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

Monday, March 1, 2010

March 2, 2010 Major News Stories



Shell, Petron cut LPG prices by P5.50 per 11-kilo cylinder

(UPDATE) Oil giants Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and Petron Corp. have slashed prices of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by 50 centavos a kilogram, effective on Tuesday.

The price cut of Pilipinas Shell will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, said vice president for communications Roberto Kanapi
The rollback should be equivalent to a decrease of at least P5.50 for an 11-kilogram LPG cylinder, exclusive of value added tax.

According to Shell and Petron, the latest price rollback reflected the $15.5-per-metric-ton decline in the international contract price of LPG. This had brought the contract price to $719.5 per MT for March from the $735-per-MT level last month.

With the rollback, Petron said the company's 11-kg LPG tank should cost about P649.

Other companies have yet to announce their respective price adjustments.

Arnel Ty, president of the LPG Marketers Association, has announced that his group will implement a rollback on Wednesday but declined to cite a specific amount, adding that they will finalize the price by Tuesday.

LPGMA member companies, which supply LPG products to 30 percent of the Luzon market, carry brands such as Island Gas, Regasco Gas, Pinnacle Gas, Cat Gas, M-Gas, Omni Gas and Nation Gas.

Visayas grid still short of 45MW

Power transmission utility and system operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines reported that the Visayas grid has a generation deficiency of 45 megawatts although Salcon Power's Cebu Thermal Power Plant Unit 1 is operational and already loaded with 48MW.

This is because Unit 2 of the said power plant, with a rated capacity of 55 MW is under preventive maintenance shutdown. Estimated completion date of maintenance works is on March 7.

NGCP also reported that Luzon has a generation deficiency of 478MW which attributed to the shutdown of two major plants.

The Mindanao grid continues to experience generation deficiency of up to 390MW yesterday which is attributed mainly to limited available capacities from hydropower plants, most of which have water reservoirs that are drying up due to the El Niño.

NGCP said that it will continue to monitor power grid conditions.

As system operator, it operates the power system or grid in accordance with the Philippine Grid Code. It is also the country's only utility responsible for transmitting high-voltage power from generators to distributors.

NGCP clarified that it does not own nor operate and maintain any power generation and distribution facilities.

Arroyo with emergency powers can't raise water levels — solon

Can President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, granted with emergency powers, increase the waters of Ma. Cristina Falls?

Gabriela Women's Party Representative Luz Ilagan raised this question Monday as she stressed that giving Arroyo emergency powers in the face of the power crisis in Mindanao was not the answer to the crisis.

"(The President) is not the fairy godmother of Mindanao but the evil witch… The long years of neglect, inefficiency and wrong prioritization cannot be corrected by the magic wand of emergency powers," Ilagan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes has proposed the grant of emergency powers to Arroyo so that the National Power Corporation could re-engage in producing, generating and selling energy.

But Ilagan saw the proposed emergency powers as a political solution to a power crisis that was rooted in technical and environmental concerns. 

"A political action is not the logical and appropriate response. Besides, the energy problem is not of the same intensity level in different provinces in Mindanao. A sweeping and drastic political action will create more problems and can be deemed as a highly suspicious move of testing the waters of putting the whole country under emergency control," Ilagan said. 

But Virgilio Leyretana, director of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco), said the public must support the grant of emergency powers to the President to solve the power crisis.

"It is the only way to explore ways to solve the problem. We have to solve this problem immediately. And it seems that there is no other option but to tap the emergency powers of the President. We have to do something before things worsen. We cannot just look at the crisis as it cripples the economy of Mindanao," Leyretana said in a forum here Monday. 

He said not doing anything to solve the problem would unleash more problems, including unemployment, business loses, hunger, among others. 

But Ed Cabalio, regional corporate executive of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, said giving President Arroyo emergency powers would not be the ultimate solution to the Mindanao power crisis. 

"The problem of Mindanao is it does not have enough supply of power. Mindanao is a peculiar grid. We have the resources like hydro but no one is really investing in it because of lower rates," he said in the same forum. 

He called this both a blessing and a curse. 

"This is a blessing for the people of Mindanao and as well as a curse. We have the resource and yet no one is putting in money. So the resource is just there," he said.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said that the emergency powers would allow the government to invoke Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and enable state-run National Power Corp. (Napocor) to buy or lease modular generation sets to augment the power supply in Mindanao. 

