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Author Archives: Alex P. Vidal

About Alex P. Vidal

Alex P. Vidal is a Filipino journalist who travels to chronicle community and international events in sports, environment, politics, media, health, government, among other interesting subject matters.

Get killers of Muller and Britanico

“This thing that men call justice, this blind snake that strikes men down in the dark, mindless with fury, keep your hand back from it, pass by in silence.”

—Maxwell Anderson

By Alex P. Vidal

WE trust that forensic science will play a major role in helping identify the killers of Allen Muller and Delfin “Del” Britanico.

Both Muller, 42, and Britanico, 36, were shot multiple times in separate places by unidentified assailants on January 19 in Iloilo City.

Muller, a former drug surrenderee and call agent, was killed in Brgy. Cuartero, Jaro at around 12 noon, while Britanico, a businessman, was shot to death in Brgy. Nabitasan, La Paz minutes later.

Initial investigations reportedly showed the empty shells from .45 caliber pistol recovered in the two crime scenes were fired from the same gun.

Which will indicate that the twin killings could be related; or, the suspects could be one and the same.

We expect the more professional National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Criminal Investigation Detective Group (CIDG) to have a breakthrough in their probes.

Forensic science has been a big miracle and constantly credited in the solution of many complicated and almost unsolved crimes in the United States these past 30 years.

-o0o-

The recovery of empty shells is basically a major lead in a crime that involves the use of a firearm as the murder weapon; and it can help bring the investigators closer to the killers’ identity.

Leaving behind the empty shells in the crime scene is tantamount to leaving behind the suspects’ footprints.

If Muller’s murder was a case of extra-judicial killing (EJK), Britanico’s murder could be a case a “collateral damage”.

Britanico, who was driving his motorbike, could have accidentally engaged Muller’s killers in a traffic spat while they were fleeing which resulted in a road rage.

A chase could have followed suit until they found a perfect spot to finish off Britanico, a well-educated and promising entrepreneur.

The itch to shoot more is reportedly stronger for people with criminal instinct after having committed a crime.

Clinical psychologists can best explain why the trigger-happy assailants decided to kill another human being after making sure they killed their first target, if proven that the killers of Muller and Britanico are one.

-o0o-

POSTSCRIPT: We call on our media colleagues, especially the senior practitioners who know personally former Iloilo assemblyman and Banat Partylist Rep. Salvador “Buddy” Britanico, Del’s father, to help the Britanico family in their moments of sorrow and tribulation in whatever means and capacity.

Rep. Britanico is one of the only few Iloilo public servants who is very dear to many media practitioners with or without the elections.

Rep. Britanico would always distribute calendars to his friends and constituents with all members of his family in the photo.

They are awesome. The Britanico family is a role model and a source of inspiration and good values.

Rep. Britanico, formerly the national president of the Philippine Trial Lawyers Association, is former Constitutional Commission (Con-Con) delegate and once served as the deputy minister of the Ministry of Education during the Marcos regime.

Rep. Britanico introduced me to the entire Britanico family led by Dr. Lita Celestial in the dining table, including the late Del, his older brothers Buddy Jr. and Atty. Franco, when me and Panay News columnist Herbert Vego visited their house in Congressional Avenue in Quezon City more than 20 years ago.

All members of the Britanico family always prayed and ate together if they were all present in the house. Now, they mourn together. We hope the family will get justice for Del’s macabre death.

God bless Del’s soul.

(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 January 23, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

We should fear most this ‘silent terrorist’

“Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die.”

Gore Vidal

By Alex P. Vidal

WHAT the Ilonggos should fear most during the Dinagyang Festival and even beyond the celebration is not the determined bomber feared by the Philippine National Police (PNP) who might sabotage the mammoth occasion.
It is the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the “silent terrorist” that is reportedly spreading rapidly in China and is now feared to have “arrived” in the Philippines and has victimized several people all over the country.

In fact, hundreds of people have been diagnosed with this deadly virus, even as scientists have confirmed that the virus can be spread human to human.

Already several patients suspected of being infected by the deadly virus were reported recently in Kalibo, Aklan, where the biggest ati-ati festival is scheduled this month together with Iloilo City which has kicked off its celebration of the Dinagyang Festival this week.

We just hope it was a false alarm.

This must be the reason why the Department of Health (DoH) in Western Visayas has issued a warning to all those who will join the crowd during the celebration of the feast of Senor Santo Nino.

