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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December 17, 2009 Major News Stories

Cebu traders stir up boycott of Big 3 oil products

A campaign against buying of oil products from the Big 3 oil companies is taking shape in Cebu.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Samuel Chioson said they have been trying to build up support for the boycott among the group's members to protest the selling of oil products at prices higher than those in Manila.

In Manila, prices of oil products range from P38.85 to P39.41 per liter for unleaded gasoline and P28.35 to P34.25 per liter for diesel.

On the other hand, in Cebu, diesel is being sold by as much as P38 while the unleaded gasoline is sold by as much as P45.70.

During a recent press briefing, Chioson called on all sectors to join the fight against oil prices by refraining from sourcing their fuel requirements from the Big 3 -- Petron, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Chevron (Caltex) Philippines.

CCCI vice president for external affairs Ted Locson said the chamber would encourage members, especially those who have been using a lot of fuel, to patronize only the independent oil companies.

However, Chioson admitted that the campaign would have a huge impact on the sales of the Big 3 if the independent oil players had enough number of gas stations to meet the requirements of Cebu.

At present, the independent oil companies have 21 outlets, way below the 223 gasoline stations of the Big 3, according to Chioson.

More price cuts for drugs postponed for 2010

by By Purple Romero, Newsbreak
MANILA, Philippines –Price cuts for new batch of medicines were postponed for 2010 as insufficient manpower and delays in information sourcing stymied the expansion of the coverage of the Cheap Medicines Act.

Philhealth to suspend hospitals found to file fake claims

Desidido na ang PhilHealth na ipa-suspinde ang mga ospital na mapapatunayang nandadaya ng mga claims at namemeke ng mga dokumento ng pasyente. Umalma naman ang mga pribadong ospital at nagbanta na hindi nila tatanggapin ang PhilHealth sa bayarin ng mga pasyente. 

Pag-Ibig implements mandatory membership of all employees

Starting January next year, all employees, whether permanent, temporary or provisional, all self-employed persons, regardless of trade, business or occupation with an income or salary of at least P1,000 a month will be mandated to apply as members of the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig Fund).

Sanchez hits Provincial Board's slow pace in reopening of Balili probe

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr. is upset over the delay in the Provincial Board's investigation into the controversial Balili land deal.

Capitol: No conflict in Glenn's Capitol deals

IN CASE businessman Glenn Anthony Soco wins as vice governor, a Capitol official sees no conflict of interest in the Province's deals with his family's manpower services company.

Pacman at SRP

BOXING champion Manny Pacquiao wants to buy a parcel of land at the South Road Properties (SRP), but Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is lukewarm about the offer.

Osmeña confirmed yesterday that Pacquiao expressed interest in buying a property at the SRP, but the mayor advised him to enter into a joint venture agreement with Filinvest Land Inc. (FLI) instead.

Extended voters registration starts next week

Following the Supreme Court ruling that extends the voters' registration to January 9, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will start accepting voter applications next week, a poll official said Wednesday.

Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento told that based on preliminary discussions of the en banc regarding the ruling, the extended voters' registration will run from Mondays to Fridays between 8a.m. to 5p.m.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the petition of Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino to nullify the Comelec resolution fixing the deadline of registration to Oct. 31, 2009.

Holding registration during Christmas holidays and weekends is still being considered by the poll body if there would be a surge of voters flocking registration centers again, as seen during the last days of registration on the last week of October and early November, said Sarmiento.

Sarmiento said extending the registration period beyond office hours would incur additional budget and Comelec has to justify first the need for the additional hours before its implementation.

"Right now we are collating the inventory of our registration paraphernalia and equipment like the registration forms and data capturing machines for biometrics, after which we will hold the registration nationwide since the decision is immediately executory," Sarmiento said.

But the official is worried that with the new ruling, preparations for the 2010 elections especially the printing of ballots slated between January and February 2010 will be delayed.

The petition of Kabataan party citing Voter's Registration Act of 1996, which states that registration of voters shall be conducted daily but prohibited only during 120 days before a regular election or on Jan. 10, 2010 is "applicable only to manual elections" that requires only three to four months of preparations, said Sarmiento.

Ballots for manual elections, which only contain blank spaces where voters would write the name of candidates for a position is easy to mass produce unlike special ballots for automation requiring studies for font size, spacing and prevention of over-voting and finally, configuration per municipality or city and per polling precinct.

