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

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January 11, 2010 Major News Stories

Mabolo, ANS rule Sinulog sa Kabataan-Dakbayan

Judges unanimously declared Mabolo Elementary School and Abellana National School as champions for this year's Sinulog sa Kabataan sa Dakbayan held yesterday at the Cebu City Sports Center.

Both contingents, representing the elementary and secondary categories respectively, and the rest who made it to the top five for each category, shall compete during the grand parade on January 17.

Dr. Larry Gabao, chairman of the board of judges and President of the Philippine Folk Dance Society, said that they saw the spirit and the energy of Mabolo pupils in relaying the message of the celebration through their presentation and choreography.

"We have actually seen more spirit in elementary pupils than in secondary contingents. Mabolo kids were able to execute their moves well. Malinis yung pagkaka-perform nila, they were really energetic and they have shown us that they were performing for the veneration not just for the sake of dancing on stage," Gabao said.

Maximar Custodio, choreographer of Mabolo Elementary School (Tribo Mabolokon as they call the group), said that the concept they tried to portray is farming with papaya as their product.

Osmeña: Please excuse the traffic

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña made a public advisory that heavy traffic is more than a hundred percent expected during the Sinulog grand parade on Sunday, so those who want to come to the city must organize their plan well.

Tomas invites Pacman

BOXING hero Manny Pacquiao was invited to sing during the Sinulog grand parade finale on Sunday, but Mayor Tomas Osmeña says he's still waiting for a confirmation.

2 Nazarene devotees reported dead, 350 treated by PNRC

(UPDATED 5:45 p.m.) At least two people reportedly died and 350 others sought first aid treatment during Saturday"s procession of the Black Nazarene, the life-sized, dark-colored, wooden image of Jesus Christ believed to be miraculous by Filipino Catholics.

Cardinal thumbs down excessive devotion for Nazarene

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales has disapproved of the "excessive" devotion shown by thousands of Catholics who virtually mobbed the Black Nazarene icon during its annual procession and in the process, hurt each other.

Prospects bright for local employment

LOCAL employment is expected to do well this year as companies continue rehiring workers and expanding their businesses, an official of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

Special visas generate many jobs, says BI

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Sunday said 33,000 new jobs were created for Filipinos last year after more than 400 foreign businessmen and their dependents from 34 countries were granted indefinite visas by the government.

New scam targets OFWs who seek Europe work

The Philippine embassy in Berlin has uncovered another scam designed to victimize Filipino job seekers, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

This was after two Filipinas contacted the embassy seeking to verify the authenticity of a company named Markel-Power International, allegedly located in Bremen, Germany, which informed the two through e-mail that they will be hired by the firm.

The company advised the job-seekers that in order for their recruitment to be completed, they have to pay 70 euros (about $100 or P4,600) through Western Union to an employment company based in Monza, Italy.

The embassy later discovered that Markel-Power International is non-existent, is not registered with the Bremen Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has a fictitious address, has no telephone and fax numbers, and is using a host in the United States for its English website.

The embassy advised the two Filipinas not to pay the company any amount for their alleged recruitment.

"The embassy is convinced that this recruitment scheme is another variation of the Nigerian 4-1-9 advanced fee scam designed to victimize innocent Filipino job seekers," chargé d'affaires ad interim Christine Queenie Mangunay said.

The Nigerian 4-1-9 scam, also known as the Nigerian Advance Fee scheme, is a worldwide scam which involves the receipt an unsolicited letter allegedly from a Nigerian Central Bank employee or from the Nigerian government. It is named after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraudulent schemes.

The embassy warns Filipino job seekers of the scam and has asked the DFA to bring the matter to the attention of relevant government authorities such as the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Justice, and the Philippine National Police.

Government to allow duty-free sugar imports

MANILA, Philippines - As sugar prices continue to increase, the government said they will be importing sugar immediately in order to provide affordable sugar to consumers.

Don't disturb judgment, says Cities' league to SC

Reversing a final decision is a bad precedent and will disturb the well-established legal principles on finality of judgment, the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) told the Supreme Court.

