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

Monday, March 15, 2010

March 16, 2010 Major News Stories

Hundreds lose homes in blaze

Over a thousand families are believed to have lost their homes in sitio Aroma, barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City in the biggest fire to hit Cebu ironically this "Fire Prevention Month."

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Three people were also injured in the blaze that razed almost the sitio.

Figures on the number of victims are still being verified by authorities from the City Social Welfare Department, but Subangdaku barangay captain Walter Dy said that in the most recent census, there were 1,200 houses listed with almost 2,000 families living in the lot owned by the Tanchan family.

This is the third time that the place has been hit by fire the past 14 years.It was first hit in 1996 and again in 2003.

The Mandaue City Fire Department received the call at 2:15 p.m. and the fire was put under control in 20 minutes.

Fire Marshall Rogelio Bongabong said that the fire quickly spread throughout the whole sitio as most houses were made of light materials.

 Bongabong said that two of those injured were identified as Fe Nabua and Ramon Formentera, who were hurt by broken glass while trying to salvage their belongings.

A third person was also brought to the Mandaue City Hospital for minor burns.

 Bongabong also said that only few were able to save for their belongings as most were renters, who are working in the nearby establishments at the Reclamation Area.

 He said that the cause of the fire is still to be investigated, but they have reports coming from some of the victims that the fire originated in the house of a certain Daisy Padronia, who left her cooking as she was selling water to her neighbors.

 Padronia vehemently denied having left her cooking saying that she was not anymore doing anything in the kitchen as it was already way past lunchtime.

 Bongabong said that they will also look into the possibility of an electrical fault.

 As of 6 p.m., barangay captainDy said that he saw about 15 houses still standing, but these were also partially damaged.

 He said that Mayor Jonas Cortes immediately sent tents in the area to serve as temporary shelter for the victims, who would not leave the place for fear that its owner would fence the lot and not allow them to rebuild their homes.

 Dy said that when the a fire hit the place in 2003, the Tanchan family informed the barangay of their intention to use the one-hectare lot.

 Both Cortes and Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna immediately arrived at the fire scene.

 Cortes immediately convened the City Disaster Coordinating Council yesterday and ordered for the declaration of sitio Aroma as a calamity area.

This is the first fire to hit Mandaue City this March, which has been declared as the "Fire Prevention Month."

3 northern towns worst hit by El Niño

Three municipalities of northern Cebu, two of these from Bantayan Island, were affected by the El Niño phenomenon, officials of the Department of Agriculture-7 said.

Tomasita Cadungog, chief for operations of the DA-7, told members of the PB that based on an ocular inspection of their personnel at the field, they noted that corns planted by the residents of Bantayan and Madridejos in Bantayan Island and in the municipality of Daanbantayan (in the mainland) were affected by the El Niño.

According to Cadungog, their personnel are now providing assistance to the affected farmers in coordination with the municipal agriculture office of the three towns.

Cadungog said that aside from the three towns, they are also closely monitoring the neighboring municipalities.

January remittances up 8.5% at $1.4-B

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos working overseas sent home US$1.4 billion in January, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported on Monday.

Japan may ease visa rules for foreign nurses, dentists

TOKYO - Japan may lift work visa restrictions for foreign nurses and dentists, to help care for its fast-ageing and shrinking population, the government said Monday.

The immigration bureau is considering a plan to abolish visa limits for hundreds of nurses from the Philippines and Indonesia that currently restrict them to working in Japan for only seven years.

Japan may also lift a six-year work limit for foreign dentists after it already did so for overseas medical doctors in 2006, to ease a shortage, said the official.

Japan's population fell by about 75,000 in 2009, the biggest drop since World War II, while the country had a record 28.98 million people aged 65 or over last year, according to latest government data.

OWWA to fulfill aid vows for repatriated OFWs

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will fulfill its promises after beleaguered and repatriated workers from Saudi Arabia renewed their protests. The agency is rushing the financial, medical and transportation assistance it promised to over 60 workers, who were repatriated early this year after refusing to work due to the company"s alleged unfair labor practices.

Anti-poverty body tags 1-M poorest households

by By Jennifer Ng, Business Mirror
 MANILA, Philipines - The government has now identified the country's poorest 1 million households which will get monthly cash grants, free health care and other basic services, the National Antipoverty Commission (NAPC) said. 

The next step is to ensure proper coordination among national agencies and their regional offices, as these 1 million families are scattered across 664 municipalities and 58 cities in 80 provinces.

The 4Ps provides P500 per month per household for health and nutrition expenses, and P3,000 for one school year or P300 per month per child for educational expenses, for a maximum of three children per family.

As such, a qualified family with three children would receive a subsidy of P1,400 a month during the school year, or P15,000 a year, as long as they comply with the conditions.

