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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March 3, 2010 Major News Stories

Shell, Petron, Phoenix hike oil prices Wednesday

Three oil companies announced late Tuesday they will increase the prices of their products by as much as P1 per liter on Wednesday.

Pilipinas Shell will raise the prices of diesel and kerosene by P0.75 per liter and gasoline by P1 per liter on Wednesday, an official said.

The increase will take effect 12:01 a.m. to "reflect the increase in international product prices," said vice president for communications Roberto Kanapi.

Raffy Ledesma, Petron's public affairs officer, said the oil company will raise the price of gasoline by P1 per liter, and of diesel and kerosene by P0.75 per liter effective 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Independent oil player Phoenix Petroleum Phil. also announced on Tuesday that it will raise its prices at the pump by as much as P1 per liter effective Wednesday.

Effective 6 a.m., Phoenix will raise the prices of its diesel by P0.75 per liter and gasoline by P1 per liter, said spokesman Raymond Zorilla.

Taxi flagdown rate may shoot up to P40 by April

Taxi flagdown rate may increase to up to P40 starting April from the current P30, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced on Tuesday.

LTFRB has agreed for a taxi fare hike although the board has yet to come up with a cost analysis to determine the exact amount of the increase. 

GMA bares relief measures for El-Niño hit farmers

President Arroyo on Tuesday bared measures intended to provide relief to farmers in the country's El Niño -struck provinces, among them, a moratorium on irrigation fees, emergency employment and food assistance, and a moratorium on the payment of loans with the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank).

The National Irrigation administration (NIA) ordered a moratorium on the collection of irrigation fees that same morning.

DA will coordinate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and concerned local government units in line with the Chief Executive's directive to provide emergency food assistance to farmers.

Wage hikes before Arroyo gov't exits?

ONE MORE ROUND of wage hikes could be squeezed in by the Arroyo administration before its term ends as labor begins the process of seeking adjustments, officials yesterday said.

As the economy recovers, groups such as the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) have started asking for higher minimum wages. Petitions for an additional P75 per day have been submitted in Metro Manila and Davao, with more scheduled for succeeding days.

A run of annual wage hikes since 1989 -- when wage setting was transferred to regional boards from Congress -- was broken last year as labor groups acknowledged the impact of the global economic downturn.

Asked if the Arroyo administration was leaving the wage hike issue for its successor to decide, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary B. Olivar said: "It's being faced by the government now. We're not completely ruling out anything."

Filipinos will pick a new set of leaders on May 10.

Esther F. Guirao, deputy executive director of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) said a compromise was being contemplated.

"We may or may not grant a wage hike. There are companies that can afford to absorb a wage hike, while others are still trying to recover from the crisis so there will be some compromises during consultations," she said.

An option to grant companies a one-year reprieve from any wage hike was broached during ongoing consultations, Ms. Guirao pointed out. 

Employers, meanwhile, rejected any increase, insisting that non-wage benefits are preferable.

Employers Confederation of the Philippines president Edgardo G. Lacson pointed out that current economic conditions did not warrant salary adjustments at this time.

"There's a big possibility of companies closing down or others trimming down employees just to be able to comply with the wage order," Mr. Lacson said.

He instead proposed non-wage benefits such as rice, transport, and clothing subsidies, and the integration into basic pay of cost of living allowances depending on an employer's financial health.

John D. Forbes, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines legislative committee chairman, said any wage hike would further erode the competitiveness of the Philippine labor market, already threatened by free trade and lower wages in other Southeast Asian countries.

"The economic principle is that if wages are raised then productivity will increase. In the Philippines, labor productivity has not been increasing for the last 20 years," Mr. Forbes claimed.

While agreeing to an improved non-wage package, the TUCP said its call for a minimum wage hike was "non-negotiable."

"These (benefits) are not a replacement to the wage increase ... [Management] should pity the workers. They just have to reduce their profits," said Alex G. Aguilar, secretary general of the TUCP in Davao.

TUCP's petition before the regional wage board in Davao asks for the integration of a P15 cost of living allowance on top of the P75 increase. Minimum wage earners in Davao currently receive P265 per day.

