Strict GCQ set Feb. 1-28: CAR high-risk epidemic level with 10,582 cases

>> Sunday, January 31, 2021

BAGUIO CITY — The Cordillera Administrative Region will revert to stricter general community quarantine (GCQ) from Feb. 1 to 28, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Friday.
      The Cordillera was placed last week under high-risk epidemic level due to spike in cases in all six provinces including Baguio and Tabuk cities.
    CAR is under the more lenient modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
    As of 6 p.m. on Jan. 21, the region recorded 94 new cases of Covid-19.
    It now has a total of 10,582 cases, including 1,687 active infections, and 140 recorded deaths.
    The Dept. of Health confirmed Tuesday local transmission of the UK strain in Bontoc, Mountain Province, but clarified there was no community transmission since those infected can still identify the possible source of their illness.
    There was reportedly ongoing local transmission in Bontoc, meaning a local case has infected another local case. The sources of infection have been established and we can see how they are connected to each other,” DOH epidemiology bureau medical specialist Alethea de Guzman said at a virtual briefing.
    To determine the source of the virus, the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) back-traced contacts up to the 3rd generation for these B117 variant cases.
    Their samples were collected for PCR testing and genome sequencing.
    According to De Guzman, 34 close contacts of the 12 UK variant cases in Bontoc tested positive for Covid-19, six were found negative for the B117 variant, while 28 are yet to be sequenced.
    Close contacts of two returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) from Lebanon, including 283 co-passengers and the 19-person flight crew, were also traced and re-tested, subject for verification.
    Four tested positive for Covid-19, their samples collected and submitted for sequencing.
    Regarding close contacts of the case from La Trinidad, Benguet, DOH said four of six household members tested positive for Covid-19.
    Their samples were submitted for sequencing.
     Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, DOH-CAR assistant regional director, said local government units should "look into strict implementation of minimum health standards since we have seen a lot of violators and for the low-risk areas not to be complacent”.
    She said that several areas in the region that have low or no cases have started to record spike in cases due to complacency or belief that the virus will not reach their areas.
    Pangilinan said the surge in cases is still seen as a result of the high mobility of the people during the holidays with one or more close contacts infecting several others who are identified in the contact tracing process.
    During the National Task force meeting on Jan. 20, the DOH-CAR reported that the region is under the category of "high risk" epidemic level as it recorded a 2-Week Growth Rate (2WGR) of 199 percent and Average Daily Attack Rate (per 100,000 population) of 8.32.
    The DOH report also showed there were 16 LGUs in the region classified as critical epidemic areas. These included the towns of Besao, Bontoc, Sabangan, and Sadanga in the Mountain Province; Balbalan, Lubuagan, Pasil, Rizal, Tanudan, and Tabuk City in Kalinga; Atok, Itogon, Kapangan, Mankayan in Benguet; and Hungduan and Kiangan in Ifugao province.
    The report added the reasons for increase of Covid-19 cases in the region included people going to crowded places; close-contact setting and confined spaces; clustering in mining camp in Balbalan, Kalinga; people flocking at department stores, malls and schools in Baguio and Kalinga; church events in Rizal, Kalinga; as well as the increase in infection among health care workers which was observed in all the provinces.
    Mobility of persons who were possible carriers of the virus cases from high-risk areas going to low-risk areas, border control issues and the observance of cultural practices -- wakes, engagement party, family gatherings of the community where elders are the preferred visitors -- were also seen as possible reasons in the spike of cases in the region.
    It also said the non-observance of minimum public health standards as observed in most areas continue that also contributed to the spread of the infection. 
    Currently, there were 3,803 trained contact tracers in all local government units who make up 313 teams.
    The DOH-CAR bared 59 established temporary treatment facilities having 2,548 beds. Of the number, 750 were occupied while 1,798  available.
    For Critical Care units (CCUs), 166 were available of 410 isolation beds; 37 of 189 ward beds; six of the 41 ICU beds; and 22 are available out of 37 mechanical ventilators.
    This brings the region’s CCU situation to a high-risk category at 75.10 percent.
    The Cordillera started to feel the expected effect of the holiday rush on Covid-19 cases starting Jan. 14 when it logged the first record-high single day cases of 315 new patients. A few days after, it recorded another hike with 329 cases, the highest single-day record in the region. – With a report from Liza Agoot/ PNA 


Baguio, Benguet towns impose strict border control Feb. 1-15

By Carlito C. Dar

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet --– Strict border control  within Baguio City and  Benguet towns of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay, otherwise known as the BLISTT area will be imposed to address rise of cases and  confirmation of new variant case in this capital town.
    The temporary restricted access in BLISTT is effective Feb. 1 to 15 to limit non – essential movement of people.
    The agreement was signed by all Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong and mayors Romeo Salda of La Trinidad, Victorio     Palangdan of Itogon, Manuel Munar Jr of Sablan, Armando Lauro of Tublay and Clarita Sallongan in January 26.
    Under the agreement, all inter– BLISTT travelers, for travel or to avail of essential goods and services, shall present medical certificate or medical clearance issued by any licensed physician affirming the resident has not exhibited flu – like symptoms during assessment.
    Said medical certificate or clearance has a validity of 10 days.
    For persons who are travelling for medical appointments or consultation, they need only to show proof of their confirmed appointments while those with immediate medical emergencies shall be allowed to pass through.
    Cargo and logistics services, water, electricity and communications, IT and waste management shall likewise be given unhampered passage, provided their personnel maintain no – contact policy and shall strictly observe minimum public health standards at all times.
    Non-resident travelers coming to BLISTT from other areas must present travel authority/permit and medical certificate issued in their place of origin.
    Baguio City Police Office director Col. Allen Rae Co said
this newest BLISTT advisory has no effect on usual requirements of Baguio residents who need to travel outside the city or those going home to Baguio. 
    Same travel requirements for Baguio tourists remain.-- PIA CAR Cordillera


