By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

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Lt. Col. Yuri G. Pesigan feeding milk to children in Barangay Alimanguan, San Vicente during the RP-US Marines Medical and Dental Mission from October 15-18, 2009.

OVER 2,000 residents of four barangays in San Vicente town, northern Palawan benefited from the 4-day medical and dental mission carried out under the Philippine Bilateral Exercise 2009 (Phiblex) between the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8, Philippine Marines Corps (PMC) and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), United States Marines Corps (USMC).

The beneficiaries were from barangays Alimanguan, Sto. Niño, New Canipo and Binga, San Vicente.

The residents were treated for common cough and colds, asthma, back and chest pains, wound infection from allergies, ear infection, and received dental services, which mainly involved tooth extraction.

Deworming pills, such as Mebendazole and Pyrantel, were also provided for children between 5-14 years old to treat soil-transmitted worm infestation, which causes a host of serious health problems, one of which is loss of appetite. The three most common soil-transmitted worms affecting children are roundworms, whipworms and hookworms.

Started on October 15 and ended on the morning of October 18, Lt. Col. Yuri G. Pesigan, commanding officer of the MBLT 8, said San Vicente, which has more than 6,000 residents dwelling in rough and rugged high points of land and coastal terrains, was chosen as venue of the civil military operation (CMO) and humanitarian activity as it is where they are needed most due to its inaccessibility to government health services.

Likewise, it is an area where the communists are trying to infiltrate, exploiting the issue of government inability to support the needs of the people.

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The RP-US Marines Medical & Dental Mission was able to provide free medical and dental services to over 2,000 residents of four barangays in the northern town of San Vicente. (Photo taken by Shannah Villegas)

Milk, congee feeding

Also part of the RP-US Marines civil military operation were the congee and milk feeding projects facilitated by the Puerto Princesa Kiao and Puerto Princesa Peacock, Inc. of the Junior Chamber International Philippines (JCIP or Jaycees), a worldwide federation of young professional leaders.

The feeding projects were done to help alleviate children malnutrition in the four barangays by stressing the importance of healthy eating habits, and drinking milk that can provide calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, protein and several other beneficial nutrients in varying quantities.

During the four-day medical mission, it was noted that most children treated suffer from malnutrition, which is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality.

Phiblex 2009

On October 18, the annual Phiblex between the Philippines and the United States ended in Barangay Inagawan.

Designed to build up interoperability, increase readiness and to continue professional relationships between the RP and US Armed Forces, the Phiblex 2009 had Sailors and Marines doing bilateral amphibious landing on Inagawan Beach for about a week.

The Sailors who participated were from the amphibious dock landing ships USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Tortuga (LSD 46) with Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) that arrived on October 14.

The Phiblex was done under agreements signed by the Philippines and the United States in the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

By Cheryl A. Galili

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Hagedorn and Bayron with constitutional lawyers Garcia and Coronel during a media conference late last week.

LEGAL EAGLES for incumbents Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn and Vice Mayor Lucilo R. Bayron said both are still qualified to race against anyone interested in their positions in 2010.

In a media conference called late last week by Hagedorn, constitutional lawyers Sandra Marie Coronel and George Garcia said their clients are eligible to run based on provisions in the Constitution.

Hagedorn became mayor through a recall election in 2002 against former mayor Dennis P. Socrates and another candidate, Sandy Sandoval, while Bayron became vice mayor after winning an election protest against the late Fernando U. Batul.

Garcia explicated that Hagedorn’s term started in 2004 because under the provisions of the law, “a recall election is a special term and should not be included for the purpose of counting the services rendered.”

Distinguishing the terms and tenure of an elective official, Garcia further explained that under Section 8, Article X of the Constitution, the term of office of elective officials, except barangay officials, shall be three years, and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.

Hagedorn assumed his post after winning in the recall, Garcia stated. He was again elected in the same position in the 2004 election and in 2007.

“Ang legal opinion nagsasabing puwedeng tumakbo si Mayor Hagedorn sapagkat entitled pa siya sa huli niyang termino sa 2010 at 2013 (The legal opinion states that Mayor Hagedorn can still run because he is entitled to his last term in 2010 to 2013),” the lawyer said.

Coronel also said that as early as 1998, the Supreme Court has been consistent in ruling that less than three consecutive years in office is not considered a term.

The Constitution states that an elected official should serve three consecutive terms.

“Kapag recall, hindi iyan covered ng term. Ang sagot with respect to Mayor Hagedorn’s case, walang kaduda-duda na siya ay puwedeng tumakbo (If it’s recall, it’s not covered to be a term. The answer in the case of Mayor Hagedorn is that he is very qualified to run),” Coronel said as a matter of fact.

