Comelec cancels COC of Mt Province mayoral bet

>> Saturday, April 30, 2022

By Kimberlie Quitasol

PARACELIS, Mountain Province ––The Commission on Elections Second Division canceled the certificate of candidacy (COC) of a mayoral candidate here convicted of an offense that carried accessory penalty of perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office.
    In a 13-page resolution promulgated Tuesday, April 19, the Comelec said it granted the petition for denial and cancellation of the COC of Avelino Amangyen for Paracelis mayor in the May 9 elections.
    The petition was filed by a certain Franklin Talawec on Oct. 6 last year, the Comelec said.
    Talawec alleged Amangyen, an owner of a furniture shop, made misrepresentation on his COC since the mayoral candidate had been convicted with final judgment of violation of Presidential Decree No. 705 or “Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines.”
    The Regional Trial Court-Bontoc in Mountain Province promulgated the judgment on July 22, 2013, affirmed by the Court of Appeals and later by the Supreme Court.
    In June 2012, police sued Amangyen for violating the forestry code.
    On March 30 of the same year, the Community Environment and Natural Office, with Mountain Province police, found Narra lumber in Amangyen’s furniture shop.
    Talawec argued Amangyen should also be disqualified based on provisions of the Omnibus Election Code since he was sentenced to more than 18 months of imprisonment.
    According to Talawec’s petition, Amangyen wrote “no” in item number 22 of his COC, referring to whether he had been held liable for an offense that carries the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
    Amangyen, on the other hand, argued that his court conviction is not yet final since there is a pending petition seeking to acquit him, which the Comelec rejected.


FX falls in Mt Prov cliff; six killed, 2 wounded

By Darius Bajo and Alfred Dizon

BESAO, Mountain Province – Six persons died while two others were wounded when a Tamaraw FX vehicle they were riding in fell down a ravine here at Sitio Bunga, Catengan at dawn Thursday, April 21.
    A local police spot report to Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee identified fatalities as Rhema Sumingwa, 18; Merley Docyogen, 17, both of Catengan; Lender Keith Alfonso, 19; Hazel Solang,19; Dalog Kawi Mangallay, 19 and Lip-aw Aligan, 21, all residents of Patiacan, Quirino, Ilocos Sur.
    Survivors were named as Lander Maticyeng, 17 and Novelyn Sagantiyok, 18 also of Patiacan.
Investigation disclosed Besao police received information from a concerned citizen that a vehicle fell from the road in Bunga.
    Personnel from police, fire, army barangay and community folks responded and found the gray Tamaraw FX with plate number UCZ 739 totally wrecked around 100 meters down the ravine.  
    Rescuers recovered bodies of the six victims which were declared dead by Dr. Joy Dicdican of Municipal Health Office who was one of responders.
    Survivors were brought to Besao District Hospital for medical treatment.
Investigation disclosed the incident happened around 4:30- 5 a.m. but only discovered by a local resident who came from his farm and encountered one of survivors who was seeking help around 4 p.m. that day.
The bodies of Sumingwa and Docyogen were brought to their respective residences in Catengan while those of Alfonso, Solang, Mangallay and Aligan were brought to Bunga, later transported to their respective homes in Bab-asig, Patiacan early morning of April 22 by their relatives and Catengan barangay officials.
The driver and owner of the ill-fated vehicle was identified as Dalog Kawi Mangallay who was one among the fatalities.
It was not known where the vehicle was headed since two of survivors made conflicting statements and there were no other reliable witnesses to corroborate their accounts, the report said.
Search and retrieval operations were still on at press time to ascertain if all passengers of the ill-fated vehicle were all accounted for.




Three kids killed in Cabanatuan fire

CABANATUAN CITY – Three children were killed in a fire that hit three houses in Barangay D.S. Garcia here morning of Easter Sunday, April 17.
    The fatalities were identified as siblings Julius Cesar Gonzales, 12; Christine Joy, 11; and Celina, 3.
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    Reports said the fire started at 8:29 a.m. and was declared out by 8:55 a.m.
    The fire razed to the ground the single story house owned by August Caezar Gonzales and partially damaged the houses of two other relatives.
    It was not stated in the report if the victims and the owner of the house are related.
Investigators estimate the cost of fire damage at P100,000 while the origin of the blaze was not immediately reported.


Abra bet wants police heads replaced

BANGUED, Abra – This capital town’s mayoral candidate Mary Ann Bersamin pressed replacement of police officials detailed in Abra claiming they are doing nothing on "rampant vote-buying" being openly done by her rival for the Bangued top post in cahoots with barangay (village) officials, among others.
    Bersamin on Wednesday accused police of giving protection to politicians who were buying votes in Abra.
    She said she talked to the Bangued chief of police and they agreed police would disperse people lining up at houses of barangay captains, where P3,000 was allegedly being given in exchange for votes for the Valeras.
    "I am calling on the police here in Abra, I hope that you will be replaced," Bersamin also said in a phone interview with the media.
    The mayoral race in Bangued is a three-cornered fight among Bersamin, former mayor Ryan Luna and incumbent Vice Mayor Mila Valera.
    Mila is the wife of incumbent mayor Dominic Valera, who is running for governor and mother of incumbent Abra Gov. Jocelyn Bernos, who is running for vice governor.
    Bersamin said police did not do anything. Instead it seems, she added, they are even guarding the vote-buying stations as evidenced by video footage taken by concerned citizens in residences of some barangay captains who had been distributing money to voters.
    In her official Facebook account, she posted photos and videos of what she called vote-buying stations with the caption: Kayo pa ang nagbabantay ng buying station nila. AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police), nasaan na ang dignidad ninyo?
    Bersamin urged the people of Bangued to vote wisely for the betterment of their town and province as a whole.
    "My message to BanguedeƱos, I know some of you received money because of poverty and fear, but do not forget, they are the reason why our province is in poverty, this is the time for us to turn this situation around, we should not allow poverty and fear to continue," she said in Ilokano.
    Bersamin said she will consult her lawyers for possible filing of election complaints against all those involved in alleged rampant vote-buying being done not only in the capital town but also in different parts of the province including security officers of those involved in the election fraud.
    Sources in the province said rampant vote-buying started since the filing of certificates of candidacy of those aspiring for elective positions and this continued and now rampant as elections are near.
    Abra had been tagged as the killing fields of the North because of numerous election-related violence and incidents killed politicians and their supporters.
    At present, the Commission on Elections is studying the possibility of placing Abra under its control to avert untoward incidents and violence that may lead to loss of lives and inflict damage to property due to intense political rivalry among politicians and their supporters.