But Cabalio said that buying or leasing modular generation sets, to be run on diesel, would be costly. He said the government would be better off exploring other sources of energy as a sustainable solution to the problem. 

He said that a long-term solution to the problem would be to entice investors to put in their money in coal plants. 

Cabalio added that the power crisis confronting Mindanao—and its implications to the elections in May—could only be remedied by God. 

When asked if government could ensure no disruptions in the May automated elections, Cabalio said.

"We really do not know what is going to happen tomorrow. There is no certainty…it's only God who can save us," Cabalio told journalist. 

"The power crisis is not being manipulated. There is no conspiracy here. The crisis is for real. The public has been warned...you have been told," he said adding that advisories on the looming power crisis had been sounded as early as 2008. 

And the crisis of power in Mindanao would have been experienced as early as 2006 had it not been for the operations of the coal plant in Tagoloan in Cagayan de Oro. The coal plant is generating 200 MW of electricity. 

Cabalio said the Agus Complex has not been generating enough power, with the level of the water in Lake Lanao continually decreasing with lesser rains coming in. According to him, water has to flow into the lake at the rate of 120 cubic meters per second for Agus to generate 500 MW and ensure no power interruptions two days before and two days after the elections. However, it has been flowing at only 30 cubic meters per second, Cabalio said.

"We have to pray for rain at the right places. I am not kidding…If there is no rain, and without new capacity coming in—and there is none—there is no assurance that there will be no blackouts," he said. 

Cabalio suggested scheduling more brownouts in Mindanao to be able to impound water coming into the lake and save it for uninterrupted power generation during the May elections.

The Agus Complex—composed of six plants—has the capacity to generate 700 MW of electricity. But because of El Niño, the level of Lake Lanao has gone down to the 699.25 minimum capacity level. If it goes down by another meter, Agus Complex would no longer be able to generate electricity.

The Agus Complex was only able to generate 180 MW on February 25.

An NGCP advisory placed the electricity deficiency in the Mindanao grid at 390 MW, largely due to the limited capacities of the hydro-power plants, where dams have been taking in less water due to the drought brought by the El Niño.

The NGCP said the power-generating capability of the National Power Corporation's Agus Hydro-electric Power Plant has been reduced by 80 percent while that of the Pulangi Plant, also owned by Napocor, has gone down by 90 percent.

"Lake Lanao elevation as of Sunday is 699.08 meters, which is below the critical level of 699.15 meters," the NGCP said. 

Power interruptions of up to 12 hours have become probable in Mindanao, according to Cabalio.

House energy body OKs emergency powers

(UPDATE) The House committee on energy has endorsed a proposal for the government to invoke a provision in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) that would allow the National Power Corp. (Napocor)to secure new power supply to mitigate the worsening power crisis in Mindanao.

Solons say no to emergency powers

Leaders of the House of Representatives on Monday thumbed down a proposal by Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes to give emergency powers to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to address the power crisis in Mindanao.

189.1% jump in measles cases worries health officials

Health officials are worried by the 189 percent jump in measles cases nationwide in the first 51 days of 2010.

Measles outbreak kills 4

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said at least four people have died after falling ill from measles.

Tayag said the DOH has detected  954 measles cases nationwide from January 1 to February 20, which is triple the number recorded during the same period last year. He said the DOH will intensify vaccination measures in affected areas.

Philippines may allow private firms to import more rice

by Reuters
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines may allow private firms to import up to 150,000 tons rice on top of a previous allocation of 200,000 tons due to increased interest, a government official said on Monday.

SC urged to nullify radio-frequency ID project

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Automobile Association of the Philippines on Monday urged the Supreme Court to declare as illegal a stalled government project to attach radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to all vehicles.

31 CITOM men face ax due to alleged extortion

The City Traffic Operations and Management (CITOM) is set to fire 31 of its personnel, who are suspected of extortion.

There were 48 traffic personnel accused of extortion by the Nagkahiusang Driver sa Sugbo (NADSU).

Of the 48, only 31 are likely to lose their job based on initial evidence gathered.

Dispatchers who are allegedly deployed by traffic personnel collect P20 per driver, per trip and per night with a promise to be exempted from the enforcement of traffic rules.

These dispatchers operate along Osmeña Boulevard specifically in near the mall around Fuente Osmeña, in front of Metrobank Plaza, outside the Development Bank of the Philippines building and near another business establishment in the downtown area.

