Thursday, March 24, 2016

Legazpi’s blind musicians hold ‘pabasa’

LEGAZPI CITY – They cannot read with their eyes but this group of sightless musical performers based here is doing once again for this Holy Week the round-the-clock reading of the “pasyon” at the city’s public park.

Calling themselves the “VIVA” or the Visually Impaired Voices of Albay, the group will perform the solemn Filipino Lenten tradition on stage at the Peñaranda Park here starting 9 a.m. of Maundy Thursday through the next morning, that is of Good Friday.

This year will be the second time that the group will stage the act in the same venue sponsored by the city government as part of its activity for Lenten tourism and in an effort to enliven the religious tradition that is on the verge of fading, Antonio Reyes, the City Tourism Office (CTO) head, on Wednesday told the Philippines News Agency.

Locally called the “Pabasa”, the act is a time-honored religious tradition in which the participants melodiously read and chant the prayers or Biblical passages about the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It is usually done before Good Friday for one day and one night straight, with the partakers taking turns in the recital.

Earlier, several old-timers in the city have expressed their worry that the tradition would soon fade away as the practice has been slowly dwindling for generations.

First performed by VIVA last year, the play proved successful, especially that it was staged by the group of at least 15 men and women using the Braille in the musically-tuned reading of the “pasyon” before the public, Reyes said.

“They can do it perfectly and in deep zeal, to the amazement of thousands of spectators—locals, tourists, vacationers and Lenten homecomers.

Group leader Jeff Cuela, himself a visually-impaired person who arranged the activity with the CTO, said they were not only reviving a long-standing custom as their important contribution to the Holy Week commemoration but also proving that reading the “pasyon” is no longer a monopoly of those who can read with their eyes.

Pabasa, he explained, is the reading of the “book of passion” -- a verse narrative about the life and suffering of Jesus Christ that has been a traditional religious practice in Bicol and across the Philippines wherein people gather around the readers to listen and reflect.

The verses are structured in five-line stanzas, with each line containing eight syllables and most Bicolano households hold the pabasa as a vow or “panata”.

Cuela said this would be the second time that the group was going to perform for the city using the Bicol dialect, based on the translation of the centuries-old religious narrative done by the National Library of the Philippines "using the fund we raised over years through donations by well-meaning sponsors."

Before the Bicol translation was made available, they used to do it in Tagalog based on the first version of the pasyon written by Gaspar Aquino de Belen in 1704 entitled Mahal na Pasyon ni JesuChristong Panginoon Natin na Tola (The poem of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ).

Belen's “pasyon” went through at least four revisions, with the fifth edition printed in 1760, historical accounts show.

Several versions of the pasyon began to circulate afterwards, written by anonymous authors but were branded heretical by Spanish friars.

In the early 19th century, a native priest named Mariano Pilapil compiled several of these texts and purged them of heresies and the resulting work is known as the Pasyong Pilapil or Pasyong Henares.

Another popular version of the pasyon is the Casaysayan nang Pasiong Mahal ni JesuCristong Panginoon Natin na Sucat Ipag-alab nang Puso nang Sinomang Babasa (The History of the Passion of Jesus Christ our Lord that will set afire the heart of whosoever reads it), which was published by an unknown writer in 1814.

Since then, many innovations in pasyon singing have been introduced, like the use of the guitar or rondalla for accompaniment and the use of the accordion by a traveling group of pasyon singers.

“From the Belen version, we initiated the translation in Bicol. We were able to produce 10 copies of the Bicol Braille version which are shared by our members in staging the public pabasa,” he added.

Reyes said the CTO, with the support of City Mayor Noel Rosal, sponsored the solemn activity with the hope of inspiring Catholic Bicolanos, especially the younger generation, on the importance of this socio-cultural-religious practice.

He said VIVA was originally organized as a band to showcase the musical talents of this physically handicapped group members who are mostly earning a living as masseurs and masseuses.

“We also associate this activity with our tourism programs, especially that the city is receiving an influx of tourists, pilgrims, homecomings and visitors during the Lenten season,” Reyes said.