DENR orders land titles cancelled

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered to institute appropriate action for the cancellation of land titles under Executive Proclamation 60 dated July 28, 1903 issued by then civil governor of the Philippines William Howard Taft after it was found out that an area in Liloan town is a government reservation.

"The regional executive director, DENR-7, Cebu City is hereby ordered to institute the appropriate action for the cancellation of the titles covering all lots found within the proclamation and its eventual reversion to the mass of the public domain," DENR Secretary Jose L. Atienza state in his resolution dated last December 2.

Atienza resigned late last year to focus on reviving his political career.

Under the said proclamation is a land title in the name of Coastal High-Point Venture Inc.

Currently, the questioned lot is being developed into a subdivision into a joint venture between CHPVI and Ayala Land Inc. located in barangay Catarman, Liloan.

Tom to file libel raps vs. Atan for remark

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is contemplating on filing a libel case against his political opponent in the South District, businessman Jonathan Guardo.

The mayor felt that the reputation of the city government was affected when Guardo accused City Hall of trying to stop his relief distribution in barangay Calamba.

Guardo and his group went to the said barangay the other day to distribute food packs for the fire victims in sitios Almacin and Alsica.

At least 75 houses were lost and close to 300 families were left homeless during last month's fire.

Guardo narrated that his leader, Cora Lim, was approached and warned by the barangay tanods not to push through with the distribution upon the instruction of the barangay captain following orders from City Hall.

2 police chiefs face transfer

TWO days before the ban on the transfer of civil service officials took effect, Camp Crame signed orders for the relief of at least four high-ranking police officials in the region.

Among the officials to be transferred are Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director Jesus Gaquing and Mandaue City Police Chief Orlando Ualat.

Regional Logistics Chief Erson Digal is set to replace Gaquing, while Community Relations Chief Noel Gillamac will reportedly replace Ualat.

Gaquing said his relief from the CPPO took effect last Friday but he only knew of it yesterday morning.

Gaquing believes this was due to the regular reshuffling done before election period.

Also, his scheduled retirement on May 22 may have led to the signing of the order, to avoid a vacuum in the CPPO leadership.

His retirement falls within the election period, while the ban on transferring civil service employees is still in effect.

He admitted he still did not know if he was going to report to the CPPO today.

"I still have to ask for further instructions," Gaquing said.

Earlier, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) had announced it was going to reshuffle PNP officials, especially city and provincial directors, to ensure non-partisanship in May's polls.

Digal admitted he knew about the order but said he has not seen a copy of it.

He said that at first, he was told to replace Lapu-Lapu City Police Chief Mariano Natuel. However, he was later told that instead of going to Lapu-Lapu, he was to replace Gaquing at the CPPO.

Ualat, for his part, said he heard reports about his transfer from Mandaue City since Saturday, but has not seen the actual orders.

"I cannot confirm in the absence of official orders," he said.

Negros Oriental Provincial Police Chief Augusto Marquez was also supposedly included in the revamp.

Marquez said that after the order for his relief was signed last Friday, it was also immediately reversed after an official requested his retention.

He said he will remain in his post.

Last Friday, reporters heard about Marquez's relief from the NOPPO, but Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez said he had not seen the orders yet.

Calls to Nerez yesterday were unanswered.

Chief of Staff Edgardo Ingking told Sun.Star Cebu that orders arrived from Camp Crame by fax.

He would not confirm who was affected by the orders because he had not seen these yet. He said he also had to get clearance from Nerez first.

Long ballots may cause trouble on election day, says IT expert

The use of long paper ballots may cause trouble during the first nationwide automated elections in May, according to an information technology expert.
Pablo Manalastas said the plan of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to use 30-inch-long ballots might cause privacy problems on election day.

"Ballots are supposed to be handed out to voters inside a secrecy folder. But with the length of these ballots, the privacy folders may not be able to provide enough privacy to the voters," he said at a forum held at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City on Saturday. 

The length of the ballots may also result in technical problems during the automated polls, according to Manalastas. 

