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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IF you can’t follow orders, quit.

 

This is one advice that Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, conveyed to Senior Insp. Virgilio Buena after the latter decried his relief from the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) because of sexual harassment charges.

 

A fuming Cuevas said Buena’s relief from the ICPO and transfer to the Iloilo Provincial Police Office is part of due process the PRO-6 is observing relative to the charges against him.

 

Buena is accused of fondling and inducing a female casual employee of the City government detailed at the LaPaz police station, charges which he denied.

 

Buena had earlier said that he was relieved abruptly based on unfounded accusations spreading via text messages. He also hit the culture of harassment within the ICPO and the PNP which demoralizes lower ranking cops.

 

The former ICPO operations officer even urged non-commissioned police officers to unite against this culture of harassment in the disorganized ICPO.

 

Cuevas shot back at Buena calling the latter an abusive officer for his involvement in numerous controversies.

 

The PRO-6 chief said the decision to remove Buena from ICPO is not his alone but a policy imposed by the PNP organization if one of its officers in facing charges or involved in controversies.

 

Cuevas said Buena should have been relieved by his superior officer, ICPO officer-in-charge, Supt. Eugenio Espejo.

 

“Everybody is covered by this policy and Buena knows that. It’s part of due process because his superior did not act immediately. If he wants due process, he should attend the hearings if a case is filed against him. If he cannot stand the policies of the PRO-6, he can leave the PNP,” Cuevas said.

 

Cuevas said it is normal to relieve police officers who are facing charges so they cannot influence the outcome of the investigation and also to protect the complainant.

 

“It would be hard for the complainant to pursue the case if the accused is keeping a watchful eye on the investigation,” he added.

 

TREÑAS: SHUT UP

 

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas told Buena to shut up and stop criticizing the ICPO and the PNP where he belongs.

 

“Whatever he is saying will not help his case. Ang maayo pa maghipos na lang siya (It would be better for him to shut up),” Treñas said.

 

Treñas said he is reviewing the program of assigning casual employees at police stations to do clerical works.

 

The mayor said he wanted policemen to concentrate on their law enforcement duties by patrolling the streets instead of staying in their stations to do office ordinary work.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IN LaPaz, Iloilo City, a 16-year-old high school student of the Central Philippine University was found dead inside LaPaz plaza past 7am Wednesday.

 

The stab-riddled body of Buenaventura Peregil of Brgy. Tabuc Suba, Jaro was found near the pond inside the plaza.

 

Peregil was rushed to the West Visayas State University Medical Center where he was declared dead on arrival.

 

A stainless steel knife was recovered from the crime scene allegedly used by three suspects.

 

The LaPaz police are eyeing robbery-holdup as motive for the crime because Peregil’s cellphone was missing.

 

Before he was found dead, Peregil informed his aunt that he was still in LaPaz working on an assignment with a classmate.

 

ALARMED

 

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas met with punong barangays of LaPaz to discuss Peregil’s case and possible security measures to deter crimes in the area.

 

Treñas said Peregil’s killing was a very unfortunate incident. He ordered the police to investigate the matter and conduct high police visibility by patrolling the plaza every night.

 

The 25-member Association of Barangay Captains-La Paz district headed by Carlos Guarin assured the city mayor of their full cooperation and support in maintaining peace and order in the district and near the plaza.

 

Treñas said he has also directed the city engineer’s office electrical division to inspect the streetlights and to add more lights in the plaza.

 

Panay Power Corporation (PPC) will also help by giving five units of 1,000 watt floodlights which will be installed at the plaza.

 

The district plaza, which includes a covered gym, lagoon and football field, was the subject of complaints by La Paz residents because it is very dark at night as only a few lampposts and streetlights are functioning. (With reports from Lydia C. Pendon)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IT started with an altercation. Then a brawl ensued. Later, a man fell to the ground after he was shot by a lone suspect.

 

Niño Vera succumbed to gunshot wounds allegedly inflicted by suspect Jeremy Albacete, 24, inside Savannah subdivision around 11pm the other day.

 

Police said Vera and Albacete harbored grudges over a basketball game in the past.

 

Witnesses said that after the fisticuff, the suspect’s brother, Dr. Noel Jerome Albacete, arrived onboard a Toyota Revo and gave Jeremy a gun.

 

Jeremy then chased Vera and shot the victim about five times. The victim was hit in the back and fell to the ground.

 

Concerned residents rushed Vera to the nearest hospital but died on arrival.

 

Jeremy surrendered to the Oton police in the follow up operation while his brother-doctor was confined in a hospital.

 

Dr. Albacete, according to Oton police investigators, might be included in the case for giving the gun to the suspect.

 

S/Insp. Buena decries relief

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A RANKING officer of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) urged his fellow cops to unite and resist harassments directed against them. 

 

This was the reaction of Senior Insp. Virgilio Buena after he was relieved as ICPO operations officer Tuesday and transferred to the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO)

 

Buena is facing sexual harassment charges from Mika, an Iloilo City Hall casual employee detailed at the LaPaz police station. He had denied the charges saying he was just “joking” with the complainant.

 

Buena’s relief order was issued by the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) headed by Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas.

 

Buena said he felt bad over his relief because he was not afforded due process by his superior officers.

 

He added the charges against him were circulated via text messages but no formal complaint has been filed against him.

 

Buena even urged non-commissioned police officers (those with ranks Police Officer 1 to Senior Police Officer 4) to unite against harassments of police officers while discharging their duties.

 

Cuevas said transfer of police officers is a normal procedure in the PNP and should not be misinterpreted as a form of harassment.

 

Cuevas added Buena’s transfer to the IPPO is necessary since he is under investigation by the ICPO.

 

Supt. Eugenio Espejo, ICPO officer-in-charge, has tasked Chief Insp. Graciano Zapanta to probe the allegations against Buena.

 

Also under investigation is PO1 Joan Cepeda for allegedly dissuading Mika from suing Buena.

 

PULLOUT

 

Mayor Jerry P. Treñas said he is contemplating the withdrawal of casual employees assigned to do clerical work and non-police duties at seven police stations.

 

Treñas also expressed disappointment with what happened at the La Paz police station involving Buena and a lady casual employee.

 

The city mayor said he will not tolerate unruly behavior by police officers as this will tarnish the PNP image.

 

Treñas said he is considering the recall of 12 casual employees detailed at district police stations to prevent similar incidents.

 

He said he approved the posting of casual employees at the police stations last month so that police officers can concentrate on peace and order operations.

 

“The idea was to have the policemen patrol the streets and add strong police visibility while the clerical work including driving of patrol vehicles will be done by civilian employees,” Treñas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

SEVERAL Iloilo City barangays are being monitored by the City Health Office (CHO) after cases of typhoid fever this year increased by more than 800% compared to last year.

 

Based on CHO data, a total of 289 Iloilo City residents were stricken by typhoid fever January to October 2008. A total of 10 persons died of the said illness.

 

Last year’s record for the same period was only 33 cases with no fatality recorded.

 

The most number of typhoid fever cases occurred February with 85 persons affected and 3 fatalities. The month of March saw the second highest number of typhoid cases, 54.

