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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 18, 2009 Major News Stories

"Big Three," DoE chief on hot seat in hearing on oil price discrepancies

The hearing of the House Committee on Energy on the discrepancy of oil prices commenced yesterday with committee members, particularly the Cebuano lawmakers, unconvinced by the explanation given by the representatives of the country's three biggest oil firms.

Petron also pointed out that their pump prices vary per station primarily because of cost to bring the product from the refinery to the depot, cost to bring the product from the depot to the station, cost of operations which may vary slightly per station and competitor stations, which may force their dealers to price products lower, in order not to lose sales volume.

Mike Cabral of Chevron said their prices are "reasonable" and that Cebu is paying the "real cost." He also said the discrepancies of prices could be attributed to the competition among the oil firms.

Roberto Canapi, Pilipinas Shell vice president for communications, also reasoned that pricing structure vary in different places because of transhipment cost.

But Del Mar suggested the prevailing cost of oil per liter in Manila plus transhipment cost should be the basis in computing the price of petroleum products.

'Defend consumers, not Big 3'

SOME members of the House committee on energy yesterday wondered aloud if Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Angelo Reyes was "lawyering" for three multinational oil companies, instead of defending the oil companies.

Penalized recruiters still recruiting—POEA

Recruitment agencies with cancelled or suspended licenses are still actively recruiting for overseas jobs, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said Thursday.

21 maltreated OFWs repatriated from Libya

Twenty-one overseas Filipino workers repatriated from Libya arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Thursday.

Pensioners protest delays in GSIS

Nag-aalburoto na ang maraming pensioners ng Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) dahil naaantala na ang pamimigay ng kanilang pension.

Pero sa halip na bigyang solusyon ang problema, nagbabala pa ang GSIS na hindi mabibigyan ng cash gift at umento sa pension ang mga pensyonadong hindi mag-papa-renew ng "active status"!

Catholic schools seeks women's law exemption

Insisting on their religious and academic freedoms, Catholic educational institutions are seeking exemption from a provision in the new Magna Carta of Women banning the dismissal of unwed mothers from employment or school.

Balili lot deal controversy: Bolo staff helped follow up papers

The mysterious payment voucher for the controversial Balili lot deal might have come from the office of embattled Provincial Board Member Juan Bolo.

This came out in yesterday's investigation conducted by the ad hoc committee created by the PB to look into the P98.9 million deal entered into by Capitol.

The committee found out that the forms used for the payment voucher match those coming from the office of Bolo.

It was not however clear whether the payment voucher also came from the same office.

However, Geraline Guba, a staff from the Capitol's internal audit division, said the staff of Bolo followed the documents and even made several follow-ups to ensure that it is immediately acted upon.

Guba said they received the first obligation request and the voucher on April 24, 2008 at 3:34 p.m.

It was brought by Bolo's brother-in-law and staff Emerciano Sabellano. The documents, despite the other transactions that were forwarded ahead, were given priority by the internal audit personnel because of the alleged pressure from Bolo's staff to hasten the review.

Guba said that first obligation request and payment voucher for the Balili transaction was released by their office on the following day, April 25 at 11:00 a.m.

Sabellano fetched the documents and brought it to the accounting office.

Provincial board member Jose Maria Gastardo noted the very fast processing of the transaction.

Gastardo said he was impressed by the swiftness of the transaction especially that on that same date that the documents for the Balili land acquisition were processed came the approval of the resolution 1781 which granted authority to Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to purchase the property.

The resolution is a requirement in the preparation of the obligation request and the voucher for it to be processed and passed in the internal audit section.

"Whoever is making the follow-up must be very efficient," Gastardo said.

Guba said that normally she will be the one who brings the documents from their office to the accounting office, but in the Balili transaction, Sabellano got it.

The second obligation request and voucher was again brought by Sabellano to pre-audit on September 22, 2008 at 1:41 p.m. However the documents had to be returned several times because of discrepancies.

Internal audit chief Manny Guial explained that there was a tax declaration that has to be deducted from the contract amount because it is not covered by the sale.

Guial said that documents had to be returned to the requisitioning office.

Although there was no formal declaration that Bolo's office was the one that requested for payment, but his staff, Sabellano, was the one who got the document.

Guba who had custody of the documents said that the second batch of documents for the Balili transaction was returned to Sabellano on September 23.

It was also Sabellano who brought it back to them the following day, but was again returned.

