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Nation

An appeal to the NBI for help

- Bobit S. Avila -
It’s 11 months to go before the 2007 elections for local government officials and last Monday, the headline in The Freeman revealed that in Cebu City, Mayor Tomas Osmeña won’t be having a face-off with his own Vice Mayor, Michael Rama. Months ago, speculation was ripe that Rama might take on the task of challenging Mayor Osmeña because of their open disagreements on many issues in Cebu City.

With no opposition in sight (former Cebu City mayor Alvin Garcia’s Kusog Party was trounced by Osmeña’s political party, Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan ) in the last mayoralty elections in 2004, Rama openly declared that he would seek a third term as vice mayor, which means that all bets are off between him and Tommy. So now, let’s hear it from other challengers in the coming elections.
* * *
I’m getting disturbing reports from the friends of Jemarie Varron from Butuan City, the poor 17-year-old girl who was brutally raped and murdered last May 2 and whose mutilated body was dumped not far from the Butuan City Hall. I don’t know why the investigators of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are dragging their feet on this case. Is it because the poor girl lived in a squatters area?

Perhaps because of the articles we wrote about the slow pace of the investigation by the PNP, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Caraga called the Varron family to a meeting. But strangely at 6 p.m., based from the reports I gathered, the chief NBI investigator was already drunk! The NBI investigators were reportedly mad at the family for the bad publicity they got from The Star, which is of course because of no one else except this writer!

Scared of their lives, the parents of the victim signed a paper that stated that they were satisfied with the investigations of the PNP and the NBI on her case. Come now, a week before that, I talked to Mrs. Varron on the cellphone and yes, because they are poor they are scared that they won’t get justice for their daughter. If you ask me, the Varrons signed the document under duress and should therefore be considered invalid!

Clearly, if higher ups do not intervene, what will happen in Caraga would be a gross miscarriage of justice. When a member of a family is brutally raped and murdered, we expect the full cooperation of the authorities, both from the PNP and the NBI, but from what seems to be happening in this case, a criminal act would be more worse by the obstruction of justice by authorities whom we believe ought to help the citizens find out who the killers are. If this is not a gross miscarriage of justice, I don’t know what it is!

From the way the authorities in Caraga are acting, it gives credence to the reports I’ve been getting that one of the suspects in the killing of Jemarie Varron is not only rich and well-connected, but might be the scion of a powerful politician! Thankfully, other kind-hearted souls have come to help and one key witness is now in the hands of a feisty and famous lady lawyer, who I’m sure is just raring to go and expose this crime and its cover-up.

So at this point, we’re calling upon newly appointed NBI chief Director Nestor Mantaring to give this investigation a more reliable and competent group from the NBI’s Special Task Force led by director Rey Esmeralda that helped solve the murder of Palawan broadcaster Fernando "Dong" Batul, "Bastonero" an anchor of the program dyPR in Puerto Princesa. The hopes of the Varron family are pinned on our continued reportage and the NBI’s full support.
* * *
Here’s a good news, bad news story. Cebu Pacific Airlines has announced a reduction of airfares by 43 percent. But is it really a fare cut or is this merely another gimmick? There is no question that the standard for the Philippines as far as domestic airline carriers are concerned is Philippine Airlines (PAL). After all, it is Asia’s First Airline and since then, other domestic (i.e. Air Manila, Fast, Pilipinas Orient Airways and Aerolift) carriers have come and gone and many more have started to compete with PAL.

Perhaps the closest competitor to PAL today is Cebu Pacific Air (CPA) and I would like to believe that its success stems from the fact that it chose not to follow a corporate doctrine that PAL seems to be stuck on… which is written on its own corporate name… Plane Always Late. CPA even emphasize in their TV advertisement that they do not adhere with this principle. Hence, even if Cebu Pacific had old DC-9 aircraft, many passengers patronize them because they could plan their trips to Manila well and not waste precious time.

I personally like Cebu Pacific’s aggressive approach, giving extra convenience to passengers when necessary. A case in point happened to me on many occasions when my meetings in Manila finished early and I showed up early at the Manila Domestic Terminal… early enough to take an earlier Cebu Pacific flight. Yes, Cebu Pacific ticket clerks would usually offer me a seat in the earlier flight. What a great convenience!

But sadly, all this is gone! Cebu Pacific is now fast becoming a clone of PAL! Last week, I was in Manila and when my meeting was over, I got into the airport early and when I learned that the 7 p.m. flight hasn’t even boarded yet, I asked the clerk if I could take this flight. Since it wasn’t full, they agreed. But since I had a promo ticket, I had to pay P1,000 bucks! I ask you, where’s the logic in demanding the passenger to pay a thousand pesos more to take a flight an hour earlier — a flight that isn’t fully booked anyway? Like what we said, all those fare cuts are a mere gimmick to make more money rather than give passengers an added convenience!

So like a true Cebuano, I opted to save a thousand bucks and waited for my scheduled flight at 8 p.m., which departed Manila at 8:45 p.m. Upon take off and when we landed in Cebu, our pilot did a most un-Cebu Pacific announcement — apologize to the passengers for the delay. Indeed, gone were the times when Cebu Pacific used to be a fun airline, giving PAL the run for its money. Now Cebu Pacific has lost it’s unique appeal and is no different from PAL.
* * *
For email responses to this article, write to [email protected]. Bobit Avila’s columns in the Freeman can also be accessed through The Star website at www.philstar.com. He also hosts a weekly talkshow entitled "Straight from the Sky" shown every Monday only in Metro Cebu on Channel 15 of SkyCable at 8 p.m.

AIR MANILA

ALVIN GARCIA

BANDO OSME

CARAGA

CEBU

CEBU CITY

CEBU PACIFIC

JEMARIE VARRON

NBI

PACIFIC

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