Volume14 / No. 8                                                                                                               April 30, 2014
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Nueva Ecija Journal is published in
Gapan City, Nueva Ecija,Philippines
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All Ecijanos to vote in Cabanatuan HUC plebiscite

The Supreme Court, in a full-court resolution, granted the petition filed by Gov.Aurelio Umali to stop two Commission on Elections resolutions setting the date for the plebiscite for the highly urbanized city status of Cabanatuan with only registered voters of the city participating.

The High Court, voting 9-5-1, declared as null and void Comelec Minute Resolution No. 12-0797 dated September 11, 2012 and Minute Resolution No. 12-0925 dated October 16, 2012.

"Additionally, COMELEC is ordered to conduct a plebiscite for the purpose of converting Cabanatuan City into a Highly Urbanized City to be participated in by the qualified registered voters of Nueva Ecija within 120 days from the finality of this Decision,"  the high court said.

Umali, in his petition for certiorari, said since the entire province would be affected by Cabanatuan's conversion into an HUC, all the residents of the province should be allowed to join the plebiscite and not just Cabanatueños.

The decision was written by Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr, with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Martin Villarama, Jose Mendoza, and Bienvenido Reyes dissenting. Leonen wrote a dissenting opinion.

If converted, Cabanatuan will be the third HUC in Central Luzon after Angeles and Olongapo. ###

Roxas visits Ecija, bares P258-M anti-poverty projects

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas drove around Nueva Ecija last April 25 to meet with farmers, market vendors and local government officials to inform them of the government's plan to distribute P258 million worth of anti-poverty projects.

Roxas said his department has intensified its fund releases to help the province recover after being badly hit by Typhoon Santi. He emphasized the province's significant contribution to the country's food security efforts.

Sa kabila ng pagiging matatag ng Nueva Ecija para agad na makabangon mula sa pagkakalugmok matapos ang bagyong Santi, hindi maitatanggi na kailangang kailangan nito ang tulong para agad na makabawi ang taong bayan mula sa trahedya,” Roxas said.

Seventeen local government units are due to receive a total of P247,531,478.50 for various projects through the Grassroots Participatory Budget Process (GPBP) broken down into: Aliaga, P15 million; Bongabon, P14,840,187.50; Carrangalan, P13,032,500; Cuyapo, P15 million; Gabaldon, P14,407,500; Gen. Natividad, P15 million; Guimba, P19 million; Laur, P15 million; Licab, P14,250,000; Llanera, P15 million; Lupao, P15 million; Pantabangan, P13,362,041; Quezon, P13,870,000; Science City of Muñoz, P14.4 million; Sto. Domingo, P12.75 million; Talugtug, P14.4 million; and Zaragoza, P13,179,250.

Governor Aurelio Umali, in jest, said he enjoyed having Roxas as driver as they visited various government projects.

Umali said that during the trip, Roxas never talked about politics and instead discussed issues regarding the plight of farmers and how the national government will address their problems. ###

Ecija governorship: a battle of wives?

The wives of Governor Aurelio Umali and Cabanatuan City Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara are reportedly seeking the governorship in 2016.

This will be the first time that two women will contest the election for governor of the province.

Vergara said his wife Ria would run for governor if chosen to be the standard bearer, and would face three-term Rep. Czarina Umali, wife of the outgoing governor who plans to run as congressman in her district.

“If they choose Ria to be the standard bearer for governor, then I cannot do anything about it,” Vergara told reporters during the awarding of firearms to 118 new soldiers at Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation.

The Vergaras and the Umalis were former allies but  became estranged over the issue of highly urbanized city status for Cabanatuan which the governor vehemently opposes.

Vergara has since reunited with his former political rival, the Josons. ###

Pomp and pageantry of the Divina Pastora Canonical Coronation Golden Jubilee

Top Church and government officials converged in Gapan City last April 26 for two historic events -- the Golden Anniversary of the Canonical Coronation of La Virgen Divina Pastora and the 28th Anniversary of the Declaration of the National Shrine of La Virgen Divina Pastora.

Five bishops led by Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud led the Concelebrated Mass, with Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas delivering the homily.

Governor Aurelio Umali and his wife, 3rd Dist. Rep. Czarina Umali, Vice Gov.  Jose Gay Padiernos and Gapan City Mayor Maricel Natividad-Nagano led the offerors.

