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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 4, 2009 Major News Stories

Fire destroys 60 houses in Cebu City

A fire broke out Thursday, and razed at least 60 houses in Barangay (village) Calamba, Cebu City, police said.
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Two Fires Hit City: Girl dies, Hundreds homeless

Close to 300 families have been left homeless when a fire broke out yesterday morning in barangay Calamba resulting to damage estimated to be worth P4.8 million.

A three-year-old girl died while her mother sustained burns in another fire that hit sitio Siwak, barangay Bulacao last night.

Authorities said that as of 7 p.m., they have listed 271 families or 1,217 individuals affected and 162 houses destroyed in the Calamba fire.

Fire investigators said that an unattended electric fan might have caused the fire that readily spread as the houses in the two sitios that were severely affected were mostly made of light materials.

Early estimates show that about 100 houses have been totally destroyed.

In last night's fire, Codilla said that the fatality, identified as Jona Tabura, was sleeping on the second floor of their house while her mother, Mary Jane, was tending their store on the ground floor when the fire started.

Firemen said that the blaze was probably caused by a candle that was left by Mary Jane inside the room of the child.

She tried to rush to the second floor to save her daughter, but failed. Instead she sustained burns on the face and other parts of the body and was rushed to the Cebu City Medical Center.

Three other houses were burned. There is no estimate of the damage yet.

Fire in Talisay

In another incident, fire authorities pegged the damage at P50,000 in a fire that hit the stockroom owned by a businessman in Uldog, sitio Nonoc, barangay Tabunok, Talisay City.  

The fire hit the stockroom owned by Willy Magbutay at dawn yesterday.

SFO1 Bobby dela Cerna, investigator of the Talisay City Department, said that the fire was easily controlled, but all the stocks inside the warehouse were burned.

He said the contents were mostly food items like rice, cooking oil and other stuff sold at the owner's store.

 The fire probers are also working with the police as they suspect that the motive was theft as they noticed that there was a well-cut hole on the gate.

Witnesses also said that they saw a pick-up truck flee from the scene when the fire started.

Vidal rebukes Bogo's priest

A CHURCH altar in Bogo City will be temporarily closed until it can be re-consecrated by the Cebu Archdiocese. The reason: a candidate's campaign materials, like placards and photographs, were placed on top of the altar and blessed during a mass.

An amateur video caught Msgr. Jose Dosado, episcopal vicar of Northern Cebu, blessing the campaign paraphernalia and pictures of Bogo City mayoral aspirant Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung, as these were placed on top of the San Vicente Ferrer Parish's altar.

Upon hearing of this, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal ordered the church altar closed until it is re-consecrated by him or a bishop.

The video, which was shot by someone who refused to be named, shows Dosado celebrating mass inside the church along with Yeung's supporters and her brother, reelect-ionist Rep. Benhur Salim-bangon (Cebu, 4th district).

The video shows Yeung's supporters placing campaign placards and photos of her line-up on top of the altar. Msgr. Dosado is seen receiving a tarpaulin with Yeung's picture and placing it on top of the altar, where he then blessed the items.

After the mass, the video then shows Dosado walking toward and shaking the hands of Salim-bangon and Yeung, who sat in the front pews of the church. The siblings then turned toward their supporters to greet them.

Cardinal Vidal, after seeing a video of the incident, requested Dosado to meet with him at once. Dosado was allegedly reprimanded for "desecrating" the church's altar.

Based on the laws of the church, Binghay said, the altar serves as a symbol of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. If it is desecrated, the altar must be sealed off from the rest of the church until its re-consecration by the archbishop or a bishop of the area.

Until this is done, the altar of the San Vicente Ferrer Parish will not be used during masses, added Binghay.

Despite the admonition, Msgr. Dosado can still celebrate mass in the same church as he was only given a preliminary warning.

He risks suspension if he repeats the act, added Binghay.

However, Msgr. Bing-hay also clarified that any political aspirant can seek the church's blessing, as long as he or she does not desecrate the church. The church, he added, must remain non-partisan and refuse to give its support to a particular candidate.

GSIS president demands public apology from mayor

CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday taunted Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) president Winston Garcia to run for mayor so the Cebuanos can see his managerial skills, instead of questioning his competence.

"Mayor Tommy Osmeña is exposing his own ignorance. I challenge him to prove that I invested in Lehman Brothers. It is immature and irresponsible for him to say something like that and I will ask for a public apology from him. I hope he will be fair and man enough to apologize because that is a very unfair accusation," he said.

DoH to start A(H1N1) vaccination this month—execs

The Department of Health (DoH) will start conducting vaccinations against (A)H1N1 influenza for frontline health personnel and high risk groups after the vaccines are delivered by month-end, officials said Thursday.