Sarmiento added the Comelec will seek "further clarifications" with the Supreme Court if the extended registration only covers first time voters and not those who will validate their biometrics/or update/reactivate their voters' records.

Dates for new listup

CEBU City's poll offices could get some 10,000 additional voters with the extension of the registration period, although the offices are still waiting for guidelines from Manila.

Smartmatic-TIM says COMELEC also delayed

by by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN NEWS
MANILA, Philippines - Smartmatic-TIM cried foul over critics' attacks on the adjusted delivery schedule for the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines which will be used in the May 2010 polls.

Smartmatic-Asia President Cesar Flores said "enemies" of the automation are making a big deal out of the issue when, in fact, the delay is only in terms of shipment, not in the production line at Qisda Factory in Suzhou, China.

Flores said the adjusted schedule was mutually agreed upon by the Automation Project Management Office (PMO) of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and Smartmatic-TIM following their two-month battle at the Supreme Court against the Concerned Citizens' Movement (CCM).

The CCM filed a petition before the High Court in July, seeking to nullify the P7.2 billion automation contract. This, Flores said, placed COMELEC at a cautious stance when it comes to payments for every deliverable stipulated in the contract.

"Smartmatic-TIM has already shelled out P4 billion for the project, we have received only P1 billion from COMELEC. The first payment was delayed for 58 days, the second was delayed for 37 days and the third and fourth payments are now delayed by 19 days as of today. This is why we had agreements on the adjustment on delivery schedules, too, because these payment delays also had dramatic implications on how the project is funded," Flores said.

Flores further said this is one thing the public does not know--that there are also delays on the part of the COMELEC, but that the poll body should not be blamed for that because the SC case affected the course of the project.

"We do not blame anybody, because we know the CCM petition tied so many people's hands that we couldn't get going as fast as we all wanted to. More importantly, we are all partners in this and the COMELEC PMO and Smartmatic-TIM are mutually coming to these agreements and adjustments. Article 15 of the contract also allows extensions on the deliverables so this is something that we can do," he added.

'Gentleman's agreement'

COMELEC spokesman James Jimenez confirmed a "gentleman's agreement" was forged between COMELEC and Smartmatic-TIM. Jimenez said this is why the COMELEC sees no reason, at this point, to hold the vendor liable for delivery delays.

"There is no election-related activity stalled attributable to the absence of the machines as of now. No major preparation has been affected. For example, mock elections and fields tests are scheduled to be conducted next year yet, we continue the relationship with Smartmatic-TIM and see no reason to impose sanctions or penalty charges at this point, as long as they are able to deliver all 82,200 machines in February," Jimenez said.

Around 42,000 PCOS machines should have already been delivered by Smartmatic-TIM by year-end. But the adjusted schedule allows delivery in batches. For December, Smartmatic has only committed to deliver 10,000 machines due to shipment traffic.

The CCM told ABS-CBN News yesterday that these changes in delivery schedules are a ground to rescind the automation contract.

Namfrel wants to audit elections

The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) is urging the Commission on Elections to allow it to do an "unofficial, external and parallel audit" of the automated elections in 2010.

9 of 10 Filipinos see hope in 2010 - Pulse Asia

After a year marred with natural, political and economic turbulence, nearly nine of 10 Filipinos are hopeful the coming year will be better, according to a survey by pollster Pulse Asia.

Troopers find corpse buried near Ampatuan patriarch's compound

Government forces on Wednesday found a decomposing cadaver of a suspected member of the Civilian Volunteer Organization who, along with about 10 others, clashed with government forces on Monday, a government official said.

Police show alleged machine gun of Andal Jr. used in massacre

MANILA, Philippines - Police on Wednesday showed off to media machine guns, mortars, armored carriers allegedly recovered from weapons and ammunition caches purportedly of the Ampatuans in separate sites in Maguindanao province. 

'I killed more than 100 for Ampatuans since I was 12!

Lumutang ngayon ang isang umano'y dating child assassin ng pamilya Ampatuan. At ayon sa kanya, mahigit 100 tao ang kanyang pinatay bilang pagsunod umano sa utos ng mga Ampatuan.

Dealer says he sold Ampatuans weaponry worth P6 M in cash

The gun dealer who surfaced on Wednesday claimed that he sold high-powered firearms to members of the Ampatuan clan, in a P6 million cash deal, even as he denied involvement in the gory massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao two weeks ago.

