Thursday, June 30, 2016

LC set to implement CCTV project phase 3

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff reporter

Laoag City—The city government here announced that additional closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras will be installed around the city soon.

The city government’s information technology officer Franz Felipe detailed that at least 30 additional CCTV cameras will be installed this year. He said this would be the CCTV project’s phase 3.

Mr. Felipe disclosed that the cameras installed in 2010 may also need to be replaced for upgrading purposes.

Currently, the city has 56 operating cameras distributed around the city proper.

The additional CCTV cameras to be acquired will be “top of the line”, Mr. Felipe said. He added that the cameras would be high definition and can function properly in both day and night sequences.

He also clarified that the 56 cameras do not include those acquired by barangays in the city. Those barangay cameras were purchased from their own budgets.

At least 10 barangays have their own CCTV system; more barangays in the city are also planning to purchase their own.

The CCTV project was first implemented to monitor the city’s security and traffic situation. The city police have said the CCTV system help them prevent and solve crimes.

The Ilocos Times June 6-12, 2016

 Click photo for the PDF file

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Journalists at risk from sexual violence, gender-based discrimination

CPJ releases annual assessment of press freedom worldwide

New York—Sexualized violence, online harassment, and gender-based discrimination are undermining the ability of journalists to tell vital stories and report the news. Combining personal accounts with context and analysis, Attacks on the Press, published by the Committee to Protect Journalists today, highlight the challenges as well as the courage of journalists who face such threats, and also makes clear what is being lost.

Attacks on the Press is a collection of essays by CPJ staff and outside experts that examines the challenges journalists face. The 2016 edition looks at the intersection of gender and press freedom from a variety of perspectives.

The book includes a harrowing account by Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima, who was raped 16 years ago by men who sought to punish her for her reporting on arms trafficking. Bedoya, who campaigns for justice for victims of sexual violence, describes the attack as a "crime that destroys our lives," but says she was compelled to keep writing. In an extract from her essay, Ms. Bedoya writes, "I still do not know where I found the strength to return to the newsroom, to my notes and to my tape recorder. What I do see clearly is what motivated me. I understand now that my love for this profession and for my work as a reporter was greater than the pain of my body and my soul."

In other essays, Elisabeth Witchel, an expert in journalism and human rights, investigates online harassment by interviewing trolls to examine how they choose their targets, and Michelle Ferrier, a former columnist for Florida's Daytona Beach News-Journal, describes the emotional toll inflicted by relentless denigration and verbal assault. The book also explores the consequences of gender-based discrimination from how opportunities for women in journalism are limited in China, and the conditions for women journalists reporting on post-Qaddafi Libya, which has become less overtly repressive but more violent, and the challenges faced by gay and transgender journalists who must overcome discrimination in and outside of the newsroom.

A number of other essays tackle the difficult question of what can be done-from combatting gender-based online abuse to specialized safety training. Kathleen Carroll, CPJ's vice chair and executive editor of The Associated Press, discusses in her essay how showing a nurturing side can be a valuable tool for news managers in helping staff overcome difficult situations.

Attacks on the Press was first published in 1986. The 2016 print edition is published by Bloomberg Press, an imprint of Wiley, and is available for purchase. Public events to mark its launch on April 27 will be held at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C. at 1:30 p.m. EDT and at Columbia University, in New York City, at 6:30 p.m. EDT. A livestream of the panel discussion at the Newseum will be available here

(CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.)

US Embassy releases statement on polls

THE United States of America, through its Philippine embassy congratulated both the people of the Philippines and presumptive President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The statement added: “We look forward to the official conclusion of the electoral process for the many offices contested in the national elections.”

The statement also touched on the Philippines’ and the US’s long history.

“The Philippines and the United States have a long and enduring history based on a shared commitment to upholding democratic values and institutions. The successful elections in the Philippines, and its record-setting number of voters, are a testament to the Philippines’ vibrant democracy. The United States looks forward to continuing to deepen our bilateral partnership with the new administration as we address common challenges and issues of mutual interest.”

Holiness is for all

NOT everyone can be president of our country. But everyone can and should be a saint. Not everyone can be president because there are some stringent requirements for it, like being a natural-born citizen and a resident of the country for a number of years. But everyone can be holy because God calls all and empowers all to be so.

As president or, for that matter, as any holder of public position or status, certain skills are needed to carry out the specific demands of such position and status. But as a saint, no specific skills are needed. What is simply needed is to give our whole being to God, irrespective of our position and status in life.

Ever wondered why Christ chose his apostles practically randomly? He, for example, would just pass by Matthew in his tax collector’s table and say, “Come, follow me,” without as much checking on Matthew’s background.

