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

Sunday, January 3, 2010

January 4, 2010 Major News Stories

DOH holiday casualty count rises, surpasses 2008 tally

The 2009 holiday season was not safer than in 2008 after all. The merrymaking in the last two weeks turned out to be deadlier than what was first announced by the government. Three died from firecracker-related injuries, while 848 others got hurt either due to firecracker blasts, stray bullets or watusi ingestion since December 21, based on reports gathered by the Health department.

Voyage by sea ends in bus ride

They started their voyage by ship but unexpectedly ended it by bus. This was how around 300 Cebu-bound passengers of the 465 passengers of the M/V Georich got here after being stranded for hours off Apo Island.

M/V Georich left Dapitan City at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, it was on its way to Cebu but scheduled for a stopover in Dumaguete.

About two hours into the voyage, the vessel reportedly experienced a malfunction in its main engine prompting ship engineers and crew to stop the vessel and inspect what was causing the trouble.

George and Peter Lines port captain Gerry Enjambre said it was determined that some parts of the engine were damaged and beyond repair.

The ship, commanded by Capt. Roland Villarin, immediately reported the incident to the nearest Coast Guard station who also immediately radioed nearby vessels to tow M/V Georich to the Dumaguete port.

‘Just Skyflakes, no meals’

MV Georich of George and Peter Lines departed Dapitan City for Cebu City at 4:15 p.m. last Saturday while the estimated 400-500 passengers had no idea that their scheduled 10-hour trip was about to become a 20-hour ordeal.

Fishers survive ordeal at sea

THREE men spent their New Year at sea without food, in a pump boat that drifted for three days from Sta. Fe town to the waters off Barili town in midwestern Cebu.

Cristituto Moncedor, 45, Winlove Derder, 26, and Richiemon Tapay, 22, had just ferried a passenger from the Hagnaya Wharf in San Remigio town to Sta. Fe town in Bantayan Island, north of mainland Cebu, when they suffered engine trouble.

The three left the Sta. Fe wharf at 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to go back to Hagnaya when they noticed that oil was leaking from the engine.

Rather than have the engine overheat and conk out in the middle of the sea, they decided to turn it off and just have the waves take them to shore.

They did not imagine it would take three days for them to step on land again, and on a shore far from home.

They failed to call for help because the battery of their cellular phone had run out.

The three could not fish for food because they had no implements aboard the boat.

The 30-seater pump boat is owned by Janice Tutor of Barangay Hagnaya.

With only drinking water sustaining them, the three were rescued by fisherman Dodong Cancio at 6:30 a.m. yesterday.

Cancio was gathering squid when his attention was caught by three men in a pump boat waving their arms at him. He brought them to shore.

After hearing about their ordeal, Japitan residents gave Moncedor, Derder and Tapay food and allowed them to charge their phone so they could contact their relatives at home.

Tutor, on the other hand, had sent another boat to search for them on Jan. 1 but it failed to locate them.

She was hopeful the three men lived because they grew up by the sea.

Edgardo Santillan, Tutor’s brother, told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday that they reported the three missing over a local radio station and to the authorities at Hagnaya.

He said the three, who are also his friends, brought his uncle back to Sta. Fe town because the latter wanted to spend the New Year there.

After they were able to rest following their rescue, Moncedor, Derder and Tapay boarded a bus that took them straight to Hagnaya, where family members met them.

Tutor had the pump boat dragged back to Hagnaya.

She also stopped by the shrine in Simala, Sibonga town to light a candle as thanksgiving for the safe return of the three men.

City may no longer sell CCMC

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña now sees a glimmer hope for the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) after he received positive feedback from the residents of the city about the improvement in the emergency services of the hospital.

Crackdown on fly-by-night job firms sought

Labor advocate and senatorial aspirant Susan Ople on Sunday appealed to the government to go after fly-by-night employment agencies that are exploiting overseas workers by violating contractual agreements.

