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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial board unanimously approved Thursday the P69-million supplemental budget which will entitle Capitol workers to an extra P40,000 cash gift on top of their regular P10,000 Productivity Enhancement Incentive (PEI).

Earlier, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved the P36-million budget augmentation where the P10,000 PEI will be sourced. The additional budget was obtained from savings culled from unfilled plantilla positions in the Capitol.

Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. then submitted the supplemental budget to increase the PEI by P40,000.

In sum, the 2,200 capitol workers will receive P50,000 each for their PEI or popularly known as cash gift.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had advised the provincial government to wait for its review of the augmentation and supplemental budget before releasing the cash gift.

Alfonso Bedonia, DBM assistant regional director, said they need to review the additional allocation to find out if the Capitol did not exceed the budgetary cap on personal services (PS).

The personal services (PS) cap refers to the maximum salaries and benefits for employees of a local government unit (LGU).

The Local Government Code provides that total appropriations, whether annual or supplemental, for personal services of an LGU for one fiscal year shall not exceed 45% in the case of 1st to 3rd class LGUs and 55% in the case of 4th class or lower class LGUs.

DBM’s Budget Circular 2009-5 issued this week provided the guidelines for the release of the PEI/cash gift to government employees.

Citing Administrative Order No. 276, the DBM circular said “government employees in the Executive Branch, including those in government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs), whether hired on permanent, temporary, casual, or contractual basis, are entitled to receive a one-time grant of a maximum of P10,000 each” as long as they have not received any additional year-end benefit in Fiscal Year 2009 over and above the benefit authorized under Republic Act 6686, as amended by RA 8441.

Bedonia said if the Capitol exceeded its PS cap due to the extra cash gift, they will disallow the allocation and require the recipients to refund the excess benefit.

Bedonia said LGUs must seek clearance from the Office of the President if they intend to hand out cash gifts in excess of what is stipulated in the DBM circular.

During their session yesterday, members of the provincial board also raised the concerns on the legal problems posed by the extra cash gift.

Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico said they decided to approve the P50,000 cash gift to give capitol employees a bright Christmas.

The P50,000 cash gift will be released Monday next week.

Tupas earlier said he will take the risk of any disallowance in handing out the extra cash gift.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A BUSINESSMAN is under fire for allegedly brandishing a gun inside a night spot in Mandurriao, Iloilo City Wednesday evening.

Lawyer Plaridel Nava accused his former client, Kenneth Chua, of pointing a caliber .380 to one of his classmates inside a VIP room of Sandpipers KTV Bar at Brgy. Bolilao, Mandurriao.

Chua’s family owns Iloilo Society Commercial which is a popular retail chain of assorted merchandise in Iloilo.

Nava said their high school class was holding a Christmas party inside Sandpipers when the incident happened.

A classmate of Nava, who knows Chua, invited the businessman inside the VIP room to join the bash.

Nava said he also personally knows Chua as he represented the latter in a gun-firing incident in Arevalo district several years back.

One of Nava’s classmates, a certain Roberto Celiz, was discussing his experiences in the US when Chua suddenly rose from his seat, drew the revolver and pointed it to Celiz.

Another classmate of Nava told Chua to lower his gun but the latter allegedly punched him.

Nava later intervened and told the businessman to calm down and put away his gun.

Chua obliged but it did not prevent Nava from calling the police for assistance.

Two Mandurriao policemen – SPO3 Enrico Sontillanosa and PO3 Antonio Salazar – went to the KTV bar in response to the call up.

The two cops claimed that the bar’s management and security personnel prevented them from proceeding to the room where the altercation happened.

Worse, the police officers said, the manager pointed them to the wrong room. When they reached the scene of the incident, Chua was nowhere to be found.

The police officers brought the manager and security guards to the Mandurriao police station for alleged obstruction of justice. But they were later released after the investigator found no ground to sue them.

Nava said the bar’s management may have delayed the entry of the police to give Chua time to sneak out of the night spot.

He also complained that the police did not arrest and detain the manager and security guards for obstruction of justice.

Based on records of the Firearms Explosives Security Agency and Guards Supervision (FESAGS) Office, Chua previously owned an caliber .9mm machine pistol, a caliber .9mm pistol and a caliber .45 pistol, all of which have expired permits.

