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

Monday, March 22, 2010

March 23, 2010 Major News Stories

3 oil firms slash fuel prices

(UPDATE) Local oil firms have slashed prices of gasoline, diesel and kerosene by 25 centavos a liter, beginning Monday noon, as world market prices of petroleum products declined last week.

Flying V Philippines and Seaoil Philippines implemented its rollback on Monday while Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. rollback takes effect 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Chevron Phil. will also reduce the prices of its diesel, gasoline and kerosene by P0.25 per liter effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, said communications manager Toby Nebrida.

Petron said it will also roll back diesel, gasoline, and kerosene prices by P0.25 per liter at 6 a.m. Tuesday, while independent oil player Phoenix Petroleum will cut diesel and gasoline prices by P0.25 per liter effective 12:01 a.m., the firm said on Monday.

Despite the rollback this week, multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Monday called for a substantial rollback of local oil prices as petroleum products remain overpriced by P8.12 a liter between January 2008 and 2010.

Bayan said that it tracked the monthly movement of Dubai crude prices and the foreignexchange rate (forex) from January 2008 to January 2010 to compute the ideal pump price adjustment. It then compared the results with the actual price movement during the same period as monitored by the Department of Energy.

Based on its study, the group said that in January 2010 alone, overpricing reached P1.20 per liter. That month, pump prices should have moved up by only 15 centavos a liter only but actual changes at the pump stations posted an average hike in retail prices of P1.35 per liter, Bayan exclaimed.

For this month alone, local oil companies have raised prices of gasoline by a total of P2.50 a liter and of diesel and kerosene by P2 a liter, over the past three consecutive weeks.

Bayan also stressed that the continued overpricing of oil firms should be condemned especially amid soaring electricity rates as power plants rely more on generation plants running on expensive and overpriced petroleum.

The group also cited the economic difficulties in drought-stricken areas as another reason why oil prices should be reduced.

The February average of Dubai crude was pegged at $76.64 a barrel while the forex rate was at P46.03 to a dollar.

While it does not have a consolidated data yet on actual pump price movement for February and March, Bayan said that in February, there should have been an 83-centavo per liter rollback based on its estimates.

The actual pump price of diesel, however, did not move during the said month while kerosene prices even jumped by 25 centavos per liter, it added.

Palace "cold" to Mikey push for oil price freeze

Malacañang is not keen on ordering a freeze on prices of oil products amid the effects of the El Niño phenomenon, even if the proposal came from presidential son Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo.

Kids at risk with 'Magic Sugar'

MANILA, Philippines - Children are at risk of being exposed to "Magic Sugar" or sodium cyclamate because of the prevalence of vendors selling cheap cold drinks near schools, a group warned on Monday.

DOJ to order arraignment against Sulpicio Lines execs, captain

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will ask the Manila City Regional Trial Court to push through with the arraignment against officials of Sulpicio Lines and the captain of the ill-fated Princess of the Stars.

55 pass electronic engineer, landscape architect exams

A total of 55 hopefuls passed the Professional Electronic Engineer Examination, and the Landscape Architect Licensure Examination held this month, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) said on Monday.

Arroyo wants soldiers' pay hiked before term ends

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to look into how the next round of salary hike for soldiers could be implemented.

PB members miss deadline

MARCH 22 came but no report of the results of the investigation of the Balili land purchase by an ad hoc committee was submitted to the Cebu Provincial Board.

The report, said committee chairman PB Member Joven Mondigo, lacks the recommendation of one PB member whom he did not name.

Mondigo said he might submit it tomorrow at the Provincial Secretary's Office. He will pass around the report today to the PB members for their signature.

Mondigo heads the PB committee on complaints and investigation and leads the ad hoc investigation committee with PB Member Alfred Francis Ouano, chairperson of the ethics committee.

The recommendation of the unnamed PB member will be incorporated in the 11-page working draft of his report as this had been agreed by the Capitol legislators in a caucus, Mondigo said.

He said Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez was informed of the status of the report and did not see a problem with delaying its submission.

Mondigo said only PB Members Agnes Magpale and Juan Bolo submitted their written recommendations.

