Hasty decisions put health at risk

>> Monday, August 24, 2020

March L. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- My half Ilocano-half Ibaloy Uncle Alfonso Lorente Fianza celebrated life on August 06, passing on just eight days before his 87th birthday. His friends and relatives remember the former mayor of Itogon (1986-1992) and Benguet provincial board member (2007-2016) as a “happy go lucky guy”. But it is with that personality that his acquaintances are countless, proof of which is that he wins hands down, not needing to exert effort in political campaigns. Prior to his political life, he worked with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
In all my encounters with my politician uncle, he had that ever-present smile and always had a story to tell. Indeed, he is a storyteller that he forgets to throw into his mouth the pulutan he has held with two fingers all the time and fails to swig that jigger of spirits he has gripped with the other hand for the longest time. I imagine, his cigarettes burn up to his fingers everytime.
Friends through this space extend their sincerest sympathies to the immediate family and relatives. He is survived by aunt Dominga, children namely; Benguet SP member Alexander and wife Patty, Napoleon and wife Filipina, Mila, Jennifer; and nine grandchildren. He has a special place in our hearts. Rest in peace Uncle Ponso.
Since the late 70s, raiding marijuana plantations all over the Cordillera has been an extra-special activity by the police, army and anti-drug forces in coordination with helicopter pilots of the Philippine Air Force in Isabela or La Union.
The plantations were either wide or small, exposed or hidden, depending on whether the plants were wild or propagated by man. Marijuana plants come in varieties. Of course, the first hemp in the region was planted by man for its commercial value. The other plants known as “Don Juan” grew wild, did not have medicinal value and were not even good for “tea” preparations.
The word “marihuana” in its etymology suggests that it may have possibly originated from the Chinese word “ma ren hua” literally meaning “hemp seed flower”. Semitic root is also found in the Spanish word mejorana and in English marjoram (oregano), which could be related to the word marihuana. Combined, it was known in Mexico as “Chinese oregano”.
When ships were the means of transport thousands of years ago, 90% of their sails and rope were made from hemp, thus, the word “canvas”, which is Dutch for cannabis. In his diaries, Thomas Jefferson smuggled hemp seeds from China to France then to America.
George Washington, other founding fathers and Jefferson grew hemp, not for recreation or smoking which was the case in China, Mexico and Europe but for paper and textile production. It was then that taxes were collected and growing marijuana was banned because propagating the hemp competed with other products.
Competing industries noted the commercial value of marijuana as an industrial need, so fast forward to the present, anti-marijuana enforcers today put an equivalent price on the plants they eradicate whether these were propagated by man or they grew naturally wild so that no suspects are caught.
Man-made plantations are easy to detect as raiding teams find the plants neatly on a row interspersed with corn, beans, sweet peas and other climbing plants, or planted under a canopy of sayote.
In an interview with a suspect-farmer during one eradication campaign led by Cordillera police officials in the past, they were told pointblank that they (farmers) cultivated marijuana by intermingling them side by side with other plants because this was “cash crop” to them, nothing else.
That was why in later interviews, when asked about the amount of the seized marijuana, the police put more emphasis on the volume, believing that publishing the amount would only encourage more farmers to engage in marijuana cultivation that would stimulate marijuana trade. I think it is good to learn from the past.
Finally, the plastic barrier between two family members who stay under one roof and riding in tandem on a motorcycle was scrapped by the IATF. Either the latter woke up from a bad dream, or swallowed their embarrassment, or realized a big mistake. After spending hard-earned money on an uncomfortable plastic barrier that was not studied carefully before it was enforced, husband and wife riders get a relief.
At least, lesser reports of motorcycle accidents is expected. Meanwhile, the barrier could still be useful as a shield in case the husband and wife are engaged in a shouting or throwing match. Hasty decisions do put health and life at risk.
 According to regional director Cameron Odsey, the different offices of the Department of Agriculture in the Cordillera are free from COVID-19 infection. Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) head Violeta Salda also confirmed that no positive cases of people in the facility were reported.
That means, farmers who travel and transport food products from the farm to the trading centers and markets in the lowlands, including Manila are safe. Movement is what the coronavirus wants. Travel makes our vegetable farmers vulnerable to the disease. But if they are healthy, then vegetable consumer-buyers need not worry. They too are safe.
In a conversation with teachers of Tabora Elementary School, we saw some difficulties that they expect to encounter when it is time to distribute modules for blended learning.
It was announced that distribution of modules will be done with the help of barangay officials. Parents representing their sons and daughters enrolled in different levels will have to stay around the barangay premises and wait for the modules.
Since barangay halls can only accommodate a few, the parents will have to wait in line outside the barangay hall, under the hot sun or in the cold rain. With that scenario, COVID-19 transmission is likely to happen, certainly due to crowding and violations of health protocols.
The solution that the teachers saw is that distribution of modules should still be done in the school premises because the different grade levels have individual classrooms to use and the spacious school grounds can accommodate the crowd of waiting parents as compared to most barangay halls.
Payout for the second tranche of the SAP is too slow because of unforeseeable reasons, as compared to the disbursement for the first tranche that was done in the barangay. I was told that the conduit-agent with whom DSWD had an agreement with, can only assist a batch of around 30 beneficiaries a day, in addition to their existing clients.
During the distribution of SAP 1, barangay officials and the DSWD workers accommodated around 100 beneficiaries because they were called to receive their financial assistance in batches of five, thereby avoiding crowding.
As for SAP 2 senior citizen-beneficiaries who are not allowed to go outside their houses, a representative will receive the financial aid. The problem here, according to those who already received their assistance, is that the conduit-agent has been asking beneficiaries to show two valid ID cards.
For a senior citizen representative, he has to bring with him four ID cards – two IDs for him and two more for the person he is representing. The process of verifying IDs alone takes time. To add to the burden, the beneficiaries will be crowding in front of the conduit-agent.
The reason to take away the disbursement of SAP 2 from the barangay and ask a private partner to do it is incomprehensible. Instead of making the distribution faster, it became slower and too risky. Why is that?


