Posted by: jhelyn | June 3, 2010

Please visit my new blog site

Due to some circumstances, I had to transfer to a new blogging site. I promise to keep you updated with this new address:

http://palawanonline.blogspot.com/

Thank you!

Posted by: jhelyn | May 17, 2010

Mitra is new Palawan governor

Palawan second district representative Abraham Kahlil Mitra was already proclaimed governor-elect of the province despite having a pending disqualification case before the Supreme Court.

The Commission on Elections had earlier issued a resolution disqualifying Mitra as candidate for the gubernatorial race due to residency issues.

Four days after the historic May 10 automated polls, the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) proclaimed Mitra along with other elected provincial officials.

The PBOC had ruled to proceed with the proclamation, setting aside the motion of Mitra’s closest rival, Jose Pepito Alvarez, to postpone it and wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on the pending case.

Mitra got a total of 146, 847 votes from Palawan’s 23 municipalities while Alvarez had 131, 872.

Asked about his plans for the province since he would soon be seated as the new chief executive, Mitra answered: “For now, I just want to thank the Palaweños for supporting me all the way.”

Clara “Fems” Reyes, wife of incumbent governor Joel Reyes, was likewise proclaimed as elected vice-governor. She got 155, 932 votes while her rival Board Member Leoncio Ola got 107, 640.

Elected congressman for the first district was Antonio Alvarez with 85, 494 votes and Dennis Socrates for the second district with 93, 916 votes.

The new members of the Provincial Board would be Franz Josef Alvarez, Derrick Pablico, Gil Acosta, Winston Arzaga and Roseller Pineda for the first district, while Frederick Abueg, Marivic Roxas, Rolando Bonoan Jr., Sunny Batul and Ernesto Llacuna would sit for the second district.

Posted by: jhelyn | May 7, 2010

Comelec assures readiness

On May 5, all election paraphernalia should already be in different municipalities in Palawan in preparation for the May 10 elections, Provincial Election Supervisor Atty. Urbano Arlando said.

“PCOS machines and other election paraphernalia should be in the municipalities several days before the actual election to allow for the preparation,” Arlando said in an interview over radio station DYPR.

Aside from the PCOS machines, paraphernalia for the automated elections include the ballots, ballot boxes, ballot secrecy folder and spare PCOS machines, to name a few.

Since April 16, PCOS machines had been arriving in the province. The ballots, on the other hand, arrived last April 25 and are now with the offices of the city and municipal treasurers.

Arlando said that the Provincial Comelec made sure that all election materials were secured.

“There is no need to worry about the security of the ballots because the police and other civil security groups were keeping an eye on them,” he explained.

He added that as soon as all PCOS machines were distributed in all precincts, they would be simultaneously tested and sealed.

With regards to the results of the upcoming elections, Arlando said that they were expecting to know who won two days after the polls, May 17.

“On May 17, all results should be printed and documented then sent to the Comelec main office,” he stated.

Posted by: jhelyn | May 7, 2010

Province eyes release of calamity funds

Despite the Provincial Board’s approval of Gov. Joel Reyes’ request to declare Palawan under a state of calamity, the body has not yet adopted a resolution declaring such because of a pending report from the Provincial Disaster and Coordinating Council (PDCC).

The Board last week approved the request to declare a state of calamity due to the effects of El Niño, as well as the release of five percent of the province’s calamity fund as aid for the affected farmers.

“We’re still waiting for the PDCC’s report on the extent of damage caused by El Niño in different municipalities. The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist had already submitted their report,” Board Member Jim Gerald Pe said. Pe explained that although the Board had already approved the governor’s request, PDCC’s report would still be necessary.

“Although we see the damages done by El Niño, we still have to know the official cost of these damages. The report, of course, would have to be made by the PDCC and the provincial agriculture,” he said.

However, Pe claimed that a resolution declaring a state of calamity would be made as soon as they have the report.

The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist had listed 17 municipalities affected by the dry spell. These were Taytay, Roxas, Bataraza, El Nido, Narra, Culion, San Vicente, Rizal, Dumaran, Aborlan, Brooke’s Point, Coron, Araceli, Quezon, Busuanga, Española and Balabac.

