3 Cordi provinces in poll ‘hot spot’ list

>> Sunday, January 31, 2010

By Dexter A. See

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad – The regional police office in the Cordillera here confirmed three out of the six provinces in the region have been initially included in the list of areas under the watch list of the Commission on Elections because of election-related violence and incidents over the past three elections which could be repeated in the forthcoming May, 2010 elections.

Chief Supt. Samuel B. Diciano, police deputy regional director for administration, said the inclusion of Abra, Kalinga, and Mountain Province under the watch list is part of the processes being undertaken to ensure the sustained efforts towards achieving a clean, honest, orderly, and peaceful elections and it does not mean that the images of the provinces are being placed in a bad light.

While Abra is being considered as one of the election “hot spots” due to unabated violence, he pointed Kalinga and Mountain Province were included in the watch list because of records of election-related violence as well as ballot-snatching incidents over the past three elections.

Diciano said there is significant improvement in the prevailing peace and order in Abra over the past several years but efforts are being undertaken by concerned government agencies to convince the people to give up the culture of violence and embrace the culture of peace for the benefit of the present and future generations.

During the May, 2007 local elections, former Vice Governor Romel Diasen, husband of Kalinga Gov. Floydelia Diasen, was gunned down while he was delivering a speech in one of the areas in Kalinga on April 7, 2007, then a Black Saturday.

For Mountain Province, it was included under the watch list because of ballot-snatching incidents in the remote town of Paracelis over the past three elections which affected the outcome of the results in the municipal and provincial levels.

At present, Diciano added validation and assessment efforts are being done by the law enforcement agencies to ascertain whether or not the three provinces will be delisted from the watch list before the start of the campaign period for local officials on March 26, 2010.

The police official appealed to all sectors in the region to strictly abide by the existing regulations, especially the total gun ban, which are being implemented by the Comelec and law enforcement agencies so that the country will achieve a clean, honest, orderly, and peaceful elections.


5 soldiers slain in NPA clash

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Five soldiers were killed in an encounter with suspected New People’s Army rebels at Barangay Mainit in the boundary of Bontoc and this town around 10:30 Wednesday morning.

Backed by helicopter gunships, men of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division based in Isabela are now pursuing the rebels believed belonging to the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya of the New People’s Army’s Ilocos Regional Party Committee.

Col. Loreto Magundayao, civil-military relations head of the 5th ID, said the government troops were there to provide security to ongoing construction of the multimillion-peso Halsema Highway project of the national government when they chanced upon the rebels.

The Bontoc Mainit road is not within Halsema Highway.

Killed during the firefight were Cpl. Napoleon Ramirez, and Pfcs. Joseph Casem, Velasco Mayao, Joey Corpuz, and Camilo Abad.

Four other soldiers, including Pfc. Salvador Villanueva, were wounded in the clash. Army troops belonging to the Alpha Company of 54th Infantry Battalion, while on combat operations reportedly encountered around NPA rebels at the steep mountain resulting to a firefight lasting around an hour.

In a report to Brig. Gen. Rommel A. Gomez, commander of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division, by Col. Remegio De Vera, commanding officer of 501st Infantry Brigade, he said the NPA group was led by Lipito Wigit, “Ka Dalalatumbas.”

Local folks said the NPA guerillas shot the soldiers with sniper fire from vantage positions with the troopers not knowing where the shots were coming from.

An army report said the NPA rebels withdrew to different directions carrying with them their casualties.

Local folks urged police and army authorities to caution army troopers to refrain from committing human rights abuses against residents in retaliation for the killing of the soldiers like in the past following encounters with the rebel group.


1,134 ‘flying voters’ uncovered in Ifugao

LAGAWE, Ifugao — The Commission on Elections here has uncovered 1,134 double registrants in its list of voters for the May 2010 automated elections.

Lawyer Jerome Bantiyan of Comelec-Ifugao disclosed the double registration was discovered recently after the poll body’s central office furnished a copy of the list of voters to the provincial office.

Among the 11 municipalities of the province, Tinoc, one of the province’s remotest towns, has the highest number of double registered voters with 202. Other towns with double registrants are: Hingyon, 148; Asipulo, 117; Alfonso Lista, 107; Lagawe, 102; Hungduan, 90; Aguinaldo, 89; Lamut, 87; Kiangan, 80; Banaue, 72; and Mayoyao, 40.

Bantiyan noted some voters registered in two voting places at the same day as reflected in the dates of their registration.

The Comelec provincial, municipal, and city offices nationwide are now busy finalizing the list of voters which will be computerized in time for the conduct of the first-ever automated elections.

The double registrants will be appropriately given notices in order for them to immediately make the necessary corrections so that they could identify which polling place they will choose to vote.

If the double registrants will not make the necessary corrections in their respective registrations, the Comelec will be constrained to file the appropriate criminal charges against them before the Regional Trial Court.

Those found guilty of double registration face a prison term ranging from two years to six years at the discretion of the court. – Dexter A. See


Baguio Benguet power rate cut

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The over 120,000 consumers of the Benguet Electric Cooperative in Baguio City and the 13 towns of this province got a timely reprieve after Beneco management announced a P0.20 per kilowatt-hour reduction in their power bills effective January billing due to cheaper generation cost charged by a private power supplier.

From the previous power being supplied by the National Power Corp. over the past several years, Beneco, the franchise holder of power distribution in Baguio and Benguet, now sources its power supply from the TIM Energy Corporation, a Japanese firm operating the Sual coal-fired power plant in Sual, Pangasinan and the volatile Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

Alejandro delos Santos Jr., manager of Beneco’s corporate services department, said the discounted rate being offered by the new supplier allows the distribution utility to give the consumers much cheaper rates that will be reflected in the generation cost of their power bills so that they will continue to enjoy affordable power rates.

Based on initial computations, consumers will be enjoying at least P0.20 per kilowatt-hour reduction in the generation cost being charged to them starting this January billing period.


Ilocos Sur poll bets sign peace covenant

By Mar T. Supnad.

CAMP QUIRINO, Bantay, Ilocos Sur -- Poll candidates and parties in the province have signed a peace covenant here last week at the provincial police headquarters to ensure honest and peaceful elections come May

The agreement was initiated by the Commission on Elections, Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

It was supervised by Chief Supt. Constante D. Azares, Jr., Region 1 police director and Comelec supervisor lawyer Marino Salas.

The peace accord was singed after the Comelec and PNP held an open forum among political candidates in the province.

Vigan City Mayor Eva Marie S. Medina did not attend the covenant since she was running unopposed -- the first ever lady mayor here who broke the political history of this heritage city.
The longest serving mayor of Vigan, Medina served as nine years as mayor before she was replaced by her husband businessman Ferdie Madina, last 2004 to 2007.

Azares, a native of Barangay Raois of Vigan said even there was no peace accord he would see to it that there would be no trouble in the province considering that some candidates are also close relatives and do not want any bloodbath to happen.

So far, only one municipal candidate in Sta. town identified as Artemio Tugade was shot and killed by suspected gunmen a few days ago in what police described as either politically motivated or personal grudge.

Political kingpin Luis Chavit Singson, now running for governor, did not attend the covenant but sent his representative Raymund Tabios to sign on his behalf.

Among those who signed were Randy Baterina, running for congressman in First district, former congressman Mariano Tajon who is running for mayor in his town of Sto. Domingo; Germy Singson-Goulart who is running for mayor of Caoayan town; Lito Miranda who is running for mayor in Santiago town and Alex Bistoyong who is running for mayor in Suyo town, among others.


Marijuana bricks seized in Isabela; P183 M ‘green gold’ burned in La Union

Some 103 kilograms of fully dried marijuana leaves worth at least P3 million have been seized by authorities in northwestern Isabela while they were about to be transported to the National Capital Region Thursday Jan. 21.

Chief Insp. Primitivo Bayungan, head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Cagayan Valley, said they intercepted the contraband on board a passenger bus along the Isabela-Kalinga border, particularly at Sitio Tubong, Barangay Naganacan in Santa Maria town about 2 p.m.

“The marijuana might have come from Kalinga province and was to be delivered to Metro Manila, had we not intercepted them along the way,” he said.

The confiscation, he said, was the result of surveillance work with the Isabela police, led by Senior Supt. Jimmy Rivera, provincial police director, of suspected drug traffickers in the region and adjacent areas, including Kalinga where clandestine marijuana plantations are believed to still exist.

“The seized dried marijuana leaves in brick form were concealed in four cigarette boxes on board the (bus’) cargo compartment,” he said.

Reports said the four boxes containing the illegal items were named to one Arnel Viernes, allegedly of Cubao, Quezon City.

However, the anti-drug operatives, who also include elements from the Isabela Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the intelligence section of the Isabela police office, failed to establish the identities of the shippers of the contraband items.

In related developments, the joint elements of policemen, Navy and the PDEA in Region 1, uprooted some P153.8 million worth of marijuana plants in 15 plantation sites in the boundaries of La Union, Ilocos Sur and Benguet.

The three-day uprooting operation, which ended Friday, has resulted to the arrest of Juliano Tapaya, 48, a suspected marijuana cultivator residing in Sapdaan, Santol, La Union.

Two of Tapaya’s companions identified as a certain Wilbert and Washington managed to escape while the operating troops were scouring the area.

The joint report of Col. Roberto Opeña, PDEA regional director, and Chief Supt. Constante Azares Jr., Ilocos police director, showed that the P153.8 million worth consists of 765,700 fully grown plants, 16, 900 seedlings and 370 grams of marijuana seeds.

Most of the illegal plants were recovered in plantation sites in the boundary of Kibungan, Benguet, Sugpon, Ilocos Sur and Santol, La Union.

The intensified operation against marijuana eradication in the area was contained in the PNP Master Plan Sangbanat and PDEA Oplan “Farmville.”

