‘Cease and desist’ petition to NCIP set : Asin folk: Baguio gov’t illegally operating hydros

>> Monday, December 24, 2007

TUBA, Benguet – Residents here said the Baguio City government was illegally operating the controversial power plants saying they would exhaust all legal options to compel the latter to pay for the use of their lands where the hydros were located or traversed or evict the electricity-producing facilities.

The Tadiangan-Nangalisan Hydro Ancestral Landowners Association, composing at least 50 members, said the city government also didn’t have an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) from the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources to operate the plants. Roger Sinot, TNHALA president said the city also didn’t have a Certificate of Clearance (COC) from the Energy Regulatory Commission pursuant to implementing rules of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act also known as Republic Act 9136 of 2001.

Aside from this, Sinot said the city government also didn’t have “Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to operate the plants. The IRR states that “no person or entity may engage in the generation of electricity unless such person or entity has received a COC from ERC to operate facilities used in the generation of electricity.”

Sinot also said the provincial civil registrar’s office was due to issue a certification the city government didn’t have papers to prove it owned the lots where the power plants were sitting or traversed. “What is surprising is the municipal civil registrar’s office of Tuba did not want to issue a certification that the city government didn’t have legal papers over the lots.” A task force created by Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan headed by provincial board member Nardo B. Cayat had found out the Baguio City government didn’t have legal papers to prove it owned the lots where the power plants were located.

Mayor Florencio Bentrez and all Tuba councilors except Blas Dalus were castigated by the TNHALA last week for coming up with a consensus that they would affirm the stand of the Baguio City government on the matter. Councilors who reportedly relied on the stand of the Baguio government to settle the issue were: Adora Paus, Cris Akia, Veronica Apil, Dick Belting, Zaldy Guileng, Pedro Esteban, Clarita Sal-ongan and Jerome Palaoag.

Last Tuesday, Tuba town employees said the council including Bentrez didn’t hold session but “went down to the beach” purportedly to discuss the issue.

Sinot said the TNHALA as early as Jan. 4 agreed to “file a petition and the issuance of a temporary restraining order and preliminary mandatory injunction against the city of Baguio for the stoppage of its unwanted takeover of the said hydro plants which are within the ancestral domain of Tuba, Benguet.”

“The city of Baguio for a long time has benefited from the resources of Benguet, particularly Asin in this case,” Sinot said. “The land claimants now pray that no repetition of exploitation as experienced in the past will ever come out between the two sister communities, where one enriches itself out of the resources of another.”

He added they have sent a series a letters to the city government to act on their demands but the letters were not answered. He said the city government again violated a law that provides all communications to government offices should be answered within 15 days.

Sinot said they are due to take legal action as their demands were not being met. Among others, these included free irrigation for their farms and fishponds, rentals retroactive for at least 10 years, scholarships for deserving children, free streetlights in barangays where hydros are located and computers for elementary schools near the plants. The TNHALA’s 30-day ultimatum for the city government of Baguio to vacate the Asin Hydroelectric Plants here lapsed on Dec. 12. Sinot said the TNHALA) is set to file a case with the NCIP to make the city government cease and desist from using the power plants until it would pay for the use of the lands.

Baguio City Administrator Peter Fianza said he would wait for the action of the city mayor’s office or the city council before he would give a response to the TNHALA on the matter. Sinot said they had been asking the city government in letters to come up with a response but these were “seemingly being ignored. This made TNHLA members shut down valves leading to Plant 1 early this month which supplied water to the power plants.”

Baguio officials said the city lost income of P144,000 when the plants were shut down. The Benguet Electric Coop. is buying power from the city for the use of the Asin plants. There are three plants composing the power system. Plant I currently produces 700 kwh per hour or P3,000 per hour in terms of monetary equivalent. – Alfred Dizon


Public warned on subdivision scams in Baguio City, Benguet


BAGUIO CITY -- Buyers of properties within subdivisions in this mountain resort city and nearby municipalities of Benguet were warned not to be hoodwinked into giving money to developers who do not have the appropriate license to sell from the Housing, Land use Regulatory Board covering their prospective subdivisions.

This developed after concerned individuals formally filed before the HLURB-CAR a letter complaint stating that Vision Heights Realty and Development Corporation are allegedly collecting the so-called “commitment fees” for their Villa Lubos subdivision project located at Lower Wangal, La Trinidad, Benguet without any necessary permits to do so.

Prospective lot buyers in the said subdivision are allegedly being asked to pay so-called “commitment fees” in the amount of P5,000 and P10,000, respectively over a certain area at the Villa Lubos subdivision.

In case of withdrawal, the P10,000 commitment fee is subjected to a 10 percent surcharge while the P5,000 commitment fee is considered to be non-refundable.

Worst, the complainants disclosed that when they decided to withdraw the commitment fees that they paid to the company, they were eventually issued checks amounting to P9,000 which eventually turned out to be drawn against a closed account.

Ironically, the developer allegedly cut down over 30 trees and started earth-moving activities in their subdivision project even without the required tree cutting permit and Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), respectively.

Furthermore, the subdivision project does not have an approved conversion of the land from agricultural to residential which will be issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). Granting that the developer has pending applications for the issuance of the necessary permits from the concerned government agencies, the complainants emphasized that they are not still authorized to collect fees from their buyers due to the absence of a license to sell from the HLURB.
The developer intends to build 260 residential units within the four-hectare property and they are still on the process of applying for re-classification from agricultural to residential as well as a development permit with the municipal government.

In a related development, hundreds of residents, stakeholders and ancestral land claimants of Wangal have registered their vehement opposition to the project since it would surely devastate the environment of the barangay especially the Wangal river which have become creamy due to the tons of debris coming from the project site.

The cited that some barangay officials allegedly signed some documents favoring the presence of the project but some have reportedly signified their intention to withdraw their signatures because they were not fully informed of the consequences of the project and that there signatures were taken from their individual residences instead of the proposal being taken up in a council meeting where the proposal could have been properly discussed.

The petitioners explained that the subdivision project would have a drastic impact on the environment, economic and social well-being of the community since the property is located at the foot of Mount Aduyen and below it is a creek which is one of the tributaries of the Wangal river.
The petitioners alleged that the sudden increase of population in the area with the subdivision project would hastily deplete whatever little natural resources that the people have been enjoying such as water, fuel among others.

The residents expressed concern over the peace and order situation since the increase of population would surely result to the increase in crimes brought about by the increase in migrants from other places and other tribes.

The community asked the DAR to deny the conversion of the land from agricultural to residential, the municipal government not to approve the re-classification from agricultural to residential and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) not to approve the ECC and the tree cutting permit and the national Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to take into consideration the opposition of the indigenous peoples to the project.

However, the residents welcomed the introduction of development in the area if the property would be subdivided into farm lots and be maintained as agricultural land and nature and that the steep portions would remain as forest and open spaces.


Petition filed to nullify election results: DILG execs hit over SK election anomalies


BAGUIO CITY — Eleven Sangguniang Kabataan chairpersons in this city asked the Regional Trial Court to declare null and void the results of the recent SK federation elections due to alleged anomalies and the "martial-law type" electoral process supervised by the Department of Interior and Local Government.

In a 14-page petition, the SK chairpersons also demanded the nullification of the proclamation of the winners, saying the election was an “outright mockery and a definite sham” as it was railroaded by some DILG personnel and the camp of one of the candidates for SK federation president. They alleged that the result of election was "pre-determined and does not genuinely reflect the collective will of the SK chairpersons."

The petitioners include SK chairperons Nick Tauli of Central Guisad, Dondi M. Basongit of Gabriela Silang, Caren T. Salingbay of Malcolm Square, Kathleene Camille M. Bilog of Padre Zamora, John Lester V. Gacad of Crescencia Village, Richard C. Masadao of Hillside, Evangeline S. Belde of Gibraltar, Uriel F. Pangket of Kias, Lorraine G Allad-iw of Balsigan, and Erwin S. Ang of HarrisonClaudio-Carantes.

The parents of the petitioners also signed the petition because their children are minors. The petitioners alleged imposition of "martial-law type" of elections by the DILG virtually prevented them from exposing what they called blatant anomalies in the conduct of the SK elections. The complainants said that there was an obvious manipulation of the SK elections by some DILG personnel, noting that it scheduled the Integrated Sangunniang Kabataan Orientation Leadership and Re-orientation-Basic Orientation Seminar for the new set of SK officials for only one day instead of the usual three days.

They said they had found out other candidates for SK federation president were assigned rooms on the third floor of Venus Hotel here, while Gloria Ysabel V. de Vera was assigned on the fourth floor together with most of the 122 chairpersons. They also alleged that at the same time, Evelyn Trinidad, officer-in-charge of the DILG in the city, ordered all the SK chairpersons to surrender their SIM cards to her and her staff to ensure the attention of participants to the lectures and to avoid unnecessary text messages circulating among the participants.

