Drug war, May polls, economy top news makers in 2016

By: Bingo P. Dejaresco III

The Year 2017 was no ordinary year. Readers of the Chronicle were stunned by three major events in the year that could change their lives forever.

First was when  a strongman galloped his horse into the Palace in the person of Digong Duterte- his center piece program of Anti-Drug – resounding like a giant cymbal  with a deafening intensity that stunned many Boholanos. The sheer number of killings and the  drug surrenderees here had no precedent in modern local history of Bohol. 

Second- the  May polls was divisive and colorful. While the Liberal Party juggernaut won many local positions- it was not able to knock the sails of the Ship Duterte whose main man Digong got almost half- 45% of the Boholano electorate’s mandate.

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Third- with an economic team aiming for dispersal of wealth to the regions out of Imperial Manila and the ascension of two Boholanos into key and powerful offices in the Duterte Government-  signaled a huge green light for speedier economic development for this island province.  Now, everything seems to be  coming up roses.

NO. 1 TOP STORY –  DRUG PROLIFERATION IN BOHOL UNMASKED

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President Duterte himself was shocked at the pernicious proliferation of drugs in Bohol. ” I know Boholanos to be a religious and peace loving people”, announced a dismayed president.

But Operation Tokhang yielded over 30,000 surrenderees, one of the biggest provincial haul and underscored the enormity of the problem. Almost all barangays were sunk into the drug cauldron.

There were killings done by the police  reportedly in the line of duty as there were those mysteriously killed by unknown men people suspect to be vigilantes helping the authorities or drug agents killing one another for turf control or to silence potential “rats” among their ranks. 

Immediately, the problem was the aggravation of the already cramped jail facilities every where in the province  and with no rehabilitation center in sight. 

Thirteen police chiefs were placed  under a cloud of suspicion. And the massive revamp of the PNP, the PDEA and the BJMP nationwide did not exempt Bohol. People suspected that the drug menace will not thrive without the overt or covert help of politicians, judges , and the police authorities. And they were right.

Digong fingered five Narco Generals ,two of who were once involved in handling the region 7 PNP in their wakes.  One was  General Vicente Loot (now a Cebu town mayor) allegedly fronting  for the Espinosa Boys, the kings of the drug trade in the Visayas.  They were the clones of Jaguar Diaz who was gunned down in Paranaque. 

The other was General Marcelino Garbo who reportedly told all his men in uniform to “go slow on the drug business” of which he was allegedly a major protector. Whenever a new police force took over a province, it was them who would seek an audience with the drug lords for their payolas.  Not vice versa.It was that bad.

Bohol got most of its drug supply reportedly from the Espinosa Group. some of which came incredulously from the Bilibid National Penitentiary. Mayor Espinosa was later gunned down inside his prison cell in Leyte  and his son Erwin arrested in the Middle East.

Bohol was such a thriving market that Espinosa often visited Bohol to check his misdeeds and even reportedly bought acres of land for his own.

The deck of cards fell when Espinosa’s main Bohol man Barok Alvaro surrendered to the Bohol NBI . And spilled some hot beans..  Even up to late October , two of Espinosa’s men -Marlone Dan and Victor Aguilar , were busted by the NBI as they continued the illegal trade.

Nationwide, the total number of casualties in the drug war has reached a pulse-pounding 6,000 dead- and counting. The smell of gun powder and the  stench of the congested jails prevailed in Bohol as well as if it was a microcosm of the national malady.

NO. 2  TOP STORY-  DUTERTE SURVIVES LIBERAL PARTY ONSLAUGHT

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Led by reelectionist three-termer Gov. Edgar Chatto, the Liberal administration party snared victory  in 31 of 48 towns and a city.  Chatto (LP) beat rival Loay Mayor May Imboy  (PDP-Laban)by an unexpected low margin of only 108,528 votes even as his running mate Concepcion Lim (LP) bowed to BM Dionisio Balite (PDP-Laban)  by a measly 21, 075 votes. 

LP maintained its majority in the provincial SP winning 7 of the 10 BM seats. 

(LP) 1st district reelectionist Rene Relampagos ran roughshod over his  opponents by grabbing a commanding 80% of the votes. Reelectionist 2nd district Rep Aris Aumentado (opposition)  reaffirmed his  political kingship in that district by trouncing his nearest rival by 80, 625 votes.

(LP supported) 3rd district Rep Art Yap beat the odds severely by defeating his rival Che Che Toribio- nailing wins in all but two of the 19 towns in the district. It was billed to be a down to the wire fight. 