NADSU said that the scheme has been operating for a long time already, but drivers finally had the courage to complain only now since it has become a burden especially that prices of basic commodities are rising.

Rama further alleged that the task force created to enforce the anti-dispatching ordinance of the city is also extorting P15 from dispatchers.

"Nagbutang na sila og lata diha sa may dapit sa DOH (Department of Health Regional Field Office) arong hulog-hulogan og P15 aron dili sila dakpon," Rama said.

Councilor Sylvan 'Jack' Jakosalem, Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Communications said that the council will request for further investigation of the erring personnel to be conducted by CITOM.

"If the complaints against them are true and factual, then they should be fired," Jakosalem said.

Tancinco said that they are still looking into the legality of firing these personnel especially that election is nearing and there is a ban on the hiring and firing of personnel.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña refused to issue any comment until the results of the investigation is released.

BEFORE THE MAY POLLS: World record fireworks try to highlight launch of SRP

The Cebu City government will finally be launching the 300-hectare South Road Properties to coincide with the attempt of Pyroworks, one of the major producers of pyrotechnic shows in Cebu, to break the Guinness World Record for the largest fireworks display.

Four years after the City started selling SRP lots, Mayor Tomas Osmeña announced that they will officially launch the facility during one big party, where the City will also try to break two Guinness world records—the longest barbecue line and the most number of rockets launched in less than a minute.

Billboard eyed for Alvin, Gwen

Mayor Tomas Osmeña is eyeing of putting up a billboard at the public market in Barangay Cogon Ramos that would bear the pictures of former mayor Alvin Garcia and Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

Osmeña said the billboard would serve as a reminder of the "damage" the Garcias have done against the city, such as destroying the Ramos public market during the term of Alvin and the move of the provincial government to allegedly "destroy" the image of the South Road Properties.

The city, during Alvin's term, reportedly spent P16 million to demolish the two-storey Ramos public market that was rebuilt when Osmeña took over as mayor. Osmeña said he wants residence of Barangay Cogon Ramos to know that the public market may be demolished yet again if they would vote for Alvin.

He also alleged that the governor is "active" in destroying the image of the SRP that has ushered inmoney for the city.

"That is to remind them of the damage the Garcias have done. People have such a short memory. I will tell them to go ahead, vote for the Garcias and you will all be kicked out," Osmeña said.

Provincial Board to tackle Balili in special session

The Provincial Board will conduct a special session next week to discuss the reports of the Ad Hoc Committee tasked to conduct the investigation into the purchase of the controversial Balili lot in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City.

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr. informed members of the Provincial Board that his office received a letter from Visayas Ombudsman Virginia Palanca Santiago inquiring on the status of their investigation.

Aside from the Balili lot controversy, Sanchez also announced that his office received another letter from the Visayas Ombudsman regarding the coal ash issue.

Maambong said the letter of Santiago related to the issue of coal ash should be referred to the Office of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

However, the issue over the Balili lot controversy will be given immediate attention by the PB.

Sanchez said there is a need for them to further discuss the investigation.

PB member Joven Mondigo, chairman of the Ad Hoc committee, was not present in yesterday's regular session.

Maambong said that the provincial board should discuss the report and agree on the next action to take based on the letter of Santiago.

The Office of the Visayas Ombudsman also conducted a separate investigation into the matter, but they need also the results of the investigation conducted by the PB.

The purchase of the Tinaan lot gained notoriety after it was discovered that a good part of the lot was underwater.

PB wants report on alleged rape of Swede

The Cebu Provincial Board has passed a resolution requesting the Cebu Provincial Police Office to submit a report on the alleged rape of a Swedish tourist in Malapascua Island in Daanbantayan town.

Provincial Board members Victor Maambong and Agnes Magpale introduced the resolution in yesterday's regular session of the PB. The resolution was based on a report published in a local newspaper.

The incident allegedly happened last Thursday, two days after President Gloria Arroyo visited Malapascua.

The 24-year-old Swedish tourist arrived in Malapascua Island two weeks ago and billeted in a beach resort in the island. She was accompanied by another female Swede.

The initial report of the police in Daanbantayan disclosed that the victim was walking along the seashore when attacked by a construction worker, a resident of the place.

The victim was alone when the incident happened.

The owner of the beach resort, who is also a barangay councilman, reported the incident to the police in Daanbantayan town.