But some of the participants had two SIM cards that proved useful in the discovery of the irregularities in the holding of the election, they said. After the SIM cards were taken by the DILG personnel, they related, Trinidad announced the imposition of a curfew and that all the participants should remain in their rooms, they also said. Anybody caught violating the rule would be sent home. Trinidad reportedly warned the participants.

Despite the ban on campaigning, the petitioners said that the group of De Vera, allegedly accompanied by some policemen and DILG personnel, roamed around the fourth floor to campaign for its candidates. The other candidates billeted on the third floor abided by the rule, they said. They likewise alleged that the DILG had adapted the so-called coding scheme in which the numbers in the name tags were similar to their seat assignments and the same number assigned to the ballots they filled up during the voting


5 persons killed, 3 hurt in Vizcaya road mishap


BAGABAG, Nueva Vizcaya – Five persons, including a three-year-old girl, died when a truck rammed them on the national road here at Barangay Pogonsino early morning on Dec. 18. Police said the victims had just attended a misa de gallo (dawn mass) when the incident happened.

Three of the victims’ companions were still fighting for their lives in a hospital here at press time. Police identified the victims as Jana Arponeda, 3; Gemma Biag, 38; Virginia Laser; Petra Cadiente, 74; and Jennie Arponeda, 24. Biag and Laser died on the spot. Desiree Biag, 8, and Ian Biag, 9, were still in serious condition in the hospital. Senior Supt. Segundo Duran, provincial police director, said the victims were walking on a dark portion of the sidewalk when they were rammed by a speeding Isuzu Forward truck driven by Christopher Parong, 30, of Alicia, Isabela. Parong surrendered to the police.

He said someone suddenly crossed the street in the village, causing him to lose control of the steering wheel. He also said the truck turned wayward and swerved toward a dark stretch of the sidewalk where the victims were walking. Police investigators were preparing charges of multiple homicide through reckless imprudence against Parong.


Gunman kills Laoag City legal counsel inside office

LAOAG CITY — A gunman killed Wednesday morning city legal officer Jose Antonio "Pepoc" Pastor, 50, in his law office, located one block from City Hall here, police reported. Investigators led by chief of police Supt. Wilson Lopez said Pastor, a former city councilor, was declared dead on arrival at the Gov. Roque B. Ablan Memorial Hospital in this city.

Dr. Roger Braceros said the victim died of wounds in the head and body inflicted by Cal. 45 bullets. Shortly before his death, the victim had breakfast in the McDonald restaurant here with former Gov. Rodolfo C. Fariñas and other friends.

Earlier, he attended Misa de Gallo at St. William Cathedral. Probers were looking into various angles in the slaying. The victim had been handling some sensational cases. Gertrudes Reantillo said Pastor, her son-in-law, was in jolly mood before his death because his wife was in Manila where she had just gotten her appointment from Malacañang as new provincial agrarian reform officer.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Ilocos Norte-Laoag City chapter, through lawyer Marlon Manuel, condemned the killing of Pastor, saying it was senseless and barbaric. Supt. Wilson Joseph Lopez, city police chief, said the victim suffered two gunshot wounds in the head and another in the back.

Lopez said Pastor had just arrived in his office from City Hall when the suspected hired killer barged into his office at around 11:15 a.m. and shot him several times with a Cal.45 pistol. He said Pastor’s staffs did not notice the gunman as they were in the computer room. Lopez said they were still looking into the motive behind Pastor’s killing and checking the cases he was handling. At the regional police headquarters in Camp Florendo in San Fernado City, La Union, Ilocos regional police Chief Supt. Leopoldo Bataoil ordered Lopez to thoroughly investigate the killing.

“We will leave no stone unturned until we arrest the suspect. We will do the best we can to solve this crime and give justice to the family of the victim. I ordered Col. Lopez to conduct a speedy investigation into the incident,” Bataoil said. Meanwhile, two merchants were killed in separate shooting incidents in Pinili, Ilocos Norte, and adjacent Badoc town, lawmen reported.

Insp. Mario Badiola, Pinili police chief, said that trader Florendo Marcelino, 50, of Barangay Saud, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, was shot to death in Barangay Darat, Pinili. Marcelino, a bagoong (fish sauce) dealer, was talking to a store owner when two armed men aboard a Honda Wave motorcycle approached him and repeatedly shot him at close range. Probers found at the crime scene six empty shells of Cal.45 bullets. In Badoc, fish trader Edna Tinong died on the spot while her nephew Alfie Tinong was wounded when armed men sprayed bullets at the tricycle in which they were riding in Barangay Sta. Cruz. – With a report from Mydz Supnad


Couple’s unusual love story to be recalled at reunion

DAGUPAN CITY — The Martinez clan in this city, which includes writers Jun and Dante Martinez Velasco, boasts of having grandparents – the late Felix Martinez and Maria Pilar Montero-Martinez -- who were noted for their unusual love story. In fact, clan members who are set to hold a reunion this Christmas season believe it was "a love story made in heaven."’

Felix, who was fondly called Peles and Maria Pilar, who was called Elang, were born on the same day, Oct. 12, 1901 -- Felix in Barangay Malued, and Maria Pilar at the Dagupan Poblacion. But the coincidences do not end there. They were also baptized in the same church, the Roman Catholic Church, with their names in the registry book listed one after the other.

The couple, says Mrs. Paz M. Llamas, widow of the late city treasurer Hernando Llamas, married at age l5, and began a love affair capped by wedding rites at the Philippine Independent church here under Bishop Gregorio Gaerlan. Parents of Felix, notably Benito Martinez, a good friend of the brother of national hero Jose Rizal, and Cayetano Montero Montero, father of Maria Pilar, bolted the Catholic Church because a church official was in love with Felix’s would-be bride. She was one of the loveliest girls in Dagupan at the time.

Their children are Nieves Canlas, Juanita Rabago. Orlando (all deceased), Paz Llamas, Aurora Velalsco, Guillermo, Alodea Dy, Celerina Dacumos and Estrella Singh, They have some 100 grandchildren and great grandchildren. These interesting facts in the lives of the Martinez couple will be recalled once more when the Martinez clan will hold a grand reunion in December next year.

Earlier, an executive committee headed by Land Bank (Makati) executive Jethro Martinez reported that the family reunion held on Jan. l2, this year at the Magic Club Warehouse in Barangay Malued here had drawn enthusiastic response to the plan for a clan reunion.


Dominguez grants scholarships to1,918 students


BONTOC, Mountain Province — One thousand-nine-hundred-eighteen students at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College have been granted full scholarship grants by Rep. Victor S. Dominguez through his priority development fund.

The students were granted the scholarships after they passed rigid screening process. Based on the final list transmitted by the Office of Dominguez to MPSPC president Dr. Nieves A. Dacyon, Bontoc has the biggest number of scholars with 577. It was followed by Bauko with 474; Tadian – 227; Sadanga – 214; Natonin – 128; Barlig – 127; Sagada – 72; Paracelis – 29; Besao – nine; and Sabangan, six.

It was learned that there were more than 2,700 students at MPSPC who applied for the full-scholarship grant. Earlier, Dominguez made it mandatory for the students to file their letter of intent of availing themselves of the scholarship and undergo the rigid screening process.

Dominguez made available the full scholarship grants at the MPSPC for all bonafide students during school year 2005-2006 to enable poor but deserving students to acquire a decent education. A fund of P10 million -- P7 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund of Dominguez and P3 million from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) -- is allocated annually for the full scholarship program.

Starting school year 2008-2009, Dominguez said, the full-scholarship program will be offered to all graduating high school students in the different municipalities who are interested in enrolling in MPSPC. He said that the students could immediately file their applications for the scholarship with his office even after graduation from high school.

This would enable them to undergo immediately the screening process. Under the new policy, students interested in the program must have his application-letter jointly signed by his or her parents to show their sincerity in pursuing decent education.

It was recalled that the congressman suspended the implementation of the program during the first semester of the present schoolyear after several groups filed cases against him with the Commission on Higher Education and Commission on Human Rights. The groups had raised questions over the implementation of the program. Later, thousands of students petitioned the office of Dominguez, appealing to the congressman to resume the implementation of the full scholarship program.



Cops nab Cordillera illegal gamblers in renewed drive

BAGUIO CITY – At least five persons were arrested here for gambling following police directive to strengthen campaign against illegal gambling activities in the region including the resurgent jueteng now under new management.

