Living under ‘new normal’

>> Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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?     


A bill to speed up justice in courts


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.


Trump’s ‘Day of Resurrection’


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.”


Pandemic pitches

March L. Fianza

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Hats off to the PNP men and women who planted 11,214 assorted trees within their areas of assignments. The activity, according to a news item sent by PCpt. Marnie D. Abellanida through the PNP Press Corps chat group, was part of the police  organization’s “Makakalikasan” project under the “Plant a Tree Program: The PNP’s New Normal of Disaster Preparedness and Response” by Chief PNP Debold M. Sinas.
    From the news item, I gathered that PNP Cordillera RD PBGen. R’win Pagkalinawan had his hands soiled by leading the ceremonial tree planting activity where a total of 100 coffee and 50 lemon seedlings were planted all around designated planting sites in Camp Major Bado Dangwa, in La Trinidad, Benguet. Well done Sir!
    Since the directive of PNP Chief Sinas is in coordination with the DENR and LGUs, then maybe the “Plant a Tree” program involves local farmers who may help plant seedlings of fruit-bearing trees especially in areas where marijuana plantations were destroyed, and be the beneficiaries of the same.
    With its involvement in forest protection, it appears that the PNP has its hands full. Lately, the police organization was into an anti-illegal drugs campaign, apprehension of persons with warrants, at the same time they are frontliners in the fight vs. COVID-19.
    What I am waiting to see is if it can arrest personalities involved in illegal gambling. It is public knowledge that government lotto alongside jueteng has been operational, but no campaign against the latter has been pursued.
    It is also public knowledge that illegal gambling along Legarda, Kayang, Otek and La Trinidad, and an illegal cockpit at Asin road allegedly overseen by a public lawyer and an “intel” officer have been operating since last year.
    This is not new as it has been on social media since the COVID-19 pandemic hit us in March, last year. This time, it comes as an official public advisory by the government of Sadanga, Mountain Province.
    On Facebook, the item with the heading “Public Advisory to all kailyan ay e-Sadanga”, it announced that the Municipal Inter-Agency Task Force (MIATF) has promulgated community responses to the “new reality” of living with the virus.
    In the advisory, it said that “everyone should take a glass of warm water with lemon or calamansi squeeze everyday” to boost one’s immune system. It further advised that “everyone who gets infected of COVID-19, common colds, flue (sic) or any other variant of virus are mandated to do “Soob”(inhalation of hot steam) 2 times a day preferably in the morning and in the evening.”
    The public advisory further said, “All the prohibitions or restrictions such as lockdowns, 14 day quarantine and travel bans and other prohibitions or restrictions that used to be imposed are hereby lifted and discouraged as a community response. These action (sic) are more damaging to our economic community life and are counter productive (sic).”
    The public advisory also announced and I quote, “No travel ban against anyone regardless of the purpose of travel shall be imposed.” And, “No travel documents such as Test Results, Medical papers and Travel Authority are required in coming in and traveling out of the municipality.”
    I was told that one reason for the advisories was because the local folks looked at their situation as if they are in a war as those manning the checkpoints are in full battle gear. Apparently, the advisories were results of consultations with the barangays.
    As for the calamansi squeeze and the “soob” or hot steam inhalation, these have been practiced by many even prior to the pandemic. However, it has not been scientifically proven that these therapies can kill coronavirus.
    Although, steam therapy can relieve a runny nose, a cold or flu; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor the World Health Organization (WHO) are not aware of any scientific studies that show steam therapy can cure COVID-19. 
 It hurts to be snubbed in your own turf, especially when one is a public official of the LGU. The only way to get back is to snub people in return. This was exactly what happened at the groundbreaking of a proposed mall project inside the Benguet State University.
    Municipal officials of La Trinidad were invited to the MOA-signing program for the proposed four-storey mall inside BSU but they decided not to attend because the proponents and BSU officials concerned did not involve the LGU in the first place.
    La Trinidad Mayor Romeo K. Salda who was the lone municipal official in the event seemingly made the faces of BSU officials and the mall builders bitter when he bluntly told them that it was his first time to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for a project whose papers and permits have yet to be processed.
    The stern warning by Mayor Salda was that no construction activity will push through unless the mall project’s documentary requirements and permits, including the conduct of a free and prior informed consent (FPIC) with indigenous cultural communities shall have been secured.
    By the way, Vice Mayor Roderick Awingan said that BSU lands are classified for educational purposes and have yet to be converted to commercial use. No application for reclassification is on file with the municipal government, not even a pending application for the issuance of a building permit.
“Kakailyan, kasapulan yu kadi ti tulong?” (Provincemates or townmates, do you need help). Thousands of tarps with these words were unusually posted along roadsides, sari-sari stores, eateries and even private houses in Benguet.
    The posters have a hidden purpose. In fact it shows the picture of the caretaker representative of Benguet who has been telling mayors, municipal and barangay officials that he will run for congressman in 2022.
    A barangay kapitan and a mayor told me that big bucks are being distributed to LGU officials. Good for them. Problem is that he is not a real kailyan and will never be. If he was, then he should have been helping his kailyans long before becoming caretaker. 