 

Dr. Urminico Baronda, CHO chief, said the sudden surge of typhoid cases could be attributed to the contamination of sources of drinking water in the aftermath of the flood brought about by typhoon Frank June 21.

 

Baronda said they are constantly monitoring typhoid fever incidence in the city, particularly the Waterfront barangays where the most number of cases occurred.

 

The Waterfront area is suffering from lack of potable water supply after the typhoon damaged the facilities of the Metro Iloilo Water District.

 

Typhoid fever, also known as enteric fever, or commonly known as typhoid, is an illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi. Common worldwide, it is transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with feces from an infected person.

 

Typhoid fever is characterized by a sustained fever as high as 40 °C (104 °F), profuse sweating, gastroenteritis, and nonbloody diarrhea. Less commonly a rash of flat, rose-colored spots may appear.

 

Typhoid fever in most cases is not fatal. Antibiotics, such as ampicillin, chloramphenicol, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, Amoxicillin and ciprofloxacin, have been commonly used to treat typhoid fever in developed countries.

 

Prompt treatment of the disease with antibiotics reduces the case-fatality rate to approximately 1%. When untreated, typhoid fever persists for three weeks to a month. Death occurs in between 10% and 30% of untreated cases.

 

Sanitation and hygiene are the critical measures that can be taken to prevent typhoid. Typhoid does not affect animals and therefore transmission is only from human to human. Typhoid can only spread in environments where human feces or urine are able to come into contact with food or drinking water. Careful food preparation and washing of hands are therefore crucial to preventing typhoid.

 

DENGUE CASES DOWN

 

If typhoid fever incidence in the city surged, the number of dengue victims this year decreased.

 

From 431 dengue cases including 20 fatalities recorded in 2007, only 121 cases with 6 fatalities were monitored this year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

REGULAR capitol workers have reason to smile after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved Tuesday the resubmitted 2008 budget which includes their 10 percent salary increase from June to December 2008.

 

But barangay volunteer workers will have to wait if the SP will approve a supplemental budget from the Office of the Governor allocating funds for the volunteers’ financial assistance amounting to P23 million.

 

The approved 2008 budget is embodied in Appropriations Ordinance No. 2008-06.

 

Of the P1.136-billion resubmitted budget for this year, the SP only approved P275 million to cover the provincial government’s expenses for the whole month of December and the 10% salary hike.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said they limited the approved budget to December 2008 expenditures only since the year is already ending.

 

Suplico said they deleted the financial assistance to more than 10,000 Barangay Service Point Officers (BSPO), Barangay Health Workers (BHW) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) because Governor Niel Tupas Sr. did not make a specific request for the said allocation.

 

But in the resubmitted budget, the financial assistance for barangay volunteer workers was lumped in the maintenance operating and other expenses of the governor’s office.

 

Suplico said his uncle-governor can submit a supplemental budget for the allowance of volunteer workers as they still have several days left to hold sessions.

 

Two Suplico allies – Board Members Macario Napulan (1st district) and Mariano Malones (3rd district) – voted for the approval of the financial assistance for the volunteers. Joining them are BMs Rodolfo Cabado, June Mondejar and Shalene Hidalgo.

 

Those who voted against the allowance were BMs Richard Garin, Arthur Defensor Jr., George Demaisip, JR Salcedo, Jett Rojas, Jeneda Salcedo and Karl Giuseppe Gumban.

 

NOT GIVING UP

 

Tupas yesterday approved AO No. 2008-06 to pave the way for the release of the long-delayed 10-percent salary adjustment of provincial officials and employees.

 

But Tupas is not about to give up on the P2,000 yearly honorarium for some 12,000 barangay-based volunteers that he described as the “frontline soldiers” in the province’s health, population and early child education programs.

 

Tupas said he will submit today a request for a P23-million supplemental budget to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to fund the “token of appreciation” for these volunteers and help them cope with the hardships caused by the global economic crisis.

 

“The province wants to show its appreciation for the hard work and dedication shown by these volunteers who make do with minuscule allowances given by their barangays and municipal governments to serve as frontline soldiers for our programs,” Tupas said.

 

In approving the appropriations ordinance, Tupas said he ignored the technical deficiencies in the ordinance that would have been valid grounds for a veto just so the much-awaited salary adjustment can be released in time for Christmas.

 

For instance, the “annual budget” enacted by the Sanggunian appropriated only P275 million to cover expenditures of the province from Dec. 1 to 31, 2008 and neglected to incorporate the actual expenditures of the province while operating on a re-enacted budget, he said.

 

“I will take the risk of implementing this despite the glaring deficiency to avoid any further delays in the release of the salary adjustment,” he said.

 

Tupas expressed misgivings that the Sanggunian slashed the amount of P23 million that he had included in the 2008 Executive Budget for the honorarium of the volunteers.

 

“These volunteer workers are victims of politics,” Tupas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Commission on Human Rights (CHR-6) will assist a non-uniformed personnel assigned at the LaPaz police station in Iloilo City in her case against a ranking official of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO).

 

CHR-6 director David Bermudo said they are willing to help Mika in her quest for justice should she file charges of sexual harassment against Senior Insp. Virgilio Buena.

 

Bermudo said they will investigate if Mika (not her real name) lodges a formal complaint with the commission.

 

“If her rights were violated based on our investigation, we can recommend appropriate actions against the police official involved,” Bermudo said at the sidelines of the National Human Rights Consciousness Week celebration Tuesday.

 

Bermudo said police officers should respect and preserve human rights being persons in authority.

 

Buena, ICPO operations officer, is accused of allegedly fondling Mika’s hair, neck and waist inside the office of Insp. Alexander Rosales, LaPaz police officer-in-charge, last week.

 

Buena denied the allegations before his superior officer, ICPO OIC-director Eugenio Espejo, saying he was just joking.

 

The Office of the Regional State Prosecutor-6 assured it will keep tabs of Mika’s case against Buena since it involves a police officer.

 

Assistant regional state prosecutor Virgilio Garcia said they will make sure that no whitewash will happen if Mika sues Buena before the Iloilo City Prosecutor’s Office.

 

The Police Regional Office (PRO-6) has ordered Espejo to investigate the allegations against Buena.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, chided Espejo for trying to shun his responsibility to investigate the case by forwarding the matter to the regional headquarters.

 

“That’s not how you lead a unit. He should take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates,” Cuevas said.

 

Espejo said he has ordered Rosales, Buena’s classmate at the PNP Academy, to file an incident report relative to Mika’s complaint.

 

Espejo said Buena has been relieved as operations division chief pending the investigation.

 

The PNP Regional Internal Affairs Service is also investigating PO1 Joan Cepeda for allegedly trying to dissuade Mika from suing Buena.

 

Cepeda denied the allegations saying she was just explaining to the complainant the possible consequences of her complaint against Buena.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WAS the alleged threat by the suspected terrorist cell Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to bomb malls in the country for real or just a hoax?

 

As of this writing, intelligence agencies continue to verify the text messages saying that a JI leader interviewed by a radio station in Metro Manila issued threats to conduct simultaneous bombings on malls all over the country.

