MALAYBALAY CITY – Former Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, now vice governor, admitted to lapses in management amid a Commission on Audit probe on allegations of irregularities during his term as governor.
The COA 10 Regional Office is investigating a complaint filed by a group who called themselves the Northern Mindanao Concerned Citizens Against Graft and Corruption questioning Zubiri for alleged graft and corrupt practices.
Zubiri denied the allegations when asked by reporters but admitted to “lapses in management” ahead of the release of the COA special audit team’s final report.
Hesselinda Valencia, COA supervising auditor, via telephone on July 15 confirmed the probe but declined to give details pending the release of the final report. The probe opened in January 2011, sources at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, where Zubiri is presiding officer, said.
COA refused to provide a copy of the order for the special audit team and the complaint lodged against Zubiri pending the release of the final report.
Valencia confirmed that the team met with Zubiri and the others involved in an exit conference at the Malberry Suites in Cagayan de Oro City on July 14. The conference was moved from a venue in Malaybalay City in the morning allegedly due to security concerns on the side of the audit team.
The investigation covered alleged fraud in the release of at least P600 million of the province’s 20 percent development fund from 2007 to 2010; the release of at least P80,000 extra bonus or the performance enhancement incentives to regular employees; alleged anomaly in the implementation of the Department of Agriculture’s fertilizer program in the province; the management of the province’s indigent health program, and two other items.
Zubiri denied committing fraud in any of the allegations lodged against him, which he said he welcomed even if it was an “unsigned complaint.”
He said when he received the COA letter informing them of the unsigned complaint; he wrote back and told COA to proceed. He claimed a political vendetta was behind the complaint.
Zubiri told Bukidnon News Wednesday the province lost no money in his administration’s transactions.
“The money went to the people, not to my pocket,” he added, referring to the development funds he released as financial assistance to Bukidnon’s 464 barangays and to the extra bonuses for Christmas.
On the development funds, Zubiri said the COA team found the releases were made despite the lack of supporting documents like the memorandum of agreement (MOA), local resolutions requesting the release of funds for the projects, and program of work.
On the extra bonuses, he said the releases were approved by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through the Department of Budget and Management for those released before 2010. The same is true, he said, of the Christmas 2010 extra bonus under the Aquino administration. DBM, he said, approved the release because of their surplus. He said they were allowed because they did not exhaust their limit for personnel expenses.
He denied ill practice in the release of fertilizers from the DA, adding the master list was with the municipal agriculture officers (MAOs).
But Zubiri admitted to some management lapses in allowing the release without the documents.
“I plead guilty for the lapses of management,” he said.
He added that for the development funds, he was rushing to hand the checks to the barangays whom he promised the projects.
But he denied any irregularity and stressed that he was against any irregular practice during his administration.
He said he initiated procedures that saved money for the province like construction of school buildings that are cheaper than the usual cost. He said he also did not use his P25 million per year intelligence fund “to avoid the temptation.”
“But I’m not perfect. I am not God to have no lapses (in management),” he added.
He challenged his detractors to find proof of their allegations.
“If you can find an iota of evidence then I will voluntarily resign as vice governor, proceed to detention even without due process,” he added.
Zubiri vowed to provide a copy of final report when the COA releases it possibly next week. (Walter I. Balane)
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MALAYBALAY CITY – The next headache communities might face after flooding is leptospiroris, Health Sec. Enrique Ona said.
Ona told Bukidnon News the communities should be prepared also of the disease brought by rats in flooded areas.
He cited the flooded areas in Mindanao such as Cotabato, Davao, and other cities as prone to the disease especially those with high population of rats.
He stressed the DOH’s advice for the people to prevent leptospirosis by avoiding to wade in floodwaters, and to wear protective wear if unavoidable.
Leptospirosis, an infection usually transmitted to humans from water contaminated by animal urine commonly rats, comes in contact with cuts in the skin, eyes, or with the mucous membranes.
Among the symptoms include fever, chills, intense headache. Complications could be meningitis, renal failure, respiratory distress, may arise and lead to death.
The Department of Health put this year’s nationwide cases of leptospirosis as 65.4-percent higher compared to the same period last year, wherein 315 cases were reported with 38 deaths.
