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Don’t punish pedestrians for Diversion Road tragedy

“If a neighbor is killed in a car accident, do you sell your car and stop driving?”
–Mario Andretti

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

WE join the Department of Education (DepEd) community in Iloilo City in mourning the macabre deaths of couple Joe Marie Osano and his wife Alnie Dinah, who were hit by a speeding white Mazda MX5 sports car driven by 32-year-old balikbayan, June Paul Valencia, while crossing the pedestrian lane along Diversion Road in Mandurriao district at around six o’clock in the morning on June 15.
Freak accidents like what happened in the Diversion Road normally happen if:
-the driver is under the influence of alcohol or illegal substance;
-there is zero visibility caused by a bad weather;
-the car is overspeeding and tries to beat the red light;
-the speeding car loses its brake;
-the speeding car’s driver is inexperienced;
-the pedestrians, in this case the victims, commit a jaywaking or run across the highway without noticing an onrushing wayward vehicle;
-both the pedestrians and speeding vehicle are caught in an awkward circumstance and get waylaid by an emergency firetruck, patrol car, or ambulance.

-o0o- 

Based on eyewitness accounts and initial police investigations, the bloody mishap occurred after Valenica’s car overtook a pick-up truck driven by Allan Calunsod.
Osano, 45, principal of La Paz II Elementary School, was dragged by the killer car several meters from the pedestrian lane, while Dinah, 36, a teacher at Ticud (La Paz) Elementary School, was flown away.
They both suffered serious body and head injuries and were declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
Valencia, who surrendered after the mishap, was able to post a bail of P60,000 for his temporary freedom.
Police charged him with reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property and double homicide.

-o0o-

Grief and sorrows almost became endless in the educational and sports institutions where the couple belonged.
Social media were immediately flooded with stories that chronicled the kind of life they lived and how they were hailed by their co-workers, students, and their community.
Truly, based on how their colleagues and loved ones lament their “untimely” loss, they have left a vacuum no one among their ilk can fill in immediately.
They were “too young to die,” their co-teachers sobbed.
“They were active sports enthusiasts and role models in physical education,” bemoaned city officials led by Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa and congresswoman-elect Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda, who had a chance to work with the couple in various community-based projects.
The shocking accident prompted city officials to call for reforms in the traffic system and to hack out “long-term solutions” and safety measures in order to avert a similar mishap in the future.

-o0o-

Among those being proposed by incoming mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas in a recent meeting with officials of the city’s Public Safety and Transportation and Management Office (PSTMO) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Iloilo City District Engineering Office, were: closing of the U-turn where the mishap happened; and putting up of grills from the area where the accident occurred up to SM City Iloilo to prevent pedestrians from crossing the avenue.
They are also eyeing the placing of rumble strips a few meters before and after pedestrian lanes.
Also, all traffic aides will be asked to do the following: guide joggers at the Iloilo Esplanade; report for work at five o’clock in the morning instead of the current eight o’clock in the morning; assist all pedestrian lanes on the avenue.
City Hall is also calling for strict enforcement of the 60 kph speed limit; violators will be arrested and penalized; and jaywalkers will be apprehended and fined.
We only hope that all these “reforms”, reinforcement and revitalization of old traffic ordinances and guidelines won’t end up as a ningas cogon and forgotten after several months.
The pedestrians, on the other hand, must not be punished as a result of one bloody mishap no one had wanted to happen.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

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Posted by on June 19, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Gloria giving Ilonggos false hopes on airport ‘expansion’

“Everything is possible, from angels to demons to economists and politicians.”

–Paulo Coelho

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

WHEN politicians like Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo talk, we should always remember not believe everything hook, line, and sinker.
Look what they did to the proposed Iloilo-Guimars-Negros bridge.
They allowed politicians to announce it in public and created a stir by “confirming” that the bridge’s construction would start in 2018.
We are now in the second quarter of 2019 and the last time we heard about the multi-billion project was “its feasibility study is ongoing.”
Going back to the proposed Iloilo Airport expansion as announced two weeks ago by Speaker Arroyo, who was in Iloilo for the blessing and inauguration of a new hotel.
If you listen to the former president, the Iloilo Airport expansion project, which would cost about P700 million, will start soon.
What and when is soon?
2019? 2020?
Or after the expiration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term in 2022?

