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Soil excavated from the Iloilo Flood Control Project is allegedly sold to private individuals. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Soil excavated from the Iloilo Flood Control Project is allegedly sold to private individuals. (Photo by Tara Yap)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHO is responsible for the alleged commercialization of excavated soil from the multi-billion Iloilo Food Control Project (IFCP) spanning the town of Pavia and Iloilo City?

 

This question surfaced after an unsigned letter reached the office of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director Raul Calderon April 20.

 

The letter, which was signed by “concerned citizens of Iloilo City”, informed Calderon about the commercialization of excavated earth from the project by selling the material to subdivision sites and other private projects in Iloilo City and Pavia.

 

The letter also claimed that some of the soil was delivered to the coal-fired power plant project of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC).

 

“The excavated earth materials are supposed to be utilized in the site development of the resettlement site in Brgy. San Juan (Molo), embankment and backfilling of the portions of the river (left after the rechanneling) which will not anymore be part of the active drainage, as per submitted plan of the Iloilo Flood Control Project,” the letter said.

 

But the letter writer said personnel from the Department of Public Works and Highways handling the project and project contractors – Hanjin and China International Water and Electric Corp. – sell the earth materials to private persons to the disadvantage of the government.

 

It added that earth materials from the IFCP should be bidded out “so that the government can get the amount, which runs in millions at the current market price of P160 per cubic meter,” the letter said.

 

The letter said those behind the disposal of earth materials from the project compete with legitimate quarry permittees who pay taxes to the government.

 

It was learned that the excavated soil were delivered to the properties of three businessmen putting up subdivisions and commercial areas in Jaro and LaPaz districts.

 

Engr. Al Fruto of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Project Management Office, said excavated soil is disposed to the following: IFCP requirements (around 40%), relocation sites and government projects and previously identified disposal areas.

 

“Areas within the one-kilometer radius of the project can be selected as disposal areas,” Fruto added.

 

Fruto said earth material can only be disposed to private lots “provided they secure a certificate of non-coverage from the DENR.”

 

When asked about the sale of excavated soil to private individuals, Fruto said it is not allowed.

 

“On the part of the DPWH, we don’t sell the earth materials. Maybe it’s the contractors who sold the soil because disposal is directly under their jurisdiction,” Fruto said. 

 

Engr. Jerome Borjal, IFPC project manager, said over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo that they don’t allow the sale of earth materials to private projects “because these are considered government properties.”

 

Borjal said they will investigate where the soil were sold or diverted.

 

REJECTED

 

Engr. Adrian Moncada, GBPC vice president for commercial operations, said several sub-contractors of IFCP sent samples of the excavated soil to test if these can be used in the coal plant project.

 

“We rejected the soil because it is unsuitable material. The content and composition of the soil is not suited for the project. No soil from the flood control project was delivered to our project site in Brgy. Ingore,” Moncada said.

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KIDS’ WORK  Jeselle Ann Granolin (right) and other children writers sign copies of For Children, by Children: Stories in Their Own Words and Pictures. (Photo by Tara Yap)

KIDS’ WORK Jeselle Ann Granolin (right) and other children writers sign copies of For Children, by Children: Stories in Their Own Words and Pictures. (Photo by Tara Yap)

By Tara Yap

 

 

“ANU bi kay wara man ti kalibutan ang andang mga ginikanan . . . Ti, kondi mga amo to anda nadangatan.  Temprano pa nailo ang duha ka kabataan (What happens when their parents had no know-how?  What happens is that the two children are orphaned early on.),” writes 13-year-old Jeselle Ann Granolin in a short story called “Nailo.”

 

Written in Kiniray-a language with her own illustrations, Granolin’s story is autobiographical. 

 

“Nailo” conveys how she and her brother were orphaned at an early age after their parents passed away in a span of two years. Her parents used to work for a factory in Manila that burned plastics. They were infected with a lung disease that eventually killed them.

 

Similar to fables, her story injects a lesson for all.

 

Likawan ta gid magsunog ka mga plastik kag mga kemikal nga maka-rangga kang aton mga kalawasan.  Maglimpyo gid kita ka aton nga mga palibot para malikawan ta ang mga balatian (We should avoid burning plastic and chemicals that could destroy our health.  We should clean our surroundings to avoid getting sick).” Granolin is one of the 28 grade school and high school students from Antique, Guimaras and Iloilo who wrote and illustrated a collection of short stories recently published by Save the Children-Western Visayas Program Office.

 

“For Children, by Children: Stories in Their Own Words and Pictures” contains 15 short stories with underlying themes on population, health and environment. 

 

Written in Hiligaynon, Kiniray-a and Filipino, the book serves as a tool of Save the Children in its continuing advocacy of empowering children. 

 

Norma Chan-Pongan of Save the Children said the book is an integration of their literacy program and awareness campaign on family, health, and environmental issues.

 

Pongan said the children were encouraged to use their native tongue to write stories. She cited numerous researches showing that children’s reading and writing comprehension increases when learning materials are written in mother language.

 

Pongan also said that the book should inspire other children to create their own stories while imparting lifelong lessons and tap adults to become partners in ensuring a safer and healthier world for children.

 

The book is a product of a workshop by children’s literature writer and illustrator Beaulah Pedregosa Taguiwalo last July 2007. 

 

Pongan also said that the book-writing project is the culminating activity of Save the Children, which has been serving Western Visayas for 28 years.  It will soon move its operations to Mindanao.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) in Western Visayas are on alert to prevent the swine influenza from reaching the region.

 

Dr. Jonic Natividad, regional quarantine officer of DA-6, said they tightened their quarantine protocol in airports and seaports to prevent the entry of the swine flu virus in Western Visayas.

 

Swine flu has claimed the lives of more than 100 persons in Mexico and spread toward the US, parts of Europe and even New Zealand.

 

Natividad said swine flu is a typical respiratory disease in pigs which causes high fever and seizures.

 

Natividad advised hog growers to take care and avoid direct contact with their livestock. He also advised growers to report to their office if their pigs get sick.

 

Swine flu virus cannot be contracted from pork but Natividad advised the public to avoid eating meat from sick animals.

 

BAI is imposing stricter biosecurity measures and farm accreditation systems. The agency is also strengthening quarantine checkpoints to prevent transport and ensure the proper disposal of sick pigs.

 

Philippine Coast Guard-Iloilo commander Harold Jarder said they are ready to assist the DA and BAI inspect ports under the jurisdiction.

 

“The DA will lead the inspection of meat that might be infected by swine flu virus,” Jarder said.

 

Dr. Jessie Glenn Alonsabe, Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) head, said it is safe to eat pork as long as it is cooked well.

 

Alonsabe said the public should be wary of eating too much pork because of its high fat content.

 

 He added that the public should be vigilant because the spread of the virus is unstoppable.  

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

TOWNS in two Iloilo electric cooperatives suffered power blackouts because generation and distribution problems.

