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

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February 11, 2010 Major News Stories

Preventive maintenance works put on hold starting March

STARTING next month, there will be no unscheduled preventive maintenance work on power plants to ensure there will be no brownouts on May 10.

Brownout hits City Hall; dads hold session in dark

CEBU City Council members had to speak louder to make themselves heard during their regular session yesterday afternoon after a brownout hit the Legislative Building.

Energy chief to meet with power stakeholders on brownouts

Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes is set to meet with key power stakeholders in the Visayas and Mindanao to address power generation issues on the islands, which have been experiencing rotating brownouts.

Dry spell causes brownouts in parts of Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines -  Rotating brownouts on Wednesday affected areas being serviced by the Mindanao grid due to low water levels in several hydropower plants.

Batangas court halts seizure of Shell oil imports

MANILA, Philippines - After failing to get a favorable ruling from the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. managed to secure a 3-day temporary restraining order from the Batangas City regional trial court barring the Bureau of Customs (BOC) from seizing its imported raw materials.

Philippines studying more rice imports for 2010 on El Nino

by Reuters
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines, the world's biggest rice buyer, is studying the possibility of increasing rice imports this year to meet a potential output shortfall due to a dry spell caused by the El Nino phenomenon, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Web-based monitoring of OFWs, bosses soon

As Filipino household service workers (HSWs) continue to be abused by their employers abroad, the Department of Labor and Employment on Wednesday bared its plan for an Internet-based, onsite monitoring of the profiles of overseas Filipino workers.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said the Foreign Labor Operations Information System (FLOIS) is aimed at improving the delivery of services to OFWs onsite.

Covering the 38 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (Polos) around the world, FLOIS integrates the labor department's Information Systems Plan with those of the Polos to improve management and operations.

NTC given 10 days to oppose TRO plea on per-pulse billing

The Court of Appeals has given the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) 10 days to reply to one of several pleas by mobile networks to stop enforcing the per-pulse billing scheme.

"Within the 10-day period, [the NTC] is ordered to show cause why the preliminary injunction prayed for in this present petition should not be granted," the court, referring to Gokongwei-led Digitel Telecommunications Philippines, Inc.'s suit, said in a resolution.

"Action on the prayer for a temporary restraining order is held in abeyance pending receipt of [the NTC's] comment," it added.

Last year, the regulator ordered local telecommunication firms to shift to the new charging system, where consumers are for every six seconds on a mobile voice call instead of the prevailing per-minute charge.

The new system will not make calls cheaper by the minute, but shorter calls will cost much less.

However, the NTC found that none of the mobile networks had complied with the order. The regulator later threatened to suspend the networks' authority to operate here.

All major networks separately asked the appellate court to stop the NTC for enforcing the new billing scheme, saying it was an illegal form of price-fixing.

Teacher shot dead in front of pupils

Grade 6 pupils of an elementary school in Argao had a day in school that will probably leave a long-lasting effect.

This as their 52-year-old teacher was killed in front of shocked pupils by a lone gunman inside his classroom at the Binlod Elementary School in barangay Poblacion Binlod, Argao town around 3:40 in the afternoon yesterday.

Romeo Aguire Duran, single, a resident of barangay Binlod of said town and a native of Negros was hit on his left cheek.

From the initial investigation of the Argao police, it was learned that the victim was sitting in front of his students and checking test papers when the attack took place.

The gunman was described to be wearing shorts, a blue t-shirt, an orange cap and had his face covered by a scarf.

Prosecutor recommends no bail for suspects in cybersex ring

A CRIMINAL case for trafficking was filed yesterday against the two persons arrested during a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) raid on a cybersex den in Cebu City.

After Raid In Barangay Pasil: US agents check cybersex patrons

Federal agents of the United States of America yesterday met with local counterparts following a successful raid of a suspected cybersex den in barangay Pasil where four children paid to strip in front of a web camera were rescued.

LTFRB: 200 units simply to replace expired/abandoned taxi franchises

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board yesterday clarified it has no plans of adding more taxi units in Region 7, but would only replace those whose franchises have already expired or abandoned.

