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

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 18, 2010 Major News Stories

Placer, Tangub rule competition

RAIN did not spare yesterday's Sinulog grand parade, but it did not stop Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe from capturing its second straight crown in the Sinulog-based (SB) category.

Tribu Himag-ulaw also didn't let the rain keep it from winning the free interpretation (FI) category, after it failed to do that the first time it joined last year.

Sinanduloy of Tangub City, Misamis Occidental won for the second straight year with innovations in its presentation and clear demonstration that the dancers "venerated" the Sto. Niño.

It had failed to win a fourth straight grand prize in 2008, but is starting another streak with its latest back-to-back wins.

"Tangub maintained the traditional presentation…. The many dancers' execution of the ritual of veneration is very much present," said Dr. Larry Gabao, chairman of the five-person board of judges.

He said that though the contingent may have been limited by the Sinulog steps, it was able to present something new.

"In some patterns of the choreography there were changes in the way they presented their concept," said Gabao, president of the Philippine Folk Dance Society.

After its backdrop of wooden panels showing a bamboo groove parted, Sinanduloy started, its dancers hidden in the middle of a ricefield, with a few acting as scarecrows.

As they prayed for a good harvest, dancers flipped their large illustrations of rice stalks, to show a golden field.

Tangub City Mayor Jennifer Wee Tan said she was nervous because there were other strong contenders in the field of 22 contingents in their category.

"We just left the results up to the Sto. Niño. The children gave it their all," Tan said.

Tangub's choreographer Emilio "Jojen" Pascual is among those the Sinulog Foundation Inc. will honor today as one of the multi-awarded choreographers of the competition.

Aside from the grand prize, Tangub also won first place for the fifth straight year in the street dancing competition, for a total prize of P1 million.

For Tribu Himag-ulaw of Placer, Masbate, on the other hand, the sweetest victory came during the second try.

As a first-time participant, Placer went home empty-handed last year, when Abuyog, Leyte lorded over the FI category.

"It was a relief. It was joy. It was ecstasy," said Mayor Joshur Lanete to describe what he felt when he learned of their win.

Placer's well-applauded presentation started with stairs in the middle of the stage, a sun with revolving rays above it.

Lanete said their concept was that of a sick child who was offered to the Sto. Niño and was healed.

"The whole village then gave thanks for the Sto. Niño's miracle," he said.

Using huge flowers and violet woven trays slung on the backs of dancers, the Placer dancers wowed the crowd with their choreography.

"The choreography was very exciting. It was something new.

What is exciting about them was the way they changed props and choreographic patterns. In a split second they were able to change props and patterns despite the difficulty of the choreography. The precision is highly commendable," said Cultural Center of the Philippines President Nestor Jardin.

He said the dancers, garbed in a head-to-toe golden costume, "blended well with the overall concept of the dance."

For winning the grand prize, Placer will get P500,000 cash.

Although he spent at least P1 million for the contingent, Lanete said the dancers were not after the money, but the opportunity to honor the Holy Child.

"Wala mi nag-apas nga makabawi sa gasto. I'm a Sto. Niño devotee because I used to dance the Sinulog when I lived in Sto. Niño Village in Banilad (Cebu City).

Dili na man ko pwede mosayaw, sa laing paagi nako gihatag (I can no longer dance, so I found another way to make my offering). Personal commitment ko ni," he said.

He credited the win to the brilliance of choreographer Barry Luche and the discipline of the dancers.

Jardin, chairman of the FI category judges, said that while Cebu City's Lumad Basakanon of Barangay Basak San Nicolas was also good, the judges did not see something new in its choreography.

"A slight variation but basically the same in choreographic style and pattern," he said.

Rain interrupted yesterday's performances at the Cebu City Sports Center for at least 30 minutes, while organizers had the stage wiped dry.

With protection of the environment as the centerpiece of this year's Fiesta Señor, there were a few of the 44 dancing contingents that used climate change as their concept.

Sta. Filomena, Alegria, for example, used the call to fight global warming, with the Sto. Niño by greening the earth.

It was similar to the theme Cambanay Elementary School of Danao City also adopted.

Aside from trophies, first place winners (both SB and FI) will receive P500,000 each; second placers, P400,000; third, P300,000; fourth, P200,000; and fifth, P100,000.

Choreographers of winning contingents will get P30,000 (first); P20,000 (second); P15,000 (third); P10,000, fourth; and P5,000 (fifth).

The best in street dancing will get P500,000 (first); P300,000 (second); and P100,000 (third).

All winners will be formally recognized during the awarding ceremony and repeat performance at the Cebu City Sports Center at 1 p.m. today.

Fiesta draws 8M

A BIGGER venue is being contemplated for next year's Sinulog, after the large crowd that turned up for yesterday's festivities raised the possibility of a stampede.

"The Cebu City Sports Center is getting too small for the Sinulog. I think we have to look for a bigger venue," said Ricky Ballesteros, Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) executive director.

He said the coliseum being planned at the South Road Properties would be better suited for the event.

The day may have started out gloomy, but the weather did not stop some eight million people from lining up along Cebu City's streets to watch the 11-hour parade.

The crowd estimate came from Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez, who made rounds of the parade route several times.

The estimate included those who turned up for the early mass at the Basilica del Sto. Niño, where people left no free space in the Pilgrim Center that can hold 12,000.