 

Engr. Wilfred Billena, Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 1 general manager, said their franchise area is suffering from rotating brownouts since Sunday after the Palinpinon Geothermal Plant in Negros and the 100-megawatt thermal power plant in Cebu.

 

Billena said they need 26MW to sustain power supply in their franchise areas “but because the two plants broke down, we had no choice but to resort to rotational brownouts.”

 

“My phone was swamped with text messages and calls from consumers who complained of prolonged brownouts. I told them that problem lies with the National Power Corp. because we only distribute power they produce,” Billena said.

 

Billena said local officials called him because the brownout occurred during their fiestas and other special events.

 

“Wakes and hospital operations were also disrupted by the brownouts. The Katamnan Festival of Oton was postponed late in the evening because there was no power. It’s embarrassing,” Billena said.

 

Billena said they expect the power situation in Iloilo and Panay to ease up in 2011 when the 164MW coal-fired power plant of Global Business Power Corp. goes online.

 

Based on data from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines last April 16, Panay’s total demand is 208MW but its capacity is only 140MW, a deficit of 68MW.

 

“If only we did not drive earlier investors in power plants, we would not be suffering this problem. We really need a baseload plant, regardless of the fuel, that will run for 24 hours, 7 days a week so we will not suffer from brownouts,” he added.

 

BUSTED SUBSTATION

 

Five towns in northern Iloilo also suffered power blackout after the substation of Ileco 3 exploded for still unknown cause.

 

Engr. Antonio Lazaraga of Ileco 3 said the towns of Sara, Ajuy, Lemery, San Dionisio, and Concepcion have no electricity.  

 

Lazaraga said they are trying to fix the substation, which was bought and installed in 1986, and restore power supply in five days.

 

Reports surfaced that the substation was bombed. The Ileco 3 management has sought the help of the PNP 608th Iloilo Provincial Mobile Group to investigate the incident.

 

Lazaraga said the substation may have exploded because it is already old. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ALLEGED kidnap victim James Ardaña will face criminal charges if proven that his abduction was a sham.

 

S/Supt. Cornelio Defensor, chief of the Regional Intelligence Unit of Police Regional Office 6 (PRO6), said they are digging deeper into Ardaña’s case to find out if it’s a kidnapping case or “a drama.”

 

Defensor said Ardaña can be charged if they find out that he only staged his own kidnapping last Holy Thursday, April 9, in Brgy. Udyong, Sibalom, Antique.

 

Earlier reports said Ardaña was spotted in San Jose, the capital town of Antique. Other reports said he goes home in Sibalom late in the evening and leaves early morning.

 

Defensor said they are not sure if the incident was a kidnapping case. If ever it was, it is not the handiwork of a kidnap for ransom gang.

 

Defensor said there should be an ongoing negotiation if Ardaña was indeed kidnapped.

 

Ardaña’s family claimed that the kidnappers demanded P15 million but it was lowered to P4 million.

 

Several angles are being eyed in Ardaña’s case – kidnapping for ransom, “kidnap” to evade the rape case filed against him and business rivalry.

 

Defensor said Ardaña could be dead by now if a business rival is behind his kidnapping.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) in Pototan, Iloilo has a new warden.

 

S/Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo provincial police director, turned over the management of the IRC to lawyer Soteo Gardoce who once headed the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

 

Dela Paz headed the IRC for 1 year and 6 months.

 

Dela Paz has been asking Governor Niel Tupas Sr. to designate a new IRC warden so he can focus on the Iloilo Provincial Police Office.

 

Under his administration, dela Paz said he was able to address problems inside the IRC such as meal allowance for the inmates, health, spiritual needs and potable water supply.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Senate approved Monday a resolution appropriating P8 billion for the Paglaum Fund which will be used to rehabilitate areas of Panay ravaged by Typhoon Frank last year.

 

Dr. Raul Banias, presidential adviser for Western Visayas, said Senator Edgardo Angara, Senate committee on finance chair, sponsored a bill appropriating P8 billion for the Paglaum Fund.

 

“Senator Angara sponsored and adopted House Bill No. 5604 which is sets aside a supplemental budget for the Paglaum Fund. He presented the bill in his sponsorship speech in the Senate. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri co-sponsored the bill. The Senate unanimously approved the measure,” Banias told The Daily Guardian.

 

Banias said they expect the Senate to pass the Paglaum Fund bill after two or three sessions after it mustered the senators’ full support.

 

As regards the Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme (Snits), which is the accompanying revenue measure of the Paglaum Fund, Banias said they are confident that the Senate will approve the tax measure.

 

“The support shown by the Senate for the Paglaum Fund gave us confidence that the Snits bill will also be passed smoothly. President Gloria Arroyo has already certified the Paglaum Bill as urgent so we expect its immediate passage,” Banias added.

 

The Snits Bill (House Bill No. 5257) filed by Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier limits the expenses that may be deducted from gross revenues earned by professionals and individuals running their own businesses to arrive at their taxable income.

 

The bill is in response to complaints that salaried individuals, whose taxes are automatically withheld by employers from their salaries, shoulder a much bigger share of the government’s income tax collection from individuals. 

 

Earlier reports said the Senate might not pass the Snits Bill because the Department of Finance doubts if the measure will increase tax collections.

 

The Snits is expected to raise some P12 billion, most of which will be allocated to the Paglaum Fund.

 

President Gloria Arroyo earlier ordered the release of some P481 million for “critical” rehabilitation projects in Panay.

 

The P481 million will be used for the replacement of the Tigum Bridge in Cabatuan, Iloilo (P160 million); replacement of the Tubang Bridge in Maasin, Iloilo (P10 million); replacement of the Daja Bridge in Maasin, Iloilo (P10 million); replacement of the substructure of B. Aquino Bridge in Leon, Iloilo (P40 million); and replacement of the substructure of Camanggahan Bridge in Guimbal, Iloilo (P60 million).

 

Other rehabilitation projects are the dredging of Aklan River (P100 million) and the Dungon Creek in Iloilo City (P50 million), Pototan Road Slip in Pototan, Iloilo (P30 million) and the Misi-Tampucao Bridge in Lambunao, Iloilo (P21 million).

 

The Department of Public Works and Highways will begin the bidding process of the projects next month while actual works are expected to commence June 2009.

NEWFOUND HERO The newly-crowned champ is accompanied by Mayor Ramon Yee (left), and his trainer and coach Frankie Jaro (2nd from right) and Warren Jaro (right). (Photo by Tara Yap)

NEWFOUND HERO The newly-crowned champ is accompanied by Mayor Ramon Yee (left), and his trainer and coach Frankie Jaro (2nd from right) and Warren Jaro (right). (Photo by Tara Yap)

By Tara Yap

 

CABATUAN, Iloilo– World Boxing Council (WBC) minimum-weight title holder Denver Cuello was given a hero’s welcome Monday here.

