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

Monday, March 8, 2010

March 9, 2010 Major News Stories



Oil companies to raise fuel prices Tuesday

Pilipinas Shell and independent oil player Phoenix Petroleum Philippines announced on Monday that it will increase fuel prices effective Tuesday morning.

Pilipinas Shell Petroleum, Eastern Petroleum, Seaoil Philippines, and Phoenix Petroleum Philippines announced the price hikes, which will take effect between 12:01 a.m. and 6 a.m. March 9.

Shell said they will increase the price of their gasoline products by P0.50 per liter, while prices of diesel and kerosene products will increase P0.25 per liter, effective 12:01 a.m.

Meanwhile, Eastern, Seaoil, and Phoenix said they will implement similar price increases on their respective petroleum products effective 6 a.m.

Power rate hikes seen this month

Tataas ng mahigit P1.00 kada kilowatthour ang singil sa kuryente sa mga lugar na sakop ng Meralco ngayong buwan! Pero humihirit pa ng palugit ang kumpanya para magawan ng paraan kung paano mabawasan ang nakaambang dagok sa mga consumer. May aasahan din ang mga taga-Mindanao na mahigit P1.00 kada kilowatthour na dagdag sa singil ngayong Marso.

Power supply still unstable, says NGCP

The country's power supply remained unstable marked by the thin reserves of the Luzon and the Visayas grids, and huge generation deficiencies of the Mindanao grid.

No special session; senators warn of illegal power deals

(UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has decided not to call for a special session of Congress to tackle the power crisis in Mindanao.

TUCP hits construction of power plant in Naga

A partylist group has opposed the ongoing construction of the Kepco-Salcon coal-fired power plant, which is funded by the Asian Development Bank, in Naga City.

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines said that the construction of the 200-megawatt power plant will certainly contribute to global warming.

"TUCP is one with environmental lawyers, NGOs and church leaders in the Visayas who are questioning the construction of the proposed plant. TUCP understands that workers will also be affected when ecological balance is disturbed due to greed and corruption," the statement said.

TUCP, the largest worker's party in the country, firmly believes that it is in the best interest of labor to work for environmental protection.

It said it also wanted to ensure that social, health and environmental concerns related to the construction of power generators are properly addressed.


Board can't assure action: TUCP files petition for P100 wage hike

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines yesterday filed a P100 across the board wage hike petition for Region VII before the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board.


Partylist group seeks minimum daily wage hike in Region 7

by By Carine M. Asutilla, ABS-CBN News Central Visayas
CEBU, Philippines - A labor partylist group in Central Visayas has filed a petition to the regional wage board for a minimum wage increase.

Agri dept recommends two peso sugar price cut to P52 a kilo

Consumers may get another relief from high sugar prices with a looming P2/kilo slash in prices of the commodity.

46 died, 6,190 fell ill with dengue in January, February — report

Dengue cases went up to 6,236 cases in the first two months of 2010, an 11 percent-increase over last year's figures (5,616) in the same period, the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) of the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

PRC: 514 new medical technologists

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Monday that 514 out of 873 passed the Medical Technologist Licensure Examination given by the Board of Medical Technology in the cities of Manila, Baguio and Cebu this March 2010.

Speedy probe into Balili lot mess sought

Different cause-oriented groups yesterday gathered in front of the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas and submitted a manifesto asking for a speedy investigation into the controversial Balili property.

Results 'in 10 days'

THE result of the Provincial Board's (PB) ad hoc committee hearing on the controversial Balili land deal will be out in 10 days.

Pump boys missing from station

The two pump attendants Joavan Fernandez had encountered at a gasoline station last week in barangay Bulacao, Talisay City have not allegedly reported for work.

Fired enforcers threaten raps vs. CITOM officers

The 31 City Traffic Operations and Management personnel terminated last week for alleged extortion threatened to file a case against CITOM executive officer Arnel Tancinco and Cebu City Police Office Traffic Patrol Group Head Chief Insp. Andres Bayarcal for illegal dismissal.

Fifteen traffic personnel recalled

The City Traffic Operations and Management is set to recall anytime this week some 15 traffic personnel due to reports and complaints of illegal operations in areas where they have been tasked to enforce traffic laws.

