Mayor-elect survives ambush; 2 aides killed

>> Monday, June 28, 2010

By Mar T. Supnad and Teddy Molina

CAMP FLORENDO, La Union– The elected mayor of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte has survived an ambush but her two escorts were killed and one was injured in the attack by unidentified suspects along the boundary of Burgos and Bangui towns.

Supt. Raul Romero, chief of the publication information office here, identified the fatalities as Mario Monje and Fertopel Caletena, both aides of mayor-elect Matilde Sales.

Sales was unhurt in the attack Monday afternoon along with two other companions while the driver of the van, a certain Manolito Rangasan, was wounded and was brought for treatment at the Gov. Roque Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital. 

Police said the suspects fled immediately while investigators recovered seven empty shells of M16 at the crime scene. 

Romero said motive of the incident is still unknown and police have launched intensified checkpoints in the area.

In Laoag City, Senior Supt. Ulysses Abellera, Ilocos Norte police director, said Sales and her escorts were going to Laoag City aboard a private van when, upon reaching the zigzag road along the boundary of Burgos-Bangui, unidentified armed men suddenly opened fire at them, killing Marjo Monje.

The driver, however, was able to drive the van to the nearest police station where they sought refuge.

The lady mayor-elect was so nervous after the incident that she hid in a convent for fear the gunmen will follow her.

Sales was a three-term vice mayor until she ran for mayor, defeating three other candidates.

Abellera said a manhunt has been launched against the ambushers who are believed to be hired killers.


‘Non-existent with no beneficiaries’: Paracelis folk assail P12 M water project

By Gina Dizon

PARACELIS, Mountain Province – Concerned folk here sent a letter to Nestor Mantaring, Director of the National Bureau of Investigation to start an investigation on a P12 million water project, saying is “non-existent and there are no beneficiaries."

The letter assailed the project saying there are ‘no reservoir water tanks and no pipes laid out,’

The P12 million water “project” of the Paracelis Water District headed by general manager Candido Acapen was approved by the Quezon City-based Local Water Utilities Administration on Feb. 2, 2010.

The initial amount of P4.6 million from Non-LWUA Initiated Funds (NLIF) was released to the PWD less monthly interest of P29,000 and service charges on April 27, 2010.

Outgoing Paracelis Mayor Pedro Almeda also reportedly released LGU counterpart of P500,000.00 from the municipal government.

The second tranche of P6 million is reportedly due to be released the coming months.

The LWUA approved the P12 million loan on a 50-50 percent loan-grant arrangement, but the grant could go up to a maximum of 90 percent in meritorious cases.

The proper loan-grant composition shall be determined by LWUA during the loan evaluation.

The loan is amortized from a minimum of 10 years and to a maximum of 40 years, and repayment based on the district’s capability to pay; and with the condition that water charges shall not exceed 5 percent of the average income of the income households.

The PWD shall be responsible in constructing the project.

The District shall also obtain water permits from the National Water Resources Board, environmental clearances from Department of Environment and Natural Resources and endorsement and permit from the Local Government Unit.


Smoking in Vizcaya public sitesprohibited

By Freddie G. Lazaro

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Cigarette smoking in all public places and vehicles in Nueva Vizcaya is already prohibited following the recent approval of an ordinance pushed by the provincial Board Members here.

Provincial Board Ordinance No. 2010-049, which was already signed by Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Luisa Cuaresma, cited the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, mandating the state to protect the right to health of the people and to instill health consciousness among them.

Section 24 of Republic Act (RA) 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 prohibits smoking inside enclosed public places and public vehicles.

Local government units are directed by law to implement the provision.

Section 5 of RA 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 prohibits smoking in certain public places whether enclosed or outdoors like centers of youth activity, public facilities, and public conveyances.

It was gathered that the members of the provincial board are presently coordinating with various sectors and groups for the proper dissemination and implementation of the said ordinance.

“Public hearings and information dissemination campaigns will be held to support the province’s no-smoking campaign,” Senior Board Member Edgardo Balgos said.

The said ordinance seeks the installation of “No Smoking” signs in prohibited areas and removal of ashtrays in public and work places, among others.


P50 million worth of bangus lost in fishkill

By Jennelyn Mondejar

BOLINAO, Pangasinan – An estimated P50 million worth of bangus (milkfish) was lost due to fishkill along the narrow portion of the Cacquiputan Channel between the towns of Anda and Bolinao.

Westly Rosario, interim executive director of the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute and center chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Dagupan City, said that based on their water sampling Wednesday, the dissolved oxygen (DO) was at 1.7 parts per million (ppm) at surface and about two to three ppm only at the middle depth.

The normal DO for bangus growth is 5 ppm, he said.

When they came here with the BFAR team using high-tech gadgets given by the Norway government for the water sampling, he said the bangus they saw had been dead for several days because their stomachs were already bloated and many were decomposing.
“So the water was already thick and had very foul odor,” he said.

Rosario said the long rains after hot days prior to the problem could have lowered water salinity and caused the death of micro algae.

“As usual the area is good for micro algal bloom because of rich nutrients influenced by aquaculture activities,” he said.

He said when the micro algae suddenly die of sudden decrease in salinity level, DO could have been pulled down to a level the fish cannot tolerate.

This was also aggravated by no tidal action because of neap tide, Rosario said. “So there was no mechanical aeration of the water,” he said.

In 2001, there was a massive fishkill in this town and about P300 million worth of bangus was lost.

Prior to the latest fishkill here which started Sunday, there was a similar incident in 2008 wherein losses also reached millions of pesos.

Rosario observed that there were more fish cages built in the area. He said when the total weight of stocks is big, there is also huge consumption of oxygen among the fishes.

One fish cage yields from 17 to 20 tons of bangus which is about 40,000 pieces and commercial feeds consumption is about 2,000 bags for the growing period of about 120 days, he said.

He advised bangus growers to observe “no new stocking of bangus” for at least a month to enable the waters to recover.


Call center agent goes home, finds herself 'dead'

By George Trillo

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga– A 22-year-old female call center agent here got a morbid surprise when she arrived at her parents’ home recently in Sitio Bungang Guinto in San Antonio in Mexico town to find a displayed tarpaulin poster announcing her death, and inside, a coffin containing supposedly her remains, surrounded by grieving relatives and friends.

Senior Supt. Nicanor Targa said on June 12, one Edith Castro and her daughter Jackie Lou, claimed the body of a woman who was earlier found dead near a creek along an abandoned pet cemetery in this freeport.

A report of the security department of the Clark Development Corp. said that the female body was already decomposed when found.

The body wore a black bra and black leggings and was wrapped in a black and white comforter.

The body was brought to Funenaria Angelina in Angeles City until June 12, when the Castros arrived at the Angeles City police Station 4 and asked to be assisted by the police so they could view the body.

At the funeral home, Edith said she believed that the already decomposed body belonged to her daughter Karen, 22, a call center agent working at Clark.

Apparently, the Castros did not know where Karen had been staying since she got married and got estranged from her family.

Edith and Jackie Lou brought the remains to her home in Bungang Guinto in Mexico where the tarpaulin notice even displayed Karen’s photo.

On the second day of the wake, Karen decided to visit her parents after an alleged quarrel with her husband.

She was surprised to find herself “dead.”

Targa said the wake ended in a happy reunion of the living and that the body of the still unidentified woman was motored back to Funenaria Angelina.


Power rate down in Baguio, Benguet by P0.51 per kwh

By Dexter A. See

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The management of the Benguet Electric Coop. here disclosed Monday that over 130,000 residential and commercial consumers will enjoy a 51-centavo per kilowatt reduction in their electricity bills beginning this month.

Gerardo P. Verzosa, Beneco general manager, said the power rate reduction was made possible because of the lowering in charges on the components for power production.

As approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission, the electricity rate adjustment was computed from the drop in generation charge by P0.4021; the P0.0917 per kilowatt-hour systems loss charge; and adjustments to the value added taxes amounting to P0.0224 per kilowatt-hour from systems loss, transmission and distribution charges.

Verzosa said the generation cost of power being purchased by distribution utilities had gone down, especially with the onset of the rainy season that allowed power plants to partially operate and address the artificial shortage of power in the Luzon grid as an offshoot of the El Niño phenomenon.

He said reduction in the generation charge is an indication operation of power generation companies is slowly going back to normal with the occurrence of daily afternoon rains.

But Verzosa added reduction in the generation and transmission costs will be a variable every month but the systems loss charge could still go lower once the cooperative will be successful in completing its rehabilitation of its lines and equipment, thus, consumers will still be able to enjoy reduced rates depending on the charges to be imposed by the power generators and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

In January, the generation charge being passed on to consumers by the rural electric cooperative was as low as P3.4150 per kilowatt-hour which went to as high as P4.5957 per kilowatt-hour last month during the height of the prolonged drought that affected most parts of the country.

On the other hand, Verzosa explained the systems loss charge has also gone down because of the successful implementation of the efficiency programs and projects being continuously done to improve the delivery of quality power to the consumers even in non-viable areas located within its franchise area, particularly in Baguio City and Benguet.


Potted marijuana plants found at Sagada hotel

SAGADA, Mountain Province -- Fully grown potted marijuana were discovered near the backyard of a hotel here on June 21 by students from Baguio City who reported it to local cops.

The students who were on an educational trip and billeted at George Inn/Hotel at Sitio Dao-angan, Barangay Dagdag promptly reported this to Sagada chief of police Insp. Benedict Del-ong who was having a conversation in front of the hotel with Supt. David Peredo, regional police training director of the Cordillera Administrative Region Training School.

