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Heavy equipment are seen working at the house of Gov. Tupas in Brgy. Juanico, Banate, Iloilo sometime in April 2009

Heavy equipment are seen working at the house of Gov. Tupas in Brgy. Juanico, Banate, Iloilo sometime in April 2009

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Tupas may face graft for misuse of gov’t resources

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. is facing possible graft charges for misuse of government resources when he allegedly used government-owned heavy equipment to work in the construction of his rest house in Banate, Iloilo.

The latest controversy that Tupas figured in stemmed from video clips and photographs showing two province-owned dump trucks and a grader and bulldozer owned by the Banate municipal government working in Tupas’s house at Brgy. Juanico, Banate.

The said materials showed the trucks dumping filling materials in the work site while the grader and bulldozer were clearing the area.   

The green dump trucks are marked “Province of Iloilo” while the blue grader and bulldozer bear the official seal of the Banate municipal government.

In an interview with Rey Cabarles of RMN-Iloilo last Monday, Tupas said “the truck never got near my house.”

But in his next interview with Regan Arlos also of RMN-Iloilo yesterday, said the heavy equipment passed by his house and he only invited the drivers to have coffee and snacks.

He made this statement after Tupas was shown with copies of pictures of the heavy equipment.

In another interview with Bombo Radyo, Tupas said the heavy equipment were getting quarry materials from a quarry site near his house.

The governor established a house at Brgy. Juanico in preparation for his candidacy for congressman of the Iloilo 4th congressional district opposite incumbent Rep. Ferjenel Biron.

Early this year, Tupas transferred his voter’s registration to Brgy. Juanico.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

VARIOUS sectors in Iloilo have joined efforts to bring relief to victims of Typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon.

The Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Jaro has begun accepting donations of used clothing, bed sheets, food and medicines for typhoon victims.

Jaro Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo said it is time to help displaced residents of Luzon who also helped Ilonggos when Typhoon Frank hit the city and province of Iloilo in June 2008.

Lagdameo also issued an Oratio Imperata or obligatory prayer to all parishes under the Jaro Archdiocese to spare typhoon victims from other calamities.

The Iloilo Business Club, Inc. (IBC) is set to meet to discuss relief efforts for Ondoy’s victims.

“The board of directors and officers will meet on Friday to discuss whatever help we can extend to our fellows who were displaced by Typhoon Ondoy,” said Victoria Lea E. Lara, IBC executive director.

Iloilo Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. has requested the provincial board to allow the release of P1million from the province’s 5% calamity fund to be donated to typhoon victims.

“We cannot just watch on the sidelines and pray for the victims,” Tupas said.

Tupas also ordered the deployment of a team of doctors to Metro Manila and nearby provinces in the next few days to provide free medical services to victims of Typhoon Ondoy, especially children and elderly who are vulnerable to diseases in evacuation centers.

Initially, Governor Tupas is organizing a team of six doctors for this medical mission to lend a helping hand to overworked government and private doctors now attending to these flood victims.

“We are looking for fund sources to cover the plane tickets and food of these doctors, and if our resources will allow it, we will send a bigger team,” said Tupas.

Media outlets in Iloilo also launched their respective donation drives.

Troy J. Camarista, public relations officer of SM City mall in Iloilo, said SM Foundation, Inc. put up an Operation Tulong Express booth inside the mall.

“We accept donations whether financial or in kind such as clothing, food and medicines,” Camarista said.

Lawyer Daniel V. Cartagena, an organizer for Senator Benigno C. Aquino III, said they suspended their political activities to focus on relief efforts.

“We have asked our volunteers to gather donations which will be sent to the office of Sen. Aquino,” Cartagena said.

DECLARATION  Iloilo City Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog announces his candidacy for city mayor in the 2010 elections at the UP Visayas auditorium in Iloilo City Monday. He is joined by his wife Ma. Victoria, daughter Patricia and son Jonathan Felix Miguel. (Photo by Tara Yap)

DECLARATION Iloilo City Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog announces his candidacy for city mayor in the 2010 elections at the UP Visayas auditorium in Iloilo City Monday. He is joined by his wife Ma. Victoria, daughter Patricia and son Jonathan Felix Miguel. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Jed eyes Treñas as congressional bet

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO City Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog launched his ambition to occupy the City Mayor’s Office by rebuking what he called intimidations and threats of political behemoths in the city.

In a gathering at the University of the Philippines-Visayas auditorium Monday, Mabilog said he accepts the clamor of more than 60% of Iloilo City residents that he run for mayor in the May 2010 elections.

He said he is ready to challenge the “monolithic political group” here led by former Justice secretary, now chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul M. Gonzalez Sr.

“I humbly accept your call for new and fresh leadership by running for mayor of our great and noble city in 2010. Ini nga pag-pamat-ud indi para sa personal nga handum o pag-pang hangkat sang iban (This decision is not for personal ambitions or other people’s challenge). My decision is in response to the Ilonggos’ call for fresh leadership,” Mabilog said.

Mabilog, who is a member of the Lakas-CMD party, will run against his party mate Gonzalez Sr. who is also eyeing the mayoralty post.

But the vice mayor said he has no qualms in severing his party ties with the Gonzalezes.

“I have no qualms in leaving an organization if it means bowing down to the will of the people. After all, power emanates from the people, not from a chosen few or a single person. I also have no pretensions for power for it is a mere instrument to obey popular sentiment and promote common welfare,” Mabilog said.

Mabilog also urged his supporters to be brave despite threats and intimidations from his opponents.

“If you are afraid today, we will lose our future. Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with all the money and influence, but for every Ilonggo who’s willing to toil for their dreams,” he said.

PLATFORMS

Mabilog also outlined his programs of government in his 6-page speech which lasted for more than an hour.

“Some of our specific task is free education for elementary and high school students. We will also strive to provide decent shelter and housing to those who live in shanties, under multimillion bridges and, worst, in critical areas such as flood-prone riverbanks,” Mabilog said.

Mabilog also vowed to focus on environmental concerns by “promoting technologies and lifestyle that care for our natural resources and ecology.”

As regards the power crisis, Mabilog said his administration will triple its efforts to look for renewable and sustainable sources. He will seek the help of the national government in solving the water shortage in Iloilo City.

The vice mayor said he will also work for the professionalization of the City Hall workforce, reduce bureaucratic red tape and eliminate informal fees.

LINEUP

Mabilog said he has yet to complete his slate for the 2010 elections but the presence of several personalities in the gathering was a telltale sign of his running mate and candidates to the City Council.

Among those present were Councilors Julienne Baronda, Lex Tupas and Lyndon Acap; former councilors Erlinda Liberiaga, Marietta Orleans and Joshua Alim.

Lawyers Plaridel Nava and R. Leony Gerochi were also seen at the gathering.

Former Iloilo City police director Norlito Bautista delivered a message before Mabilog’s speech.

Mabilog said Baronda and Tupas are capable of becoming his running mate but he made no categorical statement.

Mabilog said he is also eyeing Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas to become their bet in the race for the lone congressional district of city, opposite Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE board of directors of the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) is looking into partnering with the private sector as part of its long term improvement plans. 

Celso G. Javelosa, MIWD board of directors chair, said they will pattern the collaboration after the public-private partnership (PPP) of the Iloilo City government.

Under the PPP setup, MIWD will invite a private firm that will handle the transmission and distribution operations of the water firm.

Javelosa said the PPP is different from privatization of government-owned and controlled firms.

