Cordi gov’t directors hit for ‘tokhang’ vs media, groups

>> Tuesday, March 2, 2021

RPOC urged: Reject RLECC resolution 




BAGUIO CITY — National media organizations like the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the biggest media group in Cordillera assailed a resolution of the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (RLECC) adapting a “tokhang-type” campaign against “left-leaning” groups and individuals in media and government in the administration’s drive against communist insurgency.
    The NUJP dubbed the resolution “anathema to democracy. Not only does it violate basic civil rights by arbitrarily judging people sans due process, it also poses a real danger to life and limb given the trail of bodies tokhang has left in the drug war,” the NUJP said in a statement. It called on the RLECC to junk it.
    Under RLECC Resolution No. 4, series of 2021 signed by 45 government regional directors, government teams will visit so-called "left-leaning personalities," including government personnel and members of media, as part of counterinsurgency campaign.
    “The latest resolution of the RLECC enjoining members of law enforcement agencies together with representatives of local government units to conduct tokhang to known "left-leaning" personalities in the government, media, and other entities is sending a chilling effect to the people who believe in the freedom of expression and who have still faith in democracy,” the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) said in a statement Thursday.
    Among others, the BCBC said the intent of the resolution was unconstitutional.
    In a separate statement, human rights alliance Karapatan pointed out that the “tokhang operations have been bloody, prompting relatives of victims to file a complaint before the International Criminal Court against President Duterte for crimes against humanity”.
    In its preliminary examination, the ICC has found “reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity of murder, torture and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane Acts were committed.”
    By adopting the same tactic, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said the resolution “is a direct violation of people’s right to due process, to freedom of association, against illegal search and right to life.”
On Thursday, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Cordillera Director Romel Daguimol withdrew his signature from the RLECC-CAR resolution.
    “Insurgency must be addressed, but it must be done with human rights at its core,” he said in a statement.
    “We continue to condemn terrorism, as well as the use of armed struggle to topple the government. But we continue to stand that activism is not a crime. Our people should be free to express legitimate dissent and grievances for the government to act on,” he added.
    Daguimol said the resolution was “inconsistent” with the CHR’s official position.
    “As an independent national human rights institution, it is best that CHR maintains its observer status in this and similar committees,” he said. 
    The BCBC said they, welcomed CHR director Daguimol’s withdrawal of his signature from the resolution and standing by the rights of the people of the freedom of expression.
    “We appeal to the other signatories to do the same. May we appeal also to members of the Cordillera Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) to reject the RLECC resolution on Constitutional grounds.” (See Behind the Scenes in page 4 for complete text of BCBC statement).
    "Tokhang", or "knock and plead", operations were launched in 2016 as the government began its "war on drugs."
As originally planned, police officers would go to people on their "narco-lists" to convince them to surrender and to go into drug rehabilitation problems.
    "Tokhang" has since come to be associated with the deaths of "drug personalities" either in law enforcement operations or by unknown killers. 
     It is unclear how "Tokhang" will be implemented against "left-leaning" personalities since being a leftist is not illegal.
    The government has been equating activism and dissent with taking up arms against the government.
    In its 2021 World Report entry on the Philippines, rights watchdog Human Rights Watch noted "leftist activists and human rights defenders were key targets of physical and online attacks."
    "On August 17 (2020), unidentified gunmen shot dead Zara Alvarez, a legal worker for the human rights group Karapatan, in Bacolod City in the central Philippines. Alvarez’s killing came a week after peasant leader Randall Echanis was found dead, apparently tortured, in his home in Quezon City. Alvarez was the 13th Karapatan member killed during the Duterte administration."
    Rights monitor Karapatan also tallied 328 extrajudicial killings of activists and rights workers between July 2016 and August 2020, according to its May-August 2020 monitor, its most recent report.
    Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. R’Win Pagkalinawan, who co-chairs the RLECC with National Bureau of Investigation Cordillera regional director Hector Geologo said police officers are now undergoing special training to operationalize the "tokhang-style" campaign that will be implemented at the barangay level.
    According to RLECC Resolution No. 4, series of 2021, police officers will be joined by church leaders and members, NGOs, and barangay officials for the "tokhang."
    The plan of the RLECC members, according to Pagkalinawan, will be brought to the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) for their concurrence and adoption to convince LGUs to support the campaign.

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‘Bombing, strafing by gov’t troops terrorize MP villages’

BESAO, Mountain Province  - Continuous bombing and strafing by joint combat units of the 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police Special Action Force in Mountain Province this February have brought terror and great disturbance to communities here.
    This, according to Magno Udyaw, spokesperson of Leonardo Pacsi Command - New People's Army Mountain Province.
In a statement sent to media outfits, Udyaw said a bomb was dropped Feb. 11 while four rounds of strafing was done in pasture lands here at Barangay Tamboan.
    This was reportedly followed with nine rounds of strafing in the boundary of Besao, and Tubo, Abra, pasture land and hunting grounds of communities last Feb. 15.
    "The bombing and strafing was done even if there was no armed encounter between government troops and the NPA this February in the province. It has only terrorized village folks and disturbed their livelihood,” he said.
    Udyaw said, “after the successful tactical offensive by a unit under the Augustin Begnalen Command - NPA Abra, government troops dropped at least 14 bombs in the boundary of Tubo and Besao which killed a pasture animal.
    According to Major Rogelio Dumbrigue of the 7th ID, bombing and strafing are reportedly standard operating procedures of the military with or without armed encounter with the NPA.
    “This only means that they have no concern about the lives and livelihood of innocent civilians. These bombings and strafing is only meant to bring fear among the people," Udyaw added. 
    Udyaw called on people of Mountain Province to condemn such  acts of the AFP and PNP and demand indemnification for killed pasture animals, environment al destruction, and trauma experienced by the people.
    The LPC-NPA urged Mountain Province folks to call for total stop of military operations in this time of Covid-19 pandemic. 