Thousands of Cebuanos attend "healing Mass"

Wherever he goes, a crowd follows. While this is the kind of treatment that's generally reserved for a movie star, this is the reaction that well-known healing priest Father Fernando Suarez generates wherever his healing ministry leads him.

Candidates given 3 days to remove "illegal" campaign mat'ls

Candidates for the May 10 elections have until Friday to remove their campaign materials posted outside of common poster areas or they would be charged, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) warned Wednesday.

"We are giving them three days from the effectivity of the resolution to actually comply," said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

Comelec Resolution 8758 requires candidates to put up their advertisements on common poster areas like plazas, markets, and barangay centers. 

It also states that violation of the campaign rules may constitute and election offense, which is punishable by one to six years imprisonment, disenfranchisement, and disqualification from holding public office.

Party-list groups and political parties are only allowed to construct 12 x 16 feet poster areas while independent candidates may only erect 4 x 6 feet poster areas or its equivalent.

Nailing campaign materials on plants and trees are also disallowed, according to the Comelec. 

The resolution, however, still gives candidates three days from the start of the campaign period to remove their campaign materials that are illegally posted.

Jimenez said that the Comelec Education and Information Department (EID) would be going around Metro Manila on Friday to check the compliance of the candidates to the resolution. 

"By Friday if we still see this stuff... we will document that, put it in a pleading and submit that to the [Comelec] Law Department," he said.

The spokesperson said that the Law Department would then issue "friendly warnings" to the candidates concerned. If they still don't comply, he said that the Comelec will be forced to file the "necessary" charges.

"We need to go after the big ones, the party bosses who are mobilizing these," he said.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said there hasn't been a person who was punished for violating the campaign rules, but he was quick to note that it's not as if they don't want to. "It's not too late to start," he said.

Aside from the EID, Comelec Resolution 8758 has also ordered for the creation of a task force that will be in charge of removing campaign propaganda materials posted in public places outside of common poster areas and monitoring for the persons responsible for this.

Jimenez said the task force will be composed of the election officer as the chairman, the station commander of the Philippine National Police as vice chairman, and a third member from any agency deputized by the poll body. He said that the poll body is eyeing the Metro Manila Development Authority to be their deputized agency.

Larrazabal, however, advised the public to be vigilant themselves of violators of the campaign rules.

"If you see something, please report it to us," he said, adding that those who wish to report a violation may call the numbers 525-9302; 525-9297; 525-9345; 525-9296; 525-9335; 525-9294; 527-5575; and 527-0821.

25,000 more poll machines ready for transport to RP—execs

The remaining poll machines to be used for the May national elections have been assembled and ready for shipment to the country from China, officials said.

Comelec junks disqualification cases vs Miriam, Osmeña III

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division on Wednesday junked the disqualification cases filed against Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and former Senator Sergio Osmeña III, who are both running for senator.

Luisita redistribution a 'recycled' promise

Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's assurance to redistribute the vast Hacienda Luisita Inc. property in five years through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was a "recycled and copycat campaign promise," a party-list lawmaker said Wednesday.

Representative Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis (Toiling masses) party list said the same promises were made by the senator's mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, as early as 1986, but have remained unfulfilled.

Mariano said the best thing that Aquino could do is to convince his relatives to withdraw their petition at the Supreme Court and allow the implementation of an order from the Department of Agrarian Reform to abandon the stock distribution option scheme and redistribute the land to the farmers.

Villar cannot promise no new taxes

Unlike his strongest rival, Senator Manny Villar made no promises of not imposing new taxes in case he gets elected president this May.

Speaking before the Makati Business Club on Wednesday, Villar said, "I cannot promise no new taxes as the next administration will inherit empty coffers." 

"It would be irresponsible of me to limit my options knowing the magnitude of the problem. Of course, we will push to raise revenues and spend wisely," he said.

Madrigal targets Villar's wife

Bad news for Manuel Villar. It seems Villar-bashing will be a staple fare in the campaign sorties of independent presidential bet and senator Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal, one of the staunchest critics of the Nacionalista Party standard-bearer.

