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

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January 7, 2010 Major News Stories

Oil prices drop, stay near $82

Oil prices fell on Wednesday as a stronger dollar offset rising demand for heating fuel caused by cold weather in the northern hemisphere, analysts said.

Number of strikes at lowest due to global crunch

THE NUMBER of strikes dipped to its lowest level since official monitoring started in 1988, prompted by the need to preserve jobs in the global economic downturn.

DFA lobbies Saudi govt to include Pinoys in pardon

Philippine officials have started lobbying the Saudi government to include Filipinos in the list of prisoners to receive royal pardon, which they expect to be announced in a few weeks.

Two jailed OFWs from Saudi arrive home

Two jailed overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were among those pardoned by the Saudi Arabian government on October 2009 are expected to be reunited with their families Wednesday night.

DepEd: National Achievement Tests set for March

Education chief "happy" over improved exam results MANILA, Philippines - The National Achievement Test (NAT) for Grade 3, Grade 6 and Second Year high school students is scheduled on March 2010, the Department of Education (DepEd) announced Wednesday.

New one-time benefit Veterans given until February 16 to file claims

All claims from Filipino World War II veterans for benefits created by the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 must be received by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office-Embassy of the United States of America by February 16, 2010.

Caught in political crossfire: Gwen terminates 57 of Greg's staff

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez, Jr. is not the only one feeling the pinch after falling out from the political mantle of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, so are his staff.

DA-7 employees might work "building-less"

Employees of the regional office of the Department of Agriculture in Central Visayas will soon find themselves "building-less" if ever they cannot find a building which they can rent after the end of this month.

Due to provision of deed of donation: Tom tells UP lot occupants to ask Capitol for assistance

Mayor Tomas R. Osmeña yesterday advised the urban poor families residing in the lots that are owned by the University of the Philippines in barangay Lahug to unite and request Capitol to lift the conditional provision of the deed of donation when it gave the property to the school.

Rivals mull pact

THE Cortes and Ruiz camps will work on a written agreement that will help them work together in repairing R. Colina St., Mandaue City where tension erupted yesterday.

A day after Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes stopped the road rehabilitation project, representatives from the two camps nearly traded blows at the project site, after Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz ordered that the work resume.

Lawyer Gonzalo Malig-on, Ruiz's chief of staff, said the specifics of the agreement will need to be discussed and he will meet with the mayor's advisers today.

City Administrator Briccio Boholst pointed out the Local Government Code empowers the mayor to supervise and control all programs of the city.

But Regional Legal Chief Agustinito Hermoso of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in a press conference before the confrontation, said only the Supreme Court (SC) can stop a national project, like that on R. Colina.

Boholst and Malig-on nearly came to blows when they argued at the project site early yesterday afternoon.

The proposal for a joint undertaking eased the tension.

But a joint undertaking will not stop the mayor from seeking the assistance of the Office of the Ombudsman -Visayas to resolve the conflict, Boholst said.

Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez told Sun.Star Cebu he will ask Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) Chief Orlando Ualat to submit a report on the incident.

Nerez was in Manila when interviewed and said he will look into the matter once he arrives in Cebu. Asked about a report that there was a move to relieve Ualat from his post, Nerez said there is none.

Last Tuesday, the mayor stopped a private contractor's work on a 75-meter stretch of R. Colina St., saying City Hall already planned to pave the area and fix its drainage.

The mayor went to the site with other city officials and a police team.

Soon-Ruiz, in a press conference at noon yesterday, vowed to continue the P500,000 project.

After the press conference, Ruiz, DPWH officials, Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna and City Councilors Editha Cabahug and Emil Rosal went to the project site.

Upon the congresswoman's arrival, work resumed on the street. A backhoe started breaking and scraping the asphalt road, while a police Swat team led by SPO1 Ildefonso Rosales removed the yellow off-limits cordon put up a day earlier.

Moments after the Swat operatives left, Boholst arrived and again ordered the workers to stop.

That's when the argument began.

Boholst said he was there to assert the mayor's authority, based on Section 455 of the Local Government Code of 1991.

He said the City's officials might be held liable for dereliction of duty if they fail to assert their authority.

The section also states that nationally funded construction or repair of roads should be done "in coordination with the construction and repair of the roads and bridges of the city."

Malig-on, however, said only the Supreme Court can stop a national project.