No violence marred either the religious or cultural festivities.

However, pickpockets kept busy and worries about traffic gridlocks prompted Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña to cancel the permits for street parties scheduled after the parade.

Osmeña said he was also saddened by the low turnout of out-of-town contingents and wants to make "minor" changes to the Sinulog festival to make it more appealing to delegations from other provinces.

Osmeña lauded the organizers of yesterday's grand parade for coming up with a world-class program at minimum cost.

Sinulog 2010, which cost the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) P25 million to stage, ended without a major glitch, save for the downpour that forced organizers to delay some contingents' performances on stage.

"I have nothing to do with this. We should give credit to all the organizers. If you were to do this in Hollywood, it would cost you millions of dollars and it's something that cannot be duplicated anywhere because people just contributed their time and talent," said Osmeña.

"It's really their devotion to the Sto. Niño," he said.

Police Chief Nerez thanked the communications groups and medical teams, who were stationed in each sector set up by the police.

The day began with overcast skies, but the sun came out before noon. The rain began past 3 p.m., briefly halting the program.


At the Cebu City Sports Complex grandstand, police estimated there were 20,000 people inside, including those at the sides of the stage.

While the grandstand can accommodate 13,000, Chief Insp. Arnel Banzon, who was in charge of security there, said the bleachers had more the place's capacity.

Out in the streets, Nerez noticed that before 7 a.m., the areas near Carreta, Imus and P. del Rosario lacked crowd control personnel.

During his second round, though, he was satisfied and stopped to thank volunteers for helping the police.

At least two children were found abandoned in one sector. One of them, a boy with Down Syndrome, was found by Nerez near Harrison Plaza on Osmena Blvd.

The boy's guardians took police suggestions seriously, writing the boy's name and a contact number on his back. The boy was picked up by an aunt, after he helped himself to some spaghetti from a policeman.


Another boy was also hit by a motorcycle along the Imus road.

He did not suffer serious injuries, but the medical team decided to take him to a hospital aboard an ambulance just to be sure.

Nerez noted that the crowd was very cooperative and did not insist on going over the ropes used as cordons.

While not all areas could be as tightly watched as others, Nerez said the police focused their crowd control efforts on Gen. Maxilom Ave. and Osmena Blvd., where the lanes tended to be narrower.

In earlier meetings, police agreed to have personnel ready to handle crowd control, should student volunteers leave before the parade ended.

But yesterday, there were enough volunteers as criminology students and interns were also deployed to help keep the crowds outside of the cordon. Many of the students stayed until late afternoon to manage the thickening crowd.

Some 20,000 watched the contingents from the grandstand of the Cebu City Sports Center alone, based on the crowd estimate provided by Cebu City Police Office deputy director for operations Pablo Labra.


While he was grateful for the "tremendous" efforts of the organizers, the mayor lamented the absence of out-of-town contingents that joined previous parades.

So the festival will be more appealing to out-of-towners who want to promote their towns or provinces, Osmeña wants the Sinulog Festival Queen contest to be a highlight of the Sinulog week.

He said yesterday that the Festival Queen should take the place of the Miss Cebu pageant to give the Sinulog week a more exotic feel. The Miss Cebu pageant will be moved to the Charter Day week every February, if the mayor has his way.

"If I were to make any change next year, it will be very minor. I will move the Miss Cebu to Charter Day and I will make the Festival Queen the main event before the Sinulog proper because I think it's much more dynamic and presentable with all the costumes and also because the delegations want to show off, and I think this is something that would enhance the participation of out-of-town contingents," the mayor said.

Osmeña said the organizers should be more sensitive to what the out-of-town contingents want, which is to promote their communities.


He clarified that the Miss Cebu fiasco last year—when the wrong candidate was announced as the winner of a contest based on texters' votes—has nothing to do with his suggestion.

"I think people are getting more weary of beauty contests and people want to see something more exotic and the Festival Queen is very exotic... We have to consider that out-of-town contingents would want to project their own place and we're very guilty of not doing much of that," he said.

For Sen. Richard Gordon, the Sinulog has improved a lot since he was Department of Tourism (DOT) secretary in 2004.

He encouraged the organizers to keep on outdoing themselves to get more tourists to come to Cebu, especially since the festival creates a lot of livelihood opportunities.

"Sinulog has come a long way. Most definitely it's better.

It has become an entertainment for the locals and the foreigners and we should promote it even more. I'm very happy that a lot has improved, the dances and the costumes and props are better," Gordon said.

P2.5M finale retraces Cebu, Sinulog history

FOR nearly two hours last night, around 20,000 revelers in the Cebu City Sports Center were treated to live performances of Cebuano artists and a 20-minute fireworks display that capped the Sinulog celebration.

Around 600 performers brought the audience back to the old Cebu, showing dances and innovations from the different periods, from the Spanish era to the American period and to Cebu at present.

Led by Cebu City first lady Margot Osmeña, they also showed the 30-year history of the Sinulog and how it evolved to become the festival that we know today.

The finale that featured Cebuana singers Dulce and Pilita Corales, as well as the life-sized structures of Cebu City's landmarks, cost organizers P2.5 million to stage.

"There were minor lapses but overall, I think everybody did a good job in paying attention to the tiniest detail," said Sinulog Foundation Inc. executive director Ricky Ballesteros.

