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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 19, 2010 Major News Stories

No price cap on oil despite El Niño - Palace

There will be no price cap on oil products in areas severely affected by the El Niño dry spell, a Malacañang official said Thursday.

Alliance calls for IRRI's immediate closure

An alliance on Thursday called for the immediate shut down of the International Rice Research Institute for allegedly failing to help the country become self-sufficient in rice production even after 50 years of the institute's existence.

Cloud seeding program to continue despite limited success

The Philippines" cloud seeding program will continue to be implemented even though one-fifth of all attempts have been successful, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management said. The agency remains "duty-bound to implement the program as long as there are requests for cloud seeding," said Lilian Naga, the agency"s water division head.

Food prices to remain stable despite drought

Prices of prime commodities such as rice, chicken and fish would likely remain stable in the second quarter, with ample supply despite an El Niño-induced drought, the Agriculture department said on Thursday.

Prosecution wants another doctor to check on Ecleo

A private prosecutor in the parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo, Jr. is looking at the possibility of hiring the services of another independent cardiologist to check whether the health condition of the accused is indeed dangerous, as testified to by his doctor.

Murder case against Dumpit remains

Regional Trial Court Branch 6 judge Ester Veloso sustained her ruling to proceed with the murder case against SPO3 Adonis Dumpit.

Arroyo declares May 10 a special non-working holiday

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared May 10, 2010 - the date of the elections - as a special non-working holiday.

DepEd, IBP renew pact on legal aid for teachers

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Department of Education once again signed a Memorandum of Agreement that would enable IBP to provide legal assistance to public school teachers who will be facing legal suits in relation to their duties, especially during elections.

Poll officers reminded to remove posters that violate regulations

A Commission on Elections (Comelec) official on Thursday reminded its election officers (EO) to remove all election propaganda which violate regulations, if they do not wish to be reprimanded.

Comelec eyes 3 options to deal with combined ads

(Updated 11:16 p.m.) The Comelec on Thursday said that it is considering three options on how it can regulate political ads that promote more than one candidate in the May polls, since its rules have clear-cut limits only on the airtime of individual candidates and political parties.

Resolution 8758, which contains the rules and regulations implementing the Fair Election Practices Act, restricts a national candidate to only 120 minutes of broadcast ads on each local and cable television channel and 180 minutes on each radio station for the whole campaign period. A local candidate, on the other hand, will only be allowed 60 minutes of ads on television and 90 minutes on radio.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal admitted however that the poll body did not anticipate the proliferation of ads that promote the candidacy of more than one candidate.

"I believe the assumption [is] it's per candidate but now what's happening is several candidates appear in one ad," he said in an interview with reporters.

To resolve the ambiguity, Larrazabal said that the poll body is thinking of three options.

One option, he said, is to count the exact exposure time of a candidate in each combined advertisement. 

Another is to equally divide the total airtime incurred by the ad, while the third option is to charge to the political party all the airtime incurred by its candidates, Larrazabal explained.

The poll body official said that he will meet with other officials on Friday to discuss the matter further. But he added that if it were up to him, he would prefer to just divide the total time of the ads among all the candidates who appeared on it.

"For me, equal na lang, kung i-divide mo mas madali para sa lahat (If you ask me, we should just divide it so that it will be easier for all of us)," he said.

Larrazabal said that Comelec will first have to wait for the broadcast networks to report on the airtime bought by candidates. He noted, however, that the reports will be submitted only by June 30, when all the election winners shall have been proclaimed.

According to the group Pera't Pulitika (Money and Politics), presidential candidates Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. (Nacionalista Party), former President Joseph Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino) and Sen. Benigno Aquino III (Liberal Party) have used more than half of the 120 minutes allowed for television airtime. (See: Villar has most TV airtime so far - poll watchdog)

The period monitored was from February 9 to March 9.

In another study by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the campaign expenditures for TV, radio and print of just six of the ten presidential candidates have already amounted to more than P2 billion. (See: Over P2B worth of pol ads before campaign period)

This was from November 1, 2009 to January 1, 2010, or over three months before the campaign period officially started on February 9.