Bolo had said that he was the only Capitol official that Romeo Balili, the executor of the Luis Balili property, had dealt with all throughout the transaction. He will use the recommendations of PB Member Wilfredo Caminero that was reported in Sun.Star Cebu.

He said the PB members can verbally inform him on their recommendations.

Magpale, in her one-page report, recommended that the chairman of the PB committee on provincial and municipal properties refrain from acting as agent or broker of a property owner whose lots may be subject of purchase by Capitol.

She said clear guidelines for Capitol's purchase of a property, from negotiation to consummation of contract, must be established either through an ordinance or executive order.

Salient information involving a property that Capitol plans to buy, such as names of vendor and broker, nature or classification of property, physical description of property, full or total land area of property, location and tax declaration, be published in the newspaper.

Bolo, for his part, recommended that a full survey of the lot sought to be purchased be conducted first.

Pressed by reporters on a PB member's recommendation that he was awaiting that led to the non-submission of the report on the March 22 deadline, Mondigo refused to answer other than saying that the recommendation was not crontroversial.

He said his committee will use the documents presented by the Executive Committee, a fact-finding committee that was formed by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. These were the affidavits submitted by the persons requested for investigations.

At the governor's front, Garcia said she has read the full report submitted to her by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 Director Medardo de Lemos, chairman of the Executive fact-finding Committee, which she had formed.

She said the report will be released within this week.

Bidding on P200M projects rushed

CEBU City Hall is rushing the bidding of some P200 million worth of infrastructure projects, including road repair works, and will award the contracts before the Comelec ban on infrastructure projects takes effect on Friday.

Around P115 million worth of projects will be undertaken at the South Road Properties (SRP), P50 million at the North Reclamation Area (NRA) and some P31 million in the different barangays.

City Administrator Francisco Fernandez said the bids and awards committee (BAC) will award the contract to the winning bidders of the different projects either today or tomorrow so the project can be implemented even during the campaign period.

The City is set to fix the roads, drainage and lights in the NRA using the P50-million advance tax payment that SM Prime Holdings Inc. made last month.

2 roads

At the SRP, the City will also construct two industrial roads with sidewalks and drainage (P24.4 million), white-sand beach at Kawit Island (P15.3 million), welcome hill with tower (P28.9 million), a jetty in Pond F (P35 million), back-up water system in Kawit (P748,000) and the second phase of the senior citizens' building (P10.6 million).

When the local campaign period starts on Friday, public officials or employees, including barangay officials and those of government-owned or -controlled corporations and their subsidiaries, are prohibited from releasing, disbursing or expending public funds for any and all kinds of public works.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, exempts work undertaken by contract through public bidding held, or by negotiated contract awarded before March 26, 2010.

The ban will be in effect until May 10.

"We will sign all the contract of award before the ban takes effect on Friday. We will award everything so we will not have a problem implementing it, including the P50 million for rehabilitation of roads at the NRA," Fernandez said.

As for purchases and infrastructure projects the City has to undertake to respond to the effects of the El Niño phenomenon, City Councilor Augustus Pe Jr. said these will be exempted from the infrastructure ban because these are considered emergency purchases.


Lawyer Marchel Sarno, election officer for the north district, reminded the local government units on the ban on infrastructure projects, as well as the hiring and transfer of civil service employees during the campaign period.

He said that as long as the contracts for the infrastructure projects are awarded by the BAC before the campaign period starts, these may be undertaken during the campaign period.

"These may still be implemented as continuing projects. The ban is on the awarding of contracts and the disbursement of public funds for infrastructure after March 26," Sarno said.

Assistant City Administrator Juvy Morelos said they will award the contracts for projects that have already gone through the bidding process, and will open the bids for projects awaiting action of the BAC.

"We still have to open the bids for some of these projects but we will work double time so we can award it before Friday," she said.

The barangay infrastructure projects include the construction or improvements of concrete lined canal, drainage system, riprap works, classrooms, sports complexes, day care centers, barangay halls, road concreting and stone masonry works.

Motorcycle bumps mayor's car: Mayor Soc hurt in traffic mishap

Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez met an accident noontime yesterday while he was driving home from city hall.

