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

Monday, January 4, 2010

January 5, 2010 Major News Stories

Petron to raise oil prices effective Tuesday morning

(UPDATE) At 6 a.m. Tuesday, Petron will raise diesel and kerosene prices by P1.25 per liter and gasoline prices by P1 per liter, said spokesperson Virginia Ruivivar.

Oil firm to raise prices up to P1.25/liter Tuesday

Independent oil player Phoenix Petroleum Inc. said on Monday that it would raise prices by as much as P1.25 per liter effective Tuesday morning.

Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Seaoil Philippines Inc., Total Philippines Corp. and Petron Corp. announced similar P1.25 per liter increase in diesel prices and P1.00 per liter increase in gasoline prices.

Phoenix Petroleum said the increase in prices, the first for the new year, is “in order to reflect the continued increase in the prices of petroleum products in the international market.”

Seaoil said it will also increase the prices of its regular gasoline by P0.50 per liter and kerosene by P1.25 per liter.

Total also said it will increase by P0.50 per liter the pump price of its regular gasoline.

Petron said it will also increase prices of its kerosene products by P1.25 per liter (Value-Added Tax included) and its regular gasoline by P0.50 per liter.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy (DOE) said that Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. gave notice that it will also increase its pump prices.

The energy department said the notice indicated that the oil giant will increases prices by P1.00 per liter for gasoline; P1.25 per liter for diesel and kerosene; P0.50 per liter for regular gasoline; and P0.45 per kilogram for its liquefied petroleum gas (exclusive of Value-Added Tax)) products.

The DOE did not say when Pilipinas Shell will implement the increase in prices.

LPGMA reduces prices

Earlier Monday, the LPG Marketers Association (LPGMA) announced it would reduce prices of its liquefied petroleum gas products by P1 per kilogram.

The rollback takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and will bring down the price of an 11-kilogram tank by P11 to P610.

LPGMA President Arnel Ty said he is expecting other LPG players to follow suit.

He added that LPG prices, which usually rise during Christmas, are expected to go down further starting next month since the holiday season is over.

LPG prices cut by P1/kilo starting Tuesday

The price of cooking gas and auto LPG will be reduced by P1 peso per kilo starting midnight Tuesday, the LPG Marketers Association has announced.

LTO enforces microchip identification program amid protests

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) started implementing on Monday its controversial radio frequency-based ID system for all registered vehicles, despite protests by militant groups who said it violates motorists' privacy.

Transport group protests RFID program implementation

Labag na sa batas, dagdag gastos pa! 'Yan ang iginiit ng samahang Piston sa unang araw nang pagpapatupad sa RFID system ng LTO. 

RFID a fund-raising program for elections - transport group

MANILA, Philippines - Militant transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide (Piston) has staged a protest action in front of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Quezon City to express opposition to the installation of tracking devices in vehicles.

First day of RFID tagging met with opposition

Local transport leaders are opposing the Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) tagging on motor vehicles that the Land Transportation Office implemented starting yesterday.

LTO 7 Regional Director Raul Aguilos said all motorcycles vehicles, except motorcycles, should comply with the implementation or will remain unregistered. Unregistered vehicles will be impounded and the owner will be fined P2,000.

Some teachers still waiting for full Christmas bonus

MANILA, Philippines - The holiday season may be over but some public school teachers have yet to receive their Christmas bonuses in full.

DOH eyes total firecracker ban

With three persons killed by firecrackers during the New Year revelry, health authorities want to totally ban all kinds of firecrackers and fireworks in residential areas in the next New Year celebrations.

New law gives young parents, kids a break

Children born to minors will be considered legitimate upon their parents’ marriage now that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed into the law a measure amending the Family Code.

Final report release: Ombudsman: Balili lot probe will need Manila approval

The fact-finding investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas into the controversial Capitol purchase of the Balili property will have to pass through the same route as that of the Cebu International Convention Center wherein the final evaluation report has to be approved in Manila contrary to the usual practice.

Provincial Board agrees to reopen Balili lot probe

The Cebu Provincial Board agreed yesterday to reopen the investigation into the controversial purchase of the Balili lot in barangay Tinaan, Naga town.

