Abra bishop willing to help ex-governor: Valera sends surrender feelers to PNP director

>> Sunday, August 30, 2009

By Dexter A. See and March Fianza

BANGUED, Abra — Religious leaders in this conflict-stricken province are willing to help facilitate the surrender of former Gov. Vicente Valera if he decides to face the charges filed against him in connection with the murder of Congressman Luis “Chito” Bersamin Jr. who was shot dead on Dec. 16, 2006.

Bangued Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian said the surrender feeler sent by the Valera camp to the Philippine National Police is an indication there is strong possibility unity in the province could be realized.

"Being an instrument of peace, this is my main mission - to help everyone attain reconciliation for both families and to stop the violence specially during elections," the Bishop said.

Jaucian said he is praying for the reconciliation of the two feuding Valera and Bersamin families, adding this would be the most precious gift for the people of Abra during the centennial celebration of the missionary Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in the province.

"I am very willing to assist and even accompany the former governor if he will ask for my help. Their family and that of the Bersamin's are close to me," Jaucien said.

But despite the surrender feeler sent by the former governor, Charry Bersamin, eldest daughter of the slain lawmaker, said her family is still offering P350,000 for anyone who could provide vital information that could lead to the arrest of the former provincial official and his close-in aide, former Army Sergeant Leo Bello.

Bersamin’s daughter said P250,000 is earmarked as reward for the arrest of Valera, while the remaining P100,000 is intended as price for the arrest of Bello.

"They have to respect the process. We feel that it is unfair on our part because despite his (Valera) statement that he had nothing to do with the killing of my father, he still remains in hiding." she said.

At present, the teams formed by the police leadership to track down Valera are conducting a hunt for the former governor who is tagged as the mastermind in the murder of Bersamin.

In the feelers sent to PNP chief Director-General Jesus A. Verzosa, Valera signified his intention to answer in the court the serious allegations against him.

Other sectors in the province are also working on the reconciliation of the two families in an effort to put an end to the anxiety of the people.

Abra is tagged as the “killing fields of the north” because of the wave of violence caused by the intense political rivalry which has claimed the lives of hundreds of politicians and their supporters in the past three decades.


Tribal folk get P142 M from Philex

TUBA, Benguet – The management of the Philex Mining corporation here released a total of P142 million to an indigenous peoples group representing partial payment for their royalty over the past two years which will be used for community development and other socio-economic programs for the benefit of communities hosting the large-scale mining operations.

Out of the said amount, P82 million represents the total royalty of the Indigenous peoples Organization of Alang, Pukis, Sabian, Santa Fe, Oliba and Luacan (IPO-APSSOL) last year while P60 million will be the advance payment of the mining company to the organization for its royalty this year.

Under a memorandum of agreement signed between IPO-APSSOL representatives and officials of Philex in January last year, the mining firm is obliged to pay the group a royalty amounting to 1.25 percent of the firm’s annual gross receipts for a period of 25 years.

Lawyer Eduardo Aratas, chief of Philex’s legal division, said host communities will continue to enjoy the benefits and privileges of the extended life of the mine firm, thus, they must intelligently utilize their share from the royalty they are receiving so that they will be able to sustain the development of their communities as well as their sources of livelihood once the firm will close operations.

In a latest pronouncement, Philex disclosed its lifespan is extended for another three years from 2014 to 2017 but appropriate explorations are still being undertaken by the company to look for other potential ore sources within the vicinity of the existing minesite in Padcal so that it could further prolong its operations for the benefits of its over 2,000 employees and the host communities.

The IPO-APSSOL gave its free and prior informed consent for Philex to continue its mining operations within a 98-hectare natural subsidence area within their territorial jurisdiction with the committed substantial assistance from the company with P60 million which is part of the royalty to be paid in advance within the early parts of the year.

The mining operations of Philex is located within the boundary of Tuba and Itogon towns, thus, the royalty of the organization will be distributed for community development and socio-economic projects in the six identified host communities within the jurisdiction of the two local governments.

Philex is one of the biggest copper mining companies nationwide which has ventured in gold production that continues to bring the company to greater heights.

Aratas cited the company will continue to extend appropriate and lawful assistance to host communities of Philex’s mining operations in recognition of the role of the indigenous peoples in the conduct of sound and responsible mining activities and their commitment to support such operations in the coming years.

He added the extended lifespan of the company is because of the convincing global metal prices brought about by the consistent high demand for metals in the world market over the past several years which reinvigorated the local mining industry. -- Dexter A. See


Cultural activities on as Baguio marks centennial

BAGUIO CITY- The month of September is teeming with centennial-related activities but the celebrations run throughout the year, with government and non-government offices and the public taking part in activities in selected venues around the city.

Anchored on the theme “Fostering A Culture of Caring,” activities are tailored to cater to individuals of all ages.

The Baguio Centennial Commission schedule shows that earlier activities included art workshops; musical, floral and cultural shows; fellowships and religious celebrations; and an eat-all-you-can buffet at the University of Baguio yesterday, Saturday. A symbolic awarding of the “Builders of Baguio,” also happened yesterday in honor of Baguio’s pioneers, with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as special guest.

Today, sports activities take center stage with the Baguio Triathlon at the Baguio Athletic Bowl; Kennon Run along Kennon road; Soccer tournament at Melvin Jones, Burnham Park; and boxing championship at People’s Park. All Churches shall also offer Thanksgiving Services and Masses today, as at 5 PM, the Sister Cities Exhibit opens at SM City.

On Monday, August 31, The Sister City International Summit takes place at Supreme Hotel, Magsaysay Avenue, from 8 AM to 10 PM; a Centennial Eve Concert at 7 PM shall be presented at People’s Park, sponsored by the University of the Cordilleras. Earlier at 5 PM, a Centennial Photo Exhibit, “Our Baguio: 100” opens at SM City Baguio, as sponsored by the Baguio Benguet Studies,.

During the early hours of Baguio’s Charter Centennial Anniversary, a search for the centennial baby goes on at Baguio’s Hospitals. Centenarians shall also be chosen for the occasion.

On September 1, the city wakes up to peals of all church bells and sounding off of sirens at 6 AM. A “Mambunong” performs a Bakdiw (chant) at upper Session road, as the centennial parade starts at 8 AM from the top of Session road to Athletic Bowl, Burnham Park; where a program follows.

Four floats shall be fielded along with the parade; the Centennial Float, Flower City Float, Wood Carving Float and “Abong” Float, showcasing Baguio’s evolution through the years.

At noon, the Builders of Baguio Sculpture shall be unveiled at the entrance of the Botanical Garden.

A Commemorative Stamp shall be launched at the Baguio Country Club during the Centennial Ball, while fireworks caps the day at four venues, Cathedral, University of Baguio, City Hall and Camp Allen at 7 PM. Simultaneously, Miss Centennial shall be presented and chosen at the Baguio Convention Center.

The National Historical Institute (NHI) shall also be having a Baguio Centennial Conference at Teachers Camp on Sept 1, with a teacher training on Philippine History and Heritage on Sept 2 and 3.

In the evening of Sept. 2, the Solarization (lighting) of Burnham Park shall be inaugurated by the Lake View Deck.

On Sept. 3 to 5, an art and photo exhibit, art workshop, parenting and early intervention seminar goes on at the Lions Clubhouse

On Sept. 3, an International Peace Theatre Arts shall be done at the Baguio Convention Center, as on Sept. 4, models tread the catwalk at SM City at 6 PM, showing off the metamorphosis of fashion of Baguio through the years.

A one-man exhibit takes place on Sept. 5, at the Manor, Camp John Hay.

The University of the Philippines presents Baguio Stories: A Play on Sept 5 and 6.

On Sept. 6, a road race dubbed “Paa-Bilisan road race series” goes on , as with a cat and dog show at SM City Baguio, and the Post Postcard Panoramas of Baguio at the Ben Cab Museum, done by various artists.

Scheduled activities for September include an art workshop at Tam-awan Village on the 12th, with art exhibits, dance sports, longest longaniza and culinary arts parade, amateur boxing competition, mountain bike fun race, and lecture on arts and environment.

On Sept. 30, a centennial jobs fair takes place at the Baguio Convention Center.

Other activities are the Baguio Association of Restaurants’ Tossed Salad and “Shake, Baguio, Shake,” Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s “Ubdan Daing,” Architectural Exhibits, Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Family Week, Centennial Menu, and Information Technology Robotics.
October marks the centennial scouting month; the Chinese community celebrates moon cake festival; the Brown Madonna anniversary; Catholic Revival; Taekwondo National Competition; Elderly Week; Film Festival; Science and Math Fair. Halloween funfare also takes place during the end of the month, with sponsors for various events.

For November, the Cultural Festival of the Cordillera Region takes place, with the International Education congress; garden and orchidarium show; Fil-am Golf tournament; National Advertisement Congress as hosted by the city; Narda’s Fashion Show; Kennon International Friendship Challenge; Baguio Builders’ Kennon Walk and Debate festival. The month also features the Cordillera culture as one of the country’s best.

December features another garden show at the Baguio Orchidarium at Burnham Park; Interschool chorale competitions; Art Workshops; Extreme Sports Championships; Feeding Programs; and International Day for Persons with Disabilities as sponsored by the DSWD.

Other details as to the activities may be requested from the Baguio Centennial Commission based at the Baguio Convention Center, tel. no. 446-2009. – Julie G. Fianza


Jeep falls off cliff; 4 killed, 5 hurt

ITOGON, Benguet – Four residents here were killed while five others were hurt after the passenger jeep they were riding in plunged down a 200-foot cliff here Tuesday night.

Fatalities were identified as Seperino Golingab, 81, and his wife, Sarah, 78; Virginia Tomino, 49 and Emiliano Tomino, 50, all residents of Barangay Dalupirip here.

Rescuers rushed the injured to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.

