De Lima hits SC writ of amparo on gov slay case

>> Thursday, February 28, 2013

DAGUPAN CITY – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Thursday questioned the writ of amparo issued by the Supreme Court last Tuesday that paves the way for the bid of the father of the 16-year-old witness who tagged Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. in the killing of Infanta town Mayor Ruperto Martinez last December, to regain custody of his son.

De Lima likened the issuance of the extraordinary relief to the case of former National Bureau of Investigation director Magtanggol Gatdula who got a writ of amparo from the Manila regional trial court last year but which the SC voided recently.

“Like in the Gatdula case, this may very well be another case of misuse of the extraordinary remedy of a writ of amparo,” she said in a statement.

De Lima vowed to challenge the propriety of the SC’s issuance of the writ in the petition of Jaime Aquino.

She said she could not believe how Aquino convinced the SC to issue the writ based on allegation that the DOJ and NBI “abused” and enticed his son into pointing to Espino and Pangasinan first district Rep. Jesus Celeste as the alleged masterminds in the Martinez killing.

“More than anything else, the DOJ/NBI simply act as the protectors of the subject minor witness and the investigators of the illegal/criminal acts narrated by said minor witness. Are these acts of ours unlawful? This is our mandate,” she said.

In its regular session, the Supreme Court ordered the Court of Appeals to hear the case and decide on the petition of Jaime Aquino to transfer the custody of his son to him.

The CA was directed to hear the petition on Feb. 28 and decide on the case after 10 days.

“The SC resolved to order respondents (National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice (DOJ) and Akap-Bata foundation) to make a verified return of the writ of amparo within 72 hours from receipt of the writ,” the SC public information office said in a text message to reporters.

Aquino, who was also implicated by his son in the murder case, asked the SC to order the DOJ to turn over the boy to him.

He said his son was “abused” and “forced" by authorities to tag Espino, Pangasinan first district Rep. Jesus Celeste and himself in the murder of Martinez.

Aquino, who was accompanied by his wife, Ester, told reporters that their son was lying when he tagged Espino and Pangasinan first district Rep. Jesus Celeste as the masterminds in the killing of Martinez.

Aquino, a writer of a weekly newspaper in their province, said the testimony of his son was not credible.

In a 13-page petition, Aquino said his son was “abused” by authorities and the Akap-Bata Foundation, a non-government organization that took the boy into custody when he left their home on Nov. 1, 2012.

He said the boy “had been restricted of liberty by the NBI and the NGO. It is serious illegal detention considering that the minor was held against his will with a promise of reward should he agree to sign the perjured affidavit.”

Aquino said parents cannot bear even a minute more of pain of not seeing their minor son and keeping him in their custody to give the love and care that only the father and the mother can give.

Aquino added he and his family are on the run because of his son’s accusations.

He also sought a temporary restraining order to stop the DOJ from proceeding with its preliminary investigation based on his son’s testimony.

The NBI filed murder charges against Espino, Celeste and Aquino based on the minor’s “personal knowledge” of the killing.

The witness, who has been placed under the witness protection program, claimed he was present during a meeting at a beach resort in Bolinao town in November 2011 when Espino allegedly planned the killing of Martinez.

In his affidavit, he said he heard the governor saying Martinez should be killed in order to prevent him from implicating Espino in an illegal mining project in the province.


Marijuana in Benguet plantations destroyed

CAMP BADO DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet - More than five hectares of marijuana plantations in 48 sites with 260, 500 fully grown marijuana plants, 27, 800 seedlings, 28 kilos marijuana stalks and 11 kilos seeds with a total market value of nearly P60 million were destroyed on site by combined police and anti-narcotics agents in different areas in Benguet recently.

On Feb. 16-18, personnel of the Benguet Provincial Police Office led by Police Senior Supt. Rodolfo S. Azurin, Jr., provincial police director implemented “BerdengGinto” in coordination with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

As a result of the operation, 258,900 fully grown marijuana plants, 27, 800 seedlings, 28 kilos stalka and 11 kilos of seeds were destroyed in Kibungan and Bakun towns.

The operating personnel were composed of four different groups; personnel of the Benguet Public Safety Company led by Supt. Lambert A. Suerte, Kibungan, Bakun and Kapangan police and a team from the PDEA.

After the marijuana eradication, the group led by Supt. Suerte held a meeting with the residents of Barangay Badeo, Kibungan explaining to them ill-effects of illegal drugs.

The activity was followed withgiving of used clothing and basic medicines to students and parents of the Badeo Elementary school.

In a related development on Feb. 12, Kapangan police led by Senior Insp. LoydOrbillo destroyed 1, 600 fully grown marijuana plants and 1,200 seedling in BelingBelis, Kapangan.

Chief Supt. Benjamin B. Magalong, regional police director said with the support of the community, the police campaign against illegal drugs will continue be successful.


VP Binay gives lots to 742 Baguio, Benguet families

By Joseph B. Zambrano

BAGUIO CITY --- A total of 742 family-beneficiaries in this city and neighboring municipality of Tuba, Benguet received their Certificates of Lot Award and Certificates of Eligibility for Lot Allocation (CELAs) from Vice President and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chairman Jejomar C. Binay on Feb.16.

Located in three different sites, the housing projects are funded and administered by the National Housing Authority (NHA), Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC), and Home Guaranty Corporation (HGC).

The beneficiaries included 445 families whose houses were severely damaged by typhoons Pepeng and Ondoy.

They were relocated to Barangay Tadiangan Resettlement Site, a 58,583-square meter NHA relocation project in Tuba, Benguet.

Each family-beneficiary in Barangay Tadiangan resettlement site is entitled to a housing unit in a 40-square meter lot.

On the other hand, 110 family-beneficiaries of the Loakan Green Meadows Homeowners’ Association Phase 1, also received their CELAs under the Community Mortgage Program (CMP) with an approved funding of about P6 million.

The CMP is a financing scheme that assists organized community associations composed of informal settler families (ISFs) to legally acquire the lots they presently occupy.

Another 51 families in Pinesville Subdivision at Kias, Baguio City who settled their housing accounts with HGC also received their CELAs from the Vice President.

HGC likewise turned over the titles to road lots and open spaces in Pinesville to the local government of Baguio City.

“The government shelter agencies have made every effort to provide decent and affordable homes to every Filipino family including the ISFs so they would no longer risk life and limb living in shanties that usually stand in danger areas,” Binay said.

He told the beneficiaries that solving the housing problem in the country is difficult, and cannot be solved by government or private sector alone.He urged the beneficiaries to actively participate in solving the problem on housing.


Coop cuts power from Abra mayor's residence

DOLORES, Abra – Electric power has been cut off from the residence of mayor Robert Victor Seares Jr. of this town for reportedly using a jumper device to reduce his electric bills for at least three years now.
The Abra Electric Cooperative said it cut off power supply from the mayor’s house to send a strong message to its 47,000 consumer-members in the province.

Since 6 p.m. on Feb. 15, Seares’s electric power was out after Abreco aided by Special Action Force policemen ended the alleged three-year pilfering power.

Abreco is suffering at least 20-percent systems losses from various illegal pilferage activities, among which are illegal devices installed on their meters like jumpers.

A case is being readied against Seares, sources at Abreco said.

The "Anti-electricity and Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Pilferage Act of 1994" (RA 7832) bans jumpers and similar devices and imposes fines on violators besides power disconnection.

The local electric cooperative has for several times attempted to disconnect the mayor’s electricity, but failed because their linemen were barred from entering his property.

Owing to this, Abreco has only estimated the mayor’s monthly bill at P2,500 though he owns many electric appliances.

Abreco officials said the mayor is not being singled out because they will be cutting off the power from residences and establishments that are using illegal devices as well.

The step is among the efforts that the power cooperative is undertaking after the Energy department gave Abreco officials three months to shape up or ship out after a series of near power cut off from the cooperative's private supplier Aboitiz Power Renewables Inc. in December and January owing to failure to pay its monthly bills.

Seares, however, suspects “politics” in the disconnection.

Seares said “it wasn’t true an electric jumper device was found in his house or whatsoever.”

The mayor is running against Abreco board president David Guzman in Dolores town.
Seares is the cousin Abreco general manager Loreto Seares Jr., but they are reportedly at odds with each other.

Seares added even Abreco could not show him his alleged tampered meter.

“MismoempleyadoAbreconangibagaga (It was told to me by an Abreco employee),” he said in Iluko dialect.

Abreco, however, said they found a soldered seal in the mayor’s electric meter, bolstering their suspicion of tampering.

An electric meter is sealed with an Energy Regulatory Commission seal.

“Once there is a showing that it is destroyed, it gives evidence that it is tampered,” an Abreco officer who begged off to be named explained.

Seares was reportedly hostile while Abreco linemen were attempting to inspect his meter.


MMSU workers tagged in slay try on law dean

By Teddy Molina and Charlie Lagasca

BADOC, Ilocos Norte -- Six more persons are facing frustrated murder charges for the slay attempt on lawyer Ramon Leano, the dean of the College of Law at the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU).

Ilocos Norte police spokesman Supt. Jeffrey Gorospe said Christopher Agunat, a security guard, who was among five persons earlier charged in the shooting of Leano, tagged five security guards and an employee of MMSU.

Gorospe did not identify the suspects pending the result of the investigation.

Agunat claimed the six suspects raised P30,000 to pay the alleged gunmen, Jomar Quezada, 24, and Reynaldo Pagatpatan, 32.

Five persons were charged earlier for Feb. 14 night’s shooting of tLeano.
Jomar Quezada, Reynaldo Pagatpatan, Jimmy Bautista, Adel Ranchez and Cristopher Agunat were charged with frustrated murder for the shooting of lawyer Ramon Leano.

Quezada, the alleged gunman; and Pagatpatan, driver of the getaway motorcycle; were arrested in Pinili town minutes after the shooting.

A shotgun, a .45-caliber pistol, a motorcycle, two cell phones and P20,000 in cash were seized from the suspects.

Ranchez and Agunat, who remain at large, and Bautista were allegedly exchanging text messages to the victim and Pagatpatan before the shooting.