Unflinching at her anti-Villar crusade, Madrigal warned on Wednesday that "voting for Villar means electing (Villar's legislator-wife) Cynthia" whom she called the "brains and the brawn behind Mr. Villar."

"So it will be Mrs. Villar who will run the country...This will not only be a conjugal dictatorship. If you're electing Manny Villar, you're actually electing Cynthia Villar to the post," she said. That is why, "the Filipino people should be vigilant not to allow this dangerous man become president."

Estrada slams use of stars in campaign

The gloves are off. Former President Joseph Estrada on Wednesday blasted one of his opponents who had commissioned the support of top celebrities, including his close friend Dolphy, in the May presidential election.

Palace woos Iglesia ni Cristo support for Gibo

MANILA, Philippines - A Malacañang official on Wednesday said he is hoping that administration party Lakas-Kampi CMD will get the support of the powerful Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) sect in the coming May elections.

Lakas-Kampi to review strategy on Teodoro campaign

The Lakas-Kampi-NUCD party executive committee will meet in March to evaluate their campaign strategies, should the survey ratings of the party standard bearer, former defense secretary Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro, fail to improve, Southern Leyte Representative Roger Mercado has said.

Teodoro to visit influential Davao religious leader

Off to the province for his campaign, administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro will visit Davao City on Thursday for a trip to the prayer mountain of influential religious leader Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.

69% of voters unaware of party-list system—Pulse Asia survey

Majority of Filipinos are still unaware of the party-list system despite its 12 years of existence, a pre-election survey by Pulse Asia showed.

Lacson not yet a fugitive — lawyer

Senator Panfilo Lacson's lawyer has said the senator cannot be considered a fugitive from justice until the Supreme Court upholds the arrest warrant against him as valid.

Arroyo makes last-minute appointments, says ex-CSC chief

by By Maria Althea Teves,
MANILA, Philippines - Former Civil Service Commission chairwoman Karina Constatino-David says the President Arroyo is making last-minute appointments in key government positions as an "obvious attempt to control the next government."

But Karina Constatino-David, former Civil Service Commission (CSC) chair, says the President is making last-minute appointments as an "obvious attempt to control the next government."

Among Constitutional bodies, David pointed out to the recent appointment of Francisco Duque as CSC chair.

CSC Chairman Francisco Duque III:

·         Confirmed appointment: February 3, 2010
·         Duration of term according to the constitution: 7 fixed years
·         Congress: 15th, 16th and first year of the 17th Congress
·         Replaced Ricardo Saludo as CSC chair after the CA rejected his appointment last September 2009. Saludo was appointed CSC chair last April 21, 2008.
·         Appointed Health Secretary last 2005, resigned January 2010.

Constitutional bodies, according to Article IX, Section 1 of the Constitution, are independent of the President. To further emphasize the Commissions' independence, the Constitutes states that they "enjoy fiscal autonomy. Their approved annual appropriations are automatically and regularly released." (Read the common provisions of Article 9 in the Constitution)

The chairs and commissioners of the Commissions have fixed terms. This means that if they are appointed by the current President, the next President does not have the liberty to dismiss them unless for cause and only after investigation. The chairs have 7 years in office.

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman is the office that acts on complaints filed against government officials and employees—even those in government-owned or controlled corporations. (Read more: Section 12, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution)

According to David, the following are crucial posts. (Read: Arroyo to fill up 2 more sensitive posts before ban)

Outgoing Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio
·         Term ending: February 24, 2010
·         Duration of term according to the Constitution: 7 fixed years
·         Reappointment not allowed

Outgoing Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Victor Fernandez
·         Term ending: March 4, 2010
·         Duration of term according to the Constitution: 7 fixed years
·         Reappointment not allowed

Terms of PAGCOR chair and AFP chief of staff

There are moves in both houses of Congress to bestow fixed terms on the Armed Forces chief of staff and the chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). The Pagcor chair and AFP chief of staff do not have fixed terms.

