PNP: No-fly zone, signal jammers during traslacion

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. reshuffled ranking officials of th e DA as he issued various special orders on the first working day of 2024.

Laurel issued Special Order No. 5 appointing Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla as undersecretary for DA bureaus from her previous position of undersecretary for policy, planning and regulations.

He also issued SO 4, designating Undersecretary Drusila Esther Bayate as undersecretary for policy, planning and regulations, replacing Sombilla.

Bayate previously occupied the position of undersecretary for fisheries.

Laurel appointed Undersecretary Roger Navarro as officer-in-charge of the office of the undersecretary for rice industry deve lopment, replacing Leocadio Sebastian.

Laurel issued SO 1 downgrading the position of Sebastian as a member of the Secretary’s Technical Advisory Group.

The DA chief issued SO 3 also appointing Navarro as OIC of various key offices at the department, including the Office of the National Project Director, Philippine Rural Development Project and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Operations.

Laurel previously appointed Navarro as OIC of the Office of Undersecretary for Operations in December 2023.

Navarro served as special assistant to National Food Authority Administrator Roderico Bioco.

 Navarro also replaced Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa as assistant secretary for operations as Laurel appointed De Mesa as the full-time spokesman of the DA.

Laurel issued SO 2 appointing U-Nichols Manalo as National Rice Program director. Manalo is also the OIC-Director of the Field Operations Service and National Corn Program director.

On the other hand, Laurel issued SO 6 appointing Telma Tolentino as undersecretary-designate for finance, replacing Undersecretary Agnes Catherine Miranda.

The ongoing revamp of high officials of the DA came after former agriculture senior undersecretary Domingo Panganiban opted to retire from government service more than a year after he returned to the DA and more than a month after President Marcos appointed Laurel.

Panganiban took his oath on Aug. 12, 2022 and his retirement took effect on Jan. 1. He chose to retire amid the ongoing reorganiza tion at the DA.

Laurel had earlier appointed lawyer Genevieve Velicaria-Guevarra as head of the DA’s Consumer Affairs, previously occupied by former DA assist ant secretary Kristine Evangelista.

He also signed Special Order 1360 designating lawyer Alvin John Balagbag as head executive assistant and chief of staff.

Balagbag replaced Agriculture Assistant Secretary Rex Estoperez as chief of staff. Estoperez also opted to retire effective Jan. 1. – Catherine Talavera

MANILA, Philippines —  The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will visit Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as part of continuing go vernment efforts to provide livelihood assistance to fisherfolk in the West Philippine Sea, the agency’s spokesman said.

“This year, we will have additional floating assets for the West Philippine Sea and if I am not mistaken, we are scheduled to have another voyage in Scarborough Shoal. There will be onboard livelihood training for fishermen,” Nazario Briguera said during the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing yesterday.

Briguera said at least P80-million initial funding was released during the expedition of BRP Francisco Dagohoy to Pag-asa Island on June 12, 2023 wherein various assistance were given to residents and fisherfolk.

The visit coincided with the Philippines’ celebration of its 125th Independence Day anniversary.

“The LAYAG-WPS or Livelihood Activities to Enhance Fisheries Yields and Economic Gains from the West Philippine Sea program was launched last year. We had a soft launch last June 12, where we traveled to Pag-asa Island to broaden the livelihood opportunities and productivity of fishers in the West Philippine Sea, where we have an initial funding of P80 million,” he said.

Briguera added that there are at least 385,000 fisherfolk around the West Philippine Sea.

He said fishery production in the West Philippine Sea has dropped by seven percent between 2021 and 2022 despite being one of the richest fishing grounds in the archipelago.

He noted that based on Philippine Statistics Authority data, production was down to 275,872 metric tons of fish in 2022, from 295,332 MT the previous year.

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals (CA) has reversed the decision of former president Rodrigo Duterte to dismiss from service former National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Joel Pagdilao over the general’s supposed failure to curb the proliferation of illegal drugs.

Duterte had accused Pagdilao and other Philippine National Police (PNP) officials of protecting drug traffickers.

In dismissing Pagdilao, Malacañang said he was administratively liable for serious neglect of duty and serious irregularity in the performance of duty.

However, the CA’s Eighth Division modified the Office of the President (OP)’s October 2017 decision and found Pagdilao liable only for simple neglect of duty, penalizing him with a reprimand.