The troops, which were sent through two helicopters from the Philippine Air Force, is composed of personnel from the PDEA, the Naval Intelligence Service Group in Poro Point, the Regional Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operation Task Group 1, the Regional Public Safety Management Battalion and the La Union police.


22 Korean crew of vessel repatriated

By Freddie Lazaro

LAOAG CITY – The 22 Korean crew of MV Nam Yang 8 cargo ship, stranded at the shorelines of Barangay Balaoi, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, were ordered repatriated to their country by the Bureau of Immigration.

The 22 Koreans left Tuguegarao City, Cagayan, at about 6 a.m. Thursday for Manila, where they were to take their flight to Korea.

Cagayan BI Chief Eva Antiporda said the Koreans had sufficient documents for their brief stay in the country but they need to be repatriated to their country.

“The immediate repatriation of the Korean nationals was based on orders of BI Commissioner Marcelino Libanan after it was found out that they have legal documents in support of their stay in our country,” Antiporda said.


Gov’t earmarks P15 million for info drive on Cordi autonomy

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – The national government is pushing autonomy for the region to comply with constitutional provision mandating the creation of autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao.

The Office of the President included in the P1.5 trillion national budget this year P15 million to fund activities lined up by the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera for pursuit for self-governance through autonomy.

Liza Fangsilat, regional director of the Department of Budget and Management in the Cordillera, said the release of the amount to the region will be made once President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs the approved national budget this year into law.

With this, activities for different sectors regarding information and education campaign will continue even through the campaign period for the May 2010 synchronized and automated elections.

Earlier, the RDC proposed inclusion in this year’s budget the amount of P48 million to boost the expansion of the machineries and establish grassroots level linkages to strengthen the information and education campaign on the renewed pursuit for regional development and autonomy after the P15 million proposed in the 2009 national budget was lost in the Senate.

Juan Ngalob, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority and RDC acting chairman, said a tracking survey will be conducted by the region’s policy-making body in order to determine the inclination of voters on the quest for the establishment of an autonomous region.
This. so that they will be guided by results in the formulation of more strategies to make sure Cordillerans fully understand advantages and disadvantages of achieving self-governance before crafting a third Organic Act.

In 2208, results of a sampling survey conducted to determine the inclination of Cordillerans on the renewed pursuit for regional autonomy showed 66 percent of the people were not aware on the constitutional provision mandating the creation of an autonomous region in the Cordillera.

Out of the 3`4 percent who claimed they are aware of the provision of the 1987 Constitution on the establishment of an autonomous region in the Cordillera, 20 percent said they will vote for autonomy when an Organic Act will be submitted to the people for ratification while 14 percent of the surveyed individuals will not vote for the third Organic Act.

In her 2006 State of the Nation Address, President Arroyo assured her support to the quest of the region for self-governance, thus, the RDC crafted a three-point work plan that will focus on information and education campaign among all sectors.


New Cordillera DPWH chief wants participatory identification of projects

BAGUIO CITY – The new head of the Cordillera office of the Department of Public Works and Highways said identification of priority development projects in the different parts of the region must pass through necessary consultation process with affected stakeholders to minimize the opposition to whatever projects that will be implemented, especially in the rural areas which are dominated by indigenous peoples.

Engineer Enrico Guilas, newly-installed DPWH regional director, said he had given the agency’s district offices in the region the discretion on their priority projects which requires funding from the national government provided such projects have passed appropriate consultations with the affected stakeholders.

According to him, he will be initiating participatory consultations with local officials, indigenous peoples and other sectors in the region which will be traversed by upcoming development projects which will be funded by concerned government agencies and will be implemented by the DPWH in the region.

On the unsettled road-right-of-way issues which is the root cause of the delays in the implementation of most road projects in the region, Guilas said democratic efforts must be exerted by the national government to convince property owners to give a portion of their lots for the benefit of the public with just compensation.

Guilas said the agency will not allow a few individuals or groups to derail the implementation of development projects in the region considering that it will be the public who will benefit from better roads leading to the countryside plus the fact that the property owners will be appropriately compensated.

He added implementation of government’s priority projects should not be unjustly delayed by road-right-of-way claims since there are procedures and processes being undertaken in pegging the prices of the lands which will be taken for public use.

In case claimants will insist on their demand for alleged excessive payments of their properties which will be taken by the government, he claimed the agency will be forced to subject their properties for expropriation so that it will be the courts which will eventually decided on whether or not the affected lots is needed for public purpose.

Guilas said the interest of the public should always prevail over the personal and political interests of some individuals and groups so that people living in the countryside will enjoy the fruits of development in the future once accessibility will be enhanced through the completion of better roads and bridges. – Dexter A. See


More checkpoints ordered for peaceful May polls

By Mar T. Supnad

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan -- Region 1 police director Chief Supt Constante D. Azares, Jr. has ordered his men to install more checkpoints in the region in compliance with an order from the Commission on Elections for peaceful elections come May.

Azares visited the towns of Sual, Dasol, Burgos, Mabini, Bani, Bolinao, Anda, Labrador and Lingayen, and the city of Alaminos, all in Western Pangasinan.

He inspected police stations, talked to his men and reminded them to strictly adhere to the Comelec rules on the total gun ban and the conduct of checkpoint operations.

Azares also witnessed turn-over of shotguns earlier issued by the provincial government to heads of barangays in line with an agreement made during the Comelec-PNP-AFP conference for the shotguns to be placed in the custody of police stations during the election period to pre-empt the possible illegal utilization of the weapons especially in the identified Election Watchlist Areas (EWAs).

The regional police chief also inspected checkpoints in said towns and checked on the preparedness of troops.


Sarge, 3 men nabbed for violating gun ban

By Mar T. Supnad

CAMP FLORENDO, San Fernando City , La Union- Four persons, including an Air Force Sergeant, were arrested by the police for violating the Comelec gun ban in Ilocos region last week.

Reports received by Chief Supt. Constante D. Azares, Region 1 police director, said despite the implementation of the Comelec gun ban, a number of gun holders including members of the Armed Forces and the PNP, still carry their guns outside their residences without exemption from the poll body.

Azares identified the arrested suspects as Master Sgt. Rodencio Cruz, detailed with the Security group in Candon City and native of Quibaol, Lingayen, Pangasinan who was caught with illegal possession of Cal. 45; Condrado Liday of Dumayata, Binalonan, Pangasinan who was arrested for illegal possession of caliber 45 with bullets; Renato Fabros who was nabbed in a checkpoint riding on motorbike along the highway of Binalonan with home-made shot gun; and Joel Timberza of Poblacion, La Paz, Abra who was arrested for carrying a replica of 9mm caliber.

Azares directed his men to further intensify their operations against illegal holders of guns and the so-called members of the Private Armed Group being maintained by politicians in the region.

Meanwhile, the cadaver of Dennis Cumilang of Sitio Barrientos, Barangay Naguiray, Manaoag, Pangasinan was recovered by the police.

The victim’s cadaver was identified by his father Casimiro Cumilang as that of his missing son.

Police ruled out foul play on the victim since he was reportedly suffering from epilepsy.


Muslim vendors’ chief nabbed for selling shabu

BAGUIO CITY -- A drug personality, who claims he is the president of the Muslim Sunglass Vendors Association here in Burnham Park, was nabbed in an anti-drug buy-bust operation around 1 p.m. on Jan. 27.

Police identified the suspect as Mackay Mapalao, 53, married, native of Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur and resident here of 24 Purok 6, Pinsao Pilot Project.

Police tagged Mapalao as a member of a very notorious local drug group in Baguio.

Mapalao was immediately arrested after selling half gram of shabu to an officer of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in the region who posed as buyer at Barangay Pinsao Pilot Project.

The drug was valued at five thousand pesos.

Mapalao shall be charged for violation of Republic Act 9165 (The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.)


DENR orders: Stop expansion of veggie farms at Mt. Pulag

By Dexter A. See

KABAYAN, Benguet — The Cordillera office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered strict implementation of moratorium on expansion of numerous vegetable gardens located within here at Mount Pulag National Park, the second highest mountain peak in the country, to abate rapid destruction of the region’s watersheds and forests.

The DENR deployed several monitoring teams in strategic areas within the watershed and forest reservation to look into the activities of the thousands of farmers so that they will not be able to invite the protected and forested areas of the national park.

The agency’s action against erring farmers is in compliance to the marching orders of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera for all concerned government agencies and local governments to adopt programs and projects for the preservation and protection of the remaining watersheds and forests in the region.

During recent consultations with the different villagers living in the protected areas, farmers committed there will be a status quo in the current situation of vegetable farms in the watershed and forest reservation.

Earlier, an inter-agency investigating team found out farmers continue to extend their farms inside protected areas of Mount Pulag through the use of mechanized equipment owned by several contractors and local governments of Buguias, Kabayan and Bokod in Benguet and Kayapa in nearby Nueva Vizcaya.

Ironically, Lake Babadac and Lake Tabeo, have already dried up because of the presence of commercial vegetable farms around them which replaced the century-old pine trees that help sustain the abundant water supply for the springs and river systems.


‘Mayor armed barangay captains with guns’

By Mar T Supnad

CAMP PRES. QUIRINO, Bantay, Ilocos Sur- A former lawmaker and municipal candidate accused Wednesday his political opponent of distributing guns to barangay captains in Sto. Domingo town, making the community in panic.

Speaking during the signing of a peace covenant held inside the PNP Headquarters here, former Rep. Mariano Tajon, told Commission on Election officials led by lawyer Marino “Mar” Salas and police headed by Chief Supt. Constante D. Azares, Jr., Region 1 police director including Senior Supt. Eduardo Dopale, Ilocos Sur police director, that the incumbent town of mayor of his town had bought guns of caliber 45 and 9mm, using the municipal government fund, then distributed it to barangay captains a few days ago, which he said was a total disregard to the Comelec gun ban.

“While the Comelec and the PNP are totally implanting the total gun ban, my opponent in Sto. Doming is distributing guns to the barangay leaders,” said Tajon.