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P11.5 billion Baguio mass transport monorail pushed

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY -- A multinational holdings company is proposing to the local government a P11.5 billion mass transport project composed of a 4-km elevated monorail around the central business district area and a series of feeder lines  composed of battery-powered buses to make Baguio City the first urban center to pilot green ecosystem and electric-powered monorail system.
    The prosed monorail project will consist of eight strategic stations around the central business district which will be powered by electricity and some 300 battery-powered buses that will service transportation of residents from their residences to monorail stations and to their places of work.
    Robert John Sobrepen֮a, chairman of the Metro Global Holdings Corp., said the project will be inclusive of all sectors involved in the city’s public mass transportation to ensure alignment with existing policies.
    He told city officials during recent executive-legislative meeting that initial estimates for the project was based from a pre-feasibility conducted by the company.
    The company was authorized by the city government to conduct a pre-feasibility study for the proposed mass public transportation solution to help address worsening traffic problem, air and noise pollution with the goal of bringing back the city’s greenery through various environmental programs and projects.
    “The project will be fully funded by the company through the public-private partnership over a 50-year period of the franchise,” Sobrepen֮a said.
    Under the company’s proposal, the local government will be entitled to five percent of the fixed fare that will be collected from the single use ticket system.
    Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong urged the company to submit its unsolicited proposal for evaluation and assessment by the city’s Public Private Partnership for the People Selection Committee.
    He added proponent should also consider public utility drivers directly affected or displaced by the project.
    He said there are other companies that have made similar proposals to the local government, thus, the same will be subjected to evaluation and assessment by the city’s P4 committee once proposal is submitted.
 

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Sandigan clears former Cagayan gov of graft

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- A former governor of Cagayan has been acquitted of graft charges in connection with the allegedly anomalous construction of the P213-million Cagayan Town Center (CTC), which was funded through the province’s bond sales.  
    In a 67-page decision promulgated on Feb. 19, the Sandiganbayan said the Office of the Ombudsman failed to prove that former Cagayan governor Edgar Lara acted with malice, in bad faith and partiality when he awarded the contracts for the construction of the CTC or the Paseo Reale Mall.
Lara was acquitted of two counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
    The anti-graft court said local government units have the power to issue bonds to finance their development projects in accordance with law.
    The Sandiganbayan ordered the release of the P60,000 bail that Lara earlier posted for his provisional liberty. It also withdrew the hold order it issued against him.
    Filed by the ombudsman in 2011, one of the cases stemmed from the provincial goverment’s award of a financial consultancy service contract to Preferred Ventures Inc. (PVI) in November 2001.
    The PVI helped the provincial government source funds for the construction through bond flotation.
    The company was paid three percent of the total amount of the bonds issued and floated.
    Records showed that of the P205-million bonds floated, P6.15 million was paid to the PVI for the services it rendered to the provincial government.
    The other case stemmed from the award of a design and construction contract amounting to P213.795 million to the Asset Builders Corp. (ABC) in September 2003.
    The ombudsman said both contracts were awarded without public bidding and prior authorization from the provincial board.
    It said the ABC was overpaid by P8.33 million as the contract price for the project was only P213.732 million.
    The Sandiganbayan said the existing procurement rules in 2001, when the contract with PVI was entered into, did not yet require public bidding.
    As to the contract with ABC, the anti-graft court said a public bidding was conducted as shown in the Resolution of Award.

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Ilocos Sur peace gab gauds NPAs to surrender

 


By Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog

GREGORIO DEL PILAR, Ilocos Sur – Army and other government officials held a peace forum here recently to entice members of the New People’s Army to lay down their arms and join mainstream society.
    The forum was also aimed to raise awareness on recruitment tactics of communist groups and scheme of organizing the masses in barangays.
    Some 50 barangay officials, tanods, and residents from the seven barangays of the municipality attended.
    Initiated by the Army’s 81st Infantry Battalion (IB), 702nd Infantry Brigade, topics included government's fight against terrorism and insurgency, and benefits for former rebels and members of Militia ng Bayan such as the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP).
    Informative videos in connection with President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 that institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” were also presented during the gathering.
    “The essence of the 'whole-of-nation approach' is the involvement of everybody, all sectors of our society, especially our front liners, the people in the vulnerable communities. Educating them and enhancing their awareness against the evils and deception of the communist group is one of our important tools in ending the local communist armed conflict in the province,” said Lt. Col. Rodrigo A. Mariñas, Jr., commander of 81st IB.
    A former rebel also shared his testimony and experiences on rexcuitment tactics of communist groups.
    A covenant signing denouncing the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as terrorists and declaring them as persona non grata in the municipality was conducted led by Mayor Henry S. Gallardo, Lt. Col. Mariñas, Jr., 702nd Brigade Civil-Military Operations Officer Major Rogelio A. Dumbrigue, Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office Provincial Intelligence Officer Police Lt. Col. Ariel C. Celino and Chief Provincial Operations Management Unit Police Major Rodel U. Ularte, GDP police station chief Lt. Rodel Marzan and the barangay officials.
    In his message, Mayor Gallardo told the residents, “What the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police and DILG brought here for this activity is the solution to the problem that we are facing. If we had in any way been doing something before for those on the other side, let’s stop it already. I encourage you to, instead, support our government agencies on this campaign.”    
    With the theme, “Unity and solidarity for peace and development of our communities”, the forum was held in coordination with the Peace and Law Enforcement Development Support Cluster of the municipal task force to end local communist armed conflict (MTF-ELCAC) of Gregorio Del Pilar. -- PIA Ilocos Sur