Another staff of Bolo, Clarissa Sususco, fetched the documents until it was returned by Sabellano when it was approved by the pre-audit on September 26 in the morning.

Guba said that from September 22 to 26, Sususco had been making follow- ups of the transaction. Guba said Sususco would call her at least twice a day to make the follow-up.

"Clarissa Sususco is always calling our office, morning and afternoon, to ask about the voucher," Guba told the members of the Ad

hoc committee.

Sususco is the wife of provincial assessor Anthony Sususco who also chairs the Cebu Provincial Appraisal Committee.

Sabellano and Sususco, who were also called by the committee, denied preparing the obligation requests and the vouchers.

Sabellano however pointed to a certain Charity in the provincial treasurer's office as the one who prepared the voucher. They likewise denied making follow-ups of the transaction citing no personal interest.

But Sabellano admitted bringing the documents to the pre-audit. He said he was just ordered by his co-workers to get the documents from Charity and bring it to the pre-audit.

Balili lots, CICC

THE anti-graft office intends to close all cases and investigations against elected public officials by the end of the month, including two transactions of the Cebu Provincial Government.  Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol said this yesterday, adding that the termination of as many cases as they can handle would ensure that those indicted cannot escape administrative liability owing to the Aguinaldo Doctrine.

COA cites audit violations by Mactan Airport body

The Commission on Audit said that the officials of Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority violated several state audit procedures in their financial transactions last year, among them was the spending of P210 million for their salaries and wages, which is P58.6 million more than the approved budget.

COA: DA-7 incurred extravagant expenses

The Department of Agriculture 7 incurred "unnecessary and extravagant expenses" when its officials paid P104,297 for hotel accommodation and food during a turnover ceremony at a high end hotel, the Commission on Audit said in its report.

Some defective school furniture still that way

Five months after The FREEMAN broke a story on substandard school furniture worth P17-million distributed to the different public elementary and high schools in Cebu Province, the contractors of the furniture have not completely rectified some defects, contrary to the claims of officials of the Department of Education-Cebu Province.

Alleged indecent acts at Simala exposed

Three former monks of the Our Lady of Holy Eucharist in Simala, Sibonga town yesterday exposed indecent acts allegedly done inside the famed prayer house, but a legal consultant of the Archdiocese of Cebu said the allegations remain hearsay if there is no formal complaint.

'Scandal' at Simala shrine

TWO ex-monks and a former devotee of a popular shrine in Simala, Sibonga town revealed yesterday allegations of corruption and sex, saying these have tainted the pilgrimage site for years.

Miguel is innocent, says Tomas

COMING to the defense of his son, Cebu City Mayor-on-leave Tomas Osmeña said that Miguel is innocent of the accusations hurled against him and may file a libel suit against those who maligned him.

Lot heirs insist property case against them bogus

Alice and Karen Woolbright, two of the nine children of the late Eddie Woolbright, and their lawyer Jess Garcia, insisted they have "clean and genuine titles" to the lot where Imperial Palace Waterpark and Spa is built and the cases filed against them contesting the claim were bogus.

Power failure will not stop polls -- Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) assured that looming power failures next year as reported by the Energy department will not derail election automation.

Senators hit Reyes on 2010 power forecast

(UPDATE) Two senators assailed Energy secretary Angelo Reyes for raising the possibility of nationwide power interruptions next year and the need to grant emergency powers to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to address this problem.

Bets may still come out with infomercials

Presidential aspirants for the 2010 elections with running infomercials cannot be covered by the law on premature campaigning yet, Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said.

Villar considers De Castro as his veep

Senator Manny Villar on Thursday confirmed that he is considering his friend, Vice President Noli De Castro, to be his running mate in the 2010 elections.

Fake BIR papers used to overvalue Villar properties: lawyer

MANILA - A lawyer for Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal on Thursday claimed that companies owned by Sen. Manny Villar used fake Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) certifications to overvalue Villar's properties, which would eventually be purchased by the government for its road projects.

Estrada-Aquino talks in the works–Binay

HAILING IT AS A STEP TOWARD unification, United Opposition president Jejomar Binay yesterday welcomed the statement of former president Joseph Estrada that he is willing to sit down with Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Escudero wins UP mock poll; Villar places 2nd

MANILA - Sen. Francis Escudero on Thursday topped a mock poll conducted by students from the University of the Philippines Diliman campus.

The sooner the better—Palace

Malacañang has indicated that it preferred Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who was chosen standard-bearer of the administration party, to resign as soon as possible so that he could go around the country free of any baggage.