Maambong said as their information is based only on the newspaper report, he said they need an official report from the police.

Magpale, chairwoman of the committee on tourism said she will also ask the Daanbantayan municipal tourism officer Gregg Rubio to submit a report.

According to Maambong, Malapascua is a favorite destination of tourists and there is a need for them to make sure that all visitors in the place properly secured and protected.

The sentiments of Maambong were shared by Magpale and members of the PB.

During her visit last week, Arroyo said that the place should be promoted to attract more visitors.

Province officially declared rebel-free

Heads of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in Central Visayas formally turned over the Internal Security Operations of the province to the Cebu Provincial Peace and Order Council yesterday after declaring the province insurgency-free.

Mandaue to hold public hearing on re-routing plan for jeepneys

A public hearing will be conducted this Thursday afternoon at the session hall of the Mandaue City Hall to tackle the pros and cons in connection with the execution of a re-routing plan for public utility vehicles in Mandaue City.

The public hearing will be spearheaded by the committee on Transportation, Communication and Public Utilities, headed by city councilor Emiliano Rosal, in coordination with the Traffic Management Board. Expected at the hearing are jeepney drivers, operators, and the riding public.

The public hearing is a requirement before the city council enacts an ordinance making the re-routing permanent.

Earlier, the board implemented an experimental re-routing of nine routes from Lapu-lapu City, five from Liloan town, four from Consolacion town, and two each from Compostela town and Danao City so as to decongest M.C Briones Street and to serve establishments at the Reclamation Area.

An odd-even scheme, utilized in the re-routing of jeepneys, was a win-win solution.

Engr. Jomar Ostia, executive director of the Traffic Management Board, said that under the odd-even scheme, one half of the nine routes from Lapu-Lapu City and Danao City can pass MC Briones Street.

Ostia said that as part of the new route, particularly at the back of Parkmall is owned by FF Cruz so the city government cannot improve it.

However, FF Cruz is also working on its concreting and is expected to be finished soon.

Ostia also said that trucks and vans from C.D. Seno Street corner Colegio de Inmaculada will be rerouted to Logarta Street to avoid heavy traffic.

Meanwhile, Andres Rosimo, vice-president of Maribago-Soong Drivers' Association, said he has yet to receive complaints from his 60-member drivers.

He said the new route demands the same amount of gasoline as the old route.

The Traffic Man-agement Board had implemented a one-month experimental rerouting in view of its resolution dated September 10, 2009.

The board has recommended to the city council for the implementation of an existing ordinance to allow the city-bound PUJs to pass the development route in the NRA where Parkmall, Cebu Doctors' University (CDU), Robinland, Boardwalk, among others, are located.

CDU in a recent letter to the city said some 2,000 students from the north will benefit from the rerouting.

All voters to get sample ballots by April—Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Monday that it will mail to all 50 million registered voters their information sheets in the form of sample ballots that they could use as guide in voting for the May 2010 polls.

Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told reporters that the poll body allotted P12.5 million for the printing of "voters' information sheets," which look like a sample ballots. Each copy costs P0.25, Larrazabal said.

"Unlike before when we send out the listing of candidates, Comelec would send out these voters' information sheets in the form of sample ballots to all 50 million voters nationwide. This is to allow voters to practice shading the ballots so they get the feel of voting in May 10," said Larrazabal.

The sample ballots would be an exact replica of the official ballots to be used for the May 10 polls and would contain the ovals opposite the pre-printed names of all national and local candidates, except for the barcodes, ultraviolet ink and invisible security markings, said Larrazabal. The ballots would also be printed on regular bond paper, not on the custom 160 GSM paper where the official ballots are being printed on.

It would contain voting instructions in Filipino, such as the proper shading of ovals using a fully or half shade mark, not a cross or a check mark.

The poll official added that the ballots are specific to every municipality or city—the same with the official ballots to be shipped to all provinces by April 25.

Larrazabal said the sample ballots would train voters to prevent "overvoting" and could later be used as their kodigo or guide when voting inside their polling precinct on Election Day.

"The proper shading of ballots is important so that votes are counted. This would also train the voters not to overvote or select candidates beyond the elective seats for a position, say shading 13 candidates for senator instead of 12. If there is an overvote, the machine will not count the votes for the senatorial bets," said Larrazabal.

