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PIA Press Release
2008/08/13

Commentary: PENROs, CENROs shudder when boss moves around

by Behn Fer. Hortaleza, Jr.

Pangasinan (13 August) -- Of course, last Friday's visit of Lito Atienza, the country's environment top honcho, to Pangasinan was, more or less, a political testing of the water. Anyone who says otherwise was born yesterday.

A People's Hour or a forum with the people such as what the Floral Shirted Man had at the Pangasinan State University has always been a convenient and effective cover for early political campaigning. Bayani Fernando of MMDA has a different tack on this altogether; he simply plasters provinces with his face in tarps or streamers and lets the people wonder why in heaven's name and since when has MMDA encompassed their far-flung provinces or areas.

Everyone knows these familiar gambits are the prelude to the hustings, no matter how many more months there are to count yet before the official campaign for 2010 starts.

* * * *

A friend who's now with an attached agency of DENR working at central office says Atienza's regional People's Hour is no different from those sorties of various known senatorial/presidential wannabes to the countryside.

He says it's actually the PENROs and CENROs who get the greatest jitters - not the despoilers of environment and assorted natural resources vampires - everytime a DENR boss goes around the regions for a look-see and tells her underlings he wants a press conference or public forum arranged for him.

The plethora of complaints in provinces and regions about DENR field officers' inaction or anemic response to local festering problems, especially on environment, are such that any national chief's ears will boil hearing them all brought out in one setting. And the thunder to the local underlings would follow in memos and closed-door thrashing perhaps. (We understand that in the PSU forum with Atienza, nothing explosive in the local environment scene was brought out - to the relief of the local DENR officers).

Almost always, one can see, and hear, in such fora how big and influential violators of environment and natural resources laws are getting kid gloves treatment from local environment top brass, often either because of fear or out of favor. This explains why fieldmen of agencies like DENR dread the out-of-town sorties of their top brass - it exposes them to, uh, unnecessary risks, not to mention its cramping their "styles."


Fighting and Growing

The Ilocos Sur Police Office is scoring well against the scourge of illegal drugs, burning, according to a report, some P242, 987 worth of illegal drugs in the past seven months. Bulk of these illegal drugs seized were millions of pieces of fully-grown marijuana plants uprooted by lawmen in plantations along the mountainous areas of Ilocos Sur near the boundaries of La Union, Benguet and Mt. Province.

Now, juxtapose this with the recent discovery of a trillion-peso worth of shabu laboratory in the forested areas of sitio Binmutubot, in Naguilian, La Union wherein a ranking officer of the PNP, stationed in Dagupan City, was implicated and where, as hushed scuttlebutts go, more police officers and civilians may have been involved.

What do you have?

Why, it's the spectacle of one arm fighting and raging against illegal drugs-- while the other arm of the same body is growing and protecting the same menace!

* * * *

In another front, the PNP in Pangasinan seems to be getting the unlucky breaks of late. Tough luck indeed for Police Provincial Director Isagani Nerez as killings remain unabated and occurring with deadly frequency even in hitherto "peaceful, remote" areas like Agno.

Saturday evening, during a heavy downpour, Mayor Arthur Cabantac, Jr. of that idyllic western Pangasinan town was killed right in the poblacion by the familiar "still unknown killers." He joins the mourned ranks of local executives that include mayors, vice mayors, councilors and barangay officials who met violent deaths in the hands of hired killers and whose souls are still seeking justice in their graves.

As always, Nerez has formed a task force to go after the killers of Cabantac. With so many task forces already formed for every high-profile murder committed in the province, some people are concerned the PNP might run out of officers to assign for each new killing. Some are even wondering, as in the case of San Carlos City mayor Julier 'Ayoy" Resuello, whose own father, the late beloved former mayor Julian "Jolly" Resuello was killed by hired guns, if these police task forces are "co-terminus" with each new tropical depression that passes thru Pangasinan - all sound and fury at first but dissipating after several hours.

Time for any of the many task forces formed to get some real big results.


Shout ending in a whimper

AS MAY be expected in high-profile criminal cases of the magnitude of the trillion-peso shabu laboratory discovered in Naguilian, La Union, the shout ends in a low whimper sooner than people expect.

Uniformed investigators of the Philippine National Police, after the initial hooplah about arrests and naming of some, note, some suspects, soon become hard to pry for the latest information or update on the probe, short of telling those who want to know, that it is a matter of national security which mortals, like newsmen, are better off not knowing.

Beyond naming ousted Dagupan Police Chief Dionicio Borromeo, PO3 Joey Abang, PO2 Walter Bangan, PO1 Rodolfo Ganyang, the lot owner Eusebio Tangalin and Joselito Artuz alias Jorge Cordero of Marilao, Bulacan, the alleged financier of the shabu laboratory, the investigators have seemingly clammed up on any other big-name suspects.

