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Antonio M. Reyes

Let the river heal itself

We have just learned that the application to undertake river mining by two local companies will be endorsed soon by the provincial governor to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

We are hoping this is not true, because most of our rivers are already being quarried (albeit irresponsibly) because the operators mining them have neither the expertise nor the public interest in
mind, but are doing so, for the easy profit it provides.

We've said it before, but we’ll say it again. Unless we develop the highly specialized expertise, manpower, and have the equipment and money to monitor these operations effectively, we will just be repeating our disastrous experiences in Sogod’s Subang Daku and Bontoc’s Salog River.

The negative impact of the Bontoc mining operations on the residents of barangay Guinsangaan and Himakilo who live along the River has been so severe (as attested by the photo below) that they have
filed a Joint Resolution addressed to President Benigno Aquino and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje complaining about the massive and “unstoppable” large-scale quarrying there.

They also claimed the operators had not constructed the river barriers they promised, and as a consequence, they have lost the farmlands and roads along the river due to floods and erosion.

We also noticed a large barge, when we visited the area that day, docked along the river’s estuary filled with aggregates obviously mined from the Salog River and destined for Cebu and elsewhere. Although in the original covenant the excess Sand and Gravel were to be reserved and used exclusively for the maintenance of roads, bridges, and the construction of classrooms in the province.

Let’s admit we don’t yet have the competence, manpower, equipment and funds to monitor the 20 mining operations in Southern Leyte which include those in Subang Daku, the Canturing River in Maasin City, Lawigan in Saint Bernard and the Das-ay River in Hinunangan.

Approving the application of two more quarrying companies (with no previous experience or training in responsible river mining) will only make the task of the undermanned, ill equipped, and under-funded Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Management Office that much more difficult.

However if our political leaders should decide to pursue this course, can they honestly say, they have not deviated from the vision our founders set forth 54 years ago which was to transform Southern Leyte into: “A self-reliant and progressive province inhabited by God-loving, and environment conscious citizenry.”

Perhaps it’s time they reflected on the wisdom of the Ateneo University’s study of the Subang Daku rechanneling project and; “Let the River Heal Itself.”

Antonio M. Reyes is the publisher and editor of the Southern Leyte Times the largest circulating newspaper & website in Southern Leyte.

Congrats LGUs for a job well done

Every new year whether from a crisis or not should be a chance to change personally, officially or collectively. For those who did good to do better with these new challenges and opportunities. And for those who lagged behind to fast track and double pace and hit the ground running. Lessons learned and experience gained should come in handy to improve even past impressive record breakers.

Crisis do produce the best and the worst. And they have in the Yolanda and Ruby aftermaths in Eastern Visayas. Better prepared local governments outdid each other and a more cooperative citizenry in affected areas and those perceived to be factored in almost zero casualty and less damages.

Quick response and preemptive contingency measures on the part of government before, during and after the fact were almost perfect except for some bureaucratic lapses by frontline agencies in Southern Leyte like NFA, among others that acted high and mighty in the exigency of needed rice procurement.

Nothing is wrong with being stringent or strict in procedures or requisites. But shouldn’t there be some amount of understanding or sense of trust and confidence in national line agency to local government relations during emergencies? To exercise red tape and impose requirements to the letter in time of fortuitous events that already struck is the height of arrogance.

Surely, this has no place in “matuwid na daan” coming from another usual suspect in department corruption. At the height of typhoon Ruby, purchase order, letter of intent, calamity declaration, among others, may be waived temporarily according to a central official interviewed on nationwide radio DZRH/DYRC. “ Diha guihapoy jabag!”

Religion is not exactly my cup of tea despite some little monastic orientation and discipline. But one dominant effect or impression during the typhoon Ruby watch and vigil was the “Oratio Imperata” prayer during calamities that was aired every hour on the hour by media outlets. The supplication was for the Divine to intercede protection from Nature’s wrath exacting its toll for men’s abuse and destruction of resources entrusted for stewardship.

The prayer is for forgiveness for betraying Nature’s trust that man should protect and preserve the environment. But instead, Nature’s wealth has been squandered and unfairly taken advantage of by those sworn by the laws of God and Man to be caretakers not to be moneylenders and thieves at the temple. Sounds familiar. “Ug dutlag gaba!”

Media accuracy and responsibility during crises are a must. We owe it to the listening, viewing or reading public to give them not what they want but what they should know sans exaggeration or distortion.