Printed on top of the ballot's front page would be the voter's name, his address, clustered precinct, polling place or school, municipality or city, district and province to inform voters on where they would vote ahead of the May 10 polls, added Larrazabal.

Meanwhile, Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) officially turned over to Comelec all the remaining 13,000 poll machines Monday morning to complete the delivery of all 82,200 units to the poll body.

Smartmatic-TIM president for Asia-Pacific Cesar Flores told INQUIRER.net the last batch of machines, which arrived at the Bureau of Custioms over the weekend, are in transit to Comelec's warehouse facility in Cabuyao for stress testing and configuration.

"The machines are loaded in trucks and will be shipped straight to Cabuyao today (Monday). We expect them to arrive this afternoon at the warehouse," said Flores.

All machines arrived in the country on Saturday, a day before the February 28 shipment deadline stipulated under Comelec's contract with Smartmatic-TIM.

Presidential, VP bets invited to inspect ballots, poll machines

Presidential and vice presidential candidates have been invited to inspect the ballots and machines that will be used in the May 10 automated elections.

Poll machines to be sealed 3 days before polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) would test and seal the poll machines three days before April 10 for overseas absentee voting and three days before May 10 for the domestic automated polls.

'I am not a double-registered voter' — Quiboloy

One of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's key spiritual advisers Pastor Apollo Quiboloy denied reports Monday that he is a voter with double registration.

The leader of the six-million followers of Kingdom of Jesus Christ The Name Above Every Name maintained that he is a registered voter in Barangay (village) Tamayong, Calinaw, Davao City since 1997 and has been voting there ever since.

In 2003, Quiboloy—who failed to vote in two previous elections—applied for validation of his voter registration in Barangay Buhangin, Davao City, which would enable him to vote again, where his church is located.

Quiboloy said in his statement that "under Comelec rules, a voter may apply for validation anywhere and not necessarily in the precinct where he or she is registered."

In this light, Quiboloy stressed that his name "should have not come up in the list of voters with double registrations."

"Pastor Quiboloy has never, at anytime, registered in Buhangin, Davao city nor has he voted there. Our documents show that Pastor Quiboloy has been voting only in Tamayong, Davao City," the statement read.

In a separate statement, Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the Comelec's regional director in Davao researched their records and clarified that Quiboloy is not a double registrant.

The "mix-up" might have been a result of Quiboloy being a registered voter in Buhangin but having validation records in Tamayong, said the poll official.

Lawyer Howard Calleja of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), who said that Quiboloy was a double-registrant along with other 40,000 "zombie" voters, urged Comelec to be serious in cleansing the voters' list.

Larrazabal explained the voter records with PPCRV could be not updated, since the purging of the voters' list is a continuous process.

Prosecutors seek gun ban exemption from Comelec

A group of prosecutors is asking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to exempt them from the election gun ban so that prosecutors assigned to high profile cases will be able to defend themselves in case of any threats.

High court ruling on resigned appointive execs appealed

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Monday asked the Supreme Court to clarify its decision stating that an appointive official shall be deemed resigned upon filing of a certificate of candidacy.

JBC not compelled to submit chief justice nominees — NUPL

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) cannot be compelled to submit list of nominees for the Chief Justice position to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a nationwide association of human rights lawyers told the Supreme Court.


Arroyo late for her last PMA graduation rites as commander-in-chief

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was late for her last appearance as commander-in-chief at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation ceremonies on Monday here, delaying the affair for about an hour.

PMA valedictorian reminds mistahs about core values

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City – The valedictorian of the graduating Philippine Military Academy "Masidlak" class of 2010 on Monday asked his mistahs or classmates to remember the values and ideas taught by their alma mater as they become regular military officers.

In his valedictory address, Erano Belen said the graduating class now had duties and responsibilities to fulfill as they enter the real world.

Health chief asks Army to respect rights of 'Morong 43

SAN PEDRO, Laguna -- Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral expressed alarm over the continued detention of the 43 health workers accused of being members of the communist movement and the alleged torture they suffered while in the hands of the military.

Lacson out of Hong Kong — NBI

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Senator Panfilo Lacson is no longer in Hong Kong.

Is Lacson in Europe? NBI forms investigating team

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - After debunking reports that he was hiding in Australia, the National Bureau of Investigation on Monday said it is verifying information that fugitive senator Panfilo Lacson has been spotted in a country in Europe.