He added even during the time of the infamous “saka-saka” time (goons in barefoot) he had not even experienced holding a fan knife during election period.

He said out of the 36 barangay captains, 34 got the guns.

But Senior Insp. Arsemio T. Ramos, chief of police of Sto. Domingo said only 32 barangay captains received guns, saying that based on the Local Government Code, the barangay captains can legally possess guns provided it is licensed. “As far as the Local government law is concerned, there is no such illegal possession since they (captains) are allowed to possess guns to protect themselves,” said Ramos.

Azares, for his part, said they will strictly enforce Comelec rules on gun ban, warning that they will arrest anyone who brings guns outside their residence.

Ramos said that the peace and order situation in his town is peaceful, since there is almost no shooting incident since the start of political season although there are “sometimes word wars among the candidates.”


Minor pleads guilty to rape-slay of Sagada lass

By Francis Degay

BONTOC, Mountain Province – A minor, one of the suspects in the rape-slay of a young lass in the tourist town of Sagada last year pleaded guilty here Jan. 19 before presiding judge Joseph Patnaan of branch 36 of the Mountain Province regional trial court.

The youngster was represented by lawyer Andrew Reuben Daculan of the Public Attorney’s Office.

Daculan replaced lawyer Alex Degyem who represented Dacmeg during previous arraignments.
On Nov. 12, 2009, another suspect identified as Uegine Aguinsod represented by lawyer Sergio Milan pleaded guilty in the same jurisdiction of Patnaan.

Earlier on July 25, 2009 the victim was found dead at the Tangeb ground of the St. Mary’s School compound, Sagada by a certain Frenzel Diwag.

Diwag reported the incident to St. Mary’s School school principal Dennis Faustino who in turn called the attention of Sagada police that conducted the investigation.

According to separate affidavits signed by three female witnesses, in the evening of July 24, 2009, the victim and three lady companions, all students of the Banga-an National High School in Sagada, were supposed to attend a school dance at SMS on invitation of a lady friend from the sponsoring school.

One of the witnesses failed to contact their friend to accompany them inside the hall so they went instead to the Tengab ground to meet the victim’s text mate.

Based on sworn statements of witnesses including the result of police investigation, provincial chief prosecutor Moises Ayuchok filed a case of rape with homicide against the suspects at the RTC which was docketed as criminal case no. 02342.

But despite the acceptance of guilt, which is a grave offense by the two suspects, the prosecutor must have to submit more evidence in succeeding hearings.

The family of the victim is being represented by Ayuchok and volunteer private lawyer Amadeo Degay, of the Fidilisan ethnic group wherein the victim was a member.


Treasurer to John Hay locators: Pay or close

By Isagani S. Liporada

BAGUIO CITY – City treasurer Thelma Manaois last week warned locators within Camp John Hay to pay city regulatory fees or face closure.

She said the locators’ refusal to pay mayor’s permit fees to the city would result to higher fees because of penalties. “The campaign and investigation division and the permits and licensing office are already warming up we will visit them sometime in February to make the necessary inventory.”

Earlier, Manaois’ less than zealous resolve to collect regulatory fees from ‘illegal vendors’ within the multi-billion mega-tourism estate got a boost from city legal officer Melchor Carlos Rabanes.

Rabanes in a Jan.13 letter urged Manaois not to give way to John Hay Management Corporation’s thrust seeking to thwart payment of business taxes by Camp John Hay locators.

“It is incumbent upon the city government to assert authority and require locators within to secure business or license fees,” he said. “The city government cannot surrender its powers and authority granted by its charter and the clear provisions of the Local Government Code.”

As early as March 1, 2007, Manaois asked accredited enterprises within Camp John Hay to settle business permits with the city.

However, JHMC officer-in-charge Lyssa Pagano – Calde in a letter dated March 26, 2007 to Manaois claimed “enterprises within JHSEZ are not required to secure business permits or licenses from Baguio.”

Calde explained that pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 1191, John Hay has been declared as a Special Tourism economic Zone within the purview if Republic Act (RA) 7916 or the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995. “As an offshoot, a registration agreement was executed between the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and JHMC. The agreement provided that JHMC as developer-operator of the ecozone is authorized, among others, to administer, manage, and operate the ecozone.”

“It was only then,” Manaois recalled, “that the locators surrendered their permits and never settled the necessary fees with us again.”

The treasurer citing Rabanes added JHMC and its locators should distinguish between the exercises of the power of taxation contra police power granted to LGUs via the Local Government Code.

In the middle of 2009, she solicited the aid of John Hay Management Corporation for aid in inventorying CJH businesses pursuant to administrative order (AO) 102-2009 bolstering business tax collection on commercial establishments thereat.

But JHMC operations group manager Frank Daytec, Jr. told Manaois JHMC cannot act on the city’s request for assistance.

Manaois said CJH is not a city within a city. “The CLO already gave us the green light, even saying reference of AO 102-2009 to the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel of vis-à-vis JHMC’s claims for exemption can prevent collection.” .


393 homeless families devastated by typhoon Pepeng receive grants

By Mar T. Supnad

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan -Some 393 homeless families affected by the devastation of typhoon Pepeng received grants amounting to P2.7million under the disaster risk mitigation program of Habitat for Humanity-Philippines in partnership with the provincial government and local government units.

Provincial Housing and Homesite Regulation Officer Alvin L. Bigay said the families who received P7,000 each came from the towns of Rosales, Villasis, Sison, Bayambang and Urdaneta City.
Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. thanked not only the Habitat team but all the organizations and individuals who extended support to the typhoon victims.

The outpouring of support from concerned citizens, according to the governor, signifies the spirit of cooperativism or “bayanihan” among Filipinos is still alive.

Bigay said the province sought the assistance of shelter agencies to aid the homeless families after the devastation of the destructive typhoon.

Bigay said Pangasinan was lucky for getting a quick response from the Habitat for Humanity-Philippines.

He added the province and the non-government organization inspected damaged houses in the six heavily affected areas of Pangasinan. Bautista town, he added, is under re-validation.

Shelter Repair Kit Assistance involves the distribution of construction materials to families whose houses were partially or totally damaged by calamity or disasters.

This includes roofing materials, flexiboards, lumber, nails and other construction materials like hammer, handsaw and screw drivers.


What if elections failed?


As we get closer to May 10, the people’s fear is increasing dramatically. What they fear is that -- which was unthinkable a few months ago -- the country would experience a tumultuous event that could be bring the country back to an era that they had believed would not happen again.

The Commission on Elections has been trying very hard to allay fears that there will be no failure of elections. Comelec officials are so confident that they’re saying they will complete the final canvassing in six days! They’re saying that by May 15, the newly elected president, vice president, and 12 senators will be proclaimed.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said, “The scenario of no proclamation, the nationwide failure of elections—these are just apocalyptic predictions. These apprehensions are not helping. We should all calm down and soon, we will see that our objectives will be attained.”

Melo has to be commended for his optimism; however, there are experts in the automation industry who don’t share his optimism. One of them is Manuel “Mano” Alcuaz Jr., the President of Systems Sciences Consult Inc. He said in his recent article -- “Can we trust Comelec?” -- “I wish the answer were yes but Comelec’s behavior in 2004, 2007, and in preparation for the coming elections give me cause to worry about what will happen in May 2010. I hope and pray that I am wrong.”

Alcuaz said the Smartmatic Automated Election System (AES) has no transparency. “It is very secure against hacking by outsiders, but has no safeguards against an inside job!”

According to Alcuaz, the first risk is related to the Optical Mark Reading (OMR) ballot. Since the candidates’ names were pre-printed on the ballot, all the voter has to do is to mark an oval in front of the candidates he or she is voting for. “This seems convenient for the voter,” Alcuaz said.

“It is also convenient for the vote buyers. They can quickly mark the ballots of someone who has sold his vote. Near the end of the day, in a precinct controlled by a warlord, all unused ballots can be quickly marked and fed into the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machine. How does someone file a protest? Difficult. With handwritten ballots one can identify common handwriting of names. How do you identify common shading?”

“The real danger in the PCOS machine,” Alcuaz said, “is in the formula that is used to add up the votes read when the ballots are scanned. The various parties could demand to see the formulas of the 1,600 + municipalities or congressional districts. But how can you be sure that the proper formulas will be loaded in all 82,000 PCOS machines?” Comelec has refused to disclose the formulas that are programmed into the PCOS machines. Why the secrecy?

“We are faced with the danger that by May 15, 2010 a new president, vice president, and 12 senators may be proclaimed,” Alcuaz warned. “But they may not be the ones the people voted for. They could be the ones that Comelec and or Smartmatic insiders cheated for!”

Alcuaz’s assessment of AES raises a lot of red flags that the 2010 elections could be a repeat of the massive cheatings in 2004 and 2007. But assuming that AES is going to perform without being tampered, there is another danger that could lead to a total breakdown of the elections.

It was reported last Jan. 26 that Comelec “is not closing its door to manual elections should the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines fail.” Melo said that they “have all the things they need to carry out backup plans for conducting manual elections in areas where the PCOS might fail.”

For the first time, the specter of failure of elections was voiced out by the Comelec chairman himself. Within a few days, Melo’s unqualified optimism was transformed to guarded pessimism. Finally, he has come to terms with reality.

Should Comelec have to go to manual elections in the event the automated elections fail,
To accomplish this, Comelec has to print two sets of ballots (50 million for each set), one for automated elections and the other for manual elections. However, this could be a recipe for confusion and could open a wide window of opportunity to some candidates to commit fraud.

In the high-tech industry, Murphy’s Law is the most feared. Murphy’s Law says that “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” And it could go wrong when it’s least expected and more often when implementing a brand new automated system such as the AES. And if the implementors don’t have a contingency plan -- or backup system -- that will work, the outcome is chaos and breakdown. What then?

The failure of elections could only lead to state of emergency or martial law. Recent actions by the Comelec -- deputizing the military as Comelec personnel, and not disarming the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) -- have put in place all the key elements of implementing state of emergency or martial law, ready to go into action at a moment’s notice.

