Burglar’s death ignites violence
between Molo AND Arevalo brgys
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
UNLESS local officials do something about it, residents of two barangays in Molo and Arevalo, Iloilo City might figure in a violent spree over the death of a burglar last week.
Residents of Barangays Boulevard in Molo are exacting revenge on residents of Zone 10, 11 and 12 in Calaparan, Arevalo to avenge the death of Rodolfo Benosa.
Benosa, 36, of Zone 3 Barangay Boulevard was lynched to death by residents of Barangay Calaparan Friday for allegedly looting several houses in the latter village.
Benosa succumbed to a neck injury, bruises and a gunshot wound on the back.
On Sunday evening, several friends and relatives of Benosa from Barangay Boulevard allegedly put up a checkpoint at Crossing Sambag near the boundary of the two villages.
The Boulevard folks flagged down every jeepney passing through the checkpoint and asked the passengers who among them are from Calaparan.
Calaparan native Jomarie Abayon who was on board a Calumpang jeepney presented himself and asked the people at the checkpoint of their purpose.
Without any provocation, one of Boulevard folks stabbed Abayon on the body.
Abayon was brought to the Iloilo Doctor’s Hospital for treatment while the suspects fled.
Around 2am Monday, a certain Robles died at the IDH after being stabbed by the same Boulevard group.
Robles was riding his bicycle to the Fishing Port Area when the suspects ganged up on him.
Aside from Abayon and Robles, four other Calaparan residents were also mauled by Boulevard residents.
Although Insp. Frankie Lugo, Molo PNP chief, identified a cousin of Benosa as the leader of the Boulevard group, he denied somebody was killed in Sunday night rampage.
Lugo also deployed his personnel to put up a checkpoint at Bangga Sambag in Boulevard to deter further violent incidents.
Meanwhile, Punong Barangays Cecilia Nava of Calaparan and Arlindo Espia already met to discuss the problem.
Espia said he already deployed his tanods to prevent his constituents from harming residents from the neighboring barangay.
But Espia said the suspects outwitted the tanods by putting up their checkpoint at barious points from 2am to 4am.
Espia also said Calaparan folks might “invade” Barangay Boulevard thus exacerbating the volatile situation.
Nava urged her counterpart to keep his constituents at bay and prevent more bloodshed.
“I have been swamped with complaints from my constituents so I hope Punong Barangay Espia can do something about this problem,” Nava said.
Nava added Boulevard folks and Benosa’s relatives cannot blame her constituents for killing the alleged burglar “since he is very notorious in our area.”
But who really killed Benosa?
An anonymous letter to Bombo Radyo pointed to a certain SPO2 Rosario Ramos as the one who broke Benosa’s neck.
The letter-writer, apparently a resident of Barangay Calaparan, accused Ramos of stepping on the suspected burglar’s neck despite his plea for mercy.
The unknown author also warned Boulevard residents to spare Calaparan folks “for we will not hesitate to fight back wherever you go.”
Benosa’s family said they are still waiting for results of the autopsy to determine the cause of his death.
LaPaz cops sleeping on the job?
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
CRITICISMS rained on members of the LaPaz district PNP for reportedly sleeping inside the police station on Sunday evening.
But officers of the said station denied they deliberately slept on their job.
The brouhaha began when two suspects snatched the wallet of Josephine Patriarca, 29, of Aquino-Nobleza Streets, Janiuay, Iloilo 4:45am Sunday in front of the LaPaz public market.
With the assistance of Bombo Radyo reporter Peter John Bayasca, Patriarca went to the LaPaz police station to complain.
But when they arrived at the police precinct, Patriarca and Bayasca said they saw PO1 Alfonso Redonda sleeping on the complaint desk.
Bayasca said he roused Redonda from slumber and told him about Patriarca’s concern.
Redonda and Bayasca then went to the investigation room and woke up SPO2 Wilson Allona, PO2 Wilson Sompio and PO1 Jerry Bayahay.
Bayasca said the trio was sound asleep and even forgot the key to the mobile patrol as they were about to conduct a hot pursuit operation.
Bayasca said he had difficulty waking up the police as they were sleeping soundly. He also noticed the TV set was turned on while the cops were in slumber
In an interview with The Guardian, Redonda admitted he fell asleep while manning the complaint desk “but I immediately woke up and attended to Patriarca’s problem.”
Redonda said Allona, Sompio and Bayahay went back to their station around 4am already after doing patrol rounds the whole Saturday evening at the benefit dances in Barangays Lapuz Norte, Sinikway and Railway.
“Naturally, they were very tired after an evening of patrol work. But despite that, we responded to Patriarca’s complaint,” Redonda said.
In fact, the LaPaz cops immediately arrested suspects Alfonso Lim, 28, and Donde Columbres, 28, both of Barangay Rizal.
But the police officers did not recover Patriarca’s wallet containing P480 cash, US$60 and various ID cards.
SPO3 Alex Amable said he gave Patriarca money so she can go home to Janiuay.
LaPaz PNP chief Alejandro Apostol even congratulated his men for the speedy arrest of the suspects.
“Our police officers are also human and we must understand them if they sometimes fall asleep while on night duty. But what is important here is that we responded immediately and solved the crime,” Apostol said.
PNP hopes German govt won’t hide Friesl
By Jun Ariolo N. Aguirre
Boracay Island -- The Philippine National Police is hoping the German government will initiate moves to extradite one of its nationals to the country to face homicide charges in relation to the La Dolce Vita massacre in May last year in this island.
Last November 8, three elements of the German Federal Police coordinated with the PNP to conduct investigation on the possible involvement of German mechanic Uwe Friesl in the controversial murder case which killed three foreigners including a German national and a Filipina.
In an interview, PNP Chief Supt. Leopoldo Bataoil said after the German police finished their investigation, “We hope that the German authorities find probable cause to bring back Friesl into the country.”