DOJ summons Lacson over kidnap of 2 Hong Kong nationals

Besides facing a double murder case, another set of charges is hounding fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson. The Department of Justice on Monday issued a subpoena summoning Lacson to attend the preliminary probe on the kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges filed by former intelligence agent Mary "Rosebud" Ong.

Witnesses in 'jueteng' whistle-blower's slay mum

Police are having difficulty getting leads in the murder of "jueteng" (illegal numbers game) whistle-blower Wilfredo "Boy" Mayor as witnesses have failed to cooperate with investigators at this time, a police spokesman said on Monday.

DoH chief to distribute condoms until June 30

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said she would keep distributing the condoms until June 30 or until the end of her term despite calls from Catholic bishops for her to resign or for President Macapagal-Arroyo to fire her.

RH groups back Cabral over condoms

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Members of various advocacy groups on Monday trooped outside the Department of Health compound in Manila to air support for the embattled DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral for promoting the fight against HIV-AIDS.

Ex-call center agent with HIV urges safe sex

MANILA, Philippines - "Joseph Ryan," a former call center agent who contracted the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV), asked the public not to judge his previous profession. He made the statement as a recent study showed how more gay and bisexual workers in the country are getting with HIV due to unprotected sex.

Arroyo appoints Usec Fondevilla as new Agriculture chief

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday named Undersecretary Bernardo G. Fondevilla as the new chief of the Agriculture department following the resignation of Secretary Arthur Yap.

Peace monitors return to Mindanao

Malaysian-led peace monitors have returned to the troubled southern Philippines for the first time since Muslim rebels launched a wave of deadly attacks in 2008, officials said Monday.

Ibrado says no to state of emergency in Basilan

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City - The chief of staff of the Armed Forces on Monday thumbed down a proposal to place Basilan under a state of emergency following recent attacks by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group including last Saturday's raid in Maluso town that killed 12 people.

2 more die in Abu Sayyaf attack in Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Phlippines - The death toll in Saturday's attack by suspected Abu Sayyaf members in Maluso town has risen to 12, according to a Philippine National Police (PNP) official in Basilan.

Customs exceeds Feb collection goal

The Bureau of Customs exceeds its collection target for February. The agency reports that it collected over P15 billion last month, higher than its target of P13.11 billion. Customs also surpassed its January target, collecting P17.6 billion, 25% more than its goal.

New 6.2 aftershock strikes central Chile—USGS

A powerful new 6.2-magnitude aftershock struck central Chile late Sunday in the wake of a major 8.8-degree earthquake, a US government agency reported.

Chile quake toll tops 700 as tsunami devastation emerges

Chile's quake toll topped 700 on Sunday as rescuers searched for survivors and the extent of the disaster became clear in coastal areas where giant waves swept away homes, even as the government apologized for failing to issue a tsunami alert.

Chile calls for aid, looters break quake curfew

CONCEPCION—Chile called for international aid Monday as the anguished calls of trapped quake survivors pierced the rubble and police had to arrest 160 looters for defying overnight curfews.

Ariza: Clottey won't last 12 rounds vs Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines – Even if Ghana's Joshua Clottey is bigger than 7-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino's conditioning coach thinks the Ghanaian will not have enough strength to go the distance in his March 13 bout.

John Lloyd Cruz, Bea Alonzo to be separated again

by by Bernie Franco, ABS-CBN.com
MANILA, Philippines - Matapos ang kanilang pagbabalik-tambalan matapos ang tatlong taon sa pelikulang "Miss You Like Crazy" ay magkakahiwalay na muli ang team-up nina John Lloyd Cruz at Bea Alonzo.

Sa susunod na proyekto kasi ni Cruz ay si Angel Locsin ang kanyang makaka-partner, samantalang ang susunod na TV project ni Alonzo ay sina Gretchen Barretto at Derek Ramsay naman ang kanyang makakatrabaho.

Charice cries as feud between ma, grandma rages on

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Amid the public bickering between her mother and grandmother, Charice guested on "The Buzz" Sunday to shoot down anew all speculations hounding her and her family.

Dolphy happy for Nora Aunor

Humingi ngayon ng tawad si comedy king Dolphy sakaling may nasaktan man umano s'ya sa pag-endorso ng isang presidential candidate. Masaya naman si Dolphy sa mas batang itsura ng dating leading lady na si Nora Aunor!

