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More taxes for Panay fund is wrong

Senator Chiz Escudero: More taxes for Panay fund is wrong

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

USING the rehabilitation of Panay Island in the aftermath of typhoon Frank to raise taxes is wrong, according to Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

 

Escudero, chair of the Senate committee on ways and means, said the P8-billion Panay rehabilitation fund should not become a reason to burden the public with additional taxes.

 

The rehab fund was originally pegged at P15 billion but it was slashed down to P8 billion because of the ongoing war in Mindanao and the world financial crisis.

 

Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier, House committee on ways and means chair, said he is planning to increase taxes on professionals in order to obtain the needed funds for Panay’s rehabilitation.

 

A bulk of the rehabilitation fund will go to repairs and construction of damaged infrastructure and livelihood projects.    

 

“If President Gloria Arroyo wants to give you P15 billion, she can give you P15 billion, there is no need to legislate a new tax measure. Under Presidential Decree 1177, she has that power. So, she cannot say that we should look for sources,” Escudero said.

 

Escudero said he fears that the Panay rehabilitation fund might end up like the reformed Value Added Tax “which we did not feel.”

 

“The windfall from VAT is P17 billion this year alone. If she wants to give you the fund, she can. I will not allow increases in tax just to get funding for this matter. I’m not saying that we will deprive Panay. I’m really against tax raises because this government has enough funds. They should not point to anybody else in looking for funds for Panay,” he added.

 

The neophyte senator also cited the case of Luzon and Bicol when it was hit by typhoon in 2007 where the government immediately set aside rehabilitation funds without passing new tax measures.

 

“Why is it that in Visayas there is a condition that the fund will only be provided if there is a new tax measure? There should be equal treatment, if they can do it in Luzon, they should also do it in Visayas and Mindanao,” Escudero said.

 

He added: “It is the government’s responsibility to help Panay. This is caused by the national government’s neglect of Visayas and Mindanao. Its attention is always on Luzon and Metro Manila. It is time to bring back the funds to Visayas and Mindanao so you will feel that the national government is concerned for you.”

 

When asked if what could be the Arroyo administration’s motive in the new tax measure, Escudero said “your guess is as good as mine.”

 

“It is very clear that it (new tax measure) is wrong. Sa hirap ng buhay ngayon, dadagdagan pa ang buwis.”  

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo has wrapped up the hearing on the proposed P1.18 billion budget for next year. 

 

The hearing, however, finished with not one department head from the executive branch appearing before the committee on appropriations to defend their respective budgets.

 

Only the Local Finance Committee was allowed by Governor Niel Tupas Sr. to defend the executive budget before the SP.

 

Tupas barred the department heads to attend the hearing to avoid being “embarrassed and harassed” by the appropriations committee chaired by his nephew Vice Governor Rolex Suplico.

 

Tupas and Suplico are at odds with each other because of political differences.

 

Suplico said they decided to conclude the budget hearing because of the absence of the department heads.

 

The vice governor said they are trying break the budget impasse and avert the situation where the provincial government will operate under a reenacted budget.

 

But Suplico said they are keen on slashing portions of the budget, particularly the capital outlay for each department after the respective heads did not appear in the hearings.

 

Each department was allocated at least P250,000 for capital outlay which is used to purchase office equipment and furniture.

 

The SP set aside P2 million for capital outlay which will be used to buy a new vehicle worth P1.2 million. The remaining fund will be divided among the provincial board members for their needed office equipment.  

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IT’S okay to play cards or mahjong inside cemeteries during All Souls Day and All Saints Day as long there is no actual betting, according to a Roman Catholic priest.

 

Fr. Espiridion “Boy” Celiz, parish priest of Mandurriao, Iloilo City, said mahjong in cemeteries is not really wrong “because it is one way of being with our departed loved ones.”

 

Celiz stressed that November 1 and 2 should be focused on praying for the eternal repose of the dead.

 

“The purpose of November 1 and 2, which are actually church feasts, is to pray for the dead. We cannot have feasts without purpose. But if Small Town Lottery finds its way inside cemeteries, that is another story,” Celiz said over weekly cable TV talk show Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Iloilo City Councilor Perla Zulueta last Sunday.

 

Celiz also said that some mausoleums have become more than resting places for the departed ones what with the pantries and comfort rooms used by the living during November 1 and 2.

 

But the Mandurriao parish priest said bringing liquor and raucous bands inside cemeteries and upscale memorial parks is inappropriate.

 

“Children’s games in memorial parks are okay because it is one way of spending time with our relatives who went ahead of us to the other side. It is normal to have a little bit of celebration but we have to draw the line somewhere,” Celiz added.

 

Celiz also clarified that Halloween is the day before All Saints Day which falls on November 1.

 

“Halloween is the night before the day of the hallows or the departed ones who are now in heaven. Technically, it falls on October 31, the day before All Saints Day,” he said.

 

Halloween came from the Celtic tradition where they believe that goblins visit humans to pester them with pranks. This tradition became the standard celebration that modern world knows today complete with “trick or treat” and costume parties.

 

HALLOWEEN SECURITY

 

The Iloilo City and provincial police offices have put in place their respective security setups for November 1 and 2.

 

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo provincial police director, said municipal police stations were directed to strictly implement the liquor ban in all cemeteries.

 

Dela Paz said he also alerted local police stations and the provincial mobile groups against possible sabotage operations by rebels in Iloilo.

 

Police assistance centers will also be established in cemeteries.

 

Supt. Eugenio Espejo, Iloilo City police deputy director, said bladed items such as knives and bolos will only be allowed inside cemeteries until October 31 to give the public the chance to clean their respective graves.

 

Uniformed and non-uniformed police officers will also be deployed to all public and private cemeteries in the city, Espejo added.

 

The Land Transportation Office will put up assistance centers in major highways in the region to help motorists who might get stranded in going home to their respective provinces.

 

Meanwhile, the AFP said they are closely guarding ports of entries in the region to prevent rebels from deploying their members who plan to stage attacks during All Souls and All Saints Days.

 

Capt. Lowen Gil Marquez, chief of the AFP’s Civil Service Relations in Western Visayas, said it is possible that the New People’s Army (NPA) will take advantage of the Halloween and mount sabotage operations.

 

Marquez said they are focusing on roll on-roll off ports where NPA cadres might enter.

 

The Maritime Industry Office, Philippine Ports Authority and Philippine Coast Guard will also secure seaports in Western Visayas starting today, October 30, as part of the agencies’ Oplan Kaluluwa.

 

The operation plan is embodied in Department Order No. 2008-2 issued by Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

 

The three agencies will also ensure the safety and comfort of sea travelers by establishing assistance desks in all ports.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MILLIONS worth of undeclared imported pyrotechnics enter the country under the nose of customs officials.

 

This was the admission of Atty. Roberto Madrid, Bureau of Customs (BOC-6) collector, after their office confiscated P2 million worth of firecrackers allegedly owned by a certain Brian Coo.

 

Madrid said the confiscated pyrotechnics may be part of the undeclared firecrackers imported from China by a group of businessmen in Binondo, the Chinatown in Manila City.

 

Isang grupo lang ang pinanggalingan nyan. Even as far as Mindanao, nakakaabot ang ganyang cargo. Sa Manila, naayos na yan at sa local port. But hindi umubra dito,” Madrid said.

 

As regards the confiscated firecrackers, Madrid said the cargo arrived in Iloilo domestic port October 13 onboard a Sulpicio Lines, Inc. ship from Manila.

 

Customs personnel and the Regional Maritime Office 6 headed by Supt. Cornelio R. Salinas then seized the cargo.

 

Shipping documents of the cargo said the 40-foot container van contained toys but Madrid said they held the van after receiving tips that is contained fireworks imported from China.

 

Customs officials waited until the consignee showed up at the BOC-6 office before the container can be inspected.

 

The cargo documents showed that consignee Bryan Coo resides at Brgy. Magsaysay, Iloilo City proper. But Magsaysay officials said no Bryan Coo lives in their village.

 

After more than two weeks of waiting, no Bryan Coo showed up at the BOC office to claim the cargo, prompting Madrid to order the opening of the van.

