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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 22, 2010 Major News Stories

Police files case vs. builder despite 'doleout'

THE Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) yesterday lodged a criminal complaint at the City Prosecutor's Office against the construction firm of a store where a firewall collapsed, killing five workers.

Insp. Vicente Velasquez, CCPO Crime Against Persons Unit chief, accused CYC Construction proprietor Charlie Yu-Chiu, project engineer Engr. Necito Caldosa and lead man Jesryl Villena of reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide.

Sun.Star Cebu tried to contact the contractor, through lawyer Ronnie Gocuan, but he could not be reached as of press time.

Eight policemen and two City Hall personnel executed their affidavits to support the case against the respondents.

The firewall of Gaisano Capital in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City, which CYC Construction built, collapsed in the morning of April 7. That killed five persons—Deony Delan, 30; his brother Christian, 27; Teodulfo Detumal, 35; and Lyndon Melendrez, 18, all of Carmen town, Cebu.

Construction worker R Jay Ceniza died a few hours after he was rushed to the Cebu City Medical Center.

Senior Supt. Patrocinio Comendador, Cebu City police director, told reporters that even if CYC Construction may have paid the families of the dead and those who were injured, that does not exempt the company from criminal liability.

A quitclaim between the company and the families of the victims will not keep them from suing CYC Construction, he said.

Comendador urged the relatives of the victims to press charges to strengthen the case against the construction firm.

Comendador said they based their case on the findings of OBO.

"We are just keeping our fingers crossed that the city prosecutor will find probable cause to file charges against the construction company," he said.

 According to the case records, police investigators Geoffrey Gutual, Leroy Baguio, Cristobal Geronimo and Lou Pagara said they received a radio call informing them about the accident.

They rushed to the scene, where they found the bodies of the victims being retrieved from the debris.

Personnel from the Cebu City Disaster Coordinating Council, Romulo Guarin and Edgar Lapina, said they also received a report about the collapsed firewall. They proceeded to the area and assisted volunteers of the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation in retrieving the bodies.

The Office of the Building Official (OBO), in its report, said the wall collapsed because it was built higher than what the OBO officials approved in the building permit.

OBO approved a parallel wall measuring one meter but the contactor built a concrete structure about 2.3 meters higher.

This deviated from the approved building permit, said OBO's Mario Rondez and Florante Catalan.

The OBO also noted that CYC Construction failed to provide adequate protective measures, such as safety nets and scaffoldings, to its workers. The construction workers were not wearing hard hats.

Villena told building officials that prior to the accident, he already noticed that concrete chips were falling.

The building officials recommended that CYC Construction set up safety measures at the site and equip its laborers with safety gear.

The building officials also urged the construction firm to remove leaning columns and beams at the construction site to prevent similar mishaps.

Tunnel will be passable after 3 to 4 months yet

The 3B-2 subway or tunnel section of the Cebu South Coastal Road Project will accessible to the public only until after three to four months when the construction of the Environmental Management and Control Office, which will serve as the control panel for the operations of the tunnel, is completed.

Gwen blames Byron for shift of support to NP

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday admitted that the shifting of support by some members of her family from One Cebu, which she is a chairperson, to Nacionalista Party has affected their family relationship.

The lady governor also took potshots at her own brother, former Capitol consultant on security, Byron Garcia, pointing at him as the one who has been recruiting the mayors by using "dirty tricks" to convince them to shift their support to NP standard bearer Manuel "Manny" Villar.

Because of this, she said they have changed their campaign strategy by going down to the barangay level and tapping different sectors instead of just getting the supports of the local officials to support the candidacy of administration bet Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro.

According to her, she will stand by Teodoro and will continue campaigning for him.

The other day, governors of the different provinces of the country met here and signed a manifesto reiterating their support to Teodoro' candidacy.

The governor said that she supports Teodoro because of palabra de honor, but added that those who support Villar are only after their personal interest.

Gov. Garcia visited Bantayan Island yesterday afternoon and met local officials and barangay captains, whom she asked to help One Cebu in campaigning for Teodoro.

