Tuesday, September 30, 2008

PhilHealth Corruption in Ubay, Bohol?

By Wenny Reyes
Bohol Chronicle

A conflict between the executive and legislative departments surfaced following exchanges of denials on legislative concern among top officials here.

Mayor Eutiquio Bernales barred Marlin Amodia from appearing the SB session last Tuesday, when the latter was invited for legislative inquiry.

In denying the local lawmakers, Bernales said, "upon careful consideration of the said resolution, it is clear that it did not state the specific documents, date and information which the body would like to elucidate from the Office of the Municipal Accountant."

On September 1, 2008 Bernales issued an Unnumbered Memorandum directing all executive officials and employees not to appear in any SB session or hearing without his written approval.

Sources said Media was supposed to be interrogated on the status of the Php700,000 allocation intended for the more than 2,000 indigents enrolled by the LGU for PhilHealth membership . But the said amount was not yet paid to said agency, as reported by Kag. Clarita Alesna to the council. However, unconfirmed reports reaching the SB revealed that the same amount was used in another project even without the realignment or augmentation ordinance, the source added.

The invitation of Media would have been the opening salvo for more legislative inquiries in SB's quest for transparency. Accordingly, there are at least four more dubious implementation of projects before the approval of the corresponding budgets necessitating SB probe, too.

On the other hand, vice mayor Galicano Atup set aside Mayor Bernales' reconsideration of Supplemental Budget No. 4 saying, "the SB cannot act on the request of the executive department to reconsider his proposed items since the said SB No. 4 was already approved Sept. 9." Unless, the mayor will issue a veto message tapping its grounds as ultra vires and prejudicial to the public welfare - the items on the approved SB No. 4, he added.

Atup said, the executive's version bear with adjustments made accordingly thru the intercession of kagawad Maximo Boyles Jr, vice chair on appropriations committee, via a win-win solution. But such allegations from the mayor's office was denied by kag. Boyles, Atup said.

The vice mayor noted "the most critical is the insistence of the specific items for the MPDC such as Php50,000 for traveling expenses and another Php50,000 for supplies. Also, under the Mayor's Office, the amount of Php15,000 for electrical supplies for reinstallation of which the budget for milk feeding was reduced to Php100,000."

Atup added that there is already as approved Augmentation Ordinance in the amount of Php177,155 for electrical supplies, the source of which was augmented from the Aid to Cultural Activities. 

Jail Management Transferred to Prison Bureau

Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado and Jail Director Rosendo Dial, chief of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Friday signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) transferring the management, supervision and control of the provincial jail to the bureau.

Aumentado said the move relieves the provincial government of the responsibilities of jail management, transferring it to the government agency that has the mandate to exercise direct supervision and control over all municipal, district and city jails and therefore has the technical capability and expertise to do so.

"Time has come for the jail to be handled by men and women trained for the purpose and dedicated to this task as part of the justice system," the governor said in his turnover speech at the Governor's Mansion Friday.

In stressing the bureau's task, he said the Bohol Detention and Rehabilitation Center (BDRC) - to be called the Bohol District Jail under the MOA - should not only be the home for those penalized by law, but for those to be rehabilitated.

Three bills all seeking the transfer of the management of provincial and sub-provincial jails are now pending in Congress. For purposes of the MOA, the period from the actual turnover until such a law is passed, or until the BJMP shall have an approved budget for the operation of the proposed district jail will be called the transition period.

Under the MOA, the province shall allow the use of the existing facilities and equipments used in its operations and give all the rights to use the same to the BJMP by way of usufruct, free from liens and encumbrances.

For the transition period, the provincial government will still provide the manpower complement, and assign or detail personnel to augment those of the BJMP.

These personnel will be under the full operational control of the BJMP, under the joint administrative disciplinary action of both, with the BJMP recommending appropriate actions to the local government unit (LGU).

The province will also provide the BJMP with the amount it is currently

appropriating for the maintenance and operation of the jail for the subsistence allowance of the inmates and the maintenance and improvement of the jail facility, as well as continue to pay for the power and water bills even after the lapse of the transition period.

On the other hand, on top of accommodating all detainees currently under the custody of the BDRC, it will also keep convicted prisoners in designated provincial jail cells.

Subject to the Republic Act 9263 or the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and BJMP Professionalization Act of 2004 and the availability of equivalent rank items, BDRC personnel can transfer to the bureau. Assigned provincial jail personnel not qualified for absorption or appointment may be utilized in other offices of the LGU.