Official backs early schooling

THE Department of Education (DepEd) in Cebu City is heeding Education Sec. Jesli Lapus’s call for the enrolment of five-year olds in preschool this year.

New cities still waiting for guidelines on IRA restoration

The regional office of the Department of Budget and Management is now waiting for guidelines on the restitution of the internal revenue allotment shares of the new cities whose IRA shares were reduced earlier by DBM.

2T families request contract extension

WITH the expiration of their contracts last December, at least 2,000 families are asking the Cebu City Council to intervene and extend their agreement under the slum improvement and resettlement (SIR).

Sinulog organizers ready in case COA refuses plea

VICE Mayor Michael Rama expects the Commission on Audit (COA) to decide on the Cebu City Government’s request for exemption in granting financial assistance to the Sinulog Foundation Inc.

VM aspirant criticizes Gullas allies

A VICE mayoral candidate of Talisay City yesterday criticized city officials for depending on Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, 1st district) for help or guidance.

They were elected by the people to govern not to depend on one person),” said former Talisay City vice mayor Aberdovey Belleza.

Belleza, who is seeking his former post again under the Liberal Party, observed that some city officials are not free to decide on their own political will as they still depend on the congressman for any decision.

Belleza made the statement after some barangay captains, who support his plan to run against administration bet and Talisay Vice Mayor Alan Bucao, alleged that they were being blackmailed by the legislator to turn their backs against him.

The former vice mayor earlier alleged that should the barangay chiefs continue to support him, they would risk losing Gullas’s support and could mean they will not get any barangay projects.

Govt saves P200M in ballot printing cost for May polls

The government was able to save more than P200 million in the cost of printing ballots that will be used in the May elections.

This was after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) convinced the National Printing Office (NPO) to give them the lowest price of P2.50/ballot from the P7.20/ballot cost of printing.

“It went down from P7.20 to P2.50 per ballot . . . we were able to haggle it down," said Comelec chairman Jose Melo.

In the last May 2007 polls, the Comelec paid NPO around P337.5 million for printing 45 million ballots. But for May, the commission will be paying only around P123 million for the estimated 49.3 million registered voters or P214 million less from the previous polls.

Section 184 of the Omnibus Election Code states that only the NPO and the Central Bank of the Philippines can print the official ballots to be used for every elections in the country under the supervision of the Comelec.

Melo said that they target to print the ballots on January 25.

SC to prioritize poll-related cases after break

The Supreme Court will prioritize this January all the motions and petitions related to the upcoming automated elections when the magistrates return from their holiday break, its spokesman said.

Gun ban starts on Jan. 10: PNP

WHEN the total gun ban begins on Jan. 10, all security details assigned to government officials and some individuals will be revoked on the same day.

Historic hearing on massacre starts Tuesday

Andal Ampatuan, Jr.’s, first day in court will be in a clubhouse in Camp Crame on Tuesday morning, according to Supreme Court spokesperson and deputy court administrator Jose Midas Marquez.

NUJP to set up legal fund for media victims in massacre

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is setting up a fund that will bankroll efforts to seek justice for victims of the November 23 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao that killed at least 57 people, including 30 journalists and media workers.

‘Special treatment’ for detained Ampatuans slammed

Even inside their detention cell at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) compound inside the police headquarters at Camp Fermin G. Lira Jr. here, the Ampatuans live like kings.

AFP starts probe on soldiers' link to Ampatuans

The military has started investigating how some of their high-powered firearms and ammunition ended up in the hands of the powerful Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao province.

Military summons officers on Ampatuan arms pilferage probe

MANILA, Philippines - Military investigators have summoned a number of officers to shed light on the recovery of suspected firearms and ammunitions issued to soldiers from large arms caches allegedly of the Ampatuan political clan in Maguindanao. 

Gov’t agents search for ‘body’ of backhoe operator

Government agents on Sunday failed to retrieve what was believed to be the remains of a backhoe operator said to have been executed after the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre.