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LTFRB Ilocos urged: Allow Pangasinan bus operations

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — The chief of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Ilocos region has been asked to explain his alleged inaction on a request of the provincial government of Pangasinan to resume public transportation to Metro Manila.
    Gov. Amado Espino III sent the letter-request on Dec. 29, 2020, fourth district board member Jeremy Agerico Rosario said Tuesday.
    Rosario said LTFRB-Ilocos director Nasrudin Talipasan has yet to respond to the request of resuming the operation of the inter-provincial bus.
    Espino noted in the letter that all local government units in Pangasinan were in favor of the resumption of the provincial bus operation.
    He asked the LTFRB to issue special permits to the Five Star Bus Co. Inc., Victory Liner Inc. and First North Transit Inc. to operate on a limited capacity.
    Rosario said public transportation including buses in other provinces in the region have resumed operations, but not in Pangasinan.
    Rosario said they wanted Talipasan to attend their session and clear the issue.

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Mayor orders construction sites checked; outbreak on

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY -- Mayor Benjamin Magalong has ordered inspection of all construction sites and workers’ barracks in the city following Covid-19 outbreak among workers in one construction site near a condominium.
    The mayor ordered City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Peña, City Health Services Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo and City Buildings and Architecture Officer Johnny Degay to spearhead the inspections.
    Violation of health standards and protocols will result in cancellation of building permits.
    The move came on the heels of the contact tracing team report on the investigation done on the construction workers and their contacts who turned positive.
    Contact tracing reports showed gross violations of the health and safety protocols in construction and barracks sites like overall unsanitary condition of the premises, conduct of drinking sprees, failure to wear face masks and disregard of quarantine requirements.
    It was also gathered that some of these laborers undertake jobs in other construction sites furthering the risk of transmission.
    The construction workers were the city's latest Covid-19 cluster which prompted orders for a hard lockdown over the area.

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Tattoo artist arrested in La Trinidad

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- A tattoo artist was arrested by town police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Benguet operatives in a buy-bust operation here in Barangay Balili Feb. 22. 
    Christian Gray Cuna aka “Ischan”, was arrested after he sold  P14,076 worth of shabu to a cop, said a report from the regional police headquarters here in Camp Dangwa.  
    A plastic sachet of suspected shabu weighing 2.07 grams was seized from the suspect. 
    Inventory of confiscated items was done in the presence of punong barangay Billy Bilango and media representative Joel Cervantes. 
    Cuna is now facing charges for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

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Ilocos Sur: 4 Covid- 19 deaths, 348 cases

By Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur -- The province of Ilocos Sur recorded its fourth Covid-19 death Monday night, making the province with a total of 348 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 34 of which were active confirmed cases with 311 recoveries and deaths as of Feb. 23.
    In a statement, Gov. Ryan Luis Singson said the patient was a 60-year-old male from Barangay Pudoc West in Tagudin town.
    The patient was the third recorded Covid-19 death in the said town.
    On Feb. 8, the patient sought consultation at a private clinic where diagnostic procedures were done.
    He was admitted at the Ilocos Sur District Hospital-Tagudin, due to incidental detection of cough and the result of the radiologist test, where he stayed in a private room soon after thoracentesis was completed.
     Investigation bared no history of travel or exposure to a known confirmed case where his initial antigen test result was negative to SARS-Cov-2.
    On Feb. 17, he manifested difficulty of breathing which prompted immediate intubation and subsequent transfer to Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center in San Fernando City, La Union.
    He was swabbed upon admission and his RT-PCR rendered a positive result.
    The patient died Feb. 23 with final diagnosis of septic shock secondary to pneumonia, severe Covid-19 confirmed-critical case; chronic kidney disease, diabetes and pneumothorax.
    “We are deeply in sorrow and we empathize with the family of our deceased provincemate,” said Singson. “Despite stringent protocols and steadfast implementation of mitigation measures, he added, Covid-19 remains difficult to abate.”
    Ilocos Sur recorded its third Covid-19 death on Dec. 2, 2020.
    He was a 45-year-old male from Barangay Maynganay Sur, Sta. Maria, who died of acute respiratory failure secondary to asphyxia secondary to achalasia; Covid-19 and severe community acquired pneumonia. -- PIA Ilocos Sur

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Illegal settlers refuse to vacate Vizcaya danger zone; DENR sets cases

