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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December 11, 2009 Major News Stories

P7 B more released as cash gift to gov't employees

President Macapagal-Arroyo has approved the release of at least P7 billion to cover the "additional cash gift" for over one million national government workers, Malacañang said Thursday.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said the cash gifts, ranging from P7,000 to P10,000, would be released to 1.1 million national government employees beginning next week.

"It will be a minimum of P7,000 and a maximum of P10,000,'' he told reporters in Malacanang. "We're drafting the guidelines, and we will start releasing next week.''

The cash gifts are on top of the Christmas bonuses that the government released in two tranches in late May and mid-November this year to the government employees.

"This is the last bonus that we've all been waiting for,'' said Beldad Gantalao, administrative aide at the Office of the Press Secretary in Malacañang.

The cash gifts cover permanent, casual and contractual employees, and the money

 is to be sourced from several items in the national budget, according to Andaya.

He said the national government is shouldering P7,000 for every employee while government agencies have the option to add P3,000 from their own savings.

"We looked for items in the budgets of departments to source this. We've been doing this every year,'' he said.

In October, the Department of Budget and Management gave government employees, devastated by powerful storms, the option to avail themselves of the second tranche of the year-end bonus a month ahead of its release. The second tranche was released Nov. 15.

Teachers welcome raise in election honorarium

A teachers group lauded the Commission on Elections decision to raise the honorarium of teachers serving in the May 2010 elections

Telcos differ in pulse billing compliance

With the order on per-pulse charging system by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in place, local telecommunications services providers are complying in different ways.

As of December 6, the first day of implementation of NTC Memorandum Circular 05-07-2009, Globe Telecom announced publicly in its website that it is implementing the per-pulse charging guideline. 

Globe's implementation of the per-pulse charging – a "flag down" rate of P3 for the first 12 seconds – will cover their Globe and TM postpaid and prepaid subscribers.

It will be available via dialing additional numbers 232 before the next sequence of numbers. A caller must type in 232 instead of the 0 in the mobile number of the person to be called. 

Globe also set new rates for calls made from Monday to Saturday, which is at P0.10 per second. Voice call rate during Sundays is lower at P0.05 per second. 

Smart Communications, on the other hand, said that it is not yet complying with the December 6 deadline of the NTC. 

Instead, it argued that the NTC order is "not yet final and executory". It also stressed that the NTC order is still subject to a 15-day mandatory review process, wherein respondents are given time to seek a reconsideration of the order. 

"In the case of Smart, the review period lapses on December 21," Smart said in a statement. 

Instead, Smart implemented several "adjustments" in their billing statement, as well as process to avail of new rates. 

Like Globe, Smart will also use a set of prefix numbers, "899" as a solution to carry out the per-pulse billing requirement. 

Smart, however, said that their solution is a "routing plan" to distinguish from the rest of its services. 

Sun Cellular has kept mum over the NTC order and still continues with some of its bucket pricing for its voice calls.

The per-pulse billing system was borne out of public request for cheaper voice calls. But the prominence of the demand to implement a per-pulse billing was attributed to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile who demanded the telecommunications providers to explain "disappearance" of his mobile phone prepaid credits.

Exploding cellphone battery kills farmer in Laguna

MANILA, Philippines - Here's a timely warning from the National Telecommunications Commission: burning cellphone batteries can be dangerous to your health.

A TV Patrol World report said a farmer in Pila, Laguna was killed after a burning cellphone battery exploded and opened up a wound on his neck.

Residents said Mang Florentino was burning garbage near his house to ward off mosquitoes when an old cellphone battery inside the refuse bin exploded. A piece of the battery struck Florentino on the neck and opened up a wound.

Neighbors brought the farmer to a nearby hospital but he died along the way.

The NTC said there are safety regulations on how to properly dispose of cellphone batteries to avoid such accidents. First on the list is not to burn them. Secondly, cellphone batteries should not be crushed or dismantled. Instead, cell phone batteries should be placed in ordinary garbage bins or even sent to recycling plants.

Many environmental groups recommend that cellphone batteries be recycled instead of being buried in landfills.

Ombudsman Visayas "gags" personnel

Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol did not only gag the other anti-graft officials in the Visayas from granting interviews to the media, he likewise shut his doors to the reporters following criticism because of his reported instruction to graft investigators handling the investigation of the alleged anomalous construction of the Cebu International Convention Center to clear Gov. Gwen Garcia.

Rama to quit SFI if COA disallows fund from city

Vice Mayor Michael Rama is set to step down from the chairmanship of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. shortly after Christmas if the Commission on Audit will not approve Cebu City's request to grant financial assistance to the foundation.

