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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 21, 2010 Major News Stories

DOLE lacks wage law inspectors

Assistant regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment Exequiel Sarcauga yesterday said that DOLE only has four inspectors in the province of Cebu to routinely inspect companies if they are complying with the rules and regulations of DOLE especially with regards to employees' wages.

LTO, CITOM apprehend 233 unregistered vehicles

To ensure the safety of the passengers, the Land Transportation Office yesterday in a joint operation with the City Traffic Operations Management and the Philippine National Police apprehended 233 questionable public utility vehicles.

Ex-CITOM exec arrested with gun

Former City Traffic Operations Management executive director Dennis Jabonero is facing charges of illegal possession of firearm and Violation of the Comelec Gun ban before the Cebu City Prosecutor's Office yesterday after police arrested him Monday night.

Ayala group wants 40 hectares in SRP

While opposition leaders in Cebu City are busy criticizing Mayor Tomas Osmeña for alleged mismanagement of the city and blaming the South Road Properties as the cause of the city's financial ruin, the mayor announced that the Ayala Group of Companies even offered to buy 40 hectares of land at the SRP.

56 governors commit to Gibo

TO ANSWER recent defections, more than half of the country's governors affirmed yesterday their support for administration presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

VM Creus criticizes One Cebu candidates

MALABUYOC Vice Mayor Lito Creus said the governor's brothers Byron and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President and General Manager Winston Garcia "convinced" him and other mayors in a meeting to jump ship and support presidential candidate Manny Villar.

Creus said the mayors and other candidates who attended the meeting last April 16 signed the manifesto of support for Villar at Hilton Cebu Resort and Spa and were given P200,000 each as the first round of mobilization funds.

Creus, whose nomination for Lakas-Kampi-CMD and One Cebu was ordered revoked by the governor after he admitted his transfer to Villar's camp, said the other mayors and officials who signed the manifesto "have no backbone."

He said his former partymates also lied to Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia during an emergency meeting with One Cebu mayors and vice mayors at Marco Polo Plaza Monday night that they remained committed to Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. even if they had affixed their signatures in the manifesto.

"Klaro kaayo to nga manifesto. Pagoryo-goryo ra na sila. Naa man sa heading (The manifesto clearly stated that it was for Villar. They're just pretending to be still for Gibo)," he told Sun.Star Cebu in a phone interview.

In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday, Byron, for the first time, said that he and his mother, retired judge Esperanza Garcia, are for Villar.

The governor said she is ready to condemn Villar on stage for breaking her family apart.

As for Byron, she said the move was personal.

"This is not out of love for Villar, this is out of hatred for me," she said of Byron, a former Capitol consultant.

Villar, in a press conference in Cebu yesterday, refused to divulge how many mayors from One Cebu Party are now allied with him.

He will wait for the mayors to make the announcement.

He confirmed that his wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, met with several Cebu mayors.

When sought for comment on the governor's statement that he is breaking up One Cebu and her family, Villar said he is not saying the Garcias will support him.

"My policy at present is to wait for the local leaders to announce whom they will support for president. Ever since, I did not wish to make enemies with anybody. I am just waiting for those who will support me," Villar said.

He thanked Reps. Eduardo Gullas, Nerissa Soon-Ruiz and Cebu City mayoral candidate Alvin Garcia for supporting him.

But there are more candidates now allied with Villar, Creus said.

He said that Boljoon Mayor Deogenes "Wargong" Derama, Alcoy Mayor Nicomedes delos Santos, Ronda Vice Mayor Mariano Blanco III and Provincial Board (PB) Member Victor Maambong attended the meeting called by Villar.

Creus said among the candidates invited to the meeting, only Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos and Ginatilan Mayor Dean Michael Singco refused to sign the manifesto.
Sun.Star Cebu tried to contact Winston, Galeos, Singco, Derama and delos Santos for reaction but failed.


Maambong reiterated that he did not sign the manifesto of support for Villar and instead wrote that a meeting with One Cebu party should be called. He also said he has no knowledge about the release of mobilization funds.

Blanco, in an interview, said he did not sign the manifesto but refused to comment on the funds given.

Creus said he is already prepared to return the mobilization funds given by One Cebu after the governor ordered him to return these.

The governor, in a meeting, said it is not possible for mayors or One Cebu candidates not to support Teodoro, because their nominations were signed by the administration party.

But an ally of Villar, senatorial candidate Adel Tamano, who visited the governor yesterday, said the candidates who have jumped to their camp are not just after for the money but are believers of Villar's leadership and capability to run the country.

For her part, Mercy Apura, Carcar Association of Barangay Councils president, said nine barangay captains wanted to return the P10,000 initial mobilization funds from Villar's camp but they don't know where to return it.

Carcar City Vice Mayor Nicepuro Apura, who is running for mayor, said he returned the money to Villar's camp last April 14.

He said he was misled into signing the manifesto because he was never informed about the meeting.

He said he doesn't want to be involved in a controversy again after he was caught signing the manifesto; so he decided to return the money.

Meanwhile, Byron denied he threatened One Cebu mayoral bets that if they do not support Villar, the funding would go to their opponents.

Nelson and Marlon said they were threatened by Byron.

But Byron said it was his brothers who asked that their opponents not be given funding. Nelson, though, denied this, saying with or without funding, he is for Teodoro.

Byron said that his explanation is more logical because his brothers have opponents from the Villar camp.

"You can say anything in politics, it's normal. And Gwen has a penchant for picking on me. I'm her favorite whipping boy," said Byron, who lost his post as Capitol consultant after the governor refused to renew his contract.

The governor, however, said there is no need to talk about the rift in her family.

Her brother, Rep. Pablo John, said it's best for them to settle the matter internally.

"If there are other family members that support other presidential candidates, Noynoy (Benigno Aquino III) or Nicanor Perlas, then you have to leave it at that. I'm sure there is not 100 percent unanimity in any family on whom to support. Even Kris Aquino's son does not share her choice for president," said Pablo John.

As for Winston, Pablo John said he is not sure if his older brother is for Villar. Winston, he earlier said, wants to be non-partisan. 

Orange crowds turn up in three cities

PAYING tribute to the Cebuanos' "sipag at tiyaga," presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar wooed voters in three Metro Cebu cities last night and offered his experience and a plan to fight poverty.

Ruiz, Luigi sign deal

Hundreds of tricycle drivers in Mandaue City witnessed last week the signing of a covenant by sixth district Rep. Nerissa Soon Ruiz and sixth district congressional aspirant Luigi Quisumbing expressing their intention to allow the continuance of the operation of tricycle-for-hire in Mandaue City should they win in the election.

CPPO to deploy over 1T to secure polling precincts

MORE than 1,000 additional troops are needed by the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) to secure the more than 1,000 polling precincts in the province.

Poll officer told: Look into petition to place city under Comelec control

THE Provincial Commission on Elections (Comelec) office ordered its field officer in Lapu-Lapu City to look into the petition placing the city under its control.

Bishops to blame for wayward priests—Cruz

MANILA, PhilippinesThe bishops, not the Pope, should be blamed for wayward priests who got embroiled in sexual abuse cases, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said on Tuesday.

Cruz, a canon law expert, noted that Pope Benedict XVI has been getting a lot of flak for the scandals currently hounding the Catholic Church.

But he said that the Church had hierarchy, and the bishops have been tasked with supervising the conduct of priests. Bishops, in turn, are answerable to the Pope, according to Cruz.

The problem is that the Pope is being blamed. The Pope is the head of the universal church of the four corners of the world. The one responsible for the discipline of the clergy are the bishops, not the Pope. The Pope is responsible for the bishops, he told reporters.

The Pope has been making amends for the sexual abuse cases involving the clergy. Recently, he met with sexual abuse victims in Malta and expressed his shame and sorrow for the fate that had befallen them.

