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Santa Claus’ timely visit to City Hall

“No sane local official who has hung up an empty stocking over the municipal fireplace, is going to shoot Santa Claus just before a hard Christmas.”

–Al Smith

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

SANTA Claus came to Iloilo City Hall just in time.
The check worth P134,927,522.63 personally delivered by Panay Electric Company (PECO) Public Engagement and Government Affairs office boss Marcelo Cacho to Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and City Treasurer Jinny Hermano for its real property tax arrears on December 9 can be best described as “Merry Christmas payment.”
The gargantuan amount was timely as it could help cover up so many expenses to be incurred by the city government in the Yuletide season, including the Christmas bonuses of employees, among other year-end financial obligations.
If Santa Claus did not come to the City Hall on time, Santa Claus and his family would have lost some multi-million pesos worth of properties the city government had been preparing to auction off.
It was but a right move in the right circumstance at the right time.

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As a quid pro quo, the auction had been called off and everyone was happy, to say the least.
The decision to settle PECO’s “long-overdue” (it reportedly accumulated since the past two administrations) real property tax arrears certainly wasn’t made overnight.
The Cacho family and Mayor Treñas, a long-time family friend and once-upon-a-time PECO’s legal counsel, probably had a “heart-to-heart” talk prior to Santa Claus’ dramatic show up in the City Hall on Monday.
Thus I don’t see any point why City Hall will continue to sustain its animosity with the controversial power firm now that the tax arrears have been settled.
Mayor Treñas, however, has to be fair to both the MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) and the PECO, and will never interfere in the ongoing legal battle between the two firms.
If Ilonggos know how to read between the lines and the city mayor’s body language, they can’t make any absolute conclusion yet that the city mayor is hell-bent to abscond from its past relationship with the PECO.

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ASIDE from the cash windfall Ilonggo athletes who won gold, silver, and bronze medals in the recent 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) hosted by the Philippines will get from the national government, the city and provincial government of Iloilo should also chip in and set aside special funds for these sports heroes in time for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
We suggest that a gold medalist be given P200,000; P100,000 for a silver medalist; and P50,000 for a bronze medalist.
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will reportedly give P600,000 for a gold medalist; P400,000 for a silver medalist; and P200,000 for a bronze medalist.
The athletes have sacrificed so much to give our country honor, thus it is but proper that the national and local governments acknowledge their efforts and heroic performances by showering them with financial incentives.
(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 December 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

PECO’s ‘humility’; my advice to Bacolod aldermen

“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”

–Saint Augustine

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

THE humility shown by the Panay Electric Company (PECO) when it settled its real property tax arrears amounting to more than P134 million with the Iloilo City government on December 9, has eclipsed all the negative stories appended to the power firm’s name by its detractors these past months.
It also stunned PECO’s enemies who have been composing its obituary these past 11 months.
No less than PECO Public Engagement and Government Affairs office boss Marcelo Cacho personally delivered a check for P134,927,522.63 to the City Hall received by Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and City Treasurer Jinny Hermano.
Cacho’s classic move beat to the draw the threat of the city government to auction the multi-million worth of PECO properties included in the tax arrears.
The payment covered the value of PECO properties covered by two tax assessments.

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PECO showed to all and sundry it’s not yet a dead horse or a Zeppelin Hindenburg that is about to burst into flames contrary to what its critics have been portraying PECO.
No giant company under threat of extinction can hammer out such brilliant move just when everyone thought it was ready to be nailed in the coffin.
How can the City Hall now adopt an indifferent attitude toward a productive and “responsible” tax payer?
City Hall can’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
It would be estoppel if the city government will cease to transact business with PECO now that it has wiped out all its outstanding tax liabilities.
PECO’s latest action can certainly help boost its case against MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power), which has been granted a franchise to operate as power distributor in Iloilo City when PECO’s 24-year franchise expired in January 2019.

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The Bacolod City Council will look and sound ridiculous if it goes on with its threat to declare Manil-based broadcaster Ben Tulfo as “persona non grata” or an unacceptable or unwelcome person.
The city aldermen’s beef against Tulfo came from the broadcaster’s criticism and “embarrassing” attack against Bacolod City Mayor Bing Leonardia “and (for) putting the city of Bacolod in a bad light in his YouTube program without first verifying the claims of a certain Norma.”
“Norma” supposedly sought Tulfo’s help alleging she was not paid for a basketball tournament she organized in Bacolod City last October during the Masskara Festival.
Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran and city councilors sympathetic to Leonardia claimed the Masskara Festival had nothing to do with “Norma’s” basketball event.
They vouched for the city mayor who claimed innocence on the issue and who himself begrudged Tulfo’s tirades.
What will the Bacolod City Council or the Bacolod City government in general get if Tulfo has been declared as persona non grata? Nothing except a waste of time and a waste of tax payers’ money.
Tulfo is “only” a broadcast journalist and will remain as such even if all the city councils in the Philippines will declare him as persona non grata. He has no supernatural power; he isn’t the court and doesn’t have any legal personality.
His job is to bark at inept and corrupt public officials and men in uniform and make them angry. When they are mad, that’s when the likes of Tulfo become successful.
Making people in government and military men blow their top is mission accomplished for crusading journalists.