It’s public-private partnership, not privatization. We will not sell out and let go of MIWD. We will only offer some operational aspects of the water district to private entities,” he added.

Engr. Adrian N. Moncada, MIWD director, said MIWD will maintain regulatory functions over the private sector partner to protect consumers’ interest.

Moncada said one advantage of the PPP setup is faster procurement procedure that will hasten their development projects.

Moncada said MIWD is compelled to follow Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Law) which slows down their plans to improve their supply and distribution systems.

One of the major development plans MIWD is implementing is the bidding of the bulk water supply which is seen to improve the pressure, volume and quality of water.

Five companies have signified their intention to join the bidding so far, Moncada said.

The MIWD eyes to distribute 45,000 cubic meters of water to 31,000 consumers in Iloilo City and neighboring towns.

The water firm produces a gross of 45,000 cu m a day from surface and underground sources.

 But MIWD can actually distribute only 26,100 cu m to consumers because some 42% of their production is considered non-revenue water (NRW) or water lost to leakages and pilferages.

Moncada said they will minimize NRW levels by 20-22% in the next 10 years.

“While we increase our volume, we will also reduce our losses. In the case of water utilities in Metro Manila, the average reduction in NRW is 2% per year. If that is our benchmark, we will try to reduce our losses by as much as 22% in 10 years,” Moncada said. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

BLACK propaganda.

This was the reaction of the New People’s Army (NPA) as regards the claims of the Philippine Army that the rebel group is selling illegal drugs.

In a statement, Ka Ariston Remus of the NPA’s Napoleon Tumagtang Command (NTC) said the illegal drugs yarn is a ploy of the Army to cover up the failures of the 301st Infantry Brigade and 82nd Infantry Battalion in southern Iloilo.

Remus, whose area covers the Southern Front-Panay, said the Army suffered defeats in rebel hands during separate encounters in Igbaras and Tubungan last August 23, 26 and 28 and September 21.

The NPA spokesman said the rebels were unscathed in the said incursions while government troops suffered two deaths.

Also, the NPA said alleged rebels Joel and Rosemary Gabion are civilians residing in Brgy. Tigbanaba, Igbaras.

The Gabion couple allegedly led the Army to a suspected NPA camp in Igbaras where firearms, ammunitions and dried marijuana leaves were allegedly recovered.

Remus said the NPA abandoned the camp and they have no intention to defend to death the said base.

“The Army also spread black propaganda that dried marijuana leaves were found in the NPA camp. This is a big lie and it is clear in our history that anti-social activities and crimes are against NPA principles,” Remus said.

As regards the NPA’s use of land mines, which the Army branded as against international law and inhuman, Remus said they only use command-detonated landmines.

The NPA said the use of command detonated landmines is allowed under the Ottawa Treaty of 1997 which the Philippine government also signed.

“The NPA observes utmost discipline in using command-detonated explosives on actual targets. This is opposite to how the military uses bombs such as 105mm Howitzers which land on Tumandok communities at Brgy. Tacayan, Tapaz, Capiz last June 29,” he added.

De-annexation of towns from water district ‘not viable’

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE move of the Local Water Utilities Administration to convince five towns to sever ties with Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) is not viable and may spell trouble for these municipalities.

Celso Javelosa, MIWD board of directors chair, said they doubt if the towns of Maasin, Cabatuan, San Miguel, Oton and Pavia can muster the resources and expenses to put up their own water utilities.

Javelosa said the move of defeated senatorial candidate Prospero Pichay, now LWUA board chair, is contrary to LWUA’s mandate.

“The LWUA board is the policy-making body for water utilities. But what Pichay is doing is inimical to MIWD and the towns also,” Javelosa said.

Pichay has been cajoling the five towns to de-annex from MIWD because of the latter’s failure to address water shortage in its franchise area.

Pichay has been dangling P20 million to each local government unit for training and capacity-building in putting up their respective water utilities.

Engr. Edgar Manaay, an expert in the energy and water sectors, said local government units should be wary in falling for Pichay’s ploy.

Manaay cited the case of the water districts in Passi City and Dumangas which are facing financial problems.

Manaay said that except for Pavia which is at the tailend of both surface and underground water flow from the Tigum and Aganan river basins, the four other towns have no viable sources of water.

“It is the height of irresponsibility (for Pichay) as LWUA Board Chairman to prod the mayors who are more innocent than himself on matters of hydrology and water supply to separate from MIWD without a thorough technical analysis of its water resources,” Manaay said.

Engr. Adrian Moncada, MIWD director, said the five towns need to study the feasibility of establishing and maintaining their respective water districts.

“You have to spend hundreds of millions pesos to put up supply and distribution lines aside from looking for their own sources. And they also have to look into their client base, like in the case of San Miguel which only has 300 consumers. It will not be financially healthy to spend hundreds of millions when you will only earn less than a million a month,” Moncada said.  

But Moncada said they see some advantages if the five towns part ways from MIWD as consumers in the said area are subsidized by their clients in Iloilo City.

“If they detach from our service, we will stop subsidizing their consumers which is financially good for MIWD,” he added.

Javelosa said town-based water utilities are vulnerable to politics which might affect the financial management and maintenance of the firm.

Javelosa said they recognize Pichay’s effort to prod MIWD to improve its services but the latter was only good in “lip service.”

“Pichay promised us to help us dissuade the local governments of San Miguel and Oton from exacting royalties if we dig new ground wells but nothing happened to that promise. Pichay is even stirring the situation,” Javelosa said.

Javelosa said they were also surprised when Pichay recalled the sixth member of the MIWD board sent by LWUA.

Javelosa said they welcomed the sixth board member from LWUA to help in their medium- and long-term improvement plans.  

“We are not afraid of this threats and moves to dismember MIWD. We are doing everything to improve our services. As long as we are right and doing our job, we will not be bothered,” he added.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

FIVE bulk water suppliers have been accredited to join the bidding for the bulk water supply contract of Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD).

Adrian N. Moncada, a member of the MIWD board of directors, said the five suppliers who signified to join the bidding are Maynilad Water Services Inc., Manila Water Co., Rio Verde Water Consortium, Inc., Abejo Builders Corp., and Solerex Water Technologies, Inc.

Mr. Moncada said the five firms have submitted pre-bidding requirements to MIWD and have been accredited to bid for the bulk water supply next month.

Mr. Moncada said the bidders must satisfy three prerequisites to win the contract – quality, quantity and pressure.

Under the bulk water supply agreement, the winning bidder/s will look for its sources, establish the supply which will connect to MIWD’s four injection points in Jaro, Iloilo City and the towns of Leganes, San Miguel and Pavia.

Each injection point has corresponding volume capacity – Jaro (5,000 cubic meters), Leganes (2,000 cu m), San Miguel (3,000 cu m) and Pavia (10,000 cu m).  

According to Celso G. Javelosa, MIWD board chairman, they might award separate supply contracts to two to three bidders.

“The presence of multiple suppliers will also allow competition to kick in which will redound to affordable water rates to consumers,” Mr. Javelosa said at the sidelines of the MIWD board meeting last week.  

Mr. Moncada said the bidders must specify in their tenders the price per cubic meter and the injection point where they intend to transmit their water supply.  

“The bid price must not exceed the approved budget for construction of P15 per cubic meter which is stipulated in the terms of reference of the bidding,” Mr. Moncada said.

The MIWD is eyeing to contract some 20,000 cubic meters of water to serve part of its 31,000 consumers in Iloilo City and neighboring towns.  