SC orders new raffle in wake of Cortez inhibition from Ampatuan massacre case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Quezon City regional trial court to conduct another raffle on Thursday to determine who among the city's judges would have the privilege to hear the multiple murder case against Andal Ampatuan, Jr., in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.

'Charge cops at checkpoint in Maguindanao massacre'

by By Carmela Fonbuena,
MANILA, Philippines - The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) on Wednesday called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to also file murder charges against the 4 cops stationed at the checkpoint in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao where the November 23 massacre happened.

Teodoro seeks transparent probe into Ampatuans' arsenal

The administration presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro urged the military, on Wednesday, to make public its investigation into the recovery of state-issued arms cache from the estates of the powerful Ampatuan clan.

Home study starts for Maguindanao pupils Thursday

The Department of Education (DepEd) will start on Thursday a home study program for pupils in Maguindanao province affected by events there since the massacre of 57 people last Nov. 23.

Abu Sayyaf co-founder arrested

(UPDATE) The Philippines announced Wednesday one of the co-founders of the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremist group had been arrested after being detained at Jakarta airport using a false passport.

Indonesian authorities picked up Abdul Basir Latip on November 21, but he was only brought back to Manila on Wednesday, said Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) spokesman Ricardo Diaz.

The NBI said Latip was a founding member of the Abu Sayyaf and had worked with its spiritual leader, Khadaffy Janjalani, who the Philippine military killed in 2006.

Daiz said Latip served as a conduit of funds between Al-Qaeda leaders in Saudi Arabia and the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim militant group blamed for the Philippines' worst terror attacks.

Offensives launched in Basilan to recapture 29 jail escapees

The military on Tuesday night launched its offensive to recapture 29 of the 31 inmates who bolted the Basilan Provincial Jail on Sunday dawn.

Military: Expect "fireworks" in Basilan

There will be "fireworks" in Basilan province in the coming days as government security forces go full force in rescuing a kidnap victim and pursuing terrorists who recently escaped a jail facility there, a military official said.

Party-lists question car ID system before SC

Militant party-list representatives and a public transport group asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to nullify the Land Transportation Office's radio frequency identification system for being unconstitutional.

Bicam approves P1.54 trillion 2010 budget

(UPDATE) The congressional bicameral conference committee on Wednesday approved the proposed P1.54 trillion national budget next year.

Arroyo sorry for being wary of reporters

MANILA, Philippines - Less than 6 months before her term ends, President Arroyo has vowed to turn over a new leaf and be more available to reporters assigned to cover her every move.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. trumpets presidential ambition

The son of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos announced Wednesday he was aiming to become president of the Southeast Asian nation and insisted his family had nothing to be ashamed of.

Santiago sees red over envoys' appointments

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago blew her top on Wednesday over the government's practice of sending an agreement to receiving states of new Philippine ambassadors when the Commission on Appointments has not yet confirmed their nominations.

The agreement, Santiago explained, was a document signed by the sitting president and sent to receiving states, asking if they would agree to receive the newly appointed ambassadors.

The issue was brought up during the hearing on the nominations of four ambassadors, including those of Congressman Antonio Cuenco as ambassador to Italy and Francisco Benedicto as ambassador to China.

Senators question P10-M costs for new Rome envoy

by By Purple Romero, Newsbreak
MANILA, Philippines – Senators questioned a 'midnight appointment' for a diplomatic post that could cost the government P10 million. In a senate hearing on Monday, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada blocked Commission on Appointments' nomination of Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenca as ambassador for Rome in Italy.

Sen. Estrada stressed that Cuenca's appointment would translate to P10 million allowances that taxpayers have to bear. He said P5 million will have to be allocated as Cuenca's relocation allowance, and another P5 million for the diplomat he will replace.

Japanese man jailed for killing two Filipinas

TOKYO-- A Japanese man who murdered and mutilated two Filipinas was jailed for life on Wednesday, evading the gallows after prosecutors had demanded the death penalty, a court official said.

Lebanese woman jailed for abusing Pinay maid

BEIRUT - A Lebanese woman has been sentenced to 15 days in prison after being convicted of beating her Filipina domestic worker, a rare verdict in such cases in Lebanon, the victim's attorney said on Wednesday. 

President Arroyo: Philippine economy in better shape than I found it

In a recent interview with the Philippines' "economist-in-chief," New York-based think tank, GlobalSource Partners, asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo about her economic legacy, where she thinks the Philippine economy is headed, and what she believes is needed for the country to achieve East Asian growth.