Rafael Valencia, chief of Rescue 911, identified them as Bernand Cunanan, 17; Emiliano Esnara, 56; Remedios Dipayso, 53; Dolores Galunza, 47; and Leonardo Saley, 27.

Police said the passengers were heading home after attending a wake in Baguio City, around 8 km from here when the accident happened.

Initial investigation revealed cause of the accident was the slippery and rough road.

But police said they were probing other causes of the mishap like mechanical failure.


5 ranking NPA leaders nabbed in Santiago City

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya– Five ranking members of the communist New People’s Army, including their political officer and top propagandist, were arrested by joint Army-police operatives in neighboring Santiago City last week.

Maj. Gen. Nestor Ochoa, chief of the Army’s Isabela-based 5th Infantry Division identified the two captured top regional leaders of the traditionally Maoist NPA as Alan Sia alias Ka Jasper, first deputy secretary of the NPA’s Cagayan Valley-Southern Front; and his wife Marvie Valencia, alias Ka Midas, a second deputy secretary and political officer.

The two were arrested, along with three other suspected rebels, by joint elements of the Army’s 502nd Infantry Brigade, 45th Infantry Battalion and the Santiago City police at their safehouse in Purok 7, Balintocatoc, Santiago City early morning on August 20.

Also arrested were Freddie Ruiz alias Ka DR; his party wife Jacky Valencia, a medical officer; and Marilag Juana Daniel alias Ka Luna, education propagandist and communications officer.

In his report to Army chief Lt. General Delfin Bangit, Ochoa said the successful arrest of the suspected rebels was the fruit of months of surveillance work in coordination with the local police.

According to Ochoa, Ka Jasper, also known as Ka Aloi/Ariel/Robert in the underground movement, is a regular member of the NPA’s regional party executive committee (Execom). He was arrested by virtue of an arrest warrant for double frustrated murder docketed as Criminal Case No. 24-1384, and another case at the regional trial court in Echague, Isabela.

Moreover, Ka Midas, also a regular member of the regional party Execom, was arrested for a bank robbery case and for illegal possession of firearms lodged against her at RTC Isabela. -- CL


Pampanga to have Pineda as governor by December?

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga– A lawyer of Gov. Eddie Panlilio said the Commission on Elections is “bent on proceeding” with the recount of the 2007 gubernatorial votes in this province and finish its task within three to four weeks.

At the rate the poll body is pursuing the recount, lawyer Ernesto Francisco said Pampanga “might have” former provincial board member Lilia Pineda as its governor by Christmas.

Francisco told newsmen the Comelec is keen on proceeding with the recount, “thus, our motions are being denied or disposed of right away.”

“The concerted effort to unseat Gov. Panlilio might just work and Pam¬panga might just have Lilia Pineda as its governor in time for Christmas,” he said.

This, as pastors representing various Christian denominations across Pampanga announced the other day that they would hold fasting and continuing prayers for a stop to the vote recount.

The pastors, organizing themselves into the Pampanga Christian Ministers’ Council, told a a press conference here last week they believed in the “integrity” of the 2007 gubernatorial race where Panlilio won by 1,147 votes over Pineda, the gubernatorial bet of the administration Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino.

“This recount ushers in a bleak scenario for future elections in the country,“ the PCMC said in a statement.

The pastors hail from the towns of Apalit, Guagua, Candaba, Macabebe, Masantol, Porac, Floridablanca, Sto. Tomas, Minalin and Mexico and this city.

The group, including one from the Jesus Is Lord Movement, gave testimonies on the credible conduct of the 2007 gubernatorial polls.

While legal actions to stop the recount already exhausted, Francisco said, “The holding of rallies will help if only to highlight the fact that this recount is the result of a sham protest.”

JIL pastor Albert Musngi said Panlilio’s camp could not have committed anomalies in the 2007 polls as the governor was not even entitled to watchers in voting precincts because he ran as an independent candidate.

Pastor Joy Pongco, “mission keeper” of the PCMC, said the council has raised at least P51,000 for Panlilio’s revisors and watchers in the ongoing vote recount.

Panlilio earlier said he could not afford the cost of hiring recount revisors and watchers even as Pineda, as early as 2007, had deposited with the Comelec some P4.4 million for the recount expenses.

Pineda, in a telephone interview, said she has left to her lawyer all matters concerning the recount.

“Let’s just wait for the outcome, if at all there will be before the elections next year,” she said.

Pastor Gel del Rosario said that should Panlilio lose in the recount, “the Filipino people will not allow that we (Kapampangans) be toyed with,” as he recalled how Filipinos expressed their sentiments for former President Corazon Aquino when she died last Aug. 5.

Del Rosario, however, said the PCMC is not necessarily fighting for Panlilio, but for “righteousness.”

Francisco, meanwhile, bewailed reports that the Comelec is considering Pineda’s alias “Nanay Baby” in the vote recount. Pineda said votes bearing her alias were not counted in her favor in the 2007 polls.

But Francisco said this would be “perjurious” since Pineda’s electoral complaint also cited “misreading and misappreciation of ballots, insertion of fake or unofficial ballots, fraud and other election anomalies, dagdag-bawas and vote buying.” -- DC


Bulacan mayor dies at age 59

SAN JOSE DEL MONTE CITY, Bulacan– Mayor Eduardo Roquero of this city died of heart attack Monday afternoon at age 59.

Dante Navarro, the city information and tourism officer said Roquero was on his way to the city hall Monday when he felt uneasy.

He was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital where he passed away around 12:15 p.m.
Navarro said that Roquero had been battling diabetes for a long time.

“Kumplikasyon daw ng diabetes yung heart attack ni Mayor sabi ng duktor,” Navarro said.

He added Vice Mayor Rey San Pedro will assume the mayoral post, while first councilor Noli Concepcion will assume the post of presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panglungsod.

No replacement has been announced yet on who will assume the position of 10th city councilor.
“He is a great loss to the city,” said Navarro referring to Roquero.

At the time of his death, Roquero was serving his first term as mayor after serving as the first congressional candidate in the city’s lone district from 2004 to 2007.

A medical doctor by profession, Roquero was first elected as mayor of this city in 1995 and completed his third term in 2007.

In September 2000, he led the conversion of the 10th town of San Josel Del Monte into the first component city of Bulacan.

Upon his return to the mayoral post of this city, Roquero led the signing for the construction of a super city in Barangay Tungkong Mangga here where the terminal of the MRT 7 will be constructed.

The said super city project is envisioned to rise within this city and expected to generate thousands of jobs.

Roquero was the third local official in Bulacan to die within the year.

In June, Mayor Roberto Oca Jr., of Pandi town passed away, while Eduardo Alarilla, the former mayor of Meycauayan City died in March. – Dino Balabo


DPWH teams in Cordillera to evaluate SONA projects

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Several technical teams were dispatched by the Department of Public Works and Highways central office in the Cordillera to check implementation of the P5.2 billion State of the Nation Address (SONA) projects of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo if they were properly done and will be able to complete the infrastructure projects by the end of this year.

The periodic inspection of the SONA projects is in accordance to orders of the President to Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. for all SONA projects in the region to be completed by December so she could inaugurate these when she spends her Yuletide break in Baguio City.

Engineer Roy Manao, regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways , said technical teams from the quality control and materials testing units of the Bureau of Research Standards and Bureau of Construction are now doing routine inspection in all the on-going projects along the Mount Data to Bontoc and Bontoc to Banaue sections of the Halsema highway and the whole stretch of the Bontoc-Tabuk-Tuguegarao road to monitor the progress of the various projects.

According to him, monitoring activities by different technical teams from various agencies, including the Commission on Audit, is an indication on how transparent the agency is in the implementation of the projects, especially that they are trying to beat the deadline prescribed by President Arroyo.

The technical teams will be immediately submitting their findings and recommendations to the DPWH-CAR and project implementers so that they could do corrective measures in some minor defects of their respective projects.

While admitting that there are some defects of the different infrastructure projects being prosecuted by the various contractors, Manao claimed such defects have already been corrected because of the vigilance of the project engineers and the commuting public who brought to their attention their observations on how the projects are being done.

Initially, some of the monitoring teams found out contractors along the Bontoc-Tabuk-Tuguegarao road are having a difficult time advancing their projects in areas covered by road-right-of-way claims of some residents because they do not want their properties to be taken for the widening of the narrow portions of the road.

However, the DPWH-Car official asserted all efforts are being exerted by both government and private sectors in the region to convince affected residents to give a portion of their properties traversed by the major road networks since it will redown to better economic activities, especially in far flung areas of Mountain Province, Ifugao and Kalinga, the major sites of the SONA projects.

The Regional Development Council in the Cordillera also created a road-right-of-way task force through its infrastructure monitoring and advisory group to help the concerned government agencies in the negotiations with the affected land owners in the three provinces so that they will not unjustly delay the implementation of the flagship projects since they will be paid based on existing rates. -- Dexter A. See


Anglican Japanese partner eyes Bontoc sisterhood ties

By Francis Degay

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Sisterhood relationship between this capital town and a Japanese town are in the works.

This, after two members of a Japanese development agency met with Bontoc mayor Franklin Odsey on Aug. 24.

Ken Nonukawa and Hiro Yoshida of the Kiyosato Education and Experiment Project (KEEP) based in Takanecho Kitaguma-gun, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan earlier visited development projects in Tulgao, Tinglayan on August 21-23.

KEEP was a partner of the Anglican diocese of Northern Philippines since the mid 80s.
Through the initiative of the diocese under the leadership of then Fr. Brent Harry Alawas, who was the development officer and now the diocesan bishop, the church was able to access grants from KEEP with projects ranging from health care, personnel exchange, scholarship,
agriculture, agro-forestry, infrastructure such as waterworks, multi-purpose building and micro-hydro power that supplies electricity in Tulgao and the nearby village of Dananao.

