Demolition of squatter buildings at Baguio City Dairy Farm set

>> Sunday, April 19, 2015

By Jho Arranz

BAGUIO CITY – The city government has issued notices for demolition to land squatters here particularly at the Dairy Farm of the Baguio Animal Industry (BAI), a reservation under the Department of Agriculture (DA).

This is part of the city’s campaign against squatting,  mayor Mauricio Domogan said during city executive-legislative meeting Monday, saying  the city government will pursue thrusts in protecting the remaining watersheds and forest reservations within Baguio.

Domogan said the Baguio Animal Industry (BAI) is a reservation under the Department of Agriculture (DA).

However, more than 62 hectares of the Dairy Farm has been issued a Certificate of Ancestral Land Title (CALT) by the National Commission of Indigenous People (NCIP) in favor of the heirs of Ikang Paus.

The DA filed a case against the squatters occupying said lots and won the case.  But despite of this, the DA is still waiting for the writ of execution to carry out the demolition of the illegal structures.

With reports of massive squatting within the DA, BAI has resurfaced anew prompting the mayor to order an immediate investigation and action together with the officials of Tuba, Benguet.

After a thorough investigation by the task force committee, the City Buildings and Architecture Office was directed to issue a cease and desist order to all on-going constructions within the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Animal Industry.

Meanwhile, the anti-squatting committee has issued notices for demolition to squatters whose structures were already built. 

However, the committee cannot identify and locate the owners of some illegal structures in the said dairy farm.

“The municipality of Tuba, Benguet has expressed support to the city and with the concerted effort, the dairy farm will surely be cleared from illegal squatters,” said Domogan.

“The city will remain to protect forest reservations,” he added.  


A year after Baguio massacre, relatives rue slow pace of justice

BAGUIO CITY -- Monday marked the first anniversary of the gruesome massacre of five persons, including three children, in their house here at Barangay Hilltop.

And relatives of the victims, who were all bludgeoned to death allegedly by a lone attacker, are rueing the slow pace that the wheels of justice have turned.

This, despite the marathon hearings being conducted at Regional Trial Court Branch 4 presided over by Judge Mia Joy Cawed where the five counts of murder were filed by the Baguio City Police Office against Philip Tolentino Avino, 31, also known as Michael Geronimo.

A year ago on April 6, at around 6:30 p.m., Vilma Nociete found inside her family’s rented room at the fourth floor of Third Kayang-Hilltop St., the bloodied bodies of her two children – Jacquelyn, 19 and Joey,7, – and that of their house maid Jonalyn Lozano,31.

Also found dead were Joey’s playmates Dave John de Guzman, 7 and Raymond Delmundo, 9.

“Nababagalan kami, madalasang postpone sa hearing, pero malaki ang pag-asa namin at kami ay umaasa na mabibigyan ng katarungan ang pagpatay sa aming anak at sa iba pa. Siguro matatahimik lamang kami kapag tuluyan ng makulong ng habambuhay ang suspek,” said Joey Nociete, Sr.

Domeng de Guzman, Dave John’s father said that everytime he saw the suspect, he could not understand the anger he felt with how painful the death of his son was.

“Akala naming matatapos sa isang taon ang kaso, hindi lang kami hirap sa pag-aantay ng hustisya, kundi hirap na din kami sa pinansyal. Sa totoo lang hindi ko pa matanggap ang pagkawala ng aking anak, na namatay ng walang dahilan,” de Guzman said.

The families said that, despite the marathon hearings, they have continued to grieve and can’t help but feel dismayed over the slow resolution of the case.

Base on the autopsy conducted by Dr. Jaime Rodrigo Leal, medico legal officer of the Crime Laboratory Service-Cordillera, Jacqueline Nociete suffered 17 stab wounds in the chest and back with eight of them fatal; her brother Joey sustained 15 stab wounds, all in the back with six being fatal; Dave John suffered eight stab wounds in the chest and back with four being fatal; Raymond suffered five stab wounds on the back, three of them fatal; and the housemaid Jonalyn sustained 13 stab wounds in the neck, abdomen, chest, and back, nine of which were fatal.