Immediately, Del-ong called a briefing and coordinated with barangay officials and members of the Philippine Drug enforcement Agency to verify the information.

Responding policemen confiscated ten fully grown potted marijuana plants and 20 seedlings valued at P7, 500.

Local police are still trying to identify the owner of the illegal plants and seedlings.

Confiscated items were brought to the provincial investigation and detection management branch at the provincial police office in Bontoc town.

Provincial police headed by Senior Supt. Forunatot Basco Albas regularly conduct police operations against illegal drugs.


Vizcaya town elects first woman mayor

VILLAVERDE, Nueva Vizcaya – Three days from now, this more than three-decade-old town will be marking history with its first-ever woman mayor formally sworn into office. 

An independent candidate, Ronelie Ubando-Valtoribio won the mayorship of this interior farming town in the recent elections, defeating her all-male veteran rivals, including two former mayors and an incumbent vice mayor.

Herself a daughter of the town’s first mayor, Valtoribio, 40, won by a 900-vote margin over her closest rival, Vice Mayor Marciano Hernandez of the Nacionalista Party, whose candidacy was supported by outgoing three-term Mayor Esmenio Bajo. 

Running against all odds, Valtoribio, a first-timer in politics with no political machinery or grassroots organizations, bested the likes of former mayors Rodrigo Tabita and Jose Legaspi and former vice mayor Severino Dacumos.

“Our town has been in existence for more than three decades. I believe that whatever good had been done for our town in the past may become even better,” said Valtoribio when asked on what had pushed her to run. 

Named after a noted Spanish priest-engineer during the colonial period, Villaverde, located in the northwest corner of the province bordering on Ifugao, was carved out of northern parts of the commercial town of Solano more than three decades ago. 

A one-time stronghold of the New People’s Army in the ’70s to mid-’80s, this town, a major producer of rice, corn and vegetables in the province, still has the feel of a sleepy, laid-back town.

“Our town has great potentials. Now being the time for innovations, my townmates gave their mandate to me so that I could help the town reach its potentials for progress,” said Valtoribio, also the town’s first lawyer mayor.

Valtoribio also served as chief of the Department of Agrarian Reform’s legal division here and legal counsel of PLT College, Bayombong, one of the region’s leading schools of higher learning.

The fifth of seven daughters of Villaverde’s first elected mayor, Romualdo Ubando, she is married to Dominador Valtoribio Jr. and they are blessed with two children, Dawn, an entrepreneurial management senior student, and Dominique, a grade two pupil. -- CL


P92M set for folks in reforest program

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY — At least P92 million has been set aside by the national government to implement the upland development program to boost empowerment of the people in watershed communities to reforest denuded mountains in the Cordillera.

Out of the said amount, around P60 million will be utilized for the establishment of over 4,000 hectares of UDP sites in Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, and in this city this year, while the remaining P32 million will be used to maintain the established UDP areas to ensure the continuity of the project.

Clarence Baguilat, regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Cordillera, said the funds will be utilized for the propagation of fruit-bearing trees and assorted tree species that will be used by the concerned families to reforest their designated UPD sites in order to hasten the reforestation of denuded mountains to slowly bring back the greenery of the region’s forests.

Under the program, one family is required to maintain at least one hectare of forestland in their own community and is obliged to make sure that the trees which will be planted will grow.

Once fruit-bearing trees will start producing fruits, the beneficiary will be the one to harvest the same and sell or utilize it as a source of income for the family.

Last year, the DENR, through the advocacy of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera for an efficient and effective watershed rehabilitation and management, worked out the establishment of over 7,000 hectares of UDP sites which was an initial salvo of the uphill climb to bring back the greenery of the region’s deteriorating state of the environment.


DPWH completes P138 million Baguio projects

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – At least P138 million worth of infrastructure projects have been completed by the Baguio City District Engineering office of the Department of Public Works and Highways in this mountain resort city.

Out of the said amount, P60 million came from the regular infrastructure fund of the agency, P40 million was sourced from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of three-term Rep. Mauricio G. Domogan and P38 million were funded from various local infrastructure projects.

Engineer Ireneo Gallato, Baguio City6 district engineer, cited most of the funding for the identified road, bridge and structural projects were released prior to the ban on implementation of government projects, thus, most of the projects were already completed.

While Baguio City is a highly urbanized city, Gallato said there are still numerous projects that need to be undertaken by concerned government agencies in order to help improve the living condition of people.

According to him, the resourcefulness of local officials coupled with the perseverance of the DPWH in sourcing out the funding for the different projects proved to be instrumental in facilitating the influx of funds for the completion of the different horizontal and vertical projects all over the city.

Gallato said completed projects do not include the P60 million uncompleted circumferential road project since its funding has yet to be released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the multi-million calamity funded projects.

Because of the good weather condition prevailing in the city due to the effects of the El Nino phenomenon, the district engineer explained all the projects that were bidded out are now being implemented and completed in time for the rainy season.

In this year’s P1.5 trillion national budget, there are several infrastructure projects that have been initially funded but the same will be implemented after the election ban expires when the new administration takes over by July 1.

Gallato cited all public works projects have already been rushed for the convenience of the people so that the improved roads will be utilized by the people in time for the opening of classes by the second week of June.

Previously, the DPWH-BCDEO has completed over P180 million worth of infrastructure projects all over the city to help in the rehabilitation and upgrading of roads, bridges and schoolbuildings for the benefit of tourists and local residents.


GMA attends Chavit's b’day

VIGAN CITY – Barely a few days before bowing out of office, President Arroyo appears busy as ever as she flew here last week to attend the 69th birthday celebration of comebacking Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson.

Ms Arroyo arrived at Singson’s Baluarte residence at 11:20 a.m. where she presided over the mass oath-taking of local officials headed by Singson.

Among those who participated in the swearing-in ceremony were outgoing Gov. Deogracias Victor Savellano who was elected vice governor, re-electionist Rep. Ronald Singson (first district) incoming Rep. Owen Singson (second district), provincial board members, mayors, vice mayors and councilors of various Ilocos Sur towns.

After the ceremony, the president thanked the officials, mostly partymates in Lakas-Kampi, for their support to her administration. Among the officials present were outgoing House deputy Speaker Eric Singson and outgoing Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan.– Teddy Molina


CL police to quiz 18 in Tetangco murder

CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga – Police invited Tuesday 18 personalities and gave their statements regarding the murder of the brother of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. and two others. 

Senior Supt. Wendy Rosario, deputy regional director for operations and head of task force YTG, said there are two persons more scheduled to be invited. Rosario did not disclose the names of the two others. 

Rosario said all the personalities they invited are friends of Yap whom he talked with before he and two others were found dead. 

On June 2, Yap, Rene Tetangco, brother of the BSP governor and Dennis Guinto were found dead inside a Ford Expedition (YAP-225) parked abandoned in a vacant lot along Friendship Avenue in Barangay Pampang, Angeles City. 

Rosario said that since cash reward has been offered to any informant who could lead to the solution of the case, the task force has been receiving calls and text messages. 

He said the task force has been validating all the calls and texts that they received since the reward was offered. 

The callers or texters could be the suspects in the killing to mislead police authorities in their investigation, Rosario said. 

“Up to now we are still pursuing the investigation regarding the motive of the killings,” Rosario said. 

He said the motive behind the killings could be gambling debt or business rivalry. 

Rosario said the task force has been exerting it’s effort to resolve as soon as possible the YTG case.

The BSP governor in an interview recently, said he hopes police authorities could solve the case of his brother together with two others.


Isabela sweeper feted for honesty

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – For a lowly street sweeper whose income is barely enough for a day’s living, having an instant P43,000 could have gone a long way.

But for 38-year-old Joselyn Salas, a street sweeper in Santiago City, Isabela, her conscience prevailed and she returned the huge sum she found in a tricycle she was riding to its owner.

For her honesty, the city government led by Mayor Amelita Navarro honored Salas during the city’s Independence Day celebration.

Besides the commendations she received that day, Salas was also given P5,000 as cash reward for being an exemplary employee.

The city government’s environment and natural resources office also made Salas a regular employee.

She used to be a job-order worker who only earned P5,000 a month. -- CL


Task force hunts NuevaVizcaya lawyer's killers

SOLANO, Nueva Vizcaya– A task force has been formed and is hunting killers of human rights lawyer Ernesto Salunat, who was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding men here Monday morning.

Senior Supt. Pedro Danguilan, provincial police director, said the special task force is now looking into possible angles in the killing of Salunat, 64, the local campaign manager of the Liberal Party in the recent elections.

Salunat, also a former Northern Luzon governor of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, was attacked in front of the municipal trial court in Solano town where he was scheduled to attend a hearing.

He later succumbed to gunshot wounds in the neck and head at the Medical Mission Group Hospital, only few meters away from the crime scene.

The victim was shot dead by still unknown suspects in front of this town’s municipal trial court Tuesday morning.

Salunat succumbed to four bullet wounds on the neck and head while being treated at the MMGH where he was rushed shortly after being shot.

Attending physicians declared him dead at around 10 a.m. or about two hours after he was shot by one of the suspects riding in tandem on a motorcycle in front of the MTC here just after alighting from his white BMW car.

The crime scene is also a few meters away from the Aglipayan and Roman Catholic churches as well as the Saint Louis School and the town’s municipal park and tennis court.

Witnesses said the suspects immediately approached the arriving lawyer as he was walking towards the one-story court building, which is adjacent to the town’s Bureau of Fire Protection office in Poblacion South here.

Reports said one of the suspects shot him at point-blank four times from a Cal. 38 revolver and immediately fled on a motorcycle with the other suspect.