For the vice presidential race, campaign spending for TV, radio and print has likewise reached P561.5 million for just four candidates, or P294.4 million after discounts of as much as 47 percent. (See: It's a costly air war as VP bets splurge too on radio-TV ads)

The campaign period will run from February 9 to May 8 for national candidates and March 26 to May 8 for local candidates.

Despite this, Larrazabal said that those found to have violated the campaign rules will still be punished accordingly. Candidates should still follow the law even though no one has been punished yet for overspending on their campaign ads, he added.

Violation of the campaign rules may constitute an election offense, which is punishable by one to six years imprisonment, disenfranchisement, and disqualification from holding public office.

Opposers still have time to file motion vs SC ruling

Those opposing the Supreme Court's decision that allowed President Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice still have ample time to submit their motion for reconsideration, a court official said Thursday.

Monsod: No ambiguity in Charter on midnight appointments

MANILA, Philippines - One of the authors of the 1987 Constitution on Thursday said the Supreme Court erred in its decision granting President Arroyo the power to appoint the next Chief Justice despite the ban on midnight presidential appointments. 

Christian Monsod: SC under Arroyo is like a Marcos court

The Supreme Court under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo"s administration is reminiscent of a subservient high tribunal under the Marcos dictatorship.

JBC to resume nomination process for SC chief soon—Agra

Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said on Thursday the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) would soon resume the nomination process for the selection of the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Lakas-Kampi exec blames bad economy for low campaign funds

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno blamed the low campaign fund of the Lakas Kampi party to the country's bad economy.

Teodoro to 'clog airwaves' with poll ads soon—spokesman

With more than a month before the elections, administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro will be making himself more visible on television and heard on radio with a barrage campaign advertisements to start either this weekend or early next week, his spokesman said Thursday.

Army chief denies plot to extend Arroyo term

Lieutenant General Reynaldo Mapagu, newly-appointed commanding general of the Philippine Army, said there was no plan to extend President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term of office beyond June 2010, and denied there was such a thing as "Oplan August Moon."

Arroyo skips PNPA graduation; allies deny Palace cracks with police

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo skipped the graduation rites of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Thursday, the last one she could have graced as president before her term ends in June.

Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa, however, kept mum on speculation of souring relationship with the President.

"I don't want to answer speculative, hypothetical questions anymore," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Verzosa earlier said he would not support Lieutenant General Delfin Bangit, who was recently appointed as chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, if his actions would help ensure the extension of Arroyo's term.

OIC official calls for implementation of peace agreement in RP

A top official of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) has called for the full enforcement of a 14-year-long peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Army troops repel 60 armed men linked to politician in Lanao Norte

Army troops repelled on Thursday evening some 60 fully armed men that attacked a military unit here hours earlier.

Key Abu Sayyaf militant nabbed at Zamboanga port

The Philippine Army has arrested a member of the Abu Sayyaf group involved in the kidnapping of six members of the Jehovah's Witnesses about eight years ago, the military announced today.

The suspect, Burrong Rasul Barro, was arrested by the 300th Air Intelligence Security Group shortly after disembarking from a passenger ferry at the Zamboanga City pier in yesterday, said the Air Force spokesman Gerardo Zamudio. 

Zamudio said Barro, who was positively identified by a government witness, is suspected of being involved in the 2002 kidnapping of the six victims, two of whom were beheaded.  

The government has put up a reward of P350,000 for the neutralization of Barro, who is known to operate in the Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu area. He is listed No. 64 in the government's list of wanted Abu Sayyaf personalities.

"He is described by the army as a slippery criminal who has been eluding law enforcers by shuttling back and forth between Basilan, Zamboanga and Sulu," Zamudio said.

QC court throws out 'forum shopping' case vs CHR on 'Morong 43'

A Quezon City judge has thrown out a petition filed by a state prosecutor to stop the Commission on Human Rights from investigating the Armed Forces of the Philippines for allegedly violating the rights of 43 health workers arrested recently on charges of rebellion.