We observed how national and international media continued to sensationalize the Ruby super typhoon category even when it was already
downgraded. And how their adrenaline may have risen by always comparing Ruby to Yolanda flashing grim videos and stats or data. “Mora mag malipay ug tugkan tag hubag hubag sa kujaw!”

Muslims revere Mary
By Juan L. Mercado

The spiritual leaders of our time took decades of struggle before they emerged into universally recognized symbols, writes Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic studies at American University in Washington. Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are examples.

“Pope Francis came to us fully formed.” And in his first foreign policy address in March 2013, he reached out to Muslims, who share reverence for Mary, Mother of Jesus. Before 180 ambassadors, he explained how he wanted to build between peoples, Muslims and Catholics.

In today’s tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims, isn’t it essential to find common ground between these clashing Abrahamic traditions? asks Heather Abraham in her book titled “The Muslim Jesus” (2001). Mary’s shared importance is an opportunity for interfaith dialogue.
Muslims view Jesus as a prophet. In the Koran, an entire chapter focuses on Mary (Maryam in Arabic)—more than in the entire New Testament. Jesus was born by the will of God without a father. His mother was a virgin.

According to Muslim tradition, Mary told Joseph: “Do you not know that God, when he created the wheat, had no need of seed, and by his power made the trees grow without rain? All that God said: ‘So be it, and it was done.’”

The Koran has verses on the Annunciation, Visitation and Nativity. In the 19th chapter there are 41 verses on Jesus and Mary. The mother of Jesus is mentioned more in the Koran than in the entire New Testament and is also the only woman mentioned there by name.

Jesus was born miraculously of a chaste woman and a virgin, the Koran states.“Behold!” the angels said. “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee—chosen thee above the women of all nations.”

The 19th chapter of the Koran is named after her and is about her life. She is among only eight people who have a chapter named after them. Mary is specifically mentioned in the Koran, alongside Asiya, as an example for all righteous women. Verses from the Koran relating to Mary are frequently inscribed on the mihrab of various mosques, including in the Hagia Sophia.

The birth of Mary is narrated in the Koran with references to her father Joachim as well as her mother Anne. (Amram is the equivalent of Joachim in Christian tradition.) Old and childless, the couple saw a bird in a tree feeding her young, and prayed. Anne prayed to God to fulfill her desire for a child. It was fulfilled.

The third chapter of the Koran places the history of Mary’s family in a genealogy that goes back through Abraham, Noah and Adam, the late archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote. When one compares the Koran’s description of the birth of Mary with the apocryphal Gospel of the birth of Mary, one is tempted to believe that Mohammed very much depended upon the latter.

For Muslims, Mary is the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, daughter of Mohammed. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote:

“Thou shalt be the most blessed of all women in Paradise, after Mary.” In a variation of the text, Fatima is made to say, “I surpass all the women, except Mary.”

Islam had its origin in the seventh century under Mohammed, Sheen wrote. It was possible to unite within it some elements of Christianity and of Judaism, along with particular customs of Arabia. Muslims take the doctrine of the unity of God, his majesty and his creative power.

Then Christian Europe barely escaped destruction by Muslims. At one point they were stopped near Tours and, later, outside the gate of Vienna. The Church throughout northern Africa was practically destroyed by Muslim power.

At the present time, the Muslim hatred of the West has ceased to be Christian. Some Muslim writers say: “When the locust swarms darken countries, they bear on their wings these Arabic words: We are God’s host, each of us has ninety-nine eggs, and if we had a hundred, we should lay waste the world, with all that is on it.”

The problem is how to prevent the hatching of the hundredth egg? Sheen believed that Muslims would change—and in a way that even some of our missionaries never suspect.

This will happen not through the direct teachings of Christianity, but through a summoning of the Muslims to a veneration of the Mother of God.

Missionaries in the future will, more and more, see that their apostolate among the Muslims will be successful in the measure that they preach Our Lady. In an apologetic endeavor, it is always best to start with that which people already accept.

Many missionaries in Africa have broken down the bitter hatred through their acts of charity, their schools and their hospitals. It now remains to use another approach—namely, that of taking the 41st chapter of the Koran and showing them that it was taken out of the Gospel of Luke, that Mary could not be, even in their own eyes, the most blessed of all the women of Heaven if she had not also borne the Savior.

