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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 17, 2010 Major News Stories

Teves says Shell can import fuel but taxes must be paid

IMPORTS of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. will not be seized as the oil firm has obtained a restraining order but taxes on the shipments must be paid, a Cabinet official said.

Enrile: Lower power rate bills being held back

If Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is to be believed, powerful interest groups are still pushing the House of Representatives to delay the passage of the legislation he has put forward to bring down the cost of electricity in the country.

Gwen told to put power concerns over Balili

Instead of concentrating on the Balili lot, Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr. suggested Governor Gwendolyn Garcia should be concentrating on the power problem of the province.

Sanchez also lashed at the governor's making the controversial Balili property a banana plantation of the province saying that Garcia is just trying to justify the "anomalous" purchase of the property.

Sanchez, who had been pushing to rescind the transaction, said that making the almost 25-hectare property in Barangay Tinaan, Naga a "Sagingan sa Probinsiya" only shows the governor's lack of vision and planning for the property contrary to what she claims.

Garcia earlier claimed that the province had already made a development plan for the property that includes an international port.

"Iyang himoon nga Sagingan sa Probinsiya ang Balili nga daplin man na sa dagat dili man intawon mabuhi ang saging diha," Sanchez said.

Why attack me? Gwen asks Greg Sanchez

GOV. Gwendolyn Gar-cia is baffled by Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez's criticisms against her, saying that he is seeking reelection and is not challenging her candidacy.

Remittances go mostly to food—ADB study

Even as last year's remittance rose 5.6 percent to a record $17.3 billion, a study by the Asian Development Bank showed that monies overseas Filipino workers send to their families here are spent more on food than on education, health care, and durable goods.

Arroyo signs law exempting elderly from e-VAT

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has finally signed into law the much-awaited Expanded Senior Citizens Act, which would exempt senior citizens from the value added tax in their purchases of goods, Charito Planas, her deputy spokesperson, said on Tuesday.

Bautista can stay on as full-time Marina chief—SC

Former transportation undersecretary Elena Bautista is remaining as administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), after a spokesman of the Supreme Court clarified on Tuesday that a recent Supreme Court ruling has no effect on her regular appointment as Marina head.

If shipowners will hold strike: Marina threatens to cancel CPCs

Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Maria Elena Bautista claimed she has the authority to strip the Cebu-based shipping operators of their Certificate of Public Convenience if they join the planned province-wide strike on March 1 in protest of the memorandum circulars she issued raising the shipping standards to the international level.

Ombudsman to prosecute murder case vs. Dumpit

The intramurals between the Ombudsman and Department of Justice prosecutors over who has authority to prosecute the murder case against SPO1 Adonis Dumpit is finally over.

Security tight in churches for Ash Wednesday

Police on Tuesday night tightened security in churches in preparation for Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Lenten season for millions of Filipino Catholics.

Poll officers, 3,000 teachers to start training for elections

THREE months before election day, the 54 election officers of the towns and cities in Cebu will finally undergo training on poll automation as part of their preparations for the May 10 election.

A week after the election officers' (EO) training, Cebu City's poll offices will also start training the 3,200 public school teachers who will serve as chairpersons and members of the board of election inspectors (BEIs) and support staff.

One month delayed

Although the training is one month behind the original schedule, Cebu City's election officer for the north district, lawyer Marchel Sarno, said the training this week is not too late a time to train the poll officials.

Complete with a Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine and other gadgets that will be used in the voting and transmission process, the training for the local Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials will start this Friday and will run until Feb. 25.

Regional Election Director Ray Rene Buac, assistant director Veronico Petalcorin and Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Castillano will facilitate the EO's training.

"They have been trained in Manila so they will be the ones to train us on the poll automation. We, in turn, will train all the teachers who were identified to serve in the election on May 10," Sarno said.

By batch

The two-day training for poll officers will be done by batch, with 60 election officers per batch. It will be held at the Alta Cebu Village Resort in Cordova town.

The training for the teachers will run from March 1 to 20 and will also be done by batch.

Based on the initial count, Cebu City's original number of 2,938 established poll precincts were clustered into 560 precincts that will need 3,278 teachers.

A precinct's BEI will be composed of a chairman and two members, one of whom will be designated as poll clerk. They should all be public school teachers.

A maximum of three support staff will also be assigned to each clustered precinct, depending on the number of precincts. They need not be public school teachers.

