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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) has ordered a manhunt against an Army soldier from Tigbauan, Iloilo who shot three of his superiors at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio Wednesday evening.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said he ordered the Iloilo Provincial Police Office to watch out for Army Sgt. Elias Tial should he return home to Brgy. Bagacay, Tigbauan to attend his father’s funeral.

 

Tial, a member of the Army’s 12th Special Forces Company shot dead Capt. Dionilo Aragon Jr., 30, Master Sgt. Eliseo de la Cruz, 46, and 1st Lt. Gerald Fuentes, 31 Wednesday evening at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

 

Fuentes is a native of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental while Aragon hailed from Agusan del Sur. De la Cruz is from Davao del Norte.

 

De la Cruz was the intelligence officer and first sergeant while Aragon was the executive officer of the Army’s 12th Special Forces Company.

 

The unit’s commanding officer, Capt. Benito Ramos, 31, was also wounded in the attack and remains in critical condition at the Makati Medical Center.

 

Tial left after the carnage leaving behind the M16 Armalite rifle he used.

 

Reports from the Army said Tial had been asking his superiors to allow him to go on a leave of absence to attend his father’s burial March 4 in Tigbauan. His request was granted but it was later recalled.

 

The shooting broke out 9:55 pm Wednesday after Tial was issued an Armalite from the supply room for his use in sentinel duty.

 

On his way to his post, Tial saw the officers gathered inside Barracks 3 of the Army’s Transient Quarters. He then opened fire while uttering the words “You don’t know how to treat a soldier in need.”

 

Investigators recovered six empty shells and two live 5.56 mm bullets at the crime scene.

 

Cuevas said the police must immediately arrest Tial should he show up at the funeral or any part of Western Visayas.

 

“Our police units, particularly the Tigbauan police station, should be on alert,” the PRO-6 chief said.

 

Tial’s wife Mary Jane said in several radio interviews that they have no contact with her husband nor do they know his whereabouts.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

INVESTIGATORS have begun probing the near-duel between a police official and Mayor Restituto Mosqueda of Estancia, Iloilo Friday afternoon.

 

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo provincial police director, said investigators from the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) were dispatched to Estancia to look into the confrontation between Mosqueda and Chief Insp. Leroy Rapiz.

 

The probers are from the Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) and Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division (RIDMD).

 

“Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas has ordered the investigation to thresh out what really happened last Friday,” dela Paz said. 

 

Rapiz has been relieved as deputy director of the 608th Iloilo Provincial Mobile Group based in Sara, Iloilo after the incident at Brgy. San Roque, Estancia.

 

Based on a spot report from Estancia PNP, Rapiz crossed path with Mosqueda inside the barangay hall of San Roque which was celebrating its patronal fiesta Friday.

 

Rapiz, who reportedly escorted 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr., greeted Mosqueda but the latter allegedly shouted at him while drawing a gun from his waist.

 

Rep. Tupas pacified the two and told Rapiz to get out of the barangay hall.

 

Outside the hall, Rapiz allegedly challenged Mosqueda to a shootout.

 

Rapiz, the report said, was accompanied by mobile group members armed with rifles and a caliber .50 machine gun.

 

Dela Paz said the RIAS and RIDMD probers will gather information from Mosqueda, Rapiz and other personalities present during the confrontation.

 

Rapiz got flak recently for mounting checkpoints around Sara, Iloilo and for flagging down the vehicle of former Sara mayor Neptali “Tali” Salcedo to search for a cache of firearms.

 

Salcedo’s daughter, Liga ng mga Barangay-Iloilo federation president Jeneda Salcedo, delivered a privilege speech before the provincial board last year questioning Rapiz’s action.

 

Board member Salcedo even called the controversial police official “berdugo” or executioner for allegedly sowing fear in their town.

 

Rapiz cannot be reached for comment while Mosqueda refused to comment saying he has filed a complaint with PRO-6 director Isagani Cuevas.

 

Mosqueda, however, said over radio stations that he has some misunderstanding with Rapiz for still unknown reasons. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MAYOR Salvador Divinagracia Jr. of Calinog, Iloilo is hoping that the Supreme Court will stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from installing former mayor Alex Centena at the municipal hall.

 

But he said he will be ready for the writ of execution the Comelec central office will issue anytime next week.

 

Divinagracia said the poll body’s January 26, 2009 decision is an injustice to the people of Calinog.

 

“I believe that there are prominent people who are helping Centena in this case. This is an injustice to the people of Calinog who chose their leaders in the 2007 elections,” Divinagracia said.

 

Divinagracia beat Centena in the May 2007 vice mayoralty race with a 13-vote margin.

 

Centena filed a protest with the Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC) which upheld Divinagracia’s victory.

 

While the appeal was pending, Calinog Mayor Teodoro Lao died of a lingering illness March 2008, catapulting Divinagracia to the town’s highest post.

 

The Comelec 2nd Division reversed the RTC’s decision and gave the vice mayoralty race to Centena.

 

Divinagracia appealed his case before the Comelec en banc which upheld the 2nd Division’s decision.

 

The Comelec en banc said its January 26, 2009 decision will become final and executory 30 days after its promulgation unless Divinagracia secures a temporary restraining order or injunction from the courts.  

 

The 30-day period expired Thursday but Divinagracia has yet to get a TRO or injunction from the Supreme Court.

 

Divinagracia said some of his supporters gathered at the municipal hall after hearing news that Centena will take over his office.

 

“But I told them to go home because we will not make any barricade. We will not use violence here,” Divinagracia said.

 

Comelec assistant regional director Tomas Valera said they are awaiting word from the central office regarding the Calinog case.

 

Valera said the Comelec’s Electoral Contests Adjudication Department (Ecad) did not furnish the regional office of the en banc decision.

 

“We got our copy from Mayor Centena. The Ecad did not issue any notice or forward any copy of the decision to our office,” Valera said.

 

Valera said the Comelec central office will issue a writ of execution ordering the RTC where the election protest was first filed to install Centena.

 

“If Mayor Divinagracia does not secure a TRO or injunction, the Comelec can implement its decision through a writ of execution directed to the RTC. We will wait for the central office’s orders regarding this case,” Valera said over RMN-Iloilo.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE public transport sector in Western Visayas is not keen on reducing their fare despite the continuous oil price rollbacks.

 

Atty. Porfirio Clavel, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) regional head, said this is the initial reaction he gathered in a series of consultations with transport group of Region 6.

 

Clavel said transport groups are amenable to a 50-centavo fare reduction if the price of diesel fuel hits P22-24 per liter.

 

Diesel fuel, which is used by public utility jeepneys and buses, presently costs P26-28 per liter.

 

“If the price of diesel fuel goes down to P22 per liter, they are willing to reduce the fare from P7 to P6.50 for the first five kilometers. This is the general sentiment of the transport sector as I went around the region for consultations,” Clavel said.

 

The public transport sector in Metro Manila lowered this month the minimum fare from P7.50 to P7.

 

The LTFRB national board ordered the fare slash due to the sudden and dramatic drop of oil prices in the world market from the “atrocious amount” of more than $140 per barrel to as low as $35 to $39 for Dubai crude.

 

The price of diesel in the Philippines also dropped to P23 per liter from a high of P49 last year.

