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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 16, 2010 Major News Stories

Rice self-sufficiency goal an 'uphill climb'

MANILA, Philippines - Wiping out rice imports by 2013 may be an uphill climb for the Philippines, given the government's lack of preparedness to deal with the vagaries of weather, as well as the necessary funds to finance key programs.

BFAD: Doctors may administer rotavirus vaccine

THE BUREAU of Food and Drugs (BFAD) released last Wednesday an advisory on the use of Rotarix, a vaccine administered to the children as preventive measure against rotaviruses infection.

City lawyer: Deviation from plan places firm in hot water

As far as the city legal office is concerned, there is sufficient basis to hold CYC Construction liable for violating the national building code following the death of five men working on a mall in barangay Tisa last week.

But Cebu City legal officer Joseph Bernaldez said yesterday the admission of CYC Construction that they deviated from the building plans approved by the Office of the Building Official is already ground for sanction.

   He said, however, that he will keep his legal opinion on hold until the OBO and the technical team designated by Mayor Tomas Osmeña to investigate the incident would issue their respective reports.

   Five construction workers died while six others were injured when the firewall of Gaisano Capital collapsed.

   For her part, OBO acting head Josefa Ylanan said the report of CYC Construction has been endorsed to the technical team conducting the evaluation. It is in the report that CYC reportedly admitted deviating from the OBO-approved building plan.

   Building officials believe the deviations could be one of the reasons that the firewall collapsed. The city already suspended the construction of the two-storey building pending results of the investigation.

   Ylanan said that if the building would be found unstable, OBO will order its owner to demolish part of it or the entire structure.

   Among the issues the technical team is looking into are whether or not the materials used in the construction were substandard or the mixtures of the cement and sand was not in accordance with prescribed standards.

   It was reported that CYC alleged sped up the completion because the mall was scheduled to open on April 30 or May 1.

   Osmeña, for his part, said, he already received Ylanan's request to hire for more technical personnel for OBO. The mayor said the request is now with consultant Rene Sanapo for evaluation and recommendation.

Ylanan earlier said the lack of personnel has contributed to their failure to inspect all ongoing constructions in the city to determine if they are complying with approved building plans.

'Princess' victims' effects to be shown for proper ID—PAO

MANILA, Philippines Personal belongings recovered from the bodies of the victims of the M/V Princess of the Stars will be on display for easier identification by the relatives, Public Attorneys Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said Thursday.

Acosta said viewing would be this Friday at the deck of their office in Quezon City.

Acosta said the belongings recovered from the bodies that were buried in Cebu were part of our ante-mortem information gathering to easily identify the victims.

A total of 42 bodies from the ill-fated ship were dug up in Carreta, Cebu last week, three of whom were identified through their personal effects a checkbook, a wire ring with the name "Aileen," and a backpack.

Aside from Cebu, other bodies that were recovered were buried in Romblon by the ship's owner, Sulpicio Lines, when their DNA tests did not find positive matches.

But the Cebu Court ordered the exhumation of these bodies for proper identification and burial if they would turn out to be those of the missing victims of the M/V Princess of the Stars.

Police files murder raps vs. woman

POLICE filed yesterday a murder case against Geraldine Gella for killing the girlfriend of the American national who used to be her boyfriend.

2 court workers suspended over loss of case documents

Two employees from the Office of the Clerk of Court have been suspended for two months without pay after they were found guilty of neglect of duty for the loss of documents in a civil case last 2006.

SM pays city P110M for SRP lots

Cebu City became P110 million richer yesterday after Mayor Tomas Osmeña received the second payment of SM Prime Holdings Inc. for the purchase of 34 hectares at the South Road Properties in the amount of P2.7 billion payable on a staggered basis.

City's tax collection hits record high

The Cebu City Treasurer's Office recorded the highest tax collection in the history of the city with almost P240 million collected during the first quarter of the year.

PRC releases electronics engineering licensure exam results

MANILA, Philippines - The results of the Professional Electronics Engineer and Electronics Engineer Licensure Examinations has been released by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) on Thursday.  The PRC, in a press release, said that 20 passed the Professional Electronics Engineer and 632 out of 2,340 passed the Electronics Engineer Licensure Examination given by the Board of Electronics Engineering in the cities of Manila, Baguio and Cebu this April 2010.

Tom: Kusug dropping bets; Garganera: No we're not

Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday alleged that the candidates of the opposition Kugi Uswag Sugbo are already dropping some of their candidates after they observed that most of them will not win the elections.

Bogo police arrest 4 men with firearms

FOUR armed men dressed in fatigue uniforms were arrested by a roving police team in a barangay in Bogo City yesterday afternoon.

Police have yet to ascertain if the men were hired by politicians.

In the Bogo City incident, the men were arrested after police received a call from Vice Mayor Santiago Sevilla, who complained that his tenant in Barangay Banban was beaten up by four men dressed in fatigue uniforms.

Since Bogo City Police Chief Julian Entoma and Regional Mobile Group (RMG) Company Commander Ariel Arellano were already in the area, they proceeded to Sitio Dauis and caught the four men running away.

They were identified as Junce Mapait Apundar, 31, of Barangay Malingin; Zosimo Ortega Mediana, 47, of Sitio Sambag, Barangay Malingin; Lucio Perez, 32, of Barangay Banilad, Mandaue City and Edgar del Ciero, 58, of Hermag Village, Mandaue City.

Acting Cebu Provincial Police Chief Erson Digal said Apundar was caught allegedly with a .22 revolver with 12 bullets while Mediana was in possession of a .38 revolver and 12 bullets. Perez also allegedly had a .38 revolver and 14 bullets.

Digal said Perez, during the investigation, claimed it was del Ciero who hired them to go with them to Bogo City.

Entoma and Arellano were already conducting patrols in Barangay Cayang and Banban, two of three barangays that have persistent reports of the presence of armed men.

These armed sightings prompted the detail of a company from the RMG 7 in Bogo City and they were instructed to conduct patrols to prevent armed men from roaming the area.

Police in Bogo City declined to be interviewed when contacted yesterday and were instructed to refer reporters to the Cebu Provincial Police Office for details.

But in a short interview with radio dyHP, Entoma said one of the arrested men said their adviser was Joel Sumabong, who is linked to some robbery and murder cases.

He added they have to conduct background checks on the arrested to find out what two of them were doing in Bogo City when they listed their addresses as Mandaue City.

Digal said the persons who were allegedly beaten up by the four men are now confined at the Severo Verallo Memorial Hospital and have signified their intention to file a complaint against them.

Their identities could not be ascertained as of press time.

Erap: No way GMA can be speaker

Deposed president Joseph "Erap" Estrada said that there is no way President Gloria Arroyo will be the next House Speaker if he is reelected.

Philippines' election results to be known within 3 days, poll spokesman says

The results of the Philippines' first automated presidential poll will be known within three days of next month's poll, a spokesman for the elections commission said Thursday, after business groups said they feared the new system would fail.
The Philippines has brought in the nationwide automated system to replace the laborious manual system that took weeks to tabulate results, but influential business groups have called for a manual count as a backup.
In a statement Wednesday, the Management Association of the Philippines urged the elections commission to adopt a parallel nationwide manual count for the president and vice president to "mitigate, if not eliminate, the skepticism of many about the credibility of the automated election system and the results that it will deliver."
The Commission on Elections is prepared to shift to a manual count if ballot-counting machines fail to function in up to 30 percent of more than 76,300 precincts nationwide during the May 10 polls, said spokesman James Jimenez.
A failure to elect a successor to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo by the time she is supposed to step down on June 30 is "almost inconceivable," he said.
"We are looking at two to three days for the release of the national data ... but as far as the proclamation of president and vice president (is concerned), you have to wait for congress," Jimenez told a forum by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
Under the constitution, the Senate and the House of Representatives must convene not later than 30 days after the elections to officially count votes for the president and vice president and proclaim the winners.
Voters also will be electing senators, congressmen, provincial, city and municipal officials on May 10. These votes will also be counted using the automated system.

Comelec to post individual precinct results online

MANILA, PhilippinesThe good news: You can know who is winning in the May 10 elections, even before the official announcement, just by going to a dedicated website. The bad news: You would have to do some pretty intense number crunching.

For security reasons, it will disclose the website address only a day before the voting on May 10.

The Commission on Elections will put up a separate website where the results of the voting in over 76,000 precincts will be posted in real time, as soon as the polling in each precinct is over. For security reasons, it will disclose the website address only a day before the voting on May 10.

The Comelec, however, will not add up the results on the website as they come in, which means that if anybody checking the site wants to know who is leading, he would have to add up the numbers himself. Various groups who want to conduct a parallel count could also rely on the website data.