Environmental activists slam 'warning shot' of Cebu guard

MANILA - Greenpeace activists and volunteers said they are planning to seek help from the Commission on Human Rights after a security guard of the Cebu Provincial Capitol allegedly fired a warning shot while they tried to hold a protest against coal ash Tuesday. 

Oil rises above $77 despite weak US demand signs

Oil prices rose above $77 a barrel Thursday as the effects of a weak dollar offset the news that U.S. crude and gasoline supplies have jumped, suggesting demand remains sluggish.

Gov't jacking up budget for rice importation

The Philippines has increased the budget for its third rice tender for 2010 supply of 600,000 tons of white rice.

Remittances to hit record high due to typhoon aid

Remittances are expected to reach a record high this year after overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are seen to send more cash home to assist their families whose houses have been damaged by typhoons.

Norwegian shipowners assure Pinoy seafarers' safety

by by Macel Ingles, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
OSLO - The head of the Norwegian Shipping Association (NSA) in Oslo assured the families of seafarers from the Philippines that security and safety continues to be the top concern of their organization whose members employ up to 32,000 Filipino seafarers in their global operations.

1,205 OFWs in Mideast take special licensure exam

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - A total of 1,205 Filipino workers in the Middle East have taken part in the first special licensure examinations given by the Philippine government on a bigger scale for engineers, architects, accountants and master electricians.

Child abuse charges filed against three Americans

Police filed charges of violation of the Anti-child Abuse Law against three American nationals arrested late Wednesday allegedly in the company of a minor inside the room of a hotel along Salinas Drive, Lahug.

AMERICAN National Perry McNeely and his companions are now facing a string of criminal charges before the Cebu City Prosecutor's Office.

City grants P2.5M more for Sinulog grand finale

Even if the Commission on Audit (COA) has not yet approved the request to exempt Cebu City from the memorandum circular that prohibits the granting of cash assistance to the Sinulog Foundation Inc, Mayor Tomas Osmeña has approved an additional funding of P2.5 million for the foundation.

Ammos, uniforms dug up in Maguindanao

Joint police and military personnel dug up on Thursday several ammunition and military uniforms in Maguindanao province that could have been used in connection with the mass killings in the area, Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa said.

Search for more massacre firearms continues

Police are still looking for at least seven more firearms used in the mass killing of 57 people in Maguindanao province, after only one firearm tested positive in the ballistics examination to date, authorities said on Thursday.

5 female victims of massacre 'sexually abused'—police

Five female victims of the mass killings in Maguindanao, including a local journalist, showed signs that they were "sexually abused," according to the findings of the police crime laboratory that was revealed on Thursday.

Backhoe operator in massacre still missing

Hindi pa rin lumulutang ang back hoe operator na si Hamid Dimayuden para bigyang linaw kung sino ang nag-utos sa kanyang maghukay ng libingan ng mga minasaker sa Maguindanao.

Arroyo: 'Why 5-hour gap in response after massacre?'

Ten days after the Maguindanao massacre, President Macapagal-Arroyo finally had the chance to sit down and sift through the details of the worst election-related violence that claimed the lives of 57 people, including 30 media workers, in the bailiwick of her major ally.

From the time the military were informed of abduction on the hills of Salman in Ampatuan town at 11 a.m., to the arrest of two militia men at 1:30 p.m., and the military's operation in the crime scene at 2 p.m.; and the 3 p.m. helicopter ride of Mayor Ebrahim Mangudadatu, Ms Arroyo looked dissatisfied with the initial moves of authorities.

"Why was there a five-hour gap?" she asked. Serapio did not answer and proceeded with his presentation.

ARMM Solicitor-General Cynthia Guiani Sayadi said Army troopers posted outside the gate of the ARMM extension office where a number of officials have also been "locked-in" for days now, were checking even on garbage disposed of daily from the compound. "How are people allowed to exit when even domestic wastes are being scrutinized outside (by soldiers)?," she asked.

Over mobile phone, a nephew of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the Maguindanaon said the killings had taken an emotional toll on Andal Sr. and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan. "He (Ampatuan Sr.) has lost his voice due to sleeplessness, that's why he apologizes that he cannot speak to you today," Datu Ali Abpi, the governor's nephew, quoted the official as saying.

He said Andal Sr. has been hurting ever since the killings happened, and much more when he had to surrender his son, Andal Jr., as a suspect to the crime.

Sayadi also said she learned from reliable sources that some operatives were under orders to pin other members Ampatuan family with other charges, including illegal possession of firearms and drug trafficking.

But she said charges of drug trafficking were "unlikely to become a credible case, since it is of public knowledge in Maguindanao that the provincial government has been very strict on drugs." It was said that a huge prison facility for drug traffickers and users had detainees that included young residents related to the clan for use of illegal substance.

She, however, did not rule out "a situation" wherein operatives might "barge in and probably, plant evidence to pin us down further." "But we are ready for that," she said without elaborating.