 

Twenty-two-year-old Cuello, who defeated Japanese Hiroshi Matsumoto to clinch the WBC belt in the minimum-weight division last April 18, thanked his town mates for their support.

 

Gapasalamat guid ako sa pagbuylog niyo sa akon.  Bugal ko guid nga taga Cabatuan, Iloilo ako (Thank you for the outpouring of support you have given me.  I am proud to say that I am from Cabatuan, Iloilo),” Cuello told the crowd who came to greet him.

 

Cuello is ranked number 1 by the Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation (OPBF).       

 

The hero’s welcome boosted the morale of Cuello, who was earlier reported to have been discouraged by the lack of support from local officials and town mates.

 

Mayor Ramon Yee said the local government will support Cuello’s future fights. 

 

Yee said the young boxing champion “is a figure worth emulating by his town mates for his steadfast dedication and discipline.”

 

After arriving at the New Iloilo Airport, Cuello’s entourage held a victory parade that passed by towns of Maasin and Janiuay.

 

A short program and press conference at the Cabatuan covered gym followed the parade. 

 

Coach Warren Jaro of Jaro Boxing Stable said Cuello might fight Puerto Rican Ivan Calderon or Nicaraguan Roman Gonzalez this year.

REGISTERED VOTER Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel "Boy" Mejorada signs the Comelec registration logbook in Alimodian, Iloilo last Friday after completing the requirements for transferring his voter registration to Barangay Pajo, Iloilo. Mejorada said he is ready to challenge incumbent 2nd district Rep. Judy Jalbuena Syjuco in the 2010 congressional elections now that his residency cannot anymore be questioned.

REGISTERED VOTER Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel "Boy" Mejorada signs the Comelec registration logbook in Alimodian, Iloilo last Friday after completing the requirements for transferring his voter registration to Barangay Pajo, Iloilo. Mejorada said he is ready to challenge incumbent 2nd district Rep. Judy Jalbuena Syjuco in the 2010 congressional elections now that his residency cannot anymore be questioned.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada is prepared to run for congressman in the second congressional district.

 

Mejorada signified his intention to join the congressional race in the second district after he transferred his voter’s registration record to Brgy. Pajo, Alimodian, Iloilo from Brgy. Amparo, Pavia.

 

Mejorada said allegations of graft and corruption in second district prompted him to join the 2010 race.

 

Rep. Judy Syjuco, wife of Tesda Director General Augusto “Bboy” Syjuco, is the incumbent congressman of the district.

 

Mejorada also said that Brgy. Pajo is close to his heart because of the warm welcome he received and the potential of the area in terms of tourism and agriculture.

 

“I built a house in Brgy. Pajo and maintains a small vegetable farm. I bought new agricultural technologies there to help the farmers,” Mejorada said in an interview with Ronel Sorbito of RMN-Iloilo.

 

Mejorada was delisted from the voters’ list of Pavia in 2007, a moved he attributed to the Syjucos when news rang that he was interested to run for congressman.

 

The former mediaman-turned-capitol official had exposed alleged anomalous transactions involving the Syjucos.

 

“If they petition to kick me out of Alimodian, that might mean that they are becoming jittery because of my intention to run,” Mejorada said.

 

Mejorada was earlier touted to run for vice governor in tandem with Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas who is running for governor.

 

Lack of list stalls Cheaper Medicines law

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

REP. Ferjenel G. Biron (Iloilo, 4th district) called for an investigation on the failure of the Department of Health (DoH) to come up with a list of medicines and the corresponding retail price cap relative to the Cheaper Medicines Law.

 

Biron said the effects of the law and its implementing rules and regulations cannot be felt by the public because the DoH has not come up with a list which will become the basis of price ceilings for medicines.

 

Biron, who authored the law in the House of Representatives, said this is the result of the deletion of the drug price regulatory mechanism in his version of the law.

 

“The drug price control board could have set the prices of drugs contained in the essential drugs list. But that mechanism was deleted and the power to regulate prices of medicines was given to the Secretary of Health,” Biron said in an interview with The Daily Guardian on Air over Aksyon Radyo.

 

Biron said he has asked the House committee on health to summon Health Secretary Francisco Duque and make him explain why they have yet to regulate prices of medicines.

 

“We will exercise our oversight powers on this matter and find out what’s taking them long to come up with the list. Secretary Duque might soon seek higher office but I don’t think the Cheaper Medicines Law will be implemented until he leaves the department,” Biron said.

 

The Ilonggo congressman said the investigation on the Cheaper Medicines Law will be scheduled end of April or next month.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

DEPARTMENT of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. warned banks and money transfer agencies in Iloilo City to be wary of a group of robbers from Luzon.

 

Citing unnamed sources, Gonzalez said he received information that the alleged robbers have been conducting surveillance operations on three major banks and a money transfer firm in the city.

 

The target firms are Banco De Oro, Metrobank, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Western Union in Aklan, Gonzalez said.

 

“The information is still being verified further. The planned robberies are linked to the 2010 elections. The money that will be raised will be used in the campaign next year. We want the banks to be careful at all times that’s why we are releasing this information,” he added.

 

The justice department chief also revealed that a group of rebels also from Luzon arrived in Iloilo to conduct extortion activities to raise funds for next year’s elections.

 

“They have tie-ups with local rebel forces to extort from businesses and candidates. They even sent extortion letters to two persons already,” Gonzalez said.

 

Alleged members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) and the New People’s Army (NPA) have been accused of extorting from politicians during election season.

 

The rebels demand fees from candidates in exchange for “permits to campaign” in their strongholds.

 

INVESTORS’ HAVEN Senate Bill 3619 filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago offers incentives to investors in Iloilo. (Photo by Tara Yap)

INVESTORS’ HAVEN Senate Bill 3619 filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago offers incentives to investors in Iloilo. (Photo by Tara Yap)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill establishing a special economic zone (SEZ) and free port in Iloilo province.

 

Santiago’s proposal is embodied in Senate Bill No. 3169 now pending with the Senate committees on economic affairs, ways and means, local government units, and finance.

 

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said they received Wednesday an invitation from the Senate committees to attend the hearing on the bill yesterday.

 

Mejorada said they were supposed to attend the hearing but they had no time to prepare for the travel.

 

Mejorada said Governor Niel Tupas Sr. sent a letter to Santiago expressing full support for the legislative initiative

 

Tupas said the SEZ-free port bill is beneficial because “unless Iloilo can offer the same advantages and benefits that Subic and Clark does, big manufacturers will find little incentive to bring huge capital to the province.”

 

Tupas said the bill could push the province to greater heights of glory and reclaim its old title as the “Queen City of the South”.

 

Section 3 of SBN 3169 states that the SEZ and free port, which will be known as Iloilo Special Economic Zone, shall cover the entire area embraced by the province of Iloilo.

 

Economic zones attract local and foreign investors because of tax holidays and exemption from customs duties for imported equipment.

 

One of the incentives offered by the bill is income tax holiday from 4 to 8 years depending on the category of the investor.