These conditions include the attendance of children aged 3 to 5 years in day-care programs and students aged 6 to 14 in at least 85% of school days; pregnant women must avail themselves of pre- and postnatal care and be attended during childbirth by a trained health professional; parents must attend responsible parenthood sessions, mothers' classes and parent- effectiveness seminars.

Bets barred from politicking during grad rites

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Education on Monday said local and national candidates who are invited to speak during commencement rites of various school and universities are barred from using these events to promote their candidacies.

4 Philhealth execs in trouble for reshuffle during Comelec ban

The president and chief operating officer of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) and three other top executives of the state-run firm are in big trouble.

If the Comelec en banc affirmed its decision, the following Philhealth officials could face jail terms of one to six years and disqualification from public office: Jesus Reynaldo "Rey" Aquino, president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO); Melinda Mercado, executive vice president; Tito Mendiola, senior vice president for operations sector; and Ruben John Basa, group vice president for corporate affairs.

Ambassador Davide quits post to campaign for son

Ambassador Hilario Davide, Jr. resigned as the Philippines permanent representative to the United Nations effective next month to support the candidacy of his son, Hilario 'Jun-jun' III, who is running against re-electionist Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

The younger Davide said his father submitted his resignation to then executive secretary Eduardo Ermita.

He said the resignation was already accepted and will take effect on April 1. Hilario III said his father is coming to start campaigning for him after the Holy Week.

"He is coming home to campaign after Easter Sunday."

According to him, he is thankful that his father has given up his position to support his candidacy.

 While his father could have just taken a leave of absence for the election period, but out of delicadeza he opted to resign.

"This is a father's way of supporting his son," he added.

He expressed disgust over a blind item which came out in another paper insinuating that a juicy position is waiting for his father.

He assured that his father will not be given a role in the provincial government, not even as consultant.

 Unlike his rival, Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, who hired her father before his election as second district congressman and two of her siblings as consultants, Hilario III said he will not hire any family member as his consultant.

Davide, Jr. was appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as permanent ambassador to the UN in February 2007 after serving as Senior Presidential Adviser on Electoral Reform following his retirement as Supreme Court Chief Justice in 2005.

BALILI LOT ISSUE: Davide: There was an attempt to cover up

The members of the provincial board are scheduled to release on Monday the results of their investigation into the controversial Balili land deal, but gubernatorial aspirant Hilario "Jun-Jun" Davide III believes that there was an attempt to cover up.

Davide said that Governor Gwendolyn Garcia also could not escape from the suspicions that she is involved in the alleged anomalous transaction, because she is the local chief executive.

"I suppose there is," Davide said when asked if he personally believes that Garcia's administration tried to cover up the questionable purchase of the almost 25 hectares Balili property in Naga City which was found to be 80 percent underwater and planted with mangroves.

According to Davide, Garcia's apology for the Balili controversy is not enough especially that she is insisting to retain the property despite the results of the survey jointly conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources showing that only four hectares of the 24.7 hectares is dry land.

The P98.7 million paid by the province should be recovered by rescinding the contract. He promised that, if elected governor, this will be among his priorities.

Davide said he will review all the contracts entered into by the provincial government and file the necessary charges should he find any irregularity.

He promised to resuscitate the land swapping agreement with the city government and hold the efforts of recovering the provincial lots situated in the city that has displaced other government agencies and residents occupying it.

Davide said he will also stop the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo as a way of promoting tourism saying it is just a waste of money.

He said promoting tourism should be based on the needs of every municipality.

"Let the towns propose unsay angayan nila," Davide said.

 Davide's full-interview will be published within the week. Garcia on the other hand is scheduled to take the "hot seat" on Wednesday evening.


The draft of the investigation report on the controversial Balili lot transaction will be released next week during the regular session of the Provincial Board.

PB Member Joven Mondigo Jr. made the assurance to reporters when asked after the regular session of the board yesterday afternoon.

Mondigo admitted that only PB Member Juan Bolo submitted his reports to his committee as agreed by the members of the board.

According to Mondigo, it was agreed by the members of the board that each of them will submit their own report and recommendation.

Mondigo said he was tasked to incorporate their comments and recommendations to his own reports.

"Karong umaabot nga Lunes ako gayud nga ipagawas ang akong draft sa report," said Mondigo.

Mondigo reiterated that it's not the intention of his committee to delay the release of the committee report.

He said that he is waiting the submission of other members of their observation and recommendations, as agreed.The committee of Mondigo and PB Member Alfred Francis Ouano has been tasked to lead the investigation.

The Office of the Ombudsman Visayas which is also conducting a fact-finding investigation into the alleged anomalous transaction has already been asking the result of the PB investigation.

Assistant Ombudsman Virginia Palanca-Santiago said they need a copy of the PB investigation result for comparison.