Margot said she opted not to join the Cebu City contingent so she could focus on her dance numbers during the finale, which she said were her offering to the Sto. Niño.

While the production number projected her as the "Carnival queen," she said it should not be taken seriously because her performance was all about giving thanks to the patron, especially after Mayor Tomas Osmeña's recovery from cancer.

"Don't take the title seriously. It's a tradition that we used to have and I did it as an offering. It's all about the Sto. Niño because there is just so much to be thankful for. We're grateful to be here because last year we were not around," Margot said.

The Osmeñas missed last year's festivities since they had to be in the US while the mayor was seeking treatment.

Dressed in a long-sleeved black gown embellished with crystals and sequins, she danced the Rigodon de honor with Cebu's socialites. The declaration of the Carnival Queen was considered the most awaited social event during the American period.

She also danced the Sinulog with her own image of the Sto. Niño, which she said has been her "partner" since 1992.

This Sinulog, she said, is extra special for her since it will be her last performance as first lady.

Concerned that Margot's performance as "queen" would be criticized, Tomas said the host did not have to mention her name several times.

"This is not a dance competition, she just blends in with the entire setting and she's just being told what to do. I mean she's not trying to stand out there. As a matter of fact, they didn't even have to mention her name. She's just happy to be a part of this because there are so many things to be grateful for. We should not use this parade to project a personality, it can just trigger a lot of resentment," the mayor said.

The finale started with a video documentary on the history of the Sinulog and segued into Cebu's rich culture and heritage.

It showed the influence of the Spaniards and the Americans in Cebu, using elaborate props like the tartanillas during the Spanish period and the trains set up in Cebu during the American era.

A 37-piece orchestra, a rondalla and drum beaters provided the background music to the performance.

The parade ended with a 10-minute fireworks display, sponsored by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Gwen stopped from dancing in finale

WAS Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia stopped from dancing before the Sinulog 2010 closing program?

Yes, but not for the reason that most people are thinking.

Ricky Ballesteros, executive director of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), said there was nothing political about it.

A Capitol insider who refused to be named said Garcia got a call from the Sinulog organizers last night, telling her she was could not dance just before the Cebu City Government closed the program.

She did dance with Tabuelan's Ani-Anihan, a festival about harvest, in the morning.

But unlike the past five years that Garcia danced with her group just before closing, it didn't happen this year.

"We have a long finale, about one hour and 30 minutes," said Ballesteros, explaining that politics was not behind the snub.

Capitol consultant on information and revenue generation Rory Jon Sepulveda said it is not the right time to put political color on the incident.

"It is not the right time to talk about that because it will dampen or overshadow the celebratory mood of the people. There will be a proper time for that," he said.

Ballesteros, though, said there was no negative reaction from Garcia's camp when it was decided that she could not dance before the finale.

Some may have enjoyed the governor's performance yesterday, but Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña believes there is nothing else to it but self-projection.

"To tell you frankly, she's just there to project herself, that's the way I see it. She will not participate in anything where she cannot project herself. Have you ever seen her at the procession? She will never go to the procession kay dili siya starring. Twenty years na since I've been mayor and she's never attended kay kinahanglan starring gyud," he said, when asked what he thought of Garcia's dance.

But he said he was not surprised, because Gov. Garcia has always enjoyed publicity.

"That's why even the ads in tourism is her face, as if the tourists will come here because of her face," the mayor continued.

Garcia called her dance with the group meaningful because while most dancers are children just like the Santo Niño, the dance is also about harvest.

Garcia said that Cebu is now reaping the benefits of the developmental programs put in her years of service.

At the start of the dance, Garcia came out of a giant corn wearing a gown designed by Cary Santiago.

This is the sixth year that Garcia danced the Sinulog with her department heads.

Meanwhile, Capitol was also denied a spot for the medical van that they usually use as a dressing room for the governor. Capitol usually parks the van beside the pool area.

"We have a small canteen so we used the space to put up food stalls so that people don't have to go outside to eat. Because then, they usually get late coming back to the event," explained Ballesteros.

The van was parked inside the Police Regional Office 7.

The Ani-Anihan contingent took a spot along Osmeña Blvd.

VIP pass to parade not a right: Tomas

STILL sore that she was not given a VIP pass for the Sinulog grand parade yesterday, mayoral candidate Georgia Osmeña called Vice Mayor Michael Rama "arrogant" and a "hypocrite" and her brother, Mayor Tomas Osmeña, a "bully."

Georgia has complained that Rama promised her tickets to the grandstand but reneged on it.

"Last year, when I called him to ask if it was okay to ask him for a ticket in spite of the talks of my running against him, he said, then, 'You have been with me in this from the beginning. I will always have tickets for you.' And he gave me tickets. That was what he said then…. He is plastic, after all, and a hypocrite," she said.

"Arrogant, with the way he explained why I was not given ticket…Lumabas ang tunay na Mike Rama. He is not the nice guy that he presents himself to be," she added.

In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu the other day, Rama said she should ask for the pass from the mayor. He pointed out she is running against him in the May elections Delicadeza

"You hide behind the back of Tommy and you talk so big. In the first place, you should have had the delicadeza to resign from the Sinulog Foundation. You are the one issuing tickets, not Tommy, so why should I ask Tommy? You were the one giving the tickets to me all the past years…. You keep on saying the Sinulog should not be politicized and yet you and Tommy are the biggest abusers of the Sinulog using the people's money!" she said.

