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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 30, 2009 Major News Stories

P7T bonus already given to teachers

CEBU, Philippines - The Department of Education-7 has already issued the P7,000 bonus for each teacher to the division offices in the region last Monday.

DepEd-7 director Ricaredo Borgonia said the amount, issued both in cash and check, is called "performance enhancement bonus," not as additional Christmas bonus as some teachers believe.

Borgonia said that they received the check from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) last December 24. But due to the Christmas holidays and weekend, they waited until Monday for the banks to open and encashed the check.

After encashing the check on Monday, they immediately distributed the amount to the division offices in Central Visayas, Borgonia told The FREEMAN.

He said that practically before New Year, the recipients can already receive their bonus, just like last year.

Contrary to reports, Borgonia said the distribution of the bonus was not considered delayed because DepEd-7 extends it before the yearends, stressing that Christmas bonuses of teachers were already issued last month.

Borgonia said those who have complaints about their performance enhancement bonus may call their office so they can call the attention of the division office.

Senate urged to probe delay in teachers' Christmas bonus

The Senate should investigate the delay in the release of Christmas bonuses for public school teachers and other government workers, a former labor official said.
"If the funds are indeed available, what is holding up the release? Our public school teachers deserve an explanation from the DBM and the Department of Education," Former Dole Usec Susan Ople said.

"It's not as if this is a surprise budget allocation. It is an annual tradition and benefit that government employees deserve and look forward to at a time of extreme financial stress and following a series of calamities, this productivity bonus means the world to an ordinary public school teacher," she added.

A DepEd official earlier said that the DBM was still in the process of releasing the Special Allotment Release Order and the Notice of Cash Allocation for the grant of Productivity Enhancement Incentive or bonus.

Applications for nursing work, caregiving in Japan accepted

CEBU, Philippines - Those who would want to work in Japan as caregivers and nurses now have the chances of gaining employment there as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in cooperation with the Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services is now accepting applicants for the second batch on said job slots.

City Hall office opens on holidays to accept payments for realty tax

EMPLOYEES of the Cebu City Treasurer's Office (CTO) will work overtime today and tomorrow to accept real property tax payments and to distribute the P2,000 additional cash gift to senior citizens.

Oil prices advance toward $79

World oil prices rose toward $79 on Tuesday as traders expected that freezing weather in the United States would further strengthen demand for heating fuel.

Flour prices to remain stable next year

Flour prices are expected to remain steady next year, after world harvests reached 683 million metric tons (MT) this year.

Food poisoning kills 1; downs 8 in Lapu-Lapu, 10 in Cebu City

CEBU, Philippines - A man died while eight others landed in the hospital due to food poisoning after eating puffer fish, locally known as "boriring" in Lapu-Lapu City the other day.

The fatality was identified as Gregorio Paquibot, 69. Gregorio's wife, Cenporiana, is now being treated at the Chong Hua Hospital.

The other victims include Gregorio's relative Jose Paquibot and his three sons Jonathan, 26, Edwin, 24, and Renante, 19. Jose's wife, Gina, and uncle, Saturnino Andamon, also got sick.

Gregorio's son, Godfrey, said that they bought the puffer fish from a vendor who went to their housethe other day. Because Jose was said to be an "expert" in preparing puffer fish, he cooked the fish for lunch.

The family had lunch together around 11:30am and three hours thereafter, the victims started to feelstomach pains.

Two-month old baby among hundreds injured by firecrackers, DOH says

One hundred sixty-five persons - including a two-month old baby - were among those who were injured in accidents involving fireworks, two days before New Year"s Eve.

DTI cautions against substandard fireworks

If the fireworks don't bear the PS (Philippine Standard) mark, don't buy them.

DOH readies ghoulish tools for revelry: bone saws

It may be a ghoulish practice worthy of popular Internet character "Dr. Horrible," but government doctors have already unpacked bone saws and drills in anticipation of new burn casualties from the New Year revelry, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said here on Tuesday.

Sunken ro-ro ferry death toll could reach 50

MANILA, Philippines - The death toll in the sinking of a "roll on, roll off" (ro-ro) vessel off Isla Verde in Batangas City on December 26 could balloon to 50 based on a "supplemental manifest" submitted by the ferry's owner to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Ferry in Batangas sea tragedy not designed for open sea

MV Baleno 9, the second-hand roll-on, roll-off (RORO) vessel that sank off Batangas province last Saturday night, was not designed to sail in the open sea, officials said Tuesday at a Senate hearing. Like other similar ferries, the Baleno 9 was built by the Japanese for inland waters but reclassified by Philippine authorities to allow inter-island travel.

