P-Noy-CPLA ‘closure agreement’ dispute: Cordillera heads slam OPAPP ‘machinations’

>> Monday, September 26, 2011

BAGUIO CITY –Regional directors of some line agencies in the Cordillera Administrative Region slammed the leadership of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for its alleged misinformation campaign to discredit them from higher authorities to pressure them in throwing their support to the controversial “closure agreement” entered into by the OPAPP and a faction of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army.

In an interview with a regional director of an influential agency who sought anonymity for personal and political reasons, he claimed Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles reportedly wrote secretaries of regional line agencies which are members of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera, who voted in favor of a resolution requesting President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to suspend the implementation of the controversial closure agreement until such time that all issues and concerns arising from the same shall have been effectively and efficiently addressed by the government and that the OPAPP leadership is trying to pressure them to withdraw their signatures from the said resolution.

According to another regional director, she claimed the letter sent to the secretaries of the regional line agencies seemed to be filled with misinformation geared towards making their heads of offices believe that they might have committed a mistake in voting in favor of the resolution when in fact the same was extensively discussed before it was voted upon during the second quarter meeting of the RDC-CAR.

Obviously, some regional line agency directors believe that OPAPP is trying to cover-up a grave mistake it committed in signing the closure agreement with the faction of Arsenio Humiding of the CPLA despite the existence of other CPLA factions that are recognized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

If OPAPP is really honest that it signed a closure agreement with the legitimate CPLA faction which has a greater following compared to the others, an officer of the Cordillera Association of Regional Executives said the supposed poison letters allegedly sent by OPAPP to their respective secretaries is a clear indication that there is something wrong in the signing of the agreement and it deserves a second look, thus, the passage of the resolution requesting its suspension done by the RDC-CAR, the region’s policy-making body.

Considering that they are the ones who are fully aware of the situation on the ground, the embattled regional directors appealed to their respective department secretaries to first conduct appropriate consultations with them to clarify the contents of the poison letter sent by OPAPP to them which were clearly designed to discredit them for favoring the resolution suspending the implementation of the closure agreement since the same did not pass through the necessary consultations with concerned Cordillera leaders and long-time CPLA stalwarts who were part of the signing of the peace agreement between former rebel priest Fr. Conrado Balweg representing the organization and former President Corazon C. Aquino on September 13, 1986 in Mount Data, Bauko, Mountain Province.


Pusher, gay partner get life terms for shabu

BAGUIO CITY – A regional trial court judge recently found a resident here and his gay partner guilty for illegal drug pushing and sentenced them both to life imprisonment with a penalty of P5 million.

Found guilty by Antonio C. Reyes, presiding judge of RTC, Branch 61, First Judicial Region here were Joseph Merlin B. Domingo alias “Biboy,” 47, married, with his heterosexual runner, Ferdinand B. Carmelo alias “Diane”, 42, married and a beautician.

Cases for illegal, drugs were filed against Domingo in 2004 and 2009 but these were dismissed.

Carmelo was also earlier penalized to 12 years and one day to 20 years incarceration with P300,000 fine for illegal possession of shabu.

Court records said Domingo was a member of Domingo Drug Group in the Cordillera.
He was last arrested with Carmelo on Feb. 23, 2010 at Sgt. Floresca St., Aurora Hill Proper here where they were nabbed with two sachets of shabu by anti-narcotics agents.

Earlier, last April 25, Domingo’s younger sister, Heidi was likewise convicted to life term and fine of P10 million by the same court.

She was caught on July 21, 2010 delivering two sachets of shabu and paraphernalia, concealed in an emptied toothpaste tube, to Domingo, who had been in prison then at the city jail.

She was intercepted by jail officers. Prior to this, Heidi had also been apprehended and acquitted for drug law violations.


P200,000 reward set for bank exec's killers

By Charlie Lagasca

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya– A P200,000 reward has been offered for any person who can provide information leading to the arrest of the killers of a manager of a rural bank in Isabela who was shot in front of his house morning of Sept. 18.

Chief Insp. Alejandrino Gannaban, Angadanan town police chief, said Vice Mayor Jose Panganiban offered the P200,000 bounty for the identification of the killers of Rufo Uy, manager of the Rural Bank of Angadanan.

Uy, 65, was gunned down while waiting for his wife to board their white Honda Civic in front of their house in Angandanan’s Centro 2 village around 9:15 a.m.

The couple was preparing to go to Tuguegarao City in Cagayan when the suspects, who were riding in tandem on a motorcycle, approached the victim and shot him repeatedly.

“We see Uy’s slay as work-related,” said Gannaban, adding that the victim had been receiving threats in recent days before his killing.


BIR's new data system to beef up tax collection, spot erring tax workers

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY — Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares said here Monday that while there may be bad eggs aiding tax evaders within the bureau, their days are numbered with the putting in place of a system to make the agency a step ahead of erring BIR employees.

Through the centralization of data processing project, Henares said the agency will be able to give transparency, accountability and security to income tax returns submitted by taxpayers.

The BIR in the Cordillera Administrative Region will be the one to pilot the project out of the 17 other regions in the country.

Henares said income tax returns filed by taxpayers should be filed and captured ideally without the hands of BIR through their centralized system.

She said that in any institution, there is an effort among officials to make things secure, especially in payments and papers and through the system, efficiency in tax collections will be eventually achieved.


Centennial slated for SVS, one of country’s oldest Catholic schools

By Juliet B. Saley

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Preparations are now underway for the centennial celebration of Saint Vincent’s School here, one of the oldest Catholic schools in the country.

The SVS was founded March 1, 1911 by Belgian missionaries and will be commemorating its centennial Oct. 23 to 30 with the theme, “Remembering, revisioning, reuniting and moving on."

According to Paulino Tumapang, SVS alumni president, committees were created last year to plan activities to mark this major event.

Tumapang said already launched was fund-raising through “Search for Mr. and Miss SVS Centennial.”

Proceeds shall be used to finance school projects. Winners of this search will be crowned evening of Oct. 24.

Registration of alumni is Oct. 23 while opening events (which is also known as “Tekwab in Bontok” will be the next day.

Activities will start with a Eucharistic celebration, followed by opening program, then the simultaneous opening of fancy fair, photo gallery, exhibit/showcase room and donation booths.

For lunch, all the alumni will have a picnic at the SVS elementary school grounds.

Sports fest competition will be in the afternoon which will be participated in by students, alumni, parents and community members.

On Oct. 25, a medical and dental mission, also dubbed Sup-ok (native healing practice)” will be conducted and will continue in the ensuing days of the week.

There will be also a variety show on Oct. 26 which will be hosted by the alumni.

Intermission numbers will be presented by sectors in the community.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 27, the fifth day of the event is “tengaw” or rest day but unfinished activities set during the first days shall be conducted.

Oct. 28 will be SVS day with a Eucharistic celebration to pay tribute to ICM sisters.

This will be followed by programs of elementary pupils and high school students.
On same day, a lunch picnic and ceremonial dinner will be held for alumni.

Alumni Day is on Oct. 29 which will start with a Eucharistic mass that highlights tribute to alumni, former teachers and administrators, followed by centennial grand parade around town proceeding to the SVS elementary school compound for the welcome program.

Other activities include a boodle fight, and a concert with bonfire in the evening.

To cap the week-long activities of the centennial celebration, a thanksgiving mass will be held Oct. 30, followed by a “salo-salo” of the alumni before they depart.


PNP official tagged as mastermind: Detained shabu lab caretaker willing to become state witness

NAGUILLAN, La Union– The detained caretaker of the shabu laboratory busted by authorities here in July 2008 has executed an affidavit asking the court to turn him into a state witness.

Dante Palaganas, in his Sept. 12 sworn statement, said he is now willing to become a government state witness against those involved in the shabu lab operations, including Supt. Dionicio Borromeo, former Dagupan City police chief.

In his affidavit, Palaganas tagged Borromeo as the alleged protector of the shabu lab, which operated from May 2007 to July 2008.

A certain Joselito Artuz, alias George Cordero, was implicated as the alleged financier, while five Chinese nationals, all unidentified, ran the shabu lab.

Borromeo is now out on P1-million bail while Artuz remains at large.

“Based on this sworn statement, I now declare to the authorities that I am giving my permission to the government to use me as witness if the court allows,” Palaganas’ affidavit read.

Palaganas also wrote Judge Rose Mary Molina-Alim of the Bauang Regional Trial Court that he was withdrawing the services of his private counsels, as he wanted to avail himself of the services of lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office here.

Prosecutors Danilo Bumacod, Manuel Dulnuan Jr. and Gaudencio Valdez Jr. filed a motion last Sept. 13 asking the court to allow them to prove the qualifications of Palaganas as a possible state witness.

“Finally, he (Palaganas) would now tell everything about the laboratory and expose all those involved in the illegal activity,” said a source who has knowledge of the case.

The shabu lab was built in a remote 11-hectare forested area in Barangay Bimmotobot, Naguilian town.

Palaganas alleged in his affidavit that Borromeo asked him to look for a lot for a supposed piggery before the elections in May 2007, and he would be paid P10,000 and would also be hired as caretaker.

He recalled that three Chinese nationals, along with Artuz, inspected the site, after which laborers from Manila arrived.

After several days, Palaganas said chemicals were unloaded from closed vans without license plates.

Palaganas said he was the only person allowed to go inside the laboratory when the Chinese started manufacturing shabu.

“The Chinese worked at night. During the first operation, I went out because I could not endure the foul odor and smoke was very thick. I sent text messages to Sir (police official) asking what the operation is all about and why it is not piggery as he said. But he replied that I should not be scared and that they are only making hog vitamins for export,” Palaganas said.

As caretaker, Palaganas said he was paid P15,000 a month.


