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Ombudsman can’t act on airport anomaly issue

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap

THE Office of the Ombudsman has not received a copy of the House committee report on the alleged irregularities in the new Iloilo airport project reason why it has yet to investigate the matter.

Sources at the Ombudsman regional office in Iloilo City headed by Atty. Evangeline Nuñal, Associate Graft Investigation Officer I, said the House committee on good government has not furnished their office or the Ombudsman central office a copy of Committee Report No. 1676.

The Ombudsman personnel said Rep. Arthur Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo), then committee on good government chair, is the best person to ask why the committee report was not forwarded to them.

In a phone interview, Rep. Defensor said a copy of the committee report was submitted to Ombudsman-Iloilo so they can investigate the findings.

Defensor said he did not bother to follow up the progress of the investigation to avoid malice.

Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, who also participated in the committee investigation, said a copy of the report was submitted to Ombudsman Visayas based in Cebu.

Suplico is also wondering why the Ombudsman has yet to resolve the case based on the committee findings two years ago.

“I urge the Ombudsman to act on this matter. It’s been two years since the report was submitted for their action,” Suplico said.

Sources familiar with the issue said the Ombudsman-Visayas is set to resolve the new Iloilo airport issue within the next two weeks.

The Daily Guardian tried to get confirmation from deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol but to no avail.

QUARRY DUMMIES

TDG discovered this predicament while following up reports that the Ombudsman is set to resolve the airport anomaly issue based on the findings of Committee Report No. 1676.

The committee report, which was approved May 2006 yet, said there is sufficient ground to prosecute Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when the latter allowed his in-laws, the Montesclaros family of Bukidnon province, to join the burrow pit and rock-crushing operations of the project.

The report said the Montesclaros family earned more or less P60 million from its forays in the airport project through alleged dummy Melvin Requinto.

The Defensor-led committee then recommended furnishing copies of Committee Report No. 1676 to the Office of the Ombudsman and Department of Justice for further investigation on the issues raised against Tupas.

Tupas had disputed the committee report saying no irregularity was found in the construction of the airport.

Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said what was cited in the report was the long dead “dummy” issue against Tupas.

The committee on good government also found out that Tupas and his allies in the 8th Sangguniang Panlalawigan intentionally emasculated the provincial quarry ordinance so that the governor will have the sole power to issue quarry permits to favored contractors.

“It may be argued that under Section 43 of Republic Act 7942, the Governor is given sufficient authority to grant a quarry permit as long as the applicant complies with all the requirements prescribed therefore and he may cancel the same as long as the holder is given the opportunity to be heard in investigation conducted for the purpose. In fact, the (quarry) ordinance of 2000 already covered the whole gamut of activities in the extraction of minerals and quarrying. If indeed the ordinance needed refinements, doing away with the necessary checks in the issuance of permits serves no useful purpose and provides the tempting opportunity for abuse,” the committee report said.

The issue of the “weakened quarry ordinance” prompted the committee on good government to propose amendments to the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

“The necessary check should be in place to regulate the issuance of small and large-scale quarrying permits to prevent abuse by the executives of local government units in the exercise of their authority,” the report said.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (COA) gave its nod to the land swap deal between the Iloilo City government and property developer Megaworld Corp. relative to the construction of the New City Hall.

Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, head of a City Hall task force negotiating with Megaworld, said COA found no legal impediments to the land swap deal which will pave the way for the construction of the new City Hall.

Megaworld has offered part of the old airport lot in Mandurriao district as the future site of the new government center. The firm also broached the idea of constructing the building using the P350-million loan City Hall has obtained from the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Mayor Jerry Treñas then tasked Mabilog to negotiate with Megaworld and study the legality of the firm’s offer.

Mabilog said the land swap deal must be advantageous to the City government in terms of the area and value.

“The property that Megaworld is offering must either be equal to or more than what the City government is willing to swap. And the land swap deal must first be approved by COA before it can be consummated,” Mabilog said.

The vice mayor said the city government needs more or less 8,000 square meters on which to build the new City Hall.

The city government is planning to swap the old city hall site across Plaza Libertad with a parcel of Megaworld’s property in Mandurriao.

Mabilog said they have asked the help of the City Assessor’s Office to evaluate the pieces of properties which will be swapped between the City Hall and Megaworld.

“Once the COA has approved the land swap deal, the Sangguniang Panlungsod will authorize the mayor to close the deal with Megaworld,” he added.

As regards Megaworld’s offer to construct the new City Hall, Mabilog said COA stressed the need of a competitive bidding among interested contractors based on procurement laws.

“The construction will not be exclusive to Megaworld. It must bid with other contractors if it wants to handle the project. The P350-million loan will still be used to put up the building. The winning contractor will be paid phase by phase depending on their progress and compliance with the program of works,” the vice mayor said.

The New City Hall has been delayed due to budgetary concerns triggered by escalating prices of construction materials which jacked up budget estimates by 22 percent to P463-million from the initial P379-million.

Mabilog said Megaworld is willing to handle the project using the P350-million DBP loan “without sacrificing the integrity and stability of the new building.”

“Megaworld has a good track record in terms of constructing office buildings. They are willing to undertake the project using the available funds,” Mabilog added.

Mabilog said they have been carefully studying Megaworld’s offer to avoid legal problems.

“Bacolod City did finish its new government center earlier than Iloilo City. But Bacolod City officials are also facing cases before the Ombudsman and we don’t want that to happen here.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

DEPARTMENT of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. has yet to receive the petition for review filed by the family of slain vice mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo.

Gonzalez said the petition has not been forwarded to his table since it was filed two months ago.

Gonzalez said he will order a review once it is endorsed to his office.

The Rojas family and the Ajuy police headed by Insp. Ariel Artillero filed the petition for review a month ago after the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office junked the murder charges against businessman Vicente “Etik” Espinosa and Lindsey “Bebe” Buenavista.

Espinosa is the alleged mastermind of the assassination of vice mayor Rojas last May at the town proper of Ajuy.

Buenavista is believed to be the one who handled alleged gunmen Edgar Cordero and Dennis “Totong” Cartagena.

While Espinosa and Buenavista were exonerated of the charges, the prosecutor elevated the case against Cordero and Cartagena to the Regional Trial Court.

But the provincial prosecutor said Espinosa and Buenavista can be charged again if there is new evidence directly linking them to the assassination.

Cordero was shot to death in Butuan City early this month in what is believed to be a set up allegedly staged by Buenavista and a certain Jose Bahadi.

Cartagena survived the attacked and tagged Espinosa as the one who paid them to kill the vice mayor.

Cartagena is now detained at the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center amid heavy security.

Board member Jett Rojas, a cousin of the slain vice mayor, accompanied one of the children of vice mayor Rojas to the DOJ office to ask Gonzalez to speed up the resolution of the petition for review.

BM Rojas said they have been complaining of the slow development in the case despite the evidence against the accused.

He also hit the provincial prosecutor for dragging its feet on the murder of Neoyet Penepona where Espinosa was also implicated as the alleged mastermind.

“But with the arrest and testimony of Cartagena, we hope that the case will move on,” board member Rojas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) needs additional personnel and testing centers in the country to monitor and examine food items imported in the country, an Ilonggo congressman said.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said BFAD must beef up its workforce to thoroughly monitor the market for banned items, particularly milk from China believed to be contaminated with melamine which causes kidney stones.

Biron said there are only 370 food and drug regulation officers (FDROs) assigned all over the country which makes it difficult for the agency to monitor food, drugs and cosmetic items in the Philippines.