Baguio's 2 Covid treatment sites/ grocers okay lockdown

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY      -- The Dept. of Health Cordillera (DOH-CAR) has given the green light for the upgrading of two temporary Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) facilities boosting the city's efforts to expand its isolation units to address the soaring cases.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong and City Health Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo said the city received August 14 the licenses for the Teachers' Camp to operate as a community isolation unit with a 90-bed capacity and for the Baguio City Community Isolation Unit at Sto. Niño Jesus Medical Center to expand its bed capacity from 45 to 90.
Before its upgrading, Teachers' Camp located along Leonard Wood Road served solely as quarantine facility for returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from city and the provinces of Benguet and Mt. Province. Now, it will remain as OFW quarantine site while at the same time serve as isolation unit to manage COVID-19 positive patients.
The BCCIU at Sto.Niño at P. Burgos barangay, the city's first community isolation unit, initially catered to suspected cases and later COVID-19 positive patients with mild conditions.
The certificates signed by DOH-CAR Regional Director Ruby Constantino indicated that the converted (facilities) were "generally compliant to the DOH guidelines and other pertinent issuances related to the operation of Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility Community Isolation Unit."
The authorizations are valid from August 12 to December 31, 2020.
Meanwhile, the DOH-CAR also allowed Atok Trail and Irisan health centers to operate as birthing clinics by virtue of license to operate signed by then Officer-in-Charge Dr. Amelita Pangilinan.
City authorities and owners of grocery stores and supermarkets under the Baguio-Benguet Entrepreneurs and Traders Association agreed to cooperate to pursue the mandatory testing of all grocery workers and set lockdown procedures to follow in the occurrence of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection.
In a consultation meeting held August 15, Mayor Magalong promised to help the association avail of low cost tests to enable its members to comply with his order to pay for the COVID tests of all their workers.

The mayor issued the order last August 12 after a clustering of COVID positive cases occurred in one supermarket proving the vulnerability of the sector to the disease.
He said the testing requirement like what he imposed on banking companies recently would determine who are infected and immediately facilitate control measures to arrest the transmission.
 Association members admitted they are hard up in complying with the 100 percent swab testing requirement due to the high cost of Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction tests.
The mayor said he will work out an arrangement for the association to avail of low priced test kits as soon as possible.
The parties also agreed on lockdown guidelines covering the terms of contact tracing, closure, personnel redeployment their inclusion in barangay lockdown orders, among others.
The mayor also reminded the businessmen to intensity the implementation of health protocols in their establishments to ensure the protection of their customers and workers from the virus.
With the mayor during the consultation were City Health Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo, CHSO Sanitation Division Head Engr. Charles Carame and City Permits and Licensing Division Head Allan Abayao.