Congresswoman Soon-Ruiz showed during the press conference Councilor Rosal's committee report that recommended the refusal of the mayor's request for P2 million for the R. Colina project.

It was supposed to be included in the city's second supplemental budget for 2009.

Ruiz also showed her letter, dated Oct. 8, offering Cortes a list of her projects for the city, which included R. Colina.

R. Colina, which is not newly asphalted contrary to an earlier report, was named after former Mandaue municipal councilor Restituto Colina, who once lived in the area.

The street used to be called Libertad St.

But informing and coordinating are two different things, said Boholst.

City Engineer Antonio Sanchez, who also went to the site yesterday, said he disapproved Engineer Marlon Montejo's Nov. 26, 2009 request for a permit to start working on R. Colina St/, "because the City has a project in that area."

Renault Ricardo of the DPWH Construction Section said he knew about the disapproval, which was why the start of road rehabilitation was moved from Oct. 28 to Jan. 5.

He said the agency decided to go on with the project upon prodding from Congresswoman Soon-Ruiz's office.

Now that they have been ordered to stop, he said they will just wait until the "air is cleared" so they can resume working.

As the tension eased, the congresswoman embraced Atty. Eutiquio Sanchez, who is one of the mayor's trusted men, and Atty. Boholst shook Atty. Malig-on's hand.

Police Chief Ualat said he decided to remove the cordon when he learned that a dialogue will take place, but stressed he was there to maintain peace and is not siding with any group.

Radaza says no to Comelec control in Lapu

MAYOR Arturo Radaza wants status quo in Lapu-Lapu City and will contest if the opposition moves to place the city under the control of the Commission on Elections.

Ban on undertaking infra works, hiring and promoting of workers to start on Sunday

LOCAL government units only have until this Sunday to transfer or suspend any of its officials as instructed by the Commission on Elections.

City to get four more Kaohsiung buses

The Cebu City government will soon acquire another four units of second-hand buses donated by Kaohsiung, Taiwan to augment the existing transportation facilities of the city.

Sandigan clears 10 ABC officials

AFTER around seven years, members of the Cebu City Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) board can now heave a sigh of relief, following a Sandiganbayan decision promulgated yesterday dismissing a criminal case filed against them by a former employee.

The case, for supposed violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, was the remaining thorn on the officials' side, said defense lawyer Julius Ceasar Entise.

Entise said another criminal case and two administrative cases the officials faced in relation to the complaints of former ABC engineer Leah Rondez were already dismissed prior to the Jan. 6 Sandiganbayan decision.

Penned by Associate Justice Gregory Ong, the 36-page decision said not all four elements of the offense were present in the case, hence the acquittal of the 10 accused officials.


Entise represented Guadalupe Barangay Captain Eugenio Faelnar (ABC president), former Day-as barangay captain Michael Ocleasa Sr., former Lorega San Miguel barangay captain Fortunato Parawan, T. Padilla Barangay Captain Michael Ralota, former Luz barangay captain Nemesio Pagador Jr., former Inayawan barangay captain Licerio Jaca, and Sambag I Barangay Captain Jerry Guardo.

Pahina Central Barangay Captain Sisinio Andales represented himself and Pit-os Barangay Captain Nilo Tariman.

Former San Antonio barangay captain Daido Abcede Sr. was the fifth official Rondez sued.

The Sandiganbayan fourth division said that to warrant a conviction for corrupt practices, as alleged by Rondez, the accused should be public officers, and should have committed the act during the performance of their official duty.

They must have also acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence; and the act has caused undue injury to the government or to a private party.

Rondez, who was fired when Faelnar and company took over in 2002, filed the complaint for their refusal to reimburse the P4,300 worth of gasoline expenses that she incurred while working for the ABC during the term of Punta Princesa Barangay Captain Jose Navarro in 2001.


The ABC officials refused to reimburse the amount, as recommended by their then legal counsel Raul Bitoon, because the expenses were incurred during the past administration, which had enough time to pay Rondez back.

The ABC also discovered an anomaly in the documents because the purchase request was dated January 2001, yet the duplicate was dated January 2002 and the actual purchase was for January to March 2001.

When the case reached the Sandiganbayan on Feb. 7, 2003, the fourth division ordered a 90-day preventive suspension on Faelnar and the other ABC officials.

In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said it cannot be established that the officials acted with evident bad faith or malice or manifest partiality.