CPDF hits 'bogus gov't peace talks with CPLA'

SOMEWHERE IN CORDILLERA – The Cordillera People’s Democratic Front accused the government of “recycling local peace talks with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, a fake non-existent rebel group.”
    The CPDF said this was “another string in its long-winded script of the localized peace talks drama of the  Duterte regime’s recycled peace talks script with the fake non-existent CPLA rebel group, held last April 10, 2022. “As expected, Ret. Gen. Carlito Galvez and other main figures of the NTF-ELCAC harped its praise to high heavens of having achieved peace in the Cordillera with the rebels through localized peace talks”.
    Simon “Ka Filiw Naogsan, CPDF spokesman said in a statement, “localized peace talks with the oft-revived CPLA is a big lie and insensitive to historical developments.”
    The CPDF statement: “First, the CPLA is a fake non-existent rebel group. After splitting with the New People’s Army (NPA) in April 1986, it formally surrendered to the government on Sept 1987 when it forged an anomalous “Sipat” at Mt. Data Lodge, Bauko, Mountain Province. From then on, it became a killing machine of the US-Aquino regime alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
    “It went on harassing, intimidating and even killing civilians they accused of supporting the NPA. Until now, families of the victims of the CPLA’s terrorism has not attained justice for their kin. The state has coddled and used this group against the national minorities in the Cordillera in its vain attempt to stop the revolutionary movement from further deepening its roots in the Cordillera. Instead, membership in the NPA from the provinces of the Cordillera after the CPLA’s split from the NPA has even swelled, showing that the people does not recognize this bogus faction.
    “Two, lacking any ideological mooring, it splinted into several factions. Each one elbowing the other factions to grab whatever cramps of financial favors and infrastructure projects the government dangles. At one time or another, they served as guns for hire by unscrupulous politicians and businessmen, professional squatters and landgrabbers, illegal loggers and plain criminals. As the years went by, they have sunk into further degradation as opportunists and hoodlums, offering their services to the highest bidder.
    “Three, that on Sept 2011, the US -Arroyo regime issued EO 18, officially integrating them into the AFP and paramilitary and serve as a closure order for the CPLA’s existence. With this integration, they have unmasked themselves and nailed the final nail to their coffin.
    “Now, comes this latest claim of Galvez et al of attaining peace in the Cordillera allegedly by appeasing the fake rebel CPLA. It tried vainly to resurrect the CPLA from the dustbin of oblivion to highlight their promotion of the localized peace talks and justify their corruption of the NTF-ELCAC funds.  Their fooling of themselves have never and can never solve the basic problems of the Filipino people including the national minority of the Cordillera. The people’s war will continue to move on till the roots of their basic problems are ended through their NPA and leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”


15-K Baguio famiies to get housing

By Liza Agoot 

BAGUIO CITY – Around 15,000 families are expected to benefit from the first socialized housing project here, with about 270 initial beneficiaries.
    Aileen Refuerzo, city chief information officer, on Wednesday said the Luna Terraces in Barangay Irisan, which broke ground in February, will be given to the city's informal settlers and those in dangerous areas or displaced by natural or man-made disasters.
    The Luna Terraces socialized housing is a joint project of the city government and the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development through the National Housing Authority.
    It has initial funding of P50 million allocated for the construction of two out of the eight buildings which have a total cost of P326 million.
    Refuerzo said the Luna Terraces will be home to a socialized permaculture housing community.
    Permaculture is an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living, growing food, building houses, and creating communities while minimizing their environmental impact.
    Refuerzo said the units will be awarded to the beneficiaries under socialized payment terms.
    She said the first project will accommodate all the identified families that need relocation which is why the local government is looking for more lots to develop.
    “The city is looking for more lots to develop to accommodate the many families that need to be relocated to safer grounds,” Refuerzo said.
    Earlier, the city government said it was looking for areas outside Baguio, in the neighboring towns in Benguet, due to the limited land area of the country’s summer capital.
    Refuerzo said La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay, collectively known as LISTT, are now being considered as the expansion area. -- PNA 


Druggie slain in shootout with Mankayan police after high-speed chase

MANKAYAN, Benguet – A man was shot dead by police in a gunfight after he sped off when stopped by the lawmen at a checkpoint here early morning of April 16 at Pas-adan Colalo.
    Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee identified the fatality as Crisanto “Cris” Marcellano of San Pedro, Laguna.
Mankayan police said they conducted checkpoint operations at Sitio Cabatuan, Colalo, Mankayan, Benguet after receiving information about transportation of marijuana bricks in a Black Honda City vehicle with no plate number attached coming from Cervantes, Ilocos Sur and heading towards Mankayan.
    Police said the vehicle approached the checkpoint but when police signaled it to slow down, the car vehicle sped off prompting lawmen to pursue it while contacting other police to block the road it was headed.
    Upon the arrival of the vehicle at Pas-adan, it suddenly stopped and the driver got off then shot his firearm several times at police blocking force prompting them to return fire.
    The suspect sustained a gunshot wound and was immediately brought to Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company Hospital where medical staff tried to revive Marcellano who was later pronounced dead by the attending physician.
    No policeman was hurt although the patrol vehicle incurred a bullet hole.
    The provincial police forensic unit recovered from the crime scene a Cal. 9mm Taurus pistol loaded with eight bullets and magazine for the gun.
    Meanwhile, the Regional Explosives and Canine Unit Cordillera found in the carfive marijuana bricks valued at P600,000.
    Ballistic examination of the recovered firearm and post-mortem fingerprint examination of the suspect’s cadaver were conducted.
    All confiscated items including the vehicle of the suspect were brought to Mankayan police station for documentation.


