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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 20, 2010 Major News Stories

Cerge dies, 51

PRESS Secretary Cerge Remonde died of a cardiac arrest before noon yesterday. He was 51.

Press Undersecretary Butch Junia said Remonde was found unconscious inside the bathroom of his house in Bel Air, Makati City. He was rushed to the Makati Medical Center, where doctors tried to revive him.

"Press Secretary Remonde was brought to the emergency department of Makati Medical Center at 11:20 a.m. He was unconscious, not breathing and his heart was not beating.

Attempts were made to resuscitate him but despite heroic measures, he expired at 11:51 a.m.," the official statement of the Makati Medical Center read.

Remonde's remains will be flown to Cebu on Friday after a two-night wake at the Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City. His remains will be brought to Malacañang on Thursday.

The Palace official will be laid to rest on Sunday in his hometown in Argao, Cebu.

He is survived by his wife Marit. She arrived at the Aboitiz hangar of the Manila Domestic Airport in Pasay City before 3 p.m. yesterday and immediately went to the
Makati Medical Center. She flew to Manila from Cebu in a private plane.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in an interview at the Makati Medical Center, said the press secretary "was a big loss to the government."

Ermita described Remonde as a "very good confidant" of Arroyo who joined her in almost all of her trips.

He added that the late press secretary will be given special honors by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo has yet to give her official statement regarding the death of her Cabinet member and was scheduled to visit the wake at 2 a.m. today.

As Remonde's death flooded the news, several government officials and media personalities expressed their sorrow and remembered the press secretary as "a very good man."

Remonde, who was an active user of the Facebook social networking site, had left a prayer praising God on the eve of this death.

The status update, which was posted at 6:51 p.m. Monday, reads: "Lord, thank You for the infinite love that meets our every need and provides all the beautiful and wonderful things we experience in life. Release our hearts and minds from fear and worry. Fill us with Your peace as we learn to fully trust in Your providence. Help us to do all that we are capable of and the rest we entrust unto You. Amen."

A previous post said he was disappointed with the poor ratings of the President and blamed himself for them.

"As a public servant, Secretary Remonde performed his job with peerless commitment and dedication, winning good will for the government through his unassuming and humble ways," said Vice President Noli de Castro, a former broadcaster like Remonde.

"As a journalist, Secretary Remonde remained true to the ethics of his profession, was a tireless leader of the broadcast industry and a friend and mentor to his fellow media practitioners."

Dr. Anthony Leachon, Remonde's cardiologist, said the press secretary was already dead before he was taken from his home.

Leachon added that the Palace official had several medical concerns, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.

Remonde was scheduled to give a press briefing in Malacanang at 11 a.m. yesterday. Palace officials and members the press immediately rushed to the hospital after hearing the news.

Malacañang Press Corps president Paolo Romero, in an interview, said the entire press group will miss the press secretary.

"He was one of the few in this administration who was very accessible and cooperative with the media and maybe that's why we loved him because he was one of us. He was not an official, maybe because he was really one of us. He was a mediaman," Romero said.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said that Conrado "Dodie" Limcauco, head of the Philippine Information Agency, was named as acting press secretary.

"Secretary Cerge Remonde will be sorely missed by his colleagues, his friends, and all who grieve his passing today, even as he will continue to be an inspiration to them and a shining example of a life well-lived in the service of his fellowman and for the greater glory of the Creator," Olivar said.

The unexpected news also prompted several government officials such as Cabinet members and congressmen to rush to the hospital to check on Remonde's condition.

Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south district) was still shocked and teary-eyed when Sun.Star Cebu interviewed him.

He said he will remember Remonde as a "very diplomatic" official and the "best press secretary the President and we ever had."

Another Visayan, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, said he will miss a colleague who was "very supportive."

"He always made us laugh. He always called us when there were issues and was a very supportive Cabinet secretary. He had unique jokes that I will always remember," he said.

He was with Remonde when the latter joined the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City last weekend.

Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu Province, 1st district) said there was no sign that Remonde was close to death during the many times they were together last week for the Sinulog festivities.

"We were together during the entire route of the procession (last Saturday afternoon). No signs. He was very much alive," he said.

Gullas said Remonde must have been "ultra-tired, supra-tired" the past few days because he was all over the place during the Sinulog, adding that the pace in Cebu was hectic at that time, coupled with his busy schedule in Malacañang.

Gullas recounted that last Tuesday he was with Remonde in the University of the Visayas alumni homecoming, where Remonde delivered the keynote speech as guest of honor and speaker.