 

Other incentives are the net operating loss carryover (NOLCO) during the first three years from start of commercial operations; imposition of a 5% tax rate on gross income earned by the investor; accelerated deprecation; capital equipment and raw material incentives.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ANTIQUE Governor Salvacion Z. Perez finds it unhealthy for a husband and wife to head two important regional offices in Western Visayas.

 

This is the reason why Perez lobbied with President Gloria Arroyo to transfer either Department of Tourism (DoT-6) regional director Edwin Trompeta or his wife, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-6) director Evelyn Trompeta, from Region 6 to somewhere else.

 

Perez asked for the couple’s transfer when the President visited Valderrama, Antique Thursday to give houses and assistance to victims of typhoon Frank last year.

 

In an interview with Aksyon Radyo, Perez said she does not like the couple serving as regional directors in the same region.

 

“Why unhealthy? Because the couple tends to defend each other when we scold them for not attending important affairs,” she said.

 

Perez said she was irked by the failure of Edwin Trompeta to join the One Visayas exposition in Cebu recently.

 

The lady-governor said she was disappointed when Western Visayas was not represented in the expo because of the DoT’s failure to join in the affair which was attended by provinces in Regions 7 and 8.

 

The One Visayas project was held side by side with the Visayas Arts Festival in Cebu.

 

“We invited him to join the One Visayas affair because it was an activity of the Regional Development Council (RDC) where DoT is a member. I was disappointed with their non-presence,” Perez said.

 

Perez also cited the refusal of DILG director Evelyn Trompeta to hold the suspension order against Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in January 2007 as another reason why they want them out of the region.

 

The lady-governor said other governors in Region 6 support the removal of the Trompetas.

 

When asked who should be kicked out of Western Visayas, Perez said she wants Edwin Trompeta gone “because he is at fault, not his wife.”

 

Edwin Trompeta told The Daily Guardian he did not get any invitation to the One Visayas event organized by the private sector, not the RDC. 

 

“We were not invited by the organizer to join the planning or whatever activity that’s why we were not there,” he said.

 

The DoT regional chief said he was in Cebu during the One Visayas affair “but we attended another activity were the department was invited.”

 

Edwin said Perez could have summoned and scolded him for not attending the Cebu affair instead of lobbying for his removal from Western Visayas.

 

“Maybe the good governor does not want a DoT director who sleeps and impregnated the DILG director,” he said in jest.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE recent decision of the Supreme Court (SC) expanding the seats for party list groups technically allowed moves to increase the membership of the House of Representatives despite the 250-seat cap stipulated in the 1986 Constitution.

 

This is the personal view of Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. when asked about the implication of the SC ruling on his bid to add another congressional district in the city.

 

Gonzalez said the SC ruling prompted Senate president Juan Ponce-Enrile to withdraw his bill seeking to increase the House membership by 100 seats.

 

Gonzalez also filed a similar bill to expand the House membership to pave the way for the redistricting of some areas in the country, particularly Iloilo City.

 

In a press briefing in Manila, Enrile said there would be no need for a law increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives as the recent SC decision has already clarified the matter by issuing a new computation.

 

Enrile said the SC decision stated that the “formula referring to the ratio of party-list representatives to the total number of representatives allows for the corresponding increase in the number of seats available for party-list representatives whenever a legislative district is created by law.”

 

Enrile said, in effect, the Supreme Court decision has ruled that the enactment by Congress of laws creating legislative districts operates in itself to increase the number of seats in the House and that there is no need for the enactment of a general law increasing the number of seats beyond the 250 seats originally prescribed by the Constitution.

 

Gonzalez said the move to increase House membership was meant to accommodate some senators who raised concerns that they will violate the constitutional cap if they pass individual redistricting bills pending in Congress.

 

“But with the recent Supreme Court decision to add more 32 party list (solos), there is no more reason for some senators to be concerned or delay the individual redistricting bills. The SC already showed them that we can expand the House membership,” Gonzalez said in a phone interview.

 

The Supreme Court added 32 more party list seats in the House after ordering the Commission on Elections to follow a new formula for allotting party-list seats.

 

The SC said the number of seats available to party-list representatives will be computed from the number of legislative districts.

 

According to the court, there are 220 district representatives and 55 seats available for party-list representatives. Fifty-five is 20 percent of 220.

 

“Because of the SC decision, there is no need to muddle or delay the process. The ball is with the Senate ever since,” Gonzalez said.

 

Gonzalez’s bill seeks to regroup all barangays in the Jaro, LaPaz, Lapuz and Mandurriao as the first congressional district, while all barangays comprising City Proper, Molo and Arevalo shall compose the second congressional district.

 

The redistricting of Iloilo City is seen to benefit the metropolis because of double pork barrel allocation.

 

But political observers said the move is meant to avoid a confrontation between the Gonzalezes and Mayor Jerry Treñas in the 2010 congressional race.

 

Treñas is serving his last three-year term until next year.

 

Oppositors to the redistricting bill said Iloilo City is not qualified for another congressional district because its population is less than 500,000. The Constitution stipulates that a congressional district must have at least 250,000 population.

 

Additional seats in the House will also mean additional expenditures for the government.

 

But Gonzalez said his bill has satisfied all the requirements, especially the population count based on a precedent case in Makati City, Mariano vs Commission on Elections, which was decided by the SC on March 7, 1995.

 

The ruling penned by then Justice Renato Puno and concurred by then Chief Justice Hilario Davide said the legislative district of a city or province can be increased if it has met the minimum population requirement of 250,000.

As of April 22, this is what Iloilo Flood Control Project in Jaro district looks like.  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered for the completion to be hastened.  However, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said that the two contractors for this project have two different time frames in finishing the construction. (Photo by Tara Yap)

As of April 22, this is what Iloilo Flood Control Project in Jaro district looks like. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered for the completion to be hastened. However, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said that the two contractors for this project have two different time frames in finishing the construction. (Photo by Tara Yap)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

ONE of the contractors of the P4-billion Iloilo Flood Control Project (IFCP) might not beat the deadline set by President Gloria Arroyo for the completion of the project.

 

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said the President wanted the project to be completed end of this year instead of September 2010.

 

Treñas, who met Mrs. Arroyo Friday last week, said the President set the new deadline in time for the rainy season.

 

The multibillion-peso project is designed to prevent massive flooding in the city and surrounding towns just like what happened last year at the height of typhoon Frank.

 

The mayor said he met Engr. Al Fruto of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH-6), IFCP project manager Jerome Borjal and representatives of contractors Hanjin Heavy Industries and China International Water and Electrical Corporation (CIWEC) to discuss the President’s instruction.

 

Officials of CIWEC, which is undertaking the improvement of Iloilo River, Upper Ingore creek and the banks of Jaro river mouth, said they can finish their work May to June 2009.

 

But Hanjin representatives said they might not beat the new deadline even if they work until 10pm daily.