The program for this year is focused on food security. Some individuals including this writer were invited to attend the exchange program during the county fair at Yamanashi that is celebrated every October.

The event showcases the various enterprises and products of Yamanashi that entice thousands of local and foreign tourists.

Nonukawa and Yoshida had their initial visits at Tulgao way back in 1985 and 1989 respectively. Since then other top management personnel such as Takao Okemoto, KEEP international liaison officer, and some volunteers of KEEP maintained their regular visits in Tulgao almost every year.

Ken retired four years ago but he still does volunteer work. Hiro, on the other hand, is now the manager of the accounting department and at the same time the international relations officer.



If opening of farm-to-market roads to help farmers is corruption, let it be
If widening narrow roads so vehicles going the opposite direction could meet easily
When gravel roads are concreted for easy and comfortable travel
When safety signs and gadgets are installed to minimize road trouble
When all of the above are considered by some as corruption, so be it.

I don’t mind if they say it is corruption
When overpasses are constructed as one solution
To solving accidents involving street crossing
Specially to lovely children attending to their schooling
You may shout to the top of your voice that is corruption.

When school buildings are built even at far flung villages
To bring literacy to the old and the young of all ages
When mountains are joined by vehicular and foot bridges
So rivers are crossed without the fear of losing lives
I don’t mind if someone says that is corruption.

Development brings inconveniences, that is true
When roads are closed temporarily several times or two
Part of your land, a farm or a rice field, a valuable inheritance
Becomes a part of the road, used by the public at a glance
Is that corruption, my friend, judge it if you have a chance.
-- Bal-ag, Mountain Province DPWH


Anti-torture bill requires military, police to bare all detention centers


The reconciled anti-torture bill requires the military and police to submit a monthly report listing all detention centers, including safe houses, to the Commission on Human Rights. This is a welcome development. If approved on final reading, authorities would have to disclose this information on a regular basis. No more secret hideouts or holding areas where detainees may be subjected to torture.

Those who torture people, especially for their political beliefs, should be put away for life. Torture has no place in today’s society. The reconciled anti-torture bill, which was recently approved by the bicameral conference, penalizes those who maintain secret detention centers or fail to include a detention center in the list provided to the CHR.

Sen. Chiz Escudero Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who filed the bill said he expects both Houses of Congress to ratify the consolidated version as soon as possible. The proposed law seeks to penalize perpetrators of torture, particularly persons in authority or those acting on their behalf. The President is expected to sign the anti-torture bill as soon as it reaches her desk.

It criminalizes all forms of torture -- physical, mental, psychological and pharmacological, which is done through the administration of drugs. But it limits the application of the measure only to those in government and those acting in their behalf.

The proposed law imposes a maximum penalty of life imprisonment on torturers. Other penalties range from a minimum of 6 months to a maximum of 12 years depending on the gravity of the offense. The bill also includes provisions for the protection of complainants and witnesses and persons involved in the prosecution, and the establishment of a rehabilitation program for Under the bill, no justification can be offered to justify torture and other inhuman punishments, which will be declared as criminal acts.

Maximum penalty will also be imposed on those found guilty of crimes against persons those against personal liberty and security, and those against chastity as stipulated in titles 8, 9 and 11 respectively of the Revised Penal Code, if these are attended by torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III headed the House panel that included Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Neri Colmenares, among others. The Senate was represented by Escudero and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel. The proposed law could go a long way in curbing human rights violations perpetrated by agents of the state like the military and police.


Artsy fartsy

Alfred P. Dizon

I don’t consider myself an artist even if I have been singing in nightspots mostly in Baguio since the early 80s when I was in college up to this time. Among us Baguio musicians those years, the people we referred to as “artists” were those who made paintings, molded ceramics, walked barefoot along Session Road or those who brought something to bang on in folkhouses so they could go up the stage, make yabang and accompany the music with their mediocre beat to the consternation of the madlang pipol. Musicians are a tolerant lot, so we just let the bangers be, until a fed-up customer would throw a beer at them or shout obscenities to end their gig.

I recall this because of the controversy of who a “national artist” should be. Can somebody who casts artistas with talents for screaming in a movie or an artsy fartsy be a national artist? How about those who splash a crazy mix of things on canvass and call it abstract, something ordinary mortals like us can’t comprehend? Can Carlo J. Caparas be considered a national artist for making komiks magazines and gory massacre films?
Caparas, along with National Commission on Culture and Arts executive director Cecile Guidote Alvarez were named “national artists” by Malacanang in what generated a controversy in the art world reaching all the way to the Supreme Court. The SC stopped Tuesday the conferment of National Artist Awards on seven individuals including Caparas and Guidote.

Caparas, critics said, did not deserve such title as his works were not beneficial to Philippine society. To his credit, housewives those years would gather in sari-sari stores where these were sold and talked about corny komiks stories and gossip about everyday affairs. In a sense, we could say, Caparas fostered community relations and enhanced libido with graphic images every now and then in his magazines.

And those massacre films, we can only guess. But these cheap “visual arts” could have contributed to crime as copycats mimicked these. If you remember those “chop-chop” murder incidents in Manila those years when victims were cut to pieces, then you may have an idea what a murderous artist is made of, courtesy of a movie’s influence. Sting may have put it succinctly when he sang, “Murder by numbers, one, two, three, it’s as easy as saying your ABC.”
Malacanang can call the works of Caparas “educational” but then, maybe he was included in the list just to spite the snobs and elite in the art world identified with the opposition. It is to the credit of people beside the big house along the Pasig River for succeeding in rocking the art world by “giving” Guidote and Caparas such “lofty” titles. Caparas even had to gall to say to critics: “Inggit lang kayo.” Now the elite in the art world had reason to meet in coffee shops and discuss the “intrusion” in their elitista world of a masa artist in the person of Caparas.

In the case of Alvarez, what work of art did she do? Forgive my ignorance but I had a taste of her high-handedness when Yours Truly, as regional chairman of the Publishers Association of the Philippines, introduced her as one of guest speakers during a PAPI convention at Teachers Camp in Baguio December last year.

Maybe, due to hangover, I mistakenly referred to her as “chairperson” of the NCCA. Alvarez, along with other VIPs like Baguio Mayor Peter Rey Bautista and PAPI chair Juan Dayang were seated at the stage and I could hear Alvarez loudly hiss, “Ano ba yan, hindi alam ang sinasabi.” I glanced back and saw she was visibly angry. I apologized, but she was still fuming mad.
Earlier, Alvarez was speaker for a nationwide group of college student writers invited by the PAPI to the event. Some students later told me they felt bad for berating them in a loud voice purportedly for not doing something for the good of society. A piece of advise to Alvarez, maybe, she could get off from her ivory tower and learn how to amiably mingle with ordinary folks like us so her high nose would go down a little bit.

Anyway, Alvarez said she welcomed the temporary restraining order issued by the SC regarding her “award.” She was quoted as saying: “I am delighted it’s in the Supreme Court. That’s what we have been saying only the court is the final arbiter. They are demanding that their point of view should prevail. If that is so they will first have to make sure that the existing executive order that calls them advisory in capacity be amended. Or they will create a law that will totally delete it out of the honors code and define how it’s going to be.”
Recently, National Artists for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and Virgilio Almario, filed a 38-page petition at the Supreme Court “for prohibition, certiorari and injunction with prayer for restraining order to prevent the palace from conferring the title to respondents which included Caparas and Alvarez.

Alvarez was referring to Executive Order 435 giving the NCCA and CCP an advisory role to the president in relation to selection of national artists. Other countries such as the United States also have the National Medal of Arts, created by Congress in 1984. It is given by the President of the United States to individuals or groups who are in his judgment,” deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States,”

In the case of Caparas and Alvarez, maybe it is a case of the integrity of the person giving the honors and delicadeza of the receiver whose qualifications are being questioned. If the two understood the implications earlier and acted on these, submitted themselves to the peer group in the art world and kept silent if they were not nominated, maybe, the tempest in the teapot wouldn’t have boiled to an explosion.

Genuine artists are a different lot. They could subject themselves to all sorts of pain, hardship or poverty by following the road less trodden just to perfect their art. That is why they are zealous of their works and status as artists and wouldn’t like it tainted by people, they think, who have not proven themselves enough.

But at the rate magic tricks are being performed every now and then on the big house beside the Pasig River, we may still find Dr. Hayden Kho inserted as “national artist for “visual” or “performing arts.” (For the benefit of our internet readers, the good doctor showed how loving he was to women by filming his sexual escapades with them). It wouldn’t be a surprise anymore for constituents of this Banana Republic.


Balitang Kutsero

Perry Diaz

My friend Fido predicted that the world will come to an end on December 23, 2012. I told him, “No way! I bet you pay me $500 if it doesn’t happen and I pay you double --$1,000 -- if it happens.” He thought for a while and then said, “But how will I collect my $1,000 if I win?” “Well,” I said, “I’ll have St. Peter send the money to you in Hell.”

Talking about Hell…

Former president Ferdinand Marcos, who’s been in Hell for 20 years now, was surprised when he heard that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was in Heaven. Marcos asked Satan, “How come Gloria is in Heaven when she was more corrupt than I?” Satan replied, “I’ll ask St. Peter.” A few minutes later, Satan told Marcos, “Well, St. Peter told me that Gloria made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.” “Oh? What kind of offer?” asked Marcos. Satan said, “The offer was for Gloria to step down from the presidency and he would allow her to enter Heaven. But don’t worry, St. Peter assigned her permanently to cleaning up the latrines.”

Francis “Chiz” Escudero, the kid who wants to be president, said that if he’s elected president, he would rule like Lee Kuan Yew in fighting corruption. Omigosh, here we go again! Didn’t Marcos promise the same thing when he declared martial law? And he imprisoned everyone that he suspected of corruption… except his cronies.