6 drown in Cagayan during Holy Week

By Victor Martin

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Six persons drowned in separate areas in Cagayan during the Holy Week, police said.
Of the fatalities, one drowned on Tuesday, four on Friday and one on Saturday, according to Capt. Isabelita Gano, information officer of the Cagayan police.
    Gano identified five of the fatalities as Jonavie Asis, 16; Jomari Mateo, 19; Perfecto Orteza, 49; Robin Ramirez, 51, and Editha Solancho, 55.
    The other fatality, who has yet to be identified, drowned while trying to save two children.
    Orteza drowned while fishing in the Cagayan River, where Asis and Mateo were swept away by the current on Friday.
    Ramirez was declared dead on arrival at the Cagayan Valley Medical Center after he was seen floating in a creek.
Solancho, who was first reported missing on Wednesday, was recovered on Friday.
    Meanwhile, the Office of the Civil Defense in Cagayan Valley said a total of 38 persons were injured in various vehicular accidents during the Holy Week.
    Majority of the road mishaps were recorded in Nueva Vizcaya with 17, followed by Cagayan with 12, Isabela with eight and Quirino, one.


DENR, Comelec tear down posters put on Isabela trees

SPARE THE TREES. Personnel of the Commission on Elections and Department of Environment and Natural Resources remove campaign materials nailed on trees in Isabela province on Tuesday (April 12, 2022). DENR-2 Regional Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan said in a briefing the law prohibits the cutting or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value in public places. (Photo by Villamor Visaya Jr.)

By Villamor Visaya, Jr. 

CITY OF ILAGAN, Isabela – The Commission on Elections and Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources led a day-long "Oplan Baklas" drive here last week removing campaign posters and other paraphernalia on trees along Isabela’s main roads.
    “We are appealing to the candidates and their supporters to follow the law. They could face legal sanctions if they continue to violate the rules,” DENR-Cagayan Valley Regional Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan said in a briefing prior to the operations.
    She cited Republic Act 3571 which prohibits the cutting, destroying, or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises, or in any other public pleasure grounds.
    “The trees provide ecological and environmental benefits. Let us conserve and spare trees from campaign posters,” she added.
    Bambalan said under Presidential Decree 953 (Sec. 3), violators could be punished with imprisonment from six months to two years, or fine of not less than P500 and not more than P5,000, or both.
    Lawyer Michael Camangeg, acting Isabela election supervisor, said the Comelec, through the Fair Elections Act, may authorize political parties to create common poster areas for their candidates in public places, but in no instance shall it designate as poster areas any trees, plants, or shrubs along public roads.
    “In fact, the DENR is even authorized by the Commission to remove oversized posters and materials not in the common poster areas aside from the campaign paraphernalia nailed or posted at trees,” Camangeg added. – PNA



30 wanted persons nabbed in Cordillera

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – A total of 30 wanted persons in Cordillera were arrested from April 10 to 16.
Based on the records from the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division for the week, the Baguio City Police Office recorded the highest number of arrests with 12 followed by Kalinga with seven; Benguet, 5; Abra and Mt. Province with two each, Ifugao and Apayao with one arrest each. Out of these were listed as most wanted persons – three at the regional level; three, provincial, two, municipal and two, station level.
    For regional, Gilbert Aglugub, was arrested for rape; Edwardo Bangelan, for robbery with homicide and Hazel Sawey for large scale illegal recruitment.
    For provincial, Jeffer Guiwed and Joel Pagedped, were nabbed for rape while Mark Guilford Puddong was arrested for violation for illegal drugs.
    For municipal, Jay-Ar Gaem was nabbed for child abuse, Ricky Gunnawa, or violation of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act. In station level, Josie Colom was held for estafa while Clarissa Barillo was also nabbed for theft.

Police seize lumber in Bakun, Bauko

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – Police confiscated P22,043 worth of assorted lumber in Cordillera on April 10.
In Benguet, 1st Benguet Provincial Mobile Force Company elements discovered 10 pieces of sawn pine lumbers with a total volume of 50 board feet valued at P2,500 in public land in Gueday, Poblacion, Bakun town , while 2nd Benguet PMFC cops found seven pieces of mahogany lumber worth P1, 920.00 in Kamog, Sablan town.
    In Ifugao, police Alfonso Lista town on patrol in Sitio Tallu, Purok San Marcos, seized nine pieces of Gmelina lumber worth P7,623.
    In Mt. Province, 20 pieces of Benguet pine lumbers worth P10,000 were seized by Bauko town police  in Bagnen Road, Sitio Cotcot, Abatan, Bauko town.

    All confiscated assorted lumbers were brought to custody of respective town police.