Remonde was awarded as the most outstanding alumnus for the years 2008-2009 by UV, according to Gullas, who is also UV president.

Last Friday, Gullas and Remonde were also together at the 30th anniversary of the Cebu Pop Music Festival at the Cebu Coliseum.

Bubut Velasco, Remonde's executive assistant for five years, said she still cannot believe that her boss has passed away.

She described Remonde as a "very kind and very generous boss."

"He scolded us when his visitor was not assisted properly. He always wanted a cheerful environment. He hated it when we were sad," she related.

She recalled that the last time she saw Remonde was Monday night, when the official ordered dinner for them together with Olivar and Junia.

"He looked fine last night. He seemed okay and he had not been complaining about anything, so we were very shocked with what happened this morning," she said.


Remonde's remains to be brought to Cebu on Friday

The remains of Press Secretary Cerge Remonde will lie in state at the Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City until Thursday before being brought to Malacañang, and then to Cebu by Friday, the Palace said in a statement.

Limcaoco named acting Palace press secretary

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo on Tuesday appointed Conrado "Dodie" Limcaoco Jr. as acting press secretary following the untimely death of Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, a radio dzMM report said.

Shell wants Palace, DOF intercession in tax row with Customs

Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. is trying to seek the intervention of the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Palace in its row with the Customs bureau over its alleged nonpayment of P7.34 billion in back taxes.

Thailand offers to sell 1-M T rice: Yap

by Reuters
MANILA, Philippines - Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, has offered to sell up to 1 million tons of rice to the Philippines, the largest buyer, in a government-to-government arrangement, Manila's agriculture minister said on Tuesday.

Arthur Yap said the offer is on top of a Philippine proposal to buy only 370,000 tons tariff-free rice annually from Thailand in exchange for Manila's refusal to cut rice import duty fully under a regional trade agreement.

SSS ties up with Philpost for unified ID system

by By Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Postal Corp. (Philpost) have tied up to widen the coverage of the so-called unified multipurpose identification system (UMID).

Philpost is the fifth state-run agency covered by the UMID, following SSS, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Philhealth, and Pag-ibig fund. The UMID is aimed at facilitating public transactions with government agencies.

SSS Romulo Neri made it clear that the UMID is not a national ID and that it will not be mandatory. Members also need not pay for it, he added.

However, those interested to apply for a UMID that would also serve as a postal ID will be asked to pay P220, with revenues going to Philpost. Although not required, the agency is expecting people to avail of this feature since it can be used in Philpost's money transfer facilities.

Despite Neri's statements that the UMID is not mandatory, the system is being met with opposition and criticism. Bayan, for one, claimed that people will soon be forced to avail of the ID due to critical government transactions such as loans and benefits from agencies such as SSS and GSIS.

The group also cited possible privacy issues, but Neri assured that the UMID would only contain basic information such as the name, gender, birthday, and home address, among others.

Employees lodge plaint vs. call center

A group of employees has launched a mass action over alleged violations by their call center ranging from delayed salaries to illegal suspension of workers.

"The call center business is called a sunshine industry but why are we working in conditions resembling the Dark Ages?" said Glenda Plaza, an employee at BTS Staff for Less Philippines in a press statement sent to The FREEMAN.

Plaza said that they have brought their plight to the attention of the public and the Department of Labor and Employment after a series of complaints and petitions to the management which reportedly brought no results.

Dennis Derige, the spokesperson of the Partido ng Manggagawa in the same statement, said that the call center workers alleged that aside from delayed wages, the said company has not been remitting deductions for the Social Security System, PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig.

They also said the company has not been paying maternity leaves, and has not forwarded their tax refunds for two years now.

Most HS students positive for drugs used marijuana—DDB

Marijuana was the drug of choice of high school students based on an ongoing drug test held nationwide, an official of the Dangerous Drugs Board said.

PRO-7: Dumpit to surrender

The Police Regional Office-7 confirmed that SPO1 Adonis Dumpit sent feelers to them that he will be surrendering within a few days.

Byron "denies" security escorts for political detainee

Controversial political detainee Jigger Geverola was allegedly denied escort for medical check-up because of his refusal to be among the dancing inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, the secretary general of Karapatan- Central Visayas said yesterday.

Geverola was scheduled to undergo a CT scan at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center because of an ear infection, but Capitol consultant on security affairs Byron Garcia allegedly refused to provide him with security escorts.