In an interview yesterday, Tomas, who has anointed Rama as the Bando Osmena Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) candidate for mayor to replace him, said it was he who denied his younger sister the VIP pass.

"I said not to give her…She has this position that she's an Osmeña so she deserves the mayoralty. If you get a ticket, be grateful. But it (getting a VIP pass) is not a right. She thinks it is a right," the mayor said.

Told of her brother's words, Georgia said anybody can run for mayor and that it just so happened that she is a daughter of Sergio "Serging" Osmeña Jr.

She said she has been receiving a VIP pass for so long that it was a surprise that she was denied now.

She also said that her brother was also a nobody when he first ran for public office.

"What did he think of himself when he first ran for office? I am running on competency, something his candidate for mayor does not have. Ang yabang naman niyang magsalita, when look at the mess the city is in; how neglected it is. It is run by an arrogant Osmeña who uses the resources of the government to abuse others," Georgia said.

Pickpockets keep busy; Tomas 'cancels' parties

IN 30 minutes, nine local and foreign tourists lost their wallets to pickpockets in Gen. Maxilom Ave., Fuente Osmeña and Osmeña Blvd. during yesterday's Sinulog Grand Parade.

Two people – a 16-year-old boy and a 40-year-old mother, were also arrested for allegedly stealing the cellular phones of two female Sinulog spectators. A man was forced out of the Cebu City Sports Complex for selling a VIP-complimentary ticket.

Ricky Ballesteros, executive director of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), confiscated one VIP ticket from Augusto Viñalon.

Viñalon said he is a victim, not a suspect.

Ballesteros said there was something suspicious about Viñalon, who was allegedly giving signals to another person while holding a brown envelope.

Ballesteros said SFI's covert security at the Abellana Grandstand saw Viñalon with the envelope. The envelope had the label "Sammy Rama."

The complimentary ticket was reportedly from the Office of Vice Mayor Michael Rama. But Ballesteros said he does not know Sammy.

Viñalon said he bought the ticket from a vendor outside the Cebu City Sports Complex. It originally cost P500 but he haggled for it at P300. But Ballesteros said the ticket is not for sale.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña cancelled street parties and concerts that were supposed to be held in parking lots after the Sinulog Grand Parade last night, saying they are the primary cause of congestion in the roads every Sinulog.

Osmeña exempted the parties at Ayala Center Cebu and SM City parking lots because of the extra parking lots they have.

Osmeña was upset over the approval and issuance of permits to hold the street parties and concerts, and said he would relieve city officials and employees responsible for these.

"That's not supposed to be allowed. That's supposed to be approved by me… I don't know who's the idiot who got some money from somewhere and issued the permits, so I cancelled everything. Whoever it is, he's going to be transferred, not just reprimanded, because this is ridiculous. I've never approved this before and I don't know what idiot thinks he has the authority to deviate from the Building Code," he said yesterday.


On the pickpocket incidents, first to lodge a report at the Guadalupe Police Station was 70-year-old American Tommy Gene Siler, who lost a passport.

He told PO2 Ariel Dicdican, desk officer, that he was walking along Gen. Maxilom Ave. at 10:40 a.m. when a woman tried to steal his wallet.

Siler managed to tap the hand of the woman and prevented the latter from taking his wallet.

But he found out later that his passport was no longer in his pocket.

At 11:30 a.m., Victor Po Chua, 58, of Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, told police that a woman took his cellular phone he had placed in a pouch while he was walking near a drugstore along Fuente Osmeña rotunda.

Ten minutes later, 44-year-old Austrian national Hellstern Georg lost his wallet while he was about to cross the street at the corner of F. Ramos and Mango Ave.

The wallet contained P15,000 cash, cards and other important documents.

At noon, an unidentified pickpocket also took the wallet of Fidel S. Torres, 61, who is from Marilao, Bulacan. He was on Osmeña Blvd. when he lost his wallet with P4,500 cash inside and identification cards.

Rolando G. Mercader, 72, of Basak Pardo was taking videos of the Sinulog along Osmeña Blvd. at 12:30 p.m. when a thief took his wallet containing P600 cash, a driver's license, ATM card and other documents.

At 1 p.m., Canadian Andre Peter Brunger, 51, lost his wallet with P1,500 cash and cards inside.

British national Ronald Platt, 74, temporarily residing in Minglanilla, told police he lost his wallet containing credit cards and important documents.

No violence

Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Patrocinio Comendador said that despite the incidents, yesterday's Sinulog celebration was generally peaceful.

He said no violent incidents were recorded, like shooting or stabbing.

A brief commotion between two warring fraternities along Gen. Maxilom Ave., was immediately controlled by the police, he said.

As of 6:30 p.m., police listed nine children missing.

Crowd estimate in the carousel route is about 3.5 million to 4 million, Comendador said.

Another problem that authorities addressed yesterday was traffic congestion.

A number of street parties and concerts that had been scheduled in the parking lots of different establishments in the city, including those along General Maxilom Ave., were cancelled at the last minute after the Sinulog Grand Parade last night.

Osmeña blamed the concerts and parties in parking lots for the heavy traffic immediately after the grand parade, since vehicles and people spill out to the streets due to the lack of parking spaces.

