The latest news stories from the major news organizations in Cebu and Manila in the Philippines, the US and other countries.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 21, 2009 Major News Stories

I-boycott ang mga gasolinahang mahal magbenta! Ito ang payo ni Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes. Itinuro pa niya kung saan makakabili ng mas murang petrolyo.

Inmates with flu down to 28

THE number of inmates hit by flu at the Mandaue City Jail dropped from 177 reported last Sunday to 28 yesterday, Jail Warden Simeon Dolojo said.

Filipina with A(H1N1) fights for life in HK

The Filipina domestic helper who became ill with a serious case of A(H1N1) remains in critical condition, 13 days after she was admitted in a Hong Kong hospital.

14 medicines' prices to go down 50%

Pharmaceutical firms have agreed to cut by half the prices of at least 14 essential medicines as soon as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs an executive order on the implementation of the cheaper medicine law, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

The prices of the remaining essential drugs will be subjected to a maximum drug retail price (MDRP), Duque said.

"We take note of the timely submission of the pharmaceutical companies and their commitment to lower medicines prices of their common products by at least 50 percent," Duque said.

The 50-percent price cut will cover "14 to 15" essential medicines, he said.

Medicines that will be subject to MDRP and include those for hypertension and diabetes patients as well as antibiotics and antibacterials, said Robert So, program manager of the DoH pharmaceutical management unit.

Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) President Oscar Aragon said most of PHAP's member companies preferred a voluntary price reduction instead of mandatory cuts under an EO.

"The executive order is a last resort item that will have to be installed if all else fails such that competition is not healthy but right now, we have a very lively industry with a lot of emerging players," Aragon said.

Setting a maximum price "would kill small generic companies," he warned.

Glo signs EO on price cap for meds

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will go ahead with a revised executive order setting a price ceiling for at least six essential medicines—including the anti-hypertensive drug amlodipine—effective August 15, a Palace official said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday the EO had to be modified because drug companies had agreed to voluntarily reduce the prices of at least 14 essential medicines.

The Department of Health (DoH) recommended a 50-percent price cut for 21 essential medicines, consistent with the Cheaper Medicines Law. Arroyo had given drug firms until last Saturday to comply.

Duque said companies producing "six to seven" drugs insisted that they could not comply with the 50-percent cut because doing so would purportedly "eat so much into their (profit) margins."

But Duque said he would like to verify those claims. "I, for one, will not readily accept that. I will have to look into their financial statements," he told a media briefing in Malacañang.

Senator seeks US help in bribery probe

The chairman of the Senate committee on trade has sought the assistance of the United States government in its investigation into the alleged bribe attempt by drug manufacturer Pfizer Philippines to stop the imposition of the cheaper medicines law in the country.

No malversation case: DILG

A DEPARTMENT of Interior and Local Government (DILG) 7 official yesterday said there's no case for malversation of public funds if Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) serves non-city residents.

VAS firms seek probe into text spam

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As the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) prepares to implement a memorandum barring "spam" text messages, a group of mobile value added service (VAS) providers are seeking further investigation into the alleged "vanishing load."

NTC spam ban threatens P5-B industry 

Between numerous complaints of mobile phone customers and a homegrown P5 billion sunshine industry, what's a regulator to do? After mere slaps on the wrist to erring industry players, the National Telecommunications Commission has issued a blanket ban on the controversial but easily misunderstood service.

Norwegian stabbed dead by in Cebu town

A 51-year-old Norwegian national died early Monday after he was stabbed by one of four persons who claimed they were taken hostage by the foreigner inside the latter's house in Consolacion town, 13 kilometers north of Cebu City.

Minnie can't run for House

BOPK's choice for the south district congressional seat has been narrowed down to two—Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and his sister Minnie, since the mayor is also interested in fielding his wife Margot as a candidate for councilor.

But Osmeña may be the most likely candidate of Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) for the south district's congressional seat, after election officers said Minnie's candidacy can face several hitches.

