Dirty money in the cement

>> Wednesday, October 28, 2020

March L. Fianza

After the smoke in the battle for House Speaker has thinned, President Duterte updated a familiar uproar involving the Dept. of Public Works and Highways saying corruption in that department remains widespread.
    Apparently, that was at the back of his mind for a while and had the nerve to turn it into a statement last week as Congress started its special session to deliberate on the P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
    Exactly, he knew what he was talking about because of experience as he said that “corruption is embedded in the projects of the DPWH.” Although he claimed he just did not know who was involved – a quick decision indeed, because he had the feeling that someone might ask him to name names.
    The President said there are so many officials lined up in the bureaucratic maze so that he does not know who they are, but added that contractors “were scheming with the DPWH” to carry out corrupt practices.
    With that, he might form a team to probe what he alleged as widespread corruption in the DPWH even while Sec. Mark Villar earlier last week already created a task force made up of five officials to investigate fellow executives.
    Villar’s task force however is doubtful if it would ever move, much less succeed because the team cannot come up with an honest to goodness report since it will be investigating a circle where they belong to.
    A day after those statements were made, Senator Panfilo said it was timely for the President to raise corruption at the DPWH knowing the fact that contractors openly talk behind the backs of DPWH officials “using descriptions too degrading to even mention,” Lacson said.
    The senator said, it is now an open secret that commissions or kickbacks have become the rule rather than the exception in the implementation of public works projects involving not only some corrupt officials of DPWH but many lawmakers too.
    Read this and cry. The President in his own words said, “The project engineers, road right-of-way, corruption there is massive. There’s no construction that will start without transactions made”.
    Lately, the President’s actions gave me suspicions why he makes such proclamations. His timing came after the change of speakership in Congress and as the lawmakers were about to pass the general appropriations bill (GAB).
    With such claims of corruption in the DPWH involving many, he was insinuating that the lawmakers should not use the government projects funded through the national budget bill to hide their spoils.
    That is the pork barrel that has not been eliminated despite the Supreme Court decision that prohibited it. For as long as district congressmen, Benguet included, are allowed to identify projects for inclusion in the National Expenditure Program, there will always be pork in the national budget.
    If a congressman succeeds in inserting an amount for a project in the NEP, the contractor will reward him for his identification work. The project amount has already been padded to contain the lawmaker’s share.
    The Supreme Court in so many instances declared as unconstitutional the practice of Congressmen in “participating in the areas of project identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and fund realignment.”
Indeed, in every GAB, dirty money is mixed in the cement, and nobody knows except the engineer, the contractor and the politician. I repeat what President Duterte said, “There is no construction that will start without transactions made”.
    This illegal relationship also violates Section 9 of RA 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits public officials from “directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present, share, percentage or benefit, for himself or for any other person, in connection with any contract or transaction between the government and any other part.”
    For DPWH, Sec. Villar whom President Duterte described as “straight and incorruptible because he is already rich,” said he will take the challenge of the President and continue to fight harder to stop corruption.
    He sounded sincere but at the same time I thought I was listening to a broken record about the words of promise often repeated by officials in the past. He said his office has already introduced “reforms to weed out corruption” but let us see.
    As Duterte and Lacson were hitting at their co-officials, the Commission on Audit joined the chorus and came up with a report that 2,411 DPWH projects from 2015-2019 amounting to P101.690 billion were not completed on time or unimplemented - a clear violation of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
    To make the situation worse, the DPWH according to the COA, did not terminate the contracts nor impose liquidated damages to the contractors after the delays exceeded the allowable 10 percent of the original or revised contract time of 54 projects with contract amounts totaling P607.811 million.
    Delays in the implementation of the projects as cited in the COA report were caused by suspension orders, time extensions, and variation orders issued by the concerned DPWH offices.
    The DPWH orders were based on many factors such bad weather, peace and order, road right-of-way, modification of plans, design and programs of work, realignment of location, pending issuance of clearance from LGUs, permits for cutting trees from DENR, insufficient workforce, lack of equipment, scarcity of local materials, inaccessible project site, etc., etc.
    All these however were the failure of DPWH consultants and management to consider during the preliminary engineering study on the viability of the projects, the COA noted in its report.        
    By the way, the COA should investigate the DTI-DPWH convergence project in 2019 worth P25 million (P10M, P10M plus P5M) that should have been implemented at Nawal-Tickey-Daclan roadline in Bokod, Benguet but was instead transferred to another roadline.
    So far, the best move that COA can do for now is to ask the DPWH to blacklist those who will refuse to take the necessary corrections, in addition to issuing suspension notices or issuing notices of disallowance over the projects if the DPWH fails to require the concerned contractors to rectify the defects.