The FESAGS record did not indicate that Chua owned a caliber .380 revolver.

Chua and the management of Sandpipers are not available for comments.

Chua and PO3 George Sermonia of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were also involved in the mauling of three waiters of Luis Linaga-an, a popular restaurant in Iloilo City, two weeks ago.

The businessman reportedly settled the case with the waiters while Sermonia is under investigation by the Police Regional Office (PRO-6).

Extended voters list-up pose problems

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the city and province of Iloilo is foreseeing many problems with the latest decision of the Supreme Court to extend the voters’ registration period.

Atty. Elizabeth Doronila, Iloilo provincial election supervisor, said election officers in the province flocked her office yesterday to express their apprehensions about the SC decision.

In a nine-page unanimous decision penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the high court en banc granted the petition filed by Kabataan party-list seeking to declare null and void Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution No. 8585, which shortened the deadline of voters registration to October 31, 2009, instead of December 15, 2009, as previously fixed by Comelec Resolution No. 8514.

The decision, which is immediately executory, will extend the voters’ registration period to January 9, 2010.

The Comelec earlier set the deadline for voters’ registration to October 31 due to the demands of poll automation.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the people’s right to suffrage “is at the heart of our constitutional democracy.” It said the Comelec has no valid ground to justify its non-compliance to the system of continuing voter registration mandated under Section 8 of Republic Act 8189 or the Voter’s Registration Act of 1996.

Under the said provision, the registration of voters shall be conducted daily in the office of the election officer during regular office hours, except during the period starting 120 days before a regular election and 90 days before a special election.

“In the present case, the Court finds no ground to hold that the mandate of continuing voter registration cannot be reasonably held within the period provided by R.A. 8189, Section 8 – daily during officer hours, except during the period starting 120 days before the May 10, 2010 regular elections. There is thus no occasion for the Comelec to exercise its power to fix other dates or deadlines therefor,” the Court said.

Doronila said the SC order will compel election officers to undo the final list of voters culled from the latest registration period which ended last October 31.

“Our election officers have already finalized their list is (which is) ready for sealing and submission. If the registration period is extended, the election officers will have to make a new list of voters which is a tedious process,” Doronila said.

Aside from registering first time voters, Doronila said they foresee problems in transferees from other areas outside Iloilo.

“The mailing of the documents of transferees take some time which will surely delay things,” she added.

Jonathan Sayno, Iloilo City election assistant, said their timetable will be set back by the high court’s ruling as they are supposed to hear exclusion petitions against registered voters next year.

Sayno also echoed Doronila’s sentiments on undoing the final list of voters which the city Comelec office has already completed.

“We also lack registration forms. During the last day of registration, we even asked for 1,000 extra copies to accommodate those who tried to beat the deadline,” Sayno said.

Sayno added that they expect 5,000 additional registrants to take advantage of the extended registration period.

Sayno said the most practical period for the extension of the registration period is from December 21 to 29 to avoid disrupting Comelec’s timetable for the automated elections.

“Everything really depends on the Supreme Court. Since the decision is immediately executory, we are just awaiting guidance from our central office,” Sayno said.

PCOS allocation

Doronila said the allocation of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in clustered precincts will also be affected with the extension of the registration period.

Doronila said the Comelec increased the number of precincts per cluster from five to seven because of the number of voters.

Based on Comelec’s calculation, the city and province of Iloilo need 2,392 PCOS machines for the same number of clustered precincts.

There are a total of 1,257,661 voters in the city and province, according to Doronila.

Registered voters in Iloilo City totaled 242,033, lower by 1% compared to 245,734 registered voters during the October 2007 barangays election.

“If the number of registered voters increases with the extension of the registration period, the number of clustered precincts and PCOS allocation will also increase which poses logistical problems to the Comelec,” she said.

Doronila said the extension might not be practical for areas in the province.

“Most municipal election officers said nobody else went to their office on the last day of registration on October 31. Maybe because the voters were informed through the media not to flock the election offices on the last day of registration. Except for Iloilo City which was swamped by last day registrants, our offices in the towns did not face such predicament. This is the first time that we will register voters after the deadline for the filing of candidacy,” Doronila said.