In a phone interview yesterday, Minnie declined from making any statement, but she confirmed she still has dual citizenship, which is one of the disqualifications enumerated in section 40 of the Local Government Code.

Osmeña is qualified to run for congressman, after the Comelec Cebu City's election registration board for the south district approved yesterday the transfer of his voters' registration records from the north district to the south, as well as Margot's and their son Miguel's records.

Lawyer Edwin Cadungog, election officer for the south district, said though, that Minnie still has until Oct. 31 to transfer her registration records.

He said Minnie will have to register as a voter in the south, and should have at least one year of residency in the district prior to the election, so she will qualify to run there.

In separate interviews yesterday, Cadungog and Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Castillano said that under the law, anyone with dual citizenship is disqualified to run for Congress, mayor, vice mayor or councilor.

But if the foreign citizenship is renounced, Minnie will be able to run, but only for mayor, vice mayor or councilor, and not Congress, said Castillano, also the Comelec regional attorney.

Tomas blames Joy for BO-PK woes

AFTER the leadership and loyalty issues, it's Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama's relationship with former city councilor Jocelyn "Joy" Pesquera that's now the subject of Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Totol mulls running for vice mayor

Lawyer Aristotle "Totol" Batuhan said he is seriously considering running for vice mayor in next year's elections.

Mike considers leaving Sinulog for aid

Barely six more months prior to the 30th anniversary of the Sinulog Festival and still, there is no resolution yet from the Commission on Audit to have the activity exempted from a ban on financial donations.

Raps readied v couple exploiting minors

Criminal charges are being readied against a couple following the rescue of four women, three of them minors, allegedly being used in cyber pornography during a raid by the National Bureau of Investigation in Lapu-Lapu City last Saturday.

Filipina maid abused in Singapore

A Filipina maid who bore bruises and scars from suspected physical abuse is urged to file charges against her former employer.

Gov't checking OFWs in Afghan crash

The government is checking reports that 10 overseas Filipino workers were among the 16 people killed when a helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff at southern Afghanistan's largest NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) base Sunday, Vice President Noli de Castro said.

6 hurt in Cotabato City blast

At least six people were hurt when unidentified men lobbed a grenade at a grocery store in Cotabato City shortly before noon Monday, police said.

3 bomb experts attacked in Maguindanao

Three Army bomb experts on the way to investigate an explosion in Maguindanao that killed a militiaman were ambushed and wounded by suspected bombers.

Red Cross defends Sulu vice governor

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) defended the moves taken by Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidulla in working for the release of the three volunteers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), saying she was authorized by the government to talk to the Abu Sayyaf.

'Drug war doesn't justify death penalty'

Not even a renewed "war" against illegal drug syndicates after gangsters abducted and raped a young daughter of a counter-narcotics agent, could justify the restoration of the death penalty, a Catholic bishop said on Monday.

House mulls return of death penalty

The House of Representatives will study the re-imposition of the death penalty against illegal drug traffickers, Speaker Prospero Nograles said on Monday, in the wake of reports that an anti-narcotics agent's daughter was kidnapped and raped.

Drug agent's daughter not raped

Police on Monday held a teenager for questioning about the supposed abduction and rape of a 13-year-old daughter of a drug enforcement agent here on Saturday.  But police officials said the boy told investigators that there was no truth to reports that the girl was abducted and raped allegedly by members of a drug syndicate under government surveillance.

House to probe Fil-Am abduction claim

The House of Representatives is being asked to investigate the abduction and torture of Filipino-American Melissa Roxas and two community health workers in Tarlac two months ago allegedly by members of the military.

Army execs to appear in hearing on FilAm

Army officials in Central Luzon have expressed readiness to attend the hearings at the Court of Appeals on the writ of amparo filed by Filipino American activist Melissa Roxas.