The mayor's vehicle was bumped by a motorcycle while he was about to make a left turn at corner San Isidro along the Cebu South Coastal Road.

When the incident was first reported, it was said that the mayor's controversial adopted son, Joavan, was the one involved in the mishap. This was vehemently denied by the police, who said that it was the mayor himself, who was driving the white Toyota Revo owned by the city.

Fernandez, 69, sustained burns on his hands when he tried to help the driver of the motorcycle, by pulling out the vehicle from underneath his car.

The motorcycle driver, Colin Lao Labrado, 36, sustained several injuries on his head and different parts of the body.

Labrado was rushed to the nearby Talisay District Hospital on board a pedal powered tricycle locally called as triskad, which was flagged down by the mayor.

According to the report of the Talisay City Police Traffic Division, Fernandez tried to make left turn into San Isidro before the light for left turning vehicles turned green.

Labrado, despite the orange light, revved up his motorcycle hoping to beat the red light resulting to the accident.

Labrado, who temporary resides at Rufina Arcade in Cebu City, was coming from Cebu City and on his way to Rizal, Pinamungajan in western Cebu.

Because of the impact, Labrado's motorcycle's front wheel was "badly damaged," according to the traffic division's initial report.

The mayor's vehicle sustained dents on the passenger side.

Fernandez reportedly sustained burns as he touched the exhaust of the motorcycle while trying to help Labrado.

Doctors at the Talisay District Hospital attended to Labrado by stitching the cut on his eyebrow. The victim was also x-rayed to check possible fractures.

Labrado reportedly complained of pain on his hips and legs.

SPO4 Henry Obiso, chief of the police traffic division, negated reports that it was Joavan who was in that accident and not the mayor. 

Shortly after the accident, text messages had circulated that it was Joavan in his father's green Mitsubishi Pajero, who had actually figured in that accident. 

The speculations were also fueled by accounts from those at the hospital, who said that Joavan arrived at the medical facility ahead of his father.

Although Labrado had refused to talk to the media, citing his difficulty to move his mouth, he admitted it was a white vehicle that he hit.

The traffic police investigators were not however able to get a sketch of the accident scene to supposedly help them in identifying who committed fault, as the mayor had already moved his car to the hospital, while he also had Labrado's motorcycle towed and reportedly brought to a repair shop.

Obiso said there is nothing wrong with what the mayor did, as he has reportedly settled the matter with Labrado, and had even promised to help foot the latter's hospital bills.

Comelec asks candidates to avoid using graduation for campaigns

Echoing the request of the Department of Educaption (DepEd), the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday asked candidates to avoid using schools" graduation rites to promote their campaigns.

Over 21M ballots printed for May 10 polls—Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Monday said that it has printed more than 21 million ballots—almost half of the total ballots needed for the country's first ever automated polls in May—adding that it is optimistic that it will meet the deadline for printing set on April 25.

"As of March 22 (Monday), the total number of ballots printed are 21,251,948 or near half of the total ballots needed," said Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

Over the last 24 hours, the National Printing Office has printed 363,140 and 333,640 on the day and night shifts, respectively, the poll official added.

Since the fifth printer arrived during the weekend, Larrazabal noted that the daily turnout of printed ballots would increase and it would enable the agency to produce all 50 million ballots—one per voter—needed for the May 10 national elections.

"The fifth printer already arrived and we expect it to be operational by next week. This would increase printing production and help us meet the April 25 deadline, the day we would also start shipping the ballots to our regional hubs and to municipalities nationwide," said the official.

The 50 million ballots will have 1,631 different ballot faces, which are configured for use in each municipality, city or district.

"Since the ballots would have the names of the local and national candidates, it is specific for each of the country's 1,600 municipalities, cities and districts," said Larrazabal.

Similar to manual elections where voters fill up ballots, voters will still use special paper ballots on May 10 but this time, they will shade ovals opposite the names of local and national candidates, which are alphabetically and numerically arranged on the ballot, to indicate a vote.

For national candidates, the ballots include names of ten presidential bets (of which one person, Vetallano Acosta was declared nuisance candidate), eight for vice president, 61 for senator and 187 for party list groups.