If Judith and Esther of the Old Testament were prefigures of Mary, then it may very well be that Fatima herself was a post figure of Mary! She is different from all the other mothers. And that anchors the worldwide celebration of the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

Juan L. Mercado is the Founder of the Press Foundation of Asia and is best known as one of the Visayas Region's most prolific and multi-awarded writers.

Hypocrisy & the Big joke
by Atty. Jess G. Dureza


I am reading in the news that the COMELEC is starting to prosecute election "overspending." In fact, Governor ER EJERCITO lost his seat in Laguna recently for exceeding the limits. By all means let's run after all violators. But the problem is: the limit of P5.00 per registered voter (unless this has been changed) is not only unrealistic. It is plain and simple hypocrisy! And a big joke, we all know the expense involved in an election campaign.

Everyone "doctors" his campaign record expenses just to comply. Those caught are jokingly called "tanga" or the crime as katangahan. If we expect, at the very start, our aspiring public officials to be good at "doctoring" records and be dishonest just so they comply with the election law limits, then let's forget about "good governance" when they are in office.

About time we change the rules!


I was glad I was able to catch last Thursday, while on my way to Manila, a bit of the brief talk of a Pinoy- Canadian lawyer, ATTY. BAYANI ABESAMIS during the Canadian Chamber of Commerce regular Davao chapter luncheon meeting at Marco Polo Hotel. He said the "CORRUPTION OF FOREIGN PUBLIC OFFICIALS ACT" was approved in 1999 after Canada adhered to the UN International Anti-corruption Declaration. Ordinarily, persons can be prosecuted only in the countries where the criminal acts are committed. But under the said law, a Canadian citizen can be prosecuted if, for example, he bribes a Filipino public official in the Philippines.

As an exception to the "territoriality rule", a Canadian can be prosecuted in a Canadian court back home although he committed the crime in the Philippines.


The following is Governor Roger G. Mercado’s reply to Philippine Star writer Jose Magno’s column which was published in the Philippine Star issue of 11-18-2014 about the alleged abuse of authority complaint filed against him as Southern Leyte Governor:

The arrest of the sand-and-gravel company crew was a straightforward caught in the act situation calling for and requiring a warrantless arrest authorized both by the text and spirit of existing law (Sec. 5, (a) & (b), Rule 113, Rules of Criminal Procedure) .

The arrestees were caught in the act of committing a crime, namely, theft of mineral resources, defined and punished under Sec. 103 of the Mining Law (Rep. Act No. 7942). They could not even show the police and environment officers permits for the transport of the sand and gravel found in their barge that was about to depart Southern Leyte. Your column’s rather casual statement that “they were not at work” at the time in question, perhaps, may be correct in the sense that the plain fact is that they were busy committing a crime.

The fact that the express legal authorization for warrantless arrest is given not just to a duly sworn officer of the law but, indeed, even to a private person or plain citizen so he can lawfully make a citizen’s arrest, doubtless underscores not just its legal justification but also — and more importantly perhaps — the urgent need in the real world for warrantless arrests if our ordered society must meet the vital necessity of upholding the law at all times. Indeed, in this particular case, it bears stressing that the concerned government officers, both national and local, were all duly engaged in a relentless effort to enforce laws and ordinances meant to protect the environment and natural resources especially in the aftermath of the massive devastation wrought by “Ginsaugon landslide” where 1,500 persons died and the latest Super Typhoon Yolanda in the region.

There is, of course, an important difference between the private person or citizen and the sworn officer of the law as regards the observance of the said warrantless arrest provisions of the law. The private person or citizen may choose not to make such an arrest without incurring for his nonaction any liability or prejudice to himself other than perhaps a purely moral one, such as some hurt to his civic sense or pride; whereas, in the case of the public officer, he can not choose non-action without making himself amenable to a charge of dereliction of duty and punishment therefore.

As regards its revenue code, the same was duly enacted under the province’s power under existing law, particularly the Local Government
Code (Rep. Act No. 7160) and is not contrary to any national law including the Mining Law which in particular does not expressly amend, much less repeal, any part of the Local Government Code. In fact, no part of the said revenue code has been duly assailed in accordance with the prescribed procedure in the Local Government Code, including the filing of the prescribed protest, if any, with the Department of Justice, among other administrative remedies.

As for the governor’s authority to issue permits for sand-and-gravel extraction or mining activities, irrespective of area in hectares, the same is clearly provided for both in the province’s ordinance and the Local Government Code, and sustained by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Province of Cagayan vs. Lara, G.R No. 188500, July 24, 2013.