‘Demolition of Mac-liing Dulag’s shrine disrespect to IPs’

Alfred P. Dizon

(Here is an article by Hanah Tabios about international civil society, human rights groups defending Macli-ing Dulag’s monument from demolition on occasion of National Indigenous Peoples Month)
    On Indigenous People’s Month, more than 250 human rights and civil society organizations from all over the world pledged to defend the impending demolition of Macli-ing Dulag’s monument erected by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) along the national road in honor of his heroism for resisting the infamous Chico Dam project.
    More than 600 individuals and organizations from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia recently signed an online global pact amid intensifying attacks against the Igorot people indigenous to the Northern Philippines.
    “We sign this global pact both as an expression of support to their struggles and a condemnation of continuing attacks against their land and lives. In the indigenous tradition of community solidarity we signify our unity and commitment to the Cordillera people”, Peter Murphy, a rights advocate based in Australia and the current chairperson of International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), said in a statement. 
    According to the pact, development aggression and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights persist in the Cordillera. 
    “Their ancestral lands continue to be treated as a resource base for profit by the State working hand in glove with multinational corporations. Large-scale mining, dams, energy, and other foreign projects are masqueraded as ‘development’ at the expense of indigenous peoples’ self-determination and  human rights,” it said.  
    During the previous weeks, the Provincial Advisory Council (PAC) of the Kalinga Provincial Police Office (KPPO) agreed to request the provincial government through the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Committee on Oversight to pass an ordinance for the removal of the marker of the three local heroes built within the road right of way (RROW) of a national road.
    Aside from Dulag, two other tribal leaders, Pedro Dungoc and Lumbaya Gayudan’s special markers were also erected along the Mt. Province boundary-Calanan-Pinukpuk-Abbut Road. 
 A report said KPPO Director PCol. Davy Vicente Limmong also wrote to PAC Chairman Engr. Andres Ngao-I urging the Council to look into this project, which he said is in violation of Provincial Ordinance No. 2017-003 declaring Barangay Bugnay as “Heritage Village” and the provisions of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) guidelines.
    The NHCP guidelines provides that “No monument sponsored by any private individual, organization, or the honoree’s kin shall be allowed on any public space, unless the same is intended as a donation to the government and is sanctioned by a national government agency or local government unit, subject further to public acceptance and approval of a board resolution by the sanctioning government agency.”
    This October, the national government, through the executive office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), also issued a notice to remove the heroes’ monument citing issues of encroachment, despite the fact that it was constructed on ancestral land. 
    General Rwin Pagkalinawan, chief of the Cordillera police, visited the community where the monument is located and reportedly forced the issuance of a resolution condemning the CPA.
    “The heroes’ monument, built through the joint undertaking by the martyr’s family, the communities, and the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), is a legacy and reminder of the bravery of those who stood in all forms of resistance from people’s movements to armed struggle,” Beverly Longid, global coordinator of International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), and a co-signatory of the global pact, said. 
    Signatories of the global pact said that both efforts of the government are directed to sanitize and disrespect Cordillera’s history of struggle while invalidating the contribution of indigenous activist groups defending ancestral lands. 
    “This misplaced priority reeks of disrespect to indigenous people’s heritage and their long history of struggle. We are appalled by the government’s concerns during this pandemic. Filipinos and Cordillera people are demanding medical and economic support and the last thing they need is for the State to make a mockery of their heroes,” American citizen Brandon Lee, also a signatory of the pact, added. 
    Targeted by state-authorities for his human rights work in the Philippines, Lee survived an assassination attempt in Ifugao, Philippines in August last year and is still recovering from the attack.
    The same organizations behind the #DefendCordilleraPH global pact started a petition to stop the demolition of the heroes monument, which has now garnered more than 4,000 signatures. 
    According to the online petition, it has already been more than three years since the monument was built, saying that the government’s sudden maneuvers to dismantle it are but questionable. 
    “These global initiatives are just the start. We are encouraging our fellow human rights advocates, and all peace-loving peoples of the world to stand with the Cordillera people. If we don’t act now this could mean not only the erasure of their heroic history but the eventual ethnocide of our Igorot brothers and sisters,” Murphy said.


Mayor: SM only granted proponent status / No night bars still in Baguio/

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Being granted the original proponent status (OPS) does not mean outright imprimatur for SM Prime Holdings to implement the market modernization project, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said.
    “Hindi pa nanalo ang SM. It was just given the OPS to publish the design and to start the negotiations for a public-private partnership (PPP) deal for the city market project,” the mayor clarified during the monthly meeting with the punong barangays last Oct. 14.
    He said selecting the best company to implement the market project entails a long process and the grant of an OPS is just a starter.
    “With the OPS, SM can negotiate the deal. If the negotiation fails, then we will not pursue the deal but if the negotiation succeeds and we agree on the design and meet all the conditions, then we will start framing the terms of reference,” the mayor explained.
    “Once the terms of reference had been defined and approved, these will be published to invite other companies to participate in the process called the Swiss challenge.”
    The mayor said Robinson Land Corp. and other companies can compete in the Swiss challenge. The city will then select the best proposal from the pool and have SM top it. The process will go on until an offer cannot be surpassed anymore and will be declared the winner.
    The mayor said the process will take around four to five months to complete.
    “One thing we can assure you is that we will have a market that is ours, market that is clean that we can be proud of,” the mayor said.
    Robinsons was earlier endorsed to get the OPS by the city’s “PPP for the People” (P4) selection committee but the OPS was granted to SM instead after an evaluation showed SM had a more advantageous offer, the mayor said.
    “We made the decision to maintain the integrity of our PPP process especially since the market project is just our first offering and there are others in the pipeline like the waste-to-energy, elevated railway, sewerage system, bulk water and others,” the mayor said.
    “What will our future investors say, that Baguio City can settle for inferior proposals? We do not want that for our city. Let us raise our credibility and integrity. We are fair and we are straight here. I want Baguio to be synonymous with good governance, transparency and trustworthiness,” he added.
    SM and Robinsons tendered unsolicited proposals for development of the market and offered to construct multi-storey structures under a 50-year lease.
Night establishments are still not allowed to operate here pursuant to national guidelines on Covid-19 but may shift to being “resto bars” or dine-in establishments while on hiatus.
    City Permits and Licensing Division Head Allan Abayao said this was relayed to the sector during the meeting with around 120 bar owners, operators, in-house bands and masseurs Oct. 16.
    Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI) provincial director Samuel Gallardo said that as per their guidelines, night clubs and bars are still among those not allowed to re-operate in view of the COVID-19 and curfew restrictions.
    Abayao said that as an alternative, bars may convert their operations into “resto bars” where they can serve like dine-in establishments and serve liquor as incidental to dining.
    He said an executive order will be issued by Mayor Benjamin Magalong defining the guidelines or checklist that will be followed in operating the resto bars to be prepared by Executive Asst. IV Althea Alberto.
    Foremost in the guidelines is the compliance to the health protocols and the signing of an undertaking or commitment which is currently up for approval by the City Inter-Agency Task Force.
    Joint inspections of the establishments by the DTI, PLD, City Health Services Office and Dept. of Labor and Employment will be done before the re-opening.
    Allied performances like live band, acoustic, videoke must also be inspected to ensure compliance with health protocols.
    Establishments that have no business permits will not be allowed to operate as resto bars.
Bar owners are looking forward to moving the curfew time from 10 PM to 12 midnight but they have to wait for the announcement of the national government by Nov. 1.



