Friday, May 19, 2017

Alaska Aces clean, repaint classrooms during Brigada Eskwela in Legazpi City
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA) -- Players of the Alaska Aces, one of the leading teams in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), including its head coach and assistant coaches headed early Friday to the Bagumbayan Central School here and joined the “Brigada Eskwela” activities involving the cleaning and repainting of school classrooms.

“We’ve been blessed and this is our way of giving something back to the fans and to the community,” said head coach Alex Compton during the activity that comes a day before the team’s match with Talk N Text Ka Tropa at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation here.

Alaska players Chris Banchero, Simon Enciso, Yutien Andrada, Carl Bryan Cruz, Kevin Racal, Jaypee Mendoza and Marion Magat, along with assistant coach Franco Atienza and other coaching staff helped Compton in completing the cleaning tasks.

While the cleanup was being held, other Alaska team members conducted a basketball clinic dubbed “mini-power camp” at the school grounds.

Alaska center Sonny Thoss, team captain Jayvee Casio and shooters Tony Dela Cruz and Dondon Hontivers joined coaches Louie Alas, Jeff Cariaso, Topex Robinson and Monch Gavieres in mentoring some 60 schoolchildren on the fundamentals of the sport.

Import Cory Jefferson and the rest of the players -- Vic Manuel, Nonoy Baclao, Jake Pascual and Chris Exciminiano -- joined the basketball clinic.

The Aces provided shirts for the participants, basketballs for the school and Alaska milk for the schoolchildren present.

Alaska hotshot Calvin Abueva, who was part of the Gilas Pilipinas national team that bagged the Southeast Asian Basketball Association championship held in Manila, also arrived Friday morning to join his teammates.

His teammates arrived a day earlier here on May 17 to meet with their fans and visited a local hospital as part of the corporate social responsibility of the team owned by Alaska Milk Corporation.

Brigada Eskwela is an annual activity of the Department of Education (DepEd) wherein “voluntary troops or brigades” of parents, teachers, students and other members of the community organize a clean-up in public elementary and high schools nationwide to clean and maintain the school facilities weeks before the start of every school year.

This year’s activity that began on May 15 has the theme: “Isang DepEd, Isang Pamayanan, Isang Bayanihan Para Sa Handa At Ligtas Na Paaralan” (One DepEd, One Community, One Effort for Ready and Safe Schools). (PNA)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Provincial Police Office reports of 68 drug-cleared villages in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, May 10 -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Albay said Wednesday of the 105 villages in the province affected by the illegal drug operations, about 68 had been deemed “cleared” while 37 villages are still “under evaluation” by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Municipal Anti-Drug Abuse Councils or MADACs and City ADACs.

Sr. Insp. Arthur Gomez, spokesperson of the Albay Provincial Police Office, said among the villages not yet cleared by PDEA, 16 are in Legazpi City, 7 in Tabaco City, 6 in Guinobatan, 3 in Oas, 2 in Daraga and one each in the towns of Pio Duran, Sto. Domingo and Ligao City.

He added that the 68 villages, which had been previously identified and recently cleared by PDEA and MADACs, are in the towns of Tiwi, Malinao, Malilipot, Bacacay, Rapu-rapu, Manito, Camalig, Jovellar, Polangui and Libon. (Mar S. Arguelles/PNA)

Dismissed mayor of Malinao, Albay refuses to vacate office
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, May 10 (PNA) -- Mayor Avelino "Billy" Ceriola of Malinao, Albay had been dismissed from his post as town chief executive but he continues to refuse to vacate the office, according to a high ranking official of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Bicol.

Arnaldo Escober, assistant regional director of DILG-Bicol, said the Office of the Ombudsman gave the dismissal order in connection with the graft and administrative cases filed against Ceriola in 2013 by municipal councilor Irene Fajut for the alleged illegal operation of a cockpit arena that is owned by the mayor.