Cordillera nears 80 percent herd immunity vs Covid-19

By Liza Agoot 

BAGUIO CITY – The Dept. of Health in the Cordillera Administrative Region said the region is close to vaccinating 80 percent of its target population before achieving herd immunity against Covid-19.
    In a message on Tuesday, Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, DOH-CAR assistant regional director, said data from the Regional Vaccination Operations Center shows 77.23 percent of the total target eligible population in the region have received the two doses of different brands of the Covid-19 vaccine.
    The region's vaccination program has a target population of 1,144,384 individuals.
Pangalinan said the DOH also helps the local government units in ensuring that they reach the 80-percent herd immunity target.
Baguio City has the highest vaccination accomplishment, exceeding its target population of 305,448 with a 106.68-percent vaccination rate.
    Abra is second with 92.08 percent of the 201,244 targets; followed by Apayao with 78.10 percent of its 101.250 targets; Kalinga with 76.57 percent of its 197,754 target population; and Mountain Province with 70.39 percent of 127,314 target individuals.
    Ifugao has the lowest accomplishment, so far vaccinating only 52.84 percent of its 172,134 target population.
Benguet Province has a 59.40-percent accomplishment rate among its 394,649 targets.
    Karen Lonogan, chief of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU), earlier said that the DOH-CAR has allotted additional manpower to provinces that have yet to reach herd immunity.
    “Nagbabahay-bahay na tayo kasama ang LGUs para masigurado na mararating natin gaano man sila kalayo (We are going house to house with the local government units to assure that we can reach the people no matter how far they live),” she said. -- PNA


Baguio sees 50-K tourists on weekends

By Liza Agoot 

BAGUIO CITY – The city government is projecting that at least 50,000 to 60,000 tourists will be arriving to spend their weekends in this summer capital. 
    Aloysius Mapalo, city tourism officer, said on Thursday the projection is based on the trend of travel, as tourists register and get their quick response (QR) codes from the online tourist registration portal as the date of their actual travel nears. 
    “We can't have summer numbers this early, registration peaks when nearing actual travel dates,” he said.
Mapalo said pre-pandemic data shows that Holy Week is the peak tourism season in the city, followed by the Panagbenga Festival, Christmas season and the summer months. 
    During this year's Holy Week from April 14-17, the city saw the arrival of 87,262 tourists with 40,612 of them arriving on April 14. 
    Mapalo said around 45 percent of the arrivals stayed in accommodation establishments that have resumed operation like hotels, inns, and transient houses for two to three days while the others either stayed with friends or relatives, or were day visitors only.
    Andrew Pinero, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) spokesperson and the client relations manager of the Baguio Country Club (BCC), in a phone interview, said “we were fully booked during Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Our member hotels also said they received a good number of guests during the Holy Week.” 
    He said the industry is slowly picking up after a major slump brought about by the lockdowns as a result of the surges and peaking of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases. 
    Pinero said they continue to be vigilant against the virus to avoid a repeat of the strict community quarantine restrictions that severely affected the tourism industry. 
    At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Tourism said the industry suffered the most when people were made to stay home. 
    Hotels, restaurants, resorts, and destinations closed, resulting in workers being retrenched from their jobs. 
    “We don’t want that to happen again. That is why while the city government has eased its protocols, we are maintaining the health and safety protocols in our facilities because, in the end, it will be the industry that will suffer in case of another spike in cases,” Pinero said. -- PNA


15 nabbed in Cordillera; P15-M marijuana seized

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – A total of 15 persons were arrested in the Cordillera recently with around P15 million worth of illegal drugs confiscated from the suspects.
    Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee said latest to be arrested April 18 here were Sally Palaganas Bugtong, 39 and Brendalee Kasandra Lebgan Modawan, 39 who were caught in a buy-bust operation by joint operatives of Benguet police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency after Bugtong sold a sachet of suspected shabu worth P9,180.
Another sachet of suspected shabu worth P12,308 was seized from Modawan.
    Inventory of seized items was witnessed by Prosecutor Joselea Floria- Balleta, Dept. of Justice representative and Kagawad Jason Bulasao of Barangay Puguis.
    In Kalinga earlier on April 17, Jeboy Amangan, 22, student was arrested while his companion identified as Abel Agaoy is being hunted by police after they sold illegal drugs that day in a buy-bust operation at Sitio Pakak, Barangay Agbannawag.
    Seized Amangan were 10 bricks of marijuana worth P1,200,000 and 50 grams of dried marijuana leaves and stalks found in a carton worth P6,000.
    Inventory of confiscated items were witnessed by Lailanie Balao-ing, Dept. of Justice representative, kagawad Victor Fontanilla of  Agbannawag and Leonora Lo-oy of media.
    Earlier, 13 drug personalities were arrested in the while a total of P14,854,000 worth of marijuana plants were uprooted and burned by cops from April 10 to April 16.
    The Police Regional Office Operations Division said Baguio City Police Office recorded highest number of arrests with seven, followed by Benguet with five and Abra with one.
    In Baguio City, arrested were Ian Niccolo Pinlac Reynon, 28; Jeric Lopez Batuyog, 21; Troy Agunod Simbajon, 21; Levi Hope Flordelis Molines, 20; Manny Lacambra Calagno, 38; Alain Gadalio Candong, 44; and Edian Morales Peralta, 30.
    In Benguet, nabbed were Mark Guilford Awal Puddong, 39; Gilbert Guinomon Labutan, 32; Kenjie Laongan Edoc, 25; and a 17-year-old male minor while one Crisanto Marcellano died in a shoot-out with Mankayan town police.    
    Meanwhile, apprehended in Abra was Patrocinio Domingo Basseg, 48.
    Buy-bust operations resulted in the seizure of a total of 3.9306 grams of suspected shabu worth P26,728 and  confiscation of marijuana worth P603,840.
    All suspects are now facing charges for illegal drugs.
    Meanwhile, Benguet police uprooted and burned a total of 8,510 fully grown marijuana plants worth P1,742,000.
    Some 6,800 marijuana seedlings valued at P272,000 and marijuana leaves and stalks worth P12,840,000 were also confiscated.