The five percent calamity fund would be divided with these municipalities depending on the extent of damages.

Pe, on the other hand, said that some municipalities had already released their own calamity funds.

“The five percent would be used as support to the affected farmers,” Pe said.

Posted by: jhelyn | July 9, 2009

Youth group faces probe

Officers of Advocacy for Good Governance (A4GG) is expected to appear before the Provincial Board on July 14 to answer questions pertaining to the controversial launching of the organization which ended with thousands of Palaweño youth starving and sleeping outside the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum.

Board Member Jim Gerald Pe said in a privilege speech during the regular session of the board June 30 that they would look into the matter and invite the officers of A4GG so that they would know who should be responsible for what had happened.

“Our proposal was to invite the officers and organizers of the launching of A4GG for us to know who should be held accountable to the ordeal that happened to the Palaweño youth whom they invited ngunit kanilang ginutom at hindi binigyan ng matutulugan.,” Pe said in an interview with the Palawan Sun.

The board had long planned to invite A4GG since the controversy of the Department of Public Works and Highways second engineering district wherein the organization was pointed as the one behind the revelation of the issue.

A4GG’s accreditation in the Provincial Board was then questioned. However, the board did not invite A4GG to appear before them.

This will be the first time that the board would invite A4GG, according to Pe.

The organization, according to its chairman and national president Atty. Rogelio “Butch” Bagabuyo, aims to introduce reforms in the government especially on graft and corruption. It teaches the youth to be responsible citizens and good leaders in the future, he said.

Pe said that while they respect the group’s advocacy issue, “we cannot just let them do these things to our youth. The provincial board cannot just let it pass that’s why we need to invite the A4GG officers so that we could ask them and if ever, hold them responsible for what had happened to the participants who attended their launching.”

A4GG was accredited by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last February 2009 but was registered to have an address in Cebu.

Vice-Gov. David Ponce de Leon said that if problems arose, A4GG cannot be charged in Puerto Princesa or in Palawan because of its registered address.

The organization was also accredited for only three months which, according to the vice-governor, lacks the capability to offer scholarship.

Sandwich for dinner

Around 8,000 youths from all over the province attended the two-day launching of A4GG but complained of being starved and having had to sleep at the City Coliseum.

They were only given sandwiches at 11 in the evening of June 28, their supposed first meal for the day. Those who have money bought their own food for lunch and supper.

In a press conference June 29, Bagabuyo apologized for what had happened.

“I know I must apologize for my failings, for my shortcomings. Because I am the national president, I have to take full responsibility and I cannot be pointing fingers to any of my staff. It is simply my failure and for that, I hope people whom I have hurt unintentionally would also have the heart to forgive me,” Bagabuyo expressed, adding that he was “truly sorry” and “did not mean to hurt anybody.”

He also explained that A4GG only allotted P30 per youth for the two-day event but decided to order from a fast food restaurant to make up for the previous day.

Bagabuyo also clarified that he did not promise the youths to be accommodated in any hotel or inn.

“I have personally told all of them and all my coordinators that their accommodation would be in covered courts and in the sports complex,” Bagabuyo said. He added that he instructed his staff to tell the participants to bring their own mats, blankets, and towels.

On June 29, 21 youths were hospitalized after losing consciousness because of hunger and lack of sleep. A4GG, however, shouldered the expenses of those hospitalized.

Promised scholarship

Youths who attended the launching, mostly from municipalities, said that A4GG promised them a scholarship grant if they become members. Their parents, according to them, allowed them to go to Puerto Princesa because of this.

Bagabuyo, however, denied this, saying that he “never made a statement to that effect.”

“The scholarship will start in 2010-2011 . . . because in accordance with A4GG’s constitution and bylaws, one can only become a full-pledge member after finishing the basic leadership seminar workshop . . . and to make sure that you recruit ten others to become associate members,” he explained. He added that a 10-peso monthly due should also be paid.