While enjoying the beautiful sight of Mt. Mayon and savoring on the scenic sites, exciting activities, exotic food and world-class tourist facilities that the city offers, he said “it is best that we also showcase the rare talent of our visually-impaired persons in performing the traditional pabasa in Bicol before public audiences,” he added.

Historical accounts say that the tradition of chanting the pasyon is not rooted to the Spanish language that the songs were originally written in but is connected to the singing of epics during cultural celebrations among indigenous Filipinos.

The pasyon is usually chanted 'a capella' though occasionally the chanters may be accompanied by guitars or a rondalla band, representing the many innovations that have been introduced -- including the use of the accordion by a traveling group of pasyon singers.

It is usually performed in two basic group formations -- the first, two people or groups of people sing alternately, and each of the singers in the second take their turns in singing a stanza of text.

Reyes said the city government is making this pabasa by the VIVA as a yearly Holy Week activity “so we could blend with solemnity our tourism activities and offer our visitors a rare passionate and mesmerizing show they could only witness in our City of Fun and Adventure.” (by Danny Calleja, PNA)

Army on red alert as 3 NPAs killed in 3 clashes

BASUD, Camarines Norte -- The Philippine Army in Bicol is on alert as three unidentified members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in three separate encounters in Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte on Monday, a military official said Wednesday.

Brigadier Gen. Allan F. Martin, deputy commander of the 9th Infantry Division in Bicol, said they anticipated the increased movement of the NPA rebels as the anniversary of the NPA founding on March 29 nears.

Martin said they are on the lookout to the plenum of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which activity is expected to happen in time for the NPA foundation day.

Col. Ferozaldo Paul T. Regencia, deputy commander of the 902nd Infantry Brigade operating in Camarines Norte, said there were two encounters in Camarines Norte on March 21.

Regencia said the first encounter happened in Alanaw, Lupi, Camarines Sur about 6 a.m., 28 km from the second encounter at past 5 p.m. in Barangay San Rafael, Basud, Camarines Norte where two unidentified male NPA rebels were killed in the firefight.

He said that in the first encounter, the Army recovered from the site backpacks, personal belongings and documents.

M16 rifle, M203, live bullets and 14 improvised explosive devices, including wires, were recovered, the Army officer added.

Regencia said the Army was able to figure out that the NPA rebels were about to attack a bigger detachment in Alanaw, Lupi, Camarines Sur but they were prevented by the government security forces.

He said the Army helicopter was able to retrieve the bodies of the two unidentified NPA rebels at past 11 a.m. on Tuesday, which were brought to the police station of Basud town for identification and relatives to claim them.

Lt. Col. Arnel B. Bautista, commanding officer involved in the operation on Monday, said they believe the heightened armed activities of the NPA were related to the celebration of the 47th founding anniversary of the NPA.

Bautista said they are trying to analyze where the big number of about 30 NPA rebels came from and they suspected that they may have come from different provinces in Bicol.​

On the same day, another NPA rebel was also killed in a separate encounter in Barangay Antolon, Caramoan, Camarines Sur with no casualty on the side of the government security forces.(PNA)

DOH to penitents/flagellants: Go to a doctor after crucifixion; or better still, avoid being nailed to the cross

Seek immediate consultation with a doctor after crucifixion, or better still, choose to be tied with a cord around the cross rather than get crucified by nails and risk tetanus infection.

This is the advice given by the Department of Health (DOH) to penitents and flagellants who resort to reenactment of the sufferings of Jesus Christ as part of their observance of the Holy Week, particularly during Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

In some places, including Pampanga and Bulacan in Central Luzon, penitents and flagellants do extreme form of sacrifice by mortifying their own flesh by whipping it with various instruments.

Many others carry big wooden cross on their shoulders, while some even choose to be crucified by nails.

The DOH said that when such flagellants and penitents injure themselves, their wounds and cuts may become infected with bacteria commonly found in soil, including the ones that cause tetanus.

Among the symptoms of tetanus infection are fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and rapid heat beat.

