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

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February 4, 2010 Major News Stories

Naga coal plants to answer Cebu's power supply problem

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is optimistic that with the 220-megawatt coal-fired power plants in Naga City that are expected to be operational next year, will answer the power supply problem of Cebu.

Procter & Gamble hikes soap prices

MANILA, Philippines - The local unit of consumer products giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) has hiked prices of several bath soaps by 4%-5% due to higher raw material costs, an official yesterday said.

Interview of caregivers, nurses bound for Japan ongoing

MANILA, Philippines - Interview sessions for the second batch of nurses and caregivers under the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (POEA) has started, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) announced.

PRC releases results of marine engineering licensure examinations

MANILA, Philippines  - The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) on Wednesday announced that 1,208 out of 2,212 passed the various grades of the written phase of the Marine Engineering Officers Licensure Examinatinos given by the Board for Marine Engineer Officers in Manila last January 2009.  Examinees who garnered the top 10 ratings for the examinations

One of her 'legacies': GMA lauds Cebu as RP's top IT hub

President Arroyo toured the Asiatown IT Park late yesterday afternoon showcasing one the flagship projects of her administration as she prepares to hand over the reins of the country to a new president after the May elections.

City dad says RFID tag should be given free

City councilor Arsenio Pacaña wants the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology be provided for motorists for free as the project is mainly for the enforcement of the law, which is not the citizen's but the government's primary responsibility.

P10 million appropriated for preventive measures

The Cebu City government, through the City Disaster Coordinating Council, will appropriate at least P10 million to fund for the preemptive measures to be undertaken at the Inayawan Sanitary Landfill.

Dumpit denies involvement in vigilante-style killings

Controversial policeman SPO1 Adonis Dumpit has denied accusations that he is one of the alleged "vigilantes" operating in the city who had already killed more than a hundred suspected criminals since five years ago.

M'lanilla police chief relieved for traffic jam during president's visit

The chief of Minglanilla Police Station was relieved from his post and momentarily detailed at the Cebu Provincial Police Office while waiting for his reassignment to other police stations.

Wagas barred from voting and running

The Regional Trial Court has upheld an earlier first level court decision that ordered the Election Registration Board to exclude former Compostela Mayor Gilbert Wagas from the permanent list of voters in his town, thereby making him ineligible to run for Congress because of his conviction for malversation of public funds.

7,000 voters to try new system on Feb. 6

Of test cities, 3 went for admin and 2 for opposition in the last presidential elections MANILA, Philippines--The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will be conducting mock polls in 5 cities across the country on Saturday, February 6, having almost 7,000 registered voters going through the whole process of automated vote casting, transmission, and canvassing.

Comelec to hold nationwide mock polls Feb.6

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will hold simultaneous mock automated elections in about 10 polling precincts nationwide Saturday, an official said Wednesday.

Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told reporters that the mock polls was aimed at simulating the actual automated electoral process – from voting, scanning of ballots in the poll machine for counting, printing of election results (ERs), electronic transmission of voting results to canvassers and servers and automated canvassing of results.

"The overall function of the precinct count optical scan machines, the canvassing system, transmission and the servers would be the focus of the mock polls," said Larrazabal.

In Metro Manila, the mock polls will be held at the New Era Elementary School in Quezon City; Maharlika Elementary School and Gen. Ricardo Papa Memorial High School in Taguig City.

In Luzon, the mock polls are to be held in Pines National High School and Community Youth Center in Baguio City; in Visayas, in Bulacao Community School and Mabini Elementary School in Cebu City; and in Mindanao, in Alejandro Navarro Elementary School and Generoso Elementary School in Davao City.

Although the commission released Tuesday a new version of the ballot face, those that would be used for the mock polls would be of the older configuration – on the front side, the pre-printed names of national candidates per position arranged in vertical columns from left to right, with the dorsal side featuring names of local bets in horizontal configuration, said Larrazabal.

Registered voters will join the mock polls, which will be followed by another one this month, the official added.