Chiz said the other day, “Many are claiming that I’m GMA’s (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s) secret candidate, but if it’s secret, why is it that all of you know about it?” Well, isn’t that how a secret works, it spreads until everybody knows about it… except you. My investigative reporter, James Macaquecquec, reported that he heard from the grapevine that Chiz is Gloria’s “secret candidate” for prez. No wonder Gloria has been saying lately that her payborit snack is cheeze.

A Manila columnist said of Chiz and Gibo Teodoro: “Two young men in a hurry to become president, but without any solid accomplishment to their credit, without any clear idea of what they would do if and when they got there.” Nothing is wrong with that. Most of the presidents before them had the vaguest idea of what they would do when they got there… except to enrich themselves.

Gibo recently remarked that he’ll not gamble in running for prez with no party backing him up. Can’t blame him. But at least he has foresight -- he saw the handwriting on the wall early on. Now, he can concentrate on fighting the Abu Sayyaf terrorists, Muslim separatists, and communists insurgents. Meanwhile, Gloria can now concentrate in looking for someone she’ll anoint as her “manok”… say, Chiz.

It was reported in the news that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez will investigate the lavish dinner by Gloria and her entourage at the posh French restaurant Le Cirque in New York. Has she gone bananas? And she wants Gloria to appoint her to the Supreme Court? Ha ha ha…
A question was asked in Philstar.com: “What scenario do you see for the country if PGMA steps down and peacefully turns over the reins of power to her successor in 2010?” My answer is, “Heavenly.”

News Item: “A congressional bicameral conference committee approved the anti-torture bill and Sen. Nene Pimentel said the government can use Manny Pacquiao to end the fighting in Mindanao.” Yeah, Manny will be the new Rambo, or better… Rambito. He’s going to turn Mindanao into a bloody hell! Pac ‘em, Rambito!

“And why is Ronnie Puno now clad in yellow?” asked a Manila columnist. I’d say that Ronnie is a man of many colors. He wore a mustard yellow shirt when Cory passed away, he wore red while working under Gloria, and he was one of Imelda Marcos’s “blue ladies.” Attagirl, Ronnie!

Good news: Commission on Elections chair Jose Melo ordered the agency’s second division to finish the recount of votes of Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio and rival Lilia Pineda by middle of September. Bad news: Pineda is going to win by a landslide. The “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract) system never fails. Why do you think Gloria is still president?

News report said that Malacañang would submit a report card to the U.S. agency Millennium Challenge Corp. on the gains it has made in rooting out corruption. A Manila columnist asked, “What ‘gains’ in fighting corruption is the Palace talking about?

How could there be gains in the fight against corruption when the corrupt people are in the Palace?” Gloria would say anything, whether it’s true or not, just to get money from Uncle Sam.

And Americans are complaining that Prez Obama is going to raise taxes!

Obama is under siege from three groups of Republicans. The “birthers” want him out cuz they claim that Obama was born in Kenya. The “deathers” claim that his health insurance reform would force euthanasia on old people. The “birthers” and “deathers” are dead wrong but another group, the Born-Again Christians, wants health insurance from conception to resurrection.

Poor Obama, at the rate these things are going, he might just call it quits and join Sarah Palin’s Quitters Anonymous. But he should be careful, Sarah is the “Queen of the Deathers.”

Bad News: A news report says of Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, “Instead of being at the capitol to offer critical leadership and help broker an agreement, Sanford was off in Bermuda enjoying a yacht race.

And as the state’s unemployment rate began to rise to one of the worst in the nation, where was Gov. Sanford? On a statewide bicycle ride. And recently we learned about pleasure trips to China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Thailand, Hong Kong and Uruguay from the e-mail exchanges with his Argentine mistress.” Mark Sanford and Gloria Arroyo should get together and plan their future junkets jointly. That would save some money for the Pinoys as well as the South Carolinians.


Theme and reality (Patch of pine 5)

Ramon Dacawi

(This is an exercise in redundancy. I’ve treated on the topic four times before, zeroing in on the appeal to have that tiny patch of pine within the heart of Baguio’s urbanizing landscape spared from the continuous sprawl of concrete.)

The theme for Baguio’s 100 years on Tuesday captures that daily downtown scene during its formative years. That was when our elders took longer to walk up and down Session Rd., our short, inclined main street. Not because of traffic, but because residents then took time to greet each other and strike up a conversation before moving on.

We were one neighborhood then, not 129 barangays. Almost everybody knew everybody, if not by name then by face and which side of town the other comes from. Residents then would stop to share the news before the venerable Baguio Midland Courier, the only weekly then, summed up the week on Sunday morning.

The theme encapsulates today’s common yearning to foster – for tomorrow’s generations – the culture of caring, the sense of community and fair play that was (or is) the mark of a Baguio boy and girl, one truly blessed to have grown up in this mountainous region of pines so devoid of the harshness of the extremes of nature and man in the tropics.

Yet the lure of a place triggers its undoing. The present reality on the ground triggers yet douses nostalgia. We now pine for the vanishing scent of pine, relentlessly being obliterated as “that grey, unyielding concrete makes a city of my town”.

The quote is from Pete St. John, the Irish journeyman and song composer who might have well described Baguio now when he wrote “The Rare Old Times” as a lament, if not a dirge, for his native Dublin town.

The reality on the ground – that of a cement road a-forming towards urban decay – has just been spelled out for us by Senator Rodolfo Biazon. He came up to validate and tell us our fears he shares with Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and whoever saw Baguio then and now.

The feisty lady solon had filed a resolution seeking inquiry on the reported urban decay up here, triggering Biazon’s visit. She spoke not only for us up here, but for a multitude who share fond memories of Baguio after they made their first ascent through the once-scenic Kennon Road.

The Courier reported about Senator Biazon saying “it is not yet conclusive to claim that Baguio is presently suffering from urban decay and environmental degradation, but… there are some indicators that may lead this city towards it”.

The signs towards urban degradation are visible and felt, even without that costly gadget installed at the foot of our main street to accurately measure, sadly in technical language, the rate of urban pollution in terms of “particulates per million (PPM)”.

What shall we do aside from figuring out the daily PPM reading, beyond the daily hand-wringing, nail-and lip-biting? Beyond waxing nostalgic? For one, we can talk to the Government Service Insurance System and Shoemart about saving that patch of pine beside the Baguio Convention Center. It can be their most fitting gift of caring and belonging that gives substance to the centennial theme.

GSIS is a very reasonable, insightful agency that sees where true value lies. That’s why we can lay before it the same argument of reason it used in 2002. That was when it bought, for some P40 to P50 million, “Parisian Life”, a painting by Juan Luna, in an auction in Hongkong. When GSIS members protested, GSIS said it does not only insure government employees and property. It also insures national heritage.

Baguio is also national heritage, and our collective memory of it makes it more so. The small patch of green standing like a lonely sentinel serves as proof that Baguio’s own distinction and unique beauty is still reality. After all GSIS acquired the lot without shelling out a single centavo (through President Marcos’ proclamation), unlike in the case of Luna’s painting. Obviously now, we need the mini-forest as a refreshing juxtaposition to urban sprawl, a priceless, open and public space in the congesting heart of Baguio.

We owe it to convince GSIS, lest visitors and those coming home for the centennial, would take us to task again for mangling what they, too, treasure. More so, we owe it to their and our children. Still, beyond their finger-pointing, they should help us convince GSIS, as the blame on us is quite ironic.

The much bigger pine forests remaining are being turned into enclaves of the rich, by big-time outside developers who, unlike us, can afford to possess them to fulfill the yearning for a piece of Baguio. Our hands are tied, as their permits and environmental compliance certificates are issued in Metro-Manila, despite and perhaps because of our protests.

We beg GSIS and Shoemart to erase their commercial vision of a high-rise condotel and business complex replacing the mini-forest. After all, the concrete project, dubbed “Baguio Air Residences, won’t help improve the air. After all, it would worsen traffic congestion and pollution. After all, we had already bent backwards, adjusting our city’s traffic scheme when that mall opened up on Luneta Hill.

Shoemart wants to be part of and belong to Baguio, not the other way around. It has sensitivity, which is precisely the centennial theme and the mark of the Baguio we all long for. Shoemart is open to suggestions, two of which we mentioned that time its executives apologized to our youth cultural troupe who performed at SM-Clark.. SM-Baguio now has more comfort rooms and a breast-feeding room. It opened to dialogue when city councilor Rocky Balisong fired a privilege speech questioning its acquisition of the mall lot where the Pines Hotel once stood in the good old days.

SM’s and GSIS’ sparing that mini-forest as gift for Baguio’s centennial would give social, community and environmental dimensions to that come-on theme: “We got it all for you.”

If not, what else can we do? The city can exert its power of eminent domain and buy that mini-forest, for it to remain as is, and for public use and purpose. Local folks and people down there in Metro-Manila, together with expatriates who trace their roots to Baguio and the Cordillera, would surely help raise the amount needed for the expropriation.

In the jargon of development and business enterprise, that would be a win-win situation. GSIS and SM would still profit, from the payment that even our children could help raise. The fund campaign itself would be a rallying point for unity, on which to anchor our centennial theme.

Otherwise, we’d just watch, as we’re watching Camp John Hay’s development into a rich man’s enclave, even as we beg for the city’s share from rental payments. Otherwise, let’s spin Pete St. John’s plaintive piece as Baguio’s centennial theme.(e-mail: mondaxbench@yahoo.com/ecowalkmondax@gmail.com for comments).


Squatting, ancestral lands highlight Baguio centennial

March L. Fianza

On Tuesday, the chartered city of Baguio celebrates its centennial anniversary. It will be like any ordinary day for a majority, a holiday that will be received well by businessmen and revelers, while some will just shrug it off like nothing important is happening.

