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

Monday, February 15, 2010

February 16, 2010 Major News Stories



More oil firms to cut gas prices Tuesday

Oil companies have slashed prices of gasoline by P1 a liter, diesel by 25 centavos a liter, and of kerosene by 25 centavos to 50 centavos a liter, effective on Tuesday.

Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Phoenix Petroleum Philippines Inc. and Eastern Petroleum Corp. made their respective adjustments, following an earlier move made by Seaoil Philippines, which implemented a rollback for gasoline prices on Monday. Seaoil will roll back prices of its kerosene (50 centavos a liter) and diesel (25 centavos) on Tuesday.

Independent player Flying V Philippines, meanwhile, said it would match their prices of petroleum products per trading area.

According to the oil companies, the latest cut in local fuel prices reflected the downward trend in the international market prices.

Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes added that this decline was due to the lower-than-expected demand for petroleum products by the US and China. As such, prices have been declining over the past two weeks, he said.

Data from the Department of Energy showed that the price of the regional benchmark Dubai crude fell to $72 a barrel as of February 15, from the $77-a-barrel average in January.

The price of unleaded gasoline based on the Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS) benchmark for refined petroleum products also dipped to $85 a barrel in the first 15 days of the month, from the previous month's average of $88 a barrel.

Similarly, MOPS-based diesel prices dropped to $81 a barrel within the February 1-15 period, compared to the $85-a-barrel average in January.

LPG price drops by P6 on Tuesday

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For the third time this month, liquefied petroleum gas retailer are slashing prices due to the decline in the contract price of LPG in the world market, said LPG Marketers Association (LPGMA) president Arnel Ty.

Stable power by March: NGCP

THE National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) yesterday told the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) that by next month, the power situation in Cebu will stabilize.

While demand was higher than the power supply at daytime yesterday, no manual load cutting was implemented because Luzon was able to supply power to the Visayas, Galano said.

Today, the Mahanagdong Power Plant in Leyte is expected to end its preventive maintenance and will fully load 60 megawatts (mw) of power.

Tomorrow, the new power plant in Toledo City will be synchronized in the system.

The chance of power cutting for the rest of the week is "slim," said Galano.

Over the weekend, the Toledo Power Plant will be tested. It is expected to raise 80 mw of power and supply a net of 70 mw.

"On Feb. 22 and 23, the Cebu Thermal Power Plant is expected to be on line, hopefully. It is servicing today," said Galano.


Arroyo's son seeks hearing on power supply issue

The presidential son wants a congressional hearing to assess the power supply situation in the country and assuage fears of massive brownouts that could sabotage the automated polling machines on election day.

Presidential bets against reopening Bataan nuclear plant

Seven presidential aspirants attending the forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines agree on one thing: not to revive the mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant.

February 22 special holiday in all schools

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The commemoration of the 24th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution on February 22 will be a special holiday for all schools.

Pursuant to Republic Act No. 9492, all holidays, except those which are religious in nature, are moved to the nearest Monday unless otherwise modified by law, order or proclamation, the OPS said in a press release.

In July last year, President Arroyo signed Proclamation No. 1841 declaring the regular holidays, special (non-working) days, and special holidays (for all schools) for the year 2010.

Under the proclamation, February 22, or the Monday nearest February 25, was declared a special holiday to serve as an "inspiration to all Filipinos everywhere as we continue to chart our collective course as a nation and as a people."

Meanwhile, offices in public and private institutions will still be open on the said date.

The country yearly celebrates the February 25, 1986 People Power revolution which restored basic liberties such as free speech, freedom of assembly and a free press after 14 years of Martial rule.

Cebu workers to protest planned factory closure

MANILA, Philippines - More than 100 workers from Alta Mode Incorporated are set to start a protest action Tuesday outside Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) II to stop the closure of the garment factory.

DOLE warns employers vs HIV/AIDS discrimination

As it intensified its prevention drive on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday warned employers against discriminating employees afflicted with the disease.

Filipinos sent home a record $17.3B last year

Millions of Filipinos working abroad sent home a record $17.3 billion last year, boosting local consumption and the economy amid the global slump, the central bank said on Monday.

Don't wait until we're dead, sign bill now—elderly

Elderly Filipinos, a couple in wheelchairs, and their supporters marched to Mendiola to push for the immediate signing of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act (Esca) which would among others exempt them from the value-added tax (VAT).