 

The threatening text messages quoted a certain Kumander Arcing-Diro of JI that they will mount mass bombing of one branch of a popular mall chain in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao at exactly 2pm of December 8.

 

The Police Regional Office (PRO-6) headed by Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas said they have yet to ascertain the veracity of the information.

 

Upon receiving the information, the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) dispatched its forces to conduct checkpoints and security on malls around the city.

 

Emergency ambulances of the Iloilo City Crisis Management Center and bomb-sniffing dogs were also deployed to a mall right after authorities received the text messages.

 

Supt. Eugenio Espejo, ICPO officer-in-charge, said they did not take chances and decided to send their resources to the bombing target.

 

“We assure the safety of our malls and people should not be apprehensive with going to malls,” Espejo said.

 

A check with military intelligence sources said they have yet to receive confirmatory reports on the purported JI threat.

 

“But we cannot take chances. It is better to be cautious,” an intelligence source told The Daily Guardian in a text message.

 

Cuevas said similar response was also made in other cities in Western Visayas as a precautionary measure.

 

Aside from malls, the Philippine Coast Guard also doubled the security at strategic ports in Region 6.

 

PCG-Iloilo station chief Harold Jarder said they deployed bomb-sniffing dogs to make sure that no bombs and contrabands get through the ports.

 

The PRO-6 director said the PNP is now on alert with the upcoming Christmas and New Year celebration. The police are also gearing for incursions by the New People’s Army (NPA) when the Communist Party of the Philippines celebrates its anniversary December 26.

 

Cuevas said they have received intelligence reports that the NPA will attack six Iloilo towns – Bingawan, Calinog, Lambunao, Tubungan, Leon, and San Joaquin.

 

PRO-6 orders probe on ranking cop

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) has ordered the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) to conduct a full-blown investigation on the alleged sexual harassment charges leveled at Senior Insp. Virgilio Buena.

 

The order of Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, is in contrast to the plan of Supt. Eugenio Espejo, ICPO officer-in-charge, to ask the regional headquarters to conduct the probe on Buena to avoid perceptions of a “white wash.”

 

Cuevas said the ICPO should take the cudgels of investigating the case because it involves one of its officers.

 

The PRO-6 chief said the allegations against Buena are grave offenses which must be investigated.

 

Cuevas said Buena could be dismissed from service and lose his benefits if the charges against him are proven.

 

Buena, the ICPO operations division chief, is facing sexual harassment charges filed by a certain Mika, a City Hall casual employee detailed at the LaPaz police station.

 

Mika claimed Buena fondled her hair, chest and waist 9am of December 4 inside the office of Insp. Alexander Rosales, LaPaz police officer-in-charge.

 

Buena, in his conversation with Espejo over the weekend, admitted touching Mika’s hair and chest but denied squeezing her waist.

 

Buena also told Espejo that it was meant for a joke.

 

Cuevas also ordered the ICPO to investigate PO1 Joan Cepeda of the Women and Children’s Desk for allegedly trying to convince Mika not to sue Buena.

 

The Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) is also conducting a parallel investigation on Cepeda, according to Senior Supt. Robert Page.

 

Page said Cepeda’s action is considered a serious offense.

 

“They should investigate the case and gather evidences for the filing of cases if there are complaints filed with their office,” Page said.

 

Buena was also involved in the alleged tampering of evidence following the drug-bust and shootout by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency against suspected drug peddler Noel “White” Dineros more than a year ago.

 

Buena allegedly retrieved Dineros’ cellphone and deleted text messages which might have proved vital to his case. The allegations against Buena, however, remain unresolved.   

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) yesterday dispatched its personnel around the city following reports that a terrorist group will conduct bombings in the country, particularly in Visayas.

 

The information on the planned bombings by the Jemaah Islamiya (JI) circulated through text messages saying that a top leader of the suspected terrorist cell told an international news network about their attacks.

 

The text message said JI will target malls and commercial areas in their bombing operations.

 

The ICPO quickly dispatched the Iloilo City Mobile Group to mount checkpoints near malls and business areas.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, confirmed the existence of the text messages although he hoped it is just a hoax.

 

Cuevas said the ICPO movement is a normal reaction to threats to prevent untoward incidents.

 

PRO-6 said it continues to verify the text messages by counterchecking the information with other intelligence agencies.

 

Supt. Eugenio Espejo said the checkpoints are preemptive in nature although they have been conducting such operation as part of their anti-crime drives and to implement traffic-related regulations.

 

 

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHO should be blamed for the sudden power outage in Iloilo City prior to the “Dream Match” between Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya Sunday morning?

 

The management of Panay Electric Co., the sole power distributor in the city, denied any responsibility for the two successive brownouts past 10am the other day.

 

Engr. Randy Pastolero, executive assistant to Peco president Miguel Cacho, said their substations and distribution lines did not experience any glitch hours before the match began.

 

What Peco noticed, Pastolero said, was the sudden disconnection of their substation linked to the National Power Corp. (Napocor).

 

Pastolero said the problem could have been with the Napocor facility or the National Transmission Corp. (Transco) connection.

 

“As far as Peco is concerned, we did not encounter any problem in our system. It could be connected to our providers,” Pastolero said.

 

Pastolero said he also received information that several areas covered by the three Iloilo Electric Cooperatives also suffered power outages at the same time the brownouts occurred in the city. 

 

In a statement, Transco management also denied experiencing any problem which led to the brownouts.

 

Transco said it was on normal operation Sunday and that it has not experienced any power interruption on said day.

 

“This is to clarify conflicting reports aired on radio stations regarding the real cause of power interruption in Iloilo City,” Transco said.

 

Panay Power Corp. (PPC) said the brownout was caused by external faults either from the TransCo and/or Peco transmission lines.

 

Engr. Adrian Moncada, Global Business Power Corp. assistant vice president, said PPC engines did not break down and all its feeders were back on-line at 10:56 am.  

 

Representatives from Peco, Napocor, Peco and Panay Power Corp. met yesterday to discuss the problem and prepare measures for the Holidays.

 

Pastolero said Peco does not want a repeat of the brownouts during the Christmas and New Year ’s Eve celebration last year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada yesterday scoffed at what he described as a “desperate effort” of Suplico to gain sympathy and support in the face of a humiliating defeat over the province’s 2009 annual budget.

 

“He fails to understand that the basic flaw lies in him, and not in the veto exercised by Governor Niel Tupas over Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-05,” Mejorada said.

 

Suplico yesterday sent a text message requesting Tupas to withdraw his veto on the P55-million hazard pay for public health workers.

 

Suplico said the governor should be concerned with the welfare of health workers who have been expecting what is due them.

 

The issue is the legality of the insertion of P55 million that Suplico “set aside or reserved” for the hazard pay of provincial health workers in the event the courts rule in their favor in civil cases filed against the Province, Mejorada said.

 

“Clearly, this issue is pending before the civil court, and it does not meet the definition of a statutory obligation as contemplated in the Local Government Code,” he said.