Bishops could be held accountable if they failed to punish the guilty clergy, Cruz said. He also said abuses took place if the bishop did not discipline the clergy well.

Upon acceptance of a territory, [a bishop] is responsible not only for liturgy. More than anything else, he is responsible for the discipline of his priests. Otherwise, if you would not do that, people would get the wrong idea that what they're doing is ok, he said.

If a bishop could not handle the case brewing under his jurisdiction, a congregation in the Vatican could take over the matter, he added.

Earlier, a bishop who had ordained a priest who was once convicted of sexual misconduct regretted his decision.

Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak, the former Bishop of Tagbilaran, said he would not have ordained the American priest Fr. Joseph Skelton had he known that the latter was once convicted of sexual misconduct while a seminarian in Detroit.

Tumulak had said that he was unaware of Skelton's past record when he made the latter a priest. Skelton is based in Tagbilaran.

SC upholds ruling allowing GMA to appoint next Chief Justice


The Supreme Court (SC), voting 9-1 with three justices inhibiting, and two others voting to dismiss the petition for being premature, upheld Tuesday its March 17 decision which ruled that the constitutional ban on midnight appointments does not cover the vacancies in the High Court, thus giving President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the authority to appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno who retires on May 17.

The court also ordered the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to proceed with its nomination process and subsequently submit its shortlist of nominees for the Chief Justice on or before May 17 to President Arroyo.

In upholding its March 17 decision, the SC resolved various motions for reconsideration and intervention seeking the reversal of that ruling.

It was recalled that in its March 17 decision, the SC ruled that the prohibition under Article VII, Section 15 of the Constitution against presidential appointments immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of the term of the President does not apply to vacancies in the Supreme Court.

In a 56-page decision penned by Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, the Court thus directed the JBC to resume its proceedings for the nomination of candidates to fill the pending vacancy created by Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno's compulsory retirement on May 17.

The Court also directed the JBC to prepare the shortlist of nominees for the position of Chief Justice and submit the same to President Arroyo on or before May 17, 2010. Likewise, it directed the JBC to continue its proceedings for the nomination of candidates to fill other vacancies in the Judiciary and submit to the President the shortlist of nominees corresponding thereto in accordance with its decision in the cases at bar.

Concurring in with Justice Bersamin, who also opined that the exemption covers the entire Judiciary are Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Martin S. Villarama, Jr., and Jose Perez. Justice Roberto A. Abad wrote a separate concurring opinion.

Justice Arturo D. Brion also concurred in that "appointments to the Supreme Court are not subject to the election ban under Section 15, Article VII," but wrote a separate opinion that he "disagrees with the conclusion that the incumbent President's authority to appoint extends to the whole judiciary." He was joined by Justices Diosdado M. Peralta, Mariano C. Del Castillo, and Jose C. Mendoza.

Justice Conchita Carpio Morales dissented, while Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, who was joined in his separate opinion by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., voted to dismiss all petitions for being premature.

Justice Nachura did not any more discuss the issue on whether or not the incumbent President can appoint the successor of Chief Justice Puno.

Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio, and Justice Renato C. Corona did not take part.

The Court said that had the framers intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the appointment of members of the Supreme Court, they could have explicitly done so. Article VII is devoted to the Executive Department, and, among others, it lists the powers vested by the Constitution in the President, while the presidential power of appointment is dealt with in Sections 14, 15, and 16 of the Article, the Court noted. "In fact, in their deliberations on the mandatory period for the appointment of Supreme Court Justices under Section 4(1), Article VIII, the framers neither discussed, nor mentioned, nor referred to the ban against midnight appointments under Section 15, Article VII, or its effects on the 90-day period, or vice versa. They did not need to, because they never intended Section 15, Article VII to apply to a vacancy in the Supreme Court, or in any of the lower courts," ruled the Court. With regard to the Chief Justice, the Court said the appointment as such is never in an acting capacity and that to rely on Section 12 of the Judiciary Act of 1948 in order to forestall the imperative need to appoint the next Chief Justice soonest is to defy the plain intent of the Constitution.

"The lack of any appointed occupant of the office of Chief Justice harms the independence of the Judiciary, because the Chief Justice is the head of the entire Judiciary. The Chief Justice performs functions absolutely significant to the life of the nation. With the entire Supreme Court being the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, the Chief Justice is the Chairman of the Tribunal. There being no obstacle to the appointment of the next Chief Justice, aside from its being mandatory for the incumbent President to make within the 90-day period from May 17, 2010, there is no justification to insist that the successor of Chief Justice Puno be appointed by the next President," the Court ruled.

The Court said that "Although (Judge Mateo) Valenzuela came to hold that the prohibition covered even judicial appointments, it cannot be disputed that the Valenzuela dictum did not firmly rest on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission.

Thereby, the confirmation made to the JBC by then Senior Associate Justice Florenz D. Regalado of this Court, a former member of the Constitutional Commission, about the prohibition not being intended to apply to the appointments to the Judiciary, which confirmation Valenzuela even expressly mentioned, should prevail.

The doctrine was based on Article VII, Section 15 of the Constitution, which bars the President from making appointments two months immediately preceding the next presidential elections and until June 30.

"The fault of Valenzuela was that it accorded no weight and due consideration to the confirmation of Justice Regalado. Valenzuela was weak, because it relied on interpretation to determine the intent of the framers rather than on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission. Much of the unfounded doubt about the President's power to appoint during the period of prohibition in Section 15, Article VII could have been dispelled since its promulgation on November 9, 1998, had Valenzuela properly acknowledged and relied on the confirmation of a distinguished member of the Constitutional Commission like Justice Regalado," the Court said.

The Court also held that having the new President, instead of the current incumbent President, cannot ensure judicial independence, because the appointee can also become beholden to the appointing authority. "In contrast, the appointment by the incumbent President does not run the same risk of compromising judicial independence, precisely because her term will end by June 30, 2010," it added.

The Court underscored that under the Constitution, it is mandatory for the JBC to submit to the President the list of nominees to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court in order to enable the President to appoint one of them within the 90-day period from the occurrence of the vacancy. The JBC, it added, has no discretion to submit the list to the President after the vacancy occurs, because that shortens the 90-day period allowed by the Constitution for the President to make the appointment. For the JBC to do so will be unconscionable on its part, considering that it will thereby effectively and illegally deprive the President of the ample time granted under the Constitution to reflect on the qualifications of the nominees named in the list of the JBC before making the appointment.

The Court also distinguished the duty of the JBC to submit a list of nominees before the start of the President's mandatory 90-day period to appoint as ministerial, while its selection of the candidates whose names will be in the list to be submitted to the President as discretionary on the JBC's part.

"Accordingly, we find no sufficient grounds to grant the petitions for mandamus and to issue a writ of mandamus against the JBC. The actions for that purpose are premature, because it is clear that the JBC still has until May 17, 2010, at the latest, within which to submit the list of nominees to the President to fill the vacancy created by the compulsory retirement of Chief Justice Puno," the Court said.

The Court also held that the petitioners have each demonstrated adequate interest in the outcome of the controversy as to vest them with the requisite locus standi, noting that the issues "are of transcendental importance to the people as a whole, and to the petitioners in particular."

Likewise, the Court held that the petitions set forth an actual case or controversy that is ripe for judicial determination. The reality is that the JBC already commenced the proceedings for the selection of the nominees to be included in a short list to be submitted to the President for consideration of who of them will succeed Chief Justice Puno as the next Chief Justice.

"The ripeness of the controversy for judicial determination may not be doubted. The challenges to the authority of the JBC to open the process of nomination and to continue the process until the submission of the list of… we need not await the occurrence of the vacancy by May 17, 2010 in order to have the principal issue be ripe for judicial determination by the Court. It is enough that one alleges conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest but seemingly proscribed by the Constitution.

