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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BILLING POLICY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M-16 Armalite rifles for SWAT substandard

 

By Jeehan V. Fernandez and Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘No firing tests, no acceptance’

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Army spokesman said they cannot tolerate such acts.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

DBM nixes Capitol’s 10% salary increase

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

How?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

COMMERCIAL ships can go on their usual routes even if public storm warning signal (PSWS) No. 1 is hoisted in their ports of origin and destination.

 

This is the new regulation issued by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) national headquarters in response to the qualms of shipping lines whose vessels are stranded every time PSWS No. 1 is raised in parts of the country.   

 

HPCG Memorandum Circular No. 07-08 superseded interim MC No. 06-08 which barred all ships of any tonnage from sailing in case PSWS No. 1 is hoisted.

 

But in MC No. 07-08, which was issued in September, only sea vessels of 1,000 gross tonnage and below will not be allowed to leave the port during signal No. 1.

 

Commander Harold Jarder, PCG-Iloilo station chief, said once MC No. 07-08 takes effect, ships with more than 1,000 GT, which includes passenger and cargo vessels, can now sail despite storm signal No. 1. 

 

“This regulation is more on the economic side because the Coast Guard does not want to hamper the movement of passengers and commercial cargo. We already saw what happened in the last two typhoons when thousands of passengers were stranded even if the storm was weak,” Jarder said.

 

But if the storm signal is raised to No. 2, all ships will be prohibited from sailing, Jarder said.

 

Jarder said the new regulation will take effect after it is published in a newspaper of national circulation.

 

But even before the MC No. 07-08 is implemented, the municipal government of Buenavista, Guimaras has asked the Coast Guard to exempt pump boats plying Guimaras-Iloilo route from the regulation.

 

The request is in the form of resolution passed by the Buenavista municipal council last November 12.

 

Jarder said he referred the resolution to their higher headquarters “and it is being seriously considered by the Maritime Safety Services of the PCG.”

 

“If the request of Buenavista is granted, pump boats can be allowed to travel within light of sight. This means, the completion of the voyage can be physically observed,” Jarder said.        

 

Jarder said there are times when PSWS 1 is raised “but the seas are calm and there are no strong winds which can be safe for pump boats to sail.” 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will not accept the alleged P500,000 bribe that former House Speaker Jose De Venecia Jr. received from Malacañang.

CBCP president and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said while the decision on whether to accept the money or not needs consultation with the CBCP permanent council, the group will not receive the alleged bribe money.

“…Considering the source and intent of the money, which smacks of bribery, the CBCP will refuse to handle such amount as it is tainted with corruption,” Lagdameo said in a statement issued Monday.

De Venecia earlier told congressmen that his refusal to endorse the complaint cost him the Speakership and the presidency of Lakas-CMD, the party he co-founded with former president Fidel Ramos.

During the hearing on the new impeachment complaint against Arroyo, de Venecia confirmed that he received a P500,000 bribe from Malacañang to endorse the complaint.

He said he did not touch the money but will turn it over to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and Archbishop Oscar Cruz.

Still, Lagdameo praised de Venecia for exposing the alleged bribe to congressmen in an attempt to endorse a weaker impeachment complaint last year.

“It is praiseworthy of former Speaker Jose de Venecia to have revealed that he in fact was offered such amount. Since JDV may not be alone in this issue, I hope and pray that others too will have the same courage to expose similar conduct for the love of the country,” Lagdameo said.

De Venecia spilled the alleged bribery during the hearing on the latest impeachment complained filed against President Gloria Arroyo spearheaded by the House committee on justice chaired by Rep. Matias Defensor.

In another statement, the CBCP head also reiterated its support for a Constitutional Convention (Con-con) as the only mode of amending the 1987 Constitution.

Lagdameo said the CBCP does not agree with the proposal of the House of Representatives to convert Congress into a Constituent Assembly.

“We agree with members of civil society who oppose any proposal for elected public officials to extend their term and/or perpetuate themselves in power. If the Constitution needs to be changed it should be by way of a Constitutional Convention and after the 2010 election,” Lagdameo said.

Lagdameo also called for “bayanihan spirit of pagtutulungan” to lift the country past the looming global economic recession.

The CBCP president also called for “cardiac conversion from whatever is evil to everything that is good.”

“But what our country more urgently needs is to look for and elect people who will govern us with honesty above all, with integrity, truthfulness, justice and accountability. More than change the form of our government, they are those who are guilty of graft and corruption who need to change or be changed,” he said.

Singaporean recruiter faces raps

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A SINGAPOREAN national is facing charges of large-scale estafa for alleged illegal recruitment victimizing Ilonggo jobseekers.

Vijaya Raj, a native of Singapore City, of DMK Placement Agency was arrested 7pm Saturday at Four Season Hotel after an entrapment operation conducted by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group headed by Senior Supt. Donato Angara.