Unused Mt Province medical equipment

Gina P. Dizon

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Talk of government money going to waste like unused medical equipment in hospitals of this province.
A computer tomography (CT) scanner donated more than two years ago remains unused, unrecorded in the books of Bontoc General Hospital and left idle at the entrance of the Hospital.
Before it loses its usefulness by 2023, the BOGH better do something about it in order that the machine shall be of use to patients who are required to undergo (CT) scans.  
A CT scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around the body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside the body thus providing more-detailed information than plain X-rays do.
In an audit observation memorandum (AOM) dated January 20,2020 directed to Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr with attention to Provincial Accountant Theodore Marrero, Provincial Health Officer Nenita Lizardo and Chief of Hospital Dr. Raquel Kanongkong, the Commission on Audit (COA)  informed said personnel of the donated CT Scan machine that is unused, and not recorded in the books of the hospital.
With an unknown value and delivered on February 28, 2019 by personnel from St Luke’s Hospital and received by Dr Kanongkong, the CT scan machine with Philipps Brand has an indicated 13 years of functional use.
Audit team leaders Maria Matib and Nikki Awilan noted that the machine has four years and 10 months of remaining useful life since it was delivered early last year.
By end of December 2023, it will lose its useful life.
As of January this year when said AOM was sent to said concerned officers, the donated CT scan machine remain uninstalled, left idle at the entrance of the hospital and covered with galvanized iron sheets depriving patients of the enhanced medical service the hospital could have.
The COA recommended that management immediately determine the fair value of the donated CT scan for recording purposes.
In their letter to Lacwasan and the other concerned officers, Awilan and Matib relayed Kanongkong's response "the machine was not immediately installed as they have to do civil works and comply with all electrical requirements relative to the preparation of the room where it will be accommodated."
“However, the installation cannot proceed as the province has yet to take action on the proposal of Philips Philippines regarding the costs involved in the installation”, Kanongkong added.  
The proposal of Philips Philippines may cost nearly one million pesos for the installation.
Said audit team recommended the preparation of a cost benefit analysis report.
There is no annual investment plan for CY 2020 in any installation or maintenance of said CT scan equipment.
Another equipment purchased by the provincial government here is unused for more than three years since it was bought in 2016 denying the public of its use.
This as a petition for special audit and investigation by petitioner Juniper Dominguez is underway to the Commission on Audit (COA)  alleging why the P2 million worth laparoscope was purchased with incomplete accessories and uninstalled despite having been delivered and accepted.
Dominguez further asked in his petition why there was no qualified operator at the time of the purchase, who tested the machine, who accepted the machine, and who approved the payment.
On January this year, initial findings from the audit team of the COA- Mountain Province noted the P2 million worth laparoscope left idle after more than three years from its delivery due to alleged lack of accessories.
In a letter to the audit team February this year, Dr. Kanongkong said a “laparospic surgery does not only require a trained laparospic surgeon but it requires a skilled team to do the procedure which includes a laparospic surgeon, anesthesiologist and laparospic nurses”.
“These are the factors which could have been considered first before the machine was procured”, Kanongkong said.
“The management will try to work out from other institutions with laparospic surgeons and other trained staff for the future MOA with BGH”, she added.
The provincial government inspected and accepted a laparoscope in December 2016 among other hospital equipment. 
The machine is supposed to be used for intra-abdominal surgeries at the Bontoc General Hospital.
It was known from the Audit team’s inquiries that Provincial Health Officer Dr Nenita Lizardo claimed “that due to budgetary constraints, necessary accessories for the laparoscope were not included in the purchase made in 2016 but will be procured in 2017. However, specification for the required parts could not be determined because the manual of the machine is missing.” 
Management then allotted P300,000 in its supplemental budget in 2017 for the procurement of needed accessories following parchase request from Lizardo.
COA noted however that Dr. Kanongkong requested for the “realignment of the said amount  (P300,000) for other purposes because the amount is not enough since the accessories would cost more than P3 million.”
The COA recommended that “Management take immediate action to make the laparoscope functional; and considering benchmarking with other hospitals who are successfully using such equipment in its surgeries.”
“It is imperative that concrete action be made on its functionality since non-action has already resulted to loss of opportunity”, the audit team noted.
More on the matter. An X-ray machine costing P3.77 million and purchased by the provincial government here is unused for five years since it was delivered at Bontoc General Hospital in December 2015.
In a letter dated February 10, 2020 to team leaders Maria Matib and Nikki Awilan of the COA, Dr. Kanongkong said the necessary wirings for the installation of said X-ray machine has already been requested.  
Team leaders Matib and Awilan of the COA found out December 2019 that said X-ray machine was uninstalled and unutilized .
Said audit team recommended management expedite the allocation for the electrical wirings needed in the installation of the said machine.Inquiry by the audit team noted that the purchased X-ray machine lacked electrical wirings for its installation. Said purchased machine was supposedly used as a back-up for the existing X-ray machine.
“Since the existing X-ray machine has already exceeded its useful life and requires costly maintenance, the installation of the new X-ray might be more efficient for the Hospital’s operations.  Moreover, hospital staff will be able to service clients faster during emergency cases with the use of two extra machines instead of only one”, the Audit Team noted.  
Kanongkong who assumed office in October 2017 said she presumed equipment at the hospital were operational as these were already accepted and delivered.
The COA audit team in an audit observation memorandum (AOM) dated January 20,2020 directed to Gov. Lacwasan noted that the sales invoice included the installation of the X-ray machine.
Lacwasan assumed as provincial governor in July 2016.
Said team found out that purchaser made constant follow up for the machine’s installation.  
As of press time, it was learned that the purchaser was not able to install said X-ray machine having been overtaken by restrictions of the Covid pandemic since March 2020.