Like the PB and the review committee created by Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to look into the controversy, the anti-graft body has not also come up with its own findings.

CHR says Joavan can be sent to rehabilitation

The Commission on Human Rights said that submitting Joavan Fernandez to mandatory drug rehabilitation does not violate his constitutional rights.

Comelec: Flying voters may still be out there

Election officer Edwin Cadungog admitted the possibility that there will still be flying voters in Cebu City following the Commission on Elections' admission that its Information and Technology Department found over 700,000 voters with double or multiple registration records.

17M ballots printed for May polls—Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Monday that about 17 million ballots have already been printed for the country's first ever automated elections in May.

Poll watchdog files complaint vs 6 'bogus' part-list groups

An election watchdog group on Monday began its formal battle against purportedly bogus party-list groups by filing a complaint before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against six groups it said were government fronts and were actually headed by administration figures.

Kontra Daya tagged Batang Iwas Droga (Bida), Adhikain ng mga Dakilang Anak ng Maharlika (Adam), Agbiag Timpuyog Ilocano (Agbiag), Babae para sa Kaunlaran (Babae Ka), League of Youth for Peace and Development (Lypad), and Kalahi Advocates for Overseas Filipinos (Kalahi) as government-sponsored groups.

Comelec on admin-backed groups: But they passed screening

by By Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak
MANILA, Philippines--The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday defended its accreditation of groups allegedly backed by the administration to participate in this year's party-list elections.

Comelec douses concerns over security of PCOS delivery

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday expressed confidence that the forwarding firms hired by supplier Smartmatic will be able to deliver the poll counting machines to the right precincts and in good condition.

Comelec: Fake gun ban exemptions being sold

MANILA, Philippines--The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said it discovered that certificates of exemption from the gun ban are being sold by unscrupulous individuals.

Aquino to create group to run after Arroyo 'crimes'

If elected President, Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III would set up a commission in his first 100 days in office to go after the alleged crimes of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Aquino: 'We could have earned P3B if Luisita was sold'

Stung by criticisms about Hacienda Luisita, Liberal Party standard-bearer Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday said his family could have earned P3 billion from selling the large sugar plantation.

Aquino on Danding Cojuangco: `We're no longer enemies'

Some may have accused his uncle of being behind his father's murder, but Liberal Party standard-bearer Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has said he no longer considers his uncle, businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr. as an enemy.

Villar camp dispels 'fake Havaianas' rumor

MANILA, Philippines - Another rumor has been hurled at Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Manuel "Manny" Villar and his camp -- that they allegedly handed out fake Havaianas flip-flops to a group of tabloid reporters.

An email with the subject "Villar gives fake Havaianas to tabloid reporters" was sent to several e-groups and was forwarded to on Monday. It claimed that Avic Amarillo, Villar's media handler, bought the fake flip-flops from Divisoria for tabloid reporters assigned to cover the NP standard bearer.

Bangit vows to improve health care for soldiers

Newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Delfin Bangit started his first official work outside the general headquarters with a centerpiece program of better health services for men on the ground.

Re-training key to ending rights abuses by police, military—CHR

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Leila de Lima said the US State Department's human rights report on the Philippines should remind the police and the military of the importance of properly training their personnel to respect the human rights of people in their custody.

PNP defends human rights record

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and all its units have been complying with existing laws and state policies on the protection of human rights, its spokesman said Monday.

Lacson last tracked in Rome—DoJ official

Fugitive Sen. Panfilo Lacson was last known to have been in Rome in Italy before he went under the tracking radar of international law enforcers.

Nothing libelous in story about SC justice—journalist

 MANILA, Philippines – Book author and veteran journalist Marites Vitug stood by her story on a Supreme Court justice who has a son running for public office despite a libel case filed against her.

Former budget secretary Boncodin dies at 55

(UPDATE) Former budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin died Monday due to cardiac arrest, an official from the National Kidney and Transplant Institute said.

Blast rocks cars outside Makati business hotel

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - A grenade blast rocked parked cars outside the Tower Inn business hotel along Arnaiz Avenue (formerly Pasay Rd.) in Makati City early Monday morning.

Military belittles new Abu Sayyaf leader

The military on Monday belittled Khair Mundus as the new leader of the Abu Sayyaf faction in Basilan province.

Australia donates high-tech illustration equipment to the PNP

Australia donated three pieces of composite illustration equipment to the Philippine National Police (PNP), allowing local law enforcement to produce faster, more accurate images of crime suspects.

Caticlan airport closed after plane conks out on runway

(UPDATE) The Caticlan airport was closed again after a 19-seater Seair passenger plane got stuck on the runway when one of its tires burst upon landing on Monday, airport authorities said.