 

The last fare slash took effect in Western Visayas last year when the LTFRB granted a provisional 50-centavo rollback from P7.50 to P7 for the first five kilometers.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WILL former mayor Alex Centena of Calinog, Iloilo assume the town’s top post today? Or will incumbent Mayor Salvador Divinagracia stay put?

 

These questions linger a month after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared Centena winner of the 2007 vice mayoralty race in the town.

 

The poll body declared that Centena garnered 8,130 votes against Divinagracia’s 8,119 votes for a margin of 11 votes.

 

The Comelec said its January 26, 2009 decision will become final and executory 30 days after its promulgation unless Divinagracia secures a temporary restraining order or injunction from the courts.

 

The 30-day period expired Thursday but Divinagracia has yet to get a TRO or injunction.

 

Divinagracia assumed the Calinog mayor’s office after Mayor Teodoro Lao died last year.

 

Centena said he sent his lawyer Francisco Sibayan to Comelec central office in Manila to follow up the enforcement of the decision.

 

Centena said Comelec can direct the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement his assumption of office.

 

Reports from Calinog said supporters of both Centena and Divinagracia have mounted their own “checkpoints” around the town proper since yesterday.

 

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo provincial police director, said the town remains peaceful even as the police continue to monitor the situation.

 

“No movement so far; remains peaceful,” dela Paz said in a text message.

 

But Centena said he will not use force and violence to take over the municipal hall.

 

“We followed due process by filing an election protest until the Comelec decided on the case. I will follow the order peacefully and orderly and I also expect the same from Mr. Divinagracia,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, the DILG has no jurisdiction in implementing the Comelec order, said regional legal officer Ferdinand Panes.

 

Panes said they can only assist the Comelec in implementing the order.

 

“We have yet to receive a copy of the Comelec decision,” Panes said.

 

Divinagracia, meanwhile, said he was expecting a temporary restraining order from the court.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

DOES Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. still have the ears of President Gloria Arroyo?

 

Tupas said he will bring to the President’s attention the Balasan Boys issue when the latter visits Iloilo March 3.

 

Tupas said the Presidential Management Staff informed him that he will meet and greet the President at the Iloilo airport.

 

President Arroyo will visit a call center and the ongoing flood control project during her visit.   

 

The governor said he will tell Mrs. Arroyo about the dismissal of non-bailable charges against Henry Caspillo and Rolly Tiope who were arrested for allegedly selling illegal drugs in Balasan, Iloilo.

 

The Balasan Boys issue is the subject of congressional probe mounted by the House committee on dangerous drugs. The first hearing will be held March 5 at Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center.

 

Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office chief Bernabe Dusaban defended his office from accusations that they are colluding with drug lords in the province.

 

Dusaban said they are giving importance to drug cases filed with their office by carefully examining the evidence and statements presented by authorities.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE House of Representatives will spend almost P200,000 for the first committee hearing on the controversial “Balasan Boys” issue, said 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr.

 

Tupas said the House has approved the P170,000 budget for the initial hearing slated March 5 at Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center.

 

The money will be used for the transportation, accommodation and other expenses during the investigation.

 

The committee on dangerous drugs chaired by Rep. Roquito Ablan will spearhead the probe.

 

Balasan Boys refer to Henry Caspillo and Rolly Tiope who were arrested for alleged drug pushing in northern Iloilo last year.

 

The controversy erupted when the provincial capitol withdrew its annual P1.7-million financial assistance to the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors Office (IPPO) after the latter dismissed non-bailable offenses against the Balasan Boys.

 

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. also exposed that the names of two provincial prosecutors were written on a piece of paper found inside Caspillo’s wallet.

 

IPPO chief Bernabe Dusaban said there was nothing irregular with the dismissal of the cases even as he expressed readiness in facing the House investigation.

 

Aside from Ablan, other congressmen who will attend the hearing are Manny Mamba, Ruffy Biazon, PB Barzaga and Antonio Cuenco.

 

Seven House staff will also join the hearing, Rep. Tupas told Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

EVEN the elderly war veterans processing their claims from the US government are not safe from fixers. 

 

But vigilant Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) personnel drove these opportunists away before they can dupe World War 2 heroes who came in droves to the provincial capitol since Tuesday.

 

PVAO diretor Janet Faderan said she spotted five fixers prowling near their office the other day.

 

Fixers are persons who mulct money from individuals who have transactions with government offices. These fixers assure their victims that their papers will move if they pay.

 

Faderan said she drove the fixers away from their office before they can make their move.

 

Faderan said there is no need for fixers in the processing of the claims because war veterans are required to appear in person before US Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA) personnel.

 

The PVAO official said only one relative will be allowed to assist the veteran during the interview. Those who are ill or bed-ridden will be visited by USDVA personnel.

 

The PVAO revised its procedures yesterday after it was noticed that only 200 veterans can be accommodated in a day if they use the priority number system.

 

Faderan said they gave out the claim forms to the veterans to fast track the process. They were concerned because some of the veterans came from Palawan, Romblon and other provinces in Region 6.

 

“We prioritized the sick and those on the wheel chair so their claims can be processed first. The veterans can file their claim until February 2010,” she added.

 

Some of the veterans entertained themselves by recounting their experiences during the war with fellow war heroes and the media.          

 

Each WW2 veteran who served in US Armed Forces in the Far East or the Philippine Scouts will receive US$9,000 (or more than P400,000 in the current exchange rate).

 

Veterans who opted to become American citizens will receive US$15,000.

The compensation was granted by the US under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed by President Barack Obama.

WW II vets just happy to get long-delayed claims

 

 By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MORE than 1,000 World War 2 veterans from Iloilo and neighboring provinces flocked the Philippine Veterans’ Affairs Office (PVAO) in the old capitol building Tuesday to process their compensation claims from the United States government.

 

Stooped in age and hardships of life, the veterans were one in saying that the one-time US$9,000 compensation granted by the US under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is better than nothing.

 

Jesus Baylosis, 87, said he will buy more carabaos to help till their farm in Tigbauan, Iloilo.

 

“At least we were recognized for out sacrifices during the war. It’s not about just money, it’s about respect and some recognition from our comrades and the present generation. Material things will disappear but our part in history will be forever etched,” Baylosis said.

 

Each WW2 veteran who served in US Armed Forces in the Far East or the Philippine Scouts will receive US$9,000 (or more than P400,000 in the current exchange rate).

 

Veterans who opted to become American citizens will receive US$15,000.

 

Officials from the US Department of Veterans Affair Office arrived in Iloilo Tuesday to interview and process the veterans’ claims. They will stay here until Thursday.

 

PVAO-6 director Janet Faderan said some 1,048 veterans as of yesterday afternoon were given priority numbers to facilitate their claims.

 

Claimants must show up at the PVAO office for the interview and processing of their papers.

 

Faderan said the veterans should bring all required documents to avoid delays in the processing of their claims.

 

For bed-ridden veterans, Faderan said PVAO and the USDVA personnel will personally see them for the interview.

 

When filing their claims, WW2 veterans are requested to bring necessary documents including two forms of identification such as passport, driver’s license, senior citizen ID, postal ID; VA claim number; service number; PVAO claim number; PVAO bank account number; and US passport if a US citizen.