The virus should be considered by all and sundry to be “a clear and present danger” and all precautions must be made to avoid this virus. 

We shouldn’t let our guards down. 

-o0o-
FROM miles away in New York City, we share the same fears and concern here.

As we monitored the ongoing impeachment trial of President Trump in the U.S. Senate yesterday (January 21), we received reports that the virus has been confirmed to be in the United States, as simultaneously reported in the CNN and The New York Times.

A person in Washington state has been reportedly confirmed to be carrying coronavirus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention January 21 afternoon.

Federal officials said the same person was reported to be hospitalized with pneumonia last week and was recently in Wuhan, China.

Wuhan is believed to be ground zero for the outbreak.

The person has not been identified by name and it is reportedly the first case of coronavirus being found in the U.S.

As of this writing we received reports that passengers from Wuhan to the United States, whether on direct or indirect flights, will only be allowed to land at one of the five U.S. airports doing health screenings. Screenings include a temperature check and observation for symptoms such as a cough and trouble breathing.

-o0o-

What is coronavirus and what do we all need to know about the illness?

Here are six things we should be aware of as reported:

1. Coronavirus is actually a group of viruses that can cause a cold or something severe like Middle East respiratory syndrome, known as MERS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as SARS. The World Health Organization says symptoms are similar to pneumonia symptoms.

The initial symptoms include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.

2. Normally they’re transmitted from animal to humans, but 2019-nCoV is apparently able to be transmitted between humans. At least two people were infected that way. But there are other coronaviruses in animal populations but have not been transmitted to humans.

3. The World Health Organization is considering declaring a public health emergency, similar to what it did with Ebola and swine flu, the BBC reported. If the declaration happens, a coordinated international response will follow.

4. At least 15 medical workers are infected with 2019-nCoV and one is in critical condition. They are believed to have contracted the illness from treating patients who were kept in isolation, but that has not been confirmed.

5. While the 2019-nCoV was traced back to a seafood market that also sells live animals in Wuhan, China last year, there are a few cases outside of China including two in Thailand, one in Japan, one in South Korea and one in Taiwan. Those cases are linked to the same area in China. To make sure the illness doesn’t spread further, travelers from Wuhan are being screened worldwide including at airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Testing was scheduled to be expanded to Atlanta and Chicago.

6. People are taking measures to protect themselves from exposure to the virus. Medical-style face masks are sold out in China. Many people in Wuhan are wearing face coverings as they go about their day. The company that makes the anti-pollution masks, 3 million was sold out of the mask online.

(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 January 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Twin killings jolt Dinagyang month

“When I hear about people murdering, I wonder, What has to go through your brain to say, I don’t want him breathing anymore? What makes you get that angry? How can you take someone’s breath away? That just blows my mind.”

Gilbert Arenas

By Alex P. Vidal

IT’S so sad that one of the victims in last Sunday’s senseless killings in Iloilo City was Delfin “Del” Celestial Britanico, youngest son of former Iloilo assemblyman and Banat Partylist Rep. Salvador “Buddy” Britanico and Dr. Lita Celestial-Britanico.

According to a popular digital resume Linkedin, Del was the “Co-Head at Britlao Corp/Manager at KM Haulers Britlao Corp Ateneo de Manila University.”

What a waste of life; Del was not an ordinary Ilonggo. 

He was a productive and worthy member of society.

Del, a legitimate businessman, was highly regarded in his field and came from a very educated and well-respected family in Western Visayas.

In one of his articles posted online, Del narrated how he decided to leave “a great job at a stable company to a smaller organization or a start up.”

Del, a bike enthusiast, wrote that “I stayed in the new company for 2 years. I only disengaged because I had to settle down with family outside Manila. In those two years I could proudly say that the company grew tremendously. Being the small kid on the block or in our industry, we picked our battles. We found our own niche. Growth was so well that our suppliers brought us to their headquarters in the US. Looking back yes I missed on some benefits especially when the old company I used to work for was acquired by a foreign giant. I saw Facebook and Instagram posts of my former colleagues being sent around the world for trainings, etc. But deep inside, I was contended. I made an impact and I am proud of it. My involvement in that smaller company opened some doors in terms of business ventures which are already materializing now.”

What a short life for a great young entrepreneur and possibly a future leader in the industry he had chosen to be part of.

Our sincerest condolences to the Britanico and Celestial families.