The latter refers to descendants of an ethno-linguistic tribe who, after more than a hundred years later, continue to fight for their lands that they inherited from their ancestors.

The problem lies in the fact that there is a need for someone who can guide them through a correct process. The absence of such is one of the reasons why each family ancestral land claimant has to fight on its own.

Meanwhile, migrants from all over continue to enter every available space, legally or otherwise, whether or not the government issues a Townsite Sale Application or TSA over the lot. Today at 100 years, the city is about to burst at the seams because it accepts more people than it can carry.

Ancestral lands, squatting and TSAs are three issues that are interconnected. And persons I have talked to agree that if one of these problems is seriously attended to, solutions to the other two could be found – easily as a sunset.

But it is also public knowledge that these are problems that city hall avoids all the time. In the case of ancestral lands in the city, I see officials who refuse to believe that there are still legitimate claims inside Baguio . Worst of all, they conceal the truth about some genuine ancestral land claims in the city.

They have legitimate reasons to do so. Ancestral lands and the ever-increasing number of squatters in the barangays are sensitive matters that politicians hate to touch as they prepare to win elections that come every three years.

Fine, there are certain “squatters,” including occupants of centuries-old ancestral lands that were brought to court and were issued demolition orders but these acts further aggravate things and do not bring peace of mind between the politicians and the “illegal” land occupant.

Prosecuting a select few and loosening the grip around a greater number of violators would not solve the squatting problem as a whole. And with an undetermined number of squatters spread all over Baguio, I bet my last centavo, city hall would not haul all of them to court nor issue demolition orders to all.

What else? When talking about the number of votes, there are more squatters and TSA applicants than ancestral land owners. In fact, all of the city’s 128 barangays are infested with squatters composed of the rich, poor, even public officials and their relatives.
In his visit to the city two weeks ago, Senator Biazon said LGUs are equipped with powers to protect their communities from future decay, but in the same token he asked “are they using these powers?” Hopefully, our officials have the will and power to attend to the issues as the city enters a new century.

But there are requirements to seeking solutions to these problems. One city councilor suggested that complete information on ancestral land claims, a list of all squatters and all TSA holders in the city be recorded in all honesty by an independent body.

The truth hurts so that naturally, those whose names are in the list would fear that the records might spill out. But what matters is that the complete information is already there. After all information has been gathered, the city and all parties involved can now begin talking.

In the meantime, the independent body could forget about revealing the list to the public to avoid wounding people’s feelings. It is also expected that public officials would not be as enthusiastic as to telling the public who are in the squatters’ list because they themselves, if not their relatives, may be involved.
Ancestral land rights advocate Zenaida Hamada-Pawid, more popularly known to me as Manang Brigs, also came up with possible solutions to the ancestral lands problem which she listed as “requests” that may be granted by our officials. These are the following.

One, “disabuse the minds of the city officials, residents that there are no ancestral lands in Baguio .” Second, “through the Lands and Urban Development Committee cause the creation of a Technical Working Group to document, collate and prepare situation reports of ancestral land claims as registered, assisted, processed and approved by their respective offices from 1990-2009.”

Third, “for the TWG to prepare a comprehensive briefing portfolio, with proper documentation for submission and consideration by the City Council in aid of legislation.” Fourth, “Through the Association of Barangay Councils, with the joint assistance Council Committee on Lands to convene a working conference of all ancestral land claimants, notified by barangay, to consolidate and validate the status of their ancestral land claims.”

She further mentioned about the creation of barangay arbitration boards and a city arbitration board to resolve conflicts of claims in furtherance of the IPRA.

Last, Manang Brigs’ list said “on the basis of requests one to fourth, pass immediate and appropriate legislation to put in place a definitive processing of all ancestral land claims in the city and harmonize these claims with the various sectoral needs and priorities of all stakeholders in the spirit and intent of the IPRA.”

A process similar to this could also be crafted to answer other equally important issues such as squatting, townsite relocation, and the basura problem that need to be resolved as the city enters a new period.

Certain solutions to the three problems came up in recent talks with people at city hall. One suggestion was to finish all lot surveys in the barangays; second, completely stop TSA issuances but those already filed would continue to be processed; third, ask the squatters to relocate themselves as the lands they are occupying are needed by the government; fourth, respect genuine ancestral land claims.

Let us hope these would be acceptable to all stakeholders, especially the city council which I believed all the time were the true representatives of the people.


Loving Baguio and watershed blues

Gina P. Dizon

The city government finds a strong ally with the Supreme Court in its battle against squatters in the Busol Watershed area. The lingering scuffle on the Busol Watershed area between squatters and ancestral land claimants against the city government comes with the 2009 decision of the SC upholding the authority of city officials to demolish structures within the watershed area.

A challenging stance for the city government, the SC decision wields strong ammunition they can use against squatters and would be squatters including their supporters on further encroaching and supporting the intrusion of squatters into the major watershed source of the city.

City officials in their case elevated to the SC contended that the city is governed by its charter and “thus, (lot occupants) cannot claim their alleged ancestral lands under the provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA).”

Let us see what the Supreme Court say about their latest decision.

The Feb. 4, 2009 SC decision reversed an earlier decision of the Court of Appeals which upheld the jurisdiction of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) to issue temporary restraining orders and later a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the three demolition orders issued by then Mayor Braulio Yaranon for the dismantling of the illegal structures constructed by Lazaro Bawas, Alexander Ampaguey Sr. and a certain Mr. Basatan.

The Supreme Court maintained that the lot occupants’ ancestral land claim was not expressly recognized by Proclamation No. 15 which should have justified the issuances made by the NCIP. The highest court said Proclamation No. 15 “does not appear to be a definitive recognition of private respondents’ ancestral land claim.”

“The proclamation merely identifies the Molintas and Gumangan families, the predecessors-in-interest of private respondents, as claimants of a portion of the Busol Forest Reservation but does not acknowledge vested rights over the same. In fact, Proclamation No. 15 explicitly withdraws the Busol Forest Reservation from sale or settlement,” the decision reads.

“The fact remains, too, that the Busol Forest Reservation was declared by the Court as inalienable in Heirs of Gumangan v.Court of Appeals. The declaration of the (reservation) as such precludes its conversion into private property.

The SC decision is clear that the watershed reservation, meaning the lots within cannot be sold or settled on, obviously for reasons that the area is an endangered watershed. While that is so, the SC decision remains to be a question of how far it is going to be implemented and recognized.

Although SC’s ruling comes as a Johnny Come Lately decision since 2006 when the case was filed and led to further structures built through the years, it is highly relevant at this stage when NCIP regional hearing officer Brain Masweng filed TROs against the demolition notices issued by the City executive on illegal houses built at the endangered area. Masweng’s defenses rests on IPRA provisions that indigenous peoples have native titles to their ancestral lands and that Proclamation Order No 15 issued in 1922 grants ancestral claims.

NCIP’s position finds an ally with councilor lawyer Nicasio Aliping who was one in stopping the recent July demolitions despite the SC order which further stalled the embattled Busol watershed from settling to peaceful breezes. While that is do, the provisions of IPRA where indigenous peoples have a right to their ancestral lands stands tested on its superiority with the SC telling what should be and what should not.

At the onset, contempt charges were filed against Masweng for going against the Supreme Court ruling.

City Mayor Reynaldo Bautista said the city government tried to assist the settlers subjected for ejection by looking for relocation sites, but there are no available spaces for relocation. He said the settlers are not entitled to the law which mandates relocation in case of displacement, the city information desk reports.

Only underprivileged settlers can avail of relocation facilitated by the local government and the National Housing Authority, city officials explained.

What about “peaceful co-existence” where new settlers will not be allowed and the current settlers to stay in their premises? Vice Mayor Daniel Fariñas said this is “possible but remote because each party has to be in good faith and approval” of other stakeholders such as the DENR, Baguio Water District and Baguio Regreening Movement and the Supreme Court.

Mayor Reynaldo Bautista in news reports advised the occupants “to voluntarily dismantle their houses.” While the issue of ancestral claims is being decided opun, squatters are coming in fast and building their 2-3 story houses. Some are overseas contract workers.

Some are employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who have acquired properties at the endangered watershed area. This prompted the city government in the past to request Malacanang to probe reports about this. SunStar learned that 32 houses up for demolition are abodes of still unnamed DENR employees.

This, aside from other private individuals. There are some 900 illegal structures in the Busol watershed area with only 33 houses identified for demolition at the moment. Do we see some more numbers coming?

If the city government is not going to act tough, expect more structures creeping in at the watershed area in the next months and years. Surely, the city officials would not want the next set of officials to inherit resolving the issue until groping for solutions is chronically late already. If you are one who wants a safe and assured water supply and a healthy environment with its cool breezes for you and your children and children’s children to enjoy in the city of Pines, you would want to halt this encroachment.

Much as there are sacred spots not culturally set as places for settlement, clearly, there are endangered spots which should not be inhabited lest it be a danger for the welfare of each and everyone.

Where two laws get pitted against the other, the law is meant to be for public interest and public welfare. This lingering claim for environmental protection of Busol watershed area deserves a second and third look. If you love Baguio and want to enjoy living in the place as well with the rest of the community, get squatters out of the watershed.


Ablan Day and President GMA

Cesar Bonilla

LAOAG CITY -- The recent celebration of Ablan Day in Ilocos Norte was significant since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was chosen as guest of honor and speaker. Rep. Roque Ablan,Jr..and family including Gov. Michael Marcos Keon with mayors, lawmakers, educators and students from different universities and colleges, elementary and secondary levels welcomed visitors.

Those given honors were Deputy House Speaker Eric Singson, National Defense adviser and former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Rep. Victor Ortega of La Union, Secretary Gabby Claudio, Undersecretary Esqueta and the rest of the group.