Village chiefs told: Give active contact details

By Pamela Mariz T. Geminiano 

BAGUIO CITY— Cordillera barangay chiefs and barangay health emergency response teams (BHERT) were urged Tuesday to provide their active contact details to their constituents in cases of health emergencies.
    "The Department Interior and Local Government still receives complaints involving unavailable contact details of barangays, the absence of BHERT members, and a lack of awareness of how critical the BHERT roles are, particularly during pandemic," said DILG Cordillera director Araceli San Jose San Jose said while much progress had been made in recent months, and some provinces in the region have been placed on Covid-19 Alert Level 1, the threat of Covid-19 continues that is why local folks provided with contact details of barangays, punong barangays, and BHERT as primary frontliners in the fight against the virus.
    “We are urging our punong barangays to create their barangay’s official Facebook account or other social media accounts if not yet available and to ensure the creation of BHERT page within the Barangay's FB account or any social media account that includes the active information on BHERT and other related information," she said.
    Punong barangays should also make sure that their BHERT members are listed in their barangay directory for easier communication.
    “They can also post tarpaulins in conspicuous public places within their barangay jurisdiction with active telephone numbers and other contact details of punong barangays and BHERT members for maximum dissemination,” she said.
    "In our respective communities, BHERTs are our first-line responders. Let us all contribute to our community's response. Let us be proactive and make an effort to identify our BHERTs so that we know who to listen to and who to seek assistance from if necessary,” she said.
    BHERTs or community organizations tasked in managing Covid-19 related healthcare needs are also tasked to make sure that residents within their jurisdiction are all accounted for and are fully informed about the disease.
    The DILG mandates the creation of the BHERT for every 5,000 population, composed of an executive officer, a barangay tanod, and two barangay health workers, one is preferably a nurse or a midwife to be appointed by the punong barangay.
    "The DILG urges city and municipal mayors to provide  assistance and support to all punong barangays, BHERTs and other barangay functionaries who provide health care services in the barangay in bouncing back to a better new normal,” she said.
    “The DILG also directs all city and municipal field officers to ensure and monitor compliance with memorandum circular 2022-046 and submit monitoring reports to provincial offices in the case of city/municipal field offices and to the regional office in the case of provincial, HUC, and ICC offices, by June 15, 2022.”


High Ilocos Norte Holy Week tourist arrivals sparks hope for recovery

By Blessing Angel V. Agliam

LAOAG CITY -- The increase in tourist arrivals and bookings over Holy Week has raised optimism to the local tourism industry in Ilocos Norte will continue to help thousands of Ilokanos regain their livelihood and create more employment opportunities.
    The return of pre-pandemic tourist arrivals in Ilocos Norte benefitted local stakeholders with accommodation facilities being fully booked over the long weekend and thousands flocking to pilgrimage sites and other key destinations in the province.
    According to accommodation reports and travel registration at triages, Ilocos Norte recorded more than 14,000 inbound arrivals.
    Xavier Ruiz, senior Tourism operations officer, said the weekend leading up to Holy Week had the highest number of tourists, peaking on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, with domestic travelers accounting for the majority of inbound visits.
    He said when hotels and accommodations in well-known destinations, such as Pagudpud and Laoag City, were fully booked, customers explored alternatives in nearby locations.
    This helped adjacent towns in booking guests and generating revenue.
    Nelly Cristobal, owner of the Casa Victoria Resort and Restaurant in Pagudpud, described the Holy Week as lively and bustling as the pre-pandemic operations, saying:
    “We were fully booked from April 8 until April 18. Nakaka-excite kasi sobrang daming tao and we cannot even accommodate walk-ins already. From seven in the morning until closing time, marami pa rin ang nagi-inquire. It never stopped. So in preparation for the long weekend, I hired part-time workers to help our 30 regular staff pero hindi pa rin enough kasi maraming guests. This is the first time I have ever seen such large number of tourists. I've also heard that all of the homestays and hotel-resorts in Bangui are fully booked na.
    It is a relief that things are getting back to normal. You can see everyone smiling and happy in Pagudpud, including tricycle drivers, local tour guides, and small business owners. Yung ngiting makakabangon na rin po kaming lahat sa wakas,” she added.  
    With the increase in travel freedom due to eased inter-zonal movements, Ilocos Norte continues to work in sustaining its gains in the local tourism recovery.
    Since thousands of Ilokanos rely on tourism for a living, Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc has been initiating recovery measures for the pandemic-affected sector, saying, “Let us make sure that we prioritize the people behind this industry and make sure they are the ones who benefit the most.”
    Among measures taken by the provincial government to jumpstart its tourism sector was Ilocos Norte being one of first destinations in the Philippines to reopen through the pioneer Ridge and Reef Tourism Corridor partnership between Region I provinces and Baguio City.
    It was also one of the first provinces to roll out vaccination in the tourism sector, with 100% of active tourism workers now fully immunized, established tourists' triage, and conducting regular hotel inspections.
    Ilocos Norte was the first and only province in the Philippines to receive the World Travel and Tourism Council Safe Travels Stamp for its adaption of globally recognized health and safety protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    As of writing, Ilocos Norte logged around 700,000 day visitors over Holy Week, showing a 37.5% growth from 2019 and a 49.52% increase from 2018.


DOH bans all single-use plastics in Ilocos Region

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union -- Single-use plastics are now prohibited in all facilities of the Dept. of Health in Ilocos region.
    The DOH said its regional and provincial offices, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and DOH-attached agencies, such as the National Nutrition Council and Philippine Institute of Traditional Alternative Health Care in Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan and La Union are covered by the ban.
    DOH regional director Paula Paz Sydiongco noted that single-use plastics do not decompose and only become fragments that pollute the environment for years.
    “These kinds of plastics are not biodegradable and when they are shred into tiny pieces they end up in canals, rivers, farmland and eventually into the sea,” Sydiongco said in a statement.
    The most common single-use plastic products are drinking straws, cups, drinking bottles, drink stirrers, spoons, forks, knives and thin-filmed sando bags.
    Sydiongco encouraged residents and local government units to adopt a similar ban to minimize pollution.
    She said the ban would also reduce the demand for plastic production, which is contributing to global climate change.
    “We encourage residents to be responsible in using plastic products to reduce all kinds of marine pollution. Proper disposal and management of plastic waste must be done accordingly,” Sydiongco said.