It’s time to decriminalize libel

Perry Diaz

Last June 15, in the latest blow to press freedom, Maria Ressa, the founder of an award-winning Philippines-based news site was convicted of cyber libel in a Manila court. The court found Ressa, editor and chief executive of online news site Rappler, and former researcher-writer Rey Santos Jr. guilty of libeling a businessman.
    The case is about a May 2012 article investigating a former chief justice’s links to several businessmen, including Wilfredo Keng. The news article cited an intelligence report from an unspecified agency, which alleged Keng was tied to illegal activity. Keng denied the allegation.
    But the law Ressa and Santos were charged under, the Cybercrime Prevention Act, did not exist at the time the story was published. However, the courts accepted the lawsuit because the story was considered to have been “republished” in February 2014 after it was updated to correct a “typo.”
    Ressa and Santos were sentenced to between six months and six years in prison. It was immediately appealed at higher courts all the way up to the Supreme Court. Both were ordered to pay P200,000 (about $4,000) in “moral damages” and another P200,000 in “exemplary damages.”
    “The verdict against Maria Ressa highlights the ability of the Philippines’ abusive leader to manipulate the laws to go after critical, well-respected media voices whatever the ultimate cost to the country,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The Rappler case will reverberate not just in the Philippines, but in many countries that long considered the country a robust environment for media freedom.”
    Rappler and Ressa have reportedly faced numerous government investigations and court battles that press freedom advocates have blasted as judicial harassment and an attempt to silence independent media. Ressa has been an outspoken critic of Philippine President Duterte’s government, particularly its deadly war on drugs.
    Ressa and three other journalists and one news organization were named TIME 2018 Person of the Year for their “pursuit of greater truths” in the face of threats.
    She was also included on TIME’s 2019 list of the 100 most influential people. “My only crime is to be a journalist, to speak truth to power,” she said in her speech at the TIME 100 Gala.
Archaic law
While libel via traditional media — writing, painting, lithography, engraving, radio, photograph, theatrical exhibitions, cinematographic exhibition or similar means –has been a crime since 1932, its scope has been expanded with the passage of the Cybercrime Law of 2012, which punishes cyber libel that covers new media like the Internet. A person found guilty of libelous comments on the Internet could spend up to 12 years in prison with no possibility of Parole.
    With the passage of Cybercrime Law, online libel or e-libel has emerged as the top complaint of Filipino Internet users. This has led to an increase in complaints – 494 complaints in 2016 compared to 311 recorded in 2015, an increase of 26.49% for 2016.
    This led to the filing of several bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives to decriminalize traditional and cyber libel. Philippine libel laws have been considered “archaic,” as they go as far back as the Spanish Codigo Penal in 1887 during the Spanish colonial era. In 1932, during the American colonial period, they were reinforced by the Revised Penal Code (RPC). Surmise it to say, libel was conceived as a repressive tool against criticisms and insults to the colonial powers that ruled the Philippines. But since the colonial powers – Spanish and American – were long gone, Filipino politicians have taken their place of power. Yes, the Philippine Congress is now the new “colonial power.”
Constitutional provision
The 1987 Constitution under Section 4, Article III provides that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press…” However, we have not eliminated our archaic and repressive libel provisions in our Revised Penal Code. I believe it’s time to decriminalize our libel laws and restore freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press.
    The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), and other advocacy groups have advocated that criminal libel is one of the most abused means to suppress freedom of expression and press freedom in the Philippines
    In light of the case against Ressa and Santos, journalists are reiterating the call for the decriminalization of libel. NUJP pointed out that a “dangerously vindictive government” has already “mangled law” to silence a critical news outfit “but unless stopped, these machinations will eventually endanger not only Rappler or the independent Philippine media but each and every Filipino who has ever posted online.”
Sword of Damocles
Indeed, current libel and cyber libel laws are like the Sword of Damocles hanging over every journalist’s head.
Libel or cyber libel has been used to harass journalists who expose politicians and government officials for alleged corrupt activities. I say “alleged” because you don’t have proof that they have committed corruption, which is hard to prove in the Philippines’ system of government. While traditional libel is hard enough to convict corrupt politicians, cyber libel puts a cloak of invincibility on corrupt politicians. Even a “like” or “share” on a derogatory post on the Internet could attract a criminal cybercrime lawsuit. It’s as simple as that. So in this age of social media, avoid these seemingly harmless Internet tools. They could be deadly and cost you imprisonment. So, why not decriminalize libel?
    But getting a law passed to decriminalize libel would be extremely difficult. “After all, our antediluvian libel law and its threat of jail time is one of the weapons of choice of corrupt officialdom against those who dare scrutinize and call out their venality and abuse,” NUJP said.
    Indeed, lawmakers find solace from the cybercrime law because it provides them with protection from charges of corruption. In other words, politicians can engage in corrupt activities and don’t have to worry about facing charges of corruption in court simply because to accuse them of corruption could be construed as defamation or libel. And if you’re unable to prove it, you’re liable to criminal libel charges and possible jail terms.
    The question is: How do you prevent abuse from among journalists by decriminalizing libel? Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that in his opinion, a civil suit for a libel case would suffice. But there is a fear that journalists would abuse it. However, a civil act could deter journalists from committing libel by suing for monetary damages, which could be imposed by the civil courts.
The Sandiganbayan or People’s Advocate was established in the aftermath of the People Power Revolution of 1987. The Office of the Ombudsman has sole and exclusive authority to bring cases to the Sandiganbayan, which is the only court that can try and decide criminal and civil cases against government officials and employees accused of graft and corruption. The success of the Sandiganbayan is therefore predicated on the reputation and performance of the Ombudsman, who is appointed by the President.
    One of the best – if not the best — Ombudsmen was retired Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales who was appointed by then-President Benigno Aquino III. She served from 2011 to 2018. When Carpio-Morales assumed office in 2011, she inherited a caseload of 11,000 pending criminal and administrative cases. By the end of her term, she has achieved zero – or near zero — backlog. A recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Carpio-Morales has been cited as a “fearless and indefatigable Ombudsman of the Philippines whose integrity and dignity restored the people’s faith in the rule of law.”
With cybercrime libel on the rise, what would the new Ombudsman Samuel Martires do to stop corruption? At an anti-corruption forum in December, Martires pushed for “a greater focus on preventing graft and corruption rather than punitive approach to the problem.” Hmm… Didn’t we try something like that before?
    It’s interesting to note that last year, the country was ranked 99th among countries perceived to be corrupted in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of global watchdog Transparency International.
    Perhaps, it’s time to decriminalize libel. That would certainly decrease the caseload of libel cases.
    Comments or reactions are welcome, email me at PerryDiaz@gmail.com