DOT probes celebrity party; Magalong sorry

BAGUIO CITY — The Dept. of Tourism Cordillera Administrative Region said it was investigating a party of celebrities here at Camp John Hay which Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and his wife attended recently.
    Social media users criticized the event with some saying application of Covid-19  protocols were in favor of the rich while poor and ordinary Baguio folks were subjected to stringent rules.
    Following this, Magalong tendered his resignation as contact tracing czar but Malacanang denied this.  
     “Tao lang po tayo, sometimes we are just so engaged in one particular activity... minsan nakakalimutan din po natin,” Magalong told a radio interview.
    Her apologized for what happened.
    He said he and his wife attended the event to thank celebrator Tim Yap, and his group for helping local artists and promoting their tourism.
    A video showing Yap and his guests dancing and not wearing face masks and face shields went viral.
    Magalong’s wife was seen not wearing a face mask as she posed for a photo with actress KC Concepcion.
    Netizens chided Magalong for his “double standard” in implementing quarantine protocols.
    In a statement, the DOT-CAR said it was investigating the party. “A notice to explain has already been issued to the establishment,” the govnerment agency said Wednesday.
    The Public Information Office of Baguio also said the city government  gave the “hotel 72 hours to explain why it should not be sanctioned over celebrity party protocol breach.”
    Magalong, who also sits as the country’s contact tracing czar, on Wednesday admitted there were lapses in the observance of health protocols in a party organized by Yap, an eventologist and social media personality.
    The party at The Manor, was attended by several guests who appeared to have disobeyed health protocols like physical distancing and wearing masks, as seen on videos shared in social media.
    While many guests were compliant, Magalong said some violated minimum health protocols.
    “Meron pa rin. Even my wife violated it kasi nagtanggal yan because may picture-taking,” Magalong said in an interview over Teleradyo. “May picture-taking, may umiikot na picture-taking, syempre siguro sa excitement, yung iba na-excite, nagtatanggal ng masks pampicture picture. Pero ako po, lagi akong nakamask.”
(There is. Even my wife violated it because she removed her mask due to the picture-taking. There were picture-taking, a photographer was roaming to take photos, but maybe because of excitement, some removed their masks for pictures. But I always wore mine.)
    This was his answer when he was asked: “In your observation, would you categorically say na wala pong naging paglabag sa minimum health standards?”
    Despite this, Magalong said there are moments where people forget to comply with health protocols, especially when there are events as such.
    “Nagkataon lang po na tao lang po tayo na sometimes when we’re so engaged in a particular po na activity na masayahin, minsan nakakalimutan po natin,” he said.
     “Meron po kaming ordinansa na ipinapatupad na pag hindi ka nagwear ng mask while in a public place, you have to be fined… This is something na iniimbestigahan ng aming legal officer,” Magalong said.
(We have an ordinance that if you don’t wear a mask while in a public place, you have to be fined. This is something already being investigated by our legal officer.)
    Magalong said Yap and his group went to our art exhibit and they bought a lot of art, paintings from local artists who have been struggling.
    “And then tinawagan po ako if I could attend the party so pumunta po kami doon ng wife ko to thank them,” he said.
(And then they called us if I could attend the party so I went there with my wife to thank them.)
    In a televised interview on Tuesday night, Yap confirmed that he organized the reported “party” at a 5,000-square meter outdoor area of The Manor.
    Yap said that he and the guests followed health and safety protocols of Baguio and of the establishment.
    He also claimed that videos circulating were edited, saying guests took off their masks since they were about to eat dinner.
    However, he claimed this was followed by an unexpected cultural community dance that was captured in an Instagram story that has gone viral.
    “Everything looks like it was a party but it was edited to be that way but if you will see the other days that we were together,” Yap told CNN Philippines.
    “What actually happened behind this video. They are on their way to have their dinner. All of a sudden, a cultural dance happened and so the cultural dancer pulled everybody... we got carried away and we invited everybody to do the cultural community dance,” he said.


Tension grips Jaen, Nueva Ecija over '2 mayors'; judge faces SC probe over ruling