Poisonous leaded spray paints still sold in Baguio

BAGUIO CITY -- Spray paints containing lead up to 30,100 parts per million (ppm) are still sold in violation of a chemical control order prohibiting lead use in paint manufacturing.
    Despite the ban, the toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition said it had purchased from a Baguio retail store imported Yandy Spray Paints with total lead content in excess of the maximum 90 ppm limit.
    “These products pose lead-based paint hazards and would be illegal to import, distribute and sell in line with the CCO,” said Manny Calonzo, adviser, EcoWaste Coalition.  “To protect everyone, especially children, women and workers, from the chronic and debilitating health effects of lead exposure, the government has to vigilantly enforce the lead paint ban.”
    As part of its advocacy for a zero waste and toxics-free society, the group on March 27 bought 10 cans of the “made in China” spray paints of various colors from a retail store located in Mabini Street. 
    The 400 ml spray paints are sold for P120 each.
    To determine if the product contains lead, the group first sprayed each sample on a clean piece of wood and, after the sample had dried, screened it for lead using a handheld Olympus Vanta M Series X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer.
    The XRF analyzer found nine of the 10 Yandy spray paints with lead content above the 90 ppm limit.  A medium yellow paint topped the samples with 30,100 ppm, followed by canary yellow with 10,278 ppm, leaf green 6,363 ppm, Jialing red 5,550 ppm, Shifeng green 3,108 ppm, blackish green 1,766 ppm, cream yellow 689 ppm, fresh green 379 ppm and violet 158 ppm.  A Suzuki red paint tested with 41 ppm of lead. 
    To recall, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued the CCO phasing out lead-containing decorative paints and industrial paints from 2013 to 2016 and from 2013 to 2019, respectively. 
    The manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of leaded spray paints, which are sold to consumers for touch-up and general uses, should have ceased on December 31, 2016 following the three-year phase-out for lead-containing decorative paints.
    A study published by the EcoWaste Coalition and the International Pollutants Elimination Network in 2020 found 37 of the 87 analyzed spray paints sold in the Philippines with violative levels of lead, which subsequently led to the issuance of a public health warning against the purchase and use of such paints.  Among these 37 leaded paint products were two Yandy Spray Paints (deep yellow and jade green).
    According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory No. 2020-1585 banning the said 37 spray paints, “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” warning “there is no permissible level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.”


Online scams hit SSS; members warned: Fix online log-in details

SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM (SSS) president and CEO Michael G. Regino urged members, pensioners, and employers of the state-pension fund to secure their log-in credentials on the My.SSS portal and other personal information to protect their accounts from fraudulent transactions.
    Regino issued the reminder following several complaints from SSS members that their accounts with the My.SSS were being subjected to fraudulent transactions perpetuated by scammers and other unscrupulous persons.
    One of the reasons why fraudulent transactions occur, SSS insiders noted, was the tendency of members to share their login credentials with unauthorized persons.
    These login information, Regino noted, should be kept confidential by accountholders to protect themselves from scammers.
    Regino likened the SSS login credentials to the Personal Identification Number (PIN) that bank depositors use to access their accounts at the Automated Teller Machines (ATM). An ATM card PIN is a multi-digit number required at bank ATMs for carrying out transactions and is initially provided by the banks. This PIN can be reset or changed to a new PIN by the card owner but is kept as a strictly confidential information by the user.
    “We have asked our stakeholders not to share their usernames, passwords, and other login details on their My.SSS accounts to unauthorized individuals. Giving your username and password to another person is like sharing your ATM PIN,” Regino said. “Anyone with this information could use your My.SSS account to avail of monetary benefits without your authorization.”  
    The SSS chief cited a case wherein a member sought the assistance of another person while trying to create and access his My.SSS account on the Internet. It turned out that the person from whom the SSS member sought for help is a fixer and scammer who later drew a salary loan from the account without his knowledge.
    Regino urged members not to entertain unofficial online groups in various platforms, like Facebook, that allegedly offer easier access to SSS online accounts and provided technical assistance for a fee to loan-seekers.
    “We do not recognize these unofficial online groups, even those found on Facebook. We consider them illegal, and they cannot facilitate SSS transactions on behalf of our members,” Regino said.
    He added online transactions and services offered by the SSS portals are free, except when a member is requesting for a replacement of the Unified Multi-purpose ID Card (UMID), which carries a minimal fee.
    Regino said members may visit the E-center in local branches and they will be assisted by SSS employees in their online transactions. “All our branches have an E-center containing several computers connected to the Internet. We have employees stationed there who are ready to help our members in creating and accessing their My.SSS account as well as guide them navigating and using the online portal for their transactions.”
    Regino said the SSS management also regularly updates its online facilities, such as the My.SSS Portal and SSS Mobile App, to better serve its members. In 2021, the Mobile App was redesigned to make it more user-friendly and easier for members to navigate and conduct their online transactions through mobile phone facilities.
    He also reminded members, pensioners, and employers that they cannot be held accountable for fraudulent transactions once a member connives with a fixer.
    Under Republic Act No. 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, and Republic Act 11199, or the Social Security Act of 2018, make it illegal for members to engage the services of fixers.
    SSS works closely with law enforcement agencies to curb the illegal activities of fixers. “We are determined to file charges against them who are taking advantage of our members and employers,” Regino said.
    They may report these fixers or scammers to the Special Investigation Department (SID) through e-mail at or at (02) 8924-7370. ###