It is interesting to note that CAFGU units that were farmed out to the Ampatuan clan were involved in the Maguindanao massacre. It is also common knowledge that CAFGU units were being used by political warlords in the pretext of enforcing peace and order in their turfs. But what would prevent them from being used to make sure that their warlords win in the elections? Isn’t that what happened in Maguindanao in 2004 and 2007?

A few days ago, it was reported that former Cabinet members warned of an “orchestrated attempt to make the coming elections fail to pave the way for an extended term of President Arroyo.” With all the strange things that have been happening lately, their apprehension is not without basis.

In a survey conducted by SWS on October 24-27, 2009, about half (49%) of adults sense that “people power” will happen if the 2010 elections failed. The survey also found that 47 percent fear the PCOS machines are vulnerable to sabotage.

The survey should serve as a warning to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her appointees in the Comelec that the people aren’t going to allow another dictatorship to emerge. For the sake of the country, Arroyo should -- nay, must -- step down at the end of her term and ensure a peaceful and fraud-free elections.


A Panagbenga character

Alfred P. Dizon

BAGUIO CITY – It is a matter of concern that organizers of the Panagbenga or flower festival in this city of diminishing pines are once again trying to push their weight over city folk.

They even made rules for the media to follow. No newsman is allowed in certain places to cover the event if he is not accredited by organizers. Somebody should tell them, particularly their top honcho, that that is a violation of the constitutional provision of freedom of the press.

Uttot ti palikwawa, my bubwit would say. Organizers are led by a manager of an elite club where big boys go to play their balls and boost their egos trying to outdo each other by showing off their latest toys, be it cars, pretty women, and yes, for some – boys like you know who.
This character some years ago, lectured Baguio media during a press conference on how they should report events. He and his peers were complaining that due to media reports, visitors and tourists shunned the city as a result due of the meninigococcemia scare. They said local media should be more responsible in their reportage.

They were telling newsmen how to write the news. But by the way some of them talked, they didn’t know their grammar. Their media release was also full of errors a grade school kid could have cringed on reading it. Whoever made it should have been shot along with their top honcho who may have read it but couldn’t discern the booboos.

Anyhow, this honcho said news reports resulted to low income of hotels and restaurants in the city and this was the fault of media. I don’t know if he has a doctorate in journalism if ever there was one lofty title but he looked so arrogant with a cigarette in two fingers and a microphone in his other hand.

I seldom talk during press conferences but what he said and the way he said lecturing the media like they were schoolchildren got my goat. I told him he need not tell us how to do our jobs since we don’t tell them how to do their jobs. Among others, I told him it was bad taste since we follow a code of ethics for journalists and report the news as objectively as possible.

A pissed off Willie Cacdac, the late veteran newsman followed suit and gave the organizers a piece of his mind, words that were hard to swallow.
Over the years, this character wormed his way as top honcho of the Panagbenga and now, he is again trying to dictate his will on how media should act and report.

Domecio Cimatu, also a veteran newsman, after the election of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club last week aired his deep displeasure on why local media, particularly those who are active, are not doing something to correct what he called the imposition of rules of this character on how media should cover Panagbenga. “Tabbed,” vintage Domci shouted eliciting guffaws during the bonfire at the grounds of the Philippine Information Agency.

The hard-hitting Ka Ben of Mountain Cable TV had also been vocal in his announcements that they would boycott Panagbenga by not covering it owing to the machinations of this character.

During the bonfire, other news networks said they were also planning a boycott to air their displeasure. “Hindi marunong lumingon sa pinagggalingan,” they said of this character who reportedly rose from his status as a waiter by pitting two wealthy families against each other. It was also this character who pushed a mediaman whose leg was amputated during a funeral mass.
The character’s media lackeys should tell him that the older guys are displeased with his actuations. Most top honchos of news networks said organizers should remember that it was local media which made the event into what it is now -- for free. What gets their goat is why the media from imperial Manila are given preferential treatment over the locals in terms of advertisements or when they come for a visit. The term for it as my bubwit would say – “inggrata.”
You see, call it “outstanding” or “grandstanding” as a councilor would say, this character said politicking during the 15th staging of the Panagbenga Festival would be a big no-no, especially during the grand street dancing and float parade on Feb. 27 and 28. (See, that is another free plug.)

As long as they abide by the rules, politicians are welcome, said the top honcho of this privately run but government-supported event. “Candidates cannot join the street dancing as they could interrupt the event by shaking hands with the spectators,” he said. “The politicians will only be allowed to join the float parade “if they have their own floats too. They, however, cannot go down from their floats to woo voters. Their floats, too, should follow the theme of the Panagbenga Festival and should not carry any political stickers, flyers or tarpaulins.”
The festival’s street dancing and float parade, which attract at least 200,000 spectators along Baguio’s main streets yearly, have proven to be a perfect venue for political candidates.

The past years, especially during the 2004 and 2007 elections, national candidates joined the parade, but got jeers instead. In 2007, Baguio City Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. personally dissuaded then Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando from bringing his own float, warning, “Baguio residents do not want politics within Panagbenga.” Fernando never showed up.

In 2007, administration candidates joined the second day of the revelry on board a float. One of them, Prospero Pichay, even had his own Surigao-surfing float while his helicopter hovered above the whole time, drowning out the music of the Panagbenga brass band. None of the administration candidates won here.

Festival organizers particularly this character, have yet to reveal if any presidential hopefuls or other candidates intend to join this year’s event. But like my bubwit would say: “Uttot ti palikwawa.” For those who don’t understand Ilocano, it means “fart of a butterfly.”


Gloria in excelsis Arroyo

Perry Diaz

Before filing her certificate of candidacy for congresswoman of Pampanga’s second district, Prez Gloria Arroyo attended a special mass at the St. Augustine Church in Lubao, Pampanga which was concelebrated by 22 priests. During the homily, Fr. Roland Moraleja said that the people in Pampanga need the leadership of Arroyo. He likened Gloria to Jesus Christ who “went down to serve” the people. It sounded like the “second coming” of Jesus Christ… or is it the Anti-Christ?

Is Gloria the Anti-Christ? If you count the number of letters in the names of Gloria and her husband Miguel Arroyo, it’s “666” -- the mark of the Anti-Christ or the Devil.

When Gloria took her communion, my investigative reporter James Macaquecquec, who was near Gloria, overheard her whisper to the priest, “Thank you father, when I win I’ll make sure that the “Jueteng Lord” will increase your jueteng payola.” Kurakot!

James told me that word is out that a new processional hymn has been composed which will be sung in masses at St. Augustine. The new hymn is titled, “Gloria in excelsis Arroyo” (Glory to Arroyo in the highest).

James also said that Gloria’s son Congressman Mikey Arroyo, who’s not running for reelection to make way for his “dear mama,” will be placed in charge of church collections and quarry fee collections. Not bad for the new “Godfather” of Pampanga. Wasn’t he the reputed “Lion King” as well? Sounds like a kid in a hurry. Pretty soon he’ll be “El Presidentito” (The Little President).

Lilia “Nanay Baby” Pineda, wife of the reputed “Jueteng King” and “kumadre” of Gloria, is running again for governor of Pampanga, and her son -- “anak ng jueteng” (son of jueteng) -- is running for reelection as mayor of Lubao, the “Jueteng Capital.” It’s all in the family, folks.

Nanay Baby, who was defeated by Gov. Fr. “Among Ed” Panlilio in 2007, thought that Among Ed wasn’t going to run for reelection. But to her surprise, Among Ed filed his candidacy for governor at the last minute. This is going to be an interesting rematch -- Among Ed believes that the good Lord will be with him while Nanay Baby says that the Lord of Jueteng is behind her. Folks, it’s going to be “power of prayer” against “power of money.” Like someone once said, “prayer can move mountains” but Nanay Baby thinks that her money can buy mountains. Stay tuned, folks.

Former prez Fidel V. Ramos said that Gloria diminishes the stature of the presidency by running for a local office. But didn’t Gloria already diminish the presidency when she grabbed power from Erap?

Many people believe that Gloria is running for Congress because she has set her eyes on the speakership of the House of Representatives. Well, she’s going to have competition because Imelda Marcos is running for Congress to represent her late husband’s district. Although Imelda has no Ilocano blood, Ilocanos see her as an “Ilocano by injection” and that’s good enough for them. Ngarud!

The 2010 presidential election is going to be a “labo-labo” (free-for-all) among the 99 “wannabes, maybes, and nobodies.” I counted five “wannabes” -- Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar, Erap Estrada, Gibo Teodoro, and Dick Gordon. The “maybes and nobodies” include spoilers and nuisance (“salimpusa”) candidates. Unfortunately, there will only be one winner and 98 who will be cheated.

Villar will do whatever it takes to win the presidency. With more than P7 billion in his war chest, Villar recently compared himself to US President Barack Obama. He said that he would be better than Obama in governing the country. Well, he’d better be better than Obama, otherwise the Pinoys are in for the greatest recession in Philippine history.

Villar said that “the next president should start working from Day One, not merely “learning the ropes” because the government is expecting a budget deficit of more than P300 billion by 2010.” It seems like Villar may have copied Hillary Clinton’s “Day One” line. But Clinton lost to the “inexperienced” Obama. Likewise, Villar could also lose to the “inexperienced” Noynoy Aquino.

Among the “wannabes,” Noynoy leads with a stunning 44% approval rating. Meanwhile, his cousin Gibo Teodoro is struggling with an anemic 2% approval rating. I’m not sure how Gibo is going to catch up with his cousin… unless La Gloria helps him with a call to her “friends” in Maguindanao like what she did in 2004 and 2007.

And at the last minute, Dick Gordon decided to run for prez with Bayani Fernando as his vice presidential running mate. The call themselves the “transformers.” Dick said that he and Bayani are going to transform the country. Yep, they’re going to transform the country from the “disenchanted kingdom” of Gloria into the “make-believe world” of Flash Gordon.