In the past hearings, 15 of the prosecution witnesses, who have executed their affidavits, have already been presented. Among those who stood as witness were police officers, crime laboratory personnel, the parents and others who testified on the pieces of evidence recovered, including the DNA testing conducted on the suspect.


Electric cooperative cashier nabbed over missing P150-M

SAN FERNADO CITY,  La Union – The National Bureau of Investigation regional office based here arrested a former head of the cashiering section of the La Union Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Luelco) wanted for six counts of qualified theft after allegedly amassing around P150 million from collected electricity bills.

Cecilla Olarte, Luelco’s former cashier, was arrested in her residence Wednesday morning by the NBI assistant regional director Atty. Dave Alunan.

Alunan served the warrant of arrest issued by Judge Ethelwolda Jaravata of the Agoo Regional Trial Court Branch 32 against Olarte who was reportedly in hiding for several months.

Olarte was indicted of the charges after the investigating prosecutors Gaudencio Valdez Jr. and Braulio Tade, in their resolutions approved by provincial prosecutor DaniloBumacod, found sufficient evidence to charge her for the crime of qualified theft, a non-bailable offense.

Initially, Valdez resolved eight of the 19 cases of qualified theft based on the complaint of Ramon Posadas, Luelco general manager, while Tade resolved the other 11 cases.

But an NBI source said only six counts of qualified theft were listed in the warrant and that the amount lost is around P150 million which is double than the initial P75-million.

Based on Posadas’ complaint, Olarte allegedly did not deposit to the Luelco account the collections for Sept. 21, and Oct. 16, 2012 and the collections for March 12, 13, 18, 20, 21, and 25, 2013 with a total amount of P39,831,000.

Olarte also allegedly did not deposit the whole amount of P55,217,170 collections for March 27, 2013 and April 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 10, 12 ,15, 16, and 18, 2013. Of the total P55,217,170, she allegedly deposited only P19,896,835 with undeposited amount of P35,320,343 based on computations.

Posadas claimed that the huge undeposited collections were found out during an audit conducted by auditors of the National Electrification Administration and internal audit of Luelco.

“She is the only person who is in custody of the collections of Luelco during that period and because she could not account for the missing money, she violated the trust given to her to keep the funds of the cooperative,” Posadas said in his affidavit.

Olarte denied any wrongdoing claiming that the missing amount which were not deposited were given as cash advances to Luelco officials, employees and contractors.

However, during the investigation, Olarte failed to show proof of where the missing collections went.


Stoppage orders, ops set vs Cordillera small scale miners

MGB head to miners: Apply for permits 
By Jordan Malani

BAGUIO CITY – The regional Mines and Geosciences Bureau is set to start a crackdown on small scale mining activities in the regional particularly Benguet which has around 60 SSM groups with no permits.

MGB regional director Fay W. Apil bared this, saying SSM operations would be investigated even as she urged police to help the MGB in implementing cease and desist orders.

Apil urged SSM associations in the Cordillera to apply for permits so their operations would be considered legal.

Aside from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources  through MGB, other sectors such as the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board and City Mining Regulatory Board regulate SSM activities.

These agencies are set to review applications for small scale mining.

Small scale mining can only be done on areas proclaimed as “Minahang Bayan” (People’s Mining Area) as prescribed under the Executive Order 79.

Apil said anybody can apply for the “Minahang Bayan” but a process must be followed.

Applicants have to see to it that the areas being applied for are open for mining.

These areas should not fall under protected ones such as prime agricultural lands, tourism destination areas, and residential areas. It must also pass the area status and clearance.

The Benguet Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board issued a resolution for the identification of areas that can be applied to be declared as “Minahang Bayan” on 2014.

Small scale miners were primary applicants.

Apil said in Benguet there were about 60-62 associations and only 11 of which have permits to engage in mining activities. 

Others are still on the process of perfecting their applications so that the areas they mine will be declared as “Minahang Bayan”.

Small scale miners should have area clearances and should get consent from the land owners or from the large scale mining companies who have applied for the areas first or who have the mining rights over the areas.

