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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE mess besetting the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) regional office may have stemmed from the power struggle between its two top officials.

LTFRB Chairman Alberto Suansing said allegations of graft and corruption against Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB-6 hearing officer, surfaced when the latter applied for promotion as regional director of Western Visayas.

The current LTFRB-6 regional director is Atty. Porfirio Clavel who vowed to reveal what he knows about the alleged graft and corruption happening in his office.

Suansing said the panel that is looking into the accusations against LTFRB officials is hoping to finish its probe this week.

But Suansing said the investigation does not only cover Duron but all LTFRB officials and personnel.

“It is not only Duron who is the subject of complaints. I also received complaints against Clavel and other personnel. Based on the reports I received, even the plain utility worker might be involved in these alleged graft and corruption. That is the reason why the panel is investigating the whole regional office,” Suansing said.

Suansing said he ordered Clavel and Duron to continue discharging their duties and functions.

“But if this issue affects our operations in your region, we will not hesitate to revamp the whole regional office,” Suansing said.

The Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda) and Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (Atop) had dumped administrative and criminal cases against Duron and former casual driver Henry Mamon for alleged extortion and misconduct.

The Archdiocese of Jaro also joined the fray after Archbishop Angel Lagdameo lent support to Atop and Aptoda.

An ecumenical service will be held today at Jaro Cathedral with Lagdameo delivering a homily on the evils of graft and corruption.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MIXED reactions met the decision of Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II to withdraw from the 2010 presidential race in favor of Liberal Party colleague Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Roxas’s partymates in Iloilo believe that his sacrifice move in favor of party and national unity will boost LP’s chances in the 2010 polls.

Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. said he was surprised when Roxas called him Tuesday afternoon and told him about his decision to give up his presidential ambition.

“Mar told me that Noynoy was already interested in the presidency and he will run for vice president only. I was surprised but I don’t have any objection to Noynoy being the standard bearer of LP next year,” Tupas said.

Tupas said Roxas’s act of statesmanship and Aquino’s popularity will be a strong combination that will bolster LP’s bid to dominate the polls.

Calls for Aquino to run for president rang with the resurgence of the so-called Cory magic when former president Corazon Aquino died last month.

Atty. Bengie Gengos, LP chair in Iloilo City, said Roxas’s decision was the “supreme act of sacrifice, the supreme act of statesmanship.”

“It does not mean that he is weak leader. In fact, it takes a lot of courage to give up one’s personal dreams in the name of unity and change,” Gengos said.

Gengos’s said Aquino’s integrity is unquestioned which bodes well for his presidential ambition next year.

WRONG MOVE?

Iloilo Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico said Roxas’s withdrawal from the presidential race will benefit Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar who is currently leading poll surveys.

Suplico said Ilonggos who rooted for Roxas will switch to Villar who also traces his roots to Iloilo City and the town of Cabatuan.

“Ilonggos in Panay and Negros want one of their own to become president because it has been a long time since we had an Ilonggo president from Western Visayas. Sen. Roxas’s decision will help consolidate Sen. Villar’s foothold in Region 6,” Suplico said.

Suplico added: “It’s a graceful exit for Mar (Roxas). But Noynoy is the weaker candidate vis-à-vis Mar, who would have been the stronger candidate. We expect the entire Visayas to unite behind Manny Villar.”

House Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor Sr. said Aquino’s status as the son of two democracy heroes – Ninoy and Cory Aquino – is no guarantee that he will lead LP to victory.

Defensor said while he respects Aquino as a lawmaker and a person, the latter has no track record in party leadership compared to Roxas.

Logistics and organizational problems may also beset Aquino’s bid to win the presidency, he added.

Common folks on coffeeshops and the streets also have their say on Roxas’s withdrawal from the 2010 race.

Edgar Santos, 45, of Arevalo, Iloilo City said he admires Roxas’s sacrificial move in favor of Aquino. But Santos also took note of the fact that Roxas was not doing well in surveys.

Rita Peñafiel of Jaro, Iloilo City said while she admires Aquino, she also wanted an Ilonggo to lead the country in the next six years.

“We will find out what programs the candidates will offer us during campaign period,” Peñafiel said.

Nursing student Jenina Arguazado asked a more showbiz question: Is Mar’s wedding with TV personality Korina Sanchez still a go?

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Mandurriao police in Iloilo City have 15 days to neutralize the gang behind car thefts around the metropolis.

S/Supt Melvin Mongcal, Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) director, ordered Insp Elizer Baclagon, Mandurriao PNP chief, to break up the “Bukas Kotse” gang.

Majority of bukas kotse incidents happen in Mandurriao, particularly in a shopping mall, Smallville leisure park and Diversion Road area.

Last month, four car thefts were recorded in Mandurriao area alone. The suspects cart away laptops and cellphones left inside parked cars.

Mongcal said the Mandurriao police should maximize their intelligence operations to track down Bukas Kotse gang members.

Baclagon said they will coordinate with the ICPO intelligence section to profile the suspects.

The footage of bukas kotse suspects caught by a closed circuit TV camera of an establishment will also help the police track down the thieves, Mongcal said.