Raj is the subject of a criminal complaint filed by six Ilonggos who dreamed of working in Singapore only to return back empty handed.

The complainants are part of the 21 jobseekers who were forced to return home from Singapore as they had no working permit issued by Raj’s agency.

Based on the complainants’ accounts, they were made to pay between P18,000 to P45,000 for the opportunity to work in Singapore.

The complainants also tagged a certain Mone Sumugod of Zarraga, Iloilo as Raj’s alleged counterpart in the city and province.

The charge against Raj was filed with the Iloilo City Prosecutor’s Office yesterday even as another complaint will be filed within this week which might include Sumugod as one of the respondents.

Raj is presently detained at the CIDG-6 headquarters in Camp Delgado. His lawyer and a consul from the Singaporean embassy are expected to arrive in Iloilo City and assist the suspect in his case. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

TWO persons died in a night bar violence at Brgy. Cubay, Jaro, Iloilo City late Sunday evening.

Eladio “May-May” Prior and Cyril “Nanong” Sadia died of gunshot wounds in the chest and head following a commotion inside Papa Jim KTV Bar at Brgy. Cubay.

The Jaro PNP tagged Alberto Lazarte of Brgy. Cubay as the main suspect in the shooting. Lazarte is reportedly an ex-convict.

Initial police investigation showed that a ruckus occurred inside the bar between Brgy. Cubay kagawad Arnold Catamin and another group.

Minutes later, a customer identified as John Salvador Pesina went out of the bar and boarded his motorcycle.

But a certain Edgar Alvior stabbed Pesina reason why the latter collapsed to a wall before falling to the ground.

Prior and Sadia then responded to the commotion but Lazarte who was already waiting outside the bar shot them with a revolver.

The two victims died at the West Visayas State University.

Police recovered from the crime scene a caliber .38 revolver, two live ammunitions and empty shells of the same gun.

The Jaro police is still investigating the motive for the incident.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

SIX police officials are being eyed to become full-fledged director of the Iloilo City Police Office (IPCO).

Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director Isagani Cuevas said among the candidates is Senior Supt. Bartolome Tobias who is currently ICPO officer-in-charge.

Tobias replaced Senior Supt. Wesley Barayuga who went on schooling and is now eyeing the PRO-6’s Regional Logistics Division.

Cuevas said Tobias has applied for the top ICPO post with the Senior Officers Promotion and Placement Board (SOPPB) in Camp Crame.

Another candidate is Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, the current director of the Iloilo Provincial Police Office.

Dela Paz is credited for neutralizing alleged leaders of highway robbery gangs operating in Iloilo province. He also solved the assassination of Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas with the arrest of prime suspect Dennis Cartagena last September in Butuan City.

Senior Supt. Cornelio Defensor, Regional Intelligence Division chief, is also eyeing to become the city’s top cop.

The other candidates for the ICPO directorship are Senior Superintendents Rosendo Franco of the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office, Ronilor Quebrar of Bacolod CPO and Ren Darroca of Antique PPO.

Cuevas said the SOPPB will come up with a final list of officers which will be submitted to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas who will handpick the next ICPO director.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE family of the slain Vice Mayor Ramon Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo fears that the delay in the resolution of the case also endangers the life of the prime suspect-turned-witness in the case.

Iloilo 5th district board member Jett Rojas said they are appealing to the Department of Justice to expedite the resolution of the petition for review they filed with the department relative to the assassination of the vice mayor May this year.

Rojas said each day of delay in resolving their petition increases the risk in the life of Dennis Cartagena, one of the suspected gunmen of the vice mayor who tagged businessman Vicente Espinosa as the alleged brains of the assassination.

Cartagena was arrested September in Butuan City after his fellow suspect Edgar Cordero was assassinated.

The Rojas family filed the petition for review with the DOJ after the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (IPPO) junked the murder charges against Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista for lack of evidence.

Only Cartagena and Cordero were made to face the charges before the Regional Trial Court, according to the IPPO resolution.

The IPPO, however, said Espinosa and Buenavista can be included in the charge sheet if new evidence can establish their involvement in the case.

Buenavista and a certain Jose Bajadi are the prime suspects in the shooting to death of Cordero.

Rojas said the sworn statement of Cartagena tagging Espinosa and Buenavista in the murder of his cousin could reverse the IPPO’s resolution.

The board member said Cartagena is also wary of his life as the brains behind the assassination will find ways to silence the latter, just like what happened to Cordero.

Rojas said they are appealing to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. to immediately act on his cousin’s death.      

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CHANGES in the Senate leadership might affect the passage of a bill creating a second legislative district in Iloilo City, said Lone District Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr.

