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

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 15, 2010 Major News Stories

Cebu's water supply remains normal

The water supply in Cebu remains normal amidst the El Niño phenomenon that is already affecting many parts of the country.

Engr. Astrophel Logarta, department manager of the Production and Distribution Department of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) said that water supply here is not affected by the drought that has already resulted in decreased water level in many provinces.

He emphasized that unlike in other areas, the MCWD is extracting most of the water it supplies to its consumers from underground. More than 90 percent of the water district's supply comes from deep wells and the rest are from surface water sources like the Buhisan Dam.

But despite that, the MCWD is still urging its consumers to conserve water and adopt the water saving tips.

"Due to limited rainfall brought about by the entry of the summer season and the El Niño phenomenon, water supply will soon become scarce.  Hence, the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) is urging its consumers to conserve water and adopt water saving tips," the water district said in an advisory posted on its website.

These water saving tips include taking a shorter showers; while shaving, washing the face or brushing the teeth, don't use running water from the faucet; when washing dishes and kitchen utensils by hand, fill a basin with soapy water. 

Quick-rinse under a slow-moving stream from the faucet. Also avoid unnecessary flushing of the toilet; dispose of tissue paper and other waste materials in the trash bin rather than in the toilet and promptly repair dripping faucets, toilet tank leaks and water pumps.

Also, Logarta advises consumers to immediately change damaged meter so that it will refrain from increasing their water bills

Meanwhile, despite the high demand for water, MCWD said it has no plans yet of increasing their water rates to their consumers.

Edna Inocando, officer-in-charge of MCWD under Public Affairs Department said that they cannot directly enforce water rate hike as this would first undergo public consultation.  

MCWD also needs to inform first and get the approval of the Local Water Utilities Administration before imposing a water rate hike, she added.

El Niño effect on CV livestock slight

The Livestock Division of the Department of Agriculture Central Visayas (DA-7) assured the public that supply of pork and other meat products in the region is stable despite the onslaught of the El Niño phenomenon.

Joel Elumba, chief of the DA-7's Livestock Division told The FREEMAN yesterday that the drought being experienced in the region is milder than that experienced in Luzon and in conditions like this, farm animals are the last to be affected.

"Sa Central Visayas wala kaayo detrimental effects ang El Niño. Ang atong farm animals maapektohan rana sila kung grabe na gyud ang El Niño pero diri sa atoa, mild ra man. So far, wala pa mi nadawat na reports na grabe naapektuhan ang atong livestock," Elumba said. He said that it is the crop industry that is more vulnerable to the effects of El Niño.

According to him, animals still have water to drink and besides, animal raisers are dependent on commercial feeds that are still available in the market.

Elumba assured that there is an active monitoring on the impacts of El Niño in various agricultural sectors for the government to identify and implement right away appropriate mitigating measures.

The agriculture regional field office here continues its information campaign to farmers on how they could help minimize the effects of El Niño through, for example, conservation of water.

After El Niño, Elumba said that they already have an action plan to address the foreseen increase in the incidence of various animal diseases.

"Nag-expect mi na motaas ang incidence sa diseases so after El Niño we have to make sure na andam na ang mga vaccines for deworming, vitamin supplementation ug uban pa," Elumba said.

He said that Central Visayas remains self sufficient in terms of supply of pork and other meat products. The supply is just enough to answer the demand, he added.

 "If naa man gani ta contribution sa supply sa Luzon, that's only a few heads of live animals like goats and cows," he said.

Elumba advised the animal raisers to ensure that there is always water supply available for their livestock and during the hottest times of the day, make sure that animals are in a shaded place.

NDCC: El Niño damage breaches P8B mark

The damage to agriculture caused by the dry spells brought by the El Niño weather phenomenon has breached the P8-billion mark, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said.

Phivolcs: Magnitude-5 quake rocks Surigao

A magnitude-5 quake rocked Surigao del Sur province in Mindanao Sunday evening, with state seismologists warning of possible aftershocks.

RP dependence on OFW earnings leads to jobless growth -- recruiter

Awash with dollars from US$18 billion (more than P821 billion) a year in remittances from overseas Filipino workers a year, the Philippine economy could be now afflicted with the "Dutch disease," an economic malady that sees the decline of local industries, fuels an overvalued peso, makes exports costly and imports cheap, and results in jobless growth, according to recruiters.

Lito Soriano, executive director of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, issued the warning in a recent forum on the strong peso and what must be done on the peso-dollar exchange rate concerns of overseas Filipino workers.

"Ironically for the OFWs who are the ones sending the dollar windfall to their families each month, they and their families are the first victims of the economic malady that was first experienced by the Netherlands," Soriano said in a statement.

Soriano was referring to the term coined by The Economist in 1977 to describe the decline of the manufacturing sector in the Netherlands following the discovery of a large natural gas field in 1959. This culminated in the world's biggest public-private oil industry partnership in 1963.