JAEN, Nueva Ecija – Tension grips this town after the Commission on Elections ruled the mayor installed by a regional trial court judge was illegally holding the post.
    The Supreme Court is now investigating the judge. 
    Supporters of former mayor Sylvia Austria were seen in a video entering the Jaen municipal hall compound and were met by the supporters of incumbent Mayor Antonio Esquivel on Monday, based from a Tuesday report of Marisol Abdurraman of Saksi.
    Austria's supporters trooped to the municipal hall bearing a copy of the resolution of the Sangguniang Bayan, which recognizes her as the duly elected mayor.
    Austria was declared the winner in the May 2019 elections but she stepped down from office last December after the Regional Trial Court Branch 87 handed down a decision in favor of Esquivel's election protest.
    The Commission on Elections second division, on Jan. 12, 2021 issued a status quo ante-order reinstating Austria as the mayor of Jaen.
    Esquivel, however, did not accept the Comelec order and the resolution of the Sangguniang Bayan.
    "A piece of scrap paper. Papano magre-resolution ang Sanggunian para magtanggal ng mayor. Medyo imposible yata 'yun," said Esquivel.
    Austria, on the other hand, said "Ako'y naniniwala na ang aking katunggali ay bababa sa kanyang posisyon. Dahil wala siyang karapatan na manatili sa posisyon dahil siya'y hindi tunay na punong bayan ng Jaen."
    Police deployed additional personnel at the Jaen municipal hall.
    "Habang wala pa 'yung guidance ng DILG at ng headquarters, ime-maintain namin ang peace and order," said Police Col. Marvin Joe Saro, OIC police provincial director.
    Esquivel said despite the political tension the transactions at the municipal hall will continue. 
    The trial court judge who issued the ruling is now facing administrative investigation by the Supreme Court for gross misconduct, gross incompetence, and gross ignorance of the law for alleged issuance of unlawful orders unseating a town mayor.
    This came after the Office of the Court Administrator ordered Judge Angelo Perez of Cabanatuan City Regional Trial Court, Branch 27, to file his comment on the complaint filed against him by Jaen, Nueva Ecija Mayor Sylvia Austria accusing him of irregularities in resolving the election protest entitled Antonio Prospero Esquivel vs. Sylvia C. Austria, while sitting as Acting Judge of RTC, Branch 87, of Gapan, Nueva Ecija.
    “The Comment should be submitted within 10 days from receipt of this Indorsement, copy furnished the complainant,” Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said, in an order dated December 3, 2020.
    Perez was required to comment on the verified complaint dated November 11, 2020 filed by Austria.
    Meanwhile, complainant Austria also asked the Supreme Court to investigate the entire RTC, Branch 87, of Gapan, Nueva Ecija for conspiracy, in connection with the alleged irregularities committed by Perez to favor Esquivel, the opposing mayoralty bet.
    In a separate verified complaint, Austria filed administrative charges against Branch 87 Clerk of Court Atty. Maureen R. Genetiano-Pabaira; Branch Sheriff Jorge L. Battung and prayed that the respondents be penalized.
Austria claimed that there was deceit in Judge Perez’s issuance of the writ of execution on December 7, 2020 as she did not receive a copy of the ruling, denying her the right to appeal the case.
    There are now two mayors in the municipality of Jaen due to Perez’s ruling installing Esquivel, which was later stopped by the Commission on Elections, which it issued a status quo ante order reinstating Austria last January 12, 2021.
    Perez annulled Austria’s proclamation as winner in the Jaen mayoral race in 2019 after concluding that Esquivel garnered 18,737 votes while the municipal board of canvassers had previously proclaimed her after she got 20,815 votes to Esquivel’s 18,461. However, the Comelec issued an Order dated January 12, 2021, installing Austria back into office.


Subic guest from Ifugao Covid-positive

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT –– A guest from Ifugao province who arrived in this freeport to attend a seminar has tested positive for Covid-19. Dr. Solomon Jacalne, public health and safety department manager of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, on Jan. 27, said the guest was supposed to attend a seminar in Subic Bay Travelers Hotel and Event Center.
    But the guest arrived at the freeport without a real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR test result, Jacalne said in an advisory.
    Jacalne said the guest was barred from entering the hotel and was sent to a designated quarantine hotel where he underwent a swab test.
    The seminar was reportedly organized by the Dept. of Agrarian Reform.
    Jacalne said the guest was exposed to a virus-infected officemate.
    The guest is no longer in the freeport after an ambulance fetched him from a quarantine hotel on Wednesday morning.


Ilocos- Manila buses travel Jan 31

By Ma. Joreina Therese A. Blanco

LAOAG CITY – The Ilocos Norte government allowed resumption of public utility buses (PUBs) travelling to and from Metro Manila starting Jan. 31.
    In executive order No. 113-21 signed by Gov. Matthew Marcos Manotoc, guidelines were set for the operation of PUBs while the province is under a relaxed community quarantine.
    The order stated provincial buses with Manila to Laoag City (vice versa) and Manila to Pagudpud (vice versa) routes will be allowed end of January.
    Initially, 20 buses a day will be allowed entry, subject to increase based on the demand of passengers.
    “Only those operators with routes permitted to travel to and from Metro Manila shall be allowed to operate subject to the issuance of corresponding quick response (QR) code by the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) Central Office.
    Those PUBs found to have violated requirements will be apprehended accordingly,” Manotoc’s order stated.
    For bus drivers and conductors, face mask and face shield were required to be worn at all times.
    Meanwhile, passengers were also mandated to wear face mask and face shield to be allowed to board the bus.
    Use of mobile phones and talking while inside the bus were also highly discouraged.
    Passengers need to secure a medical clearance certificate from the city or municipal health office or any hospital accredited by Dept. of Health,  travel authority issued by Philippine National Police, and a trip ticket acquired 48 hours prior to the actual date of trip.
    A negative rapid antigen test with swab collected within 24 hours was needed to be presented.
    Following protocols in Ilocos Norte, passengers must be accepted and approved for entry by the provincial government.
    To expedite their entry, scanned copies of the requirements will be sent to at least 48 hours before the scheduled trip.
    Returning residents, locally stranded individuals, and returning overseas workers will still undergo quarantine. -- PIA Ilocos Norte


Ranking NPA leader slain in shootout with Isabela police

SAN AGUSTIN, Isabela -- A high-ranking New People’s Army leader was killed after he eluded arrest here Jan. 26, authorities said.
    Col. James Cipriano, Isabela police director, identified the slain rebel leader as Renato Busania alias “Ka Andong/Ace/Narding” of the New People’s Army-Kilusang Rehiyon-Cagayan Valley.
    Cipriano said the police were trying to arrest Busania in Barangay Palacian based on two warrants issued by local courts for murder charges.
    Busania allegedly fired at the arresting policemen and ran away, prompting them to shoot him.
    Busania was declared dead on arrival at a hospital due to multiple gunshot wounds.
    Police recovered a Cal. 45 handgun and a hand grenade from Busania.
    Busania was tagged as among those behind the killings of militant leaders Elena Mendiola and Renato Balauag, both Bayan Muna members, in May 2006.
    He was also tagged in the attack on a police town hall in Maddela, Quirino that killed two persons in 2019.