-o0o-

MAYOR Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas has all the reason to be jittery after the twin killings in separate places in Iloilo City on Sunday, January 19, the day before the official countdown of the 2020 Dinagyang Festival week.

The crimes happened just after the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) has assured the public it was beefing up the metropolis’ security measure to ensure a peaceful celebration of the Feast of Señor Santo Niño.

Treñas was apparently disturbed by the coincidence of the macabre murders of call agent Allen Muller, 42, at 12 noon in Brgy. Cuartero, Jaro district and businessman Delfin Britanico, 36, minutes later in Brgy. Nabitasan, La Paz.  

“Why they happened during the Dinagyang month when the whole world is watching us?” the city mayor must’ve wondered. 

Why all of a sudden two successive murders when Iloilo City’s peace and order has not been so alarming these past months? 

For sure the killers didn’t commit the crimes to embarrass the ICPO and Iloilo City, which is expecting a lot of tourists for the annual ati tribe competition this week.

-o0o-

“Of course we are worried. We have dignitaries coming. I don’t want incidents similar to Sunday’s to happen again,” Treñas bewailed.
The mayor was right.

All the efforts of his infant administration to attract visitors and potential investors through this once-a-year huge event would be jeopardized if peace and order was in dire straits.

Violence and brazen murders like what happened last Sunday could destroy the image of the “City of Love” which is now inching its way back to normalcy following the weird accusation from President Duterte that it was the “most shabulized” in the country.

In the month of January, Iloilo City competes with other Philippines cities, provinces and regions in terms of public attention owing to its colossal cultural and religious celebration now known in most countries all over the world.

Tourists and Santo Niño devotees regularly checked the Google and other Internet sites for the latest news about the popular festival and all they could read was about the killings.

We had chided  authorities or those in charge of implementing this administration’s wild and woolly anti-illegal drugs campaign not to sully the image of the Dinagyang Festival by the blood of victims of EJK or extra-judicial killings.

It appears our appeal turned out to be another voice in the wilderness.

(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 January 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Ilonggos always quick to extend help

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

William Shakespeare

By Alex P. Vidal

WHEN Iloilo was hit by calamities like the super typhoons “Yolanda” and recently “Ursula”, assistance came pouring in from other regions and provinces in the Philippines.

Because the world was watching, foreign assistance followed suit. 

Although the damages on agriculture and infrastructure were sometimes grotesque, the LGUs and the sectors directly affected could quickly bounce back to normal life because of the concern and empathy of those Good Samaritans—institutions and individuals.

Ilonggos have been both blessed and resilient that they were able to survive some of the worst calamities in recent memory.

And when it is their time to help, their countrymen can always count on them; Ilonggos know how to reciprocate a kindness and benevolence.

Thus it’s not a surprise why the Ilonggos were among the first and quickest to respond when Taal volcano spewed lava and plumes of ash since Sunday.  

-o0o-

In Iloilo City, Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas has vowed to send financial assistance and other aid necessary for the people of Batangas affected by the volcanic eruption.

Once details of the assistance have been finalized by the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) soon, the assistance will be sent “hopefully before the Dinagyang Festival highlights (January 25-26),” the city mayor was quoted as saying by the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

It was reported as of January 16 that more than 50,000 people have fled Taal volcano’s potential “explosive eruption.”  

An eruption could rain rocks and magma and set off a tsunami from the lake in which the volcano sits, volcanologists have warned.

Thick ashfall from the volcano has reportedly cloaked many towns in the Batangas province causing millions of dollars worth of damage to crops. 

Also clouds of ash were blown 62 miles to Manila, forcing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

Cracks were reported to be emerging around the Taal volcano raising the likelihood of an imminent major eruption, according to scientists.

Experts at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology  (Phivolcs), which said the threat level from the Taal volcano south of Manila remained at level 4 on Tuesday (January 14)– one short of an active eruption. 

-o0o-

Let’s hope the police will not taint the week-long Dinagyang Festival with the blood of suspected drug pushers and users now that the crackdown against the suspects has been tightened these past days as reported in the Western Visayas media.

A tough police official, Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido, deputy director for operations of the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO), who was assigned in Bacolod City on purpose of “wiping out” the remnants of drug syndicates there, was in the news most recently warning the traffickers that “they have only one month” saying “everything has an end.”

Any violent crackdown against any criminal element in the region will always have a spillover in Iloilo City since both the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo are inter-connected in many aspects.