 

Eligible Filipino WW2 veterans will receive a one-time lump sum benefit payment through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed by President Barack Obama February 17.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

AN elderly couple was burned to death while more than 40 houses were razed in an early morning fire caused by a lighted candle in Mandurriao, Iloilo City Monday.

 

Romeo Hisog, 78, and his wife Felomina, 75, both of Brgy. Bakhaw, Mandurriao failed to get out of their house alive as the fire gobbled their neighborhood past 4am yesterday.

 

The couple was in the ground floor of their two-storey house when the blaze erupted, said their son Jose Hisog.

 

Jose said their brother and his son who lived with their parents went to the market before the fire occurred.

 

“They tried saving them but the door was locked. The kids living on the second floor saved themselves first. When they came back it was too late,” Jose said.

 

Only the skulls and some skeleton parts of the victims were recovered by firefighters around 7am.

 

Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) firetrucks from Mandurriao, Jaro and neighboring districts and towns fought the blaze for an hour.

 

BFP arson investigators said the fire started from a lighted candle used in one of the houses. A brownout occurred in the area Sunday evening.

 

As of 3pm Monday, a total of 41 houses were confirmed burned rendering more than 100 families homeless.

 

The totally burned houses were owned by Romeo Hisog, Rutchel Parcon, Nora Flor, Teresita Prevendido, Nora Garcia, Delia Gopeteo, Rodel Gopeteo, Marjorie Maaya, Ricky Pondevida, Ermalyn Hisog, Sylvia Gopeteo, Eleanor Hisog, Melita Gimenea, Boni Gregory, Mildred Ajeto, Merly Degala, Celine Molina, Rusell Pondevida, Rossana Cabaylo, Helen Guzman, Evelyn Horario, Eden Lopez, Fatima Salmorin, Julie Apsay, Sonia Gemenigillo, Bryan Aristosa, Pablito Aristosa, Ian Intrigoma, Wilfin Gemenillo, Melchor Khora, Melba Pedregosa, Rosalie Gallano, Jeanette Salvador, Margie Pondevida, Efren Guzman, Erly Gunay and Arlene Solinap.

 

The houses of Minito Gopeteo, Flora Gemenillo, Abelardo Prevendido Jr. and Beatriz Mijares were partially damaged.

 

The victims are temporarily staying at the Bakhaw covered gym even as the City Social Welfare and Development Office and the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Panay sent food and clothing to the affected families.

 

The fire victims were also affected by typhoon Frank last year as they lived near the creek between Brgys. Bakhaw and Desamparados in Jaro.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE national redistricting bill pending before Congress might save efforts to create the second congressional district of Iloilo City, according to Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr.

 

Gonzalez said Senate president Juan Ponce-Enrile vowed to approve within 10 days the national redistricting bill once it passes the House of Representatives.

 

The national redistricting bill, which seeks to increase the number of congressmen from 238 to 300, stemmed from the rash of redistricting bills passed by the House and now pending with the Senate.

 

Gonzalez said the national redistricting bill is the answer to the dispute within Senate committee on local government after Senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, who chairs the committee, and Joker Arroyo on how to deal with individual redistricting measures.

 

Aquino said redistricting should not be implemented in Iloilo City only, reason why he supports a national redistricting measure.

 

The dispute prompted Enrile to order Aquino to freeze actions on the redistricting bills until the matter is settled.

 

Upon Enrile’s suggestion, Sec. Gonzalez said his son, Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., filed his version of the national redistricting bill which was later adopted by the House.

 

“Nag-imbitar sa akon si Enrile. Nagsuggest siya, para madula na di ang ginamo sa Senate, tell your son to file a new bill not only for Iloilo City but for the whole country,” Gonzalez said over Bombo Radyo.

 

The new redistricting bill proposed to increase the House membership to 300 although Enrile pushed for 350 total seats.

 

Rep. Gonzalez filed a bill with the House last year to create the second congressional district of Iloilo City citing the need for another representative and pork barrel for burgeoning metropolis.

 

Rep. Gonzalez’s bill coasted through the House but it hit a snag in the Senate.

 

The bill has been questioned because Iloilo City’s population as of last year is only 400,000. The 1986 Constitution mandates that a congressional district must have at least 250,000 population.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

DEPARTMENT of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. will assign a special team from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) central office to probe the alleged attempt to bribe certain Iloilo Sangguniang Panlalawigan members relative to the P350-million convention center project proposed by Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

In an interview with RMN-Iloilo Thursday morning, Gonzalez said he has yet to receive a letter from Vice Governor Rolex Suplico asking the justice department chief to direct the NBI to investigate the bribery attempt on board members Mariano Malones, June Mondejar and Jett Rojas.

 

Gonzalez said he might direct the NBI central office in Manila to send investigators to Iloilo if he receives Suplico’s letter request.

 

“If the NBI can come up with an evidence that there is really a bribery attempt then a case can be filed with us. The tactical investigation will be done by the NBI and whatever they have will be referred to us for resolution just like what we did against rice hoarders. The findings of the NBI will be collated, identify the persons involved, identify the cases then we assign a group of prosecutors that will handle this case,” Gonzalez said.

 

Since the case involves public officials, Gonzalez said the DOJ through the prosecution service will conduct preliminary investigation on the alleged bribery then decide whether it will be filed with the appropriate court.

 

The DOJ, he added, has an agreement with the Ombudsman designating the prosecutors to probe and resolve allegations of graft and corruption involving government officials.

 

“We will determine probable cause in the case then resolve it. If the official involved is above Salary Grade 27, the Ombudsman will first approve the resolution of the prosecutors,” Gonzalez said.

 

Malones and Rojas claimed that a certain Cedric Lee, a consultant of the convention center project, offered each of them P300,000 to re-endorse the project in the SP.

 

Mondejar, however, said no such offer was made during their meeting at The Promenade restaurant January 27.

 

The meeting was arranged by provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada but he said he was not present and did not know the agenda.

 

Mejorada said he could have discouraged Lee from offering money to the board members if ever the bribe yarn was true.

 

Gonzalez said if the board members received money, they can be hauled to the Ombudsman while the one who gave money will be liable for corrupting public officials.

 

“If there was an offer but no money changed hands, the person who offered the bribe is liable for attempted corruption of a public official,” he added. 

 

Governor Niel Tupas said he did not approve the meeting and the alleged bribery despite his eagerness to proceed with the convention center project to cushion the effects of the global financial crisis.

 

The alleged bribe also spawned allegations that then board member Niel “Jun-June” Tupas Jr., now 5th district representative, received a P17.5-million advance payment from Lee’s company.

 

Rep. Tupas Jr. denied the allegation saying it is just part of Suplico’s hallucinations.

 

The DOJ chief said they can also look into the advance payment issue since it involved then board member Tupas.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A POLICE officer assigned at the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) may be able to help piece the puzzling death of accountant Julie Balbanida.

 

The policeman, who has a rank of Police Officer 1, was the first to arrive at Uni Eco Steel office on Valeria extension street, Iloilo City proper where Balbanida worked and found dead last February 4.

 

Investigation by the ICPO and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showed Uni Eco employee Albert “Ike” Panganiban fetched the police officer after Balbanida’s employer Raymond Coo discovered the altered Banco de Oro check worth P60,000 he entrusted to the lady accountant.

