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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 16, 2009 Major News Stories

NSCB: Wage hike needed this year to prevent increase in poverty

The National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) warned that wages must increase before the end of the year to prevent a further rise in poverty.

House committee in Cebu today to probe disparities in oil prices

A PUBLIC hearing will be conducted by the House committee on energy today in Cebu City to find out, among others, why fuel costs more in Cebu than in other parts of the country.

Palace to hospitals: Don"t hike charges over medicine price cut

Malacañang on Wednesday reminded hospitals not to increase their fees to recover their supposed "losses" stemming from the 50-percent cut in the prices of essential medicines.

Members up in arms over delayed GSIS benefits

by Maria Althea Teves, Newsbreak
Pension fund officials promise solution by December 2009 Gregoria Hembra, a 67 year-old retired elementary teacher, traveled back and forth to the Iloilo City office of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for six months from late 2007 to early 2008 in order to follow-up on her pension benefits.

During each visit to pension fund office, she had to walk up 4 flights of stairs after an hour's worth of travel by commute. After each visit, however, she would go home with nothing.

Angry at the unnecessary hardships of his mother had to undergo, her son, Sherwin, decided to write a letter of complaint to the GSIS in May 2008.

And miraculously, less than a week after the complaint was submitted, Gregoria's first pension was finally deposited in her E-card, the automated teller machine card that the GSIS uses to release pension to retirees.

Delayed pension

Sherwin is contemplating sending another letter to the GSIS after the release of his mother's pension got delayed a number of times in recent months.

At first, he said, the release of the monthly pension got moved to the 8th day of every month. "That made me suspicious," he said in a post he published on the Multiply site of ABS-CBN's Boto Mo iPatrol Mo campaign.

"I told my mother that they might delay it again and move the release to the middle of the month, then afterwards to the end of the next month."

Then last September 8, Sherwin said his prediction somehow came true. "My mother did not get his benefits. They said release was moved again to September 28. That is almost a month's delay."

"My question is, if they delay the release of the money to beneficiaries, how much profit will they get? Wouldn't they delay it again to the end of September and again to the next month so that they will gain profits again?"

"Killing members"
Sherwin and his mother are not the only ones complaining over delays in the government pension fund manager's delivery of services to its members. Online forum has a string of posts specifically complaining about the GSIS e-card.

Further, at a hearing of the House committee on government enterprises and privatization on Wednesday, September 16, officials of government unions—whose members are also members of the GSIS—complained about delays in the release of pension benefits, as well as of accounts not being updated.

They also told of how members would receive notices from GSIS that they have not paid their loans even though they complied with monthly contributions and followed guidelines for loan payments.

Domingo Alidon, chairman of the education department's National Employees Union said not only are retired members are not getting their claims on time, some also do not get the correct amounts, in effect getting less than they are supposed to receive.

"Pensioners need their money to buy medicine. "What would the old people do? Sit and die," Alidon asked the GSIS officials present at the hearing.

Erroneous equation?
GSIS officials present at the hearing apologized for the errors and promised to the committee that they would provide a permanent solution to problems members complained about by December 2009.

They explained that the problems came about because they migrated members' files from a manual system to a computerized system that crashed due to the volume of GSIS members. This was supposed to have been fixed last November 2008.

GSIS Finance Sector Executive Vice-President Omelita Tiangco acknowledged that GSIS members may have received wrongly credited or computed pensions.

She said that there have been delays in releasing pension for the month of September because they have discovered the problems in computation. They are currently re-computing all the pensioners' supposed monthly claims.

She also said this is the reason why, since May 2009, retired government employees received their pension checks every eighth of the month instead of the first banking day of the month, she said.

She explained that, because the process of updating transactions has been changed, the computer read transactions manually updated by GSIS employees differently.

Now, the computer reads "loans minus pension amount" rather than the pension amount minus the loan, Tiangco said.  

The reason behind this is that the pension checks are processed only on the first week of the same month when the checks are supposed to be released, while loans were input in the computer systems a month before the checks, she said.

In a normal mathematical equation, because the unpaid loan was input first, it would be: "loan minus amount of pension" rather than "the amount of the pension minus the loan," she said.

She said they are currently fixing their system and promised that a permanent solution to this problem will be in place by the end of the year.  After this, "all pensions would be paid properly," Tiangco said.

Application for refund
The GSIS officials also said members who did not get their full benefits will be given refunds.

For the month of September, when they noticed the problem, GSIS pensioners do not have to apply to have their pensions recomputed, said GSIS IT consultant Helen Macasaet.

For previous months, however, since there are too many GSIS members, it would be difficult to reprocess and re-compute all transactions.

This means members will have to apply to get arrears in benefits refunded. "No application, no refund. It is needed," Macasaet said.