Capitol monitoring 5 ‘attackers’ of CICC

CAPITOL warned media personalities who “recycle” issues about the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) of possible legal action against them.

Tom eyes ER head as CCMC director

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña plans changes at the Cebu City Medical Center this year and he wants to start from the top.

This as the mayor revealed that he wants to kick out hospital chief Myrna Go and replace her with Dr. Edgar Abelgas, who got Osmeña’s fancy for his effective management of CCMC’s emergency room the past several months.

The mayor said he can relieve Go from her post anytime he wants, because the latter is only an officer-in-charge (OIC) for the city-run hospital.

Designated CCMC administrator Rene Sanapo confirmed that many of the patients admired Abelgas, because he succeeded in improving the services of the hospital’s emergency room.

Abelgas, meanwhile, is very willing to accept the challenge for him to lead the 500 doctors, nurses and other employees if Osmeña will give him the chance to prove himself.

After the Sinulog: Tommy O off to US for medical check up

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña will be leaving for the United States of America on the third week of this month for his regular medical check up.

Vice mayor may step down in 1 week

Vice Mayor Michael Rama may step down as chairman of the Sinulog Foundation, Inc. should the Commission on Audit fail to decide on the city’s request for another exemption from COA Circular 2007-001 after one week.

"Walk with Jesus" on January 7

The annual Walk with Jesus on Thursday, January 7, will open this year’s 30th year of the Sinulog festivities.

Marina grounds passenger vessel

The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA-7) has prevented the MV Georich of George and Peter Lines from sailing while investigation is being conducted into the recent incident where 465 passengers were stranded off the vicinity of Apo Island in Negros Oriental.

Bodies in sunken ship trapped under tables, bunker beds

Coast Guard operatives were still having a tough time retrieving bodies left trapped inside the sunken MV Catalyn B despite the use of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to scour the depths for the retrieval operations.

Eerie sight of broken panes and rotting bodies greet Coast Guard divers

Broken windows, collapsed ceilings, and decomposing bodies trapped under fallen debris. These were among the images captured inside sunken motor vessel Catalyn-B that showed the enormity of damage it incurred after it collided with the steel-hulled fishing boat FV Anatalia off Limbones Island in Cavite on Christmas Eve.

Remains of MV Catalyn-B passenger found in Bataan

The number of fatalities from the ill-fated MV Catalyn B has risen to six after a body believed to be that of a missing passenger of the sunken vessel was retrieved in Bataan province on Monday.

Danao kagawad, daughter to face charges for obstruction of justice

A councilman of barangay Looc in Danao City and his daughter were arrested by police officers after reportedly meddling in the arrest of his son who is allegedly into the peddling of illegal drugs.

At past 8:00 the other night, commotion ensued on Tupas Street in Danao City when police officers facilitated the arrest of one Alvaro Alvaro alias “Barok”, and an unidentified companion, during a buy-bust operation.

The poseur buyer used P1,500 marked money in the deal. Afterwhich, the money and a medium-size pack of suspected shabu were confiscated as well as a .45 caliber pistol with six live bullets from the possession of Barok. Another .380 caliber pistol with six live bullets was recovered from the unidentified companion of Barok.

The pieces of evidence include a mobile phone with a text message that read: “Nindot ni akong mga butang. Muduwa sad ko’g ½ kilo.”

 But during the operation, the father of Barok identified as Antonio Navarro Alvaro and his daughter Maria Theresa Veloso allegedly attacked the authorities.

Gas station manager loses P890,000 in holdup

Two unidentified men wearing camouflage jackets and claiming to be members of the military, held up the operations manager of a gasoline station and carted away P890,000 on Monday morning in Carmen town, about 38 kilometers north of Cebu City.

Court of Appeals reverses RTC decision on lawyer's expulsion from a club

The Court of Appeals has reversed a Regional Trial Court decision that enjoins the elite Casino Español de Cebu Club to expel a lawyer member because of alleged misbehavior.