AFP deploys more troops to surround Ampatuan home, capitol

The Armed Forces on Thursday sent an additional battalion of 400 soldiers in Maguindanao province to avert "possible retaliation" against the Ampatuan clan in connection with the massacre of 57 people last week.

Two suspects testify to Ampatuan presence

Two suspects in the Maguindanao massacre have testified to the presence of Andal Ampatuan Jr. at the height of the carnage, with one of them claiming that the scion of the powerful Ampatuan clan even ordered him to shoot at the bodies scattered on the ground.

DOJ subpoenas Ampatuan patriarch, 4 kin

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday subpoenaed five members of the powerful, Arroyo-allied Ampataun clan, including its patriarch, to face the investigation on the grisly massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province last week.

More members of Ampatuan clan put under immigration watchlist

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has ordered the Bureau of Immigration to include in its watchlist more members of the Ampatuan's political clan due to their connection to the Maguindanao massacre.

More names in Ampatuan massacre placed on watchlist

MANILA - Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera on Thursday said 10 more people including three members of the Ampatuan clan have been placed in an immigration watchlist after being linked to the massacre of 57 civilians in Ampatuan, Maguindanao last November 23.

Declare Mindanao 'emergency' unconstitutional, SC asked

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan has asked the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's order placing three provinces in Mindanao under a State of Emergency.

Ampatuans seek court order vs military action

Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and his father, Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., have filed a petition for a writ of amparo with the Court of Appeals Mindanao here.

Foreign journalists set probe of Maguindanao massacre

Representatives of foreign journalist organizations are set to conduct their own investigation into the killings of at least 57 persons – including 31 media practitioners – in Maguindanao province.

RP media may seek UN help in massacre probe

by Reuters
MANILA - Philippine media groups may ask the United Nations' to intervene in a probe into the massacre of 57 people in a suspected clan feud that has stoked tensions ahead of elections next May, six local journalist groups said on Thursday.

Media: Maguindanao crime justify Freedom of Info Act

MANILA – Journalists are citing the Maguindanao massacre as a compelling reason for the Senate to immediately pass the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

Authorities failed to properly secure massacre site - media groups

Almost a week after the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao, the crime scene remains heavily littered. Newspapers lay scattered on the soil; some used SIM cards are on the ground. Apparently, authorities have failed to properly secure the massacre site where potential evidence against the perpetrators can be found.

PNP to ask Comelec: Make Maguindanao poll hot spot

The Philippine National Police will be recommending to the Commission on Elections the inclusion of Maguindanao among the election hot spots in 2010 after the brutal killings in the area.

Rescued Irish priest Sinnott flies home

Irish missionary Michael Sinnott, who was abducted but later freed in southern Philippines, left for his home country Thursday, but not before leaving three Christmas wishes for Filipinos: peace in Mindanao, clean elections next year, and an honest president.

Arroyo is finished, says Joker Arroyo

President Macapagal-Arroyo can never be prime minister, Sen. Joker Arroyo said Thursday.

Arroyo allows Teodoro to be his own man–Palace exec

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will not only stay away from administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro's sorties, but will give him free rein to mount his own campaign, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Thursday.

'Even soldiers, poll officials may run without quitting'

MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials and high ranking officers of the military and the police can join an election and use the power and influence of their office even before the start of an election campaign, giving them a huge advantage in the polls.

Poll exec: SC allows "period of lawlessness" with its decisions

The Supreme Court has allowed a "period of lawlessness" when it allowed the conduct of political activities before the start of the official campaign period, an election official said on Thursday.

Comelec exec in Maguindanao poll fraud remains missing

Where is Lintang Bedol? Even the Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not know the whereabouts of its Maguindanao election supervisor who became infamous after he was accused of manipulating the results of the 2007 senatorial elections in favor of administration bets.

'6 out of 10 Pinoys lack knowledge on automated polls'

MANILA - Public awareness of the country's first nationwide automated elections remains low with up to 61 percent of voters saying they have little to no knowledge about the new system to be used in the May 2010 elections, results of the latest Pulse Asia survey revealed Thursday.

Who is better political endorser: Kris or Willy

Who's a better political endorser? Kris Aquino or Willie Revillame? Former president Joseph Estrada or President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Manny Pacquiao or the church?

According to the October 22-30 survey by Pulse Asia released Thursday, Aquino's candidate for president would surely/probably get the support of 45 percent of Filipinos while Revillame's candidate would surely/probably get the support of 37 percent of Filipinos.

But seemingly contradicting this is the answer of the respondents when asked if they would surely/probably/probably not/surely not vote for the presidential candidate endorsed by Aquino: 49 percent said they would surely/probably not vote for her candidate.

Of the negative impact of Revillame's endorsement, 58 percent said they would surely/probably not vote for his candidate.