Of course, there are the familiar "John Does" that include six Chinese nationals led by a certain "Gene" also similarly charged - though it is doubtful if these guys will ever be arrested, much less face trial.

The public doubt, and a strong doubt it is, remains that already being shielded at this point are the real big fishes without whose wider protection these small fries would not have had the guts and gumption to engage in the big game at all.

La Union Rep. Thomas Dumpit, for one seems to know more about the case than even the police themselves would care to admit. Thus the lingering doubts, the nagging suspicions fly high. Why, even some police-friendly media appear now being dragged into the whole mess for alleged complicity, if anything.

It would serve the public image of the PNP, especially Director General Avelino Razon to be more transparent in the extensive fact-finding he has ordered at the Regional Peace and Order Council meeting in La Union a couple of weeks back and reveal more intimate facts unearthed in the investigation. Perhaps he could render public updates, substantial and credible enough, on a more regular basis to dispel word in the streets that a whitewash is well in the works on the Binmutobot shabu caper.


What peace? What order?

My good friend, the hibernating Pangasinan Star columnist Bald Dragon could not have been more right in his broadcast commentary: Peace & Order in this Spineful province of Pangasinan these days leaves much to be desired.

No matter what they say about the P and O situation being "normal" and the province being "generally peaceful", if dead bodies are falling down everywhere and at regular intervals courtesy of hired killers on the rampage, Police Provincial Director Isagani Nerez will find it hard to convince Pangasinenses about his rose-colored view of the situation.

I did not say that; the Bald Dragon did.

And the Bald Dragon is one such credible observer on matters pertaining to police operations, he being hunky-dorky with most of the peace officers hereabouts but who does not mince words anyway-when it comes to their sloppy guardianship of peace.

He said if the series of killings here were to be compiled now, both the high-profile cases and the uncelebrated ones, it would already be a thick volume of wasted human beings in a folder.

******

Governor T. Espino himself has expressed his disappointment no less at the unchecked mayhem being wrought by guns-for-hire almost anywhere in his beloved province especially in the past couple of years. These hired guns operate with impunity and the PNP has successfully given the impression it can hardly cope with their deadly armed activism.

How long and how frequent must Espino issue directives to the police to go after these guns-for-hire before they are at least substantially reined in? The recent killing of Agno Mayor Arthur Cabantac in his supposedly "most peaceful town" has again brought home the painful point that something must be done by the Pangasinan PNP-beyond forming task forces-to reassure each Pangasinense his safety and security.

Even neither majority-nor-minority Board Member Alfie C. Bince, Jr., discussing the Cabantac killing over the radio last week was overheard saying if the fast-deteriorating situation continues, Nerez's position as Top Cop of the province may become untenable or indefensible.

*****

Here's hoping Supt. Nerez will rise to the challenge, summon his once vaunted superior intelligence data-gathering in his former areas of assignment in those halcyon years before his coming to Pangasinan and prove that criminals on the loose are no match to the majesty of the law with him as Chief Enforcer.

Many mediamen-friends of his certainly rue the day he gets that sudden notice from Crame that he has-in that now-familiar PNP phraseology used to eject their own-"completed his tour-of duty" in Pangasinan.

Go for it, Supt. Nerez! There's still time.


SM to rise in Pangasinan

"How lucky can Rosales town get" Rephrase that a bit: How lucky can Mayor Ric Revita get?

Henry Sy's SM is coming to that town whose premier barangay of Carmen is more famous than itself-by November this year. The super mall, if I got it right from the charming Karen Padilla, SM Baguio's PR officer who was in the city yesterday to meet with the local media, will be the sixth in the Luzon area.

The site is in Poblacion East, Rosales, right near the new modern terminal built by the Revita administration for inter-town buses and jeepneys plying Rosales, on a 42,000 square meter area right along the highway. One can't miss it coming from Manila.

Many of those at the on-invitation-only lunch were thinking out loud how the giant mall would affect the market draw of main local giants' CSI of Belen Fernandez and Magic of Benjie S. Lim.

We wondered not at all. We believe each has its own market niche. After a while, their goods and prices all look the same, even-steven, and the buyer will start feeling there's not much difference in savings if he goes to one or the other. To the practical person, proximity to the market is still the foremost consideration, especially in these hard times when gas prices and passenger fares have all gone up.

That, on a macro scale, if you haven't noticed, is precisely the same philosophy, ion reverse, behind the provincial expansion of megamalls like SM and Robinsons - to be nearer and nearer to the hoi polloi or the greater mass of spenders in the countryside. (PIA-Pangasinan) [top]

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