Ona was in town to visit the Provincial Government of Bukidnon’s health systems, including provincial hospitals and the Provincial Indigency Health Program, which he said, were “very impressive”. He accompanied Dr. Shin Young Soo, the Western Pacific Regional Director of the World Health Organization to the Bukidnon Provincial Medical
The two officials attended the Universal Health Care Conference for Northern and Western Mindanao in Cagayan de Oro City this week. (Walter I. Balane)
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MALAYBALAY CITY – The Department of Education Division of Bukidnon is doubling the number of teachers trained to pursue the Mother Tongue-based Multi-Lingual Education for indigenous peoples with additional teachers to be trained this month, Dr. Ingrid Racoma, DepEd-Bukidnon schools division superintendent, said.
In 2009, DepEd Bukidnon trained at least 43 teachers to pilot the MLB-MLE in the towns of Talakag, Impasug-ong, and Damulog. She said the three towns have big population density of IPs.
She told the Bukidnon Press Club Tuesday they will bring the number of teachers to 100 at the end of month after a series of training sessions.
Racoma said DepEd Bukidnon has consulted tribal chieftains of their implementation of DepEd Order 74, which changed the languages of instruction in basic education from the bilingual to a trilingual one using the mother tongue, Filipino and English.
“It is important to make it easier to facilitate learning especially in the primary school level,” she added.
She told Bukidnon News that the effort is the local initiative to respond to the needs of school children in indigenous communities who find it difficult to learn because of the language barrier.
DepEd Order 74 mandates that multilingual education “shall be institutionalized as a fundamental educational policy in the whole stretch of formal education including pre-school and in the Alternative Learning System.”
She said DepEd Bukidnon has translated the primary education curriculum into the dialects of the province’s seven tribes.
But she said some of the tribal chieftains expressed fear that they might lose their culture even with the translated lessons and the trained teachers.
She added that the DepEd curriculum in areas where MTBMLE is piloted includes the promotion of their culture. Racoma said the chieftains have helped them come up with authentic educational materials.
Among the interventions, she said, is the hiring of teachers from the indigenous peoples themselves and the training of more non-IP teachers already hired.
DepEd Bukidnon has 4,339 elementary school teachers, she said.
But she said they have a problem with the funding and welcomed DepEd Bukidnon’s inclusion as the pilot schools division in Northern Mindanao for DepEd’s Philippines’ Response to Indigenous Peoples’ and Muslim Education (PRIME), a project with the Australian Agency for International Development AusAID).
She said the selection of the province does not come as good news from the surface.
Racoma said aside from the fact that Bukidnon is home to the largest IP population density in Region 10 and its poverty index, the selection also means the schools division of Bukidnon has “poor educational performance.”
She said it shows that the division, which excludes the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia, has poor performance in different indicators; low participation rate, high drop our rate, and low performance in the National Achievement Test among others.
“But in the end, we are given an opportunity to improve. Our selection to the program is one more chance,” she added.
Of the at least 100 schools divisions in the country, Racoma said Bukidnon is in the bottom 40, using performance assessments made in 2007. (Walter I. Balane)
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MALAYBALAY CITY – The provincial government of Bukidnon still did not sign or authorize a compromise deal with Del Monte Philippines, Inc. over the latter’s real property tax arrears, Jeffrey Sayson, provincial legal officer, told Bukidnon News recently.
Sayson, who was also provincial administrator until July 1, said if any negotiation exists, this will go through the provincial board, which passed on Wednesday Resolution No. 2011-048 strongly recommending the implementation of the collection of the whole real property tax from 2006 to 2010 as assessed in March 2011. Former Malaybalay City councilor Provo Antipasado assumed on July 1 as the Capitol’s new administrator.
Lawyer Marco Parpan, DMPI plantation labor relations and legal services manager told Bukidnon News on July 9 that DMPI has submitted a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on July 8 (Friday) “asking for reconsideration or recall of the demand letter.”
Parpan declined when asked for details of the firm’s position. “Our position is articulated in the letter,” he added.
According to the Provincial Treasurer’s Office’s June 7, 2011 notice of distraint to DMPI, a copy of which was obtained by Bukidnon News Friday, the provincial government is collecting P105.23 million, the whole real property tax the firm owed to the provincial government from 1992 to 2010. Bukidnon News earlier reported that the firm owes P26 million, But Sayson said it was amount, which they computed as the tax
due for the last five years, if in case the firm seeks for a compromise.