“I am confident that the German government will maintain the highest standard of justice for their citizens by extraditing Friesl to the country for him to face homicide charges he allegedly committed against a fellow German national,” Bataoil said.
Report said Friesl escaped via backdoor early this year and went to Germany to avoid the warrant of arrest served by the Kalibo Regional Trial Court.
There is no extradition treaty between the Philippines and Germany but under German laws, a citizen can be prosecuted for a crime against a fellow German even if the offense was committed in another country.
The German Federal Police composed of Herbert Nilson, the group’s liason officer; Helmut Raster, crime scene expert; and case agent Reinhard Weber ended their three-day investigation last November 12 and went home to Germany to make an assessment report to their superiors.
The German Police did not provide the PNP a copy of their assessment report.
The Aklan prosecutor’s office charged Friesl and three unidentified suspects with four counts of homicide for the killing of German Anton Forstenhausler, Swiss-born vineyard owner and art collector Manfred Schoeni, Hong Kong-based architect John James Cowperthwaite and Forstenhausler’s Filipino maid Erma Sarmiento.
TUPAS DEFENDS BALAYE
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
“SO what’s wrong if Montesclaros does business at the airport project?”
Short of defending his balaye, Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas said the contract between Montesclaros Construction and the Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture (TSJV), contractor of the new Iloilo international airport project, “is their own affair.”
The House committee on good government chaired by Rep. Arthur Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo) learned on Wednesday that Montesclaros is the one supplying crushed rocks to TSJV and not Estancia-based businessman Melvin Requinto who is the permitee of the rock crusher at Barangay Caigon, Maasin, Iloilo.
Requinto leased the crusher from Montesclaros who is based in Bukidnon province in Mindanao.
But Rep. Ferj Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said Requinto is a mere dummy of Montesclaros.
However, Tupas said there is nothing wrong with such setup.
“The committee is trying to connect me to the issue (since my balaye is involved). But that is the internal arrangement between Montesclaros and the Japanese contractor,” Tupas said.
The governor added Requinto already secured a permit to operate the crusher and “it is wrong to say that Montesclaros is the one supplying crushed rocks to the project.”
“The Japanese is only paying for the use of the crusher which is owned by my balaye. There is no need for Monteclaros to get a permit since he has no transaction with the provincial government,” Tupas said.
To dispel insinuations that only his balaye is operating a rock crusher for the airport project, Tupas said two other plants owned by Metro Alpha Construction and a certain Edgar Comoda are also running at Sta. Barbara town.
“It’s all politics. We should not wonder if they keep giving malice to this issue and at the same time link me to it. We all want the airport to be finished soon but look at what other people are doing,” Tupas said.
Already fed up with threats of House inquiries against his administration, Tupas said “they have alleged a lot of things (against me) but nothing has happened.”
Lately, Akbayan representative Risa Baraquel-Hontiveros passed a resolution to investigate alleged irregularities in the construction of the new capitol building.
But Tupas said he welcomes the investigation “so the people will know.”
As regards the delay in the airport project, Tupas said it is unlikely for the national government to rescind the contract with TSJV “since it would take more than four years to look for a new contractor.”
“What is important is that this airport will be finished as soon as possible. The original completion target was October 2006. But under present circumstances, the project might be over in middle of 2007,” Tupas said.
Earlier, Rep. Rolex Suplico, who is Tupas’s nephew, called for the rescission of the contract with TSJV due to the 55 percent slippage of the project.
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
IN A period of five days, two minor-aged girls allegedly became sex slaves of three fraternity members in Cabatuan, Iloilo.
Records from Cabatuan police identified the victims as Sherlyn, 15, and Shiela Fe, 14, (not their real names), all of the said town.
According to Vanessa, 14, a friend of the two victims, last October 29, 2005, a certain Jovie Pelonia, 25, invited them to go to his home at Barangay Acao, Cabatuan for a party on November 2.
The three girls agreed and they met each other outside of the Cabatuan Catholic Cemetery and boarded a jeepney bound for Acao.
After a 30-minute ride, the trio arrived at Jovie’s house only to find out that there was no party after all. Instead, Pelonia invited them to the house of Joey Line at Barangay Salacay, Cabatuan.
Police said Pelonia and Line are members of an unidentified fraternity in Cabatuan.
After two hours of walking, the three girls and Pelonia arrived at Salacay around 7pm of November 2.
By 7:30pm, Line arrived and accommodated his visitors.
The victims’ ordeal began on the evening of November 3 when Rodolfo Cerego, also a friend of Pelonia and Line, allegedly abused Shiela Fe and Sherlyn.
Vanessa, the only girl who was not raped, alleged that Cerego, Pelonia and Line feasted on her two friends from November 3 to 6.
Vanessa added the suspects kept them locked inside the house and only gave them rice and sugarcane to eat.
On the evening of November 6, Jason, another friend of the suspects, and two unidentified women fetched the victims at Julie’s house.
From Salacay, Jason and the two women brought the victims to 95 Place, a videoke bar at Barangay Bolong Oeste, Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. But the management of the bar refused to accept the victims saying they were minors.
Jason planned to bring them to Boracay Island but failed.
While at Sta. Barbara, the victims asked Jason’s women companions to free them which they did.
Early this week, the family of the victims filed cases of rape against Line, Pelonia and Cerego.
Cerego remains at-large while the two suspects are now detained at the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center.
But Pelonia denied the allegations saying the three minors asked for his help to look for jobs.
Pelonia accommodated the three to his house but he transferred them to Line’s house at Salacay.
The three minors stayed at Salacay with Pelonia, Line and Cerego. Pelonia said that for three days nothing happened to the three girls but Cerego admitted to the former having sex with Sherlyn.
