generally speaking, we could say that the purpose of mass media is to inform the public about issues and events. Practitioners of developmental journalism however would like to also use the mass media as a tool for national development. The challenge I think is to make the mass media participatory, so that readers, viewers and listeners could get involved in issues, not only to comment, but also to do something to solve national needs and problems.

I know that I could not convince everyone to do something for others or for our country, but I am sure that there are many individuals out there who would like to do something, or are in fact doing something already. Let these be the subject of our conversations, what we do as individuals or as groups of friends who are doing something for others and for our country.

Email me at or text me at +639293605140. Watch my TV show “KA IKING LIVE” every Friday from 930 to 1030 PM in Destiny Cable Channel 3 (Windows Media Player MMS:// Visit my website Form your own Intercharity Circle and let us build our Nation as one people.



Cradling the watershed cradle

BAGUIO CITY -- Region 1 is now worried over the dwindling river flow from these uplands that is the life-blood of its lowland agriculture economy. It said so in a message from its Regional Development Council, the National Economic and Development Authority and the National Irrigation Administration to their counterparts up here in the boondocks.

They reiterated the obvious: Less water flow, less food production. And the less obvious, or what has been ignored for quite sometime: Watershed preservation is a collaborative task. For so long now, the Cordillera has been at the receiving end of neglect. In a “user-friendly” view of national development, the resource base is ignored until it fails to produce and deliver.

Or when it refuses to, as in the case of upland tribal villages now opposing new, “responsible” gold mining explorations and operations because previous extractions had them left holding the empty bag. Or when the lowlands get flooded, perceived to have been triggered by deforestation or siltation from the dams or mines up here.

It’s more than spilt milk that the Cordillera lost and sacrificed in the name of national development. Yet we’re told the whimpering, the shouting in our remaining wilderness, is over. We’re told it’s time to move on, for the sins of neglect will no longer be repeated – again.

With its message, Region 1 (together with Regions 2 and 3 which also benefit from the law of gravity) can now help us square the account of national development. Perhaps at the roundtable, they can help us address the following suggested resolution to our national development planners and decision-makers in imperial Metro-Manila:

1. Urging the Department of Energy to re-define “host community” under the implementing rules of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, from one based on dam location to one anchored on the river-basin concept.

You see, for every kwh produced and sold from the operation of the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan, one centavo is set aside for livelihood and other development projects for the “host community”, to include watershed conservation and protection.

While Benguet is where San Roque’s watersheds are, it can’t avail of the fund as it does not fall within that myopic definition of a “host community” provided for by the EPIRA’s IRR. The term is limited to where the dam is located, in this case in San Nicolas and San Manuel in Pangasinan. Pangasinan is qualified to a share as host province, so with Region 1 as host region. One centavo may mean nothing, except when equated to the fact that San Roque has a 340-megawatt capacity.

2. Urging the Office of the President, the Congress, the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, the National Power Corp., the National Irrigation Administration and other national line agencies supposed to be concerned, to come up with incentive policies for the keepers of the watersheds up here.

For generations, the integrity of the Cordillera watersheds was maintained not because of state policy but through indigenous wisdom exemplified by the “tayan” of Mt. Province, the “lapat” of the Tingguians and the “muyong” or “pinugo” of Ifugao. In fact, state laws were passed and are still in effect that restrict and constrict the indigenous peoples’ access to the land and forest resources that they have conserved for centuries for their - and the lowlands’ - survival.

The law did not allow them to have titles to their lands that are over 18 degrees in slope. It bans them from cutting trees situated 1,000 meters above sea level and over. It was only lately that their watershed preservation practices, which are the original models of community-based resource management, are starting to be recognized by government.

The purpose of a watershed is to slow down the flow of water to the river and to the sea, so that it will seep down to re-charge the water table underground. That’s what the rice terraces do – slow down the water flow. This system made the terraces monuments to “sustainable development”, long before world leaders started mouthing that term in the 1992 World Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

3. Urging the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Congress to include the preservation of the Cordillera mossy forests in the country’s Forest Management Plan - if such plan exists and has been ratified.

Our mossy forests up here serve as the water tanks and towers of the river systems that are dammed for electricity of the urban centers and for irrigation of the lowland farms. They act like a sponge, harvesting and absorbing mist and rain, releasing water gradually to form the rivulets, creeks and springs that form the rivers into the river that flow into the dams and channeled to irrigate the lowland rice lands.

While their damp condition insulates the mossy forests from heat, their natural elevation immediately above or beside the resinous and easily combustible pine stands makes them also vulnerable to fires. We are losing these unique and vital forests because conservation is focused on the lower forests of these islands. We do not even have a national forest fire management plan, and all fires are under the Bureau of Fire Protection that concentrates on structural fires.

4. Urging the National Water Resources Board and the National Irrigation Administration to review and fine-tune equitably policies governing access to and harnessing of water resources.

It took too long for the government to transfer the NWRB from the infrastructure-based Department of Public Works and Highways to the DENR. We understand the NWRB had awarded water rights over rivers up here to electric power developers and speculators from the outside without the knowledge and consent of indigenous villagers who regard water as a common resource. It’s a good thing that the NIA up here under regional director Abe Akilit is already including provisions for sustainability of water sources in its irrigation development plans.

Yet we wonder how many irrigation projects in the past went to waste because of their limit to infrastructure – dam, inlet and outlet -, without ever taking into account the protection of the watersheds that fed them and had since dried up. 5. Urging the Department of Energy and other (supposed to be) concerned agencies to share electric power to all the villages up here in the Cordillera which is the source of that energy.

The two dams built up here in the 50s – the Binga and Ambuclao – are now on their death throes, yet some of our villages within spitting distance of these power generators have yet to be energized. Some of the people displaced by their construction remain uprooted, like pine that can’t survive in lowland relocation sites. Over at the Magat, Ifugao is deep in conflict with neighboring Isabela over which has territorial jurisdiction over the plant.

Perhaps the practical thing for the Cordillera RDC and NEDA to do is to help its local government units seek grants for the building of mini-hydros to be owned and managed by them for a resource base-friendly system. ( for comments).


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