Police, however, declined to give initial statements about the incident saying they are still establishing possible leads.

Observers speculated Salunat’s killing may be work related. But some supporters also did not discount the possibility that his slay has something to do with politics.

Hundreds of supporters and political allies, who include former governor Rodolfo Agbayani and board member Santiago Dickson, immediately rushed to the hospital after hearing of the incident and waited there until he was declared dead by hospital officials.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the killing of one of the most respected political leaders in the province. There can never be any justification for such violence, much more taking the life of a fellow human being,” said Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Thompson Lantion.

Lantion was Salunat’s running mate when the former ran for Congress with the latter for governor in the 2004 elections.

Both, however, lost to Agbayani and then Vice Gov. Luisa Cuaresma, respectively.

A former police general, Lantion called on authorities to go to the bottom of the incident and bring justice to the bereaved family.

“The province is so peaceful, we should not give any room for assassins or hired killers to sow violence right under our noses. I call on my former (police) colleagues to exert extra effort to unmask these heartless perpetrators,” Lantion said.

Salunat figured prominently as LP campaign manager here in last month’s election, heavily criticizing the provincial government’s alleged misgovernance.

One of the province’s most-sought-after trial lawyers, Salunat, besides being a human rights lawyer, also handled land dispute cases here and in neighboring provinces.

A former Northern Luzon governor of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, he served as provincial government secretary of neighboring Quirino where he unsuccessfully ran twice for governor.

A native of this town’s Barangay Uddiawan, Salunat also tried his luck in politics here but lost thrice in his congressional bids.

He also ran but lost in the 2004 gubernatorial race.

Two years ago, Salunat survived gunshot wounds when armed men strafed the house of his brother, Quezon town Mayor Aurelio Salunat, where they, along with some political supporters, were having a party.

Despite the incident, Salunat, also a former University of the East law professor, refused to be provided with a police escort or security aides, opting to be alone in his movements.


Designation of retiring officers a violation of PNP law: young cops

By Mar T. Supnad

CAMP FLORENDO, La Union- The Philippine national Police hierarchy’s placing retiring officers to sensitive positions is not only a backward practice but also a violation of the PNP law.

This was the sentiment of majority of policemen particularly young and idealistic police officers here who said retiring policemen are no longer effective in performing their duties and responsibilities.

“Sino naman ang malapit nang magreretire na pulis ang banat pa ng banat sa trabaho, lalo na sa mga risky mission. Syempre, maski sino sa mga retireable ay lie low na lang sa trabaho dahil natatakot ding baka masabit pa o magkakaso bago mag retire, and this is unproductive and setback to the PNP’s transformation program,” said a policeman here.

Section 25 of Republic Act number 8551, states, “Except for the Chief of the PNP, no PNP member who has less than one year of service before reaching the compulsory retirement age shall be promoted to a higher rank or appointed to any other position,”

This was often grossly violated, they said.

Police officers who are being designated to sensitive positions such as regional directors (RD), provincial directors (PD), chief of police (COP) and other sensitive positions less than one year before their retirements, are not, they said, productive anymore in performing their duties since they are just already waiting for their retirement date.

Claiming that they are concerned with the organization, the officers appealed to the National Police Commission and PNP chief Jesus Versoza to look into their advocacy of not giving sensitive positions to retiring policemen as this is counter-productive.

They said this runs counter to the PNP chief’s transformation program in the PNP. “Bukod sa di na magtratrabaho ng maayos tong mga retiring policemen na ito ay uubusin pa nila ang anumang resources sa PNP dahil nag-aantay na sila ng kanilang retirement sa serbisyo,” said a policeman.

The PNP hierarchy has sometimes violating its own charter and the law by designating police officers with only less than a year remaining in service to “sensitive but juicy positions,” earning the ire of some local chief executives and causing demoralization to other police officers.”

The policemen cited a retiring former PD in Ilocos Sur who was designated PD few months before his retirement.

This PD, they claimed, was no longer working but only waiting for the arrival of emoluments and other benefits.

Highly reliable sources said a chief superintendent with around five months of remaining service is reportedly being groomed to take over the RD position here following the retirement last Tuesday of General Constante Azares who reached the mandatory age of 56.


Baguio council: New land law a bane to city

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – The city council last Monday urged the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources to put on hold implementation of Republic Act No. 10023 a newly approved law that authorizes issuance of free patents to residential lands, in the city due to provisions in the new law that conflict with the city’s status as a townsite reservation.

The body, in a letter to DENR Cordillera executive director Clarence Baguilat, and in a resolution, asked that the DENR “hold in abeyance and/or refrain from implementing” the law until such time that special guidelines more applicable and appropriate to the Baguio setting have been adopted.

DENR Cordillera executives led by Baguilat attended the city council session Monday upon invitation of the body to shed light on the new law and its implications to the city.

During the discussions, Baguilat and DENR Regional Technical Director for Lands Victor Carantes agreed with the city council members’ observations that the new law runs counter to the city’s present procedure of disposing alienable and disposable lots and thus is inapplicable to the city’s setting.

Council committee on lands chair Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. along with Councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Erdolfo Balajadia questioned some provisions of the free patents law which they said tend to abet squatting and land monopoly.

Tabanda also brought out the possible conflict that may rise once the proposed amendment of the city charter has been approved.

The amendment includes changes in the procedures and guidelines for the disposition of alienable and disposable public lands with the Baguio Townsite reservation.

Baguilat and Carantes said they shared the same apprehensions and affirmed that the new law will have the “greatest impact” on Baguio being the only one with townsite reservation status.

“Being the only established town reservation, the mode of land titling in the city is unique and the free patents law threatens to remove that uniqueness,” Carantes said.

However, they assured that all is not lost as they have been informed by the DENR central office of the plan to craft special guidelines for areas with unique status like Baguio.

The also promised to involve the city in the drafting of said guidelines to ensure that all concerns will be addressed.

The body tasked Cosalan to represent the city on said concern.

“If we can’t amend the law through legislation, then we can do it through an administrative order,” Baguilat assured.

The DENR executives also assured that no application for free patent has so far been accepted and processed in the city under the said law.

Republic Act No. 10023 entitled “An Act Authorizing the Issuance of Free Patents to Residential Lands” was signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on March 9 this year.

The DENR considers said new law as a “landmark measure as it streamlined the requirements and procedures of land titling involving zoned residential lands.”

The DENR Administrative Order No. 2010-12 promulgating the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the issuance of free patents under the act was also approved last May 5 by DENR Secretary Horacio Ramos who announced that occupants of untitled residential public land can file their applications for free patents at the nearest DENR field offices 15 days from May 16, or beginning June 1.

The city council sought clarification from DENR-CAR officials on the impact of the new law relative to Townsite Sales Applications, Miscellaneous Sales Application, Insular Government Property Sales Applications, Ancestral Land Claim Applications to come up with a unified system in acquiring patents over alienable and disposable lands in the City of Baguio including that of the Charter of the City of Baguio.


Burnham master plan released to city gov’t

By Julie G. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY – A master plan for Burnham Park has been turned over to the City Government here by academic officials of the University of the Cordilleras (formerly Baguio Colleges Foundation), headed by UC President Ricardo Pama, last Friday at the City Hall, Multi-purpose hall.

The master plan was received by Mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Jr. and other city officials; with Cordelia Lacsamana of the City Environment and Parks Management Office.

Bautista, Jr., in his acceptance message, said plan is one of the accomplishments of his administration, and “fitting conclusion” to his term.

The plan includes studies and design of a futuristic park; with the model scale soon to be displayed at the city hall lobby.

The plan was anchored on several sessions done last year with stakeholders; businessmen, sportsmen, architects and planners, senior citizens, academicians, technical people, and the Baguio Centennial Commission.

During the planning sessions last year, Councilor Pinky Rondez, said the plan should be a short and long-range “management of site resources.” This resulted to areas in the park for the preservation of historic value, Cordilleran culture and arts, environmental or “green” architecture, special places for athletics, senior citizens, children’s space, botanical and zoological areas. There would also be food stalls, a multi-level parking, boating at the refurbished lighted lake, rental and bicycling areas.

The Melvin Jones area was also planned as world standard football ground to include a renovated grandstand and bleachers at the Athletic Bowl, cultural showcase space at the Igorot Park and the Rose Garden.

The orchidarium, which earlier has started restoration, is also included in the plan.

UC President Pama gave a background of the plan which included dreams and visions of the late UC (BCF) president Benjamin Salvosa way back in 1945; as he viewed the city in shambles from the war.

Bautista, Jr., bared an initial funding of P125 million with outgoing congressman Mauricio Domogan, as commitment of the Philippine Tourism Authority for the city’s park.

Bond flotation is also being mulled for stake holders. A Burnham Park Foundation, of private citizens in coordination with the city government is being eyed for the continuing maintenance of the place, Bautista said.

Bautista, Jr. said rehabilitation of the park came a long way, as outgoing president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo realized in December 2007 that the park was a national property, thus, the turn-over to the city in January of 2008.

Vice-Mayor Daniel Farinas said a feasibility study is needed for long-term maintenance budget, to make the Burnham plan facilities a reality.


Army: Nueva Vizcaya ‘NPA-free’

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – After neighboring Quirino province has been declared insurgency-free, it is now the turn of this landlocked province to be freed from threats from the more than three decades-old communist movement.

This, according to the Tarlac City-based Northern Luzon Command which said in a statement that Nueva Vizaya’s internal security operations are now under the supervision of local officials since the province has already been declared free from serious threats from the communist New People’s Army.