The Dutch disease is a concept that purportedly explains the apparent relationship between the increase in exploitation of natural resources and a decline in the manufacturing sector. The theory is that an increase in revenues from natural resources will "de-industrialize" a nation's economy by raising the exchange rate, which makes the manufacturing sector less competitive and public services entangled with business interests.

The concept has since been applied to other types of economic models. In the case of the Philippines, the increase in revenues comes from the OFWs' remittances.

Soriano, chair of the LBS Recruitment Solutions, said the bloated dollar supply, not earned with private and government investments, would ten to lure decision makers to squander public funds and go into foreign borrowing sprees, confident the country has enough reserves to pay for the foreign loans.

The recruiter said that one of the "most obvious" symptoms of the Dutch disease has been the continued strengthening of the local peso even when the economy has been "barely" growing.

"When an OFW sends $1, 000 to his family today, it's equivalent to only P45, 000 at P45 to the dollar exchange rate or P5, 000 less than what they got when the dollar was worth P50 in 1997," he said.

As a "rule of thumb," the recruiter added, an OFW would not get a raise while on contract for two to three years

The strong peso fueled by OFW money have further punished both the local industries selling to the domestic market and abroad because their costs were much higher than those from countries not suffering from the Dutch disease, Soriano added.

"The decimation of both the domestic industries and export industries has depleted the manpower pool for highly skilled and professional workers that are in the high-end of the deployment industry," he explained.

Soriano added that the OFW deployment industry has suffered from a "shallow pool" of highly trained people that resulted in fewer takers and the increasing deployment of factory workers, maids and entertainers. 

Citing data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Soriano said that of the 7.8 million sent to different parts of the world from the year 2001 to 2008, average yearly deployment was 893, 475 people, but close to half of them (47 percent) were rehired land-based workers plus 24 percent returning seafarers.

Newly hired averaged only 29 percent or less than a third, he said.

In 2007, Soriano said POEA figures revealed that among the first-time OFWs, 121, 715 were factory workers, 107,135 were classified as service workers mostly domestics while only 43,225 were professional and technical workers. Another 20, 000 were sent out as sales workers and clerks.

"In 2007, 74 percent of deployed workers were domestics, service and factory workers. Of all the deployed, only 14 percent were new hires," he pointed out.

Among nurses, Soriano said, only an average of 10, 000 have been getting nursing jobs abroad each year, a "far cry" from the alleged tens of thousands some public officials claim. Most nurses end up without jobs here.

He said the "most alarming trend" has been the increasing rate of female workers getting jobs overseas. In the past seven years, he said, 64 percent were female against 36 male and most of them were sent as domestic helpers, entertainers and factory hands.

Soriano said the cure for the Dutch disease would be multi-faceted.

"Taipans should invest in permanent jobs like manufacturing and light industries. There should be a more competitive exchange rate as the peso is overvalued by 20 percent resulting in a lower exchange rate for OFWs," he said.

Soriano said that government should also admit the existence of the economic phenomenon, adding, "The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is projecting more remittances from OFWs, but how about earnings from other sectors such as the export industry?"

Justice system falls short on domestic violence cases

Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno acknowledged the legal roadblocks faced by women and children who have been victims of violence and abuse, as he slammed society's "deep-rooted prejudices and bigotry" about gender and children issues.

Tomas, Mike mum on ally's 'marital problem'

CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and Vice Mayor Michael Rama agreed there is no need, for now, for City Hall to intervene in the "domestic matter" involving a councilor and his wife.

"When it connects to the performance of his official functions, that's the time we come in," said Rama, presiding officer of the Cebu City Council.

He said the report that the wife sought help at a barangay hall is being treated confidentially by women's rights advocates.

The wife neither confirmed nor denied asking for a protection order from the barangay officials. Sun.Star Cebu tried to contact the councilor several times yesterday to get his side but he didn't answer his mobile phone.

Republic Act 9262 allows barangay captains to issue 15-day protection orders to stop abuse. They must then help the complainant seek a longer-lasting protection order from the court.

A barangay captain confirmed the couple appeared for a hearing at the barangay hall last week, but would not say what the hearing was about.

Boy Abunda

Osmeña said the couple can always rely on his and his wife Margot's support, but begged off from commenting on the alleged dispute in public.

"I don't like to give advice in public, I'm not like that. Lisod kaayo ug mag-apil-apil pa ko, dili ko ganahan ba nga murag si Boy Abunda, ayaw na lang oy (I'd rather not intervene. I don't want to be like Boy Abunda)," Osmeña said, referring to the television talk show host.

The mayor said he will talk to the couple privately and offer whatever help they may need.

Rama said he hopes the problem will be resolved, but sees no need, for now, for official intervention.

"When it comes to family problems, we just observe at first. If we step in right away, that might be misconstrued as meddling," Rama said.

Gangmen rape girl, shoot her boyfriend dead

Six alleged members of the Crips gang reportedly shot and killed their gangmate after raping his girlfriend in sitio Carmelite, Barangay Buaya, Lapu-Lapu City at dawn yesterday.

The fatality was identified as Russel Booc, 16 while his girlfriend (name withheld), also 16, was raped and is now in police custody.