The shaded ovals will be read by the precinct count optical scan machines, which will also print 30 copies of Election Returns and transmit the results to Comelec servers for consolidation.

Election lawyers to star in ad for automated polls

Election lawyers will be starring as the Commission on Elections' latest endorsers, in TV advertisements meant to boost public confidence in the May 10 automated polls.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said he, Sixto Brillantes and George Garcia, the lawyers who had appeared most often in election cases before the poll body, would appear in the TV ad.

According to Macalintal, they all believe in the country's first automated polls, and subscribe to the view that it is time for the country to leave its primitive manual system of polling behind.

"We, election lawyers, have talked with the Comelec about doing an advertisement in support of automation. We believe in giving automation a chance to prove it works. Let's give automation a chance," Macalintal told reporters.

Over 6M Filipinos will find it difficult to vote

Over six million Filipinos who are "functionally illiterate" will find it difficult to vote in the upcoming first ever national automated elections in May, a group said on Monday.

Comelec mulls imposing fines on bets over illegal campaign materials

Aside from possible disqualification, a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official on Monday said the poll body is thinking of imposing fines to candidates who continue to violate regulations on campaign materials.

Bro. Mike looks forward to becoming congressman

MANILA, Philippines - El Shaddai leader and preacher Mariano "Bro. Mike" Velarde could end up with a seat in the House of Representatives after the May 10 polls.

JPE on quit calls: Wait until after May 10

MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile refuses to be cajoled into resigning his post amid dire forecasts of a failure of elections on May 10.

Arroyo vows to stay away from election process

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday vowed to stay away from the election process and instead focus on other government programs.

Enough time to proclaim new president—Speaker

Speaker Prospero Nograles on Monday said that Congress has enough time to proclaim the country's next President as he sought to quell talks of failure of elections.

Chief justice nominees told: Accept nomination or be delisted

Justices who would not accept the nomination to fill in the Chief Justice position, insisting only the next elected president should appoint the Supreme Court's highest official, would be delisted from the selection, Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said Monday.

Military officials deny 'possible' junta if May polls fail

Officials from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class '77 and '78 asserted Monday that there will be no junta in case there will be a failure of elections come May.

PNP chief: 'We are ready for all election scenarios'

Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa on Monday said the 125,000-strong police force is ready for any problems that can arise, including the failure of elections, during and after the May 10 elections and stressed that the PNP will strictly abide by the Constitution.

Irate AFP chief Bangit walks out of interview

If you can"t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. This seemed like what newly installed Armed Forces chief Gen. Delfin Bangit did Monday when interviewed about his alleged rift with Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa.

Bangit: Some groups want military divided

May mga grupong gustong mahati ang militar! Ito ang paniniwala ni AFP chief General Delfin Bangit, kaya ayaw mamatay-matay ang isyu tungkol sa military takeover. Habang mainit ang isyu ng takeover, nagbigay na rin ng pahayag ang dalawa pang taga-PMA Class 78, kung saan honorary member din ang Pangulo. Ang tinitiyak ng pinuno ng Marines, hindi kikilos ang militar! 

Arroyo skips acknowledging PNP chief in Army event

Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Jesus Verzosa sat among the country's top military brass but he could well have been invisible to President Macapagal-Arroyo.

The President curiously did not acknowledge his presence at the 113th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio on Monday, while specifically mentioning the service commanders in the audience.

It was the second apparent snub on Verzosa.

On March 17, the President skipped the graduation ceremony of the PNP academy, an event she made a point to attend in the past.

This was after Verzosa went to the Philippine Daily Inquirer office and said that he would not support Gen. Delfin Bangit, newly appointed chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), should he attempt to install Arroyo if the May 10 elections failed.

Also absent in Monday's affair was Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Assistant Secretary Brian Yamsuan said Puno, who is close to Verzosa, has been on leave since last week for a medical checkup in preparation for the start of the local election campaign on Friday.

Puno is chief campaign strategist of the administration's presidential candidate, former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

Yamsuan denied talk that Puno was asked to go on leave in connection with the controversy over Versoza's statements.

Puno took off March 17, the same day the president skipped the PNP graduation ceremony.