Bautista, a security guard at MMSU, denied involvement in the slay attempt, saying he was just an acquaintance of Pagatpatan from their hometown of Badoc.

Supt. Jeffrey Gorospe, chief of the public information office of Ilocos Norte police, said Leano, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds, is recuperating at a hospital.


Senators’ minions warned; PCOS technicians screened

By Larry T. Lopez

TABUK CITY, Kalinga – With the start of the campaign period for national positions, the Commission on Elections here warned supporters of senatorial candidates to observe rules set by the Commission during the campaign period or face sanctions.

This, as the provincial Comelec office started screening applicants as Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine technicians for the automated May polls in the province.

Provincial Election supervisor Dexter BaryCawis said Kalinga needs 204 PCOS machine technicians to serve in 259 clustered precincts province wide.

According to Cawis, the province targets to come-up with the 204 qualified applicants.

Since computer-trained teachers from the Department of Education whom the Comelec eyed to tap as PCOS machine technicians were the same teachers assigned as Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), the slots were opened to interested Information Technology (IT) students from colleges here.

The 204 technicians will serve for three days together with the BEIs in the May 13 mid-term elections and are given the same rate of honoraria.

Meanwhile, with the start of the campaign period for national positions , the Comelec warned supporters of senatorial candidates to observe rules set by the Commission during the campaign period.

Supporters must follow the common poster area designated by Comelec-Kalinga, warning that Comelec will remove all posters hung in other areas.

Cawis reiterated that anybody caught tampering other candidate’s posters is penalized under Comelec rules as he called on all concerned to work for peaceful and orderly election in the province.


Suspects released in Becyagen slay case

By Gina Dizon

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- The Sarah Becyagen murder case took a twist when two detained suspects were released upon withdrawal of the information filed at the Prosecutor’s office of the Department of Justice here.

This was upon request of the father of murder victim Becyagen, who said case is undergoing investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation.

Judge Joseph Patnaan of the Regional Trial Court here said that the case may be refiled for the conduct of a preliminary investigation upon the gathering of additional evidence.

Becyagen, 22, was found dead near the Mountain Province General Comprehensive High School gate leading to Samoki bridge Sept. 11, 2012.

Becyagen sustained injuries at her right abdomen, swollen lips, hematoma and injuries on knees and legs, and died due to asphixia by strangulation medical reports say.

Meantime, the Florencia Kayohan case has not moved with no progress as to why the victim was killed and who killed her.

Police said no lead was forwarded to further investigation. The 22 year old Kayohan was found dead with a puncture on her neck and injuries on her head January 3 along the Chico river banks at Upper Caluttit here in this capital town.


P’sinan town health officer gunned down

STA. MARIA, Pangasinan – The municipal health officer here was gunned down in Barangay Poblacion West afternoon of Feb. 15.

Custodio dela Cruz, 54, a resident of Barangay San Patricio in this town, was riding his motorcycle on his way home when two men on a motorcycle shot him.

Senior Insp. Roldan Suitos said Dela Cruz suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

The victim was pronounced dead on arrival at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Urdaneta City.

Police are eyeing personal grudge as the motive for the crime.


P775 M projects set to boost Baguio’s growth

BAGUIO CITY – The completion of more than P775 million worth of infrastructure projects in the first quarter of this year will enhance tourism and economic growth of this Summer Capital which will translate to better quality of life for the rapidly growing population, Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara said here recently.

“We will be able to complete the construction and upgrading of the whole stretch of the 21-kilometer Baguio circumferential road with an added appropriation of P300 million by the end of the first quarter this year which will be in time for the influx of tourists during the summer vacation, Vergara said.

He said the circuit road that connects the city’s eastern link in Happy Hallow and its western Link in Irisan passing through the Kennon road, Marcos highway and Naguilian road will decongest monstrous traffic jams at the city’s central business district area as it will serve as an alternate route for motorists.

The lawmaker disclosed the delivery of basic health services at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center will also be enhanced following the allocation of P225 million for the purchase of more state-of-the-art medical equipment so that experts will be able to diagnose complicated health problems of patients in the coming years.

With Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan, Vergara was also able to collect around P86.8 million from the national government which represents the city’s share from the operation of locators at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) in Loakan that was earlier wrongly remitted to the national government.

The city government earmarked bulk of the funds for its solid waste management concerns while P16 million was allocated for the purchase of four new dump trucks in order to improve the garbage collection in the city’s 128 barangays.

“We were also able to lobby for the release of at least P80 million from the national government’s calamity fund for the now on-going rehabilitation of the damaged Irisan dumpsite retaining wall and for its conversion into an ecopark that will serve as an added tourist attraction for our visitors,” Vergara said.

He added another P30 million was sourced out from the Tourism and Infrastructure and Entrepreneur Zone Authority (IEZA) for the implementation of the phase two of the rehabilitation of the Rose Garden located within Burnham Park in order to serve its purpose.

In order to reduce the traffic jams along roads leading to tourist destinations such as the Botanical Garden, Wright Park and Mines View Park, Vergara sourced out P24 million from the regular infrastructure fund of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to complete the bypass roads along North Drive, Leonard Wood Road and Teachers Camp-Manuel Roxas.

To further improve the state of the century-old Burnham Park, the congressman also earmarked around P22 million to dredge the 1.2-hectare Burnham Park lake in order to ensure the concreting of its base and prevent silt from accumulating and destroying the view of the lake’s clear waters so that the colorful Japanese cy fishes will be viewed.

For the livelihood of various barangay-based associations and cooperatives, Vergara distributed over P4.1 million worth of mushroom production packages while another P4 million was spent for bamboo propagation to help produce sufficient supply of bamboos that will be planted in the city’s denuded watersheds as part of the lawmaker’s commitment to environmental preservation and protection.


Sabangan community to reap economic benefits from Hedcor

Mountain Province -- Hedcor is ready to begin construction of its Sabangan hydroelectric power project within the year upon completion of permitting requirements and securing a Certificate of Commerciality from the Department of Energy. As host to Hedcor's newest plant, this province and its municipality, Sabangan, stand to receive a host of economic benefits.

The Sabangan hydroelectric power project will be located in barangays Namatec and Napua and will harness power from the Chico River. Hedcor employs the run-of-river design scheme for its plants. A run-of-river schemed plant is considered to have the least detrimental effects on the environment as it merely uses the natural flow of a river.

Mt. Province Governor Mayaen has endorsed the project citing the benefits that the company would bring to the host barangays, the municipality and the province. Income from government shares, business and real property taxes, as well as community shares is seen to be around 15 million pesos.

Members of the Tinmakudo ancestral domain and the hosting barangays will likewise have a share in the power plant's generation output. This is on top of other benefits mandated by law under ER 1-94.

Local land owners also stand to benefit from rentals for the project's use of portions of their properties.

The construction phase is seen to take about 23 months, with hundreds of jobs for local residents in the offing as the company gives preferential employment to bona fide residents of the communities that host its power plants. Further, qualified residents will also be trained to operate and maintain the power plant.

The project will also entail the development of around 10 kilometers of access roads that will ultimately benefit locals as farm-to-market roads. The pipes that bring water to the hydro plant could also be tapped by local farmers as a source of irrigation of their crops.

The company will bring to the community its corporate social responsibility programs financially backed by the Aboitiz Foundation. These programs deliver social projects focused on education, health, livelihood and environmental awareness.

Hedcor is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AboitizPower with 19 run of river hydropower plants in Benguet, Ilocos Sur and Davao City and Davao del Sur with a total generating capacity of 155MWs.


Number coding suspended: Panagbengafest street dances, float parade on

By Julie G. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY – The 18th staging of Panagbenga or the Baguio Flower Festival this year, refreshed by earlier showers, was abloom as hordes of admirers came from afar to join festivities.

To allow locals and visitors more access to events, mayors Mauricio Domogan of Baguio and Mayor Gregorio Abalos of La Trinidad, Benguet suspended the number coding scheme for vehicles.

This, as 18 competing contingents vying for the top prize were joined by city officials led by Rep. Bernardo Vergara, Mayor Mauricio Domogan, and other city officials and sister city delegations from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada; Gongju City, South Korea; Taebaek City, South Korea and Vallejo, California marched from Upper Session road, Magsaysay Avenue-Harrison road, to Athletic Bowl, Burnham Park for a showdown of flower-powered performances.

Street dancing contestants from Kabayan, Benguet; last year’s champion presented Adivay, a continuation of their 2012 performance; newcomer Philex school from Tuba, Benguet presented Dangtey ken Tayao; TanghalangTeatro of Pines City National High School presented the pest-driving story of Hulin of Ifugao; TribuAritau of Nueva Vizcaya presented the traditional victory rite with the Sedsed and Bendian; “Insalay,” a ritual for rain, was also presented by the Sakusak Traditional Ensemble of Pinsao National High School.

The Tabuk group which won second place last year presented “Abuyog,” a story of Unity and Cooperation among Kalinga natives; BumabangatiKalinga of St. Theresita’s School of Tabuk, Kalinga presented a story of pot-making, dancing with pot-balancing acts; Tsinakhon Cultural Association of Saint Louis University Laboratory High School presented the dry season rice production from Bontoc, Mt. Province; Teatroni Pengentaan of the Baguio City National High School, School for Performing Arts, presented the wedding celebration of the Iowaks of Itogon, Benguet;

The cultural dance troupe of another newcomer, Baguio City Academy presented the Chono, wedding feast of the Mt. Province with activities such as the Fagfagto and Sanggor; the Cordillera Cultural Dance Troup of SLU presented the Say-ong from Abra; the Litangbon Culture from Bontoc, Mt. Province presented their customs and practices through colorful costumes and dances; and the ApayaoIpasindayao presented the Kabinnulig, planting, harvest and thanksgiving celebration.

Aguinaldo Elem. School, Lucban, Mabini, Baguio Central Elementary School, and Fort Del Pilar who won the judges’ approval during the opening parade joined the parade with their energetic and gigantic props-laden presentations.

Nearby, at the Ibaloi park, Baguio’s descendants of original settlers celebrated with Tayao and Ibaloi rites, with those from neighboring La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay municipalities of Benguet.