Pagcor is one of the government's revenue generating corporations—a big source of discretionary funds for the Office of the President because a big chunk of its revenues is directed to the President's Social Fund.

The corporation was created to regulate all "games of chance," particularly the casino gaming industry. Its funds, according to its mandate, will be for the government's socio-civic national development efforts and to help boost the country's tourism industry. (Know more about Pagcor)

Pagcor Chairman Efraim Genuino
·         House bill 6812 (mother bill 6989) filed by House Speaker Prospero "Boy" Nograles, member of the administration's Lakas-Kampi-CMD political party
-       Seeks to fix the term of the Chairman and all board directors between 3 to 7 years
·         Genuino was 
somewhat linked to the Jose Pidal controversy last 2003 because he was seen leaving with boxes of unknown contents at the Arroyo's building in Legaspi Village , Makati where the First Gentleman holds office.
·         Genuino was also linked to the 
"Hello, Garci" scandal last 2004 elections; he met with former Comelec commisisioner Virgilio Garcillano at the Manila Diamond Hotel. 

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado
·         Appointed: May 1, 2009 (replacing former chief of staff Gen. Alexander Yano)
·         Expiration of term: March 10, 2010
·         Replacement or extension of Ibrado is still to be decided
Senate Bill 31 filed by former AFP Chief of Staff Senator Rodolfo Biazon
-       Seeks to have a fixed term of 3 years for the AFP chief of staff. The term shall commence on the date of appointment, not the date of confirmation by the CA.
-       Prohibits the appointment of an AFP whose active service will expire in less than 1 year.
-       No term extension is allowed unless when there is war or
-       Chief of Staff could be removed by the President for loss of confidence.

·         Presidential hopefuls Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar Jr. and Senator Francis Escudero signed a manifesto urging Arroyo to allow Ibrado to continue the leadership of the military during the critical phase of the May 2010 elections.

·         Biazon prefers that Ibrado stay in post to erase doubt of a partisan military in the upcoming elections (Read: Will Arroyo retain Ibrado as AFP chief?)

Other appointees

Philippine Tourism General Manager Mark Lapid

-    Appointed as acting-General Manager: June 3, 2008
-    Appointed General Manager: April 14, 2009
-    Term expiration: 2015
-     According to Presidential Decree 1400 amending Section 13 of PD 564: he shall have a fixed term of 6 years

-   He could serve after his term while waiting for his successor to by appointed and qualified.

National Anti-Poverty Council (NAPC)

Accreditation for new members of the basic sectors of the NAPC is being rushed by the President as their terms will end this February, according to NAPC-non government organizations council office in charge Karen Tañada.

The NAPC Basic Sectors consist of more or less 300 organizations representing marginalized groups in the country.

In an exchange of e-mails with this writer, Tañada said that they received a memo from the NAPC secretariat last February 2, 2010 saying that the general assemblies for the NAPC basic sectors would be held on February 5-7, 2010—revising an earlier announcement that it was going to be held on February 16-18.

She said this is an order from the Office of the President.

The general assembly is a venue wherein NAPC basic sector councils will be replaced. The current members' terms were extended and were supposed to end July 2008, Tañada said.

Last August 2008, the President issued Administration Order 187 which provides new qualifications for sectoral groups to be nominated and be part of the council.

"The process for replacing these (current) members of NAPC Basic Sector Councils is through Sectoral General Assemblies but we had long debates about the process for this when Pres. Arroyo issued new guidelines  inAO 187," Tañada said.

She questioned the eligibility for membership of the councils such as having national constituency of the nominated groups. She said that at least 50% of the current sectoral council members are not qualified and that this would defeat the idea of having basic sectors at the grassroots—not really nationally represented.

The new process of organization selection would also need the recommendation of the Lead Convenor of NAPC, who is currently Domingo Panganiban.