 

Information from sources privy to the investigation said Coo asked the police officer to help retrieved some items from Balbanida’s cellphone accessories stall inside a mall to pay for the P60,000 she allegedly embezzled from the company.

 

Initial police investigation said Balbanida committed suicide inside Uni Eco’s comfort room after Coo discovered that she altered and encashed a check meant to pay one of their suppliers.

 

But autopsy and paraffin test findings said Balbanida’s death was inconsistent with most suicide cases.

 

Chief Insp. Conrado Carganillo, Iloilo City Police Station 1 chief, said the police officer already submitted his sworn statement regarding the incident but he refused to divulge its contents for the meantime.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office-6 director, said he directed the ICPO to investigate the policeman and find out if he was involved in the tampering of evidence in Balbanida’s case.

 

Paul Albert Jabian, marketing officer of Banco de Oro-Valeria who referred the altered check to Coo, said he last saw Balbanida alive around 11am of February 4.

 

When he returned to Uni Eco 2:30pm to 3pm of the same day, Jabian said he saw Balbanida talking to Coo and his father Teofilo Coo.

 

Raymond Coo later left and went to his lawyer and the ICPO. He returned with Panganiban and the police officer around 5pm when the bloodied Balbanida was found inside the CR.

 

The NBI yesterday conducted a reenactment of the alleged suicide at Uni Eco office.

 

Using a dummy bullet, NBI agents showed that gunfire can be heard from inside the CR contrary to the claims of employees that they did not hear any explosion. 

 

The investigators also inspected other parts of the office, particularly the second floor to gather evidence.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

“CASES filed against me are invigorating.”

 

This was the reaction of Governor Niel Tupas Sr. to the administrative complaint filed by his nephew, Vice Governor Rolex Suplico with the Office of the President.

 

Suplico sued his uncle before the Office of the President for abuse of authority, grave misconduct, culpable violation of the Constitution, dereliction of duty and other charges for reenacting the 2008 annual and supplemental budget despite the passage of the 2009 budget.

 

“I welcome the case. We all know what his motives are. He wants to stir my administration. Anyway, I get stronger when there are controversies. It is his right to file cases but I know that my actions are right,” Tupas said.

 

Tupas said the 2009 budget is illegal and inimical to public welfare after the SP slashed appropriations necessary for capitol operations.

 

He also questioned the P55-million fund for the hazard pay of public health workers which was not reflected in the governor’s proposed executive budget.

 

Tupas reenacted the 2008 budget and the 20% Internal Revenue Allotment development fund via Executive Order 1-2009.

 

Thus Suplico accused the governor of usurping the powers of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to enact annual and supplementary budgets.

 

The vice governor said Tupas became the “dictator of Iloilo” by ignoring the 2009 budget embodied in Appropriations Ordinance No. 2008-5 and imposing the EO sans a valid court order or directive from the Department of Budget and Management.

 

Suplico lodged his case Tuesday with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional office which in turn will send it to the office of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

 

Ermita will first determine if there is probable cause to investigate the case before assigning it to appropriate agencies like the DILG or the Office of the Ombudsman.

 

HEALTH CONDITION

 

In a separate interview with Bombo Radyo-Iloilo, Tupas belied reports that his health is declining reason why he frequents his doctor.

 

The governor said his meetings with his physician are part of his regular executive checkup.

 

“At the age of 76, I can still play (lawn) tennis for two hours. The checkups are part of my routine to protect my health which I believe is the greatest wealth we can have,” he added.

 

Tupas said he is also preparing for the 2010 elections. The governor is reportedly running against 4th district Rep. Ferjenel Biron next year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A NEOPHYTE cop lost his issued firearm to a commercial sex worker (CSW) and her cohort Thursday evening.

 

PO1 Jesus Patrick dela Cruz of the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) and the CSW identified as Rosalinda checked in at the Riverside Inn motel along Muelle Loney Street, Iloilo City proper.

 

Hours after their sexual tryst, dela Cruz fell asleep. Rosalinda walked out of the room but left the door open to allow Arsenio Diogresa of Brgy. San Juan, Molo to enter.

 

Diogresa then took away dela Cruz’s caliber .45 pistol worth P35,000.

 

Dela Cruz discovered the theft and reported to his fellow officers at the Iloilo City Police Station (ICPS) 1.

 

Investigators later arrested Diogresa outside the motel but the gun was nowhere to be found.

 

Diogresa is now detained at the ICPS-1 jail.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

BIZARRE stories laced with sex and scandals are the rage nowadays.

 

A 22-year-old man was arrested Tuesday by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for spreading copies of a sex video involving him and his ex-girlfriend.

 

Nene (not her real name) met Bryan Lañada of Brgy. Ungka, Jaro, Iloilo City in a shopping establishment where she worked.

 

After several days of exchanging text messages and dating, Nene and Lañada ended as lovers. Their first sexual encounter happened at the house of Lañada’s grandmother.

 

But Nene later found out that Lañada was already living with another woman before they met. She decided to call it quits and left her boyfriend.

 

Nene later learned about the sex video after her mother was shown a copy of the clip by their punong barangay.

 

The video, which was taken using Lañada’s cellphone, and photos spread after it was sold by pirated VCD and DVD traders in the city.

 

The complainant and her parents then went to the NBI and filed a complaint against Lañada.

 

The case was filed with the Iloilo City Prosecutor’s Office and later elevated to the Regional Trial Court.

 

RTC Judge Adriano Savillo then issued a warrant of arrest against Lañada.

 

Nene is now married to another guy with whom she has a one-month-old baby.

 

In LaPaz, Iloilo City, a male-and-female pair was caught having sex inside a blue car parked in front of the Catholic Church Monday evening.

 

A trisikad driver who happened to pass by the area saw the lewd scene because the car’s windows were open.

 

The witnesses told the LaPaz police that the lovers were playing with each other’s sex organs. The duo left casually after satiating their urges.

 

The scene happened more or less 100 meters from The Q Motel’s Jereos gate.

 

Last week, a wife in Iloilo complained with the police that she had too much sex with her husband.

 

Nena (not her real name), 22, said her spouse Rolly (not his real name) would make love to her at least 10 times a day.

 

This forced Nena to go to the police and report her “travails” in the blotter reports.

 

Suplico sues Tupas over 2009 budget

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Vice Governor Rolex Suplico on Tuesday filed an administrative complaint against his uncle, Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for abuse and misconduct.

 

Suplico accused Tupas before the Office of the President in Malacañang for abuse of authority, grave misconduct in office, culpable violation of the Constitution, dereliction of duty and other offenses under the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

 

The plaint stemmed from Tupas’ issuance last January 5, 2009 of Executive Order No. 1-2009 which reenacted the 2008 annual and supplemental budgets, including the 20% development fund.

 

The governor issued EO 1-2009 despite the passage of Appropriations Ordinance 2008-05 which pertains to the 2009 annual budget and investment program.

 

Tupas vetoed the entire AO 2008-05 but the SP voted to override it December 19, 2008.  

 

Suplico said Tupas committed abuse of authority and grave misconduct in office “by violating the law granting the Sangguniang Panlalawigan the powers to enact the appropriation ordinance and the ordinance approving the annual budget.”