 "Si Jigger dili man gyud na hilig mosayaw, unya wala gyud siyay gana nga mo-apil anang dancing inmates," said Karaptan – Central Visayas Secretary General Dennis Abarientos.

Abarientos accused Garcia of having "personal hatred" on Geverola and is allegedly making it a point to punish the detainee. He said Garcia's decision to deny Geverola security escorts for a check-up because of not dancing is "ridiculous."

"The brand of discipline of Byron…kung dili mosayaw, bartolina dayon. Kung dili mosayaw, ibutang dayon sa maximum detention center," Abarientos said.

MGB-7 has new chief

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has designated a new regional director for MGB Central Visayas in the person of Loreto Alburo effective yesterday.

Former MGB-7 regional director Roger de Dios will be assigned in Eastern Visayas (Region 8) and will assume office on Thursday.

DENR-7 regional executive director Leonardo Sibbaluca said that the reshuffling is a standard operating procedure whenever the department changes leadership. "It is ordinary because the new secretary must have his own management team," Sibbaluca said.

Sibbaluca added that the reassignment of de Dios is not politically motivated contrary to what others are presuming given that de Dios is known to be a strict enforcer of mining laws and have issued various cease and desist orders to different town mayors.

He said it is in the interest of service and an effort to strengthen the implementation of the various mining and environmental laws, rules and regulations including the programs and activities of the bureau.


Comelec finds 300,000 double registrants

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections on Tuesday uncovered more than 300,000 double registrants or voters who registered at least twice for the 2010 elections.

6 more partylist groups accredited for May—Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) accredited on Tuesday six more partylist groups for the elections in May, bringing the total of competing sectors to 150, a spokesman for the poll body said.

These are the Alliance for Rural and Agrarian Reconstruction (Araro); Alyansa ng Lumad Mindanao Inc (Alumad); LPG Marketers Association (LPGMA); Alyansa ng OFW Party; National Coalition on Indigenous People's Action (ANG NCIP); and Bagong Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Samahan ng Sektor ng Transportasyon (Bangon Transport), said James Jimenez, adding that the groups represented indigenous peoples, transport and agriculture.

Under Resolution 8745, the six partylist groups, together with 144 others announced last week would be printed on the special paper ballots to be used in the automated polls, said Jimenez.

For the 2007 polls, the Comelec accredited 90 partylist groups.

Voters urged to examine party-list nominees

Voters, civil society groups, and election watchdogs should scrutinize the nominees of the party-list groups and file an opposition against those who are not qualified.

Namfrel fears loss of accreditation for May polls

For the first time since it came to being to safeguard the historic 1986 presidential snap elections, the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) is facing the threat of losing its accreditation as the citizens' arm of the Commission on Elections in the May 10, 2010 presidential elections.

Namfrel spokesman Eric Alvia said the Comelec has not acted on the group's petition for accreditation due to opposition from election lawyer Sixto Brillantes and surprisingly from its former partner, the Catholic Church-based Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

Pollster: Noynoy keeps big lead, but Erap has most improved rating

As the May elections draws closer, Sen. Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III has maintained a sizable lead in preference ratings for presidential bets, but former President Joseph Estrada enjoyed the biggest increase in voter preference, according to a survey by Pulse Asia.

The survey it conducted from December 8 to 10 showed Aquino leading other candidates by a "wide margin," securing the support of 45 percent of voters.

"Only two other contenders obtain double-digit support: Senator Manuel 'Manny' Villar Jr. (Nacionalista Party) with 23 percent and former President Joseph 'Erap' Estrada (Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino) with 19 percent. They are statistically tied for second place owing to the survey's margin of error," it said.

Compared to the Ulat ng Bayan survey in October 2009, support for Aquino "remains virtually unchanged," it added.

But there was a significant improvement in voter preference for Estrada (eight percentage points, from 11 percent to 19 percent). 

Marginal increases in the support for Villar (+4 percentage points, from 19 percent to 23 percent) and Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (by three percentage points, from two to five percent) were also reported. 

The survey showed Aquino getting majority support among voters in the Visayas (52 percent) and near majority support from the well-off ABC socio-economic class (SECs).

"His electoral preference is basically at the same level across the other areas and socio-economic classes – NCR, Balance Luzon (Luzon minus Metro Manila), Mindanao and SECs D and E," Pulse Asia said.

In the survey, 27 percent of Filipinos said they opted for a particular candidate because he/she cared for the poor, while 21 percent cited a candidate's being not corrupt or having a clean record.