BFAD only has one testing center based in Alabang, Makati City which means all tests must be done in Metro Manila.

“BFAD does not have enough personnel to monitor the compliance of food items, medicines among others to standards set by the World Health Organization,” the congressman added.

Biron, who is a doctor by profession, said he co-sponsored the BFAD Strengthening Bill in the House of Representatives which aims to triple the number of FDROs in the country.

The bill also seeks to allocate P1 billion for the construction testing centers in key cities of the country to hasten the examination of suspected contaminated and or substandard items.

Despite the lack in manpower and logistics, Biron lauded the BFAD for working overtime to monitor and ban milk products suspected to be laced with melamine.

“While they lack people, BFAD is capable to test products. The agency has been doing this job well so far. It is not customary for the BFAD to check all products imported in the country. What they conduct are random tests only. The agency relies on reports from countries where these products originated,” Biron added.

With the China milk scare gripping the Philippines and other parts of the world, Biron advised the BFAD to issue specific guidelines on what milk products must be banned after comprehensive tests.

“The BFAD must also act with prudence to protect businesses as not all milk brands are contaminated,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE “Black Friday” affair of Iloilo capitol workers will be prolonged as Governor Niel Tupas had asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to declare as inoperative the appropriations ordinance authorizing the 10 percent salary increase for the provincial employees.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved Appropriations Ordinance 2008-02 last September 9 to implement the DBM’s Local Budget Circular 88 mandating and setting the guidelines for the 10 percent pay hike.

Tupas received the measure September 10 for his signature but he refused to take action.

The governor said he let AO 2008-02 lapse into an ordinance after the 15-day reglamentary period to hasten its review by the DBM.

The 10 percent pay increase was supposed to be released Thursday last week but Tupas refused to budge saying he will wait for the DBM ruling.

Capitol workers vowed to continue wearing black clothes every Friday if the provincial government does not release their increase.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said Tupas should pity the workers and implement the increase the soonest time possible.

Suplico said the Sanggunian has done its work by passing an ordinance mandating the increase.

But in his letter to DBM regional director Nilo Buot, Tupas said AO 2008-02 suffers from legal infirmity because the SP “failed to appropriate the statutory and mandatory 20 percent of the underestimated internal revenue allotment (IRA) share of the province for developmental projects.”

The governor also scored the AO for failure to set aside money for the 5 percent calamity fund.

The Iloilo provincial government is operating under the 2007 reenacted budget after the DBM nixed as inoperative the 2008 budget approved by the opposition-dominated provincial board.

“The DBM has consistently ruled that appropriations ordinances that do not include statutory obligations are not valid, hence, inoperative. This ordinance is thereby illegal, invalid and inoperative if we go by previous rulings of your agency. But we will leave it to your agency to pass judgment on this issue,” Tupas said.

Tupas said the AO 2008-02 is illegal because it skipped the budget process in Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code) by disregarding his request for supplemental for the salary hike.

“…It was the committee on appropriations that proposed an appropriation measure to implement a presidential directive on a 10-percent salary increase for LGU officials and employees, and not on the basis of the request for a supplemental budget that I had submitted,” he said.

The governor said the provincial board’s move contravenes Section 318 of RA 7160 that vests upon the local chief executive the duty to prepare the executive budget and supplemental budgets to be submitted to SP approval.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE manager of a sub-station of Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 2 based in Passi City, Iloilo is facing criminal charges for allegedly trying to cover up the death of a police officer in the said component city.

Sub-station Leslie Garzon might be charged with obstruction of justice when she ordered a subordinate to admit running over PO1 Japhet Perlas of Passi City PNP Friday evening.

Perlas died after he was bumped by an owner-type jeep of Ileco 2 at Poblacion Ilaya, Passi City.

Ileco 2 employee Bernard Janagap initially admitted as the driver who killed Perlas.

But when Janagap learned that the victim died, he recanted and told the Passi City police that Garzon ordered him to own up to the accident.

Janagap said Magdaleno Zuñiga drove the jeep which killed Perlas.

Zuñiga, who will be charged with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, is now detained at the Passi City police station.

The Daily Guardian tried to reach Garzon for comment but to no avail.

In a text message to TDG, Atty. Dennis Ventilacion, Ileco 2 president, said they will refrain from issuing comments on the issue pending their investigation on the incident.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE formula milk crisis in China once again proves that breast milk is best for your babies.

Department of Health (DOH-6) officer-in-charge Ariel Valencia said their campaign to promote breastfeeding among Filipino mothers got a boost from the ban on China-made infant formula milk and other milk-based products.

“It’s a blessing in disguise for our campaign. Somehow, the China milk crisis stressed our point that breastfeeding is still best for our babies. There is no substitute for a mother’s milk because it is the most complete and safest food we could give our infants,” Valencia said.

Valencia said the China milk crisis should make consumers more wary of the quality and safety of the food they buy.

The DOH official said they will continue their breastfeeding campaign in the light of the China milk crisis.

“Somehow, breastfeeding will become part of our culture because of our advocacy,” Valencia said.

In Manila, Ma. Inez Fernandez, executive director of child care advocacy group Arugaan, said milk controversy in China is only one of the many proofs that milk formula or artificial milk “will not guarantee you food safety at all.”

Fernandez said that before China discovered that Sanlu and other Chinese milk products contained the toxic chemical melamine, there were several top-branded milk products around the world that were ordered recalled.

“Because the milk industry’s technology doesn’t guarantee a 100 percent sterilization,” she said, adding that top milk brands from the around were ordered recalled from 2000 to 2008 because of “industrial errors.”

Fernandez said the microorganism called enterobacter sakazakii, present in several formula milk products, is allegedly a main cause of sepsis or blood poisoning, which kills infants.

A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) document called “By the number,” said other reasons of milk product recalls around the world are the detection of bacteria, microorganisms, and glass particles.

Meanwhile, Valencia said they are waiting for the specific milk brands banned by the Bureau of Food and Drugs.

Valencia said they are having difficulties in monitoring China milk and milk-based products because there is no specific list. (With reports from abs-cbnnews.com)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THERE is a possibility that melamine-laden milk from China will find its way to Western Visayas.

Thus, the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) urged the public to be vigilant and report the presence China-made milk products in stores around the region.

Delia Tarrosa, chief of BFAD’s Regulation and Enforcement Division, said grocery stores and establishments registered with their office have already pulled out Chinese branded milk products from their shelves.

But banned items can still be sold in stores that are not registered with the BFAD.

“There are small stores that don’t have permits from our office. The local government units are the only ones who can monitor and control these stores who might sell banned items,” Tarrosa said.

Tarrosa said they are also waiting for the consolidated report of their personnel and local governments around the region on the presence of banned China milk products in the local market.

The BFAD official advised consumers not to buy China milk until the agency has cleared the products of melamine contamination.

The food and drug agency will also seek the help of the Bureau of Customs to intercept at entry ports banned milk items from China.

Owners of stores violating the ban will be fined P300,000 and face imprisonment from six months to one year.

In a media advisory, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it is working closely with BFAD in monitoring contaminated milk products in the market.

DTI Undersecretary Zenaida Cuison Maglaya, who is in-charge of the DTI Consumer Welfare and Trade Regulatory Group, said she also directed all DTI regional and provincial Offices to work closely with the Department of Health and local government units (LGUs).

DTI-Iloilo headed by Engr. Wilhelm Malones said they have coordinated with DOH-BFAD, the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA)-Iloilo Chapter, and Iloilo City government in monitoring the entry of banned items.