Teodoro wants more military treaties

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro wants more military treaties with foreign countries stressing the need for closer alliances and confidence-building measures.

Teodoro nomination null, void—De Venecia

The ruling party's declaration that Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro is its standard-bearer is null and void, former House Speaker Jose De Venecia told reporters Thursday shortly before the poll body hears his petition to nullify the merger of administration parties Lakas, Kampi, and CMD.

JDV threatens to coalesce Lakas with other parties

Nagbanta ang namuno sa dating Lakas-CMD na si Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. na makikipag-alyansa ang partido sa ibang partido. Nanindigan naman ang isang opisyal ng bagong Lakas-Kampi-CMD na sakaling hindi makalusot sa Comelec ang pagsasanib ng Lakas at Kampi, si Sec. Gilbert Teodoro pa rin ang dadalhin nilang kandidato bilang pangulo.

In "voting" for Gibo, Arroyo party could have violated election law - Comelec exec

The administration"s Lakas-Kampi-CMD party could have violated the Omnibus Election Code when it recently picked Defense Secretary Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro as its presidential candidate for the 2010 elections, according to an official of the Commission on Elections.

Section 261-cc (1) of the Omnibus Election Code's Article XXII prohibits any political party from holding "political conventions or meetings to nominate its official candidates earlier than the period fixed in" the law 

Section 80 of the Code only allows "political parties to hold conventions or meetings to nominate their official candidates within 30 days before the commencement of the campaign period and forty-five days for Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections." 

The campaign period for next year's national polls starts on February 9, 2010, while campaign for local elections begins on March 26, 2010. 

It means that for presidential and vice presidential elections, a political party could only be allowed to hold meetings or conventions to nominate their official candidates between December 26, 2009 and Feb.8, 2010. For other elections, nominations could start anytime between Jan. 10 and Feb. 8, 2010. 

Pampanga recount completed; winner yet to be announced

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has completed the recount of Pampanga's gubernatorial race in the 2007 elections but is yet to declare the winner.

Protests await Arroyo in London—migrant group

A Filipino migrants group based in the United Kingdom has announced it will stage a picket protest on Friday in front of the London's Riverbank Plaza Hotel at 3:15 p.m. (local time).

PCGG pays taxes on Olot property

MANILA - The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on Thursday paid off P163,538.86 million in tax obligations on the Olot resthouse of the Marcos family to fend off threats by the provincial government of Leyte that the property will be sold in a public auction.

Bishops fear railroading of RH bill

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines feared that proponents of House Bill 5043 or the proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act are trying to railroad the passage of the legislation before Congress goes on a break next month.

SC removes Dumlao as accused in Dacer slay

The Supreme Court has ordered the exclusion of former police officer Glenn Dumlao from the list of the accused in the murders of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito, his lawyers Morel Callueng and Cesar Brillantes said on Thursday.

MJ admits he's brains behind PLDT deal

Kinasuhan ng libel ni dating pangulong Joseph Estrada si Alfonso Yuchengco at apat na mamamahayag ng Philippine Daily Inquirer! Kaugnay ito ng ulat ng sinasabing panggigipit sa mga Yuchengco para ibenta ang sosyo sa PLDT. At sa isang exclusive interview, inamin ni Mark Jimenez sa unang pagkakataon, na siya ang utak sa likod ng bentahan.

Ombudsman wants Garcia acquittal voided

Saying the Sandiganbayan's ruling demonstrated an "error in judgment," the Office of the Ombudsman asked the Supreme Court to reverse the acquittal of former military comptroller Major Gen. Carlos F. Garcia in one of the perjury cases against him.

3 dead, 15 hurt in Sulu blast

Three persons were killed while 15 others were wounded when a grenade allegedly accidentally exploded in a carnival in Luuk town in Sulu on Wednesday night.

Police probe 'info' on bomb attack vs US Embassy in Manila

Police are probing "intelligence information" of a bombing plot against the US embassy in Manila and Plaza Miranda. 

Grounding of Aboitiz ships to hurt industries, says rival

MANILA - Shipping company Negros Navigation Co. Inc. has taken the side of its competitor Aboitiz Transport System (ATS) in the issue of grounding the latter's vessels, saying the move would hurt industries and discourage foreign investments in the country.

