No. 232 /  December 16-31, 2009
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A tragic ending to 2009
2 die in Muñoz firecracker stall blast

Videocaps courtesy of ABS-CBN TV Patrol

Two person died when about 25 stalls selling firecrackers in front of the city hall of the Science City of Muñoz caught fire after an accidental explosion at about 5:10 PM last December 31.

Sr. Supt. Ricardo Marquez, Nueva Ecija police director, identified the fatalities as Diosdado Santos, 50, and Angelito Nuque, 50, both of Barangay Poblacion West.

Santos, a polio victim, died of suffocation. Nuque died at the Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center in Cabanauan City while undergoing treatment for third-degree burns.

Nine other persons were injured in the blast which also damaged several vehicles parked nearby.

Marquez said that the .explosion happened at stall No. 21 along Tobias St. It was preceded by a whistling sound.

Supt. Fernando Galang, city police chief, said that a team from the Provincial Special Reaction Team was inspecting the area when incident happened.

One report said that a lighted cigarette was thrown near the firecracker stalls which might have set off the firecrackers. Another report said that a boy lit a firecracker near a stall.

It took 15 minutes before firefighters from Muñoz, San Jose City and Talavera could put out the blaze. ###

Ecija girl recorded as first X'mas/New Year gunshot casualty

A 10 year old girl from Nueva Ecija sustained a gunshot wound in the right side while playing in their backyard at 12:33 PM last December 22.

Hers was the first case recorded by the Department of Health (DOH) in its monitoring of firecracker and firearm related injuries during the Christmas and New Year celebration.

The victim was treated at the Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center in Cabanatuan City.

The health department could not say if the stray bullet that hit the girl was fired as part of merry-making.

The DOH said that nine other persons, half of them children below 10 years old, have been injured so far by firecrackers. The cases were reported by 50 sentinel hospitals nationwide as of December 23.  Among the injured were a one year old baby boy and a six year old boy. ###

Ecija PNP gets 6,000 volunteers to help maintain peace

The Nueva Ecija police has recruited 6,000 community based volunteers to help maintain peace and order in the province.

Sr. Supt. Ricardo Marquez, provincial police director, said that the volunteers compose the barangay peacekeeping action teams (BPAT) to help the police in preventing crimes, maintaining peace and order and gathering intelligence.

He said that the volunteers have been trained in the resolution of conflicts at the barangay level and in crisis management specifically during calamities and disasters.

“They will not be allowed to carry firearms. They will be closely supervised and their activities monitored,” Marquez said, allaying fears that the volunteers could become private armies or beholden to civilian officials or politicians as what had happened in Maguindanao.

During the mass oath taking of the BPAT members at the Nueva Ecija Sports Complex in Palayan City last December 17,  Gov. Aurelio Umali said that the project would boost the campaign to improve the peace and order situation in the province

The mobilization of the volunteers came in the wake of pronouncements by officials identifying Nueva Ecija as an area of concern in the May 2010 elections. ###

Marquez favors early voting in 7 hot spots

The Nueva Ecija police chief favors the holding of advanced voting in two cities and five towns classified as hot spots to ensure peaceful elections in those areas.

Sr. Supt. Ricardo Marquez, provincial police director, said he favors the holding of early voting in the election watch list areas or EWAS where peace and order are a problem because of intense political rivalries and past cases of election violence.

He identified those areas as Bongabon, Guimba, Quezon, San Antonio, Jaen, Gapan City and the Science City of Muñoz.

Bongabon was included in the watch list because of recent incidents of grenade throwing.

In Gapan, violence was recorded when a brother of outgoing Mayor Ernesto L. Natividad reportedly choked an election officer whom he accused of being biased in favor of Vice Mayor Christian Tinio who is running for mayor against Natividad's wife, Juanita.

In Jaen, there is intense rivalry between re-electionist 4th Dist. Rep. Rodolfo Antonino and former Jaen Mayor Antonio Prospero Esquivel. In April 2007, a shoot-out resulted in the death of four persons and the wounding of 17 others, including two sons of Esquivel.

Marquez clarified that there are only seven EWAS in the province and not 21 as earlier reported.  He said that the other areas were included in the initial report based on situations there in the 2004 and 2007 elections, but these may no longer hold true in 2010.

He mentioned the case of Lupao where the newly elected mayor, Alfredo Vendivil, and vice mayor, his cousin Virgilio Vendivil, were shot dead in a cockpit arena in San Jose City in June 2007.  He said that the political atmosphere in Lupao has changed since then. ###

Umali, Joson gird for battle royale

Governor Aurelio M. Umali and Vice Gov. Edward Thomas F. Joson are preparing for the big battle for political supremacy between the two most prominent political clans in Nueva Ecija.

Umali, official standard bearer of the administration party Lakas-Kampi-CMD, will try to lead to victory local candidates running under his newly formed Unang Sigaw, Partido ng Pagbabago party.

Joson, on the other hand, is spearheading the fight of the Josons under their own Bagong Lakas ng Nueva Ecija (BALANE) party.

The two young candidates - Umali is 43, Joson 33 --  have been battling each other for the past three years and have filed a total of 10 suits and counter suits for graft and corruption against each other at the Sandiganbayan.