"We did not allow the use of the parking lots for any other activity except for parking. We already know that the biggest problem of the Sinulog is traffic. They want to have concerts in the parking lot, then a lot of people will go there, so it compounds the situation because there's no place to park, so people will double and triple park. I will not allow it," said Osmeña.

He said he exempted those held at the Ayala Center Cebu and SM City Cebu parking lots because Ayala rented three vacant lots at the Cebu Business Park to be used as additional parking spaces.

SM City, on the other hand, held its concert at its old van-for-hire terminal, and it has already opened a new, multi-level parking building, he said.

Aside from concerts and parties, stalls and booths that block the road and sidewalks were also ordered removed by the mayor.

He said he will fire all the Squatters Prevention Encroachment Elimination Division (Speed) personnel if they cannot clear the sidewalks of stalls in three days.


"If they don't clear these things in three days, they're all fired… My decision is based on my concern for the people because if we allow these things, you know what's going to happen? The whole city will come to a standstill," Osmeña warned.

Organizers of the concerts and parties reportedly complained that celebrities from Manila already flew in for the event, which the mayor cancelled.

But Osmeña said the celebrities can just go back to Manila because his number one concern is easing the traffic in the city during the Sinulog, and the welfare of the people of the city.

Cardinal calls on faithful to pray for quake victims

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal is calling on the multitudes who participated during the last day of the Fiesta Señor to pray for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Tondo folk celebrate Santo Niño festival

Matapos ang pista ng Itim na Nazareno, ipinagdiriwang naman ngayon ang araw ng Santo Niño na para sa ilan ay ang pinakasikat na imahe sa Pilipinas. Sa Tondo, Maynila, kanya-kanyang bihis ang mga Santo Niño na ipinarada at isinayaw sa kalye.

DOE chief fears shortage if Shell oil imports are seized

MANILA, Philippines - Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes fears there could be shortage in supply of fuel if the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seizes P43 billion worth of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp.'s importations.

The BOC earlier vowed to seize $923 million worth of Shell's imports arriving in February to May 2010 as payment for alleged back taxes. The agency said Shell failed to pay excise taxes covering its importations of Catalytic Cracked Gasoline (CCG) and Light Catalytic Cracked Gasoline (LCCG) from 2004 to 2009.

SRA says sugar supply enough; on full alert against hoarders

by By Apples Jalandoni, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines – Amid spiralling prices of sugar in the markets, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) assured on Sunday it was cracking down on hoarders.

14 fishers rescued from rough seas

Fourteen fishermen in Leyte were rescued Saturday after their fishing vessel capsized due to strong winds and heavy rains last Friday.

The fishermen were rescued off the waters of Barugo town in Leyte, by the members of the Bantay-Dagat (Sea Watch) team of the nearby town of Carigara and local fishers, at 1 p.m., SPO3 Rito Pallomina, of the Carigara police station, said in a telephone late Saturday.

The fishing vessel F/B M Star, which left the coastal town of Capoocan, Leyte early Friday, capsized at around 6 p.m. Friday. The fishing boat went adrift with all the 14 fishermen hanging on to it, Pallomina said.

One of the wives of the fishermen informed the police station of Carigara early Saturday about her missing husband and his companions. The police immediately alerted the town's Bantay Dagat team, which in turn launched a search and rescue operation.

The rescued fishermen, all of Capoocan, were identified as Bart Perante, 21; John Daniel Villamor, 20; Ryan Villamor,18; Marlito Pigaro, 20; Gerry Batis, 21; Edwin Udtuhan, 38; Erwin Saragosa,28; Randy Siapo, 24; Noel Darato Jr.,15; Jeffrey Espina, 19; Jaymar Flreito,19; Johan Soriano,19; Ryan Maceda,31 and Mario Arboso, They were brought by rescuers to Barangay Minuhang, a coastal village of
Barugo town.

The rescued fishermen were exhausted but had no serious injuries, Pallomina said. They had returned home, he said.

The water where the fishing vessel capsized is part of the Carigara Bay.

Benhur keeping post, suing Tining for "fraud"

Cebu Fourth District Rep. Benhur Salimbangon is not giving up his post as he is not unseated yet and will attend the congressional session today.

2.5-foot ballot seen with 144 partylist groups in polls

The ballot to be used in the country's first automated polls in May could reach as long as 2.5 feet and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is hard pressed to make it shorter.

Comelec spokesman James Arthur Jimenez said the ballot, as has been designed, has a "maximum" length of 26 inches or a little over two feet but a backup ballot design measuring 29 inches or nearly 2.5 feet could be used instead after the poll body's approval of 144 party-list groups participating in the elections.

"It's the names of the party-list groups that would lengthen the ballot. We're finding a way to shorten it further. Maybe we could just use [the groups'] acronyms only, or provide matching numbers," Jimenez said in an interview over radio station dzBB.

Converted to the metric system, 26 inches is about 66 centimeters or one-third of a meter; 29 inches is 77.66 cm or nearly four-fifths of a meter.

Aside from the names of the party-list groups, each ballot would include the names of 10 presidential, eight vice presidential and 62 senatorial bets and 144 party-list groups, said Jimenez, also the director of Comelec's education and information department.

The Quezon City-based Institute of Political and Electoral Reform blamed the Comelec for its problem on the long ballot.

"They approved so many party-list groups, which is higher than in 2009. I think they weren't strict in screening the party-list groups, even if the Supreme Court already provided them with the guidelines," IPER executive director Ramon Casiple told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.

