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Monthly Archives: August 2019

After 3 years Dragon’s killers still unknown

“I have always been against the gangster as hero.” 

–Ruby Dee

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

IT seems nobody is interested anymore to identify the real killers of Western Visayas’ alleged drug lord Melvin “Boyet” Odicta Sr. alyas “Dragon” and his wife, Merriam.
No one from among his living lawyers (some of them have “disappeared” while another one had been murdered) and family is demanding for the reopening of the case or further investigation.
Not a single relative or associate has come forward to demand “justice” for the double murders that, for a while, sent shock waves to major drug dealers and their minions in Panay Island and the entire Western Visayas for that matter.
Have they grudgingly accepted the couple’s bizarre fate in silence without throwing a single punch in the arena of the justice system?
If they believed the couple was innocent and among the most prominent personalities victimized by extra-judicial killing (EJK) or summary execution in the infant stage of the Duterte administration, they should be making a noise and demanding for justice.

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A lone gunman shot the Odicta couple as they alighted from a roll-on roll-off vessel at around 1:30 a.m. in Caticlan, Aklan on August 28, 2016.
Aside from the unidentified triggerman, several “back up” gunmen were believed to be on bard the vessel following the couple since the vessel left the Batangas port.
It was Merriam who was first fatally hit in the back and believed to have died before being rushed to the hospital.
Dragon, wounded on the leg, managed to call his lawyer Gualberto Cataluna over mobile phone.
Before being escorted to the hospital, policemen who arrived reportedly handcuffed Dragon.
Dragon was supposed to be brought to a Malay hospital but witnesses, including Cataluna, claimed policemen handcuffed him.
Minutes later, the man considered as “the most powerful and well-connected drug lord” in Western Visayas, was dead.
He had bullet wounds in the body and head, it was reported.
Before he died, Dragon witnessed how Merriam was peppered with bullets in the back.
The Odictas were officially declared dead on arrival in a Malay town hospital.

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The couple was on the way to Iloilo from Manila where they were reported earlier to have “surrendered” to then Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueno.
Some Ilonggos “credited” President Duterte and his then PNP chief and now Senator Ronald “Bato” De la Rosa for “putting away” a “big fish.”
However, there were those who believed the Odictas were “silenced” by powerful people who have been protecting them and who reportedly “panicked” when they learned the Odictas had submitted a “list” to Sueno.
It was not known if Sueno, who resigned in 2017, gave the list to President Duterte.
Some of those who protected Dragon were allegedly politicians and police officials.
They haven’t been named until today.
(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 August 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Paalam, Menchie

“Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything. It’s the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it.”

–Trey Parker

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

I DEVELOPED a friendship with Dr. Carmencita “Menchie” Robles, 61, when I was writing for the News Express from 1988 until 1992.
Aside from being one of the original sentinels of the famed Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) TV-12 based in Iloilo City, Ms Menchie also taught in the West Visayas State University (WVSU) College of Mass Communications.
In the 1991 Palarong Pambansa hosted by the Iloilo Province, we worked together and shared data in the media center of the Iloilo Sports Complex.
There, we ensconced ourselves discussing about controversial 15-year-old La Union transgender athlete Nancy Navalta (who finally made headlines in 1993 Palarong Pambansa in Isabela).
Before Navalta rose to fame several years later, Ms Menchie and I were already talking about her and her potential as a world class runner.

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In the finish line of the newly refurbished synthetic track oval where we waited for the sprinters, we noticed that Navalta was flat-chested and she had a mustache.
Ms. Menchie was enamored with Navalta, who routed her rivals in the women’s 100-meter and 200-meter dashes.
“She could be the next Lydia de Vega,” she mused.
It was finally in the 1994 Palarong Pambansa when people started calling Navalta the “next Lydia de Vegam” referring to the talented female sprinter who won gold in the 1982 and 1986 Asian Games.
Ms. Menchie monitored Navalta’s athletic career thereafter and we would exchange information about the controversial athlete’s dramatic rise to stardom.
Navalta’s 11.42 seconds in the 100-meter print in the next Palaro that earned her a spot in the Philippine delegation to the Atlanta Olympics was never given justice as she was denied her Olympic dream following the revelation of her test results by the Philippine Center for Sports Medicine that she had a condition called hermaphrodism.