Fajut charged Ceriola with operating the cockpit arena located in Barangay Balading in Malinao without getting the necessary permits.

Ceriola, however, had denied the allegations and said it was part of the dirty politics in Malinao that was instigated by his political enemies.

Escober said the dismissal order against Ceriola was not served in 2014 after Ceriola lost his reelection bid to Alice Morales, the former mayor.

“But an ‘interested party’ of Malinao town followed up the dismissal order which was personally served at the office of Ceriola last Tuesday (last week) by the regional field officers of DILG-Bicol,” said Escober.

According to the DILG official, the dismissal order became final and executory after the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court had both denied Ceriola’s motions.

Escober said the Ombudsman had ordered Ceriola’s perpetual disqualification to hold office as mayor.

Ceriola was also banned from holding a position in any government office or agency while all his benefits that are due him as a public official had been forfeited.

According to Ceriola, he would not vacate the Mayor’s Office as he is still awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court on the motion he had filed to suspend the dismissal order.

The DILG-Bicol office headed by Elena Pastor has already installed and recognized Vice Mayor Shirley Bilo to succeed Ceriola as the new mayor.

Bilo automatically becomes the new mayor as she garnered the highest votes for the vice mayoral post during the last local elections.

The position that was vacated by Bilo in the municipal council will be filled up through appointment by the governor of Albay.

“Bilo is mandated to hold office as the new mayor and perform all its functions or else she will be facing charges for not complying with the law on succession,” Escober added.

Although Ceriola is still occupying the mayor’s office, he is no longer performing the duties of the mayor.

On the other hand, Bilo is still occupying the office of the vice mayor inside the Sanguniang Bayan (municipal council) but she is now signing all the documents and transactions that correspond to being a mayor.

Chief Insp. Billy Bibat, acting chief of police in Malinao, said although there is “tension” between the warring parties, the situation in the municipal building is “smooth and normal.”

He said he has assigned a police team inside the perimeter area of the municipal building to ensure peace and order.

Meanwhile, Escober said other field officers from DILG-Bicol had served the dismissal service on Mayor Melquiades "Mel" Gaite of Baao town in Camarines Sur last Monday but they are still waiting for the reports of their personnel.

“This was after he allegedly allowed the rental of the public market in Baao to Lamvert Consolidated Complex for a period of 25 years without the knowledge of the Sanguniang Bayan members,” added Escober. (PNA)

Albay posts 'biggest improvement' in poverty situation over 3-year period

LEGAZPI CITY, May 10 -- Despite a series of natural calamities that hit Bicol, the poverty situation in the region showed improvements in 2015 compared to 2012.

Albay province particularly showed the “biggest improvement” from among Bicol’s six provinces during this period.

This highlighted the latest statistics on poverty that was issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) regional office.

Cynthia Perdiz, PSA regional director, said in 2015, the poverty incidence in Bicol showed improvements, both in terms of families and individuals.

She said the poverty incidence among families dropped by 4.8 percent, from 32.3 percent in 2012 to 27.5 percent in 2015.

“Similarly, the poverty incidence among individuals, was down by 5.1 percent, from the 41.1 percent in 2012 to 36 percent in 2015,” said Perdiz.

PSA data also showed that among the six provinces in the region, Albay province showed the biggest improvement in poverty situation of families.

“From the 33.9 percent recorded in 2012 it dropped to 17.6 percent in 2015 or a reduction of 16.3 percentage points,” the data showed.

Masbate and Camarines Sur also recorded decreases in poverty incidence of families.

The decrease was 4.6 percentage points in Camarines Sur, from 31.7 percent in 2012 to 27.1 percent in 2015.

In Masbate, the decrease was 5.1 percentage points, from 40.6 percent in 2012 it dropped to 35.5 percent in 2015.

But despite this drop in percentage of poor families in Masbate over the three-year period, PSA noted that in 2015, compared to the the six provinces in the region, Masbate showed the highest recorded poverty incidence among families at 35.5 percent.