The two lawyers’ statements is supported by the opinion from the Law Department of the Commission on Election (Comelec), which states that “for three-term limit for local government officials to apply, two conditions of the requisites must occur: that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post, and that he has fully served three consecutive terms.”

Garcia also cited a case of Socrates vs. Comelec where there was a pronouncement that a recall term in itself is one term although less than three years. In the Mendoza & Ibarra vs. Comelec & Roman, the Supreme Court (SC), voting 8-7, dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by petitioners Melanie L. Mendoza and Mario Ibarra seeking to set aside the resolution of the Comelec dated August 15, 2001, in EPC No. 2001-5 and to declare respondent Leonardo Roman’s election as governor of Bataan as null and void for allegedly being contrary to Article X of the Constitution.

The SC’ ruling states that the recall election is not counted as a full term and therefore, for purposes of the three term limit, was not included in the counting. It constituted an interruption in the service of the full term of three years of a local elective official.

It further added that “a recall term should not be counted or used as a basis for disqualification whether served prior or subsequent to the nine-year, full three-term limit.

“Considering Mayor Hagedorn’s case which is similar to that of Governor Roman of Bataan, he is still qualified to run in the 2010 election as he is considered to be still in his second term for purposes of applying the three-term limit for local elective officials,” he said.

On Bayron’s case, Coronel reiterated two conditions of the requisites that must occur: first, that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post, and that he has fully served three consecutive terms.

Bayron was “declared the rightful winner in the election protest case”, and only served the unexpired portion of 2001-2004 term of the office of the Vice Mayor, such service is by virtue of the valid election hence, the first condition was met.

With respect to the second condition, Coronel said “we opine that it cannot be considered as a full term and therefore, should not be included in determining the applicability of the three-term limit.”

Since Bayron only served the unexpired portion of the Office of the Vice Mayor, the second condition did not attach hence, he can still validly run in 2010.

“Walang duda na si vice mayor ay puwedeng tumakbo ulit sa 2010 (There’s no doubt that the vice mayor can run again in 2010),” Garcia stated.

Coronel and Garcia believe that in the end, the rule of law will prevail and the two leaders will qualify to run again as mayor and vice mayor of the city.

By Cheryl A. Galili

PALAWAN 2ND District Board Member Ernesto A. Llacuna is urging the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to consider the establishment of district field offices in northern and southern Palawan to expand accessible and better services to its members.

Llacuna said many GSIS members in Palawan frequently transact businesses in the city where its main office is located.

Under this set up, complaints are increasing from the members allegedly because of high cost of transportation fare and other related expenses simply to follow up transactions that they can’t get without delay.

Members with minimal claims who come to Puerto Princesa from distantly located municipalities have to stay for longer periods of time, which means spending more for lodging and meals.

“I hope that the GSIS will also consider making its services available to people who live in far-flung areas of the province by establishing offices in northern and southern Palawan,” Llacuna said.

In related news, the Palawan Provincial Board lauded the Social Security System (SSS) for establishing field offices in northern and southern Palawan for its members.

Llacuna said the SSS’ efforts on making and bringing services closer to its members will not only give them comfort, but will also increase their trust and confidence.

By Tristan Ray I. Besa

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Lcdr Cesista (right) serves a hot bowl of congee to a malnourished elementary pupil of East Central Elementary School during LC551′ comrel project in Puerto Princesa City on September 17.

DRESSED IN blue overalls and armed with the desire to bring the Philippine Navy (PN) closer to the people, troops from BRP Dagupan City (LC-551), a logistics support vessel considered as one of the most modern transport ships serving the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), visited East Central Elementary School (ECES) on September 17 for a community relations project implementation.

Headed by Lt. Cdr. Hilarion Cesista, the support vessel’s comrel team simultaneously conducted supplementary feeding program, rehabilitation and painting of the school’s fence, and film showing. They also donated medicines, notebooks and trashcans to the school.

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BRP Dagupan City (LC551)

Three hundred undernourished grade school pupils from the ECES benefited from the feeding program. The medicines and notebooks, on the other hand, will be distributed to students who need them most as determined by their teachers.

A 20-minute informative film about the PN was shown to the students. In an interview with Lt. Cdr. Jonathan Zata, he said the main objective of the activity is to “raise awareness among the children of the importance of our maritime environment.”

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According to him, this is especially important because of the maritime nature of our country. Being an archipelago, the islands of the Philippines are separated by the sea. But to Zata, this should not cause divisiveness among the Filipino people because “the sea that separates us should be the sea that binds us.”