 

The vice governor said Tupas set aside AO 2008-05 and replaced it with EO 1-2009 sans a supporting ordinance approved by the SP.

 

Tupas also “committed abuse of authority, culpable violation of the Constitution and grave misconduct in office when he usurped the functions of the court when he set aside AO 2008-05 by declaring it ultra vires, prejudicial to the welfare project, unconstitutional, illegal and a void ordinance in his EO 1-2009,” Suplico said.

 

In preventing the implementation of AO 2008-05, Tupas allegedly violated the RPC by usurping the powers of the provincial board to approve annual budgets aside from violating the doctrine of operative fact imbued in the provisions of the Local Government Code.

 

Tupas’ order is also illegal because it reenacted the 2008 budget sans any order from the competent court or the Department of Budget and Management, Suplico said.

 

The governor also allegedly abused his power and committed malversation by appropriating and disbursing the 20% Internal Revenue Allotment-Development Fund (IRA-DF).

 

Suplico threatened to sue Tupas for plunder after the governor reenacted the 2007 IRA-DF last year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A CO-WORKER of the late Julife Balbanida who was arrested for murder and attempted murder charges filed more than 14 years ago Monday morning might be the key to mysterious death of the lady accountant, the Iloilo City police said.  

 

Members of the Iloilo City Police Station nabbed Andrew “Anding” Flores of Brgy. Tagbac, Jaro, Iloilo City at the premises of Uni Eco Builders.

 

Flores is facing murder and attempted murder charges with the Iloilo Regional Trial Court. The cases were filed in 1994 while then Judge Tito Gustilo issued his warrant of arrest sans bail for his temporary liberty.

 

Flores is a colleague of Balbanida who was found dead inside the comfort room of Uni Eco last February 4.

 

Initial reports said Balbanida committed suicide by shooting her head with a caliber .45 pistol for allegedly tampering a check entrusted to her. But the autopsy on her remains and paraffin tests indicate that foul play may have attended her death.

 

Flores is one of the seven Uni Eco workers who underwent but turned negative in the paraffin tests.

 

Balbanida also tested negative for gunpowder residue in her hands while her gunshot wound was inconsistent with most suicide cases, according to the findings of medico legal officer Noel Martinez.

 

Flores initially said he has no idea what happened to Balbanida last February 4 nor did he hear gunfire from their office’s CR.

 

Flores said his employers Teofilo Coo and son Raymond, Balbanida and Albert “Ike” Panganiban were the only ones left inside the office before she was found dead.

 

At around 2pm, Raymond and Panganiban went out to see his lawyer. The duo later returned to the office around 4pm then went to the ICPS to report the alleged check tampering by Balbanida.

 

Teofilo went out of the Uni Eco office around 5pm, Flores said. Balbanida was found dead past 5pm.

 

Flores later told the police and subsequent media interviews that Raymond told him to temporarily close their office between 2pm and 3pm.

 

Chief Insp. Conrado Carganillo, ICPS 1 commander, said they Flores revealed some information to his brother Allen Flores which could shed light on Balbanida’s case.

 

Carganillo said Flores is still one of the suspects in the case “although he can be witness depending on his statements.”

 

“We will find out in his revelations if he knows something about the case,” Carganillo said.

 

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has begun investigating the case by summoning Balbanida’s employers and co-workers.

 

The Balbanida family sought the NBI’s help believing that lady accountant was murdered.

 

The family threatened to sue Uni Eco’s management and personnel if they do not cooperate in the investigation.

 

The City Hall offered cash reward to persons who can help the police even as the ICPS and the Iloilo City Police Office formed two investigating teams that will crack the case.   

By Jeehan V. Fernandez

 

THE Iloilo City Government and Land Transportation Office (LTO) will ink a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to settle disagreement on the confiscation of the licenses of erring drivers.

 

The LTO regional office earlier declared that it has the sole authority to confiscate drivers’ license, not the City Hall.

 

But the city’s Traffic Management and Engineering Unit (Tmeu) has been confiscating drivers’ licenses for violating local traffic ordinances.

 

Mayor Jerry Treñas, who chairs the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), lobbied with LTO chief Arturo Lomibao to resolve the conflict which affected ordinary drivers of public utility jeepneys.

 

Treñas even threatened to have LTO enforcers arrested by the police if they continue to undermine the City government’s power to apprehend erring drivers. 

 

Yesterday, LTO sent three lawyers – Edgar Cabase, Roberto Valera and Benjamin Mori to discuss the conflict and possible solutions with Treñas.

 

Lawyer Jesus Duque, chief of trial division of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), mediated between City Hall and LTO officials during the discussions on the matter.

 

“The agreement will be finalized in writing. The City Council will authorize me to sign the agreement which stipulates that the city will continue to apprehend violators of traffic ordinances here,” Treñas said.

 

Treñas expects to sign the MOA with Lomibao in the presence of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other city mayors during the LCP conference in Manila Thursday.

 

“We have the assurance of LTO that in the meantime that the MOA is not yet signed and confirmed by the City Council, they (LTO) will no longer operate (and) say that the TOP (temporary operator’s permit) of the city is not valid,” Treñas added.

 

He said the LTO will deputize city traffic aids to apprehend and confiscate licenses of drivers who violate city traffic rules using either the LTO or City Hall TOP.

 

Treñas said the City Hall will also be allowed to detail one bonded personnel from the City Treasurer’s Office to collect payments for penalties of drivers when claiming their licenses from LTO.

Treñas threatens to arrest LTO enforcers

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO City Mayor Jerry Treñas threatened to have arrested Land Transportation Office traffic enforcers who continue to prod drivers of jeepneys in the metropolis not to follow City Hall’s traffic ordinance.

 

Treñas said he will order the Iloilo City Police Office to arrest LTO personnel who question the City Hall’s power to regulate vehicular traffic.

 

The mayor said some LTO personnel convince drivers not to follow Iloilo City’s traffic ordinance.

 

Treñas said the LTO’s continued crackdown on erring drivers and convincing them not to follow city traffic rules is an act of bad faith because the League of Cities in the Philippines is still negotiating with the LTO central office regarding traffic rules and enforcement.

 

Treñas said he will ask for the relief of police officers who will not obey his order to arrest LTO personnel.

 

The conflict between the City Hall and LTO erupted after the latter office said it is the only agency that can confiscate driver’s licenses and registration plates of vehicles.

 

The LTO regional office also rejected traffic laws enacted by the City Council.

 

Councilor Erwin Plagata, committee on transportation chair and Traffic Technical Working Group (TTWG) head, slammed the LTO for not recognizing the City government’s power to regulate traffic as mandated by the Local Government Code.

 

Drivers are caught in middle of the City Hall-LTO tiff as they incur double penalties aside from confiscation of their permits and registration plates.

 

Treñas was miffed by LTO’s action saying he will not back down from the said agency.

 

“Unless the traffic problem is sufficiently resolved by the courts, I will not buckle and I have to show my fangs. Kon gamuhon nila kag gusto nila ang inaway, ti away ta eh (If they will cause chaos and fight us, then we will fight),” a fuming Treñas said.      

 

The Court of Appeals (CA) recently denied a petition for certiorari filed by LTO questioning the order of a Quezon City Regional Trial Court which ordered LTO to stop enforcing Memorandum Circular (MC) 33, Special Order 101-A, Special Order 101-1RM and MC 89-105.