Angara: There's money for El Niño

While the P1.54-trillion national budget for this year—signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last week—did not take into account the impact of El Niño, the government could still tap the P12-billion contingency fund to cushion the ill effects of the phenomenon, Sen. Edgardo Angara said Sunday.

Supreme Court removes Marina chief from post

(UPDATE) The Supreme Court yesterday declared as unconstitutional the designation of Transportation Undersecretary Maria Elena Bautista as concurrent head of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

In a 16-page decision, the high court said Bautista's dual position was in violation of Section 13, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution prohibiting multiple positions or offices in the government.

"This practice of holding multiple offices or positions in the government led to abuses by unscrupulous public officials, who took advantage of this scheme for purposes of self enrichment," the high court said.

Bautista was appointed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on October 4, 2006 as DOTC undersecretary for maritime transport. Then, on September 1, 2008, following the resignation of then MARINA administrator Vicente Suazo Jr., Bautista was designated as OIC of MARINA in a concurrent capacity.

Lawyer Dennis Funa, on October 21, 2008, Dennis Funa in a taxpayer's suit challenged the constitutionality of the appointment. He said "allowing undersecretaries or assistant
secretaries to occupy other posts would open a Pandora's Box as to let them feast on choice government position," he said.

The high court also agreed with Funa that recommendations of Mrina may be subject of counter recommendations from the Undersecretary for Maritime transport.

But in this case Funa said, "the Undersecretary for Maritime Transport and OIC of Marina has become one and the same person. There is no more checking or counter checking of powers and functions, and therein lies the danger to the maritime industry."

Feb. 16 last day for Filipino war vets to apply for benefits

February 16 is the last day for World War II veterans to file their application for a one-time lump sum payment under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to Jon Skelly, director of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Teacher's killers engage cops in a shootout

The Cebu Provincial Police Office yesterday said the killing of an elementary school teacher in Argao town is now considered 75 percent solved as they are already able to identify the four suspects.

Last Saturday morning, the police operatives nearly arrested the suspects who were hiding in the southern part of Cebu but the latter engaged the authorities in a shootout and were able to elude arrest.

CPPO director Sr. Supt. Erson Digal appealed to reporters not to mention the place where the alleged shootout happened as this may affect their ongoing operations on tracking down the suspects.

According to Digal, it was the suspects who fired first at his men who were conducting a follow-up operation in the area.

Nominations for outstanding government workers search open

The Civil Service Commission-7 announces of the nationwide search for the 2010 Outstanding Public Officials and Employees to recognize deserving government workers in their performance of public duties and in dispensing public services.


Endorsers of poll bets has option to take leave – Comelec exec

After stirring a storm with its statement that media personalities endorsing political candidates should take a leave from work, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday clarified its position on the controversy.

Most presidential bets alarmed by automation delays

(UPDATE) At least six presidential candidates expressed doubt in the capability of the Commission on Elections to implement automated elections nationwide on May 10 with some of them calling it "ambitious" and portending that it can lead to an "electronic Garci" controversy.

Printing of ballots for ARMM completed – Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that the printing of the 1.5 million special paper ballots to be used for the automated May elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was completed Monday.

Aquino open to debate with Villar

Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday challenged his closest rival, Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Manuel Villar, to a one-on-one showdown on campaign issues to show the public who was the better man.

LP: Villar has something to do with Arroyo-for-Speaker plan

Dahil sa isyu na plano umanong iluklok bilang Speaker of the House si Pangulong Arroyo, may bagong ibinunyag ang kampo ng Liberal Party! Sa paniwala nila, may kinalaman umano si Senador Manny Villar para matuloy ang pagiging House Speaker ni Ginang Arroyo!

Aquino, 4 other presidential bets back new 'Hello Garci' probe

Citing the need for closure, five presidential candidates said on Monday they would support a reopening of the investigation into the "Hello Garci" poll fraud controversy should they succeed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III of the Liberal Party said his government would back an investigation if only to correct flaws in the electoral system that purportedly allowed election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to manipulate the canvass of presidential tallies in Mindanao in 2004.

"It is essential for the government to determine why the system failed, what went wrong and why it is so difficult to correct the problem," Aquino said.

"If there is no closure, we perpetuate the problem," he added at the 13th Annual prospects Conference of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap).

Aquino and six other bets were asked whether they would "allow a reopening" of the Hello Garci case.

Aquino, along with Senator Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal, Olongapo councilor JC delos Reyes, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas and preacher Eddie Villanueva all flashed placards saying "yes"

The five agreed that the controversy should be resolved if only to give closure to the issue that almost toppled the Arroyo administration.

Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro, Jr. of Lakas-Kampi-CMD said "no" but later explained that he wanted an "independent, unbiased and unprejudiced body" to initiate the investigation.

Senator Richard Gordon of Bagumbayan also voted "no", adding that he would rather focus on what should be done to ensure good government in his administration.

Jailers should know the law – CA justice

(UPDATE 2)Presenting for the first time the 43 health workers they accused of being members of the New People's Army (NPA), the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Monday was reminded by an associate justice of the Court of Appeals to observe the rights of the detainees and allow them to confer with their lawyers.

Bedlam breaks out as supporters block health workers' bus

(UPDATE) Chaos erupted outside the gates of the Court of Appeals as the 43 health workers were herded onto army buses and driven back to the military detention facility in Rizal Province.

Arroyo, Gonzales slammed for 'inaction' in release of health workers

"Free the 43 detained health workers." The call was made Monday by associations of doctors, nurses and other health workers, militant groups, as well as a Middle East-based migrant worker organization.

NDF loses interest in peace talks

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Monday said it is no longer interested in pursuing peace negotiations with the present administration, saying that President Arroyo is already set to vacate the presidency.

CBCP calls for summit on HIV-AIDS

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The powerful Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Monday urged the Department of Health to call for a national summit of various stakeholders to discuss the rising number of HIV-AIDS cases in the country.

TESDA chief Syjuco to face plunder charge

A group of government employees will file on Tuesday a plunder case against Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Augusto Syjuco for alleged anomalous projects amounting to P3.8 billion in government funds.

DFA checks if there are Filipinos in Belgium train crash

The Department of Foreign Affairs has instructed the Philippine embassy in Belgium to check if there were Filipinos hurt when two commuter trains collided head-on during the morning rush hour in Brussels Monday.

Presidential bets to push text, "sin product" taxes

Three presidential aspirants on Monday said that in case they get elected, they would raise taxes on so-called sin products such as tobacco and put a levy on text messages to raise revenues and plug the state's widening budget gap.

SM Development nets P1.8B in '09

Tycoon Henry Sy'S residential development arm SM Development Corp. (SMDC) booked a net profit of P1.8 billion in 2009, over 31 times larger than the net profits a year ago, on robust real estate operations.

Pacquiao pleased with condition for Clottey bout

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao laughed when he was prodded about his supposed very good condition and great training camp with less than 1 month away until his "The Event" match with Ghanaian Joshua Clottey.

Gorres homebound after Las Vegas "nightmare"

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Filipino boxer Z "The Dream" Gorres is homebound more than two months after undergoing brain surgery and recovering from the life-threatening subdural hematoma (traumatic brain injury) he suffered from a fight last November in Las Vegas.

Record crowd sees East win All-Star game

DALLAS - A record crowd of 108,713 turned out Sunday for the NBA All-Star game at Cowboys Stadium, where Dwyane Wade led the Eastern Conference to a 141-139 victory over the West.

Jinkee wants proof of alleged Manny-Krista sightings in US

Hinamon ng maybahay ni Manny Pacquiao na si Jinkee ang mga nagkakalat ng balitang lihim na nakikipagkita ang kanyang asawa sa aktres na si Krista Ranillo sa LA na maglabas ng ebidensiya.

Kris Aquino's birthday gift to husband James Yap

Kris Aquino gifted husband and professional basketball player James Yap and her children with P5-M worth of property in San Mateo, according to a report on Bandera.

Ex-beauty queen shot dead in Dumaguete

A former beauty queen was shot dead while giving instructions to a group of Miss Gay contestants last weekend in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental.

Annrose Fe Bernadette Neri, 25, was shot by an unidentified assailant using a caliber .45 pistol, the Visayan Daily Star (www.visayandailystar.com) reported Monday.

The incident occurred at 11:15 p.m. Friday, at the Kiwanis Stage near the Traffic Management Office at Quezon Park in Dumaguete City, initial investigation showed. 

The victim was with her friends and sister Charisse at the Miss Gay rehearsal, when an unidentified gunman approached and shot
her twice, police said. 

Bullets entered the right side of her body that exited on the left side.

Neri, whose beauty titles include being Miss Dumaguete 2007, Miss Sibulan 2001, Hara sa Foundation University, Miss FU High School, and Buglasan Queen, was brought to the Holy Child Hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Witnesses told the police the lone gunman wore a black polo shirt and camouflage pants, and was in his late 30s.