6K North Luzon workers get unemployment benefits: SSS

By Liza Agoot  

BAGUIO CITY – The Social Security System (SSS) in Northern Luzon said it has provided unemployment assistance to over 6,000 workers affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19)
    In a briefing, Ceasar Saludo, SSS vice president for Luzon North 1 (NL1) Division, recently said the workers received an additional benefit of P6,000 each as provided for under Republic Act (RA) 11199 or the Social Security Modernization Act.
    “This is an additional benefit. The passage of the law in 2018 was timely as its existence benefited thousands who lost their jobs due to Covid-19," he said.
    The NL1 division covers the SSS offices located in Baguio City; Bangued, Abra; Bontoc, Mountain Province; Agoo, La Union; San Fernando City, La Union; Vigan City, Ilocos Sur; Candon City, Ilocos Sur; La Trinidad, Benguet, and Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.
Saludo said that many have availed of the unemployment benefits "because of the closures”.
    He added that 1,906 of those who received the benefit are workers registered with SSS Baguio Branch.
    The branch covers Baguio City and the towns of Sablan, Tuba, and Itogon in Benguet. Saludo said the area has registered 640,000 members with 220,000 actively paying their membership.
    Saludo said SSS provides several benefits to members which come from their contribution and the income derived from the investments of the system using the accumulated fund of the members.
    The SSS-NL 1 logged a 9.8-percent drop in collection for 2020 which is equivalent to PHP738 million as a result of the closure of many businesses, he said.
    Despite this, he said the agency was still able to provide benefits to the members.
    "There is a need to implement the increase in members contribution," he said.
    He pointed out that the increase in benefits of the members, as well as the increase in pension of the pensioners, cuts shorter the SSS's actuarial life.
    To prevent this from happening, Saludo said there is a need to increase members' contribution to ensure the stability of the fund. -- PNA


La Trinidad mayor cites Cordi group for volunteerism

By Augustin Dao-anis

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Mayor Romeo K. Salda cited the Cordillera Comprehensive Action Team (CCAT) for volunteerism in implementing the IATF protocols during Covid-19 operations during a meeting here at municipal hall on Jan. 15.
    Since the start of community lockdowns in March until December 2020, the CCAT aided the municipal IATF (MIATF) in ensuring the community follow IATF protocols like observing social distancing, wearing face masks and face shields, liquor ban and curfew hours.
    “Without you (CCAT), the municipality would not have achieved this far the implementation of IATF protocols in the municipality,” the town chief executive said during the event for CCAT members and officers.
    “As the municipality’s way of thanking you, we will be giving you gift packs. We know that those gifts would never equate the value of the services you rendered,” he said.
    In March 2020, the La Trinidad MIATF deputized the CCAT through a municipal order authorizing the said group to implement IATF protocols, no smoking ordinance, liquor ban and curfew.
    The CCAT joined the Land Transportation Office and La Trinidad police force in apprehending car owners for illegal parking and road obstruction.
    The group headed by its chairman Gabriel Francisco had been visiting barangays, homes, business establishments and schools to ensure proper observance of IATF protocols.
    Salda said the deputization of the CCAT has expired but he was studying whether to renew said memorandum of agreement.
Francisco said the CCAT was formed solely for volunteer work without expecting any payment.
    “CCAT has been helping in crowd control during Strawberry festivals in La Trinidad and Panagbenga civic parades in Baguio.
    It had also been working with the PNP and LTO during Summer Vacation (SumVac) operations along major roads and checkpoints in Baguio and Benguet,” Francisco said.


DOST-Isabela, 95th IB to train ex-rebels, IPs on livelihood, self-reliance

By Mark Djeron C. Tumabao

SAN MARIANO, Isabela, -- Former New People’s Army rebels under the custody of the 95th Infantry Battalion including indigenous people (IPs) in this town will soon benefit from livelihood training of the Dept. of Science and Technology – Isabela.
    Lucio G Calimag, provincial director of DOST-PSTC Isabela said the livelihood training is part of the department’s Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) program.
    The program aims to reach out and empower former rebels and IPs to become self-reliant and make a living in their own way.
    The IP-beneficiaries are residents of either former lair of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
    Lt. Col. Lemeul Baduya, acting commander of 95IB cited the implementation of the pipeline live livelihood trainings.
    Baduya said that through these livelihood trainings, people who belong to marginalized sectors will be equipped with knowledge and skills which will uplift their lives. -- MDCT with reports from 95th IB/PIA-2


La Union gov't warns public of using gov’s name for illegal deals

By Joanne Namnama P. Dilim

SAN FERNANDO CITY -- The provincial government of La Union warned the public against individuals who use the name of Gov. Francisco Emmanuel R. Ortega III to transact with private establishments.
        In a public advisory posted on its official Facebook page, the PGLU said the Office of the Provincial Governor received reports unscrupulous individuals are using the name of Gov. Ortega to transact with private establishments such as hotels and restaurants in the province.
        “Please be advised that his personal staff facilitates official and personal transactions on his behalf,” the advisory read.
        It added when making such transactions, the OPG sends official requests to concerned establishments.
        Reports on these individuals or any activity related to unauthorized use of the governor’s name may be reported to the OPG at telephone numbers (072) 888-6035 or 09383267907.
        “We would like to advise hotels and private establishments to verify these suspicious transactions and to immediately report bogus callers to the OPG for proper investigation,” the advisory ended. -- PIA La Union



UP frat hits red-tagging on govt’ radio program

BAGUIO CITY  — Pi Sigma, a fraternity formed at the University of the Philippines in the 1970s, has condemned the red-tagging it received from an official of the Presidential Commission on Urban Poor.
    The Pi Sigma Fraternity Alumni Association Inc. denounced the irresponsible and baseless linking of the brotherhood to the communist movement in a government-run radio program after it called out the termination of the UP-Department of National Defense Accord. 
    Pi Sigma, which was founded in UP Diliman in 1972 and has chapters across the country, acknowledged that some fraternity members have joined the revolutionary movement. 
    But Dr. Noel Silan, an educator and a UP Diliman alumnus, who chairs the PSFAA Inc. said, "it is a personal choice — which the fraternity should not be vilified for."
    "As a nationalist brotherhood, the fraternity has imbued in all its members that love for country demands their very best — in words and in deeds," Pi Sigma said.
    "Joining the revolutionary movement is their personal choice. Ours is to honor the commitment we made for the brotherhood to serve the Filipino people," the fraternity added.
    "While we take pride that a number of our brods have offered their lives in the past several years in serving the Filipino masses, the fraternity wants all our members alive to actively help our fellowmen while respecting the rule of law," Pi Sigma noted.
    Silan stressed that "at the professional level, our members include doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers in different branches of the military, policemen, law enforcers, lawyers, engineers, journalists, social workers, farmers, fishermen, scientists, entrepreneurs, government employees and technocrats, elected public officials and other honorable undertaking."