Two men nabbed for slay of Abra radio announcer

CAMP DANGWA, Benguet – Police arrested six persons in the region for heinous crimes last week for crimes which included the murder of a radio announcer in Abra, rape, among others.
In Abra, two suspects were arrested Sept. 19 by the Joint Peace Security Coordinating Council of the Provincial Investigation Branch, Regional Intelligence Unit, Bangued, Abra for robbery with homicide.

Ronnie B. Burgos, 19, salesman of Chuzon General Merchandise and native of Bayaan, Dolores town was arrested at his residence along Rizal street, Zone 7, Bangued while Limpot B. Calubing, 19 of Agsimao, Tineg town now residing at Calaba, Bangued was also arrested near his residence.
Both suspects were arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Corpuz Alzate, of RTC Br 2, Bangued with no bail recommended.

A police report said the arrest of the two partially solved the brutal killing of Cirilo A. Gallardo, professor of Divine Word College of Bangued and part time Disk Jockey of DWWM, FM radio station on Jan. 31.

Also on Sept. 19, joint personnel of Provincial Public Safety Company and Abra PPO and 1st Company, Regional Public Safety Battalion led by Insp. Alain Jericho, Ruiz Cuyopan arrested a 59-year-old government employee at 1st Coy, RPSB checkpoint located at Rizal Street, Zone 7, Bangued.

Nabbed was Paulino Laureta , married of Patucannay, Bangued.

He was arrested following an arrest warrant issued also by Alzate with recommended bail bond of P80,000.

In Benguet, on Sept. 13, personnel of Tuba town police arrested a laborer identified as Ariston Alcantara, 35 of Mankayan Benguet.

He was nabbed at his residence located at La-aw, Camp 6, Tuba, Benguet by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Francis Buliyat of RTC, Branch 9, La Trinidad, Benguet for violation of Republic Act 9262 with a recommended bail bond of P8,000.

In Kalinga on Sept. 11, Balbalan town police also nabbed two suspects wanted for rape identified as Heraldo Lutoc aka “Tenay”, 35, married, farmer and resident of Barangay Ab-abaan, Balbalan and Sebastian Ampoc aka “Basnik”, 66, married of Ballayangon, Pinukpuk.

RTC Branch 25 Judge Marcelino K Wacas earlier issued warrants for their arrest with no bail recommended. Accused are now in jail.


Notorious Region 1 gun-for-hire nabbed

By Christian B. Supnad

CAMP FLORENDO, San Fernando City, La Union – Police reported here Friday a major breakthrough in their campaign against wanted persons following the arrest of a notorious member of the Maala Group, a criminal gang involved in gun running, gun-for-hire and extortion activities in the provinces of Ilocos Sur and La Union.

In his report to Philippine National Police chief Nicanor Bartolome, Chief Supt.

Franklin Jesus B. Bucayu, Ilcos regional police director identified the arrested person as Edwin Maynes, alias Imbong, a resident of Barangay Barraca in Bangar town, La Union.

Bucayu said here Maynes was included in regional list of most wanted persons with a P140,000 reward for his capture, and is also listed in La Union as provincial op MWP.

He said Maynes was nabbed by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Manuel R. Aquino of Regional Trial Court, Branch 34 in Balaoan, La Union for murder with no bail recommended.

The suspect was arrested by combined elements of Ilocos Sur Criminal Investigation and Detection Team and Bangar police.

Maynes is now incarcerated at the La Union provincial jail here.


Synchronized weighing of trucks set in Pampanga

SAN FERNANDO CITY— Provincial officials of Pampanga called for the synchronization of weighing standards and procedures for trucks using roads in the province like those from the Cordillera which supply around 75 percent of vegetables in Metro Manila.

This developed as lawyer Andres Pangilinan, Jr., provincial administrator, and Arthur Punsalan, head of the Environment and Natural Resources Office, presided over a meeting of truckers and agencies concerned in the maintenance of provincial, municipal, and barangay roads.

Before the meeting, not one among the trucks weighed using the digital weighing scales met with the allowable weight capacity.

Gov. Lilia G. Pineda and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan had agreed with truckers associations in Pampanga and other Central Luzon provinces that their load per truck be weighed and an additional P30 be charged to come up with weigh bridges in strategic places provincewide.

Punsalan said “we need to protect our roads from damage wrought by overloaded vehicles even as we protect the rights of truckers to fair fees”.

In a follow-up meeting called by the provincial government, Pangilinan stressed the importance of properly implementing the law on anti-overloading.


Cabanatuan City bans 5,000 trikes

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija— The city government will ban at least 5,000 tricycles from outside Cabanatuan from plying their routes inside the city.

Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara recently signed Ordinance No. 006-2011 passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod here to legalize and streamline the operation of the tricycle business.

The ordinance aims to limit tricycle operations to city residents in an effort to reduce the 17,000 tricycles in the city.

Vergara said he is concerned with the growing competition being offered against local operators and drivers of the tricycle units here by "outsider operators” who come outside Cabanatuan.

Under the local ordinance, only legitimate city residents can be granted franchise to operate a tricycle unit.

“The local measure rationalizes that the income derived from the operation of the tricycles should be enjoyed solely by the city residents,” the mayor said.

Based on the record from the city’s legalization and franchising office (CLFO), Cabanatuan has a total of 8,044 “For Hire” and 73 “For Private Use” tricycle units. There are also 57 registered tricycle drivers and operators associations (TODA) in the city.

A rough estimate made by CLFO shows a daily income of at least P531.25 with the “color coding” in force, for some 9,600 driver-operators.

CLFO said that by the end of the year, about 12,000 tricycle units are expected to ply the city’s major routes as part of the city’s public transport system.

Because of the number, Cabanatuan has remained the undisputed “The Tricycle Capital of the Philippines.”

Cabanatuan has few wide roads and there are only a few routes where jeepneys are allowed to pass through.

Vergara said the tricycle operators here have long engaged and invested a great part of their lifelong savings in buying a unit or two of tricycles.

He called the tricycle business as part of the city administration’s continuing livelihood project, and it being a longtime partner in the city’s progress and economic growth.


Former soldier harassed, fires gun, set to be charged

FLORA, Apayao – Court charges are set to be filed by police against
a former member of the Philippine Army after he allegedly fired his gun here at Barangay Poblacion West on Sept. 18 at about 8:45 p.m. during a drinking session.

The suspect was identified as Orlando Valdez y Pascua, 46, married, businessman and a resident of Barangay Poblacion West.

Based on the investigation of Flora police, the suspect together with his neighbor were having a drinking spree and accordingly, his brother-in-law Antonio Liquigan Jr. allegedly harassed the suspect prompting him to discharge his firearm twice.

The police immediately responded to the reported place and as a result, the suspect voluntarily surrendered his licensed Cal. 45 pistol with expired permit to carry firearm outside residence (PTCFOR), three magazines and 20 live ammunition.

Police also recovered one deformed slug from Cal. 45 pistol from the crime scene.


Bus turns turtle in Narvacan

NARVACAN, Ilocos Sur — At least three people were injured while the several passengers were unhurt when a bus they were riding turned turtle on the national highway near the bridge in Barangay San Antonio, here, Thursday morning.

Chief Insp. Joseph Fajardo, Narvacan chief of police, identified the injured as Jerome Linongot, the bus conductor; and passengers Louie Dasalla and Edwin Bacensi. Fajardo said that the accident occurred at 6 a.m. after the driver lost control of the wheel while evading a tricycle that suddenly crossed the national highway. --Freddie G. Lazaro


HS junior latest victim in N. Luzon teen slays

STA. BARBARA, Pangasinan – A 15-year-old high school junior was stabbed dead by a 16-year-old schoolmate in their campus here Wednesday morning, authorities said.

The victim sustained two stab wounds in the abdomen and left arm and was rushed to the Region 1 Medical Center in Dagupan City where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival.

Police recovered the balisong used by the young suspect. The incident happened during recess along the corridor outside the students’ classroom.

Police also found a bloodstained armchair with which the victim reportedly hit the suspect during their fight.

Out of fear, their schoolmates did not try to pacify them. The suspect fled and is still the subject of a police manhunt.

“I was shocked. It has saddened me to watch the news about a 13-year-old boy who committed suicide earlier this week after shooting his friend in a mall in Pampanga and I didn’t expect this would also happen in our place,” said school division superintendent Aurora Domingo.

Domingo said she has sent a team of supervisors to conduct a separate probe.

She said the suspect, though still young, must face the consequences of his act.

She said school authorities should put stricter measures in place to prevent a similar incident.

She said security guards in schools must not be contented with just checking the identification cards of students but should also thoroughly check their bags.

Last Sept. 15, a 12-year-old boy died after he was beaten up by his classmates in their classroom in Baguio City.


City gov’t set to order Baguio market vendors to vacate rented stalls

By Dexter See

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan said the city is ready to give out notices to hundreds of vendors to vacate their stalls at the city market here since a portion of the facility will be improved.

After constructing Block 3 of the Baguio City public market with a total project cost of P18.5 million, the city government with a P26 million budget will develop Block 4 since premises of the market have been declared as fire hazards.

The partial development being done in the market is with the consent of the earlier winning developer of the whole market which is the Uniwide Sales and Realty Development Corporation but the more than P1.7 billion market development project is not yet implemented because the case is still pending before the Court of Appeals after disgruntled market vendors appealed the decision of the lower court upholding the constitutionality of the market development project.

Once the project will be completed within the next several months, Domogan added the local government will push through with the development of the old market building located along Magsaysay avenue which is a wooden structure prone to fire.

Despite the opposition, Domogan cited there are more vendors and the city’s population who are in favor of the market’s facelift.

Although Baguio City is a highly urbanized city, it has a market which has not yet been fully developed compared to the market structures in the neighboring first-class towns of Northern Luzon.