The CA’s Dec. 20, 2023 decision was penned by Associate Justice Jaime Fortunato Caringal. Concurring were Associate Justices Ramon Cruz and Louis Acosta.

The OP had upheld the recommendation of the National Police Commission to dismiss Pagdilao for ignoring a letter from then Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte containing comments from residents that were critical of the Stations Anti-Illegal Drugs-Special Operations Task Group and for assigning officers with no training and with derogatory records to the task group.

Pagdilao, as then NCRPO chief, also allegedly failed to sanction police officers who contributed to the large number of acquittals in drug cases before the prosecutors and courts, caused by illegal arrests, unlawful searches, planting of evidence, bungling of drug cases and repeated failure of police officers to appear as prosecution witnesses, among others.

In favoring Pagdilao, the CA said the general was only liable for simple neglect of duty when he failed to reply to the letter from Belmonte, saying this did not fall under offenses classified as “grave,” under a Napolcom memorandum circular.

Instead, the CA said Pagdilao’s action was an example of a failure to “coordinate or cooperate with other law enforcement agencies and their personnel,” which signifies “a disregard of duty resulting from carelessness or indifference, but not a flagrant and culpable refusal or unwillingness of a person to perform a duty, so as to amount to serious neglect of duty.”

The CA also noted that Belmonte’s letter was endorsed by Pagdilao’s subordinate to the concerned police units.

Additionally, the CA said the former NCRPO chief is not liable under the doctrine of command responsibility for the bungled drug cases because it was not proven that he had knowledge of these irregularities.

The CA also cleared Pagdilao of serious irregularity in the performance of duty, saying police personnel who had derogatory records had served their administrative sanctions and were on active duty. Tsherefore they could be assigned as he saw fit.

The CA disagreed with the Office of the Solicitor General’s position that police personnel with derogatory records should not be involved in anti-illegal drug operations, saying that having a derogatory record does not automatically mean a police officer no longer has trustworthiness, integrity, responsibility and expertise.

MANILA, Philippines — To ensure public safety, police will enforce a no-fly zone policy and use cell phone signal jammers during the traslacion or procession for the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila next week.

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said the decision was reached during a meeting of top government officials and representatives from Quiapo Church at Malacañang yesterday.

Acorda said the meeting was called by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin upon the directive of President Marcos.

Asked if a no-fly zone policy would be implemented and cell phone signal jammers would be used, Acorda told reporters in an interview: “Kasama sa usapan kanina (It was discussed) and part of the planning talaga.”

He said the two security measures would be imposed on the day of the traslacion on Jan 9.

Acorda maintained there is no security threat to the traslacion, but he stressed it is better to be proactive than to be caught off-guard.

“Even in the absence of such a threat, we always prepare for the worst,” he said.

Acorda has designated National Capital Region Police Office director Maj. Gen. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr. as the overall security supervisor for the procession.

At least 15,200 police officers will secure the traslacion. Acorda said the number could still increase as they are anticipating the eagerness of Black Nazarene devotees who waited for three years for the resumption of the religious feast due to the COVID pandemic.

Acorda said they have reserve forces from regions adjacent to Metro Manila that are ready for deployment.

Police have also set up medical stations in strategic areas so that people who might be injured during the procession can get immediate treatment.

Acorda urged participants to bring only items allowed during the event such as transparent bags, to avoid being subjected to stricter inspections.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard would be sending K9 teams and conducting water patrols to augment security measures for the traslacion, PCG commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan said yesterday.

Trained dogs would “conduct paneling” at the Quirino Grandstand, Jones Bridge and in Quiapo Church, he said.

PCG personnel on watercraft would patrol along the Pasig River and Manila Bay, particularly behind the grandstand, Gavan said.

Should there be a need for mass evacuation, the PCG would use the Pasig River and Manila Bay as possible exit points, he added.

Devotees brought 450 replicas and banners of the Black Nazarene to be blessed and paraded outside the Quiapo Church yesterday.

Church officials scheduled a second day of blessing and procession of replicas and banners today.

Fr. Jesus Madrid Jr., Quiapo Church’s parochial vicar, reminded devotees to refrain from climbing the Black Nazarene’s carriage to ensure that “everyone would see Him.”

He also discouraged people from pushing other devotees to avoid injury.

Madrid said while the Black Nazarene would be in a glass case, devotees would still be able to throw their handkerchiefs to members of the Hijos del Nazareno, who would wipe these on the image and throw these back to the crowd. –  Evelyn Macairan

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