By Benjamin Moses M. Ebreo

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya - The Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to file charges against illegal settlers who refuse to leave the geo-hazard areas at Barangay Runruno in Quezon town where people were killed were recently killed during a landslide.
    Edgar Martin Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer said the legal move is needed since many of the illegal settlers who come from the provinces of Quirino, Isabela and Ifugao provinces continue to defy their order to leave their homes as they are situated in geo-hazard areas.
    "We have been continuously telling them of the risks and their violations in living in the geo-hazard and forest zone areas. So far, many have complied with our order and there are still some who refuse to leave the area," he said.
    Martin recently attended the Sangguniang Panlalawigan hearing on environmental issues and concerns in Runruno headed by Board Member Flodemonte Gerdan.
    Martin said since the Runruno tragedy that killed 10 illegal settlers during the onset of typhoon 'Ulysses', a series of dialogues and information campaign activities have been conducted by the DENR, MGB, PNP, LGU and other agencies to convince the illegal settlers to leave their high risk abodes.
    He said that out of the 411 illegal settlers, only 28 families refuse to leave the geo-hazard areas in sitios Bit-ang 1 and 2, Balcony and Compound.
    "Most of these illegal settlers have been compensated properly by the FCF Minerals Corporation since the previous years," Martin said.
    He added that a 21-hectare relocation area in Barangay Boliwao is now being procured by the local government unit of Quezon for the illegal settlers.
    Martin however said that only 37 families from Quezon town have qualified to be relocated in the area, based on criteria set by the National Housing Authority(NHA) which also pledged P50 million for the development of the relocation site.
    He said that checkpoints have been set-up in barangay Runruno to prevent illegal entrants from entering the geo-hazard areas including installation of billboards warning the entry of entrants.
    Martin said the move to relocate the illegal settlers in the geo-hazard areas in barangay Runruno is part of the government's Build Back Better Program after typhoon 'Ulysses' severely flooded most of Cagayan Valley region's provinces and cities. -- PIA 2-Nueva Vizcaya

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3 Bontoc schools to get Starbooks from DOST

By Alpine L. Killa 

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Three public schools of this capital town will soon have the first digital science library in the Philippines -- the Science and Technology Academic and Research-Based Openly Operated Kiosks (Starbooks) of the Dept. of Science and Technology (DOST). Recipients are Dalican National High School (NHS), Guina-ang NHS, and Guina-ang NHS- Mainit Extension.
    The schools are located in End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) identified barangays.
The DOST allocated P150, 000 under the ELCAC funding for the procurement of Starbooks.
Starbooks is a stand-alone information kiosk, hence information access is possible even without internet connection that is why it is for isolated areas.
The information kiosk contains educational videos, library materials, DOST publications including the Philippine Science Journal, DOST technologies, interactive Science and Math course ware, and other education-related materials.
Prior to turnover of Starbooks kiosks to recipients, a memorandum of agreement was forged between the DOST represented by DOST Mountain Province chief Alfonso Berto and Bontoc government represented by Mayor Franklin Odsey and Labor and Employment Officer II/ Science and Technology coordinator Jenelyn Caluza . Also present was Municipal Accountant Yolanda Comafay.
The signing of the MOA was held Feb. 17 at Bontoc Municipal Capitol.

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Surprise market inspection yields 600 kg spoiled meat

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY --  - A surprise inspection at the city public market Feb. 18 yielded close to 600 kilograms of meat unfit for human consumption up for sale to consumers.
    City Veterinarian Brigit Piok in a report to Mayor Benjamin Magalong said a total of 574.3 kg of meat and chicken were confiscated from six sellers in the operation jointly conducted by the City Veterinary Officer, the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and the Public Order and Safety Division (POSD) headed by Marvin Herrera.
    Piok said the confiscated meat were found to be either hemorrhagic or pneumonic, mishandled, decomposed or with foul odor while the chicken products were found to have been color-enhanced.
    Piok said they turned over confiscation documents to the City Market Superintendent Fernando Ragma Jr. for filing of cases against the erring sellers.
    City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias said his office will work with the Permits and Licensing Division on the cancellation of business permits, if any, of the offenders.
    Magalong lauded the team members for their effort which he said is necessary at this time when some people take advantage of the problem on meat supply shortage.
    Piok said the meat market task force decided to conduct the surprise inspection and random monitoring as part of its mandate to safeguard public health by preventing consumers from buying meat that are not safe.
    "Although meat vendors are aware of the safe and hygienic meat handling laws and regulations, there are still violators hence we do inspections regularly and at random but this time, it was done in surprise to catch those who do not comply with our laws," Piok said.

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3 ELCAC dev't projs set in Rizal, Kalinga

By Peter A. Balocnit

RIZAL, Kalinga -- Three projects with total fund of P20 million were approved for Barangay Babalag East in this town under the End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) and Retooled Community Support Program of the Dept. of Interior and Local Government.
    These are the construction of water system for Purok 3 worth P3 million; construction of health center building  worth P2 million and concreting of the Barroga-Baggas road with box culvert worth P15 M.
    Municipal Planning and Development coordinator Cynthia Vicente said the local government unit of Rizal received notice these projects were included in the General Appropriations Act of 2021, and funds will be downloaded to the provincial government per Dept. of Budget and Management circular.
    She said the projects were selected from a checklist of priority projects during the barangay development plan enhancement Oct. 27-29 last year.
    Babalag East is one among eight recipient barangays in the Cordillera Administrative Region of ELCAC development projects that include four in Malibcong (Bayabas, Buano, Dulao and Duldulao), two in Sallapadan (Naguilian and Ud-udiao) in Abra, and Tambaon in Besao, Mountain Province.
    Babalag East has an area of more than 536 hectares with population of 1,196 of different ethnic tribes.
    Majority of the populace are engaged in farming and poverty is prevalent in the area. – PIA Kalinga

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PCSO: Closure of Isabela STL operation up to Du30

ILAGAN, Isabela -- The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is waiting for Malacañang’s order to suspend the operation of the small town lottery in Isabela province following allegations of violation of health and safety protocols as well as existence of unlicensed STL operators.
    Being under the Office of the President, the PCSO left it to President Duterte to decide to either stop or continue the STL operation in the province, according to PCSO general manager Royina Garma.
    “We respect the decision of the local government. However, the PCSO is under the Office of the President. We will have to wait for a directive from the Palace,” Garma told journalists recently.
    In a joint hearing of the House committees on good government and accountability, and games and amusement on Tuesday, lawmakers questioned Garma regarding the continued operation of PCSO’s authorized agent corporation (AAC) in Isabela, despite a closure order issued by Gov. Rodolfo Albano III and Cauayan Mayor Bernard Faustino Dy.
    Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy V, who sought an inquiry into the matter, said a majority of the province’s COVID cases were bet collectors of STL operator Sahara Games and Amusement Philippines Corp.
    Dy said Sahara was found to be operating without a business permit and license from the provincial and city governments.
    In his speech, Dy said STL bet collectors go around towns and cities, and could easily contract and spread the COVID virus.
    He said as of Feb. 8, Cauayan had 601 COVID cases, 188 of whom were employees of an STL operator.
    The town of San Marcelino recorded 199 cases, 117 of whom were STL workers, Dy said.