Tom: COA, Ombuds should probe San Roque anomalies

Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday said the government's investigating bodies like the Office of the Ombudsman and Commission on Audit should quickly look into and come up with its findings on the reported anomalies allegedly committed by some officials of Barangay San Roque (Ciudad) even if they are his political allies.

It was Lidiore "Boy" Miranda, the barangay's first councilman, who filed a complaint before the Ombudsman Visayas after he gathered evidence showing alleged irregularities in some of the barangay's financial transactions, among them documents to make it appear that the barangay conducted some activities when in reality it hadn't.

One such document presented by the barangay council headed by Ruizo to the Department of Interior and Local Government showed that former barangay captain Telesforo Rabaya, who died of cardiac arrest in March 3, 2004, was still able to attend a week-long activity organized for Persons with Disabilities from July 17 to 23 last year.

Miranda said the records that he obtained from the DILG Cebu City office showed that the late barangay captain even took the food and snacks that were served during the event.

Ruizo earlier told The FREEMAN that one of his barangay employees, Ligaya Britania, had already confessed to him that it was she who fabricated the questionable supporting documents, but Miranda said he was surprised because all of them, except him, had signed the barangay resolution.

Baquerfo scolded for discourtesy

The Office of the Ombudsman Visayas has reprimanded Tudela Mayor Rogelio Baquerfo Sr. after he was found guilty of discourtesy in the course of official duties when he ordered doors of the municipal council session hall padlocked without prior notice to the members of the town's legislative body.

Another casino in Lapu-Lapu

Lapu-Lapu City will have another casino soon.

The city council has allowed the establishment and operation of a casino inside a resort in barangay Marigabo.

Last March 1, Mayor Arturo Radaza endorsed to the city council the authorization of the casino's operation inside Imperial Palace Waterpark resort and spa.

Radaza said the facility will be operated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).

Pagcor, as mandated by law, is the sole entity allowed to operate gaming activities in the country. It has already expressed its amenability to establish a casino inside the resort.

Chairman Yong Jun Park of S Pacific Corporation, in his letter to Mayor Radaza, said that putting up a casino "means generating revenues to secure the resort's financial viability."

"Foreseeing that the current trend will continue far longer than predited, we have studied other means to generate revenues. The most feasible among these is the establishment of a casino in the resort and collect rental from its operations," Yong Jun Park said.

Furthermore, Yong Jun Park said that the income from the casino rental and resultant revenues from room, food and beverages will go along way in helping improve the financial status of the resort.

The hotel was declared a tourism economic zone.

The Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort Hotel and Spa - a five-star hotel with 557 guest rooms, suites and villas - is the newest addition to Cebu's slew of world-class resort hotels which is owned and developed by the Philippine BXT Corporation and managed/operated by the Korea-based Imperial Palace Hotel Group.

The resort was inaugurated last June.

Tourism Secretary Joseph "Ace" Durano said Imperial Hotel's status as a tourism economic zone will grant its management a tax holiday for five years and duty-free importation of goods and other hotel facilities.

According to Durano, the hotel operation will boost the local tourism market and attract upper tier travelers.

The hotel provides at least 1,000 jobs to Cebuanos.

Cop refutes reports on 'meddling' in Carcar rape case

The controversial policewoman who allegedly discouraged a rape victim from pursuing her filing of a complaint against two Pakistani nationals last week showed up at the office of the Cebu Provincial Police Office director yesterday morning to explain her side.

Fiscal drops child trafficking complaint

THE Cebu City Prosecutor's Office has dismissed the child trafficking complaint against American rape suspect Perry McNeely.

City Prosecutor Nicolas Sellon amended the criminal charges against McNeely from violation of Section 4 of Republic Act (RA) 9208 or Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act to violation of Section 5 of RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

Sellon said McNeely, who stepped out of jail last month on a P200,000-bail, merely "bought the services" of the 14-year-old minor victim who "went back to the hotel alone on her own volition."

"In other words, the person who hires or maintains a trafficked person to engage in prostitution is totally different story from a person who merely buys or engages the services of such trafficked person," Sellon said in his four-page resolution.

Last month, McNeely was sued for violation of provisions of RA 7610 for bringing in a 14-year-old girl inside a hotel room last Dec. 2.

McNeely's lawyer, Oscar Tan, earlier filed a motion seeking reduction of the bail.