Gonzalez said the Senate shakeup might delay the discussion of House Bill 4256, which seeks to create the second Iloilo City congressional district and restructuring of the Iloilo City Council, before Congress goes into Christmas break.

HB 4256 breezed through the House of Representatives despite opposition from lawyer Dan Cartagena who doubts if the city meets the 250,000 population per district requirement set by the 1987 Constitution.

Based on the 2007 census of population, Iloilo City only has more than 400,000 population.

Gonzalez said issues such as the impeachment case versus President Gloria Arroyo, Senate leadership changes and Charter change have shrouded the city redistricting issue.

Gonzalez said he is keenly observing if Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will keep or lose the chairmanship of the Senate committee on local government which will tackle the redistricting bill.

But the Iloilo City congressman is still hopeful that the Senate will discuss the bill despite changes in committee chairmanships. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A BALANCE between immediate power needs and the environment must be observed in addressing the looming power shortage in Iloilo City and the rest of Western Visayas.

Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said he understands the immediate need of Iloilo City for additional and stable sources of power as regards the proposed coal-fired power plant in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

“We have to balance two things – energy that is needed immediately because the city is suffering from brownouts and the protection of the environment,” Zubiri said at the sidelines of the regional congress for renewable energy at Amigo Terrace Hotel Friday.

The neophyte senator, who is at the forefront of the Renewable Energy Law, said he understands “the need of the city for power now, not tomorrow.”

“No investments will come in the city without stable power,” he said.

But Zubiri is hoping that Panay will start tapping renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal and hydropower.

“We have to discover these renewable sources of energy because I believe that we have lots of potentials here. We can even transform the city’s trash into energy,” Zubiri said.

Citing the volatile oil prices in the global market, Senator Edgardo Angara, who also attended the congress, urged investors to invest in renewable energy.

Angara and Zubiri are the proponents of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008.

Angara said the Visayas region will be the first to experience power shortage in year 2009, “the Mindanao area will likewise experience power stage in 2010 and in 2011, the Luzon area and that will complete the nationwide shortage of electricity and power”.

“The Philippines is lucky to have abundant sources of renewable energy,” Angara said, clarifying that he is not against coal or other conventional sources of energy.

At the presentation of the Western Visayas Renewable Energy Source, the following are the topics and their lecturers: Wind Power by Ms. Rosario B. Venturina, SVP, Trans-Asia Power Corp.; Solar Energy-Roberto L. Puckett, President, Solar Electric Co; Hydro Power – Jose S. Natividad, CEO, Sunwest Water Electric; Bio-Energy: Waste to Energy- Ernesto V. Tan, SVP and CEO, ASEA ONE; Bio-Energy: Biomass Co-Generation-Antonio Steven L. Chan, President, Central Azucarera de San Antonio; Sustainable Biomass Power Development – Grace S. Yeneza, Preferred Energy Inc/Global Green Power, Plc Corp; and Geothermal-Agnes de Jesus, VP FirstGen Corp. (With reports from PIA)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial government will expedite the purchase of a new cadaver freezer for Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Mandurriao, Iloilo after the remains of two persons reportedly emitted foul odor causing discomfort among the staff and patients.

Reports from GMA’s dySI Super Radyo said foul smell emanated from the WVMC morgue past 11pm Wednesday.

Security guards of the hospital said the remains of two persons were deposited inside the morgue after they died Wednesday morning.

But Esther Nievales, WVMC chief administrative officer, denied the report saying no foul smell came from the remains of the dead patients.

A caretaker of the morgue said only one body was deposited inside the facility but it did not smell. The dead person was released to relatives yesterday.

The Daily Guardian tried to reach WVMC director Jose Mari Fermin but he was in General Santos City.

The morgue incident happened days after Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III pledged to help WVMC buy a new freezer.

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada expressed alarm about the latest incident in the WVMC morgue because of the possible health hazard posed by the remains of dead patients.

“We are now fast-tracking the request of the provincial government to Secretary Duque to address the problem by buying a new cadaver freezer. This issue affects the constituents of the province. We can’t afford to sit around and watch the possible health hazards explode in our faces. The situation is like a ticking time bomb and every minute counts,” Mejorada said.  

Mejorada was the one who relayed to Duque last week the request of Fermin to the Iloilo provincial government to help the hospital buy a new cadaver freezer.

Last month, the remains of Leonardo Belleza of Guimaras province also emitted foul smell as the decades-old cadaver freezer conked out. 

Prov’l board slashes Tupas’s gas allowance

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

GOVERNOR Niel Tupas Sr. said he might be forced to go around the province on foot or onboard a trisikad after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan slashed by 75 percent the budget for gasoline of the Office of the Governor (OG).

Tupas originally requested P2.050 million for fuel expenses in the 2009 but the SP only approved P650,000, a decrease of P1.4 million.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, committee on appropriations chair, said they slashed the fuel budget of his uncle governor because the latter only has one official vehicle.