-o0o-

Politicians, in order to score pogi points, always conveniently hide in the comfort of the word “soon” in order to be safe just in case there will be delays, or whatever circumstance that might befall the projects they were trying to advertise ahead.
Mrs. Arroyo said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has already secured a signature from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to proceed with the needed expansion of the Iloilo International Airport, which opened its doors to commercial traffic on June 14, 2007 after a decade of planning and construction.
“With the signing of the CAAP Board Resolution granting the Original Proponent Status to the unsolicited proponent for the expansion of the Iloilo airport, the CAAP may now proceed subject the proposal to a Swiss Challenge,” she declared in an interview with Iloilo reporters.
“It is one step closer to bringing comfort, safety and convenience to one of the busiest airports in the country. Again my congratulations to CAAP.”

-o0o-

Okay. Securing a signature from the DILG could be a “crucial step” for the proposal to be forwarded to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), but if the project is not yet in NEDA’s radar and does not have funds as certified by the Department of Budget, and no concurrence from the Department of Transportation, it can never commence “soon.”
It will be another hopes against hope until delayed and eventually forgotten.
Mrs. Arroyo added: “The Iloilo Airport was built during my time as President in 2007 with a capacity of 1.2 million passengers a year. Now it is operating for 2.4 million passengers. Indeed an expansion is much needed.”
Arroyo made sure her name wouldn’t be forgotten when she disclosed she had conducted an oversight hearing at the Lower House on the Iloilo airport to determine the status of its expansion projects.
Her efforts reportedly “paved the way for the fast-tracking of the signing of the board resolution to start the process of approving its expansion.”
Pave the way, the magic sentence.
Nice, Madame Speaker.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

A short-lived election victory

“In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

–Tom Bodett

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

WHEN come-backing Janiuay, Iloilo mayor Frankie Locsin decided to run again in the recent May elections, he probably had no idea his appeal in his February 2015 Sandiganbayan conviction for graft would be denied by the Supreme Court.
Thus he suffered hypertension when National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents arrested him on June 3, 2019 and was rushed to the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Mandurriao district in Iloilo City.
No one from among Locsin’s family and political team had expected the arrest to happen three weeks after he won back the mayoral post in the midterm elections.
Locsin, who had been semi-retired from politics, probably was prompted to run again when he had an inkling the Supreme Court wouldn’t give him a favorable verdict; or, he must’ve thought it was the best “remedy” for the time being.
Sadly, even his becoming mayor again didn’t save him from the higher court’s guillotine.

-o0o-

In a graft case that stemmed from medicine purchases of the local government of Janiuay using P15 million from Sen. Vicente Sotto’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) way back in 2001, Locsin and five others were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic.
A supplier whose accreditation had been suspended by the Department of Health (DOH) and wasn’t supposed to be qualified in the bidding, cornered the multi-million medical supply contract.
The Sandiganbayan First Division also convicted Locsin’s co-accused Accountant Carlos Moreno Jr., Budget Officer Ramon Tirador, Treasurer Luzviminda Figueroa, Ricardo Minurtio, and businessman Rodrigo Villanueva.
They were sentenced to a jail term of from six to 10 years and perpetual disqualification from public office.
The Sandiganbayan had ordered arresting officers to bring Locsin to the anti-graft court based in Quezon City “as soon as possible, to be dealt with as the law and Rules of Court direct.”

-o0o-

There were three participants – AM Europharma Corp., Mallix Drug Center and Philpharmawealth Corp.–when a bidding was held on January 15, 2001.
Philpharmawealth, however, denied participating in such a bidding.
The Office of the Ombudsman, which investigated the transaction, noticed the apparent haste in the process when the P1.7-million purchase contract was awarded to Mallix Drug Center.
AM Europharma was awarded with a P13.1-million contract approved by Locsin. The medicines were immediately delivered the next day, Jan. 16, 2001.
Supply Officer II Gabriel Billena inspected the purchases which were fully paid on January 17, 2001.
The Ombudsman raised the red flag on the deal’s propriety after fing out that the heads of the AM Europharma Corp. and Mallix Drug Center were one and the same – Rod D. Villanueva.
Ombudsman noted that Villanueva was the sole proprietor of Mallix Drug Center and also the general manager and president of AM-Europharma.
“The Court finds…conspiracy between accused public officials (and) members of the municipal Committee on Awards of Janiuay…as shown by their respective signatures in the Minutes of Meetings which awarded the subject procurement of medicines in favor of AM Europharma and Mallix Drug which gave undue advantage to accused Rodrigo Villanueva, owner and proprietor of said companies,” part of the anti-graft court’s decision read.
The 34-page Sandiganbayan decision dated Feb. 23, 2015 was penned by Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada and concurred by First Division Chairman Efren dela Cruz and Associate Justice Rafael Lagos.
The Sandiganbayan stated that “there was unanimity of purpose and intent on the part of said accused officials to consummate the said procurement in favor of accused Rodrigo Villanueva as shown by the undue haste that attended the delivery of the medicines and the speed with which the payments for the said medicines were made…and even without the latter or his companies posting the required 10 percent performance bond, knowing fully well that there was a failed bidding because of AM Europharma’s DOH suspended supplier’s accreditation, that the government was not able to secure the lowest possible price for the said bidders…”
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Ilonggos don’t love the underdogs?