Umali has repeatedly accused Joson of leading the oppositon-dominated Sangguniang Panglalawigan in sabotaging his administration by preventing the passage of ordinances for the development of Nueva Ecija. He said that in the past two years, several items in his proposed budgets had been slashed by Joson and his allies in the provincial board.

Joson, for his part, defended his actions by saying that these were meant to protect the interest of the province. He said that Umali's funding requests had legal infirmities.  He also claimed that Umali had prevented the chiefs of offices at the Capitol from submitting official reports to the provincial board.

In 2010, four other Josons aside from the vice governor are running for various posts.

Eduardo Joson IV is running for the Third District congressional seat while his sister-in-law, former First Dist. Rep. Josefina Manuel-Joson will try to reclaim her former position. Her husband, Mariano Cristino Joson will run for mayor in Quezon while Rey Joson, son of Rep. Eduardo Nonato Joson, is running for board member in the Third District.

Eduardo Nonato and former Gov. Tomas Joson III are not running but vowed to help their party in achieving victory in 2010.

Over at the Umali camp,  Third Dist. Rep. Czarina Umali, the governor's wife, is running for reelection, while Emmanuel Antonio Umali, the governor's brother, is seeking a seat in the provincial board. ###

Padiernos expects to win over Padilla

Businessman Gay [pronounced "Jay"] Padiernos from Gapan City, running mate of Gov. Aurelio Umali in the  2010 elections, said that he expects to win over his opponent, Sr. Board Member Rommel Padilla, despite the latter's popularity.

"This is not about popularity. This is about competence and the ability to make a difference in the lives of majority of Novo Ecijanos,” Padiernos said.

He stressed that he is determined to win over Padilla based on competence and platform.

“I am offering my services to the electorate because I firmly believe I can deliver the basic services Novo Ecijanos need, of course in partnership with my good friend, Gov. Umali, minus the in-fighting in the Sangguniang Panglalawigan,” Padiernos said.

He explained that the provincial government under the leadership of Umali can best achieve its goal by having an ally presiding over the Sangguniang Panglalawigan. 

“How can our beloved Nueva Ecija move forward if the governor and the vice governor are like a house divided against itself?” he asked, alluding to the frequent deadlocks between Umali and the opposition dominated Sanggunian led by Vice Gov. Edward Thomas Joson.

Padiernos added that while he is counting on the machinery of Umali, he also has his own grassroots organization and need not be totally dependent on the governor. ###

Midnight Mass in Gapan City
December 24, 2009



Fajardo steps down as Malacañang deputy spokesperson

Former Palayan City Mayor and Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo has resigned from her Malacañang post to focus on her other job as presidential assistant for Central Luzon.

Fajardo said that she made the move after she was first offered the position of full time undersecretary under the Office of the Press Secretary in place of fellow deputy spokesperson Anthony Golez who resigned in November to run for congressmen in Bacolod City.

Fajardo's critics, though, said that she was sacked after she said that President Arroyo would remain friends with the Ampatuans of Maguindanao three days after the November 23 massacre of 57 persons which is being blamed on the clan. She has not been seen by the media in Malacañang briefings since then.

Fajardo denied that she was fired for her statement.

"The administration constantly addresses various challenges and situations differently, some of which call for a strategic realignment of priorities and resources…I welcome the opportunity to dedicate my undivided energy to the demands of this post. I will continue to serve at the President’s behest, in whatever capacity that most satisfies her needs," she said.

Gary Olivar, deputy presidential spokesperson, denied knowing that Fajardo was fired because of her statement regarding the Ampatuans.

Olivar said that what he knows is that Fajardo, a member of a political family in Nueva Ecija, chose to focus on her governance work in her province.

Before joining the Arroyo administration, Fajardo served as mayor of Palayan City from 2001 to 2004, and national treasurer of the League of City Mayors of the Philippines.  She also served as chief of staff of her father, former Third Dist. Rep. Pacifico Fajardo, from 1995 to 2001. ###

El Niño threatens Ecija, 46 other provinces

The prevailing El Niño  episode  which is expected to last until early next year is threatening 47 provinces, including Nueva Ecija.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) identified the areas highly vulnerable to dry spell caused by El Niño as Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Cavite, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga City, Sarangani and South Cotabato.

Areas considered as moderately vulnerable are Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt Province, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Romblon, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Bohol, Samar, Zamboanga Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga Sur, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Davao Sur and Davao City.

The agriculture department said that total crop losses from the weather anomaly could reach P56.4 billion.

Usec. Bernie Fondevilla said that the major sectors vulnerable to El Niño are palay and corn farming. Also affected are livestock raising and fisheries.

He said that palay production losses could reach 2.36 million metric tons valued at P40 billion, covering 620,000 hectares.

Fondevilla said that the government's El Niño mitigation program will focus on irrigation, which involves applying different irrigation technologies and cloud seeding operations; and production support through farm inputs. ###

Woman shot dead in X'mas Eve drinking session

A 25 year old single woman was shot five times while having a drinking session on Christmas Eve at Purok 1, Barangay Tabuating, San Leonardo.

The victim was identified as Mylene Acosta Catacutan, a resident of the same place.

It was learned that the victim was drinking with a certain Melvin Garcia Carpio, 27, when the armed suspect approached and repeatedly shot her. The suspect immediately escaped aboard a motorcycle.

The victim was rushed to Nueva Ecija Doctors Hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

The San Leonardo police are looking at love triangle as the motive for the shooting. ###


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