Francis Chung, PRA-Iloilo president, said none of their chapter members is selling milk products from China allegedly containing melamine.

The BFAD had banned liquid and powdered milk, candy, biscuits, chocolate bars and drinks, and yogurt with dairy components from China.

The ban was imposed amid growing fears over the safety of dairy products made in China where four children have died and more than 50,000 have fallen ill after drinking milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

Melamine has been found in infant formula and other milk products from 22 of China’s dairy companies. Suppliers trying to cut costs are believed to have added it to water-down milk because its high nitrogen content masks the resulting protein deficiency.

Melamine is a toxic chemical used in the manufacture of plastic and glue products. Several babies in China have died and many are suffering from kidney stones after consuming the contaminated milk.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE controversial intelligence section chief of the Iloilo City Police Office has been charged with frustrated murder in relation to the August 13 shooting incident at General Luna Street, Iloilo City proper.

Roy Balsote and Federico Dolar, through their lawyers Cornelio Panes and Joviel Edama, filed the charges against Chief Insp. Musa Amiyong and media barker-turned-confidential agent Niel “Lito” Jimena with the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office Wednesday.

In a copy of the complaint, Amiyong and Jimena were accused of shooting Balsote and Dolar in the evening of August 13 near the flyover spanning General Luna and MH Del Pilar Streets.

Aside from the alleged attempt on their lives, the complainants claimed that Amiyong failed to inform them of their rights when the latter arrested them.

Dolar claimed that Amiyong and Jimena tried to kill them after he tried to get his “fee” for the botched bombing of floodway project at Brgy. Balabago, Jaro.

Dolar said Amiyong ordered him to bomb the project to please a contractor who lost in the bidding.

Amiyong and Jimena had denied the charges saying they arrested Dolar and Balsote for allegedly selling illegal drugs.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are more than willing to help Iloilo City’s sole power distributor run after power pilferers.

But there’s a caveat: heads must roll and charges must be filed against these thieves.

Engr. Randy Pastolero of Panay Electric Co. (Peco) said they sought the help of the PNP and the NBI in securing their personnel involved in apprehending power thieves.

Pastolero said they aim to lower their systems loss, which is pegged at 9 percent, by clamping down on residents who tap illegally to Peco lines.

Atty. Mario Sison, NBI regional director, said they are willing to help Peco’s campaign against pilferers “provided they file cases against erring persons.”

Sison said Peco must sue power thieves instead of just collecting arrears and fines.

“We might bear the brunt of things if no charges are filed against those caught stealing electricity from Peco,” Sison said.

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PNP regional director, said they are willing to provide security personnel to Peco during their operations.

Cuevas said a patrol-load of police personnel will escort Peco people if they apprehend pilferers in Iloilo City.

Pastolero said they are set to apprehend several personalities, including an unidentified government official, suspected of stealing electricity from the distribution firm.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Jeehan V. Fernandez

GOVERNMENT agencies in the city and province of Iloilo are closely monitoring the presence of Chinese milk products following the ban on the said products.

The Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) the other day imposed a ban on liquid and powdered milk, candy, biscuits, chocolate bars and drinks, and yogurt with dairy components from China.

The ban was imposed amid growing fears over the safety of dairy products made in China where four children have died and more than 50,000 have fallen ill after drinking milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. has ordered municipal governments to look after Chinese branded milk and repacked milk products that have no label.

Tupas said town officials must regularly monitor local markets for banned milk products and confiscate them for examination.

Mayor Jerry Treñas, for his part, said City Health Office sanitary inspectors have coordinated with BFAD inspectors in checking groceries and supermarkets that sell banned China milk products.

Treñas said they are waiting for Bfad’s next move after the agency issued directives to groceries and supermarkets to pull out all Chinese dairy products.

BFAD chief Delia Tarrosa said they inspected shopping malls and groceries in the city immediately after their central office issued the ban through a health advisory.

Tarrosa said shopping malls have voluntarily pulled out milk products from China even before the ban was issued.

Corazon Guidote, investor relations officer of the SM Investments Corp., said the mall chain has already pulled out all Yili, Mengniu and Mon Milk products in its supermarkets since last week. She added that customers who may have bought the products can have these replaced with a different brand.

“There were only few of these (milk) products here in Iloilo City but our BFAD personnel along with the local government units in the region are now doing market surveillance and monitoring of business outlets to make sure that the reported products are pulled out from the market,” Tarrosa said.

Tarrosa added: “Now, we are waiting for the consolidated reports from our BFAD in different provinces of the region so that we will be able to know how may of these questionable Chinese produced milk products/infant formula reached the region.”

A public health advisory from DOH-BFAD dated September 22, 2008 directed “all licensed importers and distributors of registered milk products sourced from China to immediately stop temporarily from further importing, distributing, selling and offering for sale the products until further notice from BFAD.”

BFAD director Leticia Barbara Gutierrez said “there is no registered infant formula produced and imported from China.”

“Thus the Philippine consumers are advised not to purchase and use outright infant formula from China that might have been brought into the country through unauthorized means. Instead, please report (it) immediately to BFAD of Center for Health and Development offices.”

The BFAD also urged officials of local government units to investigate infant formula and milk products from China that might have slipped into the country to ensure the safe supply of food imports from China.

The BFAD continues to determine whether or not the samples of Chinese milk products contain melamine to ensure the safety of imported food supply.

Melamine has been found in infant formula and other milk products from 22 of China’s dairy companies. Suppliers trying to cut costs are believed to have added it to water-down milk because its high nitrogen content masks the resulting protein deficiency.

Melamine is a toxic chemical used in the manufacture of plastic and glue products. Several babies in China have died and many are suffering from kidney stones after consuming the contaminated milk.

The 22 Chinese companies include Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co., Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. Ltd., Synutra International Inc., Shanxi Gucheng Dairy Co. Ltd., Jiangxi Bright & Hero Dairy Co., Baoji Huimin Milk Co. Ltd., Mengniu Dairy, Duojiaduo Dairy Industry (Tianjin) Co. Ltd., Guangdong Yashili Group Co. Ltd., Hunan Peiyi Dairy Co. Heilongjiang Qining Dairy Co., Shanxi Yashili Dairy Co. Ltd., Shenzhen Jinbishi Milk Co. Ltd., Guangzhou Shien Dairy Co., Guangzhou Jinding Dairy Co., Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co., Ausmeadow Nutriment Co. Ltd., Qingdao Suncare Nutritional Technology Co. Ltd., Xi’an Baiyue Dairy Co. Ltd., Yantai Leilei Dairy Products Co. Ltd., Shanghai Bao’anli Dairy Co. Ltd. and Fuding Chenguan Dairy Co. Ltd. (With reports from Lydia C. Pendon and PIA)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A SUSPECTED robber died inside the LaPaz police station Monday hours after he was arrested for allegedly pilfering an iron bar from a commercial building.

Jose Gallo Verde, 28, of Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Arevalo, Iloilo City collapsed inside the LaPaz PNP detention cell 7pm Monday.

Chief Insp. Uldarico Garbanzos, LaPaz police chief, said Security Guard Gilbert Salondaga of the Cristina Colonnade Building in Huervana Street, LaPaz arrested Verde after he was caught stealing an iron flat bar worth P700.

Garbanzos said Verde resisted the blue guard and fled from the building towards Rizal Street, LaPaz.

Salondaga asked for helped from bystanders in the area who quickly swarmed and mauled Verde.

Members of the LaPaz police who responded to the incident said the bystanders were still manhandling Verde when they arrived.