Treñas assures PPA will pay tax dues
The Iloilo City government may not find it hard anymore to compel the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) at Lapaz district to pay its real property tax arrears.
“They are willing to pay,” stressed Mayor Jerry P. Treñas meeting with PPA general manager Oscar Sevilla early this week.
Treñas said the PPA’s only contention is to exempt its ports from the tax liabilities.
But the mayor said the Supreme Court has decided that the PPA must pay its P46million tax dues.
Treñas said the decision, which was issued in 2003, is a “leading case” in the country after the Local Government Code of 1991 had lifted the exemption of state-run corporations to pay real property taxes.
“The PPA management have apprehensions that once they pay their realty taxes to us, other cities might ask them to do the same,” Treñas explained.
However, Treñas clarified the city government’s move to collect PPA’s tax dues is supported by the SC order.
Earlier, the city junked the proposal of PPA for the separation of billing on its ports.
“After going over the decision of the Supreme Court, which is already final and executory, we regret to inform you that we cannot separate the billing of real property tax of the ports,” City Legal Officer Edgar Gil told Sevilla in a letter.
Gil said the communication is the city’s final demand to the PPA to settle its tax dues even as he added that the City Treasurer’s Office is pursuing all legal means to collect PPA’s tax arrears.
The CTO had issued notices of garnishment to PPA’s accounts with several banks in Manila including Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Philippine National Bank (PNB) and Veterans Bank.
REHAB NEXT YEAR
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
WILL the glory that was Panay Railways Inc. (PRI) be finally revived?
Retired Colonel and PRI general manager Hannibal Lipado revealed the initial phase of the P23.5-billion rehabilitation project has begun with the dismantling of 44 old railway bridges in various towns in Panay.
Lipardo said the P20-million contract for the demolition of the old rail bridges was awarded to LT Arceo Trading (LTAT) based in Pasay City, Metro Manila.
The Privatization Management Office (PMO) of the Department of Finance (DoF) awarded the contract to LTAT after it won the bidding last October 20, 2004.
Last January 25, 2005, Ricardo Canlas of the PMO signed the deed of sale to LTAT representative Antonio Arceo.
The demolition of the bridges began March 3, 2005.
The 117-kilomoter railway system, which stretches from Iloilo City to Roxas City, Capiz, has 46 bridges but two – Passi City rail bridge and the Drilon Bridge – were excluded from the demolition project.
Lipardo said the Passi City Bridge has historical value as it was the execution site of Ilonggo guerillas during World War 2. “It will be reinforced so the new railway system can still pass through it.”
On the other hand, the Drilon Bridge area has been donated to the Iloilo City.
Last September 28, 2005, the PMO gave LTAT a two-month extension to finish the demolition of the old rail bridges.
Once the old bridges have dismantled, Lipardo said actual rehabilitation works under phase 1 of the project will be undertaken by German firm Siemens next year.
Modifications will be made on the old line as the rail system, which starts from Muelle Loney area in Iloilo City passing through Lapaz district to Pavia, will loop around the new international airport in Sta. Barbara-Cabatuan area.
From the airport area, the rail system will proceed to Iloilo towns of New Lucena, Pototan, Dueñas, Passi City to Dumarao, Cuartero, Dao, Panit-an and Roxas City in Capiz.
Aside from rehabilitating the 90-year-old line, PRI also plans to extend it from Roxas City to Kalibo and Caticlan in Aklan. Another extension is from Iloilo City to Guimbal and Tubungan in Iloilo to San Remigio, Sibalom and San Jose in Antique.
Lipardo said the rail cars are ready for installation once the lines have been constructed.
“The railway will shorten the travel time of the Iloilo City to Roxas City route from three hours to 1 hour and 10 minutes,” Lipardo said.
The contract for the dismantling of old rails was given to a China-based firm for P32.2million.
As to the relocation of occupants along the railway, Lipardo said they will prioritize those who pay rent to PRI.
Early this year, the Philippine Investment and Development Corp. (Phividec) announced the bidding of the rehabilitation project.
Ofelia Bulaong, chair of Phividec, expects the rehabilitation to last for about three years from 2005 to 2007. They want the transit system to be operational by 2008.
The project also involves the procurement of eight trains, consisting of three passenger cars and a cargo trailer for every train unit for long distance traffic.
The railway is also seen to have 25 million passenger trips a year.
Feasibility studies conducted by the consortium of Siemens from Germany, Systra of France, and Voest Alpine of Austria showed that the rehabilitation of the Panay Railways Inc. would cost $658.41million.
This amount would cover the $164.71million for civil works around the facility, $168.97million for the rolling stock, $104.67million for engineering and maintenance and $50million to $60million for the compensation of households that will be affected by the rehabilitation project.
Other costs include the $12.55million for right-of-way acquisition, $25.79million in interest payment and some $100.94 for other miscellaneous costs.
Bulaong said that the undertaking will also work for the compensation of the 1,500 families who are expected to be dislocated by the project.
She said that these families will not be relocated but will be allowed to stay in a community, which Phividec intends to construct near the Panay railway.
“If there is no housing project, there is no rehabilitation,” Bulaong said.
Next year, the PRI will celebrate its centennial year.
The railway was established on May 28, 1906 and went on its passenger operation until 1985.
In 1989, PRI ceased its cargo operations.
Murder suspect bolts IRC
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
A LIVING out prisoner of the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) grabbed the caliber .45 service pistol of one of the jail guards before bolting out of the said facility yesterday evening.
Initial reports from IRC personnel identified the jailbird as Jomarie Desilao, 21-25 years old, and a native of Anilao, Iloilo.
Desilao together with his brother Alberto was detained at the IRC for murder charges.
The daring escape occurred 7pm yesterday after a basketball game among the inmates.
IRC personnel said Desilao snatched the pistol of an unidentified jail guard and jumped over the fence behind the jail facility.