Baguio pooled method to boost testing capacity

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY -- The city government has adapted pooled testing method in a bid to boost its testing capacity as control measure against Covid-19.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the city scheduled a four-day pooled testing activity and encouraged business establishments to subject their employees to undergo the shared testing method.
    The project coordinated by Budget Officer Leticia Clemente, City Permits and Licensing Officer Allan Abayao and City Health Services Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo was conducted last Feb. 16-19 in various venues in the city.
    The mayor said the project aims to address the urgent need for expanded testing for Covid-19.
    “With the emergence of COVID variants, there is a need to boost our testing capacity to quickly identify infected individuals and isolate them,” he said.
    He said the method allows testing in small groups of people using only one Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test kit for testing at the molecular laboratory of the Baguio General Hospital with test results made available within 24-48 hours.
    “The pooled testing method is an effective and cost-efficient way of expanded testing to curtail the spread of COVID to a bigger population. Unlike the usual RT-PCR test that may not be affordable to most people, the pooled testing method is reasonably priced at P1,000 for each individual in the pool without additional charge,” he said.
    According to City Health Services Office Medical Technologist III Lorelyn Ludmelia Aspiras, the method is done by combining “respiratory samples from several people and conducting one laboratory test on the combined pool of samples.”
    If the pooled test result is negative, then the laboratory will presume that all the samples are negative.  However, if the pooled test result is positive, each of the samples in the pool will need to be tested individually to determine which samples are positive for the virus.
     The mayor thanked the barangays for coordinating and establishments Abanao Square, Baguio Center Mall, Porta Vaga and SM City Baguio for providing venues for the project.


Salacnib tan namnama: Giving hope amidst Covid-19


Lorna M. Yaco

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Salaknib Tan Namnama, a project of Dept, of Education-Cordillera Administrative Region (DepEd-CAR) under the leadership of Regional Director Estela Carino, aims to assist selected learners in Benguet schools for financial assistance especially this  pandemic.
    Learner beneficiaries are teenage mothers, orphans, learners who are severely wasted, those who belong to marginalized families. Validation of the beneficiaries are through home visitations and recommendations from their teachers.
    The involved pilot schools are Benguet National High School -Main with 23 beneficiaries, Buguias National High School with 20 and Puguis Elementary School also with 20.
    The Schools Division of Benguet through Youth Development Officer, Kennetch Kelcho targeted activities aside from financial support to be given.
    Among these are parenting sessions, psychosocial support services, youth empowerment activities, workshops or trainings in livelihood for both learners and parents.
    The persons in charge for school activities will be the school heads and  guidance facilitators.
    Funds for the project were solicited from Deped employees and other linkages. The assistance will be given until they finish Senior High School. Through such program, it is expected that the number of failures due to financial constraints of learners will be lessened. -- Lorna M. Yaco teaches at Benguet National High School)