Peras decides not to quit Ecleo case

Regional Trial Court judge Soliver Peras has decided to go on and hear the parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. by setting aside his earlier order to voluntarily inhibit himself from the case following media criticism for his security measures.

Police round up 80 street carolers

At least 80 carolers were rounded up from the streets by the city police during two operations to enforce City Ordinance No. 1931 or the Anti-Mendicancy and Street Caroling Ordinance.

Comelec team in China to inspect poll machines production

MANILA, Philippines - A team from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) sent to Suzhou, China to inspect the production of the more than 82,000 automated machines at Qisda Factory arrived Thursday afternoon. 

2 men on motorcycle gun down Cortes backer, who filed cases vs. bry. chief

A SUPPORTER of Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes was shot and killed at 10 a.m. yesterday by two suspects who shared a motorcycle.

Opao Police Station investigators recovered three shells and a slug believed to be from a .45 near the body of Greg Genon. Gunshot wounds marred his back, head and upper left arm.

Lawyer Francisco Amit, one of the mayor's advisers, said he was not making an accusation, but pointed out that Genon had filed three cases against Umapad Barangay Captain Zaldy Lumapas.

Registered voters in Cebu top 2.4M

The number of voters who registered with the Commission on Elections all over Cebu City and Province has reached 2,416,092.

Cebu City has a total number of 516,232 registered voters for next year's elections, as revealed by the Comelec Cebu City office.  

This is 5.72 percent higher than the 486,711 who registered for the 2007 elections.

Of the 516,232 registered voters in the city, 237,340 come from the 46 barangays in north district and 278,892 from the 34 barangays in the south district.

The city has a total of 2,938 established precincts in 70 voting centers, but with the implementation of the poll automation next year, some precincts will be clustered and the city will now have 560 clustered precincts.

City election officer Marchel Sarno disclosed that Smartmatic will be putting one Precinct Count Optical Scan machine in eachclustered precinct and assign a technician to each machine.

"Kay in case ug dunay trouble sa machine, marimidyuhan dayon kay naa may standby technician, dili ma-hamper ang flow sa election," Sarno stressed.

The election officer said the city will need some 4,000 teachers to man the clustered precincts as members of the Board of Election Inspectors and support staff. In 2007, the city Comelec acquired the services of more than 8,000 teachers and support staff for the said elections.

Meanwhile, Cebu province has a total number of 1,732,775 registered voters excluding the cities of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu.

Lapu-Lapu residents can no longer vote for any elective position in the province after it was declared as highly urbanized city last year, but it has a total number of 167,085 registered voters in 30 barangays and has 190 clustered precincts in 38 voting centers.

This leaves the province with only 2,319 clustered precincts and 1,077 voting centers in 1,093 barangays.

Mandaue has the most number of registered voters with 182,813, followed by Talisay City with a 103,111 voting population, Toledo City with 101,713 and Danao City with 78,686 registered voters.

In the municipalities, Consolacion has the biggest number of registered voters with 55,433 while Tudela has the lowest number with 8,066 registered voters.

Kusug "placeholder" bets set to withdraw tomorrow

The Kugi Uswag Subgu's candidates for mayor and vice mayor are set to withdraw their respective candidacies today to make way for their real candidates.

Landelino Bontilao and Jonah John Rodriguez are expected to be replaced as what their party announced after they filed their Certificates of Candidacy last December 1.

The deadline for substitution of candidates is Monday, but Garcia admitted that Kusug is still in the process of choosing who among them will take the place of Bontilao and Rodriguez.

Garcia said that their choices include Government Service Insurance System president Winston Garcia and former mayor Alvin Garcia. The Kusug spokesman added that there is also a possibility that they might adopt the candidate who already filed their COCs for mayor like Georgia Osmeña of Go Cebu, and independent candidates Samuel Darza and John Henry "Sonny" Osmeña as their possible standard bearer.

Martial law led to more arrests, claims DoJ chief

The government on Thursday justified the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao, saying this led to the filing of cases against 71 people involved in the Maguindanao massacre.

More 'persuasion flights' in Maguindanao

The Philippine Air Force planes and helicopters on Thursday staged another round of "persuasion flights" over the province to convince suspects of the massacre of at least 57 people, including 30 journalists, to surrender.

Militiamen in 2 Maguindanao towns yield guns

Sixty-one militiamen in this town voluntarily turned in their firearms to authorities on Thursday as government forces intensified their search for firearms nearly a week after the province was placed under martial rule.