A reasonable certainty of the occurrence of the perceived threat to a constitutional interest is sufficient to afford a basis for bringing a challenge, provided the Court has sufficient facts before it to enable it to intelligently adjudicate the issues," said the Court.

Justice Abad dismissed as "myth" the proposition that a Chief Justice will always be beholden to the President who appoints him. He noted that former President Joseph Estrada appointed Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., who had presided over Estrada's impeachment and administered the oath to President Arroyo at the heels of EDSA II while President

Estrada still sat in Malacañang. Chief Justices Puno and Artemio V. Panganiban voted against positions taken by the administration of President Arroyo who appointed them both to their position. "These Chief Justices like those before them were first choices of the JBC before they were those of the Presidents concerned," he said.

Justice Morales, among others, held that "the establishment of the JBC is not sufficient to curtail the evils of midnight appointments in the Judiciary" and that "the 90-day period to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court is suspended during the ban on midnight appointment." She stressed that the Court can function effectively during the midnight appointments ban without an appointed Chief Justice. "To begin with, judicial power is vested in one Supreme Court and not in its individual members, much less in the Chief Justice alone. Notably, after Chief Justice Puno retires, the Court will have 14 members left, which is more than sufficient to constitute a quorum," she said.

For his part, Nachura held that all petitions "utterly failed to present a justiciable controversy" since "several contingent event are still about to unfold." He stressed that "The Court must not be unduly burdened with petitions raising abstract, hypothetical, or contingent questions."

Kin of massacre victims want hearings deferred until after polls

MANILA, PhilippinesSaying they have lost faith in the current administration, families of seven Ampatuan massacre victims have asked a Quezon City court to defer the court proceedings until after the May elections.

In a manifestation filed late Tuesday afternoon, the families through lawyer Harry Roque urged the court to defer and reset the hearings to July 1, 2010.

The private complainants respectfully manifest that it will be extremely prudent for the court to reset the hearings, when a new President has already taken oath, and a new justice secretary has already been appointed, the three page manifestation read.
It was signed by seven of the victims familiesJuliet Evardo, Catherine Nunez, Ramonita Salaysay, Erlyn Idalo Umpad, Ma. Cipriana Gatchalian, Noemi Parcon and Editha Tiamzon.

Journalists to prosecutors: Pursue massacre case

MANILA, PhilippinesJournalists on Tuesday called on state prosecutors to continue pursuing justice for the victims of the massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, even as acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra cleared suspended Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and his cousin Akmad of murder charges.

In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines lauded the move of state prosecutors headed by Chief State Prosecutor Claro Arellano, protesting Agras decision.

The prosecutors are worried that the resolution will all the more convince a long skeptical public that our criminal justice system is impotent when the accused are politically influential.

Indeed, skeptical is an understatement when it comes to the governments dismal record of dispensing justice. If anything, Agras scandalous resolution was not unexpected. What was unexpected, was the suddenness and the brazenness with which it was issued, said NUJP vice chairman Nonoy Espina.

Espina said the DoJ resolution absolving the two Ampatuans was done to prevent the transfer of the suspects to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

And, of course, that Agra would never have committed such a brazen act without the knowledge of or, most probably, order from his ultimate superior, she who is so beholden to the Ampatuans, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he added.

Espina added that this was not the first incident where a justice secretary has dishonor(ed) the primary reason for which our institution exists and its very name: the Department of Justice.

Indeed, the long list of murdered journalists whose deaths continue to cry out for justice attests to the official apathy and, in many instances, outright government hostility toward media that have nurtured the culture of impunity in this country and emboldened those who wish to impose the ultimate form of censorshipdeathon those who persist in exercising the freedom of the press and free expression, he added.

We, therefore, also urge Chief State Prosecutor Claro Arellano and the National Prosecution Service to exercise as much zeal in pursuing justice for all our other slain colleagues and all others who have become victims of a nine-year bloodbath under an administration that has time and again flouted our laws and trampled on our rights, Espina said.

Villanueva calls for protest actions vs Agra ruling

MANILA, Philippines -- Evangelist and presidential candidate Eduardo Brother Eddie Villanueva urged Filipinos to publicly show their condemnation of Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra's decision.

Agra on Friday issued a resolution clearing Governor Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and his cousin, former acting Maguindanao vice governor Akmad Ampatuan Sr. of their complicity in the Nov. 23 massacre case.

Villanueva, the Bangon Pilipinas standard-bearer, described Agra's decision to reverse the findings of the panel of state prosecutors a judicial sacrilege and a mass murder twice over for the 57 people killed allegedly by leading members of the powerful Ampatuan clan and over 100 of their armed bodyguards.

Bangon Pilipinas and I call on all good men and women of the land to arise in protest over the decision of Secretary Agra. It is the height of disrespect for the judicial system, Villanueva said Tuesday.

He praised state prosecutors led by Chief State Prosecutor Claro Arellano and Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon for coming forward to oppose their boss' decision.

Villanueva's running-mate Perfecto Yasay Jr., who is a lawyer, said Agra should have respected the findings of the first-line investigating prosecutors.

He joined calls on Agra to resign if he has an iota of decency left.

Bayan: Palace review order of Agra's resolution 'just for show'

MANILA, Philippines – Militant group Bayan said Malacañang's order to review the resolution of acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to remove from the list of accused Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Mamasapano mayor Akmad Ampatuan from the multiple murder case "is just for show."

"It is meant to distance Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the odious Agra resolution. Who are they kidding? Mrs. Arroyo's fingerprints are all over this resolution. Who is Agra to act on his own on such an important case?" Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement. 

Reyes said President Arroyo has done little to ease the public outrage on Agra's move regarding the Maguindanao massacre, where 57 people, including several journalists, were murdered last Nov. 23. 

"Her inaction condones this grave injustice. Meanwhile Agra's unrepentant posture can only mean he enjoys the backing of a higher authority in the Palace," Reyes added.

Meanwhile, Bayan will be joining the protest rally in front of the Department of Justice building in Manila on Friday to commemorate the fifth month of the carnage. 

Ampatuan Jr. protests innocence over Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, April 20, 2010 (AFP) - A Muslim warlord accused of carrying out the Philippines' worst political massacre insisted he was innocent Tuesday in a bizarre jailhouse press conference.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., wearing a yellow prison T-shirt but no handcuffs, was relaxed and smiled as he gave his most expansive comments to the media since being arrested last year for the slaughter of 57 people.

"I had no role in what happened," Ampatuan told the reporters who gathered at short notice for the press conference at a high-security jail in Manila.

Ampatuan Jnr gave a variety of scenarios as to who may have been behind the November 23 massacre in the southern province of Maguindanao, where his family had dominated politics for over a decade.

The family is accused of orchestrating the killings to stop a rival politician, Esmael Mangudadatu, from running against Ampatuan Jr. for the post of Maguindanao governor in the May 10 national elections.

The patriarch of the clan, Andal Ampatuan Sr., was then the governor of Maguindanao. He was grooming Ampatuan Jr. to succeed him and the son is accused of leading 100 gunmen in carrying out the murders.

Among the victims were the wife and two sisters of Mangudadatu, along with 32 journalists travelling with them in a convoy to register his candidacy for the Maguindanao governorship.

Until the massacre, the Ampatuans had been close political allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and used by her to contain Muslim fighters waging a decades-long insurgency in the south.

As part of this containment strategy, Arroyo had allowed the Ampatuans to maintain a private army numbering thousands of men, as well as massive amounts of weapons and ammunition.

According to conspiracy theories in the Philippine media in recent days, Arroyo is still secretly protecting the Ampatuans.