"We are holding the mock elections in ten clustered precincts in Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao on February 6 using the printed older configuration of the ballots. Based on our studies, the back side where the names of the candidates followed a horizontal arrangement was much more efficient to fill up and accomplish," said Larrazabal.

"We plan to hold another mock poll later and possibly use the new version of the ballot there," said Larrazabal.

Aside from the mock polls and the field tests which were conducted last week, Comelec would also hold a test for the electronic transmission of voting results in key sites using a public telecommunications network and final testing and sealing of the machines three days before election day, said the official.

Ballot has new look—Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has revised the look of the special paper ballots to be used in the May elections to simplify the casting of ballots and to prevent over voting, a poll official said.

Under the new ballot approved by the Comelec en banc Tuesday, the pre-printed names of the candidates per position would be in a horizontal block to be arranged in alphabetical order and with corresponding numbers. Below this first group is another set of names of candidates for another position also arranged in a horizontal block but with different colored borderlines, said Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, who also chairs the steering committee on automation.

The official added that the candidates would be assigned their corresponding numbers aside from being alphabetically arranged to help cut the time in shading the ovals opposite the names instead of reading the whole list of candidates.

"By having the names arranged in a horizontal style similar to reading a book, the new ballot was easier to fill up and we believe this better prevent overvoting than the old style," said Larrazabal.

"The older ball face configuration – which features the pre-printed names of the candidates per position in vertical columns from left to right – had unused free spaces and resulted in a longer ballot of 29 inches. When we arranged the names in horizontal format, the ballot was a bit shorter at 25 to 26 inches," he added.

To guide voters, Larrazabal said the ballots would also contain guidelines stating that a voter "can vote for not more than one candidate" for president, vice president and partylist and "not more than 12 candidates" for senator.

Previously, the instructions read as "Vote for 1 candidate" for president, vice president and partylist and "Vote for 12 candidates" for senators. This could be misread as an instruction for voting the candidates, with "1" as the designated number so the instructions had to be rephrased, said the poll official.

The ballots will also include the names of candidates with unresolved cases and exclude the names of bets who have withdrawn their candidacies, said Larrazabal.

Presently, Comelec is undergoing reverification of the certified list of candidates it submitted to Smartmatic-TIM for configuration in the automation and canvassing system.

The Comelec will print 50 million ballots for the May automated polls.

BuCor admits buying 20 signal jammers

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Corrections on Wednesday admitted that it purchased last year 20 signal jamming devices, which could be used to block the GSM signals of local telco providers.
Superintendent Bart Bustamante, BuCor head, said the signal jammers are used in prison to block cell phone signals and stop inmates from using mobile phones to communicate with people outside. He said they started using the signal jammers after receiving reports that wealthy visitors of some of the inmates were sometimes robbed after leaving the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa.

Teachers want on-site training in poll automation

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to provide teachers serving in the May 10 elections with training in the use of automated counting machines at the actual precinct sites where they would be deployed.

Comelec releases guidelines for local absentee voting

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday released the rules and regulations for the three-day local absentee voting in late April.

Covered by the local absentee voting, to be held from April 24 to 26, are government officials and employees as well as members of the military and police force who will be on election duty in places where they are not registered on May 10, election day.

In a resolution promulgated on Monday, the Comelec said that those who wish to avail of the privilege must file their application forms with the head of their office. Application forms may be reproduced or downloaded from the Comelec Web site.

The head of the office must then submit to the poll body the accomplished applications and a certified list of their personnel who wish to vote offsite not later than March 7.

If approved, they shall be allowed to vote anytime from April 24 to 26 in the place designated by the head of their agency and in the presence of an authorized Comelec representative. 

Local absentee voters, like their counterparts overseas, are only allowed to vote for national positions.

The authorized poll body officer shall distribute the local absentee ballots, envelopes, and paper seals to qualified local absentee voters any day between April 24 and 26.

Upon receiving the ballot, an absentee voter must fill it up and imprint his or her thumbmark on the proper space in the detachable coupon of the ballot. He or she must then detach the coupon from the ballot and place the same inside the outer envelope.