The five persons were arrested while on the act of playing cards on Dec. 18 at about 8:20 a.m.along Dagohoy St., Baguio City by intelligence operatives led by SPO2 Elvie Gumangan.
A total of P1,150.00 cash bets in different denominations, one set of blue Bicycle playing cards, twelve pieces of white, plastic chips were confiscated from the suspects during the operation. All the suspects were released on promise to appear note upon written order of inquest prosecutor Conrado Catral Jr.

Another team from Tuba, Benguet police led by Insp. Dionisio A Fianza conducted raid on Dec. 18 at about 8 p.m. at the house of one Marcelo Gabriel y Dela Cruz, 54, a resident of Poblacion, Tuba from a report that bingo is being conducted in this house.

This resulted to the confiscation of the following paraphernalia: 347 pieces of bingo cards, 75 pieces bingo balls, P820.00 pesos cash, and two colored belt bag with bingo cards. Police said no one was arrested because the group scampered to different directions upon sensing the presence of the police.

A Camp Dangwa press release said “this will be an unending conduct of operations by PNP personnel. Gambling activities can be reported to the police for appropriate action and arrest those involved in running this kind of business and those who patronize it.” But the Baguio council was not impressed with the anti-gambling drive. Councilors Fred Bagbagen and Pinky Rondez said big time jueteng is still rampant in the city aggravated by the resurgence of eight small time casinos. In a privilege speech, Rondez said jueteng is active but illegal gambling now includes a mini casino, bingoteng, and various gambling dens.

The council asked the city police why jueteng remains in operation but police information officer Viyo Hidalgo said police alone can not solve jueteng or gambling unless if the community and elective officials participate in its eradication.

Rondez listed presence of a gambling den along Dagohoy street just a stones throw from a police outpost, illegal gambling at Urbano-Palma street just a distance from the city police headquarters, a mini casino in Irisan barangay, in Tancoville inside a billiard hall, another in Lakandula-Raja Soliman street, and another in Mines View very near the Good Shepherd convent.

Councilor Galo Weygan, a pastor turned politician said before the mayor took over the anti-vice task force from him, all gambling activities except jueteng were closed.

Councilor Nicasio Palaganas also expressed doubts on the jueteng raid saying for the whole month of October, only one raid resulted to the rounding up jueteng kubradores and confiscation of P500.

The city council has asked the police to step up their anti vice drives. The council allocated P1.6 million for two mobile patrol cars.



MP solon releases P4M for medical assistance program

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Close to P4 million for this year was spent for the free medical assistance program of Rep. Victor S. Dominguez, yearend reports from medical hospitals in Manila and Baguio City revealed. These medical institutions include the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC), East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC), National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), and Philippine Heart Center (PHC).

Also this year, medical records showed around 200 patients benefited from the initiative, with the municipality of Bontoc topping the list followed by Sagada, Tadian, Bauko and Sabangan. Funds were used for treatment of ailments like viral maladies, serious operations, organ replacements, chemo-therapy, laboratory tests, maintenance medication, and confinements and medical bills.

Some patient-beneficiaries were allotted as high as P 200,000 while others as low as P 700. According to Jet Dominguez, official point person of the congressman here, the list sent him did not indicate all beneficiaries given medical assistance. “ We will also try to review and retrieve the lists of the other beneficiaries in the previous years not merely for records purposes but also for us to be able to follow up their individual present status, ” he said.

As of press time, one Antonio Pat-ogan of Ili, Bontoc reported his son who was diagnosed with kidney problems and confined at the BGHMC was the latest beneficiary of the said program. “It has been a great relief on our part as parents because with the kind of illness that demands a very expensive hospitalization, the free medical assistance program of the congressman goes a long way,” he said before he rushed to send the congressional authorization to the concerned hospital before his son was scheduled to be discharged this week.

During the latest national political exercise, the older Dominguez promised that in his remaining terms as congressman, he will continue and allocate more funds for free hospitalization and tertiary educational programs of his office.



N. Vizcaya workers to get P30,000 Xmas bonus

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – More than 800 permanent provincial government employees here are set to receive P30,000 each in economic relief assistance as part of he year-end benefits they will be receiving this year, the highest among the region’s give provinces.

Dominick Ruam, president of the Nueva Vizcaya provincial government employees association, said an appropriation ordinance has been passed by the provincial board for this purpose.

The ordinance stipulates that contractual employees will also receive P10,000 each while the provincial government will provide the same amount of ERA to regional trial court judges and lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office and the provincial prosecutors office in recognition o0f their role in the dispensation of justice here.

“This appropriation ordinance is only awaiting the signature of the governor,” Ruam said. The provincial board-passed ordinance is expected to be formally signed by Gov. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma next week or before the Christmas program of the provincial government on Dec. 21.
The P30,000 ERA is besides the regularly given bonuses provided by the provincial government to its employees, like 13th monthly pay, clothing allowance and other benefits as mandated by law.



Vigan Internet cafe loses 42 CPUs in rob

VIGAN CITY — Forty-two computer central processing units and P10,000 cash were stolen by unidentified robbers at an Internet café on Quezon Ave., this city last week. PO3 Joseph Acosta, duty officer of the Vigan City police station, said Netopia Internet Café was ransacked at about 4:30 a.m. Investigation showed the robbers gained through the roll-up door of the establishment.

Acosta said the security guard on duty was allegedly napping near the internet café when the robbers entered the establishment. The guard said when he woke up, he saw door of the internet café open and later found out that 42 CPUs were stolen.



Dancing traffic enforcers: New tack in solving traffic

DAGUPAN CITY -- If Cebu City has its famous dancing inmates, this city also launched Monday night Dec. 17 its dancing traffic enforcers, to give cheers to motorists stranded in traffic jam this holiday season and enjoy their stay here.

Public Order and Safety Office ttraffic enforcers Cassius Clay Alcaide, Vladimir Juliano and Gerard Villamil, all in their 30s and 40s, vowed Dagupenos and visitors with their rhythm, grace and choreography simultaneous with their traffic management skills as they dance their way in untangling traffic jam in three heavily congested traffic areas here.

POSO chief Robert Erfe-Mejia said these three men, who passed the audition composed of about 50 field enforcers, including women, display their dancing skills with music accompaniment right in the middle of road intersections, a full dance of about 15 minutes each with the sound of modern dance and ballroom dancing.

They also do the popular “papaya” dance, he said.

“It’s really a sight to behold and judging from people’s reactions, they were indeed entertained,” he added.

A project of Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr. and his son, city administrator Alvin Fernandez, these dancing traffic enforcers, combine hand movements, body language and foot work as they perform their job.

“People were clapping their hands, motorists brought out their cellular phones and took some pictures of them while many were also dancing,” Mejia said.

They are stationed in three alternate routes along the traffic intersection in A.B. Fernandez Avenue-M.H. del Pilar and Arellano St. from 7 to 8:30 a.m., then along the intersection in Rizal St.-Perez Boulevard and Rizal Extension from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. along the Welcome Rotonda in Mayombo-M.H. del Pilar-Perez Boulevard.

These are the areas where there is heavy flow of traffic at certain periods.

Mejia said they ill add more dancing enforcers in other strategic places.

“They can really dance. It’s not embarrassing that they will be featured,” Mejia proudly said of his men. But he advised them “not to be immersed in their dancing and instead focus in controlling traffic.”

All three stay in their station, clad in their orange uniform, one on top of the traffic boxes painted yellow and black which has an audio system inside while the other two act as backup dancers several steps away.

Lorna Valdez, who is from Binmaley town who saw the dancing traffic enforcers said she enjoyed watching them and she felt relieved of the stress brought by heavy traffic during the holiday season in the city.

The city is also celebrating its fiesta this Christmas. This place is the core of business and academic centers in Pangasinan.



2 drug suspects nabbed in Dagupan

DAGUPAN CITY – A suspected drug pusher, who was included in the order of battle, was arrested last week together with another suspect in simultaneous operations in Callejon and Rivera streets, this city. Supt. Dionicio Borromeo, Dagupan chief of police, identified the suspect as Gerard Fung, 24, of Rivera St. Seized from him were 45 heat-sealed plastic sachets containing shabu.

Also seized by the police were seven-sealed sachets found in the possession of the other suspect identified as Butch Ballesteros. Likewise confiscated were drug paraphernalia such as scissors, water pipe totter, aluminum foil, and disposal lighter. The raid was witnessed by some barangay officials and media people.

The arrest of the two suspects was authorized by a search warrant issued by Judge Rolando Mislang of the Regional Trial Court’s Branch 42 here. Both had been under surveillance for almost a week. Fung is reportedly in the police’s order of battle. – Jennelyn Mondejar



Ilocos Sur farmers set to produce more tobacco with P10 price hike

VIGAN CITY — Ilocos Sur Gov. Deogracias Victor "DV" B. Savellano said here the increase in the floor prices of all grades of the flue-cured Virginia tobacco would encourage more farmers to produce the crop.