“I like being the underdog so they don’t expect what’s going to happen. It pushes me to work harder and do the things I’m not doing better.”

–Kawhi Leonard

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

NEW YORK CITY — THERE are probably more Ilonggos living in Oakland, California than in Toronto, Ontario, thus the Golden State Warriors apparently have more fans among the Ilonggo populace in both the United States and Canada compared to the Toronto Raptors.
We are supposed to be “lovers of the underdogs”, but we’ve noticed the Ilonggos are more agog over the Warriors, the defending champions, even if the Western Conference kings have already won the NBA Finals for several times in a row and the Raptors, the Eastern Conference heroes, are chasing history and currently the darling of the basketball world.
Even in the social media, the Warriors are very much hailed and cheered especially when they averted annihilation in Game 5 on June 10 with a nerve-tingling 106-105 win.
Many Filipinos fans rooting for both teams from the US and Canada are workers in the health industry–nurses, caregivers, doctors, physical therapists–or Filipino-Americans and Filipino-Canadians who have been following the NBA games with passion and style for several years now. How exciting to read their debates and fierce discussions in the social media and in other communication platforms.
Basketball old-timers in Western Visayas, as a whole, also appear to be Warriors fans, including some politicians, local sports analysts, ordinary folks, and anchormen in leading radio stations chronicling the exciting best-of-seven finals.
May the best team win in Game 6 or Game 7, if necessary.

-o0o-

The original “Ilonggo Bikoy” was reportedly spotted again in Iloilo City weeks after his politician boss lost in the mayoral elections in Metro Manila.
The “Ilonggo Bikoy” is a well-connected mystery man. He has spilled the beans on so many high-profile personalities involved in illegal drugs.
Many of these high-profile personalities linked by this original “Ilonggo Bikoy” in illegal drugs are now either have been buried six feet below the ground, or have left Western Visayas and are now hiding in Metro Manila and Mindanao.
He is a friend of a balikbayan who recently lost in a local election in Iloilo City.
He is an admirer of former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada, who recently hogged headlines after being arrested for cyberlibel filed by Iloilo Governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr.
The “Ilonggo Bikoy” is being suspected as one of those who spread the canard that former Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog was involved in illegal drugs.
Former Western Visayas narcotics chief Genodepa of Guimbal, Iloilo knows this “Ilonggo Bikoy” very well.
I know him, too–also very well.

-o0o-

According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, one of the causes of Ernest Hemingway’s “deepest depression” was due to “Writer’s Block” which could happen to any writer.
When asked to write a speech for the inaugural of President JFK, Hemingway, America’s all-time best Nobel Prize in Literature winner, suffered a “Writer’s Block” and could not start a sentence.
Several days later, he shot himself to death with a shotgun!

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)
 
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Posted by on June 13, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Not yet time

“I just try to play every game like it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals.” 

–Kawhi Leonard

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

THERE are two big events outside the country that can make us all forget our worries temporarily: the fights of Senator Manny Pacquiao and the NBA Finals.
Miss Universe comes next–only if we feel that our candidate has a strong chance of bagging the crown.
During the Toronto Raptors’ failed bid to capture its first NBA crown on Monday (June 10) in Toronto with a hairline defeat to the Golden State Warriors, 105-106, we were all again glued to our TV screens.
We forgot the traffic woes, dengue fever, water crisis, peso-US dollar exchange rate, post-election controversies, same-sex marriage and abortion debates, rebel returnees, anti-drug raids, etcetera.

