Volume14 / No. 2                                                                                                                      January 31, 2014

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Cabanatueños protest suspension of HUC plebiscite

Thousands of people gathered at Plaza Lucero in front of the Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Cathedral last January 25 to denounce efforts to stop the plebiscite for the highly urbanized city (HUC) status of Cabanatuan.

The rallyists displayed placards and streamers, some of which bore the message "Yes or no, ituloy ang plebisito."

The Cabanatuan City police estimated that between 3,500 and 4,000 people participated in the event.

"This rally was a people's initiative," said City Administrator Jose Roy Balagtas.  He said the lawyers of City Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara has asked the High Court to lift the temporary restraining order on the plebiscite.

Supt. Pedro Soliba, city police chief, said a senior citizens group had obtained a permit for the rally.

Police said no untoward incidents were reported during the event. ###

Cabanatuan bishop calls for HUC plebiscite to proceed

Bishop Sofronio Bancud of the Diocese of Cabanatuan appealed to authorities to allow the plebiscite on the highly urbanized city (HUC) status of Cabanatuan to proceed.

In  pastoral letter read in all church services last January 25 and 26, Bancud said while the Church is not siding with either the "yes" or "no" vote, it believes the plebiscite should proceed.

“Conscious of our pastoral duty but fully aware of the limitations of what we can do… we deem it prudent and necessary to leave the matter to those who know this issue better than us: our elected officials and the people of Cabanatuan who will eventually decide through a plebiscite,” said Bancud.

He said an information drive on the benefits and disadvantages of the HUC status be held.

He said, “Indeed, our people deserve the best. Hence, we need to keep them well and correctly informed, and provide them a safe and sound environment to make their final decision through a plebiscite, without fear or favor, and allow them to do so in the peacefulness of their conscience."

The plebiscite should have been held last January 25 but was prevented when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order based on a petition filed by Gov. Aurelio M. Umali who argued that the entire province would be affected by the HUC issue and therefore should be allowed to participate in the political exercise. ###

Surprise: 7,000 hectares of Pantabangan belong to Nueva Vizcaya

A cadastral survey done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resouces-Region 2 showed that 7,000 hectares of land in Pantabangan belong to the adjacent town of  Alfonso Castaneda in Nueva Vizcaya.

Nueva Ecija officials are not about to sit it out.

Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member Joseph Ortiz, who represents the First District where Pantabangan is located, said they are calling for a legislative inquiry as requested by Gov. Aurelio M. Umali.

He said Umali requested the provincial board to approve a resolution protesting the land claim which will mean a loss of 7,000 hectares to Pantabangan and the province.

Documents shown by Ortiz indicate that in 2012, the DENR regional office in Tuguegarao City conducted a cadastral survey through a private surveying group that it contratacted, to determine the political boundary, land use map and data of all parcels of land within the town of Alfonso Castaneda.

The issue was brought to the attention of provincial officials last through a resolution of the Sangguniang Bayan of Pantabangan passed last August 30, requesting the governor and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan "to investigate and institute an appropriate action against the individuals responsible for these irregular activities," referring to the cadastral survey and the claim over 7,000 hectares of land belonging to Pantabangan.

The resolution said what DENR did was unlawful since Pantabangan officials were not notified about the survey and no DENR Region 3 representative was present during the process. ###

Ecijano wins ABC national elections

Nueva Ecija's provincial Association of Barangay Captain (ABC) president, Edmund Abesamis, got 68 out of 115 votes of ABC presidents of provinces and highly urbanized cities to win the national presidency in the elections last January 16 at Heritage Hotel in Metro Manila.

He is the elder brother of Environment Assistant Sec. Rommel Abesamis.

The ABC national president has a three-year term and political observers said Abesamis -- like the heads of mayors' and governors' leagues -- will play an important role in the 2016 presidential elections.

Abesamis' bloc won the top ABC positions, with Tarlac's Patrick Agustin as executive vice president, Laguna's Lorenzo Zuñiga as secretary general and Paranaque's Jeremy Marquez as auditor.

A source who requested anonymity said Abesamis was supported in his candidacy by the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomay Binay and the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) of Eduardo Cojuangco.

An NPC source said its candidate from Tarlac gave way to Abesamis, while UNA sided with Abesamis rather than with another candidate backed by Binay's potential rival in the 2016 elections.