The eighteenth division of the appellate court yesterday granted the petition for certiorari filed by the Casino Español de Cebu, Incorporated and the members of its board against the December 20, 2007 and the March 28, 2008 orders of RTC Branch 11 Judge Ramon Daomilas, Jr. which granted the preliminary mandatory injunction filed by lawyer Edgar Gica and denied the club’s motion for reconsideration, respectively.

“This court holds that public respondent’s grant of the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction in favor of private respondent despite the lack of clear and unmistakable right on his part constitutes grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction,” the 14-pages decision read.

Daomilas granted the preliminary mandatory injunction sought by Gica enjoining the Casino Español Incorporated and its members of the board from enforcing its resolution that expelled him as member of the club because of alleged violation of their amended Constitution and By-Laws.

The club and its board of directors filed a motion for reconsideration but was also denied by Daomilas prompting them to assail the latter’s decision before the Court of Appeals.The case stemmed from the club’s decision in June 2005 that expelled Gica as member after he circulated articles containing insinuations and direct accusations ofwrongdoings to other club members.

Opposition: 2 BOPK bets are still US citizens

The opposition camp yesterday claimed that Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s wife Margot and Ronald Cuenco, who are running for councilors in the city’s south district, are still considered citizens of the United States because they failed to prove that their applications for the renunciation of their green cards have been approved by the US government.

Tomas wants mayors exempted from gun ban

Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday said he will ask the City Mayor’s League of the Philippines to request the Commission on Elections to exempt the incumbent mayors from the implementation of the election gun ban set to take effect on January 10.

Bets for lower posts can only go to private agents for protection

by By Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak
Candidates for vice mayor and councilor not entitled to gov’t-provided security Armed Forces chief of staff Rodrigo Maclang on Monday said candidates for vice mayor and councilor will not have the privilege of being given security details from the police, the military, and the National Bureau of Investigation.

Comelec chief favors late training of BEIs

The late training of public school teachers who will sit as board of election inspectors (BEIs) in the May elections will actually benefit them, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Monday.

Para fresh pa sa kanilang mind ang tinuro sa kanila (So that the things that they will learn from the training will still be fresh in their minds)," said Comelec chairman Jose Melo in an interview with reporters.

Melo said the training would start on March, the end of school year 2009-2010, virtually ignoring the call of a group of teachers who wants the training to be held as early as this month.

The group, the Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC), said the Comelec’s first task should be to identify who among the more than 500,000 teachers are qualified to sit on the BEI in the upcoming polls.

But Melo said an early training could be disadvantageous as the teachers may forget what they have just learned when election day comes.

Comelec might settle '07 election protests before January 10 - Melo

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Monday that it is inclined to settle the pending 2007 electoral protests before this year"s election period starts on January 10.

Comelec rates itself an ‘8’ in terms of preparedness

Despite automation jitters and many unanswered questions, the Commission on Elections on Monday gave itself a score of 8 out of 10 in terms of its readiness to undertake the country’s first automated elections this year.

Comelec not yet fully prepared for May polls

Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Jose Melo on Monday admitted that problems still hounded their preparations for the May elections - the first ever automated one on a national scale in the country.
Among the problems Melo cited are the numerous appeals that were filed by de-listed party-list groups and disqualified candidates, many of whom went to the Supreme Court after the Comelec denied their motions for reconsideration.

Nakaka-bother din (In a way we are bothered by it)," Melo said.

Melo said that although he understands the predicament of these candidates, they should respect the decisions of the poll body. 

Also among Melo's worries is the substitution of candidates, as there is no substitution law that can be applied in automated elections. Under present laws, when a candidate dies or is disqualified, a voter must write the name of the substitute candidate on the ballot, something which cannot be done in a computerized election.

“How can that be read by the machine?" Melo said. 

The Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine to be used in the May elections is only programmed to recognize the shading of the ovals placed beside the pre-printed names on a specific ballot.

Melo said they had thought of printing extra ovals wherein numbers will be placed next to it and will be used to correspond for a specific substitute candidate, but he said this might confuse some voters.

“That’s a prescription to confusion, di pwede siguro yan (maybe that should not be done)," he said. 

As of now, he said they are more inclined to just count the votes of the replaced candidate for the substitute.