But since there is a surplus of available teachers to serve in the elections, Sarno said that even the support staff will be public school teachers.

There are close to 4,000 public school teachers in Cebu City.


Data center lack may 'disturb' automated polls

(Update 9:13 PM) The Philippines" first automated elections may be "disturbed" if the government fails to find a data center that will house servers used for tabulating poll results from voting machines.

"The elections will be disturbed," Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said, during the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Polls on Tuesday.

The Comelec's main data center – which will be the location of the servers – was supposed to be located at the MK2 data center owned by Globe Telecommunications Inc. 

The Makati City facility is expected to provide office space and communications support to servers of Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM), the company that is also supplying automated poll machines. 

However, Globe later disallowed Smartmatic from using its facility even after it already installed servers at MK2. 

The MK2 facility is "not as secure as we want it to be," a source familiar with the matter told GMANews.TV. 

The source added that Globe is still "evaluating" various sites and that the "evaluation will not cause delay the elections." 

The company is "fully supportive of the electoral process," the source said. "Whatever is being required from us is something we will comply with."

To allay Globe's concerns, Melo promised that the government will provide security it needs. 

Melo also offered give the company "a battalion of soldiers" and even "air cover 24 hours a day," but Globe reportedly "did not respond," he said during the hearing. 

Once the location is finalized, setting up the data center would be easy and may take only a couple of days. All that is needed is to bring the servers to the new locations and plug them in.

Globe's Pampanga facility fails to meet requirements

The Ayala-controlled telecommunications company later offered a similar facility located in Clark Field, Pampanga to provide Smartmatic a more secure location.

However, the facility failed to meet 14 out of the 20 requirements given by Smartmatic, Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told reporters in a separate interview. 

Nonetheless, representatives from the Comelec and Smartmatic will still be visiting the data center to check it out one more time. 

"If the facilities suggested by Globe [are] inadequate, we go with what was earlier planned [because] it might affect the reliability and security of the data center, in the end we will suffer," Larrazabal said.

Because of this, Globe has agreed to let them use their facilities in Makati should the site in Clark fail to meet Smartmatic's requirements, Larrazabal added. 

The Comelec is expected to come out with the final details regarding the matter in two days. 

For its part, Smartmatic has yet to finalize details regarding the matter, company spokesman Gene Gregorio said. 

"Talks are still ongoing," Gregorio said. 

In the meantime, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) said it was "ready and willing" to provide a back-up data center for Smartmatic. 

The back-up facility will contain the same equipment and support in the main data center, PLDT public affairs head Ramon Isberto told GMANews.TV. 

PLDT has yet to enter a contract with Smartmatic regarding the back-up data center, Isberto added.

Comelec to reassign 'Garci Boys'

More than 50 filed personnel of the Commission on Elections, including five with alleged links to ex-Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano of "Hello Garci" fame, will be reassigned before the May 10 polls.

A number of the so-called Garci boys—persons who were mentioned on the Garci tapes—had received appointments to important posts in the past several years.

Melo said he had a conversation with one of them, Rey Sumalipao, the Lanao del Sur provincial election supervisor in 2004 who was promoted to Comelec-ARMM regional director in 2007.

"I told him there was no evidence he was a Garci boy but the perception of the people was that he was one. As an administrator, I will have to put you elsewhere," Melo said he told Sumalipao.

Others who received new assignments were retired Navy Vice Admiral Tirso Danga, who was appointed in January 2009 to the National Printing Office which prints election ballots.

Danga was chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines when Arroyo's phone calls were monitored.

Lawyer Renato Magbutay, Comelec assistant regional director in western Mindanao, was named regional director in northern Mindanao.

Francisco Pobe, Agusan del Sur election officer, was promoted to assistant regional director in Caraga.

Renault Macarambon, vice chair of the Lanao del Sur provincial board of canvassers, was made chief of barangay affairs at the Comelec main office.

Congress to hold hearings on automated polls

Speaker Prospero Nograles has instructed the House of Representatives oversight committee to gather lawmakers for a public hearing on the automated election amid fears raised by various politicians and sectors of a possible failure of elections in May.

Military should take over if polls fail -- Enrile

MANILA, Philippines - As the defender of the nation, it is the job of the military to preserve peace and order in the country in case the elections fail and chaos ensues.

Media, foreign observers urged to get Comelec accreditation

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday reminded media practitioners and foreign observers who wish to cover and observe the conduct of the first automated elections in the Philippines to apply for accreditation with the poll body.