 

The Korean firm said they will finish Package 1 of the project March or April 2010. The package includes the Jaro Floodway; construction of bridges in Brgy. Pagsanga-an and Anilao in Pavia, and Brgys. Tacas, Balabago, Buhang and Bitoon in Jaro district; and improvement of Aganan and Tigum Rivers.

 

Hanjin reported that they have completed more than 80% of their projects in the city.

 

The Jaro Floodway is 80% completed while Tacas Bridge is 94.97%, Balabago Bridge-89.40%, Buhang Bridge-88.80%, and Bito-on-85.75%.

 

The Daily Guardian learned that Fruto went to Manila early this week to discuss the new deadline with the DPWH central office. He was unavailable for interview.

 

The IFCP management staff said the rains since last week affected the progress of the project.

 

“You cannot just rush the project because of the massive work,” the staff said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor Sr. dispelled insinuations that the Garins of the first congressional district of Iloilo will not ally with him in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

 

A crisp laugh was Defensor’s reply when told about the pronouncement of Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada that former congressman Oscar Garin will shun a Defensor-Garin tandem in next year’s polls.

 

Defensor is reportedly eyeing the governor’s office while his likely running mate is Board Member Richard Garin, the son of Oscar who is now the administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority. 

 

Mejorada based his analysis on the result of the 2004 gubernatorial race between Garin and Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in the third congressional district, Defensor’s constituency. The result showed that Tupas garnered 416,593 votes against Garin’s 254,751.

 

Mejorada said Garin could be hurting from the trouncing he got in the third district despite his alliance with Defensor.

 

Defensor said Mejorada is just trying to foment intrigue.

 

“That’s not true. Ga pang intriga lang si Mejorada. Has he talked to (Oscar) Garin?” Defensor said.

 

Defensor said his option to reclaim the top Capitol seat “is almost likely” next year.

 

“The Defensor-Garin tandem is 90 percent done. We will reveal the other details because we don’t want to telegraph our punches at this time,” he added.

 

Reports from the Garin camp said Board Member Richard Garin, his wife Rep. Jeannette Garin (1st district, Iloilo) and Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) will support the Defensor-Garin tandem in the 2010 polls.

 

Board Member Garin said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo that Defensor should reach out to his father Oscar “because we want the family to make a unified decision.”

 

“I am grateful for the trust of Rep. Defensor but they should also talk to my father because he is our recognized leader. And he must be consulted because he has his own political plans,” BM Garin said.

 

NOT A LOSS

 

Defensor also pooh-poohed the looming alliance of former vice governor Roberto “Obet” Armada with Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul “Boboy” Tupas who is eyeing to succeed his father as governor.

 

Armada was identified with Defensor’s group, particularly during the foiled suspension of Governor Tupas January 2007. 

 

“We will not lose anything if Obet aligns with the Tupases. It’s his own decision,” Defensor said.    

 

He also denied reports that he abandoned Armada in the 2007 gubernatorial polls. “That’s not true. Intriga lang na kag indi salapakun nga istorya.”

 

 

THREE-CORNERED RACE 

 

Defensor believes that a three-cornered race in the third congressional district will benefit his son, Board Member Arthur Defensor Jr.

 

BM Defensor, former agrarian reform secretary Rene Villa and lawyer Zafiro “Boy” Lauron are touted as contenders in the third district.

 

The older Defensor said they are ready to face those who will challenge them next year.

 

“We don’t care if how many (candidates) will run in the third district. Given the quality of our leadership, my accomplishments and the qualifications of my son, he will win,” Defensor said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE House of Representatives will be compelled to pass a P2.5-billion supplemental budget for the 32 additional party list representatives.

 

House majority floor leader Arthur Defensor Sr. said the salaries, allowances and pork barrels of the additional party list representatives were not included in the 2009 national budget.

 

The Supreme Court the other day added 32 more party list seats in the House after ordering the Commission on Elections to follow a new formula for allotting party-list seats.

 

Under the 2009 national budget, the House allocated P3.9 billion in operating funds.

 

Since each congressional office is allocated P350,000 a month, the 32 new offices would cost P134.4 million annually.

 

Each of the new party-list representatives would also need around P70 million in pork barrel funds per year, for a total of P2.24 billion.

 

Defensor said the SC decision will also result in space problems for the House.

 

“We have to look for additional office spaces for the new representatives. We have no more vacant space in the plenary hall at the Batasan Complex. The South Wing expansion is still under construction,” Defensor said.

 

The P700-million expansion project which includes a four-storey building will be completed next year.

 

The SC decision also spawned legal questions since the 1986 Constitution only provides 250 seats for the House, Defensor said.

 

Accommodating 32 new seats would bring the total number of House members to 270 aside from the creation of 192 additional co-terminus positions.

 

Defensor said they don’t expect the SC to reverse its ruling on the allocation of party-list seats thus “we should be ready that the House membership will increase.”

 

The House membership is expected to further swell after the Committee on Revision of Laws approved Wednesday morning a bill seeking to create 50 new congressional districts and increase the constitutional ceiling to 300 seats.

 

The bill was filed by Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. who is pushing for the creation of another congressional district in the city.

 By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

TWO Iloilo City councilors exceeded their phone bill cap according to a report from wireless land service provider Bayantel.

 

In a report provided to the office of Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, Bayantel said Councilor Armand Parcon exceeded his P599 monthly limit by more than P2,000.

 

The report said the line issued to Parcon was used to send text messages to other telecommunication networks and 2366, the text hotline of ABS-CBN.

 

Councilor Jeffrey Ganzon also exceeded his monthly phone bill by P90, Mabilog said.

 

Mabilog said they were surprised to learn that the Bayantel units can send text messages.

 

“In the contract between the City government and Bayantel, international and national direct dialing services and text messaging were barred. Only local calls are allowed. We are surprised that the lines can actually send text messages,” Mabilog said.

 

Bayantel cut off the lines of the City councilors after their total phone bills reached P11,700.

 

City Hall’s Accounting Office refused to approve the payment of the phone bill because it exceeded the council’s P8,900 monthly allocation.

 

Parcon told the council that he received a call from Bayantel informing him that his line was used to join TV text promos.

 

Mabilog said Bayantel did not orient the councilors about the lines which could have prevented the excessive phone bills.

 

The wireless landlines were issued to the vice mayor and the councilors so they can be easily reached by their constituents and staff.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) of the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) junked the petition of a municipal mayor seeking to suspend Senior Insp. Leroy Rapiz.

 

RIAS-6 said Mayor Restituto Mosqueda of Estancia, Iloilo failed to present evidence and witnesses to support his petition asking for the 90-day preventive suspension of Rapiz.

 

Mosqueda filed the petition in the heels of his alleged armed confrontation with Rapiz outside the barangay hall of San Roque, Estancia last month.

 

The near-shootout occurred when Mosqueda allegedly snarled at Rapiz for operating in Estancia without his knowledge and rumor-mongering.