According to DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin, once a fever sets in, that fever will indicate that possible wound infection is happening in the wounded part/s incurred during the period of exposure or completing the crucifixion process.

“Fever is a sign of infection. So if you feel that you have fever, immediately consult a physician, lalo na kung ikaw ay nagpa-pako at nagpa-whip sa likod,” she said.

She added that fever is an initial indication of possible infection and getting the immediate prevention is needed to avoid a more serious outcome.

To date, there is no exact cure once the tetanus infection condition worsened in a patient.

“Kung pwede, wag nang magpapako…Pwede namang magpatali na lang,” the Health chief suggested.

She said that the injuries that can be caused by tying up oneself with a cord around the cross will be a lot superficial and not too dangerous compared with the wounds that can be sustained from the crucifixion by nails, especially if not well-sterilized.

“Yung pako, hindi talaga pwede dahil may kalawang 'yan. Anything that may kalawang is dangerous and may bring tetanus infection,” she stressed.

Tetanus is caused by Clostridium tetani, a kind of bacteria that thrives in contaminated soil, animal feces and other dirty areas.

This condition can result to seizures and severe muscle spasms in the neck, abdomen and limbs and can lead to fatal results such as death.

Patients that are experiencing this sort of condition are usually having difficulty of breathing (aside from the fever), afraid of light and sensitive to any noise.

It is important that people who get wounded by dirty and pointed objects which have rust or exposed to soil materials which can penetrate the open wound be administered with tetanus toxoid within 24 hours.

It is also suggested that the tetanus toxoid be administered prior to crucifixion.

Those who have been administered with it already can also be given a booster shot that will last up to 10 years.

It is important that wounds that may be sustained will be washed and cleansed properly, not left covered, and be exposed to air because bacteria will thrive further in the wound that is not being exposed to open air. (PNA)

AMLA and prevention of money laundering in PHL

Prevention of any money laundering activity in the Philippines starts from, among others, all institutions covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA)

This was stressed by Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad during the recent AMLA 101 briefing at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

She explained that AMLC will investigate suspected money laundering activity upon the submission of covered transaction reports (CTRs) and suspicious transaction reports (STs) reports by institutions covered by the central bank, the Insurance Commission (IC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) -- the three government agencies that compose the AMLC.

These institutions include banks, quasi-banks, foreign exchange dealers, money changers, remittances companies, insurance companies, securities dealers, brokers and investment houses.

Other triggers for an AMLC investigation include newspaper and media reports of unlawful or money laundering activities and citizens' sworn statement about these activities.

AMLC gathers information from reports and data from various government agencies, and information provided by other countries' financial intelligence units (FIU) and foreign law enforcement authorities.

Thus, in the case of the USD 81 million stolen from the Bangladesh Bank (BB), the South Asian country's central bank, and allegedly laundered in the Philippines, Bacay said Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) should have reported it immediately.

AMLA-covered entities are required to report -- on a daily basis -- transactions that involve cash or other equivalent monetary instrument if the amount is in excess of PHP500,000.

Bacay said they received the CTR from RCBC regarding the USD 81 million transaction but they did not consider it unusual because it is small compared to other transactions reported to them and because it is only part of the thousands of reports they receive everyday.

She said AMLC has 28 personnel under its Information Management and Analysis Group (IMAG) but only seven of them are financial analysts who check the CTRs.

She said it is the job of banks' compliance officer to report to AMLC any suspicious transaction because it is the banks that should know whether transactions of their clients are questionable or not.

Among the factors that pertains to suspicious transactions include those that have no underlying legal or trade obligation, purpose or economic justification; those involving clients who are not properly identified; and if the amount involved is not commensurate with the business or financial capacity of the client.

In the case of the transactions coursed through the RCBC Jupiter branch on February 4, 2016, the four accounts that were opened in May 2015 were inactive until it received the funds from the Federal Reserve of New York.

The money was sent to the account of one Michael Francisco Cruz, which received USD 6 million; Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, USD 30 million; Alfred Santos Vergara, USD 19.99 million; and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, USD 25 million.