Melo had earlier expressed concern that poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM would not be able to deliver all the 82,200 PCOS machines before the February 28 deadline. He was, however, relieved after the consortium delivered the first two batches last week.

A total 9,600 PCOS units are also expected to arrive late Monday.

In addition, several teachers’ organizations have scored the Comelec for the “late" training of public school teachers who will serve as Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) in the 2010 polls. Melo said this is for their own good, so that whatever they learn during the training in March will still be “fresh" in their memories come May.

House to make last-ditch push for Cha-cha

The House of Representatives will make a last-ditch attempt to amend the Constitution through a constitutional convention in the remaining three weeks of session.

RH bill to remain in limbo at House

The controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill is not among the priorities of the House of Representatives when it resumes session two weeks from now, leaders of the chamber said Monday.

Let Trillanes work via remote—foreign lawmakers

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has urged the Senate to act on a resolution allowing detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to participate in legislative proceedings through remote or electronic means.

Mangudadatu bodyguard shoots dead 2 Subic cops—SBMA

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines—A man identified by police as a security aide of Buluan, Maguindanao Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu shot and killed two law enforcement personnel of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority at the Subic Bay Freeport on Monday afternoon.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, in a telephone interview, said Ali Mohamedin Panegas, 39, a resident of Buluan and reportedly a bodyguard of Mangudadatu, shot dead Seferino Abadia, 60, and retired SPO4 Delfin Orines inside the building of SBMA’s law enforcement department (LED) at about 5 p.m.

“[SBMA LED personnel] asked [Panegas] to surrender his firearm, which he did. But it turned out that he had another one, which … he used to shoot [Abadia and Orines],” Arreza told the INQUIRER.

Asked why Panegas was at the LED building, Arreza said Mangudadatu’s staff members had asked the SBMA LED to look for Panegas in the freeport.

“They said he was [not with them] when they left Subic last Sunday. Vice Mayor Mangudadatu’s men were concerned about him because of their situation,” he said.

Mangudadatu has been under heavy guard since the massacre of 57 people, which included his wife, other relatives and 30 journalists in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, on Nov. 23, 2009. Members of the Ampatuan family were suspected to be behind the attack.

Arreza said Mangudadatu’s group had gone to Subic to relax but left on Sunday without Panegas.

“When our LED personnel found him in Cubi, we asked him to surrender his firearm. He gave up his 9 mm [pistol]. In the hallway of the LED building, there was an altercation and [Panegas] pulled out a .45 cal. from a clutch bag he was carrying,” he said.

Arreza, however, did not give details on how the altercation between Panegas and the LED personnel started.

Abadia and Orines died while being taken to the James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital in this city.

Arreza said Panegas surrendered to LED personnel. “[Panegas] was already surrounded after the shooting,” he said.

Senior Supt. Oscar Albayalde, Olongapo police chief, said Panegas had been turned over to their custody on Monday night.

Albayalde said Panegas was being questioned by personnel of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on Monday night.

He would be subjected to inquest proceedings on Tuesday, Albayalde said.

When asked, Albayalde said Panegas had not explained what provoked him to shoot and kill Abadia and Orines.

Police camp on full alert for Ampatuan trial

Security personnel of the main headquarters of the Philippine National Police in Quezon City went on full alert Monday, a day before the high-profile multiple murder trial of Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. for the massacre of at least 57 people in Maguindanao province last November 23.

Bulletproof vest, 360 cops to secure Andal Jr. during trial

A bulletproof vehicle escorted by 75 government agents will bring Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in the November 23 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province, to the national police headquarters in Quezon City on Tuesday for his arraignment.

Full media coverage of Ampatuan case—Biazon

The government must show “full transparency” by allowing media to have full coverage and access of the Ampatuans, the suspects in the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao, a senator said on Monday.

PNP wants jailed Ampatuans transferred to Manila

Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa on Monday supported calls to transfer the jailed scions of the influential Ampatuan clan from a detention center in General Santos City to Camp Crame in Quezon City.

CIDG probes special treatment of Ampatuans

(UPDATE) The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has started investigating allegations that its regional office here has been giving special treatment to the four detained Ampatuan clan members, charged in connection with the November 23 Maguindanao massacre.