The increase, ranging from P9.50 to P10 per kilo, was agreed during the recent tripartite conference held last Dec. 10 in the central office of the National Tobacco Administration in Quezon City. Savellano, House Deputy Speaker for Northern Luzon Eric D. Singson, (2nd district, Ilocos Sur), tobacco farmer leaders, traders, cigarette manufacturers, and tobacco stakeholders attended the conference.

NTA Administrator Carlitos S. Encarnacion organized and hosted the conference. "The result of the latest tripartite conference was part of a commitment of the provincial government of Ilocos Sur, Congressman Singson, the traders, cigarette manufacturers, tobacco stakeholders and the NTA to further strengthen our tobacco industry in the Ilocos," Savellano said.

With the increase, the new floor prices per kilo of flue-cured Virginia tobacco are the following: Grades AA – P61.00; A – P59.00 ; B – P57.00; C – P55.00; D – P50.00; E – P49.00; F1 – P45.00; F2 – P42.00; and R – P23.00. It was the first time in the history of the tobacco tripartite conference that an increase of P10 per kilo was approved. The usual increase in the tobacco floor prices since the 2001 tripartite conference ranged from P10 to P3.50.

The floor prices of all grades of flucured tobacco approved during the tripartite conference on Aug. 25, 2005 were as follows: Grades AA – P51.00; A – P49.50 ; B – P47.50; C – P45.50; D – P40.50; E – P39.50; F1 – P35.50; F2 – P32.50; and R – P13.50. "This is a great development in our effort to strengthen our tobacco industry, and the tobacco farmers are now encouraged to produce more tobacco," Savellano said.

"The increase in the floor prices of Virginia tobacco will prompt the farmers to earn more despite the continuous increase in the cost of farm inputs," he said. Savellano noted that the Virginia tobacco is the main cash crop in Ilocos Sur. Virginia tobacco is also a steady source of funds that are distributed to the tobacco-producing provinces under Republic Act No. 7171, otherwise known as tobacco excise tax law, authored by former Rep. Luis "Chavit" Singson.

RA 7171 mandates the allocation of millions of pesos from the tobacco excise tax as shares of the tobacco-producing provinces, which include Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra and La Union. The shares of the provinces are being used for infrastructure and livelihood projects benefiting tobacco farmers In a bid to increase the demand, House Deputy Speaker Singson filed House Bill No. 2474 requiring tobacco manufacturers to use a minimum of 75 percent of locally produced tobacco in the manufacture of cigarettes in the country.



Body of NPA leader killed in Echague encounter exhumed

ECHAGUE, Isabela – Troops from the 45th Infantry Battalion under commanding officer, Lt. Col. Clifford Cyril Y. Rivera, and policemen exhumed Dec. 16, the body of an alleged New People’s Army leader identified as Roberto Benedicto here in Barangay San Miguel.

Army officials identified the body as that of Roberto Benedicto, also known as Commander Rey, the 2nd platoon leader of Southern Front of the Communist Party of the Phils.-NPA who resided in Barangay San Carlos, Echague. 1st Lt. Dennis G. Guillermo chief of the army division public affairs office said the NPA leader was fatally wounded during their encounter with the troops of the 45IB in Barangay Mabbayad of the same town last Nov. 20. Rivera reportedly expired the following day and was buried by his comrades along their route of withdrawal in Barangay San Miguel.

On Dec. 16, troops from the 45 Infantry Battalion, police and media went to the burial site to exhume the body but heavy mud and narrow trail prohibited vehicles from passing towards the vicinity, causing the group the group to hike the distance. The body of the NPA leader had gun shot wounds on his thigh and on the lower part of his stomach.

The Commander of the 5th Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Melchor J. Dilodilo commended the troops saying the “series of successful internal security operations practically rendered the NPA group in that part of Isabela dismantled.” Combat operation conducted by the troops last Nov. 20 in Barangay Mabbayad reportedly resulted to the arrest of five NPA members and recovery of nine high-powered firearms.



The year that was

What a year – failed coups, human rights violations, deaths due to storms and other man-made and natural calamities, the strength of the peso being questioned and yes, the release of convicted and former congressman rapist Romeo Jalosjos.

Extraordinary events in this country have become commonplace that nothing surprises people anymore. Graft and corruption has become common and it is no surprise if government officials even brag about how much they illegally got from government coffers which were taken from the hard-earned money of this country’s constituents. Government contracts are still implemented even these are irregular.

The so-called excesses of government have led to the rise of pseudo leaders who claimed they were God’s gift to the Filipino people. Movie stars want to become politicians while politicians want to become movie stars.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have become known as “top rate acting schools” due to propensity of some of our lawmakers to grandstand even over simple issues like how to eat ice cream.

There were instances wherein the public was shown also how to elect officials to office even with a few measly votes. The government is claiming the peso has become stronger but to some economists, it was the dollar which became weaker.

Farmers had to walk from Mindanao to Malacanang just to air their plight and press the government to recognize their lands. A survey says the quality of education in the Philippines has steadily declined over the years. The poor are complaining they don’t have enough food on the table while government workers are given hefty bonuses this Christmas.

Despite warning of the Department of Health that firecrackers are dangerous to health, people are still lighting up the deadly devises. Sangguniang kabataan pools are tainted with anomalies and the so-called future of the country are learning how to cheat at their young age.

We are what pundits call a “global disgrace” and a lot more but there are also things which happened to this country this year like the ratification of the cheap medicines law. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, may this season remind us that there is still hope for this country if our officials, who are the opposite of what good public servants should be, repent their evil ways and show the way to righteousness so that constituents would have good role models. Amen!



Cell phone blues /Honest cop, worker

BAGUIO CITY -- A student complained to this writer saying her k750i cell phone was snatched at Burnham Park and that somebody told her it was sold to a certain “Bunso” who has a store in front of the Bridal Gown establishment at Centermall.

According to the student, Bunso has dark complexion and that he buys and sells cell phones snatched at Burnham Park and that the tindera in the place is a thin woman. “Kuya, pakiimbestigahan po kasi nakakasira ito sa image ng Baguio ang mga magnanakaw na yun kaya po lumalakas ang loob nila kasi po may bumibili ng mga nakaw nila,” said the student. ***
Still at Centermall, a cell phone seller, this time, also complained a policeman by the name of SPO4 Juan Be reportedly detailed at police station 3 bought a cell phone from them but later went back complaining this was damaged.

The seller reportedly told the policeman if this was a factory defect, then they could change it. “Ang kaso po, sila ang nakasira. Pinipilit po niya kaming isama sa ofis niya. Ayaw naming sumama dahil may administration kami dito na puedeng umayos sa amin. Kinukuha namin ang name niya. Wala daw po kaming karapatan na kunin ang name niya. Tiningnan namin ang plate niya, wala at amoy alak pa eh on duty siya at that time,” she said.

The complainant said she merely wanted the policeman to be lectured on good manners and right conduct as he was giving a bad name to the police. Cell phone snatching is on the rise in Baguio basing from daily reports of radio stations and if something is not done about this, the city may have another tag up its sleeve: “Cell phone snatching capital of the world.”

City authorities better act fast and address the problem or a computer geek would post it in a website asking Guinness Book of World Records officials to make it their latest entry. ***
The coconut shell of whoever authorized those vendors to ply their trade and close the road in front of Diego Silang Road up near Jollibee at Benguet Prime at night must be checked. I parked in front of the DENR office since vehicles couldn’t park along Session Road from 4-7 p.m. except on holidays. As usual, I went earlier to Luisas Restaurant to get news on what was happening around town. Around 9 p.m., I went to get the vehicle to go home but horror of horrors, I couldn’t get out from the exit point going to Jollibee prompting me to slowly inch my way down to Harrison. The scene suddenly looked like a segment from the movie Twilight Zone.
I saw three policemen sitting on a table set on the road. I asked them: “Apay naipasara daytoy kalsada?” Road obstruction daytoy a. (Was this road ordered closed? This is road obstruction).” “Isu garud,” one said. The other two chuckled. Maybe city police chief Senior Supt. Moises Guevarra could give an explanation.