PNP probes ambush-slay of 2 ex-Cagayan mayors, 2 aides

>> Monday, February 22, 2021

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- The Cagayan Police Provincial Office (CPPO) has created Special Investigation Task Group Salazar (SITGS) to determine the brains and the killers of two Lasam town former mayors and two others.
    One of the former mayors was in President Duterte’s narco list.
    On Monday, Lasam Councilor Marjorie Apil Salazar, a former town mayor; Lasam councilor Eduardo Asuten, also a former mayor and vice mayor; John Rey Cortes Apil, 24; and Aiza Salvador Manuel, 31, were killed in an ambush in Barangay Ignacio B. Jurado.
    Apil and Manuel were Salazar’s driver and secretary, respectively.
    Col. Ariel Quilang, CPPO chief, said Director Crizaldo Nieves of the Police Regional Office 2 immediately ordered the formation of SITGS, which is composed of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, police legal and intelligence offices and Lasam police station.
    Quilang said the SITGS would carry out a thorough investigation on the attack. Lasam acting police chief Maj. Pablo Tumbali was given 72 hours to resolve the case.
    “We are not discounting politics as one of the motives in the killing of the two local government officials and two employees,” he said.
    On Nov. 29, 2020, the municipal administrator of Lasam was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men.
    The victim, Augustos Agatep of Callao Sur village in Lasam, was killed in Callao Norte village.
    Witnesses could not identify Agatep’s assailants who fled on a motorcycle after the incident.
    In the case of Salazar and the three other victims, Quilang said they were also looking into the possible involvement of the     New People’s Army (NPA) since there were leaflets scattered around the crime scene bearing the name of Danilo Ben Command, an NPA wing operating in Region 2 (Cagayan Valley).
    “We are gathering intelligence information if the NPA rebels had something to do with it after the culprits allegedly left subversive documents,” he added.
    Lasam police said the victims were on board a white Toyota Hiace vehicle with plate No. YN 1266 when they were ambushed.
    The victims’ van was approaching Ignacio B. Jurado village in Lasam town when passengers of two vehicles — a blue Hyundai Accent without registration plate and a white Toyota Wigo, heading west — sprayed bullets at the vehicle of the victims.
    Responding police brought the victims to the Lasam District Hospital, a few steps away from the crime scene, but were pronounced dead upon arrival.
    Police said there were at least six gunmen who sprayed the van with more than 200 bullets based on the empty shells gathered at the crime scene.
    The victims died from multiple gunshot wounds.
    Maj. Pablo Tumbali, chief of the Lasam police said Salazar’s vehicle crashed into the wall of the hospital while the assailants sped away.
    Probers recovered bullet shells at the crime scene.
    Before fleeing, the assailants left a sign marked “sumampa iti NPA” or the NPA strikes again.
    In 2016, President Duterte tagged Salazar as among local officials involved in the illegal drug trade.
    Salazar’s inclusion in Duterte’s narco list stemmed from the discovery of a shabu laboratory in Lasam when she was mayor.
    Salazar denied the allegations including speculation that she was related to the owner of the property where the supposed shabu laboratory was located. -- By Leander Domingo, Raymund Catindig and Victor Martin


Kalinga gov’s bodyguard, Pangasinan town exec slain

By Eva Visperas

TABUK CITY, Kalinga -- A bodyguard of Gov. Ferdinand Tubban Jr. identified as Denver Sangdaan, was killed while provincial government employee Jenner Ewad was wounded in a shooting Monday night.
    Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. R’win Pagkalinawan said the incident occurred when Army corporal Denmark Baddongon confronted Ewad over P2,000 the victim reportedly owed him.
    Ewad was shot when he attempted to help Tubban.
    Kalinga police director Col. Davvy Limmong said Baddongon surrendered Tuesday.
    Meanwhile, in Calasiao, Pangasinan, the head of the public order and safety office of the town was gunned down by unidentified motorcycle-riding men Tuesday.
    Reynaldo Bugayong, 54, a resident of Barangay Dinalaoan, was on his motorcycle on his way to work when he was shot.
    Probers have yet to determine the motive for the killing.