Nothing wrong with Ampatuans’ ‘VIP treatment’—CIDG chief

The head of the police unit holding four members of the Ampatuan clan sees nothing wrong with the massacre suspects using mobile phones and having catered food while in detention.

“I don’t think we can consider those as violations or special treatment,” Director Raul Castañeda, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday.

“They are not yet convicted so they can still use mobile phones, but it should be regulated,” he said over the phone.

He added: “There’s no problem with their relatives bringing in food, especially because Muslims like them have limitations in the kinds of food they eat. Any inmate, not just the Ampatuans, is allowed to do that.”

But Castañeda immediately ordered an investigation into the “VIP treatment” allegedly being afforded to four Ampatuan clan members detained at the CIDG jail in Camp Fermin Lira in General Santos City.

“My deputy, [Senior Superintendent] Benito Estipona, flew to General Santos City (yesterday) to lead the investigation,” he said.

The four are suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan; his brothers, Maguindanao provincial board member and erstwhile acting governor Sajid Ampatuan and Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan; and their uncle, Maguindanao vice governor Akmad Ampatuan.

The clan members, along with 600 of their men, were charged with multiple murder and rebellion regarding the Nov.\ember 23 mass killings of at least 57 people in a town named after their family.

Castañeda also refused to consider the Ampatuans’ reported use of an errand boy as a favorable treatment being afforded to the clan.

Asked about the visitation rules, he said the inmates’ lawyers, immediate family members and religious advisers were allowed to visit them “any time of the day.”

Superintendent Pete Austria, CIDG chief in Central Mindanao, said two Bombo Radyo reporters who allegedly saw two Ampatuans talking with CIDG agents outside their prison cells had already given their statement.

“They denied saying that the Ampatuans were provided with special treatment. They cannot even describe what VIP treatment is,” he said in a separate phone interview.

Austria claimed the jailed Ampatuans- Zaldy and Sajid- were just talking with their lawyer when the radio reporters supposedly saw them on the night of December 31.

The “conversation,” he said, took place in the receiving area of the CIDG detention facility “just three meters away from their cell.”

“They were not, in any way, outside the detention area,” Austria claimed.

As part of the ongoing investigation, Austria said he ordered the “temporary replacement” of all the six CIDG agents guarding the detention center.

“We will bring in new faces who are not from this area so we can avoid being accused as being partial to anybody, he said.

Austria said he likewise instructed the duty jail officers to issue their sworn affidavit regarding the allegations.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa supported calls to transfer the jailed Ampatuan clans to Camp Crame in Quezon City.

“Bringing them here would be better because there would be less movement [during the trial of their cases],” Verzosa told reporters after Monday’s flag-raising ceremony in Camp Crame.

Verzosa said the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame could still accommodate 50 detainees.

He said another detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan City could also hold other massacre suspects.

Asked if he would recommend the jail transfer of the Ampatuans to the Department of Justice (DoJ), he said: “It’s really up to the DoJ. We will just support them and follow their requests.”

No special treatment for Ampatuan dad―military

If his sons were treated like VIPs in jail, as reports claim, Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. is being given the attention that fits a wounded soldier from battle. And that’s not special treatment at all, according to military officials.

Probe P400M ‘looted’ from Ampatuans—Pimentel

A senator on Monday urged the government to shed light on the alleged millions of money found and confiscated in one of the suspects in the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao.

Ampatuan mansions, gas station shelled

(UPDATE) The palatial home of suspended Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and a gas station owned by one of his sons in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, were shelled Sunday night, police and military authorities said.

1 hurt as Ampatuan mansions, gas station shelled

(UPDATE 2) One was hurt as the palatial home of suspended Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and a gas station owned by one of his sons in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, were shelled Sunday night, police and military authorities said.

Suspects in bomb attack at solon’s home charged

Police on Monday filed cases against the suspects in the December 27 bomb attack at the residential compound of Maguindanao Representative Didagen Dilangalen here.  Senior Superintendent Willie Dangane, city police chief, said cases of multiple frustrated and attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm, were filed against Nasser Beda and seven at-large accomplices whose names were withheld pending their arrest.