The same data will be sent to the servers of various accredited parties, including the media.

The Comelec will be announcing the results of its tallies after the canvassing at the municipal and provincial levels is completed, which is expected to be about two to three days after the elections. But the Comelec is only authorized to proclaim the winners up to the senatorial level.

The proclamation of the president and vice president will be done by Congress, which is tasked with canvassing the results and which would convene only at the end of May.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, speaking at a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, said the poll body was not required to add up the results of the precinct voting or to provide a running tally on the website.

We'll provide the precinct data. That's more than we've ever done before, Jimenez said.

At the moment, the poll body's plan is to just post the precinct results on the website, whose name will be disclosed the day before the elections for security purposes.

The data on the website play an important part, Jimenez said, because it provides transparency and helps in fact-checking.

When asked why the poll body would not sum up the results, he said the Comelec was not required to do so.

As far as transparency is concerned, all of the data is there, he said.

But he also noted that there is a pending petition for the Comelec to reformat the data it will provide.

He said that if the results of the summation would be included on the website, there would have to be a canvassing program included in it. This would be an additional burden for the site, he added.

The absence of an official summation of the election results on the website raised concerns that those who would be counting the votes based on the website data might come up with different figures and create confusion.

Henrietta De Villa, chair of the Comelec's citizens arm, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, said the group and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas will meet to discuss the possibility of conducting a joint tally of the election results.

De Villa said that with the election data made available to the public at once, the holding of parallel counts has been democratized.

Everyone can do the count, she said at the same FOCAP forum.

The PPCRV itself would be conducting an internal parallel count.

We have a plan for possible poll problems - Comelec

Sa harap ng kabi-kabilang batikos ng iba't-ibang grupo sa kawalan umano ng kahandaan ng Comelec sa pagdaraos ng automated elections, tiniyak ng Comelec na handa sila sa darating na halalan. Katunayan nailatag na nila ang mga plano sakaling magkaroon ng aberya sa botohan. 

Monsod doubts 'deliberate' total poll failure

MANILA, Philippines - A former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman on Thursday called on critics to stop heckling the poll body as he dismissed suspicions of a conspiracy to deliberately mess up the automated elections.

Gibo in talks with LP, PMP?

Nakikipag-usap na ang mga malalapit na tauhan ni Lakas presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro sa kampo nina Senador Noynoy Aquino ng Liberal Party at dating pangulong Joseph Estrada ng Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino! Pero ayon kay Lakas president Francis Manglapus, hindi ito nangangahulugan na aatras na si Teodoro sa laban sa pagka-pangulo.

Lakas defectors partyless


The national executive committee of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD (LKC) Thursday decided to cancel the certificates of party accreditation filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of party defectors, thus, leaving them without a political party during the May 10 elections.

This was revealed by secretary general Raymundo Roquero as a new wave of black propaganda campaign swamped the headquarters of LKC presidential candidate Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro which was hit by the surprise defection of presidential economic adviser and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

As this developed, the LKC leadership rift further widened following the move of party president, Francis Manglapus, to give up his newly acquired seat and offer it to Speaker Prospero Nograles, a staunch critic of presidential bet Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro Jr.

Manglapus said he is willing to give up the presidency of LKC so that the House leader can reclaim his former position as party president.

"If the Speaker is serious about wanting to set the party in a different direction that I will make it easier for him by resigning the presidency of the party so that he can reclaim his leadership," Manglapus said.

The Teodoro headquarters received nearly 1,000 calls from worried supporters who received text messages that the LKC standard-bearer was set to announce his withdrawal from the presidential derby.

"Gibo will move on. We still command a great majority of those running for local posts," said Teodoro's spokesman Mike Toledo.

Irked by reports that he was following Salceda's lead, former budget secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. slammed reports he had also given up on Teodoro.

"I am sticking it out with Gibo and the Lakas party. Although it is becoming fashionable to don new party colors as we head towards the homestretch of the campaign, I will not change mine," said Andaya.

Roquero downplayed the Salceda defection as he pointed out that the LKC bloc in Bicol remains formidable and that majority of local leaders have remained steadfast in their support for Teodoro.

The LKC official said the national leadership has decided to cancel the certificates of accreditation of Salceda and other former party members since they have already resigned.

He refused to disclose other sanctions to be imposed on LKC men who have decided to jump ship although he stressed that they don't expect anymore bleeding.

Aside from Salceda those who abandoned LKC in favor of LP were Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario of Davao del Norte and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II.

The Nacionalista Party became new home for LKC defectors Governors Jose Zubiri of Bukidnon; Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur; Arthur Chiongkee Uy of Compostela Valley, Corazon Malanyaon of Davao Oriental, and former Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson of Ilocos Sur.

In an interview, Toledo said the defections are in effect blessings in disguise for the Teodoro campaign.

"It's really good bloodletting, cleansing of the party. We need peole who are for us, we do not want pseudo supporters who have their own selfish interest to take care of," Toledo said.

The Teodoro spokesman said they welcome the call of certain LKC men demanding that those who are not for Teodoro and the principles he is fight for must now leave the party.

Meanwhile, governors backing Teodoro were initially surprised, but later relieved over Salceda's decision to bolt the ruling party.

They stressed that this twist wouldn't in any way affect their firm resolve to support the administration standard bearer "all the way" till the May 10 elections.

These governors, who belong to what they themselves dubbed G4G (governors for Gibo) or "Team Palabra de Honor (word of honor)," said the move by some Lakas-Kampi members to switch support has only reinvigorated the ruling party into campaigning even harder for Gibo and delivering to him the highest possible number of votes on election day.

Salceda's decision to back another presidential bet initially shocked members of the party, but later brought them relief because such defections have whittled away those who are merely pretending to support Gibo and brought to the fore his stable of true and steady supporters, the governors said.

"Nothing has changed. We will support Gibo Teodoro for president all the way," said Negros Occidental Gov. Isidro Zayco.

Antique Gov. Salvacion Zaldivar Perez chided Salceda who "stabbed Gibo in the back" with his defection.

"If Salceda can do this to Gibo, he can also do this to you," Zaldivar warned Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone, the spokesman of Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and secretary-general of the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP), said the party is now "reinvigorated and has new dynamism" because of these developments.

"Those who leave have their reasons. Baka ayaw nila nang pagbabago... Kanya-kanya yan (Maybe they don't want change. They have their own reasons). I, personally, am for Gibo all the way," Evardone said.

Earlier, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said he, along with Lakas-Kampi-CMD allies –Tabaco City Mayor Krisel Lagman Luistro, Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal and a host of municipal mayors and officials – will remain supportive of Gibo in his bid for the presidency. "Gibo is a cut above the rest in competence, capacity, integrity and sincerity," Lagman said.

Lagman said Teodoro's politics and campaign are anchored on issues and principles without any mudslinging and character assasination.

Gibo himself had shrugged off the moves by his former partymates saying that "defections are a reality in politics which we have fully accounted for at the beginning of the political exercise." In his latest tirade against Teodoro, Nograles chided the ruling party standard-bearer for tagging defectors as "trapo".

"Who is trapo? Was he not an NPC (Nationalist People's Coalition) before he became Lakas? I have been a Lakas since I joined politics and I'm still Lakas up to now. So who's the real trapo?" Nograles said as he described the former defense chief as a "hitchhiker".

Nograles hinted that he was gathering the original Lakas-CMD members from the merged LKC and revive the old party that was founded by former President Fidel V. Ramos. He vowed to consult Ramos on this plan.

The House leader has been very vocal in assailing Teodoro after the latter resigned as chairman of the party, allegedly to concentrate on his campaign for the presidency.

However, LKC insiders said Nograles's grudge was caused by Teodoro's alleged snub when the presidential candidate appointed Presidential Assistant for Special Projects Madeline Marfori to head his campaign headquarters in Davao City.

Nograles decried Teodoro's decision as he pointed out that Marfori is a staunch supporter of his political rival, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte whose daughter, Vice Mayor Sara Duterte is running against the speaker in the mayoral race.

The House leader said he had contemplated on resigning as LKC member but decided against it and instead pursued his criticisms against Teodoro while maintaining his party membership.

"We don't want to abandon Lakas but we don't want Gibo. We will save Lakas but not Gibo. Mabibigo si Gibo and we know that. Those who are saying otherwise should enjoy their illusion while it last," Nograles said.

An irate Manglapus came to Teodoro's rescue, calling on Nograles to make up his mind on whether to resign or maintain loyalty to the party and its political dcause.