Mt. Province village gets power from Hedcor

ENERGIZED – Hedcor staff and officials of Sabangan, Mountain Province hold “switch on” rites to provide power to Sitio Doskit in Barangay Napua. 

Estefany Mae Tawagon

SABANGAN, Mountain Province -- Sitio Doskit here in Barangay Napua -- a village 22 km away from the Poblacion recently got electricity through Hedcor’s energization program.
    Napua barangay captain Peter Ing-inga said living without electricity slows down progress and he is now excited to see how the community can thrive and enjoy technology such as entertainment and communications. 
    The electrification program energized 17 households and a hundred more are expected to get their electricity.
    Hedcor tapped Mt. Province Electric Coop. Inc. to install electric wires and posts in the community.      
    “We, in Hedcor, remain committed to accelerate the progress and development of our host community and to ease the day-to-day activities of residents especially the students as they venture into the changes brought about by the pandemic,” said Berny Zamoranos, Hedcor Sabangan grid manager.
    “Hedcor treats access to electricity as a basic human right as it allows us to power the technology we use every day,” he said.     “We, in Hedcor, envision the community of Sabangan to enjoy the same like simple light at night. 
    The ceremonial switch-on was attended by Sabangan Mayor Marcial Lawilao, Jr, barangay captain Peter Ing-inga, and Mopreco team headed by engineer Jimmy Depalog and Doskit residents
    Sabangan is home to Hedcor’s 14MW hydropower plant. Hedcor, a run-of-river hydropower arm of AboitizPower, operates 22 plants across the country with a total generating capacity of 277.36 MW.


Kalinga mayor pleads guilty over funds; fined

PASIL, Kalinga - Mayor Alfredo Malannag Jr. here pleaded guilty to a lesser offense to avoid litigation of malversation charges filed against him over his unliquidated cash advances amounting to P503,920.16.
    In a decision dated Oct. 12, the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division said Malannag pleaded guilty to failure to render accounts under Article 218 of the Revised Penal Code.
    With his voluntary admission of guilt, Malannag was instead ordered to pay a fine of P2,000 and return to the municipal government the amount of his unliquidated cash advances.
    The case stemmed from Malannag’s cash advances from July to September 2001 totaling P626,000, of which P503,920.16 remains unliquidated.
    The Office of the Ombudsman said failure to account for the missing amount was tantamount to misappropriating or taking it away for his own personal use.


