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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 18, 2010 Major News Stories

Power firm in Toledo City, operating on test basis

THE Department of Energy (DOE) yesterday said the power supply situation in Cebu may be back to normal next week with the full operation of Unit I of the Cebu Energy Development Corp.

DOE Visayas Director Antonio Labios said the Toledo City-based CEDC informed him that they are now supplying, on test basis, 20 mw to the Cebu-Negros-Panay (CNP) grid. They hope to increase this to 80 mw by Feb. 21.


Also yesterday, Ethel Natera, corporate communications manager of the Visayan Electric Co. (Veco), reported a power shortage of 170 mw during the morning peak and 190 mw for the afternoon peak, due to limited generation.

Veco was requested by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to interrupt 78.9 mw and 89 mw of power in the morning and afternoon peaks, respectively.

At past 4 p.m., Natera informed the media that the manual load drop for the night peak was 200 mw; Veco was asked to manually drop/interrupt a maximum of 93.8 mw.

This caused sporadic brownouts in several areas in Metro Cebu, such as Punta Princesa, Sambag I, Sambag II, Labangon, Guadalupe, Buhisan, Tisa, Kasambagan and Mabolo, all in Cebu City, and parts of Mandaue City.

No jurisdiction

Meanwhile, Labios said DOE has no more jurisdiction over the two gas turbines in the City of Naga, Cebu, which have a power generation capacity of 50 mw because SPC Power Corp. bought these from the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) last Jan. 29.

Labios said he was told that SPC Power is not using the two turbines because of their high operation cost.

"Psalm manages the properties of the NPC, including the gas turbines in Naga, which were privatized last Jan. 29. The problem of SPC Power is that they have no captive customer to buy the power if ever they will generate from these gas turbines. So, if they will operate, they will suffer business losses," Labios said.

However, Labios said he was informed that Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, through Presidential Assistant Felix Guanzon, has sent a letter-request to Malacañang to allow a fuel subsidy to SPC Power for the gas turbines' operation.

On the other hand, Natera refused to comment on NPC's petition for an increase in power generation rate before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

"This is not yet approved (by ERC). I can't speculate on the impact on the Veco rate," Natera said.

ERC eyes plan for power consumers to de-load

To ensure a stable supply of electricity, the Energy Regulatory Commission has begun promulgating rules that would allow a power consumer to be "de-loaded" or disconnected in times of limited power supply.

"The interruptible load program (ILP) is a form of demand-side management strategy that aims to bridge the gap between the supply and demand for electricity in power-deficit areas in the meantime that the required additional capacities are not yet in place," the ERC explained.

According to the ERC, the program will be able to free up supply quantities that can be used to build up reserves and maintain a secure network while meeting the power demand in a franchise area.

Under the ILP scheme, the distribution utility and the participating customer are allowed to enter into an agreement wherein the customer may be requested by its distribution utility (DU) to be fully de-loaded by disconnecting, or partially de-loaded by reducing power supply, for a period of time as determined by the distributor.

Participating customers are those that have the ability to generate their own power during periods when the distribution utilities need to temporarily cut off their power supply.

The distributor shall pay the participating customer a de-loading compensation, an amount representing the incremental cost incurred in the process.

The amount paid to the participating customer shall be recovered from all the customers of the distributing utility as part of the total cost of power in the computation of the monthly generation gate.

"The ERC is seeing the need to implement measures that will manage electricity demand towards stable electricity supply. The ILP is an effective program that will help balance the supply and demand for electricity. It will help eliminate serious supply shortfalls that can adversely affect the socio-economic well-being of affected communities," said ERC chair and CEO Zenaida G. Cruz-Ducut.

"The ERC is acting proactively in this passing of the rules so that a uniform and orderly implementation of the ILP nationwide is achieved. It is hoped that stakeholders of the electric power industry will comment on the draft rules and actively participate in the public consultations in order to expedite its finalization," Ducut explained.