In the city it was a resounding LP victory with Geesnell Baba Yap winning convincingly as mayor  plus controlling the city SP with his  vice mayor tandem Toto Veloso. 

But the lone wolf Duterte bucked the odds here –  and got a stunning  45% of the Bohol voters numbering 682,608 followed by Mar Roxas who expected a “thank you”  vote for the administration’s multi projects in the province. Independent Grace Poe landed on the 3rd place.

However, Leni Robredo (LP) vanquished all rivals with 266,368 votes over foes Cayetano, Marcos and Escudero in that order. In the senate 6 “pure LPs” made it in Bohol,namely, Drilon , Villanueva, Hontiveros, Pangilinan, De Lima and Recto and non-LPs were Zubiri, Pacquiao, Osmena,Gordon, Lacson and Tolentino.

In less than a month after the polls, many politicians  jumped into the new ship of state of President Digong Duterte. Such is politics in this country- a nation of butterflies. 

NO.3 TOP STORY- BOHOLANOS IN CABINET SEE BOHOL ECONOMIC GROWTH

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Bohol could be a lucky one with two of the key Cabinet secretaries HAILING  from this province. They are the powerful Secretary to the Cabinet and now Housing Czar Leoncio “”Jun” Evasco and NEDA Secretary General Ernesto Pernia. 

There are other Boholano important functionaries in the Duterte Cabinet like Ricardo Jalad – executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Vicente “Vic” Milano- administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), Frank “Jojo” Cimafranca – assistant secretary of the Consular Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Arturo Evangelista – assistant secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and Cesar Montano – Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Even Duterte’s trusted chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General “Bato” Dela Rosa has an Antequera native for a mother, per reports. 

These key levers of power made the economic blueprint of the province  attainable  and could be put on top of the heap  of requests  for national government  developmental assistance from other provinces.

IMMEDIATE GOALS

Considered approved among the 2017 mega projects are the expansion/ redesigning  of the New Bohol Airport in Panglao to make it more  customer- friendly and the P2-B modernization  of the Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital in the town of Cortes.

In the works through the CAAP is the new domestic airport in Ubay with a 3 km runway, a terminal , water and fire stations in the agenda.  This will open the alternative for the tourism gateway for the North that would include the visit to the resplendent blue waters and sandy beaches of Anda, the next Panglao.

Also approved by the Regional Development Council  for Bohol is the Proposed Bohol Integrated and Comprehensive Support Program for Agro Industrial Development.

More intermediate would be the Multi Purpose Northeastern Basin to include irrigation, water, tourism and environmental sub projects as well as the bridges linking the city and Panglao and the Talibon to Bien Unido.

MEDIUM TERM GOALS

On the medium term, NEDA boss Pernia had lunch mid-year with JICA  (Japan Investment Authority) who discussed funding the feasibility study for the Cebu-Bohol Friendship Highway with the exchange of water from Bohol and power from Cebu as a bonus to the greater economic interplay due to the bridge for  both people and cargo to crossover. 
The medium-term Bohol plans also cover the increase in the power base for electricity, the Bohol IT Park to be interconnected by monorail system to Panglao and other locations, the conversion of Panglao into a  Tourism Enteprise Zone via the TIEZA and make it even more investor-friendly, economic zone in the northern corridors passing though Calape, Loon and Tubigon , conversion of the Catagbacan Loon International Cruise Port, hit by calamity, into a world-class international tourist port.

Central is the continuing search to perfect the fiber optics and delivery system of the internet to make it good enough for BPO businesses.  Chinese investors have already visited Maasin Leyte and shown interest in the proposed Bohol-Leyte Bridge of the Future. 

Is is reassuring to know that Bohol is considered a “top priority” in the development of special economic zones , according to PEZA consultant Richard Ano II.

Of course, everything looks fine on paper- but what about their timely and efficient delivery? One can place his foot firmly  on the ground and realize  that the much talked about  New Bohol Airport took 30 years to complete-counting from the time former Gov Nonoy Torralba conceptualized the Panglao Tourism Estate.

The project waded through the  long decades delayed by the usual red tape, corruption and underspending bias of various administrations.

NO.4 TOP STORY-  PANGLAO AIRPORT OPENS FQ 2018

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In his last official visit before ending his presidency, former president  (bachelor) Noy Aquino was teased into planning his romantic escapades as private citizen to visit Panglao via the international airport.  The city airport will be closed by then and being considered to be made into an IT Park.       

