BAGUIO

Killings, PMA deaths rock Cordillera

NEW leadership was introduced in the Cordilleras following a midterm election marked by peace and a collective hope for the betterment of all.

The Commission on Elections–Cordillera described the May 13 midterm elections in the region as successful and generally peaceful save for some issues with the vote counting machines (VCMs) and SD cards and fist fights in the province of Abra.

Changes in the political landscape in areas of the region were highlighted by the entry of a new generation leaders.

For Baguio City, the resounding win of retired police general Benjamin Magalong, who now sits as Chief Executive of the country’s summer capital, was marked with new ideas and a renewed love for the mountain resort tackling pressing problems with his mantra of participative governance and public consultations backed by a mass support for the new administration.

Ending the year with grief, the province of Benguet mourned the loss of representative Nestor Fongwan Sr., who left a legacy of programs for the agriculture and memories of his political career marked with passion and compassion for the plight of farmers.

Baguio

BAGUIO. Three cadets died this year in the academy, Dormitorio on September 18, Second Class Cadet Cedrick Gadia who succumbed to his battle to cancer on October 28, and Dormitorio's classmate Fourth Class Cadet Mario Telan Jr. who drowned in November. (Photo by JJ Landingin)

A year of death and crime

The year was marked with death and gore in the highlands with a nation in rage following the death of a Philippine Military Academy cadet.

The peace loving people of Benguet woke up to a dumping ground of bodies in Tuba town pushing elders to cleanse and ask for the mountain gods for help in traditional rituals.

In the town of Besao, the death of three individuals shocked the peaceful highland town. Residents condemned the apprehended murderers.

The death of PMA Fourth Class Cadet Darwin Dormitorio on September 18 broke the 18-year hazing truce at Asia’s premier military academy.

A death could not be more tragic as Dormitorio’s at the hands of guilt-stricken brothers based on videos of upperclassmen beating the plebe inside their barracks.

The crime prompted a review of the PMA’s honor code and ended with the resignation of former superintendent Lt. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista and commandant of cadets General Bartolome Vicente Bacarro.

Baguio City Police Office, lead investigators, disclosed medico legal reports which revealed that a flashlight with built-in taser was used against the gonads and body of Dormitorio, snuffing the life out of the 20 year-old plebe.

The Dormitorio family filed in court charges of violation of Anti-Hazing Law and violation of Anti-Torture law against PMA's former heads as well as upperclassmen Third Class Cadet Shalimar Imperial, 3CL Felix Lumbag Jr., 3CL John Vincent Manalo, 3CL Julis Tadena, 3CL Rey David Volante, 2CL Christian Zacarias, 1CL Axl Rey Sanopao, Tactical officers Major Rex Bolo, Captain Jeffrey Batistiana.

Medical doctors Captain Flor Apostol, Major Ofelia Beloy and Colonel Cesar Almer Candelaria are also facing charges of dereliction of duty as defined and punished by Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code.

Declaring war against hazing is the new PMA Commandant of Cadets Brigadier General Romeo Brawner with new Superintendent Vice Admiral Ferdinand Cusi pressing for long and short term solutions.

Two other cadets died this year in the academy. Second Class Cadet Cedrick Gadia succumbed to his battle against cancer on October 28 and Dormitorio's classmate, Fourth Class Cadet Mario Telan Jr., drowned last month.

After the investigation on Telan's death, two PMA instructors were discharged and found negligent in the conduct of the swimming course.

His death also prompted the assignment of a team from the Philippine Navy Special Operations Group to be part of all water-borne activities of the cadets.



BAGUIO. Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) investigate the crime scene in front of a bar along KM4, Marcos Highway, Baguio City which transpired past 7 a.m. on December 9, 2019. The victim, Samuel “Sammy” Mora, sustained multiple gunshots from unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants. (Photo by Jean Nicole Cortes)

Fewer crimes

With a continuing program to reduce lawlessness, the Police Regional Office Cordillera recorded a drop in crime statistics for 2019.

Since 2016, crime statistics in the region has shown a downtrend with the crime volume decreasing from 12,000 in 2016 to 5,000 cases as of October 2019.

Police records show over 8,000 incidents of index crimes in 2016 as compared to 1,200 index crimes involving crimes against properties and crimes against persons recorded in 2019.