 

Mejorada said Suplico is trying to stir up emotions of health workers in a “desperate effort” to avoid blame for yet another legal debacle over the annual budget of the province.

 

He described Suplico’s move as “clutching at straws to prevent crashing down from a humiliating fiasco.”

 

Besides, the proper procedure is an override of the veto, and not for the governor to withdraw his veto, he added.

 

Mejorada said Suplico wants to “camouflage the rudimentary blunder” made as chairman of the Committee on Appropriations in crafting the 2009 annual budget of the province.

 

In his veto message, Tupas thumbed down the appropriation ordinance for not being in accordance with a basic requirement that appropriations must be clearly spell out the figures according to the allotment class.

 

What happened was that the ordinance lumped the entire amounts for each department without classifying the budget for personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay, he said.

 

“This is very embarrassing,” he said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A JOKE may turn out to be a serious problem for a ranking Iloilo City police official who is facing sexual harassment charges lodged by a non-uniformed personnel assigned at the LaPaz police station.

 

Alias Mika (not her real name) claimed that Senior Insp. Virgilio Buena, operations chief of the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO), touched her hair, chest and waist inside the office of Senior Insp. Alexander Rosales, LaPaz police officer-in-charge last week.

 

Mika, who is a casual employee hired by City Hall and assigned to do clerical jobs at the LaPaz PNP station, said Buena even asked her personal questions and offered to send her to school.

 

The complainant said she ran out of the office for fear that things will go out of hand.

 

Mika filed her complaint with the Women and Children’s Concern Desk even as her family prepares to lodge formal charges with the prosecutor.

 

Over the weekend, Supt. Eugenio Espejo, ICPO officer-in-charge, said Buena admitted touching Mika’s hair and mole in her chest but denied squeezing or fondling her waist.

 

“Buena also said that what he did was just a joke, lahug-lahug lang,” Espejo said.

 

The Daily Guardian tried to get Buena’s side but he cannot be reached.

 

In an interview over Aksyon Radyo, Mika said Buena did not mention that he was only joking when he made the alleged advances to her.

 

The complainant said they will pursue her case against Buena despite reported efforts by some quarters to amicably settle the incident.

 

Espejo said he will recommend that the Police Regional Office-6 will investigate Buena instead of the ICPO taking the cudgels “to avoid perceptions of a white wash.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE rehabilitation of Iloilo in the aftermath of the destructive flood spawned by typhoon Frank last June 21 will begin next year as the House of Representatives committee on appropriations has approved the P8-billion Panay rehabilitation fund.

 

Rep. Arthur Defensor Sr. (3rd district, Iloilo) said the rehabilitation fund is in the form of a supplemental budget which was approved by the committee on appropriations chaired by Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier.

 

Defensor said bulk of the funds will go to the city and province of Iloilo which were severely damaged by the typhoon.

 

“In my district alone, a total of 10 bridges were affected, four of which were totally damaged. There are no specific allocations in the supplemental budget but we have a tentative list of probable projects. We will evaluate these probable projects and prioritize those that must implemented. Then we will make the program of works for the projects,” he said.

 

Defensor, who is the House majority floor leader, said the funds will be taken from the simplified net income tax system which is expected to raise P12 billion.

 

The supplemental budget will have to hurdle past the House plenary before it is transmitted to the Senate for approval.

 

Defensor said he will ask President Gloria Arroyo to certify the passage of the budget as urgent so the rehabilitation can start.

 

“Hopefully the House can pass the budget in the plenary before we go on break next week. And we expect the Senate to pass it January 2009 so we can start the rehabilitation March or April,” Defensor said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MEMBERS of the Iloilo City Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) can still be held liable for the alleged substandard rifles purchased for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team even if the supplier has refunded the City government.

 

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said the fact that R. Espineli Trading decided to return more than P600,000 to the City Hall does not exonerate BAC members from any legal responsibility relative to the rifles deal.

 

City treasurer Katherine Tingson confirmed that Roberto Herbolario of R. Espineli has refunded the city P638,839.32 as indicated in Official Receipt No. 3132947 after the media exposed the five defective rifles the firm sold to City Hall.

 

Tingson said the rifles are still in their vault as only the General Services Office (GSO) headed by Agustin Sangrador can return the items to R. Espineli.

 

Bedonia said the BAC should have conducted a post qualification audit by test firing a sample of the rifles before the committee awarded the contract to R. Espineli.

 

The post qualification audit is done after the BAC has determined the lowest bidder and before the contract is awarded to the winner.

 

Bedonia said the post qualification audit is the most important phase of the bidding process as this will ascertain if the bidder followed the specifications set by the BAC as regards the items to be purchased.

 

The DBM official said a gun expert representing the BAC should be present in the test firing.

 

A representative from the end user, in this case the SWAT, should also be present in all BAC meetings to guide the committee on the details of the rifles, Bedonia added.

 

Bedonia said the GSO can also be held liable for accepting the alleged substandard rifles without any test firing.

 

The Sangguniang Panlungsod the other day passed a resolution requesting Sangrador and his two supply officers, City Administrator Melchor Tan, and the City Treasurer’s Office’s (CTO) in-charge of cash division where the rifles were kept in the vault for a closed door executive session at the vice-mayor conference room 9am of Dec. 16.

 

Councilor Erwin Plagata, who authored the resolution, said they will be forced to relay the rifles issue to the Ombudsman if said officials don’t attend the meeting.

 

The City Council will conduct an investigation to know whether there were irregularities on the bidding process of the substandard rifles.

 

The alleged substandard rifles were exposed in the media after SWAT members complained before the City Council appropriations committee that the firearms’ target sight cannot be zeroed-in while the paint flaked when scratched.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

SEVERAL members of the Iloilo Sangguniang Panlalawigan have been offered concessions by Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in a bid to realign the majority in the provincial board relative to the ongoing budget wars.

 

A capitol insider who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter said five provincial members met with Tupas the last two days to discuss the 2009 annual budget, which the governor vetoed, and the 10% salary increase for provincial government employees.

 

Among those who met Tupas were board members Jett Rojas, Mariano Malones, Macario Napulan, Richard Garin and Cecilia Colada. The five SP members are aligned with the opposition led by Vice Governor Rolex Suplico.

 

According to the source, the board members were offered 100% salary increase and “pork barrels” next year if they shift their alliance to the Tupas administration.

 

Tupas only has three allies in the provincial board – Rodolfo Cabado, Shalene Hidalgo and June Mondejar.

 

Apparently, Tupas is wooing the board members to avert a possible override of his veto on the approved 2009 annual budget which he called as confusing and filled with errors.

 

The governor is also rallying support to pass the 2008 budget and grant the 10% salary increase for capitol workers before the year ends.

 

Malones in a radio interview said he will decide on the budget issues based on public welfare instead of political affiliation.

 

Malones said he the majority has made “unsound decisions” in the past which affected the delivery of services to their constituents.

 

Suplico said he will find out if there will be major changes in the SP “since this is a numbers game.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ARE the bullets issued to the PNP Regional Mobile Group (RMG-6) based in Victorias City, Negros Occidental substandard?