Now it’s 15 PCSO execs facing P837-M graft raps

Alfred P. Dizon

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Our neighborhood perennially drunk philosopher who turned sober due to liquor restrictions this time of Covid-19 cannot stop fuming where the money of this Banana Republic is going.
He says after the PhilHealth mess wherein top officials of the government agency were accused of absconding billions of pesos in taxpayers money, here comes another bigtime anomaly – this time involving top officials of the Philippine Charity Sweeptakes Office (PCSO).   
He says he read an article of a major broadsheet the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed charges of graft and gross misconduct against 15 former and incumbent PCSO officials.
The case stemmed from alleged anomalies in the printing cost fund of the PCSO’s Small Town Lottery (STL) program involving more than P837 million for 2017 and 2018.
The article: “Those charged before the Office of the Ombudsman were the late former PCSO board chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz, former general manager Alexander Balutan and board members Remeliza Gabuyo, Lauro Patiag, Anna Liza Inciong, Mercedetas Hinayon, Arnel Casas, Andy Gauran and Edwin Mackay.
“The NBI also recommended Gabuyo’s prosecution for obstruction of justice and serious dishonesty over her alleged attempt to cover up the anomaly by failing to provide a copy of the relevant PCSO board resolution on the Print Cost Fund (PCF) to investigators.
In a 19-page letter dated July 7 to Ombudsman Samuel Martires, the NBI said former and incumbent PCSO officials were involved in making revisions to the STL implementing rules and regulations (IRR) in 2016 that were highly disadvantageous to the PCSO, especially on the PCF.
The NBI said PCSO officials awarded .5 percent of the two percent STL gross receipts allocated for the PCSO’s PCF to STL operators or authorized agent corporations (AAC) after allowing them to undertake the printing of STL tickets.
The STL IRR 2016, which amended STL IRR 2014, mainly provided for the nationwide expansion of the STL to all the provinces and highly urbanized cities in the country.
“Aside from allowing the AAC’s unbridled discretion to print their own STL tickets, the officials awarded the excess of the two percent printing cost or the 1.5 percent that was made part of the PCSO’s operating fund, instead of declaring the same as savings to be reverted to the charity fund,” the NBI said.
“This act of PCSO indirectly increased the percentage of operating funds as provided by law, by adding the excess of the printing fund to finance its operating expenses. To be more specific, the 1.5 percent PCF was used by the PCSO to support its maintenance and operating expenses for 2017 and 2018,” the NBI said.
The bureau said the PCSO could not have incurred printing expenses, as printing was unlawfully delegated to the STL operators, “which was a violation Section 2(d) of Batas Pambansa 42,” a law amending the PCSO charter, the NBI added.
It was learned that the PCSO had a printing cost fund of P129,246,096.40 in 2016; P314.8 million in 2017 and P522,250,777.67 in 2018.
By awarding .5 percent of the printing fund, the PCSO gave a total of P69,303,997.70 in 2017 and P130,562,696.73 in 2018 to STL operators.
“In this particular case, how could the PCSO fix the number of the tickets to be distributed to AACs when it allowed them to print their own ticket? In a situation where the .5 percent printing cost retained by the AAC is not sufficient to cover the printing cost, who would cover the excess? What if the .5 percent is more than sufficient to cover the cost of printing, what would be the rule regarding the excess?” the NBI pointed out.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara ordered the probe after President Duterte ordered the PCSO to stop all its gaming operations including Lotto, STL, Keno, ScratchIt Sweepstakes and Peryahan ng Bayan games due to “massive corruption” in July 2019.
Duterte had fired Balutan, a retired Marine general, due to alleged “corruption.”
Malacañang later issued a clarification that Balutan had resigned from his post, and was not fired by the President.
As if anomalies were not enough, here comes Sen. Imee Marcos saying some funds under Bayanihan 2 were slashed
Some of the funds intended to assist sectors struggling because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic have been slashed to smaller amounts under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2 bill, Senator Imee Marcos disclosed on Wednesday.
“Napakakuripot nitong budget na to. Hirap na hirap kami. There’s too little to fight over because it’s simply impossible to accommodate everyone’s request,” Marcos said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel.
Marcos is part of the bicameral conference committee currently reconciling the disagreeing provisions of the measure’s Senate and House version.
The Bayanihan 2 bill lays out the country’s Covid-19 response and recovery plan and allocates funds to help struggling sectors cope up with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers agreed on P162-billion funding. However, only P140 billion will be readily available.
“It’s a very small fund, P140 billion, of which P50 billion goes directly to the banks so already there’s one-third logged off and very, very little left to give away to the tourism sector, transportation groups, of course, our health workers, which the President has promised P15,000 per head, our students, most of our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” Marcos went on.
“Ang haba po ng listahan. Sinabi nila na kapag maikli ang kumot, bumaluktot. Kapag wala ng kumot, mag-tumbling na po,” she added.
According to Marcos, the P15 billion initially earmarked for the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) cash-for-work program and the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) under the Senate version was cut down to P5 billion.
“Napakapayat, naghahanap pa rin kami. Lahat nagdadaing na. There are horrific projections for OFWs, hundreds of thousands are coming back jobless,” she said.
Meanwhile, the P17 billion allocated to the Department of Transportation for the provision of interest rate subsidies and the provision of temporary livelihood to displaced workers was slashed to P6 billion, the senator added.
“I understand where our finance people are coming from, they’re trying to impose prudent fiscal management, but on the other hand talagang ang hirap pagkasyahin,” Marcos said.
To provide for more funding to accommodate more sectors, the lawmaker proposed that the government divert its funds initially allocated for the travel expenses of officials to help those affected by the pandemic.
“We can get from the 2020 budget. I don’t think anyone would travel so all the travel expense…all these things, ibibigay na natin sa tao,” she said.