She also reiterated that she knows that Byron is behind the recruitment of mayors to shift support to the presidential bid of Villar.

She said that Byron is not serious in working for the presidential bid of Villar as her brother is only after his personal concerns.

Gov. Garcia claimed that Byron got mad at her after she refused to renew his contract as consultant for the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center and the Cebu South Bus Terminal.

She confirmed that the continuing move of Villar's camp of convincing One Cebu members to shift support to NP has affected even her family.

It was reported earlier that aside from Byron, another brother of the governor, Government Service Insurance System president and general manager, Winston Garcia, is also backing the candidacy of Villar. Byron also claimed that their mother, retired judge Esperanza Garcia has also been campaigning for the NP standard bearer.

However, the Garcia patriarch, former governor and now second district reelectionist congressman, Pablo Garcia, together with his three other sons, third district Rep. Pablo John Garcia, and Marlon and Nelson Garcia, who are running for mayors of Barili and Dumanjug, respectively, are still with One Cebu, which is supporting the presidential bid of Teodoro.

During the governor's campaign sortie in Bantayan town yesterday, Mayor Geralyn Escario, who is now serving her third term and seeking the vice mayoralty post, assured that she and her supporters are working for the victory of Gibo.

Before going to Bantayan Island, Gov. Garcia also visited Malapascua Island in Daanbantayan town and led the ceremonial switching of the electrification project in the island.

The reelectionist governor, together with her runningmate, Glenn Anthony Soco, then met with the residents of the island and asked them to support Teodoro.

Creuses to run sans party; Dalaguete bet attacks rival

THE participation of Cebu mayors in a meeting called by Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar is becoming an issue for mayoral races in Malabuyoc and Dalaguete.

Malabuyoc Vice Mayor Lito Narciso Creus, who was recently kicked out of One Cebu after he announced his support for Villar, said he will run as an independent candidate in the May 10 elections.

He feels it was a "bit harsh" for Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, One Cebu's head, to revoke the membership of his wife and the entire slate, saying it was his personal decision to attend the meeting with Villar and the other candidates had no involvement in his move.

The governor, in an emergency meeting last Monday night at Marco Polo Plaza, checked the loyalty of mayors and vice mayors under One Cebu and asked them to sign a manifesto of support for Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro Jr., whom One Cebu is endorsing.

Only Creus admitted that he had already pledged to support Villar and he had refused to sign the manifesto.

Garcia said she included the entire slate because it's Creus's wife who will run for mayor.

This, despite Creus's assurance that they will still endorse the governor, her runningmate Glenn Anthony Soco and the governor's father, Rep. Pablo Garcia, who is seeking reelection.

"I will still support them even if I already tried to deplane the Sulong Gibo plan. It's not taking off. Lisud 'di makadaug," Creus told Sun.Star Cebu.

But Garcia said there is a need to toe the line because One Cebu party has already made its pledge to support Teodoro.

"One word is enough," she had earlier said.

She said Creus can't support two candidates or "have his own cake and eat it too."

"Ayaw pagduha ug nawong," Garcia said Creus.

Meanwhile, Dalaguete Mayor Andrade Alcantara said his political rival's alleged signing of a manifesto of support for Villar last April 16 will be an issue on his opponent's credibility.

Alcantara said Vice Mayor Ronald Allan Cesante's alleged signing of a manifesto of support for Villar shows his character.

But Cesante, Boljoon Mayor Deogenes Derama and Alcoy Mayor Nicomedes delos Santos told the governor that they were tricked into signing the manifesto for Villar.

The three later signed a new manifesto supporting Teodoro.

Alcantara, though, said he was not satisfied with Cesante's explanation.

The fact that Cesante signed a manifesto of support for Villar, then for Teodoro three days later, would make him lose credibility, said Alcantara.

Both Alcantara and Cesante are allied with the administration, with Alcantara and his slate getting their certificates of nomination from One Cebu while Cesante's team is under Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

Meanwhile, Provincial Board (PB) Member Teresita Celis, who is also running for mayor of Boljoon, said she will convince her sister, who is running for mayor of Oslob, to vote for Teodoro.

The PB member will replace her brother Derama, who is on his last term.