Currently, the ERC is seeking public comments regarding the rules, which will be applicable to all distribution utilities nationwide. These rules are meant to streamline the process of requesting for de-loading; activating an ILP; dispatching protocol; documenting; and availing of compensation.

El Niño to worsen Mindanao power supply woes

A power industry official has warned of receding water levels in the hydropower plants in Mindanao due to the El Niño weather disturbance.

"The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has said the country will experience a long dry spell during the summer. This will affect the generating capacities of hydro power plants in Mindanao," said Joseph Nocos, vice president for business development of Conal Holdings Corp.

In a statement, Nocos said that the water level at the Agus hydropower plant complex has started to recede, while the water level in Lake Lanao was just 19 centimeters above critical level as of Feb. 9.

He explained that the elevation of the lake was at 699.34 meters above sea level (masl), while its critical level was pegged at 699.15 masl.

Nocos disclosed that several distribution firms in Southern Mindanao have been advised to curtail their loads, which resulted in the twice-a-day, one-hour brownouts being experienced by power customers, particularly those being serviced by the South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II) franchise.

Socoteco II has reportedly been advised by NGCP to curtail its distribution by as much as 43 megawatts (MW).

Davao City, according to reports, is currently experiencing a power supply gap of between 20 and 30 MW.

In Bukidnon, the Pulangi hydropower plant is said to be running at less than 50 percent of its capacity due to low water levels, according to officials of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines. A source also said that heavy river silt prevented the plant from operating to full capacity.

In the Zamboanga area, brownouts have reportedly run up to three hours.

"Even if the water levels at the Agus complex and the Pulangi hydro plant are brought back to normal, we will still experience power outages in Mindanao, especially in the south," Nocos explained.

As of Feb. 17, NGCP data showed that the available capacity on the island for that day stood at 1,021 MW against a peak load of 1,180 MW, or a deficit of 159 MW.

Energy officials have warned that unless new power plants are commissioned in the next three years, Mindanao could plunge into a deep power supply crisis worse than the situation in the early 90s.

As such, the Alcantara-led Conal Holdings is going to start the construction of a 200-MW coal-fired power plant in Maasim, Sarangani, in 2010.

The $450 million power project would give consumers and industrial users in the island a steady, reliable and cheap supply of electricity, Nocos added.

More than 12,000 Pinoy WWII vets receive benefits from US

A total of 12,846 Filipino World War II veterans have received nearly P7.2 billion in compensation from the United States government a year after the release of payment was approved by President Barack Obama.

448 dengue cases in CV noted in first six weeks

Cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever in Central Visayas from January 1 to February 13 of this year have already reached 448, which is a decline of 43 cases compared to last year's 491 of the same period.

Lab services unavailable pending transfer of office

An official of the Department of Agriculture in Central Visayas announced that some laboratory services, particularly the Biologics Vaccine Production Laboratory, the Regional Feed Laboratory and Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory are temporarily suspended pending transfer of location.

Ombuds suspends Marina official

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has ordered the suspension of an inspector of the Maritime Industry Authority on top of the filing of a criminal case in court after she was found guilty of misconduct.

Engineer Lilah Rodas, an inspector of Marina-7, was meted the penalty of one month and one day suspension without pay after she was found guilty of simple misconduct.

In September 2008, the anti-graft office recommended for Rodas' suspension, which Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez recently approved, because of the complaint filed by Patrick Renaud, a foreigner.

Renaud, a retiree living in the Philippines under a special resident retiree's visa issued by the Philippine Retirement Authority, said he was referred to Rodas when he inquired about the requirements and procedure of having a boat as he was interested to buy one.

Rodas allegedly proposed a company that can build the boat for him and offered to take care of the documentation. Rodas even assured the complainant that he will not have a difficulty in the documentation with Marina because she will be the one to conduct the inspection.

CH works on release of traffic equipment

MOTORISTS just have to bear the state of Cebu City's traffic system for a few weeks more.