"Extremely long ballots can easily jam the scanner machines. This may delay or even halt voting during the election day," he said.

But the use of 30-inch ballots has not yet been finalized. The poll body is still in the process of finalizing the contents and length of the ballot, a Comelec official said.

"Ballots are currently being printed and tested. The final list of candidates will still be out hopefully by next week, and we need this to finalize the ballots," Gregorio Larrazabal, one of the commissioners of the poll body said during the same forum.

Comelec technical consultant Tato Garcia added that the poll body was making sure that the length of the ballots would not cause machine trouble. "The tests are always done based on the maximum size of the ballots." 

The Comelec earlier said the ballots that it would print would contain a maximum of 600 names with an estimated to measure of about 20 to 25 inches long and 8 ½ inches wide. [SEE: Additional voters for 2010 to be like chance passengers]

PNP wants national dry-run of automated polls soon

The Philippine National Police on Sunday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to immediately conduct the nationwide dry-run of the automated elections to allow necessary adjustments in its security preparations.

Verzosa emphasized the importance of holding the field testing of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines the soonest possible time.

"Having the nationwide test run of the automated elections earlier would allow our men to review our security arrangements specially in election hot spots," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Verzosa, who personally led the setting up of checkpoints here, said he would ask the Comelec to hold a demonstration of the PCOS machines in police camps.

"It's very important for us to understand how the system works so we will know what we should guard," he stressed.

After 5 years, Arroyo to convene security council again

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may call a full meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) next week and invite former presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada to attend, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said Sunday.

Among the agenda in the meeting, which will be a first of such kind since 2005, are the coming nationwide automated elections, dismantling of private armies, and the recovery of loose firearms.

19 towns in Southern Mindanao on PNP poll watch-list

At least 19 areas in Southern Mindanao, including two villages in Davao that are known lairs of the New People's Army, have been placed on the Philippine National Police's election watch-list.

NPA now selling 'permits to win' – military exec

Before, it was "permit to campaign" (PTC), now it's "permit to win" (PTW), a military official in Quezon province revealed on Sunday as he urged candidates not to fall into the extortion schemes by the communist New People's Army rebels.

Grenade hurled at cathedral in Jolo

A grenade went off on Sunday outside a Catholic cathedral in Sulu province, a southern Philippine island which has seen bloody Muslim extremist attacks in recent years, the military said.

Fr. Joe Ante of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, citing a report from the Jolo Police, Senior Supt. Bienvenido Latag, police chief of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the blast, believed to have been caused by a fragmentation grenade thrown from outside, landed beside the cathedral, damaging some glass windows.

Father Ante said he was waiting for the 6 a.m. Sunday first mass to start when the blast occurred.

Alleged rebels attack Maguindanao barangay chairman's house

MANILA, Philippines - A group of armed men, suspected to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), attacked the house of a village chairman in Maguindanao province Sunday early morning.

Suspected NPA rebels burn logging equipment in Surigao

LANUZA, Surigao del Sur- Four units of rakers reportedly owned by Surigao Development Corporation (SUDECOR) were allegedly burned by about 10 armed men Friday afternoon in Barangay Pakwan in Lanuza town Surigao del Sur. 

Satisfaction with Arroyo gov't falls to record low

SATISFACTION with the Arroyo administration's performance has fallen to the lowest on record with six months left before a new government takes over, a new Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.

At -23 in December of last year, the administration's net satisfaction rating (% satisfied minus % dissatisfied) was down from -20 three months earlier. It also eclipsed the previous bottom of -21 hit in June 2008.

The result, however, remains within the range of scores the SWS describes as "poor" -- a category the executive branch has been in since February 2009.

The Arroyo administration's quarterly net ratings have been negative -- although some results are classed by the independent survey research institution as "neutral" -- since December 2007.

The last time the current government received a favorable rating -- a "moderate" +15 -- was back in August 2004. Its best is a +27 -- also "moderate" -- notched just after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001.

Her predecessor -- Joseph E. Estrada who was ousted and later jailed for corruption -- enjoys the record high of a "good" +36.