NPA resorting to landmines to show force - AFP

Communist rebels have been using more and more landmines through the years despite the international ban on such explosives, the military said on Thursday.

Cargo vessel lists off Guimaras

MANILA, Philippines -  A cargo vessel carrying 17 crew members and 2 passengers was stranded off Guimaras Island after listing dangerously to the side before midnight Thursday.

WHO: Not sure if drug-resistant TB is worsening

The World Health Organization says it doesn't have enough information to know if it is winning the fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis.

UN, Russia focus on restarting Mideast peace talks

Russia and the United Nations vowed Thursday to resuscitate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, whose prospects collapsed following Israel's announcement it would build new homes in east Jerusalem.

Crowded bus plunges into Nepal river, killing 24

A crowded bus veered off a mountain road and plunged into a river in western Nepal on Thursday, killing at least 24 people and leaving another nine missing, officials said.

Pacman to be a tough foe for loudmouth Floyd Jr

Joshua Clottey believes Floyd Mayweather Jr. will have his hands full if ever a long-awaited showdown with Manny Pacquiao materializes in the coming months or by next year.

Pacman taking long break from boxing

His last two fights may be lopsided but they exacted such a big toll on Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao that he's taking a long break from boxing.

Pacquiao brod, other RP boxers slated for overseas fights

MANILA, Philippines – The brother of 7-division champ Manny Pacquiao and several other Filipino boxing contenders will figure in overseas bouts in the coming months.

Bobby "The Sniper" Pacquiao is making a comeback since taking a 2-year hiatus from the sport. He will face a still unnamed opponent in the undercard of the "Philippines versus Rest of the World", scheduled on April 9 at the Dubai Tennis Arena in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Jordan's bid for Bobcats approved by NBA board

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Michael Jordan became a basketball star at North Carolina. Now he'll try to turn around the state's money-losing NBA team by becoming the first ex-player to be a majority owner in the league.

Instead of concert, Pacquiao to party with fans in Hawaii

MANILA, Philippines -- The Manny Pacquiao Hawaii Concert Celebration has been cancelled, but this won't stop the Philippines' singer-boxing champion from partying in Hawaii.

Aquinos come to Ilocos Norte after 39 years

(UPDATE) Popular TV host Kris Aquino admitted that she had a sleepless night and even recited the rosary twice on her way to this province controlled by the family of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Kris won't leave the Buzz, says ABS-CBN needs her for ratings

No, controversial TV host Kris Aquino is not leaving her Sunday gossip show "The Buzz" on ABS-CBN, saying the network needs her for the ratings.

Sharon special guest in Julio Iglesias concert

MANILA, Philippines - Singer Julio Iglesias arrived Thursday in Manila for his benefit concert dubbed "Heart of Gold" at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, March 20.

Murder raps filed vs gunman of Dumaguete beauty titlist

Police in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental province have lodged murder charges against a gunman who shot dead a local beauty titlist earlier this year.

Citing witnesses' testimonies, police lodged murder charges against Joselito Dayro, 28, for the fatal shooting of former Miss Dumaguete Ann Rose Neri last month.

Dayro, 28, has been identified by witnesses, including the victim's sister, as the one who shot Neri at the Dumaguete Quezon Park while she was supervising a practice for a Miss Gay contest last month, a report on Visayan Daily Star said. 

Dayro and Roldan Cantina Navarro, 40, were arrested earlier for the killing of one Roberto Zamora in Sta. Catalina, last March 10.

The two were brought to the Provincial Prosecutor's Office Wednesday for the filing of the murder charges.

While there, witnesses positively identified Dayro as the one who also shot and murdered Neri last month.

The intelligence community in Dumaguete said it has been monitoring the activities of the gang of five operating in the southern portion of the province. 

The artist's sketch of the face of the suspect done by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group also matched that of Dayro.

Over 17M Filipinos are smokers, study shows

About 17.3 million Filipinos aged 15 years old and above are tobacco smokers with at least 13.8 million smoking daily, the Philippine Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) showed.

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