Baguio City and Benguet province were still the top major contributors to crime statistics in the last three years, with 34,000 incidents from 2016 to date with the City of Baguio and Benguet log 15,609 and 10,206 respectively.

There were a total of 8,327 index crimes since 2016. Almost half, or over 4,000, were committed in Baguio. Over 2,000 were recorded in Benguet province.

The average monthly crime rate from January to October 2019 was 6.42 incidents per 100,000 population, while index crimes were recorded at 1.46 per 100,000 population per month.

A total of 387 shooting incidents were recorded from year 2016 to October this year with most of the shooting incidents transpiring in the Province of Abra at 185, while the rest of the incidents occurred in other provinces.

Abra registered 1.61 shooting incidents per month for every 100,000 population, or four incidents per month with a population of about 250,000, while the rest of the province having less than 1 incident per 100,000 population per month.

Of the 385 shooting incidents, 200 of these were murder, 41 were homicide and 138 resulted in physical injuries, with the possible motives mostly personal and family feud at 103, heated argument at 121, possible gun for hire at 93, 35 were drug related incidents, 8 political, and the remaining due to various reasons.

Most of the victims were farmers at 103, government employees at 44, drivers at 34, jobless at 23, businessmen and women at 24.

its crackdown on illegal drugs, around 11,000 persons were affected by illegal drugs since 2016 to the present in the Cordillera region.

In the first half of 2019, 150 cases were filed against 179 drug personalities in the region by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Cordillera for various violations related to illegal drugs operation in the region.

PDEA Cordillera in second quarter report during Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Council (RLECC) meeting, said of the 170 drug personalities have been arrested, 30 were considered as high-value targets (HVT) and are now facing criminal cases in court.

PROCOR tries to help them through the recovery and wellness program with help and support from other sectors like various government line agencies and non-government organizations with end result of rehabilitating them.

On internal cleansing, the Cordillera cops are still considered as the most disciplined Regional Command with no Police personnel included in the 477 Policemen nationwide discharged from service due to various violations.

Death of Pagpag boys

Three villagers were found dead in a forested area at the border of Besao in Mt. Province and Tubo in Abra.

They were fishing for eels in an area locally known as “Pagpag”. After a week, they were found lifeless with gunshot and hack wounds.

Residents of Besao and Tubo condemned the killings and cried for justice.

To thwart an outbreak of violence and retaliation, peace talks were held among affected barangays of Besao.

Abra native Marlon Batuli was arrested on October 17 by virtue of a warrant of arrest for the killings.



BENGUET. In Tuba, Benguet, eight bodies in an advanced stage of decomposition and two skeletal bodies were discovered along Marcos Highway in Sitio Poyopoy, Barangay Taloy Sur, Tuba, Benguet on October 15 and 16. Five of the eight were laid to rest in Sitio Bomosgao, Poblacion, Tuba. (Photo by Jean Nicole Cortes)

Poyopoy 8 mystery

A slap in the face of peace-loving people of Benguet was how the Benguet Provincial Police chief described the discovery of bodies in an advanced stage of decomposition and two skeletal bodies along Marcos Highway in Sitio Poyopoy, Barangay Taloy Sur, Tuba, Benguet on October 15 and 16.

Five unidentified bodies were laid to rest in Sitio Bomosgao, Poblacion, Tuba.

The three others were identified as Alfredo Domilos Lamenta Jr. also known as Junie Batang-e from Tadian, Mt. Province; Fahad Manan Macalanggan, 28, native of Marawi City; and Kent Charlie Licyayo, 22, native of Ifugao both residents of Baguio City.

Tuba Municipal Police discovered the bodies in an estimated 30-meter-deep ravine. Families with missing relatives trooped to Benguet police for assistance.

DNA samples were taken from the families with missing relatives for matching with samples taken from the remaining five unidentified bodies.

Following the discovery of the bodies, a “Daw-es” cleansing ritual was later offered to appease the dead and cleanse the mind of search and retrieval volunteers.

A “mambunong” or native priest also offered prayers for the departed souls and participants in the two-day retrieval operations. He also asked “kabunyan” (god) to bless the place and prevent such incidents in the future.

Tuba Mayor Clarita Sal-ongan called on the public to stop dumping bodies and garbage along the national road.