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Baguio night market reopens

BAGUIO CITY– The famous Baguio night market along Harrison Road here resumed operations Wednesday night after the city government through a task force approved its reopening.
    The night market was ordered closed when the national government imposed the enhanced community quarantine in March last year as the country declared national health emergency due to coronavirus pandemic.
    On Dec. 1, 2020, the night market was reopened in time for Christmas. 
    But Mayor Benjamin Magalong ordered its immediate closure after a day due to violations of health and safety protocols.
    The night market vendors were allowed to sell their wares after the city government approved resumption of the night market on Dec. 11, 2020 with stricter regulations and tighter security measures imposed.
    The night market was again closed as the whole Cordillera Region was put back under a General Community Quarantine Status starting Feb. 1. Last Wednesday, 352 stalls were reopened  — 304 for dry goods and 48 for food.
    The original number of stalls before the quarantines was over 1,000.
    Strict entry and exit points including safety protocols were observed during the reopening.
    The night market is open to the public from 8 to 11:30 p.m. every night.

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DepEd pushes limited face-to-face classes

In non-Covid-19 areas 

By Oliver T. Baccay

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan -- Education Secretary Leonor Briones said she will again submit a proposal to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease to consider limited face-to-face classes in areas with no cases of Covid-19. 
    In a virtual press conference with the media of Cagayan Valley region, Briones said she was inclined to request again to the President in their executive conference to reconsider pilot testing for limited face-to-face classes 
    Late last year, the President approved the proposal to such in areas with low-risk of Covid-19 infection but the order was recalled when new variants were discovered in other countries. 
    "There are areas in the country, including some islands and remote towns of Cagayan Valley, that do not have any case of Covid-19 so maybe they can do limited face-to-face but it is only the President who can decide to whether we can do face-to-face or not," Briones said. 
    She said limited face-to-face in areas without or with minimal cases is supposed to be part of the blended learning strategies.
But this is least priority as the department's top concern is safety and health of the children. 
    "We listen to the proposals on academic ease but not for academic freeze. Our children should continue learning. We will devise all possible means so that they will be behind in the pursuit of their dreams to finish their studies," Briones said. 
    She also urged parents and children to bear with the situation, especially the modular mode of learning. -- PIA 2-Cagayan

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PDEA: 18 Ilocos towns cleared of illegal drugs

By Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog

GALIMUYOD, Ilocos Sur – Eighteen out of 32 towns and 391 out of 632 barangays in Ilocos Sur are “drug-cleared.”
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Ilocos Region bared this saying Galimuyod was the most recent town to be drug-cleared.
PDEA-Ilocos Sur chief Anabel Cabarles said all 24 barangays of Galimuyod, six of which are not affected by drugs passed parameters set under the national government’s drug-clearing program following assessments.
The official added the municipality passed criteria of Regional Oversight Committee on Barangay Drug Clearing December last year and was declared drug-cleared on probationary status along with Barangays Langlangca 1st and Santo Tomas of Candon City. 
They were given 30 days to comply and provide lacking documents set under memorandum circular 2020-026 or Omnibus Procedures in Declaring a Drug-Affected Barangay as ‘Drug-Cleared’ under the Barangay Drug Clearing Program.
Galimuyod also established its “Balay Silangan” which serves as temporary shelters to drug offenders as they reform into becoming self-sufficient and law-abiding members of society.
Cabarles said they officially made the declaration in a ceremony led by PDEA RO I Assistant Regional Director Restie P. Lamorena, in behalf of PDEA Regional Director Bryan B. Babang, and Galimuyod Mayor Jessie B. Balingsat on Jan. 20. – PIA Ilocos Sur

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150 rebels, supporters surrender in Cagayan

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has lauded the recent surrender of at least 150 New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas and their supporters in Cagayan.
    Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., chief of the Northern Luzon Command, said the surrender was a major victory in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign.
    “This mass surrender of the Milisya ng Bayan and party members from different NPA-affiliated mass organizations is a testament that the communist terrorists no longer enjoy the support of the masses in these communities,” Burgos said.
    He urged other rebels and their supporters to abandon the armed struggle and return to the fold of the law.
    The surrenderees are currently undergoing debriefing and profiling, a requirement for the government’s enhanced comprehensive local integration program set for returning rebels.                                     