On the other hand, the voter must place the accomplished ballot inside the inner envelope and close the envelope with a paper seal. He or she must then place the sealed inner envelope inside the outer envelope, which shall likewise be sealed with a paper seal.

Lastly, the voter must write his or her name on the outer envelope and then submit it to the head of their agency. 

The poll body said that the counting of the local absentee ballots will be conducted by special board of election inspectors, similar to that of manual elections.

Last December, the Comelec also released the general guidelines for the 2010 polls.

P7M for postal vote of Filipinos abroad

The Commission on Elections has allotted P7 million for the voting by mail of 138,113 Filipinos abroad in 47 countries who wanted to participate in the May 2010 elections this way, it was learned Wednesday.

Comelec says no to Namfrel as citizens" arm

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has dismissed the petition of longtime poll watchdog National Citizens" Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) to be accredited as a citizen"s arm of the poll body in the May elections.

Aquino unfazed by latest survey results

Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is unfazed by a recent Pulse Asia survey indicating him statistically tied with Sen. Manny Villar, whom he said seems to be developing an "unholy alliance" with the Arroyo administration.

Aquino camp: Villar 'bulldozing us with ads'

How do you face up to P2.5 billion worth of ads? The deluge of political ads from Sen. Manuel Villar's camp fueled his surge in the polls and led him to tie with Sen. Benign "Noynoy" Aquino III in the most recent Pulse Asia survey, Aquino's spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Villar allies no-show in Senate, stall vote on ethics rap

Allies of Senator Manny Villar were a no-show on Wednesday when the Senate resumed its session to discuss and probably vote on the ethics committee complaint that was filed against him.

Comelec junks disqualification cases vs 3 presidential bets

by By Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak
But it's not the last of Ely Pamatong's petitions MANILA, Philippines--The Commission on Elections (Comelec) dismissed on Wednesday the disqualification case against presidential candidates Benigno Aquino III, Gilberto Teodoro Jr., and Manuel Villar Jr., and vice presidential candidate Mar Roxas II that was filed by lawyer Ely Pamatong. 

Let next President sign pact with MILF, says governor

North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol said the draft peace agreement being worked out by the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should be submitted for review by the country's next president.

Corona accepts chief justice nomination

Supreme Court Associate Justice Renato Corona has accepted the chief justice post nomination by the Judicial and Bar Council.

'Friendlier' Arroyo still parries unwanted Gibo questions

The media here raring to ask President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo questions about pressing Negros concerns did not get to ask them, because she warned mediamen she would leave before a reporter could even complete asking the first question.

Ampatuan Jr. pleads not guilty to 15 more murder raps

MANILA, Philippines - Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. on Wednesday entered a not guilty plea to 15 additional murder cases filed against him for his role in the massacre of 57 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province last Nov. 23, 2009.

Ampatuans used public office to amass mostly illegal guns

Over two months after the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao, the police have yet to recover hundreds of the unlicensed guns of Ampatuan family, the powerful political clan blamed for the carnage. The PNP says at least 103 Ampatuan members have registered a total of 274 firearms, which only account for just a fourth of the 1,200 firearms seized from in and around the Ampatuan mansions. First of the two-part PCIJ report on the issue.

Journalists' widows file complaint at Asean

(UPDATE) Widows of journalists who were among the 57 victims in the so-called Maguindanao massacre have filed a complaint before an international human rights body against the government for failing to prevent the carnage.

House adjourns without ratifying key measures

(UPDATE) The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill became the "biggest victim" when the House of Representatives adjourned on its last day of session Wednesday without passing key measures.

House session remains suspended over quorum

Session at the House of Representative has remained suspended for nearly two hours after a lawmaker insisted it should not be adjourned over lack of quorum.

CA approves former health chief's CSC nomination

(UPDATE) The powerful Commission on Appointments has approved the appointment of former Health Secretary Francisco Duque as Civil Service commissioner.

CA OKs 174 military officers, 9 envoys

The powerful Commission on Appointments has confirmed the appointments of 174 senior officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including that of Major General Romeo Prestoza.