Police, kin continue search for bodies from Ampatuan massacre

MANILA, Philipines - Members of the police and military, representatives of the Commission on Human Rights, members of media organizations and relatives of a missing journalist went to a suspected grave site Sunday morning in Maguindanao province where 2 bodies from the Ampatuan massacre were allegedly buried. 

Gov't to address private armies problem in 5 months - Remonde

The government on Sunday said President Arroyo is "definitely" resolved to dismantle private armies owned by local politicians and warlords through a newly created independent commission.

Comelec, AFP, PNP to thresh out details on candidates' security

by By Dennis Carcamo

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections and government security forces are set to come up with guidelines on providing protection to candidates during the campaign period, a military spokesman said today.

AFP role bigger in election hotspots―Gonzales

Acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said on Sunday the military would play a key role in the upcoming balloting only in identified election "hotspots" where the police needed the aid of government troops.

Palace wants private armies crushed before May polls

All private armies in the country would be dismantled on or before the May 10, elections, a Malacañang official said on Sunday.

Bomb thrower spills beans on gun-for-hire group

Police busted a gun-for-hire syndicate preying mostly on politicians and prominent figures in Central Mindanao following the arrest last week of a gang member responsible for the Dec. 27 bomb attack at the residence of Maguindanao Representative Didagen Dilangalen in Barangay Rosary Heights-3.

Staunch Arroyo ally unfazed by 2010 polls

Despite facing opposition from his former local allies, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez has assured the win of administration standard bearer and former Defense Secretary Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro in Iloilo City.

Arroyo in House to stir trouble for next chief -- solons

President Arroyo’s game plan is to enter Congress with a core of 50 to 100 representatives as her allies, thereby posing a constant threat of impeachment against her successor, according to vice presidential bet and Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II.

Palace calls for cooperation in Arroyo's last months in office

Saying economy, education, and the coming elections remain at the top of the administration"s agenda, Malacañang on Sunday urged Filipinos to support President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her remaining six months in office.

Ex-Arroyo’s defense chief now defending Noynoy’s votes

Former defense secretary Avelino "Nonong" Cruz, Jr. has a new job: defending Noynoy's votes.

Faith-based party solicits funds through Internet

A small Church-based political party, which is fielding presidential and other national candidates in the May elections has turned to the Internet to solicit badly needed funds.

In what could be a first in the country, Ang Kapatiran has opened a page on its website ( to solicit contributions in pesos and US dollars through credit cards.

Congress has only 9 days to act on priority bills

Malacañang is open to calling for a special session if Congress, with only nine session days left, fails to act on priority measures before they adjourn next month, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Sunday.

Coast Guard sets deadlines for Catalyn B, Baleno 9 search ops

Heartened by the retrieval of two bodies from the sunken wooden vessel Catalyn B, the Coast Guard intensified Sunday its search operations for bodies of victims in two maritime tragedies that occurred during the holidays.

Retrieval of bodies from sunken ship to resume Wednesday

The retrieval of bodies trapped inside the sunken MV Catalyn B off Cavite was suspended on Sunday but would resume on Wednesday, the Philippine Coast Guard’s information office said in a statement.

Relatives claim 2 retrieved bodies from sunken Catalyn B

MANILA, Philippines - Relatives have claimed the bodies of 2 fatalities recovered by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) from a sunken passenger ferry off waters in the province of Cavite. 

Massive clean-up as Philippine volcano calms down

Disaster relief officials in the Philippines launched a massive clean-up on Sunday as tens of thousands of villagers began returning home after the restive Mayon volcano showed signs of calming down.

Bodies of 6 Filipino seamen back home

The remains of the six Filipino seafarers who were killed in the fire that struck the Greek-owned MV Aegean Wind on Christmas Day have been repatriated over the weekend, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Sunday.