This year's Divina Pastora Fiesta hermano and hermana were retired Maj. Gen. Rufino Pabustan and Dr. Janettte de Leon-Padiernos, wife of the vice governor.

The event also featured a helicopter fly-by, a grand procession of patron saints of Gapan City barangays and sitios punctuated by contingents of street dancers and brass bands, and a fireworks display. ###

Photos by Ramon R. Valmonte

For more info, photos and videos of the event, go to http://facebook.com/divinapastorajubilee.

7 Ecijanos in Etihad flight undergo test for MERS-CoV
Seven Novo Ecijanos who were passengers of Etihad Airlines flight EY 0424, the flight taken by a male Filipino nurse who earlier tested positive for the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV), had been tested for the disease.

They were among 51 passengers from Central Luzon -- seven from Bataan, 19 from Bulacan, 11 from Pampanga , four from Tarlac  and 3 from Zambales. Eighteen of them were found negative for the disease, with three others yet to be traced or have not reported to Jose B. Lingad Regional Memorial Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga which has reserved an isolation room for MERS-CoV patients.

Dr.Rhodora Cruz, medical specialist, said two patients agreed to be confined for observation while the rest chose home confinement.

At Clark International Airport, authorities imposed strict monitoring of incoming passengers to prevent the spread of the deadly disease in the country. ###

Pantabangan Dam water level drops

The water level in Pantabangan Dam has dropped to 181.44 meters as of April 28 due to the summer heat.

Engineer Josephine Salazar, manager of National Irrigation Administration-Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems that operates the dam, said this year's water level is lower than the 187.05 meters recorded during the same period last year.

She attributed this to climate change and the high temperature, among others.

Salazar said the agency has  programmed for irrigation 114,026 hectares of farms, higher by 2,772 hectares than last year.

“The dam can manage all irrigated areas until the end of May and farmers are advised to maximize the use of water from the dam,” she said. 

She reported tht the water levels of Masiway, Rizal and Aulo dams have also dipped. ###

Ecijano graduates summa cum laude from UP

Alexander John Cruz of Talavera was among 19 summa cum laude graduates of the University of the Philippines-Diliman during the commencement ceremony last April 27.

Cruz, 21,  was the only one from the B.S. Chemical Engineering program to receive such an award, with his average grade of 1.16.

“I did not expect to be a summa cum laude when I was in my first year, but after the 2nd semester, I told to myself aba, kaya ko naman pala. From then on, it has been my goal to graduate with university's top honors. Not just to prove myself but also to show to the world that poverty is not a hindrance in succeeding in life,” Cruz said.

Cruz was the valedictorian of his class at Honorato C. Perez Senior Memorial Science High School in Cabanatuan City.

Raised by a single mother, he had decided to pursue his college education in the province due to financial constraints but was granted a scholarship by the Department of Science and Technology two weeks before his high school graduation.

To make ends meet at UP, he would eat rice with free soup or topped with menudo sauce at the university's cooperative canteen. He borrowed books from the library instead of photocopying reading materials.To add to his allowance, Cruz took part-time tutorial jobs for high school students in Ateneo in such subjects as Math, Chemistry and Physics. He also did research work for some professors in the College of Engineering and later became a student assistant at the Institute of Civil Engineering.

Cruz intends to work for an energy-related company after graduation to help his family and save money so he could pursue graduate studies abroad to enhance his knowledge and then return to the country to be a scientist here. He said he has no plan to settle or work abroad.

“I want to return to the academe and give back to our country by being a teacher and an inspiration to the youth,” Cruz said. ###

Palayan baseball star recruited by Japanese team

A 22-year-old baseball player from Palayan City made history by passing rigid tryouts to earn a slot in a semi-professional baseball league in Japan.

Alfredo Olivares, Jr. of Barangay Malate became the first Filipino baseball player to be recruited by a farm team in Japan.He will leave on May 9 to join the Shinano Grandserows Baseball Club, founded in 2006 and based in Nagano Prefecture.

“We are very happy for Fredo. We join him in his pursuit of the great Japanese dream. Surely, his having been selected to join the Shinano squad is something not only we in Palayan can be proud of as it also brought pride and honor to Nueva Ecija and our country as well,” said Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas. She and her husband Bong are Olivares’ most avid fans and sports patrons.