In fact, as the alleged charge or charges against me and national and provincial officers, particularly police and environment officers for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, are nothing more than a pure fabrication meant to harass, cow, and stop us from our relentless enforcement of the laws and ordinances to protect the environment and natural resources, I am asking the Office of the President as well as the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office to dismiss outright the said alleged charge or charges as it is in violation of Section I, Rule 6 on Strategic Law Suit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) under Supreme Court Circular A.M. No. 09-6-8 (Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases).

I am also asking the Supreme Court thru the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to consider disbarment or disciplinary proceedings against Atty. Winsor Calamba for serious violation of the lawyer’s oath and code of ethic for promoting among other things a malicious prosecution of national and provincial officers who are simply doing their best to protect the environment and natural resources.

Our lawyers also have brought suit against Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Rolando L. Gonzalez with the Court of Appeals for grave abuse of authority in the case filed against the province by businessmen who were found to be conducting illegal sandand- gravel extraction and mining operations in violation of laws and ordinances meant to protect the environment and natural resources.

Among other things, the suit assails Judge Gonzalez’ violation of the Supreme Court Kalikasan Rules, prohibiting RTC judges from issuing injunction writs against government actions to protect the environment.

In the interest of good governance no less than journalistic integrity and fairness, I remain.

Roger G. Mercado,
Provincial Governor
Southern Leyte

High time for the airport


The recent announcement of the CAAP for the suspension of large commercial flights at the Daniel Z. Romuldez Airport will have an effect on many Southern Leytenos who are scheduled to use the regional airport in the next few weeks, or possibly months.

The CAAP suspension of large commercial flights is reportedly due to the repair of “fast developing potholes” on the airport’s runway and also other infrastructure.

Another reason would be, though not highlighted by our government, is the fast approaching visit of his Holiness, Pope Francis, on January next year to visit “Yolanda” hit areas of Tacloban City and Palo town.

Air travelers should be ready for an unpleasant surprise as there will surely be changes in their commercial flight schedules from now until probably the end of the Christmas season. So it’s best to contact your air carrier for any clarification or adjustments on your scheduled flight. It’s better to be sure now than sorry later.

This development in the Tacloban airport has again revived the age old questione; why is our decades old airport in Southern Leyte still not fully operational?

One of the major hindrances to our province’s economic growth is that it is still relatively isolated from most of our country’s highly developed and urbanized cities. To reach the nearest airports, we would have to travel many kilometers over land to Tacloban City or board a boat for Metro Cebu. At this age of high speed travel, information and technology, our people deserve at least a working airport by now.

Our airport which started construction almost two decades ago with hundreds of millions already allocated to it through the years, still needs to have constructed a CAAP standard passenger terminal, administration office and state of the art airport control tower.

Last May the DOTC with the blessings of Malacanang Palace had announced that it had already allocated P217 Million for the completion of our airport. But similar announcements have been made before and it is no wonder that many of our people are re expecting a “halfbaked” allocation of the promised airport budget.

In reality, the airport project will continue to move at snail’s pace unless our community lobbies for it. The main reason for this is our national government’s centralized bureaucracy which needs constant follow-ups and non-stop lobbying in Metro Manila.

Many national and local administrations have come and gone, promises made and broken, but the fact of the matter remains - we still do not have a real working airport for our people.

It will take a gallant effort by Southern Leytenos as a whole, citizens and officials alike, to make this decades old dream a reality. A good place to start would be with the outgoing Aquino administration, which I am sure, would want to leave a lasting legacy in Southern Leyte.
His Excellency President Simeon Benigno Aquino III says he listens and acts to the dictates of the public, which he claims are his real “bosses”.

With this premise it would be a good opportunity for us (as his bosses) to express our opinion, and push for the speedy completion of our airport.

After many years, it’s high time.





archived editorials . . .


Detained Sogod beauty needs help

City probes delay in release of NFA rice for evacuees during Typhoon Ruby

Suspect in PDEA drug ambush caught

Rampant panic buying in Maasin

DPWH Team prepared for typhoon "Ruby"


Let the river heal itself

Congrats LGUs for a job well done

Muslims revere Mary


The Real Drug Lords

We owe him so much

Scalawags profited from cheap NFA rice

South Africans prefer dry love-making


Sogod Aglipayan priest commits suicide

Priest’s house robbed

Drug pushers arrested

Police bag fugitive





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