Same with brothers Peter and Andrew, and James and John. Christ would just call them, and without asking any question they simply left their nets, for they were fishermen, and followed Christ.

In the end, he would also call Judas Iscariot who would later betray him. Christ, being God, would have known that Judas would turn him in. But that did not deter him. He called Judas to be one of his 12 apostles just the same.

The only reason I can find for this behavior of Christ is that he has the right to call anyone and everyone to follow him. And that’s simply because, as God, he has that right since all of us come from him and belong to him. As redeemer, he calls everyone to follow him.

This, I believe, is a truth of faith that we have to understand very well. Sanctity is not so much a matter of acquiring specific skills, positions and status, as of giving one’s whole self to God.

This does not mean that we should be indifferent and negligent about this business of acquiring skills, positions and status. These are very important and indispensable, but as living parts of the whole body that sanctity is.

Remember that passage in the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians when he talked about the body and its different parts? It’s in Chapter 12 and might be worthwhile going though it again.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ,” he said. He continued: “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell be?”

To be holy is actually a matter of becoming a living, functioning part of the body of Christ. That would mean that we become identified with Christ, infused with his spirit of love and conformed to his will and ways.

To be holy is to be with Christ, although in different ways, just like the different parts that form and serve one body. And we should not worry if, continuing the same imagery of the body and its parts, we happen to be that part that we consider of least honor.

St. Paul has this to say about that: “The parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.” (22-24)

The important thing to remember is that each part of the body, however it is considered in our human standards, has to serve the whole body. In other words, whatever our condition, position or status in life, we should always aim at sanctity, the end-all and be-all of our life.

We should refrain from getting entangled with petty comparisons with others, generating unnecessary envies, jealousies, conflicts, etc. We should learn to be contented with what we have as long as we use them for the attainment of our ultimate goal of holiness.

But we obviously have to attend to opportunities to a better condition, position or status when they prove to be coming from God’s will, and not just from our own desires that can be driven by pride, vanity, greed, and the like.

Friday, June 17, 2016

NGCP campaigns against grassfire

As the El NiƱo season peaks, power grid operator NGCP steps up its campaign to warn the public against forming and spreading grassfires, especially in rural areas.

“NGCP is going all out in informing the public of the dangers and adverse effects of grassfires on transmission facilities. Not only is grassfire hazardous to the health of the people, it also poses a threat to power transmission facilities, particularly wood poles. If these structures are burnt, our transmission services might be interrupted,” stated NGCP.

The company also noted that the smoke from grassfires alone can cause tripping of transmission lines. “The fire does not have to physically touch the line for it to trip. The thick smoke alone can trigger these lines to trip and cause power interruption,” the company reiterated.

At the same time, NGCP thanked the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), particularly in Cagayan, who was quick to respond to grassfire incidents involving power transmission assets. Last April 3, a wood pole was burnt along one of NGCP’s transmission lines in the province. Fortunately, the incident did not result in a tripping.

Four of NGCP’s 69-kilovolt lines, mostly composed of wood poles, traverse Cagayan servicing the franchise areas of Cagayan I Electric Cooperative (CAGELCO I), Cagayan II Electric Cooperative (CAGELCO II), Isabela II Electric Cooperative (ISELCO II) and Kalinga Electric Cooperative (KAELCO) in Cagayan, Kalinga, Apayao, and parts of Isabela provinces.

“The integrity of these lines is threatened by grassfires which, per field reports, are usually formed by farmers especially during the summer season. We reiterate our appeal to the public to stop these unsafe practices near transmission lines so power interruptions are avoided,” said NGCP.

NGCP is a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid. It transmits high-voltage electricity through “power superhighways” that include the interconnected system of transmission lines, towers, substations, and related assets. The consortium, which holds the 25-year concession contract to operate the country's power transmission network, is comprised of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. led by Henry Sy, Jr., Calaca High Power Corporation led by Robert Coyiuto, Jr., and the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) as technical partner. (NGCP news)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Duterte reaches out to foes, calls for national healing

DAVAO CITY—Presidential frontrunner Rodrigo R. Duterte extended his hand of reconciliation to political rivals as he called for national healing following a bitter campaign in the race for the presidency that saw all candidates throwing mud at each other on May 10.

“I would like now reach my hand to my opponents and let us begin the process of healing,” Duterte said in a well-attended press briefing at The Royal Mandaya Hotel, where he went straight after casting his vote at the Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School in Matina.

Although acknowledging that the exchange of innuendoes is part of the election process in the Philippines, he admitted that the mudslinging during the campaign period was very intense and virulent.