"The belief that a candidate is a good person (12 percent), can/is doing/will do something (11 percent) and helps/is helping others (11 percent) constitute the other reasons for respondents' presidential preferences," it said.

Roxas, Legarda tied

In the vice presidential race, the survey showed Sen. Manuel Roxas II and Senator Lorna Regina Legarda lead in voter preference.

Pulse Asia said both Roxas and Legarda are "statistically tied" – with each obtaining support from close to four out of ten Filipinos.

Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino) ranks second with 14 percent.

"If the elections were held at the time of the survey, Senator Roxas would get a majority of votes in the Visayas (58 percent), while Senator Legarda would have a plurality of the votes from Balance Luzon (43 percent). The two front-runners register the same level of support (41 percent) among Mindanao voters and essentially the same support from the D and E socio-economic classes. Sen. Roxas, however, obtains near-majority support from the relatively well-off socio-economic class ABC," Pulse Asia said.

Pulse Asia added that Legarda is the only vice presidential candidate who registers a significant change in voter preference (a gain of 14 percentage points) since October 2009.

7 of 10 Pinoys have incomplete senatorial lineup

Only three of 10 Filipinos have a complete set of senatorial bets in their list.

In August, 57 percent of Filipinos had a complete senatorial lineup of 12 candidates. This percentage declined to 40 percent in October 2009, and settled to 31 percent last December.

"While Filipinos were naming a mean of 10 and a median of 12 favored prospective candidates in August 2009, the mean and median are down to eight at present," Pulse Asia said.

14 senatorial bets' winning chance 

Fourteen of some 80 senatorial candidates named in the survey have a statistical chance of winning, with Senate President Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada topping the list.

Estrada's overall voter preference stands at 55.1 percent, which translates to a statistical ranking of first to third places.

Following closely is Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. (52.7 percent) who is ranked first to fourth, a ranking shared by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (51.4 percent).

Former Senate President Franklin Drilon (48.4 percent) is at second to fourth places, while tied for fifth to ninth places are Senator Pilar Juliana Cayetano (43.1 percent), former National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Ralph Recto (43.1 percent), Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (42.7 percent), and former senators Sergio Osmeña III and Vicente Sotto III (both with 40.2 percent).

Ilocos Norte Representative Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (31 percent) and Bukidnon Representative Teofisto Guingona III (28.6 percent) are tied for the 10th to 11th places.

Rounding up the list of probable winners are Jose "Joey" De Venecia III (24.3 percent), Senator Manuel "Lito" Lapid (23.1 percent), and Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino "Ruffy" Biazon (22.9 percent), who are tied for 12th to 14th places.

"All of the probable winners if the elections were held early December 2009 record improvements in their electoral preference," Pulse Asia said.

It added that Revilla and Enrile show the largest improvements of 16.1 percent.

The survey was conducted December 8 to 10 using face-to-face interviews.

Developments that dominated news headlines at the time included the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao; convening of Congress to review the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao; filing of cases in the Supreme Court to nullify Martial Law; the clash between Ampatuan supporters and police in Maguindanao; the unseating of Bulacan Governor Mendoza and Isabela Governor Padaca by the Commission on Elections; and the disqualification cases filed against President Arroyo.

The survey used a multistage probability sample of 1,800 representative adults and had a +/- 2 percent error margin at the 95 percent confidence level.

The December 2009 survey had 15 names included in the roster of presidential and vice presidential contenders and 80 names for the list of senatorial candidates. 

The names were based on the official report of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on those who filed their Certificates of Candidacy (COC) as of midnight of December 1, 2009.

Those who were nominated by registered national political parties (i.e., Bayan Muna, Kapatiran, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, Lakas-Kampi-CMD, Liberal Party, Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People's Coalition, PDP-Laban, Promdi, Philippine Green Republican Party, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino) or who have been allowed to run or have held national elective positions were automatically included in the lists (for presidential, vice presidential, and senatorial candidates). 

The additional names were drawn randomly from among those who remained in the official list of the Comelec.

Plunder raps set vs Villar at Ombudsman

Senator Ma. Ana Consuelo 'Jamby' Madrigal is readying a plunder case against Senator Manny Villar over his alleged involvement in the anomalous C-5 road extension project.

Senate fails to tackle Villar report due to lack of quorum

The fate of presidential aspirant Sen. Manny Villar remained in limbo after the Senate on Tuesday failed to discuss the committee report sanctioning him for allegedly earning from government road extension project due to lack of quorum.