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CCDC student top 7 in Social Worker board examination

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, Feb. 19(PIA) -- A Cordilleran is among the topnotchers in the recent Social Worker Licensure Examination.
    Kathrine Vaneza L. Sierra from the Cordillera Career Development College    is   the Top 7 in  the Social Worker board examination with a rating of 81.40.  She leads  the 18 passers  out of the 44 examinees from the school located in the capital town of Benguet for  a 40.91 passing rate.
    The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced that 495 out of 1,473 passed the Social Worker Licensure Examination given by the Board for Social Workers in the cities of Manila, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi, Lucena, Pagadian, Pangasinan, Tacloban, Tuguegarao and Zamboanga this February 2021. The results were released in three   working days after the last day of examination.
     Successful passers are advised to go online thru www.prc.gov.ph and follow the instructions for initial registration.  Registration for the issuance of Professional Identification Card (ID) and Certificate of Registration will be done on-line from April 5 to April 8, 2021.
    The PRC said that successful examinees should personally register and sign in the Roster of Registered Professionals.
Those who will register are required to bring the following: downloaded duly accomplished Oath Form or Panunumpa ng Propesyonal, notice of admission (for identification only), 2 pieces passport sized pictures (colored with white background and complete name tag), 2 sets of documentary stamps and 1 piece short brown envelope.  – PIA Cordillera

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DILG checks La Union road clearing operations

By Caren Grace R. Cabanayan

SAN FERNANDO CITY -- The Dept. of Interior and Local Government started cross validation among local government units in  La Union on implementation of road clearing operations.
Road clearing was suspended due to the pandemic but resumed October last year pursuant to DILG memorandum circular 2020-145.
“Sa cross-validation titignan natin yung mga ginawa ng ating mga LGUs at kung talaga bang sila ay nagsagawa na ng nasabing operations sa mga kalsada sa kanilang mga munisipyo at siyudad,” DILG Provincial Director Virgilio Sison told the Philippine information Agency.
Series of validation was conducted starting Feb. 16 until the end of the month.
Sison said LGUs who failed to fully implement the memo and committed road clearing violations will be issued a show cause order.
“Bibigyan natin sila ng pagkatataong ipaliwanag kung bakit hindi sila nakapag-comply,” he stated.
The DILG will be roaming around the province with other partner government agencies and private stakeholders. 
“Sa cross validation ay kasama natin ang police at BFP (Bureau of Fire Proetection) at isang non-government organization mula sa mismong munisipiyo o siyudad na ating pupuntahan,” he said.
Meanwhile, the provincial director also clarified that road clearing operation is different from road widening.
“Yung road clearing ay nakatutok lang sa mga roads na may mga obstructions. Halimbawa ay yung mga kalsada na may posteng wala sa tamang lugar o yung may pinatayong infrastructure o kaya naman ay ginawang parking space o may overlapping na mga bubong,” Sison said. -- PIA La Union

 

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Living under ‘new normal’

>> Wednesday, February 24, 2021

 BEHIND THE SCENES
Alfred P. Dizon

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Our neighborhood perennially drunk philosopher says government officials just don’t get it when it comes to living under the “new normal” and managing the threat of Covid-19 pandemic.
    His simplistic solution: Enough with these unreasonable lockdowns and restrictions. The economy needs to be put on track by opening businesses and returning jobs. People are hungry due to lack of jobs, hampered livelihood and travel. For those who want the vaccine, fine. But for heaven’s sake, let’s get on with life and do things we used to do. We only need precaution. 
   ***
We know the minimum standards to observe to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the dreaded disease—washing hands frequently, carrying a bottle of alcohol or disinfectant, wearing face masks and face shields if needed and avoiding unnecessary physical contacts.
    It is largely all up to us, really.
    Maybe we should include in the Covid-19 scoreboard the number of Filipinos dying of hunger daily, being unable to buy food due to unemployment or unaffordable prices of food and commodities. 
    This is not a choice between life and livelihood. People may not die of Covid-19 but of hunger. 
    We have for one year somehow learned to live with Covid-19. But when government officials impose irrational rules and restrictions on us poor folks to hamper the spread of Covid-19, so they say, and get more mind-boggling government funds for their programs, then there is something wrong.   
   ***
We live in La Trinidad. Our philosopher says every day, people are lining up along the road to get a ride. Public utility vehicles should not have been restricted and lessened so people can reach their destinations faster.
    You lessen PUJs, people suffer. There is no more social distancing in jeeps since there are a few of them plying the streets. Passengers are cramped and only separated by a thin cellophane sheet. With more jeeps, there should be more space for physical distancing. Whoever coined the terms “social distancing” deserves to be shot, he adds.
    Border control should have been eased, he says. His observation: People converge in hospitals, clinics and municipal halls to get medical certificates and may get Covid-19 in the process. They present such documents like IDs to cops holding sticks at borders like we are wayward children
   ***
Everybody is suffering because of restrictions. A lot of money was spent springing stranded foreign tourists from beach resorts but thousands of locally stranded Filipinos suffered and some died on the streets from hunger or illnesses because of border restrictions. 
    This, while the corruption-ridden P180-billion Social Amelioration Program (SAP) did very little to alleviate impact of the pandemic crisis on the poor, many of whom did not receive even an amount for a kilo of rice.
   ***
This time, the National Economic and Development Authority said relaxing to MGCQ status throughout the country will boost economic recovery with resumption of more businesses and return of more workers to their jobs. 
    Apparently, government economists are banking on impending arrival of Covid-19 vaccines even if people are apprehensive of getting injections particularly that Chinese vaccine which is priced way up to high heavens as compared to those lower priced from other countries with high efficacy rates.
    The country relaxing to MGCQ needs a calculating and ingenious balancing act that government agencies and local government units would implement. 
    If approved by President Duterte upon recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the success of MGCQ will depend on everyone’s cooperation.
   ***
The high rate of recoveries of Covid-19 patients is encouraging despite absence of vaccines.
    The total number of Covid-19 patients reached 553, 424, including 11,577 deaths as of Feb. 17, basing from figures of the Philippine Information Agency.
    At the start of the pandemic last year, without immediate mass testing, the lockdown instead contributed to the transmission of Covid-19 in crowded communities like the mining community of Itogon in Benguet. 
    We don’t want people to get the disease at the workplace. But not everyone can work from home like the vendors of Baguio some of whom have been harassed by arrogant members of the POSD.
   ***
We do not allow school children to return to the classrooms to avoid possible Covid-19 transmission among the kids but the IATF allows children to travel to crowded tourist spots like Boracay.
    In Baguio at press time, we got a report from Aileen P. Refuerzo, city information office chief saying children below 15 and adults over 65 of age are now allowed to engage in permitted activities including tourism-related ones based on executive order 10 series of 2021 (Prescribing general community quarantine guidelines) which took effect Feb. 1.
    One can now avail of goods or services, medical attention and report for work in permitted industries if you are in said age groups under the GCQ rules of the city.
    Our philosopher says, oh well. Children don’t usually work while the 65-years old and above are usually retired.
    Anyhow, according to the advisory, minors below 15 years old must be accompanied by parents or guardians at all times.     They are not allowed to enter enclosed crowded places such as groceries, markets, supermarkets, cinemas and similar premises where the number of persons exceeds more than 30 percent of the place's capacity, according to the advisory.
    These people whether residents or tourists are allowed to enter public parks, playgrounds and other open spaces with their parents and guardians. 
   ***
Anyhow, folks from Benguet towns surrounding Baguio have been restricted in going inside the city even as privileged people from Manila were allowed to go in like politicians, celebrities and politicians to relax and to party.
    In other parts of the country, senior citizens over 65 years old and children under age 15 are restricted from going outside their residences to the detriment of their psychological health, and yet we allow more foreigners like the Chinese and tourists into the country.
   ***
Somehow, some local governments, seeing the need of their constituents to work and bring food to their families, eased restrictions like mayor Gabby Ganggangan of Sadanga, Mountain Province.
    We may not agree to some of his usual tirades like those against the militant Cordillera People’s Alliance but maybe, he is right in opening the secluded town which had been under lockdown for many months.
    Even in the capital town of Bontoc, buses have resumed operations Thursday like Rising Sun.
   ***
Sagada, our hometown, is still restricted and looks like a ghost town basing from pictures posted by locals on Facebook. Gone were the hordes of tourists who walked every nook and cranny in the rustic place.
    The local economy has ground to a halt that even my youngest brother Perry who runs a modest inn there had to come to Baguio with his family and start a small business due to lack of tourists.
    This pandemic had affected and brought suffering to a lot of people but enriched some of those in government, but that is another story.
    Like our philosopher says, it is really up to every individual and family to cope and live with Covid-19. So strengthen your immune system for starters. Have you taken in that Vitamin C tablet before going out?     

