No. 238 /  March 16-31, 2010
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Politicos sign 'Tipan ng Kapayapaan'

Local political leaders headed by Gov. Aurelio M. Umali and Vice Gov. Edward Thomas F. Joson signed a "Tipan ng Kapayapaan" for honest, orderly and peaceful elections in rites held at the Maria Assumpta Seminary last March 25

The event was organized by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud emphasized that the pact is a "covenant of spirituality" among the political leaders  of the province. He said that the peace covenant is like coming from God, referring to God's covenant with the Israelites in the Old Testament.

Aside from Umali, those who signed on behalf of Lakas-Kampi-CMD were the governor's wife, Third Dist. Rep. Czarina Umali; his brother Emmanuel Anthony, who is running for board member in the same district; his running mate Gay Padiernos; and other party mates.

Among the signatories from  Bagong Lakas ng Nueva Ecija (BALANE) aside from Joson were his running mate, actor Rommel Padilla;  Josefina Manuel-Joson, who is running for her former First District congressional seat; and their followers.

The other candidates who signed the pact were Fourth District Rep. Rodolfo Antonino and reelectionists former First Dist. Rep. Renato Diaz and Second District Rep. Joseph Violago.

The police provincial director, Sr. Supt. Ricardo Marquez, and the 702nd Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Felicito Trinidad, vowed that the police and the Army will take an apolitical, non partisan stance in enforcing election laws and upholding the conduct of peaceful and orderly elections.

Meanwhile, Bishop Bancud expressed frustration over the failure of some candidates to attend the signing of the peace covenant.

He mentioned Jaen Mayor Antonio Prospero Esquivel who was involved in the April 26, 2007 shoot-out in his town between his supporters and those of Rep. Antonino. Two persons died in that incident while 17 other were wounded, including two of the mayor's sons. ###

Joson charges 7 provincial officials  with graft

Vice Gov. Edward Thomas Joson charged seven provincial government officials led by Gov. Aurelio Umali and a businesswoman at the Office of the Ombudsman in Luzon for the alleged overpriced purchase of P25 million worth of school bags in 2009.

Aside from Umali, the other respondents in the affidavit complaint were Provincial Budget Officer Randolph Alingig, Provincial Health Officer Benjamin Lopez, Environment and Natural Resources Officer Maximo Borja, Vicente Santos, Florante Fajardo and Leoncio Daniel, all members of the provincial government's bids and awards committee, and businesswoman Jennifer Avellana.

Joson charged them with gross violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 100 of the Local Government Code, grave abuse of discretion, misconduct and irregularity in the performance of duties.

Questioned was the purchase made on March 12, 2009 by the local school board of the provincial government of P26 million worth of school bags despite the serious shortage of classrooms nd teachers in public elementary and secondary schools.

Joson said that Section 100 of the Local Government Code mandates that the construction and maintenance of school buildings should be the top priority of local school boards in using the Special Education Fund.

In the purchase request for the school bags, Umali had sought to acquire two sets consisting of 231 pieces of backpacks and 23,000 pieces of bags for pre-school children.

The public bidding for the bags was won by EGRP Trading of Pateros owned by businesswoman Avellana. ###

'Running priest' runs though Ecija for water conservation

So-called running priest Fr. Robert Reyes started a 400 kilometer run from Holy Monday to Easter Sunday across 34 towns and cities in Luzon, including those in Nueva Ecija, to bring to the attention of Filipinos the urgency of water conservation.

The advocacy run called "Tubig, Bendisyon, Obligasyon" began with a Mass by Reyes at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources main office in Quezon City, followed by send-off rites by Environment Sec. Horacio Ramos.

The run will bring  Reyes from Meycauayan to San Ildefonso, Bulacan; San Miguel, Bulacan to Gapan City, Nueva Ecija; Carranglan, Nueva Ecija to Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya; Diadi, Nueva Vizcaya to Cordon, Isabela; and Santiago to Ilagan, Isabela. 

Highlighting the send off rites was the handing over to Father Reyes of a “pingga” (wooden plank used for fetching water with pails attached to both ends), which he will bring with him throughout the run as a symbol of his call for "voluntary simplicity" to solve the water problem.

Reyes said water crisis “is not only a problem of supply and demand but of relationship and consciousness.”

“The ‘pingga’ will symbolize the cross that we must all bear as a symbol of our contriteness over the long years of having sacrificed water to the cross with our wasteful and pollutive ways. Our consumerist lives need to be cured and led back to a simplicity that heals, renews and liberates,” Reyes said.

Stopovers will be made at every major points for meetings with heads of local government units and agencies.

Every representative of the areas that Reyes will be passing through will be asked to carry the "pingga" on short distances. ###

Images of Lent 2010 in Gapan City









2 Ecija cities among those in CL monitored for HIV-AIDS

The Department of Health (DOH) is monitoring the cities of San Jose and Gapan in Nueva Ecija, Bocaue in Bulacan and Balanga City in Bataan in its intensified fight against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, specifically HIV and AIDS.

Sec. Esperanza Cabral said the former sites of American military bases in Central Luzon, Angeles City and Olongapo City, need much attention as these areas host communities of foreigners and have red light districts and adult entertainment areas.

Dr. Rio Magpantay, DOH regional director, said major cities and towns where beer houses are ubiquitous will get more attention from health officials.

He said that 458 of the 4,567 HIV positive cases in the country in the last 24 years were recorded in Central Luzon.

Cabral said that sex workers who want to avail themselves of HIV screening should not hesitate to go to local social hygiene clinics for testing and counseling.  She added that health centers will also distribute condoms imported from China to people who need them.