The association might also resort to calling a nationwide strike "if need be," Mr. Aguilar said, pointing out that a mass action is "always an option."

"I believe that the wage board will definitely grant a wage hike. The only question there is how much," TUCP deputy general secretary Cedric R. Bagtas said.

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said its officials, together with party-list legislators Satur C. Ocampo and Liza L. Maza, would push for a special session of the House labor committee for the passage of House Bill 1722 or the P125 Daily Across-the-Board Wage Increase Act.

The 14th Congress adjourned last Feb. 5 and many legislators are now busy with their reelection bids.

"We did not file petitions at the wage board because we see it as the government's instrument to avoid a substantial wage hike," KMU public information officer Wendell M. Gumban said.

Balili lot probe over before polls

The Office of the Ombudsman Visayas assured yesterday that the investigation into the alleged anomalous Balili land deal of the Province of Cebu is among the top priority cases that the anti-graft office is trying to resolve before the May 10 elections.

Executive inquiry on Balili has 3 drafts

THE executive investigation on the Capitol's purchase of the Balili resort has been terminated, but the members want a consensus in making recommendations.

This is why even after three drafts, the panel has yet to release the results.

Capitol consultant on information and revenue generation Rory Jon Sepulveda, a lawyer and member of the panel, explained each of the seven members was assigned to critique the drafts. He would not say who prepared the drafts.

When the panel members arrive at a consensus, a formal report will be presented to Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. It will come out before the elections, assured Sepulveda.

Just like the legislative inquiry, the executive panel is also being careful with the results of its fact-finding investigation.

Sepulveda said the panel also considered if its findings would contradict those of the other investigations and if they have jurisdiction over issues presented in the report.

The Capitol's purchase of the P98.9-million Balili property in Tinaan, Naga became controversial when it was found that part of the property was submerged in water or covered with mangroves, although the Province received clean titles for it.

A separate inquiry by the Provincial Board (PB) has also been terminated. But the findings in a draft report are also being kept under wraps.

Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez, one of only two opposition members in the PB, wanted a special session to tackle the Balili controversy, so that it will be open to the public as well.

But PB Members Peter John Calderon and Victor Maambong agreed it is not necessary. Each member only needs to get a copy of a draft and sign to indicate whether he concurs or objects, said Maambong.

Sepulveda also said a special session is not necessary because the board has a regular session every Monday.

"He's over-acting," said Sepulveda of the vice governor.

The executive panel has members from three departments: the executive department with Capitol consultants and lawyers Sepulveda and Manolette Dinsay and Provincial Planning and Development Office Chief Adolfo Quiroga; the legislative department with PB Members Calderon, Maambong and Agnes Magpale; and the justice department, represented by Atty. Medardo de Lemos, director of the National Bureau of Investigation 7. De Lemos serves as the panel's chairman.

Sepulveda said one of the concerns of the panel is that the findings might contradict that of the other investigations. But three members of the executive panel are also members of the PB ad hoc committee investigating the controversy.

The panel also has to contend with possible insinuations of whitewash, if no administrative liability is raised.

And if there are certain employees or officials implicated to be responsible for the transaction's flaws, Sepulveda said the panel also questioned if it has jurisdiction over them.

On the part of the PB, the procedure, as explained by Maambong, is that all members will be given a copy of the draft of the findings and recommendations as prepared by PB Member Joven Mondigo Jr., co-chairman of the committee of the whole.

Last Monday, the board received letters from Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas Virginia Palanca-Santiago, asking for updates on the Balili inquiry as well as the status of the coal ash dump site project.

Sanchez urged that the Balili investigative report be hastened so that the board can answer the Office of the Ombudsman.

As for the letter referring to the coal ash, the board forwarded it to the Office of the Governor.

It stemmed from the complaint of lawyers Gloria Estenzo-Ramos and Benjamin Cabrido on the purchase of the property and the execution of the memorandum of agreement with the Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco).

The lawyers are dismayed by the planned dumping of coal ash in the property, part of which the Capitol wants to reclaim.