The footage showed the suspects using a van to surveillance target cars. After choosing the target car, another set of suspects on board a sedan will go near the target, smash the glass window and cart away their loot.

The Iloilo City Police Station 1 is also investigating Jovan Billones and Anthony Barrera both of Dela Rama Street, Iloilo City Proper District who were caught robbing a car owned by a softdrink company executive.

Billones and Barrera tagged a certain Butch Servando of Brgy Calaparan, Arevalo as the one who smashed the car’s glass window.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) is investigating an alleged cover up in the death of a police officer assigned in Pototan, Iloilo City.

S/Supt Edgar Layon, PRO-6 chief of directorial staff, said the probe into the death of PO1 Overt Glen Pagayon triggered by a complaint of his family cast doubts on the Pototan PNP’s investigation.

The complaint was addressed to C/Supt Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director. It detailed the alleged cover up in Pagayon’s case.

Pagayon was found dead August 10, 2009 at their house in Brgy Purog, Pototan. His wife said the cop died of bangungot or acute pancreatitis. This is echoed by the investigation result of SPO1 John Pasaporte of Pototan PNP

But one of Pagayon’s sisters asked Dr. Owen Lebaquin, PNP medico legal officer, to conduct a thorough autopsy on the cop’s body.

Pagayon’s sister was surprised when his wife requested Lebaquin to limit the autopsy on the police officer’s chest and abdomen.

When Lebaquin insisted that he will also look into Pagayon’s head, the wife asked the medico legal officer to examine the head through a small hole.

Lebaquin’s autopsy report later said that Pagayon died of head injuries possibly from a blunt object, not bangungot as claimed by the Pototan PNP.

Pagayon’s family said SPO1 Pasaporte also questioned Lebaquin’s findings and even cited some cases where the medico legal officer yielded wrong results.

The PRO-6 summoned S/Insp Romar Peregil, Pototan PNP chief, and Pasaporte to Camp Delgado.

Only Pasaporte showed up at Layon’s office to explain his side but he failed to show any investigation report on Pagayon’s death.

Layon said Pasaporte and Pagayon’s wife could be charged with obstruction of justice if proven that they connived to hide the cop’s real cause of death.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Catholic Church has joined taxi operators in their struggle against alleged graft and corruption in the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Bengie Clavel, president of Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda), said they got favorable endorsement from Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo relative to their drive to cleanse the LTFRB.

Officials of Aptoda and Association of Taxi Operators in Panay and complainants against LTFRB officials met Lagdameo over the weekend to discuss their problem.

Clavel said churches under the Archdiocese of Jaro will deliver homilies during masses that will focus on graft and corruption in government.

“The clergy understood our position and the church agreed to help us by way of prayers and masses to give us strength in our crusade,” Clavel said.

Aptoda and Atop accused Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB hearing officer, of graft and corruption for overcharging franchise applicants in their office.

Duron denied the allegation saying he is a victim of a grand conspiracy between the taxi groups and LTFRB regional director Porfirio Clavel.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) cautioned taxi operators against seeking help from rebels in resolving their differences with LTFRB.

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, chief of the AFP’s Civil Service Relations, said transport operators should bring their complaint to the proper forum.

“They should not seek help from the New People’s Army (NPA) because we have a criminal justice system in place. Bringing their concerns to the NPA will only compound their problems,” Marquez said.

Marquez said the so-called Independent Alliance of Transport Operators (IATO) might be trying to stir the situation by dragging the NPA into the fray.

IATO issued an open letter addressed to the NPA to help bring justice to Duron’s alleged victims.

Aptoda and Atop denied any links with IATO nor do they support a bloody end to the issue.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MANY inmates at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) are involved in illegal drug trading.

The BJMP facility at Brgy. Ungka, Jaro, Iloilo City now holds more than 4,000 inmates, according to C/Insp. Gilbert Peremne, BJMP warden.

Some 35% of these inmates are facing illegal drug cases while 20% are charged with murder.

Some 15% of BJMP inmates are facing theft/robbery charges while the rest are accused of homicide and rape.

The rising number of suspected illegal drug traders inside the jail indicates that the illicit trade is now the top peace and order concern in Iloilo, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

PDEA regional head Paul Ledesma said they continue to receive information on suspected drug traders in Western Visayas following the spate of drug busts recently.

The latest suspected drug pusher to fall in PDEA hands is Nicanor Gonzalez Jr., 34, a resident of Punta Dike, Bakhaw, Mandurriao.

Gonzalez is the son of Punong Barangay Nicanor Gonzalez Sr. of Brgy. Fajardo, Jaro and a relative of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez Sr.

PDEA operatives recovered 38 sachets of suspected shabu worth P22,000 from Gonzalez’s  possession.

Ledesma said the suspect even boasted his strong connections to Sec. Gonzalez.

Sec. Gonzalez said he never met the suspect nor did he order Councilor Antonio Pesina to represent the suspect.

The suspect will be charged with maintenance of an illegal drug den.

September 2009
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