 

The four LTO issuances are relative to the confiscation and removal of license plates. 

 

The CA said the LTO memorandum circular is “invalid for going beyond the terms and provisions of the law.

 

“The power cannot be extended to amending or expanding the statutory requirements or to embrace matters not covered by the statute and rules that subvert the statute cannot be sanctioned,” the CA said.  

 

Plagata said the LTO has no authority to confiscate the license plates of vehicles of traffic violators since Republic Act 136 (Land Transportation and Traffic Code) does not empower the agency to do so.

 

He said the LTO issuances advising vehicle drivers to follow the order set by its central office “could not be over and above the law on traffic of the city government.”

 

DIPLOMACY

 

Treñas said there is nothing personal in his “word war” with the LTO as he continues to use diplomatic approaches to solve the conflict.

 

The mayor said a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on traffic policies between the city government and the LTO is being finalized to ease out the disagreement.

 

Treñas said he talked with LTO chief Arturo Lomibao over the powers of the city government in implementing traffic rules and regulations as mandated by the Local Government Code and a joint memorandum of the LTO and Department of Transportation and Communications.

 

“The MOA could be signed either here or in Manila. We hope this will settle the issue once and for all,” he added. (With reports from Lydia C. Pendon)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

SIX more businesses in Western Visayas closed shop this year rendering more than 400 workers jobless.

 

In the latest report from the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole-6), six firms sent notices of permanent closure to the agency on top six companies that closed shop last month.

 

The number of businesses that downsized their manpower remains at six firms.

 

Amalia Judicpa, Dole-6 information officer, said more than 400 workers lost their jobs because of the shutdowns and retrenchments, up from 320 jobless last month.

 

Four businesses that either closed down or retrenched are from Iloilo while 14 are based in Negros Occidental.

 

Aside from the economic crisis, Judicpa said one of the factors in the closure of businesses is the lack of raw materials for production such as sugarcane for sugar centrals.

 

Judicpa said the Dole has intervention programs to help displaced workers in the region.

 

The Dole sends a quick reaction team to companies that downsize their manpower to profile the workers.

 

The workers’ profiles will help them seek new employment under various programs of Dole, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs).

 

TESDA was tasked to provide training for skills upgrading/retooling while Dole and OWWA will extend help for displaced local and overseas Filipino workers.

Cris Alden Tabaosares

Cris Alden Tabaosares

 

Jude Velado

Jude Velado

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ROBBERY with homicide charges were filed against the two suspects in the slay of a foundation official.

 

Charged for the robbery and death of Epi Ramos, chief executive officer of Field Epidemiology Training Program Alumni Foundation Inc., were Chris Alden Tabaosares of Brgy. Tabuc Suba, Jaro, Iloilo City and Jude Velado of Brgy. Sto. Rosario-Duran, Iloilo City proper.

 

Ramos, a native of Cabatuan, Iloilo, was found dead inside a room of Centennial Eon Plaza Hotel on Jalandoni Street, Iloilo City proper last January 27. He succumbed to 26 stab wounds, according to the autopsy report.

 

The victim’s two laptop computers, two cellphones and undetermined amount of cash were missing from his room.

 

Ramos’ brother, SPO2 Ernesto Ramos, is the complainant in the case filed with the Iloilo City Prosecutor’s Office around 2pm Tuesday.  

 

The Iloilo City Police Station (ICPS) 1 buttressed the charges against Velado and Tabaosares with the statements of a witness who claimed the heard the suspects’ plan to rob Ramos.

 

Chief Insp. Conrado Carganillo, ICPS-1 chief, said the witness surfaced after learning of Ramos’ death from media reports.

 

The witness, who sought anonymity for security reasons, told The Daily Guardian that Velado and Tabaosares invited him to join them in robbing Ramos.

 

But the witness said he declined the invitation as he did not want to get involved in any crime. The witness added the two suspects were interested in Ramos’ laptop computer.

 

ICPS investigators found out that Velado and Tabaosares first visited Ramos past 11pm of January 25.

 

The two suspects left the hotel past 2am of January 26 and went to a computer rental station in Brgy. Tanza-Esperanza, Iloilo City proper where they hatched their plan against the victim.

 

Investigators also received information that the suspects used shabu while devising their plan.

 

The initial plan was to ransack Ramos’ hotel room but Jude disapproved it saying the victim might use the laptop in their seminar.

 

The second plan was to stage a holdup incident: Velado would enter Ramos’ room while Tabaosares will wait outside. When Ramos goes to the comfort room, Velado will let Tabaosares inside the room and rob the victim at knifepoint.

 

Carganillo said it is possible that the suspects did not intend to kill Ramos “but when the victim resisted, they had no recourse but to stab him.”

 

“The victim was tall and big, so the two suspects possibly ganged up on him,” Carganillo added.

 

Carganillo said two hotel personnel confirmed seeing the suspects visit Ramos’ room from January 25 to 26.

 

“They were also seen leaving the hotel premises past early morning of January 27. Tabaosares was the first to leave at around 1am while Velado went out 30 minutes later,” Carganillo said.

Mejorada admits arranging meeting of contractor, BMs

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada admitted he helped arrange the meeting between a Sangguniang Panlalawigan member and the contractor of the controversial P350-million convention center project.

 

But Mejorada said he had no personal knowledge about the alleged bribe offered by a certain Cedrick Lee to board members Mariano Malones Sr., June Mondejar and Jett Rojas during a meeting at the Promenade Restaurant January 27.

 

Mejorada said he called Malones asking if the latter is available for a meeting with Lee at the said restaurant.

 

Mejorada said Malones accepted the invitation and asked if he can bring along Mondejar and Rojas.

 

“I only invited board member Malones but I was not present in the meeting,” Mejorada said over Aksyon Radyo Tuesday morning.

 

Rojas was the first to confirm the meeting and the P300,000 Lee allegedly offered to the three board members.

 

Rojas said the money was in consideration for their support to re-endorse the convention center project in the SP.

 

Mejorada said he had no knowledge about the alleged bribery “and I would have disapproved any attempt to bribe the board members if the allegation is true.”

 

“If that is true, I could have discouraged Cedrick Lee because it will only become an issue against Governor Niel Tupas. And as we can see now, the issue is being used to malign the governor,” Mejorada said.

 

The mediaman-turned-capitol official said Tupas did not “bless” the Promenade meeting even if the proposed convention center was the governor’s pet project.

 

“Board member Mondejar supports the project. Will the votes of board members Rojas and Malones enough to push the project forward at the provincial board?” Mejorada said.

 

As regards the pronouncement of Vice Governor Rolex Suplico that the project is dead, Mejorada said the SP missed the chance to implement a project that will help stave off the effects of the global economic crisis.

 

Meanwhile, Suplico said he will ask the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the alleged bribery attempt on the three board members.

 

Suplico said he will write the NBI next week to request a formal investigation on the issue.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ONE of the suspects in the robbery and killing of a non-governmental organization official has sent surrender feelers to the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO).

 

Chief Insp. Conrado Carganillo, Iloilo City Police Station 1 head, said they are negotiating with the family of Chris Tabaosares of Jaro, Iloilo City.