 

The Customs Police and the RMO 6 operatives found absorbent cottons in the first layer. In the second layer were 1,000 boxes of assorted firecrackers.

 

Madrid said the cargo owners tried to make it appear that the merchandise is locally made by marking the boxes “Made in Bulacan.”

 

“But the Chinese characters show that these came from China. While its importation is legal, this certain Bryan Coo failed to show documents that he owns the goods. Since firecrackers are regulated by the PNP, the consignee must also present a permit from the Firearms and Explosive Division allowing him to transport the firecrackers,” Madrid said.

 

Madrid said they will still give Coo enough time to claim his cargo before they auction the firecrackers to local dealers.

 

“By November, we can finish the process and auction the goods. We are after the revenues that’s why we will sell them to interested parties,” Madrid said. 

 

While they are processing the auction, the firecrackers will be turned over to the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) Explosives Division for safe keeping, according to Madrid.

 

Salinas said the successful operation was already a signal that law enforcers have already put in place measures to ensure that ports and piers even in the remotest areas of Western Visayas will not be used as entry points for illegal activities.

 

“Our intelligence operatives will be monitoring all goods coming in especially now that we anticipate the influx of firecrackers as the holiday season is fast approaching,” Salinas said. (With reports from PNA)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Civil Service Commission (CSC) dismissed the administrative cases filed by a municipal hall employee against Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo for lack of jurisdiction and technicalities.

 

In a decision dated October 16, 2008, CSC regional director Rodolfo Encajonado junked the oppression charge filed by Roberto “Moroy” Hudieras against Gorriceta last October 10.

 

Another CSC decision dated October 17, 2008 also dismissed Hudieras’ appeal assailing Memorandum Order No. 2008-20 which transferred him from the Municipal Treasurer’s Office to the dump truck team.

 

In dismissing the oppression charges against Gorriceta, the CSC said it has no jurisdiction over the mayor because he is a municipal elected official.

 

Encajonado cited the Local Government Code and CSC Resolution No. 06-1971 which stipulate that complaints against municipal elective officials “shall be filed before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan whose decision may be appealed to the Office of the President.”

 

“Thus, since Mayor Gorriceta is an elective municipal official, the administrative complaint against him by Hudieras for oppression shall be dismissed on the ground of lack of jurisdiction,” Encajonado said.

 

The CSC also dismissed the oppression case because Hudieras’ documentary evidence, which includes his hospital bills, “were not certified as true copies.”

 

The complainant also failed to pay the P500 filing fee as required by CSC rules.

 

As regards Hudieras’ appeal on his transfer, the CSC said Hudieras filed his plea too late in the day.

 

Citing the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (URACCS), Encajonado said “a decision or ruling of a department or agency may be appealed within 15 days from receipt thereof by the party adversely affected” with the CSC regional office and Commission proper within the same period.

 

But the CSC chief said Hudieras filed his letter-complaint only on October 13, 2008, “which is already the 25th day from September 18, 2008, the date of his actual receipt of assailed Memorandum Order No. 2008-20.”

 

“Said date of filing is beyond the reglamentary period allowed for filing of appeals. Belated filing is considered a ground for dismissal as enumerated in Section 72 of the URACCS,” Encajonado said.

 

Similar to the junked oppression case, Hudieras also failed to pay the P500 filing fee which also became a ground for the dismissal of his appeal.

 

While the CSC has dismissed the twin suits, the Ombudsman- Visayas has yet to rule on the same set of charges Hudieras filed against Gorriceta.

 

Hudieras, who is a municipal utility worker since the time of the late Pavia mayor Felix Gorriceta, assailed his transfer from the Municipal Treasurer’s Office to the garbage collection truck last September 18, 2008 because of his “risky physical condition”.

 

His transfer is embodied in Memorandum Order (MO) No. 2008-20 Gorriceta signed and issued on the same date.

 

In his complaint affidavit, Hudieras said Gorriceta placed him in a “medically and physically risky situation” by assigning him to the garbage collection team despite his medical condition.

 

“His (Gorriceta) act constitutes oppression if not persecution, and has caused me undue injury because it appears that he wants me to ‘take or leave it’. It is tantamount to constructive illegal dismissal,” Hudieras said. 

 

The complainant said he is in delicate physical and medical condition after three armed men shot him inside their house April 30, 1998.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IT’S like being trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.

 

Constrained by a standing order from Governor Niel Tupas Sr. not to appear before the hearing on the 2009 executive budget, several department heads have secretly communicated with Vice Governor Rolex Suplico in a bid to justify their allocations next year.

 

Suplico, committee of appropriations chair, said seven heads of various capitol departments have secretly reached out to him since last week to explain their respective proposed budgets.

 

Suplico said the department heads, whom he did not name lest they earn Tupas’ ire, contacted him via phone before and after the budget hearings.

 

But since they justified their budgets outside of the hearing proper, Suplico said their testimonies will not be considered in the approval of the budget.

 

“There could be a chance that we will have to slash certain portions of the 2009 budget because of the failure of the capitol department heads to appear during the formal hearings. We cannot conduct voodoo or secret hearings because we are talking about people’s money here,” the vice governor said.

 

Tupas had issued an order that only the members of the Local Finance Committee (LFC) shall defend the executive budget before the SP.

 

The LFC is composed of provincial budget officer Elena Lim Budget, provincial planning and development officer Mario Nillos and provincial treasurer Corazon Beloria.

 

Representatives from the Provincial Legal Office were also allowed to attend the hearings to help in discussions on legalities.

 

Provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they will not allow department heads to appear before the budget hearings “because they end up being scolded, insulted and embarrassed” by the appropriations committee.

 

The Daily Guardian tried to reach several department heads to comment on their situation but they declined.

 

Yesterday, two department heads attempted to attend and defend their budgets before the appropriations committee but they later went out of the session hall.

 

Suplico said the committee only wants the department heads to explain in detail their proposed projects and expenses next year.

 

The vice governor in particular wants to know the specifics of the capital outlay, which is used to buy furniture, fixture and other equipment, for various departments.

 

“We only want the department heads to explain and itemize their expenses. This is taxpayers’ money and everything must be deliberated in the full glare of the public. The committee cannot engage in guess work when it comes to the budget,” Suplico said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE head of the Iloilo City Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) is being questioned for reportedly returning the bid bond of the winning contractor of the botched pile driving works of the New Iloilo City Hall project.

 

City Councilor Perla Zulueta said she was also surprised upon learning from news reports that Atty. Edgardo Gil, BAC chair and city legal officer, returned the P1.7-million bidder’s bond posted by International Builders Corp. (IBC).

 

IBC won the contract for the P59-million board piling works of the New City Hall project at the Plaza Libertad site in Iloilo City proper district.

 

But the firm backed out early this year because the contract price for the board piling increased by P15 million, from P59 million to P74 million.

 

The increase was brought about by high cost of cement and rebars due to high demand for construction materials by China which was then preparing to host the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

 

IBC’s withdrawal from the project further delayed the New City Hall project which is intended to be finished in 2010. 

 

Zulueta said P1.7-million bidder’s bond could have reverted to the Treasury after IBC withdrew from fulfilling the pile driving contract.

 

Based on report, Gil returned the bidder’s bond “out of pity” for IBC.

 

A bidders/bid bond is issued by the surety to the owner of the project (in this case the Iloilo City government) in lieu of a required cash deposit.

 

The cash deposit (usually 10% of the bid amount) is subject to full or partial forfeiture if the contractor is the low bidder and fails to either execute the contract or provide the required performance and/or payment bonds.

 

In other words, the bid bond assures and guarantees that should the bidder offer the low bid, the bidder will execute the contract and provide the required surety bonds.

 

Under government procurement rules, the bidder’s bond can only be returned to the contractor through a formal letter addressed to the BAC.

 

Zulueta said she will ask for clarification on why the BAC returned the bid bond.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE second round of the “budget war” between the executive and legislative branches of the Iloilo provincial government has begun.

 

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan began deliberating Thursday last week the 2009 executive budget submitted by Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, committee on appropriations chair, summoned the various department heads in the executive branch to rationalize and defend their budget proposals for next year.