While we laud Espenido’s no non-sense anti-illegal drugs campaign, it would be best if his timing wasn’t bad.

Why not eliminate all those dregs of society when there was no forthcoming important event that attracts visitors from other countries?

(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 January 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Be humble while in public office

“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough in me to confess my errors and to retrace my step”

Mahatma Gandhi

By Alex P. Vidal

THE late industrialist-politician Augusto “Buboy” Syjuco Jr. must have died a sad man.

In the remaining days of his life on earth, he fought tongs and hammer to clear his name from some of the graft charges he faced in the Sandiganbayan to no avail.

The cases involved millions of transactions undertaken when he was in public office first as congressman in the second district of Iloilo, and second as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

His wife, ex-solon Judy, was his co-accused in some of these cases for violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Did they really steal? 

Others think they did; some of both their critics and supporters believe otherwise given the legitimate wealth they amassed before they joined the government. 

For those who are in the twilight years of their life, facing criminal cases and the prospect of landing in jail would be equivalent to hell.

Thus we can only imagine the tribulation and sorrow Secretary Syjuco went through while he was battling the illness that took away his life while undergoing treatment in Singapore (where his body was reportedly cremated on January 13).  

Secretary Syjuco probably didn’t realize many of those cases (he was convicted in some of them and made a guilty plea in another case) would outlive him.

God bless Buboy Syjuco’s soul.

-o0o-

Let us remind our public officials that power is only temporary. 
If given the opportunity to serve the people, public servants should be humble, live a modest life, and never steal the taxpayers’ money.

There are public servants who are arrogant and onion-skinned. Indi mo ma-criticize sa media. 

As a community journalist since after the EDSA Revolution, I knew a lot of them in the local and national offices. 

In fact, I have crossed the paths of some of them and they proved to be menacing but unreasonable and irrational, to say the least.

If they won’t threaten to harm us physically, they will sue us for libel. We know that it’s only a form of harassment, a plain and simple act of intimidation in order to silence us or avenge their “hurt” and “embarrassment.” 

They are aware that a libel case against a journalist will never hit a home run. 

Freedom of the press and expression remains to be the solid bedrock of democracy.

These overbearing type of public officials who run after those who criticize them only want to show who’s the boss. 

Others live—and want to be treated—like kings and queens.

And many of them are thieves; they take advantage of their positions and influence to enrich themselves while in office.

They didn’t know or they probably forgot that in every penny they steal there is a repercussion; everything on this material world is governed by the Karmic Law. 

We reap what we sow. What comes up must come down.

(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 January 15, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

They didn’t believe Syjuco was ill until he died

“We must bring the issue of mental illness out into the sunlight, out of the shadow, out of the closet, deal with it, treat people, have centers where people can get the necessary help.”

John Lewis

By Alex P. Vidal

ONLY the death recently of controversial former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Augusto “Buboy” Syjuco Jr could convince his critics he had been suffering from leukemia and was “slowly dying.”

Some of his political enemies thought Syjuco and his wife, former Iloilo second districrt Rep. Judy, “were only using his sickness story” in order to wiggle out from the graft and corruption charges they were facing in the Sandiganbayan.

They suspected the couple was “dangling” Syjuco’s illness to appeal to people’s emotion and create an impression he wasn’t fit for a trial.  

When Syjuco lost the support of many Ilonggo political leaders following the fading away of former President Gloria Arroyo’s magic, he stayed most of the time in Metro Manila and focused on how to clear his name after being slapped with graft cases.

He supported President Rodrigo Duterte during the presidential campaign and filed graft cases against former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Senator Franklin Drilon in order to be noticed in the media.

Very few people gave him attention and this reportedly bothered him a lot as he used to bask in glory and prominence when he was the TESDA boss and when he and ex-Rep. Judy were lording over the politics in the second district of Iloilo under the Arroyo administration.

-o0o-

Almost a year ago, the anti-graft body’ Third Division approved the Syjuco couple’s motion dated January 18, telling the Sandiganbayan they intended to return to Singapore from February 7 to 22 for Syjuco’s chemotherapy treatment to prevent him from succumbing to leukemia.

Syjuco needed only a short stay in Singapore, they argued, as he was taking a medicine called Azacitidine, which was not yet available in the Philippines.

Since the new medicine would be administered on Syjuco, their lawyers appealed for an extension of their trip until February 22.