CPP: Disguised AFP soldiers not NPA torched Quezon school

MANILA, Philippines - The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has denied that the New People’s Army (NPA) was behind the burning of school building in Quezon province last December 26, 2009. 

Only 6 weeks for vets’ lump-sum benefits

Filipino World War II veterans have only about six weeks to apply for the lump-sum payment of $9,000 for Filipino citizens and $15,000 for US citizens, United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney said.

Filipino peacekeepers in Haiti honored

The United Nations has paid tribute to Filipino peacekeepers serving here, saying their continued presence is needed to help ensure stability in this impoverished Caribbean country.

3 million tourists visit RP in 2009

Three million tourists from abroad will have visited the country by the end of the year, or two million less than the targeted five million, Tourism Undersecretary Oscar Payabyab said in his projection pending official figures.

Peso seen to stay strong, but volatile ahead of May polls

MANILA, Philippines – The peso is widely expected to gain more strength this year against the US dollar, but analysts see a bumpy ride for the local unit ahead of the May 10 national elections.

Peruvian Supreme Court confirms 25-year sentence for Fujimori

The Peruvian Surpreme Court early Sunday unanimously confirmed a 25-year prison sentence on the country's former president Alberto Fujimori.

Pakistan volleyball bomb toll rises to 99—police

The death toll from a suicide attack at a volleyball game in Pakistan rose to 99, police said Sunday, as authorities struggled to cope with one of the country's bloodiest ever bombings.

US closes embassy in Yemen over terror threat

SAN'A, Yemen - The U.S. Embassy in Yemen closed on Sunday in response to ongoing al-Qaeda threats to attack American interests in the Arabian Peninsula country.

Pope's secretary visits Christmas Eve assailant

Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary has visited the woman who knocked the pontiff to the ground at midnight mass, the pope's spokesman said on Sunday.

Tajikistan quake leaves 10,000 without shelter

An earthquake in the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan has destroyed hundreds of homes, leaving some 10,000 people without shelter in the dead of winter, officials said Sunday.

Floyd's camp still hopeful for Pacquiao megabout

Hope springs eternal, and for Leonard Ellerbe, a close associate of unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., somehow, a fight with boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao is still very much possible.

Pacquiao to start training soon: reports

MANILA, Philippines – His fight date and opponent may not have been finalized yet but various reports claim that 7-division champion Manny Pacquiao is set to hold his training camp soon.

Manny is clean, says Merchant

MANILA, Philippines - Larry Merchant knows a good, clean fighter when he sees one. 

Dolphy grandson jailed over drugs

The police arrested a grandson of comedy king Dolphy in Sta. Cruz, Laguna over an illegal drugs case.

Rocco Quizon, 22, was arrested Friday afternoon, inside Argem Coliseum, a cockpit arena, in Barangay Bubukal, Superintendent Marvin Saro, Sta. Cruz police chief, said in a phone interview Sunday.

He said the young Quizon, who had an arrest warrant for possession of suspected shabu, had gone into hiding for over five years.

The warrant was issued by Judge Jaime Blancaflor of the Regional Trial Court Branch 27 in Sta. Cruz.

Rocco is the second grandson of Dolphy (Rodolfo Quizon in real life) who was arrested in Laguna. In January 2009, the police also arrested Rodolfo Quizon III for charges of illegal possession of firearms.

Rocco is now detained at the Sta. Cruz Municipal Police Office.

Jinkee Pacquiao on Krista Ranillo: I hate her

by by Napoleon Quintos,
MANILA, Philippines – Jinkee Pacquiao has minced no words in expressing how she felt about the alleged extramarital affair of her husband, People’s Champ Manny Pacquiao, with young starlet Krista Ranillo

Rica Paras leaves PBB house without tears and fears

by by Krishna Belle Meniado,
MANILA, Philippines – Viewers of Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Double Up evicted housemate Rica Paras from the show, the first housemate to bid farewell to the hit reality program this year.