Baguio Blooms floral landscapes at the Burnham Skating rink is also open until March 3 where spectators may promenade among artists’ masterpieces; of plants, huts, rocks and waterfalls.

Exhibitors are also having their two-day stint this weekend at the Athletic Bowl.

After the float parade this morning, Sunday, Session road shall be closed for a week with food stalls, plant and flower-themed indigenous products on the city’s main thoroughfare.

About 20 floats are expected to flaunt their wheel-based assembled blooms down Session road, with some corporate giants, the Department of Agriculture, the labor office, the Municipality of La Trinidad and two national media groups, all having their own interpretation of this year’s theme: “A Blooming Odyssey.”

The winners shall be announced during the closing ceremonies on March 3 at the Athletic Bowl, Burnham Park; with a fireworks display to cap the month-long celebration.

Pony Boys day with horse-races, games on horse.


Food stalls under watch after diarrhea cases rise

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY - Mayor Mauricio Domogan has ordered the city health office to tighten its watch over food stalls and handlers all over the city to ensure cleanliness and safety of consumers in the wake of sudden increase in diarrhea cases in the city for the first five weeks of the year.

“I’m sure our health department is on top of the situation and are prepared with contingency measures to address the situation and safeguard the safety of our constituents especially now that we are expecting many tourists for the Panagbenga events this month,” the mayor said.

The Dept. of Health Center for Health Development in a press briefing bared an 11-fold increase in acute bloody diarrhea cases from 19 cases in 2012 to 232 cases this year.

DOH-CAR assistant regional director AmelitaPangilinan attributed the increase to “unsanitary food handling of street food vendors and poor water quality.”

The food poisoning incident at the recent scout jamboree held at the AtingTahanan also contributed to the increase.

Dr. DonnabelTuvera, chief of the City Epidemiology Surveillance Unit said the sanitation division of the department has instituted control and preventive measures to avert further incidents.

“Our sanitation division is quite strict on the grant of sanitation permits and health certificates such that even those operating only for a short time will have to undergo inspections and secure permits,” Tuvera said.

She said sanitation teams are expected to intensify monitoring of the food stalls and sustain the rigid training and health certificate requirements for food handlers to ensure that no more diarrhea cases will occur.

She said the AtingTahanan immediately closed the water pipe suspected to have triggered the contamination even as investigation on the case continued to ascertain the true cause of the food poisoning incident.


DOST okays muscovado Bauko processing project

By Juliet B. Saley

BAUKO, Mountain Province -- The Department of Science and Technology –Cordillera Administrative Region approved a community-based project on muscovado processing in this town.

The project aims to increase production and farmers’ income, generate local employment, sugarcane processing and development.

Based on a DOST-CAR report, the project requires P959,668 shared by proponents and the DOST.

Provincial Science and Technology Director Norbert Cobaldez said proponents of this project are the Bala-n Livelihood Organization in Banao, Maletang Irrigators Association in Gotang, Balintaugan, and Guinzadan Agro Producers Association in Guinzadan Sur.

The proponents’ counterpart is P510,900 which will be used for the construction and materials for the cooking chamber, procurement of equipment and other tools and raw materials for each of the proponents.

An amount will also be used for training of five cooperators and honorarium of trainors for the three sites.

The DOST’s counterpart is P393,244 which will be used for technology acquisition in terms of sugarcane juicer/extractor, packaging and labeling assistance for product improvement for each of the proponents, and institutional support for the packaging and labeling services for three months.

Sugarcane area plantation in this municipality covers more than 15 hectares with on-going expansion through the provision of 30,000 cuttings by the municipal government to the three barangay- beneficiaries.

There is no established sugarcane processing to muscovado in town. The current practice of some sugarcane producers here is to transport the sugarcane to the nearby municipality of Tadian for processing which entails P2,500 transportation cost per load. Because of the high cost, some products are not utilized.

The community-based project on muscovado processing is one of the identified project proposals submitted by the designated municipal science and technology coordinators during the orientation seminar on development project identification and project proposal write shop conducted by DOST-CAR. This activity is the first phase of the agency’s Science and Technology for the Advancement of Municipalities (STEAM) project.

The STEAM project aimed at establishing a network of capacitated and high performing municipal science and technology coordinators as partners in development.

Aside from muscovado processing, other project proposals for Bauko submitted to DOST include community-based project (CBP) on meat processing of Bila, and sweet potato processing of Poblacion.

Other projects from the different S and T coordinators in the province are CBP on sweet potato processing in Agawa, Besao; CBP on heirloom rice processing, and improvement of rice milling process in Fiangtin, Barlig; demo/piloting of organic feeds production of Natonin Integrated Research and Demonstration farm in Natonin; 'etag' and coffee packaging and labeling assistance with laboratory analysis in Poblacion, Sagada; product improvement of Masla muscovado in Masla, Tadian; and improvement of Bontoc solid waste management system, and CBP on food processing for Saint Vincent High School (SVHS) 4H club in Poblacion, Bontoc. -- PIA


4 execs of Cagayan bank face fund raps

TUGUEGARAO CITY - Regulators have filed a criminal case against four executives of a shuttered Cagayan-based rural bank for allegedly misusing funds meant for the renovation of the bank’s offices.

Four officials of the Philippine Farmers Bank Inc. were charged with syndicated estafa by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) and the BangkoSentralngPilipinas (BSP), according to a statement yesterday.

The case stemmed from the officials’ “irregular and suspicious” cash advance worth P30.22 million supposedly to renovate the bank’s branches in the cities of Dagupan, Cabanatuan, San Fernando in Pampanga, Lucena, Mandaue, Ozamis, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, and Valencia in Bukidnon.

Charged were Ronaldo Alaya-ay, owner and chairman; Rene Tongco, president; Teofilo Garcia Jr., vice president; and Aimee Santelices, head of the treasury department.

Also included in the charge sheet was Tito Ogarte, president of Primebuilder Corp., which was hired as contractor. The PDIC said it was later learned that Ogarte was Alaya-ay’s “personal driver.”

“Based on the results of the investigation of BSP and PDIC, (the bank) booked the amount of P40.7 million as capital expenditures for the renovation and purchase of furniture, fixtures and equipment for its branches,” the statement said.

“Of this amount, P30.22 million was found to be irregular and suspicious because no actual renovation was undertaken for the bank’s branches. The said capital expenditures were allegedly used as a ruse to misappropriate the funds of the bank,” it added.

The findings, according to the PDIC, were supported by the sworn statements of the bank’s branch managers.

The Philippine Farmers Bank Inc. was shut down by the BSP in 2009 and since then has been put under PDIC’s care.


Another 'gun for hire' surrenders in Abra

BANGUED, Abra -- A third alleged member of a private armed group in this province surrendered to Cordillera police.

Genaro De la Peña Quemirista, 43, married, a resident of Agtangao, Bangued, Abra’s capital town and an alleged member of the notorious Ramil Pilor group surrendered following negotiations on his surrender.

Quemirista has pending cases for crimes of multiple frustrated murder and violation of the gun ban, said Cordillera police director Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong at the regional police headquarters in Camp Dangwa, La Trinidad, Benguet.

Last week, 26-year-old Gerald Versola Valera, a resident of zone 3 in Bangued, was also convinced by the Cordillera police’s regional special operations task group to leave his PAG.

Valera was reportedly an active member of the “TandinganGuayen Group”, which has been contracting gun-for-hire operations.

Before Valera’s surrender, Tineg town mayoralty bet Cromwell Luna, a scion of the controversial Luna political clan in Abra, turned in his own assassin after a successful and confidence-building dialogue initiated by policemen.

Luna turned in 29-year-old Sanny Lanag Billong, who was tagged a “trouble maker” in the latter's village in remote hinterland barangay Alaoa in Tineg.

Luna is facing incumbent mayor Edwin Crisologo in the same town, one of those identified as “perennially bothered by violence in and out of elections” in Abra.

Police have reiterated their appeal for help in tracking down PAG members by informing authorities about the activities of these lawless elements.

The drive to support the gun ban has been stepped up to guarantee the conduct of a secure and free elections in May.

Recently, at least 31 high and low-powered firearms were turned in by incumbent local officials and candidates for various elective posts for muzzle taping.

According to Soriano, the taped firearms of individuals will be returned to politicians, but law enforcers will frequently conduct surprise inspection of the licensed firearms in order to determine whether or not such firearms were fired by the owners during the election period.

Politicians and candidates in Abra had surrendered 130 licensed firearms to the Abra police as part of the disarmament in the province ahead of the polls. The firearms were deposited for safekeeping and taped and will only be released to their owners after the May polls.

“As the conduct of the elections is fast approaching, instructions are given to our police units to intensify the conduct of more activities that will ensure the surrender or arrest of the remaining PAG members being maintained by politicians particularly in Abra,” Magalong said.


Mayor condemns killing, pols’ black propaganda

By Mar T. Supnad

CABUGAO, Ilocos Sur- Mayor Edgardo Cobangbang Jr., condemned Thursday the recent killing of two persons that destroyed the peace of this town even as he appealed to his detractors not to take advantage of the incident to advance their political agenda.

“As advocate of peace, I reiterate my condemnation of the recent killing of a reported security aide and his companion Honorata Sumibcay at the public market of Cabugao,” said Cobangbang.

At the same time, Cobangbang also assailed what he called “the act of scheming and grandstanding politicians in taking advantage of the incident to advance their political agenda.”

“I reiterate that as early as when I learned of the shooting, I immediately requested the police to conduct a thorough investigation in the same way that all similar incidents should be investigated. I remain confident that the police are doing their job and I respect their own initiatives in doing so. Rather than issuing unfounded allegations and finger pointing, I challenge those who claim to have useful information to report the same to the police who shall accordingly act on them,” said the mayor.

Earlier, local Liberal Party candidates Roqu eVersoza, running for governor; Efren Rafanan, running for vice governor and Trandy Baterina, running for congressman, 1st district, issued a statement that the killing was politically motivated and asked that the province be placed under Comelec control.

But Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson belittled the opposition’s claim, saying this was an isolated case and would not affect the peaceful environment of Cabugao and the province.