When presidential wannabe Bro. Eddie Villanueva was asked what he’d do in his first 100 days in office, he said that he “would immediately issue a presidential proclamation thanking God for allowing a ‘miracle’ to happen.” Well, that would take care of the first day. How about the next 99 days? He calls his ticket, “Dream Team.” Yep, it’s been proven that miracles do happen in dreams. Keep dreaming, Bro. Eddie.

Ex-convict Mark Jimenez -- who is running for president -- wasn’t dreaming when he said that he “would unify and come up with an agenda to make the Philippines a better place to live in.” Well, any country is a better place to live in than a US federal penitentiary.

“Presidential candidates reject law against political dynasties,” says a news report.

That just shows that the presidential candidates themselves belong to political dynasties. Watch out for Manny Pacquiao cuz this is one guy who would create the biggest political dynasty in history. Manny is running for a congressional seat in Sarangani province. Well, there is a second “Manny Pacquiao” who is running for Vice Mayor of Cebu City. Rumor has it that Manny II is a clone of Manny I. -- (PerryDiaz@gmail. com)


‘La Pigos’ polls; Cordillera autonomy

March Fianza

“Lapigos” is an Ilocano word I used to hear from my first grade teacher. It means “to squeeze” particularly the ear. Although not literally done, that must have been how election officials felt when they were grilled by members of the joint congressional committee that held a hearing about the twice delayed delivery of the PCOS or precinct count optical scan.

As discussions about automation for the May 2010 elections overheated in the joint congressional hearing last week, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro revealed that the Philippine government as represented by the Comelec is supposed to collect at least P7.1 million from Smartmatic for each day of delay in the delivery of the machines.

Rodriguez stressed that the P7.2 billion poll automation contract had a provision stating that in cases of delay, a portion of the total amount, equal to one-tenth of one percent, would be deducted for each day of delay from the amount due to Smartmatic.

He insisted that the penalty should be collected to make sure that Smartmatic will follow to the letter the agreement with the poll body.

To date, the Comelec reported that more than 50,000 PCOS machines, out of 80,000 were delivered by Smartmatic, the company that won the contract in the election automation project. The late delivery of the machines has in effect twice delayed the training of teachers who will soon be operating them.

Apart from the delays in the delivery, Comelec has to resolve hundreds of cases filed against local and national candidates who in turn filed cases against the election office, further delaying important matters that were on line, including the printing of ballots that was rescheduled from January 25 to January 30. Even that rescheduling is doubtful.

Such a situation brings chills to the bones of many who feel a looming failure in the much ballyhooed automated elections. Hence, no less than the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines called on the poll body to prepare “fall back” plans.

While those who participated in the tests conducted for the machines gave positive marks regarding the speediness in processing the ballots, their faces still show bits of apprehension particularly on how the PCOS machines would be transported to remote voting centers.

In addition there is the observation that disenfranchisement of voters will double this time since five to seven voting precincts will be clustered into one voting center. A Comelec official admitted that this particular problem has not been answered in past elections even while a voting precinct then consisted a listing of only 200 voters.

Imagine 1,000 to 1,400 voters scampering around looking for their names in the list. I discussed this with a friend and he said I sound pessimistic. I told him I am only trying to sound realistic, basing my arguments on the real situation on the ground. I too hope that no bad things will happen. God forbid.
In the latest presscon on Cordillera autonomy, Dr. Gil Bautista of the Regional Development Council hit the nail right on the head saying that in case the political set up is unanimously approved in a referendum in the future, all must improve together. “Not that some towns or provinces are improved and others are left behind.”

In the course of his delivery he cited the case of Ambuclao. “Look at Ambuclao, the community was the last to be energized despite the fact that they gave up their lands for the whole country’s (electric) development,” Dr. Bautista said.

“Pina-alis ng Manila ang mga tao sa Ambuclao, pero hindi naman sila tinulungan ma-improve,” Dr. Gil stressed his point to news reporters who may have heard of the information for the first time.

The discussion led to a point where someone asked if the panel speakers would be amenable to an “all for one – one for all” set up, considering the fact that in the past two plebiscites, Ifugao, and later Apayao voted in favor of autonomy, however, the Supreme Court said that a single province can not be an autonomous “region.”

NEDA director Juan Ngalob quickly corrected the phrase by saying that it should be “all or nothing” – meaning, it is always better if all the provinces vote in favor of autonomy.

I sat in the back and enjoyed listening more closely to the exchange of questions and answers. Then it came across my mind that – true, an autonomous region composed of all the provinces and cities of Tabuk and Baguio would always be better.

But commitment to endorse regional autonomy should be an act by all the provinces and two cities – not just one or two provinces giving up its resources of gold and water for electricity, for the benefit of the other sister provinces, if not the whole country. – marchfianza777@yahoo.com


Sagada’s tourism

Gina Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province ---Vice mayoral candidate Richard Yodong says there is a need for an organized tourism industry in Sagada. Precisely.

A pressing concern involves a complaint of the Sagada Genuine Guides Association (SAGGAS) on the reported mismanagement of the Tourist Information Center printed earlier in Zigzag Weekly.

SAGGAS in a petition sent to Mayor Edward Latawan complained that center is not being managed according to Local Government Unit guidelines.

In the petition signed by some 150 signatories, they alleged that the center is functioning as a ‘private entity’. SAGGAS says that aside from two employees hired by the LGU, ‘other people’ are manning the information center. How is it possible that ‘other people’ are manning the IC apart from the LGU employees?

For years since the early ‘90s, environmental fees in the amount of P10 per tourist had been collected and managed by the SEGA (Sagada Environmental Guides Association). The LGU is now managing the collection of tourist fees.

In 2006, the Sangguniang Bayan instructed that collections be directly remitted to the coffers of the municipal government. It’s a welcome development that the LGU has assumed to take direct responsibility in collecting and managing tourist fees. And why it has not assumed to take direct responsibility for years is a question. Unless it has ---?

Anyway, if allegations are true that SEGA’s internal rules are “purportedly being imposed at the Center,” this needs a second look. Are these ‘internal rules’ going against LGU guidelines?

With the allegation that the TIC ‘was’ and is functioning as a ‘private entity’ and that “other people” are manning it commands immediate attention. If so, why is the center functioning as a ‘private entity’ and not a public entity? Also, ‘additional fees are collected from guides not belonging to SEGA’ is another question. What are these ‘additional fees’ and for what purpose, and are these additional collections allowed?

Where LGU rules are apparently, with impunity, not being followed shows a disorganized management of the town’s tourism industry with anyone being able to call the shots. It is a logical question what the chief executive has done to respond to this issue and what the Tourism Council also says.

The suggestion of some 150 signatories to the petition that recommendations from the Tourism Council be solicited prior to the issuance of letters of instruction, is in order. Such instructions also need a public hearing if necessary.

Further, where the tourist collections go is a pending question. While collections before LGU guidelines have been imposed may have their own merit of where it had gone, programatic directions of where the collections go, obliges Sagadians’ say of how tourism shall benefit the people of the town.

It is a welcome scenario to see how tourism benefits other barangays like Ambasing which hosts the much visited Sumaguing Cave and Bangaan, Fidelisan and Pide which hosts Bumod-ok Falls; and other barangays as well to benefit from tourism. As it is, the benefits of tourism are enjoyed by the business sector especially from the main town.

Entrepreneurs especially from the Poblacion area earn revenues from tourism. From the earlier accommodations including St Joseph’s Inn and Restaurant and Julia’s Inn, other hotels and guest houses have emerged to respond to the growing increase of tourists in this much visited town.

These include Sagada Guest House, Alfredo’s, Igorot Inn, Green House, Yellow House, Rock Inn, George’s, Travellers, Alapo’s, Mapiya-ao, Ganduyan, Masferre’s, Rocky Valley, among other homestays.

Restaurants have also been established with the much visited Yoghurt House, Log Cabin Cafe, and hotels having their own restaurants. Souvenir gift shops have mushroomed along the sidewalks from the main town to the frontage going down Sumaguing Cave.

These, aside from guides who also have benefited from their guiding expertise, including transport. The call of Yodong for an organized tourism industry to benefit the people of Sagada obliges attention.


Disaster preparedness

Ike Señeres

Haiti’s hit by a strong earthquake and issues about disaster preparation and disaster mitigation are now hot. Does the government even know the technical differences between the two? I hope so, because the difference could spell life or death for many.

How true is it that Senator Loren Legarda was placed on the spot in a New York TV show when she argued for disaster mitigation rather than disaster preparation? She was said to be citing theories, while her adversary was citing statistics. Is this a reflection of our present government thinking wherein theories are given more attention rather than statistics?

The Americans beat the Canadians in responding to the Haitian disaster, even if the Canadian Governor General is of Haitian origin. The race between them should have started years ago, to help the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere that is practically in their own backyard.

Haitians are mad about aid not coming in as fast, but who are they mad at? They could be mad at Haitian President Rene Preval, but he himself is a victim too, becoming homeless after his palace collapsed. Perhaps they should be mad at their former colonizer France, for being slower than America and Canada in sending help.

Preval seems to have a nice excuse for not being able to do much, since he is a victim himself. Is this an acceptable excuse from an elected head of state? We do not want to hear this kind of excuse in the event that it happens here, when the governors and mayors become victims themselves.

Actually the correct technical term for disaster preparation is disaster risk reduction (DRR), a term that is usually used now in tandem with climate change adaptation (CCA). There is not much that we could do to reduce the risk of earthquakes however, except perhaps to make sure that all buildings are compliant with building safety codes.
I remember that during the Ruby Tower disaster, corruption became an issue as it was discovered that substandard steel bars were used by contractors who were trying to cut down on costs. This could have been discovered by building inspectors, but of course that is another corruption issue by itself.