Besides Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino in the Cagayan Valley region, the Armed Forces earlier had declared insurgency-free the provinces of Apayao in the Cordillera region as well as Tarlac and Aurora in Central Luzon.

Meanwhile, Nolcom troops apprehended Eldo Sandoval, an alleged communist leader, in Pampanga last week.

Maj. Rosendo Armas, Nolcom spokesman, said Sandoval, also known in the underground movement as Gerry Vergara, Diosdado Villaganas Remulta, and Tanda, had been wanted for murder.

Reports said Sandoval was cornered by military and police operatives along the Olongapo-Gapan Road in Barangay Dolores, San Fernando City Tuesday morning June 15.

Seized from Sandoval were a grenade and two cell phones, Armas said.

“Sandoval committed grave offenses against his fellowmen being the leader of a terrorist group that harassed and abused people. It’s about time he faces the law and be meted due punishment,” said Nolcom chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo David Jr. -- CL


P5.7 million lost to hijackings in CL

By Mar T. Supnad

CAMP OLIVAS, City of San Fernando, Pampanga – A top police official of the Highway Patrol Group said P5.7-M worth of goods have recently been hijacked by syndicates in the region, alarming police and businessmen here.

This was reported by Sr. Supt. Edgardo Tinio, HPG region 3 chief, during the "hijacking summit" attended by around 400 businessmen and top police officials in Pampanga.

As a result, Central Luzon police director, Chief Supt. Arturo Cacdac Jr., came up with a scheme such as issuance of "pass card" to eradicate if not minimize hijacking incidents along Olongapo Gapan road, Bataan highways and other national highways in Central Luzon.

Cacdac said the summit was attended by 400 businessmen engaged trucking industry in Central Luzon with different PNP units in the region including chiefs of police in Pampanga.

Discussed was the strict enforcement of the “passccard” to all drivers of cargo trucks for their safety and for easier identification of the location of the route of origin and destination.

Tarlac provincial police director, Senior Supt. Amador Corpuz discussed the full enforcement of “pass card.”

The card will be issued to truck drivers upon entering the first town of the province of Central Luzon and signed by the PNP who has the jurisdiction and surrendered to the last town.

The next first town of the preceding province will issue another pass card and again it will be surrendered at the last town until the cargo truck reaches its destination and vice versa.
According to Tinio, the pass card will only be issued only in the main route of destination traversing Maharlika-McArthur Highway and other main routes and not on other routes.

Otherwise, he said, the travel of the cargo truck is questionable unless the main route is not available.

Tinio asked full cooperation of trucking owners to abide with rules and policies especially in implementation of the pass card and if possible, all truckers should avail of modern technology through the installation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) so their trucks could be monitored.


209 affected with dengue in Ifugao

LAGAWE, Ifugao — The provincial health office here warned of rapid increase in the dengue fever cases following reports that 209 individuals in the province were recently affected by the viral infection.

Based on records, cases of dengue fever increased by approximately 800 percent compared to the number of cases recorded during the same period last year.

Carmen Nabejet of the local health office said that the figure was recorded from January 1 to the present with two deaths.

As of now there are 19 dengue cases admitted in the Ifugao General Hospital,” she bared.

The municipality of Kiangan has the most number of cases with 87, followed by Lagawe and Hungduan with 30 each. Banaue recorded 18 cases; Hingyon, 16; Lamut, 9; Asipulo, 3; and Tinoc, 2.”

Nabejet informed that all stakeholders, such as the municipal health authorities and barangay officials, have stepped up the campaign to urge residents to clean up their surrounding and monitor the implementation of the said program.

"We urge the public to get rid of anything that can become breeding sites for mosquitoes. This is the best way to fight dengue," Nabejet said.

Dengue is a viral disease that is prevalent during the rainy transmitted by a mosquito called "Aedes aegypti" and "Aedes albopictus."

With the recent opening of classes, the Health Department is advising the public to wear long sleeves, apply mosquito repellant, usemosquito nets when kids or babies sleep during daytime, continue cleaning their surroundings, and strengthen the organized program in schools.

The Cordillera office of the Center for Health Development has placed Ifugao under the dengue fever watchlist


Kidney failure shatters ailing girl’s dreams

By Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- Against doctors’ advice, 20-year old Genevieve Gano now and then limits her hemodialysis treatment session to once a week instead of the required two or three times for her to survive kidney failure.

Genevieve has been doing that since the diagnosis came in April last year. It’s a common remedy in poverty-stricken countries where nothing sometimes works but where the poor believe anything is possible.

Like reducing treatment and medication when the spirit is willing but the pocket is weak. Or having none and survive on empty until help comes, as in Genevieve’s case.

The other week, she missed her twice-a-week sessions set on Mondays and Thursdays. So last Monday, she went around looking for people who could shell out P2,600 for her coping treatment the following day.

Tuesday morning, she fidgeted as she waited for help outside the hemodialysis unit at the Benguet provincial health office in La Trinidad town. She found relief when help came at 10 a.m., 30 minutes before her remedial session.

The treatment payment was advanced, chargeable to a fund from Baguio boy Freddie de Guzman early next month. It will be his latest remittance from his home in Canada, in a personal outreach for indigent patients here now spanning four years.

If not for the onset of her ailment, Genevieve should be now a graduating commerce student. Or a laborer, like her elder brother Gilbert, 21, and younger sister Granny, 16, leaving Jesser, 17, the only one left in school

Their parents – Esteban, 47, from Ifugao, and Nancy,41, from Tublay, Benguet -, are farmers. Nancy worked for eight months as domestic in Hongkong and later in Taiwan. She came home when Genevieve’s ailment was diagnosed.

“My parents are now financially drained and we don’t know where to seek help,” Genevieve wrote. “My younger brother is studying in college with the help of my aunt and uncle. My older brother is working in Rosario, La Union as a carpenter to help with my medication but it’s not enough.”

Social work volunteer Maria Lourdes Taguiba: reported the family is in deep debt and could no longer support Genevieve’s medical needs.

Samaritans can get in touch with the girl at cellphone number 09057961824 or visit her at IB 98, Betag, La Trinidad. They can pay the cost of one session at P2,600 at the Benguet Renal Center at the Benguet General Hospital Compound and then ring her number so she will know. Or ring her up and meet her there on her next dialysis session.

Others may opt to deposit their support through Metrobank Account No. 222 3222 215 1318, which belongs to Esmeraldo Lintan, Genevieve’s maternal uncle who had given her his card for her use – just in case there are contributions.

Otherwise, Genevieve might have to reduce her treatment to once a month, or anytime when support comes by.


‘Philippines is most dangerous to journalists’


The murder of media practitioners is still going up in this country even as an international organization tagged the Philippines the most dangerous place for journalists.

A total of 139 journalists and media workers have been killed since 1986, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

Latest were the killings of radio broadcasters Agustin of dzJC in Laoag and Desiderio Camangyan of Sunrise FM radio in Davao Oriental.

Various media groups like the NUJP and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) have condemned the killings as according to a KBP official “killing or intimidating media now is easier because they (perpetrators) see the Maguindanao massacre as an example that it’s simple to do it and justice is hard to get.”

The reason the killing of journalists persists is because justice has not been served in the Maguindanao massacre, according to the KBP. “Because of the unresolved Maguindanao massacre, there is an impression that it is easy to kill mediamen.”

Fifty seven people in Maguindanao province were allegedly killed by the Ampatuan clan and their henchmen including police officers last Nov. 23, of whom at least 30 were journalists. The slain journalists were covering the filing of documents for the gubernatorial bid of Buluan Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu when they were abducted and killed. Mangudadatu is the governor-elect of Maguindanao.

This is now the challenge to the incoming administration of president-elect Benigno Aquino III -- to solve murders of mediamen, the most number of whom were killed during the Arroyo administration.

Arming mediamen is not the answer to the problem but members of the Fourth Estate may have to check their style of reportage or commenting against certain officials if they are going overboard contrary to the journalist’s code of ethics and inviting the ire of their reports.

Members of the media we believe are usually responsible and cautious in news reports and commentaries in telling the truth as part of their jobs and they should not be killed for doing public service.


Nights of songs and reunions

Alfred P. Dizon

Pardon, but we would like to deviate from our usual commentaries since the past nights, for Yours Truly and musician-friends who came from other parts of the world, was a deja vu of songs and reunions.

But first, we would like to thank all those who bought tickets particularly officials and employees of the Benguet Electric Coop in our latest “concert for a cause,” proceeds of which would be used to build a house for 10 kids in Barangay Gibraltar in Baguio.

Headed by general manager Gerardo Verzosa and board president Ferdie Bayasen, Beneco bought a lot of tickets particularly board of directors Rocky Aliping, Peter Busaing, Virgilio Orca, Edward Duguiis, Joey Marrero, George Montes, Benny Bomogao and Gaspar Leung. A resident of Gibraltar, it was understandable why Anterio Buswilan bought P5,000 worth. Employees and local folk got the rest.

Our appreciation also goes to musicians, as usual who participated in the event.

“Blugraz” composed of singing lawyers “Bubut” Olarte, Nestor Mondoc, Angie Cabrera, prosecutor Rolly Vergara and Sarah belted out oldies but goodies to the delight of the crowd. Bubut also teamed up with Liza and Sumitra in other songs.

Others were Bow, Pedals and Neck powerhouse Arsen Marzan and son Christopher, Jonathan Quivencio, Jun Chamos and Nestor who backed up Yours Truly in some songs. The Mixed Emotions and Mavericks bands also belted out upbeat party tunes which had concert goers dancing on the floor.