Girl, 4, dies of dengue, 41st casualty this year

CEBU, Philippines - Health officials yesterday confirmed that another four-year-old girl from barangay Binaliw died of dengue a few days ago bringing to 41 the total number of dengue-related casualties in Cebu City since January.

Fire brings down giant Christmas tree in Boljoon

CEBU, Philippines - The giant Christmas tree that was put up in front of the historical church in the southern town of Boljoon burned down around 9:30 pm on Christmas eve.

City engineer told to cover city's open manholes

CEBU, Philippines - Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday ordered acting city engineer Nicomedes Leonor to attend to the public's complaints about uncovered manholes in different places of Cebu City to prevent accidents.

RDC asking for release of funds for road project

CEBU, Philippines - The Regional Development Council has requested the national government for the immediate release of P359 million to finance the construction of the road component of the Cebu North Coastal Road project from barangay Tayud in Consolacion town to Liloan town proper.

The RDC-7 in a resolution said they hope the national government will fast track the release of the said amount, as they also requested the Office of the Press Secretary in Central Visayas to facilitate the availability and release of funds for the implementation of the road component of the project.

They also instructed the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas to look into the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between the DPWH and the Cebu provincial government as a requirement for the release of funds.

The construction of the Cebu North Coastal Road Project has been monitored by the Regional Project Monitoring Committee as this is one of the flagship projects of President Gloria Arroyo.

Although the Cansaga Bay bridge component of the project has been implemented ahead of schedule, the road component that would complement the bridge has not been started.

Upon the instruction of Arroyo during theCabinet meeting in Cebu, the road component will be implemented by the Cebu provincial government.

It was learned that the agreement between the DPWH and the Cebu provincial government, which wants to take over the outlet road from the Cansaga Bay Bridge into Liloan town was not yet finalized.

The draft agreement was returned to the regional office pending a certification from the Department of Budget and Management that the funds for road rehabilitation are available.

The road portion, including civil works and right-of-way expenses, costs close to P359 million and is to be sourced from the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

In an earlier meeting of the RDC-7 Infrastructure Development committee, provincial engineer Eulogio Pelayre said Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has already instructed his office to start widening the road from the bridge.

DA 7 'squatting' on Capitol lot

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) 7 has requested Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia for an extension of its stay on the Provincial property until May 31, citing lack of funds for its transfer.

Trader charged with murder

CEBU, Philippines - A trader from Mindanao was charged with murder for allegedly killing a customer who could not afford the merchandise he was selling during the Christmas Eve at the night market along Colon Street.

DENR legal officer cleared of administrative complaint

CEBU, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman Visayas has dismissed the administrative complaint against the chief legal officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for failure to act on an inquiry relative to a land reversion case.

4,000 machines for 2010 polls now with Comelec

Despite recent delays in the delivery of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, 4,000 of the 82,200 machines needed for the 2010 elections have finally been delivered to the Philippines, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Tuesday.

Comelec shuts out 400 people

AT LEAST 400 would-be voters were denied registration yesterday because the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Lapu-Lapu City allegedly ran out of forms as early as 9 a.m.

Less than 600K overseas votes seen in 2010

Comelec data shows 589,830 registered overseas Filipino voters -- just a fraction of the estimated 4 million qualified OFWs -- with mounting concern that even fewer will turn out for the 2010 elections.

Vice mayor candidate in Surigao del Norte shot, wounded

MANILA, Philippines - A barangay chairman, who is running for vice mayor in the 2010 local elections, was wounded after he was shot outside his house in Tagana-an town in Surigao del Norte province Tuesday evening. 

Chief Superintendent Lino Calingasan, Police Regional Office 13 director, identified the wounded victim as Barangay Aurora chairman Wilbert Oregenes. He said Oregenes is also the president of Tagana-an town's Association of Barangay Chairmen, thus making him also a councilor in the municipality.

The shooting reportedly occurred 7 p.m..

Oregenes was immediately brought to Surigao Medical Center in Surigao City.

The suspects in the shooting remain unidentified.

Dissatisfaction with Arroyo persists, survey shows

Dissatisfaction with President Macapagal-Arroyo's performance remains unchanged in the last quarter of the year compared to the previous quarter, according to the latest Social Weather Stations survey.

New Year to bring new hope–Arroyo

The year 2010 is bringing a new reason for hope for Filipinos—the country's first automated national elections, President Macapagal-Arroyo said in her New Year message on Tuesday.