 

Tabaosares is one of the suspects in the death of Epi Ramos, chief executive officer of Field Epidemiology Training Program Alumni Foundation Inc., a partner organization of the Department of Health.

 

The stab-riddle body of Ramos was found inside Room 404 of Eon Centennial Plaza Hotel on Jalandoni Street, Iloilo City proper January 27.

 

More than P100,000 cash, two laptop computers, two cellphones and the victim’s wallet were missing from his hotel room.

 

Carganillo said Tabaosares and fellow suspect Jude Velado of Villa, Iloilo City were tagged by witnesses and hotel personnel as Ramos’ companions on evening of January 26.

 

The two suspects were also seen leaving the hotel premises around 1am of January 27, some seven hours before Ramos was found dead.

 

Carganillo said Tabaosares’ relatives coordinated with his office regarding the suspect’s desire to surrender and shed light on the case.

 

“Our personnel are in contact with his family and we continue to negotiate his surrender. The suspects are still here in Iloilo City,” he added.

 

Cases of robbery with homicide will be filed against Tabaosares and Velado anytime this week, Carganillo added.

 

“If Tabaosares surfaces and cooperates, he can become state witness and possibly exonerated of all charges that will be filed against him. If he can prove that he had minimal or no participation in Ramos’ killing, he has a good chance of becoming an eyewitness,” Carganillo said.

 

Carganillo said they will assure the security of Tabaosares if he decides to surrender to authorities.

 

Police Regional Office-6 director Isagani Cuevas earlier claimed a group of callboys preying on homosexuals might be behind Ramos’ robbery and death.

 

The group takes advantage of their victims’ sexual preference in order to rob and kill them, Cuevas added.

 

Cuevas ordered the ICPO to round up callboys in the city to resolve the case even as he advised hotels to implement stricter security measures. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo Sangguniang Panlalawigan has written the epitaph of the controversial P350-million convention center project endorsed by the Tupas administration.

 

Nine members of the provincial board including Vice Governor Rolex Suplico have agreed that the project is now “dead in the water.”

 

Suplico said they reached the agreement during the executive Monday afternoon at the SP session hall to discuss the alleged bribery of three board members.

 

The executive meeting also discussed purported advance payment received by then board member now Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. (5th district, Iloilo).

 

Surprisingly, an ally of Governor Niel Tupas Sr., board member June Mondejar also agreed to bury the convention center project.

 

Other board members present in the meeting were Jett Rojas, Giuseppe Gumban, Richard Garin, Macario Napulan, Celia Colada and George Demaisip.

 

The opposition-laden SP in 2007 withdrew two resolutions authorizing Gov. Tupas to negotiate a loan agreement with Philippine Veterans Bank to finance the project and to negotiate the construction of the convention center.

 

But last January 20, the governor revived the proposed project in his State of the Province Address (Sopa) as part of his measures to stymie the effects of the global financial crisis.
Seven days after Tupas delivered the Sopa, board members Rojas, Mariano Malones and June Mondejar allegedly met with a certain Cedrick Lee in a hotel near the capitol building.

 

According to Rojas and Malones, Lee offered each of them P300,000 if they agree to revive the project.

 

Lee, the two board members alleged, was willing to give P50,000 upfront if they agree on the spot.

 

Lee is the former business partner of David Bunevacz who was hired by the provincial government to conduct the feasibility study on the project.

 

In several radio interviews, Mondejar denied the bribe offer.

 

But Rojas and Malones both confirmed the alleged bribery attempt.

 

Malones also clarified that Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada arranged the meeting with Lee but the latter was not present in the January 27 dinner.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

REPRESENTATIVE Ferj Biron (4th district, Iloilo) urged the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to impose stricter procedures in issuing licenses to drivers.

 

Biron made the call after a police officer assigned at 609th Iloilo Provincial Mobile Group (IPMG) died in mishap at Brgy. Punong Grande, Dueñas, Iloilo Sunday afternoon.

 

SPO1 Jose Roger Suarez succumbed to massive chest injuries at the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan, Iloilo.

 

Suarez was driving the Toyota Hilux mobile patrol that escorted Biron’s convoy when a Passi City-bound Jai Alai Bus driven by Argie Grande rammed into the patrol car.

 

Biron’s group was on their way to Iloilo City to meet Senator Manuel Villar when the accident happened.

 

Suarez’s fellow officers, PO2 Arnulfo Amos and PO1 Joemarie Balisang and 20 bus passengers were slightly injured in the accident.

 

Biron said he saw Jai Alai bus rushed towards them reason prompting his convoy to slow down.

 

The IPMG patrol, which was tailing the convoy, tried to move ahead of the line but the rushing bus rammed into the police car.

 

Biron said he saw Grande, a native of Brgy. Naslo, Passi City, grin while driving at top speed on the highway.

 

The congressman said the LTO should strictly screen persons who want to secure driving license for public safety’s sake.

 

Biron said some drivers don’t even know how to read or write but still get driving licenses from the LTO.

 

He also urged investigators to test Grande for illegal drugs.

 

Biron said he will provide scholarship and livelihood assistance to the family of SPO1 Juarez.

 

“We will make sure that his family will have decent and sustainable source of income. I will also provide scholarships to their children so they can finish college,” the congressman said.  

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo City Police Office has found some inconsistencies in the crime scene and events leading to the alleged suicide of Julie Fe Balbanida Wednesday afternoon.

Based on the paraffin test conducted by the PNP Crime Laboratory, Balbanida tested negative for gunpowder nitrates in her hands.

 

This means that Balbanida, accountant-cum-cashier of Uni Royal Builders Supply, did not fire any gun before she was found dead inside the comfort room of Uni Royal office Wednesday afternoon.

 

Balbanida died of a single gunshot wound in the right portion of her head, according to the autopsy conducted by Dr. Noel Martinez, PNP medico legal.

 

Martinez said there was no smudging or gunpowder burns around Balbanida’s right temple where the caliber .45 bullet entered.

 

The medico legal theorized that the victim was shot from afar with a caliber .45 pistol.

 

The food inside Balbanida’s stomach suggests that she was already dead between 2pm and 3pm Wednesday, Martinez added.

 

SPO3 Victor Legaspi, investigator in-charge of the case, said he is also wondering why no empty bullet casing was found on the CR’s floor or near Balbanida’s body.

 

Aside from the pistol with a live bullet in its magazine and the slug underneath Balbanida’s head, the police found six empty shells inside a cellphone cartoon box.

 

“We are looking for the empty shell. The six shells we found are being tested to determine if these were fired recently or a long time ago,” Legaspi said.

 

Seven co-workers of Balabanida tested negative for gunpowder nitrates during the paraffin tests, Legaspi added.

 

The victim’s co-workers said they did not hear any explosion inside the CR

 

Raymond Coo, Balbanida’s employer, said he confronted the victim about a tampered check before she was found dead.

 

Coo said they discovered the fate of Balbanida after reporting the tampered check to the Iloilo City Police Station 1.

 

The businessman said he knew that Balbanida owned a gun but he had no idea that she brought the gun to the store.

 

The family of Balbanida said they do not believe she committed suicide because of a P60,000 check.

 

Balbanida, according to her mother Fe, had a cellphone store in a mall in downtown Iloilo.