Some 74% or 23,000 MIWD consumers are based in Iloilo City while the other consumers are spread in the towns of Pavia, Sta. Barbara, Cabatuan, Maasin, San Miguel and Oton.  

Mr. Moncada said the additional 20,000 cu m supply from bulk contractors will serve an additional 23% of their total consumers.

Mr. Javelosa said they must distribute 45,000 cu m of water to MIWD consumers.

“During our strategic and diagnostic planning, we realized that we have shortage because of leakages and low pressure. The bulk water supply is one of the measures that we considered to address these problems,” Mr. Javelosa said.

Warren D. Palermo, MIWD operations chief, said the water firm produces a gross of 45,000 cu m a day from surface and underground sources.   

But MIWD can actually distribute 26,100 cu m to consumers because some 42% of their production is considered non-revenue water (NRW).  

Mr. Palermo said NRW is due to technical and physical losses. Physical losses are brought about by faulty lines which are not yet rehabilitated, while technical losses are due to faulty water meters.  

Pilferages also account for water supply losses, Mr. Palermo said.

He said they have already rehabilitated almost all systems except in the area of Lapuz, Iloilo City.

Mr. Palermo added that they were not able to restore 100 percent of their system’s pressure before Typhoon Frank hit last year because of changes in the water flow from the Maasin watershed.  

Heavy siltation in MIWD’s treatment plant in Sta. Barbara town also affected water quality.

NO RATE HIKE

When asked if the bulk water supply contract will hike rates, Mr. Javelosa said they will not increase charges on consumers, especially if non-water revenue (water lost to pilferage and leakages) is reduced.

Based on MIWD’s terms of reference on the bulk water supply contract, the bidders must not exceed the P15 approved rate of construction.   

The MIWD presently charges P15.90 for the first 10 cu m consumed by its clients. 

Mr. Javelosa said major water suppliers took interest in Iloilo City because they saw potentials in the metropolis.

“They saw that there is available market which can increase the next years. They also saw potential source of water which will make their projects easier,” Mr. Javelosa said.

OTHER SOURCES

Aside from the bulk water supply, Mr. Moncada said they are looking for surface water sources to augment their supply.

Mr. Moncada said MIWD’s ground well sources in San Miguel and Oton are already depleting.

A recent study by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed salt water intrusion in the aquifers of Oton. Also, the replenishment rate of aquifers in San Miguel slowed down resulting in decreased water production.

Mr. Moncada said they are also considering the P15-billion Jalaur River Multi Purpose Project (JRMPP) of the National Irrigation Administration as another source of water.

Mr. Moncada said the JRMPP allocated some 80,000 cu m of water to MIWD which can sustain the water firm’s requirement in the next 50 years.

Other potential bulk water resources being eyed by MIWD is the Sibalom River system in southern Iloilo and the Tinagong Dagat lake in the town of Lambunao, Iloilo. 

Highway to new Iloilo Airport snagged by right-of-way claims

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) vowed to hasten the expansion of the national highway from Iloilo City to Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, particularly the provision of easement and sidewalks.

Engr. Juby Cordon, DPWH assistant regional director, said they are processing the compensation and relocation of residents who will be affected by the P568-million widening project.

Aside from widening, the project also includes the rehabilitation and asphalt overlay of the 13.10-kilometer Iloilo City-Pavia-Sta. Barbara. The contractor of the project is Iloilo Builders Corp.

The road was widened from two lanes to four lanes to facilitate easier vehicular traffic flow towards the new Iloilo airport in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area.

The project is encountering problems in the provision of easement and sidewalks, particularly the 2.74-kilometer road stretching from the Diversion Road in Mandurriao to Jaro, Iloilo City.

Cordon said the budget for the project included the easement and sidewalks but they have to acquire privately-owned lots for the road-right-of-way and utility lines.

The road is supposed to have a 1.5-meter shoulder aside from the sidewalk as part of the easement.

The lack of the road shoulder rendered the widening project useless as private and public utility vehicles park on the road posing hazards to traffic.

Pedestrians also traverse the lanes while houses are almost standing on the road.

Cordon said they have acquired 20 meters of easement from the center of the road but several residents are encroaching on the right-of-way.

“We also have to process the compensation and relocation of residents whose lots will be acquired for the easement. The DPWH has requested the help of the Iloilo City government in relocating these residents,” Cordon said.

Cordon said they also requested Panay Electric Co. to move its posts from the easement to facilitate the construction of the shoulders and sidewalk.

Cordon was one of the resource persons during a press conference of Bantay Lansangan or Road Watch.

Bantay Lansangan is a multi-sectoral group composed of non-government, private stakeholders, and official development partners to work with the DPWH and other government stakeholder agencies in enhancing the delivery of quality national road services.

Formed in 2007, the initiative seeks to increase transparency and access to information on the one hand, as well as monitor DPWH performance in delivering national road services.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Sandiganbayan ordered the arrest of a former mayor of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo relative to an alleged ghost barangay market project.

In a resolution issued September 16, 2009, the anti-graft court’s 4th Division ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against former Barotac Nuevo mayor Pedro “Indo” Hautea.

 Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Gregory S. Ong, Jose R. Hernandez and Rolando B. Jurado signed the resolution of the case docketed as SB-09-CRM-0150 to 0152 (People vs. Pedro Bayona Hautea, et. al.)

Hautea is now the incumbent vice mayor of Barotac Nuevo.

Hautea, along with Manuel Siaotong and Norma Lustria, were initially accused of violating the anti-graft law and malversation of public funds and property through falsification of public and official documents before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

The case is relative to an alleged ghost market project in Brgy. Tinurian, Barotac Nuevo.

On June 17, 2003, the Ombudsman resolved to indict Hautea of the charges but the latter sought for reconsideration.

Hautea’s plea was forwarded to the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP).

On May 22, 2009, Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Orlando Casimiro approved the filing of charges for falsification of public/official documents against Hautea before the Sandiganbayan.

Hautea filed a second motion for reconsideration saying the case filed by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan was different from the original suit.

But the Sandiganbayan said Hautea already benefited from the review undertaken by OSP on his case “which led to the filing of a lesser charge against him.”

“He (Hautea) can no longer be allowed to file a second motion for reconsideration after his first one has already been duly considered. In the mind of the Court, accused Pedro Bayona Hautea had already been afforded the measure of his right to a full and complete preliminary investigation. Accordingly, upon independent and judicious appraisal of the records, this Court finds probable cause for the issuance of the corresponding warrant of arrest against the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AFTER the grisly beheading of a couple in the hands of their own mentally-challenged son in Pontevedra, Capiz, a husband killed his own wife and daughter in Mambusao, Capiz the other day.

Reports reaching Police Regional Office (PRO-6) in Camp Delgado said Rodelio Lapso, 40, smashed a wooden chopping board on the head and faces of his wife Marlyn, 40, and their 4-year-old daughter Roselyn inside their home in Brgy. Batiano, Mambusao.

Marlyn died on the spot due to severe injuries in her nose and lips while Roselyn died of head injuries at the Mambusao District Hospital.

Mambusao police who responded to the incident tried to enter Lapso’s house but he locked the door.

They later saw Rodelio covering his wife’s body with a bed sheet. Authorities later managed to barge inside the house and restrain the suspect.

Investigators said Rodelio bore slash wounds in his wrists, an indication that he might have attempted suicide upon realizing his actions.

Medico legal examination on Roselyn showed lacerations in her vagina, pointing to the possibility that she was raped.

Rodelio, who is believed to be suffering from nervous breakdown, is detained at the Mabusao police station.

