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28th March 2017
Farinas: Duterte can appoint barangay execs
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on March 28, 2017, 8:12 am

By: Jani Arnaiz, Joey Gabieta - @inquirerdotnet

Inquirer Visayas / 04:04 PM March 27, 2017

TACLOBAN CITY — The House of Representatives has not taken up the proposal of President Duterte to postpone the elections and appoint barangay officials.

But Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas said he found nothing wrong with the President appointing new sets of barangay officials because the present term of the incumbents had expired in 2016.

“We have yet to talk about that in Congress because the leadership of Speaker (Pantaleon) Alvarez is by consensus. Kung ano man ang mananaig, yun ang mangyayari (Whatever is decided on by the majority will be adopted),” Fariñas said on Sunday.

Fariñas and some congressmen were in Tacloban City as part of their “Western and Eastern Nautical Highway Expedition,” an inspection tour conducted by the legislators to check on the state of the government’s Roll On-Roll Off (RORO) , the conditions of road network and the transportation system in the provinces.

Speaker Alvarez earlier signified his support for the plan of the President to cancel the barangay elections this October and appoint the barangay officials, to prevent those who have engaged in the drug trade from getting back into power.

“I see nothing wrong with appointing village officials if it’s mandated by law. Their terms have already expired but they are in hold-over capacity,” said Fariñas

He pointed out that since the terms of the barangay officials expired last year when the elections were supposed to be held, they could be replaced by appointment.

“In the Constitution, there’s no fix date in the election of village officials so that we in Congress can change the term of barangay officials whether it’s five or six years,” said the congressman from Ilocos Norte.

Fariñas said President Duterte has gained a wide perspective on illegal drugs trade over the years, compared to the congressmen who have only been confined to the peace and order problems of their districts.

The proposal to cancel the barangay elections and just appoint new sets of officials was opposed by village officials in Tacloban.

“This will deny the people (of their right) to vote directly officials they like to lead them in the barangay. Barangay officials, just like our other officials, should be elected and not appointed,” said Rosario Bactol, barangay chairman of 88.

Lawyer Jose Nick Mendros, Commission on Elections-Eastern Visayas director, said Comelec would continue to do its mandated work should Congress fail to pass a law cancelling the elections this October.

“Our registration (in our Comelec offices) will continue until April 29 while our satellite registration will end this week,” Mendros said.

“We cannot stop our work just because there is a proposal to cancel the barangay elections,” he added.

He said cancelling the elections might not be the answer to the problems of barangay officials’ involvement in the illegal drugs trade.

“Charge them (in court). We have charged a senator. Why not charged those alleged barangay officials,” Mendros, said referring to Senator Leila de Lima who has been detained on charges of illegal drug trade and protection.

He added that appointing barangay officials would be contrary to the country’s democratic principles and might exacerbate patronage politics.

20th February 2017
DPWH to build coastal bypass road in Maasin City
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on February 20, 2017, 3:41 pm

MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte – This city will get an alternative link to the commercial district – a 4.71-kilometer coastal bypass road with reclamation component meant to ease traffic woes and expand the city’s development.

The planned road, which will cost P1.5 billion, will get an initial budget of P50 million this year, said Ma. Margarita C. Junia, chief of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Southern Leyte district engineering office.

The proposed road, one of the key infrastructure projects in Eastern Visayas, will connect the city’s commercial center in Lib-og village to nearby populated village of Mambajao. It will traverse coastal areas of Abgao, Tunga-Tunga, and Combado villages.

The preliminary release, strongly lobbied by Rep. Roger Mercado for inclusion in the 2017 appropriations, will be used for the preparation of feasibility study for multi-year implementation, initial road construction, and some slope protection.

“The main roads leading to the city center are already congested even if those roads are restricted to one lane,” she said, referring in particular to R. Kangleon and Tomas Oppus Streets. “We cannot expand to the other side of the city since it’s mountainous.”

Maasin, a fourth class city and capital of Southern Leyte province, has a land area of 211.70 square kilometers with a population of 85,560. The city’s terrain is characterized by relatively flat lands along the coastal plains where population areas lay, and becomes rugged and mountainous towards the interior.