But Sepulveda said there is no dumping yet and if the environmental agency prohibits the dumping of coal ash and the sale of fly ash to cement manufacturers as an additive, then the Province will not pursue the plan.

The Capitol, he added, will return the US$500,000 that Kepco gave Capitol as advance payment for the deal under the MOA, if the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 bars the MOA's enforcement.

Under the agreement, Kepco agreed to pay the Province $1 per ton as ash disposal service fee, with escalating rates over 25 years.

Kepco and Doosan Heavy Industries passed a toxicity level testing by a private company.

Last year, the Capitol released a certificate of analysis from Ostrea Mineral Laboratories Inc., which showed that seven chemicals were analyzed and all passed the DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 29 standard.

The MOA, though, was amended by the board that no dumping will be done until an environmental compliance certificate is acquired.

CITOM to decide on fate of 31 traffic law enforcers

The board of the City Traffic Operations and Management (CITOM) will decide today on the fate of 31 traffic law enforcers, who are allegedly involved in extortion activities.

Joavan "threat" causes stir

The adopted son of Talisay City Mayor Joavan Fernandez caused a stir yesterday when he allegedly indirectly threatened the security guard of IAU Tower along D. Jakosalem St. last night.

Joavan went to the condominium with his family allegedly to celebrate his birthday but was told the owner of the unit where he was going had not yet given him permission to be there.

After the security guard warned him again, Joavan allegedly pulled out his cellphone and made a call, hinting that he was sending for "backup" and they had an "armalite" rifle with them.

The guard reported the incident to the management that later called for the police. Personnel from the Special Weapons and Tactics team came and were able to search Joavan inside the condo unit as the owner had arrived and allowed Joavan to enter.

SWAT policeman PO3 Arthur Sabang said after nothing was found the police left Joavan and companions to enjoy themselves, yesterday was his 26th birthday.

Rama says border "conflict" can be settled after plebiscite

Vice Mayor Michael Rama said yesterday there should be no reason to postpone the scheduled plebiscite in Barangay Guadalupe on March 13, as the issue on the supposed boundary conflict involving Guadalupe and its neighbors can be resolved even after the exercise.

Labangon to push claim only after plebiscite

THOUGH concerned that residents of 12 sitios under his barangay could not vote in the plebiscite, Labangon, Cebu City Barangay Captain Felix Abella yesterday said he will pursue their claim over portions of the territory of neighboring Guadalupe after the exercise.

Plaza Independencia rehab to be delayed

The restoration of the famous Plaza Independencia in Cebu City – where an underground tunnel is being constructed to link the South Coastal Road to McArthur Boulevard-- will be delayed due to lack of funds.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama recalled that during their meeting with the officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways in 2004, it was agreed that the agency will allocate enough budget for the restoration of the plaza.

The construction of a tunnel that traverses beneath the century-old plaza is intended not to destroy the historic value of Plaza Independencia, one of the tourist attractions of Cebu City.

Rama told the reporters yesterday that he was told the DPWH only has P6 million for the restoration of the plaza, which is no longer enough to undertake the project.

It was earlier announced that the underground tunnel would be completed by last December, but it was moved to March this year. But again its completion will be delayed due to lack of budget.

80 cops to augment forces in areas on election watch list

After provincial Commission on Elections supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano mentioned to reporters of two towns and a component city which might be included in the election watch list, the Cebu Provincial Police Office chief eyes the deployment of more police officers in the southern and northern parts of Cebu for the upcoming elections in May.

Senior Supt. Erson Digal, CPPO director, admitted to reporters that there are two towns and a component city here in the province, to be placed in the said list, which lack police personnel. However, this concern would be addressed as 80 personnel of the Regional Mobile Group would be "downloaded soon."

In the latest report, the City of Bogo will be placed under the watch list after the Supreme Court came out with the decision that Celestino "Tining" Martinez III is the real winner in the last congressional polls against Rep. Benhur Salimbangon. The other towns are Ronda in the second district and Tuburan in the third district allegedly in political crisis with noted rivalries, if not bad blood, among politicians.