2010 polls touted to boost climate change issue

Malacañang is not satisfied with how the media have treated the issue of climate change, and government environmental advocates expect the topic to become a household byword only because of the 2010 elections.

Duque to leave DOH, endorses replacement

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will soon move to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and is confident that his being a non-lawyer will not be a hindrance to his confirmation as the agency's chairman.

State of emergency in Maguindanao to stay

Malacañang will not lift the state of emergency imposed on Maguindanao, Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat on New Year's Day in deference to appeals made by officials there, Cabinet officials said here on Tuesday.

Ampatuan sons deny plotting Maguindanao massacre

The sons of Andal Ampatuan Sr. have formally denied any hand in the planning of the Maguindanao massacre, their counter-affidavits submitted to the Department of Justice showed.

Ampatuan Jr. faces 16 more murder raps

Sixteen more counts of murder against Andal Ampatuan Jr. in relation to the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre have been formally filed with a Quezon City court, bringing the total number of cases to 41.

DOJ warns Ampatuans against playing with legal proceedings

The Department of Justice on Tuesday warned the powerful Ampatuan clan and other respondents in the Maguindanao massacre against playing with the legal proceedings, saying the government was bent on seeking justice for the victims.

Cops probe link of 2 Lanao ambushes

(UPDATE 2) Two separate ambushes in Lanao del Sur on Tuesday claimed the lives of a police officer, the executive assistant of the regional assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and a civilian, ARMM police said.

Attempt to bomb power pylon in N. Cotabato foiled

KIDAPAWAN CITY - Army troops on Tuesday evening foiled a bombing attempt on a power pylon in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato, a police official said.

Deaths in evacuation camps not due to Mayon eruption, says Salceda

At least three people have died in evacuation camps and a fourth succumbed to a heart condition in the Mayon Volcano danger zone but none of the deaths could be attributed directly to the current eruption of the scenic volcano, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said Tuesday.

10 more cocaine bricks found in Samar

Ten more bricks of cocaine were recovered in separate areas here on Monday and Tuesday.

Arroyo orders burning of Samar cocaine

President Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday ordered the police to burn cocaine bricks worth P5 billion that were recovered from the shores of Eastern and Northern Samar on Dec. 24.

Filipina found dead at Lebanese envoy's house: Vienna police

by Agence France-Presse
VIENNA - The body of a woman was found on Tuesday in the cellar of the Lebanese ambassador's residence in Vienna, local police said. 

According to Vienna police, the other Pinay employee discovered the body of the housekeeper in the basement apartment of the villa in 59th Gymnasium Street.

Aside from the slain victim, the cook was reportedly the only other person present at the envoy's  residence in Vienna's posh 18th district at the time.

According to initial information, multiple stab wounds on the upper body of the victim were found. The police were reluctant to give further information.

The ambassador is currently out of the country, said police spokeswoman Iris Seper. The two Filipina employees are staying in the ambassadors house.

Villa of the Lebanese ambassador in Vienna, Austria where the Filipina employee was found dead, December 29, 2009 Photo by Hector Pascua

The murder weapon and traces of the perpetrator were still being looked into by police with the help of a sniffer dog looking around the residence. According to neighbors, the Lebanese ambassador may have lived alone with his cooks.

Lebanese authorities, which alerted the police, were cooperating with the investigation and allowed Austrian police officers free access to the scene.

Under rules of extra-territoriality, an ambassador's residence would not usually fall under Austrian jurisdiction.

BIR to run after local, GOCC execs not remitting taxes

Officials of local government units and state firms that have failed to remit to the national government the withholding taxes of their employees would face estafa cases in court, the Bureau of Internal Revenue warned.

Teves: Shopping, poll campaign saved RP from recession

Buying Christmas gifts and indulging in early election campaigning may have saved the country from recession, finance officials reported to President Macapagal-Arroyo during the year's final Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

To illustrate the important role mobile phones play in the lives of Filipinos, here are some fast facts:

Statistics show that seven out of every nine Filipinos have mobile phones; Filipinos send about two billion text messages on any given day; and, they spend about 10 percent of their income on telecommunications services.

Citing the preliminary result of 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), XMG said households consider communications expenses, along with transportation, as one of the priorities next to food and rent.

Vincent Altez, senior analyst at information technology consulting firm XMG Inc., said competition—not regulation—has always been the most effective way of bringing costs down.

"In fact, industry players need to have constant product and service innovations because switching cost in the industry is very minimal," Altez said in a recent interview. "Consumers can easily change their brand without spending more."