And since conviction requires the presence of all four elements of the offense, the Sandiganbayan no longer discussed whether the denial of the claim resulted in any injury.


In an interview with radio dyHP, Rondez said that while the decision did not sit well with her, she accepted it and would no longer file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

"I was caught by surprise. Syempre, masilo ta 'no. I was expecting to win," she said.

"I can't do anything about the court's decision. Akong gihulat ang desisyon sa Ginoo kay hustisya ra man to sa tawo ba," she said.

Rondez said she was just fighting for her principles, and would no longer want a conviction, because it would result in a jail term that would just earn her more enemies among the families of the ABC officials.

Town ABC head sued over injury to two people

The Office of the Ombudsman Visayas has filed a criminal case of reckless imprudence resulting to less serious physical injuries against the Association of Barangay Councils President of Minglanilla town.

The anti-graft office refiled the case yesterday against Ward III barangay captain Ramsi Sayson before the Regional Trial Court in Cebu City following its dismissal by the Municipal Trial Court in Minglanilla for lack of jurisdiction.

Sayson, an ex-officio member of the Municipal Council, was indicted for violation of the Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code after the National Bureau of Investigation found probable cause to file criminal complaint against him.

The NBI had earlier filed the complaint against Sayson after he accidentally shot and injured two people while pursuing a criminal who had just killed a disco goer on August 13, 2005.

Sayson was then responding to a shooting incident that killed a certain Ivan dela Calzada at the town's public plaza.

PDEA agent nabbed at checkpoint

A confidential agent of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-7 ended up behind bars after he was arrested for illegal possession of firearms during a checkpoint where he figured in a verbal tussle with a traffic enforcer yesterday morning on Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City.

Politicians warned of grandstanding "Grandest" Sinulog for 30th year

If things will go as planned, this year would be the "grandest" Sinulog celebration, so far, as organizers promised to come up with a peaceful, memorable, and nostalgic festivity fit for the Holy Child.

Registration for fluvial procession now open

The Sinulog Foundation, Inc. through the Coast Guard is now accepting registrants to those who intend to participate in the annual fluvial procession of the Sto. Niño on January 16.

Previous violations unearthed: MV Georich skipper fails to submit marine protest

The Maritime Industry Authority will send a notice to explain to Captain Roland Villarin of M/V Georich after it was found out that the latter failed to submit a marine protest over another incident involving the ship on November 2 last year.

4 more bodies recovered from sunken ship

Four more bodies were recovered from the wreck of the sunken MV Catalyn B in Cavite after a whole day retrieval operation Wednesday, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

Baby girl among 4 bodies retrieved from Catalyn B wreckage

A baby girl who still had a pink pacifier in her mouth was among the four bodies retrieved on Wednesday from the underwater wreckage of the ill-fated MV Catalyn B about 220 feet deep off Limbones Island in Cavite province.

Comelec to go on info drive on poll automation

The Commission on Elections is stepping up its preparation for the 2010 national and local elections in May by going on an intensified information drive on the automated election process.

Automated poll system practically hack-proof: Comelec

by by Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak
Each data recipient will have a separate, secure server to preserve original vote data MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) expressed confidence that it will be able to prevent hackers from accessing the transmission of election data in the May elections.

250,000 voters register during extended list-up

Around 260,000 eligible voters took advantage of the extended registration during the holiday period, the Commission on Elections said.

Teachers: Will we end up as scapegoats if polls fail?

by by Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak
Short training period just won't work, says group MANILA, Philippines - With the postponement of the training for teachers who will serve during the automated elections, a group expressed fear that the teachers are being set up as scapegoat in case confusion mars the exercise or if it fails completely.

Political candidate shot dead in Philippines

A retired policeman who was planning to run for a local position in the Philippines was shot dead in the latest in a rash of attacks on candidates for the May elections, a police spokesman said Wednesday.  Julio Esquibias was killed in front of his house in Casiguran on Tuesday by a gunman on a motorcycle, said Senior Superintendent Elicar Bron.

Arroyo, 14 others face plunder raps at Ombudsman

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 14 others are facing a plunder complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis, in a 15-page charge sheet, accused Arroyo, her Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, and 13 other respondents of allegedly violating Republic Act 7080 or the Plunder Law, Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, and Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act in connection with the P455.7 million purchase of ice-making machines.