DPWH Southern Leyte planning section chief Vincent Sy said the proposed budget for the project in 2018 is P200 million. “Releases in the next years will mainly depend on the outcome of feasibility study, which will be completed within the first half of the year,” Sy added. The project is in compliance to Secretary Mark Villar’s directive to decongest traffic through construction of by-pass roads in populated areas. (PR)

9th January 2017
Farmer killed in Southern Leyte buy-bust; police claim shoot-out
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on January 9, 2017, 2:31 pm

By: Jani Arnaiz - Correspondent / @janiarnaizINQ

Inquirer Visayas / 07:03 PM January 06, 2017

MAASIN CITY—A 55-year-old farmer was shot dead on Friday in what the police claimed was a shoot-out following a buy-bust operation in an interior village of Ichon, Macrohon town, in Southern Leyte.

Felimon Labolabo was hit in the right forehead and right arm and died on the spot.

The buy-bust operation stemmed from a two-week surveillance operation on Labolabo who was allegedly a drug peddler.

Senior Insp. J-Rale C. Paalisbo, team leader of the Regional Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operation Group (RAIDSOG), said an undercover agent met with Labolabo near the latter’s farm in Sitio Santolan, Barangay Ichon, past 9 a.m. supposedly to buy “shabu” from the farmer.

The suspect drew his .38-cal. pistol when he sensed that he was dealing with a policeman, but the farmer was shot first.

Recovered from the crime scene were the gun and four sachets of suspected shabu.

It took four hours to retrieve the body since the crime scene was a secluded and hilly area.

Labolabo’s 18-year-old daughter, Tifanny, fainted after seeing her father’s body.

She said they had told her father to stop peddling drugs after he surrendered to the police during Oplan Tokhang, a campaign that required the police to knock on the houses of known drug peddlers and users and ask them to stop their illegal activities.

6th December 2016
Southwest Ferries to ply Liloan/Benit to Surigao city
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on December 6, 2016, 2:12 pm


MAASIN CITY – A brand new state-of-the-art roll-on roll-off vessel will ply the Liloan/Benit-Surigao City route and vice-versa by April of next year, says Jose Jericho Padua, managing director of Southwest Ferries incorporated.

According to Padua, the ship, MV SF Stella de Mar (Star of the Seas) is set to be delivered on March 2017 by Kegoya Dock Co. Ltd.,one of the biggest ship builders of Japan.

“By that time, hopefully, we will have our maiden voyage,” he said during luncheon with local media group.

Although they manage the Starlite Ferries which is plying the lucrative route of Bantangas-Mindoro-Caticlan, they choose Surigao City-Liloan/Benit ferry terminals for their initial venture into cargo-passenger vessel to serve inter-island transport requirements in the Philippines.

“We made a thorough feasibility study in these ports and we found out it has heavy cargo traffic,” Padua pointed out.

He added that their vessel can navigate even on typhoon signal number 2 since it is made based on the Philippine weather condition. “Of course with the approval of the Philippine Coast Guard.”

It is also a reefer type vessel which can navigate in shallow waters.

He said that cargo forwarders will be assured of safety handling of their rolling cargoes since it has a modern feature in lashing. “And modesty aside, we have accommodation for drivers for proper rest while on sea travel.”

It has a capacity of more than 900 passengers (business class 114, economy 843 and drivers 20) in its air-conditioned accommodation and can hold a total number of 17 buses and 4 trucks.  Travel time would only take 2 hours and a half more or less.

LGU partnership

To address the crewing requirements of their fleet (local and international)the Southwest Maritime Group of Companies, the mother company of Southwest Ferries, innovate the College of Maritime Leadership to develop character, competence, confidence of their crews.

Padua offered “This is where we would like to partner with Local Government Units (LGUs) to consider our scholarship program for mariners where we offer free tuition fees or study now pay later scheme for miscellaneous fees with guaranteed shipboard training and guaranteed employment in Southfield’s fleet of vessels, another subsidiary of Southwest Group.”

Earlier Padua and members of the Southwest Ferries core committee, Ms. May Cabasi and Nikki R. Santos made a courtesy call to Gov. Damian Mercado at the provincial Capitol.

Board Member Abelardo Almario, who accompanied the team, was thankful with the entry of Southwest Ferries for the benefit of the province tourism program.









29th August 2016
Crimes committed in South Leyte greatly reduced within first 50 days
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on August 29, 2016, 10:11 pm

Marcelo M. Pedalino PIA8-Southern Leyte   

Figures, it has often been said, don’t lie.   

While it is true that the turn-out of surrendering drug personalities is overwhelming the direct impact on the non-commission of crimes is just as staggering.   

The numbers gathered from the Camp Alfredo Bantug Southern Leyte Police Provincial Office (SLPPO) show that for the 50-day period from July 1 up to August 18, 2016, 16 crimes were committed, as against 93 unlawful acts carried out in the same period last year, July 1 – August 18, 2015 all over the province.   