Senate majority bares Villar camp failed coup vs Enrile

Bigo ang Senado na pag-usapan at pagtibayin ang panukalang kastiguhin si Senador Manny Villar kaugnay ng C-5 road extension project. Sabay-sabay kasing um-absent ang 11 senador na kaalyado ni Villar. Ibinulgar naman ng mayorya ang umano'y tangkang kudeta ng kampo ni Villar.

Supreme Court denies motion to disqualify Erap

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday denied with finality the motion for reconsideration of the group Vanguard seeking to disqualify former President Joseph Estrada from participating in the 2010 presidential elections.

Comelec expected to rule on Estrada qualification Wednesday

Joseph Estrada's vindication run will either hurdle an obstacle or hit a steep speed bump when the Commission on Elections rules Wednesday on the disqualification cases filed against his planned return to Malacañang.

Bill filed to prevent GMA from naming next chief justice

by by Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak
MANILA, Philippines - With 8 session days left, party-list group Bayan Muna on Tuesday filed House Bill 7109 explicitly prohibiting the President from making appointments to judicial posts, including that of chief justice of the Supreme Court, during the period covered by the constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

Ivler's mom posts bail

Marlene Aguilar, the mother of road rage murder suspect Jason Ivler, posted bail at the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 27, on Tuesday night, to gain temporary freedom after she was charged with obstruction of justice by the National Bureau of Investigation.

Ivler negative for drugs

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) announced Tuesday that drug tests conducted on road rage killer suspects Jason Ivler and his mother, Marlene Aguilar, have turned out negative.

Ivler"s firearms unlicensed, PNP says

The firearms used by murder suspect Jason Ivler in shooting it out with arresting government agents Monday are unlicensed. More so, he and his mother and British stepfather are not authorized to possess or carry firearms, according to Philippine National Police (PNP).

Cop recants statement implicating Ampatuan Jr.

A policeman who pointed to Andal Ampatuan Jr. as the one who led the Maguindanao massacre has recanted his sworn statement and pointed to the prosecution's first star witness as the one who led the armed men in blocking the Mangudadatu convoy on the day of the carnage.

In an affidavit of recantation, PO1 Anwar Masukat tagged prosecution witness Vice Mayor Rasul Sangki of Ampatuan town as the one who led armed men in blocking the convoy of Genalin Mangudadatu, wife of Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu, other relatives, lawyers and journalists on Nov. 23.

Genalin and 56 others were found dead hours later.

The affidavit was executed on Jan. 3 and was subscribed and sworn before State Prosecutor Jose Tadeo Sayson of the Department of Justice's Davao regional office. It was released to the media by the Fortun Narvasa Law Office that has been retained by Ampatuan.

Masukat said that the first affidavit he gave to the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Camp Crame last Dec. 12 was false. He said the police and a lawyer told him to sign the untruthful affidavit or else he would be charged with the murders.

Masukat's new affidavit along with that of Sangki's sister, Amina Sangki Ampatuan, prompted Ampatuan's defense lawyer, Sigfrid Fortun, to ask the Department of Justice to include Sangki as one of the respondents in the preliminary investigation for multiple murder still pending against the other Ampatuans.

Amina Sangki Ampatuan, in her affidavit, pointed to her father Zacaria Sangki and brother Rasul Sangki as those who planned the massacre.

"Shortly, the Mangudadatu convoy arrived and Vice Mayor Sangki and Mohammad Sangki and some other CVO's blocked and stopped the convoy. Vice Mayor Sangki ordered all passengers of the convoy to alight from the vehicles and at the top of his voice shouted, `Dapa'," Masukat said in his new affidavit.

"Then I heard gun shots. These passengers were badly beated (sic)by Vice Mayor Sangki and his CVO's with the butts of their guns," he added.

"After several minutes, these passengers of the Mangudadatu convoy were ordered by Vice Mayor Sangki to board their vehicles which were driven by his men. Vice Mayor Sangki ordered these drivers to follow his lead towards the direction of Shariff Aguak," Masukat said.

Masukat said he initially refused to sign the affidavit that the police prepared since it didn't contain his allegation that it was Sangki and members of his Civilian Volunteer Organization that blocked and stopped the Mangudadatu convoy.

"Realizing that the affidavit did not contain my truthful statemet, I adamantly refused to sign it. It was then that (SPO2 Larry Diaz) and (Atty. Armando Fabros) told me that murder cases will be filed against me for the killing of those innocent victims and that they could not prevent that from happening unless I will sign the counter-affidavit they prepared and willfully falsify statements therein," he said.