She said that the department's condom distribution will continue despite opposition from the Catholic Church. She pointed out that condom distribution is only one of the major components of the program to fight the spread of HIV-AIDS, including abstinence and fidelity among couples. ###

Carabao Center marks 17th anniversary

The Muñoz-based Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) celebrated its 17th anniversary with various activities from March 22 to 26.

Hundreds of farmers in Luzon were briefed on various aspects of the dairy industry in visits to four dairy sites in San Jose City, the Science City of Muñoz and Talavera last March 25.  They were given lectures by champion farmers on forage production, waste disposal management, proper milk collection and handling and milk quality testing.

Last March 26,  Agriculture Sec. Bernie Fodevilla delivered the keynote address during the anniversary program.

Dr. Libertado Cruz, PCC executive director, reported on the achievements of his agency during the past year and gave a glimpse of plans for the carabao improvement program of the country.

A book, "Appreciating the Carabao", written by prize-winning Nueva Ecija journalist Dr. Anselmo Roque was launched during the program. ###

World-renowned pianist Licad wows Muñoz audience

Famous pianist Cecile Licad received standing ovations from an audience composed of farmers, workers, teachers, government employees and children during her outreach concert at the Central Luzon State University auditorium in the Science City of Muñoz last March 23.

Licad, an adopted daughter of Muñoz, was accompanied by the 53 member Manila Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arturo Molina.  It was her first rural concert with a full orchestra.

The university auditorium which is not air-conditioned was chosen as the venue as it is the only place in Muñoz that can fit an entire symphony orchestra and an audience of almost 2,500. The concert invitations and programs were printed and photocopied on one fourth sheets of long bond paper. The concert goers arrived on foot and in tricycles and pickups. The office of Mayor Nestor L. Alvarez even provided money to rent vehicles and buy gas so residents from distant barangays could come and watch. But Licad got to play with her own Vienna-made Bösendorfer piano that was transported to Muñoz for the event.

Before the concert, CLSU parish priest Fr. Rudy Ibale led the invocation that acknowledged the giftedness of everyone.

Dr. Ruben Sevilleja, CLSU president, thanked Licad for  her "special heart for provincial audiences" and for going on out-of-town trips "for purely artistic reasons" to share her talent with those unable to watch her in Metro Manila.

Licad's playing was interrupted several times by untimely applause, which she later said she did not mind as these came from the audience's hearts.

After a late night dinner at the mayor's house, Licad played two more pieces on an upright locally made piano for the cooks, drivers, security detail and members of Alvarez's support staff who were unable to attend the concert. ###

Onion growers complain of low prices

Nueva Ecija onion growers asked the government to intervene and protect their interest as the prices offered by traders for their produce continue to tumble.

Rolando Pangilinan, an onion grower in Barangay Tayabo, San Jose City, said that the low buying price is worse than the impact of El Niño.

It was learned that the buying price for the red creole variety is P8 per kilo and P4 for the yellow granex variety.

Pangilinan said that considering the high cost of seeds and inputs, the break-even price for red creole should have been P11 per kilo and P8 for yellow granex.

Rodolfo Niones, president of the Kalipunan ng mga Samahan ng Magsisibuyas sa Nueva Ecija (KASAMNE) said that the current dry weather favored onion farming and resulted in good harvests.

He said that traders lowered their buying price because they wanted farmers to sell immediately as the province lacks cold storage facilities.

The provincial agricultural office said that the 11,000 hectares of land planted to onion in Nueva Ecija have an average annual yield of more than 145 million metric tons.

Onion farms are found in Bongabon, Laur, Rizal, Gabaldon, Guimba, Cuyapo, Llanera, Pantabangan, San Isidro, San Leonardo, Sto. Domingo, Talavera, Gapan City, San Jose City and the Science City of Muñoz. 

Meanwhile, the Center for Strategic Initiatives (TCSFI), an advocacy group for a better Philippines, asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to intervene in addressing the problems of local onion buyers who are reeling from lack of buyers and a huge drop in prices due to imported and smuggled onions.

The group has verified that the Bureau of Plant Industry allowed the importation of only about 14,000 metric tons of onions, equivalent to the consumption for 45 days. However, because of illegal onion importation and smuggling, locally produced onions are shut out of storage facilities.

Former Rep. Renato V. Diaz, TCSFI chair, recommended to the President the cancellation of all unused permits to import onions.

He urged the President to form a task force that will determine if onions in cold storage facilities in the country are from legal sources. He also asked that the National Food Authority be directed to buy onions using a support price level to enable farmers to gain reasonable profits from their produce. ###

Ex-call center agent nabbed for illegal recruitment

Elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group arrested a former call center agent for alleged illegal recruitment of workers for overseas jobs.

The suspect was identified as Ma. Racquel Forehand alias Kelly Forehand, 34, of Kapitan Pepe Subdivision, Cabanatuan City.

Another former call center agent, Carlos Nolido of Barangay Kalikid, Cabanatuan City had complained that Forehand collected from him and ten other persons P18,000 each as application fees for jobs in the United States.

Nolido said that they applied with Forehand last January and initially paid her $500 each until they discovered that the suspect was facing illegal recruitment charges.

An entrapment operation was set up by CIDG that resulted in her arrest. ###

Motorcycle riding gunmen strike twice in Cabanatuan

Two shooting incidents in Cabanatuan City last March 15 have been attributed to two unidentified  gunmen riding a motorcycle in tandem.

The first incident happened at about 9:30 PM at General Tinio Street in Barangay General Luna when an unidentified male victim was shot four times with a caliber .45 pistol.

After two hours, the gunmen struck again, shooting Warlito Sta. Maria Gatchalian, 40, a butcher, of Purok 4, Barangay Imelda.

The victim was standing in front of his house when the suspects arrived on board a motorcycle without plate number and fired at him. ###

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