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A bill to speed up justice in courts

EDITORIAL

The Senate approved last Monday Senate Bill 1886, to expand the jurisdiction of first and second-level courts nationwide to address delays in disposition of cases due to overloading in certain courts. SB 1886 is a consolidated measure from SB 1359 filed by Sen. Richard Gordon and SB 1353 filed by Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid.
    The bill seeks to expand the jurisdictions of the nation’s first and second-level courts, amending the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980
    Sen. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said the bill would expand the jurisdictional thresholds of the first-level courts – the Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts. This will help unclog the dockets of the second-level courts — the Regional Trial Courts.
    There were 21,269 pending civil cases in first-level courts and 106,484 cases pending in second-level courts as of December, 2018, according to the Office of the Court Administrator of the Supreme Court — an indication of the particularly heavy load of the second-level courts.
    Senate bill 1886 also delegates to the Supreme Court the power to further increase or decrease the jurisdictional threshold of the first and second-level courts in line with the Supreme Court’s power of administration over all courts.
    The bill addresses the problem of delays in court proceedings due to the heavy load of cases. It has been pointed out that because of too much work in the salas, even ministerial proceedings such as the posting of bail can suffer delays, as in the case of a respondent in the Navotas City court last week. Respondent Rolando Morato was arrested by police on a Thursday afternoon, charged as an accomplice in an illegal detention case, but the clerk of court, due to heavy workload, was able to issue an order of payment of bail for at 2 p.m. the next day and banks were already closing. The respondent was thus detained over the weekend.
    There have been many other weekend arrests and detention due to red tape and the heavy load of many courts. The Gordon-Lapid bill should help solve this problem. It deserves the support of other officials as it proceeds to the next step in the House of Representatives so it will soon be enacted into law.

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Trump’s ‘Day of Resurrection’