Cops looking for '3rd party,' gun owner in mall shooting

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga– Police were still piecing bits of information on last Tuesday’s shooting incident involving two male teenagers at a shopping mall in Mexico town.

For one, police were looking for a “third party” to shed light on why the 13-year-old boy shot his male friend aged 16 and then himself at the SM City Pampanga, GMA News quoted Superintendent Wilson Santos, Mexico police chief, as telling radio station dzBB Thursday.

Police were also tracing ownership of the gun, a homemade caliber .22. Reports said the 13-year-old, in a Facebook posting, said he would get his mother’s gun, but his father denied their family owns such a firearm.

Police said they would also review footage of the mall’s closed-circuit television cameras.

Both teenagers sustained gunshot wounds in the head and were declared brain dead. The 13-year-old’s family decided to remove his life support system Wednesday afternoon and brought his remains to Mariveles, Bataan.

His family’s plans to donate his kidney and cornea did not materialize.

The 16-year-old died Wednesday night. His family recalled his wish to take up hairstyling in Japan. (The other victim had wanted to be a chef.)

A suicide note found in the 13-year-old’s bag indicated that the incident was a “crime of passion” and of a personal nature.


Sagada SB wants local gov’t code in line with RH bill

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province –The Sangguniang Bayan here requested Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo to introduce amendment of the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160) setting 50 percent of population in determining the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of each local government unit so that this could be reconciled with the Reproductive Health bill.

In a resolution, the SB pushed amendment of section 285 title 111 of RA 7160 identifying the IRA of each LGU determined on basis of the following formula: population at 25 percent, land area at 25% and formal sharing at 50%.

RA 7160 stipulates that population gets a 50% basis for determining the IRA, land area at 25%, and equal sharing of 25%.

Vice Mayor Richard Yodong said the reproductive health bill which is currently deliberated in Congress and among LGU and national government offices contradicts the said provision of RA 7160.

Yodong thus said RA 7160 and the reproductive health bill should be reconciled with an amended provision lessening population as basis for computing the IRA.

He said this is to let laws be consistent with the controversial House Bill 4244 promoting reproductive health if this is enacted.


CIDG recruiting profs in fight against crime

By Christian D. Supnad

CAMP FLORENDO, La Union- The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group is recruiting 1,000 professionals, including journalists to help police in combating crime and help in investigative works.

This was revealed by Senior Supt. Rene D. Ong, chief of the police directorial staff, who said they have been courting the voluntary services of various professionals, including doctors, lawyers, journalists, chemists, businessmen and gun holder members who are willing to share their professional expertise in the investigation and solution of crimes being handled by the CIDG.

“We believe that no amount of skillful law enforcement and meticulous police work can effectively aid in crime prevention and control without the indispensable and active participation of the professional sectors in the community,” said Ong during the mass oath-taking and seminar of hundreds of volunteers of the Community Investigative Support (CIS) of the CIDG.

According to Senior Supt. Joel Balba, one of the lecturers, the CIDG is targeting to recruit around 1,000 professionals in the provinces from Luzon to Mindanao to help the CIDG in its gargantuan task. “The main task of the CIS is to investigate and gather information in the community and there is now an urgent need for establishing a mutually beneficial partnership in the community.”

Ong said the CIS was conceptualized within the context of the PNP Letter of Instruction “Bayanihan” in its efforts to curb criminality and maintain peace and order with the participation of the community. “The CIS will serve as the CIDG’s citizen investigative network whose function is to help in information and evidence gathering, pre-empt crimes and to solve cases.”

The CIS will become legitimate agents of the CIDG as they were clothed legally with the power to arrest lawless elements, issued CIDG’s badge and identification cards and are on the official rooster of the CIDG.

The PNP were alarmed by reports that there are certain organized crime groups that possess more sophisticated firearms and network than the police and this has prompted the PNP leadership to tap, organize and mobilize the CIS to assist the CIDG curb criminality as they (CIS members) are based right inside the community where they could get information on criminal activities.


Sky Pasada cuts 10-hour Manila-Baguio road trip

BAGUIO CITY - Sky Pasada, the lone air carrier that serviced the Summer Capital last year, officially touches high ground as it stations its new LET 410 UVP-E aircraft today at the Loakan Airport to commence its Baguio Flights starting Sept. 23.

This is very timely with the hassle of the ongoing road repairs along the Mac Arthur Highway (Manila North Road) in Tarlac and Pangasinan and along Marcos Highway and Kennon Road which resulted to a dragging eight to ten hour trip to Baguio. The burden of tourists coming to Baguio is now relieved with the resumption of Sky Pasada flights to Baguio.

Sky Pasada will connect Baguio to the Manila, Tuguegarao and Batanes with twice-per-week flights which will service tourists and local passengers. Conversations with Baguio hotels and tour operators view the recent development a great help to boost Baguio’s Tourism Industry.

With Baguio now accessible via air travel, tourists can now reach Baguio in 45 minutes from NAIA Terminal 4 (Old Domestic Airport) to Loakan Airport. This is a great relief considering the grueling land travel which was made worst by road repairs. To add insult to the injury, bus companies are now charging additional fares to compensate the added travel time of their buses.

Sky Pasada offers airfares for as low as P1,998 for their Manila to Baguio flight, 1,995Php for Baguio to Tuguegarao and Baguio-Batanes for P5,285.

“We hope that the people of Baguio will patronize Sky Pasada as a more convenient and safe mode of transport to and from Manila,” according to Capt. Ramon V. Guico, Sky Pasada President and CEO. “Join us in promoting air travel and improve the image of Baguio as a more accessible to tourists.”

Sky Pasada’s aircraft landed at the Loakan Airport from Tuguegarao City at 1pm Friday.

The 19-seater LET 410 UVP-E that will service Baguio is a new aircraft acquired by Sky Pasada this year from Czechoslovakia. It meets all the safety standards with its additional emergency exits and TCAS 2 instrument necessary in meeting FAA requirements.

The aircraft was specifically purchased to service Baguio to ensure that all safety measures will be met.

As an addition to their services, Sky Pasada have partnered with Baguio Travel Agencies and Hotel establishments to provide their clients with easy and convenient ticket issuance. For booking and reservations, you can go online through www.skypasada.com or call (074) 305.1633.


Obesity rate highest in veggie-producing prov

BAGUIO CITY— The Department of Health reported Monday that the highest obesity rate in the Cordillera Administrative Region is in Benguet.

Despite being the source of tons of highland vegetables sold in lowland markets including Metro Manila, Benguet has an obesity rate for 42 percent – the highest in the region.

Dr. Myrna Cabotaje, DOH regional director, said Benguet folk are more prone to being obese because most people in the highlands are meat-eaters.

Cabotaje said that if only farmers readily ate their vegetable produce, then there
will be a much lower rate of obesity in the province which now poses a serious threat to the lives of young and old people.

She said the primary reason why farmers do not actually eat their vegetable produce is that their crops are high value crops intended to generate income and not for their own consumption.

Mountain Province also posted a high rate of obesity at 28.8 percent, Ifugao at 24.2 percent, Kalinga at 23.2 percent, Abra at 19 percent and Apayao with only 10.2 percent obesity rate.


2 minors ‘kidnapped’ in Mankayan, retrieved at Davao Oriental

By Ma Theresa Gunito-Pucay

MANKAYAN, Benguet -- A 49-year-old grandmother is now in jail after being denied bail for allegedly kidnapping two of her grandchildren here and bringing them to Mati City in Davao Oriental. A police report detailed what happened:

The story started morning of April 4 when accused Elizeria Clemente Rosal, 49, married, of Mati City, Davao Oriental, resident of Sitio Labaan, Tabio here and her son, Joecel Rosal (biological father of Joycel-Ann), went to the residence of Joycel-Ann at Caew, Bulalacao, also in this town and asked permission from her maternal grandmother, Regina Bastian, if they could take her with them to Baguio City to attend a graduation rite and would return her after the activity.

Since the accused is the paternal grandmother of Joycel-Ann, who had also been taking good care of her occasionally, Bastian allowed her to go with them.

In the afternoon of same date, Elizeria went to the residence of Elgen Thomas, located at Labaan, Tabio here and informed his mother,Madeline Natantan, that they would be going to Batoang, Itogon, Benguet, to attend a graduation ceremony, and Elgen Thomas, who was serving as her house helper, might be going with them.

However, his mother did not allow him to go with the accused. Despite preventing her son in going, she later learned after a few days from Melchor Balcac, owner and driver of the van rented by the accused, that he saw Elgen Thomas together with the family of the accused, when he ferried them to Baguio on April 5.

The accused continued their trip on the same date, bringing along the two minor victims to Davao Oriental without informing their parents.

The parents of the two minors tried to contact the accused several times through cellular phone but they received no response.

Sensing the futility of their efforts, the parents decided to report the matter to Mankayan police on May 16 who immediately conducted investigation and sought the residence of the Rosal family located at Poblacion, Mankayan to locate any member of the family and were able to chance upon Joecel Rosal who informed the policemen that his parents and brothers, together with the two minors went to Mati City for a visit with intention of returning to Mankayan.

However, they were stranded in the place due to typhoon “Bebeng.”

Other reason of not being able to return immediately to Mankayan, Benguet, was allegedly because of financial difficulty.

Joecel was then advised to persuade his mother to find ways and means to return the minors, with reminder that what his mother had done is a violation of law and failure to return the minors at the soonest possible time would redound to criminal action against her.

Complainants, as well as of witnesses were then taken and discreet interviews were also conducted in the neighborhood.

It was learned that Elizeria, mortgaged all their properties in Labaan, Mankayan.

Efforts were exerted to contact a sister of Joecel in Mati City, whose mobile phone number was provided by the latter, but got no concrete answers from her.