In her affidavit, Amina Sangki Ampatuan said two CVO's of her father Zacaria and brother Rasul were caught by the Army with freshly fired guns.

The two CVO's, however, were "rescued" from the military by the Sangki's political allies.

"This rescue would surely point to my brother and father as those who had planned and had actually taken part in the killings," Amina Sangki Ampatuan said.

Amina Sangki Ampatuan also said that Rasul Sangki was a user of cocaine and shabu, "which has affected the way he thinks and acts."

Fortun has asked Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera to add Zacaria and Rasul Sangki and four others on the list of respondents in the pending multiple murder case before the DOJ.

"As it is your sworn duty to prosecute those persons who may have been complicit in the violation of criminal laws, particularly that which involve the 57 victims in the incident in Masalay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009, we ask that you charge and conduct preliminary investigation on the above-named persons and include them in the preliminary investigation now handled by your panel of prosecutors led by Senior State Prosecutor Rosanne Balauag and indict them as appropriate," Fortun said in his letter dated Jan. 14.

2 Filipino fatalities in Haiti confirmed

(UPDATE 2) The first two Filipino fatalities in the magnitude-7 earthquake that rocked Haiti last week was confirmed by the Department of Foreign Affairs Tuesday after the remains of Jerome Yap, a United Nations staffer, and Pearlie Panangui, a UN peace worker, were found.

Ma grieves over loss of daughter in Haiti quake

Manuela Panangui still could not accept that the body of her daughter, Navy Petty Officer 3 Pearly Panangui, has been recovered from the rubble in Haiti.

DFA releases names of 28 more Filipino survivors of Haiti quake

Twenty-eight more Filipinos are known to have survived the earthquake in Haiti and are now safe.

They are : 1. Benitez, Maria Liza 2. Bugayong, Paul 3. Buhayo, Freddie R. 4. Buhayo, Nelson S. 5. Buhayo, Ramon S. 6. Carvajal, Lucera 7. Cruz, Jovito 8. Duran, Adrian 9. Duran, Camilo 10. Ferdinand, Norluiz 11. Gevana, Danny 12. Labayen, Mary Grace 13. Laqueyun, Asley 14. Lazatin, Marlene 15. Lazatin, Michael 16. Marte, Emily 17. Mendez, Benito 18. Papasin, Rickson 19. Pastor, Ditas 20. Perez, Emmanuel 21. Pierre, Maria Teresa 22. Pretilla, Roberto 23. Rodriguez, Marivic 24. Torrizo, Rosalia 25. Torrizo, Victor 26. Villagracia, Art Raymond 27. Villagracia, Bernadette 28.Villagracia, Rey.

Meanwhile, Philippine Ambassador to Cuba Macarthur Corsino and Vice Consul Jason Anasarias have arrived in Haiti and are coordinating with authorities there to assist members of the Filipino community.

Corsino was instructed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo to proceed to Haiti to oversee relief operations for Filipinos there, as well as to present a plan of action for the repatriation of Filipinos who would want to go back to Manila.

In a press conference, Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban B. Conejos said Corsino and Anasarias immediately established a Task Force composed of the ambassador, the vice consul, Philippine Honorary Consul to Haiti Fitzgerald Brandt, Liaison of the Philippine Honorary Consul to the Dominican Republic Fr. Andrew Laboratorio, the military and police commanders of the Philippine Peacekeeping Contingent, and Filipino community leaders.

The group is tasked to assess the condition of the community members and ensure that food, water, shelter and medical supplies are available to them.

Corsino reported that there is a sizable number of Filipinos who would like to be repatriated to Manila. The Filipino survivors are grouped together in four "evacuation centers" — in Laplian, Delmas 31, Delmas 41/56, and Petionville.

They have food and water supplies. The Task Force is scheduled to visit the other Filipino groups in Haiti in the coming days to ascertain their condition. Conejos said the Task Force is ready to repatriate the Filipinos who want to go back to the Philippines.

He is in talks with Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque on the possibility of securing a chartered plane to take the Filipinos home if there is a sufficient number of repatriates.

Bishops urge Filipinos to help Haiti quake victims

Reminding Filipinos that that it was now their turn to help, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has directed that a second collection be taken in all the Masses to be celebrated on Jan. 24 for relief efforts in quake-devastated Haiti.

