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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 18, 2009 Major News Stories



W. Visayas workers seek P50 hike in daily wage

Labor representatives on the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) continue to press for a P50 increase in the minimum daily wage of Western Visayas, saying the purchasing power of workers since January 2008 has drastically dropped.

Demand for OFWs drops 14 percent this year, says POEA

Demand for Filipino workers abroad dropped 14 percent to 80,000 this year because of the lingering effects of the global financial crisis, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

OFW deployment up 11.7%

 MANILA, Philippines - More Filipino workers were hired in various countries abroad despite the prevailing global financial crisis, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported Thursday.

Fireworks with 'PS' mark certified safe by DTI

The Department of Trade and Industry warned the public on Thursday about substandard fireworks, and encouraged consumers to purchase only those that carry the Philippine Standard (PS) mark.

IF SENATORS IN CA SAY NO: Cuenco won't insist taking post as ambassador to Italy

Cebu City South District Representative Antonio Cuenco said he will not insist on taking his ambassadorial post in Italy if the Senator-members of the powerful Commission on Appointments don't want him to get the post.

Cuenco won't back Erap to get post

REP. ANTONIO Cuenco (Cebu City, south district) said he will not insist on his bid to become an ambassador if it would mean supporting the candidacy of former president Joseph "Erap" Estrada.


Senate oks Guadalupe split

The Senate has finally approved the bill creating barangay Banawa-Englis in Cebu City, said Rep. Antonio Cuenco who authored the bill in the House of Representatives.

Another dialog set on UP lot row

A new set of dialog will be held between the residents of San Jose, Barangay Lahug and the University of the Philippines in the Visayas-Cebu College this January 4 at the Lahug barangay hall.

Violations to access to information continue at Ombudsman's office

VIOLATIONS against access to information continued at the anti-graft office yesterday, with reporters getting barred from a conference involving conflicting parties from Barangay Luz.

Vidal wants a Cebuano to replace him

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal hopes that when he retires, a Cebuano would replace him to continue the legacy of serving the Lord and the Church.

SFI says Sinulog sa Kabataan winners will get bigger prizes

At least 17 contingents from the different schools in Cebu City, nine for the elementary and eight for the secondary divisions, will compete in the Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Dakbayan on January 10, 2010.


Comelec: 2010 automated polls 'on track'

The Commission on Elections assured on Thursday that its preparations for the country's first automated elections in 2010 were "on-track," allaying fears that a nationwide computerized polls was not viable.

Real reason for poll counting machines delay bared

by by Aries Rufo, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak
MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials on Thursday virtually acknowledged Smartmatic-TIM's failure to deliver the agreed first batch of 42,000 units of counting machines for the May 2010 polls due to production constraints of the manufacturing subcontractor in Shanghai, China.

Comelec chair Jose Melo earlier said that Smartmatic-TIM could only deliver 30,000 this month because of the high shipping costs due to the holidays.

But in Thursday's hearing of the joint Congressional oversight committee on automation, it was disclosed that Smartmatic has only manufactured 30,000 units this month, not 40,000 as earlier announced.

Initially, Comelec officials stuck to the alibi that the first batch of 40,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines may not arrive as scheduled because of delivery problems.

"It is actually a delivery problem because of the lack of maritime vessels that would bring the PCOS from Shanghai to Manila. It is Christmas season and everything comes from China," Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino said when asked whether it is delivery or manufacturing problem that causing the delay in the automation project.

But when pressed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman whether the 40,000 to be delivered this December were already manufactured and ready for shipping, Tolentino backtracked.

Tolentino admitted that only 30,000 have been produced so far, and that the 10,000 units are still to be manufactured.

"We have a team that went to Shanghai, and based on the production run that was conducted, the spare parts available at the manufacturing plant, it's correct that more or less about 30,000 will be available by December," Tolentino said.

Under the P7.1 billion contract signed between Comelec and Smartmatic, the latter is supposed to produce 82,200 PCOS machines for the country's first ever nationwide polls.

The machines were supposed to be delivered in two batches, with the first batch of 40,000 last November.

However, only 9,800 would be delivered this month, and another 20,200 units after the holiday rush.

Revised timetable

Smartmatic, however, maintains that the delays in the automation project pertained only to delivery problems. 

In spite of the apparent production problems, Comelec is optimistic that Smartmatic would be able to complete the manufacture of machines by February.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said that based on a revised timetable, Smartmatic will be able to beat the deadline of the delivery of machines by one week.

Concerns have been raised over Smartmatic's failure to beat its deadline in the delivery of machines, which is causing a domino effect on Comelec's timetable.

The field testings and mock elections should have been held last November and this month, but the lack of machines prompted Comelec to revise its schedule.

The Comelec has also yet to start training teachers and poll officials on poll automation.