“In 2015, Masbate recorded 35.5 percent, Catanduanes, 33.6 percent, Sorsogon, 31.7 percent, Camarines Norte, 29.3 percent, Camarines Sur, 27.1 percent, and Albay, 17. 6 percent,” said PSA.

On the other hand, the poverty situation had worsened in three Bicol provinces from 2012 to 2015. This was also in terms of poverty incidence by families.

“These were in Camarines Norte, which showed the biggest increase in incidence at 7.6 percent, Catanduanes rose by 6.5 percent and Sorsogon was slightly up by 0.4 percent,” said the data.

In terms of poverty incidence among individuals in 2015, Albay had the lowest incidence, from 41.1 percent in 2012 to 25.2 percent in 2015.

PSA said this 15.8 percent reduction recorded for Albay was the “biggest improvement” compared to the other provinces.

This was also during the administration of former Albay governor and now second district Representative Joey S. Salceda.

In 2015, a comparison of the six provinces showed that in terms of poverty incidence among individuals, Masbate had the highest poverty incidence at 45.4 percent, followed by Catanduanes at 43.4 and Sorsogon at 41.3.

The Bicol region’s per capita poverty threshold in 2015 was placed at P21,476 which was higher than the P18,257 in 2012.

“This means that a Bicolano family with five members would need at least P8,948 average monthly to meet both basic food and non-food needs,” said Perdiz.

Among the six provinces of Bicol, Camarines Sur had recorded the highest cost of living with P22,154 annual per capita poverty threshold while Masbate had the lowest at P20,406 in 2015.

PSA noted that in 2015, out of the 5.8 million population in Bicol, 36.0 percent of 2.2 million were poor. (Rhaydz B. Barcia/PNA)

Monday, May 8, 2017

City eyes visit of int’l triathletes for Mayon Triathlon

LEGAZPI CITY, May 6 -- Triathletes from over ten countries, including Japan, China and Korea and the Philippines’ top competitors will join the 4th Mayon Triathlon here in this city in August, according to City Mayor Noel E. Rosal.

Mayon Triathlon is a combination of a 1.5-kilometer swim off Albay Gulf across Legazpi Boulevard followed by a 40-km bike ride to the city’s boundary with Sto. Domingo town in Albay and a 10-km run over the hilly road in the southern portions of the city.

Rosal said officers of the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP) had told him about this when he was a guest at the NTT ASTC Subic Bay International Triathlon being held At Subic Bay Freeport Zone this week.

“TRAP gave the go-signal to include Mayon Triathlon as one of the events for the Asian Cup 2017,” he said.

He added that this also means Mayon Triathlon is in the master plan of the schedule of all triathlon competitions in the country and in Asia.

Rosal said the event here in August will see the arrival of around 3,000 athletes, including their families, team members and other guests and visitors who will witness the event.

He said the officers of TRAP and its umbrella body, the Asian Triathlon Confederation, were “so impressed” at the conduct of Mayon Triathlon during the celebration of last year’s Ibalong Festival in Legazpi City.

Rosal said they particularly liked the majestic Mayon Volcano and its nearly perfect shaped cone, sea breeze at Albay Gulf and well paved roads during last year’s Mayon Triathlon.

He said his administration will prepare for the Mayon Triathlon event during the Ibalong Festival 2017, an annual event here that also promotes other major sports events in the country.

Rosal assured TRAP the city has sufficient facilities to handle the event while the athletes will be safe.

He said the 4th Mayon Triathlon event will give a big push for the local economy and also boost the hotel and restaurant industry and the transport sector.