Militant solons to boycott Sona again

Saying they were tired of hearing more "lies" and "illusions" that the country has been better under her nine years in office, eight militant partylist representatives announced that they would not attend President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's State of the Nation Address (Sona) next week.

Dialogue on absentee voting for media

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will hold a public dialogue on Tuesday on the proposed absentee voting for media personnel in the 2010 elections.

Pampanga gov eyes return to priesthood

After saying he was ready to leave the priesthood to run for president in 2010, Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio said he would try to be reinstated as a priest should he lose in the polls.

Mayon watchmen get emergency gadget

Village watchmen and disaster officials have been provided with bicycles equipped with megaphones, transistor radios and other emergency gadgets to mobilize the evacuation of communities near the slopes of the Mayon volcano in case of an eruption.

'Isang' death toll up to 5 -- NDCC

The death toll due to tropical storm "Isang" (international codename: Molave), which brought heavy rains to Luzon late last week, has risen to five while one person remains missing, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said on Monday.

Kris: Aquino's condition worsens

The condition of former Philippine president Corazon Aquino, in hospital for colon cancer, has deteriorated, her daughter said in a televised interview Monday.

Call center revenues reach $5B in '09

The Call Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) reported that its revenues has reached the $5 billion mark this year, beating last year's $4.5 billion.

Asean urges N. Korea to return to talks

Southeast Asian foreign ministers Monday urged North Korea to return to talks on its nuclear program and vowed to combat extremism following the Jakarta bombings.

Junta leader declared Mauritania president

The army general who led a military coup that toppled Mauritania's first elected head of state last August was on Sunday declared the winner of a presidential election organized by his junta.

Honduras talks collapse, civil war feared

There were fears civil war was brewing Monday in Honduras after weekend talks between the country's rival governments collapsed over ousted President Manuel Zelaya's demand he be returned to power.

Obama approval rating falls below 60%

For the first time since taking office, United States President Barack Obama's job approval rating has dropped below the 60-percent threshold as Americans expressed doubts about his handling of the economy, the deficit, and health care, a new opinion poll showed Monday.

Apollo 11 crew calls for Mars exploration

The Apollo 11 astronauts who were the first to land on the Moon 40 years ago, have urged Americans to set their sights on Mars.

POC to present SEA Games battleplan

The Philippine Olympic Committee will gather the 25 national sports associations (NSAs) bound for the Southeast Asian Games in a crucial meeting today to discuss its battle plan for the biennial meet in Laos and the strained relationship with the Philippine Sports Commission.

Roach, Pacquiao crucial to victory—Khan

Newly crowned World Boxing Association (WBA) light welterweight champion Amir Khan from Britain is relishing his first world title.

Kobe Bryant arrives in Manila

Dumating na sa bansa ang NBA superstar na si Kobe Bryant. Bahagi ito ng kanyang six-city Asian tour. Pangatlong bisita na ito ng 2009 NBA finals MVP na kagagaling lang sa pagkapanalo ng NBA championship kasama ang team na Los Angeles Lakers.

Dionisia's wish comes true on Wowowee

Dionisia Pacquiao, mother of top pound-for-pound boxer Manny Pacquiao, on Monday made a special appearance on popular noontime show "Wowowee" to the delight of the viewers.

Aling Dionisia, Sam Milby may team up

Di na nga maawat ang kasikatan ni Aling Dionisia Pacquiao! Bukod sa pagiging bida sa commercial, siya ngayon ang napipisil na maging ina ni Sam Milby sa pelikula!

Pacquiao finishes shooting for new film

Like mother like son! Parehong seryoso nga sa kanilang showbiz career ang mag-inang Manny at Dionisia Pacquiao. Si Pacman, nakalinya ang ginagawang pelikula si Mommy Dionisia naman inihataw na ang kanyang dancing grooves sa noontime show! Bago tumulak muli ng Amerika, tinapos ni Manny ang shooting ng walong sequences ng pelikula niyang "Sa ngalan ng Busabos."

