You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2009.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

TWO committees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo recommended to the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) in Pototan to take measures to protect the health of inmates.

The committees on appropriations chaired by Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico and health and sanitation chaired by Board Member Macario Napulan made the recommendations after probing the incidence of beriberi and other ailments of IRC inmates.

Macario said they ordered IRC Warden Soteo Gardoce to submit a report to the SP regarding food management at the jail.

The SP also directed the General Services Office to review the P14.6-million contract of the IRC food caterer which also operates the provincial capitol cafeteria.

The Provincial Health Office was also asked to draft and issue policy recommendations on the IRC’s sanitation program.

On top of this, the SP recommended that the IRC hire the services of a nutritionist who will keep tabs of the inmate’s food.

During the SP probe, the committees discovered the “unpalatable and innutritious” food served to inmates, contrary to the meal plan prepared by the IRC caterer.

During his ocular inspection of the jail, Napulan said several inmates suffer from severe nutritional deficiency.

Symptoms such as swollen stomachs, legs, faces and enlarged hearts suggest the critical nutrition problems of the inmates, Napulan said.

The IRC management had asked the SP to increase the food allowance of IRC inmates which is only P37 daily.

Beriberi or thiamine-deficiency is a degenerative disease of the nerves caused by a deficiency of the vitamin thiamine and marked by pain, inability to move and swelling.

Advertisements

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo City Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) ordered the arrest of a Chinese-Filipino businessman after he was indicted for four separate cases of grave oral defamation.

The Iloilo City Prosecutors Office found prima facie case against Chiu Cembrano in the criminal complaints filed last year against him by his niece Hazel Joan Cembrano, her friend Diona Fortin, customer Heide Sanz and employee Analie Aloro.

Judge Ofelia Artuz of the MTCC Branch 5 ordered Cembrano’s arrest July 21 and set his bail at P24,000, or P6,000 per count.

Cembrano, owner of the Golden (Iloilo) Delta Sales Corporation in downtown Iloilo City, managed to post bail for his temporary freedom the other day.

The complainants alleged that on November 3, 2008, Cembrano kicked a box Fortin was wrapping and shouted invectives at them, accusing them of blaspheming the image of the Santo Niño.

Cembrano also happens to be the president of the Sun Yat Sen Alumni Association, a prestigious Chinese-Filipino school in Iloilo City.

On that day, Fortin was only visiting her friend Hazel Joan who happens to be the Allowance Construction and Hardware Materials Purchasing and Payroll Officer of Golden (Iloilo) Delta Sales Corp.

Sanz is a customer who happens to be at the store during that time doing errand for her employer. Aloro, on the other hand, is the secretary of the store’s vice president Chiu San Sing Cembrano, brother of the respondent.

Based on the complaints, after Cembrano had kicked the box Fortin was wrapping, he then accused Aloro of spreading her legs in front of the image of the Child Jesus and cursed Aloro and Hazel Joan. Soon after, he went down where he was heard shouting “What do you want? Are you a thief?”

In turned out that while leaving the mezzanine, he met Sanz who was on her way up. Sanz, in her affidavit, said what Cembrano did greatly put her to shame and embarrassment because there were many people who had witnessed the incident.

Hazel Joan, for her part, now fears for her life because while she resides in the same building as her uncle who, she claimed “has plenty of guns and rifles.”

Family feud

In his counter-affidavit, Cembrano attributed the charges imputed against him as an off-shoot of the bitter dissolution of the co-ownership and partition of properties involving him and his brother, Chiu Han Sing Cembrano, Hazel Joan’s father.

He also denied having uttered scurrilous words against the four women stating that on the date of the alleged incident, he and his wife were praying at the altar and that they merely called the attention of the complainants concerning the garbage scattering around.

Investigating Prosecutor Ferdinand Thomas Magallanes, in a resolution dated June 9, said there is sufficient ground to hold Cembrano liable of the crime of grave oral defamation, as he found Cembrano’s utterances to be “categorically abusive and malicious.”

“The mere statement of denial made by Respondent, without any evidence or sufficient testimony supporting such claim, cannot impress upon this investigation the veracity of his testimony to the exclusion of the adverse declaration of the Complainants,” Magallanes wrote.

Magallanes also described as “remotely relevant” to the case the conflict between Chiu Cembrano and his brother Chiu Han Sing Cembrano, which led to the exchange of civil suits.

“It must be noted that herein Complainants are not participants nor are they privy to the civil actions mentioned by the Respondent. With the allegations in the complaints remained uncontroverted by any adverse proof, the finding of probable cause as to the commission of the given crime is in the affirmative,” the investigating prosecutor added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) insists that a group of suspected cattle rustlers attacked members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) last weekend.

Contrary to the claims of an RPA-ABB spokesman, S/Supt. Ricardo Dela Paz, IPPO director, said they have gathered some leads that the Prion group is responsible for the shooting at Brgy. Jelicuon Montinola, Cabatuan.

Dela Paz said the Prion group led by a certain Loujin Prion attacked the RPA-ABB members who were allegedly planning to assault the suspected cattle rustlers.

Dela Paz said the Prion group did not like the presence of other armed groups in their area of influence.

The shooting killed Glenn Damas, 17, a native of the said barangay and wounded RPA-ABB member Elmor Patrimonio and Romel Lorque, a suspected member of the Prion group.

A certain Ka Mike Trabajante of the RPA-ABB earlier said the PNP 607th Provincial Mobile Group (PMG) attacked their members.

But Supt. Kashmir Disomangcop, group director of the 607th PMG, denied Trabajante’s statement saying they were nowhere near the scene of the incident last Saturday.

The Prion family also denied Loujin’s involvement in the shooting.

Margarita Prion, Loujin’s wife, said her husband has not gone home for more than one week because he is working in Iloilo City.

Margarita said her husband left their village before the incident, thus it is impossible that he will lead the raid on the RPA-ABB members.

Prion’s family said Loujin stays in Iloilo City to avoid being tagged in crimes in their town and central Iloilo area.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

AN inmate of the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) is facing another drug case after the recovery of dried marijuana leaves inside his bag.

Ricardo Campos, 50, a native of Brgy. Poblacion East, Oton, Iloilo, has been in detention at the IRC for allegedly peddling drugs.

Campos attended the hearing of his case Thursday morning at the Iloilo Hall of Justice.

When Campos returned to the IRC in Pototan, jail guards Elvert Guides and Johnny Chiva inspected his bag inside his cell and found several bricks of suspected dried marijuana leaves. The Pototan police will submit the dried leaves to the PNP Crime Laboratory to verify if these are indeed marijuana. They may also file more drug charges against Campos if the lab test proves that he possessed marijuana.

How Campos managed to sneak in marijuana inside the IRC remains a mystery.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ANOTHER group of taxi operators in Panay are mulling to file more suits against an official of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for allegedly overcharging applicants for new taxi franchises.

Atty. Joseph Vincent Go, legal counsel of the Association of Taxi Operators of Panay (Atop), said they are preparing administrative and criminal cases against Atty. Rommel Duron, LFTRB hearing officer and technical services head.

The new suits stemmed from the complaint of taxi operator Salvacion Ruiz who accused Duron of charging her P33,000 for the franchise of her taxi sans an official receipt.

Ruiz later learned that the processing fee for the franchise is only P810. She also accused Duron of berating her when the latter allegedly insisted that she install a digital meter that issues receipts in her taxi.