Pregnant NPA amazon yields in La Union

 By Erwin Beleo

CAMP DIEGO SILANG, La Union – A six-month pregnant rebel surrendered to authorities in this province.
    Seventh Infantry Division (7th ID) Civil Military Operations (CMO) Commanding Officer Maj. Rogelio Dumbrigue said he had to negotiate with a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) just to let Sherry Ibao come down the mountain and surrender because of her condition.
    Ibao, who was also known as Jerry and Laila, was a fresh graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP)-Manila, and a member of militant group Anakbayan before she was taken in by the NPA for a tour-of-duty in the Ilocos Region in 2015.
    According to Dumbrigue, he had to “beg” with the one of the personal assistants of a CPP-NPA leader in the region to allow Ibao and a few other comrades to just surrender to the government.
    She surrendered to the government on Wednesday, January 27, in this camp.
     Meanwhile Dumbrigue also disclosed that government forces are hunting down a former pastor of a religious sect in La Union, who is now a leader of the Guerilla Field Movement (KLG) of the NPA.
    He identified the wanted person as Abelyn Bonoan, alias Lunay, and a native of Bacnotan, La Union, who has a P2-million bounty on his head, which was reportedly wagered by President Duterte, himself. There was also a cash reward for his capture that was set by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
    Dumbrigue said government forces were also on the lookout for another wanted NPA rebel, Eddie Manuel Marcilla, also known as Jack.


NEDA Cordillera readies for 2021 dev’t challenges

 By Marissa M. Cabatu

Baguio City – The Cordillera National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR) planned Thursday to address this year’s uncertainties due to the continuing challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
    The agency identified its development directions based on the 2021 agency country development priorities anchored on economic recovery as spelled out by NEDA Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.
    The region’s stakeholders can expect a more visible NEDA this year, as it heightens its advocacy on the updated regional development and investment plans including the Covid-19 regional recovery
    It intends to up dissemination of its various research reports, project monitoring, reports, economic and development situationers among others.
    The NEDA supports priorities of the Regional Development Council particularly on its advocacy for regional autonomous governance.
    It also prioritizes support to administration’s priorities which include the Balik Probinsya Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) prograM, and whole-of-nation approach to end local communist armed conflicts (ELCAC) though the Regional Task Force.
    The agency reviewed its previous year’s accomplishments focusing on lessons from the global health crises, from its economic impact to the mandatory lockdowns and work-from-home arrangements.
    NEDA Regional Director Milagros Rimando said lessons from 2020 which ushered a work-from-home arrangement in the public sector provided opportunities and challenges.
    “We’ve learned a lot from the uncertainties and there will be a lot of uncertainties for 2021 that’s why there is need to plan,” she added.
    Confident that these priorities will contribute and yield results towards regional economic recovery, NEDA Assistant Regional Director Stephanie Christiansen encouraged the staff to complete work in outputs demonstrating its unique brand of professionalism, integrity and excellence as it serves the RDC and the region.
    She also echoed Sec. Chua’s message that while NEDA aims to produce and deliver results, safety should not be compromised.


4,056 Covid-19 cases in Benguet, 55 deaths

By Redjie Melvic M. Cawis

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Benguet recorded a total of 4,056 Covid-19 cases with 515 active cases and 55 deaths.
Gov. Melchor Diclas bared this saying based on epidemic risk classification, Benguet was under “high risk level as of Jan. 19, 
    The municipalities of Atok, Bakun, Bokod, Itogon, La Trinidad, Mankayan, Tuba, and Tublay were also high risk; Buguias, moderate risk while Sablan, Kabayan and Kibungan were low risk.
    Kapangan, however, is placed under Critical Risk Level after it recorded 75 cases in the past two weeks.
    Aside from mining communities which recorded high number of cases in previous months, agricultural communities were reportedly also infected by the Covid-19.
    Even communities in far flung areas of the Benguet are recording surge of Covid-19 cases, he said.
    Diclas said Benguet towns are now affected by community transmission of the virus with several clustering of cases.
    Activities and mass gatherings such as wakes, weddings and reunions were reportedly held with many of attendees not following minimum public health standards and other protocols causing sudden surge of cases.
    Despite the surge of Covid-19 cases, Diclas said the situation and response in Benguet is still manageable since most cases were asymptomatic and one percent recorded morbidity rate.
     “We need to maintain and strictly observe minimum public health standards at all times such as wearing of face masks and face shields, maintaining proper hygiene such as washing of hands, and observing social and physical distancing, as these still are the primary defense against the Covid-19 and boost your immune system and stay healthy,” the governor said. -- PIA Coredillera


Mt Province suspends work in PLGU offices; Sagada areas restricted

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. ordered extension of  suspension of work in provincial government offices   due to rising Covid-19 cases and detection of the UK variant in this capital town.
    In his memorandum order 05 s. 2021, Lacwasan, extended work suspension, except for frontline and vital offices starting  Jan. 25 until Jan. 29.
    The governor suspended work in the PLGU two weeks ago following surge of Covid-19 cases in the province with most cases from Bontoc.
    The central barangays of    Samoki,   Bontoc Ili, Caluttit and Poblacion were placed under enhanced community quarantine lockdown until Jan. 31.
    Lacwasan urged everyone to strictly adhere to minimum health protocols which he said “is still the best and cost effective measure against the corona virus and its variants.  
    Meanwhile, work at the Bauko town LGU resumed last week but only employees of the LGU and   national line agencies operating in Bauko were allowed to enter the municipal compound.
    This work arrangement was until Jan. 29, due to increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the municipality.
Employees who were exhibiting Covid-like symptoms or co-morbidities were instructed not to report until such time their condition improves.  
    In order not to totally disrupt public services, Mayor Abraham Akilit said clients may call the office mobile numbers.
    Akilit suspended work on Jan. 21 and 22, after several LGU employees tested positive for Covid-19.
    Lacwasan   urged everyone to strictly adhere to minimum health protocols which he said “is still the best and cost effective measure against Aovid-19 and its variants. – PIA Cordillera