"Avatar" maintains box-office ascent with $68.3M

The big blue aliens of "Avatar" are still packing movie fans into theaters.

The experts' 20 best movies of 2009

London, England -- It's been an epic year for movies. From James Cameron's return to the big screen with "Avatar," to "Star Trek" re-imagined to the star-studded cast of Rob Marshall's "Nine," Hollywood has been going big guns this year. 

Meanwhile over in independent film a new star was born -- Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe -- the abused, overweight teen who grabs your heart and won't let go in "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire."

And a few foreign language films -- "The White Ribbon" and "A Prophet," in particular -- simply blew critics' socks off.

We canvassed a diverse group of movie experts to find out what films they thought were the best of 2009. Disagree? Think they missed on? Tell us what regular movie goers think in SoundOff below.

The Blogger 
Erik Davis, Editor-in-Chief,

1. 'Avatar' (James Cameron, U.S.) 
A visual orgasm. I think it'll definitely be a Best Picture [Academy Award] contender and Cameron will be a Best Director contender. There were definitely some things wrong with it story-wise. It's a bit clichéd, a story we've seen before. But from a visual standpoint, I had never experienced anything like it.

2. 'Up in the Air' (Jason Reitman, U.S.)
Reitman's film is great -- pretty brilliant. There's familiarity there, especially for anyone who's traveled a lot. It's a story you can connect with on a personal level. Reliable, familiar, and yes, a little bit poetic.

3. 'District 9' (Neill Blomkamp, South Africa) 
Nice and refreshing to get a creative sci-fi original at the end of summer. A big action-intense film that is also smart and has something to say. It showed us what a summer blockbuster can be without hundreds of millions of dollars spent on it.

4. 'The Hangover' (Todd Phillips, U.S.)
A guilty, raunchy comedy. You can't help but just crack up at it all. You had to recommend it to all your friends, because you couldn't stop laughing. And it brought three unfamiliar faces together that are under the radar in Hollywood. That was really good.

5. 'Nine' (Rob Marshall, U.S.)
Is it one of my favourite films? I don't know. But, in terms of what audiences like and what the Academy likes, it's a big, star-studded musical. Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant in it. The production values are marvelous. It's not blowing anyone's mind, they're not gushing over it, but it's a quality, movie/musical you almost have to put in the list.

The Critic
Mike Goodridge, Editor, Screen International

1. 'The White Ribbon' (Michael Haneke, Austria)
It's the most extraordinary film. The most controlled, commanding movie. It's an incredible story that has implications for the 21st century.

2. 'A Prophet' (Jacques Audiard, France)
Extremely ambitious European filmmaking. Thrilling to watch. It's about this Algerian guy in prison in France and it's a two-and-a-half hour epic ... the violence he goes through. It's an incredible epic, wonderful.

3. 'A Serious Man' (Ethan and Joel Coen, U.S.)
I've never adored the Coen Brothers, but this movie just tickled my fancy. It's a hilarious film, a penetrating portrait of that Midwestern Jewish ghetto of the late 1960s. I laughed my head off. And it was beautifully acted.

4. 'Avatar' (James Cameron, U.S.)
I love "Avatar." Like "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings," it's one of those movies that really changes the paradigm of filmmaking. It has created an amazing new capability: watching computer-generated characters with the audience as invested in them as they are in the human characters. Who knows if it'll stand the test of time, though.

5. 'Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire' (Lee Daniels, U.S.)
I saw it at Sundance 12 months ago and it still resonates. It's a beautiful story, like nothing you've ever seen before. It takes one of life's underprivileged and puts them at the center of a movie. She's obese, black, abused beyond comprehension, yet you're put in her shoes. It makes you think about life differently. Really powerful.

The Social Networker
Efe Cakarel, Founder and CEO, The Auteurs

1. 'The White Ribbon' (Michael Haneke, Austria) 
Haneke has made his bid for an Oscar with this literary, early 20th century period piece set in a small pre-War German town. Lurking behind the stark, high-contrast black and white photography ... are the same sinister motivations that have driven all the characters in this master filmmaker's work. A beautiful film pitched at a larger, more respectable audience.