Garbanzos said the badly beaten Verde was detained 3:30pm then lost consciousness around 7pm.

The police rushed Verde to the West Visayas State University Medical Center but he was declared dead on arrival.

Garbanzos said the jailer on duty and investigator handling Verde’s case offered to take the latter to the hospital but he refused.

“We are still investigating the case to find out if our officers are telling the truth. It’s the first time that an inmate died during my investigation. We sympathize with the family of Verde and we assure that we will get to the bottom of this,” Garbanzos said.

Garbanzos also asked civilians who arrest felons not to maul them “although it is really hard to resist our violent tendencies when we catch criminals.”

ONE of the victims in the gasoline station shootout Wednesday last week is being blamed by the families of his two companions for their deadly fate.

Diosdado Emaas, father of Gerald Emaas, said Victor “Hino” Balacutan was the one who invited his son to go to Iloilo City because work was waiting for them.

Samuel Cioco, Gerald’s brother-in-law, tagged along after he was invited by Gerald to go with him, Diosdado said.

Gerald Emaas, 25, Cioco, 28, and Balacutan were killed in a shootout with members of the Regional Intelligence Office Wednesday evening last week at the Shell gasoline station at corner Delgado-Jalandoni Streets, Iloilo City.

The three were natives of Masbate province although Balacutan had a live-in partner in Roxas City.

Balacutan’s remains were fetched from Somo Funeral Homes by a certain Shiela who claimed to be his cousin. His body was transported back to Masbate Friday evening.

Diosdado said Gerald and Cioco left Aroroy, Masbate September 12. He later learned Thursday last week that his son was shot dead in Iloilo City.

“Victor (Balacutan) called Gerald via phone. My son later told me that they will work in Iloilo City but he did not elaborate the kind of work. Victor said he will take care of the fare in going to Roxas City and Iloilo City,” Diosdado said.

Diosdado said his son was a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu). But he did not confirm if Gerald joined the New People’s Army (NPA) before.

Diosdado added that the military issued a caliber .45 pistol to his son “but he left it in our home.”

“We did not have any information about their trip. This was Gerald’s first trip to Iloilo. We were surprised to learn that he was shot dead,” he said.

Cioco’s brother Noel said they wanted to get information from Balacutan’s family “but they left in a rush.”

Noel said Gerald asked Samuel to accompany him to Roxas City to look for work.

“Samuel said he might go to our uncle to look for work. We were surprised to learn that they were killed in Iloilo City. They did not even send a text message that they were here in Iloilo already,” Noel said.

Noel also confirmed that his sister Catherine and Gerald Emaas met and got married when they were still with the NPA.

Diosdado said they are still looking for money to pay the P30,000 they owe to the funeral parlor.

Noel said they don’t have enough money because farming is there only livelihood.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman dismissed three Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officials based in Iloilo City for various offenses.

Ordered dismissed from service were revenue collection officers Ma. Antonietta Tabobo and Heddan Baltazar and revenue officer Sari Umadhay.

A report posted on the Ombudsman official website detailed the circumstances leading to the dismissal of the three BIR officers.

During an internal audit of her accounts, it was found that Tabobo failed to remit her collection amounting to P564,832.091. Despite a letter of demand from the BIR, Tabobo failed to account for the unremitted funds.

Tabobo went absent without official leave (AWOL) from the BIR five years ago and is believed to be hiding in the United States.

Baltazar, who also went into hiding two years ago, was dismissed for malversation of public funds.

The Ombudsman investigation showed that Baltazar incurred cash accountabilities and unremitted collection amounting to P155,423 and documentary stamp accountabilities amounting to P5,400.

The Ombudsman also said that Baltazar had “98 sets of accountable, unused revenue official receipts with serial numbers 02538603 to 02538700 which he failed to remit.”

Umadhay was ordered dismissed for receiving P258,000 as payment for the estate and capital gains taxes of a certain Mary Lynn Franco.

Umadhay was also sacked for receiving payment for her services in processing Franco’s documents.

The Ombudsman said Umadhay violated Revenue Memorandum Order No. 15-03 which authorizes only the revenue collection officer or deputized municipal treasurer to receive payment of taxes in the absence of an authorized agent bank.

She also violated Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) which prohibits government workers from soliciting and accepting gifts or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties.

Trio shot dead at Shell had criminal cases

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE three fatalities in the gasoline station shootout in Iloilo City proper district Wednesday evening are believed to be paid assassins, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson in Western Visayas.

Capt. Lowen Gil Marquez, chief of the 32nd Civil Relations Service (CRS) of the AFP, claimed that Samuel Cioco, Gerald Emaas and Hino Balacutan were also involved in other crimes committed in Masbate province.

Members of the Regional Intelligence Office (RIO-6) shot the trio dead at the Santos Shell gas station at the corner of Jalandoni-Delgado Streets, Iloilo City proper past 11pm Wednesday.

Marquez singled out Emaas as a former New People’s Army (NPA) member who later joined the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in Aroroy, Masbate.

Marquez said Emaas was part of the NPA-National Democratic Front’s central front committee operating in the said island province.

Emaas earned the moniker “Kilabot ng Masbate” because of his exploits during his rebel days, Marquez added.

“He was also engaged in gunrunning and bomb making when he was still with the rebels. Upon returning to the folds of the government, he joined the Cafgu but he recently went absent without official leave. His commanding officers have been looking for him for months now and they were surprised to learn that he was shot dead in Iloilo City,” Marquez said.

The CRS chief said he also received information that Emaas may have worked as bodyguard for a politician in Masbate during his day off from the Cafgu.

“Emaas is also involved in the death of Insp. Harold Gaces of the PNP Special Action Force in Masbate,” Marquez said.

Records of the Masbate Provincial Prosecutors Office (MPPO) showed that Emaas, who also went by the aliases Alfredo Grecio and Wendell, was facing charges for robbery in band, destructive arson, murder and multiple frustrated murder.

Marquez said some of the cases date back to the time when Emaas was still with the NPA.

“All of this information on Emaas is still raw and subject for further verification. It is possible that he and his companions fled to Iloilo because of their numerous cases,” Marquez said.

Marquez said it is also possible that Emaas, Cioco and Balacutan were sent on a mission to Iloilo “but that is still under verification also.”

Cioco was tagged in robbery cases in Masbate, according to police and MPPO records.

Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, Iloilo City Police Office director, said they have received intelligence information that an armed group entered Iloilo City.

IN-LAWS

A statement from the NDF-Bicol issued last March 7, 2008, confirmed Emaas’s membership with the rebel group.

The statement was signed by a certain Gregorio Bañares and posted in the Philippine Revolution Web Central, the official website of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-NDF.

The statement said Emaas, 24, of Brgy. Balete, Aroroy, Masbate was the husband of Catherine Cioco, 20, of Brgy. Mapili, Balud, Masbate. It also confirmed that Emaas was a former NPA member who later returned to mainstream society.

“When the military learned that he has surfaced, the military forced and threatened Emaas to surrender to 1st Lt. Espallardo of the 22nd Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army. Catherine Cioco is a civilian who was illegally arrested and used as a ‘human shield’ by the PNP-RMG after an encounter with the NPA in Masbate,” the NDF statement said.

Apparently, Catherine could be a sister or relative of Samuel Cioco who was killed with Emaas in the shootout.

Meanwhile, the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) was able to establish that Balacutan was from Masbate and later married a woman from Roxas City.

Identification papers recovered from Balacutan indicates his home address at Brgy. Bliss Cagay, Roxas City.