Of course special mention goes to Novie Balageo, proprietor of Amarillo Country Bar for allowing the event to be held at her place along Otek St.
Last week, musicians, now US residents Conrad Marzan and Bryan Aliping came home for a visit. Tom Castro, a long-time resident of Aruba, came earlier. He brought home his wife Alice who was laid to rest in this part of the country she so loved. There was a lot of singing during Alice’s wake and Sammy Comiles had to be reminded to let go of the guitar as it was near daybreak.

Bryan hosted parties which our musician-friends since the early 70’s attended at his house, the largest dap-ay at Barangay QM. One party was held for Tom as despedida since he had to go back Friday to Aruba. It was a rare reunion since most were present. Bubut didn’t attend the despedida as he was down with the flu making Conrad quip, “Baka haan nga nagules (Maybe he didn’t use a blanket.”

It seemed only like yesterday that the aging musicians were singing along pubs in Session Road so it was a night of old tunes, guitars and a blues harp. It was evident time went by as some, like Dick Oakes and Tom, came with their daughters and grandchildren. March Fianza, who sang the rarest country blues and folk then could not be goaded to sing saying he did not have a voice as loud as that of Alma Angiwan.
Friday was tree-planting with students and teachers of the Longlong Elementary School in La Trinidad, Benguet courtesy of Ramon Dacawi, press information chief of the city government who organized the event. A special pine tree was planted in memory of Alice.

La Trinidad mayor-elect Greg Abalos, gauded by the children chanting “mayor, mayor,” gamely sang and played the guitar during the program. The event wouldn’t have been complete without two black pigs bought by Douglas Rufino of the Bureau of Internal Revenue for ceremonies which were cooked pulpugan style.

Conrad earlier volunteered to buy the pigs but then Douglas insisted on footing the bill, so there, we will be having more good “spirited” times until Conrad and Bryan will leave for the US in a few more days.

So eat your hearts out – Richard Arandia, Allan Del Rosario, Estoy, Megs who migrated to California and of course Hector Cruz and Levy Pena, now in Canada and Danny Tangalin who is residing in Florida.
I would like to share this article emailed to me by a friend:

Recently, I overheard a Father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the Father said, 'I love you, and I wish you enough.'

The daughter replied, 'Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad.'

They kissed and the daughter left. The Father walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, 'Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?'

'Yes, I have,' I replied. 'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?'.'I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral,' he said.

'When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough.' May I ask what that means?' He began to smile. 'That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone...' He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more.

'When we said, 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.' Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

He then began to cry and walked away. They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.

Only if you wish, send this to the people you will never forget and remember to send it back to the person who sent it to you. If you don't send it to anyone it may mean that you are in such a hurry that you have forgotten your friends. Take time to live.

To all my friends and loved ones, I wish you enough!


Fall of the ‘Emperor’

Perry Diaz

After vowing that he would rather be fired than quit as Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Delfin Bangit changed his mind and decided to retire last June 22, 2010, a year before he reaches his mandatory retirement age.

A graduate of the Philippine Military Academy’s Class of 1978, Bangit started his military career as a lieutenant assigned to a platoon that fought the Moro National Liberation Front in Lanao del Sur.

But after 20 years as a combat officer, Bangit pursued a different path in his military career. He became senior aide-de-camp of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The change of environment -- from the battlefields in Moroland to the halls of power in Malacañang -- would have been a culture shock for a seasoned combat soldier. That would be like being sent to a “gulag.”

But to then Col. Bangit it was an opportunity to advance his career without firing a gun at the State’s enemies, just keeping a watchful eye on the president’s enemies.

It did not come as a surprise then that when Gloria was catapulted to the presidency after President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was ousted in a “people power” revolution in 2001, Gloria rewarded her loyal aide-de-camp with plum assignments.

It is interesting to note that Bangit’s stint as Gloria’s aide-de-camp was never mentioned in his official biography. There is a gap between August 1998 when Bangit was Chief of Staff of the Intelligence and Security Group of the Philippine Army and February 2003 when he was appointed Commander of the Presidential Security Group (PSG). This was where he earned his first star as a Brigadier General.

It was during Bangit’s assignment as commander of Gloria’s Praetorian Guard that three coup attempts were made against her administration. In August 2006, Gloria appointed him as concurrent Chief of Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces (Isafp). As Gloria’s spy master, Bangit used the codename “Emperor.”

In October 2005, in his eagerness to protect Gloria, Bangit ignited a public outcry when he requested the churches near Malacañang to disallow Masses attended by anti-Arroyo forces. He dropped his request when he met strong resistance from lawmakers and the public.

In December 2006, Bangit hosted a lavish Christmas party at the Isafp office at Camp Aguinaldo where he threw P500 bills while the merrymakers chanted, “Long live the emperor!”
It was reported in the news that Bangit had been throwing parties at Isafp almost every other day during that month. Makes one wonder how much a spy master earns spying on people. The day after his Christmas party, Bangit brought the entire Isafp staff to a party with Gloria aboard the presidential yacht “Ang Pangulo.” Now, that’s what I call “special presidential treatment.”

Shortly thereafter, Bangit got his second star as a Major General. Not bad for a man whose only job was protecting the president and spying on her enemies.

In September 2007, Bangit was given a command assignment of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. A year after, in May 2008, he was given a command assignment of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), a stepping stone to the high command of the Armed Forces. Three months later, in August 2008, Gloria promoted Bangit to Lt. General, a three-star rank, thus paving the way to a bigger role in the military.

Indeed, in April 2009, the Defense Department announced that Gloria had picked a successor to AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano who wasn’t due to retire until June 13, 2009. It turned out that Yano had opted to retire earlier on May 1, 2009 to take an ambassadorial appointment from Gloria. Like a musical chair game, Army Chief Gen. Victor Ibrado took over Yano’s Chief of Staff post and Bangit took over Ibrado’s Army Chief post. Speculation was rife then that Gloria would eventually appoint Bangit as Chief of Staff when Ibrado retires in March 2010.

But the problem was that Ibrado’s mandatory retirement age was March 10, 2010, the first day of the constitutional ban on “midnight appointments.” From that day on until Gloria steps down from the presidency on June 30, 2010, she is not allowed to make appointments except for temporary positions to fill up vacancies in the executive branch.

Had Ibrado decided to take an early retirement like Yano, even for a day sooner, Gloria wouldn’t have any problem with appointing Bangit as Chief of Staff. But for some reason, Ibrado wouldn’t budge into retiring earlier than March 10, 2010.

Thus, Gloria, in an attempt to circumvent the constitutional ban on “midnight appointments,” appointed Bangit on March 9before the ban took effect. However, since Ibrado was still in the Chief of Staff post until the following day, Bangit’s appointment would not take effect until Ibrado retired on March 10. Therefore, Bangit’s appointment was deemed a “midnight appointment.”

And to make the matter worse, the Commission on Appointments (CA) adjourned sine die without confirming Bangit’s promotion to a four-star General, the rank for Chief of Staff. And without a CA confirmation, his promotion is dead on the water.

When President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino announced that he was going to appoint a Chief of Staff to replace Bangit upon his ascension to the presidency on June 30, Bangit submitted his early retirement to Gloria to be effective June 22.

Bangit’s meteoric rise to the high command did not dwell too well with many officers who were of the opinion that they were bypassed because of Bangit’s closeness to Gloria. Indeed, Bangit probably holds the record of having the highest number of star promotions in the shortest time -- from a Colonel to a four-star General in seven years. He bypassed the entire PMA Class of 77 which has several generals more senior than him.

In a military organization with a long tradition of promoting according to seniority in rank, Bangit’s rise is perceived as a politicization of the military, which has been the norm in the nine years of Gloria’s presidency. And coupled with this is the militarization of the government where retiring generals were rewarded with plum appointments in the cabinet, large agencies and commissions, and ambassadorial assignments. Indeed, Gloria’s “revolving door” policy bought the loyalty of generals while they were in the service and rewarded them when they retired.

After the traditional testimonial parade in his honor the day before his retirement, Bangit lamented that he “could have done more for the military if given more time.” But like all those who preceded him, Bangit should be happy for what he has accomplished for himself. He made it to the top over an entire class his senior. And just like every soldier who served his country well, he has some good stories to tell when he was once the “Emperor.”
(PerryDiaz@gmail. com)


Cabbie talk

Ramon Dacawi

Monday morning, I asked an officemate to ring my cell phone. It is, or was a cheap Samsung model a pickpocket would hardly find interest in, except perhaps to hurl back at for being without class. A programmed voice from Globe responded: could not be reached or out of coverage area. It validated my fear that whoever found the unit inside a taxi had decided to keep it and so removed the card. .

It was the nth unit I had misplaced, in a recurring act of forgetfulness that’s always hazardous to a provincial newsman’s wallet. Still, I cling to the hope, however remote, that the finder would read this and mail back the old SIM card. “You’re so kind to have been giving away your cell phones……without your knowledge and consent,” Conrad Marzan used to remind me.

A few hours before the black unit slipped out of my pocket – or hands – and into a taxi’s floor or backseat, Conrad’s daughter, Soliel, texted a Father’s Day greeting. I had stood at her wedding, and she later made Conrad a grandfather. Baby Wolfgang’s birth ten months back multiplied Conrad’s yearning to be back from California with wife and nurse Pilar and son Nicolas. Now that Conrad’s here, I got back at him with this caution from experience: Grandchildren don’t get spoiled but they can spoil grandparents.

I guess Art Pasag, the honest cabbie of 13 years back is now a grandpa sharing Conrad’s sentiments over grandfatherhood. While I lost track of how many cell phones I’d lost, I can’t forget how Conrad met Art. The memory flashed back, quite vividly, while I was aboard Cris de Vera’s taxi on the way to work Monday.