 

This question will be answered once the Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco) has finished evaluating the live M-16 bullets issued to RMG-6 members found in the ambush site at Brgy. Estado, Victorias City Wednesday afternoon.

 

The ambush mounted by the New People’s Army resulted in the death of PO1 Jean Tacadao of San Lorenzo, Guimaras and wounded Police Officers 1 Annie Lou Patricio, Jocelyn Tibar, Marife Cantomayor and Melanie Tupas.

 

Reports from Bacolod City said Supt. Remus Zacharias Canieso, RMG-6 director, only had magazine left in his M-16 Armalite rifle when reinforcements arrived at the ambush scene.

 

Canieso and the surviving RMG-6 members said most of their bullets did not fire as they fought back the rebels.

 

But Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office-6 director, said they cannot conclude yet if the bullets issued to the RMG-6 were substandard amidst reports these were manufactured in China.

 

Cuevas said they are evaluating the ammunitions and other possible factors why the bullets did not fire.

 

The PRO-6 chief said suppliers of bullets and firearms comply with the standards set by the PNP national command.

 

“Everything is being looked into right now. There are many factors that might have resulted in the dud bullets. We can’t conclude that these ammunitions are substandard. We are evaluating all possible causes,” he added.

 

Cuevas yesterday awarded the PNP Wounded Personnel Medals to the four injured RMG members for their bravery during ambush.

 

The awarding was held at the Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in Bacolod City where the wounded police officers are recuperating.

 

Cuevas also ordered the whole PRO-6 to stay alert for future rebel attacks as the Communist Party of the Philippines is set to celebrate its anniversary December 26.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

TEN women believed to be victims of human trafficking were rescued from a nightspot disguised as a boarding house in Iloilo City proper Thursday morning.

 

Combined forces of the Iloilo City Task Force Adams Apple, PNP Women and Children’s Concern Desk (WCCD), City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and Visayan Forum mounted the operation on Partners’ Place at Brgy. Sto. Rosario-Duran, Iloilo City.

 

Councilor Ely Estante, TF Adams Apple chair, said they received information from four other women earlier rescued from the same establishment that several minors and a pregnant woman were allegedly employed in Partners’ Place as commercial sex workers (CSWs).

 

Nine of the rescued women are natives of Mandaue City, Cebu while one is from Bacolod City.

 

Estante said Mandaue City Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna coordinated with Mayor Jerry Treñas about the plight of his constituents in Iloilo City.

 

Information relayed to the rescue team indicated that the women were recruited by persons identified only as Jerry and Gemma to work in Iloilo only to end up as CSWs.

 

Estante said the standard fee of each woman is P1,200, half of which will go to the woman while the other half goes to the manager.

 

Estante added Partners’ Place has a boarding house permit instead of a nightspot. The owner of the establishment is out of the country, according to the rescue team.

 

The rescued women were investigated by the WCCD before they were turned over to the CSWDO which will temporarily shelter them at the Visayan Forum, a non-governmental organization crusading against human trafficking, facility.

 

Estante said Fortuna will arrive in Iloilo City Saturday to facilitate the return trip of the rescued women to Cebu.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

GOVERNOR Niel Tupas Sr. has vetoed the 2009 annual budget approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last month.

 

In his veto letter to the SP dated December 2, Tupas said he will “return Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-05 embodying the 2009 Annual Appropriation for the Province of Iloilo and Approving the Annual Investment Plan with a veto on the entire legislative measure.”

 

The governor said the provincial board approved the annual budget in haste which resulted in “confusion and chaos.”

 

“It is often said that haste makes waste. Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-05 is a perfect example. The ordinance was enacted, and submitted to this Office, with a swiftness that is enviable for a piece of legislation. It was submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on October 15, 2008. A little over a month later, on November 18, 2008, the appropriation ordinance was enacted. The following morning, it was already submitted to my Office,” Tupas said.

 

Tupas claimed the appropriation measure is defective for it failed to meet the requirements set by the Updated Budget Operations Manual (UBOM) for Local Government Units.

 

“The blunders committed are very fundamental. The Ordinance summarizes only lump sum amounts for each department/office, and does not specify how much is intended for personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses and capital outlay,” Tupas said.

 

The governor said AO 2008-05 violated Item 6.2.2 of the UBOM for LGUs which provides that an appropriation ordinance “shall contain a provision summarizing the sources of revenues, other receipts and borrowings, if any, to finance the budget, and the magnitude of expenditures authorized by the Sanggunian, preferably by office/department, broken down by allotment class and categorized as either economic, social or general services.”

 

Implementing the annual budget, Tupas said, would be technically difficult, and legally infeasible.

 

“Aside from the rudimentary blunders aforementioned, the format is chaotic and confusing. Even the figures as presented are wrong. For instance, the estimated revenue from Professional Taxes is pegged at P365,000,000. The error is committed twice in the document. When you add up the numbers for revenue, you get a different sum,” he added.

 

The governor requested the committee on appropriations chaired by his nephew Vice Governor Rolex Suplico to re-examine the budget and make the necessary corrections before it is submitted back to his office for approval.

 

“Let me caution each and every member that an override of the veto will not rectify the blunders made,” Tupas said.

 

Suplico said he needs to read the veto letter to find out the specific defects pointed out by the governor.

 

“My office has not received any veto letter from the Office of the Governor. In short, media has the veto letter but not my office or the SP. This is the same thing that happened with respect to the DBM letter reviewing the 10% salary increase – media had a copy ahead of my office and the SP. We got our copy of the DBM letter from media,” Suplico said.

 

Suplico said the governor should prove why the 2009 budget is prejudicial to public interest and goes beyond the bounds of law.

 

The provincial board will tackle the veto letter when it convenes Friday. Aside from the veto, the board will also discuss possible measures to implement the 10% salary increase for capitol workers after the previous appropriations ordinance was declared inoperative by the Department of Budget and Management.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A MEMBER of the PNP Regional Mobile Group (RMG-6) based in Victorias City, Negros Occidental was killed while four others were wounded in an ambush by alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) Wednesday afternoon.

 

The ambush happened at Brgy. Estado, Victorias City which is considered a rebel-infested area.

 

The fatality was identified as PO1 Jean Tacadao who died of multiple gunshot wounds in her body.

 

Wounded were police officers Anilu Patricio, Melanie Tupas, Marife Cantomayor and Jocelyn Quebar.

 

The RMG-6 team headed by Supt. Remus Canieso were on-board a Toyota Hi-Lux patrol when the rebels waylaid them.

 

Canieso and his team were on their way to Sagay City to deploy more personnel in the area when the ambush happened.

 

Canieso said the rebels used M-14 Garand and M-16 Armalite rifles.

 

The Negros Provincial Police Office and the Philippine Army in Negros Occidental continue to chase the NPA rebels as of this writing.

 

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will strictly regulate transporting of firecrackers from Iloilo to Guimaras and Negros Island onboard ships.

 

Commander Harold Jarder, PCG-Iloilo station commander, issued the order as part of safety measures on ships and pump boats plying Guimaras and Bacolod City.