For violation of Section 5 of RA 7610, the court recommended a bail of P24,000. A P200,000-bail was also recommended by the court for violation of Section 6 of RA 7610 (Attempt To Commit Child Prostitution).

Tan asked Regional Trial Court Judge Ester Veloso to reduce the P200,000 bail on McNeely's violation of Section 6.

Tan said McNeely could not afford to pay the bail since he is already a retiree and has a family to support. Tan asked the court that the bail be reduced to P24,000.

But Judge Veloso denied McNeely's motion for reduction of bail.

In his resolution, Sellon said the girl appeared to have been trafficked by Marian Zanoria, who is reportedly the girlfriend of McNeely, and virtually "fed" her to him last Dec. 1.

After the incident, McNeely reportedly asked the girl to come back to his hotel room. He gave her P1,000 after having sex with her.

But granting that the victim was trafficked, Sellon said it was Zanoria who should be held liable, not McNeely, since it was Zanoria who "hired" the girl to engage in prostitution.

"McNeely was merely a customer who used or bought the services of the minor as a prostitute and who apparently wanted more by telling her (victim) to come back the following day," said Sellon.

But since the girl is a minor, Sellon said McNeely is still liable for violating the law against child abuse.

Sellon also said the charge for violation Section 6 of RA 7610 (Attempt To Commit Child Prostitution) will not prosper since the law is applicable only if there is "a proof of actual prostitution or sexual abuse" between McNeely and the girl.

Electrical equipment stolen from chapel in Alcantara

CEBU, Philippines - Unidentified men have broken into the chapel of the Jesus Miracle Crusade in Barangay Palamas, Alcantara and carted away important equipment therein.

Mayor cites flaws in gun ban for crime: Killing of acolyte angers Tommy O

An exasperated Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who was apparently moved by the death of a 14-year-old boy, who was shot by three robbers last Sunday, expressed his disappointment at the way the gun ban has been implemented by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

3 witnesses in robbery-slay of boy help identify culprits

THREE witnesses are helping the police identify the culprits in the robbery-slay of 14-year-old Carlo Sacedon Mangitngit on Horseshoe Drive, Sitio Banawa, Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City.

Barangay councilor asks court to stop plebiscite

FOR fear he might lose his residency and his position, a barangay councilor yesterday filed a civil complaint against the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Labangon Barangay Councilor Victor Minoza-Buendia filed a petition for prohibition with issuance of a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction with the Regional Trial Court against Comelec 7, represented by Election Officer IV Edwin Cadungog.

Buendia, who is on his second term as barangay councilor of Labangon and a member of Rosalina Village Homeowners Association, stands to lose his residency and might even be disqualified as barangay councilor of Labangon if the village will become part of Barangay Banawa-Englis.

The inclusion of Rosalina Village as one of the puroks of Sitio Banawa "is indubitably a substantial alteration" of the boundary of Barangay Labangon, Cebu City, said Buendia's legal counsel Julius Ceasar Entise.

Citing the Supreme Court case Frivaldo vs. Comelec, the ruling states that "qualifications for public office are continuing requirements and must be possessed not only at the time of appointment or election or assumption of office but during the officer's entire tenure. Once any of the required qualifications is lost, his title may be seasonably challenged."

Entise said Section 6 of Comelec Resolution 8774 "effectively deprives" Buendia and other residents of Rosalina Village of their political right to vote during the plebiscite.

"I have to file it kay lain man kaayo mura man kog gi-deceive ani, mura kog giilad ba. Gibinuangan ko ani kay laliman ka, konsehal ko sa Labangon then gibalhin ko sa Barangay Banawa (I feel like I'm being deceived. I'm a councilor of Labangon then I will be moved to Banawa)," Buendia told radio dyHP yesterday afternoon.

He said he and other residents of Rosalina Village residents cannot participate in the plebiscite to vote against the creation of a new barangay, because they are all registered voters of Labangon.

Only registered voters of Guadalupe can vote on the creation of the new barangay this Saturday.

In a separate interview, Guadalupe Barangay Captain Eugenio Faelnar said he has nothing to do with the petition filed, saying he wants the plebiscite to push through to put it to rest.

He said he has grown tired of answering speculations that he is derailing the split of his barangay and that he is against the law creating the new village, as proposed by Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south district).