‘A4GG is A4GG’

Since A4GG’s birth in Palawan, the organization was constantly linked to businessman Jose Pepito Alvarez or JCA, a confirmed candidate for 2010’s gubernatorial race.

A4GG, however, said that it is a different entity and that Alvarez is only a donor of the organization.

“A4GG is A4GG and JCA is a different personality. These are two different things,” Bagabuyo said.

“In our seminar-workshops, you will see in our certificates the logo of A4GG and the logo of JCA but only because JCA co-sponsors our seminars,” he explained, adding that this may be the reason why people think that A4GG is JCA.

The launching of A4GG, which was done on the birthday of Alvarez, June 29, was supposed to be his gift to Alvarez, Bagabuyo said.

“But I know that I have caused him pain and as a matter of fact, I already asked apology to him. I know that in what we did, nadadamay siya because most of the people don’t believe that A4GG is not JCA,” Bagabuyo told the local media.

Asked for a reaction, Alvarez said that the youths really need help.

“All of them should finish their studies and we will help them,” Alvarez stated.

Posted by: jhelyn | May 25, 2009

DPWH points to JCA support group

The group Advocacy for Good Governance (A4GG), an organization allegedly formed by allies of businessman Jose Pepito Alvarez, was pointed by the Second Engineering District as the one who prepared the evaluation report of Malampaya-funded projects in Southern Palawan.

Engr. Mario Soriano, OIC assistant district engineer of the Second Engineering District, said a certain Engr. Alconcel, allegedly an engineer from A4GG, made the evaluation report which came out simultaneously with Engr. Antonio Escala’s affidavit.

“Engr. Alconcel . . . from A4GG prepared the report, together with a certain Benjie Katon who went to our office,” Soriano related during the Provincial Board’s regular session May 19.

The evaluation report stated that “most of the accomplishments claimed in the Palawan Second Engineering District report . . . were not true.”

“A pattern was established by the personalities involved to take advantage of the remoteness of projects. There is a blatant attempt to mislead the public on the part of the contractor and the implementing agency,” the report added.

The report, signed by Federico B. Alconcel, accordingly a registered civil engineer, focused on infrastructure projects in the second district which the district claimed as complete.

“Engineers from A4GG conducted inspections and surveys. They also mentioned that they were going to look into other projects,” Soriano related.

Soriano said they told A4GG that they should have at least went to the Second Engineering District Office before conducting any survey.

“If they have visited our office, we could have sent our representative to accompany them so that their findings wouldn’t be one-sided,” Soriano told the Board, adding that that was the first time he heard of A4GG.

Some members of the Provincial Board, on the other hand, claimed that they know nothing about the organization. Board Member Gil Acosta, lately being linked to rumored gubernatorial candidate Alvarez, claimed that he had never heard of the group.

“I only learned now that there is another group, aside from your department (second engineering district), that is evaluating the project,” Acosta addressed Soriano during the Board’s questioning on Malampaya-funded projects anomalies.

Acosta said they only heard of A4GG from Soriano, adding that the Board is not yet looking on forthcoming meetings about the organization.

“There are no formal manifestation coming from the chairman of the committee (of the whole), but maybe the issue will crop up on the next session,” Acosta said.

Posted by: jhelyn | May 25, 2009

DPWH denies infra mess accusations

Palawan Second Engineering District on Tuesday, May 19, denied the allegations entailed in the construction of Malampaya-funded projects in Southern Palawan.

During the Provincial Board’s questioning, Engr. Mario Soriano of the Second Engineering District refuted statements accusing them of mismanagement in the southern infrastructure projects.

Soriano, chief of the construction section in the district, was mentioned by Engr. Antonio Escala in his affidavit as the one who pressured him to “exaggerate the accomplishment reports” and who was knowledgeable in all the anomalous practices in the second engineering district.

“I always visit the projects, and since I saw that the remaining activities of the contractor would be finished before the contract expires, we reported that as 100 percent complete,” Soriano explained, adding that they have to submit a progress report to the office every 22nd of the month.