Estrellita Derama, who is running in Oslob, was reportedly among the candidates who signed a manifesto of support for Villar.

Bets eye new city, 8th district

FORMER Provincial Board member Gabriel Luis "Luigi" Quisumbing will propose the conversion of Consolacion town into a city if he is elected as sixth district congressman on May 10.

His rival, Ariston Cortes III, said he will file a bill making Mandaue City a lone congressional district—the eighth one in Cebu Province.

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"As I promised the town of Consolacion, the first bill I'm going to file, if I'm blessed enough to win, is to convert the town into a city," Quisumbing said in a visit to the
Sun.Star Cebu newsroom Tuesday.

Quisumbing admitted it will be difficult to work for Consolacion's conversion, but that "as the gateway to northern Cebu, it needs to be a city to support its development."

Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended, states a town must earn an income of P100 million a year, on the average, in the last two years before its

It also needs to meet one of these two other requirements: a population of at least 150,000 and a land area of at least 100 square kilometers.

As of 2007, Consolacion's population stood at 87,544. It has a bigger land area (37.03 sq. km.) than Mandaue City, but still falls short of the law's requirement.

"It's a tough road. It's not a decision we've come to lightly," said Quisumbing.

"But you know, in evolution, you just always have to go one step higher. You can't regress. Consolacion is a hotbed for economic development. It needs to be able to provide for progress. On the budget of a municipality, that's very hard to do."

Three new cities in Cebu benefited from a Supreme Court decision in December 2009 that said their conversion was valid.

It said Bogo, Carcar and Naga, along with 13 other new cities, were exempted from the law that raised a city's minimum income requirement from P20 million to P100 million a year.

Quisumbing said the bigger Internal Revenue Allotment that goes to a city will enable Consolacion to develop barangays that are far from its town center. It will also have to develop "its next logical growth area," the coastal community now made more accessible by the opening this year of the Cansaga Bay Bridge.

Cortes, for his part, said Mandaue, with its size and population, needs a bigger share in pork barrel funds for its development.

The P70-million annual pork barrel could do a lot to improve the city's delivery of basic services to its constituents.

Mandaue City is part of the sixth congressional district, which includes Lapu-Lapu City, Consolacion and Cordova.

He lamented Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz's failure to convert Mandaue into a lone district during her term. He believes Ruiz prioritized Lapu-Lapu City, which became the seventh congressional district in Cebu last year, since she has her own agenda.

Mandaue City became a highly urbanized city in 1992 or years before Lapu-Lapu City became one.

Meanwhile, Quisumbing expressed doubts that residents of Cordova will agree to make the town a part of Cebu City.

"Cordova, being a very proud town, they have their own Cordovanhon anthem, I don't think that they would now agree to become a barangay of Cebu City. But, we are all masters of own fate," he said, adding that the process will be subject to a plebiscite.

"I don't feel that is the case. I know that Cordovanhons are very proud people. They are fiercely independent," Quisumbing added.

His opinion was sought after Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña had expressed his intention to make Cordova a part of Cebu City.

The administration's bet said he has a plan to build another bridge from the South Road Properties (SRP) to Cordova to bring some economic activity to the town. It will become the shortest route from Cebu City to the airport.

"Right now, it (Cordova) is away from the major route. Quite a bit of travel to get there. But if we are able to open up the traffic from the SRP in Cebu City to Cordova that will spur economic growth," he said, adding that it will also lessen the traffic in Mandaue.

Meanwhile, industrialist Norberto Quisumbing, owner of the Norkis Group of Companies, campaigned for his grandson Luigi in a gathering with Mandaue businessmen yesterday.

In a forum he organized and dubbed "Consultation with the Business Community," Quisumbing said they should vote for candidates who have the traits of honesty, honor and humility.

"There is an underlying and a crying need or a call for change.

And just like businessmen, you and I and all of us business executives know that when we call for change we are always for something better. We are always streamlining this, improving this, cutting cost, removing those that are not efficient and putting in efficient-–new leaders in government," Quisumbing added.

Mayor's brod willing to face complaints

THE brother of Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes said he will face the formal complaint that will be filed by supporters of his political rival.