WTO puts off Thailand-Philippines cigarette tax row verdict

MANILA, Philippines - The World Trade Organization pushed back its verdict on the cigarette tax row between the Thailand and the Philippines.

Calvin Klein owner buys Tommy Hilfiger brand—statement

LONDON—The company behind Calvin Klein has bought fellow US fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger for $3 billion (2.2 billion euros), Hilfiger's current owner said in a statement on Monday.

Thai PM rejects demonstrators' election ultimatum

BANGKOK—Thailand's prime minister rejected on Monday an ultimatum by tens of thousands of protesters who demanded immediate elections as they besieged a military base where his government was holed up.

Oil prices sag, as focus turns to OPEC

LONDON—World oil prices weakened on Monday as traders turned their attention towards this week's crucial output meeting of the OPEC oil cartel.

German Catholics fume at pope's 'silence'

BERLIN—German Catholic groups hit out on Monday at the pope's silence over a snowballing pedophilia priest scandal rocking his native country's Church.

Manny takes team, fans on 'Air Pacquiao' back to LA

by By Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News
LOS ANGELES - Three buses shuttled Team Pacquiao to the Dallas Airport for the flight back to Los Angeles on Sunday (in the US).

Ex champ Cotto open for rematch with Pacquiao

Former two-time champion Miguel Cotto is open for a rematch against Manny Pacquiao if ever Floyd Mayweather Jr. continues to avoid clashing with the reining holder of the pound-for-pound crown.

Pacquiao's $12-M to boost standing in Forbes' list

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines' "People's Champ" Manny Pacquiao's latest victory over Joshua Clottey of Ghana also means another windfall for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion. 
He ranked sixth, with estimated earnings of US$40 million, around P1.9 billion, from June 2008 to June 2009.
The Pacman earned more than tennis superstar Roger Federer and Cleveland Cavaliers (former Phoenix Suns) center Shaquille O'Neal, who earned US$33 million each in the same period.

Pacquiao victory gives South Cotabato man a fatal heart attack

A village councilor in South Cotabato died of a heart attack after watching boxing icon Manny Pacquiao win over Joshua Clottey in their bout on Sunday. Leopoldo Salcedo, 50, a councilor of San Jose village in Banga town in South Cotabato, suffered an attack while cheering for the Filipino boxing icon.

Justice head: 'Pineda's rendition may have violated national anthem law'

Journey vocalist Arnel Pineda may have violated the law with his stylized singing of the national anthem during the Pacquiao-Clottey fight last Saturday in Texas (Sunday in Manila), according to Justice Secretary Alberto Agra.

Judy Ann Santos on pregnancy: I'm happy, scared

by by Bernie Franco,
MANILA, Philippines – While she's thrilled to become a mommy soon, Judy Ann Santos has also admitted that a part of her is also scared.

Angel Locsin pulled out of 'Kokey@Ako'

by by Napoleon Quintos,
1 person liked this - leo lastimosa
MANILA, Philippines - ABS-CBN has confirmed that Angel Locsin would no longer be part of fantaserye "Kokey@Ako." Locsin was pulled out from the project to do another teleserye with John Lloyd Cruz.

China official arrested in sex diary scandal—report

BEIJING—China has sacked and arrested an official who became an online sensation after his alleged diary detailing sexual high jinks and bribery was splashed across the Internet, state media reported Monday.

Han Feng, 53, was removed from his post as a tobacco bureau division chief in the southwestern Guangxi region and placed under arrest for allegedly accepting bribes totaling $71,000 (482,000 yuan), the China Daily newspaper said.

He also accepted an apartment worth 300,000 yuan, reports said.

Han's case, dubbed "Diarygate" by the state-controlled media, first emerged earlier this month when the diaries were posted by a man who claimed Han had an affair with his wife, previous reports said.

They contain graphic accounts of sexual trysts with several young women, including government employees, and recount regular liquor-soaked banquets with other government officials and tobacco company directors.

Guangxi officials have been quoted as saying the diaries were genuine.

Han, who also was expelled from the Communist Party, was arrested on Saturday, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The ruling party has railed against corruption for years, seeking to counter anger from the masses over regular reports of graft and debauchery among officials.

But reports of official corruption continue to emerge, often exposed by web users in the absence of a truly independent, investigative press in a country where media is tightly controlled.

A housing official in the eastern city of Nanjing was recently jailed for 11 years after Internet users posted photos of him driving a Cadillac, smoking luxury cigarettes and wearing a $14,000 watch.

A chief prosecutor in the northern Inner Mongolia region resigned after web users accused her of driving a $115,000 sport utility vehicle.

Scientists reveal how snakes 'see' at night

Scientists revealed Sunday for the first time how some snakes can detect the faint body heat exuded by a mouse a meter (three feet) away with enough precision and speed to hunt in the dark.

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