"The timing of the administration's push for the sectoral assemblies and elections of basic sector representatives despite all protests and difficulty, makes us suspect that this is being done to saddle
the new administration with sectoral representatives handpicked from the limited basic sector organizations that are willing or were tailored to meet A.O. 187 requirements, and beholden to the current administration.  And since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo insists on playing a critical role in the coming Congress after June 30, 2010, her various appointees, including the "basic sectors" can support her game plan," she said in a statement.

Use of NAPC funds

Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8425, or the law that institutionalizes NAPC, established the People's Development Trust Fund (PDTF) monitored by the NAPC.

The PDTF, amounting to P4.5 billion, is funded from the earnings of PAGCOR in addition to the appropriations by Congress.

According to the law, the President has the power to assign to any existing government department or agency the administration of the PDTF—based on the expertise, orientation or focus of the department or agency.

Olivar must renounce his US citizenship or quit his job - Franklin M. Drilon

by By Franklin M. Drilon
Is it a mere ignorance of the law or just Malacanang's nasty habit of violating it?

Deputy Presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar must immediately renounce his American citizenship or quit his Malacanang job.

Otherwise, both Mr. Olivar and the Office of the President, the appointing authority, are guilty of violating the provisions of Republic Act 9225 or the Dual Citizenship Law.

Mr. Olivar cannot continue serving as Malacanang deputy spokesperson and hold on to his US citizenship since Section 5 of the Dual Citizenship law clearly provides that a dual citizen who accepts an appointive or elective position in the Philippine government must first renounce his foreign citizenship before assuming office.

Army exec denies 'torture' of detained health workers

A top Army official denied charges that the military subjected 43 health workers to "psychological torture" and called reports in media as "lies and misrepresentation" of the truth.

Bishop fears of failure of election in Basilan

by By Dennis Carcamo

MANILA, Philippines -- A Church official based in Basilan today expressed fear that a failure of election might happened in the province due to the proliferation of loose-firearms which has gone unchecked by authorities. 

2 kidnapped Malaysians not in Sulu—military official

The Western Mindanao Command denied on Wednesday police reports that two Malaysian nationals recently kidnapped from Semporna in Borneo were brought to Sulu.

2 truck drivers abducted in Sulu

Two truck drivers were abducted by a still unidentified group in Sulu province last Monday, the provincial police chief said on Wednesday.

2 members quit from panel talking peace with MILF

Even before it could seal a final deal with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the government peace panel was rocked by the resignations of two members.

Tomas Cabili quit from the five-man panel last Tuesday, two months after Adel Antonino resigned, but both stayed on as consultants, Malacañang officials said on Wednesday.

The panel is chaired by Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis.

Cabili, who represented non-government organizations and Christians, had claimed that the panel lacked transparency. Antonino of the local and business sector, said he was left out of consultations.

Cabili was quoted in a report as having said that Seguis' ``policy of confidentiality'' ran counter to his views.

``What lack of transparency is he talking about? Maybe he wants to replace me,'' Seguis said by phone Wednesday night, pointing out that the panel invited Cabili to its 31 meetings, and furnished him all its reports, including a copy of the draft agreement.

The panel also invited Cabili to attend the exchange of drafts in Kuala Lumpur in late January, but he skipped it for unknown reasons, he said.

``He was the one marginalizing himself. What could I do if he's the one staying away?'' he said.

In contrast, Seguis said he had no problem with Antonino, saying he was a ``great loss.'' He requested that the press ask Antonino about the reason why he resigned.

The government panel and their MILF counterpart swapped draft peace agreements in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago, hoping to seal a new agreement before tne end of Ms Arroyo's term on June 30.

Officials declined to discuss the key provisions of the government's draft agreement.

Malacañang officials offered different explanations for their resignations, even as they downplayed their effect on fresh negotiations between the government and the MILF.

``It's really a question more of differences in working style... with the panel, with the Secretariat,'' Annabelle Abaya, presidential adviser on the peace process, said by phone Wednesday night. ``It's a mature decision. When you work in an office, you're not expected to be in good terms with everybody.''

She said that only Cabili and Antonino could explain why they thought the panel lacked transparency.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was more succinct: ``Maybe, they didn't like the style of Undersecretary Seguis, but these are personal matters. Seguis has the confidence of the President.''