Environment

Baguio City representative Marquez Go filed a bill that would declare Baguio City as a mining free city amidst issues on an exemption for small scale miners operating in the identified mining sites within territorial boundaries based on proclamations 414 and 517 identifying parts of the city to be excluded from the Baguio Townsite Reservation signed by then President Carlos Garcia in 1957.

However, Go confirmed the absence of documents pertaining to mineral reservations in the city by virtue of the two proclamations.

On the heels of the Supreme Court nullifying 28 titles within the portion of the Presidential Mansion, Wright Park and a prewar hotel, after ruling that the Summer Capital is exempted from the ancestral land provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1987 (Ipra, or Republic Act No. 8371).

Section 78 of the law protects and enforce indigenous Filipino rights “expressly excludes the city of Baguio from the application of the general provisions of the IPRA,” ruled the high court’s Second Division in a September 25 decision that was received by City Hall on November 12.

Go urged officials and the public to abide by the decision of the highest court in the country.

Environmental group Baguio Regreening Movement (BRM) continues to call on the public to help protect the Busol watershed as illegal settlers have encroached in 7.0 hectares of this area with the backing of the Baguio Water District (BWD).

The group rallied for support for the watersheds and the creation of a water department.

Forests on fire

Forest fires claimed the lives of five people.

Four of the departed included Philex forestry workers while one was a former employee involved in battling the fire that hit February in Sitio Banawel, Barangay Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet.

The fire broke out outside the mining camp were firefighting immediately dispatched to put the fire out but was not easily controlled with the fire’s rapid forward spread due to the windy condition.

Remains of the four forestry workers were discovered about 50 meters below the Forestry-Nursery which was also ravaged by fire. The charred remains of the fifth casualty, a retired company employee, was found some minutes later around forty meters from where the forestry workers were.

Based on the aerial survey by the Office of the Civil Defense Cordillera and the Armed Forces of the Philippines an estimated 180 hectares was razed with the fire emanating from three various areas.

Data provided shows a total of 60 forest fires from January to February this year alone compared to the 63 forest fires recorded from January to December 2018 in the whole Cordillera region.



BAGUIO. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered a halt in the processing of biodegradable waste at the Irisan dumpsite. This was later lifted on several conditions. (Photo by Jean Nicole Cortes)

Garbage problem

On his first day in office in July, newly installed Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong faced the garbage problem head on.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered a halt in the processing of biodegradable waste at the Irisan dumpsite pushing residents and the new set to officials in a quandary.

The DENR later lifted the order on four conditions: clearing or hauling out of all accumulated store mixed waste material not later than July 31, installation and operationalization of all machines, collect only biodegradable waste and no storage of any residual waste outside the ERS facility.

The DENR stressed the conversion of the closed Irisan dumpsite into an environment-friendly eco-park should be finished not later than December 31, 2019.

The Irisan site is now capable of processing compost when glitches in existing machines were fixed while plans for the Eco Park are in place in waiting for implementation.

Plans for garbage technology and the development of the dairy farm are also being finalized to have a facility to treat local garbage.

Rehabilitation

Magalong started the year by asking President Rodrigo Duterte to order the rehabilitation of the pines city.

The chief executive said support components of the city like sewer, water and parking facilities have to be fixed as well as a regulation of overdevelopment.

In tandem with Councilors Mylen Yaranon and Philian Weygan Allan the creation of the plans for both Burnham Park and the public Market have been crafted anticipating its development and rehabilitation.

Burnham Park is eyed to revive and restore the central axis as planned by Daniel Burnham of the "City Beautiful Movement”.

As the year closes, the chief executive said the Department of Tourism has pledged to help in rehabilitation efforts of the city in a bid to preserve and set into place tourism in the highland city in tandem with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza).

Initial funds for Burnham Park has been released to complete a massive effort to preserve the park to sustain the aim for a full rehabilitation.

Creative cities

On its second year of being part of the Unesco Creative Cities was marked by a festival marked with arts and artisans.

Close to 500 works of art, artists, artisans and cultural workers will come together for the Ibagiw festival.

Led by the Baguio Arts and Creative Council (BACCI) and festival creative director Karlo Altomonte, a launch of the iBagiw, is set over the weekend for a nine-day activity at the Diplomat hotel area.