Arroyo profusely thanked the military for supporting her administration the past nine years, prefacing her remarks with an acknowledgement of the presence of Bangit, his deputy Vice Adm. Emilio Marayag and Army Chief Reynaldo Mapagu.

The President was well aware that Versoza was present in the crowd. No less than Mapagu had acknowledged his presence.

Palace officials downplayed the incident.

"There is nothing to be inferred from the incident that rises to the level of something that we should be worried about as citizens,'' said Gary Olivar, deputy presidential spokesperson. "It may make for interesting gossip but that's all it is.''

He told reporters that "personal issues may exist" between the President and Verzosa or even anyone else but he stressed what was important was that "we have functional institutions, functional processes."

"The important thing is the chain of command is intact and obedience to the laws by the uniformed men is also intact," Olivar said.

Olivar said Verzosa continued to be the PNP chief. "There is still a functioning and good relationship between Verzosa and the commander in chief."

Asked whether this meant Verzosa still enjoyed the trust of the President, Olivar said: "I have no reason to believe otherwise after the facts I have just described."

Teodoro to oppose junta in case of failure of elections

Administration candidate Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro, Jr. said he would be the first to oppose any moves that would install a military junta in case of a failure of elections in May.

Malaysian trawler hijacked, brought to Tawi-Tawi

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is now searching for a hijacked Malaysian-registered fishing boat.

Journalist gets death threat after release of book on Supreme Court

by By Aries Rufo,
MANILA, Philippines - Newsbreak editor-in chief Marites Danguilan Vitug has received death threats through text from an unknown sender.

WHO challenges Philippine bishops' advice on condoms

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - The World Health Organization (WHO) Monday defied the Philippines' Catholic Church by criticising its bishops' opposition to the use of condoms as a means of preventing the spread of HIV-AIDS.

No rice imports under Aquino-Roxas admin

by Reuters
MANILA, Philippines - The leading ticket in opinion polls for the Philippines' presidency will immediately stop rice imports and boost the local farm sector if voted in at the May elections, vice-presidential candidate Manuel Roxas said on Monday.

Court stops PCSO from awarding deals on wireless lotto

Information technology solutions provider DFNN Inc. has obtained a crucial court injunction order restraining the state-owned Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office from awarding any new wireless lotto betting contract with other vendors.

Eight injured as passenger jet crash lands near Moscow

MOSCOW — A Russian passenger jet with only crew on board crash landed in forest near Moscow's Domodedovo International Airport on Monday, injuring all eight crew members, three seriously, officials said.

Victorious Pacquiao seriously mulls retiring

(UPDATE) After seven boxing titles, millions of dollars worth in cash prizes, and the adulation of fans worldwide, Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao on Monday said he is finally considering hanging up his boxing gloves.

Pacquiao: Mayweather fight not a must to earn place in boxing history

International boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao said on Monday morning that he did not feel the need to fight unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather Jr. to cement his place in sports history.

Pacquiao skirts political endorsements for now

Going against expectations, boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao avoided making political endorsements though he has been identified with Nacionalista Party presidential bet and Senator Manuel Villar.

2012 Olympic organizers announce ticket increase

LONDON—London 2012 Olympic organisers have increased the number of tickets available to the public by 300,000 to eight million.

Toni Rose Gayda donates son's eyes

MANILA, Philippines - TV host and actress Toni Rose Gayda confirmed that she donated the eyes of her youngest son, Edward James Lim, who died after falling from the 4th floor of his condominium unit in Wack-Wack, Mandaluyong City last Friday. 

Vina to Shaina: Take it slow with John Lloyd

MANILA, Philippines - Singer-actress Vina Morales on Sunday said she is advising her youngest sister, Shaina Magdayao, to take it slow amidst reports that she is romantically involved with John Lloyd Cruz.

Angel Locsin going wild? Stars say no

MANILA, Philippines - ABS-CBN stars on Sunday defended actress Angel Locsin on allegations that she is becoming an alcoholic.

Joyce Jimenez breastfeeds new baby

MANILA, Philippines - After raising body temperatures in her sexy films, the country's only "Pantasya ng Bayan" Joyce Jimenez is turning over a new leaf and is now a full time mom.

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