Let us not joke about the fact that high rise buildings are being built now all over the Philippines , without anyone paying attention to their capability to survive strong earthquakes. I do not know who built the Haitian presidential palace, but if the French built it, it would appear that the Spanish are better builders than them, as evidenced by the survival of the main UST building up to now. It swings with the quakes, they say.

Who could be held responsible in the event that high rise buildings will fall during an earthquake? Since the building safety officials are under the cities and municipalities, could we fault the mayors just in case? Where will the buck stop? Could we fault the DILG since it is the oversight of all local governments? Could we fault the boss of the DILG Secretary?
Another disaster is bound to happen if there is a failure of automation in the coming election, and people could die too if there will be riots and runaway killings. I am officially predicting by way of this column that the Comelec will not be able to meet the deadline for putting the system in place, machines and ballots included.

It took me more than a year to deploy about a thousand machines for a nationwide computer system, after about six months of testing and acceptance procedures. It took the banks about 30 years to deploy about 20,000 ATMs. The Comelec thinks it can deploy 82,000 machines in less than a year! The machines could be hack-free as Chairman Jose Melo says, but are they fault-free? Why does he not accept my challenge to hack it?

Only about 30% of the initial batch of about 8,000 machines (less than 10% of the total) passed the testing and acceptance procedures. After lowering the threshold, all of the machines passed 100%. Critics are saying that the Comelec is bending over too much. Dangerously, I should add.
Watch my business show 9 a.m. to 1pm in Global News Network (GNN), Channel 21 in Destiny Cable. Email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639293605140 for local cable listings. Visit senseneres@blogspot.com


Peryahan grease money / Trash talk

Rudy Garcia

BAGUIO CITY -- I was wrong in saying that the peryahan “cum” pasugalan at the slaughter house of Sto. Niño Barangay in Baguio city packed their things and transferred to La Trinidad, Benguet, my apologies.

This peryahan of a certain king Arthur is still there operating courtesy of some top city and barangay officials who like the said operator got a good bonus for the extension of its permit to operate that is supposedly to expire December last year.

According to my source, the first option of this peryahan is to transfer its operation at Lower Magsaysay, formerly Rabbit sinkhole, but it was not able to get the nod of some city hall officials. Maybe it is true that the other peryahan made elbow rubbing at city hall to block the permit of this peryahan, and perhaps King Arthur is now having a hard time collecting the refund he gave as advance payment for the supposed agreement to a top barangay official.

It is his business anyway and that to gamble, one either wins or loses, just like his gambling patrons, coming in and out of his place either with money in pockets or none at all. Needless to say, he was the loser this time.

Anyway, he made some of the city and barangay officials happy for giving them part of the pie and some media, non-government organizations, police among others whom he made them bulag, pipi, at bingi, for a few barya. Whew! I don’t think I need to beg pardon to these beggars.
I wonder no more why this long garbage problem in Baguio has not been resolved, and sad to say that it will stay longer unless the city mayor, councilors and the solid waste management of CEPMO would be one in taking the right track to solve this problem.

Baguio people may not know it but the Vice Mayor of Pulilan Bulacan offered and did something good but he was disgusted by the attitude of some city officials and the mayor himself.

Instead of spending so much for the garbage hauling, the good Bulacan Vice Mayor introduced a system that would benefit Baguio. But then after a mutual agreement with the Baguio mayor, problems arose when some departments didn’t cooperate after some efforts to start this project by the vice mayor.

Worst, the city mayor has seemingly no political will and palabra de honor to stand pat with the agreement. If it is true that the vice mayor of Pulilan is now getting impatient and mad because “puro drawing lang daw ang mayor”, this is something Baguio should be ashamed of.


Brain twisting the masa

Grace Bandoy

Do you really believe in survey results? I just don’t get how in the world can five or 10 or 20 thousand people allegedly surveyed can represent the whole of humanity or well, the Filipino race. It’s just impossible, there’s no way.

Ilang beses na nating napatunayan kung gaano kasinungaling mga surveys na yan. We shouldn’t believe those stupid surveys anymore. Matatalino na ang mga voters ngayon.

Those surveys are obvious manipulations to make us believe in stuff that aren’t true. We proved those surveys wrong countless times already. GMA wasn’t a survey frontrunner when she was running for president and yet she became leader of our country twice.

John Kerry led in almost all of the popularity surveys in the U.S. for presidency but lost to the world’s surprise and never became president. So why the hell must we believe all these surveys they’re bringing out. Even the U.S. with allegedly the most credible survey conductor fouled up, eh di lalo na dito sa Pilipinas na garapalan ang corruption. The price of a survey result comes cheap, well maybe not that cheap. but there is a price.

I truly believe that those surveys are paid for by people who have the money and power to produce a survey result favorable to them. It’s that simple. For us who can recognize when we’re just being played, we know surveys are just a bunch of bullshit. But for the gazillions of masa out there who think that Willie Revillame is a god, sorry na lang tayo. The fate of our nation lies in the hands ng mga masang ito.

And when ABS-CBN tells them that Manny Villar is the answer to making all their dreams come true and he is on top of the survey, then Manny Villar it is. Willie and ABS CBCN, they are gods, what they say the masa blindly believes and follows. It’s the bitter reality. Hate it or love it, we all have to live with it. Wala tayong magagawa diyan.

My god even pinoys living abroad dream of nothing but coming home and guesting in Wowowee! Yes ladies and gentlemen, that’s how ‘massive’ (cheap) we pinoys have become. Lahat ng bata ngayon ang pangarap sa buhay mag artista. Everybody just wants to be seen on TV singing or dancing or playing in Willie of Fortune.

People died for Nora and Vilma during the 70’s but these fanatics never sold their souls for 10 cents. They weren’t desperate then, compared to how we are now.

Ngayon, bayaran ka ng sampung pisong pandesal para mag rally sa kalsada, go!

Sabihin sa yong kainin mo kahit ano para ma - extra ka sa pelikula ni Piolo, go! I-utos ni Ted Failon si Erap iboto niyong president, go! Isigaw ni Willie na mali kayong lahat siya lang ang tama, go! Sabihin ni Kris Aquino na papa si Noynoy at hindi bading, go! I-deklara ni Manny Pacquiao na siya ang pinakamagandang lalaki sa buong mundo, go!

Oh how the pinoys have grown backwards. We should be proud, yeah! We are now a bunch of idiots believing in the dictates of popularity surveys, of the pinakasikat na mga TV personalities and artistas, of tabloids and gossip talk shows. We shouldn’t be surprised if one day Manila becomes Manillywood.

We totally lost our common sense, our pride and the littlest self-respect we have that can’t be bought by a dalawang pisong kendi. If you let those stupid surveys tell you who the next president is going to be, then bakit pa tayo boboto kung sinabi na sa survey na si Willie ang susunod na president di ba? I don’t know how we can slap the Filipinos back into being an intelligent race, but we can pray like hell for a miracle. Or maybe the more intelligent ones here can unite and become the masa for once, remember the revolution powered by the middle class and upper classes of our country that ousted the pinaka Hari ng Masa that is Erap?! Otherwise, we sit down…relax…and watch Pilipinas spiral down into the deepest bowels of hell with no turning back. Enjoy the ride folks!


Law of karma

Jhunie B. Wahayna

Will honest repentance about an evil act done in the past decreases the bad consequence of karma?

Honest repentance does seem to have a sobering effect on its specific consequence of punishment for the evil act. But canceling out of a bad karma by an independent good karma doesn't seem to be a practical proposition, though it may have a definite bearing in lessening the burden of the bad karma.

Doing "prayaschitta" is generally recommended by saints to lessen the bad impact of “prarabhdha”. Karma means work or action. When you perform a work or action, it is bound to produce an effect, a reaction or a result. If you are the doer of karma with a desire, you are to own up the result or the fruit it produces. Good karma will get you good effects and bad karma will get you bad consequences.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” - says science. “Thou shall reap what thy sow” - according to English proverb. “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny”- unknown author. This is a simplified explanation of the law of karma.

The doctrine of karma has many implications as to how we may lead our lives. It means that all our actions will lead to its natural consequence. We may not know what the consequence will be and in fact it may be delayed for many lengths of time but the consequence will follow inevitably. In Tibetan Buddhism the inevitable retribution is compared to the shadow of a kite or an eagle as it searches for its prey.

When the eagle is high in the sky its shadow is not to be seen. However when the eagle swoops to the ground to catch hold of its prey the menacing shadow appears. Similarly we are not aware of the consequences of our actions for most part but they will appear just as the shadow of the eagle suddenly appears.

The application of the law of karma is applied to chain smokers. Let say a person who starts smoking at the age of 16 till his 50’s will definitely have lung cancer and eventually will die. The action here is smoking and the reaction due to smoking is having a lung cancer and the destiny is death. The consequence here of the bad karma is delayed for many lengths of time but the consequence will follow inevitably, there is no escape.

What are the consequences of a bad karma to a government official or a public servant who always engage in graft and corruption? A priest or a pastor who do the reverse of what he is preaching. A contractor who always constructs his projects in a sub-standard manner. A lawyer or a practicing professional who always cheats his clients. A doctor who charges his patients exorbitantly. A journalist using his profession to extort money, and among others. I will leave these questions for you to think about on the negative effect and impact of the bad karma. To be safe from the consequences, always do good things and deeds, even if others don’t. Life is short. We must make our life the best of it while we are still living.

The law of karma is not confined to individuals - there is family karma, national karma, international karma, the karma of a city. All these are mixed with the karma of the individual, and thus it happens that people lives are influenced by events completely beyond their control. All these karma's are inter-related and can be understood in its full complexity only by an enlightened being.

The law of karma gives us guidance as to how we may lead our lives. When misfortune strikes we know that it will not last forever but will pass in time. We know through the law of karma that these are consequences, which have inevitably followed from our past actions. The attitude when difficulties befall us should be - This is the coming to fruition of our past karma.
We should not see suffering as a punishment nor do we blame ourselves and indulge in self-hatred. Tibetans say that suffering is the broom, which sweeps away our negative karma. We can even be grateful that one karma is coming to an end.