SC: Tip no basis for warrantless search


A tip given by an anonymous informant cannot alone legalize an intrusive, warrantless search of a vehicle, the Supreme Court ruled.
In a decision dated June 16 and released Tuesday, the SC dismissed illegal drug possession charges against Jerry Sapla, who police said was caught with a sack containing four marijuana bricks in a passenger jeepney in 2014.
In the 35-page decision penned by Associate Justice Alfredo Caguioa, the SC voted 11-3 to reverse the earlier decision of the Court of Appeals, acquit Sapla and order his immediate release.
“Law enforcers cannot act solely on the basis of confidential or tipped information. A tip is still hearsay no matter how reliable it may be. It is not sufficient to constitute probable cause in the absence of any other circumstance that will arouse suspicion,” the SC said.
Sapla was arrested at a checkpoint in Tabuk City, Kalinga in 2014 after police said they received a tip that a man fitting his description would be transporting illegal drugs.
The SC noted that the police did not ask how the informant gathered the information and that they violated a rule that any information should be properly written in a logbook or police blotter.
The SC also said that Sapla did not give his consent when the police searched the contents of the sack.
Sapla was in a “coercive environment” since he was being confronted by several armed police officers at a checkpoint, the SC said.
This should serve as warning to police officers who abuse their positions like in arresting suspects. 


Russia-China rivalry in U.S. election

Perry Diaz

While it was obvious that Russian President Vladimir Putin is openly supporting President Donald Trump in his re-election campaign, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s support for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is not evident, which is typical of China’s secretive ways.
With the U.S. presidential election just 80 days away, the outcome of the election would determine the geopolitical direction of a multipolar world order.  Or should I say “world disorder”?
With three authoritarian leaders – Putin, Xi, and North Korea’s Kim Jung-on --serving lifetime terms, the U.S. President’s role as a world leader is limited to four or eight years.  Every four years, the Americans elect a new president with one shot at being reelected.  So come January 20, 2021, when either Trump or Biden would assume the presidency, they have to deal with the three headstrong dictators armed with nuclear weapons, ready to play ball with either Trump or Biden in a nuke-laden field who’d walk around with their nuclear football, which the president uses to authorize a nuclear attack while traveling.
Multipolar world disorder
Presumably, if Biden wins in November, the nuclear football would be passed from Trump to Biden with the secret pass code, ready to operate in a moment’s notice in the event that Putin, Xi or Kim would decide to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. at the precise moment of presidential power turnover.  
Does this sound ridiculously funny or scary?  Not in today’s multipolar world disorder.  With Putin and Xi positioning themselves to take advantage of the presidential transition, I wouldn’t be surprised if Putin or Xi would call Trump or Biden to congratulate – and warn – them of things to come.  That soon?  Why not?  That would be the most vulnerable time particularly if Biden won the presidency.   Test his mettle and see how fast he reacts. 
Just imagine, at 12:05 PM on January 20, 2021, the red phone rings and Putin is on the line.  “Hello,” Putin says, “Congratulations Joe.  This is Vlad. I just want to call and wish you good luck on your assumption of the presidency.”  “Oh, hello, Mr. Putin.  Thanks for your congratulatory call.  What can I do for you?” Biden said.  “Well, first of all I want to meet with you to discuss the geopolitical situation in the world.  With what’s going on in Southeast Asia, North Korea, Middle East, and Africa, I think we need to meet, the sooner,
 the better.  How’s March 1 for our first summit?” Putin said. “That might be too soon Mr. Putin…” “Call me Vlad,” Putin interrupted.  “Okay Vlad.  First, I have to convene my national security team, which I don't have right now.”  “Aha!  That’s what I thought! Joe you’re not prepared on Day One!”  This caught Biden by surprise.   Biden said. “But what I’m prepared of right now is to press the Doomsday Button on my nuclear football and that would send 5,000 nuclear warheads to targets in Russia.” Putin said, “Now, now, Joe, my man.  I was just kidding.  I’ll call you in a few days and we’ll talk geopolitics. Okay?”  “Fine with me,” President Biden said and hang up.   Whew!
Which reminds me that Putin is supporting Trump against Biden.  And Xi is supporting Biden against Trump.  And whoever wins in November would greatly influence the White House.   
Of course, Putin wants Trump to win re-election in November.  Putin and Trump are like Siamese twins joined at the head.   They think like one.  But more so in favor of Putin who had taken advantage of Trump’s puppy dog adoration of Putin. 
With the prospect of Biden winning the presidency, Trump would lose a great deal of influence over Russia.  But what else would Putin wants from Trump?  Why not?  Consider that since 2016, Putin has gotten much of what he wants from Trump: delegitimizing of western democracies, disrupting NATO unity, a pass on bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, and cover for Putin’s interference in 2016 U.S. elections.
So, why stop now?  The ground is already laid for Russia to stay on top of Trump in his next administration if he wins in November. Certainly, there is a lot more than Putin could extract from Trump’s puppetry to Putin.  To put it bluntly, Putin has got Trump by his cojones.  A little squeeze here and there would keep his loyalty.
If Trump wins
Indeed, a second Trump term could lead to the disintegration of NATO and Russian military expansion in Africa and the Middle East.  Citing a secret German Foreign Ministry report, Daily Bild reported that Russia’s new Africa ambitions, which says Putin had made “Africa a top priority.”  According to the report, Russia’s strategy is to build bases in six countries.  "Since 2015, Russia has concluded military cooperation agreements with 21 countries in Africa," according to the leaked document.
Meanwhile, Russia is already a major arms supplier to the African continent.
With a market share of 37.6%, Russia is the top weapons supplier to Africa, followed by the US with 16%, France with 14%, and China with 9%.
Algeria reportedly remains the biggest recipient of Russian arms in Africa, followed by Egypt, Sudan, and Angola. The question is: How is Trump going to react to Russia’s new African strategy? 
China prefers Biden
But while Russia is actively working to elect Trump, China prefers Biden to Trump.  However, in a recent interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Newsmax TV, Pompeo said that reports that China is trying to influence American elections by ousting Trump in favor of Biden come as no surprise.Pompeo noted recent intelligence has shown Iran, Russia, and China all appear to be engaged in influence operations in the upcoming presidential elections.
Trump's actions against Chinese spying efforts, including expelling diplomats from the Houston consulate and threatening to ban the popular app TikTok have shown the communist leadership the United States is "no longer tolerating their misbehavior and the risk they're creating to the United States," Pompeo told Newsmax TV host Sean Spicer.
But while Putin is clearly supporting Trump, Xi, on the other hand, is non-committal, which is typically how Chinese politics work.  The Chinese tend to show support on both sides of the political divide.  So, whoever wins, China wins.
At the end of the day, Russia-China rivalry is taking center stage in the U.S. election.  As Trump has said, "If I don't win the election, China will own the United States. You're going to have to learn to speak Chinese, you want to know the truth."  Believe it or not, when Trump says something, his cult followers believe him. 