Saudi man marries Pinay for her kidney

A Saudi Arabian man married a Filipino woman not for love, nor for money but for her kidney, officials said Monday.   The man's transplant was blocked by authorities, but the case shows the difficulty the Philippines faces in fighting rampant trade in organs fueled by wealthy-but-ailing foreigners buying kidneys from impoverished Filipinos.

A human rights group says it has documented nearly 200 poor kidney donors recruited by organ-trafficking syndicates in a single province in the last few years.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the Saudi man applied for a transplant at a government-run hospital, listing his wife as his voluntary donor. But hospital officials became suspicious when they learned the couple had married only recently and that the husband spoke no English or Tagalog, while the Filipino wife spoke no Arabic.

"Clearly, it was not a donation," Cabral told a news conference Monday. "It was actually organ sale."

The Saudi man's transplant application was rejected two months ago, though neither he nor his wife faced any charges. Neither would say how much the woman was promised in exchange for her kidney, Cabral said.

Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor said the transplant would have been allowed had the marriage been authentic and if there was no commercial transaction involved.

The Philippines was named the No. 5 hotspot for organ trafficking by the World Health Organization in 2005. China was No. 1. The trade mostly involves kidneys, since most people can live with only one.

Amihan Abueva, regional coordinator of the private Asia Against Child Trafficking, said since last year her group has located at least 195 kidney donors from poor communities in Quezon province, southeast of Manila, who were recruited by syndicates. One of the donors was a 17-year-old male who received P95,000 ($1,980).

At least two of the donors — who were paid less than promised — have filed cases against the organ traffickers, Abueva said. The law allows cases to be filed up 10 years after the crime was committed, and up to 20 years if it is large-scale trafficking, she added.

In 2007, out of 1,046 kidney transplants performed in the country, 81 percent were from living, non-related donors and 51 percent of the recipients were foreigners, said the doctors' group Philippine Society of Nephrology. It wasn't clear that all of those transplants involved an organ sale, but the statistics raised suspicions.

The government has been trying to curb the trade. It recently adopted strict rules restricting foreigners from receiving organ transplants from Filipino donors. The new rules added to a 2003 law that already prohibited organ sales, which are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

However, the rules make an exception for family members or anyone with emotional and social ties to the recipient — and Cabral said the case of the Saudi man shows how far people will go to get around the law. 

Cabral had likened the sale of kidneys to prostitution, and called for tougher action against brokers and doctors who engage in the transplant of kidneys and other organs.

She had appealed to those thinking of selling their organs not to do it, saying they pay a steep price for a P100,000 to P150,000 payment that will run out in two months.

In contrast, she said the brokers and doctors engaged in the racket earn millions from each "transaction."

Murder raps unlikely in Jackson death

Detectives investigating the sudden death of Michael Jackson have found no evidence to suggest he was murdered, though their investigation is far from over.

'Escort tapes' put Berlusconi in spotlight

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's private life was back in the spotlight when a leading news group posted audio tapes and transcripts of what it said were conversations with a female escort.

Pagasa predicts rainy week

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said that rains would continue to prevail over most parts of the country in the next two to three days because of a shallow low pressure area off Northern Samar.

RP's partial solar eclipse Wednesday

For two-and-a-half hours on Wednesday morning, Filipinos will witness a partial solar eclipse that will occur in most of eastern Asia, Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean.  While they may not get to observe a total solar eclipse like in other areas in Asia, people in the Philippines will get a chance to watch the partial eclipse between 8:26 a.m. and 11:10 a.m.

The total solar eclipse will cover India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Central China, the Pacific Ocean, Ryukyu Islands, Marshall Islands and Kiribati.

Men better at paying bills: study

Men and women handle their personal finances much differently, research shows, with men more likely to keep a close eye on their spending and investments and to pay their bills on time.

Ted Turner  - "Sports is like a war without the killing."

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