Tabuk ups border control, to check entry of visitors; Kalinga 3rd in Covid cases

By Jesse Maguiya  

TABUK CITY, Kalinga – The city government has established a new checkpoint to prevent the entry of people who are undocumented in a bid to stop the spike in cases of Covid-19.
    Last Jan. 24, Kalinga ranked third in the Cordillera with the highest number of total active cases compared to the region’s total active cases of 1,344.
    Baguio City had the most number of active cases in the Cordillera with 470, followed by Benguet province with 362. Mountain Province had 197 active cases.
    Mayor Darwin Estrañero said he issued executive order 03-110 establishing a checkpoint at the area which connects to other Cordillera provinces, to assure that those who enter are also monitored and that they too undergo health and safety protocols.
    “We established a quarantine checkpoint at the headquarters of the 77th Infantry Brigade in Barangay Bantay after it was found out that travelers have been sneaking into Tabuk to avoid quarantine protocols at the border checkpoints,” Estrañero said.
    The road links the city to neighboring provinces such as Abra, Mountain Province, Ilocos Norte, and Cagayan traversing to other towns of Kalinga province through the towns of Tinglayan, Lubuagan, Pasil and Balbalan.
    The mayor’s order requires travelers coming from areas outside Kalinga using the said road in entering Tabuk to present a negative swab test result and or medical certificate issued by the local government unit (LGU) of origin, travel authority, and valid identification.
    The same requirement is imposed at the border checkpoint of Kalinga province with that of Tuguegarao, Cagayan.
    Meanwhile, travelers coming from the municipalities within Kalinga shall be required to present valid identification, a travel pass, and a medical certificate.
    For employees of government offices and private companies with official business in this city, they are required to present a valid travel order from their respective offices specifying the purpose and duration of their travel in Tabuk City.
    The order also requires that all returning residents and visitors shall be subjected to mandatory triaging at the Covid-19        Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility in Barangay Agbannawag.
    Estrañero said the checkpoint is supervised by the City Health Office of Tabuk City and manned by personnel of the Philippine Army, police, rural health unit, and Barangay “Bantay”.
    Kalinga province had been posting a surge in Covid-19 cases starting January. From Jan. 10 to 17, Kalinga, which includes this city has recorded 216 new cases.
    It recorded the highest single record on Jan. 14 with 69 new cases. It is the same day when the Cordillera also recorded the highest number of single-day cases with 315. -- PNA 


Cordi cops nab 1.7K wanted persons, confiscate 767 guns

By Liza Agoot  

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – Cordillera police officers arrested 1,717 persons wanted for various crimes and recovered 767 loose firearms as part of their relentless anti-crime campaign. 
    Capt. Marnie Abellanida, Police Regional Office - Cordillera information officer, said this was the result of "intensified manhunt operations” from January to December 2020.
    The number includes 264 individuals listed as top most wanted persons and 1,453 suspects who have standing arrest warrants.
    He said the Baguio City Police has recorded the highest number of arrested wanted persons at 100, followed by Benguet with 78; Kalinga with 27; Abra with 25; Ifugao with 15; Mountain Province with 10; and Apayao with nine.
    The most wanted person figure includes 12 at the regional level, 103 at the provincial level, and 149 at the municipal level.
    Meanwhile, out of the 767 loose firearms, 657 were surrendered by various individuals, 86 were confiscated, and 24 were recovered in various police operations.
    Abra recorded the highest number of recovered loose firearms with 288, followed by Benguet with 128; Ifugao with 86; Kalinga with 77, Mountain Province with 72, Apayao with 69, and Baguio City with 47.
    Abellanida defined loose firearms as unregistered firearms; an obliterated or altered firearm that has been lost or stolen; illegally manufactured firearms; registered firearms in the possession of an individual other than the licensee; and those with revoked licenses under the rules and regulations.
    He said the accomplishment to account for loose firearms was the result of the continuous conduct of police operations region-wide and the engagement with the community through dialogue with residents in support of the PNP’s intensified campaign against loose firearms. -- PNA


P15.3-M MJ found in Benguet, Kalinga plantations; 4 nabbed

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet- Another P15.3 million worth of marijuana plants was discovered and burned in seven plantations in Benguet and Kalinga Jan. 17 -23.
    Benguet police discovered another 5,170 pieces of fully-grown marijuana plants and 16.37 kilograms of dried marijuana stalks with an estimated Dangerous Drug Board value of P2,998,400 in Kibungan, Benguet.
    In Bakun, Benguet, some 29,200 pieces of fully-grown marijuana plants and 36.33 kilograms of dried marijuana stalks worth P10,199,600 were discovered in various sites in Barangay Kayapa.
    Meanwhile, in Kalinga, police discovered more 10,800 fully grown marijuana plants valued at P2, 160,000 in two plantations in Barangay Buscalan, Tinglayan.
    Police burned the uprooted marijuana in the area while samples were brought as evidence.
    This month, the regional police office here recorded total of 19 marijuana eradication operations wherein a total of 149,040 pieces of fully-grown marijuana plants, 97.50 kilograms of dried marijuana, and 125 pieces marijuana seedlings worth P40, 737,000 were destroyed.
    Aside from marijuana eradication operations, series of buy-bust operations resulted in the arrest of four drug personalities in Baguio City and Benguet.
    In Baguio City, a minor was arrested by the operatives of Abanao Police Station while one Jhunnel Lozano was arrested by Marcos Highway Police Station personnel.
    In Benguet, La Trinidad police arrested one Gideon Lastimosa Manzano while one Valentino Altona Dalmacio was arrested by Mankayan MPS. 