House of Representatives Union Executive-Director Lilia Consul stressed that lowly employees of the lower House, such as janitors and gardeners, would find it hard to file for applications to refund.

Consul demanded that GSIS pay wrongly credited GSIS members and pensioners with interest after they resolve their internal computer problems because members have not received their benefits at proper times.

"You should return money that is rightfully ours," Consul said gaining cheers from the audience.

But Macasaet said that it would be the human resources department of the lower house, or any other government agency, that should be responsible for filing such applications to GSIS.

New guidelines for claims
Macasaet said that they have "explicit measures to resolve back logs" due to the computer crash that happened in previous years and last March 13, as well as the problems of the pensioners.

She said that they have defined new guidelines and a schedule for employees to manually input records in the new database or the Claims and Pensions Administration System.

They also launched the Social System Actions. "This is for personnel staff and training to better serve GSIS members," she said.

The last is their "technical solutions." This includes the procurement of hardware and software. All hardware and software are procured but only some are implemented.

James Velasquez, President and General Manager of IBM Philippines, said that they already delivered last May 26 and fixed the said computer problems of GSIS but the problem is implementation.

Velasquez voiced that it was not fair that IBM, being the IT systems partner of GSIS, is blamed for operational setbacks of the government agency. "There is problem with quick implementation of systems," he said.

Reactivation of membership
Another reason for not receiving claims is that members might not have reactivated their membership, Macasaet said.

This was because they were computerizing everything, Macasaet said.

Macasaet added that reactivation was requested by GSIS to its members when it started giving pension checks every eighth of the month and adapted a computerized system.

"There are only 1.36 million active, legitimate members," Macasaet said. Before, when the system was still manual, they had 2.7 members.

"GSIS employees just granted loans before. Because they were lazy to check the millions of documents, they approved everything," she said. But now, since there's a computer, they are able to check which members are really paying and which pensioners reactivated their membership.

"If not for this, GSIS would lose a lot of money," she said.

Suffering seniors
Asked if he is amenable to the GSIS requirement to make retirees apply for refunds, Sherwin said, "I am angry. Pensioners are obviously old. You should not expect them to line up and come back over and over again." 
"I don't like seeing or knowing that my mother is suffering. She is old and deserves the fruits of her labor, she paid her monthly contributions on time she should receive her benefits on time," he said.

Further, he said, "my mom has eye problems and high blood pressure." The pension money, she receives monthly, he said, is important because she needs it to pay for medicines and for doctor's appointments.

PRC: Results of electrical engineer exams released

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced the results of the Electrical Engineer Licensure Examinations given by the Board of Electrical Engineering in Manila, Baguio, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi and Zamboanga this September 2009. 

The successful examinees who garnered the ten (10) highest places in the Registered Electrical Engineer Licensure Examination are the following:


1 Eruell Camus Obina / Camarines Norte State College-Daet / 90.75

2 Noel Tuzo Arreza / Mindanao State University-Marawi City / 89.30

3 Marwin Timbol Pangilinan / Holy Angel University / 89.00

4 Richard Macatangay Guba / University of Batangas / 88.90

5 Roldan Principe Lualhati / Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Main-Sta. Mesa / 88.45

6 Jesus Colita Rupinta / Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila / 88.35

7 Emilyn Mae Sicat Matibag / University of Batangas / 88.15

8 Joonie Magpantay Valencia / Batangas State University-Batangas City / 87.60

9 Eddy Jose Yaba Managuit / Camarines Norte State College-Daet / 87.20

10 John Paul Palma Cua / University of the Philippines-Los Baños / 87.10 

The successful examinees who garnered the six (6) highest places in the Registered Master Electrician Licensure Examination are the following:


1 Cir Capio Padua / Vocational School / 85.50

2 Salvador Jr De Leon Parangat / Philippine College Of Science & Technology-Calasiao / 84.50

3 Danilo Parreno Allado / Western Visayas College Of Science & Technology-La Paz / 83.50

    Ma Glaiza Dacillo Panuelos / Bicol University-Legazpi / 83.50

4 Marice Mae Velarde Competente / Bicol University-Legazpi / 83.00

    Jeril Jay Rodolfo Ebrada / Bicol University-Legazpi / 83.00

5 Mikhail Laude Alba / Cebu State College Of Science & Technology System(Csat) / 82.50

    Alberto Jr Lancila Jala / Central Visayas State C.A.F.T.-Tagbilaran / 82.50

6 John Revie Cruz Estilong / Vocational School / 82.00

    Aireen Clacio Mirandilla / Camarines Norte State College-Daet / 82.00

    Jayson Bryan Esguerra Mutuc / Polytechnic University Of The Philippines-Main-Sta. Mesa / 82.00

    Patrocenio Jr Bacongan Pacala / Technical School / 82.00

     Rodrigo Solis Papa / Vocational School / 82.00

2 SuperFerry 9 crew insist wind caused ship to sink

MANILA - Two crewmen of the ill-fated SuperFerry 9 insisted Wednesday that strong winds caused the ship to list and eventually capsize in waters off the Zamboanga Peninsula last September 6.