Sixth district congressional candidate Ariston "Baludong" Cortes III denied yesterday that he "slapped and threatened" supporters of Luigi Quisumbing over the putting up
of the latter's posters over his and his brother's posters in Barangay Bakilid Saturday dawn.

Cortes cried foul over the move, which he said was done on a property owned by his wife's family.

He said, though, that one of his supporters shoved one of Quisumbing's men during a confrontation, where the suspect raised his voice.

Cortes said he also warned the men not to cover any of his allies' posters anywhere in the City.

Quisumbing's supporters Nhoe Edndrina, 27; Manolito Echavez, 39; and Eliazar Noble, 30, of Barangay Tipolo reported to the police that the mayor's brother and a supporter allegedly slapped and threatened them.

Cortes, when sought for reaction on the incident, said a witness informed them of what the three men did when he got to the area.

He instructed his supporters to check the vehicle's plate number. However, his men trailed Quisumbing's supporters, who allegedly fled to the Norkis Compound upon seeing Cortes's men.

They chanced upon the three when these came out of the compound again.

One of Cortes's supporters approached the three and asked them to respect the other candidates and not to cover posters.

But Quisumbing's men allegedly talked back, prompting Cortes's supporter to shove one of them to show some respect to the mayor's brother.

Cortes said no one got hurt in the incident.

Security of May polls in the hands of Arroyo?s ?mistahs?

Class '78 holds key positions in all 17 regions nationwide

MANILA, Philippines—The security of the first nationwide automated elections in May is in the hands of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Makatarungan" Class of 1978, the batch that adopted President Arroyo as honorary member.   The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), from the top, is packed with President Arroyo's "mistahs."   At the Philippine National Police (PNP), Class '78 has yet to clinch the topmost positions, but shows they are well-placed on the ground, especially in vote-rich regional commands.   Class '78 has total or partial control of the 17 Joint Security Control Centers (JSCCs)—1 per region—organized by Task Force Hope, which is composed of officers from the AFP and the PNP tasked to secure candidates and polling centers in May.   Based on the AFP-PNP joint operational guidelines, the JSCCs should be headed by the respective AFP Army Infantry Division (ID) commanders and PNP regional chiefs. (In practice, the ID commanders delegate Infantry Brigade commanders who answer to them.)   Based on this arrangement, 4 regions can be said to be under the total control of Class '78— the Ilocos region, Bicol, Central Luzon, and Central Visayas.   The other 11 control centers are party under the control of Class '78—meaning the ID commander or the regional police chief is a member of the class.   In the AFP, members of Class '78 head 9 out of 10 IDs, except the 2nd ID based in Rizal province and deployed in Central Luzon. In the PNP, the class heads 7 regional police commands in Luzon and the Visayas.   In Mindanao, the government depends more on the firepower of the AFP troops than those of police forces in cases of rebel attacks in the area that could interrupt the elections.   Among the responsibilities of Task Force Hope are the following:

Assign soldiers or police as personal bodyguards of local candidates.

Oversee the implementation of the gun ban.

Determine the locations of Comelec checkpoints.

Direct deployment of troops or police officers to polling centers on Election Day.