Casiple said if the length of the ballot was really a problem for Comelec, then it could either print the names on the ballots in smaller fonts or else shorten the length of the ballot by making it more square-shaped than rectangular.

Jimenez's proposals to use numbers in the ballot to represent the party-list groups might only lead to confusion in the marking, Casiple said.

"I think we can't do anything much now," he said, adding that the priority of the Comelec would be to make the contents of the ballot clear to the voter.

Estrada not quitting 2010 race, says Enrile

Joseph Estrada will not quit the presidential race, according to his ally Senate President and reelectionist Juan Ponce Enrile.

Momentum is on our side – Villar

Dikit na dikit na (It's very close). That was how Senator Manuel Villar, running second in popularity surveys among presidential candidates, described the presidential race between him and frontrunner, Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Villar faces censure over road mess

(UPDATE) Senator Manny Villar is facing censure at the Senate after he was found guilty for allegedly engaging in improper and unethical conduct in connection with the C5 road extension project, according to a draft report by the Senate committee of the whole.

Noynoy in peril as CBCP speaks up vs pro-RH bill bets

The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is taking its war against the controversial reproductive health bill now pending at the Congress where it hurts: to the electorate. And Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who has been topping various presidential preference surveys, is likely to suffer the most.

Former SC justice chides Aquino over threat to SC

MANILA -- A recently retired justice of the Supreme Court has taken exception to the remarks made by Liberal Party presidential candidate Senator Benigno Aquino III that he will not recognize a Chief Justice appointed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Retired Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago said Aquino's statement was "a simple off-the-cuff remark which nonetheless reveals the lack of knowledge of the young presidential candidate on the basics of constitutional law and the appointment processes in the Supreme Court."

Santiago indicated that the constitutionality of Mrs. Arroyo naming a successor to Chief Justice Reynato Puno despite a supposed constitutional ban on presidential appointments two months before the presidential elections would be one for the Supreme Court to decide.

"Philippine Constitution 101 teaches us that our fundamental law has divided the three great branches of our government into the legislative (Congress), the executive (the President) and the judiciary (the courts)," Santiago said.

Thus, according to Santiago, the President could not set aside a decision of the Supreme Court, Congress cannot execute the laws it enacts, and the Supreme Court has no power to pass laws.

"Section 1, Article VIII, 1987 Constitution, provides that 'the judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law'," Santiago said.

She said judicial power has been defined as the power and duty of judicial tribunals to construe and apply the laws to controversies and disputes.

"Accordingly, the interpretation and application of the Constitution and statutes are within the exclusive province and jurisdiction of the courts," Santiago said.

"This constitutional duty and prerogative may not be assumed by other departments of the government, not even by a lawfully elected president," she added.

2 ex-SC justices say Arroyo can name new chief justice

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can appoint Chief Justice Reynato Puno's successor after he retires in May 17, 2009, according to two retired magistrates—including a long-time consultant of the Judicial and Bar Council.

In two separate position papers, retired justices Josue Bellosillo and Consuelo Ynares-Santiago both stated that there's no rule stopping the JBC from starting the nomination process for Puno's replacement when he turns 70 in May.

The two former magistrates has chimed in on the raging debate on whether Mrs. Arroyo could constitutionally and legally appoint Puno's successor considering that there is a supposed ban on presidential appointments that starts two months before the presidential elections and that would run until the presidential term expires on June 30.

There have also been calls for the JBC to forego the nomination process until the new administration is sworn into office to prevent Mrs. Arroyo from making any appointment to the post of Chief Justice.

Both Bellosillo and Santiago said that even if the JBC decided to forego the screening process for the post of Chief Justice, the President could in accordance with constitutional provisions appoint Puno's replacement.

Bellosillo, a longtime Supreme Court justice and a 12-year JBC consultant, said the President has been mandated under the constitution to appoint the Chief Justice within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy.

"(The) general rule requiring the President to appoint only from the list submitted by the JBC cannot and should not stop the President from complying with her constitutional mandate, if the JBC does not submit its list on time," Bellosillo said.

Bellosillo was also a court administrator of the Supreme Court before then President Corazon Aquino appointed him to the tribunal on March 3, 1992.

"(Otherwise) the JBC can stop the President from complying with her mandate," Bellosillo said.

The recently retired Santiago, on the other hand, said that the constitutional ban on presidential appointments two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of the President's term "to my mind, does not apply to appointments of chief justices."

"It must be remembered that it is the Supreme Court en banc which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice President," Santiago said.

Santiago retired from the Supreme Court in early November 2009.

"As such, the chief justice again plays a very crucial and critical role. If during ordinary times, the chief justice is appointed right away, with more reason should he be appointed immediately during election period," Santiago said.

Santiago also agreed with the view of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, "which is shared by the Philippine Constitution Association, that in the appointment of a chief justice from incumbent justices of the Supreme Court, the president need not wait for the shortlist of the JBC."

"After all, the incumbent justices of the Supreme Court have gone past the JBC already. And while this has not yet been done in the past, there is nothing that prohibits it," Santiago said.

Bill seeks ban on midnight appointment of chief justice

Militant party-list groups will file a bill in Congress barring an outgoing president from appointing a new Supreme Court chief justice during the last 60 days of the President's term.