Several jail guards opened fire at Desilao but the latter made good his escape.
Investigators said a getaway vehicle may have been waiting for Desilao behind the IRC to facilitate his escape.
Jail guards said Desilao was considered a living out prisoner since he was not detained in one of the IRC cells.
In return for the relaxed treatment he gets, the escapee serves as errand boy of the inmates and jail guards.
Jail personnel described Desilao as fair complexioned, 4 feet and 11 inches tall, chubby and has short hair.
He wore a white polo shirt and dark maong pants when he esscaped.
Aside from the pistol, Desilao also took away undetermined amount of cash bets from the basketball game .
Heavily-armed members of the Iloilo City Mobile Group were seen milling around the IRC compound as they prepared for a hot pursuit operation against the Desilao last night.
The Guardian tried to get additional information from IRC Warden Juan Mabugat but he was busy interrogating Alberto Desilao for possible leads on his brother’s location.
Desilao’s case is the most recent jail break after Jerry Suficiencia escaped last year.
The provincial government has been rushing the construction of the new IRC facility in Barangay Nanga, Pototan, Iloilo for some 800 inmates crammed inside the old facility.
British suspect in Bora slayings nabbed
By Jun Ariolo N. Aguirre
Boracay Island – Agents of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) last week arrested a British national involved in a grisly massacre here last year.
BID Commissioner Alipio Fernandez identified the Briton as Keith Redfern.
Redfern is now detained at the BID Central Office in Metro Manila while awaiting charges in court. He is also facing deportation for overstaying in the country.
Redfern is one of the suspects in the murders of Swiss-born and Hong Kong-based art dealer Manfred Schoeni, German property developer Anton Faustenhauser, Hong Kong-based British architect John Cowperthwaite and a Filipina maid Erma Sarmiento.
Reports said Redfern is a friend of fellow suspect and German national Uwe Friesl and fellow Briton Patrick Higgs, a former resort owner here.
BID sources said they are also hunting for Higgs since his location could not be determined.
Despite the order of the Department of Justice to the BID barring the massacre suspects from leaving the country, Friesl escaped via a yacht owned by a still unidentified German businessman.
Higgs had denied knowing Redfern, according to previous investigations.
“If no concrete evidence will be presented implicating Redfern to the Boracay murders, he is likely to be deported sometime next month,” Fernandez said.
The BID discovered Redfern was overstaying in the country for almost a year already.
Before his involvement in the mascara, Redfern was staying in Angeles, Pampanga.
He transferred here last year for unknown reasons.
During the interrogation by BID agents, Redfern residing in Pampanga but denied involvement in the murders.
BID officials delayed the announcement on Redfern’s arrests to secure his safety while being transferred to Metro Manila for investigation.
Fiscal twits colleague in Cairoden case
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
THE Iloilo City Prosecutor’s Office has elevated to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) charges of possession illegal drugs against an alleged drug pusher from LaPaz district.
This, after Prosecutor Jeremy Bionat reversed the recommendation of fellow Prosecutor Honorio Aragona Jr. to dismiss the case against Cairoden Abdullah, 32, of Leofel Village at Barangay Ticud.
Aragona recommended the dropping of charges against Abdullah last September 12, 2005.
Abdullah was busted in a raid by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) last July 22, 2005 at his residence.
The raiding team recovered from Abdullah’s residence 11.75 grams of shabu.
In dismissing the case, Aragona subscribed to Abdullah’s contention that the raid was illegal due to the absence of barangay officials as witnesses.
Punong Barangay Antonio Hortillosa and Tanod Jonathan Yee of Ticud and two media personalities testified that they did not witness the raid. When they arrived at the scene, the operation was already over.
Because of the absence of witnesses, there was the possibility that the sachet of shabu was planted on Abdullah, Aragona said.
Aragona also considered the Abdullah’s question on the timed of the raid which was conducted 6am of July 22.
Citing rules on search and seizures, Aragona said Pdea agents violated the rights of Abdullah’s family when they were “forcibly awakened in the wee hour of the morning” during the raid.
But in his review, Bionat reversed Abdullah’s contentions as “untenable and desperate.”
In his amended resolution dated October 3, 2005, Bionat said the search warrant was in effect and duly issued by the RTC.
“Since the respondent and the members of his household were present at the time of the serving of the warrant, the presence of two witnesses becomes a superfluity. In fact, there is no law or jurisprudence which requires that a relative, a barangay official or any other civilian must witness an arrest or seizure to make it valid,” Bionat said
As regards the time of the raid, Bionat said Abdullah’s contention that they were forcibly awakened at 6am was “a hackneyed posture.”
“To consider 6am as a ‘wee hour’ of the morning is untenable and contrary to human nature as it is the waking hour among normal human beings,” Bionat said.
The reviewing prosecutor also said Abdullah’s defense of “evidence planting” was also untenable. “It is a desperate attempt on the part of the respondent to twist the facts.”
According to reports from the Hall of Justice, Abdullah’s case has been assigned to RTC Branch 36.
Abdullah is now at-large after he posted bail in August which Pdea questioned as the amount of shabu seized from his possession exceeded 10 grams.
But RTC Executive Judge Rene Hortillo allowed Abdullah to post bail as the Pdea did not file any case against the latter at that time.
Treñas frets over pupils’ performance
By Jeehan V. Fernandez
THE Iloilo City government is keen on making elementary pupils love reading.
Mayor Jerry P. Treñas said the Synergia-initiated reading program is now being implemented in all districts of the city after it was piloted in Jaro district in order to help schoolchildren, particularly those in Grade 1, to become good readers.
Synergia is a private foundation that is committed to help city schools improve the reading comprehension of pupils.
Treñas is pushing for the said reading program since the status of learning of elementary pupils in the city “presents a very bleak situation” because of the “poor performance” of Grade 1 pupils.