Ruiz said she met Duron through fellow Aklanon Bernie Bernabe, a clerk at the LTFRB regional office in Jaro, Iloilo City.

Ruiz lodged her complaint with LTFRB chairman Alberto Suansing in Metro Manila.

Duron had denied dealing with Ruiz and taking money from her. He said another group of taxi operators, the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Associations (Aptoda) is behind Ruiz’s plaint.

Duron said Aptoda has an axe to grind with him because of the issue on digital taxi meters which cost P16,000 a unit.

Go, operator of the Light of Glory taxi fleet, said they were able to talk to Ruiz and found her statements consistent.

Go also urged other franchise holders to come out and file complaints against the LTFRB officials.

He added that they will file cases against Duron with the Office of Ombudsman.

Another taxi operator, Tony Caram, surfaced and recounted that he paid P35,000 to a certain Henry Mamon who is reportedly under Duron’s office.

Caram said he applied for his franchise in March and secured the certificate of public convenience the following month.

Based on the LTFRB personnel chart, Mamon is a driver of the regional office.

Caram said he was not issued an official receipt because Mamon told him that his franchise serves as receipt.

“I did not mind it at first because I was contented with securing my franchise. But when I learned of Mrs. Ruiz’s complaint, I also came out to recount my experience,” Caram said.

Caram said he is also preparing his own affidavit against Duron.

Aptoda spokesperson Genie Primalion alleged that Mamon and Bernabe are behind the alleged racket preying on franchise applicants.

Primalion said they are convincing other taxi operators to come out and file complaints.

Mamon refused to comment while Bernabe cannot be reached.

LTFRB regional director Porfirio Clavel declined to comment on the issue pending the investigation.

But Clavel said their office is open to any kind of scrutiny.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILONGGO officials asked for more money from President Gloria Arroyo to fund the repair and replacement of infrastructure damaged by typhoon Frank last year.

Presidential Adviser for Western Visayas Raul Banias said he, Rep. Arthur Defensor Sr. (3rd district, Iloilo) and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas submitted a memorandum to President Arroyo asking for the release of some P900 million from the national government’s calamity fund.

The three officials submitted the memorandum during a closed door meeting with the President Tuesday in Tatoy’s Manokan in Arevalo, Iloilo City.

Banias said the money will be used to replace 10 damaged bridges and dredging of the Iloilo River and Dungon Creek.

Banias said they requested the funds while Congress has yet to pass the Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme (SNITS) Bill which is the funding source of the P8-billion Paglaum Fund.

The Paglaum Fund will be used to rehabilitate areas and sectors devastated by flashfloods brought about by typhoon Frank June 21-22, 2008.

The SNITS Bill is still stuck in the Senate committee on ways and means chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

The President visited Iloilo Tuesday to inspect a road project linking the towns of Oton and San Miguel. She also inspected the ongoing construction of the Camangahan Bridge linking Guimbal and Tubungan towns.

Mrs. Arroyo also went to Cabatuan to check the works on the Tigum and Amerang Bridges.

Banias said President Arroyo already released P60 million for the Camangahan Bridge while another P45 million will be released to complete the project by December this year.

Some P160 million was allotted for the Tigum Bridge while another P180 million was set aside for the Amerang Bridge.

Banias said the President also wanted the Tigum and Ameran bridges replaced before her term ends next year.

The national government earlier released some P481 million for the partial rehabilitation and repair of the damaged structures.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ONE of the main authors of Republic Act No. 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML) in the House of Representatives will file amendments to strengthen the law.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said he will push for amendments to the law which aims to drive down prices of essential medicines, before the 14th Congress ends next year.

Biron said the amendments include the restoration of the automatic price reduction mechanism and the drug price regulatory board.

These two provisions were included in the House version of the CML but it was deleted during the bicameral conference due to the opposition of Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.

Roxas also crafted his own version of the law which only pushed for amendments to Republic Act 8263 (Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines) which will allow parallel importation of patented medicines.

The Roxas version does not contain provisions on the automatic price reduction of medicines and the drug price regulatory board. Instead, he gave the power to regulate the prices of essential drugs to the President upon the recommendation of the Department of Health (DoH) secretary.

Biron said the CML is weak because of the deletion of the provision on the mandatory drug price regulation which the House advocated.

“Senator Roxas’ opposition to the House version and the consequent deletion of these provisions basically emasculated and weakened the law,” he added.

Under Biron’s proposal, the law itself will set the minimum retail price of medicines which will be listed by the drug price regulatory board.

The medicines that will be subject to automatic price regulation will be based on the essential drugs list of the DoH.

Roxas has blamed the President and the DoH for dilly-dallying on the implementation of the “weakened” CML which he himself pushed for in Congress. 

During her State of the Nation Address, President Gloria Arroyo said she supported the House’s “tougher” version of the CML over the “meek version” of her critics.

Apparently, President Arroyo took a swipe at Roxas who once badmouthed her in a protest rally.

“To those who want to be president, this advice: If you really want something done, just do it, do it hard, do it well, don’t pussy-foot, don’t say bad words in public,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President also thanked Biron and other congressmen who pushed for the approval of the law.

Biron said he agrees with President Arroyo’s tirades against Roxas saying the senator only used the CML to advance his political ambitions next year.

Biron said President Arroyo’s statement recognizes that the CML is indeed impotent and needs more teeth.

Biron said he hopes the President will certify his amendatory bill as urgent to fast track its approval in Congress.  

The Ilonggo congressman has urged Roxas to stop the blame game and join the effort to amend the CML and make it more potent.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A FACTION of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) accused the PNP of attacking their members in Cabatuan, Iloilo over the weekend.

Ka Mike Trabajante, spokesperson of the RPA-ABB faction identified with the Carapali Lualhati faction, said the 607th PNP Provincial Mobile Group based in Janiuay, Iloilo staged the attack.

The shooting incident happened at Sitio Sambag, Brgy. Jelicoun Montinola around 8pm of July 18. 

The Cabatuan PNP said the group of Bru Prion, which is allegedly behind cattle rustling operations in central Iloilo, bombed and shot the nipa hut where three RPA-ABB members were staying.

Glenn Damas, 17, a native of the said village, was killed in the incident. Ramil Elorque, believed to be a member of the Prion group, and RPA-ABB member Elmor Patrimonio were wounded.

In a statement, Trabajante said the mobile group headed by Supt. Kashmir Disomangcop shot their comrades after confirming their presence in the hut.

But Disomangcop denied Trabajante’s allegations saying they were nowhere near the scene of the incident.

Disomangcop said their detachment is far from Sitio Sambag.

“We went to the scene of the incident the following morning. The full report of what happened is with the Iloilo Provincial Police Office,” Disomangcop said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

THE number of dengue cases in Western Visayas this year continues to rise, exceeding last year’s cases, the Department of Health (DoH-6) said.

Latest data from the DoH said a total of 1,675 dengue cases were reported in the region since January to July 26, 2009, which is 160 cases higher than the 1,515 cases for the January to July 18 period.

Almost half of the dengue cases are children 1-10 years old.

The DoH said the latest number of cases this year is 26% higher than last year’s recorded cases.

The number of fatalities also increased to 26, mostly from the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo.

The total dengue cases in city and province of Iloilo totaled 927 with 16 deaths.

Negros Occidental has 533 cases with two fatalities; Capiz (93 cases, 1 death); Aklan (53 cases); Guimaras (40 cases, 1 death); Antique (9 cases).