But Punong Barangay Arturo Aragon of Bliss Cagay said Balacutan did not live in their village.

Senior Supt. Tobias said they are coordinating with the Police Regional Office-5 and Capiz Provincial Police Office to further verify the backgrounds of Cioco and Balacutan.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE National Police Commission (Napolcom-6) and the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) will look into the shootout in a Shell gasoline station at Jalandoni-Delgado Streets, Iloilo City Wednesday evening to find out if members of the Regional Intelligence Office observed rules of engagement.

Chief Supt. Darius Tuazon, PRO-6 deputy director for administration, said he ordered the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division (RIDMD) to investigate the incident following claims of overkill in the shootout.

Tuazon said they will also investigate the identities of Samuel Cioco, Gerald Emaas and Hino Balacutan who died in a hail of bullets from six RIO operatives led by Supt. Samuel Nacion.

Napolcom-6 regional director Honey Paredes said they will conduct a separate investigation on the incident to find out if it was a legitimate shootout or rubout.

Paredes said she will summon the RIO personnel involved in the shootout and ask their version of the incident.

The Napolcom chief said they will also try to determine if RIO-6 members used reasonable force in neutralizing the trio.

Paredes said it is important for the police to follow PNP rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations and other legal complications.

“We are just waiting for the official report of the PNP before we can start the investigation,” Paredes said.

A video footage by GMA TV-6 Iloilo showed RIO-6 operatives shooting the victims even if they were already lying still on the pavement. This particular scene prompted some media practitioners present to claim that it was overkill.

Recoveries from the scene of the incident indicate that the trio was outgunned with RIO operatives firing more than 40 bullets of caliber .9mm and .45 pistols.

Supt. Nacion said they used reasonable force against Cioco, Esmaa and Balacutan because the three were armed with guns and a grenade.

Nacion said one of three fatalities shot him first, prompting his fellow officers to retaliate.

Nonoy (not his real name), the gas station cashier on duty when the shootout happened, said he saw Cioco and company pass by the station.

Nonoy said he was later surprised to hear gunshots near the gas station’s coffee shop, prompting him to leave his booth and run for cover.

Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, Iloilo City police director, defended RIO operatives and denied that the incident was a rubout.

Tobias said the three were armed with guns and grenades “which can only indicate that they are to something sinister.”

“We consider what happened as a major accomplishment against crime. In fairness to RIO-6, they have been helping the Iloilo City Police Office in our anti-crime drive after the spate of violent incidents in the city. I don’t think it was a rubout because the three were considered armed and dangerous,” Tobias said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo City Prosecutors Office (ICPO) has resolved more than 800 backlog cases since December 2007.

Iloilo City chief prosecutor Peter Baliao said decongesting the ICPO dockets is one of the reforms he introduced since assuming his post in acting capacity last year.

Baliao was appointed full-fledged chief city prosecutor last month. He said President Gloria Arroyo signed his appointment paper August 20 but he only received a copy Wednesday.

“Speedy resolution of cases is our number one priority right now. From more or less 900 unresolved cases last year, our backlog is now only less 100 cases,” he said.

Aside from decreasing the case backlogs, Baliao said he is beefing up the ICPO manpower, particularly the prosecutors.

Three new prosecutors were recently assigned to the ICPO, bringing the total number of city prosecutors to 18 including Baliao.

“I am requesting from the Department of Justice (DOJ) two more prosecutors so we can resolve cases at the fastest possible time and also to attend to our court hearings and inquests,” he said.

The ICPO has also acquired additional computers, copiers and a risograph.

Baliao said he is also requesting additional filing cabinets and a new air-conditioning system for their office.

Baliao took over from then city prosecutor Efrain Baldago late last year when the latter was ordered dismissed by the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC).

Baldago refused to relinquish his post to Baliao saying he can still appeal the PAGC decision. He also denied mulcting a certain Jose Demonteverde for a favorable resolution of the latter’s case filed with the ICPO.

But DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. ordered Baldago to leave the ICPO and report to the Regional State Prosecutor’s Office pending appeal of the PAGC case.

Despite the “power struggle,” Baliao said his relationship with other prosecutors remains cordial and civil.

“Our main objective is to serve the interest of justice and public welfare,” he said.

RIDDLED The bloodied remains of Samuel Sioco, Hino Balacutan and Gerald Emaas after they were peppered with bullets. (FAA photo)

RIDDLED The bloodied remains of Samuel Cioco, Hino Balacutan and Gerald Emaas after they were peppered with bullets. (FAA photo)

Cops pepper suspected robbers with bullets

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

DID members of the Regional Intelligence Office (RIO-6) use reasonable force in neutralizing three suspected robbers Wednesday evening in a gasoline station in Iloilo City proper district?

Were the RIO operatives tailing the trio before the shootout or was it a chance encounter?

These questions beg for answers following the shooting to death of Samuel Cioco, Hino Balacutan and Gerald Emaas at the Santos Shell gas station at the corner of Jalandoni-Delgado Streets, Iloilo City.

Based on identification papers recovered from the slain trio, Cioco was a native of Balud, Masbate while Emaas was from Brgy. Luy-a, Aroroy also in Masbate.

Balacutan was reported as a resident of Brgy. Cagay, Roxas City but Punong Barangay Arturo Aragon said over Bombo Radyo yesterday that the former did not live there.

The incident has several versions particularly on the circumstances that led to the shooting.

Supt. Samuel Nacion, RIO-6 chief, said they were refueling their white Nissan car when they heard a gunshot near the Gusteau coffee shop inside the gas station.

Nacion said he alighted from the car and confronted the trio by introducing himself as a police officer.

But instead of heeding him, Nacion said one of the three persons shot him while another drew something from his pocket.

Upon hearing the second gunfire, the rest of the RIO operatives shot the trio who sought cover in a blue Honda Civic car right in front the coffee shop.

Nacion’s team was positioned in front of Cioco and company while the group of Supt. Sofronio Fusin group fired at the victims from the left portion of the gas station.

When the gunshots ceased, the bloodied Cioco, Emaas and Balacutan were seen crumpled together in front of the Civic car with plate number FEY-368.

A video footage by GMA TV-6 Iloilo showed RIO operatives shooting the victims even if they were already lying still on the pavement. This particular scene prompted some media practitioners present to claim that it was overkill.

But Nacion said they only defended themselves as one of the fatalities was holding a grenade. He said they only acted on suspicion that the trio might rob the gasoline station.

SPO4 Rafael Managuit and SPO1 Johnny Menesis of the Explosive and Ordnance Division said they recovered an M26-A1 fragmentation hand grenade from the scene.

The grenade’s safety lever was already missing, Managuit said.

Reports gathered by the media from other police officers at the scene said the RIO-6 team was tailing Cioco, Emaas and Balacutan after they were linked to a robbery-holdup gang.

Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) director, said RIO-6 was indeed conducting surveillance operations in the vicinity “but the fatalities were not their target.”

“I believe that this was a legitimate shootout because these three persons first shot the RIO-6 operatives. Our officers only defended themselves because of the presence of the grenade. Plus, the scene of incident was a gasoline station and if the grenade detonated, the fuel depot could have exploded also, causing more damage and injuries,” Tobias said.

Tobias said the RIO-6 had expressed intention to help the ICPO’s anti-crime drive by conducting surveillance operations “and this is one of the results of their help.”

So far, the media is dependent on the police as to the details of the incident. Since all the victims were killed, who can give their version of the incident?