 

But not one of the department heads showed up in the hearing.

 

Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said only the Local Finance Committee will appear before the provincial board during the budget deliberations, not the department heads.

 

Mejorada said it would be useless to send the department heads to the SP “because they will end up being humiliated, scolded and embarrassed” by the opposition-dominated board.

 

“No matter how the department heads will explain their budget proposals, Vice Governor Suplico will insist on what he wants,” Mejorada said.

 

Suplico sarcastically said over Bombo Radyo-Iloilo that he will just “ask the trees” regarding the 2009 proposed budget after the department heads did not show up.

 

The vice governor also denied insulting or embarrassing capitol executives during budget hearings.

 

“We are just doing our job and we formally invited the department heads,” he added.

 

The 2008 budget has been declared inoperative in its entirety because of the conflict between the SP and Tupas.

 

The provincial government is now operating under the re-enacted 2007 budget. 

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE marathon hearing on the administrative complaint filed by provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada against Iloilo vice governor Rolex T. Suplico is open to the media.

 

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) legal officer Ferdinand Panes said they will allow the media to cover the hearing November 11-14 at the DILG regional office.

 

Panes said an investigator from the DILG national office will conduct the probe while the regional office will serve as venue and facilitator.

 

Mejorada rapped Suplico for alleged oppression and harassment when the latter instigated the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to delete the allocation for the provincial administrator’s office in the 2008 annual budget. 

 

G. J. Emeterio S. Moreno, Jr., director III of the DILG legal office, informed the parties about the formal investigation which will put to test the disciplining power of the President over local officials under Administrative Order No. 23, series of 1992.

 

Moreno asked the parties to be present during the hearings to present their witnesses and evidences, stressing that no postponement will be allowed.

 

As complainant, Mejorada expressed confidence that the case will prosper despite the long wait. The case was filed last February 7 this year.

 

“It is clear that there is merit in the case,” Mejorada said. “Otherwise, the DILG would have dismissed the case outright.”

 

Mejorada described as “empty bravura” the reaction of Suplico in describing the case as “baseless”.

 

“Even the most hardened of criminals would usually dismiss the cases against them as ‘baseless’,” he said.

 

In his complaint, Mejorada charged Suplico with oppression, misconduct in office and abuse of authority in pushing for the deletion of the budgetary appropriation for his position as provincial administrator in Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-01-a.

 

Mejorada said this action made by Suplico was an apparent act of political vendetta against the most trusted lieutenant of Governor Niel D. Tupas, Sr.

 

“These are acts of oppression, misconduct and abuse of authority,” Mejorada said.

 

The “glaring hostility” displayed by Suplico against him was evident when the vice governor gave media interviews stating that he would make the provincial administrator go through a “needle’s hole” when his appointment goes before the Sanggunian, Mejorada said.

 

He also cited the privilege speech delivered by Suplico on September 4, 2007 in which the latter described him as an “impostor” and a “swindler” for continuing to occupy the position as provincial administrator.

 

In that speech, Suplico had vowed to push for the deletion of Mejorada’s salary appropriation in the 2008 annual budget. Suplico made good on his promise when he pushed for the enactment of Appropriation Ordinance No. 2008-01-a, he pointed out.

 

Mejorada said he will submit affidavits executed by no less than Suplico himself in which he admitted pushing for the removal of the budget appropriation for the salary of provincial administrator.

 

The President can suspend Suplico for six months if the complaint is warranted by the facts and evidence, according to legal experts.

New City Hall remains at Plaza Libertad site

 

By Jeehan V. Fernandez and Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MEGAWORLD Corp. has withdrew its offer to sell more than 4,000 square meters of the old airport property in Mandurriao, Iloilo City on which to construct the New City Hall.

 

In a letter to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas dated October 24, Antonio T. Tan, senior vice-president for operations of Megaworld, said they are withdrawing their proposal because of opposition from various sectors.

 

“…Given the adverse reaction unduly generated, we regret to inform you that we are withdrawing the proposal. We wish the City Government well in its endeavors and we hope to be of future assistance to the City Government of Iloilo,” Tan said.

 

Megaworld withdrew the offer two days after the Sangguniang Panlungsod junked its proposal to sell 4,596 sq m of the 54-hectare old airport lot at P3,500 per sq m or a total of P16 million.

 

In a letter dated October 13, Megaworld vice president Rodolfo Quintana initially offered the portion of the old airport lot for P10 million or P2,200 per sq m.

 

Treñas and the City Council agreed on Monday to accept Megaworld’s first offer only to receive another communication from Tan increasing the price of the lot to P3,500 sq m.

 

Last Wednesday, the City Council approved the resolution of Councilor Eldrid Antiquiera junking the second Megaworld offer.

 

The Philippine Retailers Association-Iloilo Chapter and small sidewalk vendors also opposed plans to transfer the location of City Hall from the Plaza Libertad area to Mandurriao as it will affect their respective businesses.

 

Several councilors raised concerns on the sudden price increase of Megaworld offer but Tan said the second offer was “subject to negotiation.”

 

Tan said their proposal was part of Megaworld’s “continuing corporate commitment and responsibility to grow and partner with the local community where its developments are located.”

 

“It was given with the best intentions to assist the City Government of Iloilo in its program of relocating the now demolished Old City Hall building to a bigger site to accommodate the growing operations of the City Government. It is an unsolicited proposal which may be accepted, rejected or be the subject of negotiation during the offer period,” Tan said.

 

Tan said “its prime location, development potential, proximity to business locators and easy access are just a few of the advantages which the City Government may derive from its use and development of the site.”

 

Megaworld will establish the “Iloilo Business Park” hosting hotel facilities, office and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) centers, retail and commercial centers, among others.

 

NO MORE OPTIONS

 

Megaworld’s withdrawal has left the City government with no choice but to construct the New City Hall on the old site across Plaza Libertad which has a total area of 2,100 sq m.

 

Wala naman kita choice (We have no more choice),” Treñas said in a text message to The Daily Guardian in reaction to Megaworld’s latest decision.

 

Before the offer was withdrawn, Treñas was awaiting the City Council’s decision based on the report of the appraisal committee composed of City Assessor, City Planning and Development Office and City Treasurer. The committee was tasked to determine the exact appraised value of the Megaworld lot in Mandurriao.

 

Treñas also created an ad hoc committee chaired by Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog to determine the viability of buying the Megaworld property.

 

Mabilog had recommended to sell the old City Hall site at P24million or P11,000 per square meter and use the proceeds to buy the old airport lot.

 

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A POLICE officer slapped a P5-million civil suit against Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. for allegedly humiliating and oppressing him.

SPO1 Rex delos Reyes of Igbaras police station said he wants Gonzalez to pay moral damages for accusing him coddling goons and engaging in illegal activities.

Delos Reyes had also filed an administrative case against Gonzalez before the Ombudsman-Visayas for libel, grave misconduct and oppression.

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.

The cop said the numerous citations he received – Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Medalya ng Paglilingkod sa Visayas and Medalya ng Mabuting Asal – prove that he is no scalawag in uniform.

Delos Reyes is one of the 81 cops who were ordered to undergo retraining at the Regional Mobile Group headquarters in Victorias City, Negros Occidental. But he did not show up at the training center because he is sick.

Atty. Plaridel Nava, delos Reyes’ counsel, said they might also sue Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, for being Gonzalez’s “stooge.”

Nava, who is also Baldago’s lawyer, said they will sue Cuevas for grave abuse of authority if they find enough proof that the region’s top cop allowed himself to carry out Gonzalez’s wishes.

Nava said his client did not proceed to Victorias City because he did not receive any order from the regional command or his station.

The lawyer said delos Reyes does not need to undergo retraining.

Cuevas denied Nava’s accusation saying it was the PNP national command that ordered the retraining, not Gonzalez.

Cuevas said the retraining aims to improve the performance of police officers in Western Visayas.

“If they don’t want to serve as police officers, they can always resign because we have many replacements waiting for vacancy,” Cuevas said.