Bacay said this should made bank officials suspicious about the transaction.

The BSP learned of the alleged money laundering only on February 11, after BB asked for BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr.'s assistance to recover the stolen money.

Bacay said they started the investigation on February 12 but only got a freeze order against suspected bank accounts only on March 1, due to several factors like holidays and weekends as well as following the correct processes.

Amidst the alleged money laundering involving a Philippine-based universal bank and a remittance company, Bacay stressed that the country's AMLA remains firm.

She, however, said that amendments like inclusion of casinos and real estate agents as among the covered entities are needed to further strengthen the law.

She also said that absolute lifting of the bank secrecy law will further help the country's anti-money laundering system.

"Absolute (lifting) will be better," she said but admitted that they "will face an uphill battle" to achieve this.(PNA)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cop shoots Sorsogon's No. 1 most wanted person while escaping

A police officer shot Sorsogon's number 1 provincial most wanted person who tried to escape while police officers were bringing him to court.

Rushed to the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital where he is now under tight guard by the police while recuperating was Antonio Gamis, 47, a resident of Barangay Calmayog, Juban, Sorsogon, who is facing cases for three counts of rape in violation of Republic Act 7610.

A report from the Philippine National Police Sorsogon Provincial Office to Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez Jr., PNP Bicol regional director, based in Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here, said Gamis was arrested on Sunday in Juban and was being escorted to the Bulwagan ng Katarungan in Sorsogon City on Tuesday when he ran with handcuffs on.

The suspect reportedly sped away to the direction of Barangay Bitan-o and was already at a distance, forcing PO3 Albert Duave to shoot him -- hitting his left thigh. (PNA)

Small-scale miners to benefit from DOST’s cyanide-free mining technology

After extensive research and development,the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has come up with an environment friendly process for extracting gold and copper sans the use of toxic chemicals like mercury and cyanide.

This technology uses the so-called “enhanced gravity concentration-flotation-extraction” process and uses an integrated tailings disposal and treatment system. This method assures that waste materials that are disposed in the environment are safe and considered as non-pollutant.

This program was jointly undertaken by DOST and the University of the Philippines Diliman-Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering (UPDMMME).

The other benefit of this method, aside from being safe and eco-friendly, is the economic factor that will spruce up the small-scale miners’ income potential. The process allows for an 85–90 percent recovery rate of gold and other valuable minerals like copper and zinc compared with only 40 percent using the old or traditional method.

This breakthrough technology will benefit thousands of small-scale miners in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley who rely on copper and gold mining as their sole source of livelihood. The technology introduced by the DOST is believed to be economically viable, safe, and sustainable, thus ensuring the miners with steady income while protecting the environment from hazardous wastes from mine tailings.

“This innovation that the DOST has developed will bring more benefits for our more than 300,000 small-scale miners all over the country because it poses no threat to their safety and to the environment as well because it does not use harmful chemicals like mercury and cyanide,” stated DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo.

Last March 15, the DOST together with government officials of Compostela Valley led the groundbreaking ceremony of the Field Testing of the Integrated Gold-Copper Mineral Processing Pilot Plant in Barangay Katipunan, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley.

In attendance were Compostela Valley Vice Governor and former Congressman Manuel E. “Way Kurat” Zamora representing ComVal Governor Arturo T. Uy and DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara representing Secretary Montejo. Other local leaders and DOST officials present were Antonio Beda Tullo representing Nabunturan Mayor Romeo C. Clarin, Katipunan Barangay Captain Paz B. Maglangit, DOST Region 11 Director Dr. Anthony C. Sales, Program Leader Dr. Herman D. Mendoza, Jose A. Anayo, Jr. of the Nabunturan Integrated Mining Development Cooperative, Dr. Jonathan Bayogan of the Compostela Valley State College, and Aniceto Bolifer, the landowner.