Ex-Pangasinan board member tagged brains in former gov’s ambush

By Emmanuel Tupas

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — Former Pangasinan board member Raul Sison, who died of Covid-19 in March last year, is the mastermind in the ambush of former governor Amado Espino Jr. in 2019, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas said Wednesday.
    Sinas said Benjie Resultan, who admitted that he participated in the ambush as a lookout, executed an extrajudicial confession tagging Sison as the brains.
    The Pangasinan police had earlier confirmed that Sison was involved in the incident.
    “With these recent developments in this high-profile case, we are exerting all efforts to account for all the accused,” Sinas said in a statement.
    The PNP chief did not give details on the possible motive for the gun attack.
    Resultan identified Amando Frias, Alberto Palisoc, Armando Frias, Joey Ferrer, Alfred Pascaran, Ronnie delos Santos, Gerry Pascua, Sherwin Diaz, Teofilo Ferrer, Jewel Castro, John Paul Regalado, a certain Russeler and 10 John Does as the other suspects.
    Frias and Palisoc were arrested in San Juan, Batangas on Feb. 7.
    The other suspects remain at large.
    The San Carlos City regional trial court has issued arrest warrants.
    Espino was wounded while his aide S/Sgt. Richard Esguerra and his driver Agapito Cuison were killed when the former governor’s convoy was attacked in Barangay Magtaking in San Carlos City.                                                  


Judge junks case filed by PNP vs Innabuyog mom

BAGUIO CITY -- Innabuyog - Gabriela Youth UP Baguio cited a Kalinga court’s decision to dismiss “trumped-up charge of illegal possession of explosives” filed by police against Innabuyog-Kalinga’s Betty Belen. 
    Belen was arrested Oct. 25, 2020 when combined elements of the CIDG, PNP-SAF, and AFP allegedly found three rifle grenades in her house.
    Prior to her arrest, Belen has long been targeted by state forces and has been subject to harassment and surveillance since 2016, Innabuyog said. 
    “Mother Betty Belen’s freedom is a reminder that the mass’s fight against the oppressive administration remains unfinished.     There are other political prisoners like Mother Betty who are still held prisoners of their made-up cases.” said Khrismierra Valderama, Bahaghari-UP Baguio women’s representative. 
    She said attacks against indigenous activists in the Cordillera intensified as the state attempts to silence and malign indigenous peoples’ movement.
    CPA chairperson, Windel Bolinget, still faces the trumped-up charge of murder filed by police against him recently, Innabuyog said.
    CPA Secretary General Sarah Dekdeken was reportedly charged of “cyber libel” by Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. R’win S.  Pagkaliwanan, while youth leaders in the region are continuously red-tagged. 
    “The current administration has exerted so much effort and money in silencing the voices of the people through rampant red-tagging and the implementation of the Anti-Terror Law. These fascist attacks against the people is a manifestation of how the administration is afraid of criticism and accountability. Defending indigenous people’s rights to land and self-determination will never be an act of terrorism.” said Angela Mistranza, Anakbayan UP Baguio Women’s Representative. 
    It is evident how the Anti-Terror Law is being weaponized by the state to launch a violent witch hunt against activists and criminalize dissent. As the oral arguments on the Anti-Terror Law continue, the challenge this poses to us all is to continue on with the fight against injustice and fascism.
    “The case of Mother Betty is a telltale of the power of the peoples’ movement. Her release would not have been possible if not for the peoples’ ceaseless and relentless clamor. This victory reminds us that it is only through our collective militant action can we succeed in forwarding our calls for the rights and welfare of the people.” said Janice Militar, Innabuyog - Gabriela Youth UP Baguio Chairperson.
    The fight continues as we demand justice for all political prisoners and the end to state terror, said Janice Militar Innabuyog - Gabriela Youth UP Baguio chairperson.