With this, legal action was taken against Elizeria with the filing of two separate cases of failure to return minors before the Prosecutor’s Office of Benguet on 10 June.

However, the two separate cases were merged into one information and was elevated to kidnapping with no bail recommended, Abatan Buguias.

A Warrant of arrest, dated July 12, 2011 was issued by Agapito K. Laoagan, Jr., presiding judge of RTC Abatan, Buguias.

Armed with such warrant, joint operatives from Mankayan and Benguet police office under direct supervision of Senior Supt. Benjmin Lusad proceeded to Davao Oriental.

Coordination with Mati police Station, Criminal Investigation Detection Group and Regional Intelligence Unit XI was done, resulting to arrest of the accused the retrieval of her two victims.

The accused was brought back to Mankayan while victims were reunited with their respective parents.

Meanwhile Elizera was jailed at the provincial jail in La Trinidad, Benguet.


Super lights' can trap rice black bugs, says expert

SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija— Farmers in Central Luzon affected by the attack of rice black bugs (RBBs) were advised last week by scientists to install “superpower lights” near infested areas to fend off the farm pests.

Gertrudo S. Arida, entomologist of Philippine Rice Research Institute said the installation of high-intensity light with 2,000-3,000 watts during heavy infestations can help prevent the attack of RBBs on the crops.

Arida said the efficiency of this strategy had been proven in several studies on RBBs.

“They (bugs) are strongly attracted to super power lights at night so they stay there instead of attacking crops,” he said.

Arida said that based on the PhilRice study during outbreaks like the recent infestations in Cavite, super light set up every night can traps the most number of bugs.

Arida, also an expert in Integrated Pest Management, said light traps mounted on a 5 to 10-meter high bamboo pole should be installed in cemented pavements or in places where rice grains are sun dried.

For light-trapping to be effective, he said it should be done from 8 to 12 p.m. as RBBs are active two days before full moon and three days following the moon event. -- FGR


Attempts to ‘sabotage’ city ERS trash operations bared

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – Amidst efforts of the city government and Protech Machinery Corporation to perfect the system that will be a permanent solution to the city’s garbage disposal problem, some groups and individuals are out to sabotage the operation of the P128 million Environmental Recycling system (ERS) machines to divert the blame on the city’s garbage problem to the current set of local officials that will advance their own personal and political interests.

This was underscored by Mr. Luis A. Lu, Jr., assistant vice president of Protech Machinery Corporation, who added incidents indicate some groups and individuals are trying their best to sabotage the operations of the machines so they will not be able to convert the city’s generated biodegradable waste into high grade compost fertilizer.

Prior to the collapse of the portion of the Irisan dumpsite retaining wall that caused the highly publicized trash slide, some individuals reportedly attempted to steal the engine of the ERS machines and removed the belt of the boiler.

However, the supposed saboteurs were not able to successfully stop the operation of the machines as their illegal activities were detected by people living within the area.

When the ERS machines started operating last June, some unscrupulous individuals reportedly put rubbing solution to one of the machines that caused it to stop operation for several days until one of its components was replaced which was worth over P2 million.

Due to these incidents, Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan ordered the fencing of the compound where the ERS machines are installed and operating as well as put up several close-circuit television within the area to monitor activities of the people going in and out of the compound.

According to him, it is unfortunate that some groups and individuals want to derail efforts of the city government in coming out with a lasting solution to the city’s garbage collection and disposal problem and use the same to advance their own personal and political ambitions.

The two ERS machines installed at the vicinity of the Irisan dumpsite are capable of converting a total of 48 tons of the city’s generated biodegradable waste into high grade compost fertilizer which could be used by the local government and farmers in enhancing the growth of flowers in the parks as well as agricultural crops in their gardens.

Aside from installing several CCTV cameras within the ERS compound, the city government is also contemplating on hiring more security guards that will ensure the safety of the machines so these will compost the city’s biodegradable waste beneficial to vegetable farmers once the city government will get permit to sell high grade compost fertilizer.


3,000 volunteers tapped to police Baguio folk on waste management

BAGUIO CITY – More than 3,000 volunteers mostly composed of barangay officials and tanods were tapped by the city government to strictly monitor compliance of households to Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, particularly segregation of waste at source, to improve the city’s garbage collection and disposal system.

Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan cited support of volunteers to monitor compliance of households to the segregation of waste at source is a welcome development to the local government to enhance its garbage collection and disposal to satisfactorily comply with the lawful provisions although the city government has already been complying with RA 9003 several years ago.

With the revised garbage collection system which will be a 2-truck system, one intended for biodegradable waste and another purposely for non-biodegradable waste, the city mayor pointed out barangay officials, tanods and purok leaders will strictly monitor the compliance of households to the segregation of waste during scheduled collection days so that the generated biodegradable waste will be immediately fed to the two Environmental Recycling System (ERS) machines based at the Irisan controlled dump facility while the non-biodegradable waste will be deposited in a transfer station before being hauled out of Baguio by Protech Machinery Corporation to its plant in Rosales, Pangasinan.

Aside from strictly monitoring compliance of households to the segregation process, barangay officials were also tasked to identify the collection points in their places while installing appropriate signages that will serve as the guide of people in the dumping of their generated household waste.

According to Domogan, the 48-ton accumulated capacity of the ERS machines to convert biodegradable waste into high grade compost fertilizer is not being maximized because of more mixed waste being collected from the barangays, thus, the need for more time and manpower to segregate the mixed waste before being fed into the ERS machines while the non-biodegradable waste will be hailed out of the city pursuant to the commitment of Protect in its 10-year contract with the local government.

The local chief executive said once volunteers will pinpoint those who are not complying with the waste segregation, their names will be submitted to the city government for filing of violation of the provisions of RA 9003 in order to teach them a lesson so that they will be forced to adhere to the waste segregation.

Volunteers will also be tightly guarding the tributaries of creeks, rivers and streams so that unscrupulous households will not dump their unsegregated waste in waterways which contribute to the worsening pollution of bodies of waters, thus, combined efforts will help the city regain its cleanliness and greenery.

Domogan said it is high time for the local government to make the people feel that city officials have the will to discipline unscrupulous households who refuse to adhere to the solid waste management laws. -- Dexter A. See


‘Emergency state’ lifted in Pampanga hospital

GUAGUA, Pampanga– The chief of the Diosdado Macapagal Memorial Hospital here lifted Thursday morning the “state of emergency” he declared in the government district hospital following the discovery of a dangerous bacteria in a patient last Sept. 15.

Dr. Eddie Ponio said the hospital started to take in patients anew at 7 a.m. Thursday after a seven-day disinfection of all parts of the hospital.

“It was a simple, mandatory emergency measure, and not a calamity that we had,” he said, citing reports of panic among some residents.

Ponio ordered the hospital virtually shut down last Sept. 15 after a patient, who suffered from burn injuries from electrocution, was found to have the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa in his wounds.

“The patient was treated in both the emergency and operating rooms which are critical parts of the hospital, so we decided to shut down the hospital until we have fully decontaminated it,” he said.

Ponio described the bacteria as “an opportunistic pathogen which exploits some break in the host defenses to initiate an infection.”

According to Joel Mapiles head of Pampanga press information office, the closure of the hospital by medical officials was standard procedure.

Ponio disclosed that the bacteria may take advantage of the weak immune system of a sick person and usually enters the body through open wounds.

The presence of the bacteria leads to the weakening of the body when the carrier enters it through direct contact or through blood transfusion.

Mapiles said that several patients admitted in the hospital were transferred to nearby hospitals to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

The Department of Health in the region, meanwhile, advised other hospitals to be more vigilant because pseudonomas is hard to detect.

“Mayroon tayong tinatawag na infection control committee. Kung may ma-detect man silang problema ng pseudomonas, e mai-a-address nila kaagad,” said Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, program manager of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases of the DOH.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa (bacteria) can infect almost any tissue in the body that is compromised (i.e. damaged or weakened by injury or disease).

It can infect the urinary tract, respiratory tract, skin, soft tissue, heart valves, ears, bones, joints and gastrointestinal tract. Many Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections are acquired while in the hospital.

There are six symptoms of pseudomonas bacteria:
1) Respiratory infection including chronic productive cough, loss of appetite, weight loss, wheezing, rapid breathing, fever, chills, difficulty breathing, bluish color to the skin, and confusion.
2) Heart valve infection, including fever, murmur, fatigue, fluid in the lungs, water retention, dizziness, weakness, rapid heart beat, and irregular heart beat.
3) High fever, stiff neck, stiff back, severe headache, and confusion.
4) Ear infection symptom including pain, itching, ear discharge, swelling, fever, tenderness of the ear and nerve palsy in the face. Symptoms of eye infection include pain, redness, swelling and impaired vision. Symptoms of skin infection include green nails, fruity odor, blue green pus, itching and lesions.
5) Bone and joint infection symptoms include neck pain, back pain, swelling and pain in the affected joint and fever.
6) Gastrointestinal infection include irritability, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, headache, fever, abdominal distension and abdominal pain.


‘Mt Prov infra works done by December’

By Pamela F.Dungala

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Department of Public Works and Highways infrastructure projects in this province would be completed by December.

This was announced by OIC-district E=engineer John T. Marquez during a meeting with project engineers and contractors here Sept. 19 at the district office.

But he said strict enforcement of guidelines on implementation of infrastructure projects would have to be followed to ensure that projects are done properly.

During the meeting, Marquez reminded contractors on department orders and circulars on the implementation of infra projects such as installation of warning and informative signs, accreditation of asphalt and Portland cement concrete batching plant, testing of materials before incorporation to the works and observance of safety measures.

Contractors were also presented on the office’s computations of the former’s actual project accomplishments.

This is for them (contractors) to formulate a catch-up plan to eliminate the negative slippage they may have incurred and to ensure the completion of the project before the end of the year.