The SWS tags scores of +50 and above as "very good"; +30 to +49, "good"; +10 to +29, "moderate"; +9 to -9, "neutral"; -10 to -29, "poor"; -30 to -49, "bad"; and -50 or lower, "very bad."

Rated on 14 issues, the Arroyo government scored a "very good" on one -- helping victims of disasters (+51) -- and "moderate" on four: being prepared for natural calamities (+27), promoting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (+26), ensuring medicines are affordable (+20), and helping the poor (+17).

Gains were recorded for all five items.

"Neutral" ratings, meanwhile, were noted with respect to six issues: fighting terrorism (+4), campaigning against illegal drugs (-3), reconciling with both Muslim and Communist rebels (-4 and -5, respectively), and fighting crime and inflation (-9 each).

All but one of the scores -- that for fighting inflation -- were lower from three months earlier.

Allies say Arroyo must name new chief justice

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is not bothered by her critics who have warned her against making a so-called "midnight" appointment to replace outgoing Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno during the final months of her nine-year administration.

Cabral named health secretary, Duque goes to Civil Service

Malacanang on Sunday announced the appointment of Health Secretary Francisco Duque as chairperson of the Civil Service Commission.

Arroyo names Cabral as new DOH secretary

MANILA, Philippines- President Arroyo has named Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral as the new health secretary, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita announced.

Pass Freedom of Info bill, groups urge Nograles

With just nine session days to go before the 14th Congress adjourns for the May 2010 elections, leaders of over 100 media and non-government organizations urged lawmakers to pass with dispatch the Freedom of Information Act, as a first step to enabling the conduct of clean, credible and orderly elections.

Supreme Court stops singer from PNB asset takeover

The Supreme Court has nullified the order of the Makati City Regional Trial Court allowing singer-businessman Ramon "RJ" Jacinto to take on a multi-billion peso prime property of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) along Buendia Avenue in the country's premier financial district.

Federal civil suit vs. Sentosa, district attorney

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Ten Filipino nurses recruited and brought to the United States by Sentosa Care, as well as their lawyer, filed a Federal civil rights lawsuit against the company, its owner and officials, and the Suffolk County district attorney and other officers of the court.

66 Filipinos face death in China on drug charges: Manila

from by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - At least 66 Filipinos face the death penalty in China for drug smuggling, the Philippine foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Filipino gets 10 years for smuggling drugs in UAE

A Filipino was sentenced to 10 years in jail in the United Arab Emirates after pleading guilty of attempting to bring in cocaine there April last year.

RP sends more peacekeepers to world's hot spots - Davide

Filipino soldiers deployed with United Nations peacekeeping forces are at an all-time high with more than a thousand military and police peacekeepers serving in various conflict areas around the world, according to the country's UN delegation.

2 more Malaysian churches attacked in "Allah" row

Two more Malaysian churches were targeted by arsonists Sunday, police and church officials said, as a row escalated over the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims.

Man arrested after HK acid attack that injured 30

HONG KONG - Police arrested a man early Sunday after two bottles of corrosive liquid were hurled into a crowd at one of Hong Kong's famous tourist spots, officials said. At least 30 people were injured in the city's latest acid attack.
The victims, including children and tourists, were all treated at local hospitals for burns and other injuries and released. The liquid was thrown on them Saturday night near Temple Street, a densely populated district known for its outdoor shops and restaurants in the city's Kowloon area.

China urges US to halt arms sales to Taiwan

China has reiterated its opposition to American arms sales to Taiwan, calling them an interference in Beijing's internal affairs that could undermine relations with the United States.

Petraeus: More security funds heading to Yemen, but not troops

by CNN
TAMPA, Florida, United States -- The U.S. military does not intend to put ground troops in Yemen, a country where al Qaeda operatives have become an increasing threat, Gen. David Petraeus told CNN in an interview to be aired Sunday.

S.Korean dies over 200 days after life support cut

SEOUL – A 77-year-old brain-dead South Korean woman died on Sunday, more than 200 days after being taken off life support in the country's first case of legal euthanasia, officials said.