JBC to tackle chief justice short list on Monday - Palace

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss whether it would submit a short list of nominees to succeed Chief Justice Reynato Puno when he retires a week after the May 10 polls.

Comelec disqualifies 55 bets in Maguindanao

The Commission on Elections disqualified 55 candidates in Maguindanao for not being registered voters in the towns where they are running for local posts.

The Comelec law department was also instructed to file election offense cases against the disqualified candidates for violating Section 74 of the OEC, which requires candidates to declare in their CoCs their complete eligibility to run, including the area where they are registered voters.

An election offense could result in imprisonment of one to six years, disqualification from public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.

Of the candidates disqualified, 42 belong to the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD, and 13 are running as independents.

No firearms found in 4th raid at Ampatuan mansion

For the fourth time since the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre, government agents searched for firearms inside the mansion of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. in Shariff Aguak town on Saturday.

Gunmen raid house of vice mayor bet in Masbate

MANILA, Philippines - Gunmen raided the house the house of a candidate for vice mayor in Claveria town in Masbate province on Saturday and took 2 high-powered firearms, an Army spokesman said Sunday.

30 armed men raided the house of Monching Radan at Taguilid village around 6 a.m. Saturday. Radan is a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Claveria and is running for vice mayor of the town in the May elections.

Cabunoc said the armed men were members of a private armed group (PAG) and posed as Army soldiers.

The Army unit spokesman said that residents of the barangay were able to identify some of the gunmen to be followers of a political opponent of Radan. He, however, declined to name the politician, pending investigation.

Shun NPA extortion racket, candidates told

The military on Sunday appealed to candidates in the coming May elections, particularly in the local level, not to give in to the extortion demands of the communist rebels.

Will Arroyo retain Ibrado as AFP chief?

by by Purple S. Romero,
MANILA, Philippines - Will there be a new face at the helm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by March or will President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stick it out with current military chief Gen. Victor Ibrado?

No e-passport processing until Jan. 22—DFA

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will not process electronic passports from January 15 to 22 "due to its data migration and computer systems upgrade," the DFA said in a notice on its website.

BJMP wants trial by teleconference for inmates

The country's penology bureau is working on a plan to convince the court to allow hearings by teleconference for inmates in various jail facilities nationwide to protect them from harm.

100 Filipinos in Haiti accounted for, safe

One hundred Filipinos in the Delmas districts in Haiti, including two Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM) nuns, have been identified, accounted for, and found to be safe, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Sunday.
The Filipinos in the Delmar districts who were found to be in good health and safe are:


RP's Catholic churches to hold 2nd collection for Haiti

Starting Sunday, Catholic churches nationwide will hold second collections during mass to help bring relief to victims of the powerful quake that devastated Haiti last week.

RP medical team leaving for quake-hit Haiti on Monday

The Philippines will send a 21-member medical team to Haiti on Monday to help in rescue and relief operations for "as long as needed." Damage to infrastructure in the desperately poor country has made the delivery of aid a logistical nightmare. Soccer fields have been converted into field hospitals.

RP to send 155 troops in earthquake-ravaged Haiti

The Philippines will send this week another batch of peacekeepers to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, a military spokesman said on Sunday. The team will be tasked to help in the ongoing search, rescue and retrieval operations for the earthquake victims as well as in future rehabilitation efforts.

At least 25,000 corpses buried in Haiti – PM

More than 25,000 bodies of victims of the earthquake in Haiti have been collected and buried, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told AFP on Saturday.

'Voices, tapping sounds from Haiti ruins fainter'

Even as heavy rescue equipment began to arrive in earthquake-stricken Haiti, Filipino soldiers continued to use sheer strength and bare hands to scour through debris to save more lives, the military said on Sunday.

UN Security Council to discuss Haiti crisis--Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Mexico—The United Nations Security Council will meet Monday to discuss the coordination of the huge international aid operation for quake-hit Haiti, the Mexican foreign ministry announced Saturday.

Pope prays for Haiti's dead, and survivors

Pope Benedict XVI is offering his encouragement to charity groups that have taken up the challenge of helping Haiti in its "immense need" after the devastating earthquake.

Japan presses Myanmar to free Suu Kyi

TOKYO – Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada urged Myanmar Sunday to release democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and to hold a fair election, the Japanese foreign ministry said.

Pope's assassin to be freed after 30 years in jail

ANKARA—Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who tried to kill pope John Paul II in 1981, walks free Monday after almost three decades behind bars, planning to cash in on his turbulent past with million-dollar media projects, and to get married.

Tennis: Federer, Serena lead stars on Haiti fundraiser

MELBOURNE-- The top stars in tennis raised at least 200,000 dollars (185,000 US) for the Haiti earthquake victims Sunday in a hastily-arranged charity doubles match led by Roger Federer and Serena Williams.

Pacquiao to hold fundraiser for Z Gorres

MANILA, Philippines – Pound-for-pound king and seven-division champion Manny Pacquiao is all set to go the United States for the promotional tour and training for his March 13 fight against Ghanaian Joshua Clottey.