But the mayor said the city government has been implementing a remedial English program for all Grade 1 pupils of all Jaro schools in order to address the low level of understanding among schoolchildren.
Treñas pointed out the program has shown significant results in its first year of implementation, thus it was replicated in other districts.
“The reading program is very much needed by our pupils. The state of education needs support,” Treñas said.
Meanwhile, Luz De los Reyes, English supervisor of Iloilo City Schools Division (ICSD), said there are several factors which contribute to children’s lack of knowledge: malnutrition, irregular study habits and economic condition of their families.
But De los Reyes said they have been implementing the intervention programs with the priority of improving the reading comprehension of elementary learners.
Earlier, the ICSD revealed that 600 out of 7,756 Grade 1 pupils don’t read based on the results of the pre- and post-tests conducted during school year 2004-2005.
Since there are 52 elementary schools in the city, Delos Reyes said the data will translate to some 12 non-reading pupils in every school.
Treñas was equally “worried” about the “bad results” of the comprehension test by the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil IRI) on 15 elementary schools in Jaro district last year.
De los Reyes said the Phil IRI test was given in November to December 2004 to all grade 1 pupils.
“This test was conducted in the second semester when Grade 1 pupils are found to be ready to attack words and to understand the meaning of printed materials. The test result will serve as baseline data for comprehension. By June 2005, 74.14 of the percent are expected to read at the instructional level while 15.36 percent should be at the independent level wherein they are expected to read at least one grade level beyond Grade 1,” De los Reyes pointed out.
The report showed that 74.14 percent of pupils are in the frustration level, meaning they are having a hard time reading; 15.36 percent are in the instructional level or those who can read with the help of an instructor; and only 10.50 percent knows how to read independently.
“I am very concerned,” Treñas said while adding that the problem should not be left unattended.
The mayor questioned the potentials of the young in the next ten years given the low level of comprehension among elementary pupils.
But Treñas explained that the problem is also prevalent in primary schools nationwide.
He even attributed trhe dilemma to various “distractions” like computer games and television.
To address the issue, Treñas is pushing for the creation of a school council involving the community.
Likewise, he will ask the principals to make a commitment on improving the reading performance of their pupils.
He added that he would meet with school principals and parents to discuss the situation.
Further, Treñas also proposed a seminar for teachers by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the strengthening of day care program as well as tapping the universities’ knowledge on teaching capabilities.
Meanwhile, Treñas agreed with the DepEd proposal of “no cultural, sports and extra-curricular activities would be held during school days.”
He added that the conduct of teachers’ seminars should gear towards improving teaching skills.
These remedial measures, Treñas said, should be realized since “we are claiming to be the educational center of the region and to improve our existing workforce.”
‘Politics kills Pototan’s Parayan’
THE Municipal Government of Pototan, Iloilo has erased from its calendar the holding of the Parayan Festival held annually in the month of December.
The Pototan government through a resolution passed by its Sangguniang Bayan would rather prioritize its Iwag Christmas Festival also held in December.
In Resolution No. 2005-37, the SB said “holding both Parayan and Iwag in the month of December has always caused difficult problems.” It added that “because of the proximity of their dates, one becomes anti-climactic to the other; and inevitably brings about exhaustion on the part of sponsors, participants, security personnel and even ‘camineros’…”
Parayan is a grand celebration of the earth and one of its primary products, rice. Pototan, as the rice granary of Western Visayas, conceptualized Parayan as the town’s supreme gesture of thanksgiving for what Mother Earth has bestowed upon their fertile soils. The festival also honors the hardworking rice farmers of the country, particularly the Pototanons.
Parayan has put Pototan on the tourism map since its first staging in 2000. It has gained local and national prominence after it was acknowledged and endorsed by then Pototan mayor Licurgo Tirador, Governor Niel Tupas and former Tourism secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta.
Tirador who now sits as provincial board member representing the 3rd District said Parayan is held to “create an awareness of the importance of our municipality, the beauty of its place and talents of its citizenry to the whole country and to the rest of the world.”
Tirador added Parayan as an event established the fact that “our town is indeed the rice granary of the region highlighting rice as a vital component in the national economy.”
Governor Tupas said Parayan Festival is a means to promote local culture, tourism, sports and most especially in consonance with his agricultural program for Iloilo.
Then Tourism Secretary Araneta said, “The Festival is right along the DOT’s thrust in domestic tourism – ‘Pride of place, rediscovery of our country.”
With the success of Parayan, a brainchild of international balladeer Aristeo Demavivas, DOT has included the festival in its Calendar for December Festivals.
Concerned residents in Pototan said Parayan is a victim of “silly politicking” in the town.
“It is no secret that there are politicians now at the Municipal Hall who do not like Parayan because they are envious of Mr. Dimavivas,” a former SB member told The Guardian.
Murder suspect’s escape boggles cops
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
HOW and why the suspect in the brutal killing of a woman in Maasin, Iloilo last week managed to slip past the said town’s police station is a mystery.
Officials of the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) are still seeking for answers on how Cyrus Razo escaped from the Maasin PNP jail past 6pm Thursday despite the six police officers who were on duty at that time.
Razo is the main suspect in the killing of Sharon Mondejar, a native of Silay City, Negros Occidental, who was found dead at Barangay Mandog, Maasin a week ago.
Razo escaped from the police station after he asked SPO1 Victor Amuyan to use their comfort room since the toilet inside his cell was clogged.
While inside the lavatory, Razo squeezed through the iron grills and disappeared inside a sugarcane plantation.
Amuyan wondered what took Razo to stay too long inside the toilet. All was too late when he discovered the CR was already empty and Razo nowhere to be found.