Such has prompted Digal to plan for the deployment of 80 RMGs. However, the deployment will not be limited to the said areas.

"Sa (pagka)tinood, kulang gyod og mga tawo didto pero dili lang na nato problemahon kay naa may 80 kabuok nga RMG nga i-download. Priority na nato ang maong mga areas but dili lang gyod maoy basehan, per se, ang areas nga giingong naa sa watch list," Digal clarified.

Hacking of poll machines 'impossible'—poll chief

Pointing out the impossibility of hacking the electronic machines, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Jose Melo said politicians desperate to win should instead "buy out the elections."

Or, as Makati Representative Teodoro Locsin Jr. suggested, politicians can resort to vote-buying instead of trying to manipulate election results.

"You need a big amount of money and a lot of time to hack just one PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machine… How can you hack 82,000 machines?" Melo said Tuesday.

"Kung ako ang magko-corrupt diyan, iha-hack ko ang makina, eh di bibilhin ko na lang ang eleksyon, bakit pa ako mandadaya (If I am the one planning to hack the machines, I will instead buy out the elections, why would I still cheat?)," he added.

It would be "virtually impossible" to tamper with the results through the machines, said Locsin, who chairs the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.

"I urge our candidates who want to cheat, please just buy votes because you would be just wasting your money if you try to cheat through the machines, you won't be able do it," he said.

The solon, however, warned cheaters who would buy votes that Filipinos are more educated today and would most likely vote what's in their conscience even after accepting money.

"It is really much better to buy votes (than hack the machines). The only problem is you cannot buy the votes, you can only buy the voter… they will take your money and (follow) the advice of Cardinal Sin, who said take the money and vote your conscience," added Locsin.

At the joint hearing of the electoral reforms committee and the oversight committee Tuesday, Comelec commissioners and officials of Smartmatic-Total Informaiton Management showed the congressmen the procedures on voting on the PCOS machines.

Melo assured it's all systems go for the country's first-ever fully automated elections.

"Let's not debate whether we should automate or not. We are going to have automated polls," he said.

Asked about a failure of elections scenario, Melo said, "I don't entertain that idea that there would be failure of elections. There would be failure of elections if we would be struck by an earthquake."

Locsin said the comfort level of congressmen that the automated elections would proceed smoothly "raised tremendously" after they visited the testing and storage facility for the poll machines in Cabuyao, Laguna and saw the printing of the ballots.

Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez raised fears and said that while everything appears to be going on smoothly, he was worried about the 300 municipalities that would not be serviced by the telecommunications providers Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular.

These areas will instead use the VSAT facilities for transmission of election results, which he said are "not very reliable."

Voters" list in May polls "padded" by 5 million - watchdog

At least five million voters have been "padded" to the more than 50 million listed for the May 10 automated elections, a multi-sectoral poll watchdog bared on Tuesday.

Comelec worried over rotating brownouts ahead of polls

The rotating brownouts being experienced in some parts of the country have given the Commission on Elections (Comelec) reason to be worried in the run-up to the elections.

Cabinet execs running in polls considered resigned effective March 2, 2010

All appointive public officials running for public office are considered resigned effective Tuesday, March 2.

Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said Tuesday that no further motion shall be entertained on the issue which the high court had already ruled on with finality.

The tribunal, by a vote of 10-5, had ruled that allowing appointive officials to stay in office while running for public office "posed…the danger of systematic abuse perpetuated by a 'powerful political machine' that has amassed 'the scattered powers of government workers' so as to give itself and its incumbent workers an 'unbreakable grasp on the reins of power.'"

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal filed a motion for reconsideration contesting the court's decision, but this was dismissed by the tribunal for failure to raise new arguments that would warrant a reversal of its earlier ruling.

In junking Macalintal's motion, the court cited the probable harm to society in allowing appointive officials to remain in office while pursuing elective posts.

Arroyo to name Cabinet replacements by March 10

1 person liked this - leo lastimosa
MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Tuesday announced that she will fill up by next week posts that will be vacated by Cabinet officials running in the May 10 elections.