New PNP chiefs in Apayao, Mt Province, regional office

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – New police directors for Mountain Province and Apayao were recently installed even as new chiefs for key positions at the police regional office here assumed office. 
    Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. R’win S. Pagkalinawan installed Col. Ruben Bawaan Andiso as acting provincial director of Mountain Province Police Provincial Office during turn-over of command ceremony here at regional police headquarters Feb. 11.
    Andiso replaced Col. Homer M. Penecilla during rites which officially designated him to the position effective Feb. 8, 2021.
     During the ceremony, the regional Ddrector awarded the Medalya ng Kasanayan (PNP Efficiency Medal) to Penecilla for meritorious leadership as Mountain Province PNP chief from Feb. 24, 2020 to Feb. 9, 2021.
    He thanked him for his contributions especially in implementation of anti-insurgency initiatives in the province for almost a year.
    During rites, Andiso urged Mt. Province police “to work together for the good of the people of Mountain Province.
    Andiso traces his roots from Barangay Kin-iway, Besao,Mountain Province.
    Andiso was former Chief of Administrative and Resource Management Division under the PNP’s Headquarters Support Service.
    He said it is only now that he is assigned in the region in his almost 30 years in the PNP service.
In Luna, Apayao, Col. Peter Miguel Tagtag Jr. assumed office as officer-in-charge of Apayao Police Provincial Office during the turn-over of command ceremony Feb. 16 at Apayao Eco-Tourism and Sports Complex Grounds.
    The ceremony, presided by deputy regional director for operations Col. John C Chua, highlighted symbolic passing of command from outgoing provincial police director Col. Byron Banagen Tegui-in to the new OIC.
    Tagtag was former chief of Regional Personnel and Records Management Division.
    Provincial Administrator lawyer Maria Elena E. Ravelo thanked Tegui-in his leadership that contributed to the recognition of     Apayao as one of most peaceful and orderly provinces in Cordillera.
    Tagtag, in his message, urged Apayao police to continue working with dedication to their duties to sustain gains of the provincial police under the outgoing provincial director.
    In Luna, Apayao, Col. Peter Miguel Tagtag Jr. assumed office as officer-in-charge of Apayao Police Provincial Office during the turn-over of command ceremony Feb. 16 at Apayao Eco-Tourism and Sports Complex Grounds.
    The ceremony, presided by deputy regional director for operations Col. John C Chua, highlighted symbolic passing of command from outgoing provincial police director Col. Byron Banagen Tegui-in to the new OIC.
    Tagtag was former chief of Regional Personnel and Records Management Division.
    Provincial Administrator lawyer Maria Elena E. Ravelo thanked Tegui-in his leadership that contributed to the recognition of     Apayao as one of most peaceful and orderly provinces in Cordillera.
    Tagtag, in his message, urged Apayao police to continue working with dedication to their duties to sustain gains of the provincial police under the outgoing provincial director.
    On Feb. 15, Pagkalinawan also presided turn-over of command for Regional Mobile Force Batallion 15 (RMFB15), Regional Operations and Management Division (ROMD), and Regional Personnel and Records Management Division (RPRMD) here at Camp Dangwa. For the RMFB15, outgoing force commander Col. Mario L. Mayames Jr. relinquished his command to Col. Maly Cula.
    Cula was former chief of ROMD who turned over his post to Lt. Col. Sibly P. Dawiguey Jr.
    For the RPRMD, outgoing chief Col. Peter M. Tagtag turned over his position to Lt. Col. Granciso B. Bulwayan Jr.
    Bulwayan was earlier assigned as officer-in-charge of Regional Community Affairs and Development Division.
    Pagkalinawan awarded Medalya ng Kasanayan (PNP Efficiency Medal) to Mayames Jr. Cula for professionalism and competence.
    Medalya ng Kasanayan was awarded to Mayames Jr. for his leadership as commander of RMFB15 from May 4, 2020 to Feb. 15, 2021.
    Another Medalya ng Kasanayan was awarded to Cula for his service as chief of ROMD from Sept. 9, 2019 to February 15, 2021.