Suplico said P2 million for fuel alone is too much except if the governor goes around the province non-stop.

But Tupas said he is not the only one who was supposed to use the P2.050-million gasoline budget “as other offices also ask for fuel from me.”

Tupas said the OG has another official vehicle which was detailed to the Iloilo Provincial Police Office.

The SP approved Tuesday the 2009 budget after slashing some P34.81 million from the proposed P1.180-billion budget.

Nine board members voted to approve the committee report of Suplico – Jeneda Salcedo, JR Salcedo, Richard Garin, Macario Napulan, Mariano Malones, Arthur Defensor Jr., George Demaisip, Giuseppe Gumban and Cecilia Colada.

Board members Rodolfo Cabado, June Mondejar and Shalene Hidalgo voted against the approval of the committee report.

Board member Jett Rojas, who is an ally of Suplico, abstained from voting on the committee report.

Most of the reduction in the proposed budget came from the capital outlay of various capitol departments.

Suplico decided to delete the capital outlay of department heads who failed to attend the budget hearing and defend their proposed appropriations.

Only the capital outlay of Local Finance Committee members – provincial treasurer, provincial accountant and budget officer – were spared by the SP after the department heads explained to the committee where the budget will go.

The SP retained the budget for job hires for provincial and district hospitals upon request of board member Napulan.

Also retained was the P50,000 financial assistance for the Cry of Jelicuon Festival of New Lucena, Iloilo which Suplico mistook for a festival of cattle rustlers.  

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WHY did Iloilo Board Member Jett Rojas abstain from voting on the committee on appropriations report relative to the 2009 budget?

Rojas said one of the reasons why he did not vote during their regular session Tuesday was the financial aid to the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office (IPPO).

Rojas has an ax to grind with the IPPO after the latter dismissed the murder case filed against Vicente “Etik” Espinosa and others in relation to the assassination of Ajuy vice mayor Ramon Rojas, a cousin of the board member.

The IPPO dismissed the charges against Espinosa and Lindsey Buenavista for lack of evidence.

Rojas said he asked the committee on appropriations not to extend financial assistance to the IPPO because he believes the office cannot dispense justice.

Aside from the IPPO financial assistance, Rojas said he refrained from voting because he believes the 2009 budget did not undergo scrutiny and study after capitol department heads did not attend the budget hearing.

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. forbade department heads from attending the hearing, except for the members of the members of the Local Finance Committee, to prevent the Sangguniang Panlalawigan from “harassing” the capitol executives.

Rojas said he wanted the committee and the SP to further study the 2009 budget to avert a similar case when the 2008 budget was struck down by the Department of Budget and Management as inoperative.

The board member, however, assured his decision will not affect his alliance with Suplico’s group.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AROUND 60 percent of households in Arevalo, Iloilo City are engaged in firecracker manufacturing and most of them have no permits from the City government and the PNP, according to the Firearms Explosives Security Agencies and Guards Supervision (Fesags-6) office.

Supt. Lope Manlapaz, Fesags-6 chief, said this statistic is the reason why they encourage local firecracker makers to secure permits from their office and the City Hall to ensure the safety of their workers and the community.

Manlapaz said manufacturers who register with Fesags are required to observe safety measures such as the distance of the factory from residential areas.

SPO1 Benjamin Toledo of Fesags said manufacturers must locate their factories in large areas because work huts for mixing and packing of pyrotechnics must be 300-400 meters apart from each other.

Another factor that discourages firecracker makers from securing permits is the P5,000 fee they have to pay during registration.

Fesags-6 officials also observed that manufacturers don’t bother to get permits from the PNP after they have been issued business permits by the City Hall.

As of yesterday, only 10 firecracker manufacturers from Negros Occidental, Bacolod City and Capiz have filed their registration documents with Fesags-6.

Aside from the manufacturers, 37 dealers and 1 retailer in Western Visayas also applied for permits with Fesags.

Manlapaz said they have evaluated and forwarded the applications to the Firearms and Explosives Division (FED) in Camp Crame which will issue the permits.

“The Fesags will only facilitate their documents as only the FED can issue the permits,” Manlapaz said.

Manlapaz said a cooperative of firecracker makers in Iloilo City also processed their permits with Fesags “but we asked them to return because they still lack some documents.”

Last November 15, the Iloilo City Police Office 6 which covers Arevalo district conducted a seminar on stakeholders of the firecracker industry and barangay officials.

Some 150 fireworks manufacturers, dealers, retailers and barangay officials attended the activity.

The seminar covered topics on fire safety measures and Republic Act 7183 which regulates the firecracker industry.