Eastern philosophy is full of stories of how bandits and murderers have overcome their bad karma and gone on to become monks and even saints. Angulimala is an example. He had killed 999 people in his previous life as a bandit. But he was won over by the Buddha and went on to become a monk and a sage.

Similarly in Tibetan Buddhism the story is told of Milarepa. He was a sorcerer who killed many people with his black magic for revenge or profit. Yet through his remorse and hardships and penances that he underwent, he went on to become enlightened. This is a figure of inspiration to millions.

This coming election, we must choice our right leaders so that we can experience the effect of good karma. Choosing the wrong one will be a bad consequence of karma to our city and to our country as a whole. These are some brief remarks about karma.


Kubong Sawali restaurant

Mari-An Santos

BAGUIO CITY -- What do contractors know about the restaurant business? This might be what came to mind among their acquaintances when Sonny Agcolicol and Henry Revilla started putting up a restaurant, Kubong Sawali, in Baguio in 2003. "Mahina kasi ang mga projects noon," explains Revilla. "Hindi panghabambuhay ang construction business [Projects were infrequent then and we realized that the construction business was not a lifetime thing], so we decided to diversify," says Revilla.

Agcolicol and Revilla, long-time business partners and friends who both happened to love to cook, invested in the restaurant their combined savings from running GEMS, a construction and supply store, for seven years. Agcolicol is a business economics graduate from the University of the Philippines and Revilla an architecture graduate from Saint Louis University in Baguio City.

They built the restaurant on an empty lot they had earlier leased along the stretch of Military Cut-Off Road in Baguio City, near the Baguio General Hospital, then decided to serve Ilocano dishes. "During that time," Revilla recalls, "there were no Filipino restaurants in Baguio with a native ambience. The choices were all international: Japanese, Chinese, or European."

Some of their friends had suggested that their prospective location for the restaurant would be bad for business, for it was far from Baguio's central business district encompassed by Session Road, Burnham Park, and Baguio City Hall. The partners didn't listen to the naysayers, though. "We took it as a challenge and just followed our gut-feel," Revilla says.

Being in the construction business, the partners had no trouble at all in designing and building the restaurant as well as in sourcing supplies for it. In keeping with the name and theme they had chosen for the restaurant, they used predominantly native materials for its construction and decor: kawayan (bamboo poles), sawali (bamboo slats), and banig (buri mat).

Agcolicol and Revilla did not even hire a manager for the restaurant when they first opened it. What's more, the two did the cooking themselves. Recalls Revilla: "Kami ang nagluluto, nag-iihaw, at pati dishwashing kami rin! [We would do the cooking, the broiling, and even the dishwashing ourselves!]"


Class suit readied vs Baguio execs, Korean developer: Officials not off the hook over athletic bowl fiasco, says group

>> Monday, January 25, 2010

By Maurice Malanes

BAGUIO CITY – If they thought the issue over the Athletic Bowl had been put to rest after they recalled their earlier position of approving a deal with Koreans to develop and lease the facility, the involved city officials may have to brace themselves for the continuing actions of a vigilant public.

“We cannot just sweep the issue under the rug,” said University of the Cordilleras’ college of law dean Reynaldo Agranzamendez. “The involved city officials must still be held accountable for entering into a deal without the necessary legal processes of public consultation and public bidding.”

Agranzamendez is the legal counsel of the Baguio Multi-Sectoral Group, whose leaders and members include religious and civic groups.

Leaders and members of the group were due to file a class suit against both parties of the Memorandum of Agreement and the members of the city council who confirmed the MOA.

But they had to rethink their move after a local daily reported on Jan. 13 that An Ho Yul, the representative of the Korean party to the controversial MOA, had backed out.

They also would like to ascertain that the Koreans have indeed officially retracted in writing the questionable deal.

City mayor Peter Rey Bautista, who signed the MOA last Dec. 10, and members of the city council who unanimously confirmed the agreement last Dec. 21. All have retracted their position because of popular opposition.

“Still, the fact that this (controversial MOA) happened must be a cause for alarm because this kind of questionable deal did not happen just once. There were the controversial car plan and the Jadewell fiasco,” said Agranzamendez.

He was referring to the proposal by city councilors to provide them service cars right after they assumed office three years ago and the controversial pay parking company, which the past city council authorized to collect fees from owners of parked vehicles along the city’s streets.

Meeting on Jan. 13, multi-sectoral group leaders stressed that the un-maintained and unkempt Athletic Bowl south of Burnham Park needed repair and development.

But its leaders asserted that any development of the facility must be done legally and rightly.

“We must ensure that the utter disregard for transparency and democratic processes must not happen again in the future,” said Jose Taguba, one of the group’s leaders.

But Taguba cheered up leaders and members of the group gathered at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) to “congratulate ourselves for our continuing vigilance.”

Leaders and supporters of the multi-sectoral group said the controversial MOA speaks volumes about those who pushed and approved it and then changed minds and “washed their hands” only after a vigilant public exposed what it asserted was irregular.

“Those involved either lacked the capacity to discern what was irregular or were aware of the irregularity and questionability of it all but helped push it anyway,” said lawyer Roney Gandeza.

Had the deal with the Koreans succeeded, the city would have been at the losing end, considering the “minuscule” proposed 100,000-peso monthly rent for the athletic bowl facility even if this would be raised to 140,000 pesos for the next 25 years, said Agranzamendez.

Leaders and members of the multi-sectoral group all agreed that a better and “more win-win” lease and development package for the neglected athletic bowl facility and its surrounding environs could be ensured through “a transparent, participatory and democratic process.”

Rev. Simplicio Dang-awan Jr., UCCP-Baguio senior pastor, had suggested that the group issue a “statement of concern,” which can also help other members of the public to be ever-vigilant in scrutinizing the actions of their elected officials.


NPA reb killed in Tarlac clash

SAN CLEMENTE, Tarlac – A suspected New People’s Army rebel was killed in a clash with government troops afternoon of Jan. 16 in Tarlac, police reported.

Reports reaching the office of Chief Supt. Leon Nilo A. Dela Cruz in Camp Olivas, Pampanga said the firefight between an estimated 30 heavily armed NPA rebels and elements of Army’s 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion occurred in Sitio Bunga in Barangay Maasin in San Clemente town.

Dela Cruz identified the casualties as Ka Razel Laborete, who was also known as “Ka Paeng” and “Ka Joey,” in the armed communist movement in Central Luzon.

Army intelligence disclosed that Laborete is also a Muslim from Mayantoc, Tarlac.—George Trillo


Radioman: Personal grudge behind attack

By Teddy Molina

VIGAN CITY– A local broadcaster, who was shot and wounded 10 days ago, ended speculations on the motive behind the attempt on his life, saying the attack was triggered by personal grudge.

From his hospital bed, radioman Eugene Paet told local radio station dzVV Bombo the incident was personal in nature and not work-related, as speculated for days before he was revived and was able to talk. He did not elaborate.

Paet stayed at the intensive care unit of a local hospital battling with his own life for a week before his transfer to the recovery room.

Police arrested and filed a frustrated murder charge against a suspect identified as Mario Paa of Bulag East Bantay, Ilocos Sur Jan. 14.

Paet thanked his colleagues and police authorities for the attention they gave to the incident.


11 gun ban violators in Cordillera nabbed: Abra police chief sacked, 2 Baguio cops face relief

By Mar T. Supnad

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – Eleven persons were arrested including police officers in the region for violating the gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections to avert or lessen violence coming May elections.

Included in the list of violators was the Abra police chief who was sacked for leading a shooting competition inside the backyard of a local politician in the province right after the imposition of the gun ban.

Chief Supt. Orlando Pestano, Cordillera police director told newsmen he immediately relieved Senior Supt. Charlo Collado who will be subjected to an investigation.

Pestano designated Collado’s deputy, Supt. Lawrenece Coop, as officer-in-charge of the Abra provincial police office based in Camp Juan Villamor, Bangued.

Irked by Collado’s alleged violation of the gun ban, Pestano directed the filing of administrative charges against him.

Newsmen learned it was PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa who ordered the relief of Collado and urged Pestano to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident.

Pestano said since the start of the gun ban, even legitimate shooting competitions were banned and policemen in civilian uniforms not allowed to carry guns.

Reports said Senior Supt. Ernesto Gaag, Regional Mobile Force Group, will replace Collado.
In Baguio City, Police Station 8 chief SPO1 Esteban Wacdangan is facing an alarm and scandal case after he, another police officer and his son went target shooting.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency special investigator II Berto Chumanao was also nabbed with his firearm on Jan. 14 while inside a nightclub here.

Police said Wacda-ngan, together with a companion believed to be a police officer and his son, went to a vacant lot near their residence at Purok 12, Irisan between 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. also on Jan. 14 for target shooting practice.

Using plywood as target board, the police officer allegedly consumed three magazines alarming his neighbors Joni Ikug, Crestita Estrada, Wilfredo Rosario and Johny Guibong.

The four were reportedly 25 to 30 meters away from the police officer.
An administrative case is being leveled against Wacdangan. Baguio police director Senior Supt. Agripino Javier said they will not exempt any violator even if they are PNP personnel.

He added the BCPO will not hesitate to discipline police officers who disobey the law.

Javier, whose men had begun instituting checkpoints in the city especially during nighttime added that the police should set an example in obeying the law.

But Baguio police’s station 7 (Central Business District) head Chief Insp. Paul Mencio said the PDEA investigator’s case will be studied because the anti-narcotics agency has to show the police if Chumanao was on duty when he was nabbed with his firearm inside the night club.

In Camp Dangwa, Pestano said 13 firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunitions were seized from gun ban violators.

In Apayao, one Police Officer 3 and two civilians were arrested in Barangays Mataguisi, Poblacion Kabugao, and Conner, respectively.