Aquino has had a soft heart for Bohol -spending overnight in Loon during the dark days of the earthquake and his administration dropping P19-B worth of Bohol projects compared to the average of only P 12-B for the rest of the provinces in the nation. 

The final target for the first international plane to land in Panglao is the first quarter of 2018-delayed purportedly by the new design though some critics disagree -stating that there are other esoteric reasons for such delay.

The game-changer Airport will increase the current  500,000 a year tourists (local and international) to Bohol to 1.7 M on the top side- a gigantic leap forward that will transform the economy in no minor way.

Aside form the second floor and the direct connection of such to the aircraft, NEDA director general Pernia suggested one should already begin planning the second terminal to avoid the congestion at the NAIA, for instance, which is a product of poor planning and foresight.

NO. 5 TOP STORY –  STABLE POWER IS STILL A PROBLEM

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It would seem like “putting the cart before the horse” . The all-important horse being represented ideally by the presence of stable, adequate power source for Bohol. One cannot underestimate the surge in demand for power as the new airport begins to operate.

That tourism, commerce and the BPO industry badly need stable power is a no brainer of a statement. 

Bohol has about over a 100MW power  supply source combining the Leyte interconnection (87%), the small diesel plant and the two hydro electric power plants versus a smaller  peak demand of 75 MW. (Before the airport opens)

Adequacy of power, however,  is not the same as  efficient delivery of power to end users like firms and individual consumers.   For instance, three years removed from the Yolanda storm  that toppled the power system in Leyte, Bohol still suffers from announced ( but over extended ) or unannounced blackouts. 

The National Grid Power(less) Corporation has been sweet talking the government about stability of power only to inflict a blackout in Bohol time after irritating. time. Its inability to stabilize the power argues for about the only sane statement it has made: that Bohol must have its own endemic source of power in the province. 

But look now , it also ironically  parrots the interconnection (again ) route  to the Cebu grid which is  achievable only on 2022 or 5 years after the new airport opens -and the public does not know by now  if  National Grid Power(less) Corporation is  really but a Joker outside of Gotham City. 

To Boholanos and prospective investors, this is no longer funny. 

A concrete  example of its ineptitude  is blaming the vegetation that touches and trips their transmission lines thus, causing the blackout.. The public knows it does not need a rocket scientist to understand  that before that happens, they should have trimmed the vegetation in the area and void the blackout.

Our simple take is that we would be kidding ourselves about  future economic development that would eventually redound to the poor’s benefit ( and deceive the public) – without adequate, stable and affordable power.

As simple as ABC, Do Re Mi, and 123.  

NO.6 TOP STORY –  POPE NAMES 17TH BOHOLANO BISHOP

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As the Vatican named Fr. Socrates “Soc” Mesiona (53years old)  as the 17th Boholano Bishop this year- the town of Sevilla prides itself of having two of them. The second one is Bishop Crispin Varquez.

Bishop Mesiona will assume the apostolic vicar or the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa (Palawan) with jurisdiction over the city of Puerto Pricnesa and the southern municipalities of Palawan.

Ordained priest in 1989,  he served as MSP Superior General  from 2004-2009 and was later appointed as the national director  of the National Pontifical  Mission Societies.  He is a member of the Philippine Association of Missiologists  (PASM).

Actually in 2016, another Bohol-based priest was named bishop earlier. Msgr. Alberto “Abet” Uy , episcopal vicar of the Diocese of Talibon who  was named bishop to succeed Bishop Leonardo Medroso of the Diocese of Tagbilan.

NO.7 TOP STORY –  REPS AUMENTADO AND YAP ‘JOIN’ DUTERTE CAMP

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Reelected congressmen Rep Aris Aumentado ( 2nd district) and Rep Arthur Yap ( 3rd district)  “joined” the camp of president-elect then Rodrigo Duteret weeks after the May polls.

“Join” is in quotation marks since the two representatives continue to be  card-carrying members of the NPC (Nationalist Party Coalition)  who are in alliance with the president’s ruling PDP-Laban.

While vacationing in America four days after the election , Rep. Aumentado 

was personally called by phone by the president asking about  his political  leanings. It may be recalled that Aumentado was aligned with the party of then vice president Jojo Binay during the May polls. 

On the other hand, Rep Yap (NPC) was supported by the LP in Bohol’s 3rd district but has been a visible ally of the president – being the chair of the House Committee on Economic Affairs- and was with the president’s team to China and a recognizable contributor to the approval of the multi-trillion GAA or the National Budget.