I don’t know of any order from the city government to close the road at night. Apay sino manen aya nagkwarta ditoy? When the so-called century tree was lighted up at the foot of Session Road last week, chairs were put on the road for officials and visitors. Yes. On the road, adding to the already convoluted traffic mess. Kalla metten naka marijuana ag tritripping nu asinu man nga opisyales agpanpanunut dagitoy. Pangaasi yo met a.
On a happy note, PO3 Adamson Eden of the Baguio City police traffic division gave money he found to Tom Picana of the Manila Times to be returned to Efraim Calderon of the bureau of trade regulations of the regional Dept. of Trade and Industry with office address at Otek St. in Baguio.
Picana said the amount was P900. Eden reportedly found the money along Igorot Park. This was not the first time Eden found and returned the money to the owner. Some years ago, Eden reportedly found P7,000 along the road. Luckily, the ID of the owner, a Manila resident was clipped to the money. Eden called the owner and returned it.
There are still honest people in this country. At the Clark Freeport in Pampanga, it never occurred to Ronald Alfonso, 36, an employee of the Clark International Airport Corp. that plentiful Christmas could be had at the expense of his honesty. Alfonso, whose official position is “land side officer I” at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport run by the CIAC here, could have kept $10,000 cash he found on the road outside the airport terminal at about 12:20 a.m. on Dec. 9. But he did not. At the rate of P41 to the dollar, his find amounted to about P410,000.

The bundled cash, whose paper band indicated the amount $10,000, was not contained in an envelop or bag and was just lying on the side of the road where a car had fetched the last passenger to leave the terminal from an Asiana flight from South Korea. “I was on duty at the section outside the terminal building for welcomers. I just saw the cash in a bundle just lying there,” Alfonso recalled.
“Ay, ang daming pera,” was the first thought that came upon Alfonso on seeing the cash which he immediately picked up. Alfonso said he never thought for a moment to pocket the money. “Madami nga, hindi naman sa akin. (It’s a lot of cash, but it isn’t mine),” he also thought upon picking up the cash. He did not hesitate to immediately approach his immediate superior Allan Gil Nicdao and informed him of the details of his discovery. “He told me to hold on to the cash and wait for any claimant,” he said.

After 10 minutes, a Korean named Mun Byuong Chul of the Philexcel Industrial Park here, arrived with two other companions and reported having lost $10,000 cash. Alfonso and other security personnel interviewed the claimant to make sure he owned the cash, even as Alfonso testified that the car used by the Korean was the last vehicle he saw leaving the welcome area last. The grateful Korean rewarded Alfonso $400 which he accepted only upon the insistence of the foreigner. “I really didn’t expect anything in return. The reward was really unnecessary,” Alfonso said. ***
CIAC executive vice president Alexander Cauguiran said Alfonso will receive a “surprise” from the CIAC management for his honesty. “Of course, there will be a certificate of recognition, but there’s another surprise to be announced during our Christmas party,” he said. CIAC vice president for finance Romeo Dyoco said that for his deed, Alfonso is expected to get a promotion. The cash he found is the biggest so far in the history of the airport here, Dyoco said. Alfonso has been an employee at the airport for 11 years now and gets a salary of P19,700 monthly. He has two other siblings who already have their own families.
It is the end of the year and it is the yuletide season but still people are grumbling of corruption and making ends meet. Maybe the ushering Year of the Rat would bring good tidings and prosperity.
According to some Chinese friends, next year would be a good year. We hope so. With lots of two-legged rats all around particularly in government eating up the nation’s coffers, maybe the crocodiles, monkeys and all sorts of creatures that inhabit government offices would also change for the better. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!



Fighting five economic wars

I was part of the 1996 Manila APEC Summit management team and what I will never forget from that experience is the lesson that it is possible to bring hostile parties to a friendly forum, for as long as the proper protocols are followed. At that time, there were three “Chinas”, and it was very difficult to bring them together in one gathering.
The key to the successful protocol is the language used, and the manner of recognizing the participating parties. First of all, it was made clear that APEC was a meeting of “economies”, meaning that it was not a meeting of countries. Right away that solved the issue of People’s China not recognizing Taiwan as a country. It also qualified Hong Kong to join, being a colony at that time. To give way to People’s China , Taiwan was recognized as “Chinese Taipei”.
Today, eleven years later, we are still faced with a situation wherein all kinds of organizations in our country that are fighting many forms of social problems are unable to come together in one friendly forum, to thresh out differences among each other on one hand, and to decide to work together on the other hand. This is the vision that I have for the United National Integrated Development Alliance (UNIDA), a forum of development oriented organizations, patterned after the APEC model.
As an initial step, I have identified five technical working groups (TWGs) wherein the member organizations could work together in solving five economic “wars”, namely the “wars” against hunger, poverty, criminality, sickness and homelessness. It appears that the “war” against environmental degradation cuts across all these five economic “enemies”.
Following the APEC model, the chairmanship of these TWGs will be rotated among the member organizations, by way of consensus. We have already identified possible chairs for hunger, poverty and criminality, but we are still scouting for organizations that could chair sickness and homelessness. I am inviting all development oriented organizations to join UNIDA.

** For more information about public governance, email iseneres@yahoo.com



Keeping up with yuletide wishes

Someone waxed nostalgic with a “You’re from Baguio If…” list posted on the internet. He or she rattled off boyhood and girlhood experiences when we were newsboys, bootblacks or mbulant sweepstakes ticket sellers. That was when we climbed guavas, fashioned out tops and slingshots, feasted on pancakes by the Hangar Market, walked to and from school in the rainand settled our differences though fisticuffs at Mount. Mary’s

That was when we would earn hard and save some for a ticket to “The Sound of usic” at Pines Theatre or a double feature re-run of cowboy classics at Aurora Theatre.

Some of my boyhood buddies at Pacdal still serve as caddies at the Baguio Country Club. These days, I now and then relieve my itch to re-live my pony boy days with a gallop around the Wright Park oval. (The bridle path used to be the most spacious school playgrounduntil the most misplaced tree-planting idea swelled and turned it into an obstruction forest).

So much for nostalgia over a time when we knew almost everybody we’d meet along Session Road. Baguio is no longer one neighborhood but 128 barangays. To wish for the old Baguio to return is to ask for the moon.

Still, I get the cue from the “You’re from Baguio if” list. There are specific things I still hope can be done to restore order and ease up day-to-day living in a city that “just growed and growed”. For one, I wish Piltel, our phone company, would restore its sense of order missing on its wires and its messy directory. Its 2006-07 phone book has “Agrarian Reform” first, followed by “Finance Department” and then “DENR-EMB”. “Agriculture Department” is curiously way, way down the list, after “Department of Agriculture”, “Philippine Veterans Affairs Office” and “COMELEC”, in that disorder.

I wish our two cable television companies can give us our due by not splitting Discovery Channel” for Mountainview and “National Geographic” for Skycable. As gift to subscribers, can they also replace those foreign-language channels with English-speaking newsanchors and movie characters so we won’t have to pay for what we can’t understand and, herefore, don’t watch?

Can some establishments give us back our sidewalks and alleys? This may be quite personal, for my elder brother Joe who gets snagged by parked cars jutting out into the sidewalk on his way to and from work. Still, some of our kids also walk to school, too, as those in Mabini Elementary.

Will commercial giants bring down their billboards before someone starts a consumers’ rally to boycott their products and services?

Okay, I do sound angry, but I’m not. It’s Christmas, remember? As war hero, former OIC-mayor and police chief Ping Paraan used to say: “I’m not angry; I’m just stressing a point.”

It’s anti-infrastructure and realty development, but I wish subdivision developers stop buying remaining open spaces and pinestands so their target buyers – rich people from Metro-Manila an elsewhere who are dying to have a piece of Baguio – won’t put the blame solelyon us residents for the lost scent of pine.

I wish we stop cementing our grounds to the point rains can no longer seep into the ground to recharge our water tables.

I wish Shell, the oil company, will replenish its outlets with those best-selling red Ferrari car models so I can buy some. Not for me, but for my grandsons Lukie and Dylan. And for other kids out there.
Whatever. I wish fellow Baguio boys Freddie de Guzman, Irwin Ilustre, Emil Ruff, Carlos Anton, Joel Aliping, Peter and Eva Fianza and other Samaritans and their families the best of health and the blessings of the yuletide. A prosperous New Year, too, to that generousIbaloi woman and her daughter in Kentucky, Conrad and Pilar Marzan, Nikolas, Mike and Juliet Santos and Mika,.the folksingers here and in California, Manong Swanny Dicang, Peter and Eva Fianza, the families of Per Erickson, Edmund Bugnosen, Henry Gano, Estong Pooten, Gerry Gawidan, my children Beng, Boogie and Lovelyn, their mother Becca, my mother-in-law and you.

I wish for better memory so I won’t have to keep on giving away my cheap cellphones without my knowledge and consent. Or to risk tempting the finder to throw it back to my face for its worth.
I wish that pickpocket who rode a jeep from the hospital can find a more worthwhile job than trying and failing to wriggle out my wallet containing a few pesos intended for medicines.

I wish I’d hit the lotto jackpot and share that scheming member of Fagin’s gang part of my winnings. And then bring along Jerry Mayona and March Fianza to carry my luggage in a tour around the world. Or win in jueteng with regularity every 15 days even without betting on any number combination. I wish the draws aren’t rigged and that they restore the old 1-37 system instead of 1-38, which is a patented scheme.