“I am very happy for the support given by Liga ng mga Barangay. We will make sure we will be an effective partner in implementing the key programs of the government,” Abesamis said

Abesamis and the other new officials paid a courtesy call on President Aquino in Malacanang shortly after the elections.###

Ecija shivers as mercury drops to 15.8°C

The lowest temperature in the lowlands this cold season was 15.8 degrees Celsius recorded at 6:00 A.M. last January 26 by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in Cabanatuan City and its Science Garden in Quezon City.

Manny Mendoza, PAGASA forecaster, said with the northeast monsoon peaking and  affecting Luzon and the Visayas, generally cool and dry weather can be expected.

He said Central Luzon and Metro Manila is receiving the full effect of the cold Siberian winds. ###

What are Papayanos without Papaya?

Officials of General Tinio town are raising funds to finance a plebiscite on the proposal for the name of the town to be reverted to the one it carried for 166 years -- Papaya.

Vice Mayor Ferdinand Bote said they need P2.5 million for the plebiscite this year. He said it will be too late next year because of the election ban for the 201 presidential elections.

He said the proposal to revert to the old name of the town is contained in a resolution passed by the Sangguniang  Bayan in 2008 and submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for approval but has remained unacted upon after six years.

“We will not give up because this is what our people want. They want to be called Papayanos again,” Bote said.

The town was originally known as Barrio de Papaya of the adjacent town of Peñaranda.  The barrio was officially declared a separate municipality called Papaya on January 7, 1921.

The town's name was changed to General Manuel Tinio under Republic Act 1665 sponsored by Rep. Celestino Juan in 1957.

General Tinio was not even from the town; he was from Aliaga. ###

Cabanatuan power rates to go down

 Electricity consumers in Cabanatuan City can look forward to a decrease in power rates.

The Cabanatuan Electric Corp. (CELCOR), in a letter sent to its consumers, said the firm is ready to lower its rates after a review by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

The reasons cited for the impending rate decrease are the signing of a memorandum of agreement with Therma Luzon, Inc., direct membership in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) and the creation of the First Cabanatuan Ventures Corp. (FCVC) power plant powered by bunker fuel, that serves as an alternative energy source for CELCOR.

CELCOR is able to buy electricity from TLI on a fixed price, while its direct membership in WESM enables it to buy or sell electricity directly in the spot market without  middlemen.

On the other hand, FCVC has been a readily available source of power whenever WESM rates go up or in the absence of any other source of electricity during massive blackout caused by supply shortage or damage to distribution lines.

FCVC spared CELCOR consumers from the Luzon-wide skyrocketing power rates implemented by WESM during the last quarter of last year.

CELCOR said that instead of getting electricity from WESM, it was able to supply the market and receive payment for this, resulting in a significant drop in Cabanatuan power rates. ###

32 Ecija ARBO officers undergo training

A total of 32 representatives of seven Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Organizations (ARBOs) in Nueva Ecija attended a training course on business enterprise management plan of common service facilities last January 20 and 21 at Central Luzon State University.

The training was organized and facilitated by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) with faculty members from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos College of Economics and Management and College of Agriculture.

The activity was part of  the Department of Agrarian Reform-funded project called "Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services".

Covered by the training were topics such as marketing information, plotting behavioral pricing of commodities, financial analysis, and fee for the use of common service facilities covering regular maintenance, operations, repair costs and depreciation.

The participants were also briefed about essential concepts, principles and elements of business operation and management.

Also present during the training were officials from the DAR Provincial Office led by Joyce Ramones, provincial agrarian reform officer. ###

Family bares efforts of military officials to buy land for gold exploration

A family who owns a big parcel of land inside the Fort Ramon Magsaysay Military Reservation (FRMMR) said a number of military officials have approached them to buy their land after reports came out that the area has vast gold deposits worth up to P80 billion.

The landowner, who asked for anonymity, said "Pinipilit nila  kaming ibenta na sa kanila ‘yung malaking lupa namin sa loob ng Army camp sa FMMR, para sila na lang ang manguha ng kayamanan doon.”

Maj. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr., commander of the Northern Luzon Command based in Fort Magsaysay, said experts, including foreigners, have proven the volume of gold deposits and other minerals in the mountainous parts of the military reservation after they personally inspected and performed underground testing in the area.