“Wala namang patayan na matindi dito, nagtataka naman kami, bakit nandito 'tong dalawang tao na biktima na to; hindi sila tagarito,” said Singson.

In the afternoon of Feb. 10, LP candidates claimed that one of their campaign leaders identified as Honorata Sumibcay, was shot dead at broad daylight at the public market of the municipality, together with her unidentified security aide.

Cobangbang asked the police to look into the case.

The mayor questioned why Honorata Sumibcay should be entitled to a security aide and upon whose authority was she provided with one. “Unfortunately, my detractors are attributing statements to the dead who obviously are not around to confirm such statements. If these were true, what have these supposed political leaders done to prosecute criminal activities reported to them? They did nothing and instead they harbored a self-confessed gun-for hire and invited goons into the municipality, thereby undermining our efforts to maintain peace in the municipality and in the province,” said Cobangbang.

“For almost three years already, I have faithfully served the people of Cabugao. I recognize the people’s intelligence and independent mindedness in choosing their leaders and no amount of violence can prevent them from taking the path of peace and progress. Further, the Comelec has decided to disqualify the only other candidate for Mayor in Cabugao in this coming 2013 local election. It is not in my best interest to sow fear or terror or to tolerate the same. These outrageous and despicable conducts are committed by people so desperate to assume power,” added Cobangbang.


Case against Rep Fariñas son dropped

LAOAG CITY – The case of illegal detention and physical injuries filed against the son and namesake of Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas and three others was dropped last Tuesday after the contending parties reached an amicable settlement.

City Prosecutor Lourdes Layugan said the complainant, Raffy John Corpuz, submitted an affidavit of desistance expressing his lack of interest in pursuing the case.

Corpuz earlier alleged that Fariñas Jr., together with three companions, dragged him into his van and there took turns in beating him up. – Teddy Molina


Search still on for missing Burmese crew of sunk ship

BOLINAO, Pangasinan — Search and retrieval (SAR) operations for 14 missing Burmese crew members of Panamanian-flagged cargo ship which sank in waters off this town Feb. 17 entered its third day amid reports of an oil leak late Monday.

The aerial surveillance conducted by the Philippine Coast Goard (PCG) reported an oil spill in the spot where the “M/V Arita Bauxite” sank.

Local fishermen said the oil spill was spreading saying it will adversely affect their livelihood.

Pangasinan 1st District Rep. Jesus “Boying” Celeste called Tuesday on national agencies concerned to look into the oil spill which may spawn destruction on marine life and spoil the livelihood of fisherfolk.

The PCG reported the oil leak occurred due to the ingress of water into the vessel as it sank in Cape Bolinao.


P103 million road projects set to start in Mt. Province

By Andrew B. Doga-ong

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Road projects worth P103 million under the expanded Payapa at MasaganangPamayanan or Pamana program of the government are set for implementation this year in this province.

Local Government Director Anthony Ballug identified the approved projects as: Besao–Tubo, Abra road opening with funding of P50 million; improvement of the Bontoc–Mainit Road – P20 million; improvement of the Natonin-Toboy Road – P20 million; Betwagan Access Road in Sadanga – P6 million, and the improvement of the Poblacion, Paracelis-Marat Road in Paracelis- P7 milion.

Ballug said the road projects in Betwagan, Sadanga, and in Paracelis have already started implementation while the other projects are yet to start pending completion of some requirements.

Last week, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), DILG and the local officials of Sadanga launched the P45.9- million Betwagan Steel Bridge Project in Sadanga, also a Pamana project.

When finished, this bridge is seen to hasten economic activities of the far-flung barangays of Betwagan and Anabel which are known for their legumes and basi or sugar cane wine products.

The various Pamana projects are part of the economic development programs of the Aquino administration to help win the peace in vulnerable and conflict-affected communities nationwide.

The Pamana projects are funded by the Department of Budget and Management and the OPAPP with the DILG as fund administrator and also overseer of the implementation of the project.


Bartender arrested for P2,000 shabu

BAGUIO CITY -- A bartender was arrested by narcotics agents here with three sachets of shabu in a recent buy-bust operation here at Lower Kitma, Bakakeng Central.

Police identified the suspect as Jeffrey P. Damian alias “Jepoy”, 29, Kitma resident who was nabbed Feb. 15.

The seven grams of shabu were exchanged by Damian for P2,000s to an agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency – Cordillera Administrative Region who acted as buyer.

A case for illegal drugs was filed Fe. 18 against Damian, before the Office of the City Prosecutor.

A PDEA press statement said Damian was in the watch list of drug personalities in the Cordillera.

He also had been reportedly charged for grave threats.


Dy, 61 former Isabela gov, Cauayan mayor passes on

By Charlie Lagasca

ILAGAN CITY – Former Isabela governor and now Cauayan City Mayor Benjamin Dy died of a lingering illness at a Manila hospital shortly after midnight Feb. 17. He was 61.

Dy’s younger brother, Gov. Faustino Dy III, confirmed his brother’s death in a telephone interview but did not give details.

Unconfirmed reports said the former governor died of lung cancer at the Saint Luke’s Medical Center.

Dy filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor but later allowed his son, Bernard, to substitute for him.

He was Isabela governor from 1992 to 2001.


Philex sustains reforestation, denies it felled trees in Itogon

ITOGON, Benguet - Philex Mining Corp. denied allegations it felled trees in this town for road construction, saying the areas concerned-covering 50 hectares have been undergoing reforestation by the company and its partners in environmental preservation and protection.

The company also lamented that people it had entered into agreements with regarding some reforestation projects, a leased lot, and purchased lots in the said town have the same accords with the government involving tree-planting activities.

“How this came to be is also our question,” Libby Ricafort, vice president of Philex Mining and resident manager of Padcal Operations, said in a letter to Baguio City’s Community Environment and Natural Resource Officer Edgardo Flor.

Ricafort was replying to a recent letter from Flor asking Philex Mining to submit a written position regarding the activities in Sitio Banao, part of Itogon’s Barangay Ampucao, after a complaint was sent to CENRO’s office in Pacdal, Baguio City.

Now it appears that some persons still entered into agreements with the government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources at the Cordillera Administrative Region for several tree-planting activities, he said, despite them having several contracts with Philex Mining already which is geared towards the purpose of regreening denuded mountains in the different parts of its host and neighboring communities.

Philex Mining had entered into a Family Base Reforestation Contract with a stakeholder on May 16, 2000, in connection with the company’s reforestation activities at 745ML, SitioBanao, and SitioSidweng and their surrounding areas, also in Barangay Ampucao purposely to significantly contribute in the government’s national greening program and help reforest barren mountains in order to restore the beauty of the places.

The company also has anexisting memorandum of agreement with a separate stakeholder for another reforestation project in the area, according to Ricafort’s letter to Flor, who is assigned at DENR-CAR.

Ricafort, meanwhile, clarified the parcel of land where the road constructed by Philex Mining in SitiosSidweng and Banao for access to a tailings pond it is building traverses a lot leased by the company from the heirs of the landowner and the lots it purchased from the heirs of another landowner.

This comes after a published article on Wednesday alleged that Philex Mining had used bulldozers to fell Benguetpine and gmelina trees to open a road of 1.5 kilometers in length and 6 meters in width at the Lower Agno Forest Watershed Reserve.

Ricafort said that in 1989, casual and contractual workers hired by Philex Mining started planting trees at the town’s Mini Hydro area, covering 745ML, Talnag, SitioSidweng, and SitoBanao.

In 1999, a family-based reforestation projects covering 20 hectares were awarded to two stakeholders. Between 2010 and 2012, another reforestation project covering 30 hectares within SitiosBanao and Sidweng was awarded to another stakeholder which was aimed at enhancing the state of the environment in the said place but they were surprised over the allegations of tree cutting when no such activity was undertaken in the area. – Dexter A. See


46th Mt Province Day, Lang-ay fest launched

By Gina Dizon

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- The 46th Mountain Province Day and the celebration of the 9th cultural and Lang-ay festival April 1-7 was launched with a cultural and ecumenical blessing here at the Bontoc Plaza February 20.

Preceded by the ringing of the bells, an ecumenical service was led by Rev Fr Amos Kollin of the Cathedral of the Episcopal church joined by Pastor Arnold Cacho.

Speaking before provincial employees and constituents, Gov. Leonard Mayaen said the event showed a manifestation of love to the province and concern to everyone as people of Mountain Province. The governor enjoined all to be proud as people of Mountain Province and to be proud of the province.

The drumbeating of said festival also unrolled the tarpaulin of events graced by Mayaen and Vice Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan.

A motocRause on April 1 ushers in participation by all constituents of the province and others as well.

Motor bike riders were urged to participate in the event with proceeds meant for identified dialysis patients from Mountain Province. There shall be two routes for said event the Bontoc-Sagada-Besao via Nakawang-Tadian- Bauko-Sabangan-Bontoc route and the Paracelis –Natonin - Bontoc route.

April 1 also starts opening of the agro-industrial fair led by the office of agriculture and the department of trade and industry. Souvenir items and products of Mountain Province farmers and craftsmen shall be displayed during the one week event.

A technology demonstration shall be conducted April 3 and a medical dental and surgical mission on April 2 and 3.

A provincial youth summit and an orientation on Overseas Workers Welfare Administration program shall be held April 4 to 5. April 5 and 6 is also a jobs fair day for those in search for employment.

For those in need of acupuncture for aching joints and other ailments, free acupuncture service is scheduled on April 5.

On the night of April 5 is the coronation of Ms Mountain Province 2013 preceded earlier by a search among candidates March 31.

The colorful and festive street dancing activity on the 6th is a special day for all delegates of the 10 municipalities of Mountain Province to demonstrate cultural dances and customs with respective costumes from the five major ethno linguistic tribes of the province - Kankanaey, Aplai, Bontoc, Sadanga, Baliwon, and the Balangao. Indigenous games are scheduled the same day on April 6.

In the night of April 6 is a concert for a cause for identified dialysis patients.

Noted musician and composer Bryan Aliping shall be playing his songs along with other local talents from the province.