Both are residents of the city and are also allegedly Crips gang members.

Police believe that a love triangle might have caused the two crimes.

Senior Police Officer 2 Frederick Eslit of the Crime Against Person Unit of Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LLCPO) said the incident happened around 2 a.m. yesterday after the duo bought hamburgers near the crime scene.

The pair was on their way to the place where they planned to eat their food when six young men stopped them and pointed a gun at them.

The group of young men was identified as members of Crips gang, because of the group's trademark of wearing a blue scarf on their neck.

The six men allegedly took turns in raping the girl while the gun's muzzle was inside her mouth to prevent her from shouting and from fighting off her attackers.

After the six men were allegedly done raping her, one of the men instructed Booc to also have sex with his girlfriend, which he declined.

The gang members then shot the victim.

The assailants then fled immediately from the area by passing though the narrow pathways of the place.

The police believe that the gun's muzzle was inside the victim's head as they only found an exit wound.

Paramedics of the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation declared Booc dead on the spot.

The girl was then brought by the police and was turned over to the Women's and Children's Protection Desk of LLCPO.

Eslit said that a hot pursuit operation is now being conducted on the suspects, who were identified by the female victim.

SC ruling may save Joavan from mandatory rehab bid

A SUPREME Court (SC) decision may derail a police chief's bid to submit the Talisay City mayor's son to mandatory rehabilitation, an official of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) said yesterday.

Undersecretary Cla-rence Paul Oaminal lauded Talisay City Police Chief Supt. Henry Biñas's decision to ask the court to submit Joavan Fernandez to compulsory rehabilitation.

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But he also pointed to a Supreme Court decision in November 2008 that found it unconstitutional to conduct mandatory drug testing on persons accused of a crime punishable by six years or more.

Candidates for public office also cannot be required to submit themselves to mandatory drug testing, as this violates their right to privacy, the same ruling said.

The SC decision, Oaminal said, stemmed from a case filed by the Social Justice Society, with Atty. Manuel Laserna and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

In his petition, Biñas cited as his ground Section 62 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. This complements Section 36, on mandatory drug testing.

Section 62 states: "If a person charged with an offense where the impo-sable penalty is imprisonment of less than six years and one day, and is found by the prosecutor or by the court, at any stage of the proceedings, to be a drug dependent, the prosecutor or the court as the case may be, shall suspend all further proceedings and transmit copies of the record of the case to the DDB."

A mandatory drug test is required as evidence for the DDB that the accused is a drug dependent and needs to be rehabilitated, said Oaminal.

Biñas, in a separate interview, said he respects the opinion of Oaminal and DDB, but added that while some provisions in Section 36 were found "unconstitutional" by the SC, others remain valid and enforceable.

Oaminal said he is glad Biñas took the initiative in filing the petition, as this may serve as a "wake-up call" for families who refuse to have their drug-dependent children or relatives undergo treatment.

Oaminal said only 2,000 drug dependents nationwide have undergone drug rehabilitation from January to September 2009. An estimated 1.7 million drug dependents failed to submit themselves to rehabilitation in the same period.

Last week, Biñas filed a petition with the Talisay City Prosecutor's Office, recommending Joavan's compulsory rehabilitation.

If the court rules in favor of Biñas's petition, it will probably be the first order of its kind in Cebu.

Comelec: 704,542 voters with double, several registrations

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has confirmed the existence of potential "flying voters" that could mar the country's first nationwide automated elections on May 10.

In a March 10 resolution released over the weekend, the Comelec said its information technology department found 704,542 voters with double or multiple registration records.

The department also printed a list of voters whose registration records were not valid, per precinct and per district, municipality or city, which were disseminated to election officers.

The Comelec ordered the removal of the other registration records of voters with double or multiple registration and directed the Board of Election Inspectors not to allow them to vote.

It also ordered the deletion of the registration records of the voters in the next Election Registration Board hearings.

In October 2009, the Comelec said that in cases where voters were found to have registered in two or more districts, the latest registration should prevail and this was the only place where they would be allowed to vote.

In cases where there were double or multiple registrants in the same district, the original registration would prevail.

Comelec officials earlier said that the double registration could simply be a result of the inadvertent failure to cancel previous records of voters who had changed residences and did not mean a subversion of the balloting.

Lawyer Howard Calleja of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) welcomed the Comelec's disclosure.

The Comelec's citizen arm earlier called attention to its discovery of about 40,000 voters entered as "double, multiple or dead registrants" in Davao City and Davao del Sur.

Calleja said the PPCRV would continue checking the voters' lists in other provinces. "We want to see if the figure is correct. It might be short or whatever," he said.

Calleja earlier said that if the 40,000 questionable voters in the Davao region could also be found in 80 other provinces that could translate to about 3 million questionable voters.

He said that the 700,000 double and multiple registrants found by the Comelec was a significant number of voters that could spell the difference between victory and defeat for candidates.

Danding still mum on supporting Aquino

CAMILING, Tarlac -- Even as his daughter and younger brother show support for the presidential candidacy of his nephew, Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr. remains mum about the candidate he is supporting on May 10.