-o0o-

After the Warriors closed the best-of-seven series gap at 3-2, we’re back to reality. It’s not yet time.
If the Raptors can finish the job in Game 6, no one can tell. If the Warriors can extend their agony and capitulate in Game 7, it will be anybody’s guess. If the Warriors can retain the crown, it remains to be seen. For the meantime, life must go on for Filipino fans.
Whether it is Warriors or Raptors, the result will have no direct economic or political impact in our life as a basketball-crazy country.
But the NBA Finals, like when we watch Pacquaio dismantle his Mexican and American opponents in the ring, have the capacity to make us all happy and united.

-o0o-

We should not feel bad that New York City accommodated the 62nd Puerto Rico National Day Parade on Fifth Avenue on June 10, 2019 but continued to “separate” the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade in the Madison Avenue.
We should be happy that, at least, we are allowed to use one of Manhattan’s most popular and historic avenues for our Independence Day parade consistently for several years now.
Not all countries affiliated with the United Nations (UN) are given the golden opportunity to showcase their cultural and religious wealth and potentials before an American audience on an American land.
We are not the only country assigned in the spacious Madison Avenue. The Greek Independence Day Parade in March, the Persian Parade in April, and the India Parade in August, among other cultural and national parades, also saunter in the Madison Avenue which is only a block away from the more preferred and most favorite Fifth Avenue.
Assigned for their parades on Fifth Avenue are: Celebrate Israel Parade in May, St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March, German-American Steuben Parade in September, Columbus Day Parade in October, and Korean Day Parade in October.


-o0o-

I’ve noticed that media practitioners in Iloilo were divided on their opinion about the recent arrest of former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada for five counts of cyber libel filed by Iloilo Governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr.
Not all of Mejorada’s colleagues came out in the open to defend him or lash at the manner of his arrest. Some of them probably expressed their “concerns” through text and private messages.
But there were some of Mejorada’s former media colleagues who hailed his arrest and congratulated the arresting police team led by Major Jonathan Pinuela.
In the social media, meanwhile, netizens mostly sympathetic to Mejorada’s adversaries like Senator Franklin Drilon and Defensor, ripped apart Mejorada like he was a despicable person.
After securing a temporary freedom from the court, Mejorada refused to lick his wounds in silence. He used his social media accounts to lambast all those responsible for what happened to him on Friday (June 7).
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Don’t discriminate the fat

“People will make mean comments. People are going to say that you’re fat, that you’re this, that you’re that. You just have to be comfortable in your own skin.”

— Ashley Benson

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

NO one who is overweight or fat should be discriminated, ridiculed, and treated shabbily in whatever circumstance.
But there are jeepney and taxi drivers in the Philippines who refuse to take passengers that “occupy two seats” per body because of their “over” weight or “big” size.
We have actually existing laws against discrimination and our friends in this subject matter should be equally covered and protected by these laws.
The old expression “Laugh and grow fat” leads many to believe that fat people are always happy.
One reason for this saying may be that the extra fatty tissue under their skin makes their frowns and worry lines less noticeable.

HAPPY

But psychologists claim that overweight people are usually far from happy.

So let us not add to their “burden” by being truculent toward their “extra baggage.”
Experts are saying that sometimes the glands or chemical make-up of the body need medical attention.
Or, excess weight may be due to upset emotions caused by a lack of love, a feeling of not being wanted, or some frustration.
Another popular (or unpopular?) saying is, “Fat people are lazy.”
But we know now that laziness affects fat and thin alike.
A fleshy person appears lazy because his movements are slowed up by the weight he carries.

CURED

Hundreds of seemingly lazy people, both thin and fat, have been cured when fitted with the proper eye-glasses, it was learned.
Others have gained energy after they have had medical care like someone I know who frequently plays chess in New York City’ Elmhurst Park.
A third fallacy in regard to fat people is that there are more fat boys than girls.

Statistics, however, show the number is about equal.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)
 
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Posted by on June 9, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Libel doesn’t scare us; it’s being nabbed on a Friday

“If you call your opponent a politician, it’s grounds for libel.”