"If Speaker Nograles does decide to make good on his plan to spend time putting together a rebel group within the party, we wish it is not at the expense of devoting less time on is local campaign, least he be accused of abandoning it 'in the middle of the ocean filled with sharks,'" Manglapus said.

He added: "I am glad that Nograles will consult with FVR. He seems to be lost and confused and he definitely needs some guidance and direction."

Lakas not alarmed by defections, says Pichay

MANILA, PhilippinesThe chief recruitment officer of Lakas-Kampi-CMD on Thursday downplayed the defection of its members, saying the exodus so far only counts for two percent of the number of candidates fielded by the party nationwide.

We are not really that alarmed, said Rep. Prospero Butch Pichay, Lakas-Kampi vice president for recruitment and membership. We were expecting a fatality rate of around 10 percent at this point of the campaign but so far, only two percent has left.

Speaking at the regular Senate press forum, Pichay noted that since the party has fielded candidates for 75 percent of local elective positions nationwide, Lakas-Kampi remains the dominant party as of now.

Pichays statement came on the heels of the successive departures from the ruling party of such party stalwarts as Bukidnon Gov. Jose Zubiri, Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales Jr., former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis Chavit Singson and Albay Gov. Jose Joey Salceda.

The perception is that many are leaving but the command votes that come with those who did are not really that much, Pichay said in Filipino and English.

Pichay added that he did not believe the defections would be harmful to Gilbert ``Gibo Teodoros candidacy.

Since the two leading presidential candidates, Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar were now engaged in mudslinging, Pichay said there was a possibility that this would turn off some voters and push them to switch to Teodoro.

I think its only Gilbert Teodoro whos really engaging in a high-level campaign. We (in Lakas-Kampi) have a solid program of government, we have not engaged in gutter politics, thats the reason why we are confident that the undecided 15 percent would go to us, Pichay said.

Gibo won't get support from partymate Nograles

Nagsabi na si House Speaker Prospero Nograles na handa nilang isalba ang partidong Lakas. Pero hindi ang pambato ng administrasyon na si Gilbert Teodoro. Ang isa namang dating lider ng Lakas na si Congressman Jose de Venecia Jr., iminungkahi na maghiwalay na lang ang Lakas at ang Kampi.

JDV wants Lakas less Kampi to take its pick among 4 bets

Former House Speaker and Lakas-CMD founder Jose de Venecia Jr. on Thursday said he is planning to retrieve the original Lakas-CMD party from the merged Lakas-Kampi-CMD, then announce which presidential bet to support among the four leading contenders "in the coming weeks," and enter into a coalition with the party of that presidential bet.

Querubin scored for supporting "pro-communist" Villar

The camp of presidential aspirant Sen. Benigno Noynoy" Aquino III (Liberal Party) on Thursday scored Ariel Querubin, a detained former Marine colonel, for his continuous support to a communist-backed presidential candidate.
Lawyer Edwin Lacierda, Aquinos spokesperson, questioned why Querubin, a decorated officer, allied himself with Sen. Manny Villar Jr. (Nacionalista Party), who has the support of Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
"One has to wonder - why does Colonel Querubin remain ignobly silent on this pact? Where is that valiant voice of indignation now that Villar has decided to sleep with the lawless elements?" Lacierda said in a statement.
He also said Sisons support for Villar was the proof of the transactional alliance forged by the NP with the CPP-NPA (New People's Army)."
Lacierda said Villar has been using his communist connections to "attack his opponents with black propaganda."
No proof
Querubin, detained for his alleged involvement in an attempt to overthrow the Arroyo administration in 2006, denied that there is an alliance between the NP and the CPP-NPA.
I will leave the NP if such alliance is proven because our soldiers are killed fighting for our democracy," he said in a text message through his son, Martin.
He also defended Villar, saying the NP standard bearer is not pro-communist but anti-poverty and pro-Filipino."
He [Villar] will not massacre poor farmers just to protect his land. He is also the only candidate with a pro-military and police program," Querubin said.
Querubin was a recipient of the militarys highest honor in 2002 for the most exemplary heroism and sacrifice displayed in combat when, during that year, he commanded a Marine team that engaged hundreds of Moro rebels in a 24-hour gun battle in Lanao del Norte.
Poor leadership
NP spokesperson and senatorial candidate Gilbert Remulla said Lacierda was just making excuses for the lack of leadership of his candidate. Only Senator Villar has been able to put the political right, left, center on one stage without the issue and conflict," he said.
He said Aquino cant even get his senatorial candidates Ralph Recto and Sergio Osmeña III share one stage and has to make arrangements so that the two will not cross paths.
The feud between Recto and Osmeña stemmed from the enactment of value added tax (VAT), on which Recto was a proponent when he was still a senator.

Diokno: Next president to inherit a government near fiscal collapse

In an election forum on Thursday, UP professor and former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said the next president will inherit a system that is nearing fiscal collapse. It also said the new administration will not have the funds to implement new and unpopular reforms. Presidential spokesperson Gary Oliver refuted this, citing the upgrade to a "stable" outlook from global ratings firm Moody's. He said this provides comfort to foreign lenders and investors who are risking their money precisely on the fiscal health of the economy.

Transfer order for Ampatuans to be served Friday -- prosecutor

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines -- A senior state prosecutor said on Thursday that they would serve on Friday morning a Quezon City court order transferring five other members of the Ampatuan clan who were accused in the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people, to a Taguig jail facility.

Leo Dacera, senior state prosecutor of the Department of Justice, said Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 issued the order at around 4 p.m. Thursday.

Detained in a military hospital in Davao City is former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. His son, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and three other family members are detained at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group office in General Santos City.

Defense chief: Palace mulls martial law in Basilan

MANILA, Philippines - Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said on Thursday the government was considering a proposal to declare martial law in Basilan province.

Palace rules out martial law in Basilan

MANILA, Philippines -- Malacaang ruled out, on Thursday, the declaration of martial law in Basilan that was rocked by explosions Tuesday morning, which were blamed on the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Gary Olivar, deputy presidential spokesperson, said that the situation in the province ``doesn't rise to a level that would warrant a serious consideration of martial law.''

``I'm not aware of any moves to declare that, or even review it, let alone the actual conduct of an actual review of that possibility,'' he told reporters in Malacaang briefing.

``To my untrained mind this doesn't rise to the level of concern that let's say, we would have seen last year in the wake of a massacre incident like what happened in Maguindanao,'' he added.

Bandits, clad in police and military uniforms, detonated bombs at a cathedral and school grandstand in Isabela City, Tuesday morning and opened fire at civilians, killing at least 14 persons.

Military orders naval blockade in Basilan


Normalcy has been restored in Basilan following bloody attacks in its capital on Tuesday but security officials remain wary of future attacks as they deployed 300 more troopers and imposed naval blockade while elite soldiers combed the jungles of the province to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf perpetrators.

Lieutenant General Ben Mohammad Dolorfino, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), said they have alsoplaced all his men in Western Mindanao in highest security alert status to prevent spillover of attacks in nearby provinces.

"We are on alert since that incident happened, we have also implemented some security adjustments to ensure the safety of civilians," said Dolorfino.

The official said a company of the Army's elite 4th Scout Ranger Company, another 100 personnel of the US-trained anti-terror unit Light Reaction Company, and another company of Marine commandos were infused in Basilan since Wednesday. A company has more or less 100 soldiers.

"So more or less, the number of military troops in Isabela City alone, is around two battalions (more or less 1,000 soldiers), combined troops of the Marines and the Army," said Dolorfino.

Marines Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo, Navy spokesman, said several military vessels have started to conduct blockades around Basilan, checking on all sea vessels going in and out of the troubled island province.

"We are checking on suspicious-moving vessels, bancas or boats in the area... our point here is to make sure or at least prevent any reinforcement for the perpetrators or to prevent them from leaving Basilan," said Arevalo.

"But at this point, we can say that normalcy has been restored in Isabela City and downtown areas in Basilan," he stressed.

On Tuesday, at least 25 gunmen believed to be members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group planted bombs and engaged security forces in gun battles. The explosions and ensuing gunfights resulted in the death of 14 people and the wounding of 15 others.

The participation of the ASG in the attacks were confirmed with the identification of Bensar Indama as among the fatalities when a bomb they planted in a vehicle prematurely exploded in front of the Basilan National High School. Bensar is the brother of Furuji Indama, the highest ASG commander in Basilan.

Dolorfino said among the security adjustments they implemented is the checking of all people passing by the checkpoints, including uniformed policemen and soldiers.

"Those manning the checkpoints were instructed to check on the identification cards of uniformed personnel," said Dolorfino.