Nationwide AP webinars upgrade online teaching

By Rocky Ngalob   

BAGUIO CITY – An independent organization of AP teachers who launched a free 30-part webinar series for member teachers nationwide are tackling significant and essential contexts of history from pre-colonial Philippines to today’s current setting.  
 “Learning cannot be locked down even for teachers,” is today’s credo for Aralin Panlipunan (AP) teachers within the community of Aralin Panlipunan Teach Share (APTS).
Froidelyn Docallas, an AP teacher of Bakakeng Elementary School here and founder of APTS said they advocate a harmonious community of AP teachers.
             According to her, the 30-part webinar series hopes to boost the proficiency of their fellow AP teachers in crafting their respective modules towards the topics anchored on the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELC).
Said free 30-part webinar series by APTS, in itself, is an expression of the age-old Filipino values of ‘Bayanihan’ where teachers, in their own volition acting as resource speakers, share their learnings, research works and expertise to fellow teachers in need.
In their webinar series which started last July, you will be greeted with smiles coming from AP teachers throughout the nation.
          All of the webinars lectures were interactive where you get to see lecturers interact with their fellow teachers candidly.
Exchanges of views are free flowing and the wisdom being imparted are overflowing.
History subject, in the current basic educational structure has long been opined, apart from one of the most boring subjects for students, as a subject boxed within the limits of memory recall.
Typical mode of instruction tends to mold students to mere memorization of dates and names.
Significant socioeconomic and sociopolitical context of history are being left out.
Recognizing the situation, lecturers framed their lectures in a way that it would ensue discourse between them and their fellow teachers.
Clash of views ensued but were all taken responded constructively. Lecturers imparted to their fellow teacher, not only their usual topics inside their universities, but their also their personal works, thesis [whether masters or doctorate], office’s research works, advocacies, and life lessons on history.
They offered their fellow teachers their works as reference materials for their modules and guided them to other materials which the latter can use. One lecturer even offered his signed published book as a prize for the AP teachers who wrote the best reflection essay.
In between webinar series, AP teachers interact which each other through their Social Media group.
There, they exchange reference materials to their fellows. Most of the AP teachers, in keeping up with the limitations brought about the pandemic, have created their own educational YouTube channels. Insights from the 30-part webinar were incorporated therein.
These videos from their YouTube channels, aside from being easily accessible to students, are being shared between and among the AP teachers.     
               According to Dacollas, APTS was just a small group of AP teachers that started last year. Now, as of this writing, APTS has 18,300 members from different parts of the Philippines.      
              Teachers may be geographically separated by islands and the advent COVID – 19 pandemic, but does not mean that they cannot be connected with each other.
           Through the cyber realms of Zoom, conventional teachers are now at par with their fellow young blooded educators, adopting to the new normal mode of virtual learning and teaching.    
AP teachers are not just educators. They will play the role of historians, economists and political scientists. These teachers hold the enormous weight of teaching social studies particularly on history. How the youth and students, the future administrators and leaders of the land, view their future will always depend on how they see and discern the lessons of history.
The 30-part webinar series was capped by a lecture from Prof. Genardo Lanuza of University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman on August 23, 2020 with the topic: “Teaching Strategies; How to develop critical thinking in Social Sciences: The emancipatory interest of social sciences”.
The rest of the lecturers, each with their respective topics, who imparted their wisdom were the following: Prof. Roderick Javar of UP Los Banos, Prof. Francis Gealogo of Ateneo De Manila University, Jeremy Gerald Clemente, McFarlane Sloan Ramos, Prof. Kevin Paul Martija of University of Makati, Prof. Arvin D. Campomanes of UP Manila, Prof. Jan Carlo Punongbayan of UP Diliman, Susan Macabuag of Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Prof. Roland Simbulan of UP Manila, Prof. Arthur Boquiren of UP Baguio, Former DSWD Secretary, Prof Judy Taguiwalo of UP Diliman, Erika Jean Ente of NAPC, Prof. Ferdinand Veridiano of Philippine Science High School – CAR, Jose Enrique Africa of IBON Foundation, and Prof. Bernadette Neri of UP Diliman.