After the shooting, the perpetrator casually walked back to his TMX motorcycle which had no plate number, and sped away from the crime
scene, police said.

Police said Neri had reportedly received threats to her life before the shooting, and had been advised by her relatives to leave the city.

Her mother said that three weeks ago, a motorcycle-riding man threatened her with bodily harm.

Police are also investigating the love angle, as the victim was allegedly having an affair with a politician, who had given her a car.

The victim's car also got burned, police added.

Before the incident, Neri had also reported to the police the smashing of the windows of her Kia Sportage vehicle. 

Suspects remain unknown up to this time.

The police also found out that Neri was maintaining an amateur basketball team called "Vhonrey," which is named after her son. 

The victim allegedly also has a boyfriend in the team.

Mayor Agustin Perdices expressed alarm over the murder and ordered the police to use all available resources to pin down the perpetrator.

PBB: Vote results not rigged

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The management of Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) on Monday denied accusations that the voting system had been manipulated to favor PBB Double Up's Big Winner Melisa Cantiveros.

Some PBB fans believed that the title should have gone to 2nd Big Placer Paul Jake Castillo. They wondered specifically why the ranking of housemates was shown 4 days before the Big Night at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium on Saturday.

Castillo was then leading in the PBB tally, while Cantiveros was ranked only third.

Castillo's supporters believed that this affected his standing in the final tally of text votes. Cantiveros garnered the highest number of text votes (32.08%), while Castillo received 27.31% of the text votes.

The management of PBB, however, denied the accusations as it maintained that the results were not rigged.

It explained that the ranking of housemates was shown ahead of the Big Night in order to encourage the viewers to vote for their favorite housemate.

In a separate interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com, Castillo defended Cantiveros, maintaining that she deserves to win.

Cantiveros herself was unfazed by the criticisms.

""Fifty percent lang 'yong nafe-feel ko na siguro. Plastic naman ako kung sasabihin kong hindi ko feel.... Pero nafe-feel ko na din kasi dalawa na lang kami," she said.


The lifestyle of Rep. Cynthia Villar

by by Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak
Third of a series of lifestyle features on presidential candidates' wives/partners MANILA, Philippines – With their combined business savvy, political clout and billion-peso resources, presidential candidate Sen. Manny Villar and his wife Cynthia Aguilar Villar make a powerful pair.

Manny Villar described the 3-term Las Piñas Representative in a Probe Profiles interview as his "partner in all things," whether in their 34-year marriage, their political campaigns or their real estate ventures.

Cynthia Villar told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak that if she did not enter politics, she would rather be "in business with her husband."

The Villar couple jointly own companies like Adelfa Properties, Camella and Palmera Homes and Fine Properties Inc.

Adelfa is one of the companies said to have benefited from the controversial C-5 road extension project.

Based on their 2008 Statements of Assets and Liabilities, Sen. Villar is the richest Senator (P1.05 billion) while his wife is the country's richest Congresswoman (P1.046 billion).

Rags to riches?
Like her husband, Cynthia says her family came from humble beginnings.

Cynthia's paternal grandmother was a betel nut vendor who was able to send all 9 children to college.

One of her sons, Filemon (Cynthia's father), later became Las Piñas mayor in 1987. The Aguilar clan has ruled Las Piñas for over 20 years.

Cynthia married Manny shortly after graduating from the University of the Philippines where they were Business Administration classmates.

They have 3 children: Paolo, 32; Mark, 31; and, Camille, 24. All are finance or business management graduates.

In building their successful business empire, Cynthia said her husband has always been "visionary", being one step ahead of their competitors, while she has always been a meticulous worker, with a flair for handling day-to-day operations.

Now, with a presidential campaign laid out before them, there is no doubt Cynthia will be playing well for the team.

Here are Cynthia Villar's answers to some questions posed by abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak:

FASHION

What's your fashion sense? What makes your style unique?

I like clothes that are comfortable and simple – nothing unique or fancy. When I choose outfits, I tend to go for those that don't require any special care or fussing over.

Who is your stylist or fashion consultant?

I don't have a stylist nor a fashion consultant.

If a customs official were to open your bag right now, what would he or she find?

My compact, lipstick, perfume, eyebrow pencil, notebook, pens, wallet, medicine, business cards, eyeglasses, my schedule for the day, hairbrush, dental grooming kit, and a small flashlight.

Suppose your husband wins as president, which designer would you most likely approach for your Inauguration dress? Who is your favorite designer?

It will be my cousin Nolie Hans, who is close to me.