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Whenever there was a chance to meet and talk, we discussed only topics about sports and Nancy Navalta, about life in Iloilo media, among other interesting topics.
Ms. Robles would sometimes invite me as resource speaker in her class.
We didn’t communicate for a long time until we met again in New York City in June 2018.
She was an official member of the delegation of the Iloilo City trade mission and investment forum.
“Is that Alex Vidal?” she asked the staff of Mrs. Gina Sarabia Espinosa, wife of then mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III, who was with Ms. Menchie in a midtown Manhattan flat.
Somebody responded “yes.”
I heard her voice; I was surprised to see her as I didn’t have any idea she was there. I kissed her and we hugged each other as friends.

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During the Philippine Independence Day parade June 2, we were together again along with Panay News’ Herbert Vego and her former student, Regine Algecera, among other Ilonggos in the delegation.
That was our last meeting.
I learned yesterday from the Facebook post of Nereo Lujan, Ms. Menchie’s former student, that she has passed away after a long bout with a lingering illness at the Metro Iloilo Hospital.
Even though we are intellectually aware that we and our friends are not invincible, it doesn’t make it any easier when someone we like dies.
We will be forever changed by our friend’s presence in our life and that is not a bad thing. Anytime that we suffer a loss, we are changed forever. Though it may not seem like it now, there will come a time that we will be grateful to have had this person in our life.
Rest in peace, Ms. Menchie. Jusqu’a ce que nous nous revoyions or ’till we meet again.

You’re a brave and worthy human being.
(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 August 28, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

City hall’s political vendetta

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” 

–George Orwell

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

NO matter how the Iloilo City Legal Office package, justify, and camouflage the “electioneering” case recently filed against three City Hall officials Danny Tan, Vincent de la Cruz, and Eireen Manikan, Ilonggos will still sneer at it as nothing but a political vendetta.
Ilonggos weren’t born yesterday to believe hook, line, and sinker that casual employees Dennis Biñas, Julia Bitonga, Jena Jose, and Donephine Domingo weren’t coaxed, coached, and guided by some powerful subalterns of Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas to sue the three officials suspected of siding with former mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III in the May elections.
Only fools will agree that the casual workers filed the case on their own volition and resources, and without any help or influence from the big bosses in the mayor’s office.

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Ilonggos will, of course, suspect that the four casual workers may have been dispatched by City Administrator Melchor Tan and briefed by City Legal Officer Edgardo Gil to formalize the cases for violation of the Election Code/Fair Election Act, Civil Service Law, and Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Employees) against Tan, de la Cruz, and Manikan.
Administrator Tan is in charge of the hiring and appointment of casual employees, while Gil has been very vocal and sharply familiar with the case as if the four complainants are under his direct supervision.
The casual workers have singled out the three officials to be the ones who called them for a meeting at City Hall sometime in February, or three months before the elections, allegedly to compel them to support Espinosa III.
They considered the statement as a threat “since our employment is at the stake if we will not follow his instruction.”
They added in a statement: “We were likewise directed to recruit at least 10 persons to attend ‘Pag-ulikid’.”
Many believed that Espinosa anchored his bid to keep his office through “Pag-ulikid sang Syudad”, a community outreach program that brought city government frontline services to the barangays.

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Since it appears to be crystal clear that City Hall may be behind the legal juggernaut against the three suspected Espinosa III backers now bearing the brunt of an apparent “witch hunt” under the Treñas administration, some Ilonggos may view this internal pandemonium to be an “obvious political persecution.”
Granting that Tan, de la Cruz, and Manikan really rooted for Espinosa III in the recent polls, their “offense” should be understandable and even pardonable since, they too, were part of a system that demands adherence to the status quo.
It’s not about personality, but more as jurisdiction and stability.
The reality is because most department heads or officials holding permanent positions in any government office normally develop a “good working relationship” (euphemism for affection or feeling of endearment) with whoever is the incumbent (appointed or elected) mayor, governor, director, secretary, or general manager, partisanship in incoming competition or election is hard to reject and avoid.
The relationship should be mutual and necessary; they, as top officials and administrators tasked with major obligations and responsibilities, must and need to treat each other as members of one family.
The relationship they develop shouldn’t be considered as a political crime because it metamorphosed in the name public service, not because they hate someone who has just taken over the helm.
(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 August 27, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Kasadyahan’s emancipation

“Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.”