Ex-actor is acting DENR chief

A former actor who starred in the 1980s TV drama "Yagit" is the acting secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  Eleazar Quinto, until Monday an undersecretary at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said he wanted to be a "practicing environmentalist" in the six months that he has until the end of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s term.

Satur Ocampo to ask Comelec to dismiss disqualification case

Senatorial candidate Satur Ocampo wants the disqualification case against him dismissed, calling it a sham initiated by the Arroyo administration against its critics.

Arroyo gift-giving ‘nothing special,’ say beneficiaries

A woman in her late 30s emerged from the tent at the Malacañang grounds, carrying a bag of groceries as though she’d won the jackpot. Inside, a couple of relatives were still waiting for their turn to get goodies from no less that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It’s a family affair of sorts for poor residents who turned up at the so-called “People’s Day” designed as Ms Arroyo’s final post-Christmas gift-giving as chief executive.

Ms Arroyo spent some 20 minutes personally distributing grocery bags, each worth around P250, in front of TV cameras to her poor neighbors in the vicinity of Malacanang.

Around 5,500 residents of 22 villages were supposed to receive the belated Christmas presents, according to Thelsa Biolena, Metro Manila director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Biolena said beneficiaries had been picked by their respective barangay captains from among the “poorest and the jobless” in the community.

PAF plane makes emergency landing at Davao airport

A Philippine Air Force (PAF) plane made an emergency landing at the Davao Old Airport in Davao City after the plane failed to retract its landing gear. No one was reported hurt or killed.

Bill to make immigration bureau powerful

The Bureau of Immigration is being envisioned as a more powerful body that can on its own act on foreign visa applications under pending bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Royal pardons by Saudi King spark jailed OFWs' hopes for release

Recent news of the King of Saudi Arabia granting royal pardon to prisoners jailed for petty crimes and offenses has buoyed the hopes of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in prison to be included in the pardon list.

Higher pay for Filipino seamen in Greek ship

A Greek court directed the owner of MV Aetea Sierra to pay higher salaries to its crew that includes 12 Filipinos, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement Monday.

Korean Language Test application period set for Jan. 25-29

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has set January 25-29 as the application period for the Korean Language Test (KLT), an important step in the application process under the Korean Employment Permit System (EPS).

Japan PM vows to pursue more equal ties with US

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged Monday to pursue more equal relations with the United States (US) as Tokyo seeks to defuse a row with its close ally over where to move an American military base.

At least 500 homes damaged in Solomons quake

by Agence France-Presse
HONIARA, Solomon Islands - About 500 homes were damaged or destroyed when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the Solomon Islands, officials said Monday following a reconnaissance flight over remote islands near the epicentre.

52 Malaysia couples face jail for hotel liaisons

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Fifty-two unmarried Muslim couples face charges of sexual misconduct and possible jail terms after being caught alone in hotel rooms by Malaysia's Islamic morality police during a New Year's Day crackdown, an official said Monday.

Dubai names tallest building after bailout patron

Dubai opened the world's tallest skyscraper yesterday, and in a surprise move renamed the gleaming glass-and-metal tower Burj Khalifa in a nod to the leader of neighboring Abu Dhabi — the oil-rich sheikdom which came to its rescue during the financial meltdown.

A lavish presentation witnessed by Dubai's ruler and thousands of onlookers at the base of the tower said the building was 828 meters, or 2717 feet, tall.

Dubai is opening the tower in the midst of a deep financial crisis. Its oil rich neighbor Abu Dhabi has pumped billions of dollars in bailout funds into the emirate as it struggles to pay its debts.

Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the ruler of Abu Dhabi and serves as the president of the United Arab Emirates, the federation of seven small emirates, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Analysts have questioned what Dubai might need to offer in exchange for the financial support it has received from Abu Dhabi, which controls nearly all of the UAE's oil wealth. Abu Dhabi provided direct and indirect injections totaling $25 billion last year as Dubai's debt problems deepened.