“Let us begin to forget, and let us be friends,” he said.

The 71-year-old local chief executive is contesting the presidency against administration candidate Manuel “Mar” A. Roxas II, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay and senators Mary Grace Natividad Poe-Llamanzares and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

When asked if he is also reaching out to vice presidential candidate and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV—his most ardent critic during the campaign—Mr. Duterte said his peace offering is intended for everybody.

Should his rivals refuse his call, Mr. Duterte said he cannot do anything about it.

During the past three months, Mr. Duterte engaged Messrs. Roxas and Binay in a fiery verbal clash over issues as they toured the countryside to court votes.

But, it was Mr. Duterte himself who absorbed the stinging blows in the final two weeks of the campaign when Mr. Trillanes hurled several accusations against the presidential frontrunner.

Mr. Duterte was also a victim of a highly controversial political television advertisement allegedly paid for by Mr. Trillanes, although this was stopped after his running mate, vice presidential aspirant Sen. Alan Peter S. Cayetano, was able to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) that prohibited the television network from further airing the ad.

Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte said he is satisfied with the conduct of the national and local elections.

“So, far I have not received any reports of cheating and violation,” he said.

The mayor also made it clear to journalists that he is will not be presumptuous on the result of the electoral exercise.

“I remain only hopeful as of this time,” Mr. Duterte said.

Global economic analyst advises PH to get its act together to survive uncertainties

Dan Steinbock, an economic expert affiliated with the Difference Group, gave a dynamic lecture on the future of global and emerging economies at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies’ first public seminar for 2016. Mr. Steinbock discussed trends in global affairs and finance that are important for the Philippines as an emerging economy to take note of.

Odds are more uncertain in the post-2008 crisis world because the global order is less rigid. Mr. Steinbock said leaders must weigh policy choices holistically. Pure market analysis is not enough. There should be comprehensive consideration of not only the economic growth but also the noneconomic growth of both advanced and emerging economies.

“If we advocate solutions that have worked in advanced economies to emerging economies, irrespective of their cultural context and history, you may have the best of intentions, but you maybe [mistaking] the way to help,” explained Mr. Steinbock.

That is not to say situations are isolated, rather they are unique but interconnected. Despite the fact that emerging Asia was not as deeply affected as the rest of the world by the 2008 crisis, and Philippine growth consistently rose while the original leading emerging economies struggle, Mr. Steinbock said the country is not immune to global headwinds.

Take the case of plunging oil prices. The recent decline in oil prices has negatively impacted countries that are highly dependent on oil, such as the Gulf economies. While they seem far away, the Philippines remains vulnerable as it heavily relies on remittances from overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East. A decline in the economic health of the Gulf certainly affects Filipino laborers.

Apart from remittances, there other spillover channels and financial stress points affecting the country. Abrupt changes in global political and economic affairs influence the country’s trade, foreign direct investments, and participation in the global financial sector.

What Philippine leaders and policymakers need is to focus on medium-term and long-term plans, urged Mr. Steinbock.

In the context of increasing geopolitical tensions over territorial disputes, the refugee crisis, the deceleration of growth in Japan, China, and BRICS, the breakdown of confidence in the European Union membership, and leadership changes in the United States as well as in the Philippines, the country must rise up to the challenge of achieving and maintaining inclusive and sustainable growth.

The Philippines remains behind on policies and programs that are necessary to take advantage of its strengths and opportunities. Mr. Steinbock said there is no better time to capitalize than when the world order is reorganizing, and Philippine economic growth is comparatively good. But first the country has to address its shortcomings in infrastructure development and miniscule investments in research and development, and open up to more foreign direct investments.

“Emerging economies are now driving the world economy,” assured Mr. Steinbock, and it would be a shame if the Philippines does not act to get what it deserves. (PIDS)

Violence against women will continue to affect low-income women after 2016 elections—CWR

No high hopes for change

A women’s research and training institution puts no high hopes on the election results to resolve the persisting violence against women (VAW). The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), which has been working for women since 1982, do not see a change in scenario with more spaces allotted to the rich and the powerful, even in the party-list system.

"The party-list system has supposedly opened a space for the under-represented sectors.  But even this limited opportunity now accepts any group or party that will further push the marginalized sectors like women to the way side,” remarked Jojo Guan, CWR executive director.

The Supreme Court has revised in 2013 the rules, allowing political parties and groups not representing marginalized sectors to run under the party-list system.