OUTGUNNED

The guns and ammunitions found by the Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco) show that Cioco and his group were outnumbered and outgunned.

Coco investigators recovered from the trio a caliber .38 revolver, a caliber .380 pistol and the hand grenade. Also recovered from them were nine caliber .38 live bullets, five caliber .380 live bullets and three spent shells of caliber .380 bullets.

The recoveries from the area where the RIO-6 members were positioned included 39 spent shells of caliber .45 bullets, 12 spent shells of 9mm bullets and 2 live caliber .45 ammunitions.

Based on the initial police investigations, Cioco, Emaas and Balacutan succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds in their head, chest, back, arms and abdomen. The medico legal officer is set to autopsy the remains of three persons.

Based on initial information from Masbate, Emaas was a former communist rebel who later joined the military’s Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu). He was even hailed as an outstanding Cafgu member. In fact, Emaas was identified through the Cafgu ID guard found in his body. A councilor later hired Emaas as a personal bodyguard.

Emaas had pending criminal cases for illegal possession of explosives and homicide.

Senior Supt. Tobias said they will gather more information from Masbate and Roxas to verify the backgrounds of Cioco and Balacutan.

WARNING

Meanwhile, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said the shooting incident should dissuade criminals from operating in the metropolis.

Treñas said new communication facilities donated to the city police office helped the cops subdue the suspected robbers.

The mayor said there have been recent sightings of alleged robbers in the city “but our police officers are prepared to prevent them from committing crimes.”

Dennis Cartagena

Dennis Cartagena

Special treatment for Cartagena

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A 24-hour security detail. A special cook. ‘Private’ sleeping quarters.

What more can the prime suspect in the death of Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas ask for inside the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC)?

Dennis “Totong” Cartagena is getting special treatment inside the IRC to secure him from persons who want to silence him.

According to Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, concurrent IRC warden, Cartagena is isolated inside his own cell, apart from other inmates.

Instead of the regular IRC jailguards, members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team guard Cartagena on a round-the-clock basis.

And to prevent attempts to poison him while in detention, a special cook prepares Cartagena’s meals.

Apparently, other inmates have no qualms about Cartagena’s “privileged” standing inside the IRC since he returned from Butuan City where he and fellow suspect Edgar Cordero hid after allegedly assassinating Rojas in May.

Cordero, who is believed to be Rojas’ triggerman, was shot to death in Butuan City allegedly by Lindsey Buenavista and Jose Bahadi.

Buenavista was also tagged in the Rojas slay case along with alleged mastermind Vicente “Etik” Espinosa but they were exonerated by the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors for lack of evidence.

The prosecutor’s resolution is now under review by the Department of Justice.

In his affidavit, Cartagena, who drove the getaway motorcycle used in Rojas’ killing, again implicated Buenavista and Espinosa to the assassination plot.

After confessing to the crime, Cartagena has been heavily guarded by the Iloilo Provincial Police Office until he testifies before the court.

Dela Paz said he approved the special arrangement for Cartagena to ensure his safety inside the IRC.

Provincial Attorney’s Office assistant regional director Jose Edmund Guillen earlier said Cartagena could turn state witness depending on the decision of the prosecution should the case is elevated to the Regional Trial Court.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A POLICE officer in Iloilo province has filed criminal and administrative raps against Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. before the Office of the Ombudsman.

SPO1 Rex delos Reyes of Igbaras PNP station, through his lawyer Plaridel Nava, accused Gonzalez of libel, grave misconduct and oppression.

Delos Reyes filed his plaint, which was addressed to Tanodbayan Merceditas Gutierrez, with the Ombudsman-Visayas Iloilo office Tuesday.

The cop said he sued Gonzalez for harassing him since last year. Delos Reyes said his agony began when the justice department chief saw him talking to former Iloilo City Prosecutor Efrain Baldago at the new Iloilo airport.

Gonzalez ordered Baldago’s relief as city prosecutor early this year for alleged graft and corruption which the latter denied.

Delos Reyes also blamed Gonzalez for his transfer from the Regional Mobile Group to Igbaras for alleged links to criminal syndicates. He also rapped Gonzalez for having him transferred to Mindanao also for purported criminal activities.

The libel suit was based on Gonzalez’s pronouncement over a radio interview accusing delos Reyes of maintaining armed goons. Gonzalez also said in the same interview that delos Reyes was not reporting to Igbaras but was always seen in Iloilo City.

Gonzalez had also accused delos Reyes of lobbing grenades at the cars of Chief Insp. Musa Amiyong, Iloilo City Police Office intelligence chief, and former punong barangay Ramonito Gratis.

Nava said they are seeking for Gonzalez’s preventive suspension if the Ombudsman finds probable cause to investigate the justice secretary, adding this is “to vindicate the honor and reputation of my client.”

“We want to prove that Secretary Gonzalez is only harassing SPO1 delos Reyes. Even if we are going against the justice secretary, we are confident in our justice system. We believe that justice does not choose even if the respondent is the President’s friend. We hope that the Ombudsman will be fair and file the case in court so that SPO1 delos Reyes will get justice,” Nava said.

Aside from the Ombudsman cases, Nava said they are preparing a petition for injunction and a temporary restraining order against delos Reyes’s reassignment to Mindanao.

Delos Reyes is one of the 11 police officers whom Gonzalez lobbied with the Department of Interior and Local Government to be transferred to the war-torn region.

Latest reports from the PNP national headquarters said the request for transfer is now with the Directorate for Personnel and Record Management in Camp Crame.

Nava said they will challenge the reassignment order in court once his client receives it.

“The order is illegal, tainted, groundless and plain and simple harassment so we will ask the court if delos Reyes’s transfer is valid.”

In an interview over Aksyon Radyo, Gonzalez only scoffed at delos Reyes’s suit.

“Do it fast. I’m shaking (with fear) and I want to answer everything,” Gonzalez taunted.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

The brother of former mayor Vicente “Bugok” Ramirez of Lambunao, Iloilo is accused of murdering two persons in Ajuy town after a shootout in the evening of August 7.

Juanillo Castro filed the murder charge against Julio “Oyok” Ramirez for the death of his brother Alejandrino “Bebing” Castro.

Ramirez is also accused of killing Joseph Herida Jr., a nephew of Alejandrino Castro. by Atty. Edison Belloga, Castro’s counsel, filed the murder raps with the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office Tuesday.

Ramirez along with Paul Dignadice, Jose “Lalo” Zayco and a certain Botik were involved in a shootout with cousins Vincent and Joseph Herida and their uncle Alejandrino “Bebeng” Castro in the evening of August 7 in Ajuy town proper.

Ramirez allegedly shot Castro to death with a caliber .45 pistol while Dignadice succumbed to gunshot wounds inflicted by Vincent who used Castro’s caliber .38 revolver.

Vincent and Joseph were rushed to the hospital after the incident but the latter succumbed to a gunshot wound in the back September 3.

An old grudge between Oyok Ramirez and Bebing Castro is believed to be the cause of the shootout.

Castro’s family said the incident could have been prevented if the Ajuy police headed by Chief Insp. Ariel Artillero arrested Ramirez for lugging a 12-gauge shotgun sans any permit to carry.

Ramirez’s wife is a relative of Board Member Jett Rojas while the Castros are identified with businessman Vicente “Etik” Espinosa.

Espinosa was tagged as the mastermind in the assassination of former Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas.

The Castro family had asked the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation through Department of Justice to include Ramirez in its watch list to monitor the latter’s movement should he leave the country.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

IN unity there is strength.