He also mentioned that the report does not guarantee the contractor to be automatically paid, as claimed by Escala. Soriano said the contractor has to prepare certain requirements and will go through various processes such as quantity determination and validation of completed work before they can issue a billing.

Soriano said there were inspectors who assess the projects and monitor the performance of the contractors. Depending on the findings, the contractor has to comply with the corrections before they can be paid, Soriano claimed.

“The contractor cannot be paid in full unless they have completed the corrections,” he stated, adding that they only received the assessment report on May 11 and that it would take the contractor not more than two months in preparing the requirements.

Escala, in his affidavit, mentioned that Soriano reported the projects as complete “to help the contractors collect their progress billing in full even though (the projects were) not yet fully completed.”

Soriano related that the progress reports stating projects to be complete were signed by Escala as project engineer.

“The three remaining projects were not yet certified by Engr. Escala as completed. The other three, were already certified,” he said.

During the previous Board’s questioning where Escala was present, he said he did not sign any of the reports. Soriano, however, showed the Provincial Board documents stating projects as completed, signed by Escala.

Out of the six projects Escala mentioned in his affidavit, three were already completed and fully-paid last year. Soriano concluded that Escala might have mistaken the remaining three unfinished projects to be fully-paid already.

“The fact that the three projects have not been fully-paid may have substantiated Engr. Escala’s allegations that we exaggerated the accomplishment report to help the contractor collect (payments),” Soriano explained.

Material testing

Escala also claimed in his affidavit that the materials used in all six P20-million projects in Quezon did not undergo material and quality testing.

Engr. Dominador Alonzabe, chief of materials quality control system of the second engineering district, denied Escala’s allegation. The Department of Public Works and Highways, according to him, has a policy that all materials incorporated in infrastructure projects shall be tested.

“We don’t have a project engineer who allows contractors to use untested materials,” Alonzabe said. “In fact, the project engineer justifies that all materials used in the projects were tested in accordance with the certification,” he continued.

Alonzabe showed the Provincial Board a certificate of quality control assurance signed by Escala and a certain Engr. Uy as the project material inspector.

The certification stated that “the materials used conformed with the requirements of the projects.”

Alonzabe went on explaining that as the project engineer, Escala certifies all the projects under him.

“If he was saying that we falsified the (material) test, that would mean he did not sign the certificate of quality control assurance,” Alonzabe stated.

“Face-off”

The Provincial Board set another question and answer hour between the parties involved.

“We invited for a special session to concentrate on this issue. Engr. Soriano and Engr. Escala might come,” Board Member Gil Acosta said, adding that a “face-off” might reveal more issues concerning the projects funded by the province’s share from the Malampaya gas operations.

Board Member Joselito Cadlaon, in an interview, said that the Board wanted to know the truth.

“If Engr. Escala has a concrete evidence to support his allegations, this issue should not be discussed here in the Provincial Board. This should be brought directly to the Ombudsman,” Cadlaon stated.

A special session, scheduled on May 27, would focus on the affidavit of Engr. Escala and the explanation of the Second Engineering District. The Board would also probe on another set of sworn statements issued by three contractors also concerning Malampaya-funded projects.

Posted by: jhelyn | May 25, 2009

DPWH denies infra mess accusations

Palawan Second Engineering District on Tuesday, May 19, denied the allegations entailed in the construction of Malampaya-funded projects in Southern Palawan.

During the Provincial Board’s questioning, Engr. Mario Soriano of the Second Engineering District refuted statements accusing them of mismanagement in the southern infrastructure projects.

Soriano, chief of the construction section in the district, was mentioned by Engr. Antonio Escala in his affidavit as the one who pressured him to “exaggerate the accomplishment reports” and who was knowledgeable in all the anomalous practices in the second engineering district.

“I always visit the projects, and since I saw that the remaining activities of the contractor would be finished before the contract expires, we reported that as 100 percent complete,” Soriano explained, adding that they have to submit a progress report to the office every 22nd of the month.

He also mentioned that the report does not guarantee the contractor to be automatically paid, as claimed by Escala. Soriano said the contractor has to prepare certain requirements and will go through various processes such as quantity determination and validation of completed work before they can issue a billing.