These theories were fuelled by a shock government decision over the weekend to drop murder charges against two key Ampatuans.

The party of Benigno Aquino, who is the clear favourite to succeed Arroyo, said the decision to drop the murder charges against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan was part of the president's plan to rig the national elections.

But in a strange twist, Ampatuan Jr. said at the press conference he and his kin were backing Aquino.

"It was a family decision to support Noynoy Aquino," he said.

Ampatuan Jr. then smiled as he flashed an L hand signal that is used by Aquino and is widely regarded as a symbol of clean government.

Andal Jr. backs Noynoy-Mar but LP bet says "No thanks"

(Update 2 - 7:22 p.m.) Andal Ampatuan Jr., a member of the powerful Ampatuan clan and the prime suspect in the murder of 57 people in Maguindanao, claimed that his family will support Liberal Party standard bearer Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino and his running mate Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas for the May 10 polls, even as the LP presidential bet said, "No thanks."

Printing of 50-M ballots done by Friday

MANILA, Philippines - A Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner announced Tuesday that the National Printing Office (NPO) would complete the printing of more than 50 million ballots for the May 10 elections by Friday morning.

Once all ballots will be printed next week, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will delete the ballot templates soft copy to prevent its replication.

The poll body will be "printing the last ballot on Saturday," Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told reporters on Tuesday, adding that all PDF (Portable Document Format) files for all ballots will also be deleted.

As of Monday, the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City has printed more than 46 million of the more than 50 million ballots needed for the May polls. The printing of the ballots is expected to end early Saturday.

The ballot templates softcopy will be deleted to "assure the public that they would not be producing any additional ballots and nobody else would be able to do so," Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said.

"Hindi pwede yan (That cannot happen)... you cannot generate anymore substitute ballots," he said.

Larrazabal added that copies of the templates cannot be copied off the printers before they delete it because "it's in the system."

"There are procedures intended to ensure na walang lalabas na files (that no files will leak out)," he said.

The commissioner likewise said that they will be "de-commissioning" or sealing the five Kodak printers used in the printing of the ballots after all the ballots have been printed.

He said the machines will be sealed and signed by Melo and Senator Francis Escudero and Congressman Teddy Boy Locsin, who are co-chairmans of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Poll Automation.

Melo also said that he, Escudero, and Locsin are responsible for the "three-segment" password for the laptops to be used in the canvassing in May.

"In order to open up, you need the entire password... (each) password is from anywhere from six to eight characters or numbers. Not one of us can open it, we need to be present altogether," he said.

Larrazabal said this means that no one can tamper with the canvassing system.

"The system is locked... to ensure that there's no modification," he said.

Meanwhile, he said that the verification of the ballots will push through about two to three days after printing ends on Saturday. The transfer of the ballots from the NPO to the Foreign Service Mail Distribution Center (FSMDC) in Manila is also ongoing.

Melo: Comelec on target for successful May 10 polls

MANILA, PhilippinesIts all systems go for the May 10 elections, according to the Commission on Elections.

"We are 100 percent on target," declared Comelec Chairman Jose Melo in an interview with reporters barely three weeks before the first nationwide automated elections May 10.

He said on Tuesday that the Comelec was within its schedule for the deliveries of ballots, the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) voting machines, ballot boxes, and other materials within this week.

We are on target on the printing, we are ahead of the schedule. The customization of the PCOS machines is going along well, Melo said.

Ray Roxas Chua, chair of the Comelec Advisory Council and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, also expressed confidence that preparations have been "on track to be able to conduct a successful automation."

We're pretty confident that it will work, he said in a recent interview with the Inquirer.

Chua shrugged off fears that the automated election system (AES) was prone to modifications that could undermine results. He said safeguards have been placed in the ballots, machines and in the other processes.

If someone tries to change the results, it will show. It's going to be difficult to alter the results, he said.

The fear of a massive failure of elections has been exaggerated, Chua said, saying the scenario of an election failure would be almost impossible.

The Comelec has leased 82,200 PCOS machines from Smartmatic-TIM Corp. that will read and scan the machine-readable ballots. About 76,300 of them will be deployed to each precinct, while the rest will be on stand by to replace those malfunctioning.

Melo noted that freight forwarders started on Monday to ship voting machines to various regional warehouses in Mindanao. The process will be completed May 6 -- four days before the balloting.

The ballot boxes will also be at the precincts seven to three days before the elections for the testing and sealing of the PCOS machines to be conducted by the Board of Election Inspectors and observed by election watchers.

The printing of the 50.7 million ballots for the May 10 elections will be completed by Thursday evening or Saturday, two days before the Comelec's self-imposed deadline of April 25.

The verification of the ballots, which entails each ballots to be scanned by a voting machine, is expected to end a day or two after. All the ballots will be sent directly to the municipal treasurers to ensure swift delivery.

The preparations for the canvassing system have also started, Melo said.

On Tuesday, Melo, Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Sen. Francis Escudero, chairmen of the joint congressional oversight committee on the automated elections, each entered a six-eight character-password into the software for the centralized canvassing system.

The password will lock the system, disabling modifications and changes in it, according to Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

Thus, fears that the 1,772 laptops to be used in the canvassing could be used to tamper the results were baseless, officials said.

Melo said the canvassing system could not be tampered with unless a person had all of their passwords.

Not one of us can open it. We need to be present altogether, Melo said.

The Comelec, Larrazabal said, has been preparing to decommission the five printers leased from Smartmatic TIM once the printing of the ballots has completed.

Melo would seal the machines and delete the files containing the ballot formats, Larrazabal said.

These procedures are to ensure that no files will be leaked, he said.

We are doing this so they won't say that we are printing extra ballots, Melo added.

Comelec extends probe of ballot folder controversy

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has decided to extend the investigation of the botched P690-million ballot secrecy folder contract until the end of the month.

The bodys law department head Ferdinand Rafanan, who heads the investigation team, asked for the extension to investigate the controversy, Comelec Chairman Jose Melo told reporters on Tuesday.

He added that he did not ask Rafanan about the reason for the extension.

"I dont want to inquire what's going on... he's independent," he said.

The three-member panel headed by Rafanan is expected to look into the recommendation of the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee to award the ballot secrecy folder contract to supplier One Time Carbon (OTC) Paper Supply.

Worth P690 million, the contract covers supply and delivery of 1.815 million pieces of 25-inch long ballot secrecy folders priced at P380 each.

The poll body scrapped the contract because it was supposedly "extravagant beyond the ordinary needs of the Commission."

It also said that the number of folders to be purchased exceeded the total number that may actually be used during the elections.

In a separate interview, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said that two weeks is not enough to "go deeply" into the matter.

"I don't think delay is the intent.. (It was) not designed to make you guys forget," he said.

He likewise said that the investigation is taking some "surprising turns, in terms of where the investigation is headed."

The poll body official said it was discovered that OTC had been a supplier of the Comelec for quite some time now and that some "connections" have become "more apparent" during the investigation.

However, he refused to elaborate.

"I don't want to say anything because I don't want to preempt the en banc," he said. "The commission wants to get to the bottom of this. We want to be backed up by data, by hard fact, and by hard evidence.. it's a question of doing it right."

Poll watchdog raises warning over spare PCOS machines

MANILA, Philippines Where are the spare voting machines?

This was the question of election watchdogs, which raised fears that the spare Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines may be used to cheat in the May 10 elections.

In a letter to Commission on Elections (Comelec)chairman Jose Melo, the consortium Compact for Peace and Democratic Elections (Compact) voiced concerns on the safekeeping of the PCOS machines.

Compact convenor Etta Rosales said it is important for the public to know where the PCOS machines will be located on May 10 to ensure that no monkey business is being transacted by these machines from behind the scenes.