Last Tuesday, Fernan Dela Vega beheaded his father Federico and mother Editha inside their home at Brgy. Limampungan, Pontevedra also in Capiz.

Fernan, who is also suffering from nervous breakdown due to illegal drugs, cooked his father’s head.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) apologized for the setup of the regional media interaction during the visit of President Gloria Arroyo Thursday.

Press Sec. Cerge Remonde said he had no intention of excluding other media outlets in the opportunity to interact with the President after she inaugurated the 15,000th Botika ng Barangay outlet at Brgy. Tiring, Cabatuan, Iloilo.

Remonde said one of the activities in the presidential visit was the regional media interaction.

He said that when the President broached the idea of a media interview, he recalled the request of Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo for a one-on-one interview with her.

“I recalled that request coursed through my office a month ago and I suggested to the President that we grant the request via the regional media interaction,” Remonde said over Bombo Radyo.

The OPS chose Aksyon Radyo anchorman John Sapio to throw pre-approved questions at President Arroyo during the “canned” interview.

Initially, an anchorman of state-owned Radyo ng Bayan was chosen to anchor the media interaction but Sapio later replaced him on orders from Malacañang.

Remonde said he later learned that some media outlets, particularly radio stations, boycotted the media interaction.

“I apologize to the Iloilo media for what happened. Rest assured that we will arrange another interaction with the President including other outlets. It is not our intention to exclude any outlet from the chance to interview the President. I sincerely apologize for what happened,” said Remonde who once headed the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters sa Pilipinas (KBP).

In his program Firing Line Thursday evening, Aksyon Radyo station manager John Paul Tia said it was Malacañang that requested Sapio to anchor the interaction.

Tia said if broadcasters from other private media outlets were chosen to interview Mrs. Arroyo, they might have covered the event instead of boycotting it.

Joecel C. Bañas, Aksyon Radyo assistant station manager, said the interview was broadcast over Radyo ng Bayan, not their own station.

Bañas said they assigned one of their reporters, Johnny Diaz, to provide live feeds via telephone of the media interaction.

Bañas said they were willing to hook up with Radyo ng Bayan if there was no available communication.

The media interaction was also webcast in the OPS website.

Also, Sapio was not at liberty to ask questions not included in the pre-approved questionnaire.

“We did not force ourselves to get the chance to interview the President. It was the decision of Malacañang. If other outlets were chosen for that opportunity, we will not react,” Bañas said in his noontime program Balita, Banat, Bulig.

Other radio stations who joined the boycott said they preferred a broadcaster from a state-controlled media outlet to anchor the media interaction with the President.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A MULTI-sectoral group monitoring road projects in the country will observe the construction of 20 major road constructions in Iloilo.

Vince Lazatin, executive director of Bantay Lansangan (Road Watch), said the Iloilo roads are part of the 40 projects included in the second round of monitoring in Visayas region.

Bantay Lansangan (BL) seeks to increase transparency and access to information and monitor Department of Public Works and Highway’s (DPWH) performance in delivering national road services.

The aim of the initiative is to reduce transaction costs for road construction and maintenance, improve response times for maintenance, increase road user satisfaction, and improve public perception of the DPWH.

BL is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development. 

During the first round of monitoring in Iloilo, BL’s report on the provincial P30-million road project in Brgy. Mambog, Oton prompted DPWH to order the contractor to remove and replace a defective portion of the road.

President Gloria Arroyo visited and inaugurated the road project last July 28, 2009.

Based on the BL monitoring report prepared by Iloilo CODE, a group of non-government organizations, cracks were found in a 4-kilometer portion of the road.

Engr. Juby Cordon, DPWH-6 regional director, their agency found cracks on the project even before BL started monitoring projects in Iloilo.

Cordon said the DPWH ordered the contractor, F. Gurrea Construction, to remove and replace the damaged portion at its expense.

Cordon said they appreciate BL’s effort as a partner of DPWH in implementing road projects.

According to I-CODE, this is the first time in 10 years that the DPWH issued a “remove and replace” order to a contractor.

“It’s good that there is a third party monitor that could attest to how we are trying to respond to citizens’ concerns and how we fight corruption since it will be self-serving if these statements would come from us,” Cordon said.

6 barangay officials want bail reduced

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo City Prosecutors Office recommended the filing of falsification and perjury charges with the Municipal Trial Court in the Cities (MTCC) against six kagawads of a village in Iloilo City proper district.

Joel Villanueva and Jose Dino, residents of Brgy. Osmeña, Iloilo City Proper, filed the case against Anita Campos, Roberto Gasis, Leilani Bu, Jocelyn Balmes, Ramon Medey Bu and Roberto Frenila, kagawads of the said village.

Based on the ICPO resolution released last week, the complainants claimed that the six respondents falsified their certificates of candidacy for the October 2007 elections when they declared that they are residents of Brgy. Osmeña.

The respondents, who were eventually elected as kagawads, were among Osmeña residents who were relocated in 1998 and 1999 to give way for the construction of Robinsons Place Mall.

Villanuevas and Dino presented certifications from Punong Barangay Romeo Herrera and the Iloilo City Urban Poor Affairs Office to prove that the six kagawads are not actual residents of Osmeña.

The certifications also showed that their houses are located outside the barangay.

Also, five of the respondents admitted their actual addresses in their respective reply-affidavits: Anita Campos-Brgy. Sto. Niño Norte, Arevalo; Leilani Bu-Brgy. Kauswagan, Iloilo City proper; Jocelyn Balmes-Brgy. So-oc, Arevalo; Ramon Medey Bu-Brgy. Kauswagan, Iloilo City proper and Roberto Frenila-Brgy. So-oc, Arevalo.

Except for Gasis, the respondents said they were evicted from Osmeña because of the mall’s construction.

But the respondents said they still return to Osmeña daily and consider the village as their place of residence as it was not their intention to be relocated.

Campos said she served Brgy. Osmeña in various appointive and elective positions until 2007.

Leilane Bu and Ramon Medey Bu said they both served as Sangguniang Kabataan officials and kagawads since 1992, a proof that Osmeña residents still recognize them as one of their own.

Balmes said she was appointed barangay secretary since 1998 until she was elected kagawad in 2007. Frenila said he was elected kagawad since 2002.

The respondents said the case against them is “motivated by an evil plot to remove them from their duly elected office.”

But the ICPO said there is probable cause to elevate the perjury and falsification charges against the six barangay kagawads.

“It is clearly established that the respondents made a statement under oath which are devoid of truth. The certificate of the barangay chairman shows that they are not residents of the place they claimed to be their residence,” the ICPO resolution said.

The case has been assigned to MTCC Branch 6. The respondents have filed a motion to reduce bail to P3,000 each. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A BOMB threat disrupted the routine at the office of the Government Service Insurance Service (GSIS) in downtown Iloilo City 9am Thursday, a day after some of its pensioners failed to claim their already delayed pensions.

According to C/Insp. Conrado Carganillo, Iloilo City Police Station 1 commander, GSIS-Iloilo assistant manager Fe Panes received a text message informing her that a bomb was planted in their office at Imperial Building, Iznart Street, Iloilo City.

The information prompted GSIS employees and members to vacate the building to give way to bomb experts and the police to inspect the building.

After about 30 minutes, the police did not find any bomb or suspicious package and allowed the employees and pensioners to enter.

The alleged bomb threat happened after some pensioners complained that they did not receive their monthly annuity which was supposed to be released last September 8.

