Stalled SIP “greatly affects” peace efforts – Gov. Calingasan

MALAYBALAY CITY (11 April) – The stalled Social Integration Program (SIP) of the national government is “greatly affecting” the peace efforts in the province, Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan told a press conference Monday.

Calingasan said many New People’s Army rebels who surrendered to the government have become uneasy over the delay of the release of social integration funds from the national government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

The governor said he was told that 10 rebels who wanted to surrender firearms through the SIP’s Balik Baril scheme were having second thoughts because they weren’t sure if the program was still ongoing.

He stressed the point to reporters after the graduation rites of a new batch of 192 graduates of the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) Basic Military Training at Camp Osito Bahian, in Impalambong, Malaybalay City. 

During the opening program of the Broadcasters’ Month on April 7 organized by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Bukidnon Chapter, Calingasan said the provincial government was forced to give initial livelihood funds to 102 persons who surrendered to the government last year in Cabanglasan town. 

The provincial government released P15,000 each to the “uneasy” returnees, he added.

Col. Romeo Gapuz, 403rd Brigade commanding officer, said the Balik Baril program was temporarily stopped pending a review of its rewards system. He said there were suspicions the system was being abused.

“Until OPAPP redesigns the system that’s the time we can resume with the program,” he added.

But Gapuz denied there were people who abused the system.

He said there were doubts about some of the surrenderees who did not turn in firearms.

“If they have no firearms they must be in the OB (order of battle) to be admitted in the reward system,” he added.

Calingasan defended his position favoring the creation of more SCAA units in the province even if he wants peace.

He said the SCAA are there to defend, not to make offensives,” he added. (Walter I. Balane)



Sen. Escudero agrees to call for gov’t workers as “bearers of good news”

MALAYBALAY CITY – Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero supported Malacanang’s call for government employees to help spread the good news.

In a press statement dated April 4, Escudero said he agreed the call as long as it’s factual and does not consist of pure embellishments. He said the government should recognize the real and existing problems and address it accordingly.

Undersecretary Abigail Valte recently said everybody has to pitch in. She said the job is not only for Cabinet secretaries, but also for undersecretaries and public information offices (PIOs) of agencies.

“This is actually the job and primary responsibility of the Communications Group in the palace which they have not been able to do effectively for the President. I hope they are not simply passing the buck so to speak,” Escudero said.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III recently said there is a need for more information dissemination to the general public from his Communications Group. Aquino cited this might be one of the reasons why his satisfaction ratings had fall slightly in the recent survey.

The recent Social Weather Stations survey said 69 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the performance of President Aquino while 18 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction rating of +51, lower than his +64 rating in November.

Valte said it’s not entirely the mistake of the communications group. She said all that needs to be done is to understand the functions of Secretaries Sonny Coloma and Ricky Carandang. She added the office of Carandang is task of forming the message and the dissemination part rests on Coloma through government-run media – NBN-4, RPN-9, IBC-13 and dzRB.

Secretaries Coloma, Carandang and Edwin Lacierda all acknowledged they have to be more aggressive in disseminating achievements of the nine-month-old administration of Aquino.

Aquino lamented that some good achievements of his administration failed to make it to the front pages of newspapers. Aquino cited on the Atlantic Gulf and Pacific’s $10 billion in contracts. Reportedly, about 4,000 engineers displaced from Libya could be hired on the project.

The recent Social Weather Stations survey said 69 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the performance of President Aquino while 18 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction rating of +51, lower than his +64 rating in November.

“I would like to think instead that they are asking for help from fellow officials and co-workers in government to bring the President’s accomplishments and message of hope closer and more understandable to our people,” Escudero further said.(Mel B. Madera)

AFP tops ‘most corrupt’ govt. agencies – survey; ‘Don’t generalize’ – 403rd brigade official

MALAYBALAY CITY – “If there’s corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) only a few are involved in it and it is not tolerated,” Capt. Eduardo Meclat, Jr., civil military operations chief of the 403rd Brigade said.

“Wag naman sana i-generalize ang buong AFP organization,” (Do not generalize) he added.

Bukidnon News sought the reaction of the brigade’s officials on the inclusion of the AFP as the ‘most corrupt’ government agency in the Philippines.

On its March 2011 Ulat ng Bayan, Pulse Asia said 48.9 percent of Filipinos believe that graft and corruption proliferated in the military.