Compact also urged the Comelec to disclose the identity of the people guarding the machines and to open them to public scrutiny, noting that this is a way to prevent electoral fraud.

The Comelec has leased 82,200 PCOS machines from Smartmatic-TIM Corp. About 76,000 of the machines will be deployed to the precincts nationwide. The rest will be used as back-up machines.

Lawyers' group seek manual count on May 10

A group of lawyers on Tuesday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct a manual count of all precincts in the country on the May 10 polls, saying it is the last "line of defense against" against automation fraud.

Should the poll body refuse their suggestion, Philippine Bar Association (PBA) president Simeon Marcelo said it will "strongly heighten the suspicions that the Comelec is an active participant in the rumored efforts of certain sinister forces to cause a failure of elections."

Marcelo, a former ombudsman under the Arroyo administration, noted that there are only three weeks left before May 10 but numerous problems are still plaguing the preparations for the countrys first nationwide automated polls.

Among the problems PBA cited include: malfunctioning precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, lack of an independent source code review, delayed printing of official ballots, controversies in the public bidding for indelible ink and ballot secrecy folder supply contracts, unreliable logistics firms, lack of transparency in canvassing of votes, lack of contingency and continuity plans, lack of effective voter's education campaign, and lack of a legal framework in case of failure of elections.

Comelec chairman Jose Melo expressed doubts on the proposal but said "we will look into it."

"How can you have two standards? Kung manual, manual na lang, kung automated, automated lang. You cannot have two systems. You will have only one election, how can you look at it from two angles," Melo said.

(If you choose to go manual, then you go manual. If you wish to go automated, then you go automated.)

PBA called for a parallel manual count to ensure the accuracy of votes tallied by the machines and that the result of the elections was "the true will of the people" said Marcelo.

By conducting parallel counting, the board of election instructors would manually count all votes cast for the positions of president, vice president, congressman, governor, and mayor before transmitting the electronic results.

The procedure would only take two hours, said Marcelo.

Marcelo said given these problems, "it's hard to think na hindi deliberate ang [plans to have] failure of elections."

But the proposal he said would erase doubts that Comelec is part of such conspiracy.

Marcelo refused to name the people he thinks are behind the plan to sabotage the elections but admitted that it is the "easiest way" to prolong President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's stay in power.

"I'm afraid that's true," he said.

He said the group has already submitted its letter to Comelec asking the body to consider their suggestion.

If the poll body thumbs it down, Marcelo said the group will raise the matter before the Supreme Court. 

Bishops' spokesman slams leading candidates for ignoring forum

A Catholic Church spokesman on Tuesday twitted the front runners in the race for the presidency who ignored a public forum it organized to discuss the problems of the poor, and said they do not deserve the people's vote.

DOE secures commitments to ensure power in Mindanao during polls

The Energy Department has revealed short and medium-term solutions to the Mindanao power crisis. Energy Secretary Jose Ibazeta says the government's power arm will enter into operations and management agreements with Alsons and Conal Holdings to operate the Iligan diesel power plant I, and the Southern Philippines Power Corp. plant. Both facilities will generate an additional 15 megawatts of electricity for Mindanao.

Ex-Ombudsman warns: Speaker GMA will make Cha-cha easy

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
1 person liked this
MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Bar Association (PBA) President and former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo said an Acting President Arroyo coming into power as Speaker of the House of Representatives--should the automated elections fail at the national level fail--could lead to an easy shift to a parliamentary government.

AFP chief: General has denied secret meeting with Aquino

MANILA, Philippines(UPDATE) A senior military official who allegedly met with Senator Benigno Noynoy Aquino III has denied meeting with the Liberal Party standard bearer, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Delfin Bangit said Tuesday.

At the same time, Bangit said he has ordered an investigation into the veracity of the news reports about the supposed gathering of Philippine Military Class of 1977 members with Aquino.

The Armed Forces chief also urged politicians to insulate the military from politics.

I am appealing, time and again, to please spare the Armed Forces from partisan politics. This is not helping the Armed Forces and the country, he said in a mobile phone interview with reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

He said Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer, Eastern Mindanao Command chief, downplayed reports that he and other members of PMA Class 1977 had clandestinely met with Aquino.

During the supposed gathering, Ferrer and other senior military officials purportedly griped about the controversial appointment of Bangit as military chief.

I have spoken last night to General Ferrer and he personally denied (the report). He said there was no meeting and (that) he was not consulting (with any politician). Thats all he said, said Bangit, who is from PMA class 78.

As of now we do not have any reports of any military engaging specifically meeting, thats what we have as of now, the military chief added

In a separate interview, PMA class 78 president Lieutenant General Roland Detabali also denied the media reports.

None, none. I know nothing about it, Detabali said when asked if he heard reports of a meeting between his mistahs and Aquino, saying he is currently staying in Lucena City.

He echoed Bangits position that the military should remain apolitical.

Bangit warned active military officials and personnel they would be sanctioned if found guilty of engaging in partisan politics.

If they we will be found later on they are engaging in partisan politics, then they know the regulations, said Bangit, warning they could face court martial proceedings. Thats why as of now we are conducting investigation.

Our judge advocate will have to determine the corresponding punishment, Bangit said.

Influential pastor warns of failure of elections

MANILA, PhilippinesPastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ said he has been having sleepless nights over a "blurred vision" he has been getting on the outcome of the May 10 elections.

The charismatic televangelist, who claims a following of 6 million here and abroad, said it could be an ominous sign of a failure of elections amid fears that the countrys first nationwide balloting would not be carried out in a peaceful and fair manner.

"I usually have a clear vision of the chosen one months or weeks before election day. This time, however, all I can see are clouds," said Quiboloy in a phone interview.

According to Quibuloy, this is the reason why he has been praying for successful elections no matter who wins because it is important for democracy to prevail through a peaceful transition of power.

In a statement Monday, he said he would not endorse any candidate for president as he had customarily done during his birthday celebration at the KJC compound in Davao City on April 25 because until now there was still no clear revelation from the Father.

Quiboloy said that it was difficult to choose among many candidates who had personally sought his endorsement, saying he had "a high regard for each of them and their hopes for this nation."

"Knowing that the entire country and the international community are waiting for this revelation, I continue to fervently pray and wait for guidance from the Almighty Father. I know that at the right time, He will reveal this to me."

He said that should a revelation come, he would call a press conference to announce the anointed one.

Quiboloy, one of the more popular religious king makers, has held debates for candidates for president and vice president in Davao City to allow his followers to know their candidates and their platforms better.

The Philippines has a special place in the heart of the Almighty Father, and that as early as 1998, God has been intervening in the affairs of this nation, according to Quibuloy,

"He revealed to me that Joseph Estrada would become President. The same happened in 2004, when against all odds Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became President, and remained in office despite the turmoil in her term. The Father wanted the country to break free of the Edsa mentality where everyone could unseat a President whenever they wanted to," said Quiboloy.

He said he was looking forward to the presidential candidates' presence on his birthday where an estimated 80,000 people, mostly children from indigent families, would converge in his five-hectare compound to share in the food and festivities.

About 20,000 kids will be simultaneously celebrating around the country in separate large-scale birthday parties.

Votes for 27 party-list groups won?t be counted

Initially included in the ballot because of appeals or pending proceedings, they are now denied accreditation with finality

MANILA, Philippines—Votes that will be cast for 27 groups that are listed in the ballot will not be counted following the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to dismiss their application for accreditation or deny with finality their motions for reconsideration.

The Comelec granted accreditation to 152 groups in time for the printing of ballots that started in February, but had to list down 187 organizations on the ballot.

The 35 other groups were those whose accreditation was still being deliberated or which had appealed the denial of their applications.

Three of these 35 groups were accredited. These are ABOT TANAW, ANG PDR, PM (MASDA).