“We consider this as a milestone for the small-scale miners of Nabunturan, Compostela Valley because this new technology for sustainable mining will surely benefit them in terms of increased income and protection of their natural resources; thereby proving to all that science and technology can improve the quality of life of our people in the countryside,” said Montejo.

This green mining technology developed after five years of research and field testing by scientists from the UPDMMME is considered pro-poor, pro-environment and most of all pro-Filipino.

“We need to use science and technology to be at par with the ASEAN for economic and sustainable development and our small miners are targeted to be part of inclusive growth, para umangat ang kabuhayan,” said Usec. Guevara.

Similar testing plants have already been set up in other areas where gold, copper and zinc are abundant like in Barangay Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet; Paracale in Bicol Region and in Barangay Del Pilar, Cabadbaran City,Agusan del Norte in the CARAGA Region. (PNA)

DPWH-Bicol launches 'Lakbay Alalay' for Holy Week

The Department of Public Works and Highways Bicol regional office (DPWH–Bicol) on Monday launched its “Oplan Lakbay Alalay" for the Holy Week.

Lucy Castañeda, DPWH-Bicol spokesperson, said the project is part of their service to those going home to the provinces for the Holy Week.

Castañeda said the DPWH-Bicol has fielded mechanics, engineers and other personnel to assist travelers and motorists who will be encountering problems in their long travel.

She said their agency has 31 motorist assistance centers (MACs) in the entire region: 12 in Masbate, 7 in Catanduanes, 6 Camarines Sur, 3 in Albay, 2 in Sorsogon and 1 in Camarines Norte.

The MACs will remain in place up to March 28, where the vacationists are expected to return to Metro Manila.(PNA)

PNP-Bicol assures security for Holy Week, summer vacation

Security for the summer vacation, especially the Holy Week, is now well in place, the top Philippine National Police Bicol official said Tuesday.

Police Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez Jr., PNP Bicol regional director, said his directive for this purpose stands effective up to May 31.

Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PNP-Bicol spokesperson, said the regional office prepared Summer Vacation and Holy Week Security Plan early as, she said, it would be better to prepare ahead for the influx of travelers and vacationists for the Holy Week and various occasions during summer.

The plan covers big events, especially in the Province of Albay, like Daragang Magayon Festival and Palarong Pambansa.

It also includes the national and local elections, Philippine Veterans Week, Araw ng Kagitingan, Labor Day, National Flag Day, Flores de Mayo and village feasts.

Included in the directive of Marquez, Calubaquib said, is the setting up of motorist assistance centers (MACs) along the stretch of the Maharlika Highway from Tabogon, Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte to Matnog, Sorsogon.

MACs have also been put up in Catanduanes and Masbate.

Also established were police assistance desks (PADs) in populous areas like terminals, airports, seaports, markets, malls and churches as well as tourist destinations that are often visited by local and foreign tourists during vacations and Holy Week.

The PNP-Bicol has also placed checkpoints in entry and exit points and intensified police patrols and visibility, especially in areas of convergence.

These precautionary measures are being observed 24/7, Calubaquib said.

About 5,000 Bicol police officers are in full duty during the summer vacation period.

Of this number, 1,198 are assigned in prime tourist destinations in the region, 266 in transportation hubs, 2,901 for route security and 635 in vital installations.

Providing assistance are the 3,794 force multipliers from different sectors of the society like the village volunteer security men, security guards, traffic enforcers, radio groups like the Kabalikat Civicom and barangay peacekeeping and action teams or BPATS, Calubaquib said.

She said around 8,794 will be the combined force of the police and force multipliers.

The PNP official said every police station in the region has a hotline through which the public can ask for help.

All these measures are in place to ensure safety and orderliness in the region, including the celebrations being done in the six provinces of the region.(PNA)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Agencies ensure safe travel for Holy Week

With an increased number of travelers expected in the coming days due to the annual observance of Holy Week, the Department of Transportation and Communications has launched Oplan Ligtas Biyahe: Semana Santa 2016 last March 18 to ensure the safety and reliability of various modes of transportation.