 

Jarder warned firecracker manufacturers against transporting pyrotechnics on board sea vessels as these pose grave dangers to the lives of other passengers.

 

The PCG head said firecracker manufacturers and traders should secure permits from the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) before moving their goods on board ships and pump boats.

 

Despite the permits, Jarder said they will still regulate the volume of firecrackers to be loaded on ships to avoid sea accidents.

 

The Arevalo district is considered as the firecracker capital of the city and province of Iloilo because of the large number of pyrotechnic factories located mostly in households. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A MEMBER of the Iloilo City Bids and Awards Committee who received the controversial rifles for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team is said to be eluding members of the City Council probing the transaction.

 

This even as more discrepancies were discovered by the City Council in the transaction surrounding the firearms.

 

Agustin Sangrador, chief of the General Services Office (GSO), was nowhere to be found and cannot be reached by Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and Councilor Erwin Plagata Monday.

 

Mabilog and Plagata initially asked Sangrador about the location of the five assault rifles, which the City Hall bought for the SWT team, to examine and verify its make and authenticity.

 

The City Council wanted to probe the actual rifles as part of its executive session to determine if the transaction should be investigated in aid of legislation.

 

Mabilog said Sangrador told him that the rifles were kept in the vault of the Iloilo City treasurer.

 

“Treasurer Kate Tingson confirmed that the rifles were in the vault but she said only the GSO can retrieve the rifles. A certain Ricky of the GSO was the one who brought the rifles to the treasurer’s office. We tried to reach Sangrador at his office and his cellphone but he was out of reach already. Then a GSO staff told us that she will try to contact Sangrador,” Mabilog said.

 

Sangrador was the one who received the rifles from Roberto Herbolario of R. Espineli Trading last October 16, 2008.

 

Councilor Perla Zulueta said she was not surprised by Sangrador’s actions after she exposed questionable elements in the purchase of the rifles.

 

Zulueta yesterday outlined to The Daily Guardian more discrepancies in the rifles’ specifications indicated in the purchase order (PO) and the official Olympic Arms website.

 

Olympic Arms is the manufacturer of the five rifles which are classified in its online catalog as K23B ‘Stubby.”

 

The lady councilor said she noticed that the rifles’ barrel length in the website was 22.5 inches while in the PO issued by the BAC the length was only 21 inches.

 

The weight of the rifle in the Olympic website was 5.45 lbs. but in the PO it was 5.5 lbs.

 

“Based on the specifications we got, the original rifle is lighter and longer compared to what the City government bought which were short and heavy,” Zulueta said.

 

It was also found out that the original rifles are semi-automatic, not full automatic as indicated in the PO. The twist or grooves inside the barrel were also different: the original Olympic Arms specification showed the rifle twist is 1×7 while the SWAT rifles have 1×9 twists.

 

Zulueta said she sent an email to Olympic Arms to find out if R. Espineli is one of its accredited suppliers in the country.

 

The lady councilor earlier exposed that the insurance policy used by the supplier for the five assault rifles is good for public works, not a firearms bond.

 

The transaction is also deemed under insured, Zulueta said, because the bond was only P202,500 while the contract price was P675,000.

 

Plagata said he will send a letter to Sangrador asking why he eluded the councilors Monday.

 

“We will exhaust all procedures before we begin a full-blown investigation in this matter,” Plagata said.

 

SWAT rifles deal fishy

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE transaction surrounding the purchase of the supposed substandard automatic rifles for the Iloilo City Special Weapons and Tactics team is riddled with questions.

 

In an interview with The Daily Guardian on Air over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, Councilor Perla Zulueta said it appears in the bidding abstract that only one contractor, R. Espineli, joined the bidding for the five AR-15 rifles last March 2008.

 

A certain Bert Herbolario from Bacolod City represented Espineli in the bidding conducted by the Iloilo City Bids and Awards Committee headed by Atty. Edgardo Gil.

 

The other members of the BAC are city administrator Melchor Tan, executive assistant to the city mayor Francis Te, Ninda Atinado and General Services Office chief Agustin Sangrador.

 

The bidding papers also showed the five rifles cost P135,000 each, not P139,000 as claimed by a SWAT member who appeared before the City Council’s budget hearing last November 21.

 

The request for purchase of the five rifles was made last February by then SWAT head Chief Insp. Kim Legada while the bidding was held last March.

 

Espinelli won the contract and delivered the rifles October 16. The City Government then paid the contractor P675,000 March 29.

 

UNDER INSURED

 

What surprised Zulueta is the performance bond and warranty of the rifles underwritten by Sterling Insurance Co. managed by Dama de Noche Gordoncillo.

 

Instead of the usual firearms bond, the insurance only covered construction contracts of public works. Worse, the bond was signed October 10, 2008 but it already expired February 2008 or 10 months ago.

 

“This is fraudulent. This was deliberate. How can they fix this when the City government signed an expired insurance policy which only covers public works contracts?” Zulueta said.

 

Zulueta also pointed out the bond’s insured amount is not enough to cover the contract price of the SWAT rifles.

 

“This transaction is under-insured because the contract price is P675,000 but the insurance is only P202,500,” she said.

 

The insufficient bond and insurance will somehow affect the Iloilo City government’s plan to have the supplier replace the alleged defective rifles, Zulueta said.

 

The alleged substandard AR-15 rifles surfaced after SWAT members complained that it was impossible to zero-in the target sights of the firearms.

 

Councilor Erwin Plagata said aside from the defective sights, he also noticed that the body paint of the rifles flaked when scratched.

 

Zulueta said gun experts who saw the controversial rifles noticed that the lower receiver of the firearms, which includes the grip, magazine feed, trigger, serial number and other details of the gun “look fake.”

 

When asked if who is to be blamed for the SWAT rifles transaction, the lady councilor said the BAC should answer for the supposed irregularities because it is the agency which examined the bid documents of Espineli.

 

Zulueta said she would rather that the contractor returns the money paid by the City Government for the rifles although she “cannot second guess the attitude of Espineliand Herbolario.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MAYOR Raul “Boboy” Tupas of Barotac Viejo, Iloilo brushed aside stories that his fellow mayors have abandoned him in his reported bid for Iloilo governorship in 2010.

 

This was Tupas’s reaction to a report that majority of Iloilo mayors preferred to meet Rep. Arthur Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo) last November 19 instead of joining a dinner with Senator Mar Roxas.

 

Tupas is reportedly running for governor opposite Defensor who will attempt a comeback in the Iloilo Capitol after finishing his three 3-year terms as congressman.

 

Tupas said their original intention was to meet Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri at the sidelines of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) national convention November 19-21.

 

The proposed meeting with Zubiri, which was discussed during the LMP-Iloilo 11th regular meeting in Lambunao a week before the national convention, will focus on the senator’s P500,000 financial aid to each Iloilo mayor.

 

“We discussed the meeting in the house of Lambunao Mayor Reynor Gonzales where we decided to convince Senator Zubiri to write the Department of Public Works and Highways that the mayors will forge memoranda of agreement with his office so that the municipalities will implement projects using his aid,” Tupas said.