‘PPP best way to pursue city market development’

BAGUIO CITY ---Pursuing the public-private partnership mode is the best option for the City Government of Baguio in pursuing the long-delayed redevelopment of the city public market.
    This as City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña stressed that city government cannot afford to do the development project on its own, and said taking out a loan, as earlier considered, to raise funds for the project is deemed detrimental than beneficial to the city.
    Dela Peña, who chairs the Public-Private Partnership for the People (P4) Initiative committee, made the statement following adverse reactions on the move of Mayor Benjamin Magalong last week giving SM Prime Holdings Inc. the Original Proponent Status (OPS).
    Councilor Mylen Yaranon reportedly slammed the grant of OPS to SMPHI, a private corporation, saying the city’s public market should be developed by the city government and that the unsolicited proposals of both SMPHI and Robinsons Lands Corp. are deficient and should be rejected.
     Dela Peña explained that it has been proven by the city’s financial experts that the city cannot afford to handle the market development. While it is a fact that the city has savings, he said these savings cannot be used solely for the market development as the city has other essential and priority projects to undertake. 
     He said borrowing the needed amount from banks is also proven not for the best interest of city. In talks with the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines, loaning the amount of at least P6 billion would entail about P250 million to P300 million as annual amortization for the city government.
     Even if the terms would be giving the city a grace period before the annual payment starts, the city would still be hard up in keeping up with its payments and other city projects will be sacrificed. 
    “There is no way (for the city) to fund it. We are not capable of funding it. The PPP mode is our best option, the most ideal way for us to pursue the market development, as proven by our local financial experts and city council itself,” Dela Peña said. 
    The Local Financial Committee earlier conducted a financial study on the capability of the city government to develop the city market and recommended that the building cost would be a burden and the projected income from stall rentals may not be enough to raise the yearly amortization. 
    Dela Peña said the city council in fact has agreed to the PPP modality and approved of it as mentioned in Resolution 400 series of 2020, which recommends to the PPP proponents to consider adopting the architectural design of the master redevelopment plan for the city public market, subject to minor revisions. 
     He appealed to the concerned parties not to muddle the issue and stick to the facts so as not to confuse the public on intentions of the city government, which is finding the best way to finally push through with the long delayed market redevelopment. 
    “Let’s be honest, objective and factual para hindi nalilinlang ang mga tao. Madaling sabihin na tayo na ang magpagawa, but show us the numbers. We have the figures, as proven by our Local Finance Committee who knows more about the city’s financial situation,” Dela Peña said. 
    He added the grant of OPS to SMPHI is within the authority of the city mayor. He said the OPS does not automatically award the project to it, but there will be negotiations where terms and issues will be discussed and fix any deficiencies and later subject to the Swiss Challenge where all other interested entities may challenge the OPS grantee’s proposal and present their respective offers.


Benguet City posts 596 Covid cases; 36 in a day

By Redjie Melvic Cawis

LA TRINDAD, Benguet -- The province of Benguet recorded the highest single-day Covid-19 infection on Oct. 19 with 36   bringing the total confirmed cases to 596.
    Of the 36 new cases, 34 cases were from Benguet while the two were swabbed and admitted in Benguet but residents of other areas.
    Eighteen of cases were from La Trinidad, five cases each from Buguias and Itogon, four from Mankayan and one case each from Tuba and Kapangan.
    Most of the new cases were police officers recently deployed in different municipalities.
    Meanwhile, the Provincial Health Office   reported five Covid-19 related deaths in the province from Oct. 1 to 12.
    Four of the deaths were senior citizens with co-morbidities.
    Four were from La Trinidad which has now five Covid-19 related deaths while one was from Buguias now with two deaths.         Itogon recorded the first Covid-19 related death in the province.
    As of Oct. 19, Benguet    had 596 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 336 recoveries, 252 active cases and eight deaths.
     Gov. Melchor Diclas urged the public to always follow the prescribed health protocols and the minimum health standards such as wearing of face masks and face shields, washing of hands, maintaining proper hygiene and cleanliness, practicing social distancing and avoiding mass gatherings to lessen the contraction of the Covid-19.
    Diclas issued advisory to the public to stay at home if there are no essential errands or transactions required outside especially senior citizens who are among the most vulnerable individuals who could be infected by the Covid-19 or those living with senior citizens or individuals with health conditions. -- JDP/RMC-PIA-CAR 


Gov Mamba warns of ECQ in Cagayan

CONTACT TRACERS scour villages of Enrile, Cagayan where infection of 17 police officers was reported Oct. 18. Gov. Manuel Mamba on Monday warned of placing the province under enhanced community quarantine if Covid-19 cases go up. -- LGU-Enrile, Cagayan photo

ENRILE, Cagayan – Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba on Monday warned implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the entire province if Covid-19 cases would increase.
    The province logged 143 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, 17 of which were policemen from Enrile town.
    “Seventeen police members of Enrile were positive aside from 16 previously reported to me by the provincial health officer.     Yesterday’s data was alarming for having 143 cases in a day so we warn people to observe health protocols very strictly. If cases will not mellow, I will be forced to have an ECQ in entire Cagayan,” Mamba said on Monday.
    “Now we have the bulk in Tuguegarao City and Enrile with 58 and 57 cases, respectively, aside from cases in other towns. It is alarming,” he said.
    It was learned that two Enrile policemen (CV 2274 and 2287) tested positive for the coronavirus, and infected 15 of their co-workers.
    Meanwhile, Enrile Mayor Miguel Decena Jr. has transferred the distribution of travel passes and Covid Shield passes to the New Enrile Public Market-Office of the market supervisor, following spike of cases at the police station and town hall where the documents were earlier distributed. “Health certificates and other travel documents shall also be facilitated in the said office,” he said.
    Decena also ordered extension of the liquor ban, which should have been lifted last Oct. 16 if not for the spike of cases, until Nov. 5.
    “It has been observed that selling or serving and consumption of liquors and other similar alcoholic drinks encourage close contact among people, thereby defeating the objectives of the community quarantine,” he said.
    The mayor has also extended the lockdowns in Centro and Magalalag East in Enrile town while contact tracing and coronavirus containment efforts have been intensified. The other barangays have been under modified ECQ. -- 