Rep Rene Relampagos (1st) district though supportive of the candidacy of Speaker Bebot Alvarez to the speakership has remained a true-blue LP.

Of the 292 elected solons including the party list reps, 116 LP and 44 NPC candidates were elected in May. The LP has been decimated to about half  of the original. 

Governor Edgar Chattto (LP)  has a PDP-Laban Dionisio Balite as vice governor. 

Chatto, Relampagos and Yap are on their last terms of office and Aris gong to his third and last. All four plus Balite are expected to provide the exciting  fireworks of probabilities as the political season in 2019 begins. 

NO.8 TOP STORY –  CITY TURNS 50

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Turning “golden” in 2016 after the declaration of cityhood in 1961 under then mayor Venancio Inting saw a young mayor in John Gessnell Baba Yap -declaring “Tourism” as it main industry.

This was a stern departure from former mayor and uncle of  Yap, Mayor Dan Lim’s position  that he  “does not believe in tourism.” Yap is bent on making the city a true hallmark as an entrance point to the province of Bohol. 

He has been enticing investors to open here even as he works for a P60-M Friendship Park at the Sandugo Shrine in Bool -complete with amenities and a giant galleon replica of the Spanish ship of Admiral Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. 

Once the Comprehensive Land Use blueprint is finalized, this can lead to the administration supported reclamation area along the coastlines of Cogon leading to Poblacion I and II.

A city Public High School is in the works while road concreting is on going alongside erecting a sustainable drainage system. Some P 500K will be allotted to set up CCTVs in the city barangays as crime deterrent. 

The city has been operating on  a much bigger budget compared to Lim’s era mainly due to more efficient tax and fee collection and entry of more businesses and entrepreneurs. 

NO.9 TOP STORY- S81-m DEPOSIT A  RUMOR; NBI SAYS CAPITOL TAKES ACTION

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Even an incredible tale- bereft of logic and  reality- can take a community by storm.  This was proven by the “blind item” allegation made by newspaper man- radio anchorman Atty Salvador Diputado stating that a top government official was in possession of a huge US$81-M (P4.7-B) deposit from undisclosed sources.

This stirred the hornet’s  nest as many top provincial officials felt alluded to -without basis. The laughable story was dismissed by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation)  as a “mere rumor” as it was forced to probe deeper on the basis of an electronic mail stating  that the fantabulous sum came from the earthquake fund aid of America’s generous USAID.

USAID was furious and defended its many years of partnering with Bohol for wholesome projects and explaining that they manage their own funds and only give technical assistance for free.  It was not in their policy to download any amount to any government unit.

Media was affected as well so  the Provincial Board (SP) sought the help of the KBP (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas) for radio and the PPI ( Philippine Press Institute ) for print media to conduct their own investigation on media man Diputado. Even a clergyman was dragged into the controversy that seemed to spare no one.

The Bohol Chapter of the Bankers Association of the Philippine rebuked the tall tale in that such amount of deposit by a single depositor is unknown in the annals of Bohol banking history. Besides any amount P500,000 and above in bank transaction are regularly reported under the Anti-Money Laundering Law.

The fiasco resulted in the SP declaring Diputado as ” persona non grata”  and the latter filing charges against the same.

Many opined that had the garbage story been ignored by all – it would have died a natural death of incredulity and convert it into another modern version of a barber’s tale.  But some damage has been done.

NO.10 TOP STORY- DIAMOND JUBILEE OF DIOCESE OF TAGBILARAN

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The predominantly Catholic province of 1.3 million Boholanos welcomed with fervor and grace the celebration of the Diamond (75Th) Jubilee of the Diocese of Tagbilaran, now made of 58 parishes covering the southern towns.

It was created by a Papal Bull under Pope Pius  XII as distinct from the Archdiocese of Cebu in November of 1941.

The other half is governed by the Diocese of Talibon which separated in the year 1986. They are two of the 72 dioceses in the country.

It has been under the spiritual guidance of the following Most Reverend Bishops from 1946,namely,  Julio Rosales,  Manuel Mascarinas, Juan Nilmar, Onesimo Gordoncillo, Felix Zafra , Leopoldo Tumulak and Leonardo Medroso. 

The diocese also owns and manages a secular seminary in Taloto district called the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary which has graduated  446 priests and 9 bishops. 

The seminary has helped make Bohol one of the most productive provinces in terms of contributing priests to the Lord’s Vineyard.

Christianity was first brought to Bohol via Baclayon by two Jesuits priests on Nov 17, 1595, namely, Fathers  Gabriel Sanchez and Juan de Torres.

 



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