PhilHealth exec: Pay on time for eligibility

BAGUIO CITY -- The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. urged residents who are 21 years old and above to register at the nearest branch office of the State insurance firm to enable them to immediately avail of benefit packages in accredited hospitals and other health care facilities for their illnesses.
    Janet Palaez, chief social insurance officer of PhilHealth Baguio, said mandatory registration of all Filipinos to the State insurance corporation is in compliance to Republic Act 11223 known as Universal Health Care Act of 2019.
    She said prior to effectivity of this law in November 2019, PhilHealth members were required to pay their contributions for a certain period of time before they can claim PhilHealth benefits for their confinement in a health facility, but now, individuals being treated for their illnesses are immediately eligible for coverage once they pay their initial contribution of P300 representing the first month of membership to the corporation.
    Palaez urged residents who are not yet registered members of the insurance firm to  register to avail of  lower rate of P300 per month as the firm may increase this to P400 per month.
     Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the proposed increase in the contribution of PhilHealth members as part of government initiative to help in mitigating impact of the pandemic.
     For PhilHealth members who failed to pay their contributions religiously, Palaez said they will be required to pay their contributions dating back to November 2019 when the Universal Health Care Act took effect and still continue paying the same for them to be provided with immediate eligibility coverage.
    Most individuals, she added, are compelled to pay their membership contribution or settle their back contributions when they are already confined in the various health care facilities for them to be able to avail of the benefit packages for their diagnosed illnesses.
    Palaez said accreditation of district health centers as primary health care providers pursuant to the Universal Health Care Act will help in providing more facilities where patients can seek treatment.
    She expressed hope that residents who are already 21 years old and above will be convinced to register as members of the insurance firm and religiously pay their monthly contributions for PhilHealth to sustain the payment of benefit packages it developed for illnesses.
    Initially, the PhilHealth accredited some 10 district health centers in Baguio as primary health care facilities that could provide prospective patients with consultation packages for certain diagnosis and 13 laboratory examinations.
    The accredited primary health care facilities in the city are the Asin, Atab, Aurora Hill, City Camp, Engineers Hill, Irisan, Lucban, Pacdal, Pinsao and Quirino Hill district health centers. – Dexter A. See


Tourist nabbed in Bontoc for P1 million marijuana

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Police arrested a tourist at Poblacion in this capital town afternoon of April 17 cops for transporting illegal drugs.
    Based on the report submitted to Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee, the suspect was identified as Rosendo Don Piquero Tadeo, 24, resident of Quiapo, Manila.
    The bus Tadeo was riding in was earlier checked at a checkpoint in Ampawilen, Sadanga town.
    The bus was traveling from Kalinga to Bontoc.
    While at the checkpoint, one of passengers secretly pointed to police bags allegedly containing suspected contraband.
    Police secretly followed the bus to identify the owner of the said contraband while coordinating with Bontoc police and chief of the Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit (PDEU) to monitor the bus containing the suspected contraband.
    Upon the arrival of the bus at Poblacion, Bontoc, the suspect picked up the said bags and immediately went towards the rotunda.
    After noticing an assistance desk manned by police, he immediately turned back from the area prompting cops to accost him.
    Fourteen bricks of dried marijuana leaves weighing around 13 kilos worth P1,562,520.00 were confiscated from the suspect.
    Inventory of confiscated items was witnessed by representatives from Dept. of Justice (DOJ), media and barangay official.
    Confiscated items were brought to Mt. Province Forensic Unit for examination while charges for illegal drugs were filed against the suspect.


Sagada relaxes tourism rules; Holy Week posts 3K tourists

>> Friday, April 29, 2022

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province -- Changes in tourism protocols in this town increased number of tourists from earlier strict protocols.
    A tourist can now book online and register when he/she arrives in Sagada unlike the earlier booking of two-day online registration before one can be allowed entry in town.
    Sanggguniang Bayan resolution 32-2022 in their March 22 provided “online registration at least one day before the date of arrival.
    Strictly, for same-day registration, the guest will be allowed to tour the following day.
    The counting of the 24-hour day covers 12:01 a.m. to 12 midnight.
    With prior rules, nearly 500 tourists have been turned down since Sagada opened its doors to tourists Nov. 29 last year with the peak of rejection during the long weekend celebration of EDSA Day last week of February.
    This to add to earlier rejections December last year when tourists came for the yuletide season.
    Tourists bewailed their long travel only to be turned down at the check point at Pegew a minutes ride away from the main town.
    Complaints too from the tourism stakeholders in town led to amendments in the protocol.
    A tourist can now register online at the tourism office when she/he arrives and secure an accommodation.
    A tour is only allowed however the next day from arrival.
    Tourist arrivals increased from 1,000 December last year to 2,400 March this year. The recent Holy Week from April 14 to 17 drew some 3,000 visitors who arrived via private cars, commercial vans and through bus transport. 
    Following the latest guidelines issued by the municipal SB, Sagada shall accommodate a maximum of 3,500 guests at a given time.
    Accommodation establishments are limited to actual bed capacity of 1 bed to 1 person except for a couple but not to exceed 50 guests at the same time.
    Health protocols are strictly enforced with presentation of vaccination card except for minors below 12 years old, vaccination is not required but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
    For the unvaccinated tourist, negative antigen test is required.
    Caving is now allowed at Sumaguing and Balangagan but on limited capacity at a given time which shall be implemented on staggered basis.
    That is, for the first week after March 22 limited to 90 guests; for the 2nd week, 150 guests and for the 3rd week onward 200 guests at a time.
    Visit to Bomod-ok  and  Pongas Falls is now allowed.