The official said the move is aimed at thwarting furhter attacks after the investigation they conducted revealed that those responsible on Tuesday attacks are clad in police and military uniforms.

"We are doing this because the Abu Sayyaf attackers are even sporting military haircut. So it was really a well-planned attack, they disguised policemen and soldiers," said Dolorfino.

He added that members of the Basilan Police, for their part, are no using countersign in order to distinguish who are bogus policemen and who are legitimate members of the Philippine National Police.

Abu Sayyaf men may be moonlighting as private armies -- defense execs

MANILA, Philippines -- Top security officials said on Thursday they were looking into the possibility of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf operating as a partisan armed group in Mindanao after theories floated that political figures were behind the bomb attacks in Basilan.

Emerging from a command conference at Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said they were inclined to believe that the violence that erupted in Isabela City was politically motivated.

"That's what is emerging from initial investigations but we don't want to preempt it," Gonzales told reporters following the conference with military, police and the Commission on Elections officials on security preparations for the May 10 elections.

"Politics and terrorism are enmeshed in Basilan. I will not name names but they will come out very soon," added Gonzales.

Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza added they were not "discounting the possibility" that politics had something to do with the series of blasts in Basilan, which killed 14 people.

"The actors are the Abu Sayyaf, which has been established already. This group, although they are terrorists, can also be paid," Mendoza told reporters in press conference at Camp Aguinaldo.

A day following the attacks, police officials in the province said the possibility of involvement of political figures in the incidents came up during the interrogation of two captured Abu Sayyaf members.

According to the suspects, they were supposedly "hired" and were forced to wear police uniforms and instructed to carry out some attacks.

"We are seriously looking into that," Gonzales said of Abu Sayyaf group acting as a private armed group.

Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa disclosed that some members of the Abu Sayyaf have been working with private armed groups in Mindanao.

But Mendoza stressed that the recent violence in Basilan would not spoil the electoral process in the province.

He disclosed on Thursday that during the meeting of the National Security Council executive committee, which he presided earlier in the day, authorities agreed to put up some measures to ensure that the electoral process in the province would not be disrupted.

There was also no need for the Comelec to take over Basilan, said Mendoza. "The situation there is already under control. It's already manageable and can be managed by the government," he added.

73 nabbed, 80 firearms seized as cops toughen up on armed groups

MANILA, Philippines--Less than a month to go before the elections in May, the Philippine National Police has arrested over 70 people suspected of belonging to private armed groups throughout the country, Director General Jesus Verzosa said on Thursday.

Verzosa said that to date, they have arrested a total of 73 persons and confiscated around 80 firearms in the PNP's intensified operations on private armed groups at the height of the election season.

Verzosa said that several of those arrested belonged to provinces considered as areas of concern, such as Masbate and Samar.

The PNP has effectively dismantled 24 PAGs in its campaign, with still 88 more PAGs active in key provinces across the country.

"We have effectively prevented the increase in the number of private armed groups," Verzosa said.

Verzosa also said that the PNP has monitored that some members of the terror group Abu Sayyaf has joined private armed groups to be utilized to commit atrocities during the election season.

Army spokesman: Fasting of health workers mere 'theatrics'

MANILA, Philippines – The military has dubbed the fasting by the 38 of the 43 health workers detained in Tanay, Rizal as mere "theatrics."

"The alleged fasting and other theatrics to dramatize the case are meant to gain the attention of the public who are already fed up of these antics and lies in pursuing their revolutionary struggle as NPAs (New People's Army)," Army spokesman Lt. Col Ernesto Torres Jr. in a text message.

Torres said the detainees, allegedly communist rebels, are being given full meals.

"The massive effort to agitate the courts and sway public opinion is an old NPA tactic perhaps driven by fear and paranoia since the cases filed against them have prospered in the courts," he said. 

The military spokesman also insisted that there was no human rights violation committed by soldiers on the detainees, who are now being held in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal. 

"Visiting hours for the relatives and lawyers of the detainees and investigating bodies, including the CHR (Commission on Human Rights), are being observed," Torres added. 

The 43, five of whom already confirmed that they are members of the NPA in Quezon province, have been nabbed during a raid on a house in Morong, Rizal last Feb. 6 by the military and police. 

Authorities reportedly confiscated from them firearms and equipment and materials used in making a bomb. 

The detainees are now facing criminal charges before the Morong Regional Trial Court.

Customs seizes shipment of used vehicles, firearms

Three used vehicles and assorted firearms worth P50 million that were allegedly smuggled from New York were recently seized by the Philippines' Bureau of Customs (BOC).
Based on an inventory report, a 1999 Plymouth sports car, a 2003 Harley Davidson motorcycle, and a 1983 Kawasaki Motorcycle were found inside a 40-foot container.
The shipment also included 16 pieces of long firearms, eight short firearms, and 6,000 rounds of assorted ammunition.
Among the items seized was a Rifle 24 karat gold cal. 45 Colt with case model Winchester USA; a Thomson Vietnam War 1; a Barret Sniper 50 caliber Harris Gun Works; a Granade Rifle Launcher; and a Magnum 44 Revolver with a Smith and Wesson scope.
Included in the shipment were two Samurai swords, two archery bows with arrows, and various foreign coins six pieces of nickel coins issued during the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), nine pieces of boxes of US Liberty coins, and three pieces of box coins USSR 1988, among others.
Based on the import manifest, the 40-foot container was supposed to contain 75 packages of used household goods and personal effects, Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said.
The shipper was identified as Leonardo Chicco while the consignee was a certain Lucia Chicco, according to BoC-X-ray Inspection Project (XIP) chief Atty. Lourdes Mangaoang. The broker was identified as Melchor Latina.
The consignee may also be found liable for importing prohibited firearms and ammunition as well as violations of the Tariffs and Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP).
The three vehicles were supported by a Bill of Lading, Mangaoang said, adding that since these were second-hand items, they are required to present an import permit from the Bureau of Import Services (BIS) as required under Executive Order no. 156.
Whoever packed the shipment obviously wanted to conceal the items especially the guns from detection," she said.

Morales drops bid for Chief Justice


Another candidate to succeed outgoing Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno has decided to withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court just a few days before the public interview set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for nominees for the country's top judicial post.

In a letter to the JBC dated last Wednesday, Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales of the Supreme Court (SC) said she won't show up at the public interview scheduled on Monday, April 19, in Baguio City as she was no longer interested in being included in the shortlist that the  JBC intends to submit to President Arroyo.

Justice Morales was the second Chief Justice contender to withdraw her nomination. Last Monday, Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio also dropped out from the race.

Both Morales and Carpio have earlier expressed their interest in being considered as among the possible successors to Puno, but on condition that their names will be submitted to the next President, who will be elected on May 10.

They both believe that outgoing President Arroyo cannot name a new Chief Justice after Puno's retirement on May 17 since this would violate the election appointments ban, which started last March 10 and would end on June 30.

However last March 17, the SC voted 9-1 to declare that appointments to the High Court are not covered by the constitutional ban on "midnight appointments".

Morales was the lone dissenter in that SC ruling, which is subject of various motions for reconsideration.

In her letter to the JBC, Morales said her position, which she ventilated in her dissent, has remained.

She added: "Please consider this letter, therefore, as a manifestation of my disinterest to participate in the interview on Monday, April 19, 2010, and in any related step by the JBC, leading to the possible inclusion of my name in the shortlist of nominees for the position of Chief Justice that the JBC might submit to President Gloria Arroyo, and from which list President Arroyo might appoint the next Chief Justice."

With Morales and Carpio dropping out of the race, there are only four remaining candidates for Chief Justice.

They are SC Associate Justices Renato C. Corona, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, and Arturo D. Brion, and acting Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto G. Sandoval.

SC bares rules of procedure for environment-related cases

The Supreme Court (SC) has finally released Tuesday the rules of procedure on environmental cases which shall form bases for the prosecution of cases involving the environment protection and preservation.

GMA returns to RP Friday night


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to arrive Friday night from her five-day swing visit in United States and Spain with renewed bilateral ties with the two long-standing and "strong" partners.

During her one-day trip to Spanish capital of Madrid, she assured the Filipino community numbering to about 50,000 of her government's continued implementation of protection programs for more than eight million Filipino overseas workers, including those staying and working in Spain.

Mrs. Arroyo noted that her visits to Spain since 2006 have "immensely" deepened the partnership between Philippines and Spain, which benefitted the Filipino workers in the European capital. The President had a working visit in Spain in 2006 and a state visit in 2007.