Israel's ex-president testifies in rape trial

JERUSALEM-- Israel's disgraced ex-president Moshe Katsav testified for the first time on Sunday in a trial in which he faces several counts of rape and sexual harassment, Israeli media said.

Late pope's would-be killer offered book, film deals

The Turk who attempted to kill late pope John Paul II, Mehmet Ali Agca, has received several book, film and documentary offers from abroad, which he will consider after his release from prison this month, his lawyer said Sunday.

Pacquiao-Clottey bout no boring fight, says Roach

Freddie Roach expects fireworks when Manny Pacquiao stakes his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title against Joshua Clottey on March 13 at the Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Purefoods keeps semis bid alive

MANILA, Philippines - Purefoods Tender Juicy needed a rare offensive explosion from KG Canaleta to silence Rain or Shine, 101-88, to keep its automatic semifinals bid alive in the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup Sunday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Singer-composer to Teodoro: Stop using my song in your ad

(UPDATED) Rico Blanco, formerly of the rock band Rivermaya, has demanded that administration presidential bet Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. stop using his song Posible in the politician's video ad. The ad's scorer claims Blanco's former manager had allowed the use of the song.

Ex-PBB housemate Sam Pinto admits dating Jake Cuenca

MANILA, Philippines - Sam Pinto, the latest Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Double Up evictee, admitted Sunday that she used to date Jake Cuenca before the actor became a household name. The relationship though did not prosper because Cuenca, according to Pinto, became busy with his work.

Krista Ranillo answers Jinkee Pacquiao's 'I hate her' remark

Krista Ranillo doesn't hate anyone. This was what the young sexy actress, who is accused of being Manny Pacquiao's other woman, maintained when asked to react on the statement made by Manny's wife in a magazine interview.

"Avatar" remains in orbit with $48.5M weekend

LOS ANGELES - "Avatar" remains the top box-office draw for the fourth straight weekend with $48.5 million.

New sunglasses can also be used for 3-D viewing

LAS VEGAS – With the hit movie "Avatar" creating a buzz around 3-D entertainment, a California company is touting what it believes are the first 3-D glasses, which can also double as sunglasses.

Pig dowry for NZ teen to marry boyfriend's dad

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand—A New Zealand teen was forced to marry her boyfriend's father and consummate the marriage after the groom gave her parents a pig and some mats as a dowry, according to a report Sunday.

Catherine Zeta-Jones rules out toyboy

by Bang Showbiz
Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn't find young men attractive. The 40-year-old actress - who is married to 65-year-old actor Michael Douglas - says she could never date someone who is younger than her because they are so "selfish."

Cleopatra's stunner make-up cured eye disease as well

by Agence France-Presse
PARIS – Ancient Egypt's stunning eye make-up not only shielded wearers from the dark deeds of the evil eye but also protected them against eye disease, French scientists said Thursday.

Ancient Egyptians some 4,000 years ago produced the make-up used to darken and adorn eyes with lead and lead salts in mixtures that sometimes took a month to concoct, said Philippe Walter, who co-headed a team of scientists from the Louvre museum and the CNRS national research institute.

"We knew ancient Greeks and Romans too had noted the make-up had medicinal properties, but wanted to determine exactly how," he told AFP.

Contrary to widely held belief that lead is harmful, the team, using analytical chemistry, determined that "in very low doses lead does not kill cells."

Instead, it produces a molecule -- nitric oxide -- that activates the immune defence system which beats back bacteria in case of eye infection.

The research was carried out using a tiny electrode, the 10th of the size of a hair, to look at the effect of a lead chloride synthesised by the Egyptians -- laurionite -- on a single cell.

The study was released Thursday online by the journal Analytical Chemistry.

S.African 'crime lord's' fake penis falls off in raid: report

by Agence France-Presse
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - South African police caught more than they expected in a Cape Town drug raid when a strap-on dildo fell off a suspected crime lord during a search, the Sunday Times reported.

Mike Ditka  - "If God had wanted man to play soccer, he wouldn't have given us arms."

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