Miss Northern Samar 2014. The 13 candidates vying for the title Miss Northern Samar 2014 gave their best pose after the press presentation on June 16.(L-R): Miss Allen Czarina May B. Tomada; Miss Bobon Carissa Lyka G. Miranda; Miss Catarman Dianara F. Ada; Miss Gamay Angelica A. Pancho; Miss Pambujan Rochelle Fatima S. Merino; Miss San Antonio Kim Claudine S. Dela Cruz; Miss San Jose Shamier D. Nualla and Miss Victoria Melva D. Vacunawa. (Photo taken by Ailene N. Diaz, PIA/Rachel Arnaiz)

TACLOBAN CITY – Eralita Apalit was shocked to discover that the money that she deposited at the Philippine National Branch in Baybay City could be withdrawn without her permission. The 56-year old businesswoman from Barangay Tinago, Inopacan, Leyte, has a deposit of P190, 000 at the said PNP branch. But to her shocked, her deposit “vanished” after she withdrew P60, 000 two years ago, her last time to withdraw an amount from the bank. “I could not really believe that the hard-earned money that I deposited and entrusted to the said bank could just be withdrawn that easily without my knowledge and permission,” Apalit said. Apalit was just one of the depositors of the PNB-Baybay Branch allegedly defrauded of their deposits purportedly instigated by Gabriel Kirom, former manager of the said bank. Kirom’s whereabouts is no longer known after his scheme was discovered when a prominent businesswoman in Baybay, Lydia Palermo, wrote a letter to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan requesting for an investigation on the matter. The letter was addressed to Vice Governor Carlo Loreto, presiding officer of the provincial board, who immediately asked the committee on banking and financial institutions to conduct a probe on the matter. And on June 17, the said committee, chaired by Board Member Florante Cayunda, Jr. conducted the investigation though it as the vice governor who presided the more than two hours investigation held at the session hall of the legislative building. Palermo, who owns one of the hotels in Baybay, said that her deposit at the said bank was P2.5 million which she wanted to withdraw but only to be informed that it was already withdrawn. It was not clear yet as to how many depositors of the said bank were allegedly victimized by Kirom. But majority of those who filed a complaint were retired government workers like teachers. But Apalit said that in Inopacan alone, she knew at least 22 depositors who appeared to have lost their money they deposited at the PNB-Baybay Branch. “What I knew is the amount involved could reached to P42 million,” she said. During the public hearing, officials of the PNB appeared to be cooperative as they expressed their willingness to help the victims defrauded by Kirom, a resident of Inopacan and a close friend of Apalit’s husband, Rodrigo. Lawyer Stephanie Castaneda, legal officer of PNB in Cebu, said that they are willing to provide legal assistance to the victims though she could not guarantee that they could help them get their money back from Kirom adding that there were no records at their bank that the money of the victims entered the coffers of the bank. She also said that the PNB, one of the biggest commercial banks in the country, has immediately conducted their own probe when they learned on this issue involving Kirom. Castaneda also stressed that the integrity of the bank was not comprised on this fraudulent act of Kirom. She also said that a case of falsification of commercial documents was filed against Kirom and whose retirement was withheld pending the resolution of the case filed against him. Kirom reportedly was able to “withdraw” the deposits of his victims by enticing them to invest in one of the alleged products of the bank. All transactions were personally made by Kirom inside his office while he was still the manager of the PNB-Baybay. Loreto said that their investigation is only in aid of legislation and come up with legislative measure that would help bank depositors not to be lured with a similar scheme. Meanwhile, the SP on their June 10 session approved a resolution authorizing Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla to transfer all bank accounts of the province deposited in PNB to other banking institutions. Gov.Petilla, when asked to comment about the resolution of the Sanggunian, said that he had not yet received the resolution. Petilla said that they will wait first and study the course of action of the Sanggunian and of the PNB management on the complaint prior to making any action. (ROEL T. AMAZONA)