The survey questioned face-to-face 1,800 people across the country, with a plus or minus two percent margin of error.

Aquino is supporting her brother Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III of the Liberal Party while Revillame is backing Senator Manuel "Manny" Villar Jr. of the Nacionalista Party. Both television stars work for broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

Between Arroyo and Estrada, the incumbent president is the more credible endorser, getting 36 percent of the surely/probably answer. But Arroyo's endorsement will be supported by only 15 percent of the voters.

However, the negative effect of their political support is 79 percent for Arroyo and 59 percent for Estrada. That is, 79 percent will surely/probably not vote for Arroyo's presidential candidate, while 59 percent will surely/probably not vote for Estrada's choice.

At the same time, the survey noted that the church's influence among voters was similarly split, with 52 percent surely/probably heeding its endorsement and 43 percent surely/probably not voting for a presidential candidate endorsed by their church.

What about the persuasive power of Pacquiao, one of the most sought after commercial image models? Twenty-one percent will follow his political lead, but 71 would not.

However, Pulse Asia noted "that a presidential bet endorsed by any of these entities would certainly get the support of at most 11 percent of Filipinos only."

"Electoral endorsements for president coming from any of these individuals would have no effect on the presidential choices of two percent to five percent of Filipinos while 3 percent are unable to say what impact such endorsements would have on their choice for president in the May 2010 elections," the survey firm added.

PLDT readies 'broadband over power lines'

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Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) said it will be ready to launch, in six to 12 months, its landmark "broadband over power lines (BPL)" service, seen as a new technology that will fast-forward the growth of Internet use in the country.

6 hurt in South Korea blast—defense spokesman

Six people were injured in an explosion Thursday at a South Korean weapons research institute, the defense ministry said, contradicting a media report that 60 were hurt.

Taliban: Afghan surge will mean more US fatalities

The Taliban rebuffed President Barack Obama's new war plan for Afghanistan, saying his strategy to send 30,000 new troops will only lead to more American casualties.

Three Somali ministers among 19 dead in suicide blast

MOGADISHU – A suicide bomber killed 19 people including three Somali government ministers at a graduation ceremony for medical students in a Mogadishu hotel on Thursday, officials said.

Top Rank to sign multi-year contract with ABS-CBN

MANILA – Top Rank Promotions head honcho Bob Arum arrived in the country Thursday, with plans of talking to Manny Pacquiao regarding the fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. as well as formalizing a deal with broadcasting giant ABS-CBN.

Roach thumbs down March fight for Pacquiao

Freddie Roach is definitely thrilled with a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. showdown. But he"s definitely not hot on a possible March 13 face-off between two of boxing"s most popular fighters today.

'Bata', Amit win World Doubles title

MANILA – Efren "Bata" Reyes and Rubilen "Bingkay" Amit of Team Philippines A bagged the 1st World Mixed Doubles Classic title after edging Korea in an exciting finals match at the Nuvo City Lifestyle Center in Libis, Quezon City Thursday night.  

John Lloyd signs 3-movie contract with Star Cinema

MANILA - Box office King John Lloyd Cruz is signing up for three more movies under ABS-CBN's movie outfit Star Cinema.

Beyonce tops Grammy nominations with 10 nods

Beyonce topped the list of nominees for the 52nd Grammy Awards here Wednesday, leading the way with 10 nods ahead of teenage country star Taylor Swift with eight.

Metro weather getting colder, says Pagasa

Not even the heat of the election campaign can prevent the mercury from dropping at this time of the year.

The minimum temperature in the metropolis dropped to 19.8 degrees Celsius on Wednesday and to 19.7 degrees on Thursday, lower by a little more than two degrees from the November levels, according to Cris Perez of the Pagasa weather section.

The reading was taken between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. at the Pagasa facilities in Quezon City.

"For November, the average minimum temperature for the last 30 years is at 22 degrees Celsius. So, what we are experiencing now is really cold weather," Perez said.

For Baguio City, the minimum temperature recorded on Thursday was 12.1 degrees, slightly lower than the 12.4 degrees of Wednesday. The readings were also taken between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.

The record minimum temperature registered in Baguio was 6.3 degrees in January 1961. This is also the record for the lowest temperature in the country.

For Metro Manila, the record stands at 14.5 degrees, taken at the Port Area in January 1914.

Perez attributed the drop in temperatures to the surge of the northeast monsoon, known as the "amihan," the cold air from the northern hemisphere that starts to blow into the country from October to March.

While the temperatures drop, Pagasa is tracking a tropical depression, "Vinta," spotted 1,140 kilometers east northeast of Basco, Batanes.

Vinta is packing maximum sustained winds of 75 km per hour near the center with gustiness of up to 90 kph. While the system is currently stationary, it is too far to affect any part of the country.

Ogden Nash  - "The trouble with a kitten is that when it grows up, it's always a cat."

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