Livelihood, tourism back in Abra town

DANGLAS, Abra – Livelihood amid the Covid-19 pandemic is now being restored in this town including tourism with help from national government agencies. 
The local government unit has partnered with Departments of Social Welfare and Development for “cash for work for women,”Agriculture and Public Works and Highways for their projects, and Labor and Employment for special program of the employment of students.
Mayor Denise Florence Bernos-Bragas bared this to  Presidential Communications and Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar in the Laging Handa Network News on Aug. 13. 
Tourism is also back though at only 50%.  
Aside from farming, tourism is a source of livelihood in Danglas, also called the “little Baguio City of the Province” due to its pine forests. 
“Our municipality is a boundary area of Ilocos Norte and Abra where local tourists within the province and the province of Ilocos Norte usually stop by for a visit in our tourism spots.
However, we are not yet fully re-opening our tourism activities as a precautionary measure against Covid-19 spread,” she said. 
Bragas said the town government gave  weekly “ayuda” and cash assistance to Danglas folks during imposition of enhanced community quarantine.
To prevent influx of people in the municipal market, the local government started a rolling market that brings goods including  vegetables, meat, fish and fruits  to barangays..
During the general community quarantine, the mayor said the local govnerment gave food packs and hygiene kits to people every other week.
The LGU provided food packs to all households under lockdown.
Areas of residence of confirmed Covid patients were put in lockdown to facilitate contact tracing and disinfection.
At present, no active cases of Covid-19 were reported with recovery of   four patients.
There was one death recorded, an elderly locally stranded individual. 
Bragas said the call for vigilance, cooperation and sense of responsibility especially in the observance of minimum health protocols such as limiting movement (no leisure travels), observing social distancing,  proper hygiene (frequent hand wash with soap, alcohol or sanitizer) and use of face mask/face shield whenever we go out to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 in the municipality and in the province. -- PIA Abra


Apayao celebrates 25th natal day

LUNA, Apayao – This province celebrated its 25th foundation anniversary last week after its split from Kalinga.
Gov. Eleanor Begtang during commemoration urged Apayao folks to support  projects, programs and activities in the province under “new normal.”
 “As we strive to move forward amidst the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the provincial government takes this occasion to once more renew and strengthen our commitment to be of service to our fellow Ipayaos, and further gains we have all collectively worked out.”
Begtang noted “unity and cooperation of the former leaders and people of the province which led to its progress and development and what it is today.”
Apayao was part of  the then Kalinga-Apayao province. It became a separate and distinct regular province by virtue of Republic Act 7878 authored by the late Congressman Elias Bulut Sr. and  signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos on Feb. 14, 1995.
The corporate existence of Apayao started on August 1, 1995. 
The simple program at the Apayao Eco-Tourism and Sports Complex in Luna town on August 5 was highlighted by recognition of the province’s pioneer employees for their hard work and sacrifices and planting fruit bearing trees at the eco-tourism area. -- PIA CAR


Kalinga, MP tribes limit ‘war’ in towns

>> Saturday, August 22, 2020

FEUDING TRIBES – Folks from Tinglayhan, Kalinga and Sadanga, Mountain Province residing in Tabuk City, ink peacepact not to let hostilities between the two tribes spill over in the city and other parts of Cordillera.     

By Peter A. Balocnit

CITY OF TABUK, Kalinga – Tribesmen of the warring Butbut and Betwagan tribes forged a peace covenant not to let hostilities spill over outside their towns like Tabuk.
Through separate resolutions, both tribes expressed their approval to the peace agreement that prohibits bringing the conflict anywhere else or outside Betwagan in Sadanga, Mountain Province and Butbut in Tinglayan, this province.
Said agreement signed August 7 at Davidson Hotel here provides for both tribes living in Tabuk City to uphold the principles of the Matagoan or "Zone of Life" and the provisions of the iTabuk Pagta, most particularly not to take revenge against or harm any from their tribe living in this city, in all provinces or city within the Cordillera Administrative Region, in the provinces of Isabela and Cagayan, and Metro Manila.
In a joint resolution signed on August 10, punong barangays of Ngibat, Butbut Proper, Loccong, Buscalan and Bugnay, expressed their support to the peace covenant for the benefit of government employees, students and farmers living outside Butbut tribe territory including those in Sadanga municipality.
The punong barangays agreed signing of the peace covenant was indication of peace process between the two parties - Butbut and Betwagan.
Ultimately, it is also to protect life of the individuals who are innocent, living outside the war zone.
Revenge or killing of person outside the declared war zone area will not help solve the boundary dispute but to commit additional criminal offense against the innocent people who have no knowledge to engage in tribal conflict.
“This is a perfect, gentlemen agreement pending the permanent peace resolution due to the same issue on boundary dispute,” the resolution stated.
On the part of the Betwagan tribe, their resolution of support to the peace covenant signed on August 14 was sealed with their prayer for the provisions to be respected and imposed in letter and spirit.
“Umili ti Betwagan ken Anabel babaen ti barangay opsiyal ket umannugot da ditoy peace covenant basta ti Matagoan Bodong Consultative Council ket tungpalen da ti akem, takder ken responsibilidad da akas negosyador ti sensiredad wenno pateg na daytoy. No man mabug-oy daytoy, dakau nga negosyador nga pinmirma ti maysa nga masingir.(The residents of Betwagan and Anabel through their barangay officials  agree to this peace covenant provided the Matagoan Bodong Consultative Council  do their  role and responsibility as  negotiator sincerely. Should this fail, the negotiators who signed in this agreement will be blamed.)
It added that Betwagan students, workers and those living in Apayao, Cagayan and Isabela, and subtribe of Betwagan living in Tabuk City are not to be included in this conflict.
The respective Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Kalinga and Mountain Province are now brokering a permanent resolution of this decades-long dispute.  -- PIA Kalinga 