3 forwarders hired for poll automation project

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has enlisted the services of three forwarding companies for the transportation of the materials that will be used in the May 10 automated elections.
Comelec chairman Jose Melo said they have signed a contract with Germalin Enterprises, Ace Logistics, and Argo Forwarders to take charge of the transfer of the 82,200 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and ballot boxes and the more than 50 million ballots to the various provinces nationwide.

"They are seasoned and experienced forwarders," Melo told reporters in an interview.

Germalin will be in charge of the deliveries in the National Capital Region, Ace for the rest Luzon, and Argo for Visayas and Mindanao.

Melo could not specifically say how much they are paying the three forwarders, but he said the cost of transportation of the ballot boxes is higher than their worth.

In a text message to GMANews.TV, Smartmatic spokesman Gene Gregorio said that since the automation project is their undertaking, they will be paying the three firms.

The Aboitiz-owned forwarder 2Go had earlier backed out of the project after critics slammed the Comelec for supposedly choosing a firm that is identified with the Arroyo administration.

The poll body said that they would ship out the ballots and PCOS machines by mid-April.

Comelec starts training of teachers on poll automation

MANILA, Philippines - Teachers took turns in operating the Precinct Count Optical Scan Machines during the start of training for members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) which will run for the whole month of March.

Gordon: Villar offered money for poll withdrawal

Presidential candidate and Senator Richard Gordon claimed on Tuesday that his rival, Nacionalista Party standard bearer and Senator Manuel Villar Jr. offered him money in exchange for his withdrawal from the race and of his support for a Senate report making Villar culpable in a road project controversy.

Gordon to Villar: Let's undergo lie detector test

Hinamon ni Senador Richard Gordon si Senador Manuel Villar na sabay silang magpa-lie-detector test. Ito'y matapos itanggi ni Villar ang pasabog ni Gordon na tinangka siyang suhulan ng kampo ni Villar para umatras sa halalan.

Villar: Nothing wrong with studying possibility of opening nuke plant

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte - Nacionalista Party standard bearer Senator Manuel Villar Jr. sees nothing wrong with studying the possibility of using the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) to increase the country"s energy supplies.

Noynoy: If I win, I won't run for any position after my term

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte-If Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino wins the presidency, he promises not to follow the footsteps of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in running for a lower office when his term ends.

"Air Pichay" carrying admin bets to sorties

Administration candidates have been moving around the country in their sorties mostly through "Air Pichay," which refers to the chopper and two planes owned by Prospero Pichay Jr., the presidential political adviser who is helping Lakas-Kampi-CMD candidates in their campaign for the May 10 elections.

Comelec junks petition to disqualify Pacquiao, Lapid

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Second Division on Tuesday junked a petition seeking to disqualify re-electionist Senator Lito Lapid and congressional aspirant and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao from the May 2010 elections.

In putting off SK, barangay polls 'P15 billion saved to aid farmers, fisherfolk'

Former senator and now Liberal Party senatorial candidate Ralph Recto said that resetting the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections is the best thing for the government to do now to help rehabilitate and finance the disaster-stricken farmers and fisherfolk in the country with the onslaught of the El Niño phenomenon.

Drug money may affect RP poll results—US report

The US State Department has expressed deep concern that drug money could affect the outcome of the May 2010 general elections in the Philippines.

In its 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), which was released in Washington DC, on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), the State Department said the Philippines' drug problem continued to pose a significant national threat, despite reports of a possible decline in the supply and demand of illegal drugs in parts of the country.

The report, posted on the US State Department's website, said that foreign-based drug-trafficking operations remained the biggest challenge to Philippine law enforcement.

"With the upcoming 2010 elections, there is fear that illicit narcotics funds may affect election results," the 668-page report said on the section on the Philippines.

"The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has publicly expressed fears that illicit narcotics money could influence the 2010 elections, and has pledged to pursue any evidence of such influence in order to be able to carry out arrests," it said.

The (INCSR) is an annual report by the US State Department to the US Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act.