2,841 tourists register for travel to Baguio

BAGUIO CITY –A total of 2,841 persons have registered with the Baguio Visitor Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA) site to visit this summer capital.
    The City Tourism Office bared this saying since the start of the Ridge and Reef tourism bubble for Region 1 on Oct. 1, some 59 tourists from Region 1 made travel requests, but as of Oct.18, only 15 arrived in the city.
    Out of 2,841 registration made, 528 have pending travel requests and most of the travelers came from National Capital Region with 269 requests, followed by 109 from Region 3; 64, Region 4A; nine, Cordillera; six, Region 2; four, Region 5; three, Region 7; three, United States and one each from Regions 12 and Region 4B.
The city’s program was expanded to cater to entire Luzon starting Oct. 22, but the limit of 200 visitors per day will remain. 
    City Mayor Benjie Magalong said the tourism program coverage expansion was recommended by the Baguio Tourism Council (BTC) and Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) and concurred by city health officials subject to health and safety protocols against Covid-19.
    The Baguio Tourism Council said the city relaxed its documentary requirements for tourists in its VISITA platform.
Tourist can directly book with hotels they want stay in, and no longer need to upload itinerary and booking confirmation, as well as get the services of tour operators or travel agents for staycations.
    But for health and safety precaution, do-it-yourself and day tours (at least overnight stay) is still not allowed.
    Staying with friends or relatives will also be prohibited as tourists must stay in accommodation establishments with Certificate Authority to Operate, as listed in Baguio VISITA.
    Should visitors want to go on a city tour, this could only be done so DOT accredited tour operators and testing will be required, either prior to travel or upon arrival for a fee.


Beneco has lowest power rate in Phl; far sitios energized

BAGUIO CITY -- Consumers of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) enjoy the cheapest electricity charges in the country.
    General manager Melchor Licoben said Beneco power bills this October were slashed by as much as 58 centavos per kilowatt hour (kWh).
One of the major factors in the significant reduction in power rates is the drop in the generation systems charge from P3.7375 per kWh in September to P3.3325/kWh October.
There was also a slight reduction in systems loss charge from P0.3927/kWh in September to P0.3388 in October.
However, there was a minimal increase in transmission charge, courtesy of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, from P0.6965/kWh in September to P0.7992 this month.
Beneco prides itself with a reliable power distribution system, coupled with the infusion of state-of-the-art information and communication technology equipment while sustaining delivery of power to non-viable areas within its franchise area, specifically in the different remote villages of Benguet, for more than four decades.
The coop was set to have ceremonial switch-on of its upgraded system in Sinipsip, Buguias on Thursday, part of Beneco’s commitment to the Sitio Electrification Program in remote areas of Baguio and Benguet.
Meanwhile, in Atok, Benguet, 17 families in two far sitios are now enjoying benefits of electricity in their homes after decades of not having power.
On Oct.8, the Benguet Electric Coop. with officials from the provincial government, Office of Rep. Eric Go Yap, municipal government of Atok and beneficiaries held ceremonial switch-on and energization of sitios Poshongan and Telmod in Barangay Topdac here.
Licoben said energization of the two  areas was part of the Beneco sitio energization funded by the national government through the National Electrification Administration and implemented with stakeholders.
He said government had been giving subsidy and funding for sitio electrification program to ensure geographically isolated sitios will be energized and would have electricity in their homes.
For sitios Poshongan and Telmod, the government funded at least P2 million for energization of households.
Licoben said Beneco erected 40 poles, laid out 1.5-km primary lines and three kilometers of secondary lines  and installed a transformer.
Mayor Raymundo Sarac thanked the Beneco and national government for the project that “lighted” the residences in the two sitios. 
“This is part of the development and improvement of the municipality being undertaken to uplift lives of the people,” he said.
Beneficiaries also expressed gratitude.
“We thank you for bringing electricity in the sitios. Now we will no longer be groping in the dark,” said Victoria Tigmayo said in vernacular in her message to Beneco and other stakeholders.
She thanked the Beneco for their sacrifices in placing poles and wires to bring electricity in their houses in far and mountainous areas.
“I am thankful that electricity already reached my house in Poshongan. This is the first time in 100 years that we now have electricity in our home. I say 100 years since I am now 67 and this is the first time that we have electricity,” Larry Moltio said.
Beneco said there are still more than 600 sitios that need  to be energized in Benguet.  
Representatives of Gov. Diclas and Rep. Yap vowed to work closely with the NEA for funding of more sitio electrification projects in the province. – Alwin Quitasol, JDP, RMC/PIA  