Strict entry to Ilocos Sur; 56 Covid cases

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur — The provincial government is still implementing very strict entry of people coming into Ilocos Sur to avoid local infections.
    Gov. Ryan Singson said Monday the province still has 56 active cases, 11 percent of them coming from returning residents.
    Singson said Salcedo town and Candon City still have local transmissions while Cabugao has recorded the highest number of infections last week with 55.
    To date, however, Singson said there are only 14 active cases in that Northern Ilocos Sur town.
    As this developed, Gov. Singson said some doctors and medical experts have studied thoroughly which vaccine the province will use, saying the decision to choose AstraZeneca vaccine is not his own choice.
    Singson said they had already closed a deal to purchase 410,576 doses of vaccines with AstraZeneca, highly-recommended by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
    He said all residents of Ilocos Sur will be vaccinated as the provincial government had already allotted P200 million to purchase the vaccine.
    The governor said they have strategic planning for the province which is systematic, saying they will give priority to health workers, senior citizens, among others.
    “We have vaccination plan to immediately implement once the vaccines arrive,” he added.
    According to Singson, the national government committed to shoulder around 50 to 70 percent of the vaccine needed in the country, this means, he stressed, that “we need only to produce 30 percent.”
    He said the provincial government will shoulder 15 percent of vaccine expenses while municipalities will shoulder 15 percent.
Singson said there is no problem with other rich towns and cities that may have the financial capabilities to fund it.
    Based on reports, EMA’s committee for medicinal products for human use has announced the “AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine is safe and effective at preventing infection in people from 18 years of age, based on the basis of data from four clinical trials conducted in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa.
    The two doses can be given between four and 12 weeks apart.”


Country’s new modern warship arrives in NL

By Freddie G. Lazaro

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union -- A newly – acquired modern warship by the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte was successfully arrived in the waters of the Northern Luzon from South Korea to boost the capability of the naval forces in protecting the Philippine archipelago.
    Lieutenant Jaypee Abuan, the spokesperson of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL), said the Barko Republika Pilipinas (BRP) Jose Rizal FF150 welcomed the BRP Antonio Luna FF151 - the latest and newest addition to the Philippine Navy’s surface asset, in the vicinity of Capones Island, Zambales on February 9, 2021.
    Once commissioned, the BRP Antonio Luna is the second missile-guided frigate of the Philippine Navy and next to the BRP Jose Rizal.
    Both missile-guided frigates were acquired by President Duterte’s administration as part of the ongoing modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
    “The BRP Antonio Luna is set to be commissioned into service in the Philippine Navy after the mandatory quarantine of all its crews headed by Navy Captain Charles Merric A. Villanueva, a seasoned surface warfare officer,” said Abuan.
    The warship is presently anchor in the Subic Bay in Zambales for the quarantine of its crews.
    The BRP Antonio Luna left Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea on February 5 for its much-awaited maiden voyage to the Philippines.
    A simple send-off ceremony was conducted on its departure which was graced by the Philippine Defense and Armed Forces Attache (DAFA) to the Republic of Korea (ROK).
    After 2 days of the voyage, FF151 finally entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) after crossing the borders of the Philippines and Taiwan, near Mavulis Island, on February 7.
    As a time-honored maritime tradition, BRP Jose Rizal, the first missile-guided frigate of the Philippine Navy, and 3 FA50PH fighters of the Philippine Air Force conducted a meeting procedure to BRP Antonio Luna in the vicinity of Capones Island, Zambales on February 9 to formally welcome the newly acquired frigate into the maritime nation’s territory.
    The FF150 and 3 FA50PH fighters rendered passing exercise (PASSEX) or passing honors, a navy’s custom and tradition to honor transiting vessels, and fly-by simultaneously to commemorate the FF151’s arrival in the Philippine waters.
    After the meeting procedure, the two frigates executed their first maneuvering exercises (MANNEX) together.
    Likewise, to capture this important milestone in the PN and AFP’s history, the Augusta Westland (AW) 159 Wildcat Naval Helicopter conducted a photo exercise (PHOTOEX) while the two missile-guided frigates were conducting various maneuvers at sea.
    The steel cutting ceremony of the BRP Antonio Luna was held on September 17, 2018, in HHI's shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea while the keel-laying ceremony was held on May 23, 2019.
    The arrival of FF151 is one month ahead of the expected date of delivery on March 6, 2021.    
    The delivery was set earlier after the successful conduct of harbor and sea trial and actual inspection of the joint DND and PN inspection team at HHI shipyard in Ulsan, South Korea on January 25 to 29, 2021.
    On top of that, a series of harbor and sea trials were also conducted by Philippine Navy (PN)'s Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC) from September to December last year which all showed satisfactory results.
    Meanwhile, the BRP Jose Rizal is under the operational control of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon (NFNL) under the command of Commodore Caesar Bernard N. Valencia during the meeting procedures of the frigates. (JCR/VHS/FGL, PIA 1 with reports from the NFNL)