The police, with the assistance of the IPPO special weapons and tactics team, conducted a manhunt on Razo but to no avail. As of 8pm yesterday, authorities have yet to recapture Razo.
Interestingly, Amuyan was with five other officers – SPO2 Jane Paraico, PO1 Antonio Malones, PO1 Jonathan Jamelo, PO2 Joemarie Apistar, and SPO3 Nestor Senupe – when the jailbreak occurred.
Investigators also discovered that Razo deliberately clogged the toilet with cigarette boxes so he can have an excuse to get out of his cell.
How Razo got hold of the cigarette boxes puzzles IPPO investigators.
Amuyan also admitted that he did not handcuff Razo which is a violation of their standard operating procedures in the handling of prisoners.
Yesterday, the sister of Mondejar, PO1 Shirley Mondejar, sought the help of Gov. Niel Tupas to recapture Razo.
Tupas said he will order the police to bring Razo back to detention, which Senior Supt. Efren Quintos, IPPO director, heeded by ordering the Maasin PNP to continue its manhunt operation until Razo is recaptured.
“We will recapture Razo as soon as possible. He has nowhere to go since we have warned his relatives not to coddle him,” Quintos said.
Razo was last seen with Mondejar inside a videoke bar in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo on Friday.
Mondejar died of massive head injuries from a tire wrench owned by the suspect who drives a passenger jeepney.
PNP cracks Passi City heist
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
THE Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) and Passi City PNP have declared the robbery of a palay-buying station and the killing of its caretaker last Monday as “solved” with all five suspects already in their custody after just four days of investigation and manhunt operations.
Senior Supt. Efren Quintos and Chief Insp. Emilio Aviador yesterday presented to the media suspects Julius Jaleco and Rey Selorico both of Barangay Agtabo, Passi City, Iloilo; Gelmar Billones of Barangay Braulan, San Enrique and Jono Dolerich Aguilar of Barangay Catan-agan, San Enrique.
Jaleco and Billones were arrested Wednesday at their residence, two days after they robbed and killed Vicente Arcaño, caretaker of Three Kings palay buying station at Sara Road, Passi City.
The suspects carted away P300,000 from the rice trading outlet owned by Reno Palmares.
The police also recovered the red X-4 Suzuki motorcycle used by the suspects.
Arcaño died of a gunshot wound on his chest.
On Thursday, the police responded to a tip that Selorico and Aguilar sought refuge in the latter’s relative in Roxas City, Capiz.
With the help of local officials and Roxas City police, authorities traced the duo to Mandaon, Masbate.
Selorico and Aguilar fled from Capiz after sensing that the police operatives were hot on their trail. With their arrest, police recovered P35,000 cash, possibly part of the money they took from Arcaño, and two cellphones.
Quintos said the four culprits pointed to Jeffrey Barrios of Barangay Agtabo as the mastermind of the heist.
Allegedly, Selorico shot Arcaño while Aguilar drove the motorcycle.
At around 6pm yesterday, Barrios yielded to the IPPO through Supt. Mario Abraham Lenaming.
Barrios denied he is the architect of the robbery and fingered another person as the one who masterminded the crime.
But he refused to divulge the alleged brains of the robbery. “I will tell everything to the police.”
Barrios said he only acted as lookout during the incident.
On Wednesday, the police filed with the Passi City Prosecutor’s Office charges of robbery with homicide, docketed as NR 05-J-048, against the suspects.
The suspects swooped down on the palay buying outlet 6am Monday.
The five suspects are now detained at the Passi City PNP.
Notorious pusher recaptured
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
AFTER almost a year of hiding from authorities, a notorious drug pusher from Iloilo City was arrested in Metro Manila the other day.
Jonathan “Totot” Nava was arrested 9am Thursday at Barangay Lourdes, Pasay City by combined forces of the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Division (RIID), Regional Intelligence Office (RIO) 6 and the Pasay PNP station.
Chief Insp. Samuel Nacion, RIO 6 chief, and Senior Insp Edgar Allan Gepana of RIID brought Nava back to Iloilo City yesterday.
Nava, a native of Infante, Molo gained notoriety for his involvement in illegal drugs. In fact, he is on top of the police’s order of battle of suspected drug personalities.
In November last year, Nava figured in a shooting incident with operatives of the Molo police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency after he tried to elude a buy bust operation.
While confined at the Iloilo Doctor’s Hospital, Nava slipped past his handcuff and a certain Police Officer Pinuela of Molo PNP.
In an interview, Nava said he only stayed at barangay Housing, Mandurriao district for two days before going to Guimaras where he boarded a roll-on roll-off vessel to Metro Manila.
While in hiding, Nava worked in a TV and radio repair shop to sustain himself.
Nava said he had “no intention to escape nor did anyone help me escape.”
“It was by sheer luck when I discovered that my handcuff was defective. I immediately went to Metro Manila and stayed in Pasay City,” he said.
Multinational companiesbehind high cost of medicines
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
MANY Filipinos die not because of diseases but due to prohibitive prices of medicine.
This was the sad assessment of Roberto “Obet” Pagdanganan, chairman and president of the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), as he exposed the cartelization of the Philippine pharmaceutical industry.
Pagdanganan, former governor of Bulacan province, yesterday was the keynote speaker of the 2005 International Cooperative Month celebration at the Iloilo provincial capitol which focused on health coop business and the Botika ng Bayan program of the government.
In a Power Point presentation before cooperative members and officers in the province, Pagdanganan outlined how multinational corporations (MNCs) manipulate the manufacturing and selling of medicines in the country.
Pagdanganan said approximately 70 percent of the P80-billion pharmaceutical market in the country is in the grip of MNCs.
For one, Interphil, a giant pharmaceutical maker, controls 80 percent of toll manufacturing while its sister company Zuellig Pharma/Metro Drug also controls 80 percent of the wholesale distribution of its products.