 

Tupas said a total of 26 Iloilo mayors attended the national convention held at the Manila Hotel.

 

On November 18, a staff of Roxas called Tupas and invited LMP-Iloilo members to a dinner at the senator’s residence in Cubao, Quezon City.

 

Since they were already committed to meet Zubiri at the Emerald Hotel, Tupas said he told Roxas’ staff that they will just catch up.

 

Incidentally, Reps. Defensor and Ferj Biron (4th district, Iloilo) also called up the mayors to a meeting also at the Emerald Hotel, Tupas said.

 

“We were put in a quandary because some of the mayors told me that they will meet their respective congressmen. Our original intention was to meet Senator Zubiri because of his financial aid. But Mina Mayor Rey Grabato later said that we will honor the invitation of the congressmen and will try to catch up with the dinner with Senator Roxas,” he said.

 

The mayor said they later decided that he and Mayor Carlos Cabangal will go ahead at the Roxas residence while their fellow chief executives will meet Zubiri and the congressmen.

 

In his recollection of what his fellow mayors told him, Defensor, Biron, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, former Senate president Manny Villar and his wife Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar met the Iloilo mayors at Emerald Hotel.

 

“The other mayors said politics was not discussed in their meeting with the congressman because their main purpose was to see Senator Zubiri. It just so happened that the congressmen decided to hold their meeting at the Emerald Hotel also when they learned that we will meet with the senator,” Tupas said.

 

Tupas said he did not insist or pressure his fellow mayors to meet Roxas at their family’s “White House” in Cubao.

 

“I told them that they can catch if they want to. Pressuring other people is not my style,” Tupas said.

 

Tupas said the meeting with Roxas pushed through November 20 with 15 mayors joining them. Some of the mayors, he added, were also identified with Defensor.

 

“I just told them that those who want to come are welcome to join us in the meeting,” Tupas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

LOOMING power and water crises are bugging the Iloilo City government this holiday season.

For one, the National Power Corp. (Napocor) has yet to install the 15 units of modular diesel power generator in Iloilo City to augment the metropolis’ electricity. With this, Mayor Jerry Treñas said he is apprehensive power blackouts will occur when the city celebrates Christmas and New Year.

Last year, the whole metropolis was plunged in darkness but Panay Electric Co. (Peco) and Panay Power Corp. said the outages were man-made and technical in nature.

The generator sets supposed to be installed before December in a Peco-owned lot at Brgy. Bolilao, Mandurriao are part of Napocor’s commitment to the city to supply 15 megawatts of power through a direct interconnection agreement with Peco mandated by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Early this year, Napocor installed the first batch of the same 15 generator sets at the Capiz Electric Cooperative compound in Panit-an, Capiz to augment power supply in the province and parts of northern Iloilo.

This is in response to the order of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the Department of Energy and Napocor to solve the acute power shortage in Panay, especially in Iloilo City.

Meanwhile, Panay Power Corp. continues as the main supplier of electricity to Iloilo City which has currently a peak demand of 76MW. This December, the city’s power demand may exceed 90MW.

Aside from power shortage, the City government is also grappling with acute water shortage. The problem is more pronounced in the 11 Waterfront barangays who were supposed to meet the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) board of directors around 2pm Thursday. The meeting did not push through as the punong barangays walked out after an hour of waiting for the directors to meet them.

The meeting was aimed at resolving the water shortage at the Waterfront whose residents are now restive over MIWD’s minimum fee of P159. Residents said no water comes out of their faucets but they continue to pay the water firm.

Punong Barangay Roberto Divinagracia said Waterfront barangays are forced to buy water by the gallons from private sources.

Divinagracia, president of the Association of Barangay Captains-Iloilo City proper district, said they will make a position letter asking MIWD to waive the minimum fee until normal water supply returns to the waterfront area.

BILLING POLICY

In a news release issued yesterday, the MIWD issued a new billing policy on areas that have no water supply.

In consonance with the resolution passed by the MIWD board of directors the other day. the water firm decided to condone the payment of water bills in some MIWD service areas experiencing water shortage.

Engr. Edgar Calasara, MIWD officer-in-charge, said water bills which have zero to five cubic meter (0-5cu. m.) consumption reading shall not be delivered anymore provided that the water district’s engineering department certifies that such area has no water for the period.

Water bills that were delivered to concessionaires shall not be paid provided that said billing bears 0-5 cu. m. consumption reading and are certified by the Engineering Department as within an area without water supply for the period.

If the consumer has paid the bill in any authorized MIWD collecting banks or payment outlets, the amount shall be retained and considered advanced payment for future water bills.

Calasara said the policies shall be effective November 1 to December 31, 2008, unless extended by another board resolution.

He, however, said that consumers in areas where there is a steady supply of water are obliged to pay their monthly water bills.

Calasara also assured the consumers that MIWD is doing everything to fast track the permanent repair of its damaged pipe and the ongoing cleaning of its reservoir in order to restore water in areas where there is intermittent supply, particularly in Jaro and the Waterfront.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo City government has recalled from the Iloilo City Special Weapons and Tactics team the five AR-15 rifles that were found to be substandard.

Councilor Erwin Plagata, committee on police matters chair, said Mayor Jerry Treñas ordered the recall of the rifles upon learning that these were defective.

Each rifle bought last October by the Iloilo City government to augment the SWAT’s firepower costs P139,000 each.

Plagata said the paint of the rifles was flaking while the body bore machine scratches.

“The body paint flakes when scratched lightly. Maybe ordinary spray paint was used on the rifle,” Plagata said.

Plagata also related when the SWAT members tried to zero in the rifle sights in a firing range in Pototan, Iloilo.

“When they aimed at the center of the paper target, the bullet was off the target by one to two feet. There is really something wrong with the rifles. If you use this rifle, you will not be confident enough to hit your target,” Plagata said.    

Councilor Perla Zulueta said the supplier of the rifles was a certain R. Espinelli Trading based on the papers she secured.

The manufacturer of the rifles is Olympic Arms, Inc., a leading maker of rifles, Carbines and pistols in the US.

Plagata said the SWAT members are apprehensive they might be accused of switching the rifles with old guns if they did not expose the supposed defects.

He added the City Government can demand from the supplier replacements for the supposed substandard rifles.

The City Council discovered the substandard firearms during a hearing of the committee on appropriations last week when a SWAT member complained they cannot zero in the sights.

M-16 Armalite rifles for SWAT substandard

 

By Jeehan V. Fernandez and Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

AT LEAST five M-16 armalites bought by the Iloilo City Government in October for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team are considered substandard, Councilor Erwin Plagata said.

 

SWAT is a specialized police group that deals with incidents like robbery, hostage-taking and bomb threats.

 

Plagata, chair of the City Council’s committee on police matters, said there have been “reports that firearms purchased by the City Government and given to SWAT seem to be not performing properly – these might be copycats and not original.”

 

Plagata raised the possibility during the City Council’s discussion on the P336,000 budget for the purchase of additional firearms for the city police.

 

The allocation for the new firearms is included in the P73-million supplemental budget which the City Council approved Wednesday.