Once the most popular political couple in Iloilo, the Syjucos faced various cases in the Sandiganbayan over their alleged anomalous use of public funds. 

These were on the alleged anomalous awarding of TESDA scholarships, purchase of more than 1,500 cellphone units, and the supposed implementation of a district-wide poultry project.

-o0o-

Syjuco and former Department of Agriculture (DA) Western Visayas regional director Eduardo Lecciones were convicted by the Sandiganbayan of “fraud against public treasury” in relation to a P4.3-million cash grant following their guilty pleas last year.

They were also found guilty of “failure of an accountable officer to render account;” and having a “prohibited pecuniary interest in a transaction involving their office.” Broken down, that’s P10,000 for the first offense; P1,000 for the second offense; and P6,000 for the last one.

Syjuco and Lecciones were ordered to pay P17,000 each, a penalty called as “a slap in the wrist” by the former TESDA boss’ political opponents.

Syjuco, who was then representative of Iloilo second district, favored his own non-governmental organization as a conduit in a cash grant that was approved by the DA through Lecciones, in 2000. 

The two pleaded guilty instead of waiting for the trial of graft and malversation cases lodged against them.

As to his other cases, they are expected to “die” naturally following Syjuco’s demise.

Rest in peace, Secretary Syjuco.

(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 January 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Taal and our superstitious belief

“Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy the mad daughter of a wise mother. These daughters have too long dominated the earth.”

—Voltaire

By Alex P. Vidal

ACCORDING to some anthropologists, supernatural beliefs gain strength in natural disasters.

Every time a disaster like the Taal volcano explosion occurs without an explanation, Filipinos attribute it to superstition.

The belief in omens and portents, often rooted in ancient cosmology, is widely held, even by the worldly and well educated. 

After all, Philippine culture cherishes lucky numbers, eschews sounds that can be misconstrued as the word for death and places great value in “gaba” or curse; we are also the No. 1 non-Chinese believers of feng shui, the practice of arranging furniture and buildings just so, to bring happiness and good health.

Some Manny Pacquiao fans even blamed his controversial defeat to Timothy Bradley to his decision to become a “born again” Christian and his refusal to wear the rosary, which he used to do when he was a Catholic.

The truth is there are scientific explanations why Taal volcano erupted, not because of our “sins” and other weird superstitious explanations.

Pacquiao actually won that first fight but the judges only reportedly erred in awarding the bout to Bradley who was badly clobbered in their rematch.

-o0o-

One of the most famous catastrophes in European history was the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, in Portugal. 

The earthquake itself caused fires immediately, as well as a tsunami that arrived in about 40 minutes. All told, between 10,000 and 100,000 people died.

The question asked throughout Enlightenment-era Europe was, “What did Lisbon do to deserve such punishment?” 

There were some theories, including religion, sexual mores, and some more fanciful claims, but it seemed hard to believe that these could explain why Lisbon would be almost completely destroyed and Berlin, Paris, Prague, Vienna, and other capitals of sin would be untouched.

“Unless… what if there was no explanation? No one had done anything, good or bad, to cause it. The earthquake just happened,” points out Michael Munger of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

-o0o-

Now, humans usually don’t like answers like that; we can’t plan, and we can’t identify patterns.

On the other hand, accepting that there may be no explanation, much less a blame-worthy action as cause, for events is a step toward thinking scientifically. 

In a way, the Lisbon earthquake was a great benefit to the cause of enlightenment. 

As John Hamer said,“One of modernity’s greatest achievements is the realization that natural disasters like earthquakes have nothing to do with us, that we need not see the wrath of Zeus in every thunderclap, the displeasure of Poseidon in every menacing wave. The origins of that realization are to be found in the smoldering ashes of Lisbon.”

Munger also warns that we see patterns where none exist. It’s what humans do; in fact, it’s what animals do. Mark Twain noticed this and had a pithy summary.

“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it—and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again—and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.”

-o0o-

Munger explains that the wary cat has a theory of the world: Stove burns you. Stay away from stove.

Of course, only hot stoves cause burns, so this is not a good theory. But consider two cats:

Cat A believes (correctly) that the theory about stoves causing burns is incomplete, and is not sure what does cause burns.

Cat B stays far away from all stoves, hot or cold, because they magically cause pain and injury in a way the cat doesn’t understand.

It’s pretty clear that Cat B is more likely to survive.

(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 January 13, 2020 in Uncategorized