But Doronila and Sayno said their offices are ready for the extension.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILOILO Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. said he is willing to face charges that may result from his plan to give P50,000 in cash gift to each of the more than 2,000 Capitol employees.

The cash gift, which will total P105 million, is embodied in two budget requests the governor asked from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

Tupas requested for an augmentation in the 2009 budget amounting to P36 million and a supplemental budget totaling P69 million.

Instead of the usual P15,000 cash gift to each capitol employee, Tupas is planning to hand out P50,000 to each worker “to help them in these trying times”.

The governor said he will face any notice of disallowance or charges that may arise should they overshoot the personal services cap in the 2009 budget.

The personal services (PS) cap refers to the maximum salaries and benefits for employees of a local government unit (LGU).

The Local Government Code provides that total appropriations, whether annual or supplemental, for personal services of an LGU for one fiscal year shall not exceed 45% in the case of 1st to 3rd class LGUs and 55% in the case of 4th class or lower class LGUs.

“If they disallow it, we will face it. We will not let the workers suffer,” he said over RMN-Iloilo.

The augmentation and supplemental budget requests are now pending with the SP’s committee on appropriations.

The SP is also deliberating the P23.8-million financial assistance to volunteer health workers for 2009.

Earlier, the Commission on Audit (CoA) had directed the provincial government to refund the P71-million extra cash gift given to Capitol employees in 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 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.

The provincial government disputed the CoA’s findings saying their own computation showed that they only exceeded 8% of the PS cap amounting to P8 million.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

VOLUNTEER health workers (VHW) in northern Iloilo would rather receive their honorarium in their respected towns than trooping to the house of Iloilo Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. in Barotac, Viejo town.

This was the sentiment VHWs who attended the public hearing conducted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s committee on appropriations in Balasan and Sara towns Wednesday.

The fifth district is composed of the towns of Sara, Balasan, Estancia, Batad, Carles, San Dionisio, San Rafael, Concepcion, Ajuy, Barotac Viejo and Lemery.

The VHWs said they will be spend more than P300 for their fare and food before they could lay their hands on the P2,000 honorarium from the provincial government.

In their own reckoning, the VHWs will spend a total of P220 for their fare to Barotac Viejo and back to their respective towns.

Another P100 will be spent for their lunch and snacks while waiting for the release of their allowances.

The volunteer workers said it would be more practical and convenient if they collect their honorarium from the municipal treasurers in their respective towns.

The committee on appropriations chaired by Board Member Jesus “JR” Salcedo is conducting hearings on the P180-million Supplemental Budget No. 1 which includes the allowances fro VHWs.

The supplemental budget includes the honorarium of day care workers amounting to P3.314 million, BSPOs P4.25 million, barangay health workers P14.756 million; and barangay nutrition scholars P1.692 million.

Last year, the SP provided “riders” to the appropriation ordinance which authorized the release of the VHWs’ allowances, specifically the release of the money through municipal treasurers.

It has been a tradition under the Tupas administration to release the VHWs’ allowances at the capitol and his house in Barotac Viejo but not after a series of statements from the governor’s political allies.

Tupas defied the SP’s codicil by insisting that only the Office of the Governor can decide on how to release the money.

The VHWs also agreed to an increase in their allowances from P2,000 to P2,400 per year.

But Vice Gov. Rolex T. Suplico said the workers will have to write Tupas so he can include the increase in the 2010 budget.

“If the allowance is embedded in the annual budget, there would be no more delays and no politics in the release,” Suplico said.  

Tupas’ gift?

Meanwhile, Vice Gov. Rolex T. Suplico slammed text messages which accused him of stalling the release of the VHWs’ honorarium.

Suplico said he is neither the chairman nor a member of the committee on appropriations.

“The release of the allowances is being rushed by the Sanggunian. I have no hand in this alleged delay,” Suplico said.

Suplico said the text messages claimed that the allowance is the Tupases’ gift to the VHWs.

“Correction, this money is from the provincial government, not Gov. Tupas. The governor is only using the money to further his political plans and expand their clan’s (political power),” he said.