He revealed that a .38 caliber revolver, a .22 caliber revolver, and a 9mm pistol were confiscated from the arrested gun ban violators.

On the other hand, three persons were arrested in Tabuk, Kalinga with one .38 caliber revolver, an M-16 rifle; a.45 caliber pistol, and a .38 caliber revolver confiscated in a checkpoint.


N. Ecija mayor in slay nixes suspension order

CUYAPO, Nueva Ecija– Mayor Amado Corpuz Jr. Tuesday denied a supposed order coming from the Office of the Ombudsman directing the Department of the Interior and Local Government suspending him for six months for allegedly masterminding the cold-blooded killing of a municipal employee in 2008.

“What suspension order? I have not received any,” Corpuz said when informed of newspaper reports that he had been ordered suspended pending investigation of the murder on June 4,2008 of Angelito Espinosa.

Newspaper reports quoted acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro as saying there is enough ground to suspend Corpuz for six months pending investigation of the case.

Espinosa was shot dead following an altercation inside the municipal compound with Corpuz’s bodyguard Carlito Samonte who is detained at the provincial jail while facing murder charges before the Guimba regional trial court in connection with the cold-blooded slaying.

Espinosa’s widow Priscilla filed charges of grave misconduct against Corpuz after a witness, Alexander Lozano claimed he saw and heard the mayor order Samonte to shoot Angelito, even handing to him a stainless gun supposedly used in the killing.

In his counter-affidavit, Corpuz denied any participation in Espinosa’s killing. He said the shooting incident was a matter between the victim and Espinosa and Lozano’s allegations were full of probabilities since he was not even at the crime scene when it happened.

Corpuz said the supposed suspension order, which first broke out last week, has never been delivered to him if any. “If there is such a suspension order, then I would receive it and I would seek legal remedy provided it is done accordance with law.”

He expressed doubts, however, that the order really existed since the Commission on Elections had ruled that starting Jan. 10 up to June 9, 2010 covering the 150-day election period, none of the 17,640 provincial, city and municipal officials, including barangay officials can be suspended without its approval.

The poll body said whoever makes the suspension will be guilty of an election offense punishable under Section 264 of Batas Pambansa 881 or the Omnibus Election Code with up to a maximum of six years imprisonment not be subject to probation, disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right to suffrage. – MG


3 namesakes vie for mayor

SANTIAGO, Isabela – Three candidates with the same name, including nicknames, are vying for the mayoralty post of this province’s premier city the coming May polls.

City Mayor Amelita “Amy” Navarro’s bid for a third and final term as mayor is being threatened by at least two virtually unknown rivals with the same name, as well as two more mayoralty bets – a former congressman and a former city vice mayor.

Navarro, a Lakas-Kampi-CMD bet, hopes that the Commission on Elections would grant her motion to delist the names of one Amy “Amelita” Navarro and her daughter, Emma “Amy” Navarro, from the final official list of the city’s mayoralty bets.

Their inclusion, she said, might only confuse the electorate on who the real candidates are and those who are only after derailing her bid for a third mayoral term through similarities of their names.

“The poll body is already hearing our case. We hope our motion for the disqualification of these two candidates would be granted,” said Navarro, who blamed her political rivals for putting up these “obviously” unknown candidates “for apparent reasons.”

Another candidate, one Sammy Navarro, a relative of the mayor but allegedly identified with the incumbent’s rival, former city vice mayor Armando Tan, is also seeking the city’s top post.

“My political opponents have been throwing everything against me, concocting negative issues against my administration just to bring me down, including putting up candidates against me with similar names and nicknames,” said the mayor.

Observers said, amid the presence of the lesser-known Navarros, the real mayoralty race is only confined among the incumbent, who is considered as still the candidate to beat, Tan and former congressman Anthony Miranda of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.

Tan, running under the Liberal Party, lost to incumbent Navarro in the 2007 elections via a slim margin. -- CL


Folks accuse Sagada execs of land grabbing

By Dexter A. See

SAGADA, Mountain Province – The local government here is being accused by some private property owners of land grabbing after the municipal council approved the conversion of their real estate as public property.

Ordinance No. 01-2009 declared five hectares out of the 24-hectare private property which hosts the Kiltepan Picnic Ground and View Deck as a community park and recognizing the same as public property and is beyond private appropriation.

But some sectors raised an uproar over the council action, which they alleged as land grabbing, since the same was private property over the past four decades, thus, the intention of suddenly declaring it a park was highly questionable and irregular.

Ordinance No. 01-2009 cited the Kiltepan Picnic Grounds and View Deck for a long period of time has been used by the general public, particularly the community of Sagada as a picnic, viewing and even an area where they conduct rituals.

Being a picnic ground, the Kiltepan property has been open to the public in the celebration of community, private, and family affairs without any restrictions.

But some property owners in the town believe the declaration of the Kiltepan property as a public park was ill-advised considering there were legitimate owners of the same who had been religiously maintaining the picnic grounds and view decks as well as open the same to the public in order to boost the town’s booming tourism industry.

If the municipal government succeeds in taking the property from the private owners, other legitimate property owners in the town fear the local government will not spare them.

Despite the snowballing public outrage on alleged land grabbing acts of local officials, the ordinance mandated the municipal assessor’s office to cause the survey of the area and register the same in the name of the municipal government as the administrator and owner.

Furthermore, the municipal assessor was directed to refuse any other application for survey, application for declaration and revision of any private declaration that will tend to take possession of the area covered by the property.

Since 1965, the 24-hectare land within the jurisdiction of Kiltepan has been declared under the ownership of Simon Lam-en, the father of the late Mountain Province Assemblyman and Gov. Alfredo Gayagay Lam-en which negates the contention of the local government the same is a public property for a long period of time.

The taxes of the property had been religiously paid by the owners which is an indication that they really have possession of the property.


3 men get life terms for bizman’s murder

By Dexter S. See

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The Regional Trial Court Branch 64 here sentenced three persons to life imprisonment for conspiring in the brutal killing of a businessman in front of his residence in Barangay Pico, La Trinidad, Benguet over six years ago.

The businessman identified as Rimando Batchi was based in Mankayan town in the province.

In a decision, Judge Agapito Laoagan Jr. also ordered the accused, Moises Chopchopen, Marcelo Chopchopen, and Benedict Fassong to pay the heirs of Batchi, the total amount of P338,000 to pay cost of litigation as well as moral and exemplary damages.

Court records showed the businessman was shot to death by three armed men in front of his residence in the early morning of Jan. 9, 2004 while he was preparing for an errand.

The court found the three individuals guilty beyond reasonable doubt since they were not able to dispute the pieces of evidence and the testimonies of credible witnesses.

One of the suspects, Marcelo, in his testimony before the court, admitted he and Fassong killed Batchi because, according to a policeman whom they named as Alok, the businessman was the alleged mastermind in the celebrated Lepanto holdup incident the previous year where over P25 million worth of gold was carted away.

Lawyer Jose Limmayog, former regional director of the National Bureau of Investigation in the Cordillera, told the court the three persons reportedly killed the businessman in revenge for the killing of their relative, Peter Chopchopen, a native of Sadanga, Mountain Province, who was one of several security guards killed by armed men in the Lepanto robbery incident on Sept. 20, 2003.


Gina de Venecia admits patching up with GMA

By Jennelyn Mondejar

DAGUPAN CITY– Georgina “Gina” de Venecia told local newsmen that she and President Arroyo had atched up their differences and reconciled a month ago.

“Friends na kami (We’re now friends),” De Venecia said at her family’s Bonuan Binloc residence here. “I think that’s better, to release ill feelings, all the pains.”

The De Venecias had a falling out with the Arroyos after Jose de Venecia III, son and namesake of her husband, testified in the controversial $329-million national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp, accusing the First Gentleman of alleged corruption in the botched contract.

Asked if her husband, former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., has also reconciled with Ms Arroyo, she said the media should better ask him.

Later in another interview, the Pangasinan lawmaker did not categorically admit it, but said he has been in talking terms with the President.

De Venecia, who represents Pangasinan’s fourth district, served as five-time Speaker and was ousted from his post after his son exposed the NBN-ZTE scam.

Ms De Venecia said it’s better to have reconciliation “to have a new beginning.”

“You see we never know when God will take us,” she added. “I think that is the best.”

She said her friendship with Ms Arroyo is deeply rooted, as she is the wedding godmother of two of the President’s sons, Mikey and Dato.

Her husband is on his third and last term as congressman of a district of the province.


Dy, Pagdanganan can't assume posts: Comelec

The Commission on Elections Tuesday refused to execute orders installing former Bulacan Gov. Roberto Pagdanganan and former Isabela Gov. Benjamin Dy as governors of the two provinces.

In separate decisions, the Comelec en banc denied the “motions for execution” filed by Pagdanganan and Dy whom it declared as the duly elected governors of Bulacan and Isabela, respectively, in November and December 2009.

The Comelec had directed proclaimed Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza and Isabela Gov. Ma. Gracia Cielo Padaca to vacate their posts, but the two filed their respective motions for reconsideration instead.

The ruling on Isabela, penned by Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, showed that “execution pending appeal is an extraordinary remedy, being more of the exception rather than the rule.”

“This rule is strictly construed against the movant (Dy) because courts look with disfavor upon any attempt to execute a judgment which has not acquired finality. Such execution affects the rights of the parties which are yet to be ascertained on appeal,” he said.

Larrazabal said the Comelec has decided to maintain “status quo” as it is “well aware that what is involved herein is the will of the electorate of the province of Isabela.”

Mendoza and Padaca were declared winners in the 2007 polls but Pagdanganan and Dy claimed they were cheated of victory and filed electoral protests with the Comelec.
This led to the revisions of votes from the two provinces by the Comelec Second Division.

After this, the Second Division ruled that Pagdanganan and Dy won against Mendoza and Padaca by a vote margin of 4,321 and 17,007, respectively.


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