About 70% of medicines is sold to the public through giant drugstore chain Mercury Drugs which has an estimated annual sales of P30billion.
Because of this setup, Pagdanganan said “the Philippines has the highest drug prices in the world in relation to per capita income.”
The overall picture of the types of medicines sold in the country also reinforced Pagdanganan’s observation – 69 percent of the market is comprised of ethical or prescribed (Rx) drugs which are mostly branded while the remaining 31 percent are proprietary or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
Despite the Generics Law, which aimed at giving consumers the chance to buy cheap but effective drugs, 97 percent of medicines sold in the country are branded.
Because of this lopsided condition of the industry, giant drugstores are the ones who eat up the P80-billion industry, accounting for 88 percent of the total sales while the remaining 12 percent goes to hospital sales.
When compared to other countries, prices of medicines sold in the country are 99 percent higher. For example, a 500-milligram tablet of Ponstan (a brand of painkiller) costs P20.98 here when one can buy it for only P1.46 in Pakistan and P2.80 in India.
Pagdanganan said the cartelization of the pharmaceutical industry in the country has resulted to 40 percent of 82.7 million of Filipinos not having access to medicines. Worse, 70 percent cannot buy medicines because of prohibitive prices.
Aside from the control of MNCs over the industry, Pagdanganan said “the current system of patent registration and protection favors of the biggest players, exorbitant marketing/administrative costs and the lack of price control even for off-patent products are also factors why we suffer from high cost of drugs.”
“There are manufacturers who even re-label their off-patent products by literally sugar-coating the capsule. They will promote it as a new and slow-acting drug but in reality it does not contain new base ingredient, it’s only a sweetened capsule,” Pagdanganan said.
To solve the problem of overpriced drugs sold in the country, the PITC chief said they are taking the cudgels of importing cheap drugs from manufacturers in India and Pakistan.
The PTIC is also working for the establishment of a government-owned drug factory in the country which will produce lower priced medicines.
Pagdanganan also lauded the efforts of Iloilo’s 4th District Rep. Ferjenel Biron who filed a bill with Congress which seeks to regulate drug prices and break the cartel that controls the pharmaceutical industry.
At present, the Botika ng Bayan program is the conduit of the PTIC’s efforts to bring cheap but effective medicines.
Their efforts, however, are not without “harassments” from the pharmaceutical giants, Pagdanganan said.
“They have been threatening us with lawsuits while sowing wild rumors about the proliferation of counterfeit drugs because of our importation program. But we are not bothered about it,” he said.
The PTIC is eyeing cooperatives to help establish Botika ng Bayan (BnB) outlets in the country.
Pagdanganan said Iloilo is a potential area for the BnB because of the strong support of the local government units to cooperatives here.
“For a P500,000-capital, our cooperatives here can put up BnB outlets. While earning, they can help our less-fortunate countrymen. Iloilo has a strong cooperative base compared to the rest of the country,” he added.
The Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center is one of the BnB outlets in Iloilo City.
After PPA, City Hall goes after fishing port
By Jeehan V. Fernandez
THE Iloilo City hall is on the tax hunting trail.
After threatening to seize the assets and operations of the Philippine Ports Authority, Mayor Jerry Treñas is also going after the Iloilo Fishing Port Complex (IFPC) in Barangay Tanza, City Proper which also owes City Hall some P21million in unpaid taxes.
Treñas said the Court of Appeals (CA) has already ordered the IFPC to settle its tax arrears with the city government.
“If they won’t elevate the case to the Supreme Court, they should pay their debt to the city,” Treñas told reporters at City Hall yesterday.
Treñas said the IFPC has been at loggerheads with the city government over its real property taxes. “The IFPC claims they’re not covered by the assessment on said taxes.”
It was not clear, however, if on what period the IFPC failed to update tax payments to the city government.
But Treñas likened the IFPC’s case to that of the PPA, which has been ordered by the SC to pay its tax delinquencies.
The city government has issued a notice of garnishment to the PPA to satisfy its P46-million arrears to City Hall.
The City Treasurer’s Office (CTO) wants to evaluate and seize the PPA’s accounts with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP)-Iloilo Branch even as Treñas expressed his intention to take over the operations of the said agency.
Treñas pointed out the city’s move is an offshoot of the SC decision which ruled on the legal issue that PPA is a profit-earning corporation and its properties are subject to tax.
Treñas was firm at saying the he won’t compromise with the two agencies.
The mayor clarified the money that will be earned from the taxes of PPA and the IFPC can be used to build roads, drainage system and school buildings.
Balquin asks help from vigilantes
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
SENIOR Supt. Rolen Balquin, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) 6 director, welcomes any information, even from the so-called vigilante group, that will indicate that an alleged drug lord in Iloilo City is still very much in the business.
Balquin said they have not ceased from monitoring the operations of suspected drug personalities in the city like Richard Prevendido and Boyet Odicta.
Earlier, a group of purported vigilantes vowed to liquidate Odicta and his protectors in the government if the police fails to stop his alleged illicit trade.
Balquin admitted that Odicta’s name has been stricken from the Pdea and PNP watchlists of suspected drug pushers.
“The PNP declared that Odicta has been neutralized. But we continue to receive raw information that he is still very much in the business. We are still verifying those reports,” Balquin said.
When asked about the threats of the vigilante group, Balquin said: “It would be better if they will just give us information if Odicta is still selling illegal drugs. We welcome any information they can provide us.”
But even if the Pdea is targeting big-time drug lords, Balquin assured they are also after the “small fry.”
“We leave the small time pushers to the PNP. But if the situation gets worse and the problem spreads all over the barangay, we are ready to come in and help the police,” he said.
Earlier, the Pdea chief was quoted as saying that they are only after major drug lords in the region.