 

The confrontation happened in the presence of 5th district Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. who graced the fiesta of Brgy. San Roque.

 

Rapiz, who was relieved as deputy director of the 608th Iloilo Provincial Mobile Group after the incident, heaped criminal and administrative cases on Mosqueda before the Ombudsman.

 

Mosqueda retaliated by filing a case for attempted murder against Rapiz.

IBC supports move to exempt power from VAT

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo Business Club (IBC) is planning to come up with a statement supporting the proposal to scrap the value added tax (VAT) on electricity.

 

The plan was broached by businessman Herminio Maravilla, former IBC chair and incumbent Board of Trustees member, during the Power 101 forum at Hotel del Rio Friday last week.

 

IBC executive director Lea Lara said the club’s board and officers will discuss the manifesto in their next membership meeting on the first week of May.

 

The statement will basically rally behind the proposal of Senate president Juan Ponce-Enrile to scrap VAT on power.

 

“The specific contents of the statement will be discussed during the meeting. It will definitely be a big help to the business community and other consumers if VAT is removed from our electricity rates. As we all know, the city is having a hard time attracting investors because of high and unstable power rates,” Lara said.

 

Engr. Randy Pastolero, special assistant to Panay Electric Co. (PECO) president Miguel Cacho, said they welcome the move of the IBC to call for the exemption of electricity from VAT charges.

 

Pastolero said 11% of the total production cost of electricity per kilowatt goes to VAT.

 

“PECO does not earn from VAT because we just remit it to the government. If VAT on electricity is scrapped, we can enjoy some P1.10 reduction in our power bills,” Pastolero said.

 

Pastolero said PECO will also benefit from the club’s move “because it would be easier to collect from our clients if their monthly bills are reduced.”

 

Earlier, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Inc. (FCCCII) president Alfonso Uy said solving the unstable and expensive power supply in Iloilo City will help propel its economy.

 

Uy said they are batting for the construction of cheap source of power such as the 164MW coal-fired power plant project of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in LaPaz, Iloilo City.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

LOCAL government units (LGUs) in Panay and the rest of Western Visayas should be wary of persons posing as fixers of projects funded by the national government.

 

Dr. Raul Banias, presidential adviser for Western Visayas, issued the warning after learning that a group from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrived in Iloilo to verify the signatures of municipal mayors affixed in projects funded by national agencies.

 

Banias cited the case of Mayor Elvira Alarcon of Batad, Iloilo whose signature was forged in a set of documents for the release of financial assistance from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).

 

“I was able to talk to the husband of Mayor Alarcon, former mayor Pedro Alarcon, who confirmed that NBI agents verified her signature on the documents. They said it was not her signature,” Banias said.

 

Banias said PAGCOR chair Efren Genuino did not discuss any financial assistance to LGUs when the latter arrived in Iloilo City Saturday for the launching of BIDA and Sagip Musmos projects.

 

Earlier reports said the NBI visited 9 to 15 municipal mayors in Western Visayas to verify their signatures in the documents of some government projects.

 

The NBI is following the tracks of a lawyer who posed as a representative of Malacañang to solicit the signatures of mayor for project requests.

 

The alleged lawyer reportedly promised to process the request with Malacañang in behalf of the LGUs.

 

Banias warned local chief executives not to fall for fixers or persons claiming to be emissaries of the national government.

 

“They (LGUs) should not entertain anybody who is not authorized by any government agency or entity to process any project or assistance. They could be fixers who want to use them to earn money,” Banias said.

 

Banias, who is a former mayor of Concepcion, finds it unusual that a person will fix government projects in behalf of LGUs.

 

“I did not encounter such thing when I was mayor,” Banias said. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

PRANK calls have been flooding the anti-crime hotline of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional office since it was established last year.

 

DILG regional director Evelyn Trompeta said illegitimate or prank calls are the challenges facing Patrol 117 call center.

 

A DILG report showed that January to April 14, 2009, Patrol 117 received 5,659 calls but only 166 were considered valid or legitimate calls.

 

Patrol 117 was launched September 23, 2008 to serve as a call center which can receive emergency or crime calls from the city and province of Iloilo. The center is located at the DILG regional office in Fort San Pedro area.

 

The call center can be accessed via PLDT, GLOBE landlines and BAYAN wireless phones by dialing the numbers 117 to report crimes.

 

It is equipped with three telephone lines and state-of-the-art computers and communication equipment capable of receiving and responding to emergency calls.

 

It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and manned by 16 operators/dispatchers and 4 maintenance and supervisors who work a 3-shift basis.

 

Trompeta said the public should not abuse Patrol 117 because it is meant to alert authorities to crimes.

 

“Patrol 117 does not compete with other hotlines. It is also not an emergency response group but rather a call center,” Trompeta said.

 

Prank callers of Patrol 117 may also delay legitimate callers thus delaying the response of authorities to crimes.

 

Meanwhile, Trompeta said various organizations and companies have been campaigning for Patrol 117.

 

On April 15, the Jaycees Ilang-Ilang Chapter turned over hundreds of Patrol 117 advocacy stickers to the DILG which will be distributed to public utility vehicles including taxi cabs.

 

Telecommunication firms, pharmaceuticals and taxi services also provided advocacy materials, telephone lines and medical assistance to Patrol 117. 

 

First carried out in Metro Manila, PATROL 117 is a joint undertaking of the members of the Regional Management Coordinating Committee composed of the DILG, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police, National Police Commission, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Philippine Public Safety College-Training School 6. (With reports from PIA)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE new president of an influential business organization in the country vowed to help the city and province of Iloilo rise to economic prominence provided that problems on power and water shortage are solved first.

 

Alfonso Uy, the newly elected president of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII), said the two problems besetting Iloilo must be solved first to encourage investors to come to the city and the province.

 

“Many investors are interested in Iloilo but they are hesitant because of our unstable and expensive power and water supplies,” Uy said in a phone interview with The Daily Guardian Monday.

 

Uy was elected FFCCCII president April 6 during the federation’s 27th Biennial Convention at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City. He is the first Visayan president of the federation.

 

FFCCCII is composed of 170 member organizations nationwide and one of the most influential business organization in the Philippines today.

 

Uy also chairs the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation (ILEDF) which promotes the city and province of Iloilo as the future investment site in the country.

 

Uy said they are pushing for projects which are “fundamentally needed to promote Iloilo.”

 

“One good news is the construction of the coal-fired power plant of the Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC). We expect the price and supply of electricity in the city and province to stabilize once the project is completed and goes online between October and November 2010,” Uy said.

 

Engr. Adrian Moncada, GBPC vice president for commercial operations, told the Iloilo business community in a forum on power issues last Friday that the 164-megawatt power plant will be completed in the last quarter of 2010.

 

“Landfill development is currently ongoing in the 24-hectare site and actual construction will start by July or August this year,” Moncada said. 

 

As regards water supply, Uy said they are looking at the long-term supply that will cater to big investments in Iloilo.