Meanwhile, a total of 55 persons in Western Visayas were found positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus. Of the total cases, 51 are Filipinos including 29 male and 26 female. Most of the patients are 10-19 years old.

Twenty-nine patients contracted the virus after returning from trips abroad.

Negros Occidental and Capiz have 15 A(H1N1) flu cases while Iloilo City has 13 cases.

Bacolod City has 12 cases, Iloilo province 10 while Aklan and Antique have 1 case each.

President snipes at Sen. Mar Roxas

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo said she supported the House of Representative’s tougher version of the Cheaper Medicines Law.

Arroyo issued the statement in her 9th State of the Nation Address (SONA) taking a swipe at her critics who pushed for a “weaker version” of the law.

“I supported the tough version of the House of the Cheaper Medicine Law. I supported it over the weak version of my critics. The result: the drug companies volunteered to bring down drug prices, slashing by half the prices of 16 drugs,” President Arroyo said.

The President thanked congressmen who pushed for a tougher Cheaper Medicines Act.

Thank you, Congressman (Junie) Cua, Antonio Alvarez, (Ferjenel) Biron and (Teodoro “Teddy Boy”) Locsin (Jr.)…”

Rep. Biron (4th district, Iloilo) is one of the principal authors of the law in the House of Representatives. His version pushed for the automatic drug price reduction through the Maximum Retail Price (MRP), a formula that will reduce retail prices of essential medicines.

Biron’s version also pushed for the establishment of a drug price regulatory board that will implement the formula and MRP on medicines included in the essential drugs list of the Department of Health (DoH).

But the version of Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, a staunch critic of the Arroyo administration, which advocated for parallel importation of patented medicines, won over the House version.

Roxas’ version also gave the power to set the MRP of medicines to the President through the recommendations of the DoH secretary.

Biron said Roxas’ version weakened and delayed the implementation of the CML.

President Arroyo also taunted Roxas for badmouthing her in a protest rally.

“To those who want to be president, this advice: If you really want something done, just do it, do it hard, do it well, don’t pussy-foot, don’t say bad words in public,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mrs. Arroyo said she has been supportive of efforts to lower prices of essential medicines since 2001.

“Mula noong 2001, nanawagan tayo ng mas murang gamot. Nagbebenta na tayo ng mga gamot na kalahating presyo sa libu-libong Botika ng Bayan at Botika ng Barangay sa maraming dako ng bansa,” she said.

She added that she prompted manufacturers to sell low-cost generics and brands like RiteMed.

Panay rehab, flood control

The President also highlighted in her SONA the ongoing flood control project in Iloilo as part of her administration’s response to natural calamities and disasters.

Mrs. Arroyo also urged Congress to pass the Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme (SNITS) Law which will become the source of the P8-billion Paglaum Fund.

“The victims of typhoon Frank in Panay should receive their long-overdue assistance package. I ask Congress to pass the SNITS Law,” she said.

Feisty talk

President Arroyo also tried to quell down talks that she will stay in power beyond 2010.

“At the end of this speech I shall step down from this stage, but not from the Presidency. My term does not end until next year. Until then, I will fight for the ordinary Filipino. The nation comes first. There is much to do as head of state—to the very last day,” she said.

President Arroyo added: “I never expressed the desire to extend myself beyond my term. Many of those who accuse me of it tried to cling like nails to their posts.”

The President said she is not after popularity but performance and achievements.

“I did not become President to be popular. To work, to lead, to protect and preserve our country, our people, that is why I became President. When my father left the Presidency, we were second to Japan. I want our Republic to be ready for the first world in 20 years.”

President Arroyo also urged purported candidates in the 2010 polls to present their platforms to the people.

“As the campaign unfolds and the candidates take to the airwaves, I ask them to talk more about how they will build up the nation rather than tear down their opponents. Our candidates must understand the complexities of our government and what it takes to move the country forward. Give the electorate real choices and not just sweet talk,” she said.

She again took a swipe at her critics who “are frightened by their own shadows.”

“In the face of attempted coups, I issued emergency proclamations just in case. But I was able to resolve these military crises with the ordinary powers of my office. My critics call it dictatorship. I call it determination. We know it as strong government. But I never declared martial law, though they are running scared as if I did. In truth, what they are really afraid of is their weakness in the face of this self-imagined threat. I say to them: do not tell us what we all know, that democracy can be threatened. Tell us what you will do when it is attacked.”

The President’s SONA was applauded 124 times and lasted 58 minutes.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CATTLE rustlers in central Iloilo are as heavily armed as the rebels, the police in the town of Cabatuan said.

C/Insp. Arthur Salcedo, Cabatuan PNP chief, said members of the Prion group shot elements of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) at Sitio Sambag, Brgy. Jelicoun Montinola.

The Prion group is tagged in cattle rustling incidents in central Iloilo by the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO).

Salcedo said Glenn Damas, 17, a native of the said village, was killed in the incident while Ramil Elorque and RPA-ABB member Elmor Patrimonio were wounded.

Salcedo said the incident happened 9pm Saturday while RPA-ABB members Ramil Farol and Ernie and Elmor Patrimonio were staying inside a hut in the said village.

Seven Prion group members led by a certain Bru Prion threw a grenade at the hut before peppering it with bullets from M16, M14 and Carbine rifles and 12-gauge shotgun.

Salcedo said the empty shells and live grenade recovered around the hut gave them hints on the firearms the Prion group used during the shootout.

The RPA-ABB members, who have been staying in the scene of the incident, managed to fire back based on the empty shells found inside the hut.

When asked what could be the motive of the Prion group, Salcedo said it could be for the thrill of it or just plain paranoia over the presence of the armed rebels.

Basi tripping lang o basi nagkasuspetsahan kay may mga armado,” he said.

The Prion group has been weakened by the death of its leader Joel Prion three years back. His brothers who took over the band have either been arrested or jailed or have fled Iloilo.

Police sources said there is bad blood between the RPA-ABB and Prions because the rebels have been helping control cattle rustling in central Iloilo.

Atty. Duron denies charges 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap 

AN official of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and a taxi operator traded barbs over processing fees for new franchises and taxi meters.

Businesswoman Salvacion Ruiz and Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (APTODA) filed a complaint with LTFRB central office against Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB-6 hearing officer.

Duron said the accusations against him stemmed from conflicts with other taxi operators on the new metering system.

Ruiz claimed in her complaint-affidavit that Duron required her to pay P35,000 for a certificate of public convenience for her new taxi unit.

After processing the document and borrowing money from a lending firm, Ruiz said she went to Duron’s office June 5, 2009 to submit her application and pay the fees.

Ruiz alleged that she paid the money to Duron who gave her a P2,000 discount. Instead of P35,000, she only gave P33,000 to the hearing officer but she got no receipt for the payment.

Ruiz said Duron told her to return June 11 with a picture of her taxi and to secure her franchise.

On June 11, Ruiz returned to the LTFRB office to give the photograph of the taxi. She said Duron told her to install a receipt issuing meter which she can buy from an outlet near the office for P16,500.

Ruiz said she asked if she can install the usual taxi meter because she does not have enough money for the new meter.

The complainant said Duron shouted at her in front of other people and embarrassed her.

Ruiz then learned from APTODA president Benjie Clavel that the installation of the digital taxi meter has been deferred.

On June 15, another confrontation occurred between Duron and Ruiz, Clavel and APTODA adviser Jeffrey Celis at the office of Atty. Porfirio Clavel, LTFRB regional director.