Sun.Star Cebu tried to contact Cuenco for comment on the petition filed, but he could not be reached for comment.

In his news conference yesterday noon, Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he pities Buendia.

"The number one councilor in Labangon is now going to be in Banawa. Imagine, Rosalina Village in Labangon is going to be part of Banawa but the residents cannot vote because they are registered voters in Labangon. You cannot vote for your own destiny, something is wrong," the mayor added.

Buendia, through Entise, also asked the court to strike down Comelec Resolution 8774, which provides the rules and regulations that govern the conduct of the plebiscite.

"The matter is of extreme urgency and the petitioner (Buendia) will suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury if no restraining order is granted," said Entise.

The case was raffled off yesterday afternoon to the sala of Judge Gabriel Ingles of the RTC Branch 58.

Last Jan. 7, President Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 9905 or an Act Creating a Barangay to be known as Barangay Banawa-Englis, Cebu City.

The act enumerates, among others, the puroks comprising Sitio Banawa. Under Section 1 of RA 9905, Rosalina Village in Barangay Labangon, where Buendia is residing, will be part of Sitio Banawa.

Entise also said the disbursement of public funds for the scheduled plebiscite is "apparently unconstitutional…(a) waste of public funds."

Entise said RA 9905 and Comelec Resolution 8774 "unmistakably and grossly violated" Section 10, Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution.

Entise also asked the court to declare the Comelec Resolution as null and void.


Absentee voting registration extended

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has decided to extend the registration deadline for local absentee voters because of the dismal turnout.

The deadline has been moved back one week to March 15 in the hope that more voters would avail themselves of the opportunity to cast their votes early, said Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

Under the law, those who qualify for local absentee voting are government officials and employees, including members of the military and the police, who, on election day, may be assigned to places other than where they are registered, thus losing their chance to vote.

Those registered for absentee voting can cast their ballots between April 24 and 26.

Absentee voters, however, can only vote for president, vice president, senators and party-list representative.

Larrazabal said only 6,000 people had registered so far compared to 2007 when some 40,000 voters registered.

"Usually people apply at the last minute, so that's expected to surge," Larrazabal told reporters on Monday.

He said it was also possible that those who qualify for absentee voting may want to try out the new automated counting machines on Election Day.

"They probably want to try voting on Election Day itself and test out the automated elections," he said.

This would be the first automated election in the country. Where before voters had to write down the names of their candidates on the ballot, on May 10 they would only need to shade the oval next to the candidates' names.

The ballot would then be fed into a counting machine that would record and tabulate the votes. By the end of the day, the results would be known, whereas in the old manual system the counting took weeks.

Senators to new AFP chief: Ensure clean and peaceful polls

Senators on Monday dared newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Delfin Bangit to prove his loyalty to the Constitution and show his "impartiality and commitment" to clean, honest and peaceful elections.

Blast hits Iloilo mayor's bakeshop; 1 hurt

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - A grenade exploded in front of a bakeshop owned by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas Monday, injuring a security guard.

Estrada to turn over reins of power to VP after 4 years

Presidential candidate Joseph Estrada said on Monday that, should he win in the May elections, he would turn over the reins of power to the vice president after four years.

Aquino camp hits ballot design

The current design of election ballots is unfair to Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and the Commission on Elections should do something about it, his campaign manager said Monday.
LP campaign manager Florencio "Butch" Abad said the Comelec should already remove the name of Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) presidential candidate Vetellano Acosta—who had already been disqualified—to correct the supposedly unfair ballot design.

"As it is now, left unchanged, the present design of the ballot is disadvantageous to Noynoy Aquino," Abad said in a statement. 

"Unlike the original design where the candidates' names are presented in a clear, easily readable vertical order, now the names are bunched tightly together three names to a box in a horizontal order," he said.

Aquino said that, in the ballots that the National Printing Office (NPO) produced, the first box for the presidential candidates still had Acosta first in the list with Aquino and Ang Kapatiran presidential bet JC delos Reyes "tightly bunched with him."

"On the other hand, curiously, at the extreme end of the space for the names of presidential candidates, (Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel) Villar's name is by its lonesome self," Abad said. 

"It is easy to make a mistake in shading other spaces, but not in the case of Villar. We just hope that this is not deliberate and the reluctance of the Comelec to remove Acosta's name has nothing to do with this," he added.