Pacquiao, Mayweather camps meet to revive fight

MANILA, Philippines -- The warring camps of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. are set to meet on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) in an effort to thresh out their differences and save the March 13 mega-bout between the two fighters.

First college billiards competition in Philippines set

MANILA, Philippines – The pool table is set for the first-ever intercollegiate billiards competition. According to sportsman-businessman Ceferino “Perry” Mariano, they have invited the different schools in Metro Manila to join the intercollegiate billiards tournament.

Maguindanao massacre DVDs in Quiapo seized

MANILA, Philippines -- Members of the Optical Media Board (OMB) on Monday swooped down on vendors in Quiapo, Manila selling digital video discs (DVDs) of the Maguindanao massacre.

Filipina White House cook wins 'Iron Chef'

by by Rodney J. Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Everyone knows that Cristeta Comerford, the first-ever Filipino-American White House Executive Chef, feeds the most powerful people in the world.

But she also got a chance to prove her culinary mettle against some of the world's most skilled chefs.

Comerford joined forces with "Iron Chef" Bobby Flay to compete with "super chef" Emeril Lagasse and "Iron Chef" Mario Batali in a special season-opening episode of the top-rated cooking show Iron Chef America.

Iron Chef America is a spin-off from the hit Japanese cooking show called Iron Chef that got a small but dedicated following even in Manila.

The show's concept basically involves pitting the country's top chefs against each other in a time-pressure cook-off challenge using a secret ingredient.

Music review: Pinoy rock 'superband' Franco

by by Kristine Servando,
MANILA, Philippines - Barely months after they broke into the local music scene, rock band Franco was already heralded as a "superband."

Though still on their way to national fame, the fact that they have impressed select audiences and critics with their fresh sound (a blend of reggae, alternative rock and metal) and that they are composed of rock icons from well-established Pinoy bands may be why they are described as "super."

Lead singer Franco Reyes is considered one of the best singers and songwriters to ever come out of Cebu.

By the time he joined Franco, he already had 18 years of musical experience with bands like Frank!, Sheila and the Insects and InYo (his band in the United States).

His poetic lyricism and velvet voice shines in the band's hit track "Cast Away", a reggae-flavored song about Reyes's feelings of isolation and homesickness after migrating to the US.

"It's like how Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) long for home," Reyes said. "Cast Away", originally performed by InYo, ranked high in radio charts like those of rock station NU 107.

The track will be included in their new album under MCA Records, reportedly set for release this month.

The rest of the band's members will be familiar to music lovers. On guitars are Gabby Alipe of Urbandub and Paolo "Ocho" Toleran of Queso (formerly named Cheese).

Completing the 5-piece band are Buhawi "Buwi" Meneses of the seminal 90s band Parokya ni Edgar on bass and JanJan Mendoza of Urbandub on drums.


Franco reportedly started as a side project by Toleran, Meneses and Mendoza, who would jam together when they had time. After a while, they decided to look for a front man to help their project band take off.

"JanJan suggested Franco (Reyes). He let them listen to Franco's demo, because he was based in the States, and they liked it," Alipe said in a MYX Setlist interview.

Reyes's band InYo (reportedly named after yin and yang), formed in 2006 and based in Florida, had already recorded an 11-track album with Big3 Records.

InYo had also been composed of experienced musicians like Mike Sylvia, Tommy Jamin and Cebu-born Anton Cortes.

"Then we tried to convince Franco to come back here in the Philippines. Thank God it happened," Alipe added.

Though Reyes thought it was egotistic to name the band after him, the members took a vote and decided to name their band Franco.

While balancing their schedules between Franco and their other bands can be tough, Menseses said it isn't hard to priotize if they are "really into this."

The band members have been busy with gigs and sometimes have to do back-to-back performances with both Franco and their respective bands.

The band had also been busy finalizing the tracks for their album, which is much-anticipated by many fans who have heard and loved their music. They also filmed for the music video of "Cast Away" last December.

'Mere musicians'

Music from

Most of Franco's members--including Reyes, Alipe and Mendoza--thrived and emerged from the vibrant Cebu rock scene.

Reyes said musicians coming from the area produce particularly "clear-minded" music because Cebu is less of a concrete jungle than other big cities.

