Punchline

Pangasinan, a flashpoint?

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

 

IT looks like PNP Provincial Director Ronald Lee spoke too soon when he said the province is free of insurgency problems.

The reported firefight between the government troops and NPA rebels at presstime in San Nicolas town on the border with Benguet last Friday may be ominous of things to happen.

I can only surmise that the NDP-NPA has escalated its attacks across the country in response to the challenge and declaration of an open war with the communist rebels by PDU30.

Let’s pray that it’s an isolated case of encounter and not part of a planned offensive against the government in this part of the country.

My greatest fear is a possibility that the communist rebels have forged an alliance with ISIS-inspired Moros. If that happens, Pangasinan, home to hundreds of Moros, may find itself as another flashpoint in the country and martial rule may be imminent before the year ends.

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NOT ALL’S WELL IN BALUNGAO. So, all’s well that ends well in Balungao town?

The town’s declaration of P/Sr. Inspector Raymund Nicolas, former police chief, has been withdrawn and a new police chief has been installed to replace him.  And as Police Provincial Director P/Sr. Superintendent Ronald Lee is wont to say: Case closed! Is it?

It’s been made to appear by PD Lee that Mr. Nicolas is not being punished for being a declared a ‘persona non grata’ (Translation: Unwanted and Ungrateful) but moved up to be promoted to the next rank that will assign him to a higher post.  

In this case and in my book, it’s sugarcoating to disguise an unpalatable yet perhaps a practical political solution.  

Perhaps the political issues that Mayor Philipp Peralta ranged against Mr. Nicolas have been settled.  No more Mr. Nicolas getting in the way and Mr. Peralta’s political allies are now safe from further ‘harassment’. That makes Mayor Peralta the clear winner.

But there is a bigger issue that nothing or little has been said or heard from Mayor Peralta and PD Lee –  Was Mr. Nicolas, indeed, just doing his duty when he arrested barangay officials on whom search warrants were issued by the courts? Was Mr. Nicolas chasing barangay officials named as drug personalities by Barangay Anti-Drugs Advisory Council?

If true, then the biggest loser was clearly the Duterte administration in its war on drugs and against criminality, and Pangasinan! Not Mr. Nicolas.

That makes the new Balungao police chief, P/Sr. Inspector Dennis Cabigat, on the spot, and yes, PD Lee, too!

Will Mr. Cabigat be allowed to set aside warrants served against persons allied with the Peralta family or will he follow the instructions of President Duterte to all police officers to the letter regardless of politics? 

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FIXER-EXTORTIONIST, THE NEW BREED. It looks like enterprising officials in government agencies that keep or have access to records of complaints filed against government officials and businessmen have found a lucrative business: Extortion for fixing cases!

The successful entrapment of an employee at the Ombudsman office and his relative who tried to extort from Bugallon Mayor Jumel Espino (and his father Rep. Amado Espino Jr.) is proof of that modus.

The arrest of lawyer Isagani Nicolas, labor arbiter and cousin Leonardo Nicolas, graft investigator at the Ombudsman, is also proof that the modus operandi proved to be effective, until caught.

In fact, their track record may have been too good that they became careless in choosing their victims, of all people the Espinos!

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OPPORTUNITIES FOR FIXING. Since the Ombudsman is the investigator and prosecutor of violations committed by government officials, that makes the office the most intimidating and feared agency in government. It can suspend or end one’s government service at the drop of a hat if warranted, with all benefits due forfeited to boot!

The other all-too powerful government office is the Court Administrator of the Supreme Court. It receives complaints against erring judges and court personnel.

The other agency is the Department of Labor and Employment’s National Labor Relations Commission. It is tasked to receive and settle unfair labor practice cases and terminate disputes.

The common ruse applied by the fixers operating inside these offices and other offices that have the power to arrest or to file a complaint to familiarize themselves with the background of potential/target victims and impress upon the latter of their knowledge of the legal/technical procedures in processing complaints, enough to sound credible, intimidating and authoritative.

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“GALIT AKO SA INYO.”  I know of an active case being pursued by fixer-extortionists. Their target is a regional trial court judge who was suspended by the Supreme Court on the basis of unfair allegations of ignorance of the law.

The fixer-extortionist claims to have been designated by a Supreme Court justice, the designated ponente, to be the middleman, to “fix” the case.

While the beleaguered judge obviously does not have the means to fork over the initial amount demanded to ‘fix’ the case and have his status reverted to active, he is not about the take the bait as he is confident he can acquit himself given his solid legal arguments against the allegations thrown at him.

One wonders, how many more judges are being targeted today by the extortionists inside the Supreme Court. And God knows how many companies and executives are being targeted by extortionists inside the NLRC!

Of course, there are the ‘never-say-die’ extortionists inside the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Immigration, the PNP, PDEA, NBI, fire departments, health sanitation offices, traffic enforcement units, etc, who refuse to heed PDU30 ‘s “Galit ako sa inyo!” warning until they are caught!

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STILL NOT DIGITALIZED. Here’s a word to regular readers of the PUNCH!

It is not true that our online edition carries all information published in our regular print edition. Our online edition is not a digitalized version and therefore, not all the content of the pages of each issue are featured.

As most of our readers profess, they still prefer to hold a copy of The PUNCH every week. To them, I say ‘thank you’ for your kind patronage. Your P15 go a long way for a community newspaper.

To our growing number of print and online readers, thank you for your continued trust in our reports.