It described the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in 2009, covering drug and chemical control activities, as well as money laundering and financial crimes.

The report estimated the value of illegal drugs trafficked in the Philippines at $6.4 billion to $8.4 billion annually. The top three regions most affected were Cebu (Region 7), (Northern Mindanao) (Region 10), and Metro Manila (the National Capital Region).

It took note of a 2004 survey that placed the number of drug users in the country at 6.7 million. The average age of drug abusers is 28; 57 percent are single, and 34 percent are unemployed. Male drug users outnumber females by a ratio of 9:1.

The report said the production of methamphetamine, or shabu, in the country has been primarily carried out via kitchen-type clandestine laboratories, rather than the large "mega-labs" previously seen.

It said that while marijuana remained the second choice of drugs users behind methamphetamine, ecstasy users have increased in Manila, and usage has spread to other regions of the country where there were affluent families and tourists.

The report likewise noted that the transnational drug groups such as the West African Drugs Syndicate (WADS) continued to infiltrate the Philippines with their operations, and recruit overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as drug couriers to smuggle and transport illegal drugs to China, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Also, traffickers increasingly took advantage of the Philippines' long and porous maritime borders to use the country as a transit point for high-grade cocaine and heroin shipments, primarily from India and Pakistan, the report said.

The report further said that the Philippines was a likely source of methamphetamine for other countries in East Asia and Oceania such as Australia, Canada, Japan and South Korea.

In addition, the Philippines was a primary source of methamphetamine for Guam and Hawaii.

It said the Philippines "produces, consumes, and likely exports marijuana," which has become the second most-used drug in the country. Marijuana remains the "starter drug," and is also considered as an alternative drug choice when crystal methamphetamine is not available.

The report said that corruption continued to pose a problem in Philippine law enforcement, due to low pay and lack of training, although law enforcement leadership has been trying to address the problem.

"The slow judicial process not only demoralizes law enforcement personnel, but also enables drug dealers to continue their drug business between court dates," the report said.

It added that a dearth of financial resources has hampered PDEA's efforts to curb the illegal drug menace.

SC: VFA constitutional, US soldiers can stay on RP soil

(UPDATE 5 - 6:20 p.m.) The Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States, allowing American soldiers to temporarily stay on local soil and help train their Filipino counterparts.

HR groups, kin seek probe of Pinoy's death in US military facility in Marawi

MANILA, Philippines - Human rights groups in Region 9 are joining the call for justice by the family of a Filipino worker who died in a US military facility inside a Philippine Army camp in Marawi City.

Justice denies committing irregularity cited in anonymous email

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio Tuesday said the name mentioned in the anonymous email against him is not his wife.

Carpio also said he did not use his influence as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel (CPLC) so his wife could acquire Filipino citizenship.

In his reply to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) dated Feb. 26, Carpio said the name Ruth Nguyen Carpio mentioned in the Feb. 22 anonymous email to the JBC was not his wife.

He said his wife Bach Yen Thi Nguyen was granted permanent residency in the Philippines on Jan. 20, 1976, 16 years before he became CPLC in 1992.

"My wife became a citizen of the Philippines by reason of her marriage to a Philippine citizen pursuant to Section 15 of Commonwealth Act No. 473. On April 21, 1978, my wife was issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs a Philippine passport. Thus, my wife was recognized by the Philippine government as a Philippine citizen 14 years before I was appointed CPLC in 1992," Carpio said.

He admitted finding a way to grant permanent resident status to Vietnamese refugees during his stint as CPLC upon instruction of then President Fidel Ramos.

Ramos was familiar to the plight of the Vietnamese-Filipino children because he served as head of the Philippine Civic Action Group in Vietnam. A Vietnamese Catholic nun, Sister Pascal, also wrote Malacañang at that time asking help for the refugees.

Carpio added that his position while he was CPLC that illegitimate children of Filipino mothers or fathers are citizens of the Philippines was even adopted by the Supreme Court in Tecson v. Comelec where the Court ruled that the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., son of a Filipino father and an American mother, is a natural-born Filipino citizen.