''In the arena of international relations, the Philippines is back, no longer the laggard. The Philippines has been a steady climber in Asia and the world. We have new relations with the world. Spain is once again a strong ally of the once-isolated Philippines,''

Mrs. Arroyo said addressing some 100 representatives of Filipino organizations in Madrid and Barcelona at the Ambassador's residence. She met with the Filipino community a few hours upon her arrival at Madrid's Barajas Airport on April 14 for a one-day official visit.

She also directed the concerned agencies to fix the "minor hitch" the implementation of the agreement for Driver's License Exchange signed between the countries in 2007 which will allow holders of Philippine drivers' licenses to drive in Spain. The glitch was brought about by the incompatibility of the computer program used by Spain and the Philippines.

''We are working this out the soonest possible time,'' the President said.

She ordered the chiefs of the involved government agencies in the implementation of pact to fly to Madrid to fix the problem.

She also took opportunity to thank the Filipino community for their "hardwork and dedication to our country."

''Everywhere I go, like here in Spain... private citizens and government leaders compliment our workers for being diligent, trustworthy, efficient and for their unparalleled skills. We applaud you for the good track record that you have created for our country. That has put us in a strong position to continue capturing job opportunities,'' Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mrs. Arroyo received the Premio Internacional Don Quixote de la Mancha from Spanish King Juan Carlos I for promoting Spanish language in the Philippines at the Palacio de la Zarzuela, the principal residence of the Spanish monarch.

This is the second award received by the President in a span of two days after she also became the recipient of the Teddy Roosevelt International Conservation Award, which drew flak from local and international environmental and religious groups. She got the award during visit to Washington during her attendance in the Nuclear Security Summit, hosted by US President Obama.

GMA declares May 7 as Health Workers' Day

President Arroyo has declared May 7 of each year as Health Workers' Day to give due recognition to the important role and contributions of health workers in providing health services to the people and to enhance their sense of worth and dignity, Malacañang announced today.

$1: P44.355

$1: P44.355

Euro 1: P60.8153

Peso continues rise to P44.355 vs greenback

News of China and the US nearing a deal on boosting the yuan the first step towards making American goods more competitive than Chinese exports drove the peso to a fresh 20-month record against the dollar on Thursday.
After opening at and did not go lower than P44.50 per dollar, climbing to as high as P44.315 before ending the day at P44.355, 17 centavos stronger than Wednesdays finish.
"The prevailing atmosphere is positive [given investor optimism about a possible] revaluation of the yuan," a trader said, noting that the pesos surge would continue in the medium term, although day-to-day trade might see a correction.
The local currency was already strong during the morning trade, sustaining its rally in the afternoon.
Turnover was brisk at $1.11 billion, 5 percent higher than in the previous day, with minimal intervention from the central bank, the trader said. "The central bank was there, but whatever intervention they did was insignificant."
Another trader noted that if China does decide to revalue its currency, it would do so when least expected.
"We know China. It moves when everybody else is not looking. With calls for the revaluation of the yuan all over the news these days, we should not expect it to arrive at a decision anytime soon," the trader said.
The trader also traced the local currencys rally to the rise on Wall Street and other international stock markets. Local share prices, however, slid after investors took profits.
The peso has been rising for the past days following news that exports had risen for the fourth consecutive month in February, as well the rescue package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund for debt-saddled Greece.
Barclays Capital earlier said the peso could strengthen to P44 per dollar this year as a result of the countrys strong payment position, higher exports and more money sent home by Filipino workers overseas.
The investment bank said it was keeping its exchange rate forecast despite uncertainties posed by the May 10 national and local elections.
It added that the central bank was likely to intervene in the foreign exchange market to protect the competitiveness of Philippine products in the world market.
Exporters alarmed
Last week, exporters sounded off their their alarm on the strengthening peso, which they fear would make their prices unattractive to foreign buyers.
Exporters in Cebu have also warned that the appreciating peso could put more exporters out of business, saying the central bank should intervene in the foreign exchange market.
Sales forecasts for the year, however, will be maintained for now as exporters look to capacity-building programs and other means to improve competitiveness.
The sector is generally more comfortable when the dollar costs P46 to P46.50., otherwise their merchandise becomes too pricey for buyers, Philippine Exporters Confederation President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. said earlier.
The central bank expects the peso to average between P46 and P49 per dollar this year.
Barclays has said the central bank would continue to finely balance the need for a stronger currency to keep a lid on imported inflation and the dampening impact of a stronger currency on remittances in local currency terms and by extension, consumption spending.
The central bank expects the balance of payments to post a surplus of $3-$4 billion this year from $5.3 billion last year. At the end of February, the payment position the difference between foreign exchange inflows and outflows was a surplus of $1.11 billion, or half the $2.2 billion surplus a year earlier.
Meanwhile, it expects money sent home by Filipinos abroad to increase by six percent this year from a record $17.35 billion last year. Remittances grew by 8.5 percent to $1.372 billion in January from a year earlier.

Razon sells paper to Leyte congressman, shifts focus to entertainment, power

MANILA, Philippines - The owner of multinational port operator ICTSI has sold the daily newspaper Manila Standard Today to a lawmaker closely identified with the Arroyo administration.  
Enrique K. Razon, Jr. said he had sold the broadsheet to the group of Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez.

Standard Today is the product of a merger between Manila Standard and Today newspaper in 2005. Since 1987, the newspaper publisher, Kamahalan Publishing, and printer Kagitingan Printing Press, Inc. have changed owners several times, from the Burgos group, the Elizaldes, Sorianos, the Yuchengcos, and Mr. Razon, who took over in 1997.

Kamahalan Publishing reported P14.8 million in losses in 2008 on sales of P68.4 million. It had assets of P114 million and debts of P297 million that year.

Gov't debt hits P4.4-T in January

MANILA, Philippines - Outstanding debt of the National Government rose 4.3% year on year to hit P4.443 trillion last January, the Treasury bureau said yesterday.

Up to 2,000 pulled from rubble of China quake

XINING Up to 2,000 people may have been pulled from the rubble of northwestern China's earthquake, with around 100 dead bodies recovered as rescue efforts ploughed ahead, reports said Thursday.

Different state media outlets issued conflicting reports, with China National Radio saying 2,038 people had been freed from quake debris while another report by China News Service said the figure was 1,045 rescued.

Official figures put the death toll in the quake in remote Qinghai province on the Tibetan plateau at 617, with more than 10,000 people hurt.

It is the deadliest in China since a massive 8.0 quake hit the southwestern province of Sichuan in May 2008, leaving at least 87,000 dead or missing.

The China News Service said more than 6,300 soldiers and armed police had been deployed in rescue efforts. They included army doctors, mine rescue teams, various other military units from around the country.

Another 2,200 police officers were to be sent by the Ministry of Public Security, it said.

Jobless Fil-Ams await US Senate's jobless benefits vote

HAYWARD, California - Romuel Manawag, a former quality inspector, has used up more than half of his extended unemployment benefits. After being jobless for a year, he's hoping an extension of his benefits can buy him time.

Pope mentions attacks on church, urges repentance

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI spoke Thursday about "attacks" on the church and the need for Catholics to repent for sins and recognize their mistakes, in an apparent reference to the clerical abuse scandal.

Bombs kill 9 at Myanmar New Year water festival

YANGON, Myanmar - Three bombs ripped through traditional New Year festivities in Myanmar's biggest city Thursday, killing nine people and injuring 94 others, officials and state television said, in the deadliest such attack in Yangon for five years. There was no indication who was behind the blasts.

Malignaggi again says Pacquiao up to 'something' with PEDs

MANILA, Philippines -- Former world champ Paulie Malignaggi again aired his claim that 7-division champion Manny Pacquiao is into "something," alluding that the Filipino boxing superstar is into performance enhancing drugs.

Mayweather on Mosley: What? Me, worry?

MANILA, Philippines – Outspoken American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. has acknowledged that his opponent Shane Mosley is a talented boxer, but the former pound-for-pound king considers himself gifted.

Gomez, Orcollo top Asian Games qualifier

MANILA, Philippines – Roberto Gomez and Dennis Orcollo clinched the slots in the main draw of 16th Asian Games Cue Sports Competition in China.

Kris Aquino to go on leave from TV soap, says co-star

MANILA, Philippines – Kris Aquino will go on leave from her soap opera, "Kung Tayo'y Magkakalayo," to campaign for her brother full time, her co-star confirmed.

Aquino's dream: To stay in his QC home even as president

ROXAS CITY, Philippines Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's dream is to stay in his home on Times Street in Quezon City even if he gets elected president of the Philippines.

At the end of the day, Aquino said he wanted to feel some kind of normalcy to keep his feet "firmly planted on the ground."