The complainant confronted Duron about the P33,000 she paid and his actions last June 11.

Atty. Clavel mediated and told Ruiz to return the following day to get her CPC. She later learned that the processing fee for the franchise was only P810 based on the receipt issued to her.

Ruiz said she filed charges for graft and corruption, conduct unbecoming of a public officer and abuse of trust and confidence against Duron. 

GANGED UP

In a phone interview, Duron said his accusers are conspiring against him.

Indi na matuod, daw gina pulihan nila ako (That is a lie. They are ganging up on me),” Atty. Duron told The Daily Guardian.

Duron firmly denied the allegations hurled against him byRuiz and Benjie Clavel.

He also refuted demanding P35,000 from Sualog-Ruiz.

“Indi ko na siya kilala.  Nga-a mangayo ako sang kwarta sa indi ko kilala?” Duron said.

He said that he works in the government and his office is a public trust.

As regards shouting at Ruiz June 15, Duron said there was no intention to embarrass her.

“If she was offended, I am asking for her forgiveness,” Duron said. 

Duron said, however, that he may have raised his voice while discussing the taxi meter with Ruiz. 

He claimed that he was a bit upset having to explain over and over again that regular taxi meters are not permitted for new taxi franchises. He said he may have raised his voice but it was not his intention to humiliate Ruiz.

Atty. Duron said the complainant is just sourgraping. He said he does not understand why Ruiz is still complaining when her franchise was approved June 16.

He also accused APTODA president Benjie Clavel of pushing Ruiz to file the complaint because of their past differences on the issue of the digital taxi meter receipt. 

He also said that there’s a bigger man behind the accusations against him but declined to identify that person.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

THE Western Visayas economy slowed down last year but remains one of the biggest contributors to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said.

The NSCB said the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) estimates showed that Region 6’s growth decelerated from 7.7% in 2007 to 4.4% last year.

The GRDP measures the goods and services produced in each of the geo-political regions of the country. It is the regional share of the country’s GDP or total products and services produced in the country.

The GRDP also outlines the industries and factors that contribute to the regional economy, and indicates the pace at which the regional economy is moving on an annual basis.

Presentacion Penpillo, NSCB regional head, presented the 2008 GRDP in Western Visayas in a news conference Wednesday.

Penpillo attributed the growth slowdown to the effects of the flashflood brought about by typhoon Frank in the second quarter of 2008.

Ro-Ann Bacal, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) regional director, said Western Visayas remains the 4th fastest growing region out of the 17 regional units in the country.

“We experienced typhoon Frank in the middle of 2008 and oil prices increases in the last quarter of last year. But the prospects of Region 6 remains bright despite the slowdown because of our strong agricultural and fisheries and tourism sectors,” Bacal said.  

In terms of contribution to the national GDP growth, Western Visayas increased its share from 7.2% in 2007 to 7.24% in 2008.

Despite the slowdown, Western Visayas’ GDP growth of 4.4% is higher than the country’s 3.8% growth last year. 

SERVICE SECTOR

The NSCB data showed that the service sector is the huge contributor to the region’s total economic output at 47.9%. But the sector’s growth plunged from 8.6% in 2007 to 2.2% in 2008.

The service sector is composed of 6 sub sectors: transportation, communication and storage (TCS), trade, finance, ownership of dwellings and real estate (ODRE), private services and government services.

The weakening of the region’s economic performance hit hardest the TCS sub-sector which posted the highest deceleration from 9.8% in 2007 to 3.3% in 2008.

Trade also slowed down from 10.7% to 1.2% while finance plunged from 9.1% to 1.5%. Private services also decelerated from 8.2% to 2.2%.

Government services accelerated from 2.4% in 2007 to 5.8% last year while ODRE went up to 3.5% from 2.5%.

INDUSTRY SECTOR

The industry sector, which accounted 27.5% of the region’s economy, also slowed down from 13.2% in 2007 to 8.9% last year.

The deceleration is attributed to drastic slowdowns in the sub-sector of mining and quarrying (44.9% in 2007 to 7.5% in 2008) and construction (17.5% to 9.1%).

The manufacturing sub-sector, which contributed 17.6% to the industry sector, managed to offset the slowdown as it grew to 9% from 7.7% in 2007.

“This was fueled by the strong performance of food and beverages, sharing 87% of the overall manufacturing sub-sector,” the NSCB said.

Electricity and water sub-sector sustained its momentum at 9.5% in the past two years due to increased power generation.

AGRICULTURE

The agriculture, fishery and forestry sector, which contributed 24.6% to the region’s economy, performed impressively by recovering from 0.8% growth in 2007 to 4.1% last year.

“The gains were propelled by the growths of palay (production) at 6.3%, sugarcane (19.8%) and corn (11.4%). Livestock and poultry expanded by 4.34% and 3.93%, respectively,” the NSCB added.

There was also impressive growth in the forestry sub-sector which jumped from 18.4% in 2007 to 103.6% in 2008. This is attributed to increased volume of cut trees from private plantations.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE sole distribution utility in Iloilo City is set to introduce the prepaid retail electric service (PRES) to residential consumers.

Randy Pastolero, operations manager of Panay Electric Co. (PECo), said they are waiting for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to issue the rules and guidelines on the implementation of PRES.

“The ERC has approved the rules already and we are awaiting its issuance so we can study the implementation and draft our own internal system. Once we have studied the rules, we will notify our consumers about the new system,” Pastolero said.

PRES is an electric service that uses a prepaid metering system designed to allow a residential customer to purchase credit or load and then use electricity until such time his load is exhausted.

The ERC approved the rules on PRES July 13 after a series of consultations since last year.

Pastolero said they see several advantages in the implementation of PRES.

“Primarily, it will compel consumers to manage their power consumption which will redound to more efficient generation and distribution of electricity. It will also curb, if not eliminate, power pilferage resulting in lower systems losses. Lower systems losses will mean reduction of additional charges on consumers,” he said.

The ERC allows distribution utilities and electric cooperatives to charge consumers for systems losses or electricity lost in distribution lines due to pilferage and other technical reasons.

Power distributors can only collect a maximum of 9.5% systems losses charges on monthly bills.

Power utilities will also reduce their overhead expenses with the implementation of PRES because “we don’t have to employ meter readers,” Pastolero said.

“Our manpower will shrink because of the prepaid retail system and we will eliminate incidence of wrong meter readings which is common in the traditional metering system,” he added. 

Pastolero said a firm supplying digital prepaid electric meters in the US has presented its product to them recently.

The digital prepaid meter features a magnetic strip which will scan and load electricity prepaid cards.

“The load in the prepaid card will convert the amount to allowable kilowatt per hour based on the prevailing rates. Once loaded, the meter will turn on and supply electricity. We are also studying other prepaid metering technologies,” Mr. Pastolero said.

PECo will require the meter supplier to be accredited and their gadgets calibrated by the ERC.

“Our only concern is that the cost of the digital prepaid meters might affect the operations cost of the distribution utility. From what we learned, the digital meter is triple the price of traditional meters. Maybe the ERC will allow us to gradually recover the costs in procuring the meters,” Pastolero said.

Pastolero said consumers can determine their consumption by calculating the wattage of their appliances and lights.

“PECo will devise a way to help the consumers calculate their consumption and the amount of prepaid card they will buy,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo City council welcomed the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to terminate the case filed against them by the contractor of the controversial City Hall Housing Project in Pavia, Iloilo.

Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog said the council was right in its stand not to pay Ace Builders and Enterprise (ABE) P4.3 million despite threats to sue them in court and the Ombudsman.

The amount represents ABE’s Progress Billing No. 4 which construction firm owner Alex Trinidad has been asking from the City Hall for the corruption-marred P130-million project.

Mabilog said the Ombudsman decision issued March 10, 2009 validated the stand of the Council’s committee on infrastructure in 2005 and 2006 not to pay ABE’s billing due to pending administrative cases that stemmed from the project. Mabilog chaired the committee four years ago while still a councilor.

“Our stand at that time was that we will not pay ABE until the Ombudsman has resolved the cases relative to the project. And the Ombudsman vindicated us with this latest decision,” he added.

Councilor Perla Zulueta said the council was steadfast in its decision not to authorize Mayor Jerry Treñas to pay ABE’s fourth billing.

Zulueta said it was City Legal Officer Edgar Gil who recommended paying ABE for its accomplishments.

Gil headed the task force that looked into the legality of paying ABE for the housing project. 

The Ombudsman terminated the case filed by ABE against the council until the main cases are resolved.

Three administrative cases relative to the project are docketed as OMB-V-C-03-0715-K, OMB-V-C-03-0716-K and OMB-V-A-03-661-K. These are still “under review” by the Ombudsman central office, according to Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol.

The cases stemmed from the findings of the committee on good government chaired by then councilor now Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. that the housing units were substandard.

Among the city officials charged before the Ombudsman were Mayor Jerry Treñas and his predecessor Mansueto Malabor.

The project was funded through a bond flotation scheme.

In 2002, Rudy Gonzales, a subcontractor of ABE, revealed the use of substandard materials in the project after the latter firm failed to pay him for his contracted work.

That triggered the council investigation, the results of which continue to gather dust in the Ombudsman.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Bureau of Customs (BoC) in Iloilo City is under fire both from its central office and importers for failure to meet its target collection and alleged mismanagement.

The BoC’s woes began when a group of “Concerned Importers of Iloilo City” sent letters to local officials seeking their help to look into the revenue agency’s operations.

The letter, which bore a signature of an unidentified person, said the BoC based in the Port of Iloilo only collected P46.016 million of its P106.134 million target for the first two quarters of 2009.

Part of the collection shortage was attributed to foregone wheat revenues amounting to P39.772 million. This is due to Executive Order No. 765 of President Gloria Arroyo which removed the 3% customs duty on imported wheat.

But the importers said the foregone wheat revenue is only half of the total collection deficit of P60.117 million for the first two quarters of the year.

The BoC central office in Manila has also reprimanded its Iloilo office for its sub par performance.

In a memorandum dated June 10, 2009, Atty. Gregorio Chavez, BoC Deputy Commissioner for Internal Administration, warned BoC Iloilo to improve its collection.

Chavez is also the chairman of the Lateral Attrition Implementation Committee (LAIC) which reviews the collection performance of various BoC offices.

The committee was created with the approval of the Lateral Attrition Law which provides for a system of reward and punishment for BOC and BIR officials and employees depending on their performance. Those who fall short of their collection targets by at least 7.5 percent would be dismissed from service while those who go beyond expectations would be given incentives which may include cash.

So, what’s the cause of the BoC’s low collection?

The importers claimed that “mismanagement of OIC-District Collector Roberto L. Madrid at the Port of Iloilo” is to be blamed for the problem.

The letter said Madrid’s management style “not only caused dismay and confusion among the employees but also faction (sic) and misunderstanding among them resulting in unsatisfactory services” towards the importers.

The importers also alleged that Madrid and his executive assistant, Jose Naig “demand preposterous amounts as a condition from us before and every time we enter our importations at the Port of Iloilo.

“Aside from this anomalous activity which is tantamount to extortion, Mr. Madrid also demands illegal payments every time we file our individual accreditation/permit to import and every time we file our individual yearly renewal on the said accreditation/permit,” the letter said.

Because of these alleged anomalies, the importers said they decided to stop importing at the Port of Iloilo “because these will adversely affect or damage our respective businesses.”

The importers have now diverted to ports in Cebu and Manila, resulting in low collections for BoC Iloilo City.

The low revenue collection of the BoC was validated by two assessment documents obtained by The Daily Guardian.

A source familiar with customs operations also confirmed that some importers are discontented with the present BoC management. The source asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.

TDG tried to get the comments of Madrid but he is in Metro Manila for the rest of the week. Text messages to his cellphone asking for an interview were unanswered.

Based on a copy of their explanation to the LAIC, Madrid blamed EO No. 765 for their low collection.

Madrid also attributed their dismal performance to the global economic crunch resulting in a slowdown in the importation of major commodities such as liquefied petroleum gas, fertilizer and tiles.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) urged the Iloilo City government to relocate squatters from the banks of Dungon Creek so they can start dredging works immediately.

Engr. Rolando Asis, DPWH regional director, said they awarded last week the P50-million dredging contract to WTG Construction, a Cebu-based firm owned by William T. Go.

Asis said they will start digging the heavily silted Dungon creek once the 614 families living along the creek in Mandurriao and Jaro districts are transferred by the City Government.

The 3.5-kilometer Dungon Creek spans some 13 barangays and has been a major cause of flooding in the city.

The dredging project will deepen and widen the creek to prevent more floods. Funding for the project will be sourced from the P481-million budget of the DPWH which President Gloria Arroyo ordered released last May.

Asis said Engr. Al Fruto, DPWH Project Monitoring Office chief, met with the Iloilo City Urban Poor Affairs Office regarding the relocation of squatters.

“If we can gradually transfer them to the relocation site, we can start with the dredging. We also want to take advantage of the sunny weather because the equipment cannot move if there is rain and mud,” Asis said.

Asis said bad weather affected the accomplishment of major projects.

“I got a call from our central office informing me that our accomplishment has been low. Our average performance is around 50% of our target accomplishment,” he added.

City Hall announced it will transfer the squatters to the relocation site in Brgy. San Isidro, Jaro. It will also help relocatees obtain livelihood. In fact, they are conducting bakery, sari-sari stores, vegetable gardens and other skills training activities for them.

Two daycare centers and a health center will be established at the relocation site aside from improving the elementary school to absorb the relocatees’ children.

Biron: Cheaper Meds Law can be amended

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THERE is still time to amend the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML) and give the landmark legislation more force for the benefit of the people, according to one of its principal authors.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said the 10 remaining months of the 13th Congress is enough time to strengthen the CML.

Biron said the CML could have taken effect immediately if his proposed mandatory drug price mechanism and drug price control board were retained in the approved version of the law.

Biron said Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II should realize his fault in “castrating” the law resulting in its delayed implementation.

“If Senator Roxas realizes his fault, he should join us to amend the law. There is still a lot of time to amend the law,” Biron said.

The congressman blamed Roxas for the weak version of the law when the latter deleted the automatic drug price mechanism and maximum retail price (MRP) for essential drugs.

Roxas, instead, pushed for amendment to the Intellectual Property Law to pave the way for parallel importation of patented drugs.

Roxas also gave the power to regulate prices of medicines to President Gloria Arroyo upon recommendations of the Department of Health (DoH).

But Biron said less than 5% of drug formulations have patents, thus parallel importation will not bring down prices of essential medicines.

Biron also said that Roxas should not blame the President for dilly dallying on signing the list of MRP for 22 medicines submitted by the DoH.

“He gave that power to the President in the first place, why is he blaming her now?” he added.

Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico also urged Roxas to admit that he weakened the law.

“Sen. Roxas should be honest enough to accept the blame for a castrated law,” said Suplico, the original and sole author of the first Cheaper Medicines Bill in the 11th and 12th Congress.

Suplico said Roxas should be faulted for expensive medicines in the country.

“We should blame Mar for the continued exorbitant drug prices in the country today. Mar abolished the mandatory price regulation and the Drug Price Regulatory Board at the bicameral conference committee level. These (provisions) are the hearts of the bill. And Mar got what he wanted – he killed the law. He should not blame anyone now but himself,” he added.

The vice governor said Roxas should not use the issue to propel his presidential ambition in the 2010 elections.

“Mar, the killer of the Cheaper Medicines Act, should not be allowed to profit from the law’s death. He should have the decency not to use it as a Janus-faced prescription for his presidential ambition. He should be reminded that the original bill was for the benefit of the poor, while the castrated law is a haven for multinational pharmaceutical companies,” Suplico said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial government will not refund the P23.2-million financial assistance to 11,659 volunteer health workers last year.

In an interview with weekly cable TV show Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta last Sunday, Provincial Administrator Manuel Mejorada said they are banking on a Supreme Court decision on a case similar to that of the volunteer health workers in the province.

Citing the SC decision, Mejorada said the health workers will not be compelled to refund the assistance “because it was given to them on good faith.”

“The provincial government acted on good faith in giving the assistance. Governor Niel Tupas Sr. did not pocket the money unlike what other people want to imply,” Mejorada said.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) directed the provincial government to refund the P23.2 million financial aid for lack of legal basis.

The CoA said in its 2008 annual audit report that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) declared as inoperative the appropriation ordinance for the said grant.

The grants were given to the volunteer health workers December 2008 after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved Supplemental Budget No. 1 per Appropriation Ordinance Np. 2008-08.

But the DBM declared the grant inoperative as the provincial government was operating on a reenacted budget. Since there was no annual budget, the SP cannot pass a supplemental budget.

Meanwhile, the CoA also directed the provincial government to refund the P71-million extra cash gift given to Capitol employees December 2008.

The audit agency said the extra cash gift exceeded the Personal Services cap or limit of the capitol budget amounting to P118.5 million.

The Local Government Code of 1991 provides that personal services or salaries and benefits for employees of a local government unit should not exceed 45% of its annual budget.

The CoA said the allowable PS level of the capitol is P380.1 million. But Capitol disbursement for PS in 2008 including the extra cash gift amounted to P546.4 million.

The next PS cost incurred in 2008 totaled P427.6 million, which is already P47.48 million over the PS cap, the CoA report said.

Mejorada said their own computation showed that they only exceeded 8% of the cap amounting to P8 million.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE construction of the second vehicular flyover in Iloilo City is set to begin next month, according to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas.

Treñas said Engr. Emil Sadain, executive director of the President’s Bridge Program, visited his office to request the city government’s assistance in the project.

The new flyover project will traverse from the junction of Jalandoni and General Luna Street to the Iloilo American Memorial School on General Luna Street (beside the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office).

The project will be undertaken by the national government through the President’s Bridge Program.

Treñas said Sadain asked the City government to clear the project site of electric and telephone lines to give way for the construction.

Woodfields Consultants Inc. conducted the soil/geotechnical investigation on the proposed project site before final the construction phase. The design of the flyover is dependent on the soil test.

The mayor said construction will begin once the City Engineer’s Office has cleared the posts and wires in the project site.

City Administrator Melchor Tan also met with representatives of telecom firms whose lines will be affected by the project to seek their help in the clearing works.

Treñas said the Traffic Management and Engineering Unit is preparing a traffic plan for the rerouting of vehicles once the construction begins.

The contractor of the second flyover project is a French firm as the project is funded by the French government through its Mega Bridges for Urban and Rural Development Project.

“If the construction begins next month, the contractor vowed to finish the project by December 2009. The structure will be pre-fabricated and will be almost similar to the first flyover over Infante and General Luna Streets,” Treñas said.

The first flyover project costs P400 million and was undertaken by British firm Mabey and Johnson.

The city government also wants another flyover to be constructed at the Taft North-Diversion Road area where traffic jams are common.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE National Electrification Administration (NEA) ordered the board of directors of Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco 3) to justify why they should not be preventively suspended.

The NEA Administrative Committee issued the directive to the Ileco 3 board in a show cause order issued Friday.

The Ileco 3 board headed by former Regional Trial Court judge Mateo Baldoza is under investigation for the alleged bribery in the power supply agreement between the cooperative and Applied Research Technologies Philippines Inc. (Artech).

Last week, NEA gave the Ileco 3 board 10 days to explain the alleged bribery unearthed by the fact-finding team led by Atty. Omar Mayo of the NEA Legal Department.

The fact-finding team recommended the preventive suspension of the board of directors pending the formal investigation on the bribery issue.

NEA had deactivated the board and assigned Eddie Adlao as project supervisor to oversee Ileco 3 operations while the probe is ongoing.

Baldoza revealed in an interview with Aksyon Radyo last May 5 that he received P75,000 from Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. during a meeting with Artech officials April 17 at the governor’s house.

Baldoza also claimed receiving another P75,000 from an Artech employee after the approval and signing of the PSA April 21 in a hotel in Iloilo City.

Tupas had denied bribing the Ileco 3 board even as he defended the power supply deal as necessary to ensure ample electricity in the 5th district and portions of the 4th district.

The NEA fact-finding team found out that the PSA was over-contracted and will burden Ileco 3 consumers in the next 25 years.

The NEA investigation was triggered by complaints from two Ileco 3 consumers and the Ileco 3 management team.

Baldoza said he will stand by his claims as regards the alleged bribery when he submits his explanation to NEA.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

A 9-MONTH-old baby drowned to death inside their house in LaPaz, Iloilo City early morning Friday.

Menchie Justalero said she found her lifeless baby Katrina floating in floodwaters that penetrated their house at Brgy. Lopez Jaena Norte, LaPaz.

Menchie said she fed her baby around 12 midnight before they went to sleep.

The mother said she woke up around 2am to feed Katrina again but the baby was missing. They later found the baby floating in the knee-deep floodwater.

Menchie said they did not notice the baby fall from their bed.

Brgy. Lopez Jaena Norte went underwater because of monsoon rains exacerbated by typhoon Isang.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

NO amount of upgrading will cure the discrepancies in the procurement of a laptop computer for the Iloilo Provincial Health Office, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

Mae L. Chua, chief budget and management specialist of DBM-6, said the provincial Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) should have declared a failure of bidding if the supplier cannot deliver the specified item.

Chua said the supplier must follow the specifications provided in the purchase request and purchase order.

Instead of an Acer Aspire laptop, lone bidder Seven Seven Trading delivered an upgraded Acer TravelMate laptop which was already phased out from the market.

The BAC has defended the deal in its explanation to the Commission on Audit (CoA). (See related story)

Chua said if the supplier failed to provide the required laptop, it is the responsibility of the BAC to declare a failure of bidding and look for other suppliers.

“Upon seeing that the supplier delivered a different item, the BAC should have not accepted it and declare a failure of bidding. The BAC then can initiate new bidding for the required item,” Chua said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo.

Capitol sources said the CoA has issued a notice of disallowance on the laptop deal. The notice will be forwarded to the CoA legal department which is deliberating the explanation made by the BAC.