P’sinan mayor is PMA Cavalier 2021 awardee

 By Venus May H. Sarmiento

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan - Pangasinense Mayor Leopoldo Bataoil of Lingayen town is among the recipients of the prestigious Cavalier Awards bestowed by the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, Inc., (PMAAAI)
    The PMAAAI Cavalier Awards is the highest recognition given to a PMA alumnus or alumna with outstanding achievements in their respective fields.
    Bataoil, who was formerly a legislator and is a retired two-star Police General, was vested said award for the second time for his exemplary feat in the realm of public service.
    He garnered his first Cavalier citation  11 years ago, or in February 2010.
     From a 33-year journey of outstanding military service, Bataoil was a three-termer representative of the second congressional district of Pangasinan and presently sits as mayor of the province’s capital, his hometown, Lingayen.
    Among his commendable projects were the Lingayen Baywalk; Daang Kalikasan connecting Mangatarem, Pangasinan to Sta.Cruz, Zambales; Daang Katutubo in Aguilar; hanging bridge in Cacaoiten, Mangatarem and Pototan, Binmaley; Ylang-Ylang Plantation; Lingayen-Binmaley by-pass road; restoration of the Casa Real, which will serve as the provincial museum; construction and rehabilitation of Philippine National Police (PNP) stations, including fire stations, in the entire second district; farm-to-market roads; as well as construction of school buildings, multi-purpose halls, and rural health units, according to the Municipal Information Office.



Bayambang in calamity due to armyworms

By Eva Visperas

BAYAMBANG, Pangasinan — A resolution declaring a state of calamity in 66 of 77 barangays in this town due to armyworm infestation was passed  on Wednesday. The resolution noted that 1,478.247 hectares of onion farms and 1,484 farmers were affected. The declaration will allow the municipal government and affected barangays to tap their calamity funds to assist affected farmers. Armyworms breed in grassy patches near onion farms, with each female worm laying up to 1,500 eggs during its lifetime.                        



La Trinidad, BCDA, set Covid mass testing

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The municipal government here, in partnership with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), will conduct another round of mass testing in the municipality that will focus on vulnerable sectors to enhance campaign to contain the spread of Covid-19 aggravated by the new variant among the populace.
    Mayor Romeo Salda said the mass testing would be done among the stakeholders of the La Trinidad vegetable trading post as there were some packers and porters who earlier tested positive for the deadly virus.
    He added the local government would try to maximize the use of the 400 reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test kits made available by the BCDA for the mass testing activity to help ascertain the percentage of the population that has been infected with the virus.