8 alleged NPAs, militia surrender in Nueva Ecija

EIGHT alleged members of the New People's Army and other communist groups surrendered voluntarily to the military and police in Nueva Ecija on Friday after localized peace negotiations, the Philippine Army's Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) said.
    Five of the surrenderees are alleged regular NPA members, while the rest were with the Militia ng Bayan.
    The surrenderees turned over one M14 rifle with three magazines and 30 rounds of live ammunition, one M16 rifle with one magazine and nine rounds of live ammunition, and three caliber .38 pistols, NOLCOM said.
    The military withheld the names of the surrenderees as part of security protocol.
    "This accomplishment is a result of a series of localized peace negotiations which soldiers and police have undertaken to encourage members of the communist terrorists, who are victims of the deception and lies of the communist terrorist group, to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law," Philippine Army 7th Infantry Division commander Major General Alfredo Rosario Jr. said.
     "The surrenderees will undergo debriefing and profiling," Rosario said, as part of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) of the government. The said program provides for livelihood assistance, cash assistance and firearms remuneration for surrenderees.
    NOLCOM commander Lt. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said more surrenderees were expected "due to loss of trust in their leaders and after witnessing government deliver basic services and address local issues in their community." 


DPWH:Aritao- Quirino road boosts trade

By Benjamin Moses M. Ebreo

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya -- The Department of Public Works and Highways has completed the Aritao-Quirino Road.
    Engineer Glen Miguel, DPWH south district chief said the project which consists of 34.54-km road and four bridges will boost economic progress around the influence area of Aritao in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino province.
    He said the project which was implemented by DPWH regional office is a two-lane road with a 6.70m carriageway width, 300mm thickness and a roadbed width of 20 meters.
    "The construction of the project includes the construction of 4.5m concrete road funded under General Appropriations Act (GAA) FY 2018 - completed on December 31, 2018," Miguel said.
    He further said that the construction of 2.11 km concrete road funded under GAA FY 2019 was completed on December 11, 2019 while the construction of 2230 LM. concrete road, and the construction of 2289.80 ln. concrete road funded under GAA FY 2020 were completed on October 23, 2020.
    Miguel also said the completed projects are expected to provide access road to agricultural production areas and will serve as an alternate route from Nueva Vizcaya to Quirino or vice-versa.
    "The whole project was also intended to support the regional infrastructure development and enhance the mobility of basic goods and services along the road network," Miguel said. (MDCT/BME/PIA 2-Nueva Vizcaya)


PNP ops head awards Baguio, Benguet cops

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – Philippine National Police director for operations Maj. Gen. Alfred S. Corpus was honoree during the distinguished visitor’s program of Police Regional Office here hosted by PROCOR regional director Brig. Gen. R’win S. Pagkalinawan held Jan. 25.
    Four Cordillera police officers were awarded medalya ng kagalingan (PNP medal of merit) during the event for their notable operational accomplishments.
    From Baguio City Police Office, Capt. Ralph D. Dayag and Cpl. Lucio Tayaban, Jr. were awarded medalya ng kagalingan for the arrest of Alvin Kenneth Jamolin Benitez at Camp Allen, Baguio City for robbery.
    Benitez was listed as No. 10 most wanted person of Baguio City. Benguet Police Provincial Office’s Lt. Leonardo K. Reves and MSg Elmer Lamsis also received a medalya ng kagalingan for buy-bust operation that resulted in the arrest of Amiel Guile Gutierrez Eligores at Bontiway, Poblacion, Tuba, Benguet for violation of Republic Act 9165. In a statement, Corpus acknowledged efforts of PROCOR in following directives of the PNP chief.
    He told police officers in doing their duties, they should look after their well-being and make sure that they are taking care of their health to be more effective as front liners against Covid-19. 


Ilocos gov’t gives cash to NGOs, coops, groups

By Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog

VIGAN CITY -- The provincial government of Ilocos Sur, under its financial assistance for livelihood projects program, awarded cash assistance to various non-government organizations (NGOs), associations, and cooperatives in the province in a ceremony held at the Provincial Capitol, Vigan City recently.
    A total of Php 4.2 million financial assistance was given to 22 beneficiaries which shall be used for the implementation of their project proposals submitted to the office of Governor Ryan Luis V. Singson, according to Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Aida Tolio.
    Thirteen of the said beneficiaries proposed livelihood projects on micro lending, while other associations proposed various projects like cattle fattening, goat raising, provision of cooperative building facility, furniture making, bigasan, cacao production processing, swine fattening, construction of cooperative building, and palay trading.
    Since 2015, a total of 102 NGOs, associations, and cooperatives have benefitted in this program, said PPDO-OIC Tolio.
    She added that the PPD office will monitor the implementation of each project and program to assure that they all put the assistance to good use.
    In his message, Gov. Singson said that the provincial government gives importance to all sectors especially with the onset of COVID-19 where many people  have lost jobs and their livelihood.
    "Ginagawa ng provincial government ang lahat ng aming makakaya upang makatulong sa lahat ng mga residente ng ating probinsiya at itong livelihood program ay isa sa mga priority assistance na i-implement natin lalo ngayong may kinakaharap tayong pandemya. Malaking tulong ito sa inyong lahat, nawa’y gamitin niyo ang mga pondong ito sa mga proyekto na inyong ipinasa sa aming opisina upang mas umunlad pa ang inyong pamumuhay,” Gov. Singson said. (JCR/VHS/JMCQ, PIA Ilocos Sur)