As of Tuesday, the the status of the 32 other groups was: 5 denied but with pending motion for reconsideration; 22 denied accreditation; and 5 dismissed.

The votes of the groups with denied or dismissed petitions will be marked as strayed, said Commissioner Gregorio Larazzabal on Tuesday.

The groups that have been denied accreditation are: 1) 1-NET 2) AASCA 3) ABBA-AMA 4) ABO 5) ACMA 6) ACTS 7) AK 8) AKAP 9) AKAP TAO 10) ALUM 11) ANG SAMAKA 12) ANG TRABAHANTE 13) APELA 14) AS 15) AVPAP 16) BIDA 17) DAMAYAN 18) NCCP 19) PFP 20) UCAP 21) UFS 22) UNLAD PILIPINAS

The groups whose petitions have been dismissed are: 1) AKI 2) ALNA 3) ANG PADER 4) FFW 5) AKSI

Of those that have gone to the Supreme Court, only the gay rights group Ang Ladlad has so far gotten a favorable decision. The Supreme Court overturned this month the decision of the Comelec last year not to accredit Ang Ladlad for espousing immorality.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that most of the denied party-list groups either failed to show that they have actual constituencies or any track record that they support the advocacies of the sectors they wish to represent.

The groups with pending motions for reconsideration are: 1) ANG MINERO 2) ANG TSINOY 3) AWAT 4) EMMANUEL 5) SAGIP

Their votes will not be included in the official tally but will be kept on record.

According to Jimenez, this would allow the Comelec to re-compute the votes for certain party-list groups in case the poll body or the high court decides to grant their requests.

Jimenez said that it would be unfair for other accredited party-list groups if the poll body would hold the counting of votes just because other groups have unresolved petitions.

He also said that the poll body may soon release a resolution that would make the re-computation easier. ( Related stories: Comelec Resolution 8744-Accreditation of Groups for the Party-list Election, 2010 144 groups to run in party-list polls Comelec on admin-backed groups: But they passed screening

Luisita farmers march to Supreme Court to press for land distribution

MANILA, Philippines Farmers from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac on Tuesday began a protest march caravan that will take them to the doorsteps of the Supreme Court, where they would appeal their four-year-old case.

Some 150 farm workers will demand the lifting of the temporary restraining order the high tribunal issued in 2006 against the distribution of the more than 6,000-hectare land owned by the family of Liberal Party presidential candidate Senator Benigno Noynoy Aquino III.

The group is expected to reach the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City Wednesday. Farmers will hold a dialogue with DAR officials on Thursday and will proceed with their march to the Supreme Court on Friday.

Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano called on the high tribunal to heed the farmers call, saying the case is now ripe for decision.

Its high-time for the SC to lift the TRO and decisively junk the anti-farmer stock distribution option (SDO) scheme in Hacienda Luisita, Mariano, who also chairs the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said in a statement.

We call on the SC to put a stop to the half a century old feudal injustice suffered by farmers at the hands of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, he added.

In 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council revoked the stock distribution option scheme in Hacienda Luisita. Citing lack of jurisdiction by PARC, the Cojuangcos appealed the revocation to the high court which issued the TRO in June 2006.

Don't run, FVR tells GMA


Former President Fidel V. Ramos called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to drop out from the congressional race in Pampanga and just focus on giving Filipinos better lives while she is still the President.

Ramos issued the statement Tuesday morning prior to his departure for China for a three-day visit.

The former President, who is a member of Metrobank's advisory board, keynotes the inauguration of Metrobank's office in Jiangsu Province in China.

Ramos said President Arroyo's decision to run for the 2nd Congressional District of Pampanga, "is too destructive of the prestige of the high office of the President of the Philippines."

"Wala na bang delikadesa dito sa Pilipinas?" Ramos said. ("Is there no more sense of propriety here in the Philippines?")

"There's dignity and honor inthe community of nations where we used to be before. Ngayon nawala na (Now it's gone). If what you do is contrary to the vision of giving Filipinos that better destination or promise land, then don't do it."

"Will you run for Congress of Pampanga while you're still a President? Don't do it. That is too unfair," Ramos said.

Arroyo asked: Let next president sign peace deal with MILF

KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piol urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday to let the next president sign the peace agreement with the MILF so it could be honored and implemented without hitches.

"Let the new president sign the new document if it is indeed acceptable to the people affected so that any commitments made could be honored and implemented," he said.

Piol made the call as he revealed to media on Tuesday that he received information about the draft interim peace agreement being finalized by the government and Moro rebel negotiators for signing by President Macapagal-Arroyo before leaving office in June.

Quoting text messages from Peace Secretary Annabelle Abaya, Piol said that negotiators from both sides would be discussing the draft within the week in Kuala Lumpur.

Based on Abayas confirmation, as cited by Piol, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels will exchange, compare and discuss their respective drafts that would be made the bases of the interim agreement.

They will try to arrive at a common ground to finalize the document that will be called the Interim Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the MILF, according to Piol.

Ms Arroyo had told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) during its recent meeting in Vietnam that she intended to sign the interim agreement before the end of her term in June.

Abaya, Piol said, told him there was nothing definite about the contents of the new agreement but issued an assurance that no document will be signed in secrecy.

But Piol said Ms Arroyo should not rush the signing of an interim agreement and just leave the matter to her successor.

Piol has been opposing a deal with the rebels, especially if his province is included in any move to expand the MILF territory.

He was one of those who vigorously opposed the signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), which the Supreme Court eventually trashed as unconstitutional.

"Expanding the autonomous region to include other provinces like North Cotabato should not be part of whatever agreement the government will sign with the MILF. The people of this province have spoken in the many plebiscites conducted in the past that we do not want to be part of any autonomous region," Pinol said.

He said the ARMM should not be expanded at all, calling it a failed political experiment that has become the symbol of corruption and dysfunctional governance."

High-powered gun found in lawmaker's vehicle

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines - Police operatives in Borongan City in Eastern Samar seized a high-powered firearm inside a vehicle owned by Rep. Teodulo Coquilla in a checkpoint on Sunday afternoon.

Seized by the operatives manning the checkpoint in Barangay Bato, Borongan City, was an M-16 firearm inside an Isuzu Crosswind driven by Ferdinand Montances, Senior Supt. Felixberto Castillo, police provincial director, said on Tuesday.

Montances, who was alone in the vehicle at that time, was charged on Tuesday, for illegal possession of firearm before the Provincial Prosecutors Office, for violating the gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections. (Under the gun ban during the election period, only policemen and soldiers on duty and in uniform can carry guns in public.)

Montances immediately posted bail in the amount of P80,000, Castillo said.

While the vehicles ownership was traced to Coquilla, who is seeking a second term under the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD, he has no liability over the incident since a police escort, not the congressman owns the gun, according to Castillo.

The owner of the firearm, PO2 Richard Oraller, would be charged administratively, the police provincial director said.

Castillo said that based on their initial investigation, Oraller accidentally left behind his service firearm inside the vehicle driven by Montances.

Montances was on his way to his house in Barangay Cabong, also in Borongan City, when he was stopped at a checkpoint by police operatives at around 4 p.m. last Sunday.

Montances reportedly claimed that he was not even aware that there was a firearm inside the vehicle, Castillo said.

Coquilla did not respond to calls to his cellular phone.

2 foreign narcotics traders now in PDEA custody

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has nabbed in separate operations two foreigners suspected to be members of international drug syndicates operating in the country.

PDEA director general Dionisio Santiago identified the two suspects as Nigerian Franklin Onukogu and Malaysian Lim Ting Chong. 

Anti-narcotics agents arrested Onukogu last Mar. 4 during a sting operation in BF Resort Village in Las Piñas City. The suspect yielded five plastic sachets reportedly containing 1 gram of cocaine each. 