Contractors committed to complete their project works before the year ends. Likewise, project engineers of the district office were instructed to closely monitor the progress of the projects assigned to them to guarantee completion on time.

Construction engineer Benedict F. Matib advised the contractors to increase their financial ability, manpower, equipment and the like to aide in their accelerated project activities and for them to beat the deadline on the completion of projects.


Ilocos Region policemen nab 886 wanted persons

By Christian Supnad

CAMP FLORENDO, La Union- – The Region 1 police headed by Chief Supt. Franklin Bucayu arrested 886 wanted persons, 12 of whom were classified as most wanted- during the first seven months of 2011, according to data from the Regional Intelligence Division of Police Regional Office 1 here at San Fernando City.

Of the total arrested, Bucayu said 874 were classified as wanted persons (without rewards).

The Pangasinan Police Provincial Office under Sr. Supt. Rosueto Ricaforte, accounted for more than half of this figure, with 469. La Union PPO tallied 192; Ilocos Sur PPO, 150; and Ilocos Norte PPO, 63.

The remaining 12 were classified as most wanted persons (MWP’s), with one listed in the national level and eleven in the provincial level.

MWP’s have respective monetary reward for their capture.

The arrested National Level MWP was identified as Nicanor Borromeo. Borromeo was wanted for the crimes of murder, arson and robbery, and the government offered a reward of 1.05 million pesos for his capture.

Bucayu said PRO1 authorities collared him last Aug. 7 at Barangay Maab-abaca in Piddig town, Ilocos Norte,

Meanwhile, one of the arrested MWP’s in the provincial level was Edwin Maynes.

Wanted for murder, and with a P140,000 reward for his capture, Maynes was nabbed by police authorities in Quezon City last Sept. 19.

Bucayu has recently given orders to various units and offices under his command to further intensify PRO1’s operations against wanted persons.“While we have been continuously implementing this campaign, we are levelling up our efforts in keeping with the 10-Point Action Plan of Police Director General Nicanor A. Bartolome, the new Chief of the Philippine National Police, particularly on the arrest of wanted persons.”

“We are focusing on the service of warrants and we expect to arrest more of these wanted persons in the days ahead,” the Regional Director added.


P3M set for special work for students

TABUK CITY, Kalinga -- The Department of Labor and Employment released P3,046,400 additional fund for the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) in the Cordillera Administrative Region to hire 1,000 deserving students from September to December this year.

The notice was contained in a memorandum from DOLE Cordillera regional director Sixto Rodriguez sent to the agency’s provincial offices.

As stated in the memorandum, the additional fund extends the SPES in CAR for the period September-December this year to provide more employment opportunities for deserving students which they could use to bankroll their studies in their quest to acquire descent education.

The September-December additional SPES fund which represents DoLE’s counterpart is distributed to Abra –P396,032; Apayao – P152,320; Baguio – P852,992; Benguet – P822,528; Ifugao – P274,476; Kalinga – P274,176 and Mt. Province – PP274,176.

The September-December SPES hiring targets 1,000 students in the entire Cordillera region with Baguio having the highest number of 280, Benguet – 270 Abra – 130, Apayao - 50 and the rest of the provinces have 90 students each.

Hiring gives priority to out-of-school-youths intending to enroll in tertiary or technical and vocational courses, working students in colleges and universities and present students in TESDA and other vocational schools who cannot complete their courses because of financial constraint so that the purpose of the assistance will be fulfilled and indigent students will be given the priority in opportunities for employment opportunities that could be used to finance their education as they aspire for a higher level of education to ensure their better productivity.

DOLE usually offers the SPES every summer vacation to provide financial support to poor students entering college and technical-vocational education so that they could immediately acquired the appropriate knowledge and skills that they could use to earn a descent income for their families.

Under a “40-60” salary payment sharing scheme between DoLE and partner hiring agencies of the program, the total counterpart amount of partner agencies to the September-December SPES round is P4,569,500.

Provincial Labor and Employment Officer Avelina Manganip said they will tap schools for this round since local government units, at this time of the year, can not commit counterpart pledges.

Submission of pledges from partner schools is until Sept. 15, while the DOLE memorandum stated that “excess” funds not meet by pledges from partners will be allocated on a per demand basis from other interested provinces.

Students hired under the SPES are paid salaries not lower than the minimum wage rate prevailing in the particular place.

Manganip advised interested applicants to submit all necessary documents to avoid perennial delays in the claims.


Cojuangcos objecting no more to 21-km Baguio circuit road

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – The influential Cojuangco family is now supportive of the construction and completion of the 21-kilometer Baguio circumferential road by allowing the personnel of the Department of Public Works and Highways to enter into their property and push through with the project in accordance to revised survey plans.

In his letter to Ireneo S. Gallato, district engineer of the DPWH Baguio City District Engineering Office, lawyer Alexis Medina, counsel for the Cojuangcos, expressed the family’s gratitude to the agency for revising the project plans in order to minimize the damage to be inflicted to the Cojuangco property but with a greater impact to the public with the completion and construction of the roadline for the benefit of the local residents and visitors.

According to the lawyer of the Cojuangco’s, the family also wants the completion of the road since it will greatly contribute to the development of Baguio and its neighboring towns of Benguet.

However, the DPWH and its project implementers are mandated to strictly abide by the revised survey plan as submitted and approved by the Cojuangcos to prevent bigger damages to the property.

Furthermore, Medina cited their allowing the construction of the road is without prejudice to or in any manner a waiver of the right of the family to demand payment of just compensation as may be determined in the proper judicial forum.

Gallato welcomed the issuance of the permit to entry by the Cojuangcos to their property, citing that the P140 million earmarked this year to continue with the completion of the circumferential road project will now be bid out by the DPWH regional office to ensure that all the projects identified for the purpose will be completed the soonest possible time.

The 21-kilometer Baguio circumferential road which aims to link the eastern and western portions of the city is geared towards easing the worsening traffic congestions within the central business district area and contribute to the development of the outskirts of the city as potential investment areas due to the existence of access roads.

Gallato said the Cojuangco property is one of the important parts of the circumferential road because it will lead to the linkage of barangays Sto. Tomas proper, Bakakeng and Camp 7 which will complete the loop that will enable motorists to use the same s an alternate route when touring the scenic spots within the city’s outskirts.

Considering that the project had been greatly affected by the delays caused by the opposition to the realization of the project as well as existing road-right-of-way conflicts, it has taken the government almost 11 years to complete the works since it started in year 2000 when former President Joseph Estrada approved the release of P300 million to work on the noble road project.

The completion of the circumferential road is one of the priority projects of the national and local governments in order to help in decongesting the worsening traffic jams in the central business district brought by the rapid increase in the number of motor vehicles plying the city’s streets.


Cordi deserves autonomy, says local gov’t code father

BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera deserves to be granted autonomous status which is not only an expressed provision of the 1987 Philippine Constitution but an empowerment for indigenous peoples to have more devolved powers and greater control of the resources within its area of jurisdiction, former Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. said here last week.

Like in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao where Moro leaders are the ones running the affairs of the regional government, Pimentel’ main authr of the local government code said it is high time the Cordillera also avail of the constitutional provision mandating the creation of an autonomous region in the Cordillera and see for themselves the bigger effect of self-governance to the development of the whole region and the attainment of lasting peace.

According to him, the attainment of autonomous status will be a prelude to the further devolution of powers that will be requisites towards becoming a federal state which is one of his major advocacies when he was in the Senate.

Pimentel said Cordillerans and Muslims are the most privileged Filipinos because it has been provided in the Constitution that they should be accorded autonomous status to allow them to have greater powers to administer their affairs and will have greater control of their rich natural resources in order to boost development in their respective territorial jurisdictions.

While there divided opinions in the region on whether or not to pursue autonomous status despite enjoying greater powers in the present administrative state of the region, Pimentel explained Cordillerans must strive for more powers by fighting for autonomous status since by having more regional powers, the development of the region will be in a faster pace with more budgetary support from the national government.

The former lawmaker cited the reason why he supported the opposition to the postponement of the ARMM elections is that he does not want appointed leaders who are not the choice of the people to handle the over P11 billion annual budget of the region in the next three years.

Pimentel argued leaders who are not the ones chosen by the people will not enjoy the trust and confidence of the electorate which could eventually worsen the peace and order situation in the region as well as create more problems that come out with better solutions, thus, it will be impractical for President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino to be appointing ARMM officials just to suit the interest of some quarters.

He agreed to the contention of Cordillera autonomy advocates that the attainment of self-governance will translate to increased powers to have greater control of the region’s resources with lesser restraint from outside forces that will be able to help move the people out of the shackles of poverty, citing that the implementation of more development projects under the control of the regional government will be better than contesting with other big regions in the allocation of funds for projects under a fair playing field.

Pimentel hailed the efforts of the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera in their continuous efforts to craft a third Organic Act for the Cordillera through continuous consultations, saying that it will be better for the RDC-CAR to get the sentiments of the people in the crafting of the autonomy law.


Ifugao studes attend journ seminar

By Vency D. Bulayungan

LAMUT, Ifugao – Some 150 students from the tertiary and secondary schools all over the province participated recently in a seminar-workshop on journalism at the Ifugao State University main campus here.

Spearheaded by the editorial staff of the Upland Farm Newsletter, this is an annual activity which seeks to properly equip student writers on the essential values, skills and attitudes they need in order o properly discharge their functions and responsibilities as student writers within and outside the school premises.

Apple Bagawi, editor-in-chief of Upland Farm Newsletter said this was an inter-campus activity whereby the newsletter staff of IFSU Tinoc, Lagawe and Potia Campus, as well as staff from private and public high school institutions such as the San Francisco High School here, Ifugao Academy in Kiangan, Don Bosco High School in Lagawe, Ifugao Provincial Science High School participated.