“Dako kaayo og kalainan (There’s a real big difference),” said PO3 Russel Balansag, the Provincial Crime Registrar, adding that clearly this has been the concrete results of the Oplan Tokhang (Tok-Tok, Hangyo; knock, appeal) and Double Barrel.  

Balansag was candid enough in assessing that not all of the crimes are drugs-related, even as he affirmed that a quick reality check on recurring heinous incidents were generally traced to the unimpeded use of the banned methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.  

But noteworthy items in the stats reveal that in the same period last year there were nine rape cases, while for this year there was none;  there were 32 physical injuries listed, now there were only five;  29 cases of theft lessened to only 5;  11 robbery cases now zero; 8 homicide cases, now only two. (PIA)

22nd July 2016
DA to pour P100M for abaca rehab
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on July 22, 2016, 9:46 am


July 21, 2016

MAASIN CITY – The Department of Agriculture will download P100 million in abaca industry rehabilitation fund to Sogod LGU contrary to what DA secretary Manny Pinol has said during a gathering of farmers organization in Sogod, Southern Leyte last week.

The Agriculture secretary was in Sogod July 14 upon the invitation of former vice governor Sheffered Tan and Emmy Tan, reelected mayor of Sogod. Sheffered ran and lost to come backing Gov. Damian Mercado. Pinol claimed that Sheffered is a close friend of his younger brother.

In a press conference at the mayor’s office after addressing the farmers, Pinol committed that P100 million of the P2Billion left unspent by the DA will be used to rehabilitate Abaca industry in region 8, composed of six provinces in Samar and Leyte islands.

He said that all the money will be disposed before December “or else it go back to the national treasury.”

“It’s up to Sogod how fast they can produce the “inusa” variety,” said Pinol when asked if the amount will all be for Sogod.

He pointed out that P50M is allotted for the immediate procurement of planting materials. “This is however, a plant now pay later program”

He informed that President Rody Duterte knew about his coming to the province. Duterte was born in Maasin City. A decade ago, the abaca industry in the province was wiped out by bunchy top.

In a separate audience with Gov. Mercado, Vice Gov. Christofer Yap and all the mayors aside from Tan, the DA secretary said the same about the allocation intended for Eastern Visayas.

However, in article published in the DA website, the secretary said initial funding of P100 million (M) will be downloaded to LGU of Sogod through its Mayor Imelda U. Tan.

It was also reported in two other media outlets.

The reported downloading of the amount to Sogod LGU, doesn’t sit well with other provincials officials. They were asking why when the Secretary had said it will for Eastern Visayas.

When sought for his comment on Wednesday, Pinol in mobile interview told the Inquirer “what’s wrong with that?”

He added, “I can assure you that the P100M will not go into somebody’s pocket other than what it is intended for. And besides, they were the ones (Tans) who organized the abaca farmers.”

“Please don’t put political colors into our program. It will not be good for the LGUs.”

At the press conference in Sogod he had said in the presence of Mayor Tan, “local political divisiveness has taken its toll on me although I understand being a former local politician. After here I will be with another audience telling the same thing when I should be telling this at one time.”



10th May 2016
Mercados dominate again, Duterte wins by 20k over Roxas
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on May 10, 2016, 1:32 pm

MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte – The Mercado dynasty continued their dominance in the Southern Leyte province and in the city with an addition to a son-in-law winning as Board Member.

Gov. Roger Mercado, who switched place with younger brother Rep. Damian as lone Representative of the province winning with a big margin (111,340 ) against lawyer and former St. Bernard mayor Rico Rentuza(56,882).

Rep. Damian Mercado who slide down to run as governor won by a landslide (108,190) against Vice Governor Sheffered Tan(68,800).


9th May 2016
Update on VCM malfunction
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on May 9, 2016, 2:31 pm


May 9, 2016

MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte – Voting continued in two clustered precincts even without using of Vote Counting Machines (VCMs)as voters consented that they will proceed with voting.

Though VCM replacement arrived hours later in the clustered precinct located at Tomas Oppus Pilot school in Mantahan village this city, however, the one in Guadalupe has no replacement yet as of 2:00 p.m., Richy Blasabas, Smartmatic technician assigned at the city poll office told the Inquirer.

He said the VCM that malfunctioned in Guadalupe will be replaced as soon as the go signal from the National Technical Service Office arrives. “The voting will continue and the ballots will be kept by the BEI. All these have the consent of the Comelec.”