On Saturday night, Cojuangco, chair emeritus of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), said he would rather not be involved in politics anymore.

"Matanda na tayo, ayaw ko na makialam sa pulitika (We're already old. I don't want to be involved in politics anymore)," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Asked if the support of his daughter, Liza Cojuangco-Cruz, who had joined Aquino's campaign sortie in Iloilo, and his brother, Henry, for Aquino was tantamount to his endorsement, Cojuangco said: "They are free to choose, bahala sila (It's their call)."

Pressed as to why his family members chose to support Aquino, the Liberal Party standard bearer, in a field of nine candidates, Cojuangco said "this is Tarlac, there are two Tarlaqueños running and they are not for Gibo (Lakas-Kampi-CMD candidate and nephew Gilbert Teodoro Jr.)."

In a separate interview, Henry Cojuangco, NPC chair in Tarlac's first district, said he has decided to support Aquino "because he is the worthwhile Tarlaqueño candidate."

Henry is running for representative in the district now represented in Congress by Teodoro's wife, Nikki.

Earlier, NPC leaders in the province endorsed the team-up of Aquino and Sen. Loren Legarda, a member of the NPC who is running for vice president under the Nacionalista Party banner.

The LP did not field any candidate in the congressional race in the first district, a known NPC bailiwick, assuring victory for Henry.

The LP has not also fielded a candidate for Tarlac governor, a post currently held by NPC bet, Victor Yap.

Pacquiao's toughest fight is in the political ring

DALLAS – His latest victory over Joshua Clottey now in the books, Manny Pacquiao faces a much tougher fight in the political ring.

The 31-year-old Filipino, who dominated Clottey Saturday, is hoping to make the transition from boxer to politician when he begins campaigning next month for a congressional seat in the Philippine national election.

If elected on May 10, he would preside over a poverty-stricken province of Saranggani on the southern island of Mindanao.

Pacquiao is considered the greatest pound-for-pound boxer in the world but he has his work cut out for him in the political theatre. He ran for Congress in 2007 but failed to get elected.

"I am going to take a one week rest and go back to the Philippines and start campaigning for my political career," Pacquiao said Saturday after beating Clottey by a unanimous 12-round decision at Cowboys Stadium. "I want to help the people especially in my place."

Asked when he would fight again, Pacquiao said, "I don't know. I am going to decide that after the elections."

Pacquiao was so confident of beating Clottey that he scheduled a post-fight party across the street at the Texas Rangers ballpark where he planned to sing and entertain hundreds of guests.

Wearing dark glasses to hide the swelling around his eyes from absorbing hundreds of punches over 12 rounds, Pacquiao told reporters at a post-fight news conference that he plans to open the show with his own version of the Mexican folk song La Bamba.

Pacquiao's win over Clottey, combined with a Mayweather defeat of Shane Mosley on May 1 would set the stage for negotiations to resume for a Pacquiao-Mayweather mega bout.
A Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is one of the most anticipated ever and could be the biggest payday in boxing history with conservative estimates of $35 million for each fighter.

Talks for the fight fell through when Mayweather insisted on Olympic style drug testing, which Pacquiao refused to accept.

The Texas group that regulated Saturday's first ever boxing card at Cowboys Stadium said there would be no steroid testing before or after the Clottey fight.

Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum said Saturday that Mayweather should leave the question of drug testing up to the state commission where the fight is being held.

"Drug testing is not for a fighter to use in negotiating," Arum said. "We believe Mayweather raised that issue to duck fighting Manny Pacquiao and if we are wrong then let him sign a regular contract."

Red Cross sends generator sets to Mindanao to protect blood banks

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has been buying generator sets to send to its chapters in Mindanao whose operations, including the blood banks, are threatened by the rotating power outages.

Mindanao freed from blackouts during Pacquiao fight

For a few hours, Mindanao was freed from the threat of power blackouts as the National Power Corporation (Napocor) ensured there was no electricity outage during the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight on Sunday.

Abu Sayyaf camp is used for training on bomb-making

Government forces revealed that the Abu Sayyaf are having some sort of "terrorist academy" as they revealed that the lair they raided last March 11 in Sumisip is a training ground for making bombs.

Miner killed, 2 brothers abducted by suspected NPA men

A miner was killed Friday night and two of his brothers are believed to have been abducted by suspected New People's Army rebels in Maco town in Compostela Valley province.

Cop killed, another wounded by armed group in Maguindanao

by By Halima Satol, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao
MANILA, Philippines - A policeman was killed while another was wounded after a police unit encountered an unidentified armed group in Sahirff Aguak, capital town of Maguindanao province.

Journalist murdered in southern Philippines: police

(UPDATE) A journalist was bludgeoned to death at a radio station in the southern Philippines, the latest fatality in a spate of media killings, police said Sunday.

Broadcaster and columnist for "Sapol" Chito Abuzo was beaten to death with a five-kilo concrete in the southern city of General Santos late Saturday, in the compound of DXGS radio station, said city police chief Senior Superintendent Marcelo Pintac.