COA, Ombudsman urged: Probe MP X-rays, P41 M fund

By Gina Dizon

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- The Commission on Audit (COA) and Office of the Ombudsman were asked to probe and audit use of P41 million maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) fund released to the Bontoc General Hospital here and X-ray machines and laparoscope purchased by the BoGH left uninstalled for three to five years after these were purchased.
In same petition that reached Interior and Local Government Sec. Eduardo Ano, inter agency task force (IATF) chairman and Health Sec. Francisco Duque, Secretaries and Undersecretaries of DILG and DOH and Ombudsman Chief Samuel Martirez, petitioner Juniper Dominguez urged the probe since supplies at the BoGH were “almost always empty.”
He questioned how the P41 million MOOE for 2020 was used to purchase drugs and medicine at P13.7 million, medical and surgical at P5 million, laboratory at P8 million and a P1.55 million expense for an X-ray and ultrasound and hemodialysis supplies at P2.36 million.
The petition cited an idle X-ray machine purchased Dec. 2, 2015 by the provincial government of Mountain Province remained uninstalled.
Said X-ray machine was the subject of an audit observation memorandum (AOM) issued by COA to Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan, Provincial Health Office head Nenita Lizardo and Bontoc General Hospital chief Dr. Raquel Tannao Kanongkong on Jan. 20, 2020.
Earlier findings from the audit team of COA – Mountain Province bared the X-ray machine was not used for four years saying it was a "loss of opportunity."
Dominguez asked why the supplier did not install the machine when he was paid in full and the contract was consummated including installation.
Dominguez also asked for a special audit of funds released reportedly used to buy a non-functional X-ray machine.
The PHO purchased the machine in 2009 for the Paracelis emergency hospital.
The PEH eventually had the machine repaired and is now in use.
Still on X-ray machines, Dominguez in same petition asked why the X-ray delivered to Besao district hospital was not working when it was delivered in 2009.
A notice of suspension was then issued by State Auditor Hilario Dumasan on August 16, 2010 on the amount of P2,234,595  as the X-ray machine was not then operational.
Said notice was sent to former Gov. Leonard Mayaen and Provincial Accountant Theodore Marrero, Jordal Medical Systems as the contractor, PHO Nenita Lizardo, former X-ray Technician Nelly Madeo and Carmen Domawa, Inspection Officer.
Earlier in 2016, petitioner Salvador Liked forwarded an affidavit complaint to the office of the ombudsman against Provincial Accountant Theodore Marrero, former BAC chairman Paulo Pagteilan, Lizardo, Madeo, Domawa, BAC members and quality inspectors and  Jordal Medical Systems  for “grave abuse of  authority  and dishonesty,  violation of the grant and corrupt practices Act.” 
Liked said the complaint emanated from purchase and delivery of the X-ray machine at Besao Emergency Hospital.
In a letter forwarded to Ombudsman Martirez on Jan. 14, 2020, Liked followed up his affidavit complaint earlier forwarded to the office of the ombudsman then chaired by Chief Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Dominguez' petition questioned a P2 million laparoscope machine  purchased in December 12,  2016 that  remained unutilized until now.
Said laparoscope was the subject of an AOM issued by COA to Lacwasan, Lizardo and Kanongkong on January 17, 2020.
Earlier findings by an audit team of COA-Mountain Province December last year noted the purchased laparoscope supposedly to be used for abdominal surgery was not installed due to "lack of accessories".
This was followed up by a P300,000 purchase request for the missing accessories by Lizardo and eventually overturned by a request for realignment of said P300,000 by Kanongkong in 2018 as the needed funds accordingly was P3 million.
Dominguez asked who tested, inspected and accepted these machines- X-rays and laparoscope when these were delivered and who were the suppliers of these non-working equipment. 
In said petition, Dominguez questioned an alleged overprized ultrasound purchased sometime in 2019 without the signature of the chief of hospital.


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