 

He cited the integrated irrigation system project of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) which got the support of the World Bank.

 

The NIA project will construct a water dam in Lambunao which has capacity of 360 million cubic meters. The project will also create an irrigation canal system.

 

“The integrated irrigation project will irrigate our farmlands the whole year and supply water to Iloilo City and the towns along the distribution lines. It will mean increase in agricultural production and stable water supply,” Uy said.

 

ILEDF has requested NIA to revisit the study on the integrated irrigation project to find out if it’s still feasible.

 

“We have to revalidate the data of the study to find out if it’s still feasible nowadays to address the water shortage,” Uy said.

 

Uy said solving the power and water problems are the key to Iloilo’s prominence in “sunshine industries” such as the business processes outsourcing sector.

 

“If we solve these concerns, it would be easy to attract members of the business community to invest in Iloilo,” he added.

 

Two years ago, a major call center investor moved to Bacolod City because of high power rates in Iloilo City.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has completed the polygraph test on the witness and suspects in the James Ardaña kidnapping case in Sibalom, Antique.

 

Two NBI agents from Metro Manila arrived in Antique last week to conduct the lie-detector test on Ardaña’s brother June who tagged a certain Dionisio Fajarito as one of the alleged kidnappers.

 

The NBI also investigated and tested former village chiefs Aniceto del Soccoro of Brgy. Villa Hermosa, Sibalom and Edmond Tomas of Pasung, Sibalom.

 

The names of the two former punong barangays surfaced in the investigation because they were identified with Fajarito who is now in the custody of the NBI Western Visayas office in Iloilo City.

 

In an interview with Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, Del Soccoro and Tomas denied kidnapping Ardaña at Brgy. Udyong, Sibalom in the evening of April 9.

 

Del Soccoro and Tomas said they were in their respective homes when the alleged kidnapping happened.

 

While polygraph tests are not conclusive and admissible in the courts, NBI investigators said the results will guide them in the ongoing probe.

 

Latest reports from Antique said Ardaña was spotted in a poultry farm but it was unconfirmed.

 

The NBI vowed to solve the case within this week. The Antique Provincial Police Office is also tracing the cellphone number used by the alleged kidnappers to call Ardaña’s family.

 

Antique police director Ren Darroca said Ardaña is still in Antique.  

 

Three leads are being in considered in Ardaña’s kidnapping – kidnapping for ransom, kidnap me because of a rape case filed against him and business rivalry.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE online lottery or lotto of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) has turned 19 Iloilo City residents into multi-millionaires since 1996.

 

Jeanette Oberio, PCSO Iloilo district head, said the 19 lotto millionaires took home a total of P319.4 million after winning the jackpot prizes in the previous draws of 6/49, 6/45 and 6/42 Lotto games.

 

“We, in Iloilo, are fortunate to be given the chance to produce an additional 19 multi-millionaires in the country. This money means a lot to Iloilo as the lotto winnings now circulate in the province and form part of the local economy,” Oberio said.

 

Oberio made the report during the launching of the PCSO Charity Caravan 2009 and Kaibigan ng PCSO at the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center.

 

The caravan and Kaibigan ng PCSO are part of the National Medical Mission which will highlight the 75th anniversary of the PCSO in September this year.

 

From 1996 to 2008, a total of 68 residents in Western Visayas won the lotto jackpot with a total winning of P1.446 billion.

 

A total of 273 lotto outlets are operating in Western Visayas with total sales of P944.1 million as of 2008.

 

Oberio said Region 6 could have breached the P1 billion sales mark if not for typhoon Frank which damaged lotto terminals in Panay.

 

The PCSO official said they extended last year more than P25 million in financial and medical help to 65,687 underprivileged residents of Western Visayas.

 

The PCSO charter mandates that at least 30 percent of total sales from lotto and other PCSO revenue products must accrue to the agency’s Charity Fund. Fifty-five percent of the PCSO’s revenues will go to the Prize Fund while only 15% are left for the agency’s operating fund.

 

The PCSO Charity Caravan marked its arrival in Iloilo City with the launching of the Kaibigan ng PCSO program at the Kalantiao Hall in Sarabia Manor Hotel.

 

An estimated 1,200 volunteers from Iloilo City and nearby municipalities joined Kaibigan ng PCSO, a new program that will recruit and mobilize volunteers for various activities of the charity agency, particularly its National Medical Mission September 2009.

 

The National Medical Mission aims to provide simultaneous medical and dental mission in the country’s 42,000 barangays on September 6.

 

Aside from doing volunteer work in medical missions, members of Kaibigan ng PCSO will be given trainings in first aid, basic life support, child and maternal care and disaster management.

 

The Charity Caravan seeks to “spread the charity virus” from Batanes to Zamboanga through motorcades, mini-concerts and medical and dental missions in 20 selected cities and municipalities.

 

Before coming to Iloilo City, the Charity Caravan 2009 provided free medical services and entertainment in Batanes, Nueva Vizcaya, Davao City, Cebu City, Palawan and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental.

 

The Caravan will also visit the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Bohol, Quezon, Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Tarlac, La Union, Zamboanga del Sur, Camarines Norte, Nueva Ecija, Antique, Leyte and Samar.

A case for mandamus needed to compel City govt to save Iloilo River

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo City government can be sued and compelled to clear the banks of Iloilo River of illegal structures and obstructions.

 

Atty. Dennis Ventilacion cited the successful mandamus case filed against the Manila City government which demanded the immediate clean up of the Manila Bay.

 

Ventilacion told The Daily Guardian on Air over Aksyon Radyo that residents of Iloilo City can file a similar suit against the City government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which has the primary task of protecting the environment.

 

Ventilacion said the Iloilo Integrated Bar of the Philippines can help file the suit if only to help save the already dying river.

 

Engr. Edwin Domingo, assistant director of the DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), earlier urged the Iloilo City government to check the unbridled developments on the banks of the Iloilo River to prevent further pollution and floods.

 

Domingo said many structures and developments are sprouting right on the banks of the river in clear violation of existing laws and regulations.

 

“In urban areas, the more establishments and people you put near the river, chances are they are going to use the river as garbage dump,” he said.

 

While it may take some time, Atty. Daniel Cartagena, another legal consultant of The Daily Guardian On Air, said a mandamus case might be imperative to compel local officials to clean the river.

 

“The Iloilo River has the biggest tourism potential if developed properly. We don’t have to look far when looking for tourism sites in the city. We can develop the area like the Marikina River in Metro Manila and other rivers in the world,” Cartagena said.

 

Cartagena said the city government lacks political will to protect the river from unbridled developments.

 

“Our national and local leaders belong to the same party and they have the ears of the President. We can develop this river if we have political will,” Cartagena said. He was referring to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. and City Mayor Jerry Treñas.

 

The Iloilo Business Club, city government, Unites States-Asia Environmental Partnership Program and Asia Foundation completed the Iloilo River Development Plan in 2003 yet.