Acting Warden Lt. Col. Raul Mendez and J/Chief Supt. Doris Remedios-Dorigo, BJMP Region 7 director also signed the MOA as witnesses. Mendez will continue as Aumentado's consultant on peace and order, and executive officer for the Provincial Peace and Order Council and Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council but has specific instructions to provide guidance to BJMP-assigned incoming warden Felixberto Jagorin.

In his acceptance message, Dial said Bohol is the third province to turnover its jail to the BJMP, and expects more provinces to follow suit on the strength of a MOA in the absence of an approved law,

He assured the governor that in the safekeeping of inmates, BJMP's utmost responsibility is to treat them humanely. He also vowed "to improve the management always."

He thanked the governor and the LGU for their trust and confidence in the BJMP in assuming responsibility over BDRC.

For her part, Dorigo said she will see to it that BJMP will live up to the governor's expectations. 

Mining Monopoly in Bohol By Domingo Chua?

By Kit Bagaipo, the Bohol Chronicle

After having been accused of cornering all claims of mining sites in the province,

Cebu-based businessman Domingo Chua finally breaks his silence to belie allegations of monopoly.

In a press conference last Thursday, Chua showed proof that he obtained mining rights lawfully and that there is no truth to reports that he owns two-thirds of mineral extraction claims in the province.

In fact, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional director Roger de Dios backed Chua's statement during the monthly "Alarma", a radio forum of the Bohol Tri-Media Association (BTMA) on Thursday.

De Dios said that the total area of Chua's mineral exploration permits covers just 22.03 percent, or a land area of 25,971 hectares.

"It is not true that Chua has dominated mining claims here and that Boholano small-scale miners are being deprived in their applications for mining permits," De Dios disclosed.

Some provincial officials have complained the way mining applications are being handled by MGB which supposedly give preference to the Cebu businessman.

This even caught the attention of Sec. Jose Atienza of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) during his visit here last week, vowing to scrutinize the alleged mining monopoly.

De Dios revealed that small-scale mining permits in the province comprise 77.33 percent, or a total land area of 91,153 hectares.

"All mineral lands is free to all whoever wants to apply," he said.

The MGB official explained that Chua's claimed mineral-rich sites have become a hot issue as some local officials also want to venture into mining the areas.

"We issued the permit to Chua because he applied for it first and there is no hindrance for his claims as long as requirements under the law are complied with," De Dios added.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan is crafting the Bohol Mining Code for the regulation of small-scale mineral extraction in the province with the provincial government issuing permits to applicants. 

Panglao Island Man Accused of Rape

By the Bohol Chronicle

The accuser-turned accused of the celebrated rape and murder of a teenage girl in Bolod, Panglao is formally charged with the crime that happened more than four years ago.

An Information for Rape with Homicide was filed Friday by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor at the Regional Trial Court against Alex Dasco, the self-confessed witness to the gruesome killing of Vivian Dumaluan.

Dasco, whose whereabouts remain unknown months after he surfaced to disclose his knowledge of the crime, was declared by a panel of three prosecutors as a "coached and paid" witness who should be made to answer for his participation in the rape-slay case excluding those whom he accused as the real perpetrators.

The Information on Criminal Case No. 13972 was signed by Provincial Prosecutors Ponciano Uy, Margie Tan Alvaro, Tito Apura and Macario Delusa.

Based on his own testimony, Dasco said he was the one who held the hands of Vivian while she was repeatedly raped sometime in April 2004.

He identified former Panglao mayor Dr. Doloreich Dumaluan as the one who ordered the rape and slaying of Vivian. The former mayor's brother Teofredo (the victim's employer), Romeo Lapinig and Narciso Maghamil were also charged with the former mayor.

The complaint was dismissed but the prosecutors instead found probable cause against Dasco.

Maghamil is detained at the Bohol Detention and Rehabilitation Center after he was originally charged in court for the same crime.

The prosecutors said that Dasco conspired with Maghamil to rape Vivian, only 18 years old at that time, and later inflicting serious physical injuries that caused her death.

The respondents were assisted by lawyers Ruben Jay Medina, Esther Gertrude Biliran, Aleck Francis Lim and Roland Inting. 

China Will Help Bohol Island?

By the Bohol Chronicle

China has committed more support for Bohol's tourism and agriculture - and even in the inclusion of its top tourist destination, the Chocolate Hills, in the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Ambassador Song Tao of the People's Republic of China gave this assurance during his recent courtesy call on Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado at the latter's office at the Capitol.