He, however, said he believed that the panel could have failed to factor in the two panel members' views when it drew up the government's draft peace agreement.

``Knowing Undersecretary Seguis, they were consulted, but their views could not have been considered into the draft en toto,'' he told reporters in a briefing in Malolos, Bulacan.

Cabili and Antonino have opted to stay on as a consultants in a public dialogue on the final peace agreement that the Office of the President on the Peace Process is mounting from Luzon to Mindanao beginning mid-February.

``Both wanted to contribute to the higher ideal of peace, and believed that they would be more effective helping in the consultations,'' Abaya said. ``They opted to do the bigger challenge.''

But how would the resignations affect the negotiations?

Abaya said: ``There will be a change in the dynamics in the panel, but I think there's vigorous consultation between the panel and the other sectors. There shouldn't be a long-term effect especially if new members are going to be appointed the soonest.''

She has advised Ms Arroyo to appoint two women to fill the posts vacated by Cabili and Antonino.

More Filipino peacekeepers leaving for Haiti

MANILA, Philippines - A new batch of Filipino soldier-peacekeepers will be leaving on Saturday for Haiti, the troubled Carribean country that was devastated by an intensity 7 quake last month,  a military spokesman said Wednesday.

Haiti raises earthquake's death toll to 230,000

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haiti's government has raised the death toll for the Jan. 12 earthquake to 230,000 from 212,000 and says more bodies remain uncounted.

Peso exchange rate barely changed, ends at 46.41 against the US dollar

The peso's close was barely changed Wednesday, finishing the trading day at 46.41 against the US dollar, just 0.02 centavos weaker than the previous day's ending rate of 46.39.

No recall yet for Toyota Prius cars in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines - Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. (TMP) has yet to determine if its newest Prius model will still be sold in the Philippines, following news of a safety recall conducted by its parent company, Toyota Motor Corp.

Vietnam slaughters poultry over bird flu fears

HANOI - Thousands of ducks and chickens have been slaughtered in Vietnam as the government tries to contain an outbreak of bird flu ahead of the Lunar New Year, the government said Wednesday.

160 bodies recovered from Afghan avalanche site

(UPDATE) A total of 160 bodies have been recovered from an area hit by avalanches in a treacherous mountain pass in northern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said Wednesday.

Z Gorres throws full support to 'Pinoy Power 3' bets

Kasado na ang bakbakan ng mga Pinoy at Latino sa Pinoy Power 3 sa Las Vegas. Si Z Gorres naman na dapat ay kasama din sa laban, todo-suporta kahit hindi pa tuluyang gumagaling.

Donaire aims for 'satisfying' KO

MANILA, Philippines -- For Nonito "the Filipino Flash" Donaire, Jr., winning is everything. But he said it will be more satisying if he scores a knockout over Mexico's Gerson "El Nene" Guerrero in Pinoy Power III.

Fresh Alaska draws 1st blood vs tired Ginebra

The opener of the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series between Alaska and Barangay Ginebra showed the obvious - the Aces looking very much fresh and the Kings appearing to be weary and tired. Coming off a three-week break, Alaska pounded an exhausted Barangay Ginebra side, 104-79, for a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven duel Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.

PBB Update: Paul Jake leads text vote count

MANILA, Philippines – Housemate Paul Jake Castillo of Cebu has nosed out the popular love team of Melisa Cantiveros and Jason Francisco in terms of text votes in the latest Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Double Up tally.

As of Tuesday night, figures showed that among PBB's "Big 5" Castillo so far received the highest number of votes (31.66%). He was followed by Francisco (23.21%), Cantiveros (20.93%), Johan Santos (13.39%), and Tibo Jumalon (10.82%).

However, the voting for the "Big Winner" is still on. Whoever gets the highest number of text votes by February 13 will be proclaimed this season's "Big Winner."

To vote via mobile just text BBS(space)NAME OF HOUSEMATE and send to 2331 for Globe, Sun Cellular, TM and Bayan Wireless subscribers and 231 for Smart and Talk N' Text subscribers.