President Arroyo praised the late Gov, Roque Ablan,Sr. as a revered son of Ilocos Norte responsible for the construction of hospitals, schools and giving quality education to poor students. The president expounded on different programs of her administration like upgrading of rural health units, primary hospitals and secondary hospitals for the people to have easy access to medical services.

I would like to recognize the kindness of two students of Ilocos Norte National High School Ma. Lourdes Natcher and Joelyn A. Macapulay during the occasion. One of them held my tape recorder during the speeches of prominent leaders, My gratitude to a kind and competent barangay kagawad in the person of Napoleon Uy for the lunch he sponsored at Max Restaurant where popular radio announcer Rene Paguirigan of DZEA was my companion at that time. Kudos to all!
Ilocos Norte provincial board member Renato Peralta, a man of dignity, believes money could be immaterial as in the cases of prominent leaders like US President Barack Obama, Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, and Pampanga Gov. Ed "Among" Panlilio who rose into political prominence despite insurmountable odds.

Love can change the world and reconciliation is possible only if there is love, he said. Peralta narrated Ilocos Norte is generally peaceful compared to other provinces since recent incidents of violence in the province were considered personally motivated crimes and not necessarily high-profile.

Peralta served the government in various capacities as director of National Economic Development Authority in the region for so many years during the Marcos administration, acting governor and vice-governor and board member. He would like to use the golden moments of his life to help his provincemates. Good luck Sir!
The “Dialogue of the five pillars of our judicial system” led by lawyer Richard Tumaneng at Renzo Hotel could help in prevention of violence like extrajudicial killings. The “pillars” include law-enforcement agencies, judiciary, prosecutorial service, correction and penalogy, and the community could provide solutions to remedy these problems to maintain peace and order in our society.

Tumaneng said at least two lawyers are killed every year in the performance of their duties and it would be difficult to seek justice in some cases because witnesses are afraid to come out in the open and testify. The president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines mentioned the Vicar General of the Diocese of Laoag in the person of Msgr. Danny Laeda as the one responsible in discussing "values forgotten" that could solidify spiritual and moral values.

Msgr. Danny Laeda in my short interaction with him voiced out the importance and due respect for life." An ounce of prevention is better than a lot of cure," he said. Everybody including the Church, family, school and the government should be united in stopping the menace of eliminating life. Nowadays, life is just like an ukay-ukay or baratilyo so there is a need to act before it;s too late, the good priest said.

Police Chief Insp. Jay de Guzman, representing Laoag City PNP Chief Supt. Sterling P. Blanco was he agreed with the opinion of Apo Laeda. He told us that the five pillars of the criminal justice system worked as a team to ensure peace and order in the community.

Tumaneng invited some respectable members of the legal profession like executive judges Conrado A.Ragucos, Angelo M.Albano, Phillip Salvador and Jonathan A. Asuncion, lawyers Ameurfina A. Respicio, Emilio Edgar Doloroso, Michael M. Garces, Cherry Grace Bareng, provincial legal officer Jaime V.Agtang, city prosecutor Lourdes M. Layugan, provincial prosecutor Melecio M. Felipe, lawyer Richard B.Baluciol Ms.Marieson R.Pastor,wife of slain lawyer Pepoc Pastor, Bonifacio Tagatac, provincial jail warden, Adelina Malasig of the Laoag City Parole and Probation Office and Emilia A.Agonoy, OIC provincial parole and probation officer.


Barangay-based development

Ike Señeres

I am completely overwhelmed by the warm response of online Filipinos to the advocacy of soliciting old computers for distribution to the 42,000 barangay units all over the country. Ms. Elsa Bayani, one of the advocacy leaders says that it is my project, but in all humility I would rather say that I am just a writer, I wrote about it, but it was the people who embraced the idea and who took it as their own.

As it is now, the advocacy is taking off on its own steam, and I am now the one trying to keep up with it. Having managed many other computerization projects before, I have made it my own responsibility to see to it that as this advocacy moves forward, there will always be a good balance between the magic troika of computerization which is the combination of manpower, infrastructure and content (MIC).

Looking back into my previous experiences, I have concluded that in the final analysis, computerization is really just the means to an end, because the real end should be modernization. When I say modernization, I mean the modernization of the means of delivering public services, and not the modernization of the hardware and software that are needed to deliver these services.

Could we possibly solicit, reformat and deliver computers to all the 42,000 barangay units nationwide? I say yes, and that is not even the problem because I know that we could deliver more than one unit to each barangay. The problem, or the challenge I should say is to build the content that would populate these computer systems, knowing already that the manpower component is already “spoken for” so to speak.

What kind of content should go into a barangay database? To answer this question, I want to share with you an idea that we discussed in my TV show today. Why not build a database of the local labor force, so that local employers would be able to recruit workers and employees from within their own local host communities? This would also be good for their bottom line, because it would save them on recruitment costs.

How about a database of local cooperatives and enterprises? This will also enable the local companies to source products and services from their own local host communities. This will be good for both the companies and the communities. The former would not just save on procurement costs; they will also help the local people with their livelihood, in turn increasing the disposable incomes of their own customers. The latter would not only have a ready market for their products and services, they would also build good relations with their corporate guests.

How about a database for monitoring and reporting the local Human Development Index (HDI)? Right now there seems to be no local data about the per capita income, literacy rate and longevity rate. Any local politician that is serious about his job should make it his objective to increase all of these measures during his term. And since the sources of the HDI data should really be barangay based, there is now an opportunity for the city or municipal officials to gather and consolidate these data at their level.

Now that I have the support of the local Linux users groups, I would like to go to the next step of organizing the working committees at the barangay level, the people who will see to it that local databases will be built for their own needs, according to their own determination of needs. As a matter of fact, I would consider it necessary for these local committees to sign Memoranda of Agreements (MOA) with the VPN advocacy group, just to have a legal framework to work on.

At this point, the priority action is to identify the pilot sites, where the volunteers have already come forward, but they must first form the local committees and sign the agreements. It is very important to do the pilots first so that we could find out the kinks, and also fix the bugs if any. After the pilot stage, the next logical step of course is to roll it out nationally.

Can you imagine what would happen if the HDI compliance data would become transparent to the local citizenry? That would mean that they could actually take an active part in governance because the local officials would now become answerable to them, since they would already know what the objective targets of governance would be. It’s about time this would happen.

Watch my TV show “Bears & Bulls”, a daily coverage of the Philippine Stock Exchange. 9:00 am to 1:00 pm in Global News Network. Email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639293605140 for local cable listings.


Maximizing profits

Henry Ong

Many business owners think that profit is the most important measure of financial performance, but this isn't necessarily the case because profit is relative to the amount of money invested in a business. For example, a P100,000 net profit may not really be a good one if the investment is P2 million because the return on investment would be only 5 percent. However, if the investment is only P500,000 and the net profit is P100,000, the return on investment would be fantastic 20 percent!

Thus, you need to design a financial strategy that can help you achieve the highest possible return on your investment, and you can do this by developing a strategic profit model using the following three key indicators: profit margin, productivity, and financial leverage.

Profit margin is derived from dividing your net profit by your net sales. For example, a total net profit of P50,000 divided by net sales of P150,000 yields a net profit margin of 33 percent (P50,000/P150,000 = 0.33 x 100 percent = 33 percent). This percent profit margin indicates that for every P100 of your sales, you earn a P33 profit net of all expenses.

Profit margins, of course, tend to fall when cost of sales or operating expenses increase. On the other hand, when you increase your selling price or increase your volume sales, profit margins go up.

You therefore need to manage your margin constantly to achieve your profit targets. For example, if your power cost shoots up because of an increase in electricity rates, you need to bring down your costs in other items or consider raising your selling price so you can keep your margin unchanged.

Although margin management is a crucial component of the overall financial strategy of the your business, it doesn't by itself provide a complete picture of your financial performance. You also need to have an indicator of your company's productivity. This can be calculated by dividing your net sales with your total assets.

For example, if your total net sales is P150,000 and you have total assets of P1 million, your productivity ratio would be 15 percent (P150,000/P1 million = 0.15 x 100 percent = 15 percent). This ratio means that the business generates 15 centavos-worth of sales for every peso invested in assets.
The higher the productivity ratio, the better for you because it indicates how productively your management has used your company's resources to generate sales. However, it is possible for you to have a high profit margin but a low productivity ratio. This happens when you have excess cash in the bank, or when you have large uncollected accounts receivables or when you have invested too much in largely idle real estate.
After looking at the asset management side of your business, you now need to check the liability side, which can be measured by your financial leverage. Leverage is computed as total assets divided by net equity. Net equity, sometimes called net worth, is the amount of money that you have actually invested in the business.

Assume, for instance, that you have total assets of P1 million and equity of P500,000. To compute for the leverage ratio, you need to divide P1 million by P500,000, which yields a leverage ratio of 2.0 (P1,000,00/P500,000 = 2.0).

This ratio means that for every peso you invested as equity, you have two pesos worth of assets. Another way of saying this is that you borrowed one peso for every peso of investment you made. The higher the leverage ratio, the more money you borrowed to finance your assets.

An increase in leverage ratio is good in the sense that you are using more of other people's money than your own to increase your sales and profit margin. However, it also increases your risk of going bankrupt if you are not able to pay your debt on time.

When you multiply the three indicators with one another, you get what is known as the return on investment: profit margin x productivity x leverage = return on investment. If, say, you have a profit margin of 33 percent, a productivity ratio of 15 percent, and a leverage ratio of 2.0, you get a return on investment of 9.9 percent (0.33 x 0.15 x 2.0 = 0.099 x 100 percent = 9.9 percent).

You can see that an increase in any of the three indicators will increase your return on investment. On the other hand, if one indicator falls, say your profit margin goes down by 1 percent, you need to manage any of the two other indicators to increase by 1 percent to offset that decrease in profit margin and keep you on track in attaining your desired return on investment.