All transportation agencies have been mandated to implement heightened security measures at terminals, which include the deployment of additional personnel in airports, sea ports, bus terminals, and highways. Public assistance desks, first-aid stations, additional seats, and charging stations, have been set up to address passenger needs and emergencies.

More frequent inspections will be done on aircrafts, ships, and buses to make sure that they comply with safety standards. Random drug and alcohol testing will also be done.

Air travel

The Manila International Airport Authority has instructed airline companies to deploy more personnel at check-in counters for efficient processing, shortening queues. Travelers are reminded not to bring prohibited items to the airport and to stow all belongings in one’s carry-on baggage for faster processing at the screening checkpoints.

The Civil Aeronautics Board reminds airlines to abide by the policies under the Air Passenger Bill of Rights, which sets out the minimum obligations of airlines to their passengers in case of any untoward incidents in relation to their flights.

Land travel

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has issued special permits for 832 additional provincial buses in order to meet the expected boost in passenger demand.

The Toll Regulatory Board reminds expressway operators to strictly implement traffic rules and regulations in order to avoid any unfavorable incidents. Roving teams will be deployed in areas where stoning incidents and vandalism of right-of-way fences occur, and for fast response to motorist emergencies.

Point-to-point bus services will be suspended from March 24 to 27 to give way to preventive maintenance works, while airport bus services will continue to run during Holy Week with the exception of March 25 (Good Friday).

The Light Rail Transit Line 1, Line 2, and Metro Rail Transit Line 3 operations will be suspended from March 24 to 27 to allow heavy maintenance works. Operations will resume on March 28. The Philippine National Railways will likewise suspend stop operations from March 24 to 26, but will resume on March 27.

Sea travel

Maritime agencies will be conducting rigorous security checks at port facilities and of passenger ships prior to their scheduled departures. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will continue patrolling the seas and be on standby for rescue operations, if necessary.

The department reminds all travelers to be cautious and alert in order to minimize accidents, and to abide by all safety rules and regulations, which will be strictly implemented by law enforcement agencies. (DOTC)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Albay all set for Palarong Pambansa 2016

It’s all systems go for Palarong Pamabansa 2016 in Albay, Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said Monday.

Preparations for the national games on April 10-16 are 90 percent complete, including the deployment of security, emergency and medical teams in 31 playing venues and 24 billeting areas, Salceda said.

Bernardo Rafael Alejandro IV, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director and Palaro Security Peace and Order and Emergency Preparedness Committee incident commander, said at least 2,000 policemen would be deployed in all playing venues and billeting areas.

The security plan assigned the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Albay to set up police assistance desks in all playing and billeting venues on a 24/7 basis.

Police Sr. Supt. Celso Arcueno Jr., PNP Albay provincial director, said in a phone interview that the security measures also include the assignment of Philippine Army (PA) soldiers and village “tanods” to help man various police assistance desks.

Arcueno said a traffic plan has been firmed up to include rerouting of traffic in venues where the national games will be held and billeting areas where thousands of players will stay during the national games.

As for the medical contingency plan, Alejandro said 335 medical personnel composed of doctors, nurses, paramedics backed by ambulances will be dispatched in the playing venues and billeting areas.

Maria Ravanilla, Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director, said in an interview that the week-long national sport events would spur economic growth in Bicol, with an expected receipts from visitors of PHP189 million.

Ravanilla said local government tourism units have been doing their rounds and engaging all tourism- oriented establishments to prepare and be more ready with fast, friendly, flexible and forward-looking services, saying “the ultimate goal is for everyone to have fun and an enjoyable stay in Albay.”

Salceda said there are 31 playing venues, with the center of competition at the Bicol University Main Campus in this city.

There are 24 billeting centers, 22 of which are public elementary and secondary schools and two state universities and colleges (SUC) campuses -- the Bicol University Main and Bicol University College of Agriculture and Fisheries in Guinobatan, Albay.

The billeting centers will house about 18,000 delegates from the 18 regions of the country who are participating in the national school games competition.

Six billeting quarters are ready for sports officials. (PNA)

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Bichara faces charges of grave abuse, misconduct

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