April 7 is the Foundation Day marking the day when the provincial legislative board on April 7, 1967 passed the first resolution declaring the birth of Mountain Province as a new province from the old Mountain Province composed of the sub-districts of Kalinga- Apayao, Benget, Ifugao, Lepanto, Amburayan and Bontoc.

A speech, choir and choral competition is scheduled on April 7. A trek for a cause follows April 8 and 9.


Globe spices up Panagbenga with unbelievable gadget deals

Globe Telecom adds color to Baguio Flower Festival, the Panagbenga with these unbelievable deals only at the Globe Store!

Just visit the Globe Store in SM Baguio from February 21-24 and avail of the latest smartphone or gadget bundled with Globe or Tattoo Postpaid plans and Tattoo Prepaid offerings with huge discounts!

If you prefer an Apple product, get an iPhone 5 for only P1699 for 30 months when you get a Globe Postpaid Plan 999. If you want an Android, get a Samsung Galaxy S3 FREE at Unlisurf Plan 1799 or the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini FREE at Unlisurf Plan 999 or Cloud Fone Thrill FREE at Plan 499. Those who will prefer BlackBerry, the BB Curve 9320 is FREE at Plan 499 Plus P99 Chat.

Other deals include a Samsung Galaxy Y Color Plus Reloaded with FREE 4 back covers and 4GB memory card at Plan 349 or a CloudFone Excite 352G or Huawei Y210 FREE at Plan 299. Lastly, you can get the new Nokia Asha 205 or Cloudfone Excite 352G for FREE at Load Tipid Plan 300.

Tattoo, broadband brand of Globe, is also offering huge discount on the Tattoo Mediapad that you can get for only P7,800 with Tattoo Unlimited Plan 999, FREE Tattoo at Tattoo Plan 999, FREE Tattoo Stick for every purchase of Tattoo Torque up to 100Mbps, FREE landline and FREE unlicalls to Globe & TM with any Tattoo@HOME Broadband bundle deals.

The Tattoo Flash 4G (up to 7.2Mbps) can be availed for only P995 with FREE Facebook access one day a week for 6 months; and a Tattoo Superstick (Huawei E5331) for only P2,495 instead of P3,495.


Massacre suspect commits suicide

TUGUEGARAO CITY – A suspect in the massacre of a family of four last year was found dead, hanging by the neck, in his detention cell in Aparri, Cagayan shortly after midnight on Feb. 17.

Chief Insp. Romar Pacis, Aparri police chief, said a suicide note was found near the body of Virgilio Martinez, 48, a resident of Barangay Mabuno in Gattaran town.

Martinez and his companion surrendered to authorities last November and admitted killing Danny Bagiwong, 40, his wife and their two children.

Martinez said they only wanted to kill the Bagiwong patriarch, whom they suspected of stealing their farm animals, but were forced to kill his family members after they witnessed the crime.


17 suspects arrested; 215 grams shabu confiscated

DAGUPAN CITY – Lawmen led by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency raided a drug den here resulting in the arrest of 17 suspects including two minors and the seizure of 215 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu on Feb. 15.

Around 215 grams of shabu worth P 1,720,000, assorted drug paraphernalia, several firearms and pieces of live ammunition were reportedly confiscated.

A PDEA press statement said the illegal drug facility and three other premises located in Sitio Tondaligan, Bonuan Gueset here were raided during simultaneous implementation of four search warrants under Operation Plan “Valentino”.

Combined operatives of PDEA Regional Office 1 (PDEA RO1) Pangasinan Special Enforcement Team (PSET), under director Jeoffrey Tacio, PDEA Special Enforcement Service, PDEA K-9 Unit, Dagupan and Pangasinan SWAT Teams, Pangasinan Provincial Police, the PNP Special Action Force, the Naval Intelligence and Security Group (NISG) and the Philippine Army, served the four search warrants.

Arrested were Saidame Macaisug and Iris Bernachea, alias Titeng Macaisug, believed to be the owners and operators of the drug den.

Visitors of the den, identified as Ahmad Sarip, Amanodino Sarip, Rayan Maabo, Akmad Sarip and Gabby Wadia, were also arrested during the search.

Also apprehended during the operation were FizalSumangan, alias Bukare, 29, and Misbah Sumangan alias Singke, 23, both target-listed drug personalities; Noraniah Bagul,18; Mansawi Benito, 24; Sophia Ampuan, 18; Jamal Macabantog, 24; James Ato Dornado, 24; Abolkair Sumangan,19; and two minors, aged 16 and 17 years old. They were found in possession of dangerous drugs and paraphernalia.

The 17 suspects are at present held at the Dagupan City Police Station.

Cases for illegal drugs were filed in court against them.

The two minors are now under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.


Illegal lumber in Cordi confiscated;two men nabbed

By Mydz Supnad

CAMP BADO DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – Police recently confiscated around P106,234 worth of lumber in the region and arrested two men caught transporting the illegal contraband.

Cordillera police director Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong bared this saying personnel of the Abra Provincial Public Safety Company led by Supt. Virgilio C. Pascua, Jr. confiscated 12 pieces of narra flitches and six pieces of finished doors made of narra wood at Barangay North Poblacion, Bucay, Abra.

The confiscated wood was loaded on a Kia Vesta van driven by RaymundoDela Paz Bersamin, retired police personnel and resident of Poblacion, Bucay.

He was arrested when he was not able present pertinent documents supporting the transport of the forest products.

The arrested person and the confiscated evidence were brought to the PPSC Office for documentation and proper disposition.

Magalong said in another incident a Elf Mini dump truck loaded with illegal assorted lumber driven by Bernard Vicente Dulyungan, former employee of the Kalinga-Apayao Electric Cooperative (KAELCO) and resident of Barangay Pangol, Tanudan, Kalinga was intercepted by personnel of Kalinga Police Provincial Office, Regional Public Safety Battalion led by Insp. Dausen and Capt. Jasper Brix Perez of the 21st Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army while conducting checkpoint at Callagdao detachment, Bulanao, Tabuk City.

Stored by the City Environment and Natural Resources Office at Tabuk City, Kalinga, it had an estimated total volume of 1,000 board feet with a market value of P30,000.

The confiscated lumber together with the driver were brought to the Tabuk City Police Station for documentation and filing of charges.

Subsequently, Joint personnel of the Mountain Province Police Provincial Office led by Insp. Richard P. Soliven and the Army’s 54TH Infantry Battalion(IB), led by Lt Col Francisco Millare based at Paracelis, Mountain Province also confiscated abandoned assorted White Lawaan softwood lumber at Sitio Cassag, Bacarri, Paracelis.

The confiscated illegal lumber had a total volume of 1,043 board feet with an estimated market value of P31,290.00.

Confiscated items were brought to the Mountain Province Provincial Public Safety Company for documentation and proper disposition.

Magalong said the series of confiscation of illegally cut lumber was a contribution of police to the government’s national greening program in response to global warming which is adversely affecting the environment.

Magalong urged regional constituents to help government protect the environment by providing law enforcers with vital information that will lead to the confiscation of illegally sawn lumber and the arrest of those involved in the transport of the illegal lumber.


P100,000 illegal drugs used as evidence burned

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Authorities burned here at the Benguet Sports Complex grounds last week P101,142.25 worth of dangerous drugs like marijuana and shabu -- evidence in 43 drug cases filed since 2009.

These included 210.50 grams of hashish, valued by the Dangerous Drugs Board at P52,625.00; 1.14289 kilos of dried marijuana fruiting tops valued at P28,572.25; 3.32 grams of shabu worth P19,920.00 and assorted drug paraphernalia.

These served as pieces of evidence in drug cases filed with the Baguio City Drug Court. All of the cases are now deemed resolved.

Judge Antonio C. Reyes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 61, Baguio City, First Judicial Region had instructed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) – Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) to destroy the dangerous drugs.

The immediate burning or destruction of illegal drugs used as evidence is provided for under Section 21 of Republic Act 9165 or Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.


Kid needs support to survive kidney ailment

By Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- Often, it takes more than a village to save an ailing child.
Billy Benito, a 43-year old Ibaloy farmer raising vegetables at Bengao, Bakakeng here in Baguio realized this in July last year. That was when his youngest child, Chelsea, now 10, was diagnosed for serious kidney ailment.

Doctors then advised Billy and his wife Cecilia (nee Abance) to bring the kid for further tests at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City.

The couple was working hard to raise the amount needed for the transfer when Chelsea’s condition suddenly deteriorated. Her blood pressure shot up and her vision blurred, “to the point that she could no longer recognize us, her family,” Billy recalled.

Since then, Chelsea has been on hemodialysis treatment at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center. At P2,200 per blood-cleansing session, the financial impact was, is and will be too much for the family to bear.

Nowadays, Billy finds himself mostly on the road. Instead of coaxing his crucifers and beans to grow, he is knocking on doors or responding to text messages from Samaritans who want to meet him so they can contribute to saving Chelsea.

At 10, Chelsea has gained the uncomfortable distinction of being the youngest patient undergoing dialysis treatment at the BGHMC. The facility serves about 170 kidney patients from all over needing the regular four-hour-per-session treatment to survive.

She has come this far because neighbors and parishioners at the Divine Mercy Church at Atab where the Benito family attends Sunday services were the first on the rescue. With them are members of the K nights of Columbus, Council 15580 led by Assistant Labor Secretary Teddy Delson, and parish priest, Fr. Joel Calatan.

Samaritans provided the substance of this month of hearts by sharing what they have to a family whose second youngest member is beset by a medical condition that needs full attention for her to survive.

Chel, the eldest child at 18, had dropped out of school to be of immediate help in tending to the farm lot. So did Bill Cyrus, 17. Chelbys, the youngest, is a year and two months old. Chelsea herself should be in the fourth grade today.

A day before Valentine’s Day, an office secretary contacted Billy through text message, asking him to drop by. He did and she handed P15,000, saying it came from her boss who requested anonymity, as he did in previous donations to other seriously ill patients.

Also last Feb. 13, somebody texted to meet Billy in front of the Baguio Cathedral where the Samaritan, after identifying himself as “Luis” from Bontoc, contributed P3,000.

At the Bakakeng loading area for jeepneys, Martha Cados Bayo and Joshua Cados Balabag handed Billy P5,000. So did Fr. Calatan after mass last Sunday.