Soriano said there were inspectors who assess the projects and monitor the performance of the contractors. Depending on the findings, the contractor has to comply with the corrections before they can be paid, Soriano claimed.

“The contractor cannot be paid in full unless they have completed the corrections,” he stated, adding that they only received the assessment report on May 11 and that it would take the contractor not more than two months in preparing the requirements.

Escala, in his affidavit, mentioned that Soriano reported the projects as complete “to help the contractors collect their progress billing in full even though (the projects were) not yet fully completed.”

Soriano related that the progress reports stating projects to be complete were signed by Escala as project engineer.

“The three remaining projects were not yet certified by Engr. Escala as completed. The other three, were already certified,” he said.

During the previous Board’s questioning where Escala was present, he said he did not sign any of the reports. Soriano, however, showed the Provincial Board documents stating projects as completed, signed by Escala.

Out of the six projects Escala mentioned in his affidavit, three were already completed and fully-paid last year. Soriano concluded that Escala might have mistaken the remaining three unfinished projects to be fully-paid already.

“The fact that the three projects have not been fully-paid may have substantiated Engr. Escala’s allegations that we exaggerated the accomplishment report to help the contractor collect (payments),” Soriano explained.

Material testing

Escala also claimed in his affidavit that the materials used in all six P20-million projects in Quezon did not undergo material and quality testing.

Engr. Dominador Alonzabe, chief of materials quality control system of the second engineering district, denied Escala’s allegation. The Department of Public Works and Highways, according to him, has a policy that all materials incorporated in infrastructure projects shall be tested.

“We don’t have a project engineer who allows contractors to use untested materials,” Alonzabe said. “In fact, the project engineer justifies that all materials used in the projects were tested in accordance with the certification,” he continued.

Alonzabe showed the Provincial Board a certificate of quality control assurance signed by Escala and a certain Engr. Uy as the project material inspector.

The certification stated that “the materials used conformed with the requirements of the projects.”

Alonzabe went on explaining that as the project engineer, Escala certifies all the projects under him.

“If he was saying that we falsified the (material) test, that would mean he did not sign the certificate of quality control assurance,” Alonzabe stated.

“Face-off”

The Provincial Board set another question and answer hour between the parties involved.

“We invited for a special session to concentrate on this issue. Engr. Soriano and Engr. Escala might come,” Board Member Gil Acosta said, adding that a “face-off” might reveal more issues concerning the projects funded by the province’s share from the Malampaya gas operations.

Board Member Joselito Cadlaon, in an interview, said that the Board wanted to know the truth.

“If Engr. Escala has a concrete evidence to support his allegations, this issue should not be discussed here in the Provincial Board. This should be brought directly to the Ombudsman,” Cadlaon stated.

A special session, scheduled on May 27, would focus on the affidavit of Engr. Escala and the explanation of the Second Engineering District. The Board would also probe on another set of sworn statements issued by three contractors also concerning Malampaya-funded projects.

Posted by: jhelyn | May 11, 2009

Board backs Reyes move on hospital row

By Jhelyn G. Andal

The Provincial Board last week passed a resolution supporting Governor Joel T. Reyes’ move to place the Southern Palawan Provincial Hospital (SPPH) in a two-month “hospital holiday.”

During its 87th regular session, May 5, the Board, after conducting two sets of questioning regarding the controversies going on in the hospital, finally arrived with a decision to temporarily close the medical facility in Brooke’s Point.

“The resolution we adopted was to effect a rationalization program for the SPPH. This means there will be a revamp of all the (hospital) employees . . .And as an incident of this, is what we call a hospital holiday for two months,” Vice-Gov. David Ponce de Leon explained.

He added that they used the term “hospital holiday” since it was what the Department of Health accepts so that there would be no need for the hospital to acquire a new license once it reopen.

The Board also expressed hope that the Provincial Health Office (PHO) would be able to take necessary measures while the resolution has not yet been signed by the governor and the date of the closure still uncertain. The PHO should be immediately ready for any unlikely situation, the Board said.