Song told Aumentado that China is ready to give technical assistance to local agriculturists especially in the areas of hybrid rice and hybrid corn production.

The ambassador expressed elation on learning that the governor had been to Jilin province in China four years ago where he saw foot-long ears of hybrid corn.

At the sane time, he invited Aumentado and his agriculture men and women to visit Hunan province some time. Hunan, he said, is China's top hybrid rice producer.

Aumentado accepted the invitation, saying that he wanted to push even more rice and corn production in Bohol.

"Bohol is now the top rice producer in Central Visayas , but it still is only 82.5 percent self-sufficient,' he told Song.

The province can expand its area planted to rice by only so much. To achieve self- sufficiency, he said, the key is to increase production through irrigation, better-yielding seeds and good fertilization techniques, he said of one of Bohol's two economic drivers.

The other, he said, is tourism.

Song said he observed that the resort where his delegation was staying was full of Chinese tourists.

Aumentado said it will even be easier to come to Bohol in the next few years because the Panglao Bohol International Airport will be completed by then.

Simultaneous onstruction of the runway and the terminal building and their appurtenances will start in December or January, with the inauguration indicatively slated on April 5, 2010 - coinciding with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's birthday.

The ambassador also vowed to campaign among his provincemates and other places in China the voting for the inclusion of the Chocolate Hills in the N7W of Nature.

Song comes from Fujian province.

He was elated on knowing that former chair Meng Jianzhu of the party standing committee of the People's Provincial Government of Jiangxi and now Minister of Public Security of the People's Republic of China also visited Aumentado in the same office two years back.

"He has been promoted!" Song said of Meng.

With Song were his wife Guo Jianli; Economic and Commercial Counselor Wu Zhengping; First Secretaries Liu Lujun and Qiu Zhongyi; Third Secretaries Xu Hangtian and Zhou Xiang all from the Embassy Office in Makati City; as well as Consul General He Shijing and Consular Attache Jiang Jun from the Consular Office in Cebu City. They were shepherded by Dr. Simplicio Yap who heads the local Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCCI) and other members.

Song also hosted dinner for Aumentado and other provincial and city officials that evening.

The ambassador also expressed excitement over his visit to the Chocolate Hills the following day. Their tour was capped with dinner al fresco at one of the floating restaurants on the Loboc River courtesy of Mayor Leon Calipusan - with the added attraction of a performance by the Loboc Youth Band.

The proposed Bohol Mining Code seeks to regulate small-scale mineral extraction in the province with the provincial government issuing permits to applicants.

Even Vice Gov. Julius Caesar Herrera has criticized the approval of mining applications in Bohol. 

Hospital Patients Can Leave Without Paying Bills?

Die now, pay later?

Not an insurance company gimmick. Not a scam either.

It is but a reminder from Bohol Gov . Erico Aumentado for public and private hospitals and medical clinics operating in the province not to detain patients and cadavers on the grounds of non-payment of hospital bills or medical expenses.

In a memo-advisory, Aumentado said it has come to his attention that there are still instances where hospitals refuse to release patients who have fully or partially recovered, or cadavers, because they have not paid their bills.

He reminded the administrations of all hospitals and medical clinics that such practice is prohibited under Republic Act 9439.

Section 1 of Ra 9439 states that it shall be unlawful for any hospital or medical clinic in the country to detain or to otherwise cause, directly or indirectly, the detention of patients who have fully or partially recovered or have been adequately attended to, or who may have died, for reasons of non-payment in part or in full of hospital bills and medical expenses.

The memo-advisory said patients shall be allowed to leave the hospital or medical clinic, or the bodies of deceased patients shall be released, with the issuance of the corresponding medical or death certificate upon the execution of a promissory note secured either by a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker.

Aumentado warned hospital or clinic officers or employees responsible for releasing patients or cadavers who violate the law shall be fined from P20,000 to P50,000 or imprisoned for one to six months, or penalized with both fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.

The governor issued the advisory after receiving several requests from such patients or relatives of those who died, including a British national who wanted to bury his Filipina wife in her home province in Mindanao but whose cadaver the hospital would not release, asking for his intercession. 

Erap Estrada Will Run President in 2010

By the Bohol Chronicle

Deposed Pres. Joseph Estrada arrived here Thursday to get the pulse of the Boholanos : "Will he still be winnable in a presidential race in 2010?"