Over 90 people rescued from Haiti quake—UN

More than 90 people have been pulled out alive since international search and rescue teams began combing through the debris from last week's earthquake in Haiti, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Babies pulled from the Haitian rubble

Nurses at Port-au-Prince's General Hospital clapped heartily as they welcomed Monday a baby girl pulled from the rubble six days after the earthquake that struck Haiti and destroyed her home.

US Air Force drops 55,000 pounds of food, water into Haiti

by By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
ONBOARD AN AIR FORCE C-17 OVER HAITI -- Bypassing the gridlock of Haiti's main airport and congestion of roadways in the earthquake-ravaged country, the U.S. military delivered badly needed food and water on Monday by parachute.

Kuwait's high court upholds Jakatia Pawa's death verdict

KUWAIT – The Philippine's envoy to Kuwait has expressed his dismay on the decision of Kuwait's Court of Cassation to uphold the death verdict meted to Jakatia Pawa, a Filipina household service worker. 

PhilPost to get wired, to hasten remittances

The money remittance system of the Philippine Postal Corp. may finally go electronic, enabling the state firm to offer the same convenience that private money forwarders do at just about a fourth of the fees charged.

Nietes to stop foe in 5 rounds

WBO Minimumweight champion Donnie "Ahas" Nietes is very confident about his chances against Jesus Silvestre of Mexico. So condident the pinoy champ is that he assured abs-cbnNEWS.com that he'll knock out Silvestre in 5 rounds.

Rayver Cruz behind 'bad girl' Sarah Geronimo?

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Young actor Rayver Cruz says he is not influencing "Pop Star Princess" Sarah Geronimo to rebel against her parents, contrary to reports.

White House, Iron Chef in 'veggie scandal'

MANILA, Philippines - The "Iron Chef America" episode that starred Filipina White House chef Cristeta Comerford has come under fire lately for allegedly misleading the public in its use of White House Kitchen Garden vegetables.

Filipino discovers new vaccine vs. malaria

Rhoel Dinglasan, an entomologist and biologist from John Hopkins University, is rocking the science world with his discovery of a new vaccine against malaria.

Dinglasan's discovery was recently featured in the Health and Science section of TIME magazine. Here are excerpts from the article.

"Traditional vaccines work by introducing a killed or weakened version of a disease into the body, where the immune system spots it and cranks out antibodies against it. Then, if a wild strain of the pathogen comes along later—one that has the power to sicken or kill—the body is ready for it. The new approach is different. Developed by Rhoel Dinglasan, an entomologist and biologist at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, it would instead work within the mosquito gut.

Dinglasan has found an antigen, called AnAPN1, that causes humans to create antibodies that prevent transmission of malaria by mosquitoes. Get enough of these antibodies into mosquitoes, and you lock the disease up there and prevent it from infecting us.

Sounds good, but how do you implement such a strategy? You can hardly vaccinate the mosquitoes themselves. Instead, you put the AnAPN1 into their food source: us. A mosquito that bites an inoculated person would pick up the antibodies and then be sidelined from the malaria-transmission game.

The new vaccine is not the first TBV attempted. Previous versions used not AnAPN1 but parts of the malaria parasite to generate human immune responses.

Unfortunately, two vaccine candidates using that approach unexpectedly caused some skin disorders when tested in humans in 2008, prompting a need for further research. And even without that side effect, using antigens from the malaria parasite would require multiple vaccines to fight the many different strains of malaria."

Too much sitting as bad as too little exercise—scientists

Sitting all day may significantly boost the risk of lifestyle-related disease even if one adds a regular dose of moderate or vigorous exercise, scientists said Tuesday.

The health benefits of pulse-quickening physical activity are beyond dispute – it helps ward off cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, among other problems.

But recent scientific findings also suggest that prolonged bouts of immobility while resting on one's rear end may be independently linked to these same conditions.

"Sedentary time should be defined as muscular inactivity rather than the absence of exercise," concluded a team of Swedish researchers.

"We need to consider that we are dealing with two distinct behaviors and their effects," they reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Led by Elin Ekblom-Bak of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the scientists proposed a new "paradigm of inactivity physiology," and urged fellow researchers to rethink the definition of a sedentary lifestyle.

They point to a recent study of Australian adults showing that each daily one-hour increase in sitting time while watching television upped the rate of metabolic syndrome in women by 26 percent – regardless of the amount of moderate-to-intensive exercise performed.