For one getting old, I guess I’m wishing too much. Still, I know you’d also wish some of these things if you grew up in Baguio. After all, the Baguio boy (or girl) is marked by his/her sense of fair play.(e-mail: rdacawi@yahoo.com for comments).



Trinidad chicken dung, Bokod mining and Tuba hydro

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- There is now a growing opposition to the sale of chicken dung in La Trinidad, particularly at Shilan, once a clean and green Ibaloi community. The sale of chicken dung according to a group that emailed me their sentiment is sold in open trucks. It is “making our lives miserable as we now suffer from sleepless nights, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, coughing, sneezing, diarrhea and other respiratory problems that may lead to TB, asthma or lung sickness.

Everyday we live in fear and anxiety with what inhalation of dust and toxic gases from chicken dung can do to our health – its short and long term effects..,” the Anti-chicken dung advocates of Shilan said. Chicken dung trade according to them, which I have personally observed, is conducted near Tacdian Elementary School at the former auto shop of Moites, the Shilan barangay hall, the clinic, beside the Shilan sports arena, and residential areas along the Halsema highway.

At present there are seven parking areas being occupied by 15 big trucks to as many as 50 trucks per parking area. With the volume of chicken dung in thousands of sacks, the condition in the area is expected to worsen at the onset of the dry season. The Shilan anti-chicken dung group apparently did some research as to the effects of the toxic dust on their health. They said that this threatens the health of every member of the community, including those who pass by Shilan everyday such as commuters from nearby towns.

They will be prone to lung problems, TB, asthma, diarrhea and related diseases. Just like the towns of Buguias and Atok where chicken dung is used by farmers as vegetable fertilizers, Shilan and its environs have become breeding places for flies. The group added “chicken dung residue and dust accumulates and flows into the water supplies in the form Nitrate, a by-product in the breakdown of chicken dung. Drinking Nitrate-laced water can lead to cancer of the digestive tract, cancer of the bladder and lymphoma.

This is also possible from inhalation of toxic fumes from chicken dung. The greatest risk of nitrate poisoning is “blue baby syndrome” which may occur in four-month old babies. It causes headache, stupor or comatose, over-fatigue, convulsion, asphyxia, even death. To illustrate the strength of chicken dung toxic residue, it corrodes G.I. sheet roofing in just a couple of years of settling on it. Imagine that is your lungs!”

Aside from the health problems the community has been encountering, open sale of chicken dung has worsened the traffic as truck operators double-parking while selling, loading and unloading sacks of dung right on the road. The heavily overloaded trucks have also damaged the roads. Worst, concerned residents noted that the workers of some karaoke bars here were suspected to be the source of STD or gonorrhea. Cases of unwanted pregnancies, abortions were also reported.

Appealing to the provincial, municipal and barangay officials to unite and help them put an end to the sale of chicken in Shilan before irreparable damage to life and property occurs; they said – “Health is wealth. Not money !” Indeed controlling the sale of chicken dung by legislation just because there is money in it will not help the problem any – it will even worsen because the trading is not being stopped.
The recent vote conducted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples on whether or not to give consent to the Columbus Mining Inc. to explore the Bobok area for minerals has proven one thing – giving away Delica automobiles and hundreds of thousands of cash for barangay projects failed to convince the community to vote “yes.” Well, there were 25 of them who were for mining exploration to proceed but this was overtaken by 53 voters who were against. Two voters abstained.

The voting results could have been closer if our request for more extensive information campaign on the pros and cons of mining operations in certain communities such as Bobok was granted. It seems there is a need to amend the process in getting the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) in order that all those concerned are updated. What seems to be happening is that communities are placed in a bind as they are tasked to follow a schedule, whether they are fully informed of the issue or not.

As for the mining companies, there is a need for them to re-study their moves. That includes reconsidering their acts to give “donations” prior to the vote, and to sincerely lay down their cards in order that all affected landowners are able to anticipate what’s in it for them once mining operations commence.
Bursts of anger by government officials can not be legislated even by the most experienced lawmakers. But there are techniques that may be followed. One, officials should know how to disconnect personal attachments to issues that are submitted for mediation or for resolution to them. Two, although officials are also human beings, they should not be onion-skinned. Three, officials should consider the issues at hand regardless of the people involved. It is a good practice, according to Mao ZeDong, to take away the personalities involved in controversial matters. By doing so, problems are solved based on evidences and facts. That way, shouting matches with any of the parties concerned are avoided – which is seen by observers as the character of a weak leader.

“Makitkitam pay laeng nga sumungsungad djay ada problema na nga kakailiam ket agmuryot kan ken kasla sentensiya am meten gapu ta kalaban mu isuna idi eleksyon.” Iti panagturay ket awan kuma ti personalan, kuna ni Plato, Aristotle, Washington ken Lincoln . Kumusta kayo amin dita Tuba, nangnangruna keni apo mayor Florencio Bentres ken dagita botantes nga taga Asin road. Pasyaren ka maminsan man Pards ta agistorya ta. Merry Christmas to all. – marchfianza777@yahoo.com



Jehovah’s witnesses/Cabanatuan PNP best in ‘relations’

CLARK FREEPORT -- Pampanga Jehovah’s Witnesses will end their three-day annual district convention at ExpoPilipino in Clark Freeport today in line with the religious group’s vigorous campaign to invite all to see how vital Jesus Christ is to the life of each individual. Members earlier invited everyone in Angeles City, San Fernando City, Guagua, Magalang, Sta. Ana, Mabalacat, San Simon, Apalit, Sasmuan, Porac, Candaba, Arayat, Mexico, and Tarlac to attend their annual convention.

Jesus Christ’s life, ministry, and future activities were the focus of this year’s three-day event. The Witnesses’ special event will be highlighted by the distribution of an attractively illustrated invitation. Their goal is to extend a personal invitation to as many people as possible. The effort is very similar to what the Witnesses did last year when they invited people to attend their "Deliverance at Hand!" District Convention. It was a great success, contributing to a sizable increase in convention attendance worldwide compared with that of the previous year.
The Cabanatuan City Police Station is this year’s Region 3 awardee for Best Police Community Relations Unit and Most Friendly Police Station. The plaques for the two awards were handed recently to CCPS chief Supt. Eliseo Cruz by the Philippine National police and the National police Commission, respectively. CCPS was also last year’s Region 3 awardee for Best Police Community Relations Unit. It was learned from a police official in Camp Olivas , Pampanga that the CCPS has also been selected as Region 3’s Best City Police Station although official announcement has yet to be made.

Cruz said the station owes the awards to the men and women under his command. He said CCPS enjoys a good working relationship with the public through the support of the city government headed by Mayor Alvin Vergara. The city government, he said, had provided the station its essential facilities such as additional mobile cars, motorcycles, and supply of petroleum, oil and lubricant, special weapons and tactics costly accouterments, and other morale-boosting benefits. As a result, although undermanned, the CCPS, which has a total force of 181 vis-a-vis a large city population of some 300,000, has been able to serve the public efficiently and effectively as shown in its first-semester performance.

From 132 last year, the number of crime incidents in Cabanatuan significantly went down to 101 this year. Index crimes such as murder, homicide, rape, physical injury, robbery and theft similarly dropped from 60 to 48. The rate of the crime solution efficiency rose from 95 percent to 97 percent.

To maintain its remarkable performance, "we launched the weekly ‘Pulis Cabanatuan, Kabalikat ng Mamamayan" radio program through which the residents can air their requests for assistance, complaints, and other concerns or issues involving police matters," said Cruz, adding people can also communicate with the CCPS through his personal cell phone. Aside from combating crimes, CCPS also helps in the enforcement of the city ordinances that aim to make Cabanatuan a clean, orderly, and disciplined city.



New face, new hope

Christmas means Christ’s Mass, the annual Christian festival observed every Dec. 25 in Western Churches including the Philippines to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a public holiday in Christian countries, usually marked by the exchange of gifts – tokens of the gifts of the three wise men to the infant Jesus. Christmastide lasts from Dec. 25 to Jan. 6 (Epiphany).

It’s the season of hope and cheer. When all the brickbats have been hurled, the gripes aired and the criticisms exhausted, Filipinos will have to admit, even if grudgingly, that is has in fact been a year of hopes partly fulfilled for the country. It’s Christmas time and the living as relatively easy. Christmas lights and lanterns of all shapes compete for attention on the streets, office buildings and homes and nobody’s admonishing the public to conserve energy.