"As the law stands now under Tecson, these Vietnamese-Filipino children are eligible, like FPJ, to run for President of the Philippines because they are natural-born Philippine citizens. I trust that the JBC will find the foregoing explanation in order," Carpio said.

Palace scored for 'lack of delicadeza' on CJ issue

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis Escudero on Tuesday chided Malacañang Palace for putting pressure on the Supreme Court on the issue of appointing a new Chief Justice before the May elections.

HIV cases in Philippines hit all-time high in January

by By Sol Aragones, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) has expressed alarm over the rising cases of human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) in the Philippines. 

Condom distribution to help poor families—labor group

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral's decision to continue handing out condoms would mostly benefit poor couples wanting to have fewer children but could not afford contraceptives, a party-list group said Tuesday.

4 out of 10 Pinoys won't heed Church's call vs pro-RH candidates

Susuwayin ng halos 4 sa bawat 10 Pinoy ang panawagan ng Simbahan na huwag iboto ang mga kandidatong pabor sa Reproductive Health Bill! Base rin sa survey ng SWS, bukas sa lahat ng uri ng family planning method ang mayorya ng mga Pinoy!

Good news, bad news from Oman

The Sultanate of Oman has given illegal or overstaying expatriate workers until March 31 this year to leave the country, the Department of Labor and Employment said Tuesday.

600 bridges to be 'retrofitted' for earthquakes

With earthquake-devastated countries like Haiti in mind, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has been conducting "seismic retrofitting" or repairs on nearly 600 bridges in various parts of the country.

Arroyo stops speech, school kids run out of class during quake

President Macapagal Arroyo briefly stopped her speech at the Florencio Vargas College in Tuguegarao City when a magnitude 6.1 earthquake shook Cagayan on Tuesday morning, an officer of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in the region said.

Masbate school torched by suspected rebels

At least ten suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) set a three-classroom school building in Masbate on fire on midnight of Monday, an Army official said Tuesday.

Detention cell, court room for Ampatuans ready

The Metro Manila District Jail (MMDJ) is in its final steps of preparation to accommodate the over 400 people accused of rebellion in Maguindanao province, as the jail and court room inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City would be completed by next week, an official said.

3 Army soldiers hurt in Basilan landmine explosion

Three Army soldiers were wounded in a landmine explosion that rocked Basilan province early Tuesday, authorities said.

20 more foreign peace monitors to arrive in Mindanao

More international peace monitors were due to arrive in Mindanao with the resumption of the talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Heavy rains cause flooding, commuter woes in desert UAE

by Agence France-Presse
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Heavy rains in the Gulf desert state of the United Arab Emirates caused flooding, traffic jams, car accidents and school closures on Tuesday, after four weather-related deaths at the weekend.

Clinton visits quake-hit Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought Tuesday satellite phones and offers of further US assistance to quake-struck Chile, comforting Chilean President Michelle Bachelet with a hug on arrival.

Chile quake might have shortened days on Earth

by CNN
(CNN) -- The massive earthquake that struck Chile last week might have shifted the Earth's axis and created shorter days, scientists at NASA say.

Bombs in southern Thailand target banks, wound 2

BANGKOK - Five small bombs planted by suspected insurgents exploded Tuesday outside banks and ATMs in Thailand's restive south, wounding two people, police said. Another three bombs were defused.

Determined Gorres starts therapy

EAGER to improve his bodily functions, Z Gorres immediately underwent his first session of physical therapy yesterday instead of taking a rest after being discharged from the Cebu Doctor's Hospital.

Giants try to finish Aces on Wednesday

MANILA, Philippines – Purefoods will go for the clincher on Wednesday night as they try to sweep Alaska in Game 4 of their best-of-7 2009-10 KFC PBA Philippine Cup finals series at the Araneta Coliseum.

So now the world's top 64 chess player

MANILA, Philippines -- Grandmaster Wesley So gained 9.3 points according to the March 2010 RP-FIDE rating list to post the highest rating ever in the FIDE list by a Filipino.