The GSIS advised pensioners that their delayed pensions will be released through their e-Card with Unionbank on September 23.

But most of the pensioners who went to Unionbank branches on Iznart and Gen. Luna Streets said they did not receive a cent of their allowance.

Those who received half of their pension last September 8 also failed to receive the remaining half last Wednesday.

Panes said they listed the names of GSIS retirees who did not get their pensions and forwarded their complaints to their central office.

Panes said the delay in the pensions is a result of the transfer of pensioners’ records to their new computer system which recently crashed.

A total of 119 GSIS pensioners from Iloilo and Bacolod City recently filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman against the state pension fund.

The pensioners asked the anti-graft agency to look into the delays of their pensions which reached as much as 8 months.

The Ombudsman will ask the GSIS to explain the delay.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

SEVERAL AM radio stations “boycotted” the visit of President Gloria Arroyo in Cabatuan, Iloilo late Thursday afternoon.

Bombo Radyo-Iloilo, RMN-Iloilo and GMA’s dySI Super Radyo did not cover President Arroyo’s visit to protest the arrangements made by Malacañang for the regional media interaction.

The one-on-one interview with the president was anchored by John Sapio of Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.

According to the Presidential Management Office, the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) chose Sapio to interview the President.

Ronel Sorbito, RMN-Iloilo station manager and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters sa Pilipinas (KBP)-Iloilo president, they have nothing personal against Aksyon Radyo and Sapio.

“Our protest has nothing to do with our fellow broadcasters. This is a protest against the OPS’s arrangement of the interview with the President. We can understand if someone from a government media outlet anchored the interview. But if the OPS’s intention was to task a broadcaster from a private outlet to interview the president, they could have given other outlets the same opportunity,” Sorbito said.

President Arroyo led the inauguration of the 15,000th Botika ng Barangay outlet in Brgy. Tiring, Cabatuan. The village-based pharmacy sells essential medicines at half the price.

Except for Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, other radio stations did not broadcast the “canned” interview with the President. Instead they went on with their usual newscasts and programming.

Television networks ABS-CBN and GMA covered the event. Correspondents of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and state-owned outlets Philippine News Agency, Philippine Information Agency and Radyo ng Bayan were also present.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (CoA) wants five electric cooperatives in Panay to refund part of excess subsidy fund from the National Electrification Administration (NEA) amounting to P20 million.

In the 2008 CoA annual audit report on NEA finances, the audit agency found that Iloilo Electric Cooperatives (Ileco) 1, 2 and 3, Capiz Electric Cooperative (Capelco) and Aklan Electric Cooperative (Akelco) have yet to return their excess subsidy from NEA.

The CoA report showed that Ileco 1 has P1.354 million in excess subsidy, Ileco 2 – P132,208 and Ileco 3 – P504,883, Capelco – P4.143 million, and Akelco – P124,999.

The excess subsidy of the five cooperatives is just part of the almost P20 million surplus subsidy from NEA.

The other electric cooperatives who have yet to return their excess subsidy are Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative – P11.79 million, Maguindanao Electric Cooperative – P1.005 million and South Cotabato Electric Cooperative – P935,901.

The subsidy to the electric cooperatives is part of NEA’s mandate to implement the rural electrification program on an “area-coverage” basis.

The national government provides NEA with subsidy funds which are given to ECs for the electrification of depressed, low income, remote or isolated barangays, puroks or localities.

The fund will also finance the rehabilitation of distribution lines and systems damaged by calamities.

The ECs are required to return the unused subsidy funds or request to use savings or balance and interest that accrued to the fund in activities related to the electrification project.

CoA recommended in its audit report that NEA must require the said electric cooperatives (EC) to return the excess subsidy fund.

The audit body also recommended that future agreements between NEA and the ECs must provide timeline for the cooperatives to request realignment of excess subsidy funds after which the excess amount should be refunded. 

NEA has sent letters to the concerned ECs requiring them to submit board resolutions for realignment of the excess funds to other related projects or return the excess money.

So far, Ileco 1 and 2 have submitted their respective board resolutions on their request for realignments and are awaiting approval by NEA.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ARE the remaining members of the Gulanes family who were ambushed three weeks ago no longer in Iloilo City?

This question boggles the Iloilo City police as they try to locate Ronielyn Gulanes and her 14-year-old daughter.

It turned out that mother and child have already fled abroad, according to police sources.

The Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) had no inkling that Ronielyn and her daughter left when the former was released from the Iloilo Mission Hospital.

Ronielyn’s husband George died after two gunmen waylaid their pickup truck early morning of September 3 at Brgy. Sambag, Jaro, Iloilo City. Ronielyn was wounded in her cheek while their daughter was unscathed.

ICPO operatives tried to locate the surviving Gulanes family in their house in Jaro and Ronielyn’s home town in Capiz but they failed.

Authorities later learned that mother and child are out of the country already.

News of the Gulanes family’s disappearance broke out after the ICPO filed Tuesday afternoon murder and frustrated murder charges against four suspects in the ambush, including the mastermind.

The police were trying to locate the survivors to get more details regarding the ambush and the suspects.

S/Supt. Melvin Mongcal said they provided security details to Ronielyn and her daughter but it remains a mystery how they slipped out of the country without the authorities’ knowledge. 

The surviving members of the Gulanes family must have fled after receiving threats from persons believed to be involved in the ambush.

Intelligence reports said the mastermind offered P100,000 bonus to the gunmen if they can eliminate Ronielyn  and her daughter.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN Ilonggo soldier is one of the casualties in an ambush in Sulu Monday.

Private First Class Jonel Lauresta, 29, a native of Brgy. Don Esteban, LaPaz, Iloilo City is one of the eight Philippine Marines who died in Indanan, Sulu after they were waylaid by suspected Abu Sayyaf fighters.

Lauresta was a member of Battalion Landing Team 4 that overran one of the extremists’ main strongholds last Sunday.

The Marines were leaving the newly-captured camp when they were ambushed by Abu Sayyaf members resulting in the deaths of eight troopers and five guerrillas.

Lauresta joined the AFP six years ago after graduating as an electronic and air-conditioning technician from Western Visayas College of Science and Technology.

Fourteen soldiers were wounded in two days of fighting including two forward air controllers who were with ground troops to direct the bomb attacks against the militants, AFP officers said.

Fighting had raged on Sunday between the military and as many as 200 Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, but the troops finally raised the Philippine flag over the mountainous area, said Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, head of military forces in the south.

In August 16 four Ilonggo marines were also slain in Mindanao when they were  ambushed by the same bandit group.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A 25-year-old man in Pontevedra, Capiz beheaded and cooked the head of his parents Tuesday morning.

Editha Dela Vega, 62, was busy preparing coffee in their kitchen when her son Fernan Dela Vega sneaked behind her and struck her neck with the back of an axe.

As Editha fell to the floor, her husband Federico, 56, a kagawad of Brgy. Limampungan saw the incident and tried to grab the axe from their son Fernan.

But Fernan also pummeled and knocked off his father with the axe.

Renato dela Cruz, a neighbor and relative of the dela Vegas saw the incident and tried to stop Fernan but the latter also chased him with the axe.

Dela Cruz ran to the house of their village chief Rodolfo Balsomo to ask for help. When they returned to the dela Vegas’s house, they witnessed a horrendous sight.

Fernan dragged his Federico’s body outside their house and started to chop his father’s head with an espading (machete).

When the espading failed to severe Federico’s head, Fernan used a knife to complete the grisly ritual.