–Hyman Rickover

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

THE good news is the Kasadyahan Festival will no longer be a second class citizen.
If plans do not miscarry, it will have its own identity and territorial waters, no longer as a curtain raiser for the well-fed Ati Festival.
Dinagyang Festival’s spoiled brat, Ati dance contest will always be the main attraction of Iloilo City’s biggest festival held every fourth weekend of January to honor the Christianization of the natives and to respect the Holy Child Jesus.
Kasadyahan will remain a second fiddle forever.
It’s time to cut and cut clean.
Both events have been jointly held as the week-long Dinagyang Festival’s highlights (Kasadyahan on Saturday and Ati on Sunday) for several years now and buttressed by the Department of Tourism, the private sector, and primarily by the Iloilo City Government.

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Kasadyahan’s emancipation from the Dinagyang Festival is, to quote Victor Hugo, “(nothing more powerful than) an idea whose time has come.”
Despite living separate lives starting next year, both festivals will be the winners in many aspects: it will be easier to manage and promote each of them as they won’t compete in the allocations of budget for corporate and government sponsorship; and they will add color to the annual calendar of events of both the DOT and the City Government.
Although Kasadyahan has its own unique presentation and aesthetic featuring Panay’s culture and history, it has been thriving behind the shadow of the more prominent and remunerative Ati dance contest, which actually carries the Dinagyang Festival’s household name.
It has been observed that Kasadyahan also paled in comparison to Ati dance contest when it comes to cornering of juicy sponsors and endorsers.

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By reinvigorating and packaging Kasadyahan in another stripe and dimension, it will stimulate awareness among the tourists and investors and produce dramatic effects in the local economy.
The decision to split the two gigantic cultural and religious festivals was hammered out during the Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting of the Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI) in July 2019, as reported recently by the Daily Guardian’s Emme Rose Santiagudo, who interviewed former Department of Tourism Undersecretary Salvador “Dong” Sarabia Jr. regarding the split.
Now the executive director of Iloilo City’s Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions (MICE) Center, Sarabia Jr. confirmed that Kasadyahan may be held separately in a lean moth “because it’s more cultural.”

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Even the kidnappers and killers of prominent Ilongga businesswoman Roberta Cokin would have “benefited” if the government had insisted in pushing through with the reported plan to release rapist and killer Antonio Sanchez based on recent ruling issued by the Supreme Court (SC) that orders the retroactive application of the number of days credited to prisoners for their good-conduct time allowance (GCTA).
The ruling was based on the Republic Act (RA) 10592 amended provisions of the Revised Penal Code and allowed the credit of preventive imprisonment and revision of GCTA of persons deprived of liberty.
We are glad the government has abandoned the absurd move.
(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 August 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

A real embarrassment

“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.” 

–Mahatma Gandhi

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

NOT all those arrested by the police and paraded for a mug shot should be ashamed for the rest of their life.
A person can be arrested for murder he committed by protecting his family or for self defense. He may be worried for his safety, but may not feel any shame for what he did.
A newsman can be arrested for libel after exposing the truth about graft and corruption and abused of authority and power committed by government, police, and military officials.
He may feel inconvenience, but he may not be ashamed even if manacled and locked behind bars.
A person can be arrested for sedition or rebellion because of his political views; and he may be tormented by the thought of having to spend a long jail term, but, history shows none of those accused of such offense ever showed signs of shame when presented in public.
But if a person is arrested for estafa or any wrongdoing related to financial matters and dishonesty, he will always feel an iota of shame in one way or the other.
Being arrested, however, does not necessarily mean a person is guilty of committing a crime.
The arrest is only a procedure in a criminal case where the accused is presented in court for proper disposition of his case; and the judge will determine whether he can post a bail.