Cheap SIM cards themselves are testament to the downward pressure competition has on prices.

SIM cards, which used to cost a few hundred pesos to buy in the late 1990s, are now practically given away to consumers to encourage them to switch from their current networks.

Another offering consumers are now enjoying as a result of stiff competition is the slew of bucket-priced promos for texts and calls.

The entry of Sun Cellular in the industry in 2003 was largely brushed off by major industry players. It wasn't until the Gokongwei-led telco started offering its 24/7 unlimited calling and messaging services that everyone sat up and took notice.

Leading mobile phone brand Smart Communications Inc. and rival Globe Telecom Inc., to regain the market share they both lost to Sun, came out with service offerings designed to directly compete with the 24/7 business model.

Latest figures show that Smart now has about 40 million subscribers. Globe trails in second with 25 million, while Sun has nine million.

"It's really competition that drives innovation and brings rates lower," Globe Telecom legal affairs head Froilan Castelo said.

More recently, Lopez-led Bayan Telecommunications introduced a new service that had sent shockwaves throughout the sector.

The company released its wireless landline service, allowing people to make mobile calls at low landline rates. Again, in response, Smart and Globe officials scrambled to come out with competing offers.

XMG's Altez said it is this competition that has brought call and text messaging rates relatively low over the years.

"I say relatively low because consumers can only enjoy low prices through those various bundled/bucket products offered by telecommunications companies. Obviously, economy of scale exists here. Consumers should purchase more to acquire discounted rates," he said.

Philippines to buy 586,554 T rice from Dec 15 tender

by Reuters
MANILA, Philippines - The National Food Authority (NFA) said on Tuesday it will buy 586,554.37 tons of rice from its last tender this year on Dec. 15, slightly less than the 600,000 tons it sought to purchase.

Somali pirates hijack 3 vessels, 2 with Pinoy crew

by Agence France-Presse
NAIROBI - Somali pirates captured a freighter, a bulk carrier and a chemical tanker in a few days, defying foreign warships in the Gulf of Aden and ending the year with a flurry after collecting millions in ransom.

WHO says too early to declare swine flu victory

GENEVA—World Health Organization (WHO) chief Margaret Chan said Tuesday it was too early to declare victory over swine flu and insisted that measures taken to deal with the pandemic were justified.

Nevada orders urine tests for Pacquiao, Mayweather

The head of the Nevada boxing commission ordered Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to submit to urine tests Monday as a way of trying to break the impasse that has threatened to derail their proposed March 13 megafight.

Arum might ask Pacquiao to reconsider stance on blood issue

MANILA, Philippines -- Top Rank promoter Bon Arum said he might ask Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao to "tighten" the window for the blood test being demanded by the camp of his foe Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Bettor from Luzon wins P111M lotto pot

Lady Luck has smiled upon a lone bettor who on Tuesday night correctly guessed the winning combination to the 6/49 Super Lotto and its cool P111 million jackpot.

Lily Monteverde questions MMFF criteria for best picture

MANILA, Philippines – For the ninth time, Regal Films' matriarch Lily Monteverde questioned the criteria used by the executive committee of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) in choosing the festival's best picture.

The film producer, however, clarified that she is happy for Revilla. "But of course I'm happy for Bong Revilla. Anak ko yon. And I'm happy for him."

Despite her confusion, Monteverde said she is satisfied that "Mano Po 6" took home a total of 7 awards, including best actress for lead star Sharon Cuneta.

Pacquiao's 'Wapakman' a box-office bomb?

by by Boy Villasanta,
MANILA, Philippines - Boxing champ Manny Pacquiao may be enjoying worldwide recognition and international accolades, but his acting career seems to be going down the drain.

Sharon Cuneta, Kiko Pangilinan plan to adopt baby boys

by by Boy Villasanta,
MANILA, Philippines – Megastar Sharon Cuneta disclosed that she and her second husband, Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, are planning to adopt baby boys to add to their brood of 3 daughters.

Rizal wished for only a simple headstone, says historian

Unknown to many Filipinos, most of Dr. Jose Rizal's dying wishes have remain unfulfilled, National Historical Institute chair Ambeth R. Ocampo told a recent Metrobank Foundation lecture series on best teaching practices.

Ocampo said the national hero left the following instructions in an undated letter to his family, written in Fort Santiago before he was shot: "... Bury me in the ground, place a stone and a cross over it. My name, the date of my birth and of my death. Nothing more. If you later wish to surround my grave with a fence, you may do so. No anniversaries. I prefer Paang Bundok [where Manila's North Cemetery now stands, as my burial place]."