He then threw Federico’s head into a pot of boiling water and seasoned the broth with salt and vetsin (monosodium glutamate).

The police later arrived and they also saw how Fernan tasted the grisly soup he was cooking.

The village officials and police could not go near Fernan as he kept on threatening to hack them with his weapons.

Armando Blasurca, former municipal councilor of Pontevedra and owner of the lot where the dela Vegas leave, helped convince Fernan to surrender.

Relatives of Fernan said he was admitted to the Regional Mental Health Center in Pototan, Iloilo for substance abuse in 2005.

Back in college, Fernan was hooked on shabu until he developed nervous breakdown. He was later released from the hospital in 2008 after showing signs of improvement.

Prior to the incident, Fernan asked his parents’ permission to go to Metro Manila but they refused.

Fernan is in isolation at the Pontevedra PNP.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo City government will put up a temporary treatment pool at the Calajunan dumpsite in Mandurriao, Iloilo as part of its mitigating measures to protect residents around the dump.

Mayor Jerry Treñas gave the commitment during a conference at the sala of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 28 Judge Lodia Diestro-Maputol Tuesday at the Hall of Justice.

The conference is relative to the petition for temporary restraining order (TRO) and injunction filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Iloilo to stop the City Hall from disposing garbage in the dump.

The IBP, led by its president Marven Daquilanea, Norberto Posecion and Hector Teodosio, claimed that the continued use of the dump violates the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

During the conference, Treñas said the city government will put up a temporary water treatment pool at the Calajunan in 15 days.

The pool will treat water from the dumpsite until the City Hall has finished the bidding process of the water treatment plant to be installed in the area.

The treatment pool will process seepage or leachate from the dump before it is thrown into the nearby Dungon Creek.

In return, Judge Maputol will not issue a TRO against the City Hall but it will continue to hear the plea for an injunction against the continued use of the dumpsite.

Prosecutor Jeremy Bionat, one of the petitioners in the case, said the water treatment plant is one of the urgent installations that must be put up in the dump.

“There are 22 violations committed by the city government which we cited in the petition and water treatment is one of them,” Bionat said.

The IBP is at the forefront of compelling the City Government to comply with environmental laws by filing mandamus suits and petitions for injunctions.

The lawyers’ group is also set to file a mandamus case against the City Hall to compel it to clean the Iloilo River.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A GROUP is gathering signatures for a petition that seeks to prod Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas to run for congressman in the 2010 elections.

The signature campaign started September 4, according to a member of the group who sought anonymity for the meantime.

According to the source, they circulated 12 signature folders to each of the 180 barangays in the city. Each folder contains a piece of paper with the heading “Uswag Iloilo! Jerry P. Treñas Congressman Movement.”

The main petition body has the heading “A Petition Urging Mayor Jerry P. Treñas to run for Congressman. The Next Big Thing.”

Each piece of paper can accommodate 60 signatories, which mean each folder can contain a maximum of 180 signatories.

The group expects to gather 5,000 to 10,000 signatures. So far, they have gathered 2,000 signatures even as they eye to reach their target signatures by first week of October.

The source said they circulated the petition forms to common residents, not the barangay officials who are identified with the group of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez Sr.

Gonzalez’s son and namesake, Raul Jr., still has one three-year term left which he intends to pursue in next year’s elections.

Treñas will graduate as city mayor next year, fueling speculations that he might turn against his political allies.

The Gonzalezes and Treñas belong to the Lakas party.

According to the source, one folder was intercepted by a barangay official, prompting the group to circulate another petition form.

The group said they initiated the signature campaign to convince Treñas to make up his mind and continue his work in the city as congressman.

“When all the folders are filled with signatures, we will submit them to Mayor Treñas to help him decide. Maybe this is the spark that will set his political plans in motion,” the source said.

The group also adopted the popular dance hit “Nobody but you” to stress their advocacy of pushing Treñas to run for congressman.

“For us, Jerry is better than Raul Jr. as congressman that’s why we are mounting this campaign. Nobody came to us, this is our own initiative,” the source said.

Treñas said he has no knowledge about the signature campaign and disowned any link to the group.

When asked if the signature campaign will force him to decide, Treñas’ reply: “Tan-awon ta (We’ll see.)”

Treñas has been elusive with his political plans next year saying he wants to focus on his work as city mayor.

Treñas even jokingly said he might run for president – of the Parents-Teachers Community Association.

Pundits speculate Treñas might be compelled to run as vice mayor in tandem with Raul Sr. who is eyeing the city mayor’s office.

Gonzalez Sr. said he secured a copy of the Treñas for Congressman petition and revealed that Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog, who is said to be eyeing the mayoral post, is behind the campaign.

“This is a move to sow confusion among the people,” Gonzalez Sr. said over Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.

Gonzalez Sr. said he had a long talk with Treñas over the weekend regarding politics “and we have finalized our plans.” He refused to give details.

Mabilog said Gonzalez Sr. is entitled to his own opinion as regards politics in Iloilo City, adding it is natural for the older Gonzalez to link him to the petition.

Some barangay officials identified with Gonzalez said the group might field a “3J ticket” – Jerry (Treñas) for congressman, Junior (Raul Jr.) for mayor and Joe (Espinosa III) for vice mayor.

Earlier, political pundits said Treñas might ally with Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog who is believed to be eyeing the mayoral post and Julienne “Jam-Jam” Baronda who is being groomed as city vice mayor – another “3J ticket.”

The proposed creation of the second congressional district in Iloilo City was seen as a form of gerrymandering or the creation of another political division to accommodate Treñas and preserve his alliance with the Gonzalezes.

But the proposed redistricting is considered dead after Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III declared that Iloilo City does not meet the required population requirement for the additional congressional district.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

POLICE have filed criminal charges against the suspects in the robbery of the remittance center of a bus liner operator in Jaro, Iloilo City early this month.

C/Insp. Orly Gabinete, Jaro PNP chief, said robbery in band charges were filed against 10 suspects who connived to rob the office of Vallacar Transit, operator of the Ceres Bus Line, in Brgy. Buhang, Jaro.

The heavily-armed suspects carted away an estimated P300,000 cash from the Vallacar office last September 7.

But Gabinete did not name the suspects saying only the Iloilo City Prosecutors Office (ICPO) can provide such information.

But the ICPO refused to release copies of the charge sheet to the media.

The Jaro police said they want to surprise the suspects whom they are still hunting, reason why they cannot reveal the culprits’ identities.

Police sources privy with the investigation said the heist was an inside job because the suspects were familiar with the scene of the incident.

The suspects knew the remittance office where conductors remit their earnings for the day. The office also houses a safety vault where the remittances are kept.

The robbers also struck at the time when two of the four security guards were having dinner. They also timed the strike when the bus conductors have remitted their collections.

“The suspects got information about their target from someone who is familiar with the area,” the police sources said.

The investigators also believe that a person with knowledge of police or military operations directed the heist which was over in 5 minutes.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Panay Electric Co. (Peco), the sole power distributor in Iloilo City, are preparing contingencies to avoid power outages during the 2010 elections.

This after Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Angelo Reyes warned last week of nationwide power interruptions next year – a problem that could affect the conduct of the May 2010 automated polls.

Engr. Randy Pastolero, Peco operations manager, said they will finish the construction of a 50MVA power substation in Baldoza, LaPaz.

An electrical substation is a subsidiary station of an electricity generation, transmission and distribution system where voltage is transformed from high to low or the reverse using transformers.

A power substation typically does two or three things:

– It has transformers that step transmission voltages down to distribution voltages;

– It can split the distribution power off in multiple directions.