"Cebu is close to the sea and close to the mountains too. So if you're angry or you just want to relax, you can go to the beach or the mountains 10 minutes away," he said in an interview with

Though transplanted elsewhere in the world, the band reportedly manages to keep its brand of "clear-mindedness" that is translated in Franco's music as poignant lyrics and soothing rhythms that are easy and inspiring to listen to.

Reyes said their songs even have an environmental message. "Our music can be relevant to the youth if they listen to the music and the lyrics and understand that it's about good vibes, positive vibrations," he said.

"And how the songs are about our environment, the climate, and how everyone should do their part. How they can have an effect on global warming that we have because mahirap na (it's hard now)," Reyes added.

Despite all the acclaim, the band shies away from being called a "superband" out of humility.

"It's really flattering. But we try not to think too much about it. Ano lang kami eh, we're just mere musicians. We're just fortunate enough to be part of this project," Reyes told MYX.

From the time of its formation, Franco the band claims to stand for simple and Bob Marley-esque ideals: "Good Vibes. One Love. Good Music." In months or years to come, the band's current and future fans can expect just that.

John Mayer's Internet love

by Bang Showbiz
John Mayer thinks his Twitter account is a substitute relationship. The "Gravity" hitmaker - who was rumored to have been dumped by actress Jennifer Aniston because of his obsession with the social networking website - admits interacting with other users of the micro-blogging site can be as satisfying as going on a date.

Get paid to blog, tweet for politicians this year

MANILA, Philippines - Politicians are now on the lookout for bloggers, writers, designers, and even professional "tweeters" to help them in their respective campaigns, which officially start next month.

Derek Ramsay to undergo knee surgery

MANILA, Philippines - Hunk actor Derek Ramsay is set to undergo a knee surgery this year. The "I Love You, Goodbye" star divulged that he needs to undergo “a full reconstruction surgery” on his right knee after it was injured while playing Frisbee.

Efren Peñaflorida courting Angel Locsin

MANILA, Philippines - Actress Angel Locsin has a hero for a suitor this new year. Just weeks after being named 2009 CNN Hero of the Year, Efren Peñaflorida is still on cloud nine.

She told "The Buzz:" "Before pa magkaroon ng award sa kanya, magkaibigan na kami sa Facebook... Nagkita kami bago ako pumuntang Emmy. Sabay kami sa eroplano kasi. Doon kami nagkakilala talaga."

Amid reports that Peñaflorida is seriously pursuing courtship, Locsin gave her side on the issue.

"Dahil nga magulo ang buhay ko dahil nasa showbiz ako, ayokong 'yong hope na mabibigay niya sa mga tao maapektuhan dahil sa akin. Sinabi ko sa kanya kung ready na ba siya na harapin 'yong mga iyon... Gusto ko friendship muna ako," she said.

She admitted that the celebrated young Filipino visited her at home.

Pinky Webb opens up about break-up with Edu Manzano

MANILA, Philippines – News anchor Pinky Webb is not yet ready to entertain new suitors following her much talked about break-up with Lakas-Kampi-CMD vice presidential bet Edu Manzano almost 2 months ago.

Charice draws praise over role in 'Chipmunks' film

MANILA, Philippines – Even though she played a small role in Hollywood film "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," Filipino international singing sensation Charice was thrilled that some people have noticed her in the hit family movie.

Pagasa: RP should brace for long, hot summer

After being pummeled by cyclones in 2009 Pangasinan and most parts of the country will experience a long, hot summer in 2010, according to an official of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Pagasa: Partial solar eclipse due January 15

Two weeks after a partial lunar eclipse occurred last New Year"s Day, a partial solar eclipse will be visible in parts of the Philippines on Friday, January 15, even as stargazers will have until this coming Thursday to watch the annual Quadrantid meteor shower.

Mayon alert may still be lowered—Phivolcs

An official of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Monday that the agency might further lower the alert status on Mayon Volcano from the current 3 to 2 “in a week’s time” if the restive volcano showed signs of improvement.

Joan Crawford  - "I, Joan Crawford, I believe in the dollar. Everything I earn, I spend."

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