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Which brought us to the case of former foreign affairs secretary Perfecto “Jun” Yasay Jr., who was arrested by the Manila Police District (MPD) cops on Thursday afternoon, August 22.
The former chairman of the Central Philippine University (CPU) in Jaro, Iloilo City was ordered arrested on March 8 by Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 8 for “several violations” of the New Central Bank Act in relation to a case filed against him by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
The Ilonggo former candidate for senator and vice president immediately questioned “this abuse of process and travesty of justice” in a Facebook post.
The arrest shocked those who knew Yasay as a public servant and former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); he had a sterling record in public service and almost immaculate prior to the report of his arrest.
He is, of course, presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Many of his admirers, especially his fellow Ilonggos, believe he can wiggle out from this trouble. They believe in his innocence.
But the arrest definitely was a real embarrassment for Yasay, his family and supporters since he, along with 5 “associates,” police said, were accused of “conspiring and aiding each other” in securing a P350-million loan from the shuttered Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank while they were officers from 2001 to 2009.

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The loan was allegedly accommodated for a certain company called Tierrasud Incorporated, which is owned by Tropical Land Corporation.
The report said: “When the loan was granted, all accused failed to report such loan accommodation to the supervision of BSP, and despite of report of examination addressed to all accused instructing them to rectify such violation, failed to do the same.”
The BSP filed the charges against Yasay and 9 other Banco Filipino officials on April 4, 2011. Yasay was then director of Banco Filipino.
The BSP said Yasay and the other Banco Filipino officials “repeatedly violated several laws” for the following: Willful refusal to stop the conduct of unsafe, hazardous, and unsound banking practices; Falsification and issuance of false statements to hide the true financial condition of the bank; Willful refusal to file audited financial statements; Willful refusal to report DOSRI (directors, officers, stockholders, and other related interest) loans; Twenty-six counts of willful refusal to comply with numerous banking laws and BSP directives
The BSP pointed out that Banco Filipino “engaged in hazardous lending and lax collection policies and practices.”
Let’s hope Chairman Yasay can emerge from this scandal ten feet tall. He is one of the only few remaining outstanding Ilonggo icons in national politics.
(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 August 25, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Shooting Judge Artuz from the hip

“If you can’t see past my name, you can’t see me.” 

― DaShanne Stokes

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

IF you aren’t authorized, you can’t solemnize.
Iloilo City Legal Officer Edgardo Gil’s basis for calling as “fake” the marriages solemnized by “ex” Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 5 Judge Ofelia M.D. Artuz was the Supreme Court’s purported order in 2017 that dismissed Artuz as a judge; thus “she wasn’t authorized.”
Gil, according to report, has named Artuz to be possibly behind the alleged fake weddings uncovered at the Iloilo City Local Civil Registrar’s Office (LCRO) that supposedly victimized more than a hundred couples since 2017 until 2018.
The city legal officer was so cocksure about Artuz’s role that he made a categorical declaration about what had transpired when the alleged malfeasance was executed.
Kun kaisa sa sagwa ginasolemnize, si Judge Artuz, gin-terminate na siya sa service as a judgesang August 29, 2017. Even if she is not authorized, sige pa siya gihapon solemnize sang marriage,” Gil was quoted in a report by Emme Rose Santiagudo in the Daily Guardian dated August 22, 2019.

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Because Gil already went ballistic against Artuz, we assume that the city legal office had already conducted a motu proprio investigation prior to its decision to endorse the issue for further probe to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Otherwise, Gil would be accused of pushing the cart ahead of the horse in as far as investigation of the issue is concerned.
Now that Gil has jumped the gun on Artuz, isn’t it incumbent upon him to start filing the appropriate cases against the lady judge if he had enough evidence, instead of running for succor to the NBI?
By telling all and sundry they had already endorsed the matter to the NBI (Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas had earlier confirmed they were seeking the NBI’s help), Gil innocuously was sending a message they have a weak case against Artuz; so that they needed the NBI to do the yeoman’s job.