Guan said, "Party-list groups need to provide legislation for the sectors that they represent.  So if the traditional political clans and businessmen dominate the party-list groups, more seats in congress means better protection for their interests. The party-list system means additional leverage for trapo and negosyo and not for the common tao.”

Media has reported that 52 of 56 party-list representatives in the 16th Congress are multimillionaires. For the upcoming 17th Congress, political clans observably dominate party-list groups like the Abono partylist of Estrella and Ortega clans of the North, Abyan Ilonggo of the Tupas clan of Iloilo, Ang Kasangga of the Quimpo clan of Aklan, SBP of the Belmontes in Metro Manila, among others.

The leading party-list group in the recent poll survey is Ako Bicol, comprising of rich entrepreneurs and professionals.  Its social media newsletter boasts of scholarships and livelihood support for Bicolanos.

"Even if a party-list group of a political clan or businessman claims to advocate the cause of the underrepresented, it would only be a patronizing act since most of their programs are dole-outs," said Guan.

Based from the records of Philippine Statistics Authority, Bicol is one of the regions that exhibited high poverty incidence during the first half of 2014, obtaining 48.2% while the other two regions are Eastern Visayas (54.9%) and ARMM (54%).

According to CWR’s study, Bicol region is also one of the areas with a high rate of poverty incidence where VAW cases, particularly rape, have soared in number for 14 years.  Aside from Bicol, the highest number of rape cases from 2000 - 2014 were recorded in CALABARZON, NCR, Western Visayas, and Central Luzon. 

“The recent news of a mother in Bicol region pimping her young daughters to foreigners through cyberpornography depicts of how poverty morphs people into savages for survival. The accountability rests in the political leaders who neglect their constituents. Bicol region is consistently included as having provinces with high poverty incidence, such as Camarines Sur, Masbate and Sorsogon,” remarked Mr. Guan.

"With high poverty rate, Ako Bicol could barely be the champion of Bicolanos' demand like the improvement of the coconut industry. It may be a co-signatory in the Reproductive Health Bill but it never condemns privatization of health services, large scale mining, military operations in school premises, which all result to grave violation of women’s rights.  Ako Bicol even rejected the Php2000-increase of pension for senior citizens,” said Guan.

Guan added, “the little space provided for marginalized sectors like women has even been snatched by traditional political families and businessmen. Women should never allow that trapos and profit-oriented politicos dominate their acquired space. Women should show their power of collective action.” 

Lights show ushers Ilocos Norte’s La Virgen Milagrosa festival

The Capitol light show (PGIN)

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—After a three-month long campaign season that ended with candidates and their campaigners a little darker and skinnier, the Ilocos Norte government staged the first of its kind lights show on May 8 to usher in the La Virgen Milagrosa festival.

Launched in 2012, the La Milagrosa provincial fiesta features a series of events celebrating both classic and contemporary Ilocano culture while honoring Ilocos Norte's patron saint, La Virgen Milagrosa.

Signaling the start of the celebration, a rainbow of lights illuminated the entire facade of the neo-classical Ilocos Norte Capitol building on May 8.

Preparing the light show (PGIN)
As thousands of local, domestic and foreign tourists visit the province, the magnificent Capitol located at the heart of the city, with established water fountains on both sides became a constant attraction among tourists, where people never missed the chance to take “selfie”.

This also prompted the provincial government under the administration of Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos to set up a mini-theme park in front of the Capitol building that changes every time there are big events such as the provincial fiesta or depending on the change of the season or a holiday such as during Christmas, Valentines and Holy Week among others. A “chibi” or replica of the three Marcos politicians—Governor Marcos, Rep. Imelda R. Marcos and Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. conveniently located at the Capitol lobby are also an instant hit among selfie addicts and those who adore the Marcoses.

“It’s like we have made our photo ops with them for real,” one visitor said as she giggled while scrolling the photos taken by her smartphone.

Ianree Raquel, Ilocos Norte Tourism Office (INTO) head, said they have coordinated with Voltaire Dela Cruz, a renowned designer as "one of the best lighting designers in the world" for his light designs in public parks, including the annual Festival of Lights at the Ayala Triangle in Makati City, Metro Manila.

The Capitol was chosen as the location for the light show not for its central location in the provincial capital of Laoag City, but because it is "one of our most important heritage buildings," said Mr. Raquel.

“It’s for the first time that we are doing this for the provincial fiesta and it will last for around 16 days. Starting at 6:30 p.m., the 30-minute lights show will continue on a rotational basis until 11:00 in the evening," said Raquel.

He added that the provincial fiesta is "essentially a celebration of our heritage."