Abad said the reluctance of Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal to remove Acosta's name was "puzzling and worrying to the LP."

"After (Comelec) chair Jose Melo called him unfit to run for president, after KBL heir-apparent (Ferdinand Jr.) Bongbong Marcos disowned him and after Larrazabal himself threatened to sue him for perjury, falsification and other charges, the Comelec, on its own, should have ordered the instant removal of Acosta from the ballot," Abad said.

He said that even though the NPO had already printed at least 9 million ballots, the LP will still petition Comelec to remove Acosta's name from the ballot.

Activists slam Arroyo on int'l women's day

Some 3,000 activists on Monday converged at the Mendiola bridge in Manila to commemorate International Women's Day.

Sandigan orders arrest of wife, sons of accused general

The Sandiganbayan antigraft court has issued an arrest warrant for the wife and three sons of former military comptroller Major Generation Carlos Garcia (ret.) in connection with the money laundering case the government filed against them last year.

Take stand on chief justice appointment, Puno urged

(UPDATE) Hundreds of lawyers and law students on Monday called on Chief Justice Reynato Puno to defend the law and take a stand on the controversy hounding the appointment of his successor.

JBC submits nominees to posts in Ombudsman

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has nominated two officials of the Office of the Ombudsman and a retired Court of Appeals justice for the post of retired Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Victor Fernandez.

Civilians, not Abu, killed in AFP operations — Sulu execs

Civilians, not Abu Sayyaf bandits, were killed and wounded in Sunday's military operation in Laminusa Island in Siasi town in Sulu, police and local officials said.

PDIC rejects P204M in Legacy insurance claims

State-run Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) has denied P204 million worth of claims from people duped by so-called agents of 12 affiliated banks of the Legacy Group.

Favila appointed to Monetary Board, Lapus to Trade

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has announced the appointment of former Trade Secretary Peter Favila as member of the Monetary Board, replacing private sector representative Raul Boncan whose term will end in 2014.

Filipinos in Turkey all safe— DFA

No Filipino was injured in the powerful earthquake which rocked eastern Turkey Monday morning, an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

Strong Turkey quake kills 57

ELAZIG – (UPDATE 4) A powerful earthquake in eastern Turkey on Monday buried villagers as they slept in mud-brick houses, killing at least 57 and injuring dozens more, officials said.

Moderate quake hits Taiwan

TAIPEI—A 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan Monday, the central weather bureau said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

Pirate attack on Greek ship with Pinoy crew thwarted

by Reuters
NAIROBI - Indian navy commandos thwarted a suspected Somali pirate attack on the Greek bulk carrier Melina 1 off the Indian coast, East African maritime officials and the Indian navy said on Monday.

2 more Pinoy seafarers freed; 3 remain in hands of Somali pirates

Two more Filipino seafarers held captive by Somali pirates were released Sunday night, reducing the number of Filipinos still in the hands of outlaws in the East African country to three.

Maliki emerges as front-runner after Iraq vote

by by Rory Mulholland, Agence France-Presse
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Shiite leader who helped ease Iraq's deadly sectarian conflict, emerged Monday as a front-runner after an election seen as a test of the nation's young democracy.

India, China 'missing' 85 million women—UN

NEW DELHI—The United Nations estimated Monday that India and China are "missing" about 85 million women who died from discriminatory health care and neglect or who were never born at all.

Pacquiao's leg 100% ready for Clottey fight

MANILA, Philippines – The world's best pound-for-pound fighter Manny Pacquiao is all set for his clash with Ghana's Joshua Clottey on March 13  in Texas (March 14 in Manila), with the pain in his leg gone and his condition still at superior level, a coach of the Filipino champion confirmed.

Clottey says Pacquiao bout like a miracle

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Ghana's Joshua "the Grand Master" Clottey thinks that things are going his way ever since he was chosen to fight Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao on March 13, even if he experienced a setback in his training camp.

IM Paciencia wins Singapore Open chess

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino International Master (IM) Enrique Paciencia stamped his class on the opposition to bag the Ang Mo Kio Community Centre Hong Bao Rapid Chess Challenge 2010 Open title in the recently-concluded tournament in Singapore.