CPDF hits military for bombing, strafing Besao

BESAO, Mountain Province -- The Cordillera People's Democratic Front - Mountain Province assailed aerial bombing and indiscriminate strafing allegedly done by troops of 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Cordillera police on pasture land and farms here at Barangay Tamboan last Feb. 11.
    In a press statement, the CPDF-MP said two helicopters dropped a bomb and strafed the area even if there was no armed encounter between government troops and the New People's Army.
    "This is another violation on the rules of war mentioned in the International Humanitarian Law. It has again disturbed the livelihood of the people for pasture animals like cows and carabaos may have been killed, and has brought trauma to the village folks who saw and heard the bombing and strafing," CPDF-MP said.
    “CPDF-MP also condemns the Duterte regime for intensifying its violent war against the revolutionary movement amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The national government should cease all its combat military operations and focus on facing the pandemic.     We call on the people to call for the government to rechannel military funds to public health, livelihood, and other basic social services," the CPDF-MP added.


MGB bares Baguio disaster, risk areas; SP ok’s signs in sites

By Jordan G. Habbiling

BAGUIO CITY – Warning signs are set to be installed in dangerous and risk-prone areas of this city after the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources- Cordillera Administrative Region (MGB-CAR) identified locations susceptible to landslide, flood, and sink holes.
    Risk-prone areas are barangays: Loakan Proper, Loakan Liwanag, Green Water Village, South Drive, Cabinet Hill-Teachers Camp, Upper Dagsian, Scout Barrio, Fort Del Pilar (PMA), North Sanitary Camp, West Bayan Park (Leonila Hill), Asin Road, Bakakeng Central, Dominican Mirador, Dontogan, Fairview Village, Irisan, Lourdes Subdivision Extension, Lourdes Subdivision Lower, Middle Quezon Hill Subdivision, Pinget, Pinsao Pilot Project, Pinsao Proper, Quezon Hill Proper, Quezon Hill Upper, Rock Quarry Lower, Rock Quarry Middle, San Luis Village, San Roque Village, Santo Tomas Proper, and Victoria Village.
    With this, the city council approved on the third and final reading an ordinance requiring installation of warning signages in consonance with the Environment Code of the City of Baguio (Ordinance 18-2016) in said risky and dangerous areas.
    Other barangays are still being evaluated, the ordinance added.
    The ordinance has been forwarded to the City Mayor’s Office for approval.
    “Apart from those prescribed by law, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office shall coordinate the installation of early warning systems and devices in all identified high risk areas. Where necessary, it shall design and define area specific early warning systems and devices for the information of the public,” Section 280 of the Environment Code states.
    The recently approved ordinance authored by Councilor Arthur Allad-iw mandates the City Disaster Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMC) and the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (BDRRMC) to coordinate with concerned agencies/offices to identify risk prone areas and install warning signs.
    The CDDRMO shall provide design of warning signages which will be written in English with the corresponding Filipino translation and shall allot a budget for the implementation of the ordinance.
    “There is a need to put signages in all identified landslide, flood and sinking prone areas in the City of Baguio to forewarn residents and for the prevention and mitigation of the effects of any disaster,” Allad-iw said.
    In 2020, Allad-iw also passed an ordinance requiring tree-planting in identified land-slide prone areas in the city.


Isabela monitors goods, food amid ‘overpricing’

By Merlito G. Edale, Jr.

CITY OF ILAGAN, Isabela - This province’s local price coordinating council intensified  price and supply monitoring of agricultural products (pork, chicken vegetables) in all public markets of Isabela amid reports of overpricing.
    The activity aimed to ensure agricultural products’ supply and prices including basic commodities that are sold in public markets are based on the suggested existing retail prices from the Dept. of Agriculture and DTI are not overpriced.
    The LPCC will ask the Office of the Governor to craft an executive order that requires the posting of price bulletins indicating suggested retail price in the city and municipal public markets for reference of the buying public and strict enforcement of Price Tag law.
    Winston Singun, DTI Isabela head and co-chair of the LPCC, said the need to intensify price monitoring is necessary in this time of pandemic to ensure no establishment or stall owners are taking advantage of too much profiting.
    He said establishment and stall owners should adhere to existing laws and regulations to avoid charges or closure of their businesses.
    The body agreed to establish a hotline or hotlines particularly the DA and DTI to cater to the concerns of the public on prices and supply of commodities under their respective jurisdictions. -- PIA 2-Isabela



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