Thirty minutes of daily physical exercise decreased the risk by about the same percentage, suggesting that being a couch potato can cancel out the benefits of hitting treadmill or biking, for example.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as the presence of three or more factors including high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol or insulin resistance.

New research is required to see if there is a causal link between being sedentary and these conditions and, if so, how it works, the researchers said.

One candidate is lipoprotein lipase, or LPL, an enzyme that plays a crucial role in breaking down fat within the body into useable forms.

Recent research has shown that LPL activity was significantly lower in rats with restrained muscle activity – as low as one tenth of the levels of rats allowed to walk about.

The LPL level during such activity "was not significantly different from that of rats exposed to higher levels of exercise," the scientists reported.

"This stresses the importance of local muscle contraction per se, rather than the intensity of the contraction."

These studies suggest that people should not only exercise frequently, but avoid sitting in one place for too long, they said.

Climbing stairs rather than using an elevator, taking five-minute breaks from a desk job, and walking when possible to do errands rather than driving were all recommended.

What's in a cigarette? FDA to study ingredients

The Food and Drug Administration is working to lift the smokescreen clouding the ingredients used in cigarettes and other tobacco products.

In June, tobacco companies must tell the FDA their formulas for the first time, just as drugmakers have for decades. Manufacturers also will have to turn over any studies they've done on the effects of the ingredients.

It's an early step for an agency just starting to flex muscles granted by a new law that took effect last June that gives it broad power to regulate tobacco far beyond the warnings now on packs, short of banning it outright.

Companies have long acknowledged using cocoa, coffee, menthol and other additives to make tobacco taste better. The new information will help the FDA determine which ingredients might also make tobacco more harmful or addictive. It will also use the data to develop standards for tobacco products and could ban some ingredients or combinations.

"Tobacco products today are really the only human-consumed product that we don't know what's in them," Lawrence R. Deyton, the director of the Food and Drug Administration's new Center for Tobacco Products and a physician, told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

While the FDA must keep much of the data confidential under trade-secret laws, it will publish a list of harmful and potentially harmful ingredients by June 2011. Under the law, it must be listed by quantity in each brand.

Some tobacco companies have voluntarily listed product ingredients online in recent years but never with the specificity they must give the FDA, said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

For example, Altria Group Inc., based in Richmond and the parent company of the nation's largest tobacco maker, Philip Morris USA, has posted general ingredients on its Web site since at least 1999.

Cigarette makers say their products include contain tobacco, water, sugar and flavorings, along with chemicals like diammonium phosphate, a chemical used to improve burn rate and taste, and ammonium hydroxide, used to improve the taste.

Scientific studies suggest those chemicals also could make the body more easily absorb nicotine, the active and addictive component of tobacco.

"Until now, the tobacco companies were free to manipulate their product in ways to maximize sales, no matter the impact on the number of people who died or became addicted," Myers said. "The manner of disclosure previously made it impossible for the government to make any meaningful assessments."

About 46 million people, or 20.6 percent of US adult smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, down from about 24 percent 10 years ago. It also estimates that about 443,000 people in the US die each year from diseases linked to smoking.

Tax increases, health concerns, smoking bans and social stigma continue to cut into the number of cigarettes sold, which were estimated to be down about 12.6 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period last year.

Cigarettes and their smoke contain more than 4,000 chemicals; among them are more than 60 known carcinogens, according to the American Cancer Society. But scientists say they can't yet tell all they'll learn from the new data because so little is known about how the chemicals combine to affect people.

"The reality is that we have known so little over time that it's difficult to know with much accuracy what getting a good look is going to tell us about what we could do in the future," said Dr. David Burns of the University of California-San Diego, scientific editor of several surgeon general reports on tobacco.

The real test is whether the FDA acts on the information it receives, said David Sweanor, a Canadian law professor and tobacco expert. Canadian authorities are collecting similar data, but they haven't taken much action based on it, which is critical, he said. The European Union also has similar submission requirements.

Myers warned that a list of ingredients or an unexplained product label is "just as likely to mislead as it is to inform" if consumers don't know about the relative effects of ingredients.

Altria has supported what it has called "tough but fair regulation."

But its chief rivals — No. 2 Reynolds American Inc., parent company of R.J. Reynolds, and No. 3 Lorillard, both based in North Carolina — opposed the law. They said it would lock in Altria's share of the market because its size gives it more resources to comply with regulations and future limits on marketing under the law. Altria's brands include Marlboro, which held a 41.9 percent share of the US cigarette market in the thi

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