Balquin also admitted they are having problems in stopping the entry of illegal drugs in Western Visayas.
“With so many ports under our watch coupled with logistical and manpower shortage, we cannot control the traffic of illegal drugs here. And these pushers are getting smarter in evading our dragnet,” he said.
UI students figure in melee
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
HARDLY has the death of a criminology student during a fraternity hazing simmered down when three groups based at the University of Iloilo (UI) clashed Wednesday evening.
Three students were injured because of the melee.
The free-for-all occurred past 6pm the other day between the fraternities of Upsilonians, Meagans and Japs. There were also reports that Kapatiran ng Kabataang Kriminolohiya (KKK) was also involved in the rumble.
The KKK is tagged to the death of Dan Robert Talibutab, a criminology student of St. Therese-MTC Colleges, last weekend.
First to get painful whacking during the series of melees was nursing student Ashley Montero, 18, of Barangay Cawayan, Pototan, Iloilo.
Montero sustained a knife wound on his lower right eye.
Upsilonian Juvy Hernandez, 24, of Pag-Ibig Subdivision in Barangay Buhang, Jaro, Iloilo City sustained abrasions on his upper lip and nape from six Japs members.
Hernandez said he was buying candy outside of the campus when a certain Jong-Jong and Parcon and four other unidentified suspects attacked him.
It was found later out that Hernandez figured in a skirmish with a Japs member Tuesday.
The third victim in the riot was Nomar John Alim, 18, of Cagamutan, Leganes town. Alim, a member of the Meagans group, alleged he was going out of the Iloilo Central Market when several Upsilonian fratmen ganged up on him.
Alim said the Upsilonians mistook him for a Japs member.
Yesterday, members and advisers of the three groups met with UI administration officials to find out the cause of the rumbles.
Members of the Upsilon group denied they instigated the riot although they vowed to discipline their erring members.
“Maybe the riot was caused by outsiders or it was borne out of personal grudges,” said a former Upsilon grand arcon or president who refused to be identified.
But another Upsilon member said they only retaliated on the Japs group for bashing one of their fratmen.
Upsilonian officers said Hernandez was involved in the tiff between his friend who is a KKK member and the Japs group.
“We have been warning Hernandez to avoid riots with other groups. We will discipline those who started this riot,” said Raul Jansen, chapter president of the Upsilonians.
The Office of the Student Affairs of UI assured to discipline students responsible for the rumble.
1 soldier wounded in Army-NPA clash
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
GUNFIRE broke the stillness of the hinterlands of Tapaz, Capiz after government troops clashed with a platoon of New People’s Army members early morning yesterday.
One Army soldier was injured while authorities have yet to ascertain the casualties on the side of rebels.
The Bravo Company of the Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion based in Calinog, Iloilo were conducting patrol 6:30am Thursday at Barangay Tacayan, Tapaz when they stumbled upon an NPA camp in the vicinity.
Lt. Colonel Mariano Antonio Perez, 47th IB commander, said they were conducting patrol operations when they discovered the camp composed of some 20 armed NPA elements.
A gunfight ensued which lasted until noon yesterday. When the smoke cleared, Private First Class Reynante Oluanga of Jamindan, Capiz sustained a bullet wound on his right thigh.
Oluanga was airlifted from Tapaz to Iloilo City for medical treatment at the Western Visayas Medical Center.
Major Lyndon Sollesta, spokesperson of the 3rd Infantry Division, said the rebels belonged to the Jose Percival Estocada Command under the Central Front Committee of the NPA.
Sollesta added a certain Ka Mayok led the rebels who are operating in the areas of Tapaz, Jamindan and Calinog towns.
Although they have yet to recover any wounded or dead rebel, Sollesta said the rebels may have suffered casualties as evidenced by the blood trail found in their escape route.
The Army also recovered personal belongings and subversive documents owned by the rebels.
As of presstime, hot pursuit operations against the rebels are still ongoing even as Sollesta appealed to civilians in the area to report to authorities the presence wounded rebels in their respective villages for medical help.
Treñas: Iloilo City to follow Canadian LGUs
By Jeehan V. Fernandez
ILOILO City and other urban centers in the country will learn a lot from the practices of local government units (LGUs) in Canada when it comes to effective governance.
Fresh from his more than a week trip to Canada, Mayor Jerry P. Treñas yesterday stressed that LGUs in the said northern American country are doing great in running their respective constituencies.
Treñas, who is also the president of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), said the LCP and the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Union of British Columbia Municipalities.
Treñas hopes the LCP will be “guided” by the “strong policy advocacy” of the 100-year-old FCM which is composed of about 1,000 LGUs.
Treñas said mutual link was realized in time with the annual convention of the Canadian Associations of LGUs in Vancouver last week.
He also visited Toronto particularly the office of Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) which has funded several projects of the Metro Iloilo Development Council (MIDC) here.
Treñas explained the MOA will provide the LCP and LMP a two-year capability-building, professionalism and exposure to the management styles of Canadian LGUs.
“It will help us very much,” Treñas told reporters yesterday.
He also revealed that Canadian mayors and councilors will visit Iloilo City before December ends to discuss strategies on good governance.
“They have very strong LGUs as they are fully autonomous,” Treñas pointed out.
Treñas said Canadian LGUs that generate and pass their legislations, which will be approved by the national parliament.
“The setup is unlike the Philippines where the Senate and the Congress enact laws and then give the LGUs the responsibility to implement the said laws sans proper funding.”
Treñas said Canadian LGUs experience no “unfunded bondage” as there is corresponding budget allotted for enforcement of laws.
“The government can’t require the LGUs to implement the law without appropriate funding,” Treñas said.
He added that in the Philippines, the initiative in addressing problems such as solid waste management is passed on to LGUs “even if it is difficult for us to put up controlled dumpsites or sanitary landfills due to lack of resources.”