– It often has circuit breakers and switches so that the substation can be disconnected from the transmission grid or separate distribution lines can be disconnected from the substation when necessary.

The substation also protects the distribution lines from sudden power surges or failures in power plants.

Peco’s new power substation in LaPaz will replace the 15MVA facility which the distribution firm retired recently.

Pastolero said they will also install new feeders around Iloilo City to optimize their distribution system and avoid massive outages. The distribution utility also continues to replace old posts with newer and stronger poles.

The 50MVA substation is also in preparation for the commissioning of the 164-megawatt coal-fired power plant of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in LaPaz.

The new substation is also in anticipation of Peco’s participation in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.

Pastolero said they are concerned with the looming expiration of Peco’s supply contract with the National Power Corp. (NPC) next year which could result in a 15-megawatt power shortage in the city.

Peco currently draws around 8-9MW from NPC plants in the Visayas grid in keeping with an order of the Energy Regulatory Commission to draw part of its power requirements from other sources.

The distribution utility obtains 72MW from Panay Power Corp., which is operated by GBPC. 

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they will install generators in voting precincts which can be used in cases of brownouts.

Jimenez said they also used generators for three days when blackouts hit areas of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao where the first automated polls were held two years ago.

POWER CRISIS

Based on the DoE’s Power Supply and Demand report covering 2008 to 2017, the Philippines is staring at challenges in power supply development.

Sec. Reyes said Visayas and Mindanao have been suffering from rotating brownouts, while Luzon would enter a “critical period” next year.

The Luzon grid has been experiencing transmission congestion problems in North Luzon since 2008.

Luzon needs 3,000 megawatts of power during the 10-year period. However, there are only around 600 MW of committed projects and 3,380 MW of indicative projects so far.

The Visayas sub-grids (Cebu-Negros-Panay-Bohol) are still dependent heavily on the interconnection lines to transmit the power generated from the geothermal plants in Leyte.

The Visayas grid reached critical period last year due to a 500MW deficiency. The grid has a required additional capacity of 500 MW for the years 2008-2017.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman in Western Visayas denied violating the red plate policy it is implementing by allegedly misusing its official car.

The issue on the alleged misuse of the Ombudsman car surfaced when the vehicle was spotted in Cabatuan last September 10. The town was celebrating its annual patronal fiesta on the said date.

Reports surfaced that Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol attended the fiesta after leading the strategic planning and assessment of Ombudsman-Western Visayas.

The alleged use of the Ombudsman car to attend the town fiesta is a violation of the red plate policy which mandates that government vehicles should be used for official purposes only.

But in a text message to The Daily Guardian, Ombudsman graft investigator Evangeline Nuñal said they observed proper procedure when Apostol used the office car.

Nuñal said Apostol led the Ombudsman strategic planning in Iloilo City on September 10.

The following day, Apostol was to attend the anniversary celebration of Ombudsman Western Visayas office in Iloilo City. 

Apostol decided to go home to his in-laws in Cabatuan instead of staying in a hotel.

“He normally stays there instead of a hotel. The trip (to Cabatuan) was official and we have properly accomplished the trip ticket which is open to scrutiny by the public,” Nuñal said.

Nuñal said the Ombudsman is not exempt from laws governing the use of government resources.

“We encourage people to report whenever they feel that the law is being violated especially by the Office of the Ombudsman. We always welcome feedbacks from the public.” She added.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman is set to charge five public officials in Western Visayas for alleged misuse of official vehicles.

TWO commercial airline plans to launch international flights from the new Iloilo airport, according to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). 

DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza announced the plan during the groundbreaking of the P124-million secondary access road to the new airport in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area. The groundbreaking of the access road was held at Brgy. Tabucan, Cabatuan last week. 

“The Iloilo Airport is now complete. Darating na ang international flights,” Mr. Mendoza said. 

Mr. Mendoza said Cebu Pacific airlines is planning to launch its Iloilo-Hongkong flights while Korean Airlines which will mount South Korea-Iloilo flights.       

Mr. Mendoza said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the establishment of an international desk which will be administered by the Customs Immigration and Quarantine. 

He said the influx of direct international flights to Iloilo will bring in more investors to the area. 

“This could be achieved because of the potentials of the area near the airport to become and industrial zone which will eventually becoming an economic zone,” Mr. Mendoza said.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) in Western Visayas had lobbied for international flights to the Iloilo Airport. 

Two Western Visayas airports already accommodate international flights – the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan, Malay, Aklan and the Kalibo International Airport in Kalibo, Aklan.

The RDC’s Regional Project Monitoring Committee of RDC-Western Visayas said the Iloilo airport can generate P280,000 from terminal fee collections daily from international flights.

The airport currently serves 16 outgoing domestic flights daily, with an average volume of 90 passengers per flight.

Iloilo airport began operating June 14, 2007 in lieu of the old Mandurriao airport in Iloilo City which had been in service for over 70 years. 

The new airport is officially designated as a Class 1 principal (major domestic) airport by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. 

The new Iloilo Airport can accommodate aircraft as large as the Airbus A330 because of its longer runway.

The airport is located along Tomas Confesor Highway, a major highway traversing Panay Island.

The new secondary access road project will serve as an alternative route to the new airport for passengers from northern and central Iloilo and the provinces of Antique, Capiz and Aklan. 

The proposed road is 3.2 kilometers long from the national highway. It will be a two-lane with 5.5 meter width asphalt concrete pavement. 

The project covers an area of 64,944 square meter and will traverse five barangays of Cabatuan: Tabucan, Tiring, Talanghauan, Ga-ub, and Duyan-duyan. 

The new road network is expected to help reduce traffic at the main access road during peak hours. It will save at least 15 minutes travel time for passengers from northern Iloilo.

THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has set aside P1.5 million assistance to 100 ambulant vendors in Western Visayas

Aida Estabillo, DoLE director in Western Visayas, said the project is part of their Kabuhayan Program dubbed Negosyo sa Kariton (Nego-Kart).

Mrs. Estabillo said the 100 ambulant vendors will each receive P15,000 to fund the improvement and expansion of their existing businesses.

“We have so many ambulant vendors trading their goods and services in sidewalks, bus terminals and other public places using dilapidated pedicabs or improvised vending cart. We want to help these vendors increase, improve and diversify their products,” Mrs. Estabillo said.

The Nego-Kart project will provide each beneficiary with a vending cart and accessory livelihood tools and working capital for the procurement or production of goods or services.

Mrs. Estabillo said they will also train the beneficiaries on production skills, entrepreneurship and business management, and facilitate the issuance of business permit to operate in designated areas.

She said this project is expected to increase the itinerant vendors’ income at par with minimum wage earners.

DoLE-Western Visayas is set to launch the Nego-Kart Project next month.

The labor department is coordinating with local government units (LGUs) and other Accredited Co-Partners (ACPs) in key cities and capital towns in Western Visayas in selecting the beneficiaries

DoLE will validate and evaluate the beneficiaries selected by the LGUs and ACPs.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) will not re-install a special police task force that will oversee peace and order in the alleged drug haven in Iloilo City.

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said there is no need to reinstall Task Force Bakhaw at Bry. Bakhaw, Mandurriao district even if it has become the purported sanctuary of criminals in the city.

Cuevas said the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) can handle the peace and order concerns of Bakhaw.

The PDEA has classified Bakhaw as one of the drug havens in the city because of the presence of an alleged illegal drugs syndicate in the village.