107-year old patient recovers; Baguio with 1,639 Covid-19 cases, 20th death

BAGUIO CITY – This city posted its 20th Covid-19 fatality, even as 36 new cases were recorded on Oct. 18.
    Baguio also posted a total of 1,639 confirmed cases, 546 active, 1,073 recoveries.
    The latest fatality was a 43-year-old male, who died Oct. 17, due to acute respiratory distress syndrome, severe pneumonia, and Covid-19.
    He was admitted at a hospital on Oct. 10 after suffering from fever and cough for four days. 
    Of the new patients, 24 were contact-traced, seven detected through expanded testing, three tested for other reasons while two were symptomatic.
    Of the new cases, eight were minors, including a two-day-old boy.
    This, as a 106-year-old resident of Barangay Irisan recovered from Covid-19.
City health services officer Rowena Galpo said the patient, who was confined for 11 days at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, was discharged Tuesday.
    Galpo said the patient, who developed mild symptoms, tested positive for the virus on Oct. 9.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the Covid-19 fight in the city has shifted to the households as seen in the current statistics.
    This meant that city’s strategies should now target families and neighborhoods to engender a behavioral change in such a way that minimum health standards against the disease becomes part of their way of life even at home.
    Magalong asked barangay officials to take the lead in implementing the new programs in their areas of jurisdiction which included information education communication campaign and dialogues in barangay, which have the potential to become flashpoints or hotspots, and giving incentives to barangays that are complying with health measures.
    Earlier, a 77-year-old male died on October 16 after three days of confinement, while an 80-year-old male, who was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital on Oct. 16. Both had health problems.


PIA pushes Ibanag culture preservation

By Ma. Jessica Pabalinas and Oliver T. Baccay

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan -- The Philippine Information Agency - Cagayan Information Center launched Wednesday two literary contests highlighting preservation of the Ibanag culture.
    Angely L. Mercado, officer-in-charge of PIA region 2, said the events were in support to Indigenous Peoples' Month celebration this October, featuring the lives of the Ibanags, their culture, traditions, beliefs and rich history.
She said Ybanag is already a dying language that is why continuous advocacies and promotions are needed to preserve the language.
Oliver T. Baccay, information center manager, discussed details of the Ibanag short story writing contest and the quiz bee during the virtual launching which was attended by local media practitioners and culture heritage advocates.
The short story writing aims to highlight the life, tradition, culture, belief, history or literature of the Ibanags.
Stories must be written in Ybanag language with 1,000 minimum words but not more than 2,000. Entries should be submitted online through email addresses: piacagayan@gmail.com or oliver.baccay@pia.gov.ph.
For the Quiz Bee, one question will be posted every day, from Mondays to Fridays which started Oct. 5 to Oct. 23 every 12 noon.
There will be 15 questions to be posted, five each for the easy, average and difficult levels.
The contests are open to all ages and can be participated in by interested individuals worldwide, Baccay added.
The winner for the short story writing contest will receive P5,000, the second placer will receive P4 000, the 3rd placer will receive P3, 000 while five individuals will be given consolation prizes of P100 worth of cellphone load. The youngest and the oldest writers will also receive each P2,000.
For the online quiz bee, winners will receive P5,000 , P4,000 and P3,000 for the first, second and third placers, respectively. Five individuals will also be given P100 worth of cellphone load.
A special incentive of P2,000 will also be awarded to the individual who can answer all the 15 questions.
Benjamin De Yro, local historian, said there have been several efforts on the preservation of the Ibanag culture but urged stakeholders that more efforts should be initiated to ensure that the next generation will still live by the said culture.
"Preserving the Ibanag culture starts at home. Parents should teach their children how to speak the Ybanag. They can still teach their children of other languages but they should not forget their original language," De Yro said.
On her part, Eloisa Mabborang, teacher and a scholar of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said the education department has been promoting and preserving the Ibanag culture through its ‘Indigenous Peoples Education Program’ and the ‘Mother-Tongue Based teaching’. 
"We now realize the importance of teaching our students their original language. Parents should also help in enriching the knowledge of their children about the Ibanag culture and in practicing them to speak in the Ybanag language," Mabborang said.
Mabborang also encouraged Ybanag writers and advocates to publish more literatures to include dictionary and magazines related to the Ibanag culture. -- MDCT/OTB/PIA-Cagayan 



Baguio City council: No to additional taxi units

By Aldwin Quitasol

BAGUIO CITY -- The City Council voiced its strong opposition against the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) insistence to accept applicants for 200 taxi units to replace “expired and abandoned” franchises.
    Citing studies and recommendations submitted by the Traffic and Transportation Management Division of the City Engineering Office and petition papers from different transport groups, the council said additional taxi units will do more harm than good.
    There are currently 3,227 active taxi franchises in Baguio City as per an LTFRB report.
    The council said the number is sufficient to cater to the needs of the riding public in the region.
    A study cited by the Council committee on public utilities, transportation and traffic stated the city requires only 2,452 taxi units for Baguio residents and 769 units for LISTT (La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay) areas, or a total of 3,121 units for BLISTT.
    The taxi units operate mainly in Baguio City.
    The committee report said deficiency in the supply of taxi units can be resolved by lifting the existing number coding policy for cabs only, which would mean more units plying the city roads.
    The preparation of the Land Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP) is another ground for setting aside the plan to add more cabs, the committee noted.
    “The LPTRP will promote mass transportation ridership through efficient fleet management. Its implementation will create an impact on the riding behavior of the public and it is expected to reduce the use of regular taxis. There is likewise a need to study further the use of other transport systems that cater to unserved areas that are not served by regular taxis,” the committee report read.
    The committee further slammed the LTFRB for not heeding the call of the local government to abort its plan to open the application for additional taxi units.
    The move contradicts LTFRB’s existing moratorium on the issuance of franchises in the city, the council said.