BOPK asks Comelec: Remove nuisance bets

Lawyers of the Bando Osmena Pundok-Kauswagan are expected to file today before the Commission on Elections in Manila a petition urging the poll body to remove the names of some candidates in Cebu City that they believe will affect the candidacy of some BOPK candidates for varied reasons.

Kusug is still a registered party: Comelec squelches talk it's delisted

TALKS that opposition party Kugi Uswag Sugbo (Kusug) is not in the list of accredited political parties for 2010 circulated yesterday, but officials from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Manila corrected the information.

Lito says he is convinced there is 'foul play' in his disqualification by Comelec

FORMER Cebu governor Emilio Mario "Lito" Osmeña said he is convinced something is amiss in his disqualification by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from running for senator.


.58M absentee voters register for 2010 polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) registered over half a million Filipinos abroad registered as absentee voters for the 2010 elections, an official said Thursday.

Comelec bans armed bodyguards for 2010 candidates

(UPDATE) The Commission on Elections (Comelec) would prohibit any person or guards of candidates to carry firearms during the election period next year, a spokesman said Thursday.

Comelec junks 'Ladlad' appeal to join 2010 polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc junked the petition filed by gay party list Ang Ladlad seeking registration and accreditation to join the 2010 elections, a resolution issued Thursday said.

Comelec urged to declare Madrigal a nuisance

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano urged the Commission on Elections on Thursday to disqualify Sen. Ana Consuelo "Jamby'' Madrigal from running for President next year on the ground she was a nuisance candidate.

4 Cabinet execs, AFP, PNP chiefs face rap over martial law

A complaint against four Cabinet members and police and military heads has been filed before the Ombudsman for allegedly twisting the facts to justify the imposition of martial law in Maguindanao.

"They misused the information that they received from the ground to rationalize the declaration of martial law," Akbayan partylist Representative Risa Hontiveros said in her complaint on Thursday.

The respondents in the 10-page complaint were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Victor Ibrado and Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa.

Hontiveros urged the Ombudsman to charge them criminally and administratively and suspend them from office.


CHR eyes re-autopsy in massacre probe

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) seeks to redo the examinations done on the corpses recovered from the site of the Nov. 23 massacre that killed at least 57 people.

SC fully backs QC judge in Ampatuan murder trial

The Quezon City judge given the task to try the multiple murder case against key members of the Ampatuan clan led by its patriarch Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. will receive the full support of the judiciary, according to a spokesman for the Supreme Court.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes was picked Thursday after the case was raffled off for the second time at the Quezon City regional trial court.

Reyes of Branch 221 will replace Judge Luisito Cortez of Branch 84 who refused to take on the case involving Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., citing fears for his safety and that of his family.

Tight security for Ampatuan Jr. at DOJ on Friday

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has assigned 25 agents to secure Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. at the Department of Justice (DOJ) for Friday's preliminary investigation into the multiple murder charges filed against him for allegedly leading the Maguindanao massacre.

Ex-child assassin: Andal Jr. abused even married women

MANILA, Philippines - A former child assassin of the Ampatuans has described Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. as the worst of the warlord clan's leaders, claiming that the suspect in the November 23 massacre also abused and killed women who resisted him.

Another Maguindanao mayor surrenders guns to Army

MANILA, Philippines - Another mayor of Maguindanao has surrendered firearms to the military on Thursday following a government drive to recover loose firearms in the province following a gruesome massacre and an alleged rebellion by the powerful Ampatuan clan. 

Major Mayon eruption weeks away—volcanologists

A major eruption of a volatile Philippine volcano could be just weeks away, scientists warned Thursday, as thousands of residents faced the prospect of four months in temporary shelters.


Albay declares state of calamity

The provincial board of Albay placed the province under a state of calamity by noon of Thursday, to allow the local government to spend five percent of its budget for relief and other operational expenses in connection with the anticipated violent eruption of the Mayon Volcano.

Pakistan annuls amnesty for corrupt politicians

Pakistan's Supreme Court has struck down an amnesty protecting the president and senior ministers from corruption charges, raising questions about the survival of the US-backed civilian government.

China: Climate talks 'too important to fail'

COPENHAGEN -- The landmark climate change negotiations in this Danish capital, all but headed for the cliff only a few hours ago, seems to have pulled back from the brink.

US signals support for $100-B climate fund

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upped the ante in the high-stakes brinkmanship game of climate change negotiations Thursday, midway through the penultimate day of the Copenhagen talks, announcing at a news conference a new American readiness to contribute to a $100-billion-a-year climate fund by 2020.

Arroyo: RP most in danger from climate change

COPENHAGEN - Addressing the climate summit here Thursday, President Arroyo stressed the vulnerability of the Philippines to extreme weather events, but curiously stopped short of demanding more funding from rich countries to help poor nations cope with climate change. A earlier version of her speech distributed to media, however, made that demand.

Late pope John Paul II moving towards sainthood

VATICAN CITY, Italy—Pope Benedict XVI is poised to move his predecessor John Paul II a step closer to sainthood in the coming days by declaring the late pontiff "venerable," an Italian magazine reported.