 

The procurement of Armalite rifles last month cost the City Hall P139,000. It was not immediately clear, however, who was the supplier of the firearms.

 

“SWAT members are complaining that the firearms might be substandard. The guns cannot be zeroed in, thus it cannot hit the target when fired,” Plagata explained.

 

Based on a report submitted to him, Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, OIC-director of the Iloilo City Police Office, said it was PO1 Remaria Fuentebella of the SWAT team who reported the supposed defective rifles to the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

 

Fuentebella told the committee on appropriations during a public hearing November 21 that the actual rifles they received did not match the specifications in the purchase request from the City Hall.

 

Fuentebella also told Councilors Plagata, Jose Espinosa III, Perla Zulueta and Eduardo Peñaredondo about the defective sights of the rifles.

 

Tobias said he has ordered their supply section to verify Fuentebella’s claims by checking the rifles.

 

“Issuing substandard rifles to the SWAT is dangerous. If there is a hostage situation, our SWAT members might hit the hostage instead of the hostage taker because of defective rifle sights. Our officers will also be in danger because they will find it difficult to hit the enemy,” Tobias said.

 

Tobias said City Hall may recall the alleged defective rifles and hire an independent expert to check if the guns meet the standards.

 

“These rifles are owned by the City government, not the PNP. They can always retrieve the rifles if the city wants to,” Tobias said.

 

The city’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) will look into the alleged defective firearms.

 

‘No firing tests, no acceptance’

 

Mayor Jerry Treñas wants “firing tests” before City Hall accepts additional new rifles from the supplier who won the bidding for the supply of firearms to the City Government.

 

“If the firearms delivered are not acceptable to the end user, we have to return these to the supplier. The BAC might have no knowledge of this specialized equipment. Though the firearms are covered by one-year warranty,” Treñas explained.

 

“There should be a firing test with the presence of the supplier so that if there are complaints on the firearms, these could be returned immediately.”

 

Meanwhile, he directed the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to look into the reported substandard M-16 armalite rifles given to the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team last month.

 

The mayor said City Legal Office (CLO) chief, Atty. Edgar Gil as BAC chair will write the supplier about the defective firearms.

 

The City Council approved P336,000 Wednesday for the purchase of additional firearms.

 

Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog said that some 100 of the 700 city police personnel render service without firearms.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE two Army soldiers who caused a commotion inside a nightspot in downtown Iloilo City Thursday are in danger of being dismissed from service.

 

Colonel David Tan, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID), said their higher command will have no qualms dismissing PFC Dave Cabrera and Private Joedexter Eudela.

 

Cabrera, 21, of Calamba, Laguna and Eudela, 23, of Dao, Capiz are still detained at the Iloilo City Police Station 1 after berating several guest relations officers of Lady Anne KTV Bar.

 

Cabrera and Eudela, who are attached to the 3rd ID, are also accused of pointing their caliber .45 pistols at the security personnel of the said bar and fired their guns at the approaching police officers.

 

The duo berated the GROs when they refused to dance naked in front of them.

 

Tan said they will subject the two soldiers to administrative investigation once they are released from detention.

 

If proven that they indeed harassed the bar personnel and the police, Cabrera and Eudela can be dismissed from military, Tan added.

 

Tan is also questioning how Cabrera and Eudela got caliber .45 pistols because the Army does not issue such firearms to enlisted personnel.

 

The Army spokesman said they cannot tolerate such acts.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo Sangguniang Panlalawigan will study available options for the implementation of the 10% salary increase for provincial government workers.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said he asked the SP Secretariat and his office staff to study the next move they will make after the Department of Budge and Management (DBM) declared as inoperative Appropriations Ordinance 2008-02.

 

AO 2008-02 authorizes Governor Niel Tupas to release some P37 million for the 10% salary increase and other benefits of regular capitol employees.

 

Suplico said he also asked provincial board members last night to move the December 2 session to December 5.

 

“This will allow the executive time to either prepare a new proposed 2008 budget or to study the newly-approved 2009 budget until the last day, December 4,” Suplico said.

 

The vice governor said he only got a copy of the DBM letter from the media.

 

DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya based his decision on the fact that the Iloilo provincial government is operating on the 2007 reenacted budget. This after the DBM also declared as inoperative AOs 2008-01-a, which pertains to the 2008 annual budget, and 2008-01-b involving the Internal Revenue Allocation development fund.

 

Andaya said AO 2008-02 provides supplemental appropriations “which is not allowed in the absence of the Fiscal Year 2008 annual budget of the province.”

 

Andaya said there are two options left for the province: include the 10% salary increase in the new 2008 annual budget of the province that is in conformity with this Department’s review findings under letters dated June 18, 2008 and June 30, 2008; or through a supplemental budget after the enactment of the aforementioned annual budget.

DBM nixes Capitol’s 10% salary increase

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Capitol employees are facing a bleak Christmas after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) thumbed down the appropriation ordinance allocating some P37 million for their 10 percent salary increase and other benefits.

 

In a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya declared Appropriations Ordinance 2008-02 as inoperative in its entirety.

 

Andaya based his decision on the fact that the Iloilo provincial government is operating on the 2007 reenacted budget after the DBM also declared as inoperative AOs 2008-01-a, which pertains to the 2008 annual budget,  and 2008-01-b involving the Internal Revenue Allocation development fund.

 

Citing the implementing rules and regulations of the Local Government Code, Andaya said no ordinance authorizing supplemental appropriations shall be passed in place of annual appropriations.

 

“Inasmuch as AO No. 2008-02 provides supplemental appropriations, it may not be allowed in the absence of the Fiscal Year 2008 annual budget of the province,” Andaya said.

 

But the provincial government can still implement the 10 percent increase embodied in Local Budget Circular No. 88, the DBM chief said.

 

How?

 

“In this case, the remedy of the province to provide for the 10 percent increase in salary and associated benefits of its officials and employees from July 1 to December 31, 2008 is to include the same in the new FY 2008 annual budget of the province that is in conformity with this Department’s review findings under letters dated June 18, 2008 and June 30, 2008, or through a supplemental budget after the enactment of the aforementioned annual budget,” Andaya said.

 

Provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they will follow the suggestion of the DBM by submitting the 2008 executive budget, which will include appropriations for the 10 percent salary increase, to the SP.

 

“It is now up to the Sanggunian to act if ever the 2008 budget is submitted for their deliberation and approval. In the spirit of Christmas and New Year, we appeal to Vice Governor Rolex Suplico to cooperate and give what is due to the Capitol employees. If the vice governor remains adamant, maybe our board members can decide in favor of the welfare of our workers,” Mejorada said.

 

Mejorada said Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and provincial budget officer Elena Lim went to the DBM central office in Metro Manila to find ways to implement the increase.

 

He added that aside from the salary increase, the new 2008 proposed budget will include cash gifts for barangay service point officers, barangay health workers and other volunteer workers.       

 

Suplico declined to comment as he has not received an official copy of the DBM letter.

 

“I will first wait for the official copy to reach my office and study the points raised by Secretary Andaya which became the basis for his decision to declare the ordinance inoperative,” Suplico said.  

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