"Yan inaambisyon ko talaga [That's really my ambition]," he told reporters here on Thursday.

"Pero paano? Iniintindi ko kapitbahay ko. Paano kung maraming dadagsang makikikape, makikibanyo, makikinood ng TV? Baka ako normal ang buhay ko, abnormal naman ang buhay ng mga kapitbahay ko? Sila napaka supportive sa amin sa pagkatagal-tagal na. Ang labo naman ng sukli ko [But how? I think of my neighbors. What if there are people who want to have coffee, use our restrooms or watch TV in our house. Maybe I'll have a normal life but my neighbors will have an abnormal life. They have been supportive of us for a long, long time and this is how I'll repay them]," he said.

The house on the Times Street has been Aquino's home even when he was still a congressman and until his election to the Senate in 2007.

When his mother, former president Corazon Aquino, died of cancer last year, the senator still opted stay in their family home.

His four sisters Balsy, Pinky, Viel, and Kris have their own houses with their respective families.

But his residence has been on the news of late, as some rallyists chose to stage their protests there against the senator.

Just this Wednesday, a group of students from the University of the Philippines staged a rally in front of his house to remind him of the farmers killed in the family-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

But Aquino simply shrugged this of, saying the rally was "orchestrated" by his opponents.

"Ito mga estudyante galing sa pamantasan ng estado na kaalyado ng aking kalaban, na nagpunta sa bahay. Ano pa ang balita doon? [The students who came to my house are from a state university that is allied with my rival. What's the news there]?" he said.

The senator was apparently referring to his closest rival in the presidential race, Senator Manny Villar, whom he accused of forging a secret alliance with the administration.

Villar has repeatedly denied the allegation.

No ceasefire between Jinkee and Krista

Isn't it over yet between Jinkee Pacquiao and Krista Ranillo? The cold war, observers say is still raging, especially now that Krista has opened a new boutique in America with cousin David Tupaz.

Board decision on MVP plagiarism issue dishonorable— Ateneo faculty

MANILA, Philippines – In a strongly worded statement, the faculty, administrators and staff of the Ateneo de Manila University said they "strongly disagree" with the decision of the Board of Trustees to refuse its chairman's offer to retire following a plagiarism issue.

PETA bags 11 Gawad Buhay! awards

MANILA, Philippines(UPDATE) The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) has emerged as the biggest winner in the second Gawad Buhay! PHILSTAGE Awards for the Performing Arts, bringing home 11 awards.

Three of its productionsSaan Ba Tayo Ihahatid Ng Disyembre? (Where Would December Bring Us?), Ismail at Isabel (Ismail and Isabel) and Si Juan Tamad, Ang Diyablo, At Ang Limang Milyong Boto (Juan Tamad, The Devil, And The Five Million Votes)bagged 11 of the 30 trophies up for grabs last March 26 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Ballet Philippines came next with 10 awards while Repertory Philippines got five major trophies in the event organized by the Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group (PHILSTAGE), the lone organization of professional performing arts companies in the Philippines.

Saan Ba Tayo Ihahatid Ng Disyembre? garnered five awards: Outstanding Stage Direction (Nonon Padilla), Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Play (Lex Marcos), Outstanding Original Script (Tony Perez), Outstanding Sound Design (Aries Alcayaga), and Outstanding Play Production.

Ismail at Isabel and Si Juan Tamad, Ang Diyablo, At Ang Limang Milyong Boto tied for Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Musical.

Si Juan Tamad, Ang Diyablo at ang Limang Milyong Boto, which was chosen as Outstanding Musical Production, also earned Vincent de Jesus awards for Outstanding Libretto and Outstanding Musical Composition.

Carlon Matobato of PETAs Ismail at Isabel was adjudged winner for Outstanding Choreography for Play or Musical.

The Gawad BUHAY! PHILSTAGE Awards for the Performing Arts honors the outstanding accomplishments in theater, dance and music of PHILSTAGE member-companies.

A founding member of PHILSTAGE, PETA is an organization of creative and critical artist-teacher-cultural workers committed to artistic excellence and a people's culture that casts shackles and fosters both personal fulfillment and social transformations.

The other winners are:

Outstanding Dance Production: BPs Masterworks
Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Dance Production: The Cast of BPs Masterworks
Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Play: The Cast of TPs Madonna Brava ng Mindanao
Outstanding Male Lead Performance in Dance: Ronelson Yadao (BPs Neo-Filipino)
Outstanding Female Lead Performance in Dance: Candice Adea (BPs Neo-Filipino)
Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Musical: Audie Gemora (Reps Sweeney Todd)
Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Musical: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo (Reps Sweeney Todd)
Outstanding Female Lead Performance in a Play: Shamaine Centenera Buencamino (TPs Madonna Brava ng Mindanao)
Outstanding Male Featured Performance in Dance: Lucky Vicentino (BPs Neo-Filipino)
Outstanding Female Featured Performance in Dance: Marian Faustino (BPs Neo-Filipino)
Outstanding Male Featured Performance in a Musical: Marvin Ong (REPs Sweeney Todd)
Outstanding Female Featured Performance in a Musical: Liesl Batucan (Reps Sweeney Todd)
Outstanding Male Featured Performance in a Play: Dido Dela Paz (Reps Portrait of the Artist as Filipino)
Outstanding Female Featured Performance in a Play: Peewee OHara (TPs Mga Mansanas sa Disyerto/Apples from the Desert)
Outstanding Musical Direction: Gerard Salonga (Reps Sweeney Todd)
Outstanding Adaptation or Translation: Alice Reyes (BPs "Amada" in Neo-Filipino)
Outstanding Choreography for Dance Production: Augustus Damian IIIs "Evacuation" from BPs Masterworks
Outstanding Set Design: Tuxqs Rutaquio (TPs Streetcar Named Desire/Flores Para Los Muertos)
Outstanding Costume Design: Gino Gonzales (BPs Neo-Filipino)
Outstanding Lighting Design: Katsch Catoy (BPs Neo-Filipino)

New 'Empress' to rule ABS-CBN primetime

Ipinakilala na ang bagong "Empress" ng primetime teleserye na bibida bilang "Rosalka!" At pinakabatang international fashion designer, magbubukas ng negosyo sa bansa!

Friday: sunny, Max Temp: 31°C (88°F), Min Temp: 26°C (79°F)

Max Temp: 31°C (88°F), Min Temp: 26°C (79°F), Wind Direction: E, Wind Speed: 12mph, Visibility: good, Pressure: 1013mb, Humidity: 58%, Sunrise: 05:32PHT, Sunset: 17:54PHT

Global temperatures hit hottest March on record—US agency

WASHINGTONGlobal temperatures fueled by El Nino seasonal warming last month chalked up the hottest March on record, US weather monitors reported Thursday.

"Warmer-than-normal conditions dominated the globe, especially in northern Africa, South Asia and Canada," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement.

Combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2010 was the warmest on record at 13.5 degrees Celsius (56.3 degrees Fahrenheit), which is 0.77 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average of 12.7 C, it said.

Average ocean temperatures were the hottest for any March since record-keeping began in 1880, while the global land surface was the fourth warmest for any March on record, NOAA said, citing analysis from the National Climate Data Center.

It added that the January-March period was the planet's fourth warmest on record.

The US agency cited two Asian examples of high March mercury: Tibet had its second warmest March since records began in 1951, it said citing the Beijing Climate Center, while Delhi, India had its own second warmest March since 1901 record-keeping, according to the India Meteorological Department.

NOAA stressed that while El Nino, the weather anomaly which wreaks havoc on normal weather patterns from the western seaboard of Latin America to east Africa, weakened to a moderate strength in March, "it contributed significantly to the warmth in the tropical belt and the overall ocean temperature."

El Nino was expected to maintain its influence in the northern hemisphere "at least through the spring," NOAA said.

The record March temperatures are likely to give further ammunition to those who believe climate change is an urgent crisis which must be addressed at the global level.

The United Nations and several countries have called for a legally-binding agreement on climate change, but at a summit in Copenhagen in December states failed to agree on a deadline to reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming.

Blessed Caesar de Bus (April 15, 2010)

Like so many of us, Caesar de Bus struggled with the decision about what to do with his life. After completing his Jesuit education he had difficulty settling between a military and a literary career. He wrote some plays but ultimately settled for life in the army and at court.

The Next Aquino: Can Noynoy save the Philippines? - TIME

Monday, Apr. 26, 2010

The Next Aquino: Can Noynoy save the Philippines?