Kris apologizes to Ruffa, Annabelle

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Celebrity TV host Kris Aquino on Monday apologized to fellow "The Buzz" co-host Ruffa Gutierrez and her mother, Annabelle Rama, after Gutierrez walked out of the show on Sunday, March 7.

She also maintained that she never meant any malice against Gutierrez when she said that staying "Kapamilya" was much better. Gutierrez is leaving ABS-CBN after signing a non-exclusive contract with TV5 where she will do five shows including a showbiz talk show with Mo Twister and Cristy Fermin.

Ruffa falls ill after 'Buzz' walkout

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Actress Ruffa Gutierrez fell ill on Monday a day after walking out of the set of entertainment talk show "The Buzz" due to an ongoing tiff with co-host Kris Aquino.

'The Hurt Locker' rules on historic Oscars night

Selected winners in major categories at the 82nd annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theater here Sunday:

• Best Picture: "The Hurt Locker"

• Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"

• Best Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"

• Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"

• Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

• Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo'Nique, "Precious"

• Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker"

• Best Adapted Screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"

• Best Foreign-Language Film: "El Secreto de Sus Ojos," Argentina

• Best Animated Feature Film: "Up"

• Best Documentary: "The Cove"

Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker" blew away box office king "Avatar" to take six Oscars, with Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win the best director award on a historic Hollywood night.

The nerve-jangling movie about a US Army bomb disposal squad in Baghdad also took best picture and best screenplay while "Avatar", made by Bigelow's ex-husband James Cameron, won just three Oscars at Sunday's awards.

"This really is, there's no other way to describe it, the moment of a lifetime," said Bigelow, only the fourth woman to be nominated for best director by Academy voters.

"I'd like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives in a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world," Bigelow added. "May they come home safe."

Top acting honors went to Hollywood veterans Jeff Bridges for his performance as an alcoholic country singer in "Crazy Heart" and Sandra Bullock, for her role as a feisty housewife in the sports drama "The Blind Side."

It was a perfectly scripted night at the Kodak Theater for Bigelow, whose low-budget film had been locked in a duel with "Avatar" and Cameron, whose 500-million-dollar science-fiction epic has become the highest-grossing film in history with more than 2.5 billion dollars in earnings. "Avatar" mainly won its Oscars in technical categories.

The face-off had been billed as the "Battle of the Exes" but Bigelow and Cameron smiled and joked throughout the evening as they sat just a few feet apart throughout the show.

Bridges finally landed an Oscar after four previous unsuccessful nominations. He thanked his late parents in an acceptance speech which came 39 years after his first Oscar nomination.

"Thank you mum and dad for turning me on to such a groovy profession," said a delighted Bridges, who had earlier welled up with tears after a moving tribute from Michelle Pfeiffer.

Bullock completed a uniquely dubious double with her best actress award, which came just 24 hours after she was crowned worst actress at the Razzies, the annual eve-of-Oscars parody.

"Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?" said Bullock, whose Oscar-winning role was based on the true story of Leigh Anne Tuohy, who took in a homeless black teenager Michael Oher and helped set him on the road to an American football career.

Bullock later revealed she planned to proudly display her Razzie award next to her Oscar statuette.

"They're going to sit side by side, as they should. You take the good with the not so good," Bullock said. "It probably means more that both of them happened at the same time because it's the great equalizer.

"You know, nothing ever let's me get too full of myself."

The supporting actor awards went to Austria's Christoph Waltz for his portrayal of a sadistic Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," and Mo'Nique, a monstrous parent in harrowing drama "Precious."

Mo'Nique's triumph made her only the only the fifth black actress in history to win an Oscar after Hattie McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry and Jennifer Hudson.

The 42-year-old paid tribute to trailblazing "Gone With the Wind" actress McDaniel in her acceptance speech and later revealed she had picked out her Oscars outfit in honor of her predecessor.

"I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she had to so that I would not have to," Mo'Nique said.

"The reason why I have on this royal blue dress is because it's the color that Hattie McDaniel wore in 1940 when she accepted her Oscar," Mo'Nique said.

"So, for you, Miss Hattie McDaniel, I feel you all over me, and it's about time that the world feels you all over them.

Waltz, 53, meanwhile was in raptures after collecting his statuette from Spanish siren Penelope Cruz.

"Oscar and Penelope -- that's uber bingo," a delighted Waltz said. "There's no way I can ever thank you enough but I can start right now -- thank you."