–Mark Russell

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

I HAVE been charged with libel and ordered arrested in the past, but, luckily, I wasn’t home when the arresting officers came to “fetch” me.
Since libel is a criminal case in the Philippines, it’s a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the cops to put a cuff on the accused while he is being brought behind bars.
Thank God I missed the metal bracelets in all the warrants of arrest issued for the 38 counts of libel filed by the plaintiff, “The People of the Philippines,” against me, our late formerSun.Star Iloilo Daily publisher, Marcos “Mark” Villalon, and columnist Wenceslao “Mat” Mateo way back in 1999, or 20 years ago.
If my memory serves me right, when I learned that the first warrant of arrest had been issued by the RTC Branch 25 on a Friday, my sore eyes infection was starting to develop, thus I decided to quitely spend a night at Bahay Kubo, a rented hut in Calumpang, Molo, Iloilo City.
A police mugshot of yours truly would have yielded two awful but “beautiful red eyes.”
We beat to the draw all the impending warrants of arrest by immediately posting a bail after being tipped off by the Good Samaritans inside the Hall of Justice.

-o0o-

What happened to former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada last Friday (June 7) evening should serve as a warning to all those charged with a criminal case: avoid being arrested on a Friday.
If an accused is arrested end of the regular week after office hours, he has no more chance to post a bail in court for his temporary freedom.
He will have to spend at least three nights and two days in jail while waiting for Monday during office hours.
In 1993, veteran Panay News columnists Herbert Vego and the late Teddy Sumaray chose to spend overnight “as a matter of principle” inside the Iloilo City Police Office detention cell rather than posting a bail of P10,000 each for the libel case filed by the late lawyer Fraulin Penasales. Friends and the late PN publisher Danny Fajardo helped “avert” another harrowing night in the calaboose for the two bespectacled senior editors.
In libel cases, the showdown vis-a-vis the prosecution panel during the actual trial of the case doesn’t scare us practicing journalists; it even excites us, modesty aside, like nominees in the Oscar Awards.
We believe that libel–the crime of destroying a person’s reputation by publicity–is hard to prove under the Philippine laws because it requires the presence of all four elements: malice, publication, defamation, and identification.
What’s unsettling if we get caught by arresting police on Friday is the prospect of being harassed and bullied, and having to sleep beside the hardened criminals and notorious fiends inside a crowded detention cell.
Mejorada, for his part, had high blood pressure during the arrest thus he was brought to the St. Paul’s Hospital instead of being detained in the police station.

-o0o-

Had Mejorada known Police Major Jonathan Pinuela of the Provincial Special Operations Group (PSOG) and his team were on their way to serve the warrant of arrest against him in his residence at Parc Regency Subdivision in Brgy. Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo at 6:20 in the evening, he would have probably spent overnight in another place to avoid being cornered.
The warrant of arrest was for the five counts of violation of Republic Act 10175 or Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 issued by Judge Victorino Maniba Jr. Of the RTC branch 39 dated June 4, 2019.
The trial court ordered the arrest after Prosecutor II Ma. Nazelle A. Biliran-Infante found probable cause in the complaint filed by Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr.
If Mejorada was able to elude the arresting team that Friday evening, the police would be compelled to come back on Monday and turn him over to the court that issued the warrant of arrest if they got lucky to get him.
I am not privy to the cases Governor Defensor filed against Mejorada.

-o0o-

I have covered the governor in the past–when he nearly became senator in 1987 landing 26th with 7,865,702 votes or 99,000 votes shy of 24th placer Juan Ponce Enrile’s 7,964,966 votes; when he first became governor in 1992 defeating Perla Zulueta overwhelmingly; and when he nipped fellow former Assemblyman Niel Tupas Sr. by more or less 10,000 votes in the 1998 gubernatorial elections.
This is the first time I heard he filed a case against a member of the press; in this case against a former editor who became active in helping some candidates in the recent and past elections.
I must admit Governor Defensor is one of the only few public officials in the province I personally admire (along with the late Governor Tupas, former Vice Governor Roberto “Obet” Armada, board member Demy Sonza, and the late former board member Vicente “Bugoy” Molejona) even when he was assemblyman in the 1984 Batasang Pambansa.
He reads both the national and local papers, including the opinion page. If he sensed a certain inaccuracy in the opinion article, he would personally call an opinion writer to correct it.
As a journalist, my heart, at the same time, goes out to Mejorada, a former editor like me in the defunct Sun.Star Iloilo Daily and former president of the Iloilo Press and Radio Club (IPRC) in 1990, where I had the privilege to also serve as director.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2019 in Uncategorized