It's past midnight in Zamboanga and Benigno (Noynoy) Aquino III slouches in his chair, a glass of Coke in one hand and a cigarette in another. He's tired and bleary-eyed and wracked by a cold. A grueling day of audiences, processions and interviews in three different provinces across the southern Philippine island of Mindanao is drawing to a close in the hotel lobby. While aides and well-wishers murmur around him, Aquino stands and holds out his arms as if awaiting handcuffs. They are lined with scratches and bruises — the toll of ceaseless hours of plunging into throngs of supporters and pressing the flesh. He grins: "It's another demonstration of people power."

For the Philippines, Aquino is an unlikely man of the moment. At a rally earlier in the day, tens of thousands had crammed into a stadium to hear the presidential candidate speak. Kris Aquino, his youngest sister and a celebrity talk-show host, revved up the crowd alongside her husband, an equally telegenic basketball star. High-school dance troupes garbed in yellow — the Aquino colors — spun cartwheels on stage. Yet when 50-year-old Noynoy emerged, hunched and bespectacled, amid blaring music and streams of confetti, he cut an awkward figure. Shirt loose, pants baggy and hair thinning, he looked more an abashed computer nerd than the sort of brash, swaggering politician that has become the stock-in-trade in the Philippines. (See pictures of Corazon Aquino's Life.)

The movement that has swelled around Aquino in the past year, launching him as chief contender for the Philippine presidency ahead of the May 10 general elections, hinges on a legacy far larger than his own. His charismatic father, Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino Jr., was the country's greatest champion of democracy before being gunned down in 1983, presumably by agents of the ruling dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Then his mother, Corazon (Cory) Aquino, a once meek housewife, became the figurehead of a popular rebellion in 1986 that toppled Marcos and gifted to the global lexicon the now immortal phrase of democratic revolution — people power. Not for nothing is Nelson Mandela said to have praised Noynoy Aquino when they once met, quipping, "You chose your parents well."

By his own admission, Aquino would not be running at all had it not been for the massive outpouring of public grief and affection that followed his mother's death from cancer last August. He says he now walks the same path first trod by his revered parents. "They made automatic in me the preference to take up the cudgels for those who have less in life, for the powerless," he says. "Why should I veer away from their footprints?" (Read "Corazon Aquino 1933-2009: The Saint of Democracy.")

This moral mandate has proven especially poignant ahead of the elections — winning Aquino a lead in opinion polls despite a relatively undistinguished political career (he's currently a member of the Philippine Senate). Popular opinion turned long ago against the current President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who has been in power for nearly a decade. Her administration is mired in sundry allegations of graft and electoral fraud. The law bars Arroyo from seeking re-election, but many critics see in her reign traces of the nation's authoritarian past. Analysts point to a decline in the independence of institutions like the judiciary and an increasing gap between the wealthy few and the 30% of the population living below the poverty line. Says Aquino: "It's as if we've backslid to the days of Marcos."

Aquino's campaign has styled itself as the panacea for an afflicted country. If you listen to his supporters, he is the righteous change candidate, destined to overhaul a stagnant status quo and redeem democracy, which has had a long and torturous history in the Philippines. While his opponents — including a wealthy billionaire — draw their funds from a coterie of vested interests, Aquino claims to be operating on a shoestring budget. Perhaps overstating the point, Aquino staffers in Manila display dozens of piggy banks filled with coins pooled together by schoolchildren. Chris Tio, a Cebu businessman who has left his work and family behind to volunteer for the campaign, shakes with emotion when recounting the virtues of the Aquino cause. "The Senator is a humble man at an extraordinary moment," he says. "We're in a fight for the soul of this nation."

Frozen in Time Yet, for all the zeal he inspires, aquino himself is also a product of the status quo. Both his parents, Ninoy and Cory, came from pedigreed stock — landed, aristocratic families that have long been part of the ruling establishment. Similarly, Aquino's vice-presidential running mate, Mar Roxas, is the grandson of Manuel Roxas, the country's first President. Arroyo, their erstwhile foe, is the daughter of Diosdado Macapagal, another President from the early days of the republic. And though they eventually faced each other as enemies, Ninoy and Marcos were members of the same fraternity at an elite Philippine university. Like a pantomime of ancient Rome, Manila's political landscape has been shaped for generations by the intimacies and vendettas of an entrenched rank of patricians.

See "Corazon Aquino - Person of the Year 2009."

See the world's most influential people in the 2009 TIME 100.

That, ultimately, has been more of a bane than a boon for the Philippines. From being the second richest country in Asia in the 1950s, it has dropped to among the continent's poorest and least dynamic. During the Marcos years, key industries were turned into monopolies run by friends and allies, creating a culture of crony capitalism that still lingers. While Arroyo is generally praised for guiding the economy to stability during the recession, much of the growth in the country is the result of remittances sent back by a legion of Filipinos encouraged to work abroad — currently an estimated 9 million to 11 million people, or roughly 10% of the country's total population. With little job creation at home, analysts point to the Philippines' inability to grow its middle class. "The basics for success are here, at least in terms of human capital," says Greg Rushford, a Washington-based expert on trade who has monitored the Philippines for over 30 years. "But there is a lack of seriousness in the political leadership — institutions are dominated by an uncaring wealthy class."

Aquino says he cares: he speaks eagerly and repeatedly about empowering the people by delivering them "freedom from hunger." His campaign has made curbing corruption its No. 1 goal; translated from Tagalog, its main slogan reads, "With No Corruption, There's No Poverty." Aquino says some $6 billion would return to the national budget each year were it not for graft in the system. But he and his nine rival candidates (who all, to varying degrees, have spoken out against corruption) are going up against a problem that is hardwired into the country's politics — one whose American-style democracy echoes the cutthroat days of Tammany Hall and whose hacienda culture of feudal oligarchs would seem familiar to much of Latin America. "There are ties of clan, family and region that are stronger than the nation," says Ramon Casiple, a leading political commentator in Manila. "To this day, it's all about patronage." (See TIME's Aquino covers.)

The rot in the Philippine system was perfectly illustrated last November, when gunmen in the service of the Ampatuans, a powerful ruling family in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao, ambushed the entourage of a rival politician, killing 57 people, including over two dozen journalists. The grisly massacre — some bodies were grotesquely mutilated and defiled — shocked the country and made global headlines. But while Arroyo has arrested leading Ampatuans and called for a ban on guns ahead of the polls, her opponents cite the clan's long-standing ties to her administration, which, they say, doled out generous state funding from Manila in exchange for support during local elections. "The incident dramatized the way feudal politics play out in the Philippines," says Marites Vitug, editor of Newsbreak, a respected Manila newsweekly.

What enraged many observers, beyond just the prevalence of naked warlordism in some of the poorer reaches of the country, was the audacity of the attack. It's a symptom, say Vitug and others, of a culture of impunity that has cemented itself in the Philippines over the decades and become exacerbated under the present government. A 2009 U.S. State Department report chronicled widespread extrajudicial killings and the disappearances of human-rights activists and leftist journalists, as well as the mistreatment of Muslims in the country's insurgency-ravaged south. It called corruption in the Philippines "endemic." (Read "People Power's Philippine Saint: Corazon Aquino.")

Rumors of politicians abusing their power swirl constantly in the voluble Philippine media, but little gets done to bring anyone to justice in a country whose courts are infamous for their low conviction rates. Arroyo became President in 2001 after being at the forefront of mass protests against perceived corruption in the administration of Joseph Estrada, a populist former movie star. In a rare instance of prosecution, Estrada was convicted of "plunder" in 2007, only to be pardoned by Arroyo months later. He's now among the front-runners in this May's presidential polls.

Like Mother, Like Son Aquino is not the only candidate promising social renewal, but he seems well suited for the part — carrying himself with an air of almost Gandhian simplicity and uprightness. Ahead of his decision to run, he consulted in seclusion with the nuns of a Carmelite convent. He later exasperated aides by sending back shoes purchased for the campaign trail because they were too expensive. Unmarried, he leans on his four sisters for support. "Someone had to tell him that a shirt has to fit in a certain way," sighs Kris. "That his jeans can't have pleats."

But this modesty has not won over all. Aquino's chief rival in the elections, Manuel Villar, is a suave, smiling businessman with a rags-to-riches story, rising from a Manila slum to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country. He scoffs at Aquino's thin political record: "Has he done anything?" Villar himself has held influential seats in the Philippine Congress for over a decade and some accuse of him of using his political clout to grow his own real estate fortune, a charge Villar dismisses. His campaign spending has dwarfed that of other candidates, funding lavish TV ads and radio jingles, and he's associated with a roster of big-ticket allies, including world-champion boxer Manny Pacquiao. "I am not a movie star. My parents weren't heroes," Villar tells TIME. "The playing field needs to be leveled somehow."