Cesista said in his speech during a short program that this is their way of showing the people that the navy, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in general, is not only active in times of conflict or crisis, they can also be relied to deliver services in times of peace.

Helen Salboro, principal of the East Central Elementary School (ECES), expressed her gratitude to the navy for choosing their school as the beneficiary of its projects. “Nagpapasalamat kami dahil kami ang napiling tumanggap ng tulong mula sa kanila,” she said and added that the activity is commendable. “One of a kind, napakandang programa,” was how described it.

She also said that the feeding program conducted by the navy complemented their own supplementary feeding program which they are planning to start next week since they have already finished deworming the children last week. The same 300 undernourished children will be fed three times every week.

In a separate interview, Chill Blas, president of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of the ECES and of the City PTA reiterated the compliments of Salboro to the navy. “Napakalaking tulong dahil instead na maging pasanin pa naming, sila na ang gumawa,” he said. He said he was also happy because the students had the opportunity to interact with the soldiers. “Napapalapit ang mga bata sa mga sundalo.”

However, both Salboro and Blas pointed out that their real concern right now is the addition of school buildings because they lack classrooms. As of today, ECES has the largest population among the elementary schools in the city, with a total of 3015 students including the pre-schoolers.

Cesista invited the teachers on a tour in the BRP Dagupan City which is docked at the Tide Pole Pier. Manned by 80 officers and enlisted personnel, the BRP Dagupan City is a naval cargo ship and is actually in its second leg of transporting materials and personnel of the Naval Construction Brigade from Manila to different parts of Southern Philippines. She arrived last September 15 and will stay at the Tide Pole until September 20.

MAHIGPIT NA ipinapatupad ngayon sa lahat ng tanggapan ng pamahalaan sa buong bansa, kabilang na ang lokal na gobyerno ng Puerto Princesa, ang Commission of Audit (COA) Circular No. 2009-02 na may petsang Mayo 18, 2009.

Hinggil ito sa Reinstitution of Selective Pre-Audit on Government Transaction. Layunin ng kautusan na maisaayos at makontrol ang paggamit ng “cash advances” sa mga pampinansiyal na transakyon ng gobyerno.

Napapaloob sa kautusang ito ang cash advance para  sa pambayad sa suweldo ng mga casual at contractual employees.

Dati-rati hindi  dumadaan sa pre-audit ang mga cash advance voucher ng tsekeng laan para dito.  Tanging ang mga cash advance para sa sweldo ng mga plantilyado o regular na kawani at cash advance sa travelling expenses ang hindi sasailalim sa nasabing pre-audit.

Sakop din ng pre-audit ang mga bayad sa supplies, equipment, sasakyan , general support services at labor na may halagang P2M pataas.  Ang mga malalaking kontrata sa infrastructure projects na umaabot sa P5M pataas ang halaga ay kailangan ding dumaan sa pre-audit ng  first at last billing vouchers.

Kasama rin sa mga ipi-pre-audit ang mga cash advances na panggastos sa mga “special activities” . Inaasahan sa pamamagitan ng “pre-audit” mababawasan at maiiwasan na ang mga “pending unliquidated cash advances. (PR-CIO)

By Lynda B. Valencia

THE DEPARTMENT of Tourism (DOT) wants the port development in El Nido to be deferred pending more studies on the infrastructure’s impact on the ecological system of the resort area.

Sec. Joseph ‘Ace’ Durano said “We encourage establishment of infrastructure as long as there are clear measures and guidelines on the ecological preservation of surrounding communities.”

He said the planned route of the roll-on/roll-off (RO-RO) ferries will displace small fishing boats, affecting a major source of livelihood in the area.

“Ecotourism is the island’s primary source of living. Therefore, environmental conservation should be a priority concern of the development,” Durano emphasized.

On the other hand, Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions Eduardo Jarque Jr. said ”El Nido is a protected area and part of the Coral Triangle, making it one of the most important aquatic biodiversity sites in the world.”

Meanwhile, El Nido Foundation Executive Director Irma Rose Marcelo shared her group’s opposition to the project, saying “instead of opening another port, we recommend the expansion of the San Fernando pier which has a natural embankment.”

“The proposed project will cover 51,440 square meters along El Nido pier. This means the displacement of some 11,000 truckloads of sand,” Marcelo said.

According to the Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan of the municipality’s tourism plan, the area is limited to ‘low-density and nature-based’ tourism activities, which will be largely affected by the frequent RO-RO trips that spur mass tourism.