Live grenade found near Ampatuan town hall

Military and police operatives on Thursday found a live fragmentation grenade at the grassy portion of the town hall in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Biggest stockpile of arms, ammo found in Maguindanao

Authorities on Thursday unearthed what they said was the biggest stockpile of firearms and ammunition that allegedly belonged to the powerful Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao province, a television report said.

Search in Ampatuan mansion yields more arms, SUVs

(UPDATE) A fleet of luxury vehicles greeted soldiers who dug up an arms cache inside a vast crop drying facility beside the mansion of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. here.

'Sloppy' police impair massacre probe: critics

by Agence France-Presse
SHARIFF AGUAK - Star-struck police forgot they were guarding weapons seized from Philippine massacre suspects when a celebrity journalist arrived and picked up a machine gun to pose as Rambo.

Convoy bearing massacre evidence ambushed

(UPDATE 2) Suspected followers of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao ambushed a military and police convoy Thursday night as it headed for General Santos City with evidence in the Nov. 23 massacre that the authorities collected in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, police said.

Senior Supt. Willie Dangane, Cotabato City police director and deputy Task Force 12 Alpha, was on board a Toyota Altis police car with evidence recovered from the mansion of Andal Ampatuan Sr. in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao's provincial capital, when three men standing at a road side opened fire with M-16 rifles at about 8 p.m.

With Dangane in the car was Chief Supt. Felicisimo Khu, chief of the Central Mindanao police. Neither official was hurt in the firing.

Dangane said he thought the three men were ordinary civilians standing at the road side in Barangay Labo-Labo, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, and appeared to be about to cross the street as his vehicle passed.

"We heard gun bursts and something hard landed on our car," Dangane said in a phone interview. Dangane and Khu's car sustained bullet holes.

Dangane said their escorts returned fire as the vehicle continued to move with its headlights turned off.

Nobody in the convoy was hurt in the incident.

Dangane said he believed the gunmen belonged to private armies involved in the Nov. 23 massacre.

Soldiers from the 73rd Infantry Battalion responded by sending troops – backed by armored personnel carriers – after the gunmen.

Dangane's patrol car was escorted by two Simba armored vehicles and soldiers going to Isulan, Sultan Kudarat en route to Gen. Santos City.

Bursts of gunfire were heard a few meters from an Army checkpoint where journalists were being held by soldiers following the shooting.

At least 100 soldiers were deployed in the area.

Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the convoy came from Shariff Aguak where Khu supervised the search for weapons stashed by the Ampatuans.

US Congress to RP govt: Prosecute Maguindanao massacre culprits

Lawmakers in the United States are calling for a thorough, transparent, and independent investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the "senseless killings" of 57 people, mostly women and journalists, in Maguindanao.

NSO-ARMM assures priority for death certificates of massacre victims

Sensing the difficulty due to fear of some relatives of the Ampatuan massacre victims to secure the needed death certificates from the civil registry provincial office, the National Statistics Office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao here has announced its readiness to serve them.

Classes in 6 Ampatuan schools suspended till January

MANILA, Philippines - Classes in six schools in Ampatuan, Maguindanao have been suspended until the end of the month after school children skipped classes due to tension brought about by the state of martial law in the province, the Department of Education said Thursday.

Three more Ampatuans moved to police custody

Three more members of the Ampatuan family were moved to the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police here on Thursday, a few days after the military arrested them in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

18 hostages freed, 2 escape in Agusan kidnapping

(UPDATE 2) Eighteen of at least 65 hostages kidnapped by gunmen Thursday in Agusan del Sur province have been released, police said.

Group appeals for quick rescue of schoolchildren

A nationwide children's organization appealed to the government Thursday to move quickly to safely rescue the group of students and teachers being held in captivity in Agusan Del Sur.

Gordon: 'Should we declare martial law in Agusan too?'

Faced with another hostage crisis this time in Agusan Del Sur, will the government also resort to martial rule to quell criminals?

Activists in Cebu say Arroyo worse than Marcos

MANILA, Philippines - Activist party-list groups in Cebu have described the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo worse than the dictatorship of former president Ferdinand Marcos.

Santiago warns against endorsement of martial law

A tacit endorsement by Congress of Proclamation 1959 will make it easier for President Arroyo to implement martial law anywhere in the country before her term ends.

Cotabato City, Maguindanao lawyers' group hit martial law

MANILA, Philippines - The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) - Cotabato City and Maguindanao chapter on Thursday registered its protest against the report of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to Congress on Proclamation No. 1959.

Bishop wants martial law in Basilan

by By Aries Rufo,
MANILA, Philippines - So who is afraid of martial law? Not Basilan Catholic bishop Martin Jumoad. In fact, the prelate wants martial rule imposed in the island province southwest of the country to restore peace and order. 