Kubradors, troubadours, contractors

>> Sunday, October 25, 2020

March L. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- They’re back. On the first day of this month, they re-invaded their turf. They were back on their usual routes in barangays, in the market, eskinitas and even in government offices.
    If the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) can allow tourists to now ramble around, why can’t they. That could have been the reason jueteng operators were compelled to let loose their bet collectors back on the streets.
    And since most kubradors for jueteng are the bet collectors for Small Town Lottery (STL), the latter has also resumed operations after six months of suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as long as they maintained the minimum health standards set by the task force.
    Many if not all jueteng kubradors involved in guerilla operations wear STL green vests and use IDs issued for STL. Senator Ping Lacson said this years ago, further saying that the police know it because it is happening on the ground. On many occasions, the police had been accused for lack of commitment to get rid of jueteng.
    Exactly, jueteng and guerilla operations may be the reasons PCSO is not complaining about its collection from STL operators. Is it because operators still have enough room for guerrilla operations?
    The senator then urged the PCSO to maximize its collection of the required remittance from authorized agent corporations (AACs) called presumptive monthly retail receipts (PMRR), so it could get its full share from franchises and operators and limit the elbow room for guerrilla operations.
    Last week’s news reports confirmed that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) already issued a circular to all 61 ACCs allowing them to continue after their STL and lotto operations were suspended in March.
    However, this year’s operation will not be part of the “new normal” brought about by the pandemic because as usual, STL comes back but jueteng comes back with it.
    Again, PCSO will not mind being “cheated” in its STL operations as Sen. Lacson, now vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Games and Amusement which he chaired in the past, estimated that P50 billion a year is lost in STL operations.
    Sen. Lacson claimed in 2017 that jueteng collections reached an estimated P50 billion a year or P50 million to P65 million daily as compared to P6.4 billion generated from STL operations in a previous year.
    The computation for the PMRR is arrived at by considering the 30 per cent of the voting population multiplied by P2.50 average bet, by three draws a day and by 30 days. But how can the PCSO maximize its collection when the operator of STL in an area is the jueteng operator himself, if not in cahoots with jueteng personalities?
When the Luzon-wide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic took effect on March 17, 2020; one portion of society that was heavily affected was the live entertainment section dominated by performing musicians and artists all over.
    Their allied workers in the night spots such as the dancers, waitresses and waiters, dishwashers and kitchen helpers suddenly became jobless and useless. This sector should have been given a special share of the Social Amelioration Fund under the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” law.
    With the economy reopening slowly but necessarily, local IATF should consider allowing the troubadours and their partners back to their workplace since these people also have families to support.
    As in dine-in restaurants and fast food joints where tables were rearranged in observance of health protocols, the same can be done in watering holes and entertainment bars. With a live band covering Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind'', a table for two is just perfect.
While it may not be illegal or unlawful, the act of inserting amounts of money in the national expenditure program for projects in a certain congressional district that becomes the conduit where one gets his share from the inserted amounts, is simply immoral.
    I look at this as money-laundering done in another style. The typical example is for a congressman to insert P1 Billion in the national budget law to fund a road project in a province. Since it takes two to tango, the contractor who bids the project gives back the percentage share of the lawmaker from the amount collected from the project.
    The lawmaker’s share could be equivalent to 20 per cent. Some can go as high as 40 per cent, I was told. In most cases, contractors pay an initial amount even before bidding the project, then pay the balance upon the first collection based on the accomplishment of the project. Some contractors advance the full amount.
    For the lawmaker responsible for the insertion, the money comes easy and unseen. If the funds allocated and inserted in various line agencies has a total of P10 Billion, the expected 40 percentage share is equivalent to P4 billion. Cool and simple.
    Maybe that is why even politicians who are not from Benguet wish to become this province’s congressman. This early, I am told that one of them is distributing public works projects to favored contractors, especially those who are not from Benguet.
It is being spread in public that the politician has been giving dole-outs of cash during meetings with barangay kapitanes and local chief executives, although I suspect the money being given away was from the percentage obligations collected from contractors.
    What is quite disturbing is the manner employed by such a politician in convincing people to accept him as their true representative, with his henchmen making the rounds this early in the 13 municipalities of Benguet.
    In doing those rounds, assurances are made to contractors big and small, while one or two infra projects worth a few millions are promised to each of the 140 Punong Barangays. Be careful. Beautiful things that are attractive and easily offered may be very ugly in the end.
    It is pitiful that Benguet reaches such a situation. It is sad and insulting that because of rosy promises, donations and cash dole-outs; we allow our affairs to be run by an outsider who is unmistakably pushing things for personal gains. In other words, we are selling Benguet if it has not been bought.  
Still on public works anomalies, one of the contractors is complaining that a project bidding in Benguet that he participated in has been requested by the BAC to be declared as a “failure” even while his documents have yet to be evaluated.
    In short, he has not been disqualified but the bidding was declared a failure. There was likely a miscommunication but the damage has been done. The only solution to the problem is to award him the contract or else those responsible in destroying the process will reap the consequences.
    To make things worse, the project was rebidded this week even while not all the licensed contractors who participated in its first bidding have yet to be evaluated. The acts committed by the bids committee are clear violations of the anti-graft law and the procurement law. 


  © Blogger templates Palm by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP  

Web Statistics