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Gil may have violated their profession’s code of ethics by prejudging Artuz and by making a presumption that all the weddings she had solemnized, because she was “unauthorized”, were fake and, thus, null and void.
According to LCRO Officer Romeon Juncae Manikan Jr., a law graduate, only the Supreme Court can declare whether a marriage is fake.
Assuming that Artuz could not anymore solemnize marriages immediately after her purported dismissal from the Supreme Court took effect, were the weddings she had solemnized before the Supreme Court ruling on her termination authorized and legal?
Better still, did she really continue to solemnize weddings even after her dismissal? If she appealed the dismissal, were all the weddings she had supposedly solemnized while her dismissal was under appeal, authorized and legal?
There are two schools of thought in this imbroglio, thus we want the truth to come out; we want wrongdoings to stop, but we must be objective and fair to all concerned.
Without any impartial investigation or without inviting Artuz to air her side first before going tongs and hammer against her in the media, they have already shot her from the hip and injured so many bystanders.
(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 August 22, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Can Iloilo mayors stop incest rapes?

“I think that the enormous emphasis on violence and sex, and in particular violent sex, may not make rapists of us all, but it predisposes us to accept a kind of world in which these things happen.”

–Alexander Walker

By Alex P. Vidal60336807_10214018136070347_8150589498095304704_n

I KNOW of at least four Iloilo mayors accused of committing a rape when I was covering the Iloilo Capitol beat in the early 90’s.
One of them, a former ex-convict from the fifth district, even ran and lost for governor. His victim, a minor, became a lawyer.
Another one, a gambling lord in the second district and a cockfighting aficionado, was abandoned by his wife not for being a gambler, but for allegedly “molesting” his own niece.
The third one was from a coastal town famous for a certain seafood in the fourth district. Of the four, this third “rapist” from the coastal town, who finished only in the elementary level and was always carrying a gun, was the worst: he allegedly raped his wife’s sister, who eventually “consented” to become his lover.
To minimize the scandal, they (the mayor, his wife, and the wife’s sister) lived in the same compound like a normal family. Other members of the household pretended they knew nothing about the quirky situation.

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The fourth was also from the second district.
His case was not a secret because the alleged rape happened prior to his reelection bid.
The victim, a minor and the mayor’s own niece, was briefly interviewed by reporters before being intercepted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) personnel.
Interestingly, two weeks before the rape case exploded in the media, I visited this mayor in his house together with former Senator John Osmeña.
We monitored two other rape cases involving prominent political figures (a defeated congressional aspirant from the first district and another municipal mayor in a far-flung municipality in the fifth district).
Except for the ex-convict who spent several years in jail, the others were never prosecuted. Because of their influence and power, their cases were either “kept under wraps,” or “settled” (meaning the “victims” decided not to lodge a formal complaint).
I recalled these cases when I learned that the Iloilo Provincial Board recently passed a resolution penned by Board Member June Mondejar urging Iloilo mayors to take action to curb the “alarming” number of rape cases in the province.

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Mondejar said most of the rape cases logged by the Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) last year and this year were incestuous or sexual assaults committed by somebody with close relationship to the victims such as a father, a stepfather, an uncle, or a cousin.
Mondejar wanted the mayors to initiate programs and measures to prevent all forms of sexual abuse in their respective municipalities.
Good move, but most rapists have serious psychological or mental issues that no amount of programs can scare or stop them from doing the crime. In fact, it has been proven that even the death penalty was not a deterrent to the commission of rape.
We doubt also if the mayors or their law enforcers can personally stop the rapes, which mostly happen in the darkness or night time and in secluded places.
Although this additional task will not really overburden the mayors, let’s hope that no perpetrator will come from their own ranks like in the cases I just mentioned.
Latin poet Juvenal once posed this question: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or “Who will guard the guards?”
(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 August 20, 2019 in Uncategorized