Senior Insp. Federico Silvestre Jr., Arevalo police chief, and SPO4 Noel Rojo stressed that making and selling firecrackers such as “atomic big triangulo” and “super lolo” are prohibited by RA 7183. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) assured the public that the new Carpenter’s Bridge spanning Mandurriao and Molo districts in Iloilo City is still safe despite the cracks at its approach.

 

Engr. Al Fruto, Iloilo Flood Control Project (IFCP) assistant manager, said they discovered the “transversal” crack on the Mandurriao side approach located right before the transition slab of the bridge.

 

The crack ran across the middle of the approach from the inner curve to the outer curve, Fruto said.

 

The Carpenter’s Bridge is part of the P556.924-million IFCP Package 2 undertaken by Chinese construction firm China International Water and Electric Co.

 

Fruto said the crack was found during the punch listing, part of bridge inspection before it is turned over to the government.

 

The DPWH will conduct a coring test to find out the extent of the crack and the appropriate corrective measures.

 

“If the crack is superficial, we can pour concrete epoxy to close the gap. But if it is substantial, then we will have to replace the whole approach at the expense of the contractor because the bridge has yet to be turned over to the government,” Fruto said.

 

Fruto said they suspect the approach may have cracked because of its curved shape “which is natural for concrete.”

 

The DPWH executive said the crack is not due to the use of substandard materials, heavy vehicular traffic or poor compaction by the contractor.

 

Fruto also assured that the main bridge component is stable and safe for vehicular traffic despite the crack.

 

“We are carefully inspecting the whole bridge to find out if there are additional works needed or deficiencies in the project before it is turned over to us. It is now 95 percent complete and it will be turned over by end of this year,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo provincial government continues to deny receiving part of the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund even as the House and Senate grill its purported brains, former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante.

 

Provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said yesterday the provincial government refused a “very lucrative kickback” offer of 40 percent from a woman supplier.

 

Mejorada said the woman was trying to get the Capitol to submit a P10-million request for fertilizers sometime in March 2007 “but we steered clear of the fertilizer fund scam.”

 

“The moment the supplier told us that there was a 40 percent kickback in the transaction, we immediately said ‘no’ and asked her to leave,” Mejorada said.

 

Mejorada said the woman supplier, whose name he could no longer remember, had approached him with the necessary procurement documents already prepared and just awaiting the signature of Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

“She told me she could obtain the funding for the province through the Department of Agriculture, and all that we needed to do was to get Governor Tupas to sign the request for fertilizers,” he said.

 

However, Mejorada became suspicious about the liquid fertilizer that she was offering in the transaction and the “outrageous” offer of a 40-percent kickback. He quickly turned down the offer.

 

Mejorada said he informed Tupas about the anomalous offer. “The governor told me that I had done the right thing,” he said.

 

A few days later, the supplier went directly to see Tupas with the same offer, but the governor told her “to bring it elsewhere”.

 

Based on Commission on Audit reports, three congressional districts – 1st district, 2nd district and 3rd district – received allocations of P5 million each.

 

Bolante has again absolved President Arroyo in the fertilizer fund scam.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MEMBERS of the Iloilo City police arrested Tuesday a suspect in the robbery and killing of a businessman at the Iloilo Central Market last July 6, 2007.

 

Gil Camarista, 43, of Brgy. San Juan, Molo, Iloilo was arrested by the Iloilo City Police Precinct 1 operatives near Freedom Grandstand on JM Basa Street.

 

Camarista is one of the three suspects accused of robbery with homicide relative to the shooting to death of Fernando Servando, a chicken dealer at the Central Market.

 

The suspects allegedly took away Servando’s bag containing P60,000 cash and jewelry. 

 

Chief Insp. Conrado Carganillo, ICPS 1 commander, said Camarista was arrested on the strength of an arrest warrant issued by Regional Trial Court Judge Edgardo Catilo.

 

Carganillo said they waited for Camarista to leave the office of his lawyer before arresting the suspect.

 

Camarista claimed he is innocent of the charges because he was in a wedding when Servando was shot to death.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office (Noppo) recommended the filing of criminal cases against five police trainors for the alleged hazing of 52 police trainees inside the 6th Regional Mobile Group headquarters in Victorias City, Negros Occidental.

 

Senior Supt. Rosendo Franco, Noppo director, said they will file charges of less serious physical injuries against Inspectors Stephen Somosot and Dianne Grace Aquitania, Police Officers 1 Cherry Lacson, Jean Hiponia and Joemarie Arboleda.

 

Franco said they based their recommendation on the results of the medical examination on police trainees who complained they were subjected to hazing by their trainors.

 

The 52 trainees, who underwent Special Counter-Insurgency Course Training inside Camp Aniceto Lacson, suffered hematoma and contusions, the medical examination showed.

 

The trainees claimed their trainors hit them with sticks, PVC and GI pipes and wood during their training.