"Onukogu is a member of the West African Drug Syndicate. The WADS is believed to be primarily responsible in recruiting Filipinos into becoming drug couriers. He belongs to the African Iboe Tribe which happens to be among the largest and most influential ethnic groups in Nigeria. Onukogu heads the African Iboe Tribe Organization in the Philippines," Santiago said. 

Meanwhile, Chong was apprehended at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 last April 14 after his checked-in baggage from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yielded 14 kilograms of high-grade shabu.

Both Onukogu and Chong are now facing illegal drug charges and are currently detained at the PDEA Detention Facility.

"The arrest of Onukogu and Chong would be instrumental in tracing their local connections, which hopefully would lead to other successful anti-drug operations," Santiago said.

More OFWs repatriated from Mideast


More distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) continued to be repatriated from the Middle East, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

The DFA said that 55 OFWs from Jordan and Saudi Arabia had been repatriated in the first two weeks of April, following the repatriation of 113 OFWs from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which started in late March.

"First to arrive from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 5 were 25 female detainees from Al Nisa Jail. Two batches of Filipino repatriates arrived on April 13. The first batch arrived in the morning, composed of 15 distressed workers from Amman, Jordan, while the second batch arrived in the evening, composed of 15 deportees from Jeddah," the DFA said.

"The DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs (OUMWA) continues to work closely with the Philippine Embassies and Consulates General to facilitate the repatriation of other distressed Filipinos overseas," the DFA assured.

The 113 distressed OFWs earlier repatriated since the end of March consisted of 76 Filipinos in four batches from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during the Holy Week: the first batch consisted of 31 OFWs who arrived on March 31; the second batch consisted of nine OFWs on April 1; 22 OFWs on April 2; and nine OFWs on April 3.

Some 37 distressed OFWs had also been flown to Manila from Qatar on April 8, which totaled to 113 distressed OFWs repatriated prior to the 55 repatriated OFWs recently.

OFW who won divorce, child custody suit in Turkey, arrives with kid

MANILA, PhilippinesOverseas Filipino worker Jeanette Manuel and her one-year-old infant arrived in Manila on Tuesday after a Turkish court resolved a divorce and custody case and lifted the travel ban issued against Manuels baby.

Manuel and daughter Hannah arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1 at 2:30 p.m. on Qatar Airways. They were welcomed by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) Chief Carmelita Dimzon.

Its a relief to be home, Im forever thankful to our government for helping me, teary-eyed Manuel, 42, told reporters.

She said she escaped from her husband Oguzhan Dur in August 2009, after he had repeatedly abused and imprisoned her in their home in Denizli, Turkey.

On the pretext of taking her daughter for a walk, Manuel said they took a seven-hour bus ride to Ankara where she sought help from the Philippine Embassy.

Manuel met and discussed her case with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who visited Turkey in September 2009. Upon the Presidents instructions, government funds were used to pay for Manuels legal services.

A psychology graduate, Manuel originally worked as a human resource officer in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In search of greener pastures, she moved to Turkey in 2005 where she met her 32-year-old husband while setting up a silver jewelry business.

At first, he was kind. Then he became mean and began to beat me up and threaten me, she recounted.

Asked if she had pictures of her husband, Manuel replied: No, I burned them all.

She said she would be staying with her mother in Sampaloc, Manila. She added that she planned to rest and later look for a job.

Dimzon said the government contributed around $4,000 (P178,000) to Manuels divorce and child custody suit. She said the agency was prepared to further assist her with a loan or skills training.

Manuel said she would try to repay the money spent on her by the government. If I get lucky I will return it so the government can help others like me.

Dimzon credited Philippine Ambassador to Ankara Pedro O. Chan for attending the court hearing and informing the judge handling the case that he was personally interested in the welfare of Manuel and her daughter.

Manuel said Dur disowned his child before the court, which contributed to her victory in the suit.

I prayed so I will win, she said, adding that Turkish law usually awards child custody to the father.

Hannah celebrated her first birthday at the Philippine Embassy on April 12. According to the court decision, she is required to stay with her father, Oguzhan Dur, from the first day until the seventh day of the winter break and every year from July 1 to 20.

$1: P44.560

$1: P44.560

Euro 1: P60.1161

Cebu airport braces for possible PAL employees' strike

CEBU, Philippines - Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) is ready in case employees of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) will leave their duties to protest PAL's plan to lay-off 400 of its workers in Cebu.

Cebu Pacific swings to P3.3-billion net profit


Cebu Air Inc., the country's largest budget carrier better known as Cebu Pacific, reported Tuesday it swung to a net profit of P3.26 billion last year from a net loss of P3.26 billion, helped by foreign exchange and fuel hedging gains.

The airline JG Summit Holdings Inc. (JGS) booked P1.1 billion in foreign exchange and fuel hedging gains in 2009, a reversal from a loss of P4.1 billion in 2008.

Cebu Pacific generated revenue of P23.31 billion last year, up 18 percent from P19.68 billion from 2008 because of the continued expansion of its route and flight network, additional passenger and cargo traffic, and significantly higher revenues from ancillary services.

Intent on having the largest Airbus 320 fleet in the country and the second largest fleet in Southeast Asia by 2014, Cebu Pacific (CEB) has ordered seven more Airbus A320 aircraft on top of an existing order of 15 aircraft.

The 22 brand-new aircraft will be delivered from 2010 until 2014. The first of the 180-seat aircraft arrives in October, and will be used to add routes and frequencies on CEB's network of 33 domestic and 14 international destinations.

"This will enable us to have the largest fleet of Airbus A320 family in the Philippines, and the second largest in South East Asia, allowing us to offer our trademark low fares to even more Filipinos," announced CEB President and CEO Lance Gokongwei.

CEB has already carried more than 40 million passengers since its inception in 1996. In 2009, the airline posted a 30% year-on-year growth in the number of its domestic and international passengers. This year alone, CEB will transport more than 10 million passengers.

In the next five years, CEB will more than double its seat capacity, he pointed out.

The new Airbus A320 aircraft is part of Airbus single-aisle product offering. The aircraft's advanced wing design lessens fuel burn and improves take-off capability, while the CFM56 engine helps lower maintenance costs. (With Dow Jones report)

Gov't can't guarantee financing for PAL – DoF


The national government cannot guarantee Philippines Airlines Inc. (PAL) financing, the Department of Finance (DoF) said Tuesday.

Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran, said the government – which is also in dire financial straits – is not allowed by law to guarantee loans for private corporations like the nation's largest carrier.

"We don't guarantee for private sector debt. Actually, I don't know how the government can help them now," Beltran said in a telephone interview.

"We only guarantee government corporations," he added.

PAL was privatized in January 1992, after the national government sold significant shares of the company to a holding firm PR Holdings.

PAL, the country's flag carrier and Asia's first airline, earlier said it's seeking new investors as owner Lucio Tan may not put in fresh equity after the company posted two straight years of losses. Beltan also said the government cannot bail out PAL this time – unlike what it did in the past – because it is already in the hands of the private sector.

The Asia's oldest airline incurred more than $350 million of losses in the past two years after making wrong-way bets on fuel prices.

Somali pirates seize Thai fishing vessels, 77 crew—EU force

Pirates have seized three Thai fishing vessels with a total of 77 crew and were taking them toward the coast of Somalia, a spokesman for the EU naval force in the area said Tuesday.

Seoul warns on nuclear talks if N.Korea linked to sinking

by by Park Chan-Kyong, Agence France-Presse
SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea warned Tuesday that stalled North Korea nuclear disarmament talks would not be able to resume if it finds the communist state was involved in the sinking of one of its warships.