Two previous cabs had passed me by, perhaps unaware of my signal to board. Calling me “tang”, Crisreadily motioned me in, to his Kia Pride. He swore having no passenger preference, but would readily pick a mother with a baby in her arms over any other passenger. Or, I guess, an old man.

Cris almost fumed narrating how a fellow cabbie beside SM Mall ordered an old woman with grocery bags to get out when she asked to be delivered to La Trinidad where the route’s constricted by re-concreting otherwise passable pavement. .

Cris is in the mold of Art Pasag and, I guess, many other Baguio cabbies still unaffected by the rip-off style of those road sharks in Metro-Manila. In May, 1997, Art and his wife returned a woman’s bag containing a hefty sum while he was working double time to save the life of his son.

The bag belonged to Tomasa Marzan, Conrad’s mother,a retired public elementary school teacher. She had withdrawn P20,000 from a bank for the enrollment of her grandchildren, then forgot her bag after alighting from Art’s cab at the city post office.

Another passenger who boarded noticed the bag and told Art about it. He agreed when Art asked if he could drive back to the post office.The two could not find Mrs. Marzan. Art drove home and asked his wife to open the bag for the owner’s identity and address.

To celebrate Art’s honesty at a time he needed money most, Conrad mounted a concert that raised P27,000, bulk of which came from then regional police director, now retired Chief Supt. Rogelio Aguana. The amount was turned over to Pasag, for the surgery of his son Victor, then 22. The boy was born with a heart defect and badly needed surgery.

Then Tourism Secretary Vicente Carlos called up then regional tourism director Lita Mondiguing, asking her to find Art and his son and bring them down to Manila.“The whole country is proud of you,” Carlos told Art when they met at the secretary’s office the following morning. Carlos then said he had arranged Victor’s surgery at the Philippine Heart Center and for the boy’s family to stay for free in a hotel behind the center until he was ready to come home.

Later, in September, Art was invited to Malacanang to receive the “Taxi Driver of the Year” plum from then President Ramos, under the annual tourism “Kalakbay” awards. The award consisted of a trophy, a suit for the occasion, P10,000 cash, an all-expenses-paid week-long holiday abroad and P10,000 pocket money.

In my rush to get home, I once rode a cab along Session Rd. Upon reaching my place, I held out a bill to the driver, but he wouldn’t have it. I turned and saw it was Art, smiling. After that, I made it a point to see it wasn’t Art on the wheel before flagging down a cab. Once, he spotted me walking down the main street’s sidewalk and drove slowly abreast, motioning me to hop in until he lost me in the pedestrian crowd.

One morning, after Art’s story came out, radio host Chris Bartolo called up. He said a lot of cabbies had been coursing through DZWT items left in their taxis: baby shoes, umbrellas, grocery items, documents and whatever. Art had since retired and, I presume, enjoying grandfatherhood. I’m looking forward to riding Cris de Vera’s cab again. It’s that Kia Pride with plate number AYK 739.

Meanwhile, whoever found my Samsung cell phone might want to just leave its card to the cashier at Luisa’s Café along our main street. I badly need the SIM that contains contact numbers of indigent patients and Samaritans. (e-mail: for comments).


Heartbreaking reunions

March Fianza

For the nth time, newspapers scream about another OFW whose remains cannot be reunited with his family just because Philippine embassy officials for the longest time that we had them there are concerned only with the perks that they enjoy as diplomats in addition to their salaries.

It now looks like our government through our embassies and agents care less about how they could put more permanent solutions to age-old problems such as providing lawyers to kababayans in distress and bringing them home to their families – dead or alive.

Take the case of Benjamin Yango, 33, an English teacher in Harbin , China . He is believed to have died of heart attack last May. He was found dead in his apartment by the police. Yango is a native of Bontoc, Mountain Province and is married to Fely Tomino of Kabayan, Benguet. They have two children.

According to the wife, Philippine Embassy Consul Pablito Mendoza in China has not given her good response, much less, financial aid. Instead, the glamourized government agent persuaded her and the other Igorots working in China to raise an amount to pay for the repatriation cost of Yango’s remains by soliciting around.

The failure to make remedies to lighten the burden of OFWs in distress by embassy officials, the OWWA and other agencies is beyond my understanding – especially when millions of pesos are lavishly squandered in a flashy restaurant in New York by a President and entourage.

Luisa’s Café philosopher Chong Loi confirms Rumour’s Bar philosopher’s description of that –“awambain da!” In Tagalog term which I’m sure VIP Consul Mendoza will understand – “mga walanghiya!”

What are they there for in the first place? How ridiculous it is to see Philippine embassy workers deny small requests from their own people who, in the first place, provide them their salaries and the positions they occupy.

Truth is, OFWs encounter pain as they sacrifice equally important choices in order to work abroad and be able to send home some money. In most cases, there is just enough money left for the worker to spend for rent, clothing and food. A larger part of the salary is sent home to the family.

Most often, the word “savings” is not in the OFW’s dictionary. Hence, there is need for financial assistance from government agencies, private organizations and other sectors.

Embassy officials draw salaries from taxes and remittances paid by people they are bound to protect. And so, they are assigned to their posts to look after the welfare of their kababayans, not their own welfare nor the welfare of their host country.

That has been acknowledged many, many times but when a poor OFW kababayan gets in trouble abroad and needs financial assistance, our embassy officials say they do not have the means.

On several occasions, lame duck President Gloria has admitted that our OFWs contribute a considerable amount in helping stabilize the country’s sick economy.

Remittances in 2009 went up to a new record level of $17.348 billion from $16.426 billion due to the steady growth of remittances sustained by skilled Pinoy workers abroad, particularly engineers, medical practitioners and teachers.

OFW remittances went up by 6.6 percent to $5.86 billion in the first four months of this year from $5.49 billion in the same period in 2009.

Because of agency failures, a petition was posted online urging OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon, DFA USec for Migrant Workers Affairs Jose Brillantes, and Consul Mendoza to rush the release of financial assistance for the repatriation of the remains of Yango. Repatriation cost has reached a little less than P600,000.00.

Yango’s wife and children always looked forward to a joyful family get-together. But that will no longer come. Their hope today is to see that the body of their father is sent home. At least they will still be reunited even if they expect a heartrending reunion.

Another “heartbreaking” reunion was held last Wednesday courtesy of singer-composer Brian Aliping who offered his house as venue for the once-in-a-lifetime jam. I described the night as “heartbreaking” considering that many of us who were there felt that it was a very touching gathering of musician friends who missed each other for as long as 15 years.

Although the rendition of “Stupid Darling” in English and Kankanaey by Tom Castro and Bryan was performed in high-spirits, it was at the same time a tear-jerker – “makapasangit.” This was so because Tom and family had just come home to bury his wife Alice who was killed by cancer in Aruba .

Incidentally, the legendary Conrad Marzan also came home and was able to catch Tom. They used to do impromptu duets in the music bars in the 70s that were fondly called folkhouses then.

At these times when we have found other things to do apart from being carefree like in the past, finding Conrad, Tom and Bryan in one spot is a “diamond.”

Before he left for the US , Conrad’s last birthday in Baguio was celebrated at the Busol Forest . Three and a half years last Friday, his belated birthday celebration for this year was held with a tree-planting activity behind the Long-long Elementary School , Puguis, La Trinidad.

Indeed, it was another heartbreaking reunion as it was attended by old friends. –


Green advocacy

Ike Señeres

The green advocacy is now very popular, and that is good news for everyone in this planet. Green is not everything however, because human beings have other needs that have nothing to do with being green. This is the reason why I think there is a need for another advocacy that could be in tandem with the green advocacy, and that is the blue advocacy.

Blue is the color of renewable energy, and it is also the color of good connectivity. This is the reason why a solar powered building is called a “blue building”, and the reason why a blue light turns on in your computer when you are connected to a network wirelessly.

There have been many attempts to define and quantify the number of basic human needs. On my part however, and for purposes of developing an attainable andsustainable development framework, I now propose that we define eight priority human needs, namely livelihood, transportation, health, education, water, sanitation, food and shelter, not necessarily in that order.

If we have energy, we could have more access to livelihood and transportation. Livelihood is the answer to poverty, being the answer as well to increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as defined in the Human Development Index (HDI). Transportation is directly related to livelihood, because people could not go to work if they have no means of mobility.

If we have connectivity, we could have more access to health and education. Health is the answer to high mortality, as defined also in the HDI. In addition, child health andmaternal health are two specific Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Education is the answer to illiteracy, as also defined in the HDI. Universal education is also an MDG.

If we sustain our ecology, we could have more access to water and sanitation. These two resources actually work in tandem with each other, because without water, there could be no sanitation. It goes without saying that in order to have clean potable water; we also have to clean our land, including what goes below the surface of our soils. Sanitation is the answer to the problem of pollution.

If we sustain our agronomy, we could have more access to food and shelter. In our definition, we should include forestry as part of agronomy, because restored forests could also give us food and shelter. We should also include fisheries in the definition, because that too, is a major source of food, most especially in an aquatic country like ours. Ending hunger is also an MDG.

As it is now, green advocates are moving in a direction that is apart from the direction of blue advocates, still a small movement as of now. My wish is to bring them together in a joint Blue and Green advocacy or BAG for short. I am hoping that this would be a natural union, because the two are very much compatible with each other.

With sustainable ecology, we could have sustainable energy, and vice versa. This is also the case of water. We could create energy out of water, and using energy, we could increase our water resources. With better and broader connectivity, we could market the outputs of our agronomy better and faster, using the powers of electronic commerce.