Although Abuzo was known as a critic of local politicians, police said the killing was likely motivated by a personal grudge, adding that they were hunting for a suspect.

"There's no other suspect because he was the only person inside the dxGS compound when the killing took place," Pintac bared.

Pintac said the victim was just visiting a friend in the radio station when he was attacked.

Abuzo's remains were brought to Villa Funeral Home for autopsy.

John Paul Jubelag, publisher of Sapol, urged the police to conduct an in-depth probe to determine the real motive behind the killing.

"The police must look at several angles before coming up with a conclusion. We want this case to be resolved immediately, but the police must ensure that it has a strong case against the suspect before filing a formal complaint with the court," Jubelag said.

Jubelag said he received several pieces of information on the motive of the killing, and would not want to make any conclusions at this point.

Abuzo is the 138th media worker killed in the Philippines since 1986, the year the country regained its freedom and democracy from the dictatorial Marcos regime.

The Philippines is regarded as one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists, partly due to a culture of impunity that allows those in power to commit crimes with little risk of punishment.

Thirty journalists were among 57 people murdered elsewhere in the southern Philippines in November last year in an attack blamed on a local political rivalry. A local Muslim politician is on trial for the murders and many of his relatives and cohorts have also been charged.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said 32 journalists were killed in the Philippines in 2009, making it the world's deadliest country for journalists last year.

SC justice sues online news editor for libel

(UPDATE) A member of the Supreme Court has sued the editor of an online news agency for libel for an article alleging that the magistrate was involved in partisan politics.

Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco filed his complaint Friday before the Manila City Prosecutors' Office against Newsbreak editor Marites Danguilan Vitug.

Velasco, who was Supreme Court court administrator before he was appointed to the highest court of the land, accused Vitug of besmirching his and his family's reputation in her Newsbreak article, "SC Justice in Partisan Politics" that was posted on the website of for 13 days starting December 3, 2009.

He asked for P1 million in moral and exemplary damages.

In her article, Velasco allegedly agreed with the majority of the Supreme Court justices in allowing appointive officials to stay in their posts even after the filing of their candidacy to benefit his son Allan. Such decision, however, was reversed by the Supreme Court early this year and the reversal had become final and executory.

He said his son immediately resigned as provincial administrator when he filed his certificate of candidacy on Dec. 1, 2009.

The article also stated that Velasco allegedly invited one Marife Pastrana to attend a political meeting at his wife's house in Marinduque. He also alleged offered Pastrana a councillorship slot in alliance with his son.

Velasco said he has not invited Ms. Pastrana in any meeting.

"I make it a point not to involve myself in any activity which may be perceived, even remotely, as a political to promote the candidacy of my son, relative or friend…Per my recollection of my brief encounter with Ms. Pastrana, I just inquired, out of curiosity, if she is running for councilor, noting that she is a newly elected barangay captain," Velasco said adding that he never made any offer to shoulder her campaign expenses.

Vitug "portrayed me as an unethical person without delicadeza who has wantonly violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and existing laws."

"(Such) malicious imputations were plainly directed against me and had caused me, my wife and children especially (Marinduque congressional candidate) Allan irreparable dishonor, discredit and contempt," he said.

He said Vitug wrongly portrayed him as having actively involved himself in his son's election bid against former Marinduque congressman Edmundo Reyes Jr., including having promised to shoulder the campaign expenses of at least two local officials if they ran under his son's ticket.

"This a lie, an absolute falsehood... I have inhibited myself from soliciting, directly or indirectly, support for Allan's candidacy, aware as I am that such solicitation constitutes a prohibited partisan political activity," said Velasco.

Velasco claimed that when he granted Vitug an interview on Dec. 22, 2009, she did not ask his side about the allegations made against him by the two local officials.

"Ms Vitug's deportment is highly unethical and improper as, with ill-designs she tried to obtain information from me and yet did not give me the sporting opportunity to refute or explain the allegations which became the subject of her Dec. 3, 2009 article," he said.

He went on to accuse Vitug of working with his son's political rival, former congressman Reyes to malign him.

"It is established jurisprudence that the enjoyment of a private reputation is as much a constitutional right as the possession of life, liberty or property... The law recognizes the value of such reputation and imposes upon him who attacks it by slanderous words or libelous publication, the liability to make a full compensation for the damages done," Velasco said.

Arroyo orders response to US rights allegations

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has ordered her military and national police to respond to a US State Department report alleging that they committed human rights abuses.

AFP, PNP get April 1 deadline to explain alleged abuses

Malacañang has given the military and police until April 1 to submit a report airing their side on their alleged human rights violations in 2009, as detailed in a United States" State Department report.

Palace to JBC: Submit list of nominees for next chief justice

Malacañang on Sunday urged the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to submit to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo its list of nominees for the next chief justice so that an appointment could be made soon.