TRAP is the national governing body of triathlon in the Philippines that is accredited by the International Triathlon Union that governs the sport in the world. (Emmanuel P. Solis/PNA)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

'Harong Paglaom' helps reintegrate drug users to their communities
By Gina V. Rodriguez

LEGAZPI CITY, May 5 -- Accompanying drug dependents on their journey to recovery is a “long and tedious process,” said a church worker involved with the Diocese of Legazpi’s community-based rehabilitation program for drug surrenderers who are on the watchlist under "Oplan Tokhang" -- a nationwide anti-illegal drugs law enforcement project.

“We just cannot leave them after the 12-step therapy plan or they might have a relapse,” said Esperanza “Veron” Ariado, focal person of “Harong Paglaom,” a community-based rehabilitation program that was initiated by the diocese in October last year to respond to the big volume of surrenderers in the wake of Tokhang.

She said Harong Paglaom, a project of the Social Action Center under the diocese, literally means “home of hope” that refers to the community approach in providing therapeutic treatment to substance users.

Ariado said that during the launch of the project in November, Bishop Joel Baylon had envisioned a “community of homes of hope ready to welcome and accompany recovering substance users towards their hope for fullness of life.”

“As the diocese’s program of pastoral care for substance users its foremost service is as a faith-based driven, family oriented, community-based rehabilitation (CBR) program,” she said.

Ariado jointly supervises the project with Myrna Llanes, a social worker who also takes care of operational matters. The two are also among the 25 who volunteered as “recovery coaches” for the project.

These volunteers that included a parapsychologist, nurse, teacher, nuns and a former substance user who has been “clean” for 20 years now, continue to undergo a series of trainings by specialists engaged in the treatment of drug addiction cases.

“The City Health Office, City and Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils or CADAC and BADAC did the big job of getting the list of screened and assessed substance users who voluntarily surrendered to the police during the Tokhang operations,” said Ariado.

She said the barangay captains had coordinated with the families and substance users, particularly those deemed as “mild” and “moderate” cases, to participate in Harong Paglaom.

There were 20 substance users from St. Joseph, the Husband of Mary Parish in Barangay Rawis and another 48 drug users from Barangay San Roque under St. Raphael the Archangel Parish who consented to be part of the project.

They were mostly from the low-income informal sector group, earning daily wages as a construction worker, junk collector and other odd jobs with a number who are jobless. Most of them were male and heads of families with ages ranging from 17 to 70 years old.

Ariado said the substance users were promised confidentiality in the stories they would share in the therapy sessions that follow the 12-step treatment plan known as “Narcotics Anonymous Modified.”

“A supervising coach is aided by two facilitators in handling a group of around eight to ten substance users who undergo recovery sessions once a week with each session stretching for as long as four to five hours,” she said.

Ariado said the sessions, which are usually held on Sundays are expected to be completed within a six-month time frame.

She said among the 20 from Barangay Rawis who have initially enlisted in the project, 18 have actually joined the group sessions that started in November and still have “ongoing group therapy sessions.”

“Among the participants from Barangay San Roque, 11 have actually participated (from the 48 who enlisted) in the therapy sessions and have completed the six-month treatment plan,” she said.

Ariado said dealing with the mental health issues of the participant is not an easy process.

She said the individual substance user opens his “wounds” in the therapy sessions while the group members participate in the healing process and hope for a “closure” in the wounds that have been shared.

Even after the substance users have completed the 12-step therapy sessions, she added the “after care” is just as important in helping them reintegrate to their families in the communities where there is a strong stigma attached to being a drug user.

She said the recovery coaches even conduct home visits to find out if the substance users have gained acceptance.

Ariado noted that one “positive” outcome which she noticed from one of the participants to the project is that his wife has started talking to him.

“The husband started selling barbecue in the community and was giving his wife his daily earnings,” she said.

More than six months since being involved in Harong Paglaom Ariado said she keeps on reminding herself of the project’s mission so she could continue helping the substance users with their journey in the road to recovery.

As first articulated by Bishop Baylon during the project launch, this mission is to help the substance users return to the “home where one feels the love of family and friends, and the healing embrace of God’s love.” (PNA) #REALNUMBERS