CALLE REAL The old central business district, popularly known as Calle Real, in downtown Iloilo City is still a majestic sight at sunset. There is still hope for small and medium entrepreneurs along Calle Real after the City council junked yesterday Megaworld’s offer to transfer the New City Hall to its property in Mandurriao district. (Photo by Tara Yap)

CALLE REAL The old central business district, popularly known as Calle Real, in downtown Iloilo City is still a majestic sight at sunset. There is still hope for small and medium entrepreneurs along Calle Real after the City council junked yesterday Megaworld’s offer to transfer the New City Hall to its property in Mandurriao district. (Photo by Tara Yap)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

SIDEWALK vendors at Calle Real in downtown Iloilo City have joined business retailers in opposing the proposed construction of the New City Hall in Mandurriao district.

The vendor said they will lose more if the City Hall is relocated somewhere else.

Vendors along JM Basa, Iznart and Aldeguer Streets – which form the Calle Real commercial triangle – said the City Hall serves as the magnet for people shopping for things they need.

Anna Geromias, a vendor in Aldeguer Street for more than 10 years, said most of their customers are people who transact business at the City Hall and other government offices in the downtown area.

Geromias said they suffered lower sales when the City Hall transferred to Robinsons Place mall after the old city hall across Plaza Libertad was demolished.

“We are suffering already. If the City Hall is moved out of City Proper, we might lose our livelihood,” Geromias said.

Jimmy Braño echoed Geromias’ sentiments saying they face a bleak Christmas due to lower sales with the transfer of the City Hall to the Robinsons mall.

“Our customers are those who have transactions at the City Hall when it was still in Plaza Libertad. We don’t want the City Hall to move because it will affect us,” Braño said.

Owners of eateries near Plaza Libertad, said business was brisk when the city hall was still at the old site.

Antonio said they want the New City Hall to rise at the old lot, not in Megaworld property in Mandurriao “so that our business will continue.”

Earlier, more than 200 small business retailers along Calle Real expressed opposition to the plan of transferring the city hall to the Megaworld Corp. property in the old airport site in Mandurriao.

Francis Chung, president of the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) Iloilo chapter, said the transfer of the City Hall to Mandurriao will signal the death of Calle Real business retailers who are mostly small and medium entrepreneurs.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MEMBERS of the elite Special Weapons and Tactics team and the Iloilo City Police Office’s (ICPO) Explosive and Ordnance Division (EOD) were deployed to two shopping malls early morning Wednesday following alleged bomb threats.

Intelligence operatives in the PNP and the military said they received raw information Tuesday evening that the New People’s Army will attempt to bomb Gaisano City Capital mall in LaPaz and Robinsons Place in Iloilo City Proper district.

SPO3 Rafael Managuit of the EOD said they were ordered to inspect and secure the two malls as early as 6am yesterday.

Managuit said they did not find any suspicious package or persons around the two malls except for a box of stale pizza in Gaisano.

“Only the two malls were specified as possible targets and we were deployed to secure the said areas per order of our superiors,” Managuit said.

Managuit did not immediately confirm if the NPA is behind the bomb plot.

In a telephone interview, Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias, ICPO director, said the information they received was raw and subject to further verification.

“But since this is a bomb threat, we did not take our chances and dispatched the EOD and Swat to secure the two malls. We did things discreetly as much as possible to avoid causing alarm to mall goers and the general public,” Tobias said.

Tobias said they also briefed the malls’ security personnel on what to do in case they find suspicious items or persons in their areas of responsibility.

The ICPO chief said they are still verifying the raw intelligence information they received relative to the alleged bomb plot.

Military intelligence sources said similar bomb threats on the same malls circulated in Iloilo City last April and July.

Aside from Iloilo City, the bomb threat on the two malls also circulated in Davao and Manila.

The intelligence sources said they continue to verify the information and trace the actual source.

 

By Francis Allan A. Angelo

THE Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will begin investigating next month the oppression charges filed against Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico.

Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said the marathon investigation will begin November 11-14, 2008 at the DILG regional office.

Mejorada filed last February 7, 2008 administrative charges for oppression, misconduct in office and abuse of authority against Suplico.

The complaint was filed with the Office of the President but it was forwarded to the DILG for further investigation.

Mejorada alleged in his complaint that Suplico maliciously orchestrated the removal of the budget for his position in the botched 2008 annual budget.

The Iloilo provincial board, upon recommendation of Suplico as chairman of the appropriations committee, removed the items for salaries and wages of the provincial administrator, legal officer and two executive assistants from appropriation ordinance 2008-01-a.

Mejorada said not allocating a budget for his position “constitutes illegal dismissal” as he has been holding a “valid appointment” as provincial administrator. He said that co-terminus positions “depend on the trust and confidence of the appointing authority.”

Mejorada said the DILG central office will send an investigator who will handle the probe.

The DILG-6 regional office will act as facilitator by summoning the complainant, respondent and other resource persons, he added.

Suplico denied oppressing Mejorada by citing the comment of former Civil Service Commission (CSC) regional director Raymund Gonzales that the position of provincial administrator was “considered vacant” because the present Sangguniang Panlalawigan has yet to concur with the appointment of anyone for the said position.

Suplico said Mejorada’s July 27, 2004 appointment “expired with the assumption to office of new elected officials because he occupies a co-terminus position.”

The CSC under its new regional director, Atty. Rodolfo Encajonado, reiterated Gonzales’s opinion that the position of Provincial Administrator remains vacant.

Mejorada said the CSC opinion is “a mere scrap of paper that has no biding effect”.

Mejorada also slammed Suplico for wasting time trying to force him out of office instead of discharging his function as vice governor.

 

The WVMC ob-gyne ward has been vacated after it incurred a crack on its second floor. (FAA photo)

The WVMC ob-gyne ward has been vacated after it incurred a crack on its second floor. (FAA photo)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE contractor of the Obstetrics-Gynelogical (Ob-Gyne) building inside the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) used the wrong kind of aggregates on the second storey flooring reason why it suffered a 15-foot crack.

This was the initial finding of the City Engineer’s Office (CEO) as to why the Ob-Gyne building’s second floor cracked Monday morning.

Engr. Gil Maternal of the CEO maintenance division said the aggregates used in the Ob-Gyne building’s second storey were bigger than what is supposed to be used for upper floorings.

Instead of using aggregates with 0.75-inch diameter, the contractor mixed stones with 2-inch diameter, Maternal said.

Maternal said the contractor should have used the same kind of aggregates in the concrete mix to make sure that the second floor is compact and stable enough to carry its load.

The CEO has recommended to the WVMC to hire a private structural engineer who will inspect the whole building.

Meanwhile, the WVMC management assured it will renovate the building.

Dr. Jose Marie Fermin, WVMC chief, said the Ob-Gyne building will undergo repairs, particularly the big crack on the second floor.

Fermin said he has already informed Health Secretary Francisco Duque of the building’s condition.

But the WVMC chief assured that the 26-year-old Ob-Gyne building is still structurally sound despite the presence of the crack.

Fermin said the building can withstand an 8.5 magnitude earthquake as it passed the standards of the Department of Health.

The City Engineer’s Office (CEO) has recommended the temporary abandonment of the Ob-Gyne building after they found out that the aggregates used in the flooring were substandard.

The Ob-Gyne building was constructed sometime in 1982. The contractor has yet to be identified as of presstime.

The ward was housing 93 newly-born infants when the crack occurred. These infants were transferred to other wards.

Patients in the ground floor or the delivery area were also transferred to the out-patient building while patients confined in the nursery intensive unit were moved to the building near the emergency room.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ANOTHER witness has surfaced and testified that the four companies that joined the bidding for the P1.3-million autoclave sterilizer are owned by a single individual.

Atty. Jonel Alipao of the Provincial Legal Office said the new witness is an employee of the General Services Office (GSO) at the provincial capitol. He did not identify the new witness.

Alipao is the chairman of the committee tasked by Governor Niel Tupas to investigate the alleged anomalies surrounding the P1.3-million autoclave sterilizer purchased by the Don Valerio Palmares District Hospital in Passi City.

Alipao said the new witness was able to present documents and testify that will prove the interlocking ownership of Pacific Trade House (PTH), CDC Pharmacy, Joemar Trading and Dione Trading.