The provincial board resolution recommended “appropriate remedies” for its collection if the same is not paid voluntarily on July 7. Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. suggested garnishment against the firm. The Provincial Treasurer’s Office issued a 30-day notice of distraint to DMPI on June 7, which expires on July 7. Sayson said DMPI has the option to file a temporary restraining order in court or submit a compromise proposal to the provincial government.
As of July 1, Sayson said, no such proposal was sent. Bukidnon News has continued to try reaching DMPI but no comment was obtained as of July 7.
In the firm’s letter to the provincial government on June 23, 2010, the firm said they are exempt from paying the real property taxes as they don’t own the lands they are using. They said they leased it from the Del Monte Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (DEARBC), who the provincial government should tax as the owner.
But they cited that the cooperative is also exempted from paying the real property, assessed as of June 2010 at P95.94 million.
“Under the Local Government Code and the new Cooperative Code of 2008, real properties owned by duly registered cooperatives such as DEARBC, are exempt from real property taxes,” DMPI said in the two-page letter signed by Luis F. Alejandro, general manager and chief operations officer.
DMPI quoted the Cooperative Code of 2008 as saying that cooperatives with accumulated reserves and undivided net savings of not more than P10 million from “all national, city, provincial, municipal, or barangay taxes of whatever name or nature.”
The firm showed that DEARBC only has P2.81 million accumulated reserve fund, thus exempted.
DMPI even cited then that the Department of Finance – Bureau of Local Government Finance (BOF-BLGF) affirmed the firm’s position that they are tax exempt.
Sayson stressed, however, that the provincial government is asserting collection based on the beneficial use principle. He said Supreme Court decisions invoke the principle of collecting tax from the one who is actually using the land, in this case DMPI, not the DEARBC.
Sayson added that the province, however, is not keen on going to court that is why the computation of P26 million emerged. He said prescription rule of coverage for collection of real property tax allows only five years.
“It (P26 million) could be the compromise tax the provincial government can accept based on the law,” he added.
But Sayson said DMPI must first admit their tax liability so they can work on the negotiations. He said DMPI might still cling on to its tax-exempt position.
He added that the P8 million alleged compromise tax due emerged after the present DMPI management allegedly inquired about the tax due in the last two years.
Sayson admitted it was a quote in response to the inquiry, not a tax compromise as no such process exists as of July 1.
Roger Guillermo, of the Provincial Treasurer’s Office, was summoned to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last week to clarify on the firm’s tax arrears from 2006 to 2010 when Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. told the provincial board of an alleged negotiation with the Capitol.
Guillermo said the treasurer’s office has already issued a notice of distraint or a levy on tax debt covering personal and movable assets of the company.
Zubiri said the firm allegedly negotiated to pay only for two years at P8 million. He cited that Gov. Alex Calingasan allegedly informed him about it in a text message earlier, prompting him to ask the position of the other members of the board.
Board member Jay Albarece told Bukidnon News that Guillermo admitted that the tax arrears were under negotiation. Zubiri told Newswatch before leaving the session on June 29 that the provincial government may waive interests and penalties but not the net of a tax due. (Walter I.Balane).
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MALAYBALAY CITY – The Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan disapproved the request of Indophil Services International Pty. Ltd and two other applicants for an endorsement of its application for a mining exploration permit in the province citing the province’s stand against mining.
The provincial board decided Wednesday to inform the applicants through letters of the disapproval reiterating that for now, Bukidnon will not budge on its position not to allow large scale mining.
Indophil wrote to the provincial board for “appropriate action,” for its exploration permit filed at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau at DENR Region 10 for not quantified areas in Kitaotao and Quezon towns. The firm informed the board that the two-year exploration will be limited to the search for mineral deposits, which included geological survey, geographical survey, geochemical survey, and exploratory drilling.
The firm stressed that exploration does not include mineral extraction and mining development.
But the provincial board did not buy the firm’s claim.
Board members argued about their position but eventually decided not to grant their request.
On motion of board member Jay Albarece, the board decided to express their opposition even if board members Ranulfo Pepito and Manuel Dinlayan said it might be worth calling the applicants to the session to explain about their plans.
But majority floor leader Nemesio Beltran, Jr. and board member Alfeo Baguio, who chairs the board’s committee on environment invoked the province’s anti-large scale mining stance.