 

Earlier, Supt. Remus Zacharias Canieso, 6th RMG director, recommended the filing of grave misconduct charge against Somosot, Lacson, Hiponia and Arboleda while Aquitania was charged with neglect of duty.

 

Franco said they will submit their recommendation to Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office-6 director.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Health will help Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) buy a brand new cadaver freezer.

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III learned about WVMC’s predicament during the latter’s visit to Lambunao, Iloilo last week to lead the mass drug administration against lympathic filariasis.

Mejorada said he relayed to Duque the request of Dr. Jose Mari Fermin, WVMC director, to the Iloilo provincial government to help them buy a new cadaver freezer.

“Upon learning that WVMC was asking for the province’s help, he immediately called his staff and ordered them to look for funds which will be used to buy a new cadaver freezer,” Mejorada said.

The need to buy a new cadaver freezer for WVMC was raised after the remains of a Guimaras resident started to smell inside the hospital morgue, causing inconvenience among the patients and their folks.

Patient Leonardo Belleza was brought to WVMC in the morning of October 19 and died the next day due to complication of tuberculosis, hypertension and myocardial infarction. He was buried October 21 after none of his folks claimed his body.

The hospital buried Belleza’s body because the morgue freezer broke down after decades of operation.

Esther Nievales, WVMC chief administrative officer, said the hospital cannot afford a cadaver freezer which costs more or less P8 million for the type that can contain two cadavers.

Duque had said that tertiary hospital must have morgue freezers where the management can keep cadavers until their folks claim the remains.

 

 

Cytotec alarm raised in city

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ALARM has been raised against the spread of misoprostol or popularly known by its trade name Cytotec in Iloilo City because of its abortive effects.

This after the Iloilo City Mobile Group (ICMG) arrested four persons, including two Atis, selling the banned drug in the city.

Authorities also found out that some Indian nationals are smuggling Cytotec in the city for sale in herbal medicine outlets.

The ICMG Special Operations Group said a syndicate might be using unwitting Atis and women to sell the banned Cytotec in the city.

The Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) has banned the sale of Cytotec since 2002 because it induces abortion among pregnant women.

The ban is outlined in BFAD Advisory No. 02-02 dated August 12, 2002 which says that misoprostol is not registered with the agency. 

Cytotec is a drug for the prevention of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-induced gastric ulcers. It is also used and approved in other countries to induce labor and as an abortifacient.

It was invented and marketed by then G.D. Searle and Company (now Pfizer) under the trade name Cytotec.

Cytotec is approved by the Food and Drugs Administration of the United States and other countries.

Councilor Erwin Plagata, who is a doctor by profession, said Cytotec can cause hemorrhage which can endanger a user’s life.

Plagata warned the public against taking the drug because of its ill-effects.

Cytotec is commonly prescribed off-label to cause labor induction by promoting uterine contractions and the ripening (effacement or thinning) of the cervix.

Concern has been expressed about the overuse or misuse of misoprostol for labor induction.

High doses of Cytotec can cause uterine rupture (especially in women who have previously had a caesarean section), fetal death, and severe fetal brain damage. All induction agents can cause uterine contractions and can affect the blood supply to the fetus, especially if contractions become very frequent.

 

Biron assails cheap meds law IRR

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ONE of the main proponents of the Cheaper Medicines Law criticized its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) as nothing but “a paper tiger.”

Rep. Ferjenel Biron (Iloilo, 4th district) said the IRR did not indicate the specific schedule and types of medicines to be regulated by the Department of Health (DOH).

Biron primarily questioned Chapter 6, Section 6 of the IRR which gives the DOH secretary the power to determine the prioritization of the drugs and medicines subject to maximum retail price (MRP).

Biron said it is important that priority medicines and their corresponding MRPs are spelled out in the IRR in order to fulfill the intention of the law.

 “What medicines will be regulated and when? Without this specific schedule and the medicines that must be subjected to price regulation, the law will be a failure. Is the DOH bent on implementing this law? No. With this IRR, the DOH secretary is like God. Nothing will happen unless he moves. Saying that the law was emasculated is an understatement. This law and its IRR will only give the people false hopes,” Biron said.

Biron said giving the DOH secretary the power to set the MRP for essential medicines will make the law susceptible to lobbyists of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

“This is fraudulent, this is not the intent of the law. It is pure stupidity not to spell out the necessary information in the IRR. They murdered the law,” he added.

The Ilonggo congressman said this is the result of the DOH’s refusal to support the price regulatory mechanism in the law which will set a ceiling on prices of essential medicines especially those needed for long-term medications.

“The DOH said let us leave it to the free market. But we have been using the free market in the last 50 years but what happened? Multinational pharmaceutical companies became abusive and medicine prices soared,” he said.