With the theme “Achieving academic excellence through enhanced students’ writing,” the topics discussed include newswriting by Richard Baliao; Devcom writing by Paul Nuval; photo journalism by Jeremy Gawongna; column writing and editorial writing by Vency Bulayungan; feature writing by Mararita Nakake; layouting by Luz Duria; literary and cartooning, sports writing by College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines.
Julie Guay,the adviser of the Upland Farm newsletter, said that the school administration is grateful for this opportunity where student writers convened in this rare opportunity to learn how to become responsible writers.

Guay also thanked all the resource persons for sharing their knowledge and skills to the young generation.


‘Most wanted’ drug lord in Cordillera gets 20 years

BAGUIO CITY – The top most wanted drug personality in the Cordillera, who was also included in the police’s order of battle against organized crime groups at the time of his last arrest on Aug. 25, 2009, was recently convicted to suffer 12 years and one day to 20 years jail and fined P400,000 in a Sept. 5 court ruling by Judge Antonio C. Reyes of the regional trial court.

Teodulo A. Villareal alias “Teddy” was last-apprehended by virtue of a warrant of arrest and bench warrant served against him and his live-in partner respectively, by a team from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency – Cordillera Administrative Region, Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit and Highway Patrol Group.

The 47-year old Villareal, a civil engineering undergraduate, native of Baguio City was reportedly associated with a notorious local drug syndicate and a dreaded organized crime group operating on a national scale.

He was apprehended by operatives of the Baguio City Police Office Drug Enforcement Unit on Jan. 7, 2003 at South Drive here for selling dangerous drugs, but was acquitted on May 25, 2005.

He was nabbed again on August 17, 2006 at Siapno Road, Pacdal here with two cohorts, when they sold shabu to a member of the BCPO operating team posing as buyer. Yet again, the case was dismissed on March 14, 2007.

Said team was then led by now PDEA – CAR regional director, Gil Cesario P. Castro.

Villareal and his live-in partner was nabbed at the Baguio General Hospital rotunda in Baguio City at around 12 noon, where Villareal was nabbed anew with a sachet of .44 gram of shabu.

Earlier, on August 2, 2008, a search warrant was jointly implemented by CIDU – CAR and PDEA – CAR, also through the leadership of Castro, at No. 46 Siapno Rd., Pacdal here , the residence of Villareal, which he operated as drug den or shabu tiangge, with his live-in partner.

This was actually the first shabu tiangge case in the region, a PDEA report said.

Found in the house during the anti-drug operation were shabu and marijuana, chemical precursors of shabu, laboratory tools for mixing essential chemicals to produce shabu, numerous assorted paraphernalia for pot sessions, equipment for and records of drug transactions, empty shells and a live bullet, and deadly weapons.

Villareal got away then during the raid, hence his warrant of arrest. But his co-operator was caught with nine others, including five minors and two other females.

The report said most of them were relatives of the couple, where two were kids of Villareal and one that of his live-in partner.

One of them was reportedly the niece of a known defense attorney of drug law violators.


CPLA ‘closure’


It would do well for Malacanang to extensively study its position on attaining peace in the Cordillera particularly in dealing with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army which has two factions claiming they are the genuine CPLA.

Earlier this month, the two groups held separate events celebrating the 25th year of the signing of the Mt. Data peace accord.

In Baguio City, the Regional Development Council-backed faction led by Mike Suguiyao celebrated at the Baguio Convention Center with symbols of the peace pact: the armalites, the Bible, and the rosary.

At Bauko, Mountain Province in the Mt. Data Lodge where the accord was then signed by former President Corazon Aquino and CPLA founder Conrado Balweg in 1986, the event was celebrated by the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Peace Process-backed faction led by Arsenio Humiding.

It was at the site where the late President and former rebel priest exchanged tokens symbolizing the end to hostilities in the Cordillera.

Founding members of the CPLA, some in their ‘60s, were also present during the Mt. Data event where members “adopted” two resolutions which they said were geared to achieving “peace.”

One was the closure agreement signed between the Humiding group and President Benigno Aquino 111, the son of the late President.

The Humiding group urged the OPAPP to speed-up its implementation and to sign a manifesto expressing their sentiments about RDC’s signing of a resolution asking President Benigno Aquino III to suspend implementation of the closure and later backed a faction that they claimed was never a part of the group that broached the sipat.

Humiding said his group was hurt by the RDC’s actions saying their talks with the OPAPP began in 2010 but until the signing of the closure agreement, they never heard them object.

“Now that the agreement is being implemented, people whom we look up to as our leaders would suddenly claim they are not aware of what was about to take place,” Humiding said claiming several governors in the region are supportive to their cause.

Humiding said his group was willing to meet with the RDC but this should not prevent the OPAPP from proceeding with mapping operations or identification of development projects suitable for the areas where members reside.

In the same gathering, Humiding and OPAPP representatives clarified that the term “closure” does not refer to the beginning of a war in the region but signifies peace and development.

A representative from the OPAPP said the “closure” intends to end negotiations which for the past 25 years appeared endless because past administrations did not pay attention to ending peace negotiations.

Humiding also denied usurping the powers of Suguiyao who claimed to be the chairman of the CPLA and of Mailed Molina, who at one point, also led the group and the heirs of Fr. Balweg, the so-called bearers of the symbols of peace.

Humiding said selection of leaders of the CPLA was not inherited or appointed. Like in any democratic processes, his acceptance of the position was by popular clamor, he added, saying he would not have been chosen as leader if he did not have the following of majority of the group’s members.

The group’s secretary general former Sadanga mayor Gabino Ganggangan added, government would not negotiate with groups that do not have a clear mandate. He said the presence of zone commanders in Mt. Data, as well as the ratification of tribal elders were proof that he was recognized as the newest leader of the group.

The “closure agreement” included a P260 million economic package that included reintegration and livelihood support, development of communities with CPLA-Cordillera Bodong Administration presence, inter-municipal and inter-barangay economic development in select parts of the Cordillera, transformation of the CPLA-CBA into a legal entity for socio-economic development, disposition and laying down of arms of the 1099 members in eight months from the signing of the agreement and documentation of the CPLA-CBA history.

There is nothing wrong with a peace pact which is geared to making the Cordillera a more peaceful region. The President can sign any peace agreement with so-called “aggrieved” sectors like non-government or people’s organizations.

But then, there is a problem when taxpayers’ money is freely dispensed without objectively addressing issues or concerns like that of the CPLA which had been accused of a lot of human rights violations in the past.

It would do well for Malacanang and its so-called consultants to come up with appropriate measures to address other CPLA issues like allegations of murder and torture of its perceived “enemies” like that of respected Kalinga leader Daniel Ngayaan who was allegedly killed by CPLA cadres.

Otherwise, if such issues are not addressed, the question of whether the government is giving money supposedly for livelihood of CPLA members and their families when some have been accused of wrongdoing like murder leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

If such abuses have to be reinvestigated, then so be it and the guilty should be punished. There is no “closure” when justice has not been served particularly for victims and families of the CPLA’s abuses.


Repealing the oil deregulation law

Alfred P. Dizon
(First of three parts)

Our lawmakers in the national level just don’t get it or are just playing dedma or ignorant about protest actions arising from exorbitant oil prices of this Banana Republic, according to my intelligent bubwit.

Even the communications hydra at Malacanang, he says, are playing along with the tune of the Big 3 oil cartel’s pied pipers about the government not being able to do anything about oil prices because it is dictated by the world market.

Now, my bubwit wants an inquiry or investigation on who among lawmakers which include senators, congressmen, cabinet are stockholders of these oil companies – Chevron (Caltex), Petron and Shell.

This is needed, he says, because he couldn’t understand why the oil deregulation law, which is causing a lot of misery among residents of this blighted Pearl of the Orient, could not be repealed or amended so government can have more control over oil prices.

It was during the Ramos administration when this law, called Republic Act No. 8479 or “Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act" was enacted on Feb. 10, 1998. Despite strong opposition from the populace, my bubwit says this was rammed down the throats of the people.
So that people could be apprised more on what this law is all about and why there is now a clamor to repeal or amend it, we are printing hereunder some of its pertinent provisions which we will run in a four-part series.

Under Chapter 1 of its general provisions, “It shall be the policy of the State to liberalize and deregulate the downstream oil industry in order to ensure a truly competitive market under a regime of fair prices, adequate and continuous supply of environmentally-clean and high-quality petroleum products. To this end, the State shall promote and encourage the entry of new participants in the downstream oil industry, and introduce adequate measures to ensure the attainment of these goals.

Under Section 3, the “Act shall apply to all persons or entities engaged in any and all activities of the domestic downstream oil industry, as well as persons or companies directly importing refined petroleum products for their own use.”