PTH won the contract for the autoclave sterilizer which the Commission on Audit (COA) found to be locally manufactured and unpatented.

COA had also questioned PTH’s qualification to undertake the transaction as it lacked a valid business permit when it joined the bidding January 22, 2008.

The testimonies of the new whistleblower backed the claims of GSO employee Nelson Robles who fingered couple Connie and Dionisio del Castillo as the real owners of the four capitol contractors.

Robles said he handles documents relative to purchases by Capitol-run hospitals.

Alipao said he asked Tupas for another 15 days to collate their data and submit a report on their findings.

The PLO committee was supposed to submit its findings to the governor Monday.

Tupas said he approved the 15-day extension so that the committee can come up with a comprehensive report and proper recommendations relative to Capitol transactions.

Aside from the sterilizer transaction, the del Castillo firms were also involved in the transaction for the anesthesia machine purchased by the Calinog District Hospital.

The anesthesia machine was later found out to be a second-hand demonstration unit that was first sold in Pampanga.

The anomaly was uncovered when Health Solutions Inc. sent a complaint letter to Tupas last month.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan is also conducting its own probe on the twin transactions.

The committees on accounts, justice, good government and human rights and health and sanitation will spearhead the investigation.

Notices have been sent to resource persons, particularly members of the Provincial Bids and Awards Committee, GSO and the owners of the four contractors to appear before the investigation.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo City government should act in earnest on what to do with the Employees’ Housing Project (EHP) located in Pavia, Iloilo after wasting more than P80 million on the rotting project.

This was the recommendation of the Commission on Audit (COA) in the 2007 Annual Audit Report on Iloilo City’s financial standing.

COA said City Hall’s investment in the EHP which was funded out of the P80.399 million five-year loan with the Philippine Veterans Bank “was a failure, despite payment of contract cost of P62,599,557.69 and P24,765,261.52 in loan interests.”

“The project that started in calendar year 2001 remained uncompleted and has already deteriorated. We recommend that the City Government consider the best avenue/alternative to remedy and salvage the deteriorating Iloilo City Employees Housing Project,” the audit report said.

Mayor Jerry Treñas earlier broached plans to convert the housing project site into a commercial complex to save the city’s investments.

The EHP was first constructed in 2001 with Ace Builders and Enterprise (ABE) as the winning contractor. The project has a total contract price of P125,3403,56.65.

But it was discovered sometime in 2002 that ABE used substandard materials in the project which led to probes by the Iloilo City Council and the Ombudsman-Visayas.

The Ombudsman-Visayas has recommended the filing of cases against several city officials inducing former mayor Mansueto Malabor and Treñas.

The Iloilo City government eventually cancelled the contract with ABE and the payment was halted.

ABE continues to demand payment from the City Hall for the remaining P14 million the latter owes the contractor.

But the Ombudsman warned the city hall against paying the contractor because of the pending investigation and cases relative to the project.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PATIENTS of the Obstetrics and Gynelogical (Ob-Gyne) ward, including 93 newly-born infants, at the West Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Mandurriao, Iloilo City were evacuated the building after a large crack was discovered in the building’s second floor.

The evacuation happened around 10:40am Monday when medical personnel found the 15-meter crack which stretched from the door to the bed area of the ward.

The patients said they were surprised when ward nurses advised them to leave the building.

The patients said they heard a cracking sound then the lights went off. Staff nurses later told them to move out.

The second floor serves as the rest area for mothers who have just delivered their babies while the ground floor serves as the delivery and nursery area.

A team from the Iloilo City Engineer’s Office led by Engr. Gil Maternal was sent to the hospital to investigate the anomaly in the building’s structure.

Maternal said they found the crack on the floor of the 28-year-old ward but its beams and foundations were intact and stable.

Maternal opined that the load of the second level may have weakened the flooring. It was found out that two patients occupy a bed on the second floor.

The CEO official also said the floor’s concrete slabs may have failed because of the weak bonding between the cement and the aggregates used in the building.

“The contractor should have avoided pouring the concrete slab by slab. Dapat isa lang ka buhos,” Maternal said.

Maternal said they advised the hospital management to abandon the building while they further investigate the crack and the safety of the whole building.

“We cannot conclude if the contractor used substandard materials in the building. That will come out in the investigation,” Maternal said.

The WVMC management under Dr. Jose Mari Fermin has yet to comment on the incident.

The patients were relocated to other wards of the hospital until the ob-gyne building is declared safe for occupancy once more.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

TEN police officers in Panay did not report to the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) headquarters in Victorias, Negros Occidental for the mandatory one-month retraining.

The 10 absentee cops are SPO1 Rex delos Santos of Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO), PO1 Richard Barone of Antique PPO, PO1 Crispin Escobar of Antique PPO, PO1 Romaila Nangilimutan, PO1 Renato Pineda of Iloilo City Police Office, PO2 Ronald Palmos of IPPO, PO2 Hernie Jaminal of Guimaras PPO, PO2 Raymund Noble of Bacolod CPO, PO2 Nicolas Tampinco of Bacolod CPO and PO2 Jerry Gelpe of IPPO.

The RMG headquarters has already asked the Police Regional Office-6 to order the 10 police officers to report to Victorias City.

The absentees cops are part of the 89 police officers who were ordered to retrain in Victorias City
for alleged lack of discipline and involvement in illegal activities.

Delos Santos has been very vocal against the retraining order saying Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez was
persecuting him for his links with former Iloilo City prosecutor Efrain Baldago.

PRO-6 regional director Isagani Cuevas said he has ordered the respective mother units of the 10 cops to look and send them to the RMG headquarters.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE bid of Antique Governor Salvacion Z. Perez to seek for the cancellation of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to the proposed coal-fired power plant in Iloilo City is too late in the day.

In an interview over the weekly cable TV talk show Serbisyo Publiko Sunday hosted by City Councilor Perla Zulueta, Engr. Adrian Moncada, assistant vice president of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC), said Perez should have asked for the cancellation of the ECC within 15 days after it was issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Perez and four other Western Visayas governors – Isidro Zayco of Negros Occidental, Carlito Marquez of Aklan, Victor Tanco of Capiz and Felipe Hilan Nava of Guimaras – earlier wrote President Gloria Arroyo urging her to revoke the ECC issued to GBPC’s proposed coal-fired power plant at Brgy. Ingore, LaPaz, Iloilo City.

Moncada said the ECC was issued September 1 but the letter of the five governors only came out last week.

“If we refer to the DENR procedures, any protest to the issuance of the ECC must be done within 15 days after it was issued. I don’t think that the DENR will recall it at this time,” Moncada said.

Moncada said there could be political color to the anti-coal letter of the governors “but it is up to the President to act on this.”

But DENR Secretary Lito Atienza said they will not revoke the ECC to the coal-fired power plant project.

Atienza said President Arroyo forwarded the governors’ letter to his office for his action.

The DENR chief said the issues on the project’s effects on public health and environment have already been addressed in previous consultations and studies by their experts.

Atienza said the GBPC project will use clean coal technology and will solve the acute power problem of Iloilo and the rest of Panay.

Engr. Randy Pastolero of Panay Electric Co., the sole power distributor in Iloilo City, said the proposed coal-fired power plant will help lower electricity rates in the metropolis which is now pegged at P14 per kilowatt-hour.

“With the ECC of the coal plant already approved, there is now a pending reduction of the generation cost which is the prime factor in our power rates in Iloilo City,” Pastolero said.

Recently, Governors Zayco, Tanco and Marquez told Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas hat they did not intend to interfere in the city’s affair.

The three governors also said that they have no objection to the project as long as public health and the environment are protected.

This portion of the rehabilitated national highway at Brgy. Jibao-an, Pavia, Iloilo leads right to the entrance of Savannah Subdivision which is owned by Senate President Manny Villar. (FAA photo)

This portion of the rehabilitated national highway at Brgy. Jibao-an, Pavia, Iloilo leads right to the entrance of Savannah Subdivision which is owned by Senate President Manny Villar. (FAA photo)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE sole road project of Senate President Manuel Villar in Iloilo leads right to his own subdivision straddling the towns of Pavia and Oton.