Once the notice of disallowance is approved, BAC members and other capitol officials who signed the procurement papers will be made to refund the amount paid to the supplier.

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. said he will have the transaction investigated to find out what happened.

Still, Tupas said the BAC, then headed by General Services Office chief Ramie Salcedo, followed procurement rules in buying the laptop.

Tupas earlier organized the BAC and designated Provincial Legal Officer Salvador Cabaluna III as chairman after the controversial purchases of the autoclave sterilizer and anesthesia machine were exposed.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THERE was nothing irregular in the purchase of a laptop computer for the Iloilo Provincial Health Office (PHO) even if the lone bidder delivered a unit different from what was requested by the said office.

Provincial Legal Officer Salvador Cabaluna III, who also heads the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), also finds nothing wrong if the lone bidder acted as a middleman of a laptop supplier.

In defending the deal, Cabaluna cited the explanation submitted by General Services Office head Ramie Salcedo, former BAC chair, to the Commission on Audit (CoA) which questioned the laptop deal.

The purchase request prepared by the PHO in December 2007 specifically requested for an Acer Aspire 5920G-302G16N worth P99,000.

But the lone bidder, Seven Seven Trading delivered an Acer TravelMate 6292-101616MI worth P59,900 on February 2008.

Acer TravelMate has lower specifications and capability compared to the newer Acer Aspire in terms of memory capacity and processor speed.

But Cabaluna said the TravelMate’s memory capacity was upgraded from 1526 megabytes (MB) to 2 gigabytes (GB).

“The upgraded unit has higher specification compared to the one that was bidded out which is Acer Aspire 5920G-302G16N. As to its durability, Acer Aspire model is usually used indoor while Acer TavelMate is used for outdoors and could withstand traveling thus considered more durable than the former,” Salcedo said in the BAC explanation to CoA.

Cabaluna said he also learned that Acer Aspire was already “phased out” from the market, the reason why they settled for an upgraded Acer TravelMate.

But according to the Acer website and computer experts reached by The Daily Guardian, Acer Aspire is the latest laptop model of the company.  And the Acer TravelMate was the one phased out from the market a year ago, experts said.

The BAC said time element was also a factor in the pricing of the two laptop computers. During the bidding process, the Acer TravelMate cost P99,000 but its price plunged down because of the rapid turnout of newer units.

The BAC said the CoA audited the transaction 10 months after the purchase was made. By that time, the price of the Acer TravelMate supplied by Seven Seven Trading already went down to 59,900.

Salcedo also refuted the CoA findings that Seven Seven Trading was a middleman, not a supplier of computers and computer supplies.

The BAC said Cristina Te, Seven Seven trading assistant manager, presented a BIR certification to prove that they supply computers.

But CoA visited Seven Seven Trading on JM Basa Street, Iloilo City and found out that it only sells school supplies and computer inks.

The audit body also said the certification from Electroworld, Inc., a computer supplier, proves that Seven Seven Trading is dependent on the latter firm for laptop units.

CoA recommended to the BAC to stop accepting offers from middlemen and to ensure that suppliers are qualified and capable to deliver the required item or service.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HERE’S why deals in the Iloilo provincial government should be closely scrutinized.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) 2008 annual audit report recommended to the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to ensure that Capitol suppliers are “well-scrutinized, eligible, competitive and capable to deliver.”

The audit body based its recommendation on the circumstances surrounding the purchase of a laptop computer requested by the Provincial Health Office (PHO) in December 2007.

The PHO requested an Acer Aspire 5920G laptop computer with a memory size of 2,048 megabytes (MB) and processor type Intel Core 2 Duo T7300.

An Acer Aspire unit costs P99,000, according to the purchase order. But the laptop unit delivered by lone bidder Seven Seven Trading was an Acer TravelMate 6292. This unit has a memory size of 1,556MB while its processor is Intel Core 2 Duo T7100.

The Acer TravelMate laptop only costs P59,900, the audit agency said.

Despite the disparity between the purchase order and the unit delivered by Seven Seven Trading last February 2008, the Capitol inspection team accepted the laptop.

The audit body also found out that Acer TravelMate was already phased out from the market.

It was also found out that Seven Seven Trading, which is located on JM Basa Street, Iloilo City, is actually a middleman of another computer supplier Electroworld, Inc.

The CoA report said a certification issued by Electroworld to Ramie Salcedo, BAC chair and General Services Office head, proved that Seven Seven Trading does not sell Acer Aspire laptops.

“The certification issued by Electroworld Inc. to Mr. Ramie Salcedo proved that the item in the PO does not exist in the shelves of the Seven Seven Trading and dependent only in the stocks of Electroworld, Inc., the source of the said laptop unit,” the CoA audit report said.

CoA also questioned the eligibility of Seven Seven Trading saying no computers were displayed in the store but only sells school supplies and compute inks.

Salcedo defended the deal saying the two laptops have the same function.

The Acer TravelMate became cheaper compared to Acer Aspire because of technological advancements, Salcedo said.

Currently the media is taking a vigilant look on the bidding process for the purchase of P33-million worth of equipment for various district hospitals in the province of Iloilo.

Reports say the process is being influenced by people at the governor’s office who are asking huge commissions from “favored” suppliers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE chief of the PNP Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) in Western Visayas was transferred to Cebu for allegedly soliciting donations and dried fish from fellow cops.

Supt. Emmanuel Ughoc, RIAS regional director, confirmed that their central office transferred him to Central Visayas effective Monday.

Ughoc will serve as deputy chief of RIAS in Region 7 which is headed by C/Supt Jessor Arguelles.

Reports said Ughoc was relieved from his post because of the donation box inside the RIAS office in Camp Delgado.

Ughoc was also the subject of an anonymous complaint accusing of him of soliciting dried fish and squid from police officers assigned in northern Iloilo.

Ughoc denied asking dried fish from police officers seeking clearances from RIAS although he admitted the presence of the donation box inside their office.

“I did not ask nor receive dried fish from anyone. As regards the donation box, it was already there before I was assigned here,” Ughoc said.

Ughoc said he allowed the presence of the donation box because the P6,000 monthly operations budget allocated to their office is not enough.

“Sometimes, the personnel have to shell out money for supplies because P6,000 is not enough for one month,” he added.

Ughoc said they do not force police officers who transact with RIAS to donate to their office.

RIAS investigates administrative cases filed against police officers. It also issues clearances to cops who will retire or apply for promotion.

C/Supt Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, challenged the anonymous complainants to surface and execute a complaint affidavit against Ughoc.

“A formal complaint must be filed against Supt Ughoc to give justice to all parties. That will give the complainant the chance to present his evidence and Ughoc the opportunity to defend his name,” Cuevas said.

PRO-6 officials who asked not to be quoted said Ughoc’s relief may have something to do with sensational cases handled by RIAS-6.

Before Ughoc’s transfer, RIAS-6 was investigating the administrative charges filed by Estancia Mayor Restituto Mosqueda against S/Insp. Leroy Rapiz.

The case stemmed from a near shootout between Mosqueda and Rapiz in a barangay fiesta.

Mosqueda asked RIAS-6 to preventively suspend Rapiz for 90 days but Ughoc did not grant the plea.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE number of dengue cases in Western Visayas is on the verge of epidemic proportion, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

In the latest update from the DoH-6 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU), 1,225 dengue cases were monitored from January 1 to July 4, 2009.