On one hand, agronomy will give us the inputs to create energy, plant fuels being just an example. On the other hand, cheaper energy will also enable us to irrigate our farms and process our farm outputs, thus giving us more value added for what we could produce out of the soil.

Our eight basic needs are not just for the short term survival of our people now. These are also for the long term survival of our nation in the long run, for the long term. As a people however, we should not just stop with survival as our long term goal. We should go for regional economic dominance, but first, we must survive.

As a people, we could go nowhere without a unified development framework. In the past, I have advocated for Integrated Area Development (IAD) as a framework. I am still doing that, but this time with a new twist, to meld and blend the eight basic needs within a framework that combines energy, connectivity, ecology and agronomy into one. I would welcome your comments about this framework; let us work on this together.

Watch KA IKING LIVE! Saturdays 8 pm to 9 pm in Global News Network (GNN),Channel 21 in Destiny Cable. Email or text +639293605140 for local cable listings. Visit


Paracelis trivia

Gina Dizon

PARACELIS, Mountain Province -- The driver said we already reached Paracelis Poblacion after a 6- hour journey from Bontoc via the narrow and sharp curved roads of neighboring Natonin.

I scanned the Poblacion to find a wide, rugged and gravelly road with some little stores lined up near the street. The main road of the Poblacion area is not concreted nor cemented.

It was my first time, and that was during the recent May 2010 elections to visit Paracelis found on the edge of Mountain Province. This agricultural town rich with corn and rice is located near the equally rice and corn producing province of Isabela on the east, Kalinga up north and Ifugao south.

Surprising, as I was not able to find some relatively bigger buildings like a bank or a mini mart for that matter commonly found in any Poblacion. I came to know later that there is no bank in town but people here save their money in cooperatives.

I found little stores adjacent to each other selling dry goods including slippers, candies and crackers. A few stores were selling some kitchen utensils and some hardware materials.

I walked around looking for Paracetamol to cure my already numbed and migrained head and found at least three drug stores. I also found a few shops retailing SMART and Globe airtime loads.

I continued walking from one store to the other looking for a newspaper and found out there was no news stand. I repeat, no news stand at all to sell even Bandera man nu isu. Only in Paracelis.

Paracelis has been historically and notoriously alleged to be a milking cow of infrastructure road projects. How true? Through all the years, Paracelis seemed to be a republic by itself though composing one of the ten towns of Mountain Province. I guess the distance where one spends quite a sum to reach the capital town of Bontoc, must have added to the seemingly-isolation of the town.

Whatever happened and happens here seems/seemed to be known only among the people in the place unless the locals will talk about it or reporters will go and interview officials and people here. Should there be news from Paracelis, chances are, these are shocking news like election- related violence or the 2008 killing of long- time mayor Cesar Rafael.

Updates about government projects implemented or not implemented in the town are rarely known, if not known, it seems so. Prove me wrong. With a town which does not have any commercial local or national newspaper sold in town, it makes me wonder how the people access , analyze, or release information for that matter. Of course, the radio and the TV is accessible yet, a printed reading material where one can refer to and photo copy a page of a newspaper it if that is the case, is not available. By the way, there is a lone photo copy shop in town.

It is interesting to know how much and how far the people know about the P12 million loan of the Paracelis Water District from the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA). An initial P4.6 million was already released and the amount of P500,000 also reportedly released by outgoing Mayor Pedro Almeda as LGU counterpart.

How much and how far do the people know if funds have already been released, how much money was already received by the LGU/govt entity and how much funds spent, how much money is still to come, where the money comes from, who is giving the funds to whom and what the money is for. I’m curious to know.

Paracelis is a 3rd class municipality with some 3,401 households in the 9 barangays of Anonat, Bacarri,Bananao, Bantay, Butigue, Bunot, Buringal, Palitod and Paracelis Poblacion composing some 115 sitios. Three major ethnoliguistic groups- the Gaddang, Balangao, and Kalingas generally are settled in the mountainous areas of the town. Migrants from the lowlands occupy the low-lying areas and compose around one third of the total population of the municipality.
With a mixed population, it is interesting to know how the different tribes including the migrants chart a common development for this rice and corn producing municipality.

This town found at the eastern frontier of the province is basically agricultural, which makes irrigation facilities a common project of the National Irrigation Authority. Now I came to know from a reliable source that some NIA projects here have broken down. Tell me what you are thinking and let us talk about it over a cup of coffee.

Speaking about irrigation, there are two main rivers here- the Siffu River and the Mallig River. The Siffu River is also known as Kadaklan River. It springs from a watershed comprising about 27% of the total land area of the municipality; and originates from the northeastern slopes of the mountain ridges of Barlig and Banaue of Ifugao. The waters here flows to barangay Palitud towards Roxas, Isabela. Its tributaries are the rivers of Kadaclan- Siffu, Saliok, and Paracelis.

The Mallig River is also a tributary of the Cagayan River flowing to Isabela. Comprising about 73% of the total land area of the municipality, its tributaries are the Bananao and Walawad Creek, and the Camaguan Creek.

This makes irrigation waters a rich source of income for the LGU if a bill as proposed by MP congressional candidate Jupiter Dominguez, gets filed by the winning candidate and passed, enabling the province to get a share for the irrigation waters which flows towards Isabela.

To add more trivia, come every election time, Paracelis is the last municipality of all the ten towns of Mountain Province to remit its election returns. In the previous 2010 elections despite Smartmatic services, Paracelis proved to be the last town, as always, to send its election returns to the provincial canvassing board. Why? Because there were no transmitting devises included in the Smartmatic kits supposedly to be used by the technicians. How so? Interesting!

Composed of some 24,705 residents as of 2000 census, there are some 16,000 registered voters making Paracelis one of the vote-rich towns of the province aside from the vegetable-growing town of Bauko. Any politician who wants to win the elections, chances are, invests in Paracelis. What happens after the election returns are known, is another story to tell.


Moderate your greed in acquiring wealth

Jhunie B. Wahayna

Money, they say is the root of all evils. But it's not the money itself but the obsession to acquire it by all means has motivated a person to do evil things such as: murder, robbery, swindling, plunder, graft and corruption, lying, stealing of people's money, betrayal of public trust, cheating just to stay in power, conspiracy, using the name of God for money making scheme, and among others. If your goal in life is to become rich from a questionable source, your direction towards life is evil.

People should not consider money as their master but rather their servant. If you make money your God, it will plague you like the devil and there will be no peace in your life according to an ancient saying. A person’s character is known in how he treats money. If a man runs after money he's greedily mad. If he gets it without working, he's a parasite. If he gets it through anomalous means he's an evil.

Certainly to become wealthy is not morally wrong. If your wealth comes from legitimate means through honest dealings, you will certainly enjoy the privilege of going anywhere with your head up high and with a clear conscience. Such noble legacy will not only be shared to anyone but to the future generations to come as well. It is the heart that makes a man rich and to become a (real) rich is a summation of honest hard work.

Live your life as simple as you are. Don't do evil what others do. Don’t do evil what others say, just listen to them but do what you feel good and comfortable. After all you are the one dictating the pacing of your life to be upright. If your wealth commands you, then you are poor indeed.

The statement of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile during a Senate Inquiry for the investigation of then the NBN/ZTE scandal was good, and I quote “kung minsan ang kalokohan ay nagiging katotohanan at ang katotohanan ay nagiging kalokohan” (sometimes the foolishness becomes the truth and the truth becomes the foolishness). This statement is absolutely true and undoubtedly a reality. Those greedy and deceitful politicians tweak and twist the lie and convinced the people to accept it as the truth.

The aborted National Broadband Network (NBN) project must serve as a lesson to the greedy government officials especially the incoming ones. According to the Senate Inquiry, the $329 million (P16.4 billion at the exchange rate of P50 to $1 at the time it was negotiated) was over priced by $130 million (P 6.5 billion).

This amount according to a health group is more than half of the entire budget of the Department of Health and more than five times the budget of the Philippine General Hospital. It could have funded 49,000 open-heart surgeries; 325,000 cataract surgeries, and purchased antibiotics for 6,500,000 people. It can also educate millions from the out of school youth Filipinos.

The worst, if the project was not cancelled; these 6.5 billion pesos will only go to the pocket of one or two person. This amount is a loan to be paid by all Filipino people through taxes. This greedy act of a few government officials will affect the life of the masses that will be more affected more than anyone else. Our children to be, and the next generation to come will suffer the consequences of their greediness and lies.

Even if they “moderate their greed” the evil deed was still there. And evil according to the dictionary is the violation of the moral customs or principles. There is no agreement about whether evil is a matter of social custom or correct principle that overrides custom. Evil is usually contrasted with good. In some religion, evil is an active force, often personified as an entity such as Satan or Lucifer.

If you live on “evil wealth” acquired through greediness and lies, the only equalizer between you and the poorest of the poor is that you cannot bring your billion of pesos with you if you die. Death is the equalizer to all humanity.


Voice actors make money

Miguel Camus

Voice actors make good money making the right noises. In the Philippines, a name that has become synonymous with voice-overs is CreatiVoices Productions. It is a four-year old company cofounded by Pocholo “Voicemaster” Gonzales, himself a longtime voice actor.

Doing voice-overs has grown into a lucrative part-time industry due to the continuing expansion of the electronic media. “Before, voice acting was just for radio,” says Gonzales. “Now there’s also the Internet, PodCasts, video games, and cartoon and TV show dubbing.”