All the malls and supermarkets are packed with people buying clothes, shoes and food on the table for the grand Noche Buena and gifts. Everyone is wishing for peace. Peace is starting to become a Christmas tradition at least for government troops and communist rebels. Let us bear in mind that being humble and real counts a lot in the proper evaluation of Christmas virtues. ***
A woman destined to lead and to serve is no other than the first lady chief executive of the town of Dingras, Hon. Marineth Romero-Gamboa. Gifted with pleasant personality, intelligence, resoluteness and ability to work for the public, this rising leader in the eastern part of Ilocos Norte has an aim of bringing glory and honor to the Rice Granary of Ilocandia. One of her projects is on agriculture wherein farmers of Dingras are beneficiaries. With her master plan on tourism, she expanded the nature of the agri – tourism project that can bring the One Barangay, One Project in the municipality a success.

Under the supervision of the municipal tourism council, a women’s organization has also been actively helped in promoting tourism activities to show oneness of spirit under the battle cry “New face, new hope”—the banner of the present administration. Mayor Gamboa was a seasoned businesswoman before she decided to enter the world of politics. She was executive vice president of Water Plus Group of Companies.

Aside from indulging in the water industry, she also proved her mettle in managing various restaurants and had been in the world of show business. The film industry enamored her and being inclined into the Arts, she became one of the league’s well-respected producers. She is planning to sponsor an acting workshop for the Sangguniang Bayan to discover their skills and potentials in the arts. Deserving the acclamation being the best in Sports in Region I, Gamboa believes that Ilocos Norte can produce good actors and actresses including singers if only they put much time and effort in their God-given talents. She lamented political killings in the countryside. She said that if someone has the guts to kill a politician, how much more an ordinary citizen? Gamboa is open to reconciliation for the sake of unity and oneness.
Dingras is the hometown of the Florence Nightingale of the Philippines in the person of the late heroine Josefa Llanes Escoda. Many of its sons and daughters are well-known in their respective field. I would mention the name of Mayor Marineth Gamboa as one among the gifted daughters of this town.
The gruesome killing of Laoag City legal officer Jose “Pepoe” Pastor, former member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod in Laoag and brilliant legal practitioner, shocked the entire province of Ilocos Norte. To be killed in a broad daylight is unusual situation. The killer might have, concealed himself in entering the lawyer’s office unseen by the people. The killing of Pastor is now one of the many unresolved slays. If we could only summoned the spirits of the departed to pinpoint the masterminds, then the police would not err in filing cases against criminals. ***
The 71st foundation Anniversary of Sta. Rosa Academy was celebrated with a theme, “cultivating a culture of peace.” Most Rev. Sergio Lasam Utleg, D.D. was its crowning guest and speaker. The king, Steven Kyle IV 1 (Mr. SRA 2007) and Queen Karren Nichole I (Ms. SRA 2007) marched to their throne which highlighted the occasion.



CICM centennial celebration in Bontoc

BONTOC, Mountain Province --It was a hundred years ago when Christianism first came to the land of the Igorots. A group of mostly Belgian together with a few Dutch priests came to the Mountain Provinces and grown roots here. It was Valentines day in 1906 when the apostolic delegate to the Philippines Msgr. Ambrosius Agius sent a letter of request to Father Adolf Van Hecke who was then the Superior General of the CICM congregation. The Spanish friars who were previously heading the Christian communitites left after the war when the Spaniards were defeated by the Americans and the natives were left without pastoral guides. Aguis appealed to have some missionaries sent in place of the friars. After the conference and consultations with authorities, Pope Pius X gave his blessings to the endeavor.

This new Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe is part of the three vicariates originally created on July 6, 1992 along with that of Baguio and Tabuk, and covers all 10 municipalities of the Mountain Provinces and 11 of Ifugao as well. It is important to note also that the vicariate has spread out 13 stations throughout the coverage area of the 2 provinces to be able to reach out to the parishioners. The vicariate seat however remains in Teng-ab, Bontoc.

So Dec. 12-15, the CICM of Bontoc-Lagawe celebrated its 100th year in existence up north and going by the theme "Remembering, Rerooting, Revitalizing". They are now "Looking back with pride and gratitude, and forging ahead with faith and confidence." The culminating activity was held at the Sta. Rita Cathedral in Poblacion, Bontoc and was well attended. Dec. 13, was the day slated for the street parade and the participating Catholic schools strutted along the humid streets of Bontoc to do their stuff after which they proceeded to the grounds of Sta. Rita Cathedral and the Municipal Plaza for the cultural dance competition.

An exhibit was opened at the Bontoc museum to show the "evolution" of the CICM body throughout the years. The evening would not have been complete without the play and mini concert led by Fr. Marcial Castaneda together with the SMU Bayombong chorale group. The Belgian consul to the Philippines Rene Peeters and his wife graced the events along with Gov. Maximo Dalog and the local officials of Bontoc and the personalities of the Catholic churches from the two provinces. On the evening of Dec. 14, the Apostolic Nuncio Most Rev. Arch. Edward Joseph Adams arrived to help unveil and bless the bust and memorial stones of Fr. Jules Sepulchre. All done with the activities, Bontoc once again rested a day to welcome the upcoming Provincial meet set Dec. 16-20.



Fiesta favorite

Bibingka, the traditional mainstay of the Philippine holiday table, is making a major comeback in the consumer food market. Several entrepreneurs have made the centuries’ old native delicacy commercially available in major malls and leading food establishments. They are applying modern food preparation and marketing techniques to whip up year-round demand for the product and revive the Filipino’s fondness for the native delicacy.

A frontrunner in the commercial revival of bibinka is Sonny Francisco, grandson of the late musician Ceferino Francisco, founder in 1938 of a family-owned enterprise that was to become Ferino’s Bibingka. Sonny, an architect by profession, inherited his parent’s strong attachment to the product and carried on with the family business. Today, he owns and manages all of the Ferino’s Bibingka outlets in Robinsons malls, while his siblings own and manage the Ferino’s Bibingka outlets at Metroeast in Pasig City, SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, Market! In Taguig City, and Shopwise in Pasig, Manila and Makati City.

“My grandparents started the business as a small restaurant in Pritil, Tondo, called Ferino’s Café,” says Sonny. “They decided to serve bibingka as their specialty because during that time, a lot of people would ask for it so often, especially during holidays. The couple then bought clay pots and the other cooking utensils for making bibingka. They experimented with various rice, egg, and sugar mixes until they developed what come to be known as Ferino’s galapong (glutinous rice mix), which to this day remains the family’s trade secret.”

The unique galapong mixture became the restaurant’s major attraction, making Ferino’s café hugely popular through word of mouth. What used to be a regular delicacy that the Francisco couple sold to neighbors and friends became the talk of the town, making many major personalities and politicians of the time into regular customers of the restaurant. In fact, so popular did their bibingka become that in time, the Francisco’s moved their restaurant to the Manila Hotel in the late 1960s where they renamed it as Ferino’s Bibingka.

When Sonny’s grandfather passed away in 1975, however, Ferino’s Bibingka lost its allure and eventually closed down. It was only in 1982 when Sonny’s father, Alfredo Francisco, revived the business, opening his first Ferino’s Bibingla outlet in Baclaran, Pasay City, in front of the Redemptorist Church. Later, because the malls had by then become the Filipino’s favorite shopping destination, Sonny’s father brought the business to the SM Centerpoint, Megamall, North Edsa and Southmall. He invested about P200,000 for stall rentals at the SM mall and another P100,000 for putting up a takeout counter along Makati Avenue in Makati City. Because his outlets had such good locations and bibingka had by then become popular even to the upscale market, he recovered his investment in less than a year.

A major concern of Sonny Francisco in running the business he had inherited is to continuously improve product and customer service without losing the core concept of bibingka as a native delicacy. “We need to balance novelty and the changing customers’ preferences,” he says. “Also, there are limitations in the manner we can prepare our product in the different locations where we do our business, so we have to consider those limitations in the cooking process.”

For example, he explains, the traditional way of making bibigka is to cook it on a cooking plan with hot coal placed both on top and underneath the pan. But since most food establishments have stringent safety regulations and customers are always in hurry, Ferino’s Bibingka is often constrained to use electric ovens instead of charcoal embers to cook the product. “For safety’s sake, we have to use the electric ovens particularly in supermarkets that have low ceilings and are thus unfit for charcoal cooking,” he explains. “Wherever as possible, however, we use the basic cooking elements like clay pots and charcoal in cooking our bibingka.”

Aside from selling bibingka in local malls, Francisco plans to export the product to Filipino communities abroad. For this purpose, he had arranged for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to test the shelf life of his sealed frozen bibingka. It was determined that the product could last for at least a year, which therefore makes it viable for export.

Another major initiative undertaken by Francisco is franchising Ferino’s Bibinka in food carts that serve the product in a smaller size. The variant is called “Bibingcute by Ferino’s,” more affordable bibingka but with precisely the same taste and texture as the regular-size product.