WELLNESS

What is your secret to staying well-groomed and beautiful?

My schedule includes a monthly haircut, hair color every 2 months, visit to the derma[tologist] twice a month, and a quarterly dental appointment. On a daily basis, I follow basic facial and body care regimen using products formulated by my niece, Dr. Ivy Aguilar-Teo, who is the daughter of my brother, [Las Piñas] Mayor [Vergel] "Nene" Aguilar.

What are your favorite hobbies or sports?

I don't have a sport, but I walk a lot. I enjoy the work I do, so that it doesn't feel like work for me. In fact, it's just like pursuing a hobby.

How do you relax after a stressful or hectic day?

No matter how late, I try to get a massage at home while watching a good show on TV.

During campaign sorties, what things can't you do without?

I cannot do without water, my perfume, lipstick and powder.

What is your pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve? Lazy and incompetent people.

LIFESTYLE

What are your tips for working moms who want to keep a well-balanced lifestyle?

Be systematic and organized when it comes to your time. Schedule your work, socials and family time so that you can fulfill all your obligations and still have time for your personal needs. 

When you want something done, how do you get your way?

When I want something done, I just start doing it myself. In my experience, I have seen how my own commitment to any project or cause can be infectious. My district officers and staff have imbibed the energy and passion with which I see our programs through. The recognition, awards, and media acclaim that we receive inspire them to continuously improve how they do things.

Do you consider yourself a good cook? What's your favorite dish?

Cooking is not really one of my skills. Cleaning is my forte. But as a family, we enjoy trying out different cuisines.

Describe your parenting stlye. Do you have tips for other parents?

I pray for my children everyday. I even light a candle for each of them in all the churches that I visit, as I pray special intentions for them.

Teaching by example is what I believe the best way that we can impart the proper values to our children.

Manny and I want them to know the value of perseverance and hard work, and we believe that they will learn it better through our example rather than lengthy lectures.

If they see that I work hard to attain my goals, then, they are more compelled to follow. As my only daughter Camille once said, "If I will only be half as hard working as my Mom, I'll be alright."

What books have you read lately?

"100 Simple Secrets of Happy People" by David Niven, Ph.D.; "Say it Like Obama" by Shel Leanne; "Winning Business Lessons of the Obama Campaign" by Barry Libert and Rick Faulk.

Who do you consider your role models and why? 

My models are my grandmother and my Mom.

My grandmother was a sidewalk vendor in Divisoria. She sold "ikmo" (piper betel) in order to send her 9 children to school. My father and his siblings all became professionals – and successful in their chosen fields.

One of my aunties was even awarded as an Outstanding Physical Scientist of the Philippines.

My mother built small businesses together with my father. She was very conscientious in saving up enough so that we – her 6 children – will have good education and lead a comfortable life.

What do you usually do during the holidays? 

Over the years, we take family vacations during the holidays. Without fail, we spend time together going to malls, browsing in bookstores, watching movies, trying out new restaurants – and we enjoy doing these in places where no one recognizes us, so our family vacations are usually overseas.

POLITICS

Describe your typical workday. Has your husband's campaign for the presidency changed your lifestyle?

My typical work day begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 12 midnight.

Right now, my daily schedule revolves around activities related to Manny's bid for the presidency. Prior to that, I focused on my work in my district – Las Piñas – and my work at the House of Representatives. Before I entered public service, I was preoccupied with business matters and personal advocacies.

So, my work hours remain the same, it's just the focus that changes.

What is constant, however, is the time I spend with my family. Sundays are always for the family, and within the week, we try to have as many meals together.

If you did not decide to enter politics, where would you be by now? What is your dream job?

I will be in business with my husband. We are both BSBA (Business Administration) and MBA (Masters in Business Administration) graduates and we were both raised by entrepreneur mothers. I will continue working for my advocacies of: (a) helping women to become healthy and financially sufficient; and (b) protecting the environment.

What qualities do you most admire in your husband? What was your first impression of him when you met? 

I admire most Manny's dependability, industry, perseverance, and his ability to have a clear vision of how things should be in the long run.

To what extent, would you say, do you influence your husband's decisions?

Manny asks me for my opinion on things. He also asks his consultants. But at the end, he makes the decision on his own.

What are your opinions on what the First Lady's role should be?

I believe that the First Lady should focus on implementing programs that will help the poor, namely health, education, and livelihood skills training – especially those that will help women engage in home-based work. Working from the home enables women to help augment family income while they take care of the children.

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