Political rivals ask Comelec to disband anti-crime group

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has asked the provincial police to seriously look into the reports that the members of the City of Bogo Anti-Crime Task Force are being used as "goons" by the Martinez family in order to harass their political opponents.

Davide, Sanchez woo voters in southern Cebu

Former Cebu City councilor and gubernatorial aspirant Hilario Davide III yesterday visited the towns of Badian and Alegria as part of his aim to introduce to himself to the people and let them know that he is seeking the top position in the province this coming May 10 local and national elections.

No more hitches in holding of plebiscite

Cebu City south district Rep. Antonio Cuenco said the plebiscite for the division of Barangay Guadalupe will be held on March 13 as scheduled, following the release of the funds to the Commission on Elections.

Cops told to help remove "illegal" poster

Cebu Provincial Police Office director Sr. Supt. Erson Digal has directed all the police station chiefs in the province to coordinate with their respective election officers in removing the campaign materials that are not in designated common poster areas.

More transmission woes bugging automation

With only 82 days to go before the elections, transmission is still a thorny subject for the Commission on Elections, Smartmatic TIM Corp., telecommunications companies, who are grappling with unexpected issues in the transmission phase.

Officials of the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM, the company that will supply the automated election system, said additional mobile telecommunications equipment will be ordered, aside from the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN), to ensure that the transmission of votes from municipalities to the other servers and canvassing centers go smoothly.

The BGAN will be deployed in the polling places to transmit the results if the data are not sent using the first method, which is via cellphone connectivity.

Juan Villa, Smartmatic-TIM chairman, said the company has proposed to the Comelec that they buy very small aperture terminals (VSATs) for the use in the municipal canvassing centers, citing unstable signal in the provinces.

VSATs, like the BGAN, use satellite connection to send data from one point to another. The equipment is used in sending credit card and broadband data.

The Smartmatic-TIM official said the purchase of additional gadgets was due to the fact that they did not expect only 75 percent of cellphone signal coverage in the country.

"We, like other bidders, were all working on the assumption that there was 90 percent coverage," Villa said in an interview with the INQUIRER, citing the requirements in the bid documents.

The May 10 national and presidential polls will be the first time electronic vote counting machines will be used when Filipino voters cast their ballots.

The tallies will be sent using mobile communication systems, which promises to be fast. Under the new system, the Comelec said results for national contests can be known in 48 hours.

Villa noted that the satellite transmission method was the most reliable mode of transmitting the results from the counting centers to the other servers, as seen in the mock elections last month.

Villa said they were looking at purchasing 1,000-1,500 VSATs for the May 10 polls.

Asked if the number would be enough to cover the municipal canvassing centers, Villa said their order will not be for all municipalities. Since the equipment is portable, it can be transported from one municipality to another.

In the tests conducted in several areas nationwide last month, it was revealed that sending the election results through GSM, which is used by the mobile phone companies, was unreliable even in urban centers.

In Taguig City and Pateros, for instance, the election data were not transmitted in the first try and the technicians had to replace the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) of the election machine before the data could be sent from the precincts to the canvassing centers using Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication system.

In Pateros, the GSM did not work and the technicians had to use the BGAN.

Ramon Casiple, a member of the Comelec advisory council, said another thorny issue between the phone firms and the Comelec is the use of bandwith for the 2010 polls.

Smartmatic has proposed that the telecommunications to give them a dedicated bandwith that will open for two hours on May 10.

The companies, he said, balked at this because it would be a blow to their business.

Renato Garcia, a Comelec adviser, said they have asked the carriers for a "private" network specific for the transmission of the election results.

The rates were still under negotiation, he said, adding that it will be based on National Telecommunications Commission regulations.

Casiple said the two parties appeared not to have agreed on the price yet for the bandwith use.

Telcos agree on new data centers, says Comelec

The telecommunication companies and the Comelec with Smartmatic-TIM Corp., the automated elections provider, have agreed on the creation of data centers, one of the issues that stalled the discussion between the parties, a Comelec official said.