Pacquiao condoles with Valero family

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Seven-division champion Manny Pacquiao expressed surprise over the death of former 2-time world champ Edwin "El Dinamita" Valero, who was one of his potential future opponents in the ring.

Unbeaten Valero was being primed for Pacquiao—Arum

MANILA, Philippines – The late Venezuelan boxing champion Edwin "El Dinamita" Valero was set to take on pound-for-pound king and 7-division world champion Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao, according to Top Rank Promotions head honcho Bob Arum.

Former IOC chief Samaranch gravely ill at Barcelona hospital

BARCELONA—Former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch, 89, has been admitted to a Barcelona hospital suffering from severe heart trouble and his prognosis is "very bad", a hospital spokesman said Tuesday.

N.B.A. Roundup: James's 40 Propel Cavaliers in Game 2

from NYT > Pro Basketball by By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LeBron James scored 40 points and took over in the fourth quarter as the Cleveland Cavaliers, fueled by a home crowd that booed every move by Noah, maintained homecourt advantage by beating the Chicago Bulls, 112-102, on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

James added eight rebounds and eight assists for the Cavs, who led, 96-93, with 4 minutes 30 seconds left before James decided to dominate. He dropped a 3-pointer over Noah that he capped with a quick dance move and a wink toward Chicago's bench, made two free throws, a layup and two jumpers, scoring 11 straight points as Cleveland opened a 107-98 lead with 1:36 left.

Noah, who criticized Cleveland's lack of downtown activity between Games 1 and 2, had 25 points and 13 rebounds. Derrick Rose added 23 points and Luol Deng had 20 for the Bulls.

Game 3 is Thursday night in Chicago.

Antawn Jamison scored 14 points and Jamario Moon made four 3-pointers for Cleveland, which looked much more out of sync than in Game 1. Shaquille O'Neal, a force at both ends in the opener, scored 8 points and played only 15 minutes — none in the fourth quarter.

"In Game 1, I was very hesitant and trying to feel out the defense too much," said James, who went 16 of 23 from the field. "They were giving me the jump shot, and I just wasn't taking it. I watched a lot of film from Game 1 and knew as soon as I caught it they would back up and I could get an opportunity to shoot a jumper.

"I just had to take it."

The Bulls, who pushed Boston to seven games in the opening round last season, did a much better job rebounding and were more physical than in Game 1.

The Bulls trailed by 10 points early in the second quarter, but worked their way back with extra effort, especially on the offensive boards.

JACKSON HAS BONE BRUISE The Charlotte Bobcats say a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Stephen Jackson's hyperextended left knee shows a small bone bruise but no structural damage.

Jackson said Monday he felt "way sorer" but expected to start in Game 2 against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. He sat out practice and had an ice wrap around the knee.

Jackson was injured when his teammate Gerald Wallace dived for a loose ball and collided with him just before the first half of Game 1 ended Sunday. The Bobcats lost, 98-89.

Jackson returned to score 10 points in the second half, finishing with 18 for the game. But he sat out the final minutes with the injury, pleading with Coach Larry Brown to return in the game.

Villar supporters infiltrate Noynoy website, fan page

MANILA, PhilippinesThe camp of Senator Benigno Noynoy Aquino III has turned the table on Senator Manny Villar, saying it was the latters supporters who have constantly infiltrated Aquinos website and fan page on Facebook.

We bemoan the latest accusation thrown our way and would like to respectfully state that it has been Senator (Manny) Villar's supporters that have constantly infiltrated Senator Noynoy's website and Facebook fan page, infecting them with derogatory remarks unfit for print, said Leah Navarro, content head of Aquinos New Media Bureau.

Navarro was reacting to earlier statement by Villars Nacionalista Party, accusing Aquinos supporters of trying to hack the partys website.

In belying this accusation, Navarro pointed out that Aquinos online presence has been consistently dominant attributing it to what she claimed as our positive online campaign, which mirrors the principles of our principal,

She even furnished a copy of their own monitoring of the candidates fans and online supporters, showing Aquino still keeping his lead over his rivals.

As of April 19, Aquino has further widened his lead over Villar on Facebook with 1,286,090 number of fans as against the Villars 1,209,108. Next is former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro with 263,640.

Aquinos lead over Villar rose to 77,356 from 56,968 as of April 12.

Aquino also maintained his lead even on the number of followers on Twitter with 49,215, Teodoro with 14,856, Villar with only 2,028, Senator Richard Gordon with 1,278, and former president Joseph Estrada with 1,040 as of April 19.

Enchong Dee happy to work with Christopher de Leon

by by Rachelle Siazon,
MANILA, Philippines - Enchong Dee will be part of the cast of "Sa'Yo Lamang," which is slated to be a follow-up to director Laurice Guillen's award-winning movie "Tanging Yaman." The young actor can't wait to start working with Christopher de Leon who will play his father in the story.

Work on James Bond film suspended amid MGM woes

LONDON - Producers say work on the next James Bond film has been halted indefinitely because of uncertainty about the future of distributor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

Discovery shuttle makes safe return to Earth

HOUSTONShuttle Discovery touched down Tuesday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, making a safe return to Earth after a two-week resupply mission to the International Space Station.

NASA's Mission Control gave Discovery's astronauts approval for the landing at 9:08 am (1308 GMT) after repeated delays on Monday and earlier Tuesday due to rain and fog.

With Discovery's return, NASA counts just three more missions before it retires the shuttle fleet.

The space agency will turn to Russia to transport Americans to the orbiting science laboratory until it can help to foster a healthy commercial space taxi industry.

President Barack Obama reinforced the controversial policy during a visit to the Kennedy Space Center last week.

Rain and low clouds in Florida prevented Discovery's seven astronauts from returning to Earth earlier Tuesday and twice on Monday, stretching their space flight to 15 days.

"Welcome home. Congratulations on an outstanding mission," Mission Control told the Discovery crew.

"What a great mission," said Poindexter. "We enjoyed it."

The shuttle dropped from orbit over the Pacific Ocean and followed a rare course that took it over much of the US upper Midwest and Southeast, leaving a glowing contrail for ground observers.

Discovery's crew delivered nearly eight tons of scientific equipment and other supplies intended to fortify the orbiting science laboratory for operations well beyond the final shuttle flight.

The new research gear includes an Earth observations rack to hold cameras and spectral scanners for studies of the atmosphere, geological formations as well as weather induced crop damage.

Another new experiment monitors changes in the muscle and joint health of the astronauts in the absence of gravity. A new freezer will store specimens for medical and biological experiments.

During three spacewalks, two of the astronauts wrestled with balky bolts to replace a boxy coolant tank that is essential to the long term function of the station's life support systems.

Poindexter's crew included pilot Jim Dutton and mission specialists Dottie Metcalf Lindenburger, Stephanie Wilson, Rick Mastracchio, Clay Anderson and Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Shuttle Atlantis will fly next, with a lift off tentatively scheduled for May 14.

During its 12-day mission, six astronauts will deliver a Russian mini-research module and external spare parts, including power storage batteries, a communications antenna and a radiator as well as Canadian and European robot arm components.

Endeavour is to follow, with a launch scheduled for July 29.

Endeavour's cargo includes the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an internationally-sponsored physics investigation for the study of cosmic radiation and anti-matter.

If the scheduling holds, Discovery will lift off for the station on September 16 for the final shuttle flight with yet more cargo and a pressurized storage module.

With only a few missions remaining, many at NASA are beginning to realize the long-running shuttle program is winding down.

"For me, we are heads down focused on the mission, trying to make sure it's safe and successful," said Bryan Lunney, the NASA flight director who supervised Discovery's descent. He'll oversee Discovery's journey on the final shuttle flight as well.

"I haven't gotten too philosophical or concerned about the future. I'm just taking care of business."

Hottest day in MManila this year recorded on Tuesday-PAGASA


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