Representatives of the Baguio-Benguet Community Credit Cooperative saw Chelsea at her hospital bed last Feb., to contribute P4,400. Earlier, BasanBeligen and one calling himself Fruits delivered P3,00, the same amount raised from mass collection at the Divine Mercy last Feb. 10.

From sibling Senators Pia and Alan Peter Cayetano were two certificates of endorsement of P2,000 each which Chelsea can use as payment for her dialysis. City councilor Richard Carino last Thursday also advised the hospital to charge from his medical assistance fund P2,200, the cost of one dialysis.

Other recent donors were Puring of Bengao – P500; Bayan Muna – P1,000; and the BGHMC admission – P800.

As it is, Chelsea’s donated funds are fast depleting. It takes more than her family and village to survive.

You can ring up her parents’ cell phone numbers – 09494732522 (Billy) and 09465506545 (Cecilia). Or visit Chelsea at Isolation Room C of the BGHMC where doctors as set to create a fistula, the connection of a vein to an artery in her arm to allow easier needle insertion needed for dialysis.


Winners known: Itogon holds ‘cross country mountain bike challenge’

By Ramon Dacawi

While mountaineers look up at Mt. Ugo in Itogon, Benguet as their annual mini-Matterhorn , 46 bikers found the town’s foot trails, rugged roads and river crossings almost equally challenging to negotiate at the inaugural Invitational Cross-Country Challenge last Feb. 16.

“We could have drawn more biking enthusiasts, but some would-be riders were drawn to similar events scheduled at the same time in Kalinga and the Ilocos,” noted race organizer Art Tampoa of Highland Extreme Sport Promotions which initiated the event.

“Cycling is considered one of the best exercises for the body, heart and mind. This (event) also contributes to the promotion as tourism come-ons of the less-traveled mountain foot trails and dirt roads,” he added.

Town officials and sponsors also saw the event as a vehicle to encourage residents to use bicycles instead of motor vehicles in traversing short distance, both as an exercise and to reduce pollution from vehicle exhaust.

Christian Linda of the IMBG Riders of San Fabian, Pangasinan towed the field in one hour, 28 minutes and 48 seconds to top the10-kilometer open category roller-coaster, off-and-on-road route that fired off and ended at the Tuding barangay gym.

Dennis Pelerio of the Nueva Vizcaya-Aritao Bikers Club came in second at 1:28.18 while Ruben Esteves of Urdaneta, Pangasinan settled for third in 1:31.13. Rounding up the top six were Junior Liblinao of La Union-FMC Bikers (1:33.02), NiloEstayo of the Philippine Team-PAF Cycling Club (1:37.21), and Gary Padsing (2:09.57).

Wagner Buting of the Quezon Hill (Baguio) Buakaw clocked one hour, 16 minutes and four seconds for the crown in the six-kilometer 12-to-17 age bracket. Over 11 minutes behind was Coco Cruz, followed by Buakaw riders Matt Urmaza, NollysonSamonte, Renzo Catungal and Clifford Candelario.

The Juniors crown (18-29 yrs.) went to JarwynBanatao of Baguio Lakay/Nitro, trailed by Bogs Mollona of Baguio-Nomads and Jerson Gimmick.

Edison Morales ruled the Master Bracket (30-39), with Sonny Inyon and JasonAbenoja in second and third places.

Raymund de Jesus of the La Trinidad-Nomads beat the field in the Executive Class (40-49), followed by JT Gonzales of Baguio and Melvin Odsey of Baguio-Guisad. Noel Pelicano made it in the 50 & above, tailed by Fermi nNalitom and Ronald Laranang.

The Fun Ride gold medal for guest lady riders went to Analiza Maraan of the Baguio-BGH squad, and the silver to Valerie de Guzman of Baguio-Barangay Gibraltar.

Xez Zulueta of the Baguio Echo-Tourism Promotions served as race director and Arvin Samuel worked as marshal and race coordinator, in tandem with the municipal government led by mayor Oscar Camantiles.

It was made possible through the sponsorship of the likes of 652 Base, lawyer Vic Palangdan, tuding Gaz Station, Denver Domilos, Ace Baniwas, Hilbert Bayacbacao, Zaldy Dompiles, Satol Balbalin, DaxGodio, Gold Rush Enterprise, Rep. Ronald Cosalan, Mar Campos, Arch. Gilbert Sibilius, Junior Carantes, Daniel Bulahyon, Barangay Tuding, Barangay Ucab, BB-PICAG, Benguet Corp., Paintball Republic, John Hay and Engr. Rudy Bulay.


Justice for the missing


It is welcome news that concerned government agencies have promulgated rules and regulations implementing the law against enforced or involuntary disappearances.

The rules for Republic Act 10353, signed into law late last year, will need further fine-tuning, according to officials. But authorities are hopeful that the landmark law will discourage enforced disappearances, which became widespread during martial law and did not end with the restoration of democracy in 1986.

The implementing rules will help victims’ families in their attempts to find the Philippines’ version of “desaparecidos” or the disappeared, and to seek restitution. Whether or not RA 10353 will actually discourage enforced disappearances remains to be seen.

In the cases recorded since 1986, the hardest part is establishing that state forces were involved in the disappearances. In several cases in northern Luzon, as elsewhere in the country, relatives of missing persons have been hard pressed to even establish that their loved ones had joined the ranks of desaparecidos.

Even when the courts wield special powers to compel state forces to produce missing persons, the whereabouts of the desaparecidos remain unknown.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has consistently denied involvement in enforced disappearances and summary executions in its operations against insurgents and terrorists. Certain elements of the AFP are believed to be harboring fugitive Army general JovitoPalparan, who is wanted in connection with the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of two University of the Philippines coeds. Palparan, who became a party-list congressman following his retirement from the AFP, has denied the accusations and once commented that the two young women might have committed suicide.

The passage of RA 10353 is a significant step in the campaign against enforced disappearances. But the law will be good if the government will really enforce it.


Daang matuwid derecho sa bangin ang Comelec

Alfred P. Dizon

This Banana Republic is going the way of daangmatuwidderechosabangin this coming May elections with the seeming lack of preparations of the Commission on Elections in ensuring that the polls will he held without hitches.

Disaster is looming, pundits said, but the Comelec, the object of ire and the butt of jokes over the issues, is taking the barbs cavalierly – parangwalalang, according to my bubwit.

If the Comelec cannot institute the proper measures come election time, we may soon be governed by misfits , nincompoops and again, the same corrupt officials. The people will not know if those who are proclaimed were indeed those who won.

Our bubwit says the Comelec announced it will no longer conduct another mock election despite glitches observed during the Feb. 2 mock polls -- for fear of being mocked again. Thick hides or not, according to our rattler, the Comelec is not budging from its position.

Comelec Chairman SixtoBrillantes said the report of the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) had already validated the mock polls conducted in 20 voting centers in 10 areas across the country, so there is no need for a repeat of the mock polls.

The glitches include difficulties experienced by the Board of Election Inspectors (BOI) in keying in their pin codes in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, rejection of some ballots by the machines and delay in the transmission of election results from the polling precincts to the canvassing centers.

This resulted in calls to go back to the manual system of elections in May.The Comelec, however, argued that this would require the amendment of Republic Act 9369, which mandates the automation of the country’s elections.

With the TEC report, the Comelec has ruled out any chance that the May 13 polls will be done manually despite the absence of a certified source code — a human-readable instruction on how the PCOS machine should function.

Brillantes said the poll body could use the TEC report as a “justification” that the automation of the elections could push through, using the source code certified by Colorado-based independent firm SLI Global Solutions in 2011.

“One argument is that in 2010, we had an election although no one actually saw the source code. Nobody even knew what was inside the Central Bank (where the source code was supposedly kept),” he said.

Brillantes said what is important are the “binaries,” the machine-readable instruction in the PCOS machines.“Manual is already impossible with the certification issued by TEC. We are going to proceed automated no matter what happens. Whether source code is there or not, it is not necessary anymore.”

The TEC, composed of the Comelec, Department of Science and Technology and Commission on Information and Communications Technology, was tasked by Republic Act 9369 to review and certify if the automated election system (AES), including its hardware and software components, is “operating properly, securely, and accurately” in accordance with the provisions of the law.

The assessment shall be based on the successful conduct of a field testing process, followed by a mock election; successful completion of audit on accuracy, functionality and security controls of the AES software and the development, provisioning and operationalization of a continuity plan to cover risks to the AES at all points in the process so that failure of elections — whether at voting, counting or consolidation — may be avoided, among others.

The TEC, in a resolution, noticed the lack of certified source code but ruled that the AES complied with the law in general.

This made the Lower House opposition wary of the poll chief. House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez hit Brillantes for his continued cavalier attitude on the international dispute between Smartmatic, which was contracted by the Comelec to supply the PCOS machines, and Dominion Voting Systems that owns the software to run the equipment.

Suarez said Brillantes has been making useless retorts to the public whenever asked about how he is resolving the quarrel of the two foreign companies.

He said the poll chief threatened at one point to go manual in the counting of votes and did not the face the issue.

Suarez warned Brillantes not to take the issue and the reported glitches lightly. One way or another, the May election will have to proceed. Like we said, it is not farfetched if the will of the people will not be reflected in the voting tallies.

And when everything is over and done, the people will just accept this as a fact of life. Then, it is back to struggling for a living while the crocodiles gobble everything. Then those, who made millions out of those shameless deals, will wink their eyes and shed crocodile tears.

It is no wonder Lolong, the biggest crocodile in the world died due to depression. Word is out he got so sad for being compared with corrupt officials that he opted to die than bear the anguish.


The siege on the Vatican

Perry Diaz

When Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was going to resign on February 28, 2013, it sent shock waves around the world. Being the first Pope to leave the papal throne – alive — in 600 years, two billion followers of the Roman Catholic Church are in a state of disbelief.

Although Pope Benedict had become the lighting rod of criticism against members of the clergy for “crimes against children,” he had steadily weathered the maelstrom of controversy that engulfed Christendom’s seat of power, the Vatican.