Basilan college official kidnapped

Unidentified armed men snatched the vice president of the state-owned Basilan State College Thursday night. 

Thousands hold protest in Davao vs martial law

About 4,000 people from different parts of Southern Mindanao gathered here Thursday to protest the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao.

Palace promises daily review of martial law

The government will make a daily assessment of the situation in Maguindanao to determine if it warrants the lifting of martial law, a top Palace official said.

Joint session appears a unicameral 'rehearsal'—Nograles

House Speaker Prospero Nograles could not completely veer away from charter change talks even as he assured that the ongoing joint session would only tackle President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's martial law proclamation.

Militants urge Ampatuans to admit poll fraud

Militant groups on Thursday urged President Macapagal-Arroyo to "unburden her conscience" by confessing her and the Ampatuan clan's roles in the Maguindanao electoral fraud cases in 2004 and 2007.

Militants hold protest outside NBI office

MANILA, Philippines—Militant groups staged a rally Thursday morning in front of the National Bureau of Investigation, where Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in the massacre of 57 people in Maguinanao two weeks ago has been detained.

Comelec seeks passage of law allowing early ARMM polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday urged lawmakers to pass pending bills that would allow polls to be held at least a week earlier at the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Comelec seeks probe into voter"s IDs found near Ampatuan home

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday expressed worries that the 3,000 voter"s identification cards that were unearthed near the house of Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan in Maguindanao province would be used "to profile" the voters in the area.

Acting ARMM governor takes oath

Acting Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong formally took his oath of office Thursday.

DILG: Suspend 8 Ampatuans in Maguindanao govt

Pinasusupinde na ng DILG sa Ombudsman ang 8 miyembro ng pamilya Ampatuan na opisyal sa Maguindanao. Pinaiimbestigahan na rin ang yaman ng angkan.

Victim beheaded for failing to pay P1.5M ransom

For failing to pay their P1.5 ransom demand, kidnap victim Marquez Singson was beheaded by his captors.

Troops hunt 2 hostages after beheading

(UPDATE 2) Security forces scoured jungle in the southern Philippines Thursday for two factory workers held by Al Qaeda-linked militants, after the severed head of one hostage was dumped in a park.

P54-M worth of cocaine seized in Davao airport

The authorities have discovered eight kilos of high-grade cocaine amounting to about P54 million at the container yard of Davao's old airport in Barangay Sasa, the police said Thursday.

Enrile seeks passage of P1.5-T nat'l budget

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile on Wednesday called on senators to help ensure the speedy passage of the proposed P1.541-trillion national budget for 2010 with Congress set to go on recess by the end of next week.

Ermita substitutes for daughter, eyes Congress seat

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on Thursday formally filed his certificate of candidacy at the local Commission on Elections office in Batangas to run for first district representative of the province.

Duque still health department chief

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has so far not been appointed by Malacañang as the new chairman of the Civil Service Commission, his chief of staff said Thursday.

Rising HIV cases in RP alarms Saudi embassy

The rising number of HIV and AIDS cases in the country has so worried the Saudi embassy here that it advised medical clinics processing overseas Filipino workers bound for Middle East countries to intensify medical exams and screening for workers to be deployed there, it was learned Thursday.

RP seamen to take mandatory anti-piracy training

Kidnap-prone Filipino seafarers would have to undergo training to prepare themselves for abductions in the high seas beginning January 15, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) announced Thursday.

No cement shortage, says industry group

There is no cement shortage in the country even if demand for the item continues to pick up, the local cement industry assured the public on Thursday.

Philippines fails to get MCC nod

by By Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
WASHINGTON DC, United States -- The Arroyo administration would not be getting a Compact Agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) that could have been worth as much as $300 million. 

Obama says others more worthy of Nobel Prize

President Barack Obama, in Norway to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize, says he doesn't doubt there are others who may be more deserving of the honor.

Pacquiao-Mayweather appears headed for Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, United States—Promoters of the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout cancelled a trip to Dallas on Wednesday, an apparent sign that the new Cowboys Stadium won't host the mega-bout next year.

Roach: Floyd fight most difficult for Pacquiao

Trainer Freddie Roach admitted that Floyd Mayweather Jr. will present the most difficult fight for his prized ward Manny Pacquiao and so he will prepare a tactic meant to lure the highly-defensive American into getting within striking distance of the Pacman"s haymakers.

Roach, Pacquiao to craft new game plan vs Mayweather

MANILA, Philippines – Famed American trainer Freddie Roach admitted that he and Manny Pacquiao would have to make some changes in their training when they prepare for the mega fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. 