Police, military arrest two senior NPA officials in Agusan del Sur

Two senior officials of the New People"s Army (NPA) wanted for criminal charges were arrested by authorities in Agusan del Sur in southern Philippines, the military said on Wednesday.

Police and military elements arrested top NPA officials Maria Luisa Purcray and Allen Solis on Tuesday at a checkpoint along Dicayo village in Katipunan town, Zamboanga del Norte, Lt. Steffani Cacho, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command, said. 

Peso appreciates vs dollar as investors stay positive

The peso closed 36 centavos stronger on Wednesday at the back of an improving risk appetite among investors, who saw income-generating potentials in investing domestically.

2 more batches of Pinoys from Haiti set to arrive

At least 41 more Filipinos are due to arrive home from earthquake-devastated Haiti on Thursday and Friday, Malacañang said Wednesday. A batch of 11 Filipinos is scheduled to arrive Thursday, while another batch of 30 is due to arrive Friday.

Protests, frustration at Haiti aid bottlenecks

The aid flooding into Haiti by plane and boat is not reaching earthquake victims quickly enough due to red tape, security fears, transportation bottlenecks and occasional corruption.

US intel chief: Al-Qaeda likely to attempt attack

WASHINGTON - Al-Qaeda can be expected to attempt an attack on the United States in the next three to six months, senior US intelligence officials told Congress on Tuesday.

Bomb kills 3 US military trainers in NW Pakistan

A roadside bomb killed three US soldiers and partly destroyed a girls' school in northwest Pakistan on yesterday in an attack that drew attention to a little-publicized American military training mission in the al-Qaeda and Taliban heartland.

Roach: Pacquiao to KO Clottey

MANILA, Philippines – Four-time Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach made a bold prediction on the outcome of Manny Pacquiao's March 13 fight against Ghana's Joshua Clottey.

PBA: Rain or Shine stays alive

Gabe Norwood threw down a missed drive by Jeff Chan to secure a 95-93 win over Purefoods Tender Juicy in Game 3 to stay alive in their best-of-5 quarterfinal series of the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Jackson doctor ready to surrender to police

Prosecutors may file involuntary manslaughter charges as early as Wednesday against Michael Jackson's deathbed doctor for his role in the King of Pop's death, US media reported.

Temperatures rise as El Niño starts setting in

Temperatures have been rising around the country as the El Niño phenomenon nears its peak, according to the weather bureau.

Birth month can influence sports success, study says

SYDNEY - Could you be the next David Beckham or Michael Jordan? An Australian researcher has found your chances of becoming a professional sportsperson could depend on your birthday.

Senior research fellow Adrian Barnett from Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation found that a person's birth month could determine their health and fitness.

The results of the study are published in a book, "Analysing Seasonal Health Data," which Barnett co-authored with researcher Annette Dobson from the University of Queensland.

Barnett analyzed the birthdays of professional Australian Football League (AFL) players and found a disproportionate number had their birthdays in the early months of the year, while a fewer number were born in the later months, especially December.

The Australian school year begins in January.

"Children who are taller have an obvious advantage when playing the football code of AFL," Barnett said in a statement issued by the book's publishers, Springer.

"If you were born in January, you have almost 12 months' growth ahead of your classmates born late in the year, so whether you were born on December 31st or January 1st could have a huge effect on your life," Barnett said.

Barnett found there were 33% more professional AFL players than expected with birthdays in January and 25% fewer in December.

He said the results mirrored other international studies which found a link between being born near the start of school year and the chances of becoming a professional player in the sports of ice hockey, football, volleyball and basketball.

"Research in the UK shows those born at the start of the school year also do better academically and have more confidence," he said.

"And with physical activity being so important, it could also mean smaller children get disheartened and play less sport. If smaller children are missing out on sporting activity then this has potentially serious consequences for their health in adulthood," he added.

Barnett said this seasonal pattern could also result in wasted talent, with potential sports stars not being identified because they were competing against children who were much more physically advanced than them.

He said a possible solution was for one of the sporting codes in Australia to change the team entry date from January 1 to July 1.

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

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