Political dynasties and amending Constitution

>> Friday, January 29, 2021


Political commentators say one good reason not to trust Congress is its 33-year-old inexcusable refusal to obey the directive of the Constitution for Congress to enact a law defining and prohibiting political dynasties.
    Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
    Restated, the Constitution entrusted to Congress the duty to enact a law defining “political dynasties” and prohibiting them from monopolizing public office.
    That provision has been there for 33 years, and Congress only paid lip service to the constitutional mandate. For almost 33 years now, Congress has not enacted any such law.
    The reason for the congressional inaction is obvious. Political dynasties control Congress and they refuse to see their source of power and wealth legislated out of existence.
    Political dynasties are the bane of Philippine politics. Once in power, Filipino politicians make public office a family business by perpetuating their spouses and children in power.
    The intention of the 1987 Constitution to rid the electoral landscape of political dynasties is laudable, but it only took one simple phrase — “as may be defined by law” — to make that intention an illusion, a 33-year-old impossible dream.
    It was foolish for the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the unelected body that drafted the 1987 Constitution, to entrust the task of defining and prohibiting political dynasties to Congress. Expecting Congress to ban political dynasties is like expecting meat lovers to patronize vegetarian restaurants.
    At present, Congress wants to amend the Constitution, particularly its provisions on the national economy; the national patrimony; industries attended with a very high degree of public interest such as real estate, telecommunications, mass media and advertising; educational institutions; and the practice of the professions.
    If it gets its way, Congress will add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the above-enumerated provisions. As pointed out in recent commentaries, that move will inevitably make Congress superior to the two other branches of the government, and to the Charter itself.
    Politicians backing Charter change are urging the people to trust Congress because the proposed Charter amendments will only focus on economic concerns, and will have nothing to do with extending the terms of incumbent government officials.
    There are many reasons why the people should not trust Congress.
    One need only look at the list of moronic bills and clumsily crafted laws identified with Congress.
    Many incumbent politicians did not even have the delicadeza to inhibit themselves from participating in last year’s ABS-CBN franchise issue, considering they and their families have business ties with the network.
    One reason not to trust Congress is its 33-year-old inexcusable refusal to obey the directive of the Constitution for Congress to enact a law defining and prohibiting political dynasties.
    If Congress can renege on its constitutional duty with impunity, expect it to renege on its political promises.
    The fact that remains that things, like banning political dynasties and amending the Constitution, cannot be entrusted to Congress.


Trump’s reluctant goodbye

March L. Fianza

It came out from his mouth. Civilian Donald J. Trump, the former US president said last Jan. 8, 2021 that he will not attend the inauguration of President Joe R. Biden, making him the second departing president to not attend his successor's oath-taking ceremony.
    Since the U.S. presidential election results were counted in favor of Joe Biden last Jan. 6, then President Trump made statements and actions that raised fears among politicians from all sides and observers around the world that he might refuse to relinquish power.
    Prior to his refusal to concede, Trump made claims of voter fraud and filed more than a dozen lawsuits in several key battleground states that were eventually dismissed. Some Republicans raised objections during the counting in congress on January 6, but when the Electoral College votes were formally declared, the opposition did not gain ground.
    Joe Biden got 81,281,891 popular votes with 306 electoral votes against Trump’s 74,223,254 popular votes with 232 electoral votes. Only 270 electoral votes were needed to win the most powerful political post on earth.
    President Biden, along with Vice President Kamala Harris were officially inaugurated 11:48 AM, Wednesday in the US (12:48 AM, Thursday here) on the steps of the US Capitol amid intensified security prompted by the attack on the complex by Trump supporters last January 6. The attack happened while congress was confirming the electoral votes for Biden.
    Trump left the White House early for his home in Florida to avoid Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Apparently, he copied the act of second president John Adams who lost a reelection bid and quietly left Washington, D.C., on an early morning stagecoach to avoid the inauguration of his successor Thomas Jefferson.
    It was an unusual presidential inauguration as this was boycotted by the losing president. Not only did Trump stay away from the oath-taking ceremonies, prior to that he refused to follow protocol by not inviting the president-elect to the White House like what all the past presidents did.
    When Biden was sworn into office, he became the commander-in-chief, while Donald J. Trump became a civilian. If the latter still refused to vacate the White House office, the president who now wields power can order the Secret Service to remove him from the premises.
    Since Trump gained back his civilian status when his term ended on inauguration day, he would be considered a “trespasser” who can be removed physically from the White House, upon orders issued by the commander-in-chief.
    According to reports, Trump was the first president to endure two impeachments, two divorces, six bankruptcies, twenty-six accusations of sexual misconduct, and an estimated 4,000 lawsuits.
    But in the face of all these why doesn’t he concede? Some of his partymates say that he wants to retain his position as the highest elected official of the Republican Party that was why he claimed election fraud.
    Considering that Trump won in his re-election bid, grave legal and financial threats would rise over his second term. That was as far as law enforcement officials in New York were concerned.
    Accordingly, two investigations by powerful state and city law-enforcement officials in New York are following potential criminal charges related to Trump’s business practices before he became President.
    The report said that since their jurisdictions lie outside federal territory, any convictions resulting from the cases filed would be beyond the reach of a Presidential pardon.
    The news report in the US last year claimed that during the next four years, whether Trump was reelected or not, he must meet payment deadlines for more than US$300M in foreign loans that he personally guaranteed.
    A newspaper known for reports on financial and money matters made assessments that about US$900M worth of Trump’s real-estate debt will be due within the next four years. Also, he is tied in a dispute with tax agencies over a deduction that he claimed on his income-tax forms. A bad ruling could cost him an additional US$100M.
    Trump’s net worth is estimated to be US$2.5 Billion. Although, according to another news report, his hotels and resorts were hit hard by the pandemic. In addition, his business deals were affected by a divisive political career.
    Hence, he wanted to retain his position as the highest elected official of the Republican Party because it is the “office of the Presidency that will keep him away from prison.”


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