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The persona non grata tag won’t stop Tulfo from his role as watchdog and “fiscalizer” of the government’s three branches: executive, legislative, judiciary.
Tulfo, or any journalist for that matter, doesn’t fear such threat from any legislative branch of the government. It will even embolden Tulfo to further scrutinize and lambast corrupt and inept public officials.
My advice to the Bacolod City Council is this: Belie Tulfo’s accusations and unmask Norma in the same platform: public forum or the bar of public opinion; and call a press conference and/or issue a press statement airing Leonardia’s side.
The people aren’t stupid not to distinguish who’s telling the truth.

That’s how democracy works.
(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 December 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

City Hall blackout

“In life, you can blame a lot of people and you can wallow in self-pity, or you can pick yourself up and say, ‘Listen, I have to be responsible for myself.'”

–Howard Schultz

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

ILONGGOS waited on tenterhooks whether City Hall would pin the blame of the blackout to the Panay Electric Company (PECO) noontime on Thursday (November 28) that rendered all services inutile in the seven-storey building.
‘Tis the season for PECO bashing, thus even if the Christmas lights in a barangay hall will conk out, many critics will immediately cast a malicious look at the controversial power company.
The power outage, by the way, prompted Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas to call it a night for City Hall workers starting at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Operations in the city government rested two hours before five o’clock in the afternoon,
In his Facebook page, the city mayor announced: “To all the employees, grab this opportunity to rest and be prepared for tomorrow. We have decided to dismiss you for today’s duty because you can’t work efficiently without electric access for your computers and air conditions.”
It was the first major power interruption since Treñas regained the City Hall after the May 2019 elections.
And it jolted the city government.

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So far, PECO “wasn’t the culprit” since there was no announcement or official explanation that followed when employees started to pack up and went home.
PECO’s enemies are only waiting to see the power firm slip on the banana peel so it can pulverize PECO in another propaganda joust.
The blackout would have been nipped in the bud if the standby generators were in good condition.
The new City Hall, a state-of-art building, was only fully utilized during the time of former Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, but has been giving officials and employees nightmares.
If the blackout was caused by PECO, two things would have entered the people’s imagination: either it was done to send a curt message to City Hall, which chided PECO for the obstructing poles and spaghetti wires in the streets and gave the power company until December 31 to remove them, or to remind City Hall of its purported unpaid bills.

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INSTEAD of blaming the media for the 30th SEA Games hosting catastrophe, the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, should be thankful that many of PHISGOC’s shortcomings and apparent mismanagement have been reported so that they will be able to identify the areas where they need to work double time and fast track other minor delays before the official opening ceremony on November 30, 2019.
With or without the media, the alleged anomalies and mismanagement will not be swept under the rug.
Sooner or later, there will be questions; and from these questions will surface the itch from interested parties to call for an inquiry or investigation.
Again, this is how democracy works. We can curtail the press; we can’t hide things that demand public accountability especially how the taxpayers’ funds were handled and spent.
Media did not create the scandal. Media is there only to report what is going on and bring the event to the people.
(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 November 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Iloilo teacher loses job without Tulfo

“If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”

–Confucius

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

HE didn’t wait for a Raffy Tulfo to make him to choose between facing a criminal rap or resign as teacher.
The controversial teacher in Pili National High School in Ajuy, Iloilo, who reportedly showed a porno video to his Grade 10 students in a Science class, has resigned, Iloilo Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Roel F. Bermejo confirmed in a report on Nov. 27.
When confronted earlier by Ajuy councilor Angel Briones, the teacher reportedly panicked and did not immediately face the Sanggunigan Bayan (SB) member, who went to the school to check the report after he had been tipped off by some parents.
Did the teacher fear a backlash and disciplinary action from school authorities, or he was intimidated by Briones’ involvement in the brouhaha?
It wasn’t immediately known whether he resigned for fear of being investigated by the Department of Education (DepEd-6), or someone from the school, municipal government, or DepEd forced him to give up his job.
He remained anonymous though and might no longer face any case for violation of Child Protection, or any law that protects the welfare of children.