Barangay captains trade barbs

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A PUNONG barangay identified with the group of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul M. Gonzalez Sr. said village chiefs loyal to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas are the real political robots.

Brgy. Captain Love Joy Hosenilla of Buntatala, Jaro said his fellow village chief Jonas Antonio Bellosillo is the one acting under the orders of Treñas.

Hosenilla, who replaced Bellosillo as president of Association of Barangay Captains (ABC)-Jaro, issued the statement after Bellosillo accused pro-Gonzalez village chiefs as political robots.

Recalling their previous conversations the past months, Hosenilla said Bellosillo shifted his allegiance from Gonzalez to Treñas because the mayor was pressuring Bellosillo.

Treñas is running for congressman against Rep. Raul T. Gonzalez Jr., son of Sec. Gonzalez Sr.

“At first, he said he was for Rep. Gonzalez Jr. for congressman and Sec. Gonzalez Sr. for mayor. Then he changed his tune and will go for the Treñas (congressman)-Gonzalez (mayor) ticket. Jonas again changed his mind and will go all out for Treñas only because the mayor was pressuring him,” Hosenilla said.

The ABC-Jaro ousted Bellosillo as president after signing a resolution expressing lack of confidence in the latter’s leadership last December 10, 2009.

The resolution also declared the presidency of ABC-Jaro vacant, which paved the way for Hosenillo’s assumption of the top office being the group’s vice president.

A total of 23 Jaro barangay captains signed the resolution, a copy of which was given to the The Daily Guardian

Hosenilla said Bellosillo’s constant change of allegiance disillusioned other village chiefs of his capability to lead ABC-Jaro.

Hosenilla also claimed that Treñas also told Punong Barnagay Roberto Divinagracia of San Agustin, City Proper to withdraw his resignation as president of ABC-Iloilo City proper.

“They are the political robots because they bow to Mayor Treñas’ wishes,” he added.

Hosenilla also objected to Bellosillo’s statement that the village chiefs who signed the resolution are ignorant.

“Many of our members are businessmen, professionals with college degrees while another studied law. Why would he call us ignorant? Well, I would prefer to be called ignorant because I will still learn than being labeled a balimbing (turncoat) because that is synonymous to being a traitor,” he said.

Not recognized?   

Hosenilla said Treñas also contradicted his own statement that he will not recognize ABC presidents who replaced his allies when the mayor issued Executive Order No. 53, series of 2009.

The EO designated Bellosillo as manager of the Jaro Agro-Industrial and Charity Fair in connection with the 2010 Jaro fiesta celebration.

While she does not question Treñas’ power to appoint people who will manage the fair, Hosenilla said the EO recognized Bellosillo’s ouster as ABC-Jaro president.

Hosenilla quoted the second whereas clause of the EO which says: “Whereas, regrettably with the replacement of Punong Barangay Bellosillo as President of the Association of Barangay Captains of the District of Jaro, there is a need to revoke Executive Order No. 14, series of 2009 in order the maintain the continuity of the success of the Jaro Agro-Industrial and Charity Fair under the able leadership of Punong Barangay Bellosillo.”

“The mayor himself already admitted in his order that Bellosillo was already replaced, so why will he not recognize us?” Hosenilla said.

Hosenilla said they will assist Bellosillo in running the Jaro fiesta fair “provided the same working committees in this year’s fair will remain.”

“We will help him as long as he does not make changes in the working committees,” Hosenilla said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ILLEGAL drug operations may have shifted to Iloilo province following the decline and operations and apprehensions of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Iloilo City.

Paul Ledesma, officer-in-charge of PDEA-6 office, said they reported fewer anti-drug operations and arrests in Iloilo City because of the declining illegal drugs trade in the metropolis.

As of November this year, PDEA mounted 67 anti-drug operations in Iloilo City compared to 113 in 2008.

The number of arrested drug pushers and users also declined to 82 this year from 322 in 2008.

Ledesma said drug syndicates may have shifted their operations to Iloilo province following the series of anti-drug operations in the metropolis.

“The situation in the city became too hot for these syndicates to handle and may have transferred to other places. We continue to monitor their activities wherever they transfer their operations,” Ledesma said.