SuperFerry 9 survivor recounts tragedy on 'I Survived'

"Bago kami umakyat sa barko, may nakapansin na na parang tagilid." This observation will now forever haunt Virginia Martinez, a mother of eight from South Cotabato.

Gwen won't scrap deal buying Balili property

Despite the result of the ground survey conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that found 82 percent of the controversial Balili property submerged in water, Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia stood firm that she will not rescind the P98.9 million transaction.

Garcia is determined to fulfill her task in deciding and defining the vision of the province that includes developing the site into an international port and dumpsite for coal ash.

"I am not rescinding it. I will not waver, I will not be indecisive and I will not say one thing today and say another tomorrow," said Garcia yesterday.

DENR 'failure'

THE regional director of the Register of Deeds said yesterday the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) failed to caution them about the condition of the 24.7-hectare Balili property the Province bought.

Margot denies receiving text about "harassment"

CEBU, Philippines - Cebu City First Lady Margot Osmeña has denied receiving a call or text message from the mother of the alleged harassment victim of her son, Miguel.

Smits earlier said she tried contacting Mrs. Osmeña after learning that her daughter received threats via text messages from a number that they believe was used by Miguel.

"I never received any call or text from Atty. Smits," Mrs. Osmeña said.

She, however, refused to comment any further as it will be Mayor Tomas Osmeña who will handle the matter. The mayor and his wife are on a 10-day trip to Houston, Texas for his quarterly check up at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Police to help Miguel complainant

CEBU City Police Office (CCPO) Director Patrocinio Comendador said police are waiting for Samantha Elise Diores Benitez to decide whether to pursue a complaint against the son of Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Bar faces closure

CEBU City Hall has started the process to shut down the resto-bar where the trouble involving Miguel Osmeña started, after finding out that it is operating without a business permit and a special permit to sell and serve liquor within a 100-meter radius from schools.

Fortuna readies charges of graft vs. Jonas, others

MANDAUE City Administrator Briccio Boholst has asked a supplier to replace "damaged" housing materials delivered to Barangay Umapad's fire victims, and vowed to run after those involved in the anomaly.

City Council forms committee to probe farmers-Fusilero row

The City Council yesterday formed an ad hoc committee that would investigate the looming unrest in some mountain barangays owing to the conflict between residents and retired Police General Tiburcio Fusilero.

Thelma gets money claim on Larrañaga

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) yesterday ordered the release of the amount paid as indemnification and damages to the Chiong family as part of the sentence handed against Francisco Juan "Paco" Larranaga.

Ombudsman seeks reconsideration of COA findings

The Office of the Ombudsman Visayas is seeking for a reconsideration of the Commission on Audit findings that it overspent government funds for its annual physical fitness activities and corporate planning last year.

Comelec OKs P1.6B deal to purge voters' list

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to sign the contract for the cleansing of the computerized voters' list (CVL) with the Unison joint venture on Wednesday at 10a.m., an official said.

Comelec: Let employees register during work hours

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on Wednesday has asked the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to issue guidelines to allow employees to register as voters even on weekdays - and that the time they spent registering be considered official time.

Police beefs up intel on election hot spots

(UPDATE) The Philippine National Police is beefing up its intelligence operations to determine the so-called election hot spots, or places where election-related violent incidents prevail, as the deadline for the filing of candidacy nears.

House bill to address possible "no-el" in 2010

A House panel on Wednesday approved in principle a bill proposing that the Senate's most senior member take over as acting president in case there is a failure of elections in 2010.

Brownouts to plague RP on election year - DOE chief

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes on Wednesday warned of nationwide power interruptions next year - a problem that could affect the conduct of the 2010 automated elections.  Reyes said Visayas and Mindanao have been suffering from rotating brownouts while Luzon would enter a "critical period" by next year.  THE DEPARTMENT of Energy (DoE) is preparing a P3-billion contingency plan nationwide to ensure power supply for next year's elections with the three main grids seen to reach critical levels by then.

Aquino urged to rethink stand on RH bill

Catholic educators called on Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to rethink his support for the controversial reproductive health bill in Congress.

Teodoro like '6 yrs of Arroyo'—militants

Having Defense Secretary Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. as the next president may be "bad news" for national sovereignty and may be like "having another President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," a militant group said Wednesday.

Prosecuting Arroyo not a priority - Teodoro

Prosecuting President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will not be among the top priorities of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. if ever he wins the presidency in next year"s national elections.