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The Ilonggo teacher’s resignation came in the heels of a controversy involving Manila-based anchorman Raffy Tulfo and a female teacher.
She was forced to give up her profession after being threatened with a criminal case by the hard-hitting broadcaster, whose help was sought by the guardians of a high school student.
Tulfo discussed the complaint of a grandmother during a TV episode of his program about a teacher who “mistreated” her grandson after the student allegedly failed to submit his report card.
A video footage shows the 55-year-old female teacher sending the student out of the classroom to sit on a chair at the corridor.
The broadcaster gave the teacher two choices: resign from her job face criminal charges.
When the teacher decided to resign, the case became a national sensation and caused an uproar. Thousands of fellow teachers threw their support behind the female teacher in a petition and denounced Tulfo.
The netizens also reacted adversely against Tulfo, who was forced to defend his action saying he only got carried by his emotion as a human being.

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AS I had warned earlier, the dirty department might retaliate against Senate minority floor leader Franklin Drilon after his series of expose on corruption and incompetence involving the minions of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Amid Drilon’s tiff against organizers of the 30th Southeast Asian Games led by Philippines Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHILCOG) chief and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, a partlist representative sympathetic to Cayetano, et al, blasted the Iloilo senator in a privilege speech for allegedly cutting P2.5 million from the SEA Games budget allocated for the country’s hosting, and increasing the budget of Drilon’s infrastructure projects in Iloilo with P2.5 million.
Drilon described the partylist solon who attacked him as a “blabbermouth” and belied all the accuser’s allegations.
So far, Drilon can handle the apparent retaliatory move from the druggles and grutnols who don’t want to be interrupted while they are making a pile at the taxpayers’ expense, and committing monumental blunders due to dishonesty and incompetence.
Ilonggos should brace for more attacks against their vigilant son and brother, Senator Drilon.
(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 November 28, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Obey City Hall

“In city hall and in local government, you have to get things done without drama.” 

— Jim Gray

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

WITH barely seven weeks to go before the Dinagyang Festival 2020 will unravel in Iloilo City, City Hall executive assistant for power Randy Pastolero is hard-pressed to help clear spaghetti wires and poles that obstruct major streets where the festival parade route will pass.
Obstructing poles and spaghetti wires are perhaps some of the worst elevated eye sores in the history of Iloilo City.
Pastolero was reportedly scheduled to take to task the Iloilo Utilities Group (IUG) composed of Panay Electric Company (PECO), telecommunication, and cable companies on November 26 to prioritize the removal of poles in the City Proper and La Paz even as Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas has given the PECO only until the end of the year 2019 to remove them all.
The time table given by the city mayor apparently was to ensure that everything will be in order and normal and Iloilo City’s beauty won’t be disfigured by the wires’ ugly sight when the week-long annual religious and cultural festival unwraps in January 2020.

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PECO and the telcos have been at loggerheads; they have been pointing an accusing finger at each other for the 254 and other poles identified by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in the city streets.
Treñas won’t take sides.
All he wants is to fix the problem, to cut and cut clean.
Pastolero’s job is to coax both parties and agree to show that they belong and are willing to listen, cooperate and help; and that they should be part of the solution, not the problem.
Instead of prolonging the blame game, PECO and the telcos will have to drop their guns and stop sharpening their knives; they will have to listen to the siren of cooperation.
With dispatch and alacrity, they should obey City Hall and start hitting the ground running.
If they are able to remove the obstructions together sans mudslinging, people will credit them for cooperating with the City Hall and for “showing concern” for the welfare and safety of the public.

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THERE’S nothing wrong if the press will criticize Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for the mess in the ongoing 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) being hosted by the Philippines while the Games are in progress.
Cayetano’s admirers and defenders decry that it’s not good to wash our dirty linens in public while visitors, athletes, officials and other participants from other Southeast Asian nations are still here.
The visitors don’t and won’t give a damn how the host media make their reports.
This is how democracy works in the country. We don’t curtail the press because the host country’s top organizing official is the one being lambasted.
As chairman of the Philippines Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHILCOG), Cayetano, who loves to wear many hats, is accountable for all the lackluster preparations, including the alleged shenanigans in the construction of sports facilities.


(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 November 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Boy Mejorada’s SC conviction

“In a democracy, you need to have a strong judicial system. You need freedom of speech, you need art, and you need a free press.”

–Tzipi Livni

By Alex P. Vidal

60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_nNO journalist in his right mind would be happy to learn that a colleague has been convicted “with finality” by the Supreme Court for libel even if in many cases we disagreed with the convicted colleague’s views.
Thus while enemies of Manuel “Boy” Mejorada were rejoicing over reports that “the Supreme Court has affirmed with finality his conviction and imprisonment for libel” filed by Senator Franklin Drilon, we felt sad.
From the point of view of crusading community journalists, we consider Mejorada’s defeat in the SC as a defeat for freedom of the press and expression.
Regardless of who was involved in the case or cases decided by the Supreme Court that would result in Mejorada’s trip to the calaboose, we always believed that jailing a journalist in a democratic state is wrong.
His having participated in the litigation where he was given the opportunity to clear his name from any criminal culpability, wasn’t enough to justify a punishment behind bars especially since the Philippines adheres to the freedom of the press and expression, one of the basic rights under the constitution the Filipinos hold dear.