The PDEA also noticed increased sales of marijuana due to increasing prices of shabu.

Ledesma said the shabu price hike is a result of their operations against the entry of shabu in Western Visayas.

Shabu is now being sold at P10,000 per gram, lower than last year’s price of P15,000 per gram. Marijuana is sold for P40-45 per gram.

Ledesma said they have neutralized 11 of 23 drug dens in the region aside from arresting members of five drug syndicates in Western Visayas.

The PDEA chief said they will intensify their operations to prevent drugs from flooding the region during Christmas season and Dinagyang and Ati-Atihan festivals.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Lydia C. Pendon

THE “proxy political war” between two political behemoths in Iloilo City through punong barangays continues.

Mayor Jerry P. Treñas, who is running for congressman versus incumbent Rep. Raul T. Gonzalez Jr., said he will not recognize new district presidents of three Associations of Barangay Captains (ABC) in the city.

Punong Barangays Carlos Guarin of Aguinaldo, LaPaz and Jonas Bellosillo of Simon Ledesma, Jaro lost the ABC district headship following the coup d ‘etat staged by their colleagues.

Roberto Divinagracia of San Agustin resigned the presidency of ABC-Iloilo City proper district.

Guarin, Bellosillo and Divinagracia are supporting Treñas’ candidacy for congressman.

Punong Barangay Ernie Poral of Ingore replaced Guarin after 16 of the 25 barangays captains voted Poral as ABC-LaPaz head.

Romualdo Jalandoni of Gen. Hughes took over Divinagracia’s post.

Barangay Captain Lovejoy Hosenilla of Buntatala, Jaro replaced Bellosillo after 22 of 42 punong barangays in Jaro ousted the latter.

But Treñas said he will continue to support and recognize the three ousted ABC presidents.

Treñas said he is still the city mayor and the barangay captains are under his jurisdiction.

He said that development projects will be coursed trough the incumbent barangay captains and ABC district presidents he recognizes.

“Lest they forget, I am the only one chief executive of this city and this chaos at the barangay level shows a dangerous pattern of local politics,” he said.

The mayor said barangay leaders should be left alone and they should remain non-partisan.

“They should stand firm and not follow unjust instructions from persons claiming to be powerful,” he said.

Treñas said the barangay leaders should be left alone and must remain non-partisan. They should stand firm and not follow unjust instructions from persons claiming to be powerful.

The Gonzalez camp claims 144 of the 180 barangay captains in seven city districts are loyal to their group.

Last Saturday, the ABC-LaPaz faction headed by Poral tried to hold an assembly at their office in LaPaz plaza but failed as the office was closed,

Poral said Guarin has yet to turn over the keys to the ABC-LaPaz office.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WESTERN Visayas recorded the second highest number of firecracker-related injuries in the 2009 New Year’s revelry, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

Dr. Victoria Concepcion Mansilya of DoH-6 said 86 cases of firecracker injuries were reported and treated at the Corazon Locsin Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City and Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao, Iloilo City when Ilonggos bid 2008 goodbye.

Mansilya said Western Visayas is second to the National Capital Region (NCR) which topped the number of firecracker injuries with 451 cases.

Some 59% of the blast cases in Western Visayas were treated without amputation while 13% of the injuries resulted in amputation of limbs. Twenty four cases or 28% suffered eye injuries due to firecracker blast.

Most of the victims are males 11-20 years old.

The top five firecrackers that caused the injuries were camara (12%); “triangulo” (10%); “piccolo” (9%); homemade firecrackers (23%); and unknown (17%).

Two cases of stray bullet injuries were reported in Arevalo and Molo districts in Iloilo City.

The DoH is intensifying its campaign against the use of firecrackers during Christmas and New Year as recent data show a downtrend in the number of injuries.

In 2008, the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center (NEC) recorded an all-time low incidence of firecracker-related injuries compared to the previous four years.

The total 733 firecracker-related injuries recorded from December 21, 2008 to January 5, 2009 were 28% lower compared to the previous four-year average, according to the NEC.

Mansilya said they encourage the use of alternative noise producers in meeting the New Year such as torotots or horns.

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