Renato Garcia, a Comelec adviser, said the companies, Philippine Long Distance Company and Globe Telecoms, have agreed to host two data centers for the May 10 national and presidential elections.

"We've already agreed on the area on the facilities that will be used and we are just working out the details on how to be able to have a Tier 3 data facility. These are their own facilities," Garcia said in a press briefing Wednesday.

Garcia said no contract has been signed yet for the use of the facilities of Globe and PLDT.

If no agreement is forged between Smartmatic-TIM and the telecommunications companies, poll chairman Jose Melo said they can force the private firms to agree.

Under the law and during the election period, the Comelec can deputize public utilities to do election activities in the interest of having fair and credible elections.

But Melo said they do not want it to come to that and would prefer the concerned parties to come to an agreement.

Garcia noted that the data banks will not be put in the companies' main data buildings as first proposed by the Comelec.

Because of "security" issue, he did not reveal where these data centers will be but said the first option, the Clark facility offered by the companies, "was out of the question."

The location of the data banks, which will have the copies of the election tallies, was the main issue on Tuesday at the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the automated elections.

Globe and PLDT declined their facilities in Metro Manila to be used, saying they fear technical and security attacks on their system.

PPCRV: Can little-known forwarders deliver PCOS machines?

MANILA, Philippines - The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsble Voting (PPCRV) on Wednesday questioned the capability of small-scale freight forwarders to bring more than 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to clustered precincts all over the country after a major package delivery firm backed out of the contract.

PPCRV lawyer Atty. Howard Calleja, a member of the Committee on Logistics, noted that poll automation supplier Smartmatic-TIM did not tap major package delivery firms such as Air 21, LBC and 2GO to transport their machines to the clustered precincts before the elections.

Instead, the poll machine supplier hired "small players" such as Argo Forwarders, Ace Logistics, and Germalin Enterprises to transport the machines.

Earlier reports said the Aboitiz-owned 2GO pulled out of its contract with Smartmatic-TIM to provide logistics services in terms of delivering and maintaining the machines all over the country.

Calleja said the pullout of 2GO could be the result of a provision in the logistics contract that requires "100% compliance" in delivering the machines.

Placing campaign materials on vehicles remains legal

Placing campaign materials on vehicles remains legal and does not violate any law, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said. Election rules cannot restrict posters on buses because these are "technically" on private property, Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer told reporters.

Comelec urged to adopt more safeguards vs cheating

Armed with lessons from the controversy-ridden 2004 presidential election, the watchdog group Kontra Daya said Wednesday there were signs the country's first automated elections may fail or may be rigged, and asked the Commission on Elections to adopt more safeguards to prove it can be trusted to ensure free and honest elections.

Kontra Daya said the Comelec has yet to convince the public that the automated polls would be flawless.

Among the actions that Kontra Daya is pushing for, and which they listed in a February 16 letter to Comelec chair Jose Melo, are more mock polls and more field tests, in order to educate voters about the automation process that still leaves many people stumped.

Kontra Daya member Grace Poe Llamanzares, whose father Fernando Poe Jr. was allegedly cheated out of victory in the 2004 race for president, said there should be more watchers keeping an eye on the counting machines and keeping tabs on the canvassing of votes to make sure no fraud is committed.

"I hope independent groups like Namfrel and PPCRV would not try to rush the proclamation.... That's why for me, it's very important that watchers and the people would not just vote but also keep an eye on their votes," Llamanzares said.

She also noted that though the elections will be automated, the people behind the alleged electoral fraud in 2004 were still in power.

Kontra Daya is composed of religious leaders, teachers, activists, IT people, students and other concerned citizens.

Fr. Joe Dizon, one of the group's organizers, said Comelec still has to prove itself after the way it conducted the 2004 and 2007 elections. The Comelec was then chaired by Benjamin Abalos. The 2004 elections were tainted with allegations of fraud after the "Hello Garci" scandal broke out in 2005 when leaked wiretapped phone conversations purportedly between Ms Arroyo and then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano had the two discussing ways of rigging the results.