The number of cases from January to July this year is 13% lower compared to last year’s admission of 1,415 cases. This year’s figures already reached the epidemic threshold for the entire region. Epidemic threshold refers to the minimum number of cases that need to be observed in order to assert that an epidemic is taking place.

Bacolod City reported the highest number of cases with 346 while Iloilo City has 319 cases.

A total of 21 deaths were reported with a case fatality ratio (CFR) of 1.7%. Iloilo City has the most number of deaths with 13 (CFR 4.08%).

Iloilo province reported 221 cases including 5 deaths, Negros Occidental (200 cases, 2 deaths), Capiz (79 cases, 1 death), Aklan (34 cases) Guimaras (21 cases) and Antique (5 cases).

Ages of dengue patients in the region ranged from less than 1 month to 75 years old. Majority of cases were male (52%). Some 50% of the cases are children from 0-9 years old.

The DoH recommended the intensified anti-dengue activities, particularly in schools and other areas with identified cases.

Other recommendations from the health department are:

–         activation of dengue fast lanes in all health facilities;

–         mobilization of the community in regular clean-up drives;

–         strengthening of the voluntary blood donation program;

–         strict compliance with dengue clinical treatment protocol;

and encouraging the use of insecticide imbedded nets as mosquito nets or window/door screen.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Health (DOH-6) is keeping tabs of the bidding process on the P33-million hospital equipment upgrading project of the Iloilo provincial government.

Dr. Ariel Valencia, DoH-6 regional director, said they assigned a technical working group (TWG) headed by Drs. Clodualdo Divinagracia Jr. and Emilia Monicinpo.

“The technical working group will look into the specifications of hospital equipment to be purchased by the provincial government. In fact, we retrieved the listing of hospital equipment to be purchased and find out if these match the standards and specifications of the department,” Valencia said.

Valencia said they will also determine if the price range of the equipment is commensurate to the specifications and standards set by the health department.

The DOH-6 chief said the TWG will not approve the payment for sub-standard hospital equipment purchased by the provincial government.

“The specifications of the equipment must meet our standards or else we will not endorse the payment to the supplier. Aside from accountability, we also want to assure that the public will use standard equipment,” he added.  

As regards qualifications of the bidders, Valencia said it is the responsibility of the provincial Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

Valencia said the P33-million funding is part of the Health Facilities Enhancement Program from the Office of the President.

The hospital enhancement program began in 2006 and aims to upgrade the equipment of provincial and district hospitals in the country.

Part of the fund went to Western Visayas, with P33 million allocated to Iloilo province in 2008 and another P38 million in 2009. The DoH will handle the bidding of the 2009 budget.

Valencia said Western Visayas congressmen worked together to allocate funds for the hospital facility enhancement project.

Valencia said Iloilo is the remaining province that has yet to bid out the needed equipment for district hospitals.

Medyo matagal na, last year pa dapat natapos yan. The other provinces were already done with the acquisition last year. We are under pressure to finish everything by December 2009 because the President wants to inaugurate all the facilities by then,” Valencia said.

Meanwhile, a member of the Provincial Legal Office reportedly blew his top upon learning that bid documents for the hospital equipment were sold to “favored contractors” or suppliers who are willing to give kickbacks to certain capitol officials.

But Atty. Edgar Sumido denied the report even as he stayed clear of the transactions.

“I hope nothing like that is happening,” Sumido said. He refused to expound on his reply. 

Sumido also denied having any knowledge that bid documents were sold to chosen contractors only. 

 “I have my own obligations.  I know nothing of such things,” he added.

Reports say some people at the governor’s office are “trying to influence” the bidding process.

Sumido said the BAC has been reshuffled because of the sterilizer and anesthesia machine controversy.

He said it cannot be possible that the same contractors are being favored under the new BAC composition.

The BAC, which is headed by provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna III, posted an invitation to apply for eligibility and to bid last July 3.

The contracts involve “supply, installation, testing and commissioning of various hospital equipment” for eight Iloilo provincial and district hospitals.

The recipient hospitals are the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan, Dumangas District Hospital in Dumangas, Ricardo S. Provido Memorial District Hospital in Calinog, Dr. Ricardo Y. Ladrido Memorial District Hospital in Lambunao, Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital in Cabatuan, Federico Ramon Tirador Sr. Memorial District Hospital in Janiuay, Don Valerio Palmares Memorial District Hospital in Passi City and H. Aleosan District Hospital in Alimodian.

The bids will be opened July 27, 2009 at the conference room of the Provincial Legal Office.

The provincial government was under fire early this year for the controversial purchase of the P1.3-million autoclave sterilizer by the Passi City district hospital and the P2.4-million anesthesia machine bought by the Calinog district hospital.

A Commission on Audit (CoA) report said Pacific Trade House (PTH), the winning bidder of the sterilizer, lacked a valid business permit when it joined the bidding January 22, 2008.

COA also found out that the sterilizer was locally manufactured and has no patent. In fact, the equipment conked out during the testing.

The audit body also discovered that Joemar Trading, which won the contract for the anesthesia machine, has interlocking ownership with PTH, CDC Pharmacy and Dione Trading.

CDC and Dione also joined the bidding for the anesthesia machine, COA said.

In its latest annual audit report, COA ordered the provincial government to refund the P1.3 million paid for the autoclave sterilizer. (With reports from Tara Yap)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo will tackle the request of Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. to declare a state of “imminent public health hazard” in the province because of the A(H1N1) flu pandemic.

Citing the governor’s letter, Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico said the declaration will empower the executive department to release P1.3 million for the purchase of protective medical gears.

The money will be taken from the 5% calamity fund of the 2009 budget.

Tupas cited in his letter request DBM-DILG Circular No. 2003-02 which allows the release of the calamity fund in preparation for disasters provided a state of imminent danger is first declared.

Suplico said the gears will be used by health workers in the province in responding to suspected A(H1N1) cases.

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the executive will buy includes particulate respirator (N95), eye protection, gown and sterile gloves.

“It is apparent that the pandemic is not slowing down and there is a need to adopt measures to enhance the preparedness of our health professionals to handle the ‘swine flu’ in case it continues to spread in Iloilo,” Tupas said in his letter to the SP.

Suplico said he has reservations with Tupas’ request because Iloilo might be the first province to declare a state of imminent danger.

“There are only 22 confirmed cases in Iloilo with no fatality. Quezon City did not declare a state of imminent danger after an employee of the House of Representatives died of A(H1N1) flu,” Suplico said.

The governor said the equipment can be used for other epidemics that might recur such as SARS and Avian Flu.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

NINE more high school students were caught in a fraternity hazing in Sara, Iloilo.

The students are now undergoing counseling by the Sara Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) office.

Sara National High School principal Lolita Dato-on brought the students to police custody after they were caught in the middle of a hazing rite.

But the Sara police cannot file criminal cases against the students because they are still minors, thus they were recommended to undergo counseling.

The Department of Education (DepEd) in Iloilo has raised concerns over the spate of hazing activities involving public high school students.

Dr. Raymundo Lapating, DepEd Iloilo superintendent, has tasked an investigating body to look into the incidents.

Last July 9, the Maasin police arrested seven high school students who were in the middle of a hazing activity at Brgy. Bagacay East.

The police in Dingle also collared 15 students of the Iloilo State College of Fisheries (ISCOF) Dingle campus also for participating in fraternity hazing.

July 2009
M T W T F S S
« Jun   Aug »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 222,643 hits

Top Clicks

  • None

Flickr Photos

Advertisements