According to documents from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Budget and Management, Villar’s project is an asphalt overlay of the 586.6-linear meter portion of the national highway at Brgy. Jibao-an, Pavia.

“It was a road widening which includes the concreting of shoulder and sidewalk with gutter. A cross-drain was also established to avoid erosion of the road,” said DPWH regional director Rolando Asis.

Asis said road rehabilitation project paved the highway leading to the entrance of Savannah Subdivision which is owned by Villar.

Savannah, nine kilometers from Iloilo City, is an almost 300-hectare posh village established sometime in 2000.

Based on Special Allotment Release Order No. ROVI-2004-249, the road rehabilitation has a funding of P4 million.

The International Builders Corporation won the project contract for P3,884,040.47. The rehabilitation includes the asphalt overlay of 586.6 linear meters of road, concrete shoulders and sidewalk with curb and gutter.

DBM assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said the funds for the project were included in the 2003 General Appropriations Act.

“It was taken from the maintenance and other operating expenses under capital outlay of the DPWH. The DPWH has the discretion on how the allocation shall be used. Legislators could make a request to fund a certain project,” Bedonia said.

The original asphalt road was rehabilitated in 2004 after it was severely damaged by heavy trucks loaded with tons of aggregates passing through the area.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A LETTER has reopened the P1.3-million controversy in the ranks of Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, Inc. (PanayFed) which dragged the name of Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo.

The April 10, 2002 letter, a PDF copy of which was posted in the blog http://paviawatcher.wordpress.com/, was written by Ely Bagtasus of Phi Beta Enterprises and addressed to PanayFed through its corporate secretary Atty. Aloysius de la Cruz II.

The full content of the letter said: “This is with reference to your letter dated March 14, 2002. We are forwarding herewith two (2) postdated cheques issued by Mr. Arcadio H. Gorriceta payable to PANAYFED for the total amount of Php1.3M dated July 31, 2002 and August 31, 2003 as payment to the Tractor deposits that were released to Phi Beta Enterprises. The cheque covers only the principal amount without prejudice to the interest payment which Mr. Gorriceta will remit as soon as he will be informed of the definite amount. Mr. Gorriceta also agree (sic) for the redocumentation of the account under his name provided that amount will correspond to his two (2) postdated checks.”

The letter apparently provides the missing link to the allegations of the blog http://steveonthecross.wordpress.com/ that Gorriceta “improperly took” from PanayFed the P1.3 million intended for the importation of farm tractors and spent for his personal use.

According to the blog, the money was given to Bagtasus, the dealer of the farm equipment, for the purpose of getting the tractors bought from abroad. But the transaction did not prosper.

The blog further alleged that “Gorriceta, upon learning that the transaction was aborted, secretly asked Ely Bagtasus to give him the money on the pretext that he would take care of returning it to PanayFed.”

When the disappearance of the money was discovered, Gorriceta admitted it and issued two checks for P650,000 each as restitution for the money, the blog added.

The Bagtasus letter surfaced a week after de la Cruz cleared Gorriceta of any obligation to PanayFed.

De la Cruz said they could have sued Gorriceta if he still owes PanayFed.

But the PanayFed official refused to confirm or deny the content of the blogs as he questioned the author’s source and the documents that will prove the claims in the blog.

De la Cruz even dared the blog’s author to come out in the open and lay down his proof.

“If he has proof, then we can pursue this matter in the proper forum, not just in the blogs or media,” he said.

De la Cruz said they are more concerned with issues besetting sugar farmers, especially the scrapping of tariffs on imported sugar which may affect the local industry.

Gorriceta had blamed the blog attacks on his dakal-dakal exposé where he accused Rep. Judy Syjuco and her husband Tesda director general Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco of trying to “hijack” a P28-million road project in Pavia.

Gorriceta said the black propaganda against him is a consequence of his effort to expose “evils and anomalies” happening in the second congressional district of Iloilo under the Syjucos.

The mayor had denied any anomaly in the PanayFed issue but he let the organization clarify the matter “as it will be self-serving if I answer the accusations.”

*For a copy of the Bagtasus letter to PanayFed, click this link: letter-phi-beta1

Labor leader seeks Ombudsman probe

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A LABOR leader has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the more than P1.7 billion allegedly wasted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) under director-general Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco.

In a letter to Tanodbayan Merceditas Gutierrez dated October 14, 2008, Annie Enriquez Geron, president of SAMAKA-TESDA, asked the anti-graft body to further investigate the 2007 findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on Tesda transactions.

The issues Geron raised against Syjuco are:

– P101,012,925.71 in excessive, unnecessary expenses for paid media advertisements, printing of promotion materials, unauthorized/excessive payment of Representation and Transportation Allowances (RATA), Extra Miscellaneous Expenses (EME) and Exemplary Performance Reward (EPR) of Officials and Employees;

– P61.38 million representing cash advances and outstanding inventory account for more than two years;

– P15.89-million disbursement without sufficient basis for officials and employees incentives;

P447.71 million unrecorded, underrecorded, overrecorded and unverifiable property, plant and equipment account;

P198,839.89 unpaid personal telephone calls;

P46.22 million unremitted fund to the National Treasury.

In sum, Geron claimed that P1,731,970,000 was wasted “due to irregular procurement, grossly disadvantageous contracts, procurement of equipment and facilities that remained dormant due to missing accessories, systems mismatch, lack of operational manuals and the poor PGMA scholarship program implementation and monitoring.”

Geron’s letter, which was based on the COA audit report, also pointed out questionable transactions by Tesda regional office 6, particularly the P3.42 million for various paid media advertisements from years 2005-2007.

Geron said the paid media ads violated Administrative Order No. 103 implemented by Tesda Circular No. 17.

“These advertising expenses were deemed unnecessary as contemplated under COA Circular No. 85-55A, as these are not essential in the operation of the agency. Moreover, contract amounting to P947,000 in TESDA-RO6 were awarded without the benefit of public bidding contrary to Sec. 54.1 of Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Act),” she said.

Tesda-6 employees and officials also partook of the P4.34-million Exemplary Performance Reward which is “in excess of the authorized amount under Budget Circular No. 2007-004,” Geron said.

The Tesda regional office in Western Visayas also failed to submit for current audit disbursement vouchers and supporting documents for financial transactions worth P5.15 million.

It was also found out that P148.45 million worth of equipment intended for TESDA Regional Training Center in Tagoloan in Region 10 was diverted to TESDA-accredited New Lucena Polytechnic College (NLPC) in Region 6 “contrary to the criteria for project sites selection to the detriment of the overall objective of the Project.”

The alleged diverted equipment are part of the P738-million equipment under the foreign loan-funded project of upgrading a network of seven TESDA regional training centers into Centers of Excellence in Modern Manufacturing Technology (CEMMT).

Geron had also filed graft cases against Syjuco in 2006 and 2007 which resulted in her transfer outside Luzon.

In previous interviews, Syjuco labeled Geron as a troublemaker who wanted to undermine his programs in Tesda.

Syjuco said not one of the graft cases filed against him was proven by concerned agencies.

In December 2007, the Presidential Anti Graft Commission (PAGC) found Syjuco and members of the Tesda Bids and Awards Committee guilty of grave misconduct and gross negligence in connection with the railroaded P9.2-million publication of a book without public bidding.

The PAGC recommended dismissal against the Tesda officials along with accessory penalties.

But Malacañang’s committee of peers later reversed the PAGC recommendation against Syjuco.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

JARO Archbishop Angel Lagdameo has joined the crusade against the expansion of the geothermal power plant in Negros Occidental.

According to a Green Alert press report, Lagdameo has signed a campaign sheet calling to save the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park from the geothermal expansion project of the Energy Development Corp. (EDC).

The EDC decided to expand the Northern Negros Geothermal Production Field (NNGPF) into the Mt. Kanlaon buffer zone to look for more sources of steam.

The NNGPF, which has a production capacity of 49 MW and was commissioned by the then Philippine National Oil Co.-EDC in February 2007, has been shut down since last week of May due to insufficient steam production. It can only deliver 4-5MW which affected the power supply of Negros and Panay Islands resulting in rotating brownouts.