Too early to declare end to swine flu pandemic: WHO official

GENEVA, Switzerland - Senior World Health Organisation official Keiji Fukuda said Thursday that it was too early to declare the swine flu pandemic over, as it continues at "high levels" in parts of Europe and central Asia.

SEAG: Philippines jumps to 4th in medal tally

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines appears headed to a stronger finish in this year's Southeast Asian Games in Vientiane, Laos as Filipino athletes scooped 7 more gold medals on Thursday near the closing of the biennial event.

Kris Aquino thrilled over Piolo Pascual's Ninoy portrayal

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Kris Aquino was thrilled that one of her favorite actors, Piolo Pascual, is playing her father, slain former senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., in ABS-CBN's drama anthology "Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK)." "From the very start, si Papa P (Pascual) ang paborito ng mga kapatid ko at paborito ko. And touched na touched kami na sinisikap n'ya na talagang aralin at kilalanin ang daddy," Kris told ABS-CBN News.

Cory in TIME Magazine's 'Fond Farewells'

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, the TIME Magazine Woman of the Year for 1986, was cited by the magazine once more in its "Person of the Year" December issue.

Pacquiao in TIME 'Person of the Year' list

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The accolades keep on coming for pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, who just made it to TIME Magazine's "Person of the Year 2009" list which named US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as this year's Person of the Year.

Studio 23 launches 'Catch Up TV'

by by Reyma Buan-Deveza, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Missed your favorite television programs on Studio 23 lately? Fret no more. Studio 23, a subsidiary of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, on Thursday formally introduced its "Catch Up TV," which will allow its viewers to watch the replays of their favorite TV programs online for free.

Sharon Cuneta is Ciara Sotto's matron of honor

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Sharon Cuneta will stand as matron of honor in actress Ciara Sotto's wedding. Ciara, who is Cuneta's cousin, is set to wed her non-celebrity boyfriend, Jojo Oconer, next year.

Tiger Woods's wife wants divorce: People

by Agence France-Presse
NEW YORK - Tiger Woods' Swedish-born wife Elin Nordegren wants a divorce because of the golfing great's extramarital flings, People magazine reported Wednesday.

Charice tops Oprah's best musical performance poll

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Teen singing sensation Charice beat Whitney Houston, James Taylor, Michael Bublé, Journey and the Black Eyed Peas to cop the "Best Oprah Show Musical Performance" honor.

Breast flasher run over by distracted driver

by Agence France-Presse
WELLINGTON - A teenager flashing her breasts in the middle of a New Zealand road paid for her drunken revelry when a distracted driver ran into her.

Scientists crack gene code of common cancers

LONDON, United Kingdom—Two common forms of cancer have been genetically mapped for the first time, British scientists said Wednesday, in a major breakthrough in understanding the diseases.

The maps have exposed the DNA mutations that lead to skin and lung cancers, in a discovery scientists said could transform the way these diseases are diagnosed and treated in coming years.

All cancers are caused by damage to genes—mutations in DNA—that can be triggered by environmental factors such as tobacco smoke, harmful chemicals, or ultraviolet radiation, and causes cells to grow out of control.

Scientists from Britain's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their collaborators have mapped this genetic damage from the tumors of two patients suffering from lung cancer and malignant melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.

"This is a fundamental moment in cancer research. From here on in we will think about cancers in a very different way," said Professor Mike Stratton who led the institute's cancer genome project.

"Today for the first time, in two individual cancers, a melanoma and a lung cancer, we have provided the complete list of abnormalities in DNA in each of those two cancers," he told the BBC.

"We now see uncovered all the forces that have generated that cancer and we now see all the genes that are responsible for driving those two cancers."

The scientists' research, published in the journal Nature, also gained deeper insights into the way the body tries to repair the damage caused by the cancers and stop the disease spreading.

Stratton said the research could in future change the way cancers are treated—by using genetic maps to find the defects that caused them.

"Now that we have these comprehensive complete catalogues of mutations on individual cancers, we will be able to see how each cancer developed, what were the exposures, what were the environmental factors and that's going to be key to for our understanding generally of how cancers develop," he said.

"And for our individual patients, we will see all the genes that are abnormal and are driving each cancer and that's really critical, because that will tell us which drugs are likely to have an effect on that particular cancer and which are not."

Peter Campbell, a cancer-genomics expert involved in the research, said the number of mutations discovered—33,345 for melanoma—and 22,910 for lung cancer—was remarkable.

"It is amazing what you can see in these genomes," he said.

The research shows most mutations could be traced to the effects of chemicals in tobacco smoke (in the lung tumor) or ultraviolet light (in the melanoma tumor), supporting the idea that they are largely preventable.

"Every pack of cigarettes is like a game of Russian roulette," he said.

"Most of those mutations will land where nothing happens in the genome and won't do major damage, but every once in a while they'll hit a cancer gene."



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

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