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Mejorada has offended a lot of people, mostly politicians, cops, and bad elements in the society he tore apart in his newspaper columns, blog, social media and Youtube accounts, among other media platforms.
But he has also befriended a lot of political, business, and even military heavyweights, including some national figures; he has managed to maintain a good relationship with some media colleagues despite his bitter tiffs with former Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and former Iloilo governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr., both darlings of the press.
While many of those he offended hate him, many people who understand his role in our society sympathize with him.
Whatever is the genesis of Mejorada’s troubles with those who sued him for libel, a criminal offense in the Philippines, we must remember that his mission, as well as the mission of all journalists, has been to keep the public informed and aware of what is happening in the government.
Despite mounting challenges we journalists meet everyday, we must continue to keep the public informed; we must continue to be always antagonistic and aggressive and not kowtow to any administration, no matter what party they’re part of.
We need to uphold the freedom of the press and expression and support all crusading journalists.

An independent press is one of the essential pillars of any democracy all over the world.
(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 November 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Mushrooms and my Caucasian customer

“Addiction is a tough illness, and recovery from it is a hard but noble path. Men and women who walk that path deserve our support, encouragement, and admiration.”

–Sheldon Whitehouse

By Alex P. VIDAL60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

I remember while serving in a restaurant for several weeks in Brgy. Manok-Manok in Boracay Island in the mid-80s, two regular Caucasian customers would always request me to put mushrooms in their dishes.
One of them, a Danish musician, confessed to me that in Europe where he lived, he would always eat Lion’s mane mushrooms.
He was “addicted” to it, he admitted.
It is known as the bearded tooth, hedgehog or pom pom mushroom, the distinctive Hericium erinaceus that can be found growing on hardwood trees in late summer and fall.
Its distinctive shape, which resembles the mane of a male lion or a pom pom, is unlike any other mushroom. Its taste is reportedly unique and often compared to seafood.
I remembered this Caucasian customer after reading the story written by Jennifer P. Rendon on November 19, 2019 about the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-6 regional office saying it has yet to receive reports of wild mushrooms being used by youngsters who want to get “high” sans risking arrest.

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The Department of Education (DepEd), according to Rendon’s report, “recently raised alarm on reports that some high schools used wild mushrooms or psychedelic mushrooms because of its hallucinogenic properties.”
There were also reports claiming that some students were hospitalized after consuming wild mushrooms, the report said.
The report also added that PDEA-6 regional director Alex Tablate admitted their office has yet to release a confirmed scientific study on the narcotic effects of wild mushrooms.
Meanwhile, two of the deadliest mushrooms in the world are the “destroying angels” and “death caps”, according to the Mother Nature Network (MNN).
Mushrooms in the genera Amanita are among the deadliest in the world, added the MNN. Here are some ways to recognize two of these.
Death caps is a highly toxic mushroom (Amanita phalloides) blamed for the most mushroom poisonings in the world. While native to Europe, death caps reportedly occur on the U.S. East and West Coasts.
Death caps have a 6-inch-wide cap, often sticky to the touch, that can be yellowish, brownish, whitish or greenish in color. The cap has white gills and grows on a stalk about 5 inches tall with a white cup at its base.
It can be confused with: Young death caps can resemble puffballs, which encompass the genera Calvatia, Calbovista and Lycoperdon.
It can be seen in the months of September to November and its habitat is under pines, oaks, dogwoods and other trees.
There is no immediate symptoms but the person will reportedly experience vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. After several days, these symptoms will go away and we think we are OK. However, we are not.
During this time, internal organs reportedly are being severely damaged, sometimes irreparably. Death can occur six to 18 days after ingestion.

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Destroying angels, on the other hand, get their name from their pure white stalks and caps. Like the death caps, they belong to the genus Amanita, with several species occurring in different regions of the country. All, however, have a similar white fruiting body.
It’s an attractive white cap, stalk and gills and can be confused with: In their button stage, destroying angels can be confused with button mushrooms, meadow mushrooms, horse mushrooms and puffballs.
It is seen during the summer and fall and its habitat is: All Amanita species form relationships with roots of certain trees. Destroying angels can be found in or near woodlands or near shrubs and trees in suburban lawns or meadows.
Its symptoms are siarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain generally occur five to 12 hours after ingestion. As with death caps, the symptoms will typically go away and the victim might think they don’t need to see a doctor. However, a day or two later the symptoms will return and get worse.
By then, it will probably be too late because the person will likely suffer liver and kidney failure and enter a hepatic coma that ends in death. If they survive, treatment is severe: a liver transplant.

(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 November 20, 2019 in Uncategorized