DFA"s regional offices to issue ePassports starting March 15

Starting Monday, March 15, the Department of Foreign Affairs will issue ePassports in 10 of its 18 regional consular offices (RCO).
The ePassport will be made available to the public in the department's RCOs in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Tacloban, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, San Fernando in Pampanga, San Fernando in La Union, Lucena, and Tuguegarao.

The remaining eight RCOs and all Philippine embassies and consulates-general will be issuing ePassports later this year, the DFA added in a statement posted on its Web site.

The ePassport has such features as an integrated circuit chip storing the passport holder's photograph and personal information; an Automated Fingerprint Identification System to guard against identity theft and fraud; security features like invisible personal information, letter-screen, micro-printing, and UV reactive ink; and an enhanced Machine Readable Passport using biometric technology.

The DFA likewise reminded applicants they are no longer required to bring photographs as their pictures will be taken using ePassport data-capturing machines.

"Filipinos who reside in the provinces need not come to Manila to get a passport. They only have to go to the DFA regional office nearest to them and avail of the same services," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo said.

PDI remains top English daily in RP -- Synovate

The Philippine Daily Inquirer remains the No. 1 English newspaper in the country, with an average daily readership of 564,000 on weekdays in 45 cities and towns, according to a global market research company.

Thai PM: No plans to crack down on Thaksin supporters

BANGKOK – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday that he had no intention of using force against the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters rallying in Bangkok.

Thousands of protesters swarm Thai capital, seek elections

by by Ambika Ahuja, Reuters
(Reuters) - Tens of thousands of protesters converged in Bangkok on Sunday and gave Thailand's military-backed government an ultimatum: call elections within 24 hours or face crippling mass demonstrations across the capital.

Bangladesh slaughters 117,000 birds over avian flu

DHAKA – At least 117,000 chickens were destroyed in northern Bangladesh Sunday after avian flu outbreak on one of the country's largest poultry farms, a local official said.

Malaysia detains 93 Myanmar boat people

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian maritime authorities said Sunday they had picked up 93 members of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority, who had drifted aboard a boat for 30 days after fleeing their country.

Powerful quake hits Indonesia—seismologists

(UPDATE) A powerful quake with a magnitude of 7.0 hit off the eastern Indonesian island of Maluku on Sunday, seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was issued.

Strong 6.6 magnitude quake hits northern Japan

TOKYO – A strong, 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit northern Japan Sunday afternoon, said the Japanese government, which did not issue a tsunami warning.

Central African government says coup plot foiled

LIBREVILLE, Gabon—The Central African Republic's government said Saturday it had foiled a plan to launch a coup d'etat next week, with intelligence implicating former president Ange Felix Patasse who strongly denied any involvement.

Floyd needs to get past Mosley first--Pacquiao

ARLINGTON, Texas—Mission accomplished, Manny Pacquiao is now calling out on Floyd Mayweather Jr. to do his part against Shane Mosley so that their aborted megabuck showdown would push through.

Pacquiao came out firing on all cylinders to trounce Joshua Clottey by unanimous decision Saturday night and keep his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown before a packed Cowboys Stadium here.

But then again, Mayweather has to get past fellow American Mosley first on their battle for the World Boxing Association welterweight crown on May 1.

"I want that fight," said Pacquiao, to the roar of the 50, 944 crowds that trooped to the $1.2 billion facility. "The people want that fight."

It was the third biggest attendance in modern day boxing, surpassed only by the 72, 000 that watched Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks at the Superdome and the 60, 000 that witnessed the Julio Cesar Chavez-Pernell Whitaker tiff at the Alamodome in San Antonio, texas.

Pacquiao, named Fighter of the Decade, added it was up to Mayweather to accept the challenge that would settle the score on who's the greatest fighter of this generation. The seven-time, seven-division champion Pacquiao or the unbeaten Mayweather from whom Pacquiao took over the pound-for-pound king label.

"Its up to him (Mayweather)," said Pacquiao. "to us there's no problem. We're ready to fight anytime. Maybe he's not ready to fight yet. Maybe some other time."

Pacquiao, however, hinted that he would not wait forever as there are other opponents being lined up by his promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank like former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito. There's also Mosley, who has been dying for a shot at Pacquiao.

"He should win against Mosley. If not, Mosley and I will fight," said Pacquiao.

Later, during the post-fight press conference, Pacquiao reiterated his desire to tangle with Mayweather, who was supposed to be his opponent Saturday but was substituted by Clottey when negotiations fell apart due to Mayweather's demand for random drug testing.

Wearing dark sunglasses to cover a lump on his right cheek, said he doesn't think Mayweather (40-0) is impregnable.

"I think he's style is not difficult. It's not difficult to study." said Pacquiao, who analyzes an opponent's style with chief trainer Freddie Roach.

If Pacquiao-Mayweather pushes through, it is projected to be the biggest ever in the history of the sport, with both fighters assured of a payday of $30 million upwards.

Speed decided outcome—Clottey

Manny Pacquiao's speed was the single factor that spelled defeat for Joshua Clottey Saturday night (Sunday in Manila) at the Cowboys Stadium here.