These final instructions were not followed, except for the construction of a fence around his grave—the Rizal Monument at Luneta Park in Manila.

"There is no cross on his grave. Instead of the simple piece of stone above his grave we have a whole obelisk topped with three gold stars and a statue of him. The simple inscription with his name and dates of birth and death may be there in elaborate bronze, but you have all sorts of other inscriptions around the grave," said Ocampo, who writes a column for the Inquirer.

Neither was Rizal's request to be buried in Paang Bundok complied with, "so there he lies in Luneta close to the spot where he was shot," Ocampo said, adding:
"Worse, every year there are two anniversaries celebrated there: his birthday on June 19 and his death day on Dec. 30. On the latter, the president of the Philippines leads the nation in a Rizal Day celebration, when Rizal didn't want any."

The same information was presented by Ocampo in his book "Rizal Without the Overcoat," a collection of essays on the national hero.

Day of mourning

The observance of Rizal Day goes back to the decree issued by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on Dec. 20, 1898, declaring Dec. 30 as a "national day of mourning" for Rizal and other casualties of the revolution against Spain.

The first-ever commemoration of Rizal Day was held in Manila by Club Filipino on Dec. 30, 1898, which coincided with the unveiling of the Rizal Monument in Daet, Camarines Norte.

On Feb. 1, 1902, the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. 345, which set Dec. 30 of each year as Rizal Day.

Today, President Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to again lead Rizal Day rites at the Rizal Monument in Baguio City.

Vice President Noli de Castro, on the other hand, will lead wreath-laying rites at the Rizal Monument at Luneta Park.

Other wreath-laying ceremonies will be held simultaneously at the Rizal Shrines in Calamba, Dapitan City, San Nicolas in Ilocos Norte, Davao City, and Cebu City, among other places nationwide.

Pending legislation

Early this year, Ocampo expressed full support for the proposed transfer of Rizal Day from Dec. 30 to June 19. It was believed that the move would give Rizal the prominence he deserved instead of the seeming afterthought squeezed between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

In June, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading House Bill No. 5408 seeking to move Rizal Day to June 19.

The Senate, however, has yet to approve the proposal, which seeks to amend Executive Order No. 292, or the Administrative Code of 1987 which covers the commemoration of Rizal's death anniversary.

Manila Rep. Jaime Lopez, who sponsored HB 5408, said June 19 was the appropriate date to mark Rizal Day because it was the hero's writings, and not his death alone, that triggered the 1896 revolution and that roused Filipinos to unite in order to win independence against foreign domination.

Why Rizal Day on Dec. 30

But last year, Dr. Pablo Trillana III, former NHI chair and Knight Grand Officer of the Order of the Knights of Rizal, wrote a piece in the Inquirer stating what he described as the "compelling reasons why we should continue celebrating Rizal Day on Dec. 30."

Said Trillana: "Rizal's death, not his birth, is the greater event... The newborn Rizal, like any newborn, held nothing more than the promise of a life that could be filled with meaning. His death, on the other hand, summed up his life, held the record for what he had become, and defined its meaning.

"Births, deaths or days of great achievements can be milestones for commemoration. The fundamental objective is to choose an event which locks the lives of the hero and his nation in a tight embrace of context and meaning... Rizal's death, more than his birth, embodies that spirit."

Practical reason

In his Dec. 21, 2006, column in this paper, Ocampo wrote: "While it is traditional and proper to celebrate the national hero's martyrdom, there is a more practical reason for a change.

"Each year, Rizal Day passes by almost unnoticed because the official ceremonial wreath-laying in Rizal Park takes less than half an hour and even if it is aired live on TV, radio or the Internet, almost everyone is asleep at 7 a.m., enjoying the holiday and the cold December weather...

"One would think that moving Rizal Day to June 19 would provide a logical excuse for reflections on nationhood by having a weeklong celebration that begins on June 19. Unfortunately, people are so comfortable with the present setup to even consider change."

25-volume of hero's writings

In his Jan. 9, 2009 column, Ocampo wrote: "There are people who think we should wear long faces and commemorate Dec. 30 with somber thoughts of death and martyrdom and 'Ultimo Adios.'

"I would rather that people read Rizal's novels and discuss them instead of repeating stock phrases and praises that have numbed our youth. Better yet, try and read Rizal's other writings, those that were not forced on you in school," including the little known volumes in the complete 25-volume compilation of the hero's writings.

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