The survey was conducted at the height of the controversies faced by the AFP arising from the allegations of former military budget officer George Rabusa and former state auditor Heidi Mendoza.

According to the survey, about 60 percent of Filipinos prefer that congressional hearings on alleged corruption in the military must continue.

Among those who were accused of alleged involvement in corruption in the military were former AFP chief Angelo Reyes, Retired Major General Garcia, Retired Lt. General Jacinto Ligot, a former commander of the 403rd brigade and some former AFP chiefs of staff. Reyes took his life because of the controversy.
Meclat said through text on March 31 that the probe involving high ranking military officers happened 10 years ago. He denied it has affected them at all.

“…At first hand we knew it happened 10 years ago. Many changes have happened in the AFP. We are more professional now,” he added.

He argued that the military organization does not tolerate corruption. “It is just in the person (holding the position), “Meclat said.

He said they are transparent in their programs in the brigade.

Next to the AFP as the most corrupt agency were the Philippine National Police (PNP) with 26.6 percent and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) at 18.2 percent.

On the other hand, the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Health and Education were identified as the “least corrupt government agencies”.

Pulse Asia conducted the survey from February 24 to March 6, 2011, using face-to-face interviews in 1,200 adult respondents. (Contributed by Mel B. Madera)

(Updated) Bukidnon reps file bill creating 4th district

(In this version, six paragraphs of rejoinder from board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. were added at the end. – Ed.)

MALAYBALAY CITY – Bukidnon’s three members of the House of Representatives filed the bill creating the province’s fourth congressional district, based on records obtained by Bukidnon News.

Rep. Jose Zubiri III (3rd district), the principal author, filed the bill on March 15. House Bill No. 04382 is entitled “An act reapportioning the first (1st) and second (2nd) legislative districts of the province of Bukidnon to hereby create an additional legislative district in the province of Bukidnon to be known as the fourth legislative district.”

Bukidnon’s two other representative’s Florencio Flores Jr (2nd district) and Emmanuel Paras (1st district) co-authored the measure.

As of March 22, the bill is at the Committee on Local Government level for hearings, according to the House of Representatives’ Legislative Information System as of March 30.  Bukidnon News is yet to obtain a copy of the bill.

As of the public consultation on January 6, Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri said the proposed district reconfigures the composition of the existing three districts. He explained that the requirement of 250,000 population for the creation of a new district is behind the reconfiguration.

Bukidnon, with a population of 1.19 million based on the 2007 census, has three legislative districts at present.

The second district where Malaybalay and Valencia cities belong has a population of 474,943.

The move will put the two cities apart in separate districts.

Based on the January 6 presentation of Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. the proposed new second district will be composed of Malaybalay City, and the towns of Lantapan, Cabanglasan, and San Fernando. Its population will be reduced by at least 200,000, down to 272,883.

Valencia City will be included in the 4th district along with Kadingilan from the 3rd district and Kalilangan and Pangantucan from the 1st district. The fourth district will have a population of 276,128 in the proposed composition.

The municipality of Impasug-ong originally from the second district is proposed to be included in the 1st district to join Baungon, Sumilao, Manolo Fortich, Malitbog, Talakag, and Libona. The first district will have a population of 283, 128.

The third district will be the biggest in population (based on the 2007 population census) with 357, 498. It will be left with seven towns including Damulog, Dangcagan, Don Carlos, Maramag, Kibawe, Kitaotao, and Quezon.

Except for the mayor of Impasug-ong, no other official raised an issue concerning the creation of the new district during the consultation. The mayor of Pangantucan town stood up but eventually agreed that their town will be transferred to the new district.

Impasug-ong mayor Mario Okinlay voiced out their opposition to be included in the first district as they are comfortable with the second district. He said Malaybalay City has a more stable financial status so it would need less use of the PDAF funds.

But Board member Nemesio Beltran, Jr, said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has passed a resolution in February 2011 incorporating the outcome of the consultation.

He said that the new district will be composed of Valencia City and the towns of Pangantucan and Kalilangan, which belong to the present 1st district.

The 1st district will be composed of the same towns in the north except Pangantucan and Kalilangan.

Only Valencia City will be taken out from the existing second district. This means, Impasug-ong will stay with the district.

The third district will not be reconfigured.

According to Beltran, based on the 2010 census of population each of the reconfigured three districts and the proposed new district will pass the population requirement for the creation of a new district, which is at least 250,000.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is yet to sign the 2010 census results.(Walter I. Balane)