Aside from Arroyo and Yap, also included in the complaint were: Allan Javellana President, National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor); Romulo Relevo, Chairman, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC-Nabcor); Dennis Lozada, Winston Azucena, Melody de Guzman, and Encarnita-Cristina Monsod, members of the BAC-Nabcor; Alexander Leung, Chairman, Integrated Refrigeration Systems and Services, Inc. (IRSSI) (Formerly Triple 8 Agro Trading, Inc.); Chen Lien Ta, vice president/Research and Development-IRSSI; Lawrence Tan Son, Manager-IRSSI, Yao Ching Hsun, Director-IRSSI; Stephen Vehemente, corporate secretary-IRSSI; Marites Soriano, assistant corporate secretary-IRSSI; and Jason Paz, treasurer-IRSSI.

Complainants said the agriculture department through Nabcor awarded the government contract to a lone bidder – the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on Sept. 2, 2009, to provide the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to the prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.

They added that based on the contract, the government would pay IRSS the sum of P 455,700,000 for 98 units of ice-making machines with liquid freeze capability which will be supplied to selected municipal fish ports nationwide. But the complainants said the government could only pay the 98 units from P225 million to P230 million, or half of the quoted and agreed price with IRSS.

Complainants alleged that the winning bidder IRSS was only established as a corporation on August 25, a day after Nabcor conducted a preliminary bidding, which IRSS won.

The groups said that under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past 3 years, but such condition was impossible for IRSS, which got the contract last September 2.

Complainants are Salvador France, vice chairman of Pamalakaya, Anakpawis partylist Representatives Rafael Mariano, and Joel Maglunsod; and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente.

Arroyo picks Planas as new deputy spokesperson

President Macapagal-Arroyo has a new spokesperson and she hopes to inject a positive aura in her consistently negative public approval rating.  Former Quezon City Vice Mayor Charito Planas has been designated as her new deputy spokesperson, taking over Lorelei Fajardo and Anthony Golez, who resigned to run for Congress.

"Hello, Garci" general wary about AFP role in May polls

A former military general implicated in the alleged rigging of the 2004 elections to favor the administration has expressed apprehension over the wider role that would be played by soldiers in the coming May elections.

In an ambush interview in Camp Aguinaldo Wednesday, former Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. expressed opposition to the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) decision to allow soldiers to serve as security escorts of the candidates for mayor and up.

"As much as possible, they [soldiers] should be far from the polling places and far from the candidates themselves so they need not be made as security detail to candidates," said Esperon, now the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) chief.

Esperon said the new Comelec decision is a deviation from the Memorandum of Agreement that the poll body signed with the Department of National Defense (DND) in 2007 limiting the role of soldiers in elections.

"The soldiers need not be around the polling centers, they could keep peace to allow the people to vote so in other words they should be manning checkpoints going into highways, running after private armed groups," he said.

The 2007 MOA was forged as an offshoot of the Hello, Garci scandal wherein Esperon and three other military generals allegedly helped to ensure the victory of the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the 2004 elections.

The scandal referred to audio recordings of conversations between a woman believed to be President Arroyo and a man said to be then Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano talking about rigging the results of the 2004 elections.

Esperon denied the accusation.

"I was just mentioned as having been probably responsible for the transfer of an officer, for which I was not. The name 'Garci Generals' had been so generalized. How was that? What is their proof?" he said.

The officer he was referring to was Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, whose assignment was transferred after being identified with the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., President Arroyo's contender in the 2004 polls. Gudani appeared before a Senate inquiry where he detailed how the administration alleged cheated in Lanao del Sur.

Esperon, who was subsequently cleared by a military board of any poll-related wrongdoing, said Gudani was recalled to the Navy headquarters due to the shooting incident in his area on election day where a woman was killed.

No poll records taken in Maguindanao capitol ransacking - Comelec

No important documents or records significant to the May 2010 elections were taken when still unidentified men ransacked the provincial capitol of Maguindanao in Shariff Aguak town, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Wednesday.

Taguig jail readied for Maguindanao massacre suspects

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has proposed that Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and other suspects in the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre be held at the Metro Manila District Jail in Bicutan, Taguig City instead of the Quezon City Jail.

Justice dep't bucks detention transfer of accused in Maguindanao massacre

THE DEPARTMENT of Justice yesterday rejected calls to transfer Datu Unsay Mayor Andal U. Ampatuan, Jr. to the Quezon City jail from the National Bureau of Investigation, saying the prime suspect in a mass murder over a month ago is a "high-risk" prisoner.