For his part, Atty. Oscar Sevilla, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager, said that “We have started the dredging already. We have the complete documents before we start dredging. Now, we have to wait and see.” (PNA)

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

THE ARMED Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is posting enough government troops on Mantangguli Island in Balabac town to assure around 2,000 returning residents there that peace and order will now prevail following the destruction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) breakaway group that had threatened their lives.

The decision to bring back the Marines to Balabac came days after Guru Abdurajak, leader of the breakaway group, and nine of his loyal followers, were killed in an encounter on the morning of August 19 with elements of the 8th Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT).

Five members were captured and are now under the custody of authorities.

“Enough troops are now posted in the area to make sure that civilians there will no longer doubt their safety,” said Lt. Col. Yuri Pesigan, commanding officer of MBLT 8.

Pesigan said residents of Matangguli who started evacuating on August 14 to Bangkalaan Elementary School, the center of the town of Balabac and other surrounding nearby areas, cheered and applauded government forces as soon as news that Abdurajak, or Pa Guru to his followers, had fallen.

“Civilians there completely abandoned their homes because of what happened. Right now, our morale is boosted by the fact that we have become an instrument of restoring peace in the area. During our operation, it is important to note that no civilian was hurt by the MNLF group, nor caught between our exchanges, Piyesta ang buong lugar sa kasiyahan ng mga tao,” he said.

The successful operation of the Marines against Abdurajak’s group, meanwhile, was lauded by Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) commandant Maj. Gen. Juancho M. Sabban.

In a message he sent on August 23, Sabban commended the battalion for  “prompt and decisive action displayed” by personnel “bespeak well of their courage, vigilance and commitment to the service.”

August 14-17, 2009

On this date, residents of Matangguli fled to seek temporary shelters in Bangkalaan allegedly due to threats by Abdurajak’s group to kill them if authorities will insist on serving three warrants of arrest for illegal possession of firearms and illegal discharge.

Loading themselves on motorboats, residents carried no food when they abandoned their homes, according to Maj. Anthony Neil Estrella, civil military officer (CMO) of the MBLT 8.

They fled since Abdurajak, an elderly man, who was reportedly into the illegal smuggling business, violently refused to be served the warrants by the municipal police.

A female resident who spoke to local radio station DYPR on condition of anonymity said Abdulrajak personally threatened to kill her for tipping off authorities about his hiding place.

“He threatened to kill me and my family that’s why we decided to leave,” she said.

Pesigan related to Palawan Times that troops from the Navy Fleet-Marine Team were consolidated on August 15 “for insertion” to Sitio Marabon, Matangguli on August 17 to prepare for a pursuit operations against Abdurajak.

On August 18, arrangements were made with the breakaway group to allow a peaceful surrender.

The commanding officer stated an emissary in the person of Abdurajak’s brother, was sent for the purpose. No demand was communicated by Abdurajak’s brother during the talk, only assurances that he would be helped by government forces if he surrenders.

While this was going on, troops from his Battalion, Pesigan narrated, had already positioned themselves strategically.

Matangguli had been blocked on the sea to prevent the members of the group from fleeing. Involved in blockading the island were vessels from the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard and another lent by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

August 18, 2009

Shortly before 7 a.m. on this day, relayed messages to the Navy Fleet-Marine Team said Abdurajak had refused to surrender on would rather “die” where he was.

Around the said time, firefight began at Marabon, killing Abdurajak, his sons Noh and Saib Abdurajak and Abdul Majid. Their dead bodies were recovered during the clearing operation that followed near a mosque on Matangguli.

Two members of the 8th MBLT were also wounded in the firefight. They’re now confined at the Western Command Hospital.

Why it happened

Authorities said Abdurajak and Majid were wanted for illegal possession of firearms and illegal discharge. After the clash, the Marines were able to confiscate an assortment of rifles believed to be unlicensed: two M-14s, a M-79 grenade launcher, Garand rifles and unused bullets.

Apparently, only a few from the MNLF group were armed. Those who were captured surrendered their “krisses”, asymmetrical daggers indigenous to Muslims, which are considered weapons and spiritual objects, often considered as an essence or presence.

“We found our Philippine flag hanging below theirs upside down. This act is desecration of what our Philippine flag symbolizes,” Pesigan said, adding “We tried to negotiate for them to lay down their arms to no avail.”

Misuari tried to help

In interviews with national media, MNLF leader Nur Misuari called the Matangguli incident a “massacre” of his Muslim brothers.

“What happened was a massacre of our brothers. This should never have happened had they waited,” the top ranking leader told the national press who sought his comments.

But Pesigan said even Misuari wasn’t able to establish communication with Abdurajak’s group before the clash on August 19.

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