"He's very, very fast, "explained Clottey during the post-fight press conference. "I tried to catch him, but he always manages to move out. He's the best pound for pound fighter in the world"

Unlike his previous three losses to Carlos Baldomir, Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto, which he deemed disputable, Clottey admitted that Pacquiao did beat him.

"I lost a fight for the first time," said the 32-year-old Clottey. "I'm ready to face all the big names in the (welterweight) division..

"I'm ready to move on. I'll be back," said Clottey, who admitted that he had to reduce a lot going into the final week to make the weight.

Clottey, however, insisted that he never felt Pacquiao's power and that he only leaned on the ropes sometimes to relax.

"He never hurt me He's fast that's why I'm taking all his punches."

According to Clottey, he did his best but fell short due to Pacquiao's ability to slip out when he tried to cut corners.

If given another crack at Pacquiao by Bob Arum, who promotes him and Pacquiao, Clottey said he'd take it.

"Yes, of course. I'm from a faraway place. It's been a long journey. I will fight anybody."

For now, however, Pacquiao has got all his respect.

Pacquiao throws 1,231 punches

ARLINGTON, Texas—Boxing pundits were right after all. Manny Pacquiao will overwhelm Joshua Clottey with the sheer volume of punches.

Pacquiao, his fists working like pistons, unleashed a staggering 1,231 punches to retain his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown by unanimous decision at the Cowboys Stadium here.

The game Ghanaian was clearly outgunned as he managed to throw 399, less than one- third of what the Filipino icon rained down on him.

Affirming his superb condition, Pacquiao kept Clottey at bay with 549 jabs, connecting on only 14, however, for a miserable conversion rate of three percent. In contrast, Clottey jabbed 162 times and landed 26 for 16 percent.

In power punches thrown, Pacquiao also pulled away with 682 against Clottey's 237. Again, Clottey turned out to be more accurate with 82 connections or 35 pwercent, nippng Pacquiao, who landed 232 for 14 percent.

Against David Diaz, from whom he wrested the World Boxing Council lightweight title in 2008 by stoppage in the night round, Pacquiao unloaded 788 punches and connected on 230 for a 29 percent accuracy.

Against Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, from whom he wrested the WBO title, Pacquiao threw 780 punches and connected on 336 for a lofty 43 percent accuracy.

In his two-round demolition of Hatton last May, Pacquiao sent home 73 of 127 shots for an amazing 57 percent conversion arte.

Pacquiao was also impressive in his eighth round stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6 as he landed 274 of 575 punches.

Pacquiao first southpaw to beat Clottey

Lenny DeJesus, a 64-year-old multi-skilled ring craftsman, always says things as he sees it.

He was disappointed that his ward Ghanaian Joshua Clottey, was readily beaten by the smaller, lighter Manny Pacquiao on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

"Joshua had the power to knock him out, but he was reluctant to punch," said DeJesus during the post-fight press conference. "He clearly got beaten."

Fact is, DeJesus, who has worked with Pacquiao's corner from 2003 to 2005, believes the three judges were thoroughly fair handing Pacquiao a unanimous decision verdict.

"I think we lost all rounds," said DeJesus, who served as Pacquiao's cutman against Emmanuel Lucero, Marco Antonio Barrera, Fahsan 3K Battery and Erik Morales.

The first four matches ended up in victories, but Morales thwarted a bloodied Pacquiao on March 19, 2005.

Though Pacquiao was mainly a left-fisted knockout artist then, DeJesus, who had also worked as stool boy, bucket boy and trainer, already knew that he was a "special fighter, a throwback from the old days when fighters were true fighters."

Before he was named as Clottey's head trainer, DeJesus was even quoted in some reports as saying that "the only guy who can beat Pacquiao is Pacquiao himself."

Well, DeJesus' words turned out to be prophetic.

Pacquiao dominated Clottey from the opening bell and many of Clottey's connections occurred when Pacquiao tried to prove to the Ghanaian that he can also take punches from a big, legitimate welterweight.

DeJesus was even cautious in his pre-fight predictions, saying that they only have 75 percent chances to win.

As I turned out, it was virtually nil.

After title defense, Pacquiao parties

After what he had gone through in his 12 round showdown with Joshua Clottey Saturday (Sunday in Manila), ordinary mortals would think that Manny Pacquiao would be dead tired.

But Pacquiao is no ordinary guy. Not only is he the only boxer to win seven crowns in as many divisions, he is also regarded as pound-for-pound king and Fighter of the Decade.

No wonder, Pacquiao, wearing dark shades to hide a swelling on his right cheek, can afford to smile as he answers questions from the sports media who had gathered in the $1.2-billion Cowboys Stadium to chronicle The Event that surpassed expectations with an impressive crowd of 50,944.

Pacquiao even invited them to join his post-fight party which will be held at the nearby Texas Rangers Ball Park later in the night.

Asked what he'd sing, Pacquiao gamely answered "La Bamba".

Pacquiao also invited them to join him and his MP band in another concert to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, next weekend.