Second blue moon for 2010 due March 30 - Pagasa

Stargazers are in for a rare treat in March, as they will see the second blue moon for 2010, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services administration said.

Some famous PMA adoptees are illegitimate

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Re-electionist Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. proudly joined the parade wearing a silver military medal at the annual alumni homecoming of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) two weekends ago.

He was a supposed to be a silver jubilarian, just like his "mistahs" from Class 1985.

Unknown to many—even probably to him—Revilla is not an officially recognized "honorary member" of the PMA Alumni Association Inc. (PMAAA). And there are many political bigwigs in the same fix.

Newsbreak research found that at least 25 other politicians or politically influential persons have no claim to be called honorary members of the PMA.

Other adoptees who are not officially recognized are First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, presidential daughter Luli Arroyo, presidential brother Diosdado "Buboy" Macapagal Jr., vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda, business tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr., and senators Francis Pangilinan and Jinggoy Estrada.

They are not in the PMA Alumni Register, copies of which were shown to Newsbreak. The Register is annually published to update the list of full-fledged honorary members.

[click to see complete list]

In a practice that's unique to the Philippines, PMA classes commonly adopt so-called heavyweights as honorary members. The relationship is mutually beneficial—the PMA class gets prestige and, sometimes, political favors; the politicians establishes with influential military men a connection that they (politicians) seem to believe is similar to a fraternity.

'Guest members'
The practice is highly unregulated, admitted incoming PMAAA chairman, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon of PMA Class 1961.

"There is no prohibition. But for one to be a full honorary member of the whole organization, it must be approved by the board," Biazon told Newsbreak.

"You can be a member of the class, but that does not mean the adoptee has already become a member [of the alumni association]," he added.

Incoming PMAAA President Col. Edgardo Rene Samonte of PMA Class 1981 calls them "guest members." They have taken their oaths as honorary members of a PMA class, but the PMAAA board of directors and officers has yet to recognize them.

Biazon said the application of these guest members are probably pending board approval or their PMA classes failed to submit their nominations for board approval. PMAAA refused to discuss the individual status of nominations.

Based on PMAAA bylaws, any Filipino or foreign citizen can be an honorary member as long as he or she has an "exemplary and distinguished" track record of service in his or her field.

But it's a tedious process. Candidates need to:

  • submit a curriculum vitae for evaluation;
  • be nominated by at least 10 commissioned officers; and
  • get a unanimous vote of approval by the PMAAA board, which is composed of 18 officers.

     

Approval of nominations doesn't come easy. According The Register, the board has approved nominations of only 3 honorary members in the past 5 years. They are Chief Justice Reynato Puno, businessman Delfin Wenceslao Jr., and Ninoy Aquino International Airport general manager Alfonso Cusi.

As of 2009, there are 86 total honorary members, officially recognized by the PMAAA. Out of this number, 40 are government officials.

Curiously, military personnel are also adopted as honorary members of different batches. There are at least 39 of them in the official list. The remaining 7 in the list are businessmen and priests.

Other official honorary members include President Gloria Arroyo (Class 1978), presidential candidate Manuel Villar Jr. (Class 1977), and Gilbert Teodoro (Class 1976), vice presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II (Class 1984), and senatorial candidates Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (Class 1969), and Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Marcos II (Class 1979).

Call for regulations
Biazon said he will make sure the incoming officers of the PMAAA will discuss the issue of the proliferation of unofficial honorary members.

"I am not for or against it, but it will be put on the agenda," Biazon said.

Biazon said he will recommend a review of the PMAAA's policies on honorary memberships to shield the military from political influences, especially during the 2010 elections. Biazon will assume the post in March.

The problem is that there are no explicit provisions in the PMAAA bylaws which sanction PMA classes that adopt without the board's approval.

Samonte agreed with Biazon. He said it's about time that the original intent of the PMA in adopting honorary members should be followed. He said honorary members should not be attached to a particular PMA class. Instead, they should be attached to the PMA organization as a whole.

Section 5, Article 2 of the PMAAA Amended Bylaws reads: "Honorary membership does not need the endorsement of a PMA class; neither shall honorary members be adopted by a class."

"A nominee should not have any class affiliation. That's the policy, but it's violated," Samonte said.

Samonte said these honorary members should not be "trooping the line" or marching with PMA alumni during the annual homecoming. "They can go with the board, but they shouldn't go with the class."

(To be continued)

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