Mussels in Cancabato bay found positive for 'red tide' toxins

by By Ranulfo Docdocan, ABS-CBN Tacloban
TACLOBAN CITY- The Leyte Marine Biotoxins Testing Center based in Palo town has found that mussels in Cancabato Bay are contaminated with "red tide" toxins. 

Legacy sets back PDIC by P9B

by by Erik de la Cruz, Business Mirror Reporter
With their assets overvalued at about P19 billion, the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) will lose about P9 billion from the collapse of 12 rural banks affiliated with the Legacy group.

Marquez to let his 'fists do the talking'

MANILA – Juan Manuel Marquez has not said anything against his "Number One/Numero Uno" rival Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and he remained that way during their fight's final press conference last Sept. 16 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Cotto will be a difficult opponent—Pacquiao

MANILA – Although he has conquered Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton, the world's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Manny Pacquiao said he is not taking his next opponent lightly.

Pacman mulls case against Floyd Sr. over 'steroid talk'

MANILA -- A retaliation is coming. Expect it to come hard. International boxing star Manny Pacquiao is seriously considering pressing charges against Floyd Mayweather, Sr. for insinuating that the Filipino fighter is using steroids to enhance his performance inside the ring.

'Bata' fights for finals berth in Galveston Classic

MANILA – Filipino billiards legend Efren "Bata" Reyes is fighting it out for the last finals berth in the Galveston World Classic One Pocket Division at the Moody Gardens Hotel and Convention Center in Galveston, Texas on Thursday (Friday in Manila).

Duremdes, 3 others cleared of estafa

A Quezon City Court has dismissed estafa, syndicated and illegal recruitment charges against basketball coach Kenneth Duremdes due to the prosecution's failure to prove probable cause.

Lumbera alarmed by 'spying,' accepts apology

National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera on decried the military surveillance of his home in Quezon City as harassment, even as he accepted the apology of the Philippine Navy after one of its personnel was caught casing his home early Thurday morning.

Defense chief orders probe of Marine 'spy'

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro has ordered an investigation into a supposed member of the Philippine Marines who was allegedly caught spying Thursday on the Quezon City home of a National Artist.

'In My Life' earns a record P20M on first day

MANILA - Star Cinema's "In My Life," the ABS-CBN movie outfit's grandest film offering for 2009, earned a record P20 million in ticket sales on its first day of screening on Wednesday.

Mary of Peter, Paul, and Mary dead at 72

Mary Travers, the female third of the wildly popular folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary, whose anthems lent passionate voice to the 1960s protest movement, died Wednesday after battling leukemia, her publicist said. She was 72.

The Beatles turn US charts back to 1960s

by Reuters
LOS ANGELES – The Beatles boasted some of the best-selling albums on the US pop chart on Wednesday after nostalgic fans scooped up the Fab Four's much-hyped reissues.

In all, the Beatles sold 626,000 albums during the week ended September 13, according to tracking firm Nielsen SoundScan. Until last week, they had sold 635,000 copies this year, a low tally by their standards as buyers held out until the 09-09-09 release date.

Their best-seller last week was 1969's "Abbey Road," which moved 89,000 copies, making it the third-most-popular album in the United States. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band," the 1967 release that often tops lists of the greatest albums of all time, was No. 5 overall with 74,000 copies.

But don't look for either album to appear on the benchmark Billboard 200 chart, which generally ranks only those albums released in the last 18 months -- not catalog items.

On Billboard's Top Catalog Album Chart, the Beatles claimed 15 of the top 18 places with their 13 studio albums, the "Past Masters" compilation reissue and the 2000 "1" compilation. Michael Jackson was at No. 6, No. 15 and No. 16.

Behind "Abbey Road" and "Sgt. Pepper's" were "The Beatles" with 60,000, "Rubber Soul" with 58,000, and "Revolver" with 46,000. All were among the 10 biggest albums in the United States. The least-popular Beatles reissue was "Yellow Submarine" with 14,000 copies.

Magazine signed by John Lennon sells for $12,713

AMHERST, N.H. - A 1966 magazine signed by John Lennon containing his remark that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus has sold for $12,713.

World's tallest man looking for love

LONDON – The world's new tallest man, measuring two meters 46.5 centimeters (eight feet one inch), said he was looking for love as he was presented by Guinness World Records in London on Wednesday.

Phivolcs eyes alert level 3 on Mayon

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) is considering raising the alert level on Mayon Volcano to 3 for its "high unrest" and increasing tendency towards eruption.

Stephen Leacock  - "I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so."

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