When EDC announced its expansion project, local environment groups Green Alert-Negros and Save Mt. Kanlaon Coalition and Catholic church leaders headed by Bacolod Bishop Vicente M. Navarra voiced their opposition.

The Save Mt. Kanlaon Coalition, through counsels Andrea Si and Andres Hagad, have filed a complaint with the Bacolod City Regional Trial Court Branch 44 against the EDC, members of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park Protected Area Management Board, Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes, Environment Secretary Jose L. Atienza Jr., Negros Occidental Governor Isidro P. Zayco, Bago Mayor Ramon D. Torres and Murcia Mayor Esteban H. Coscolluela to stop the entry of EDC into the buffer zone.

Lagdameo’s move against the EDC expansion project, however, contravenes his earlier statement of support for efforts to tap renewable sources of energy such as geothermal power plants.

Lagdameo has used the renewable energy rhetoric in opposing the establishment of coal-fired power plants in the region.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WHO are the first batch of Western Visayas cops who will undergo retraining at the Regional Mobile Group headquarters in Victorias City, Negros Occidental before possible deployment to Mindanao?

Based on records from the Regional Personnel and Human Resource Development Division of the Police Regional Office (PRO-6), a total of 34 cops from Region 6 provinces comprise the first batch of re-trainees.

Majority of the re-trainees are from the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) with 12 cops.

The re-trainees are: SPOI Ronaldo Alag, PO3 Allen Balledos and PO2 Dexter Jun Judilla of Aklan Provincial Police Office (APPO); PO2 Arnold Alabanzas, PO1 Noe Gallenero and PO1 Alexandro Espares of Capiz PPO; PO2 Gilbert Montibon, PO2 Nicholas Tansinco Jr. and PO1 Jose Bobby Solina of Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO); SPO2 Nicanor Gamosa, PO1 Jonnel Aficionado and PO1 Vicente Paloma of Guimaras PPO; PO2 Remy Donasco, PO1 Arnel Alada and PO1 Rommel Bellones of Iloilo PPO; PO3 Danilo Orcio, PO3 Anthony Gabiano, PO3 Eric Sinadjan, PO2 Ernie Jaminal and PO1 Jose Rey Lopez of Negros Occidental PPO; PO3 Miguel Blancia, PO3 Johnny Padernilla, PO3 Enrique Thorntorn, PO2 Ferdinand Junsan, PO2 Gerardo Ocampo, PO2 Gerwin Servano, PO2 Renato Pineda, PO2 Leo Camayudo, PO2 Angelito Silla, PO1 Rolando Denauto, PO2 Rex Wendem and PO1 Al Ribo of ICPO; SPO1 Winnie Provido and PO2 Randy Dalumpines of PRO-6.

The said cops were recommended for re-training by their respective provincial and city directors for underperformance, failure to follow directives and alleged involvement in illegal activities.

After the retraining, the 34 cops might be deployed to war-torn Mindanao if needed.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB-6) office supports the petition for fare reduction following the decrease of oil prices in the world and domestic markets.

Atty. Porfirio Clavel, LTFRB regional director, said the successive decrease in fuel prices will merit reductions on public transport fares.

Clavel said the petition for fare reduction filed by the National Council on Consumer Protection (NCCP) with the LTFRB central office will take effect all over the country if approved.

The group is seeking a P1.50 decrease in jeepney fares and P2 for buses as the latest price of crude oil delivery was enough to justify a fare rollback.

“Since the LTFRB is a quasi-judicial body, a petition for fare rollback is needed so that we can compel transport groups to oblige,” Clavel said.

But transport groups said the rollbacks are not enough and that fuel prices may have to go down to P37 per liter before they can implant a significant fare rollback.

The first hearing on the fare rollback petition of NCCP was held Tuesday morning but it did not prosper after the group failed to file a formal notice of publication on their petition.

The next LTFRB hearing on the petition is on November 4. The agency will also summon representatives of the big three oil companies and small oil players to the next hearing.

ILED president Rex Drilon

ILED president Rex Drilon

Biz group slam guvs’ anti-coal letter

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN umbrella group of business organizations here slammed the five Western Visayas governors who called for the revocation of the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) of the proposed coal-fired power plant of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

Ilonggo business executive Rex Drilon, Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc. (ILEDF) president, said the actions of the five governors led by Salvacion Perez of Antique are “deplorable” and the “work of an evil hand.”

ILEDF is an umbrella organization of 14 major business and professional associations tasked with promoting business, investments and tourism in the city and province of Iloilo.

The Iloilo City mayor, Iloilo provincial governor and provincial DTI director are ex-officio members of the ILEDF board of directors. The group represents more than 350 small, medium and large businesses employing thousands in Iloilo.

The proposed coal power plant is a joint project of GBPC with the Formosa Group of Taiwan and will cost P18 billion, the biggest investment ever in Iloilo City and Panay Island.

“The actions of the Western Visayas governors, save for Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas who did not sign the petition, are mysterious, defy logic, border on interference on the affairs of other independent local government units and are anti-business and anti-investment. It is as if an evil hand is at work,” Drilon said.

Drilon, chief operating officer of Ortigas and Company Limited Partnership, expressed disbelief at Gov. Perez’s position “particularly because five years ago, she signed a memorandum of understanding with KEPCO, a Korean power company, to set up a 100-MW coal plant in Antique.”

“And today, Antique has a 15-MW coal power plant, which uses an older technology, operating in her province. If a coal plant was good enough for Gov. Perez in Antique why is she now objecting to a coal plant in Iloilo City?” Drilon said.

The ILEDF president also debunked the claims of the five governors that GBPC’s coal-fired power plant will pose danger to their constituents staying in Iloilo City

“That is hilarious and shallow. All the concerned parties went through a long, rigorous process to assure that the coal plant will be ideally situated and pose minimal adverse impact on residents and the environment. We went through another protracted process to secure the ECC. The benefits to our communities are undeniable and unquestionable,” he said.

Revoking the ECC issued to the project proponent will result in investor flight, straining Iloilo City’s economic development, Drilon added.

“With the ECC approval, contractual and supply commitments had been finalized by the investors. If the ECC is cancelled as proposed by Gov. Perez, the investors will be left holding the proverbial bag – this is no way to promote investments in our country and will only confirm the perception that, indeed, in this country, we change the rules of the game in the middle of the game,” Drilon added.

Drilon said the 164-MW coal power plant of GBPC, “together with the 100-MW coal power plant of DMCI Power in Concepcion, Iloilo, were designed to assure adequate, reliable, quality and cheaper electricity for the whole island of Panay in many years to come.”

“Ilonggos were banking on these power plants to solve their perennial brownout problems and high cost of electricity – obstacles to the attractiveness of Iloilo as an investment and tourism destination.”

Is she pro- or anti-coal?

Perez: Is she pro- or anti-coal?

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ANTIQUE Governor Salvacion Perez claims she is against coal-fired power plants but she is open to having one in her own province.

Perez expressed her willingness to allow the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Semirara Island in Caluya town in her most recent interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo Saturday.

Perez led four other governors in Western Visayas in signing a petition letter to President Gloria Arroyo asking her to revoke the environmental compliance certificate issued to the proposed coal-fired power plant in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

The other governors who signed the letter are Isidro Zayco of Negros, Victor Tanco of Capiz, Carlito Marquez of Aklan and Felipe Nava of Guimaras.

The five governors said the power plant poses health and environmental risks, particularly in thickly populated areas like Iloilo City.

But the statements of the governors, particularly Perez’s, in the letter petition contradict their pronouncements over the media.

In the radio interview, Perez said she has been against coal-fired power plants “a long time ago” because of their perceived ill effects on the environment and public health.

But in April 2003, Perez was a signatory to a memorandum of understanding on the coal-fired power plant in Antique.

President Arroyo even announced the signing during a meeting at Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center April 1, 2003.

Perez said they are willing to compromise with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas by moving the proposed power plant of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) outside the city.

And if the proponent wants, Perez said she will allow the project in Semirara Island where coal is being mined.

The lady governor said it would be better to put up the coal-fired power plant in Semirara Island because it is the source of coal.

“But they are saying that it would be expensive to install the transmission lines but in the long term power will be cheaper if it’s near the source,” she said.