Voting stops in two cluster precincts
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on May 9, 2016, 10:10 am



May 9, 2016

MAASIN CITY – Voting stops in 2 cluster precincts in Mantahan and Guadalupe villages after the VCMs misread or come out without results.

The cluster precincts comprise eight precincts or roughly more than thousand voters.

According to Richy Blasabas of Smartmatic technician assigned at the city Comelec office, after they tried cleaning or inspection of the VCMs still no result comes out prompting them to call the National Technical Service Office what to do. He said they have standby VCM for replacement.

The voting stops after more than ten tries which rendered the same results.



7th May 2016
The ugly face of Southern Leyte politics
Posted by Jani Arnaiz, Chief Editor on May 7, 2016, 10:30 am


May 7, 2016

MAASIN CITY – Politics in Southern Leyte revealed its ugly face at the homestretch of the campaign period when father and son who are in the opposite side washed dirty linen in campaign sorties.

Only on Friday, allegation of hired goons to harm a mayor went viral in the social pages of Southern Leytenos.

Vice governor Sheffered Tan, who is running for governor under UNA and his father former Vice Gov. Orlando Tan, who is allied with the camp of Southern Leyte Rep. Damian Mercado who is running for Governor against the younger Tan, exchanged their personal grudge in their respective rallies.

“Don’t vote for Sheffered Tan because he is disrespectful of his parents and remiss in his job as the vice governor of the province,” said the elder Tan in a meeting de avance of the Liberal party in San Juan town where he was the formal mayor.

In an interview, Vice gov. Tan said he has a controversial childhood because he really didn’t know who his real father is.

“I could still remember how he brought me up as a child. It’s like I am not his son. I’m like Poe (Grace),” said Tan.

He added that when he was a mayor of Sogod, he made a mistress one of my employees. “This might be the reason why I’m estranged with him.”

Vice governor Tan on Friday at around 10:00 in morning called the Sogod Police station that they accosted five persons with arms including the van driver who he believed was hired by his rival Rep. Damian Mercado to kill his wife, Sogod mayor Emmie Tan after he reportedly berated and hit the alleged suspects.

According to Tan, his attention was called when his leaders saw a suspicious van in Mabicay village. He said he immediately went to the area with his men and confronted the suspects.

When he asked who hired them they said Rep. Damian Mercado.

“I admit I hit some of them because they said they were hired by Mercado to kill his wife,” Tan told The Reporter online in an interview at the police station.

How would you react to that. It’s my wife they are going to kill? Tan said justifying his action to hit.

His rival though belied the accusation of Tan saying it’s his desperate move to gain sympathizers. It’s a drama to say the least, Mercado said in mobile interview Saturday morning.

“We are winning why we should do that. Everybody in Sogod or Southern Leyte for that matter knew who I am. I don’t employ with that kind of action in all my political life.” Mercado said adding his line of questioning to the suspects was bereft with motives.

“I don’t know who they are. It’s their drama.”

Earlier in an interview with the driver, Rodulfo Vargas of Hilongos town said he was told by his employer, Vanvan transport, to go to Sogod because somebody would hire their van.

He said he didn’t know who hired the van. When asked if his passenger were bringing with them guns, he said he didn’t know.

The suspects did not make any statement.

According to the police chief Police senior Inspector Kenny Tantiado a policemen assigned near the area called us and we responded. “When we arrived the five were already sitting on the ground.”

He said they will conduct further investigation on what really transpired.

Tantiado identified the five as Fromencio Alconten Diolas, 46 married of Papaya, San Vicente, Butuan City, Wilfred Agustin Penig, 33, of Poblacion, Sibugat, Agusan del Sur, Leo Diolan, 53, married Bgy. Makasil, Butuan City, Ben de Paz, 47, married of Bgy. Rizal, Sogod, Southern Leyte and the driver, Rodulfo Vargas, 49 married of Hilongos town

Viral video on “hired killers”

A video showing four persons berated by a man, supposedly Vice Gov. Tan, repeatedly asking who hired them and what gun they use. Each of the four answered Damian Mercado but the man asking told to make it louder. The video also showed guns sprawled in the ground. The video was posted in So Good Southern Leyte went viral. It earned 171,462 views, 3,775 shares and 800 comments.

Two other videos residents in the village narrating what transpired at the “crime scene” posted by FB account Sogod So. Leyte Terrorism, also went viral with combined 28,700 views and 800 shares in just few hours. The two videos supposedly posted by the Mercado camp.


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