The position applies to the other applicants, Makati-based San Christo Mineral Exploration Corporation, which intends to explore 13, 756.68 hectares in Iglugsad, San Fernando, Bukidnon. The applicant has been previously denied an endorsement by the board. The other applicant, Vicentico Buta, has expressed intention to conduct mining exploration in Gango, Libona, Bukidnon. (Walter I. Balane)
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MALAYBALAY CITY– The Bukidnon Provincial Health Office is spearheading the formation of a Bukidnon multi-sectoral alliance for the control of tuberculosis in the province.
Dr. Teresita G. Damasco, provincial health officer has announced that they are holding consultations in line with the move to create the alliance, a measure prescribed by the Department of Health to control TB.
“The alarming condition of TB cases in Bukidnon needs special attention from the local officials in every municipality or city,” she added.
In 2010, Bukidnon reported 131 deaths attributed to TB. But only 43, or 33 percent of the cases, were reported from the Rural Health Units or health stations, Barrera said. She said 88 of the patients, or 67 percent, died without even getting treatments.
The LGUs and all stakeholders’ commitment, she added, (are needed) to strengthen implementation of measures to improve TB detection rate in the province.
She said a joint provincial government, DOH, and stakeholders consultation should be
Damasco scheduled a consultation meeting on June 14, a date set after Bukidnon Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. flared up upon hearing Bukidnon has the lowest detection rate for tuberculosis in Region 10.
Bukidnon News reported earlier that the Province of Bukidnon has a lackluster record in detecting tuberculosis cases. It is, in fact, at the bottom in Northern Mindanao with only a 55-percent case detection rate (CDR) compared to the national cut-off of 70 percent. The rate is alarming situation that deserves “full attention” considering that the province has been at the bottom at least since 2004, said Marilou Gecosala, Northern Mindanao regional nurse TB coordinator.
Gecosala told Bukidnon News at the end of a forum on Program Implementation Review On Tuberculosis Control and other concerns at the Folk Arts Theater last month that the low performance could be attributed to the province’s geography and also the commitment of health workers and the patients’ “health-seeking” behavior.
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs with condition known as pulmonary tuberculosis; it also has effect on other portions of the body, like the bones joints, intestines, liver, kidneys, and the heart, according to the Health Promotion Handbook distributed during the event.
Bukidnon’s cure rate, or the number of patients cured among those detected with TB, is 82 percent. Still it falls short of the national cut-off of 85 percent, said Emmanuelita R. Barrera, Bukidnon’s nurse TB coordinator.
Misamis Occidental, the best in the region for both detection and cure rates, has 104 percent and 94 percent, respectively. The detection and cure rates are based on performances of the province’s 24 TB directly observed treatment (DOT) facilities. Only four of Bukidnon’s 20 towns and two cities have passed the national standards in cure rates: Maramag (104 percent), Don Carlos (100 percent), Malitbog (79.17 percent), and Damulog (70.86 percent).
The municipality of Don Carlos was listed in the areas with TB DOTS that has “high cure rates”. Barrera said the 2010 figures at least show an improvement compared to the 2007 figures. Four years ago Bukidnon’s detection rate was only 43 percent while its cure rate was at 60 percent.
Based on estimates from a detection formula, if Bukidnon has 1.06 million population, it must have at least 1,006 cases in 2010. But only 975 cases were reported in the province, Barrera said.
“Where did they go? Most of these people are ashamed of their conditions, are self medicating or have poor health-seeking behavior,” she added.
Barrera warned that each patient has the possibility of infecting 10 to 15 other people so they must not self medicate.
She said those who take medicines without going through the protocol in recognized treatment centers stand the risk of acquiring multiple-drug resistant TB cases. She added that many TB patients are ashamed and afraid to come out when there is nothing to be ashamed or be afraid of.
TB drugs are free in rural health units in the province’s 24 TB treatment facilities. TB is the eight biggest cause of deaths in Bukidnon in 2010. Nationwide, TB is the sixth leading cause of deaths and illnesses and accounts for 7 percent of the total deaths. About 75 Filipinos die of TB everyday.
Barrera said there is no alternative to going through the province’s 24 TB DOT facilities. Barrera said the review is one of the initiatives to address the province’s poor performance in TB detection and cure. She added that the problem in TB detection and cure is not drugs and facilities. “One major concern we are addressing is the information and education drive,” she said. (Walter I. Balane)
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