The Cheaper Medicines Act was signed into law June 6, 2008 after years of protracted debate in Congress aside from allegations of lobbyists from multinational pharmaceutical companies trying to derail the passage of the law.

The IRR of the law was published in the November 6, 2008 issue of a national daily.

Biron said he will use the House of Representatives’ oversight powers to look into the IRR and make the necessary amendments to the document.

“This is not the end of road for us. In the next few weeks and months we will come out with a list of the maximum retail prices of medicines,” Biron said.

Department of Trade and Industry regional director Dominic Abad said they will need a list of medicines brands and the corresponding MRPs in monitoring the market once the law is implemented.

Abad said the DTI was primarily tasked in the IRR to conduct price monitoring of medicines in areas where they hold office.   

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Vice Governor Rolex Suplico deleted the financial assistance for a festival in New Lucena, Iloilo in the 2009 proposed budget because he thought the affair was meant to honor cattle rustlers.

 

But Suplico’s explanation on why he removed the P50,000 financial aid to the Cry of Jelicuon festival of New Lucena did not sit well with board member June Mondejar who is a former mayor of the said town.

 

Mondejar questioned the move of Suplico, chairman of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan committee on appropriations, during the deliberation on the latter’s committee report early this week. The board member said financial assistance to other town festivals were retained in the 2009 budget except for the Cry of Jelicuon.

 

Suplico said he deleted the financial aid because he thought that the festival is a tribute to cattle thieves who gained notoriety in the towns of Cabatuan, New Lucena and Maasin.

 

Jelicuon is also the name of a village in Cabatuan which is known as the lair of cattle rustlers.

 

But Mondejar said the festival is an important event in Ilonggo history “because it honors General Martin Delgado and Ilonggo revolutionaries who declared freedom from Spanish rule at Brgy. Jelicuon, New Lucena.”

 

Suplico said he could have retained the financial aid for the festival had capitol department heads appeared before the budget hearings to defend and explain the proposed appropriations for 2009.  

 

Provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada also took potshots at Suplico for the latter’s perceived “ignorance of history.”

 

Mejorada said the “cavalier manner” by which Suplico described the Cry of Jelicuon “desecrates the memory of local hero General Martin Delgado and his men.”

 

“Suplico’s remarks in describing the historical event as ‘giving honor to cattle rustlers’ betrays his ignorance about Iloilo’s rich and glorious history and insults the people of New Lucena who consider it as their contribution to the fight for Philippine independence 110 years ago,” Mejorada added.

 

The provincial administrator said Suplico should apologize to the people of New Lucena for his “reckless and irresponsible” statements and for “demeaning the significance of the event.”

 

“This betrays Suplico’s ignorance about local history, as the ‘Cry of Jelicuon’ was really the first event to signal the uprising of Ilonggo patriots joining the wave of revolutionaries declaring the country’s independence from Spain. What happened was that General Delgado, who was a captain in the Spanish Guardia Civil, used a military operation against cattle rustlers in that barangay as the cover story so he could bring his troops together and declare their fight for independence. Apparently, Suplico doesn’t know this. Because of his ignorance, Suplico insulted the people of New Lucena,” he said.

 

But all is not lost for the Cry of Jelicuon festival after Department of Tourism regional director Edwin Trompeta pledged to extend financial help to the town of New Lucena. 

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) welcomes donors who can help the primary government hospital in Panay Island purchase a brand new cadaver freezer.

 

Esther Nievales, WVMC chief administrative officer, said the hospital cannot afford a cadaver freezer which costs more or less P8 million for the type that can contain two cadavers.

 

Nievales said WVMC’s budget for this year is not enough for the freezer which is a requirement for the laboratory accreditation of hospitals.

 

“We are paying more than P1 million for our electricity and another P52 million for our maintenance and other operating expenses. We have nothing left for our capital outlay already,” Nievales said.

 

The need for the cadaver freezer in WVMC was raised after the remains of a certain Leonardo Belleza of San Lorenzo, Guimaras began to smell while inside the hospital morgue, causing discomfort among the patients.

 

Belleza was brought to WVMC in the morning of October 19 and died the next day due to complication of tuberculosis, hypertension and myocardial infarction. He was buried October 21 after none of his folks claimed his body.

 

The hospital buried Belleza’s body because the morgue freezer broke down after decades of operation.

 

While Nievales denied that Belleza’s remains troubled the hospital, she pointed the importance of a morgue freezer in which to keep the remains of expired patients who fail to readily claim their relatives.

 

“We include the freezer in our annual procurement plan but because of lack of funds. What we do is we just dispose the body if no folks claim them after 24 hours,” Nievales said.

 

Cadaver freezers are supposedly required in level 4 hospitals such as WVMC but lack of funds has prompted the management to adopt the “claim within 24 hours” policy on cadavers.