Global warming could sink Cebu

Global warming and climate change threaten to submerge and wipe out the whole of Cebu by 2020, the chairman of Typhoon Committee Foundation, warned, as he called for the public to be aware of drastic effects of calamities that may hit Philippines, specifically Cebu.

Angelo Palmones told The Freeman that based on the Green peace Southeast Asia report, the top ten provinces vulnerable to one-meter sea level rise are Sulu, Palawan, Zamboanga, Northern Samar, Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan, Cebu, Davao, Bohol, and Camarines Sur.

The top ten regions which are reportedly to sink are ARMM, Region 9, Region 4B, 8, 5, 7, 6, 11, 4A, and Region 1.

Climate change a 'ticking time bomb' for food—UN expert

A UN expert on the right to food said Wednesday that climate change represented a "ticking timebomb" that would hit the poorest countries and those who struggled to feed themselves the hardest.

AP source: Obama writes letter to North Korean leader

President Barack Obama has written a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il as part of an intense effort to draw the reclusive nation back to nuclear disarmament talks, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

TIME magazine names Bernanke 'Person of the Year'

WASHINGTON DC, United States - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was named Person of the Year by TIME magazine on Wednesday, a highly visible show of support at a time he seeks to beat back proposals that would erode the central bank's authority and independence.

Birthday gift: Pacquiao in league with ring greats

Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao had an early birthday present when he was named as the second best fighter of all time, next only to the late great Sugar Ray Robinson, according to the final result from the World's Greatest Ever Boxer online poll.

5 more golds for Philippines in SEAG

MANILA, Philippines – The country garnered 5 more gold medals in three different events at the 2009 Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane, Laos but remained at 6th place in SEAG's medal tally.

PBB apologizes to indigenous communities

MANILA, Philippines – The management of ABS-CBN's "Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Double Up" on Wednesday apologized to Katribu party-list, an indigenous peoples sectoral party, after the group protested the "inappropriate use of bahag (g-string)" in one of the reality show's episodes. In a statement sent to ABS-CBN News, the PBB management said "it did not intend to offend the sensitivities and customs of the indigenous people in any way."

Budget for Sharon Cuneta's movie balloons to P70-M

MANILA, Philippines –Sharon Cuneta's "Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love" is the most expensive among other "Mano Po" series in terms of production cost, the film producer has admitted. "This is the biggest. And may I say so 'broke na ako,'" Lily Monteverde said during the press conference for "Mano Po 6," Regal Films' official entry to 2009 Metro Manila Film Festival.

Krista Ranillo appears in 'May Bukas Pa'

MANILA, Philippines – An elusive Krista Ranillo has resumed her television work by appearing on top-rating show "May Bukas Pa" as its latest guest star. Ranillo plays Mia who is a poor girl who takes on odd jobs to make ends meet.

'Lola' bags Best Feature Film at Dubai film fest

DIRECTOR Brillante Mendoza's film "Lola" has been awarded Best Feature Film at the sixth Dubai Film Festival.

Marcos to Villar: Match Noynoy's celebrity endorsers

MANILA, Philippines – The popularity and power of Willie Revillame and Dolphy are not enough to beat the powerhouse team of Kris Aquino, Sharon Cuneta, Korina Sanchez and Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos. At least this is what Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. thinks. 

Barkley: Tiger changed phone number after accident

Charles Barkley says Tiger Woods changed his cell phone number the day after his car accident and is not talking to some of his famous friends.

Mayon volcano in minor eruption, spews ash

Mayon Volcano experienced a minor eruption Wednesday, spewing ash reaching up to 500 meters, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

Mayon volcano crisis to last for months—Phivolcs

Lava poured down the Philippines' Mayon volcano Wednesday as government experts warned it could erupt for months, meaning thousands of villagers will spend Christmas in evacuation centers.

Tents in Albay relief centers for children's classrooms

Albay police have set up tents in evacuation centers to serve as temporary classrooms for children who have been forced to leave their homes and schools due to the eruption of Mayon volcano, an official said.

78 tremors recorded around Mayon

MANILA, Philippines - A total of 78 tremors were recorded around Mayon Volcano Wednesday, prompting scientists and government officials to conduct an aerial survey of the seething volcano.

Pagasa expects fine weather during Christmas

Filipinos can expect generally fine weather as cyclones have little chance of forming during the Christmas holidays, state weather forecasters said Wednesday.

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