Indeed, as soon as Pope Benedict announced his resignation, the enemies of the Catholic Church laid siege on the Vatican. Yes, it was time to strike while the iron was hot. And strike they did, hitting the Pope when he was vulnerable!

An obscure organization called International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) issued a media release on its website, saying that Pope Benedict resigned because he found out that an unnamed European government was going to issue an “arrest warrant” against him once he had vacated the papacy. He would then be charged of crimes against humanity and criminal conspiracy. The person behind the ITCCS attack on the Pope is a certain Rev. Kevin D. Annett, a priest of the United Church of Canada, who is identified as ITCCS’s Secretary.
But the siege on the Vatican might be overshadowed by a developing story that attributes the Pope’s resignation to a power struggle within the Vatican. A source said that Pope Benedict’s decision was “brought on by his declining health in the context of a major power struggle within the Holy See.”

The source also said that Pope Benedict recently made two major appointments including the installation of the new head of the Vatican Bank.

The source also said that four cardinals, including two from Latin America, are the leading contenders to succeed the Pope. The rumored front-runner is “a cardinal who was close to John Paul II, trusted by Benedict, skilled in Vatican maneuvering, and who has been in the front lines dealing with the rise of radical Islam.”
Last February 15, Reuters News reported that Pope Benedict decided to live in the Vatican after he steps down. This would provide him with security and privacy. The Vatican would also provide him with legal protection – and immunity — from any attempt to prosecute him for any complicity with sexual abuse cases committed by Catholic priests around the world.

“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” a Vatican official told Reuters.

One consideration in deciding that Pope Benedict should live in a convent inside the Vatican after his resignation is his personal safety and privacy, which the Vatican police would be able to guarantee as long as he is within the walls of the Vatican. And the second consideration is his potential exposure to legal claims over the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals.

While Pope Benedict is not currently named as a defendant in any case, the Vatican would not rule out the possibility of future lawsuits against him. And if he lives outside the Vatican, it might attract the “crazies” to file lawsuits or he might be arrested and brought to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged acts while he was head of state.

As a resident and citizen of the sovereign state of Vatican City, Pope Benedict would have the full protection of the state under the provisions of the Lateran Pacts, which guarantee his immunity while he is in the Vatican or even if he travels in Italy as a Vatican citizen. In 1929, Italy and the Holy See signed the Lateran Pacts that established Vatican City as a sovereign state.

But Pope Benedict’s resignation is not going to solve the Catholic Church’s problems with all the sexual abuse scandals. And as long as these scandals exist, the likes of Kevin D. Annett and other enemies of the Vatican would cause the next Pope innumerable problems.
In 1139, then Archbishop MalachyO’More of Ireland went to Rome to give an account of his diocese to Pope Innocent II. While in Rome, he received the strange vision of the future wherein was unfolded before his mind the long list of illustrious pontiffs who were to rule the Church until the end of time. The last on that list was the 268th Pope.

Pope Benedict’s successor will be the 268th Pope. And if St. Malachy’s prophecy were true, then the next Pope would be the last. But that is an easy way to interpret the prophecy. Could there be another interpretation? Yes, there is!

The First Ecumenical Council, known as the Council of Nicea, took place in 325 A.D. by the order of the Roman Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine. Nicea was located in Asia Minor, east of Constantinople. At the Council of Nicea, Emperor Constantine presided over a group of Church bishops and leaders with the purpose of defining the true God for all of Christianity and eliminating all the confusion, controversy, and contention within Christ’s church. The Council of Nicea affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ and established an official definition of the Trinity — the deity of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit under one Godhead, in three co-equal and co-eternal Persons. (

Between 325 A.D. and 1563 (Council of Trent), there were a total of 19 ecumenical councils. It took another 307 years before another ecumenical council took place, the First Council of the Vatican in 1870, which defined the Pope’s primacy in church governance and his infallibility.

The Second Council of the Vatican took place in 1962-1965, which addressed pastoral and disciplinary issues dealing with the Church and its relation to the modern world, including liturgy and ecumenism.
Perhaps it’s time for the Third Council of the Vatican to take place. There is a clamor for change from a small liberal faction of the Church. The conservatives have the numerical strength but the liberals are more aggressive and vocal. The next Pope would be faced with certain issues that could turn Vatican III into a battle for supremacy that could crack the “Rock” of Christendom. A slew of issues — such as celibacy, ordination of female priests, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, and family planning — could create an atmosphere for schism to grow. There is only one way to prevent this from happening – reform.

The next Pope could indeed be the “Last Pope” as we know him. But he could also be the “First Pope” after the Catholic Church’s reformation to bring it to the realities of the 21st century and conform to the norms of society today. (


‘Mt. Clitoris’ beckons; Challenge 160 ends while SM plants trees in dry weather

Letters from the Agno
March L. Fianza

Mt.Clitoris? Even the attention of Human Rights lawyer and news columnist Pablito Sanidad was caught that he passed through Bessang Pass to see for himself how Mogao Mountain got a new name. He eventually wrote about it.

The touristic mountain was so christened following wild but not so clear imaginations of men and women, who, after looking at the earth mound proudly towering over Tadian in Mt. Province and Cervantes in Ilocos Sur, started showing distorted facial expressions. Whatever, I have yet to confirm if the name of the weird-shaped mountain has been officially changed. History reverses itself as in the case of Tadian that was then a barrio of Kayan.

Today, it is the opposite as the latter has become the barangay. The municipality has been reported as the main hub for high school education of Western Mountain Province as it hosts Mt. Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC); Tadian School of Arts and Trades, the first trade school that absorbed enrollees from neighboring towns; and the Holy Rosary High School in Kayan, one of the first high schools established in the province with its first batch of graduates coming from the towns of Bontoc, Bauko, Sabangan, Besao and Sagada.

Not only is Tadian branded as the education center of Western Mt. Province, it also serves as an alternative gateway to and from the Cordillera through Ilocos Sur, thus becoming the market center for the nearby towns of Cervantes and Quirino. One day, it can boast of becoming the livestock, vegetable and banana supplier for the neighboring municipalities of Bauko, and Buguias and Mankayan in Benguet, and the towns of Ilocos Sur.

Last week, Mayor Anthony Wooden extended an open invitation to all to the “5th Ayyoweng di lambak ed Tadian” from March 1 to 4, 2013. Along with mayor Wooden were Tadian community leader Regina Velasco, councilors Jun Laminta, John Ngade and Alfonso Polan, and board secretary Melchor Micklay who helped identify and promote other places of interest.

In far-flung communities in the Cordillera where the assistance from national line agencies are hard to come-by unless prodded and elbowed incessantly, promotion of tourism potential areas is not easy as it is costly and time-consuming for LGUs that have to double their efforts in seeking funding and resources, if only to shout to the world “hey, we have a beautiful paradise here.”

It is in tourism promotion that LGU efforts are laudable, while tourism bosses do nothing more than travel around the country to attend ineffectual and pathetic tourism seminars or relax in their comfortable offices and wait for the local tourism event to unfold so that the office can just “ride on” and do the honors in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and later include the occasion as their own in their accomplishment report.

By the way, a number of tourism sports events in Baguio and Benguet are lined up for summer, one of which is the 3rd Rock Climbing trip to be held in Ambongdolan, Tublay; and Lamtang and Lubas in La Trinidad. It was organized by locally-based rock climbers to promote sports tourism in the Philippines, particularly to advance rock-climbing as a viable sport in Benguet and the Cordillera.

Just like last year, the organizers invited rock climbers from Manila, Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Davao, Singapore, Guam and the US of A, not only to rock-climb but do other outdoor activities such as hiking, spelunking, mountain climbing or simply appreciating the nature that the region offers, or visiting unexplored and unlisted tourism spots. The other events that are barely monitored by the tourism offices are motocrossing and mountain-biking. Such events that are being organized to support the tourism industry are not supported by government because it is prevented from doing so by the PhilGEPS or the government electronic procurement system.

Now I understand why tourism in the Cordillera does not record an impressive move because the more smaller events that take place in a flash that simply require just a few thousands of financial assistance as compared to the bigger events that need hundreds of thousands of pesos to organize are not assisted by government, even while we know that there are so many other tourism-related functions that are implemented but do not come under the nose of PhilGEPS. My favorite caterer told me so. And I have yet to see a genuine process where an amount less than P5,000.00 goes thru electronic or on-line canvass, bidding and purchase.

Aside from Mt. Clitoris that rises above the enchanted eels of Barangay Cagubatan, hikers and backpackers in Tadian can visit Bessang Pass where Gen. Yamashita’s Japanese Imperial Army soldiers were killed and defeated by a combination of American forces and Filipino guerilla fighters in 1945, an incident that eventually ended a terrifying Japanese occupation.

The enchanted eels, Mayor Wooden said, are claimed to be sacred and may not be eaten. Although I believe that I am exempted from that taboo. Below Mt. Clitoris, one can find Gawaan Lake, a safe picnic and camping site within Barangay Poblacion. The mayor admitted reports of sightings of suspected NPA cadres but these are harmless “nice people around” who may just be passing through, he said. The other “must visit” sites are the Ub-ubanan Pool and Falls found in Brgy. Sumadel, the “Singing Jar” in Brgy. Kayan West that produces musical sounds when its mouth is rubbed and the Am-am rock observatory in Brgy. Cadad-anan. The rock offers a wide panoramic view of the town, as well as municipalities of Mankayan in Benguet and Cervantes, Ilocos Sur.

When coming from Manila or Central Luzon, Tadian may now be reached faster through Cervantes, Ilocos Sur; no longer through Kennon Road and Halsema Highway. Hence, according to Mayor Wooden, latest developments such as the recently finished projects along the Tadian-Cervantes road has prompted Mt. Province officials and Congressman Max Dalog to schedule a fun-ride and drive-through from the historic Bessang Shrine to the Aluling Bridge on the first day of March. The Cervantes road artery was the original access road from the lowlands to the Cordillera, particularly Mt. Province that was built during the Spanish occupation. Only during the American era did Engr. Eusebius Halsema, the first and last American mayor of Baguio, punch through mountain rocks and ridges and constructed a rugged trail that was later named after him.

