Baguio LGU mulls raps vs judge who allegedly interfered in drunk taxi driver’s arrest

Robie de Guzman   •   January 3, 2020   •   1021

MANILA, Philippines – The city government of Baguio on Friday said it is mulling over the possibility of filing administrative charges against a local judge who allegedly interfered in the arrest of a drunk taxi driver for purportedly attacking a police officer.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong said they are studying lodging complaints against the judge, identified as Judge Roberto Mabalot of the Municipal Trial Court, Benguet Branch 1.

Magalong said a report forwarded to him by the Baguio City Police showed that Mabalot allegedly intimidated and shouted at police officers on duty to secure the immediate release of the taxi driver, identified as Jone Buclay.

“According sa report na binigay sa akin ng ating City Director na si Col. Allen Co, talagang nakialam si Judge Mabalot, in fact he acted like a private lawyer,” he said.

“The way it was explained to me, very intimidating siya and outright nailabas niya agad ung lasing na driver at naiparelease pa niya yung taxi,” he added.

On Tuesday, December 31, 2019, an internet user posted a dashcam video showing a police officer, identified as Patrolman Julius Walang designated at the Baguio City Traffic Enforcement Unit, almost run over as he tried to stop a cab driver who committed a traffic violation.

Walang accosted the cabbie and tried to issue a citation ticket for causing traffic along Abanao Street in Baguio City. But instead of stopping, the taxi moved towards the police officer who had to cling onto the cab’s hood to prevent him from fleeing.

Buclay was later on brought to the police station and determined to be under the influence of alcohol.

During Buclay’s detention, police officers on duty claimed that Judge Mabalot suddenly entered the police station and scolded them for detaining the cab driver for a traffic violation that only carries a fine as penalty.

A CCTV footage also captured Judge Mabalot arriving at the police station around 9:25 in the morning and exiting with the taxi driver in tow several minutes later.

“He was lawyering for the accused and, of course, naintimidate po ung ating mga kapulisan doon and from his own words sabi niya ay ‘fine’ lang kasi ang aanuhin,” Baguio City Police director Col. Allen Rae Co said.

“Ipinakita po ng ating kapulisan sa kanya yung positive result po nung alcohol breath test at umamin po ung tao (taxi driver) mismo na nakainom siya,” he added.

It was later learned that Buclay works for a taxi company allegedly operated by a relative of Judge Mabalot.

In a message to Magalong, the judge insists that he did not interfere with the case, and that he only acted on a request he received to check up on the taxi driver for an alleged violation of reckless driving.

“I declare that I did not at all interfere. The police will confirm this fact,” he said, adding that he only told cops that they cannot detain the driver as the penalty for reckless driving is only a fine.

He, however, did not state in his message on whether he was aware that the taxi driver had tried to run over a traffic law enforcer.

The Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), which supervises all judges and court personnel in the country, earlier said it is now checking the case.

“We would like to get all available information before we require the concerned judge to comment,” Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said.

Police said it will file multiple complaints against the taxi driver, including direct assault upon an agent of authority, resisting arrest and attempted homicide. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Grace Doctolero)

Baguio City welcomes 2021 with light show

Robie de Guzman   •   January 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Baguio City held a drone show featuring different formations and light display to usher in the year 2021.

The city government said it held the drone light show on the evening of December 31 as an alternative to the use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices, which was earlier banned by the local government.

The drone light show was held at the Melvin Jones Grandstand with limited number of allowed viewers and strict adherence to the health protocols. It was also shown live on the city’s Facebook page so that other residents can view it.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong earlier said the show would cost P6.1 million but the organizer did it for free as their way of helping revive the local tourism industry.

A live band performance was also held to entertain the limited number of people who went to the grandstand to physically watch the activities.

Meanwhile, most of the hotels in the city closed down on the eve of December 31 due to low tourism arrivals amid the pandemic.

According to the City Tourism Office, only around 5,000 tourists visited the City of Pines for the holidays, which is lower than the 100,000 visitors recorded in 2019. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Grace Doctolero)

Baguio City to reopen night market Dec. 11

Robie de Guzman   •   December 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Baguio City is set to resume the operations of its night market on December 11, Thursday with stricter safety measures, the city government said.

The local government said Mayor Benjamin Magalong has approved the reopening of the night market along Harrison Road, a few days after he ordered it shuttered due to lapses in crowd control.

To better manage the crowd this time, the city government said it has divided the night market into four sections and 60 uniformed personnel will be deployed to enforce crowd control and health protocols.

Only two entry points will be opened in the market area.

Baguio Market Supervisor Fernando Ragma Jr. said police officers in the area have been tasked to strictly monitor and apprehend those who will not abide by the health standards such as social distancing and the wearing of face mask and face shield.

“By this time severely we will implement na, kaya sabi namin sa mga vendors huwag na lang kayong magbenta kung hindi ninyo kayang displinahin ang inyong sarili at ang inyong mga costumer kase pag nahuli, P3,000 po ang first offense niyan, tapos kapag indibidwal P500,” Ragma said.

The night market’s reopening is part of the city government’s attempt to revive the local economy and tourism, as well as restore the livelihood of those heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kapag bukas ang night market, maraming magta-taxI or may sasakyan, kokonsumo yan ng gasolina or krudo so mabubuhay din yung energy sector. Kung maraming nagtitinda jan tulad sa foods, bibili sila sa market,” Ragma said.

“Maski ‘yung mga porters, ‘yung mga comboy’s na walang trabaho babalik ho diyan makikinabang din po sila. Marami po binubuhay ang night market aside yung sa turismo natin na gustong gustong puntahan yan dahil mura ang mga paninda diyan,” he added.

The city’s public information office said the night market will be open from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Marvin Calas)

Baguio City suspends night market run due to crowd control lapses

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 2, 2020

The Baguio City government has suspended the operation of the night market after apparent lapses in crowd control.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong already ordered a post-night market assessment to evaluate the incident. The night market was reopened on Tuesday (December 1) as part of the city’s plan to reopen the economy and restore the livelihood of the displaced vendors affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Magalong, however, stressed that reopening businesses should not mean sacrificing the health and safety of the people.

“We must strike a balance between reopening the economy and safeguarding the health and safety of the people. This is our new normal direction,” he said.

City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias and Market superintendent Fernando Ragma Jr. are set to identify weak points and vulnerabilities in the night market area and discuss solutions. AAC

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