Baguio City is among 64 cities from 44 countries that have been designated as Unesco Creative Cities with the objective of fostering innovations and creativity as key drivers for a more sustainable and inclusive urban development with the November festival as the highlight for this year.

Exposure to the silver crafts industry, weaving, wood carving and cultural performance and literature unique only in Baguio City and the Cordillera Region.

The government has vowed to up the funding for the creative sector with a commitment to maintain the status of the city as part of the Unesco brand.



APAYAO. Boulders from the mountains roll to the Kabugao-Pudtol-Luna-Cagayan Road when heavy rains continuously pounded the area in November. (Pudtol MDRRMO photo)

Civil defense

The Province of Apayao was battered by typhoons that have passed over the region.

Placed under a state of calamity by its Provincial Board due to severe flooding brought about by torrential rains and the onslaught of Typhoon Quiel leaving a Board Member, a member of the Philippine National Police and another individual dead.

Threats of landslide and flooding sent residents packing their belongings to seek temporary shelter in evacuation centers in the province of Apayao.

Albert Mogol, Regional Director of Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Cordillera explained Apayao was prone to landslide and flooding similarly with Kalinga having the major river systems of Apayao River and Chico River.

A total of 277 families were evacuated.



BAGUIO. Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) investigate the crime scene in front of a bar along KM4, Marcos Highway, Baguio City which transpired past 7 a.m. on December 9, 2019. The victim, Samuel “Sammy” Mora, sustained multiple gunshots from unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants. (Photo by Jean Nicole Cortes)

Road crash deaths

A total of 944 road crashes were recorded from January to August this year, 13 people died, 299 injured.

The World Health Organization this year said road crash deaths are unacceptably high with 1.35 million people dead. Road crash is the top cause of death for people of all ages.

For the last three years, the Police Regional Office in the Cordillera region recorded 13,535 cases recorded with 6,078 of this road crash incidents mainly occur in Benguet.

Amid vehicles falling of deep ravines, lawmakers of Benguet passed a resolution requesting the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to implement engineering works or measures along the Benguet Nueva-Vizcaya Road, Buguias-Kabayan Road now called Andres Cosalan Raod and other Road Networks in Benguet to prevent or minimize road accidents.

"The economic growth of the nearby communities of the province of Benguet is dependent upon the development of the highways that enhance the mobility of its various essential economic factors and the installation of mitigating measures are drastically needed," the resolution added.

Benguet Provincial Police added aside from engineering solutions, public awareness of road rules and driver discipline are equally important to ensure road safety.

Public Works

The repair and maintenance of major road networks in the region will have a P14.523-billion budget for the year 2020 based on the approved General Appropriations Act or GAA as opposed to the proposed P34-billion budget earlier passed by the regional public works department.

Among major road development the DPWH seeks to undertake is the total rehabilitation of Kennon Road which would need P38 billion for it to become an all-weather highway.

This year, Kennon Road underwent closure and a one way road opening proceedings, which placed a toll on the travel time leading to the country’s summer capital, aside from the traffic inconveniences Baguio City experiences during long and regular weekends due to road repairs along Marcos Highway and the volume of traffic in the city.

Quest for good health

The Department of Health Cordillera (DOH-CAR) recorded a 967-percent increase in suspected measles cases in the region to 939 rom January to August 10 this year compared to 88 in 2018.

DOH-CAR noted that measles also has its own cycle. An increase in cases was also noted in 2012, 2014 and 2018 aside from 2019.

The highest number of suspected measles cases as of August was recorded in the Province of Benguet with 384 cases followed by Baguio City with 333 cases while the least number of cases was recorded in Kalinga Province. The bulk of cases was recorded during the measles outbreak nationwide making the health department to conduct an active measles surveillance.

Hand, foot and mouth diseases (HFMD) recorded a 994 percent increase in the number of suspected cases in the region based on its January to November 2019 disease surveillance report.

DOH Cordillera recorded 733 cases for the said period as compared to the 57 cases recorded in 2018 with no deaths recorded for both years.

HFMD is a question of environment, sanitation and personal hygiene which is why the health department advices the public to practice strict hand washing before and after eating.

Parents were again reminded to make sure that their children especially the toddlers who are usually the most affected to make sure that their hands are clean and to make sure that the environment where they are is clean.

The Regional Health Department also called on the public to help achieve zero casualty in celebrating Christmas and welcoming the New Year of 2020.


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