By seven in the morning of February 17, around 23 girls and boys left Sagada on foot to express their support to the protest against the intended cutting and earth-balling of close to 200 trees by SM at Luneta Hill in Baguio. The Sagada-Baguio walk dubbed “Challenge 160” was also intended to promote the boycott of SM; and further educate people about the value of trees. Dr. Mike Bengwayan who led the 160-km. walk said, Sagada was chosen because of its “symbolism of people taking care of forests and trees, and the trees taking care of the people… something no longer true to many people, even among leaders in Baguio City. Sagada has a sustainable indigenous forestry practice called “lakon.” These were printed on flyers that Sly Q delivered to Gids Omero in Sayangan, who in turn distributed them to people they met on their way.

On the last leg of the hike last Friday, 13 of the remaining hikers who slept in Tublay, were joined by supporters and walked all the way to BSU in La Trinidad, and with “fellow earth and nature warriors,” according to Doc Mike, “march to Baguio City to once again remind our leaders of the importance of trees and forests for the generations to come in view of the worsening climate changes.” The Sagada-Baguio Challlenge 160 ended with a mass at the Baguio Cathedral.

George “Pok” Chan’s son, Marc, who joined the walk all the way from Sagada said, they also slept and revived their energies, stopping overnight at Mt. Data, Abatan, Sayangan, Camp 30 and finally Tublay. He said, kind people along the way gave them water and sometimes food. Aside from the sunburn and blisters, they felt they were always hungry especially when it was about time for lunch or dinner.

Reading Doc Mike’s social network page, he said and I quote: “The 160-km walk took the hikers over beautiful and breath-taking valleys, rivers and mountains in Mountain Province and Benguet that are now being destroyed. The hikers endured extreme tiredness, pain, cramps, swelling blisters, the cold, hot sun and smoldering concrete highways, dust and pollution and a few reckless drivers…. It is nice to be back... but it was also very beautiful to be out there. Sometimes, it is when we experience pain and suffering that our minds are opened.”

Now, while the hikers were in the middle of Challenge 160, I was told that SM Baguio invited a select group of media who were asked to cover the tree-planting activity at Busol by the notorious earth-baller. What is hurting is that they intended to plant their seedlings in an area that has already been adopted as a planting site by school children. Later in the day, the same informant told me that he saw Pine Tree saplings displayed at SM that were to be given away free on the condition that the person who wants to have a tree must purchase goods worth P1,500 from SM stores. I agree, SM’s spin doctors are doing great things for their masters, trying very hard to present to the public a pseudo-environmentalist image by organizing a tree-planting event during an off-planting season to make it appear in public that they are performing their corporate social responsibility, and by giving away free Pine tree saplings to people who buy from their stores. Indeed, “here, we get it all from you!” –


Seating capacity

Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- I almost got in trouble one time with a fellow aging passenger over the unrealistic seating capacity of our jeepneys. Transport officials who set and implement standards ignore this simply because they don’t ride mass transport. They ride in their own cars or office-issued vehicles driven by government-paid pilots.

Even with the Filipino’s average bantam size, each of the twin benches approved and certified by the government franchising agency for 10 is often just enough for nine passengers. A so-called nine-seater fits eight, and an eight-seater is actually made for seven, even with the Pinoy capacity to constrict and adjust to the givens.

It’s embarrassing, truly inconvenient for the last two passengers to fill either jeepney row to incapacity. Often, they have to inch their way through baggage to the innermost space, just behind the driver. Earlier passengers spare themselves that inconvenience when they alight by sitting nearest the exit, also to spare themselves from passing on fares to the driver. With a misplaced sense of urgency and need for self-comfort, they immediately pass on their fare to the last passenger, for the latter to pass on to the driver even before he or she could attempt to settle down or whip out his or her own fare.

The last two in can’t squeeze in or won’t even try, especially when sandwiched between two of the opposite sex. They’re just lucky if the overhead support bars are long enough for them to grip. Otherwise, it’s a balancing act until a passenger alights and temporarily allows space. Chances are another passenger standing and hanging on the tail-end bars fills in the gap or the driver loads in another. The last two will find their protruding knuckles (and heads) knocking each other when “patay malisya” fellow fares grudgingly give them inches of space directly facing each other.

We have gone a long way since the days of the auto calesa, those Willys and Eisenhower military jeeps converted into more realistic three-seaters. The jeepney has expanded, only to fall short of the convenience that those war surplus machines used to provide.

Transport officials approving franchises now hardly consider passenger seating – and even road – capacity. After all, they don’t ride jeepneys like we, lesser mortals, do. It would be most ironic and embarrassing for them who approve transport franchises not to have their own service vehicles.

Perhaps it was his thin frame that encouraged my fellow passenger, who came in last, to be loud in his demand for space. He announced for all to hear that those two behind the front backrest were sitting like kings. He was referring to me and a lady who found it difficult to press herself against the slanted (\) front back rest. She did press herself in anyway when she heard, allowing me to do the same.

The lady alighted first and then it was my turn. On my way out, I had a look at the fellow passenger who, I presumed was already a dual citizen (Filipino and senior) like me or soon to be. I gently tapped him on the shoulder and told him it was not me but the lady who didn’t “dimmenden”. He took that as an affront and chastised me for looking at him. “Kumitaka pay laeng,” he bristled, making it sound like a threat.

After stepping down, I looked back to see him threatening to go down after me. I did a counter, threatening to get back in for him. I guess we both knew we wouldn’t dare as, in no time, the jeep moved him on, away from me. While preparing supper for my ward at home, I thought aging truly makes one cranky and hart to please.

Lest this would trigger protests from jeepney drivers and operators, my point is prospective. Let their existing units continue filling up according to their approved capacity. Have transport officials start adjusting and imposing seating standards on units still to be manufactured and sold. They can do this with admirable efficiency and accuracy, as they are when they compute registration and fare adjustment fees they impose on jeepney and taxi operators. Or with the same urgency that they had approved new franchises that now gives Baguio the distinction of having the most number of units compared to population. We now have enough for us to mount a taxi or jeepney festival, if only tourism-oriented people can catch my drift.

As it is, over-sized Filipinos are obviously the most disadvantaged, the most “marginalized” (to use that development jargon) among commuters. They have to ride taxis or drive a hand-me-downs, lest they be accused of denying fellow passengers space on the jeepney bench.

Rural folks are more tolerant of riding with each other within the givens than us, city commuters. They are used to clambering up to the roof of the single unit for that single, one and only trip to the poblacion in the morning and back to the village in the afternoon.

The need for mass transport to speed up progress was fully understood by the late guerrilla leader, former Benguet Gov. BadoDangwa. He designed buses with no aisles to maximize seating capacity. Entrances were on each side of each wooden row long enough to accommodate seven. He had each unit hard-topped for heavy baggage and, if necessary, extra passengers on the roof deck so no one would be left behind.

That ingenious, practical system of full accommodation, however, didn’t sit well with a city-bred police officer who tried to stop a bus brimming with people and baggage. The story was e-mailed to me by expatriate Jorge Pawid, he of Kiangan and Ibaloy blood who, like any expat, longs to see a jeepney pass by his home in California. He swore it was the latest Ifugao joke, but which he related in the Ibaloy version.

The bus driver, an Ifugao, ignored the police officer’s signal to stop and just drove on, like he never saw the latter. The officer jotted down the bus plate number then gave chase in his service vehicle. He found the bus and the driver at the Dangwa station.

“Apay nga saan ka nga simmardeng idi parparaen ka gapu overloading ka?,” he demanded to know.

“Hanak nga simmaldeng a ta, kas nakitam met, awanen lugal mo ditoy bus ko nga napunpunno,” the driver replied.

“Kababain met a kenka nga opisyal nga agtakdel.”(e-mail: for comments).


Plastic waste to brick bottles

Gina Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province -- Plastic waste can be put to good use by making bottle bricks out of these. Plastic waste includes cellophane, Styrofoam, candy wrappers, biscuit wrappers, pampers, toothbrush, and anything plastic. And before you throw or burn these and pollute the environment, here’s a better way to make waste material into constructive use.

While showing a 1.5 ml coke bottle filled with plastic waste, Joel Fagsao, executive assistant to the office of the municipal mayor of Bontoc enjoined municipality representatives of the Provincial Solid Waste Management Council in a recent meeting, to put plastic waste to good use by making brick bottles compacted with waste plastic into 1.5 ml coke or sprite plastic bottles.

Fagsao enjoined the public to submit bottled plastic waste at Xijen office here in Bontoc. The brick bottles form part of the accumulated material from other submitted ones from different sources to serve as material in the making of a community library at Guinaang, Bontoc.

The community library made with brick bottles is a project of the Local Government Unit of Bontoc in support of the same on-going project of Canadian tourist Russel Mayer for said community library.

It shall also be recalled that Siegrid Bangyay- Rogers, officer of the Sagada Solid Waste Association (SSWAI) announced in a previous interview the same project being done by Russel in cooperation with the Department of Education.

St. Mary’s School students here in Sagada are also collecting plastic to be made into brick bottles for their respective projects.

Now here is something constructive where garbage is made into something good rather than becoming a problem in the community.

As noted, the open dump site along the Chico river banks in Upper Calutit in the capital town of Bontoc is the subject of a case of writ of kalikasan filed against the LGU of Bontoc and Mountain Province having violated RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001 providing prohibition to open dump sites.

Relatedly, the open dump site of the Sagada LGU located along Calvary Hill above the public cemetery has been ordered closed by March 2013 by the vestry of the Church of St Mary the Virgin for being unsanitary and a threat to environmental health.

On the contrary, garbage is something manageable as noted in a meeting of the PSWMC last Thursday. Non biodegradable waste especially plastic can be made into brick bottles, biodegradable waste for pig’s food or composting material, and bottles to be sold to junk shop dealers.

As noted, bio degradable waste is being composted into fertilizer by the Bontoc market vendors Association and also by the St Theodore’s Hospital here in Sagada.An indigenous practise needing more practise.

This leaves rubber and leather garbage as used shoes and slippers which are eye sores inside the house when not thrown out or made into something useful. Perhaps this is where the much needed pulverizing equipment comes in. Otherwise, used rubber and leather can be recycled into something else for good.


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