Puno cites security risks in moving massacre suspect to QC jail

Bringing massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. to the cramped Quezon City Jail (QCJ) may only cause more security risks, said Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Wednesday.

Ampatuan staff house in Davao raided

Ni-raid ng PNP ang staff house ni dating Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. sa Juna Subdivision sa Davao City bandang 7:00 ngayong gabi.  Limang sundalo naman ang iniimbestigahan ng AFP kaugnay sa mga nasamsam na mga armas mula sa mga Ampatuan sa Maguindanao, ayon kay AFP chief Gen. Victor Ibrado.

Only 32 Ampatuan guns came from AFP - Ibrado

Only about 32 of the 1,100 firearms seized from the powerful Ampatuan clan are from the military, Armed Forces chief Gen. Victor Ibrado said on Wednesday, citing initial results of an investigation.

Mangudadatu aide refuses lawyer, keeps mum on murder

The alleged bodyguard of the Mangudadatu clan who shot and killed two persons here maintained his silence and refused to hire a lawyer during his inquest at the regional trial court late Tuesday.

Pimentel hails choice of Maguindanao"s 1st woman gov

An opposition senator from Mindanao on Wednesday welcomed the designation of Bai Nariman Ambolodto as acting governor of Maguindanao, expressing confidence that a period of cleansing and reforms has dawned on the troubled province.

Interior chief vows dismantling of private armies soon

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Wednesday expressed optimism that the Philippine National Police could beat the deadline set by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the eradication of private armies in the country.

Solon accuses Sulu gov of owning 2 armored vehicles

Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison has asked the police and military to look into the ownership of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan of two armored vehicles.

Court to hand ruling on Oakwood mutiny

Did they commit coup d'etat or not? After five years of trial, the Makati Regional Trial Court will soon hand down its verdict on the restive military officers who allegedly tried to overthrow the Arroyo administration in 2003.

Govt assures safety of Filipinos in Yemen

Filipinos in Yemen have been assured of their safety by the government in the wake of the growing tension there resulting from it being identified as a staging area of al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.

Lottery firms rake in P23-B in sales for 2009

MANILA, Philippines - The country's two online lottery terminal operators said Wednesday ticket sales went up by nearly 16% in 2009 to a little over P23 billion, as more Filipinos tried their luck in the game of chance hoping to become instant millionaires.

Mom of special child mulls discrimination charges vs Cebu Pacific

A passenger of budget airline Cebu Pacific who has a special child is bent on filing civil and criminal charges against the country's biggest budget airline and its crew for allegedly discriminating against the special child. Marites Alcantara said the airline crew asked them to deplane since the child was considered to be mentally ill.

US drone attack kills four in Pakistan

US missiles targeted a Taliban training centre in Pakistan's tribal belt Wednesday, killing four militants in the latest strike in a recent spike in drone attacks, Pakistani officials said.

Pacquiao, Mayweather camps fail to settle issues

MANILA, Philippines -- The camps of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. failed to resolve their differences after 9 hours of talks on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).

Gin Kings trip Texters; Purefoods beats Smart Gilas

MANILA, Philippines -- Barangay Ginebra jeopardized Talk 'N Text's bid for a possible automatic semifinal slot after pulling off a 105-82 rout in the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Hayden Kho posts bail over sex video case

MANILA, Philippines – A warrant of arrest has been issued against controversial cosmetic surgeon Hayden Kho in connection with the sex video scandal.

Yoko Ono donates P2.5M to "Ondoy" victims

Yoko Ono, widow of the late Beatles member John Lennon, has donated ¥5 million or P2.5 million for the thousands of victims of Tropical Storm Ondoy (international code: Ketsana), which hit the Philippines September last year, killing hundreds.

Kris Aquino excited to be in 'Pilipinas Got Talent'

Game na si Kris Aquino na maging judge sa pinakabagong talent search dito sa ABS-CBN. Handa na rin daw s'yang mag-change image at bawasan ang pagiging taklesa!

Former beauty queen and actress Mila Ocampo dies

Mila Ocampo, mother of actress Snooky Serna, passed away Wednesday morning after a lingering battle with emphysema. She was 68.

Elvis fans love him tender on King's 75th birthday

Unconfirmed sightings aside, Elvis lives on for millions of his fans worldwide, and in cities across the globe many are getting ready to celebrate the King's 75th birthday on Friday.

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

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