Perez said she is also proud of the coal-fired power plant used by DM Consunji, Inc. which mines coal from Semirara Island.

The action of the five governors has earned the ire of Iloilo City leaders, particularly Treñas who said he was disappointed and insulted by the petition letter.

Treñas said not one of the governors informed him about the letter even if they met in several meetings.

The mayor went to Manila in a bid to convince President Arroyo not to heed the petition letter.

Complainant Roberto Hudieras (right) with former Pavia mayor Ervin Geroche and then 2nd district Rep. Augusto Syjuco in 1998. (Photo courtesy of Atty. Cornelio Panes)

Complainant Roberto Hudieras (right) with former Pavia mayor Ervin Geroche and then 2nd district Rep. Augusto Syjuco in 1998. (Photo courtesy of Atty. Cornelio Panes)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE offensive against Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo continues.

This time, Gorriceta is facing administrative charges for undue injury and oppression separately filed by Pavia municipal employee Roberto B. Hudieras with the Office of the Ombudsman and Civil Service Commission, respectively.

Hudieras, a native of Brgy. Tigum, Pavia, filed the charges October 10 through his lawyer Licerio Panes.

Hudieras, who is a municipal utility worker since the time of the late Pavia mayor Felix Gorriceta, assailed his transfer from the Municipal Treasurer’s Office to the garbage collection truck last September 18, 2008 because of his “risky physical condition”.

His transfer is embodied in Memorandum Order (MO) No. 2008-20 Gorriceta signed and issued on the same date.

In his complaint affidavit, Hudieras said Gorriceta placed him in a “medically and physically risky situation” by assigning him to the garbage collection team despite his medical condition.

“His (Gorriceta) act constitutes oppression if not persecution, and has caused me undue injury because it appears that he wants me to ‘take or leave it’. It is tantamount to constructive illegal dismissal,” Hudieras said.

The complainant said he is in delicate physical and medical condition after three armed men shot him inside their house April 30, 1998.

According to news reports in 1998, police tagged the case as politically-motivated because it happened at the height of the 1998 election campaign period.

Hudieras was an active supporter of Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco who ran for congressman opposite Joemarie Geroche.

Hudieras said he fought back at his attackers but he got shot three times in his abdomen which almost killed him.

The victim underwent major surgery at the Iloilo Mission Hospital through the help of Syjuco who paid for his operation and medicines.

Four months after his surgery, Hudieras said he went back to his work as utility worker. Because of his weakened condition, his doctor advised him against doing heavy physical work. Former mayor Ervin Geroche assigned him to the municipal treasurer’s office.

In August 2008, Hudieras was tasked to work at the Mahogany Park in Pavia “as an offshoot of the ‘reorganization’ ordered by the municipal mayor, Arcadio Gorriceta.”

“Although such assignment is a field work that would somehow put at risk my physical and medical condition, I gladly accepted and followed the order after I realized that the nature of the job would not entail exertion of much heavy physical work,” Hudieras said.

But last September 18, Hudieras said he was surprised to receive a copy of MO 2008-20 assigning him to the garbage collection truck “that daily collects trash and garbage in the town proper and adjoining barangays of the municipality.”

“While I believe that the Mayor can reassign me to any area of work as a utility worker, his authority so should not be exercised arbitrarily, that is, without regard to my medical and physical condition as a shooting incident victim. Mayor Gorriceta knows for a fact that I am under constant medical watch because of the surgical procedure I underwent and assigning me as a garbage loader would place me at risk,” the complainant said.

Hudieras attributed his transfer to the garbage truck team to his close links with Syjuco who is now at odds with Gorriceta over the dakal-dakal (sand and gravel) road project in Pavia. He said his transfer is politically motivated because Gorriceta knew that Syjuco spent for his medical expenses in 1998.

“As a government employee, I am apolitical and I would accept any help coming from any public official, but Mayor Gorriceta ignored that and instead perceived me as a ‘Syjuco sympathizer’ and for that he must persecute and oppress me,” Hudieras said.

WHAT OPPRESSION?

In an interview with Joel Tormon over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, Gorriceta said he did not oppress nor cause undue injury to Hudieras.

“If he does not like to work in his present assignment, he can always complain to me or the personnel department instead of filing a case and going to the media. He can always request for transfer because I will find him a better assignment. I did not know that he got shot and his condition is sensitive,” Gorriceta said.

Gorriceta also denied that politics attended Hudieras’ reassignment because of the latter’s links with Syjuco.

“I did not know that Syjuco spent for him. I did not know that Syjuco is now interested in our garbage. I thought he was only interested in dakal-dakal, now he is into Pavia’s garbage,” Gorriceta said.

Gorriceta said the memorandum order may have not been specific to Hudieras and also covered other employees.

But a copy of the memorandum order attached to the complaint showed that it was only addressed to Hudieras and pertained to his transfer to the garbage collection truck.

Gorriceta said he will go over the memorandum order and reprimand the department personnel why Hudieras was assigned to the garbage collection team despite his medical condition.

“We will correct it if this is the case. I did not know about this,” he added.

The mayor said he has not received a copy of Hudieras’ complaint and only learned about it from the media.

“Maybe this is the price I have to pay for exposing irregularities committed by ranking officials and powerful people. I will face this, no problem. Just because I exposed the dakal-dakal issue they will threaten me with cases. Tan-awon ta eh. Anyway, the people of Pavia know what Mayor Gorriceta has done,” he said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WAS Antique Governor Salvacion Perez suffering from amnesia when she wrote and signed a petition letter urging President Gloria Arroyo to revoke the environmental compliance certificate issued to the coal-fired power plant proposed by Global Business Power Corp. in Iloilo City?

Defending the petition letter, Perez said over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo that she has been against the establishment of coal-fired power plant “a long time ago.”

“It is not correct to say that we are opposing this project only now. We have been against this for a long time now. We need to develop renewable sources of energy because no matter what we say, coal is coal,” Perez said.

Perez said they could come up with a compromise with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas not to allow the coal power plant to be established in the city but in a place far from thickly populated areas.

The lady-governor said she and the four other governors in Region 6 are concerned with the effects of the plant on their constituents who are working and studying in Iloilo City.

Perez also cautioned Treñas not to be “onion-skinned and arrogant” over the issue lest he earns the ire of the five governors.

She also denied that they are after political mileage and popularity in coming up with the anti-coal letter.

The four other governors who signed the petition letter were Felipe Nava of Guimaras, Carlito Marquez of Aklan, Victor Tanco Sr. of Capiz, Isidro Zayco of Negros Occidental.

KEPCO PROJECT

Apparently, Perez forgot that she signed a document endorsing a coal-fired power plant in her home province.

Sometime in 2003, Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) proposed to build a 100-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Tibiao, Antique.

Five years ago, President Gloria Arroyo announced that Perez, in behalf of the Antique provincial government, signed a memorandum of understanding with Kepco Philippines Corp.

President Arroyo made the announcement in her speech before a meeting with rice farmers, irrigators associations, and the trade and agri-business sector in Panay April 1, 2003 at the Kalantiaw Hall of Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center in Iloilo City.

“So I am very pleased to let you know that this morning a memorandum of understanding was signed into… by and between the provincial government of Antique led by Sally Perez and Kepco Philippines, our representatives from Korea, Mr. Lee Gilbo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kepco Philippines Corporation, with the presence of Korean Ambassador Son Sang Ha, to construct and set up a 100-megawatt circulating, fluidized bed combustion power plant using the Semirara coal of Caluya in Antique.

The President’s speech can be downloaded from this link: (http://www.op.gov.ph/speeches.asp?iid=314&iyear=2003&imonth=4)

But the Kepco project did not push through as the proposed location did not pass the soil stability test even as environmentalists opposed the project.

Kepco later transferred to Ajuy then to Banate, Iloilo.

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada told this paper that Governor Perez “even lobbied for the Iloilo provincial government to reject coal so that Kepco will be forced to invest in Antique.”

But opposition from environmentalists forced the Korean firm to move to Cebu where it finally established two 50-MW coal-fired power plants in Naga, Cebu.

October 2008
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