"I'm moving around the country to personally get the sentiments of the Filipinos against the present graft-ridden regime," he told the Chronicle during an ambush interview upon arrival at the city port.

He strongly criticized the Arroyo government for placing the nation as one of the most corrupt governments in the world today.

"The mandate is for the opposition to win in the 2010 polls," he stressed even as he categorically said nothing is sure yet on his candidacy.

Lawyer Koko Pimentel, counsel of the former President said Estrada can still run for the presidency. However, this legal contention has still to be decided by the High Tribunal.

Estrada was met at the city port by City mayor Dan Lim and former Gov. Rene Relampagos, recognized figurehead of the local opposition.

Mr. Estrada, during his 24-hour visit, met with the youth sector of the community visiting the campuses of the University of Bohol and Holy Name University. He likewise met with the members of the media during a press conference Friday noon at Miravilla Resort.

The former president paid courtesy call to Bishop Leonardo Medroso at the Bishop's Place shortly before he left for Manila.

He privately met with local opposition quarter during a dinner fellowship at The Peacock Resort & Spa in Baclayon town.

Meanwhile, former Gov. Relampagos said everything remains fluid in the political arena. He could not even say if what position he will run once the opposition will anoint him to lead the local opposition for the 2010 elections. 

Secret Fund of Gloria Arroyo Government

By the Bohol Chronicle

An organization spearheaded by Boholanos seeking to promote reforms in the country's budget drops a bombshell uncovering billions worth of government funds hidden under a "secret fund" that is within the sole discretion of the President.

In a briefing conducted by the Center for National Budget Legislation (CNBL) last Friday at the Prawn Farm, CNBL President Joseph Ranola and Chronicle Editor Zoilo "Bingo" Dejaresco III dissected the intimidating and voluminous General Appropriations Act (GAA) to make it comprehensible by the layman.

The so-called secret fund is the Special Purpose Funds (SPF) incorporated in the yearly GAA which are "budgetary items that are non-permanent in nature, appropriated to augment obligations of line agencies, governed by special provisions and subject to the President's approval."

In the GAA, there are standard line budget items, which represent the allocations for line agencies.

In the 2008 GAA (also referred to as the national budget), the allocation for line agencies is P503 billion.

But this year's SPF totaled P562 billion which is even bigger that the budget for line agencies.

Ranola explained that due to the thick books on General Appropriations that are given to congressmen to study, they tend to concentrate on the line budget.

"Because of legislators' limited time, items under SPF are neither tackled nor extensively scrutinized during budget deliberations," he said.

Ranola likewise exposed that a big chunk of the national budget goes to the payment of interest on our country's foreign debt which has ballooned to P3.81 trillion.


There are 19 specific items under the SPF, Ranola disclosed, "but examining the descriptions of each item would only tell you that the budget reflected for line agencies is a deception."

A breakdown provided by CNBL showed some of the items in the SPF which includes: 1) Budget support for government corporations (P12 billion); Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act or AFMA (P23 billion); Allocation to local government units (P21 billion): Calamity fund (P2 billion); Contingency Fund (P800 million); Dep Ed School building program (P2 billion); E-Government Fund (1 billion); International Commitment Fund (P1.9 billion); Miscellaneous Personal Benefits Fund (P41 billion); National Unification Fund (P50 million); Priority Development Assistance Fund o commonly known as "pork barrel" (P7.8 billion); and Pension and gratuity Fund (P59.9 billion).

But the biggest item in the SPF however is the "Unprogrammed Fund" which amounted to P114.5 billion this year.

Ranola clarified further that the "Unprogrammed Fund" is a budgetary item referring to appropriations that are not yet supported by corresponding resources. These are standby appropriations which authorize additional agency expenditures for priority programs and projects in excess of the original budget.

Last year's "Unprogrammed Fund" was P61.1 billion. It jumped to P114.5 billion this year or an increase of 87 percent.

Since it is under SPF, President Arroyo has control over it because the release is subject to her approval.

"Unprogrammed Fund" is supposed to be implemented only when revenue collections exceed the resource targets assumed in the budget, or when additional foreign project loan proceeds are realized. But Ranola said even as many of the opposition lawmakers have not received their PDAF allegedly due to lack of funds, unprogrammed funds are known to have been released.

The CNBL presentation proved that billions of pesos are stolen by our government officials.

The group's call was for ordinary people to understand the budget so they could start inquiring from their congressmen on how much they know of the GAA and whether he has done something to get a share for his congressional district.

CNBL also discussed the interrelation of deficits and debts to our budget.