Read TIME's 1986 Woman of the Year cover story on Aquino.

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Observers say the presidential race has become a contest between Villar's populism (and deep pockets) and the Aquino family legacy. The battle bears the echo of an earlier rivalry: like Marcos, Villar is running at the head of the Nacionalista Party, which vied in the past with the Aquinos' Liberal Party. (He is also backed by Marcos' son, Bongbong.) Marcos' refusal to accept an electoral loss to Cory triggered the People Power movement and catapulted her into the presidency in 1986. Her administration is credited with doing much to pull the Philippines away from the dark years of Marcos' martial law, bringing back foreign investors and rewriting the country's constitution. But, unlike her husband Ninoy, Cory was never a natural politician and was seen by critics at times to be weak and indecisive. She was also beset by the conspiracies of pro-Marcos forces and victim to three failed coup attempts. Shrapnel from a 1987 attack by rebellious troops is still lodged in her son's neck.

Noynoy Aquino says he has forgiven the soldiers who once sought to kill him — some are now in politics as well — and is not concerned about the threat of an interfering military. (Mutinous officers in 2006 also sought to oust Arroyo.) He talks with ease and intelligence about his plans to expand the country's middle class with microcredit programs, to boost industry, universalize health care, fix education and shake up the judiciary. But there are doubts about how savvy an operator he will be when thrown deep into the murky world of Philippine politics — one, by his own admission, that he has considered forsaking in the past "so not to be compromised anymore." Winnie Monsod, a prominent TV pundit who once served in Cory's administration, says Aquino "doesn't have his father's charisma, but he has his mother's sincerity. Whether that's enough, I don't know." (See pictures of a deadly massacre in the Philippines.)

Keeping Hope Alive There's a cautious optimism that it just might be. "People sometimes don't see it," says Maria Elena, Aquino's eldest sister, widely known by her nickname "Ballsy." "But Noynoy's very stubborn. He knows what's right and what's wrong." Executive power in the Philippines is far-reaching — by some counts, Arroyo made thousands of government appointments — and experts hope the next administration will build up the stability and independence of the country's frail political institutions. Aquino is seen to be surrounding himself with a team of largely honest, well-intentioned politicos. "He may not be the ultimate architect of change, but he could push open the door for real reform," says the commentator Casiple.

Vitug, the magazine editor, says Aquino's promise lies in his incorruptible image. "Our trust in politics has been so eroded that people just want a new leader who will do the very basic — who will not be corrupt, who will be good," she says. But this is also tethered to a far deeper affection. "The people remember his parents," says Monsod. "For them it's like going back to Camelot." (Read "A Miracle Worker in a Plain Yellow Dress.")

Aquino is more humble about his role, fitting for a person who has lived quietly for much of his life in the shadow of his parents' legend. "We are just instruments put in the right position to execute God's will," he says with the sort of religious solemnity his mother became famous for. After leaving office, Cory had turned to painting. The walls of her old Manila home are lined with watercolors of flowers, rosaries and scenes of sylvan idyll far from the tumult and violence that often filled her political life. Aquino's rise follows his mother's retreat from the maelstrom and there's a palpable steeliness beneath his unimposing demeanor. "I crossed my Rubicon in 1983," says Aquino, referring to the year his father was assassinated. "I cannot accept that he would die for nothing."

Neither can countless Filipinos. As Aquino's convoy heads to the rally in Zamboanga, the city nearly empties out entirely onto the streets to greet him. Yellow banners and ribbons — first popularized by Ninoy's love for the 1970s pop song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree" — festoon almost every rickety fence and street light in a town governed by politicians aligned against the Aquinos. The roads teem with Zamboangans of all walks of life, barefoot street kids and housewives holding parasols, all clad in their own makeshift yellow Aquino gear (the campaign didn't at the time have a budget to mass-produce T-shirts). The procession teeters to a snail's pace for over three hours, as thousands swarm around, their hands held up forming Cory's famed L sign — meaning laban, or "fight." So much confetti and shredded paper billows out of office buildings that, over the wail of sirens and the ceaseless chanting of "Noynoy!," tropical Zamboanga looks like it's covered in a layer of snow.

Romy Mercado, a friend of Aquino's since high school and a close aide, says they have been received in such fashion nearly everywhere. The campaign, according to Aquino himself, is quickening something "dormant" in the Filipino people. "I haven't seen anything like it since the days of Cory and People Power," Mercado shouts over the din, sitting one vehicle behind Aquino's. But when asked to talk more about his experience of that now faraway time, Mercado is unable to respond. Head in his hands, he's too busy wiping away the tears.

with reporting by Sunshine De Leon / Manila

Book tells story of Guard unit - Jamestown Sun

A new book tells about a unit of North Dakota soldiers in the Pacific Theater from 1942 to 1945. "They Were Ready" unfolds the tale of the 164th Infantry Regiment as told by 70 veterans of World War II.

This North Dakota Army National Guard regiment was the first U.S. Army unit to offensively engage the enemy, in either theater, when it reinforced the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal on Oct. 13, 1942.

The Regiment was federalized in February, 1941, an action that affected almost every community in the state. Armories that housed the unit were located in Bismarck, Fargo, Devils Lake, Harvey, Bottineau, Cavalier, Grafton, Rugby, Cando, Williston, Carrington, Valley City, Jamestown, Edgeley, Wahpeton, Dickinson, Hillsboro and Grand Forks.

Many families were touched by the deployment, and while some have kept in contact with the 164th Infantry Association, other veterans and family members have lost touch and may not be aware of the new book about their unit, the historical newsmagazine, or the annual reunions being held 65 years after war's end.

The first few months of active duty were spent at Camp Claiborne, La., where a number of draftees from North Dakota and Minnesota joined the unit for training.

After Dec. 7, 1941, the Regiment was used to guard depots, bridges, dams, and docks, from Montana to the west coast, until March 1942 when they reassembled at Fort Ord, Calif., for the trip overseas.

Originally assigned to the 34th Division from Minnesota, the 164th became an orphan regiment as infantry divisions were streamlined from four regiments to three. When it arrived at in the South Pacific, it joined two other National Guard Regiments to form the AMERICAL Division, a contraction of American troops on New Caledonia.

Their first casualty came within hours of landing on Guadalcanal, as the Japanese Navy bombarded the beaches through the night with 14-inch shells.

Two weeks later, Japanese infantry, in "bonzai charges" broke through the Marine perimeter in defense of Henderson air field. On the night of Oct. 24, 1942, Lt. Col. Chesty Puller, commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and 164th 3rd Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Robert K. Hall from Jamestown, walked the perimeter, placing 164th soldiers into foxholes with the Marines. The attack was repelled, and the next morning found over 2,000 Japanese killed in front of the lines. Puller was quoted, "Those farm boys can fight."

This action earned the respect of the Marines and was a significant factor in the award of the Navy Presidential Unit citation for the 164th and the other Americal units that later arrived at Guadalcanal.

Lt. Col. Samuel Baglien, regimental executive officer from Hillsboro, N.D., noted in his diary that as of Feb. 2, 1943, 150 soldiers had been killed in action or died of wounds, 360 were wounded in action, and 853 had been evacuated for other causes including malaria, diphtheria, and other jungle maladies. John Paulson, Company F, still residing in Carrington, N.D., recalls counting only 18 soldiers from his unit getting on board the boat as 164th left Guadalcanal in March 1943.

Replacement troops from many states joined the unit at Fiji, Bougainville and the Philippines. These new soldiers noticed the fierce camaraderie and the solid work ethic held by the North Dakota men.

In November 1943, the 164th was the first unit from the Americal Division ordered to Bougainville on Christmas Day 1943, fighting there through 1944. In January 1945, the 164th landed on Leyte and went on to fight on Bohol, Mindanao, Cebu and Negros Oriental in the Southern Philippines Campaign.

In July 1945, the unit was training on Cebu for the invasion of Japan.

The phrase "Je Suis Pret" on the 164th Regimental Crest means "I Am Ready." Author Dr. Terry L. Shoptaugh, history professor and archivist at the University of Minnesota Moorhead, spent almost three years researching the unit history and interviewing veterans. He concluded that the title "They Were Ready" was an appropriate choice. The book is hardcover, large print and contains 50 photos and 11 maps.

Books will be sold at select bookstores, and are available from The 164th Infantry Association, PO Box 1111, Bismarck, ND. Interested persons may e-mail Editor164Infantry Information about the 164th Infantry Regiment is available on the history tab of the North Dakota National Guard Web site,

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