2. 'A Prophet' (Jacques Audiard, France)
Prison dramas are notoriously difficult to render on screen with any authentic sense of the tedium that underscores the violence, claustrophobia and degradation of daily life. And yet here, Audiard paints a magnificently raw portrait, not only of survival, but of that most precious of human qualities -- the capacity to thrive, adapt and ultimately to transcend.

3. 'The Headless Woman' (Lucrecia Martel, 2008, Argentina) 
South America's most exciting filmmaker keeps getting more famous, and her movies keep getting smaller. "The Headless Woman" feels like it started as a noir ... but without warning, Martel drops the camera and everything moves out of focus. The result is a sliver of a film -- exquisite, beguiling and utterly mysterious.

4. 'Love Exposure' (Shion Sono, 2008, Japan)
A four-hour epic of obtuse, perverse sexual deviancy, religion, abuse and evil is, of course, entirely about love. Resisting at every turn the temptation to condemn the morality and behavior of his five severely emotionally damaged protagonists, he instead paints a portrait of real, raw emotion. This ponderous and beautifully-shot film will endure long after this list has turned to dust.

5. 'Phantoms of Nabua' (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)
A remarkable example of the true power of cinema. This short film is a tone poem, a disarticulation of space, a testament to disaffected masculinity and an exemplary piece of cinematography.

The Festival Director 
Despina Mouzaki, Thessaloniki International Film Festival

1. 'The White Ribbon' (Michael Haneke, Austria)
An allegory for the times and the dangers that lie beneath the surface that could lead us to totalitarianism. A political film with a strong message. A modern film that speaks about how difficult it is to let go of our bad traits -- traits that endanger our own existence. Haneke is, as always, a master. A dark story of a very specific community.

2. 'Up in the Air' (Jason Reitman, U.S.)
The best American film of the year. One of those rare moments when a director catches the momentum of what society is facing right now and captures it in such a smart way. Funny and tragic at the same time, the story of the leading character is the story of a 21st century man who has lost track of what is important in life.

3. 'Police, Adjective' (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)
Another film that proves that Romania is in the vanguard of original filmmaking and storytelling today. Language is at the heart of this story of surveillance, bureaucracy and the difficulty of letting old habits and policies go. A critique of the country's post-Communist stagnation.

4. 'Lourdes' (Jessica Hausner, Austria)
A great film on the subject of faith and the questioning of miracles by an original voice from Austria. Combining delicate humor with the tragic stories of the people who are hoping for a miracle at Lourdes, Hausner succeeds in creating an impeccable balance of respect for human nature without hiding its weaknesses.

5. 'Dogtooth' (George Lanthimos, Greece)
We are very proud to have the rare opportunity to include a Greek film in the best films of the year without feeling we're doing it a favor. Having won awards at Cannes and numerous other European festivals, Lanthimos is a talent to watch.

Australian PM pens children's book

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has taken time out of his busy schedule to indulge his imagination by penning a children's book featuring his family pets, a spokeswoman said Sunday.

Malaysian gov’t to appeal 'Allah' ruling

The country's minister in charge of Muslim affairs said the government would appeal a court ruling allowing a Catholic paper the right to use the word "Allah."

Prelate forbids chewing gum, cell phones inside church

To maintain a prayerful silence inside churches, a Catholic archbishop reminded churchgoers in his archdiocese to refrain from chewing gum, chatting and using cellular phones inside churches.

Smoking increases aged-related macular degeneration

LOS ANGELES (Xinhua) - Smoking continues to increase one's risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 65, according to a new study.

Early bedtimes may help protect adolescents against depression

LOS ANGELES (Xinhua) - Adolescents who go to bed earlier are significantly less likely to suffer from depression and to think about committing suicide, a new study shows.

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

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