The nearly 13,000 volunteers helping local governments implement various health, population, early child care and nutrition programs need to speak as one loud voice to pressure Iloilo vice governor Rolex T. Suplico to change his position on the proposed supplemental budget for their additional honoraria, a top Capitol official said.

“The hard-line stance taken by Suplico on the issue is not about the legality of the proposed appropriation, but about who wields the real power in the provincial government,” provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said.

Suplico, who controls the majority bloc in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, doesn’t want to see these volunteers enjoy a cheerful holiday season and give Governor Niel Tupas Sr. the credit for pushing for these honoraria that they have been getting for the last three years, Mejorada said.

In a radio interview over Aksyon Radyo, Suplico said “his hands are tied” because of what he described as the explicit prohibition found in the Local Government Code on the enactment of supplemental budgets for local government units (LGUs) operating on a re-enacted budget.

Mejorada said the rule is not absolute, and the “general welfare clause” can be a powerful justification for enacting a supplemental budget. A top official of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is supporting this view, he added.

Mejorada said the real reason is that Suplico wants to show he can frustrate the noble goals of the Tupas administration in improving the health delivery programs of the province, which includes the grant of financial incentives to these volunteers.

“Make no mistake about it,” he said. “It’s about power.”

Yesterday, the board of directors of the federation of BHWs met with Tupas and Mejorada to seek their guidance on how the volunteers can get this honorarium which amounts to about P2,000 a year.

Tupas informed the group he had included about P18 million to pay for this honorarium in his request for supplemental budget, but the proposal is being blocked by Suplico and his allies.

“Maybe he will listen to you,” Tupas told the group.

Mejorada said the volunteers should be encouraged to ventilate their sentiments to the Sanggunian and make the board members understand their plight.

Resignation of justices may not be enough to restore CA’s integrity

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE resignation of Court of Appeals justices involved in the alleged bribery scam might not be enough to save the court’s tarnished image, according to the president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Iloilo chapter.

In an interview with TDG on Air over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, Atty. Virgilio Teruel said it would take a lot of vigilance from lawyers and the public to cleanse the CA’s image.

Teruel said the SC’s disciplinary action of erring CA justices and calls for their resignation because of the bribery issue relative to the Meralco ownership case are just part of moves to reform the appellate court.

“What we need is more vigilance on the part of our people and the lawyers to look after the conduct of the judiciary. This would be hard for us because we interact with judges and justices. But this is a sacrifice we are willing to do to save the judiciary,” Teruel said.

Atty. Dennis Ventilacion, legal counsel of The Daily Guardian who was with Teruel on the same radio talk show, said the public should not only keep an eye on judges and justices but also on lawyers who try to bribe magistrates.

“It takes two to tango. There won’t be bribe takers if there are no bribers,” Ventilacion said.

The SC earlier dismissed CA Associate Justice Vicente Roxas and suspended Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. for violating the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The high tribunal reprimanded CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez for his failed leadership in handling the bribery case.

The SC also admonished Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal for allowing herself to be rushed by Justice Roxas to sign the July 8, 2008 decision granting Meralco’s request for a temporary restraining order, which allowed the election of a new board and the Lopez family to maintain control of Meralco.

As for CA Justice Bienvenido Reyes, the SC found him guilty of simple misconduct. He was reprimanded and given a stern warning.

Teruel earlier said their group was dismayed with the outcome of the SC investigation on the CA bribery scandal which eroded the integrity and professionalism of the country’s second highest court.

Calls for the resignation of CA justices surfaced after the SC meted the penalties on the four magistrates.

Teruel said there are debates within the legal circle whether the SC was able to prove the alleged bribery. Another focus of the ongoing debates is whether the sanctions were commensurate to the offenses committed by the CA justices.

For one, other lawyers are questioning why it was only Roxas who was dismissed while Sabio was only suspended when both were accused of receiving bribes.

Teruel said Sabio’s may have been mitigated after he blew the whistle on the scandal.

As regards the alleged bribe, Ventilacion said the issue has been circulating in the legal circle “but it is only now that it was openly discussed and addressed by the Supreme Court.”

“But the CA bribery issue remains a rumor since the SC only tackled violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct,” Ventilacion.

Teruel said IBP-Iloilo will issue a collective statement on the CA issues within this week including their recommendations on how to mend the judiciary’s image.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A COOL P60,000 will go to any informant who could lead the police to the suspect in the robbery and murder of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s aunt in Jaro, Iloilo City last month.

Senior Inspector Harry Decena, Jaro police chief, said the family of the late Adelina Palma-Bermejo offered the cash reward to speed up the arrest of the suspect.

Bermejo, 73, was found sprawled inside her house at Kahirup Village, Brgy. Cubay, Jaro August 28.

Bermejo, according to the autopsy report, died of four stab wounds in her body.

Decena said they have identified the suspect whose first name is Robert. He said they are now eyeing a place where Robert is believed to be hiding.

Decena said the suspect may have been wounded during a scuffle with the victim.

Robert is believed to be the former househelp of a sister of Bermejo.

The caretaker of Kahirup village claimed that the suspect even talked to him before knocking on Bermejo’s gate.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

SUSPECTED members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) blasted a cellsite of Globe Telecommunications in Maayon, Capiz past 9pm Sunday.

Capiz police provincial director Josephus Angan said the bombing happened 9:30pm the other day at Brgy. Manayupit, Maayon. No one was reported injured in the explosion.

Angan said members of the 604th PNP Mobile Group has just finished patrolling Manayupit and neighboring barangays when the cellsite was bombed.

Angan said the NPA tried to blast the cellsite August 29 but the bomb went dud.

Combined members of the 604th Mobile Group and the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion continue to chase the rebels in the mountains of Capiz.

The attack in Capiz is the latest in the series of assaults being blamed on the NPA.

In Negros Occidental, the rebels were fingered for raiding a resort, a mining site and sugarcane plantations.

According to a Philippine Army report, the rebels allegedly destroyed more than P93 million worth of properties in just 10 years.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

JUSTICE Secretary Raul Gonzalez is willing to twist arms if only to ship out cops allegedly involved in illegal drugs and other criminal activities.

Gonzalez said he is confident that the Department of Interior and Local Government will heed his request to reassign to Mindanao 20 police officers in Iloilo who were tagged in various crime syndicates.

Gonzalez said he has submitted the names of the police officers to DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno who has supervision over the Philippine National Police.

The justice department chief said he has solid proof against the police officers accused of coddling criminals in Iloilo.

“The DILG might defend these police officers but I will confront Secretary Puno about this in Malacañang,” he said.

Ten of the 20 police officers in Gonzalez’s list have been identified: PO1 Godofredo Jamolo Jr., PO2 Remy Donasco, SPO3 Elvis Donasco, SPO4 Fred Blones, PO3 Ferdinand Garcia, PO2 Arnold Alavansas, PO3 Henry Mana-ay, PO3 Edmund Castillo, and SPO1 Ronaldo Alag.

Gonzalez has also tagged SPO1 Rex Delos Reyes of Igbaras PNP of coddling armed goons and lobbing a grenade at the car of Iloilo City Police Office intelligence chief Musa Amiyong.

Atty. Plaridel Nava, Delos Reyes’ legal counsel, said his client has threatened to file libel and disbarment cases against Gonzalez for making premature statements.

Nava said Gonzalez should refrain from tagging police officers to crimes as this might affect any cases that will be filed with the prosecutors’ office.

“He is the secretary of justice and he supervises prosecutors. If he makes such statements, he might prejudice cases filed against the police officers or against him,” Nava said.