Apil said government recognizes small scale mining one of main livelihoods of people but this that does not mean that concerned agencies will not regulate them.

She added they have been encouraging small scale miners to apply for permits and have their areas declared as “Minahang Bayan”.

Also, they have been issuing stoppage and cease and desist orders to small scale mining activities without permits.

“The sad part here is although we keep on issuing stoppage orders and CDOs, we do not have police power, so we need the assistance of the local government unit sand Philippine National Police to implement such orders, ” she said.

The Cordillera MGB is reportedly assisting small scale miners so their activities would be legalized and will be closely monitored like large scale miners.


Abra fiscal found dead

VIGAN CITY – A state prosecutor of Abra was found dead in a suspected suicide at his home in Barangay Tamag in this heritage city Wednesday morning.

Benedicto Alvarado’s body bore a bullet wound in the chest, said Vigan City police chief Supt. Jugith del Prado.

A caliber.45 pistol and a bullet shell were found beside Alvarado’s body.

Probers said Alvarado’s relatives heard a gunshot before they discovered his body.

Even as police investigations were on, residents said there could have been more to allegations that Alvarado committed suicide considering he was shot in the stomach.

They said they still haven’t heard of a person committing suicide by shooting himself on the stomach. 


Conjoined twins make separated, happy trip home

DAGUPAN CITY, Pangasinan – Following a complicated but successful surgery performed at hospital in Hualien, Taiwan to separate Pangasinan conjoined twins Jennylyn and Jerrylyn de Guzman, the siblings and their mother arrived in Manila Wednesday evening.

The twins from Bautista, Pangasinan were successfully separated last March 13 through the generous intercession of the Tzu Chi Foundation.

Jennylyn and Jerrylyn were the third pair of conjoined twins assisted by the Buddhist organization since 2003.

The latest beneficiaries lived for a year and three months sharing a stomach and a liver since their birth last December 8, 2013.

The twins’ plight was endorsed by Mario Lim and Johnson Lim,officials of PANDA Fire Brigade, a local fire volunteer’s group in Dagupan, Pangasinan to Tzu Chi Foundation in February 2013.

The Tzu Chi foundation arranged for the surgery of twins and provided them with basic needs including the facilitation of travel documents.

The twins and their mother were flown to Taiwan in January this year for a two – month continuous nutritional care in preparation for the delicate surgery.

“Thank God,Tzu Chi foundation was so supportive. I am deeply touched , that I realized how much they cared for my babies ,” said the 24-year-old mother.

Conjoined twins Lea and Rachel Awel who shared the same fate over ten years ago have sent their well-wishes for the younger twins, according to Tzu Chi.

The twins from Kalinga were the first to undergo the process of separation in 2003 through Tzu Chi Foundation in the Philippines.

The second pair of conjoined twins separated through the foundation’s initiative is Rose Carmelle and Rose Carmellete Molit from Catmon, Cebu in June 2010.

Tzu Chi foundation in Cebu continues to support them with their education.

Tzu Chi Foundation also assured that it will continue supporting Jennylyn and Jerrylyn and their family.


Escudero supports Cordillera autonomy

By Florida Robles

BAGUIO CITY-Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero expressed his support to renewed thrust by government officials to attain Cordillera autonomy.

 “Noon pa man suportado ko ang autonomiyang Cordillera,” Escudero told media here. “Dalawang lugar lang sa bansa ang pwedeng bigyanng autonomiya, Mindanao at Cordillera, hindi kasama ang Bicol ‘dun.” Bicol province is reportedly also pressing for autonomy.

The senator said the issue that the region may experience what Mindanao is experiencing right now if the Cordillera is granted autonomy will not happen.

“Iba angkultura, iba ang ugali, at iba ang kasaysayan ng Cordillera kumpara sa ARMM Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao),” Escudero said.

“Sabihan niyo na lng ang inyong mambabatas, bilis bilisan nila. Nakakadalawa na ang Mindanao, may ARMM na may BBL pa, kayo wala pang isa.Padaliin niyo nal ang ang pagbasa sa Lower House para makarating nayun sa senado.”


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