The most popular of these voice-over applications, he says, are audio- book recordings, animation or TV show dubbings, original content (pre-voice recording), and radio and TV advertisements.

Voice-over talents, who are paid on a per project basis, can actually earn some P30,000 to P50,000 for doing audio books alone, which are mostly textbook translations; about P10,000 to P20,000 for radio and television advertisements ; P500 to P1,000 per episode for anime and soapopera dubbings; and up to P30,000 for original content creation.

So how does one get into the voice-over business? Gonzales says that voice-over training is a prerequisite no matter how good the aspiring voice-over talent is, and he emphasizes that doing voice-overs is not just a hobby but an art and a profession.

Indeed, this was why Gonzales decided in 2007 to put up the Philippine Center for Voice Acting, the first and only professional voice acting school in the Philippines. He established Creativoices itself with an initial capital of only P20,000, but it has become almost an industry by itself.

As the training arm of CreatiVoices, the center conducts a two-month voice acting program for a selected number of students using modules imported from the United States.

The P8,000-program consists of once-a-week classes and runs four times a year, with classes that start in January, April, July, and October. The center has five instructors, all respected voice-over industry veterans.

“When you train with us, in one day I can make you create 20 voices,” says Gonzales.

He says that although the center does not guarantee voice-over jobs to students who finish the program, it gives them support in landing voice-over contracts. In fact, almost a quarter of his stable of 400 local voice-over talents are graduates of the program, and a lot of his talents find work with other voice-over companies.

He explains the industry practice: “Even among my talents, there are no exclusive contracts. In my own case, I’m not exclusive to my own company; I work with different recording studios as well.” Considering that projects don’t come regularly, he also cautions voice-over talents to treat doing voice-overs strictly as a “sideline” profession.

Active in the industry for over 15 years now, Gonzales has done voice-over projects for hundreds of radio and TV commercials for practically all of the major telecommunication companies, fastfood chains, beverage companies, financial institutions, and government agencies as well as politicians on the campaign trail.

Some of his former students at CreatiVoices have done very well themselves upon finishing its voice-over training program. For instance, Jo Carol Fernandez, 18, communications sophomore at the Miriam College in Quezon City, has done many voice-over projects for anime shows since finishing the training.

She says she dubbed voices for major characters in the shows Bokura Ga Ita (26 episodes) and Negima as well as for other projects outside CreatiVoices. On the other hand, Mark B. Aragona, 30, writer and financial consultant, received an offer to do three advertisements for a large telecom company barely a month after finishing his voice-over training.

“Let’s just say I made five times my investment for those ads,” he says. Aragona likes the fact that doing voice-overs is very flexible in terms of time. Although some projects can take up to an hour, he says, doing 15 minutes of voice-over work for an advertisement is already long.

Voice actors like Fernandez and Aragona are able to cultivate and hone their talent for professional voice-over work through CreatiVoices, which has since grown into an agency with 10 full-time staff and some 500 local and international on-call voice actors.

The company has not only given the voice-over industry a common face but now also enjoys instant recognition as the industry leader. Says Gonzales of people wanting to go into doing voice-overs: “If you have a job, and if you’re really good and I want you to take the character, I will wait for you.” And he tells aspiring talents to see doing voice-overs not just as another job but also as a way of having fun, like what he himself does. “I’m just doing what I want to do,” he says. “This is not work; I’m just playing.”


Mayor tagged ‘mastermind’: Killer of Ilocos radio broadcaster hunted

>> Monday, June 21, 2010

By Mar T. Supnad

LAOAG CITY -- Police have started a manhunt for the man who attacked and killed a radio broadcaster here Tuesday night along the national highway near the boundary of Bacarra town and Laoag City in Ilocos Norte even as a local politician has been tagged as the mastermind.

Senior Supt. Benito Estipona, Task Force Usig deputy chief, identified Leonardo Banaag Jr., alias Uno, as the alleged killer of Joselito Agustin, 37, anchorman of dzJC Aksyon Radyo-Laoag, sister station of dzRH of the Manila Broadcasting Co. Estipona said Banaag was identified by a companion of Agustin.

He said the motive has yet to be established, but investigators are looking into politics as one of the angles, since the victim used to criticize a local politician.

Estipona refused to name the politician pending further investigation.

He said a manhunt has been launched for Banaag after the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed murder and frustrated murder charges against him.

Meanwhile, the provincial police chief also said they are eyeing the local politician as master mind behind the brutal killing of Agustin who was shot dead Wednesday evening along the national highway in Barangay Barit, this city.

Ilocos Norte provincial director Police Senior Supt. Ulysses Abellera said in a text message with this correspondent that the killing of Jovelito Agustin of DZJC, was most probably job related since he is known as a hard-hitting broadcaster.

“We are looking at a local politician as probable suspect in the shooting to death of the victim.” Abellera, said, adding police are gathering evidence and convincing witnesses to talk about the killing of the broadcaster.

So as not to preempt the investigation, Abellera did not mention the name of the suspected mastermind but local newsmen said the suspect might be a mayor who is harboring a personal grudge against the broadcaster for his hard hitting commentaries against looters of local government coffers.

The killing of Agustin brought to three the number of murdered journalists in the province since 2004 after Roger Mariano, and Andy Acosta who also were broad caster in DZJC, were also shot dead in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

“We are still investigating the killing,” said Supt. Sterling Blanco, a veteran police investigator and incumbent chief of police here who is leading Laoag police in the probe..

As usual, the killers are suspected gun-for- hire that were paid by the mastermind. Hired killers’ services are easy to get provided you immediately pay their “professional fee” ranging from P20,000 to P50,000, it was learned.

Chief Supt. Constante Azares, Region 1 police director, designated Abellera’s deputy for operations Police Supt. Bienvenido C Rayco Jr as head of “Task Force Agustin.”

Agustin, 37, a resident of Barangay #36 Natba in Bacarra town, was on his way home from Laoag City onboard a motorcycle together with his 22-year old nephew Joseph Agustin, when two unidentified suspects riding in tandem on a motorcycle overtook them along the national highway in Barangay 55-A Barit of said city and shot the victim with Cal. 45 in the chest and body.

Police investigators recovered from the crime scene four pieces of spent shells and two pieces of slugs for caliber .45 pistol.

Task Force Agustin is looking into the possibility that the killing is related to the victim’s job as a broadcast media practitioner, but is not excluding other angles.

As this developed, PNP chief Jesus Versoza also directed the creation of a special investigating body to help the Laoag City PNP to look into the killing of the newsman. PNP spokesman Leonardo Espina said that General Versoza also wanted that all unit commanders in the provincial level will provide and secure media personnel who are under threat to ensure the safety of the journalists throughout the country.

Task Force Usig said the killing of Agustin and another radio broadcaster, Desiderio Camangyan from Davao Oriental, were the only incidents it has handled this year.

Camangyan, 52, anchorman of Sunrise FM radio in Mati, Davao Oriental, was the 101st journalist killed during the administration of President Arroyo.

Chief Insp. Henry Libay of Task Force Usig said they did not handle two other incidents, initially reported to be an attack on media practitioners, since the motive in one of the cases was a love triangle.

“In the second incident, it turned out that the victim was a jeepney driver and not a legitimate media practitioner,” he said.

“Officially, only the death of Agustin and Camangyan are being investigated by Task Force Usig.”

Last Jan. 7, Eugene Paet, a reporter of Commando Radio in Vigan City, was shot and wounded in Barangay Bulag Centro in Bantay town.


Ice crystals destroy Benguet plantations

By Dexter A. See

KIBUNGAN, Benguet — A huge volume of vegetables in their vegetative, flowering and harvestable stages grown in highly elevated areas of this province were affected by sudden downpour of ice crystals locally known as dalalo for over 40 minutes the past several days.

However, agriculture stakeholders said damage wrought by the crystals on vegetable farms will not take its toll on vegetables supply coming from the province since only those produced in highly-elevated areas were partially damaged.

Dalalo or hail usually occurs after a hot day with cumulus clouds over the sky, thus, the hot and cold weather often meet and create interaction that will result to the breaking of the ice crystals formed by the clouds and causing it to drop on the ground.

Several farmers whose crops were partially affected by hail described the ice crystals to be as big as marbles and that they reportedly break after falling on the ground.

Weathermen cited the occurrence of ice crystal rain is a normal occurrence, especially in highly-elevated places, but the same is not considered as harmful.

Consequently, the ice crystals could also hurt people once they are hit on the different parts of their bodies while they are doing their works on their vegetable farms during heavy downpour.

Vegetable traders claimed there is still a steady supply of assorted vegetables from the different towns of the province, thus, there is no need for consumers to worry about inadequate vegetables in the coming days since it is still harvest time for leafy vegetables such as cabbage among others.

Benguet had been the source of over 70 percent of the semi-temperate vegetables being circulated in the country over the past several decades.

Concerned local officials and agriculture stakeholders warned unscrupulous importers and smugglers not to take advantage of the reported occurrence of ice crystal rain in some parts of the province by allowing the entry of imported vegetables from China which directly compete with locally produced ones, thus, creating an oversupply and a sudden drop in the prices of vegetables since Benguet can still supply the country’s demand for highland vegetables.

Despite efforts of smugglers to try to kill the local vegetable industry by allowing the entry of imported and cheap vegetables that flood the local markets, the national and local governments are still firm on sustaining the vegetable industry in Benguet which serves as the main source of livelihood of over 360,000 individuals in the 13 towns.

Vegetables grown in the province include various kinds of cabbage, potatoes, cucumber, carrots, beans, sweet peas, Chinese peachy, bell pepper, and tomatoes, among others.


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