The village has also been the subject of numerous anti-drug raids by PDEA and PNP. The latest operation netted five suspects caught in the middle of a pot session inside a suspected drug den.

Arrested were Boyet Lupina, 40, owner of the raided house; Merwin Granzon, 30, of Brgy. Tabuc Suba, Jaro and three minors.

Cuevas said they have received reports that members of the Bukas Kotse gang and other thieves hide in Bakhaw.

Cuevas said these car thieves are also drug users, snatchers and robbers who shifted to another strategy to earn money.

During the recent PDEA raid, a pickup truck believed to be used in Bukas Kotse operations was spotted near the alleged drug den.

The owner of the pickup truck is a businesswoman who operates a restaurant in Iloilo City. She has denied allegations that her vehicle is being used by car thieves operating in the metropolis.

Task Force Bakhaw was first formed during the time of then Iloilo City Police Office director Norlito Bautista because of the rampant illegal drugs trade in the village.

The task force was later disbanded following allegations that its members were in cahoots with suspected drug peddlers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN engineer is facing criminal raps for indiscriminate firing which wounded two nursing students in LaPaz, Iloilo City Thursday evening.

Engr. Marcial Jocson Jr., 43, a native of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo is detained at the LaPaz PNP station when he fired his gun at Brgy. Magdalo, LaPaz 9pm the other day.

Nursing students Jennifer Sigue, 22, a native of Tapaz, Capiz and Hannah Disumimba of LaPaz district were wounded in the incident.

One of Disumimba’s kidneys was removed after it was damaged by the bullet while Sigue was wounded in the right portion of her abdomen.

The LaPaz police investigation report said that Jocson and two other companions were passing through Brgy. Magdalo onboard a Mitsubishi Elf Truck when he fired his caliber .9mm pistol.

A witness called the LaPaz police for assistance while PO2 Harold Artillo who is assigned at Camp Delgado helped chase the truck with registration plate YDP-566.

Jocson was cornered at Brgy. Baldoza after a brief chase with the police.

Recovered from the truck was a black belt bag containing Jocson’s caliber .9mm pistol (Taurus) with 10 live ammunitions. An extra magazine with 10 live bullets and a holster were also found in the bag.

Jocson presented his gun license which is valid until January 9, 2010 and a permit to carry firearms outside residence which will expire on November 23, 2009.

Jocson said he fired his gun after several persons shouted invectives at him. He also claimed that the same persons tried to hang on his truck while cursing him.

Jocson said he only tried to scare the said persons and had no intention of hurting the two nursing students.

He said he is willing to face the charges to be filed against him and shoulder the hospital expenses of the victims.

Jocson said he was drunk when the incident happened.

Investigators said Jocson’s driving may have piqued some of the residents at Magdalo reason why they harangued him.

Taxi operators, drivers fuming mad on Suansing’s action

By Tara Yap

A GROUP of taxi operators and drivers is not satisfied with the recommendation of an investigating panel of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to just relieve controversial regional officials.

They were seething with discontent that they also charged LTFRB chairman Alberto Suansing of covering up the alleged systemic graft and corruption happening inside LTFRB-6.

This developed as the LTFRB panel headed by Atty. Manuel Mahipus recommended the relief of LTFRB 6 Regional Director Porferio Clavel, regional hearing officer Romel Duron and administrative officer Janet Solinap.

The panel was tasked to investigate the alleged extortion committed by Duron on taxi franchise applicants.

The investigating panel expanded its probe on other purported graft in LTFRB-6, according to Suansing.

But the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (APTODA) is not contented with the panel’s recommendation.

APTODA president Benjie Clavel said Suansing whitewashed the issue.

“Ginatakpan niya lang ang tanan nga kabutigan (He is covering up the truth),” Clavel said.

Clavel said that Suansing is defending Duron when the LTFRB chairman made pronouncements that Duron is not directly involved in the graft and corruption charges.

“Hambal ni Suansing, wala direct involvement si Duron maskin nag testigo si Salvacion Ruiz nga siya mismo naka hatag sang P30,000 kay Duron para sa taxi franchise (Suansing said that Duron is not involved even though Salvacion Ruiz testified that she herself gave P30,000 to Duron for the fee of the taxi franchise),” Clavel explained.

“Kami na ang ga pangita hustisya pero si Duron ang gin hatagan sang hustisya (We are the ones looking for justice, but Duron is one who is given justice),” Clavel pointed out.

Clavel also said that Suansing had to find a reason to relieve regional director Porfirio Clavel to divert attention away from Duron, whom they want to be permanently removed from LTFRB.

Director Clavel was relieved for violating a memorandum which only allows 150 units per year to be granted a franchise. An investigation by a 5-men team found that Director Clavel gave a franchise to more than 150 units.

However, Clavel said that it is Duron’s responsibility as the latter heads the technical working committee and is the regional hearing officer. 

“The applications pass by Duron before (these go) to director Clavel,” Clavel said.

Clavel also said that they do not know why Suansing gave Solinap relief orders as she has nothing to do with the allegations of graft and corruption charges.

Meanwhile, Clavel and the rest of the aggrieved taxi operators and drivers are appealing to Suansing to permanently remove Duron not just from LTFRB 6, but LTFRB itself.

“Wala si Suansing naluoy sa linibo nga ging tonto ni Duron. Dapat, pahalinon  gid si Duron sa LTFRB (Doesn’t Suansing feel sorry for the thousands of people who was fooled by Duron? Duron should be removed from the LTFRB),” stressed Clavel.

Duron could not be reached at his office. Text messages to his cellphone asking for his comment were unanswered.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) must secure permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the clearing of the Dungon Creek banks in Iloilo City, according to Mayor Jerry Treñas.

Treñas said the DPWH, which is implementing the P50-million Dungon Creek dredging, may have forgotten to secure a permit from the DENR to clear the creek of mangroves as part of the project.

Last week, residents of Sitio Sooc in Brgy. Bolilao, Mandurriao slammed International Builders Corp. (IBC), a sub-contractor of the project, for uprooting 20-30 mangroves and other trees from a portion of the creek in their village.

Members of the Bolilao Empowerment of Neighborhoods Association (BOENAS) fear that the creek banks will be eroded and endanger residents if all mangroves are uprooted.

Initial report by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) in Iloilo said an estimated P30,000 worth of mangroves were destroyed.

The contractor and the DENR have suspended the dredging project because of the issue. Another factor that delayed the project implementation is the relocation of squatters from the creek’s banks.

Treñas said the DPWH has sent a letter to DENR Sec. Lito Atienza to resolve problem.

The mayor said the project will resume when the snags are resolved to prevent flooding in Iloilo City.

Cenro head Bernabe Garnace said IBC should have used a barge to excavate or dredge the river bank of silt to prevent overrunning the mangroves and other endemic plants in the creek.

“The backhoe should have been placed in one barge while the other barge will haul the excavated materials. Placing a backhoe in the easement area will destroy the mangrove areas,” Garnace said.

The main contractor of the project is Cebu-based WT Construction which won the bidding conducted by the DPWH regional office.

Garnace said if proper procedures were observed, minimal destruction was done on the mangrove areas.

He added that the environmental destruction caused by the incident is bigger compared to the commercial value of the damaged mangroves.

“The environmental assessment is still ongoing in the affected mangrove site. What happened is uncalled for,” Garnace said.

Garnace said the DENR will call a technical conference to determine IBC’s liabilities on the destroyed mangroves. (With reports from PNA)

September 2009
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