A reverse situation might occur, Ponce de Leon said in an interview. Hospital employees might also declare their own holiday.

“Under the civil service code, this could constitute for abandonment, and there are legal actions for that. What’s important is that the PHO is able to immediately effect contingency measures,” the vice-governor furthered.

In case the employees stop working, someone should be put as head in the hospital to facilitate the operations and attend to the needs of the patients, he stated.

The idea to temporarily close the SPPH rooted from personal conflicts between hospital employees. An interim committee was conducted to settle the situation but failed.

“Our efforts to establish a good working relationship between the employees did not materialize,” Dr. Eduardo Cruz, acting provincial health officer and head of the interim committee, said. The only solution left was the reorganization of personnel, he added.

All positions in the hospital would be declared vacant until the PHO has found new employees to fill these positions. The interim committee said that they have already contacted personnel from other district hospitals in the province to be assigned in Brooke’s Point.

Current SPPH employees, on the other hand, would meet with the interim committee for their preferred assignments.

Hospital personnel present during the Board’s questioning assured that they would accept the decision. But prior to the approval of the resolution, 83 out of 98 employees, both permanent and contractual, appealed to reconsider the motion for the hospital closure.

They clarified that most of the employees were not involved in the conflicts going on at SPPH. Patients were not also neglected, they said.

Dr. Cruz also confirmed that they have not received any formal complaint from patients. However, he said that they do not want to wait for such before acting on the problem.

A doctor at SPPH said internal conflicts in the hospital had long been there. She related that every time a new hospital head assumes office, personnel and employees often file a petition against the new head, creating differences between the staff.

Posted by: jhelyn | May 7, 2009

Province mulls hospital closure

The Provincial Government is considering the temporary closure of the Southern Palawan Provincial Hospital (SPPH) in Brooke’s Point because of the public health service being “compromised” due to personal misunderstandings between hospital personnel.

In his letter addressed to the Provincial Board, Gov. Joel Reyes proposed the “enactment of an ordinance declaring the temporary closure of SPPH” for two months.

“The present organizational set up of hospital personnel . . . has been deeply polarized which has compromised public health service. Inevitably, the welfare of patients seeking the services of our government hospital may also be put at risk,” Reyes stated in his letter.

During the Provincial Board’s 86th regular session April 28, the interim committee, which was formed to deal with the issues going on at SPPH, explained that there was no more harmonious relationship between the staff. They furthered that various measures were taken to settle the differences between the hospital employees but the individuals involved were uncooperative.

“Our mission to provide public service through medical service . . . is no longer being addressed because of the internal dispute in the hospital,” Atty. Elena Rodriguez, member of the interim committee, said.

Questions on management, leadership and even moral values of employees also arose, she related, adding that the situation had came to a point that when a patient dies, the management would say that it was sabotaged by an employee.

The hospital staff seemed to be divided into two groups; one for Dr. Mary Ann Navarro, SPPH’s current hospital chief, and the other for Dr. Dane De Leon, previous head of the hospital.

“They (hospital employees) have become so callous that there is a need to disintegrate the present set-up and detail them to other district hospitals where they can better serve the public,” Reyes explained in his letter.

He added that “there is a need for temporary closure pending recruitment and hiring of new employees to be assigned at SPPH.”

Although the governor and an interim committee had recommended for the hospital’s temporary closure, the Provincial Board, on the other hand, was still hoping to find alternative solutions on the matter other then closure.

“It’s not easy to disregard the letter of the governor. But the Board, with all due respect to the committee, will be the final arbiter of this,” Vice-Gov. David Ponce de Leon said.

He added that they “need to have a strong basis on the decision we will make.”

According to Board Member Ernesto Llacuna, “two months is quite long considering the status of the hospital.”“I hope we will be able to find measures to lessen the impact of the closure. Municipal mayors are also against the idea (of closure),” he said.

The Provincial Board has not yet made a decision on the matter. Another question and answer hour on the issue would be conducted next week during the 87th regular session of the Board, according to Ponce de Leon.

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