PBA: Realtors edge closer to playoffs

MANILA, Philippines - Sta. Lucia Realty moved closer for a playoff for an automatic quarterfinal seat after dismantling Barako Bull, 108-86, Sunday night in the KFC-Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

Kris-James latest marital problem a private issue

None of our business. Malacañang said on Sunday the latest marital controversy surrounding TV personality Kris Aquino should not be linked to the presidential bid of her brother, Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Kris Aquino's revelations surprise showbiz friends

Inilantad na ni Kris Aquino ang totoong sitwasyon nila ngayon ng mister na si James Yap matapos ang pinakahuling kontroberysa sa pagitan nilang mag-asawa. Maging ang matalik na kaibigan na si Boy Abunda ay tila nabigla sa rebelasyon ni Kris.

Kris asks James for 'space'

MANILA, Philippines - Actress-television host Kris Aquino is moving out of the home she shares with husband and basketball star James Yap amid a controversy over a recent encounter with a rumored girlfriend of the latter.

Aquino said she and her two sons, Joshua and Baby James, will be staying with her elder sister Pinky for the meantime.

But she clarified she and Yap have not formally split up, and that they are just taking some time off to sort out their problems.

"I'm not saying that the marriage is over. In my heart, gusto ko the marriage to work for our kids. I'm not putting a period, I'm not saying this is the end of the road. I'm hoping and praying maayos namin lahat pero kailangan ko rin ng space," she told co-host Boy Abunda at The Buzz.

Aquino also said she still loves Yap no matter how rocky their marriage has been.

"I love him and he knows I still love him. I've never given him any reason to doubt my fidelity. I just want the same thing in return," she said.

"Hindi naman puwedeng ako lang ang nagmamahal… Ako lang umiintindi. It takes two for this marriage to work. I want him to make me feel I'm really (his) wife, that (he's) a responsible husband and a loving father and that this marriage has a future."

Recent reports came out that Aquino confronted and shouted insults at Mayen Austria, a female fan of Yap, who plays for the Purefoods TJ Giants. Aquino claimed the girl has been calling and sending her husband gifts.

A witness said the actress showed up at the residence of the Austrias in Valle Verde in Pasig City, and swore at Mayen and her mother.

Aquino had denied this.


In the interview with The Buzz, Aquino recounted what happened during the day of her encounter with Austria.

She said she was having lunch with Yap in their home when Yap's phone rang.

"When he answered, I heard a girl crying. I could hear their conversation because it was quiet in the house. Sinasabi noong girl, ginawa ko naman lahat... then James answered na kung ayaw sa 'yo, 'wag mo pagpilitan ang sarili mo," Aquino narrated.

She said she asked Yap who called and he told her that it was Austria.

"Sabi ni James nagsabi sa kanya na iniwan daw ng isang guy and 'di alam ang gagawin. I asked him kung kilala niya iyong guy, he said no. So nagtaka ako, I said bakit ikaw ang iniiyakan?"

"I pointed out to James it was not proper. Baka she (Austria) was under the illusion that I'm not real, that I'm just a TV personality. So gusto ko puntahan para pakita na flesh and blood ako… tao ako... at misis ako," Aquino added.

And so she said she went to see Austria, who live two streets away from their house.

She said she rang the doorbell and Austria's mom came out.

"I said ma'am, I wanted to let you know, your daughter has been calling my husband and I'm not comfortable about it," she said.

"Never ako nagmura, never nanlait. Pinaramdam ko lang ang aking displeasure, siyempre asawa ako," said Aquino.


After narrating the incident, Aquino took the opportunity to apologize to Austria's mother.

"Mrs. Austria, on behalf of my family, hindi naman nga po kayo ang nanggulo sa asawa ko, kaya humihingi ako ng tawad sa inyo, pati kayo nadamay dito.

"Hindi ko gustong saktan kayo, ang kagalit ko po ay iyong anak niyo."

Aquino reiterated that her conversation with Austria's mom was "very calm the whole time."

She said it was just unfortunate that the incident has been blown out of proportion and turned into a major issue where her brother, presidential aspirant Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, was dragged into.

"Sana po klaro sa inyong lahat. Hindi po kami nagpa-interview at nag-text tungkol dito. Pamilya nila. Napilitan lang akong magsalita dahil dinamay na ang kapatid ko."

Not a political issue

Aquino went on to defend her brother Noynoy on air even if she had been ordered by ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.'s management to refrain from talking about the presidential candidate during her entertainment shows to avoid being accused of bias.

She said she got offended that her brother was being "politically attacked" and dragged into the issue.

"'Yong sinasabi nilang karapat-dapat ba sila sa Malacañang? 'Di naman ako ang binoboto n'yo, si Noynoy. Noong 'di approve si Noynoy sa way of life ko, 'di niya ko kinunsinti. He is of good moral character," she said.

Aquino said her brother has been counseling her and James on their marital problems.

"'Noy has been trying to help salvage our marriage," she said.

The love-hate relationship of Aquino and Yap has always made headlines.

In 2007, they went through serious arguments after Yap was rumored to have had a romantic affair with Hope Centeno, one of the receptionists at the Belo Medical Clinic then. Yap denied the rumors.

Cathy Remperas evicted from PBB house

by By Krishna Belle Meniado,
MANILA, Philippines – Viewers voted to evict Cathy Remperas from the Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Double UP house on Saturday night.

"Avatar" passes "Star Wars" with $491.8M in US

LOS ANGELES - James Cameron's "Avatar" has shot past "Star Wars" to become the No. 3 movie on the all-time domestic box office charts. Next stop: "The Dark Knight."

Pablo Picasso  - "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

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