Waltz, who has also won a Cannes film festival award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a British Bafta prize, was heralded in his native Austria on Monday.

"Triumph" said Die Presse newspaper.

"Up," about an elderly gent who ties balloons to his home to live his dream of seeing the wilds of South America, took the award for best animated feature.

Argentine movie "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" (The Secret in their Eyes) landed Argentina its first Oscar statuette in 25 years when it scooped the award for the best foreign film.

Juan Jose Campanella's latest feature beat "Ajami" from Israel, "The Milk of Sorrow" from Peru, "Un Prophete" from France and "The White Ribbon" from Germany to win the Oscar for best foreign-language film.

Gowns and gems dazzle on Oscars red carpet

HOLLYWOOD - Spectacular gowns and millions of dollars worth of jewelry lit up the Oscars red carpet here Sunday as stars opted for old-school Hollywood glamour on Tinseltown's glitziest night of the year.

A-listers shimmered and sparkled down the most famous runway in the world taking inspiration from the silver screen itself as many of the nominated actresses chose gowns in shades of platinum and silver.

Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock set the tone with a spectacular silver beaded gown with elegant train, forties style make-up and sleek hair.

Dame Helen Mirren also chose a dress of silvery tones by Badgley Mischka, this time in sequined tulle with diamond jewelry by Hollywood favorite, the French house of Chopard.

Kate Winslet, presenting this year, chose a structured strapless column dress in silvery tones by Yves St Laurent and the most exquisite jewelry of the night: a pendant style necklace of emerald cut white and yellow diamonds by Tiffany with matching earrings and cuff believed to be worth more than 2.5 million dollars.

Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman in Oscars history to win the best director prize, wore a simple form-fitting platinum column dress with bodice detailing.

Sarah Jessica Parker wore a vanilla colored silk duchess satin dress by Chanel Couture with unusual silver embellishments at the neck and draped back chosen, she said, because it was "just perfect".

Diane Kruger also chose Channel Couture in a stunning white chiffon halter neck dress with black details; as gorgeous from the back as the front, something of a relief for the armies of photographers and fans catching just a glimpse as the stars spin by.

In a fifties-style gold beaded strapless gown, Cameron Diaz looked the epitome of glamour as did Amanda Seyfried in Armani Prive. Also in Armani Prive was Jennifer Lopez in a less than flattering structured strapless gown.

Other questionable choices came from Mariah Carey who was practically bursting out of her petrol blue Valentino semi-strapless gown threatening a wardrobe malfunction at any moment.

Tom Ford, unsurprisingly in his own label tux, was sporting almost as many diamonds as the actresses he followed.

His shirt studs were each several carats worth of splendid princess cut diamonds and he wore a perfect gardenia in his lapel.

Colin Firth was also in a Tom Ford tux with beautiful art deco studs in what looked like platinum and onyx and George Clooney, ever elegant in his trusted Armani suit, also wore interesting studs; these, he said, were "from my uncle".

As always, Penelope Cruz, looked stunning in deep red strapless pleated gown by Donna Karan with Chopard jewelry and feathered clutch.

Sigourney Weaver also chose red in the form of a one-shouldered chiffon gown with black belt. Vera Farmiga, nominated for her role in "Up In The Air," in a red dress by Marchesa that all but overwhelmed her tiny frame with its rippling spirals of pleated silk.

The more unusual choices came from Carey Mulligan, nominated in the best supporting actress category, chose a black strapless dress by Prada covered with dozens of tiny silver forks spoons and scissors and some dazzling chandelier earrings by Fred Leighton.

Asked what she will be doing when the award season is all over, she said "I'll be wearing pajamas every day and will not stop eating for a week!" Maggie Gyllenhaal chose an electric blue strapless dress by Dried Van Noten, which almost worked but for the strange make-up and fuchsia lip color.

Perhaps the only surprise at this year's Awards was something notable by its absence: Alexander McQueen, having been favored in the past by both Sandra Bullock and Sarah Jessica Parker among others, was missing from the red carpet.

PAGASA: Heatwave possible due to El Niño

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Weather bureau PAGASA on Monday warned of hotter days ahead as the summer season officially starts and the El Niño phenomenon brings an earlier dry spell to the country.

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