For purposes of this Act, the following terms were defined:
(a) Basel Convention shall refer to the international accord which governs the trade or movement of hazardous and toxic wastes across borders;
(b) Board shall refer to the Energy Regulatory Board;
(c) BOI shall refer to the Board of Investments;
(d) Crude Oil shall refer to oil in its natural state before the same has been refined or otherwise treated, but excluding water, bottoms, sediments and foreign substances;
(e) Dealer shall refer to any person, whether natural or juridical, who is engaged I the marketing and direct selling of petroleum products to motorists, end users, and other consumers;
(f) DOE shall refer to the Department of Energy;
(g) DOJ shall refer to the Department of Justice;
(h) Downstream Oil Industry(DOI) or Industry shall refer to the business of importing; exporting, re-exporting, shipping, transporting, processing, refining, storing, distributing, marketing and/or selling crude oil, gasoline, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), kerosene, and other petroleum products;
(i) Hauler shall refer to any person, whether natural or juridical, engaged in the transport, distribution, hauling, and carriage of petroleum products, whether in bulk or packed form, from the oil companies and independent marketers to the petroleum dealers and other consumers;
(j) LPG Distributor shall refer to any person or entity, whether natural or juridical, engaged in exporting, refilling, transporting, marketing, and/or selling of LPG to end users and other consumers;
(k) New Industry Participants shall refer to new participants in a particular sub-sector of the downstream oil industry with investments and initial business operations commencing after January 1, 1994;
(l) Person shall refer to any person, whether natural or juridical, who is engaged in any activity of the downstream oil industry;
(m) Petroleum shall refer to the naturally occurring mixture of compounds of hydrogen and carbon with a small proportion of impurities and shall include any mineral oil, petroleum gas, hydrogen gas, bitumen, asphalt, mineral wax, and all other similar or naturally-associated substances, with the exception of coal, peat, bituminous shale and/or other stratified mineral fuel deposits;
(n) Petroleum Products shall refer to products formed in the case of refining crude petroleum through distillation, cracking, solvent refining and chemical treatment coming out as primary stocks from the refinery such as, but not limited to: LPG, naphtha, gasolines, solvents, kerosenes, aviation fuels, diesel oils, fuel oils, waxes and petrolatums, asphalt, bitumens, coke and refinery sludges, or other such refinery petroleum fractions which have not undergone any process or treatment as to produce separate chemically-defined compounds in a pure or commercially pure state and to which various substances may have been added to render them suitable for particular uses: Provided, That the resultant product contains not less than fifty percent (50%) by weight of such petroleum products;
(o) Singapore Import Parity(SIP) shall refer to the deemed landed cost of a petroleum product imported from Singapore at a free-on-board price equal to the average Singapore Posting for that product at the time of loading;
(p) Singapore Posting shall refer to the price of petroleum products periodically posted by oil refineries in Singapore and reported by independent international publications; and
(q) Wholesale Posted Price (WPP) shall refer to the ceiling price of petroleum products set by the Board based on its duly approved automatic pricing formula.


Brillantes’ brilliance fading away

Perry Diaz

When President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III appointed Sixto S. Brillantes Jr., a well-known election lawyer, as Chairman Aof the Commission on Elections last January 16, 2011, many considered it a brilliant choice for the powerful post. However, recent events have ignited a maelstrom of controversy during his Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmation hearings to serve the unexpired term of former Comelec Chairman Carmelo Melo, which ends in 2015.

Brillantes -- who received his law degree from San Beda College and placed seventh in the 1965 bar examinations -- is the son of Sixto Brillantes Sr. who served as Comelec Chairman from 1956-1965 during the Magsaysay, Garcia, and Macapagal administrations. From 2000 to 2005, Brillantes Jr. served as president of the SBC Law Alumni Association. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.

Following the footsteps of his father, the brilliant young Brillantes developed a keen interest in the Philippine election system. He became an election lawyer representing politicians of various political backgrounds. His clients include former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada, the late movie action hero and presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., and the notorious Ampatuan family of which some members including the family patriarch are now on trial for the Maguindanao massacre.

In the May 2010 elections, Brillantes -- the “star” election lawyer -- represented the Liberal Party in its bid to be declared the “dominant minority party” by Comelec. He also served as P-Noy’s legal counsel during the canvassing of the votes.

When Melo resigned as Comelec Chairman, the two warring factions backing P-Noy were pushing their own candidate for Melo’s unexpired term. The “Balay” faction of Mar Roxas, P-Noy’s defeated vice presidential running mate, rooted for veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal while the “Samar” faction supported Brillantes. Although the “Samar” faction supported P-Noy for president, it did not support Mar Roxas who was P-Noy’s running mate. Instead, it supported Roxas’ rival, Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, who won the vice presidency.

Macalintal is a good and experienced election lawyer; however, he carries an “excess baggage” -- he was former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s election lawyer. But Brillantes carries an “excess baggage,” too. He’s perceived to have close ties to Binay who recommended him for the Comelec post, a situation that didn’t bode well for Roxas who at that time was contesting Binay’s vice presidential electoral victory before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

In the end, P-Noy threw his support behind Brillantes and appointed him to the post. During Brillantes’ CA confirmation hearing last April 2011, Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano put a roadblock accusing Brillantes of attempted bribery and blackmail. Cayetano claimed that Brillantes “dangled” the case of his wife, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano, in exchange for Cayetano’s approval of his confirmation. Cayetano said that Brillantes threatened to push through the electoral protest against his wife filed by Fredie Tinga -- a former client of Brillantes -- if he refused to meet up with Brillantes. Cayetano alleged that Brillantes sent at least five to seven emissaries – including some congressmen – to convince him to meet with Brillantes. But Cayetano refused to meet with him.

Last June 9, the CA adjourned sine die without confirming Brillantes, which was tantamount to a rejection. A few days later, Malacañang announced that P-Noy was going to reappoint him. Cayetano asked Malacañang to reassess reappointing Brillantes, saying that there were individuals with unquestionable integrity and no “conflict of interest” who are qualified for the Comelec top post. He also said, “We have to find out which of the two kinds of lawyers is Brillantes. And if he is the kind who is involved in cheating, why make him chairman?” But Brillantes stood his ground, saying that repeated objections by Cayetano were not enough to force him to quit. On July 2, 2011, P-Noy reappointed Brillantes.

Little did Brillantes realize that more issues would be raised against him at the new confirmation hearing. Cayetano’s objections in previous confirmation hearings were no longer the only issues. When the confirmation hearing resumed last September 14, Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan, head ofComelec’s Planning Department, filed a strong opposition against Brillantes’ confirmation.

Rafanan alleged that Brillantes illegally removed him as chief lawyer due to his refusal to be “induced” by Brillantes to influence a certain Asryman Rafanan in the Office of the Ombudsman -- whom Brillantes thought Ferdinand was related to but was not -- to reduce the six-month suspension of three of the six Comelec officials linked to the P690-million ballot-secrecy folder scam during the May 2010 elections. Rafanan also claimed that Brillantes bragged that he had bribed Comelec commissioners and lawyers in the past.

Other issues raised against Brillantes include discrepancies between his income tax returns and his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALN). Sen. Franklin Drilon said that Brillantes’ taxable income from 2006 to 2010 was only P5.4 million but his SALN for 2009 showed P25.4 million. In his SALN, Brillantes listed among his assets the following: a house worth P3.1 million, a residential lot valued at P1.08 million, cars worth P2.3 million, personal items worth P3 million, and around P15.5 million in investments and deposits.

Drilon and Cayetano also alleged that Brillantes paid multi-million-peso pensions to indicted former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos and promoted the poll manipulators – known as the “Garci Boys” – to higher and powerful positions at Comelec. With the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) likely to proceed soon and the “Garci Boys” still around, a repeat of the “Hello, Garci” election cheating operation in Mindanao in 2004 could possibly happen again. Many are wary and suspicious that the elements of a “Hello, Sixto” election cheating operation – similar to “Hello, Garci” -- could exist under the leadership of Brillantes.

Last September 21, the CA deferred Brillantes’ appointment for the fourth time. There are still many issues that need to be addressed. He has another chance to redeem himself on October 5. But if he is not confirmed by the time Congress adjourns on October 15, he will be deemed “bypassed.”

It seems that Brillantes’ brilliance is fading away. Tired and weary, he recently told the media, “I will tell the President to not reappoint me. It’s not worth it; I will tell him to name somebody else.” But why wait for the axe to fall? In my opinion, it’s time for him to call it quits. Like they say, “Quit while you’re ahead.”

At the end of the day, good governance is not about brilliance; it’s all about honesty. And the people deserve no less. (PerryDiaz@gmail.com)


Cordillera is a state of mind

Ramon S. Dacawi

(Traveling simply overwhelms that it can only be written about when one is back home. Still on the road with youthful Baguio journalist Harley Palangchao, we feel refreshed by the renewal of kinship with expatriate Cordillerans who make you feel they never left home as they again open their homes to you. Under this spell, I retrieved from Harley’s MacBook Pro this piece I wrote in early 2008):

Respected columnist Conrado de Quiroz is right: The Person of the Year is the Overseas Filipino Worker. Make that of the Decade. Or a score, which you can stretch back to five decades and a year ago, when the First Filipino sugar cane planters and cutters landed in Hawaii to toil and make life a little sweeter for kin back home.

It’s more than their years of keeping afloat the family and national economy that make OFWs the right choice. It’s their longing for and reconnecting home any way they can that give the choice substance and relevance The meaning lies in their offering educational scholarships and sending books to our youth, clinging on to and passing on their kids the rhythm of the gong and the movements of the tribal dance.

De Quiroz and his family recently saw that among the hotel staff, nurses and other workers they met in wintry London. Baguio boy and Bishop Carlito Cenzon saw it in his visit top the United States last year, as guest of fellow Cordillerans in Northern California and in the St. Louis University alumni reunion in Las Vegas.

As in His Excellency’s visit, Baguio couple Joel and Emily Aliping have turned their Bay Area home as venue for many a reception for visiting “kailian”, however short the notice. Their fellow expats the likes of Dinah Villanueva, the booster of Baguio’s sisterhood tie-up with Vallejo, won’t think twice driving for miles to be there.

No wonder Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan and Itogon town mayor Mario Godio missed their domestic flight to an official function in Canada, as they were held up by Cordillerans receiving them upon their touchdown from Manila. When John Dee Tuling of Calgary couldn’t meet them there, he came home to receive the two officials in his family home in Tuding, Itogon.

In their making you, their visiting kin, friend and official, feel at home home, you feel they never had left home after all. That’s what sports writer Jogin Tamayo and our athletes felt when the Association of Cordillerans in Thailand led by Beverly Changilan-Balacdao received them during their recent victorious campaign in a martial arts competition in Bangkok.