Teodoro: Resignation from DND 'in due time'

Amid calls for his immediate resignation as defense secretary following his endorsement by the administration party as its standard-bearer, Gilbert Teodoro said that this "would happen in due time."

Palace asks Fernando: Respect Lakas decision

Officials of the Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) party appealed to Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando to rise above negative sentiments and respect the party's choice for standard-bearer in the May 2010 election.

Erap to file libel raps vs Yuchengco

After he was accused of pressuring the Yuchengco family to sell its holdings in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) in 1998, former President Joseph Estrada would lodge a libel complaint against business tycoon Alfonso Yuchengco.

Palace denies hand in Lacson-Estrada rift

Malacañang on Wednesday denied involvement in the current rift between allies-turned-rivals, former President Joseph Estrada and Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Ex-SEC chief: Erap got billions from PLDT shares sale

A former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission said that former president Joseph Estrada received billions of pesos in commissions for the sale of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) shares to Metro Pacific Co. in 1998, and even grabbed the shares claimed by his purported bag men.

Dumlao: Erap ordered Dacer, Corbito murders

Napaiyak si dating police colonel Glenn Dumlao nang humarap siya sa ABS-CBN News sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon kanina. Si Dumlao ay isa sa mga pangunahing testigo sa Dacer-Corbito double murder case. Lakas loob na sinabi ni Dumlao na pinaniniwalaan niyang si dating pangulong Joseph Estrada ang nag-utos na patayin ang PR man na si Bubby Dacer.

Sotero Laurel, 90

Former Senate President Pro Tempore Sotero Laurel, one of the 12 senators who voted against the United States bases treaty in 1991, died Wednesday morning, the 18th anniversary of the "historic and patriotic vote" for Philippine sovereignty.

Plight of 20 duped OFWs in Kuwait over

The plight of 20 unpaid Filipino cement and asphalt workers who ate monitor lizards to survive in Kuwait is over, Balitang Middle East reported.

Japan comes to aid of 790 RP seafarers in pirate-ridden waters

Some 790 Filipino seamen benefited greatly from Japanese anti-piracy escorting operations in the Gulf of Aden in July and August - the most of any nationality, the Japanese government said.

Australia mining scholarships for Filipinos

Australia is offering Filipino college students scholarships to study mining-related courses like mining engineering, geology, metallurgy, mine safety, environmental management, and community development, the Australian embassy here said.  The scholarship program, which will start this October 2009, will be offered in four universities: University of the Philippines-Diliman, Cebu Institute of Technology, University of Southeastern Philippines, and the Mindanao State University.

Gov't, MILF forms int'l group on peace talks

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have formally agreed to form an International Contact Group (ICG) that would help the Mindanao peace process, government and rebel officials said.

Esperon skips hearing on Feb 2006 coup

Former Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon on Wednesday failed to attend a hearing by a military tribunal on the alleged attempt to overthrow the Arroyo government three years ago.

Spratlys can be disposal site for RP's nuclear waste

The Philippines may choose to dispose of nuclear waste at the Spratlys Islands should the government proceed with a plan to use nuclear energy.

Myanmar's Suu Kyi not allowed to attend appeal

YANGON, Myanmar - Authorities in military-run Myanmar have barred opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from attending an upcoming appeal against her recent conviction for breaking the terms of her house arrest, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Mayweather: I'm the 'only mega-superstar'

MANILA –Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is set to reclaim the virtual pound-for-pound king title from Manny Pacquiao as he returns to the ring on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) for his clash against Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez.

Artists hold fund raising concert for Aquino

A group of artists and politicians is set to launch a concert to help fund the campaign of Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who recently announced his plans to run for president in 2010.

Limited edition 'Cory' stamps sold out

by by Kristine Servando,
MANILA - The Philippine Postal Corporation (Philpost) is launching another set of limited-edition Cory Aquino stamps after the first edition stamps were sold out.

Catholic schools give Cory posthumous award

Catholic schools on Wednesday night paid tribute to the late President Corazon Aquino with a posthumous "Deo et Patria (In the service of God and Country)" award.

Palace to SC: National Artist choices moot

Malacanang asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the case questioning the inclusion of film director Carlos J. Caparas and three others in the 2009 list of National Artist awardees, arguing that the choice is already final.

Charice eyes career in Hollywood

by By Reyma Buan-Deveza and Trina Lagura,
MANILA – After starring in 20th Century Fox's live-action animation film "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," conquering Hollywood is most likely next for international singing sensation Charice.

Living near loud traffic may damage your health: study

NEW YORK - Sitting in traffic can get your blood boiling temporarily but living near it might raise your risk of high blood pressure long-term, according to a Swedish study.

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