 

The masterplan identified development strategies and policies in the areas of land use and urban design; socio-economic improvement; infrastructure facilities, environmental protection and institutional mechanism. But lack of funds has put the masterplan in the doldrums.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Office of the Ombudsman will look into allegations that some members of Task Force Red Plate turn a blind eye on certain violators of the red plate policy.

 

Virginia Palanca-Santiago, deputy Ombudsman for Western Visayas, said they will not tolerate task force members who let go of red plate violators because they are friends or acquaintances.

 

Santiago said they will verify the allegation and file charges against erring task force members.

 

The task force is tasked to apprehend government officials and workers who violate rules on the use of official vehicles. It is composed of personnel from the Philippine National Police, Civil Service Commission, Philippine Information Agency, Commission on Audit and Land Transportation Office.

 

Based on the latest data from the Ombudsman, a total of 110 government vehicles have been apprehended in two weeks.

 

Negros Occidental recorded the most number of apprehensions with 30, Capiz – 19, Aklan – 16, Iloilo – 15, Iloilo City – 13, Guimaras – 10 and Antique – 7.

Got a new blog guys, http://westvisayasbiz.wordpress.com, which will focus on economic issues in the region. It’s time we discuss thoroughly the economic climate of Iloilo and the rest of Western Visayas.

 

Some of the items were published in The Daily Guardian and Businessworld.

 

Enjoy! Ciao!

 

FAA

justice-for-julife1

 

‘EXHAUSTIVE PROBE’ (From left) NBI agents Mark Blancaflor, Aries Bañares, administrative officer Ernesto Lim, NBI regional director Mario Sison and agent John Katipunan discuss the case they filed against the suspects in the Julife Balbanida murder case. (Inset) Fe Balbanida holds the photo of her late daughter. (Photos by Tara Yap)

‘EXHAUSTIVE PROBE’ (From left) NBI agents Mark Blancaflor, Aries Bañares, administrative officer Ernesto Lim, NBI regional director Mario Sison and agent John Katipunan discuss the case they filed against the suspects in the Julife Balbanida murder case. (Inset) Fe Balbanida holds the photo of her late daughter. (Photos by Tara Yap)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE employers and co-worker of Julife Balbanida connived to murder the lady accountant inside Uni-Eco Steel Industries, Inc. on Valeria Street, Iloilo City last February 4.

 

This was the finding of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which became the basis for the filing of murder charges against Teofilo Ko, Uni-Eco owner; his son Raymond Ko, Uni Eco manager; and Uni-Eco employee Albert “Ike” Panganiban.

 

The NBI filed the case with the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office at the Hall of Justice past 11am Friday. It was supposed to be filed Thursday but the investigators who were supposed to sign the case file were dispatched to Antique to investigate the James Ardaña kidnapping case.

 

The NBI team that investigated the incident are special investigator (SI) John Katipunan, special agent (SA) Ernesto Lim, agent Arnold Diaz, SA Jeremiah Sargado, SI Rojun Hosillos and SI Modesto Orestes Cajita.

 

Atty. Mario Sison, NBI regional director, said they conducted an “exhaustive investigation” on the mysterious death of Balbanida, who was found inside the Uni-Eco comfort room with a bullet wound in her head.

 

Sison said their conclusions were based on circumstantial evidence and findings of the Iloilo City Police Station 1 and PNP Crime Laboratory.

 

Based on the final NBI investigation report, Balbanida’s death was not a case of suicide as claimed by her employers.

 

Lim said Balbanida was killed after the Kos discovered the tampered check worth P60,000 which they entrusted to the victim being the accountant and trusted employee.

 

The altered check surfaced after bank employee Paul Albert Javian brought it to Uni-Eco to verify Teofilo Ko’s signature.

 

The Kos wondered why the check was marked “paid to cash” instead of indicating the name of the payee.

 

“The situation worsened when the employers alleged that they discovered more tampered checks after conducting their own investigation. The killing emanated from the discovery of dishonesty, deceit and fraud allegedly committed by the victim when she was entrusted huge amounts of money. Another reason is the alleged abuse of confidence by the victim who virtually ran the finances of the company. When they discovered the anomaly, they erupted. These are the crystal clear motives of the respondents,” Lim said.

 

While they cannot determine who shot Balbanida, the NBI said the Kos and Panganiban were the only persons with the victim before she was found dead inside the CR.

 

“Panganiban is not part of management and he claimed that it was day off when the incident happened. But he was there after he was summoned by his employers. Why was he there when he had nothing to do with money matters? He is too obedient,” Lim said.

 

The NBI also noted that the lack of blood splatters on the CR’s wall is inconsistent with the purported suicide case.

 

“If indeed the victim committed suicide using a handgun while standing or in sitting position, why are there no blood stains on the wall? We have to consider that the bullet entered her right temple and exited in the left portion of her head,” Lim said.

 

The six empty bullet shells recovered inside the CR and the position of Balbanida’s body blocking the door also cast doubts on the suicide angle, the NBI report said.

 

“The door could not be opened without changing the position of the cadaver because it blocks the door. One has to move the body in order to open the CR,” the investigation said.

 

The remains of the victim also showed signs of struggle because her hair was in disarray.

 

“This finding is further substantiated by the discovery and retrieval of slug found in the floor where her head lies. The victim may have been shot while her head was pressed down on the floor by her attackers. And no one will commit suicide while lying inside a comfort room. This is contrary to wisdom and common sense,” it added.

 

The victim’s mother, Fe Balbanida, said she was thankful to the NBI for thoroughly investigating her daughter’s death.

 

“The findings confirmed our suspicions that she was killed. The three (respondent) are my suspects,” Fe said.

 

Fe said she hopes that they will achieve justice now that the murder case has been filed.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE service provider of the wireless landline phones issued to the Iloilo City Council cut off their lines after incurring “excessive” bills.

 

Why? Because of texting promos in a television show.

 

During the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s session Wednesday, Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog announced that Bayantel cut off their wireless landline phones because they exceeded the P8,900 monthly allocation for their phone bills.

 

It was found out that the total phone bills of the council reached more than P11,700. The City Accounting Office refused to approve the payment of the total phone bills.  

 

Mabilog said he checked with Bayantel why they exceeded their usual usage. He later found out that some of the lines were being used to join text promos in a popular TV show.

 

Councilor Armand Parcon told the council that one of his household members might be using his wireless landline to join such text promos.

 

Perla Zulueta said their lines were reconnected Thursday.

 

“Maybe somebody paid for the remaining amount so that our lines will be restored,” Zulueta said.

 

Mabilog said they asked Bayantel to restore the lines pending their payment.

 

Mabilog said he will ask for the itemized phone records from Bayantel to determine if which line frequently joined text promos.

 

The vice mayor and the city councilors, except for Antonio Pesina, were issued wireless landline phones so they can be easily reached by their constituents and staff.

 

Pesina did not avail of the phone.

April 2009
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