“With only P150,000, you can get started in the franchised bibingka food cart with all he says. “The cart comes complete with all the necessary equipment and supplies, and if you have a good location for your food cart, you can recover your investment in as short a time as twelve months.”
The chief executive officer of Philippine Food Asia Corp., Richard Sanz, is very fond of bibingka as well as of the bibingka product that he had developed: Bibingkinitan! mini-bibinka. The brand conjoins the words “bibingka” and “balingkinitan,” which is Tagalog for “petite,” and together they mean “bite-size bibingka.”

Sanz says that he developed that product after realizing that most people find it difficult to finish a whole bibingka, which traditionally is big enough for several people. He therefore though that there should be a market for bibingka in smaller servings – hence his bibingkinitan idea.

“I was already in the business of selling iced tea in malls when I started Bibingkinitan in April last year,” says Sanz. “My initial investment in Bibingkinitan was P100,000, which went into the construction of the cart, signage, and equipment. Before that, it took me a year doing research and development to prefect our moist-and-soft bibingka recipe.”

Sanz manages Bibingka in much the same way he manages his iced tea business. To get it started, for instance, he did practically everything himself, including ingredients; the delivery of supplies; and the graphic design, marketing, operations, and accounting. When initial sales turned out to be low, however, Sanz quickly changed his marketing strategy. He put up big Bibingkinitan posters that positioned his bibingka as the softest and most moist there was. He also did flyer distribution and product sampling to help promote his bibingka.

Recalls Sanz: “My wife and a took turns in operating our first outlet at the Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City, which one staff helping us in tending the store. During the first weeks of operation, we made it a point to both experience actual cooking and selling to the customers.”

With good logistics management as well as sustained mall advertising and free food tasting, the Bibingkinitan business has grown very quickly. By also going into franchising, it now has a network of 19 outlets in Metro Manila and nearby provinces after less than a year in operation. Of these, 10 are company-owned and the rest is franchised outlets. “We hired a franchise consultant to develop a franchise system for us, and now we are ready to go nationwide and open 10 more new outlets by the middle of this year,” says Sanz


Task force: Baguio City gov’t doesn’t have papers to show it owns lots: Folks hit Tuba execs over stand on Asin power plants

>> Sunday, December 16, 2007

TUBA, Benguet – Indignant residents assailed town officials here for their “wimpy stand” over the controversial power plants they claimed encroached on their ancestral lands which the Baguio City government was using without their consent.

This, as the residents’ 30-day ultimatum for the city government of Baguio to vacate the Asin Hydroelectric Plants here lapsed on Dec. 12.

The Tadiangan-Nangalisan Hydro Ancestral Landowners Association, composing at least 50 members, earlier demanded among others, that the Baguio government pay for use of their lots.

“Since the city government is not addressing the issue with dispatch, our group (TNHLA) is set to file a case with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to make the city government cease and desist from using the power plants until it would pay for the use of our lands,” said TNHLA president Roger Sinot.

During a public hearing at the municipal session hall, here Wednesday, Mayor Florencio Bentrez berated TNHALA members saying they should not have barricaded the area where the power plants were located and shut down water valves making the city government incur losses in the process.

Bentrez angrily told the TNHLA during the hearing: “Apay no dakayo met ngay iti pasardenegen da iti business na? Baka kuna yo pay nga nacorrupt ak. (What if somebody stopped your business? You might even say I was corrupted.)”

This got the ire of TNHLA members who said Bentrez and town councilors were biased in their appraisal of the issue which was payment for the use of their lots by the city government.

Blas Dalus was the only Tuba councilor of the stand that the city government should cease and desist from operating the plants as the latter couldn’t prove ownership of the lots where these were located.

Bentrez and majority of town councilors told TNHLA members they would wait first for the decision of the city government which they would affirm in settling the controversy.

Except for Dalus, councilors who reportedly relied on the stand of the Baguio government to settle the issue were: Adora Paus, Cris Akia, Veronica Apil, Dick Belting, Zaldy Guileng, Pedro Esteban, Clarita Sal-ongan and Jerome Palaoag.

“The action of the mayor and majority of the Tuba council was unfair,” TNHLA president Roger Sinot told the Northern Philippine Times. “We went to the public hearing to be heard but instead were berated by the mayor (Bentrez). I wonder whose side the mayor (Bentrez) is on. He should have considered that we are his constituents and we want justice. We want the Baguio City government to pay for the use of our lands. If the city government wants to do business with the use of the hydros, it should pay the people for the use of their lands where the hydros located. We were not even saying Bentrez was corrupt. He was the one who insinuated it.”

The three power plants had reportedly been set up by the Americans in the 1930s and had since been under the control of the Baguio government.

TNHLA members said “occupation” of their lands was unjust and they were now intent on making the city government realize it didn’t own the lots where the plants were located or traversed.

This, as a task force created by Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan headed by provincial board member Nardo B. Cayat had found out the Baguio City government didn’t have legal papers to prove it owned the lots where the power plants were located.

During the public hearing, Baguio councilor Antonio Tabora said he would raise the matter with the city council.

Baguio City Administrator Peter Fianza who was present during the hearing earlier wrote the TNHLA his office could not provide the association with a response on the issue as concerned city government offices didn’t give it immediate attention.

Sinot said they had been asking the city government in letters to come up with a response but these were “seemingly being ignored. This made TNHLA members shut down valves leading to Plant 1 early this month which supplied water to the power plants.”

Baguio officials said the city lost income of P144,000 when the plants were shut down. The Benguet Electric Coop. is buying power from the city for the use of the Asin plants.

But according to city employees holding sensitive positions, as to the people who were getting the payment for the use of the plants, reporters could try to uncover it as the payments were not registered in ledgers of the city treasurer’s office.

There are three plants composing the power system. Plant I currently produces 700 kwh per hour or P3,000 per hour in terms of monetary equivalent.

Fianza as chief of the technical working group, was tasked by the city government’s Asin management committee to address various landowners’ claims in the area and prepare recommendations on operating the hydros.

The TNHLA had also demanded that the city vacate the area including “improvements that traversed [TNHALA] members’ properties” within 30 days from receipt by the city of their Nov. 3 resolution.

Fianza earlier said there were remedies under the law the TNHALA may take to assert their claims but they shouldn’t have shut down the plants.

He added the TNHALA was moving towards legal battle to assert its claims over the lands.
Sinot said they had to take legal action as their demands were not being met. Among others, these included free irrigation for their farms and fishponds, rentals retroactive for at least 10 years, scholarships for deserving children, free streetlights in barangays where hydros are located and computers for elementary schools near the plants. – Alfred Dizon


‘Bersamin slay suspects met in La Union resort’ to discuss assassination

CAMP DANGWA, Benguet -- The Cordillera police confirmed an arrested suspect, the alleged mastermind and other players in the gunslaying of Abra Rep. Luis Bersamin and his police bodyguard in Quezon City last Dec. 16 met in a beach resort in nearby La Union province days before the killing.

Chief Supt. Eugene Martin, Cordillera police director, said workers at the Nalinac beach resort in San Fernando City positively identified former La Paz vice mayor Freddie Dupo as one of the men who met in the resort days Bersamin and his bodyguard, SPO1 Adelfo Ortega, were gunned down in front of Mt. Carmel Church in Quezon City.

“My men presented the picture of Dupo to the workers of the beach resort and he positively identified as one of those in the meeting,” Martin told newsmen.

In his statement to police investigators, Dupo claimed he and the mastermind and other key players in the Bersamin killing met at a beach in La Union to discuss the “job.”

Martin dispatched Supt. Jess Cambay to the beach resort to verify Dupo’s revelation.

“The positive identification of Dupo showed that he is telling the truth. But we are still evaluating other important aspects of the case he revealed to our police investigators,” Martin said.

Cambay said the beach resort workers also described the men who met with Dupo, possibly including the mastermind and other political figures and other political figures in Abra who were linked by the former vice mayor to Bersamin’s murder.

“What we have is the picture of Dupo,” said Cambay. “We don’t have a hunch who was with him at the time.”

Cordillera police arrested Dupo and his cousin, Sunny Taculao, in the mountains of Baras, Rizal two months ago.

They yielded a Cal.45 automatic pistol, which the Philippine National Police crime laboratory found to be the same firearm used in the Bersamin killing.

Dupo earlier promised to reveal all he knew about the case but wanted the safety of his family to be guaranteed.

Meanwhile, Director Edgardo Doromal, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, scheduled the re-enactment of Bersamin’s slay last Nov. 30 but cancelled it at the last minute because of the takeover by renegade soldiers led by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV of the Peninsula Manila hotel in Makati City.

Cambay said the re-enactment is necessary for police investigators to compare the physical evidence with the testimonies of their witnesses, including Dupo and Taculao.


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