Comelec mulls live video stream of ballot printing

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday said that it is thinking of putting up a live video coverage of the printing of the ballots at the National Printing Office (NPO), just like what it did during the 2008 elections for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Police pushes pact for peaceful elections in Masbate

To avert violent confrontation between rival politicians in the province, the Philippine National Police has initiated a dialogue with candidates eyeing local posts in Masbate in the May elections.

Retired generals support Noynoy's presidential bid

A group of retired military generals who helped in the ouster of the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in 1986 on Tuesday endorsed the presidential bid of Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III (Liberal Party).

Aquino gripes over 'biases'of forum moderator

Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III protested what he described as unfair treatment of a journalist, who acted as moderator of a presidential forum sponsored by a group of businessmen in Pasay City on Tuesday.

During the forum by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Aquino took a subtle dig at how Tony Lopez of BizNewsAsia showed his supposed biases for his closest rival in the presidential race, Senator Manny Villar. 

Gordon is not Red Cross candidate – ICRC head

by Leilani Chavez, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation to the Philippines stressed that the humanitarian organization is not supporting the presidential plans of the current Philippine National Red Cross chair Richard Gordon.  

Health worker's mom not retracting sex abuse claims

The mother of a health worker detained by the military on suspicion of being a New People's Army member said on Tuesday she was standing by her statement that the female detainees were sexually abused or harassed by their Army jailers.

AFP reminded: Membership in CPP no longer illegal

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Former Justice Secretary Franklin Drilon denounced the arrest and detention of 43 health workers in Morong, Rizal province, pointing out that membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is no longer illegal..

Peace deal with Reds unlikely in six years -- bishop

A Catholic Church official expressed doubt about the country having a peace deal with the communist rebels within the next six years, noting that none of the presidential candidates appeared interested in putting back the negotiations on track.

Mindanao peace talks at critical stage

Peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front enter a crucial phase this week, with a Malaysian diplomat travelling to the country to oversee backroom talks between the two sides.

Red Cross: 100,000 still displaced in central Mindanao

by By Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak
MANILA, Philippines - Despite the temporary peace between government troops and the Moro Liberation Front (MILF), around 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in central Mindanao are still unable to return to their homes, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Gordon: Amnesty for Abu Sayyaf, armed groups

Senator Richard Gordon said he would grant amnesty to lawless groups, including the Abu Sayyaf, should he win the presidency.

Ampatuans slam prosecutors over delays in rebellion case

The lawyers of the Ampatuans accused Tuesday the public prosecutors of intentionally delaying the hearing of the rebellion case against clan members implicated in the massacre of 57 people in Mindanao.

SC orders JBC to comment on chief justice's appointment

The Supreme Court has given the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) 10 days to submit their comment to four petitions that seek to compel the JBC to submit its short-list of nominees to the post of Supreme Court chief justice to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

DoJ told: Explain why scammer not in jail

The Department of Justice should explain why it has not yet effected the imprisonment of Legacy owner Celso Delos Angeles and instead allowed his transfer from the hospital to a nearby condominium unit, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

Legacy owner under now under 'condo' arrest

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera washed her hands off the transfer of businessman Celso de los Angeles from the hospital to a nearby condominium unit, saying that the owner of the controversial Legacy group should stay in jail if he no longer needs confinement.

Haiti president: 3 years needed to move rubble

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - It will take three long years to clear the rubble left by Haiti's devastating earthquake, said President Rene Preval who admitted even he's still afraid to sleep under concrete in case another quake strikes.

Pacquiao strategy: Go for Clottey's body

MANILA, Philippines – Since Joshua Clottey has a remarkable chin, Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao is more likely to attack the Ghanaian's body.

NBA: Jordan wants to buy Bobcats–coach

CHARLOTTE – NBA great Michael Jordan is trying to put together a plan to buy majority control of the Charlotte Bobcats from owner Bob Johnson, coach Larry Brown said Monday.

Warn public of 'condom failure,' says bishop

Just as cigarette labels warn of health risks, condom packets should contain a warning that they may not be an effective tool against the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a Roman Catholic bishop said Tuesday.

Gloria names two new national scientists

President Arroyo on Monday conferred the title of National Scientist, the highest award accorded to Filipino scientists by the Philippine government, on Dr. Ernesto Domingo and world renowned demography expert Dr. Mercedes Barredo Concepcion.



Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach  - "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

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