The Miss Ilocos Norte pre-pageant was also held with the initial Lights Show. The pre-pageant was highlighted by an evening gowns fashion show. The gowns were made from inabel, the famed Ilocano fabric.
The Miss Ilocos Norte 2016 pre-pageant (PGIN)

“It’s also the first time that we are requiring all our designers and our contestants to use for their evening gowns 70 percent inabel,” Mr. Raquel explained citing “this is part of our efforts to upgrade the heritage fabric of the Ilocanos”.
The Miss Ilocos Norte 2016 pre-pageant (PGIN)

Each of the 22 municipalities and two cities of Ilocos Norte have their own representative for the Search for Miss Ilocos Norte where they are required to use local designs in the pageant.
The Miss Ilocos Norte 2016 pre-pageant (PGIN)

Other activities in line with the La Milagrosa Provincial Fiesta include the Himala sa Buhangin! Art and Music Festival on May 14; the Miss Ilocos Norte 2016 Coronation Night on May 18; a nine-day novena and mass on May 12-20 held at different churches throughout the province, and the grand procession of La Virgen Milagrosa on May 21 at the Laoag Cathedral.

‘Temptation Island’ commemorative sculpture
Since the first Himala sa Buhangin! Arts and Music Festival in 2012, the 81-kilometer stretch of pure and golden sand dunes of Paoay, Ilocos Norte turned not only as a famous tourism destination but a haven where statues of legendary Filipino artists continue to rise.

Its fourth instalment on May 14, 2016, the festival paid tribute to a rare Philippine cinematic masterpiece following the successful unveiling of the sculptures of Flavio and Elsa, the iconic roles played by Fernando Poe Jr. for the ‘Ang Pandayseries and Nora Aunor in the 1982 film ‘Himala’, respectively.

“This year, we are installing the Temptation Island commemorative sculpture. This is inspired by the original version (directed by Joey Gosiengfiao) and the (2011) version of the film by Chris Martinez,” stated Mr. Raquel

He added that “we are now working with two notable theater designers, namely, Mitoy Sta. Ana for the sculptures and Ohm David for the set design.”

Both Messrs. Sta. Ana and David are mainstay artists who are in the forefront of the development and refurbishments of the various infrastructure in Ilocos Norte.

In an interview, Mr. Sta. Ana revealed that he had mixed emotions on being commissioned to create an artistic interpretation of the classic Filipino film.

“(I am) equally honored and pressured. It is a big task resting on my shoulders immortalizing these royalties. It is not often one gets the chance to do so, let alone the whole cast of a film classic,” disclosed Mr. Sta. Ana.

Admitting being a fan of the film, Mr. Sta. Ana beamed that “anyone who has seen it has instantly become a fan as it considered by some critics as a cult classic which was even adapted to theater.”

With the 1980 original version and 2011 remake both filmed at the massive expanse of the Paoay Sand Dunes, Temptation Island is one of the most-critically acclaimed films in the country for merging social commentary with a distinct brand of wit and humor and escapist entertainment despite its limited filming budget.

It follows the story of four girls from different social backgrounds who are battling against one another in a beauty pageant but end up instead on a lifeless desert after their ship bursts into flame as they compete in one of the portions of the pageant.

The films original casts were played by countrys former beauty queens Dina Bonnevie, Azenith Briones, Jennifer Cortez, and Bambi Arambulo while the 2011 remake included Marian Rivera, Rufa Mae Quinto, Heart Evangelista, Lovi Poe and Solenn Heusaff.

Being more of a "conceptual designer," Mr. Sta. Ana described that the sculpture will be done on a mixed medium, saying that “the interpretation has fiberglass as its base, the rock formation which serves as the platform, mylar boards in mosaic patterns and the figures, sculpted in Paoay sand.”

The sculptures depict one of the highlights of the film wherein the main casts are shown licking an enormous ice cream cone to cool off from the scorching heat of the sun as they are stranded from the arid desert, noted Ilocos Norte Media Incentives Desk officer Elaine Lubguban.

Acclaimed as the Center of Film Tourism in the Country, the Paoay Sand Dunes has become a popular backdrop for artists most especially for local and international filmmakers since the 1970s.

Asked about Ilocos Nortes potential to become a haven for artists, Mr. Sta. Ana answered: “I think Ilocos Norte already is. There are endless potential talents bred in the region waiting to be developed, to escape from their shell. The ones who visit merely have to serve just as inspirations, and eventually, should find inspiration from the people of Ilocos Norte.

Seeing the vast tourism potential of the Paoay Sand Dunes, Governor Marcos initiated various development efforts to the arid landscape turning it as a recreation, sports and art center in the Philippines.