"We're telling you that the signs are very clear that the possibility of a failure of election is there. Our experience with the Comelec under GMA is that the Comelec in 2004 and 2007 was a cheating machine," Dizon said in a press conference to formally launch Kontra Daya 2010.

"The Comelec has not yet done anything that could make people say that they could trust it, that it is ready," he added.

Another convenor, Archbisop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, said the fears for the forthcoming elections were based on history.

"The Comelec dismisses our concerns as 'fear of the unknown' but our fears are based on what we already know this administration can do. We have seen it in 2004 and 2007," Cruz said.

Should the 2010 polls fail or be marked by massive fraud, the people's recourse could be civil disobedience, according to Sr. Mary John Mananzan and Ferdinand Gaite, both members of Kontra Daya.

"For me, what we should do is massive civil disobedience, work stoppage. We should make this non-violent and all presidentiables should be with us. This is not just for activists. If they frustrate your desire to exercise your legal right, what kind of person would you be if you will not act that way?" Mananzan said.

Kontra Daya's concerns include the rejection of ballots by the counting the machines, the possible shortage of ballots if they keep getting rejected, the difficulties in transmitting the results, even in Metro Manila areas, the lack of time to accommodate 1,000 registered voters in each precinct on election day and the fact that the Comelec has yet to hire the technicians needed for the machines.

The group also asked for guidelines on what to do with rejected ballots, and pushed for more mock elections that would simulate actual election-day conditions, and where the participants would come from different sectors of society, and would not just be composed of teachers.

"The Comelec should be able to continuously hold these mock elections so that more and more people can be educated on the process and for watchdog groups to be able to test the vulnerabilities of the system," it said in a letter.

It also asked the poll body to release its contingency plans in case manual elections need to be conducted, and to set the date when it will identify the areas where manual elections will be held.

"The Comelec must adopt a self-critical outlook so that the problems and vulnerabilities can be addressed," it added.

Comelec sacks Bedol, finally

The Commission on Elections finally dismissed Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol three years after he made a mockery of his duties.

Noynoy open to 'amending Constitution'?

Second of a series on presidential candidates' economic platforms MANILA, Philippines – Presidential candidate Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is willing to amend provisions of the Constitution "if it is necessary."

This was Aquino's answer to a question on whether he will allow foreign ownership of Philippine land, media, education, services and practice of professions in the country at the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry presidential forum on Tuesday.

Aquino said that if he wins as president, he "plans to set up a Commission to determine whether or not there is a need to amend the Constitutional provision to foreign ownership."

He will not amend the Constitution to extend the president's term, however.

Aquino said he is in favor of opening up educational institutions and the practice of professions to foreign ownership.

Aquino's is the 'people's campaign,' says fund raiser

Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III will not be beholden to anyone, not even his family, according to one of his fund raisers and campaign financial manager.

Former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Aquino was bent on riding on the "people's campaign"—where most campaign contributions come from retail or mass sources rather than wholesale or a few big contributors—to carry him to Malacañang despite the massive spending of his main rivals.

"It's strictly a people's campaign and were trying to live in that spirit. If he is successful and becomes President, he will not be the only one responsible for moving this country forward; we'd like everyone to feel they are also responsible for this. That will be a big change in mindset," said Purisima.

Purisima said that while the campaign budget of Aquino was nowhere near those of Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar and Lakas-Kampi candidate Gilbert Teodoro, Jr. the group has made up for it by the willingness of the volunteers to pay for their own campaign materials and maximize their modest campaign contributions into cost-effective mass media advertising.

"I pay for the stickers I have on my car. I bought them from the LP headquarters. We're not spending like other candidates. We are confident that the people will provide us with resources that would allow us to last up to the end of this campaign," said Purisima.