Having had the chance to attend environmental courses and conferences through scholarships for Third World participants, I’ve always felt that. Manang Jane Panglao drove me from the airport to her home in Maryland, to anywhere within Washington, D.C., to as close to the White House as was allowed, and daily to the Smithsonian where I wanted to be. Dr. Alex Fangonil refreshed me with Baguio history and vitamins and, months later, he came home for a medical mission with the Association of Philippine Physicians in America which he led as president.

Jerry Abeya handed me a $20 bill. For gin, he said, when I would get back to the backstreets of Baguio where we used to repair to way back when. Edwin and Mia Abeya led me along the Shenandoah River and up the Blue Ridge Mountains for a feel of what John Denver sang about.I tried not to miss New York when Joel Aliping drove me and former Baguio councilor Elmo Nevada straight from the San Francisco Airport to the John Muir redwood forest.

When Elmo had to go to the Big Apple, Stanford nurse Pilar Manno-Marzan, Fr. Leonard Oakes and Estoy Aglit took over the steering wheel and served as my wallets, together with Pancho and Julie Alinos, Dorothy Pucay and Dr. and Mrs. Nap Batalao. Alfie Cornel, who’s topping body-building tilts in California, would have emptied his closet for gifts if we didn’t warn him of strict airport rules against overweight luggage.

For 18 days, Mr. and Mrs. Per Ericksson fed and took me around interior Sweden to absorb lessons in forest management. At the World Urban Forum in Barcelona, relatives of fellow newsman Eliral Refuerzo guided us to their kitchens and to the architectural legacy of Gaudi.

Home is anywhere there’s an expat Cordilleran. Edmund and Jane Bugnosen, Estong and Conchita Pooten, Henry and Lita Gano opened their homes for me in London. Cyril Salvador,who works quite a distance from London, also came over with a bag of choco bars and for beer –on him – at the Victoria station where he had to take the last train home.

I’ve yet to meet Freddie de Guzman, an architect in Canada who drove all the way to Las Vegas for the SLU alumni reunion with Bishop Cenzon . He and fellow Baguio boy in Canada. Irwin Ilustre just keep on sending support to patients here they never met and only read about. An Ibaloi expat in the U.S. who studied in the same high school I went has also been reconnecting since the other year through regular fund support for the sick here.

With new immigrant Conrad Marzan joining them, folksinging expats in California organized by Joel raised $2,800 in a concert for patients here. Expats in Canada last year also pooled their resources so the remains of Jocelyn Dulnuan, a housekeeper brutally murdered in her employer’s home, could be repatriated home to Hingyon, Ifugao. As did John Dee, Judith Piok and the rest around Calgary who shared the cost of bringing home the body of another “kailian” who died in Canada.

(The deep sense of loss over tragedies befalling Cordillerans out there on their own without relatives prompted Lovelyn, my daughter-in-law, to ask me to make a follow-up story on the final homecoming of Jocelyn.)

Even kids of expats are never too young to understand. Last Christmas, Elana and Bryan Aliping, the young kids of Joel and Emily, sent their $300 savings. For patients who needed help the most, they said.

I can’t forget a Baguio nurse who goes by the name of Princess Lea in the internet chatroom. Two years ago, she rallied chatmates to an “E-wagwagan”, an e-Bay inspired auction sale. They came up with $2,750, mostly from Princess Lea and her sisters. It enabled then 10-year old Santy John Tuyan.to undergo surgery to correct a life-threatening heart defect and grow up like any normal.

It all boils down to their longing for home - and for us when we get the chance to visit. We see it expressed in the educational scholarships and books they send to our youth, their clinging to and passing on to their kids the stories of the native village, the rhythm of the gongs and the movements of the tribal dance that many of us who never left now take for granted.

For actually never having left, the expat is the Cordilleran of the Year. (e-mail: rdacawi@yahoo.com or comments).


Rich man’s justice

Edison L. Baddal

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- In the not too distant past, a headline bannered a story about a controversial decision handed by the Sandiganbayan which approved a plea bargaining agreement that was forged between the Ombudsman (under Ex-Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez) and erstwhile General Carlos Garcia.

Pursuant to the agreement, Garcia returned 138 million pesos to the government. Prior to that, Garcia was charged with plunder before the Ombudsman for having allegedly stolen oodles of money from the military coffers when he was still active in military service. Expectedly, everybody was stumped at the unsettling decision as the magnitude of military corruption triggered by the Garcia plunder case has polarized mainstream society. Garcia’s shenanigans and that of other military top brass like Jose Ligot and Angelo Reyes adduced to and lent credence to the unbridled corruption in the military establishment.

This stark lowdown is constantly causing a simmering flow of discontent among middle echelon officers of the military establishment.

No less than a stunning victory for General Garcia, the people (as always) have been screwed up again for the umpteenth time by a cur in the checkered history of endless corruption in Philippine bureaucracy. Perforce, it was a resounding debacle for the government that fought tooth and nail to recover completely the lucre stashed by Gen. Garcia and members of his family in banks here and abroad.

Notwithstanding a motion for reconsideration immediately filed by the government against such unwarranted agreement, Garcia is surely exulting over a double whammy as he has been virtually exonerated by the Sandiganbayan even as he was able to keep half of the loot. Such fortune handed on a silver platter, so to speak, defies the imagination as Garcia could have never earned such wealth even as a general for three or more lifetime.

Even unacceptable, if unconscionably nerve-wracking, is the fact that such kind of fortune seemed to have been clothed with legality by the controversial agreement. It could be that a huge sum of money changed hands which is not far-fetched considering the range of corruption in government. As of now, the government is licking its wound over such huge mortification as it is a big setback in its perfervid campaign to stamp out graft and corruption in all government processes, procedures and systems.

Not so far back, Hubert Webb, scion of Ex-Senator Freddie Webb, was released from jail by the Supreme Court after 15 years of incarceration for the charges of rape and murder committed two decades ago. A mere technicality involving the legitimate ownership of a crucial physical evidence facilitated his release including his cohorts in the crime. Another high profile case involving a moneyed person is that of Senator Lacson who went on a lam for more than a year to escape arrest when he was implicated in an alleged murder case committed in 2000.

The court junked the charges against him lately which forced him to surface out of hiding. Likewise, Imelda Marcos has been winning a slew of cases of graft and corruption charges leveled against her in the not too distant past during the heyday of the Marcos dictatorship. At this time, she is having the time of her life living out her salad days once more after having had herself elected as a Congresswoman of Ilocos Norte in 2010.

More recently, the Supreme Court en banc recently declared the 20 percent shares of Eduardo Cojuangco in the San Miguel Beer, Inc as private in nature. This is complete turnaround from a previous decision issued by a division the Supreme Court which declared the same shares as public in nature so it offered hope to the coconut farmers of a small windfall from the decision which was widely believed to have been derived from the coco levy funds which were collected from the destitute farmers way back in the ‘70s by the rapacious Marcos government. Same fund is widely believed also to have been used by Eduardo Cojuangco, Marcos wealthiest crony, to put up the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB).

The disputed 20-percent shares is believed to have emanated from the UCPB and invested by Eduardo Cojuangco in the SMBI. This then dashed the hopes of thousands of coconut farmers who hoped to recover their investments in the coco levy fund. Cojuanco’s huge money was able to fully turn around the Supreme Court’s first decision.

At this time, the moneyed Ampatuans, who are charged with the grim killing of 57 persons, including 30 journalists on November 23, 2009, are being defended by some of the best legal minds in the land. They are awash with cash to pay such lawyers in order to buy back their freedom. With the above cases as a template, it is not a far-fetched possibility that they might yet get off the hook by a mere technicality.

If anything, being awash in cash is a potent leverage for a rich man accused of a crime, particularly heinous crimes, to wriggle out of a case. This is so as hiring a brilliant, calculating lawyer (who have a lot of machinations up their sleeves) does not come cheap. Corrollary to this, a philosopher once stated ( pertaining to love) that “Money speaks for one moment what the most eloquent lover could say in a minute.” As a metaphor in celebrated cases like the above, a rich man accused of a crime is oftentimes able to escape conviction having enough wherewithal to pay brilliant if unscrupulous lawyers.

The only downside to this lowdown is that it is sending the wrong message that crime does pay if you have money to escape conviction.

What could have caused this series of legal snafus for the government? Is it a case of sloppy handling by the government lawyers of the cases? Is it a case of government lawyers being outsmarted by pettifogging but brilliant and well-prepared private counsels of the celebrated accused? Or does both factor in the losses incurred on such high- profile cases by the government? Various speculations could be brought to the fore vis-a-vis the cases but the fact remains that most oftentimes government lawyers are outwitted by private counsels of the celebrated accused.

It is common knowledge that moneyed people usually hire the most brilliant lawyers in the land so as to wangle a favorable decision from the courts even by the merest technicality. Seasoned and brilliant lawyers know too well the cold neutrality of judges in courts in handling cases particularly the fastidious appreciation of evidences. Unwittingly, the cold neutrality of judges in the appreciation of cases in most instances provides an escape valve for a rich criminal to go scot-free. In fact, there might be a grain of truth to the assumption that justice in the Philippines is unfavorably skewed towards the affluent. This being so as in our country, the poor, who are deprived in many aspects can never afford to hire brilliant lawyers and are oftentimes the victims of injustice unless divine intervention occurs.

Somehow, a system should be evolved and institutionalized in our justice system for the law to have more consideration and compassion for the poor to realize that famous Magsasayesque dictum that “Those who have less in life should have more in law.” It is about time that the government should pay heed to the persistent clamor of the poor to have more justice under the law to make up for their material deprivations. A fool-proof system to be evolved for this will make justice a leveller aside from sickness, death and taxes.


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