Promoter Bob Arum of Top rank couldn't help but feel proud of the successful co-promotion with Texas billionaire and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

"It (the Event) is one of the grandest spectacles in the history of boxing," said Roach. "I've been in boxing for 45 years and I've never seen anything like this.

"The lighting, the music, the entrances is really very, very special," said Roach, who also lauded the fighters, particularly Pacquiao, for providing a great show to the people of North Texas.

Jones was particularly impressed with Pacquiao, whom he referred to as someone special. Jones then praised Pacquiao for his heart, will and skill that has brought him successes at the highest levels.

Soto beats Diaz to win lightweight title

DALLAS – World super featherweight champion Humberto Soto defeated David Diaz by unanimous decision to capture the vacant World Boxing Council lightweight title on Saturday at Cowboys Stadium.

Filipino pug stops foe in 'Pacman-Clottey' undercard

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino fighter Eden Sonsona defeated his Colombian foe in the undercard of "The Event," which features Joshua Clottey and 7-division world champion Manny Pacquiao in the main event.

Arnel Pineda's version of RP anthem criticized

(Updated 9:20 p.m.) The National Historical Institute said Sunday it is filing a complaint against Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda for changing the tone and tempo of the Philippine national anthem when he sang it before the Pacquiao-Clottey bout in Texas.

Pineda sang the anthem "Lupang Hinirang" (Beloved Land) during Pacquiao's successful bout against Joshua Clottey of Ghana on Saturday (Sunday in Manila), his powerful, high-pitched voice filling the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

But Teddy Atienza, chief of the Heraldry Section of the NHI, was not pleased. They would file a complaint against Pineda before the Department of Justice for his "wrong" version of the national anthem.

The NHI is the government body tasked to ensure respect for the national anthem, Philippine flag and other national symbols.

Under Section 37 of Republic Act 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code, the national anthem must be sung in accordance with the original musical arrangement of composer Julian Felipe, who gave it a marching tempo. Violators may be fined P5,000 to P20,000 or jailed for a year.

Pineda, for his part, defended his version, saying he sang it with all his heart. He said he would ask his lawyer to deal with the complaint once it is filed. 

Pineda, who rose to fame in 2007 when members of the US-based band discovered him on YouTube, belted out before a crowd of almost 51,000 boxing fans his somewhat slow rendition of "Lupang Hinirang".

The singer, wearing a brown long-sleeved polo with native prints, started well in the song but faltered when he tried to raise the pitch — a practice frowned upon by the National Historical Institute — of the final part of the anthem. The crowed cheered nonetheless.

Cheers and jeers

"What happened to your voice and to the anthem?" asked a fan of the singer on his Facebook fan page.

"Ba't iniba mo 'yung [last notes] ng anthem (Why did you change the last notes of the anthem)?" asked another. "Parang malalagutan na ng hininga (You sounded like you were running out of breath)," still another said.

Some, however, praised Pineda for a job well done.

"Good job Arnel! Your patriotic rendition of ["Lupang Hinirang"] was awesome. You made me so proud to be Pinay," a fan said. "I love you Arnel Pineda. Beautiful anthem, beautiful voice," another said.

The institute has criticized a number of Filipino singers who had sung the Philippine national anthem in recent fights of Pacquiao for supposedly creating their own interpretation of the song.

Crooner Martin Nievera's rendition of "Lupang Hinirang" in Pacquiao's fight against British Ricky Hatton in May 2009 caused an uproar for its deviation from the prescribed musical arrangement.

Aside from Nievera, pop girl group "La Diva" also received a failing grade from the National Historical Institute for its version of the anthem during Pacquiao's match with Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto in November 2009.

"I'm sure you guys will be proud," Pineda told GMA News' Lala Roque before his fight with Clottey.

Other singers

The NHI earlier noted that if properly sung with a two-fourths beat and 100 metronomes, the national anthem, should last 53 seconds. Pineda's version was 89 seconds long.

Among the singers reprimanded by the NHI for deviating from the song's original form were Charice Pempengco, Jennifer Bautista and Christian Bautista. The latter is remembered for leaving out several lines of the anthem during a boxing match of Gerry Peñalosa in Muntinlupa in 2007.

All three singers have apologized, claiming they had not intended to change some notes.

Singers like Sarah Geronimo, Lani Misalucha and Kyla, who had sung the anthem at a Pacquiao match for over one minute, have also been criticized by the NHI for turning the national anthem into a ballad.

ABS-CBN stars run for clean elections

Para sa ating Kapamilya stars, hindi lang sila para sa glamorosong mundo ng showbiz! Kanina nakiisa sa maraming kabataan ang hottest stars ng ABS-CBN para maisulong ang pagbabago sa masayang "Star Magic Run" para sa malinis na halalan!

Troy Montero shocked by Geneva-KC split

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Katrina still determined to send Hayden Kho Jr. to jail

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"Alice" extends her No. 1 stay with $62 million

LOS ANGELES - Alice is still ruling the movie palace. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" easily remained the No. 1 weekend draw with $62 million.

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