"We're leading even though we haven't spent the kind of resources our opponents have," said Purisima, claiming that one candidate spent roughly half a billion pesos in the last quarter of 2009 alone.

Purisima is one of several former Arroyo Cabinet members, collectively known as the Hyatt 10, who resigned in 2005 in protest of the President's alleged manipulation of the 2004 election results as exposed in the "Hello Garci" scandal. Other former Cabinet members, such as former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr., have key roles in the Aquino campaign.

Aquino said that Purisima and the Aquino sisters have been recently assigned to manage his campaign's finances and fund-raising activities.

But Purisima downplayed his role in the Aquino's campaign.

"I' m just a supporter, a believer that this country needs better governance . I will perform any role they ask of me; if they want me to talk to someone or to a group, I go talk to them. But I'm not the main person; the sisters, the family help coordinate the finances and I just work with them," said the former head of accounting giant SGV & Co.

Purisima noted that Aquino's campaign team was structured "so that it would not be dependent on one person but always on a group of persons working together."

SC recognizes Roxas' leadership in LP

The Supreme Court has upheld the election of Senator Manuel Roxas II as the president of the Liberal Party as it junked the petition of renegade LP members led by former environment secretary Jose "Lito" Atienza Jr.

Priest, nun warn: GMA may cheat for Villar, not Gibo

by By Aries Rufo,
'Unfair, preposterous,' says NP spokesman MANILA, Philippines - Going by her record, outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is expected to cheat in the May 10 elections, and she may do it for Sen. Manny Villar, not administration bet Gilbert Teodoro Jr., two religious leaders of a poll watchdog warned.

Gibo: Alternative energy 'too expensive'

First of a series on presidential candidates' economic platforms MANILA, Philippines – Presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro Jr. will prioritize education, infrastructure and making the country business-friendly if he gets elected in 2010.

Bolante's partymates support Villar-Legarda tandem

BALETE, Aklan -A local party pushing for the gubernatorial candidacy of former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn 'Jocjoc' Bolante on Wednesday expressed support for the presidential and vice-presidential bids of Senators Manuel Villar Jr. and Loren Legarda, respectively.

Tatad questions reliability of RP surveys

Former senator Francisco "Kit" Tatad said on Wednesday that political surveys done by local pollsters have been "fatally flawed" and based on methods long discarded by reputable polling firms in advanced countries like the United States.

Charter change not possible under Arroyo admin—Ermita

Malacañang has ruled out any Constitutional amendment leading to the creation of a federal state in Mindanao in the remainder of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term, but said this should not preclude any peace agreement with secessionist rebels.

No ifs or buts, Arroyo to appoint new Chief Justice

MANILA, Philippines - No more ifs or buts, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will appoint a new Chief Justice when Reynato Puno retires on May 17.  Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said on Wednesday that the President will just wait for the list of nominees from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

Lim, Trillanes can't be freed just yet—military

Senator Antonio Trillanes, IV and senatorial aspirant former Brigadier General Danilo Lim could not be released despite a Makati court's grant of bail to the suspected mutineers, the military said Wenesday.

Jailed Trillanes wants video conferences

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is insisting that he be allowed to perform his functions through video conferences as he will remain in jail despite a court ruling granting him temporary liberty on a rebellion case, a colleague disclosed Wednesday.

PMA resets graduation to March 1 to avoid politicking

Officials of the Philippine Military Academy are speeding up preparations for the academy's annual alumni homecoming and have set an early graduation ceremony on March 1 to avoid the distractions of campaigning political aspirants.

Ex-police official tagged in massacre escapes from jail

(UPDATE) A retired police official linked to the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre escaped from his cell inside the Sultan Kudarat provincial jail in Isulan town shortly before President Macapagal-Arroyo visited the province on Wednesday.

Chief Supt. Felicisimo Khu, chief of Task Force Alpha 12, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that retired Superintendent Piang Adam escaped by destroying the lock of his detention cell early Wednesday.