Palace honors Cebuano artists

Cebuano artists were honored by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts' (NCCA) 2nd Ani ng Dangal awards held last February 26 at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace.

Choral groups University of the Visayas Chorale and the Mandaue Children's Choir, hip-hop group Dice & K9 Mobbstarr and photographer Erwin Lim were among the 41 awardees chosen from the different fields in the arts –12 in music, nine in film, seven in multidisciplinary arts, six in visual Arts, four in dance, and two in literature. The awardees were given the Ani ng Dangal for their exemplary performances in the global stage. All of them won gold medals and topped international competitions from November 2008 to November 2009.    

The UV Chorale was named into the prestigious roster after winning three golds at the Tomohon International Choir Competition in North Sulawesi Indonesia June of 2009.  

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The Mandaue Children's Choir, on the other hand, was included after emerging as champion in the Children's Choir Category of the First World Choir Championships in Gyeongnam Province, Republic of Korea in July of 2009.

Dice & K9 Mobbstarr was the only hip-hop artist that made it to this year's awardees after being named Best Hip-Hop Group, tying with Thailand's biggest hip-hop act, Thaitanium, in the first Independent Asian Music Awards (AVIMA) in Malaysia in March of 2009. Dice & K9 Mobbstarr is comprised of Dice (Wolfren Rosaroso), Hi-C (Honeyleen Concepcion-Rosaroso) and Klumcee (Lester Van'o).

Meanwhile, photographer Erwin Lim was included in the visual artists list as the ASEAN Tourism Association Awards for Excellence (held in Vietnam last year) awarded a photograph he did for PAL as the best tourism shot.

All four Cebuano awardees were joined in the award ceremonies by such notable artists as Brillante Mendoza (62nd Cannes FilmFestival–Best Director for Kinatay), Pepe Diokno (66th Venice International Film Festival–Lion of the Future Luigi De Laurentiis Awardee for a Debut Film, and Orizzonti Award Best Film for Engkwentro), Gina Pareño (3rd Asian Film Awards–Best Supporting Actress for Serbis), and Rhap Salazar (13th World Championships of Performing Arts–Grand Champion Performer of the World, and Champion, Vocal–Junior Division).

The Ani ng Dangal Awards was the culmination of the National Arts Month of February, wherein the works and awards of the honorees were put in a display in a month-long exhibit organized by NCCA.

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RP's first identical twin generals retire

The country—and probably the world's—first identical twin police generals officially retired Tuesday, a move the Philippine National Police (PNP) called as historic.
Police Directors Ronald and Ray Roderos retired, bemedalled, on Tuesday in brief ceremonies at the PNP national headquarters in Camp Crame.

The Roderos brothers are both members of the Philippine Military Academy "Makabayan" Class of 1975. Ronald was the director of the Directorate for Police Community Relations while Ray was the director of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Visayas.

Ronald was considered the "younger" of the two brothers, having been born 20 minutes later than Ray.

Ronald, in jest, said that he was always played "second fiddle" to his brother.

"My brother is more intelligent than me," he said. "In high school, valedictorian: Ray, salutatorian: Ronald."

"I was the second fiddle, also the late comer, the late bloomer," Ronald added.

He said that his brother, Ray, was promoted to one-star general two years ahead of him and promoted to two-star general a year ahead of him.

Nevertheless, Ronald said he has nothing but respect for his brother.

Meanwhile, Ray said he was proud to be part of a historic occasion.

"I never imagined that I would now be a part of a unique joint retirement ceremony of the first identical twin generals in the country and probably the entire world," Ray said in his speech.

Both brothers called it an honor to have served the country.

"It is an honor to both of us to have served our country for 39 years. It is an honor that the country has allowed us to showcase our skills and talents," Ray said.

"For 39 years, we have served and protected our people with honor. Today, we thank everybody for the wholehearted support they gave us," Ronald said. 

For his part, PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa said that the twin generals played an important part in "solidifying" the institution.

"The twin Roderos served the PNP very well," he said, adding, "They have been instrumental in the thrust of the PNP and the activities of the integrated transformation program and the image-building activities of the PNP."

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