Olivares is the youngest of five children of Alfredo, Sr., a 62 year old farmer, and Zenaida, a 61 year old vendor.  He is considered the most important player in the Palayan City and Nueva Ecija baseball squads.He also plays catcher in the Philippine baseball team.

Alfredo first tried out for the Palayan City baseball team when he was a high school sophomore. He trained for one year at the Palayan City High School. He began to be  noticed when the city's baseball team won the championship twice in the provincial meet.

In 2007, he played for Nueva Ecija in the Central Luzon Regional Athletic Association meet and steered it to the championship. The province also became regional meet champion the following year.

After high school Olivares took up Business Adminisrtration at National University where he was recruited to the varsity squad. It was during his stint at the University Athletic Association of the Philippines that he was noticed and asked to join an open try out for the national team. Out of over 100 who tried out, 20 made it, including Olivares who landed in the second team.

He  was invited to the  Shinano tryout by Kunifuri Itakura and trained from March 30 to April 13. Together with him were three other prospects -- Romeo Jazmin, a fellow Novo Ecijano; Vladimir Equia of Bulacan; and Lorenzo Ubungin, a Fil-Am from San Francisco, California, all 25 years old.

He was told that he passed the try-outs on the last day of training. ###

Ashes of slain baby sitter found

The Cabiao police believe that the ashes they have found were that of a woman from Negros who worked as a babysitter for a Novo Ecijano couple in London, and whose body was reportedly burned after she was beheaded.

The ashes were discovered behind the house of the brother of the employer of Maribel Alpas, 31, of Barangay Asia, Hinobaan.

Police said the victim was instructed by her employer, a native of Santa Rosa but based in the United Kingdom, to get some documents in Cabiao so she could bring these when she returned to London.

The suspect, said to be the brother of the victim's female employer, fetched her when she went to Nueva Ecija from Negros.

The victim's male employer is reportedly under investigation and was not allowed to report to the hospital where he is working.

The victim's female employer could also be investigated as the mastermind after the police received reports that she was jealous of the baby sitter because of the alleged "special attention" that the latter was receiving from her husband. ###

San Leonardo ex-councilor, nephew nabbed for drugs

A former Sangguniang Bayan member of San Leonardo and his nephew were arrested in a buy-bust operation operation last April 19.

Sr. Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, provincial police director, identified the suspects as Manuelito Siwa, 58, former president of the Liga ng mga Barangay and ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Bayan, and Darwin de Guzman, 19, both of Barangay Nieves.

The two to were detained in the municipal jail with no bail recommended.

Chief Insp. Renato Morales, town police chief, said found on the two when arrested in Barangay San Anton were 18 sachets of shabu worth P56,000.

A civilian informant had tipped the police about Siwa's involvement in the trade of illegal drugs.

The two were charged at the Provincial Prosecutor's Office with violations of  the Dangerous Drugs Law. ###

Pastor shot dead

A pastor of the sect Iglesyang Itinayo ni Jesucristo was shot and killed by two motorcycle-riding gunmen in Barangay San Ricardo, Talavera last April 29.

Supt. Nelson Aganon, spokesperson of the Region 3 Police Office, said the victim, Jaime Calma Ramos, 58, married, of Barangay San Ricardo, died from multiple gunshot wounds in the body while being treated at Cabanatuan City General Hospital.

Insp. Lauro Ador Dionisio, Talavera police chief, said the victim went out of his house to turn off the streetlight when the masked suspects appeared and repeatedly shot him at close range.

The suspects then fled towards Barangay Pinagpaanan.

Investigators recovered from scene five caliber .45 shells.

Ramos was an electronics engineer who  ventured into carabao-raising on a semi-commercial scale. He owned over 70 dairy carabaos and was considered one of the most successful dairy carabao raisers in the country.

He was chair for several years of the Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperatives with 56 members. ###

Cuyapo businessman killed

A businessman in Cuyapo was shot and killed inside his restaurant at past noon last April 26.

The victim was identified as Arsenio Flores, 59.

Investigation showed the three suspects pretended to be customers. When the victim was about to get their orders, one of the men pulled out a caliber .45 pistol and shot him several times.

The suspects fled using on board a motorcycle. ###

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