This was the first time in PBB's history that Big Brother publicly revealed the voting standing of the remaining housemates. Big Brother said it was his way of showing his gratitude to PBB's loyal viewers.

Meanwhile, Big Brother finally revealed to the housemates that all 5 of them will advance to the "Big Night."

The announcement of winners will be held at Ninoy Aquino Stadium on February 13.

Comelec division junks Pacquiao case vs Chiongban

Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao will have to slug it out with businessman Roy Chiongban in the May congressional race of the Sarangani province.  The Comelec found no merit in Pacquiao's claim that Chiongban failed to meet the residency requirement for representing a province in Congress.

No single cent spent for Dolphy, Willie Revillame—Villar

Senator Manny Villar on Wednesday said he did not pay a single centavo to get the endorsement of comedy king Dolphy and noontime show host Willie Revillame.

Stars endorsing candidates asked to go on leave

Will Dolphy, Kris and Willie go missing from their shows soon?

Endorsing candidates has its price for actors, columnists and other mass media personalities: they would have to resign or take a leave from their TV shows or media outfits during the campaign period, based on the Fair Election Act, according to the poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

The Commission on Elections says it is prepared to implement this provision of the law and will ask media personalities who are part of a politician's campaign to take leave from work or compel their employers to make them take some time off, according to its law department director, Ferdinand Rafanan.

Rafanan said that "endorsing is campaigning," when asked if being an endorser is equivalent to working for a candidate.

Section 6 (6.6) of the Fair Election Act or Republic Act 9006 states: "Any mass media columnist, commentator, announcer, reporter, on-air correspondent or personality who is a candidate for any elective public office or is a campaign volunteer for or employed or retained in any capacity by any candidate or political party shall be deemed resigned, if so required by their employer, or shall take a leave of absence from his/her work as such during the campaign period."

The Comelec essentially repeated the same provision in its February 4 resolution that provided the implementing rules of RA 9006.

The provision is intended to prevent any candidate from benefitting unduly from the exposure of the media personality endorsing him or her.

PPCRV legal counsel Howard Calleja on Wednesday called attention to this requirement of the Fair Election Act, saying he was reminding media personalities that they have to abide by it by leaving their shows or media outfits.

"They're saying they want change, so they should follow the law. They should not ask for an exception," Calleja said in a phone interview.

Celebrities have become a staple in campaigns, with aspiring public officials using their endorsements to boost their names and gain popularity. Some even say that support from actors had been the secret weapon of victorious candidates.

The two leading contenders for the presidency, Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar, have tapped many popular actors for their campaign. Aquino's first TV commercial featured a bevy of TV stars from the top two networks, including his sister, TV host Kris Aquino. One of Villar's popular advertisements features comedy king Dolphy, and he has also gotten TV host Willie Revillame and popular singer-actress Sarah Geronimo to endorse him.

According to Calleja, the media outfit also has to stop airing the shows of the entertainer, or the column of the columnist.

He added that media personalities and actors should also not claim that they made the endorsement commercial before the campaign period began, because the advertisement could still be aired in rallies or uploaded on the Internet, and thus could still be used to boost a candidate's profile.

Calleja said that since the Comelec's resolution implementing RA 9006 was promulgated only recently, the law would be in effect by next week.

Violation of the Fair Election Act is punishable by one to six years' imprisonment.

Angel Locsin bids goodbye to longtime manager

Actress Angel Locsin has bid goodbye to her longtime talent manager Becky Aguila, a showbiz report on Bandera Thursday edition would reveal.  The ABS-CBN star will now be handled by Ethel Ramos, who is also the manager of Aga Mulach.

Jack Nicholson plans sky burial

by Bang Showbiz
Jack Nicholson is considering being picked to death by vultures when he dies. The 72-year-old actor has become fascinated with the traditional sky burials carried out by some Native Americans which involve the deceased's body being hung from a tree or wooden scaffold and being left for scavengers.

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

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