 

Nievales said they have observed an increasing trend in the number of “folk-less patients” whose remains are left to the hospital morgue.

 

From January to October 2007, WVMC disposed nine “folk-less” remains but this year it rose to 20 cadavers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

TEN police trainors were relieved from the 6th Regional Mobile Group training center in Victorias City, Negros Occidental due to alleged hazing which victimized more than 50 police trainees.

 

Supt. Remus Canieso RMG battalion commander, confirmed that 52 police officers undergoing special counter-insurgency training in Camp Aniceto Lacson either suffered injuries or got sick in the course of the training.

 

Canieso said they discovered the medical condition of the trainees during their medical tests Friday last week.

 

Complaints of hazing from the police trainees triggered the medical examination conducted at the Teresita Jalandoni Memorial Hospital.

 

Canieso said 23 female trainees and 29 male trainees suffered hematoma in various parts of their bodies possibly caused by blunt objects.

 

The RMG chief has ordered the relief of 10 trainors – Insp. Stephen Sumusot, Insp. Diane Grace Aquitaña, Police Officers 1 Jean Hiponia, Annie Rose Tupas, Cherry Lacson, Ma. Lowelyn Moise, Marife Cantomayor, Rhea Biasa, Rhia Oñate and Rowena Pimentel.

 

Canieso said the trainors are now restricted at Camp Aniceto Lacson pending the investigation on the alleged hazing.

 

“This is not a normal practice of the PNP that is why we have laws against these practices. It is for this reason, also, that we are placing our instructors under investigation. In fact, they were already restricted to camp,” Canieso said.

 

The RMG chief said the trainors could face administrative and criminal raps if proven that they engaged in hazing.

 

Last October, a police trainee identified as Police Officer 1 Tristan Lopez died during a routine exercise outside the camp.

 

The National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP have been conducting separate investigations into Lopez’s death.

 

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office-6 director, said they are now trying to find out the possible link of the alleged hazing at the training camp to Lopez’s death.

 

“Some tactical instructors and trainers think hazing is helpful for the officers, but we are still determining whether it is true or not. We will file appropriate charges if lapses and negligence were committed,” Cuevas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE father of the newly-born baby boy who was kidnapped from the Aleosan District Hospital in Alimodian, Iloilo last week has gone missing.

 

Alimodian police investigators said John Edcel Portillo is nowhere to be found five days after a woman posing as a nurse took away his son Friday last week.

 

Before he disappeared, the police said they noticed that Portillo looked calm and unperturbed by his son’s kidnapping.

 

Investigators said they also found some text messages in Portillo’s cellphone which may shed light on the kidnapping case.

 

Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo provincial police director, said Governor Niel Tupas Sr. has directed them to solve the case and bring back the baby to his mother.

 

Tupas also directed the chiefs of provincial and district hospitals to tighten their security setup, particularly access to sensitive and critical wards.

 

The Alimodian police earlier theorized that the incident may have something to do with the feud between the families of Portillo and his live-in partner Rose Ann Anino, 19.

 

Allegedly, the Anino’s don’t want Rose Anne to marry John Edcel.

 

A female dressed in a nurse’s uniform and wearing a surgical mask over her face took away the baby from his grandmother around 9am Friday last week in the guise of cleaning his umbilical cord and giving him a bath.

 

But after more than two hours, the nurse failed to return the baby to the grandmother.

 

They already reported the incident to hospital personnel but they failed to find the nurse and the baby.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE P55-million hazard pay for provincial health workers inserted by the committee on appropriations in the 2009 proposed budget might be disallowed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

 

DBM assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said they will have to disallow the hazard pay because the budgeting manual they issued to local governments prohibit the realignment of funds to new items that were not contained in the original proposal of the executive department.

 

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico, appropriations committee chair, earlier slashed more than P100 million from the proposed 2009 budget submitted by his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr.

 

Most of the slashed funds were budgets for the capital outlay and maintenance and other expenses of various capitol departments under the Office of the Governor.

 

Suplico said the failure of department heads to appear and defend their respective budgets before the budget hearings prompted him to decrease their appropriations.

 

The committee then set aside P55 million of the un-appropriated balance for the hazard pay and other benefits of public health workers in the province.

 

Suplico defended the hazard pay saying it is a statutory obligation of the provincial government because it is embodied in the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers.

 

The vice governor also cited a 2001 opinion signed by former DBM secretary Emilia Boncodin which allows the creation of new items in proposed budget “as long as it does not exceed the total proposed budget.”

 

But Bedonia said the opinion was already superseded by the budgeting manual the DBM issued in 2005.

 

“We will have to disallow that particular item once the budget is submitted to our office for review. The Sanggunian can only delete or decrease items in a budget but it cannot create new items,” Bedonia said.

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