"It was discovered around 10 a.m. by policemen that he's missing. There's an ongoing investigation," Khu said.

Khu said only Adam, former Maguindanao police chief, escaped.

"If some jail officers were involved, they would have to face the consequences of their action," he added.

Adam was arrested for illegal possession of firearms in 2009, after police raided his farm in Quirino, Sultan Kudarat, shortly after the Maguindanao massacre.

Police seized two fragmentation grenades, an M16 Armalite rifle and ammunition.

Adam's former aide told reporters in Tacurong City that he was "so disgusted" by the supposed slow pace of his case in court.

Adam is perceived to be close to some members of the Ampatuan clan, prompting authorities to believe that he is the "missing link" in the probe of the massacre.

Adam, a relative of the Mangudadatus, was believed closest to Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the main suspect in the carnage.

Adam and his wife Jocelyn are both running for mayor of Pandag town against the ex-policeman's relative, incumbent Mayor Zajid Mangudadatu, according to updated records of the Commission on Elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Lawyer Philip Pantoja, a legal counsel for suspended Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., said the Mangudadatus did not want the Ampatuan patriarch to field local candidates in the towns they controlled.

Pantoja said Ampatuan Sr. had acquiesced to the political bargain sought by Malacañang in resolving the conflict between the two political families, and to prevent Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu from running for Maguindanao governor, the week before the massacre.

But Pantoja said the old Ampatuan relayed a message to the President that he "could no longer stop" Adam from running against Pandag Mayor Zajid Mangudadatu.

MILF rejects new Arroyo peace deal

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - Muslim rebels waging a 32-year war in the southern Philippines on Wednesday said a peace deal with President Gloria Arroyo's administration was unlikely, after rejecting its latest offer.

Joey De Venecia 'to continue fight' vs Arroyos

Naglabas ng sama ng loob ang pangunahing testigo sa ZTE-NBN controversy na si Jun Lozada dahil sa umano'y panlalaglag sa kanya ng mga dating tagasuporta. Nakipagbati na kasi ang misis ni dating House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. na si Gina sa dating kaibigang si Pangulong Gloria Arroyo. Pero nanindigan naman ang star witness na si Joey de Venecia, itutuloy pa rin daw niya ang laban kaugnay sa kontrobersya. 

Crisis could trap 21M more Asians in poverty

While it is widely believed that the worst of the global economic crisis is over, the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank said it could actually push another 21 million people into extreme poverty who live on less than $1.25 a day.

Haiti quake far more destructive than 2004 tsunami

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti—The scale of devastation in Haiti is far worse than in Asia after the 2004 tsunami, a study has said, estimating the cost of last month's earthquake at up to $14 billion.

Pacquiao picks Mosley to win over Mayweather

MANILA, Philippines – The world's best pound-for-pound fighter made a prediction on the outcome of the May 1 fight between Americans Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Shane Mosley.

Z to resume rehab this week

Z Gorres will resume his rehabilitation within the week at the Perpetual Succour Hospital after a few days' rest in his home in Mandaue City.

P'foods evens semifinal series with SMB, 2-2

Purefoods raced to a big 22-point first quarter lead and then weathered a big San Miguel rally in a 97-84 win Wednesday night that evened their KFC-PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series, 2-2.

Alaska sweeps Ginebra, earns trip to finals

MANILA, Philippines -- The Alaska Aces won the first ticket to the KFC PBA Philippine Cup finals by sweeping the Ginebra Gin Kings 4-0 in their best-of-7 semi-final series.

Aquino to add star power to campaign

Television host Kris Aquino and other showbiz endorsers of Liberal Party presidential candidate Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III are expected to hit the campaign trail next month to add star power whenever he goes on the stump.

This was revealed by Aquino, who is also seeking a private meeting with religious leaders such as Bro. Mike Velarde of the El Shaddai group and Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC) in the next few weeks to further consolidate his lead before election day.