Depending on industry structure, there are businesses that focus more on productivity rather than on profit margins, while others consider leverage as more relevant than productivity, but they all seek to achieve the same thing—an acceptable return on investment. For example, if you are a retailer, say a supermarket or a convenient store, your profit margin would be rather small—perhaps only 3 percent. To generate your target profit level, your focus would then be more on increasing the turnover of your investment.

Developing your own strategic profit model and making it your financial strategy will greatly help you monitor and evaluate current performance and identify potential problem areas. With the statistics that you already have, you can do historical comparisons to see whether your performance has improved or deteriorated over time. You can also use the profit model to set financial targets by comparing your actual ratios with industry standards.

By such benchmarking, you can discipline yourself to performing either at par or better than industry average. Lastly, you can also anticipate the financial impact of any changes that you make in your marketing or operating strategies. For instance, by using Excel spreadsheets to simulate variations in any of the three indicators, you can easily do a “What-if analysis” to help you make better decisions.

You need to remember two more things when constructing your profit model: One is that you must have accurate financial statements—particularly your balance sheet and income statement—because the data you need for your computations will come from these documents. The other is that when you implement your strategy, you must involve not only your top management but also every employee in your company. This way, you can have the job goals of each of them translated into some specific measure of economic performance.

[ Henry Ong, CMA, RFP, is president and COO of Business Sense Inc., a financial advisory and consulting firm that helps small and medium businesses. Business Sense is affiliated with INPACT International Network of Certified Public Accountants. You may reach him at hong@businesssense.com.ph or www.businesssense.com.ph.]


Bersamins laud arrest order for Valera; Manhunt on for former Abra gov

>> Sunday, August 23, 2009

By Dexter A. See

BANGUED, Abra – The Bersamin family here has hailed a decision of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City to order the arrest of former Abra Gov. Vicente “Vicsyd” Valera who was tagged as the alleged mastermind in the murder of Rep. Luis “Chito” Bersamin on Dec. 16, 2006.

Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin said his family is happy over prosecution of cases against Valera and the other accused is moving.

But he said his family will leave to the court the matter of determining Valera’s involvement and culpability in the case.

He expressed confidence the law will take its course in the case of the former governor.
Rep. Bersamin was shot dead in front of the Mount Carmel Church in New Manila, Quezon City at about 5 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2006.

The case changed the political landscape in conflict-stricken Abra, and this catapulted Bersamin to the governorship of the province.

Valera, his aides Jerry Torquisa and Leo Bruno are facing charges of double murder and frustrated murder at the Quezon City RTC for the killing of Rep. Bersamin and his bodyguard SPO1 Adelpho Ortega and the wounding of his driver, Allan Sawadan.

Several individuals, who were linked by the police to the murder of Bersamin, were arrested one after the other in the past three years.

The former governor and his aides, who are reportedly in hiding, are now the subject of a manhunt launched by composite police teams.

The slain lawmaker is a brother of Governor Bersamin and Supreme Court Associate Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.

He was shot to death while he was boarding his vehicle after attending the wedding of his niece at the Mount Carmel Church in QC.

After Rep. Bersamin was assassinated, local residents and officials of the province renewed their commitment to uphold the prevalence of lasting peace in their respective areas of jurisdiction to perk up economic growth in the area.

Gov. Bersamin said while lasting peace in the province is difficult to achieve in a short time, long-term efforts are now being exerted to put an end to the seemingly endless violence that had tainted the image of Abra.


Itawes top cop gets star rank

By Ramon Dacawi

CAMP DANGWA, Benguet -- Another cultural community member has risen to star rank with police Sr. Supt. Samuel Birung Diciano’s elevation to chief superintendent early last week.

The promotion comes a year after that of Chief Supt. Eugene Martin, a native of Bontoc, Mt. Province who is now the chief for intelligence at the PNP Headquarters in Camp Crame

Diciano, who speaks his native Itawes and Ibanag dialects, wore his new uniform Wednesday when he and regional police director, Chief Supt. Orlando Pestano witnessed assumption of Sr. Supt. Agripino Javier as director of the Baguio Police Office in rites at the office of mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr.

The mayor advised the new city director to adjust to his subordinate officers “instead of them adjusting to you”, saying they were responsible in making the city police office the best in the country for years. .

Pestano, on the other hand, noted that strict adherence to the constitutional provision on the supremacy of civilian authority over the military and police is the key to effective police leadership.

Javier, a native of Nueva Ecija and the intelligence officer for Region 1 before his assignment here, said it has been his dream to serve Baguio since after his graduation from the Philippine Military Academy.

“Hindi po kayo mapapahiya (I won’t let you down),” he said.

The mayor then turned to Diciano who, he said, started to shine, not because of his receding hairline, but when he began serving Baguio and the rest of the Cordillera.

The 51-year old Diciano first served Baguio as district commander of the 129 Company of the Philippine Constabulary based at the presidential mansion here.

He later became operations officer of the Benguet PNP Command, acting deputy regional director for operations of the Cordillera regional office and now its deputy for administration.

A native of Tuguegarao, Cagayan, he graduated 18th in Class ’80 of the Philippine Military Academy.

While already in the service, he figured prominently in career training, finishing second in Basic Scout Ranger Course, Civil Affairs Course in Fort Bragg , North Carolina and in the Public Safety Officers’ Senior Executive Course; and No. 2 in Psychological Operations Course also at Fort Bragg .

His 29 years in service so far earned him 154 medals, plaques and certificates of recognition, including the Academic Award from the National Police College.


Mt Province Kalinga tribes sign deal to stop tribal war

By Angel Baybay

BONTOC, Mountain Province --- A memorandum of agreement signed by representatives of the Tulgao tribe of Kalinga and Sagada, Sabangan, and Bontoc towns of this province doused wild speculations that killing and wounding of two Tulgao tribe members July 23 in Sabangan might result to a full-blown tribal war and loss of innocent lives.

In a special meeting of the provincial peace and order council here Aug. 15 with representatives from concerned parties, elders and officials affixed their signatures on the document to settle the issue through peaceful means condemning the regrettable incident.

On that fateful day, Eusebio Dalignoc was killed while Roy Lang-ao was stabbed by Domingo Bangsoy in Madepdepas, Sabangan. With the cooperation of the residents and officials, elements of the Sabangan Police Station collared Bangsoy.

Upon the return of Gov. Maximo Dalog who was then in Canada as guest of the Lang-ay Festival when the incident happened, he convened the PPOC last Aug. 3 and formed a mediation committee chaired by Bontoc mayor Franklin Odsey in an effort to immediately and peacefully solve the predicament.

Last July 5, Odsey invited all parties for a meeting to explore means by which justice could be served the earliest possible time. It was at this meeting when Anglican priest Pablo Buyagan of the Tulgao tribe made known the willingness of his tribe for the peaceful resolution of the case. A follow-up meeting was scheduled last July 7 but was postponed to July 15 due to the inclement weather.

Residents of this province hailed the MOA as a breakthrough in this part of the country where justice could only be attained through vengeance. “Not only the fear of possible bloodshed was allayed but a more peaceful relation among the concerned tribes is seen to flourish. I hope this will usher in a new era of trust and peaceful coexistence,” uttered a parent who for the past many weeks had been worrying about the safety of his children studying outside the province.

Dalog shared the same observation when asked in his regular radio program for his comment about the signed agreement. “I hope this agreement could become permanent which we could also use in a larger scale most especially with tribal communities. But anyhow, may this process of settling differences become a showcase to others.”

Among those who signed the MOA were Tinglayan mayor Johnny Maymaya, Father Pablo Buyagan, Martin Gayudan, Miguel Guyang, Guyang Ao-as, Piclit Ollog, Apayao Puya-ao, and Alfonso Banglag of the Tulgao tribe. Affixing their signatures from this province are governor Maximo Dalog, vice governor Louis Claver, board members Ezra Gomez and Luke Wanason, Anglican bishop Brent Alawas, provincial PNP director Fortunato Albas, Bontoc mayor Franklin Odsey, Sagada mayor Eduardo Latawan, Sabangan mayor Estanislao Fagto, Sabangan mayor Donato Danglose, Sagada councilor Jaime Dugao, Sabangan councilor Feliciano Liclic, Bontoc councilor Alex Fakat, former Bontoc mayor Alfonso Kiat-ong, Artemio Buteng, Abe Battawang, and Pablo Ladiogan. / angel Baybay


Bomb scare closes school

By Jennelyn Mondejar

DAGUPAN CITY– Classes were suspended at PHINMA, formerly University of Pangasinan along Arellano St. here last week due to a bomb scare that turned out to be a hoax.

Insp. Leo Llamas, police investigator of the Dagupan City Police Station said they received a call around 6:45 a.m. from a male caller saying two paper bags containing bombs were placed at the Nursing building at the second floor and at the administration building.

They immediately called for assistance from the explosives and ordnance division at the police provincial headquarters and with local police, searched the area.

The area was declared clear at 9:30 a.m. But for security purposes, classes were suspended Aug. 15.

Llamas said midterm exams were to be held that day and this could be a possible reason for the bomb scare.

Police requested the management of Digitel to trace the number of the caller.


Squatter buildings’ demolition at Baguio watershed stalled

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Demolition of squatter buildings at the Busol watershed were stalled anew after National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera hearing officer Brain Masweng granted the petition for writ of preliminary injunction of occupants.

This after the city government filed contempt charges against the hearing officer before the Supreme Court.

Masweng in two orders dated August 14 issued the writs of preliminary injunction against the city of Baguio, the city building and architecture office, the public order and safety division and the Baguio demolition team “ordering them to refrain, cease and desist from implementing Demolition Advice dated May 20, 2009, Demolition Order NO. 33 series of 2005, Demolition Advice dated July 20, 2009 and Demolition Order No. 69 series of 2002.