Catapang said the area is now being guarded to prevent the illegal mining activities. ###

Ex-Ecija congressman tapped for Divisoria makeover

Former Nueva Ecija Rep. Simeon Garcia has been tapped by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to turn Divisoria into a tourist shopping district.

Garcia is the current Manila city administrator and a former chief of staff of Estrada's son, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

Garcia is one of Manila City Hall appointees who had connections either to Estrada's presidency or his political roots in San Juan. ###

Mutilated body found in Llanera

The chopped up body of a man was discovered by morning joggers in a vacant lot along the provincial road in Barangay General Ricarte, Llanera last January 24.

The victim's arms, legs and body had been cut up and the head severed from the body.

The victim was identified as Cornelio Areola alias Arnel, 44, single, dealer-coordinator of Cignal Digital TV and an agent of Smart Money and Smart Communications, Inc. in Cabanatuan City.

Investigators said the body could have been mutilated in another place and later dumped in the vacant lot as there were no blood marks found there.

The following day, 71-year old Angelito Areola of Barangay General Luna went to the police station to say that the body was that of his son, based on the personal belongings seen at the crime site.

Police are looking at various motives for the killing. ###

7 arrested in anti-illegal drug operations

Seven suspected drug pusher were arrested and illegal drugs and guns were confiscated in simultaneous buy-bust operations in Nueva Ecija last January 18.

Chief Supt. Raul D. Petrasanta, Central Luzon police director, identified the suspects as Norman Evangelista and Alexander Bote Reyes, both of General Tinio; Arnold Serrano Tabunan, of Barangay Baloc, Santo Domingo; Roberto Elvambuena Paras of Barangay Burgos, San Leonardo; and Cristal Mallari Estares alias Istal and Christian Mallari Estares alias Itan, both of Purok 2, Barangay Imelda, and Loreta Francisco Mactal alias Lorie, of Barangay MS Garcia, all in Cabanatuan City.

The suspects were nabbed in operations in San Jose City, Cabanatuan City and San Leonardo.

Petrasanta said appropriate charges are being readied against the suspects, while the evidence seized are under the custody of the Nueva Ecija Police Crime Laboratory Office. ###

Cabanatuan trader arrested for guns, shabu

The Cabanatuan City police arrested a businessman for illegal possession of guns, bullets and shabu in Barangay Kapitan Pepe.

Sr. Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, provincial police director, reported to Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, regional police director, that the suspect, Christopher Jhon So of Cecilia 3, Barangay D.S. Garcia, was arrested during a buy-bust operation conducted at about 7:00 P.M. by intelligence and drug enforcement unit operatives at de Guzman Street, Barangay Kapitan Pepe.

Confiscated from So were a 38-caliber revolver with one magazine and live ammunition, a .45-caliber ARMSCOR with one 910 magazine assembly and five live bullets,  a .45-caliber NORINCO with one magazine assembly and five live bullets, 24 small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing shabu worth P53,000 and the marked money used in the anti-illegal drug operation. ###

Jaen woman, nephew collared in drug raid

A 65 year old woman and her 33 year old nephew were arrested by the Jaen police in a raid in Barangay Sapang.

Chief Insp. Alexander Aurelio, town police chief, said Trinidad Bartolome was caught in possession of 23 sachets of shabu weighing 39.44 grams during the raid.

Her nephew, Mervin Bulanan, yielded 2.44 grams of  shabu in a plastic sachet, a digital weighing scale and drug paraphernalia.

Bartolome said she was asked by somebody whose name she would not mention, to take care of the shabu, while Bulanan said he used and sold shabu sometimes and not everyday.

The raid was prompted by a rebuke from Mayor Santiago Austria during a recent flag ceremony. He said people might think that he and policemen were benefiting from the illegal drug trade after receiving reports that drugs have become rampant in some areas of his town.

Charges of illegal possession and selling of illegal drugs have been filed against the Bartolome and Bulanan with the Provincial Prosecutor's Office in Cabanatuan City. ###

Cabanatuan construction worker killed

A 24 year old construction worker was shot dead by two men riding a motorcycle in tandem last January 19.

Supt. Pedro Soliba, Cabanatuan City police chief, identified the victim as Manuel Rufino of Barangay Mabini, Santa Rosa.

He was repeatedly shot with a pistol in Purok 1, Barangay Sumacab Sur at past 1:00 P.M.

The suspects fled after the attack. ###

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