In an interview with reporters in Davao City, Aquino said he expected Kris to join his nationwide campaign starting March 26, when the campaign for provincial, city and municipal positions start.

"I don't think she will be with us all the time. She and Boy Abunda were part of the group that made the story board for my ads. This group is self-funded," said Aquino, who expected Kris' husband, basketball star James Yap, to tag along in the campaign.

Aquino said that other stars would jump on his campaign wagon starting next month, including possibly actress Sharon Cuneta.

"She has declared it (joining his campaign) several times in public," said Aquino.

Aside from the entertainment world, Aquino was also keen on getting support from the religious world.

"We are talking to all groups because we hope to include them in our movement for a new nation. We are keeping our communication lines open and if they have any issues against, we will explain," said Aquino.

Aquino said he has yet to talk to Velarde, who endorsed his senatorial bid in 2007.

Aquino is set to meet with Quiboloy in Davao next month and attend KJC's worship service.

Aquino has already met with Iglesia ni Cristo leaders and he expects to meet with them again soon.

"I think they received us very graciously. Whether or not we earned their support is another matter. I have no complaint, I am very grateful we were given a large amount of time," said Aquino, who also planned to meet with Muslim leaders in the next few weeks.

But his main target remains the dominant Catholic group in the country.

"I make it a point to meet the bishop in the provinces I visit," said Aquino said.

Comelec bars Richard Gomez from joining Congress race

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has barred Richard Gomez from running as fourth district representative of Leyte, saying the actor lacks the required one year residency to join the congressional race.

Anne Curtis turns 25

MANILA, Philippines - Today is Anne Curtis' birthday. Born in Yarrawonga, Victoria, Australia on February 17, 1985, Anne has 2 siblings, Jasmine, an equally pretty girl, who always accompanies her in her shows especially on "Showtime," and Thomas, who is currently in Australia with their mom.

ABS-CBN still leads in ratings nationwide

Pinatunayan ni Judy Ann Santos na siya ang "Reyna ng Teleserye" sa pamamayagpag sa ratings ng "Habang May Buhay." Nananatiling Number 1 din ang mga ABS-CBN shows sa national ratings base sa survey ng TNS dahil po 'yan sa inyong pagtangkilik Kapamilya!

Beatle McCartney hopes for Abbey Road studios rescue

LONDON - Former Beatle Paul McCartney has spoken of his hopes that the band's historic Abbey Road studios could be saved after reportedly being put up for sale by British music group EMI.

Two languages in womb makes bilingual babies: study

WASHINGTON -- Babies who hear two languages regularly when they are in their mother's womb are more open to being bilingual, a study published this week in Psychological Science shows.

Psychological scientists from the University of British Columbia and a researcher from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in France tested two groups of newborns, one of which only heard English in the womb and the others who heard English and Tagalog, which is spoken in the Philippines.

To determine the babies' preference for a language, the researchers studied the newborns' sucking reflex; increased sucking by a neonate indicates interest in a stimulus.

In the first experiment, infants heard 10 minutes of speech, with every minute alternating between English and Tagalog.

The English-only infants were more interested in English than Tagalog -- in other words, they "exhibited increased sucking behavior" when they heard English than when they heard Tagalog being spoken.

The infants exposed to two languages, on the other hand, showed an equal preference for both English and Tagalog, suggesting to the researchers that prenatal bilingual exposure prepares infants to listen to and learn about both of their native languages.

Telling the difference

The researchers also tested the newborns to see if they could tell the differences between two languages -- key to becoming bilingual.

The infants listened to sentences being spoken in one of the languages until they lost interest, and then heard sentences in the other language or heard sentences in the same language, but spoken by a different person.

The infants exhibited increased sucking when they heard the other language being spoken, but their sucking did not increase if they heard additional sentences in the same language.

"These results suggest that bilingual infants, along with monolingual infants, are able to discriminate between the two languages, providing a mechanism from the first moments of life that helps ensure bilingual infants do not confuse their two languages," the authors of the study said.

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