Jins Rivero, Briones bag two more golds for RP

VIENTIANE - The vaunted taekwondo jins delivered again Thursday when two-time Olympian Toni Rivero and Alexander Briones copped the gold medals in their respective divisions in the 25th Southeast Asian Games at the National University"s Booyoung Gymnasium here.

Gullas: Service continues even if one is not in politics

CEBU, Philippines - Former Congressman Jose R. Gullas, who is proof that one can really turn his back from politics, but continue to pursue his dreams for the people, is doing such as he seeks to preserve Cebuano songs.

 In a press conference, Gullas announced yesterday the holding of the 2010 Halad sa Kanta ug Kinaiyang Sugbuanon or simply HALAD.

He said that he was approached by at least three persons, who urged him to seek an elective post in the May 2010 elections, but he flatly turned them down.

"I want to enjoy my life and I believe that I can still be of help to others as a private citizen," Gullas told reporters inside his office at the University of the Visayas-Main Campus.  

HALAD is the pet project of Gullas for his Tipiganan sa mga Kanta ug Kinaiyahang Sugbuanon Foundation.

This is the third HALAD. It was first held in 2007 at Casino Español and last year it was at the Cebu International Convention Center.

In the past HALAD, Gullas honored and recognized Cebuanos who made a name in the field of music such as the late Domingo "Minggoy" Lopez, Manuel "Maning" Lopez, Dr. Francisco B. Maningo, Max Surban and Ciriaco "Cacoy" Cañete (founder of the local martial arts known as arnis which is now internationally known and practiced) in the field of martial arts, Ben Zubiri, Vicente Rubi and Maning Velez.   Gullas' dream and main objective for HALAD is to reawaken the Cebuanos, young and old, to our traditions which are fading and sadly unknown to the youth.   

"I decided to bring back the HALAD due to many requests of the Cebuanos here and abroad to re-introduce some of our beautiful Cebuano songs of yesteryears, as well as kinaiyang Sugbuanon that have been nearly if not already long forgotten," Gullas said.   

 The HALAD concert will be aptly headlined by top Cebuano artists – Pilita Corales, Dulce and Raki Vega together with the University of the Visayas Chorale.

This will be held at the Pacific Grand Ballroom of Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino on January 13, 2010. Ticket prices are from as low as P200, P500, P800 and P1,000.

Prior to the concert, Gullas said he will unveil the Tipiganan's museum that will house music memorabilia, commissioned artworks and other works of Cebuano artists on January 12.   

The museum will be located at the old building of The Freeman at corner V. Gullas and D. Jakosalem Streets.

The museum will be called Don Vicente and Inday Pining Gullas museum in honor of the parents of Jose, who were not only known as esteemed educators for having founded the University of the Visayas, but were also staunch supporters and patrons of Cebuano culture and the arts.

Actress seeks probe of 4 others in sex video scandal

Sexy actress Katrina Halili asked the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate four other people who may have been involved in the uploading and proliferating her sex video with cosmetic surgeon Hayden Kho Jr.

Hayden Kho: Give back my license

Umapela sa professional regulation commission ang kontrobersyal na si Doktor Hayden Kho kaugnay ng desisyong permanenteng bawiin ang kanyang medical license. Ayon sa kampo ni Kho, marahas ang desisyon ng PRC gayung maraming doktor ang sinuspinde lang para sa mas malalang mga kaso.

Piolo Pascual to play Ninoy Aquino in 'MMK'

by by Reyma Buan-Deveza,
MANILA – It's confirmed. Piolo Pascual is portraying slain former senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., but not in a film. ABS-CBN's "Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK)" is set to feature Ninoy's life story and it tapped Pascual to play the coveted role. Pascual made this confirmation during the launching of his 6th album called "Decades."

LJ Moreno, PBA player are engaged

MANILA, Philippines – Actress LJ Moreno and his basketball player boyfriend are getting married in the United States next year. Moreno announced the good news during her guesting on Gel Santos-Relos' "Balitang America."

Tiger's girlfriend apologizes in TV interview

LOS ANGELES - California cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs apologized to Tiger Woods' wife Elin Nordegren in an interview with a US tabloid television program for having an affair with the golf superstar.

Nicolas Cage's ex-girlfriend sues for fraud

LOS ANGELES, California, United States—The former girlfriend of Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage is suing him and his former accountant for fraud and breach of contract, demanding $13 million and a home he promised her.

El Niño hits 4 provinces in S. Luzon, Visayas

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Wednesday said a dry spell is being experienced in four provinces in Southern Luzon and the Visayas.

Pablo Picasso  - "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

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