PERRYSCOPE

Perry Diaz

Just when QAnon conspiracy theories were debunked, a new theory is building up and is gathering acceptance among those who believe in Trumpism. 
    Ex-President Donald Trump who had been replaced by President Joe Biden is believed to be coming back to power.  He’ll be inaugurated as the 19th president of the United States on March 4.  Why 19th and not as 45th, 46th or 47th president?
    The story being peddled is that is that since 1871, the country called United States of America ceased to be a nation and became a corporation that belongs to the City of London.  The corporation is represented by an American flag with a gold fringe attached to it. 
    Are you with me so far?
    But what happened to Joe Biden who was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2021?  Well, Trump doesn’t recognize Biden as president.  Trump is claiming that Biden’s election was fraudulent and Trump is the duly elected president.  He’ll be sworn as president on March 4, 2021.
     Why this particular date?
    According to QAnon believers, the March 4 date is borrowed from the Sovereign Citizen movement, which asserts that March 4 was the original inauguration day in the constitution before it was changed to January 20 by the 20th Amendment.  They believe that March 4, 2021 is the start for the new Republic. March 4 was the start date of the new President until it was changed in 1933.  Therefore, QAnon believes that Trump will re-assume the presidency on the date laid down by the Founders.
    As a result, prices in Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC is being increased on March 4 – from $596 to $1,331 -- when hordes of QAnon believers will all come down to the nation’s capital to attend and celebrate the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Can’t they see that Trump is bilking them of their hard-earned money?  That’s the cost of believing in Trump.
Conspiracy theories
It’s interesting to note that Trump endorsed Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a QAnon believer, who ran for Congress in the 2020 election and won.  Trump praised her in August 2020 in a tweet that she was a "future Republican Star" and "strong on everything." 
    Greene has become the most prominent QAnon lawmaker in the country.  She has promoted many conspiracy theories that falsely alleged that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who eat children. 
    QAnon followers believe that this cabal includes President Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and George Soros.  Also included are entertainers and Hollywood celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, and Ellen DeGeneres; and religious figures like Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama. 
    Greene suggested in a Facebook post that wildfires in California were not natural.  She claimed that forest fires “had been started by PG&E, in conjunction with the Rothschilds, using a space laser, in order to clear room for a high-speed rail project.”
    She also claimed that Muslims don’t belong in government and 9/11 was an inside job.  She also said that shootings at Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Las Vegas were “false flags” and were staged; and that “Zionist supremacists” are secretly masterminding Muslim immigration to Europe in a scheme to outbreed white people.  She even suggested that leading Democratic officials should be executed.  She later denied that she made all these claims; however, these claims were all documented, some on videos.
    According to QAnon lore, “former President Donald Trump was recruited by top military generals to run for president in 2016 to break up this criminal conspiracy and bring its members to justice.  Many of these cabal members will soon be arrested, the theory goes, and some will be imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, while others will face military tribunals and be executed.”  
    And since the 2020 election, “QAnon has also become a stronghold of support for the false theory that the election was stolen from Trump. Some QAnon believers maintain that he is still the lawful president, although some have reluctantly accepted the reality that he is not.”
The Storm
Q predicted that this war would soon culminate in “The Storm,” which is the appointed time “when Mr. Trump would finally unmask the cabal, punish its members for their crimes and restore America to greatness.”  It is a reference to a cryptic remark Trump made during an October 2017 photo op with several military generals.  Trump said, “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”  Is it a proof that Trump was sending a coded message about his plans to break up the global cabal?  QAnon members believe so.
    Q postings in social media have since decreased substantially since Trump’s re-election loss.  I wonder why? But many QAnon believers said that Q will return someday, but others maintain that the movement no longer needs Q as a central figure.  They now have Donald Trump as their High Priest.
    But after Trump’s re-election loss, many QAnon believers rallied behind the false theory that the election was stolen from him. Many expected that on Inauguration Day, Mr. Trump would not actually leave office as scheduled but would declare martial law, announce mass arrests of Democrats and stop Biden from taking office.  However, that didn’t happen. 
    Many QAnon believers grew disillusioned and angry.  Some even realized they have been duped.  But others kept their faith in Trump and continued to believe that “The Storm” was still coming.  They maintained that Trump was still planning a triumphant comeback.
    In his farewell address on January 19, Trump said, “Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There’s never been anything like it…”
    “I go from this majestic place with a loyal and joyful heart, an optimistic spirit, and a supreme confidence that for our country and for our children, the best is yet to come. Thank you and farewell. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.”  His words lifted the spirits of his QAnon followers.  They must be saying,  “Yes, the Master will be coming back!”
The show goes on
As soon as Trump went into self-exile in Mar-a-Lago, he opened an “Office of the Former President” in Palm Beach for the purpose of issuing statements since he is now barred from social media.  He plans to announce his post-presidency plans and to “carry on the agenda of the Trump Administration.”
    He issued a press release, saying: “"The Office will be responsible for managing President Trump's correspondence, public statements, appearances, and official activities to advance the interests of the United States and to carry on the agenda of the Trump Administration through advocacy, organizing, and public activism."  The show goes on!  Hooray!
    What if Trump doesn’t show up on March 4?
    More than likely, he won’t show up.  And that would certainly disappoint tens of thousands of QAnon followers.  Heck, they could really be pissed off that they would burn down Trump’s hotel.
    But Trump will come up with some reason why he couldn’t show up at his second inauguration.  Are you surprised?  He’d probably tell them to wait until next January so his followers could see Biden falter and quit the presidency.  But he’s no longer in the line of succession.  Vice-President Kamala Harris is next in line and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is third. 
    So how is he going to pull it off?  Attack the White House?  Which reminds of me the 2013 movie, “White House Down,” when a bomb was detonated in the US Capitol followed by an attack on the White House by former military mercenaries.  Needless to say, the insurrection failed.  And so will Trump if he has something like a “White House Down” scheme in mind.  There will be 25,000 troops waiting for them.
    Remember, he can say anything to his followers and they would believe him.  The trick is to tell them that he would be president again.  It’s easier to sell that to them than snake oil and they’ll buy it!  That’s how gullible the Trump supporters are. And they’ll wait… and wait.
    Meanwhile, Trump would be sending them letters thanking them for their continued support and asking them for more contributions. The word that’s being spread around in the Internet is: “Trump will come back in the future if not sooner.”  And it could be as soon as March 4, Trump’s “Day of Resurrection.”  Yes, they’re anxiously waiting for “The Storm.”
(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

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