Delos Reyes said over Bombo Radyo that he will seek a temporary restraining order against the plan to reassign them to war-torn Mindanao.

Delos Reyes said Gonzalez’s moves are purely personal after the former was seen talking to former Iloilo City prosecutor Efrain Baldago whom the justice secretary removed months ago.

Gonzalez welcomed any suit from delos Reyes saying he has nothing personal against the police officer.

Gonzalez said it is only now that he learned delos Reyes’ connection to Baldago.

BIZ WHIZ

The Go Negosyo caravan in Iloilo awarded Friday the inspiring Ilonggo entrepreneurs in the city and province. (Standing from left) Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Vilar, Antonio Steven Chan of Central Azucarera de San Antonio, Angel de Leon of Taytay sa Kauswagan, Inc., Salvador Sarabia of Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center, Kenneth Uy of La Filipina Uygongco Corp. (in behalf of Alfonso Uy), Atty. Joseph Vincent Go of Light of Glory Taxi Services, Tomas Hautea Sr. of Retcem Bangus Hatchery and Farm, Jose Gerardo Guadarrama of Original Biscocho House, Arsenio Rafael of AM Builders Depot, Johnny Que of Waffle Time, Edgar Sia of Mang Inasal and Gaita Fores of Cibo Restaurant. (Front row from left) Terence Uygongco of Philippine Foremost Milling Co., Iloilo Business Club chair Antonio Jon, Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship founding trustee and Presidential consultant on entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and Presidential Assistant Raul Banias. (Photo by Tara Yap)

PGMA meddles in Pavia road project fiasco

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo has reportedly intervened in the squabble between Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo and the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Iloilo 4th Engineering District over a P28-million road project.

Presidential assistant for Panay and Guimaras Raul Banias said President Arroyo has ordered the concreting of the 3.4-km Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte provincial road in Pavia.

Banias said the President told Executive Secretary Ermita to settle the issue between Gorriceta and 4th district Engr. George Suy on who should handle and what to do with the road project.

Gorriceta, who worked for the release of the P28-million funding of the project, earlier riled at Suy and Rep. Judy Syjuco (2nd district, Iloilo) for trying to “hijack” the project upon knowing that the funds were already available.

The mayor first broached the asphalting of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road to Banias as part of the Panay rehabilitation efforts.

Banias then endorsed the proposal to DPWH regional director Rolando Asis who forwarded the same to their central office.

Gorriceta later offered to Asis that the municipal government undertakes the road concreting project instead of asphalting. The mayor said the arrangement will be spelled out in a memorandum of agreement between the local government and DPWH.

DPWH assistant regional director Joby Cordon informed Gorriceta last September 4 that some P10.5 million for the road project was released to the DPWH 4th Engineering District based in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. Cordon said the money was released upon the request of Rep. Syjuco.

In her letter to DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane dated September 9, Rep. Syjuco said while they support the concreting of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road, “we object vehemently to the request of the mayor of Pavia to administer the work.”

“Simply just like the rest of us, the town should limit its affairs to local governance and should not be in the construction business of national government public projects. The DPWH is the sole agency for public projects which it (sic) may itself administer or bid out to qualified contractors. The town is not a business entity that can undertake the business of national government public works construction,” Syjuco said.

Gorriceta said he was surprised when Suy informed him last September 5 that the project was awarded to Patrila Construction Co. through negotiated contract.

Suy, according to Gorriceta, said the scope of work is “repair and restoration” by filling the road with dakal-dakal (sand and gravel), not asphalting nor concreting because they will just “restore” the gravel road to its original form.

The mayor said he is equally surprised by Syjuco’s sudden interest in the project “when before they said they don’t want to touch provincial road projects.”

“Why the sudden interest (in the project)? Before, then Congressman Augusto Syjuco said they don’t want to fund provincial roads because it is the work of the provincial government. But when they learned that there are available funds for the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road, they intervened,” Gorriceta said.

Suy denied Gorriceta’s claim saying the mayor misunderstood him. He said they have yet to award the project to any contractor and that the P10.5 million is still intact.

Suy’s denial prompted Gorriceta to call the latter a “liar” over live radio interviews the past days.

Suy said they will still evaluate the capabilities of the Pavia municipal government in undertaking the road project.

“If the mayor really wants to administer the project, he can always submit his proposal so we can evaluate it. Or the Iloilo provincial government can also ask the Department of Budget and Management to transfer the fund from the 4th Engineering Office to the Capitol. Bahala na mag-usap ang provincial government at si Mayor Gorriceta,” Suy said.

Asis said that in order for Pavia to handle the project, it must have undertaken a similar road construction with a contract price at least 50 percent of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte project.

Asis said the municipal government must have ample technical personnel and equipment for the project.

Gorriceta said he is happy with President Arroyo’s move to intervene in the issue and order the road concreting project.

“At least, we got what we want which is to put up a concrete road. Our people in the area won’t suffer from dust and mud anymore when the project is realized. And most of all, we were able to protect people’s money from falling in wrong hands,” Gorriceta said.

The mayor also thanked Banias and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who chairs the Task Force Panay, for bringing the road project issue to the President’s attention.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILONGGA Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has lent support to the creation of a second congressional district in Iloilo City.

Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., author of House Bill No. 4256 which seeks to create the second legislative district in the city, said Santiago will file a counterpart bill in the Senate pushing for the same move.

Gonzalez said Santiago will also woo the support of other Ilonggo senators for the “city split bill.”

Aside from Rep. Gonzalez, his father Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. is also lobbying with senators to approve the creation of the second congressional district seen to benefit the metropolis.

Santiago cannot be reached for confirmation.

Both father and son are optimistic that the bill will pass Congress despite opposition from some Ilonggo lawyers and lawmakers.

A group led by Atty. Dan Cartagena is questioning the passage of HB 4256 saying Iloilo City has not yet reached the required population for the creation of another legislative district.

The 1987 Constitution provides that a congressional district must have at least a population of 250,000. Based on the latest population survey conducted by the National Statistics Office, Iloilo City has a total population of 418,000 only.

Cartagena also said the House of Representatives passed HB 4256 sans public hearing in Iloilo City.

Cartagena said they sent a letter to Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, questioning the city split bill.

The Liga ng mga Barangay-Iloilo City chapter headed by Irene Ong earlier passed a resolution expressing support for Gonzalez’s bill.

Ong said two congressional districts will bring more pork barrel which can be used to develop the city.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has warned motorists against using defective car batteries that have been recalled from the market.

The recalled batteries bear the brand name GS Tropical Battery. The recall order covered battery size 46D-26L with production codes 230-7A-2S. Battery size 158-78-2S and 60D-21L with production codes 219-7A-1K and 230-7B-1K were also included in the recall order.

The DTI said the subject batteries have thin plates and made of cheap and substandard materials.

Based on the tests conducted by the DTI’s Bureau of Production Standard last March, the recalled batteries hurdled the high rate test but failed to pass the field discharge and reserve capacity test.

In Luzon, the DTI has disposed the recalled batteries to prevent them from circulating in the market.

In an interview over Bombo Radyo, DTI regional director Dominic Abad said the recall order is effective nationwide since the defective batteries are distributed all over the country.

Ronnie Tan, manager of Energy Marketing Corporation Battery Specialist and Service Oriented which is the distributor of GS Tropical Battery in Western Visayas, said they have recalled and disposed their stocks of defective batteries.

Tan said they are only distributing new batteries which passed DTI tests. He added they immediately replaced defective products to protect their reputation.

September 2008
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