LTFRB okays Bontoc transport route plan

By Christy Mae F. Che-es

BONTOC, Mountain Province – The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory-Cordillera Administrative Region (LTFRB-CAR) awarded the Compliance Certificate to the Bontoc local government on approved local public transport route plan of the municipality on April 21.
    Engineer Lalaine Sobremonte, officer in charge regional director of LTFRB-CAR, awarded the certificate to Vice Mayor Eusebio Kabluyen who represented mayor Franklin Odsey at Bontoc Municipal Capitol.
    The awarding was witnessed by elective and appointive officials of Bontoc and LTFRB-CAR personnel.
Project development officer Pablito Ing-inga of the Municipal Planning and Development Office said the first draft of the LPTRP was submitted to the LTFRB-CAR on June 15, 2019.
    After a series of transactions thru emails and written documents, the MPDO submitted the second draft on Sept. 20, 2021, but a slight revision of the LPTRP was recommended by the LTFRB-CAR.
    The third and final draft was turned over on Jan. 18, 2022.
    Engineer II Miguel Camil of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) -LTFRB-CAR congratulated the Bontoc LGU since the Bontoc LGU received their CC after only three drafts compared to the usual five to six drafts their agency experienced from other LGUs.
     Planning Officer engineer Mervin Kay Abenoja of  LTFRB-CAR said the municipality now has eight existing routes namely; Poblacion-Guina-ang and Vice Versa, Poblacion-Maligcong and V.V., Poblacion-Mainit and V.V., Poblacion-Dalican and V.V., Poblacion-Bayyo and V.V., Poblacion-Caneo and V.V., Poblacion-Talubin and V.V., Poblacion-Talubin and V.V., and one new and developmental route from Poblacion-Balili and V.V. Abenoja lauded the Bontoc LGU for being one of the first LGUs to submit the LPTRP.
    PUVMP focal person engineer Elmer Mendoza, Jr. advised the LGU to check the plans for further development.
    In a separate interview, mayor Odsey who attended an equally important event expressed his gratitude to the LTFRB-CAR for the awarding of the said certificate on LTPRP.
     “The 12 barangays in our municipality are situated at least six kilometers away from Poblacion, Bontoc thus, a concrete and rational transport plan is needed to provide a more efficient service to our constituents,” the mayor said.
    Sangguniang Bayan member John Pelew joined Odsey in extending his gratitude to the LTFRB-CAR and the Bontoc LGU workforce for finalization of the LPTRP.
 “Our receipt of this Certificate of Compliance is not the end since planning should be continuous and be strictly implemented,” he said.
    Sangguniang Bayan member Viola Okko thanked the LTFRB-CAR and congratulated the members of the LPTRP for their prompt compliance.
     Meanwhile, the Bontoc LGU through the Sangguniang Bayan turned over ordinance 357, S. 2022 entitled “An ordinance adopting the local public transport route plan for the municipality of Bontoc, Mountain Province for the year 2022” to the LTFRB-CAR.
    The ordinance was submitted as a requirement after the awarding of the certificate.


Dengue up in Cordi: Observe health rules, regional folks told

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY -- Health authorities have raised alarm over increase in dengue hemorrhagic fever cases in Cordillera including Baguio City.
    Mayor Benjamin Magalong and City Health Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo advised residents to be on guard against the disease by practicing the 4S strategy: Search and Destroy Mosquito Breeding Places; Self –Protection Measures (use window screens, mosquito nets, wear protective clothing, use insect repellents); Seek Early Consultation; and Say Yes to Fogging in Hotspot Areas Only.
    The City Epidemiology Surveillance Unit under Dr. Donnabel Panes recorded a total of 82 dengue cases as reported by Disease Reporting Units in the city from Jan.1 to March 31.
    “This is 95.23 percent increase compared to the same period in 2021. There were no fatalities reported. Clustering of cases was observed in Bakakeng Central and San Luis Village barangays.  Age range of the patients is from 9 months to 68 years old.  More than half of the patients were females and most were admitted at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.
    From April 3-16, the CESU also recorded 15 cases as against the single case listed in the same period last year.
    Dept. of Health Cordillera Regional Director Rio Magpantay in a letter dated April 8 alerted the city government on the increasing trend in dengue cases.  He said the region has registered a total of 656 cases and one death as of March 26.
    “The regional data reached the alert threshold and thus intensified implementation of the enhanced 4S against this fatal mosquito-borne disease is urged,” Magpantay said.
    “It is vital that our constituents are reminded of our 4’oclock habit (i.e. habitual search and destroy of mosquito breeding sites) and reminding mechanisms should be reinstated like the use of siren, bell, bandillo.  Barangay officials are also urged to lead in the dengue prevention and control measures,” he added.
    The city’s district health centers have been mobilized to conduct an information campaign in their areas of coverage, according to Galpo.


Cagayan mayor bet nabbed for murder of town councilor

By Liezle Basa Inigo

RIZAL, Cagayan -- A mayoralty candidate and incumbent vice mayor of this town was arrested by agents of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Philippine National Police in Quezon City Monday afternoon, April 18, in connection with the murder of a town councilor in 2018.
    The Cagayan Provincial Information Office reported Tuesday that incumbent vice mayor Joel Ruma has been charged in connection with the murder of Sangguniang Bayan Member Alfredo Alvarez who was shot dead in Tuguegarao City in 2018.
    Aside from Ruma, other suspects in the killing who are objects of manhunt operation are Simeon Baloran, Jessie Labang, Dalden Guiwayan, Jose Batang and Jocel Sacayle .
    Based on the information obtained by the CPIO at the PNP Kamuning Police Station, the said official was cornered near the El Jardin 2 President Condominium, Sgt. Esguerra, Barangay South Triangle, Quezon City at around 4 p.m. last Monday.
    Ruma’s arrest was based on the murder case he is facing (case number 23026) and also on the validity of the Warrant of Arrest issued by Judge Vilma Pauig of the RTC Second Judicial Region in Tuguegarao.
    No bail was recommended for Ruma who is temporarily detained at CIDG Camp Crame .
    Among the basis of his alleged involvement in the crime was the security camera footage near the crime scene that Labang and Baloran were responsible for the murder of SB Alvarez. The two were then serving as security aides of then Mayor Joel Ruma.
    Vice Mayor Ruma is mayoralty candidate in his town in this coming election.
    Prior to his arrest, the Rizal Police have already launched a manhunt operation against the incumbent vice mayor and five others in relation to a murder case .
    Police Maj. Raymund Baggayan, chief of Rizal PNP, confirmed to media that incumbent vice mayor Joel Ruma and five others from Rizal town and Kalinga, Apayao have been issued warrants of arrest for the murder of an official.
    “We have seen his name in E -Warrant , that’s why we are now conducting manhunt and investigation for his immediate arrest, ”said Baggayan.


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