Bribe yarn shakes Iloilo capitol

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Sangguniang Panlalawigan will investigate the alleged bribe offer to three Iloilo provincial board members to get their support for the revival of the dream P350-million Iloilo convention center project of Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said the SP will look into reports that board members Jett Rojas, Mariano Malones and June Mondejar were each offered P300,000 by a certain Cedric Lee during a dinner meeting at the Promenade Restaurant in Atrium Mall last January 27.

 

If they accept the offer, Lee was willing to give each board member P50,000 down payment upfront.

 

Rojas confirmed the Promenade meeting and the alleged bribe attempt in an interview with RMN-Iloilo.

 

Rojas said Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada was also present in the dinner meeting.

 

The proposed convention center which will be erected at the old Iloilo Rehabilitation Center site is a pet project of Governor Tupas.

 

In 2007, the 8th Sangguniang Panlalawigan then dominated by Tupas supporters passed a resolution authorizing the governor to borrow money from the Philippine Veterans Bank to fund the project.

 

But the present opposition-laden SP withdrew the resolution after board member Arthur Defensor Jr., committee on ways and means chair, found the project to be unfeasible and disadvantageous to the province.

 

The Promenade meeting happened seven days after Tupas delivered his State of the Province Address (Sopa) where he resurrected the convention center and information technology park projects.

 

The two projects, Tupas said, are part of the measures that will stave off the effects of the global financial crisis which is retrenching thousands of workers in the Philippines.

 

But who is Cedric Lee?

 

Lee, a businessman, is said to be the boyfriend of actress-singer Vina Morales.

 

Lee’s ex wife, Judy Lee is the business partner of Jessica Rodriguez and David Bunevacz.

 

Bunevacz is the erstwhile chair of Strategic and Comprehensive Consultants, Inc. which conducted the feasibility study on the convention center project.

 

The provincial government hired Bunevacz as financial advisor and designer of the convention center.

 

Bunevacz was later accused of embezzling P20 million from Beverly Hills 6750, a high-end aesthetic center, where he was the former chief executive officer.

 

Reports from the capitol said Cedric Lee is bent on reviving the P350-million convention center project after then board member Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. allegedly got a 5% advance payment, an estimated P17.5 million.

 

Tupas Jr., who is the incumbent representative of the 5th congressional district, also picked the convention center as his pet project.

 

Rep. Tupas did not reply to text messages asking for his comment on the convention center.

 

Suplico said he also received bribe offers reaching P10 million in order to get his nod for the project. The vice governor said he refused the offers.

 

Gov. Tupas had brushed aside that bribe money was offered to the board members for the revival of the project.

SUICIDE? Workers of a funeral parlor carry a casket containing the body of Julie Fe Balbanida who allegedly took her own life Wednesday inside Uni-Royal Builders Supply in Valeria Street, Iloilo City. (Photo by Tara Yap)

SUICIDE? Workers of a funeral parlor carry a casket containing the body of Julie Fe Balbanida who allegedly took her own life Wednesday inside Uni-Royal Builders Supply in Valeria Street, Iloilo City. (Photo by Tara Yap)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo City police are not sold out to the idea that a lady accountant of a commercial establishment in Valeria Street, Iloilo City committed suicide inside their office Wednesday.

 

Mystery shrouds the death of Julie Fe Balbanida, 27, of Zone 3 Brgy. Boulevard, Molo district. She was found by janitor Ike Panganiban inside the comfort room of Uni Royal Builders Supply 5pm Wednesday.

 

Balbanida, who worked as cashier and accountant of Uni-Royal owned by a certain Raymond Coo, succumbed to a single gunshot wound in the right portion of her head.

 

Investigators found at the crime scene a caliber .45 pistol (Colt-Mark 4, serial number 136321), a magazine with one live ammunition and a box containing six empty shells of caliber .45 bullets.

 

But why would Balbanida commit suicide inside a CR of an establishment in the downtown area?

 

An hour before Balbanida was found dead, Coo entered in the Iloilo City Police Station (ICPS)-1 blotters that Balbanida tampered their company’s Banco de Oro (BDO) check worth P60,000 and embezzled the amount.

 

Coo said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo that a BDO officer went to his office between 2pm and 3pm Wednesday to inform him about the alleged tampered check.

 

“I confronted her about the check and told her to explain everything. Then we went to the police to report the incident. When we returned to the office, we discovered what happened to her,” Coo added.

 

But Balbanida’s family said the victim has no suicidal tendency, much less steal from her employer.

 

Balbanida’s brother James said she liked to swim, sing and play badminton during her free time. Her mother Fe said the victim did not confide any problems in her personal and professional lives before her death.

 

The victim’s family added that Balbanida does not know how to use a gun or even owned one. They are also wondering why Coo did not immediately inform them about the victim’s fate.

 

Instead of bringing Balbanida to the hospital, the management waited for the police and the funeral parlor personnel to move the victim.

 

Balbanida’s mother also recalled her daughter telling her that Coo’s business was already declining.

 

The autopsy on Balbanida’s remains conducted by PNP medico legal Noel Martinez showed that she died between 2pm to 3pm Wednesday.

 

Martinez said the bullet entered Balbanida’s right temple and exited in the left portion of her head in a slightly upward trajectory.

 

Martinez said there is 50 percent possibility that foul play attended Balbanida’s death although the police need to support this hunch with convincing proof.

 

Seven Uni-Royal employees where also subjected to paraffin test for gunpowder traces in their hands but the results were unavailable as of this writing.

 

Chief Insp. Conrado Carganillo, ICPS-1 commander, said that aside from suicide, they are entertaining other angles in Balbanida’s case.

 

“We continue to investigate and gather more evidence so we can zero in on the most probable motive,” Carganillo said.

 

By Jeehan V. Fernandez

 

ILOILO City Mayor Jerry Treñas was piqued by the loan shark issue which was blamed for the delayed salaries of traffic aides last month.

 

But Treñas dismissed the presence of loan sharks supposedly feasting on the traffic aides’ salaries even as he warned to use an iron hand on complaining traffic personnel.

 

Councilor Erwin Plagata earlier claimed that loan sharks colluded with some Traffic Management and Engineering Unit personnel to delay the salaries of traffic aides, forcing them to borrow money at prohibitive interest rates. 

 

The mayor, meanwhile, clarified said the City Government wants the traffic aides to show their drug test results first before they can get their salaries.

 

“It’s not true (referring to loan sharks). There was a delay on their salaries because of late submission of their drug test results which is very necessary considering their big responsibility on the streets,” the mayor explained.

 

City Hall requires traffic aides to undergo drug tests as requirement for applications or renewal of contracts following reports of involvement of some traffic aides with the illegal drugs trade.

 

A check with the City Accountant Office showed the traffic aides’ payroll was submitted Monday and their salaries were released Tuesday.

 

Instead of investigating the loan shark issue, Treñas said he will impose strict rules on erring traffic aides.

 

“We used to give leeway to traffic aides. We have given them as much time as we can but we will be very strict with them now – everything will be black and white. There are always complaints but if they are not happy with their jobs they should resign,” he said.

 

Treñas noted that a traffic aide was arrested and jailed after asking money from a teacher weeks ago.

 

City Hall has in its payroll some 300 traffic aides.

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