The demolition orders cover the structures of Alexander Ampaguey Sr., Julio Daluyen Sr., Conception Padang, Carmen Panayo, Magdalena Gumangan, Marion Pool, Lourdes Hermogeno, Bernardo Simon, Joseph Legaspi, Joseph Bastan, Marcelino Basatan, Josephine Legaspi and Lansigan Bawas.

As this developed, members of the city anti-squatting team headed by city administrator Peter Fianza conducted another walk-through of the squatted portions of the watershed last Wednesday to map out an effective demolition plan.

Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. earlier said the city government has expanded the demolition plan into a two-year comprehensive plan to ensure that it will be sustained even with a change in the administration of the city mayor’s office.

The mayor said that new guidelines have been mapped out to ensure a more orderly and peaceful demolition undertaking and prevent scuffles that marred the previous operations with Fianza also appointed as crisis negotiator before demolition activities will be carried out.

The mayor maintained the city’s position that no ruling from lower courts or entities can supplant or overturn the Supreme Court decision giving the city government the imprimatur to pursue the long-delayed demolition.

Thus the city filed contempt charges against Masweng who earlier issued a temporary restraining order that snagged the implementation of the demolition order last July 28.


Ecija SP investigates asphalt road ‘scam’

CABANATUAN CITY– The Sangguniang Panlalawigan startesd an investigation on complaints that portions of newly paved asphalt roads along the national highway from San Jose City to this city have been pulverized days after they were completed in what is being called an “asphalt road scam.”

The SP, headed by Vice Gov. Edward Thomas Joson, summoned Ramiro Cruz and Ulysses Llado, district engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ first and second engineering districts, respectively, to shed light on the damaged asphalt roads amid suspicions substandard materials were used in their construction.

The SP investigation was prompted by pro-Lakas-CMD board member Joseph Ortiz who sought a legislative inquiry into the damaged road projects along the Maharlika Highway starting in San Jose farther down south in this city.

Ortiz said it was puzzling how a national road paved with asphalt only recently would end up like powdered sand. “Parang hinugasang buhangin (It looks like washed sand),” he said. He showed to local newsmen a portion of the damaged asphalted road in Barangay Caanawan in San Jose City.

Another portion of the asphalted road which suffered severe damage was a 200-meter stretch of the national highway fronting the Eduardo L. Joson Memorial Hospital in Barangay Bitas here.
The road forms part of the P28-million, one-kilometer road network stretching from Araullo University-Valdefuente stretch. Its construction started in March.

Ortiz said if not repaired immediately, the damaged road stretches could cause accidents, particularly among motorcycle riders.

Second district Rep. Joseph Gilbert Violago, whose congressional district includes San Jose, said asphalt materials being produced in the province are of inferior quality compared to those coming from Pampanga.

He said he already called the attention of the DPWH on the fact that asphalted roads in Nueva Ecija melt easily because the materials used lack quality.
Ramiro Cruz, DPWH district engineer for northern Nueva Ecija which covers San Jose City said that there was no irregularity in the construction of the asphalted roads.

He said the DPWH is in the process of repairing the damage by patching the potholes with the help of the Manila-based contractor.

Cruz said it would be inappropriate to raise suspicions of wrongdoings in the asphalt road project since the road was also damaged by typhoon Kiko.

“In fact, this problem of asphalt roads being damaged is a nationwide problem, especially with the occurrence of typhoons,” he said.

Ulysses Llado, DPWH district engineer for southern Nueva Ecija, said the damaged road in Barangay Bitas is still covered by the one-year warranty period, meaning the contractor is bound by the contract to fix the damaged road. -- MG


‘Birth’ of volcano noted in Kalinga mountain

TABUK, Kalinga – An inspection team said the “Lappat bulge” that occurred April this year in Lappat, Cabaritan here signals the birth of a fumarole or a volcanic vent, considering the relative proximity of the site a dormant volcano.

Mt. Binubulauan, said to be a dormant volcano, is located at Balatoc, Pasil.

The report prepared by engineer Dominic Jude Sugguiyao, supervising environmental management specialist revealed the ground swelled out of proportion blocking the whole width of the waterway.

“The flow of water was practically diverted as the surge of impounded water scoured through an adjacent cornfield and circled back to its original route downstream”, the team observed.

In the report, the team composed of personnel from the mineral and environment services of the province found out that as of August 4 the mound stood at a vertical distance of approximately 10 meters above the original riverbed with length and width measuring at about 40 meters and 15 meters respectively.

According to the report, the rate that the swelling has grown since its discovery in April is approximately 83mm (3.3in) a day.

The team also noted an odor attributed to fumaroles or sulfur dioxide emitted through crevices on the soil heap can be detected between 3:00 – 5:00 in the afternoon.

The types of soil extruded from underneath vary from clay, sandstone, and other soil and rock category. As viewed the relatively flat ground lying at the middle and surrounded by hills is a semblance of a worn down volcanic crater.

Cabaritan barangay chairman Rodolfo Madarang, who accompanied the team, narrated that long before the unusual phenomenon, people wading at the creek could feel the warm temperature of the water and observe rising vapor at the area where the swelling is situated, a feature corroborating the possible volcanic-related origin of the ground deformation.

The team urged an in-depth investigation of the Mines and Geo-Science Bureau and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. -- PIA-Kalinga


Baguio gov’t presses probe on Forbes Park land titles

By Antonio Alvarez Sagud Jr. and Lloyd Adrian C. Villegas

BAGUIO CITY -- The city government is pushing annulment of the Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to heirs of Lauro Carantes over portions of the Forbes Park Forest reservation and investigation on the matter.

Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. has taked city legal officer Melchor Rabanes to work on the city’s steps for the reversal of the CALTs issued to the Carantes family.

The city council came up with a committee headed by Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. to investigate the issuance of the NCIP over some portions of the Forbes Park Parcels I and II last Nov. 18, 2008 which covers more than 100,000 square meters of land registered with the registered of deeds in the name of the heirs of Lauro Carantes.

The committee agreed to request the Office of the Solicitor General to file cases for the recovery of portions of the Forbes Park as part of the forest reservation.

The city government also irged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to turn over and proclaim in favor of the City of Baguio the remaining portions of Forbes Park Reservation for watershed or forest purposes barred from future conversion and reclassification.

The city government also requested Congress to conduct a congressional Inquiry on why the NCIP and the Land Registration Commission are giving due course to the applications for titling as ancestral lands over the government reservations like the Forbes Park reservations.

Bautista said the City government will be firm in the position to request concerned offices to ask for the annulment, reversal or cancellation of Carantes’ ancestral land titles. –


Cyanide found In drink of dead Vizcaya studes

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya– Authorities confirmed the presence of cyanide in the drink that killed four high school students in Villaverde town last July 15.

Senior Insp. Noel Libunao, Villaverde police chief, said the National Bureau of Investigation’s forensic chemistry division found traces of cyanide in the drink that left the four students of the Bintawan National High School dead.

Police have filed charges of multiple murder for the students’ death against a 16-year-old male high school student, also from Villaverde town. – CL


5 men kidnap 4, slip from cops in running gunbattle

PLARIDEL, Bulacan– At least five suspected kidnappers slipped from police dragnet, took at least five vehicles during a running gunbattle that criss-crossed Bulacan Thursday morning.

Supt. Edwin Quilates, this town’s police chief said the five unidentified suspects have been tracked by police anti-kidnapping group and traffic management group from Cavite to Nueva Ecija, then to Bulacan since Wednesday August 19.

The suspects allegedly kidnapped four persons in Cavite that included an unidentified couple, their child and housemaid on Wednesday August 19, then drove to Nueva Ecija.

On August 20, the suspects, on board an Isuzu Trooper (RAV 117) was monitored by police in Bustos town.

The suspects then commandeered a Nissan Urvan (WDS 174,) leaving the Isuzu Trooper behind.
A brief gunbattle ensued and the suspects fled toward Plaridel town, but along the way took nine-year-old Mark Anthony de Lara as hostage.

Police said one of the suspects was wounded and the tire of the Nissan Urvan was hit during the exchange of gunfires.

At Barangay Culianin here, Quilates said the suspects stopped by a Mitsubishi Adventure (RDY 145) in an attempt to change vehicle as the Nissan Urvan they commandeered at Bustos town was running on flat tire.

The Mitsubishi Adventure had no driver and the suspects fired at its window on the driver’s side leaving it broken.

They then flagged down a Honda City (YDD-529), and left hostage De Lara as he could no longer fit in the car.

The suspects continued to drive to Barangay Tabang here near the Sta. Rita Toll Plaza of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) where they took a Ford Expedition.

Police said the suspects entered the NLEX and commandeered another Mitsubishi L-300 FB (RGS 326) by the Marilao toll plaza.

From there, police said they no longer know the whereabouts of the suspects.

They said that they could not easily fire at the suspects as they were using hostages as human shield. – With DC


Transport group presses Baguio, Benguet fare hike

BAGUIO CITY -- The Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines Benguet Chapter urged government to grant it another fare hike following oil price hikes.

The Fejodap said in a statement continuous increase in oil prices caused bigger expenses among jeepney operators so they were demanding additional cost of at least 25 centavos to the regular fare of P7.50.

Chevron Phil. Inc., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., and Petron Corporation raised oil prices Tuesday making different transport groups file petitions for fare increase.

The price of gasoline was raised to P2 per liter while diesel and kerosene was raised to P1.50 per liter.

The major oil players said increase of international product prices was the cause of rise of oil prices in the Philippines.

This, as the FEJODAP said it would wait for the move of other transport groups in the National Capital Region before pushing approval of additional 25 centavo fare increase in the Cordillera Region.

The Fejodap said while the government has no teeth in controlling oil prices, transport groups are not the only sector affected but also the riding public.-- Antonio Alvarez Sagud Jr. and /Lloyd Adrian C. Villegas


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