The task force works under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).   "They (Class '78) will play a crucial role in May. They are in a position to either defend the vote or alter the vote," former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. told   Nevertheless, the former ally of President Arroyo said he is counting on the "professionalism" of the AFP and the PNP.   "I think the overwhelming majority of senior officers from Classes 1976 and 1977, including 1978, will resist moves to cheat—except for a few whose careers depend on it. But if they try to go outside the law, I think they will be resisted by other officers and they will not be able to do what they want," Cruz said.   The victory of President Arroyo in the 2004 presidential race was hounded by cheating allegations. In the "Hello, Garci" controversy that erupted in 2005, some officers of the PNP and the AFP were accused of assisting in efforts that altered results of the presidential race.   Cruz was defense chief at that time. He is now the head of the vote protection team of the Liberal Party of Senator Benigno Aquino III. Their camp has been implying in media announcements that the only way Aquino would lose is if he is cheated.   Not all members of Class '78 are loyal to President Arroyo. Among those who sought to overthrow her in the 2003 "Oakwood Mutiny" is current 6th ID commander Brig. Gen. Pompeo Limbo. He now heads troops based in Maguindanao, one of the country's election violence hotspots.   The other key positions are held by PMA Classes 1976 and 1977, which adopted presidential candidates former Defense Secretary Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. of administration party Lakas-Kampi CMD and Senator Manuel Villar Jr. of the Nationalista Party, respectively.   Vote-rich areas Arroyo's "mistahs" command field units stationed in many of the country's populous regions.   Members of the batch hold 3 out of 5 AFP unified commands that supervise all military personnel in vote-rich areas like Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog, and Central Visayas. These 3 regions have a total of 16.8 million voters (as of February 2010), which is 33% of the country's total voting population.   These are NCR Command Chief Commodore Feliciano Angue, who was implicated in the 2004 "Hello Garci" scandal; Southern Luzon Command Chief Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, once a contender for AFP Chief of Staff; and Central Command Chief Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva.

Similarly, the bulk of Class '78's active police officers are positioned as directors or deputy directors in commands in Luzon and the Visayas. Class members hold key posts in 7 out of 17 PNP regional offices in the following regions:

Ilocos region, with 2,800,508 voters

NCR, 6,137,728 voters

MIMAROPA, 1,465,555 voters

Bicol region, 2,857,925 voters

Western Visayas, 3,936,639 voters

Central Visayas, 3,921,867 voters.

Three in the class are chiefs of Metro Manila police commands that are crucial in protecting the government's seat of power in times of crises or political instability.   Senior Supt. Rosales is the director of the NCR Police Office (NCRPO), which supervises 5 district commands, 2 of which are headed by members of Class 1978.   Chief Supt. Rodolfo Magtibay heads the Manila Police District that has jurisdiction over Manila, while Senior Supt. Jaime Calungsod Jr. heads the Southern Police District that has jurisdiction over Makati, Pasay, Muntinlupa, Taguig, Parañaque, and Las Piñas.   Independent PNP? The appointment on March 9 of Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit as AFP Chief sparked speculations that President Arroyo will use the military to sabotage the elections to install herself as holdover president.   Bangit is joined by 6 other classmates in the AFP General Headquarters, including Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu and Philippine Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena.   Members of the class also comprise half of the influential AFP Board of Generals that nominate AFP officers for promotion.

Another member of the batch who holds a sensitive post in the Army is Maj. Gen. Romeo Prestoza, chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP).   PNP Chief Jesus Versoza of Class '78 was pitted against Bangit when the police chief made a statement that he will not support the latter in following any "illegal orders" from Malacañang.   Versoza said he would not support any attempt to install President Arroyo as a holdover president.   "According to the Constitution, we must have a new president after June 30…. We will not support unconstitutional acts. We will do all things to preserve our democracy and the democratic processes," Versoza said.   The rise of PMA Class '78 in the PNP has not been as quick as in the AFP.

Versoza shares the PNP top brass with batchmates in PMA Class '76: deputy chief for adminstration Dir. Gen. Edgardo Acuña (the chairman of Task Force Hope) and deputy chief for administration Dir. Gen. Jefferson Soriano.   Other high-ranking police officials belong to Class '77.   Interestingly, younger officers from Classes '79, '80, and '81 have been promoted ahead of more senior '78 officers in getting central command ranks.   Beyond 2010 But the members of Class '76 and Class '77 are about to retire from service. In the next administration, more Class '78 members will be ripe to lead the PNP and AFP, including the Navy and the Air Force.   Even Task Force Hope commander AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Rodrigo Maclang is scheduled to retire on June 9, 2010. He leaves his post 3 weeks before the new president assumes office.   High-ranking officers from Class '78 have 3 years at most to serve in the military and police. They have more time compared to senior PMA Classes '76 and '77, who are equally qualified for top AFP posts.   It means President Arroyo will keep her allies in power even when she's no longer in Malacañang. —With a report from Carmela Fonbuena (

Number of private armies rise as polls near

Mahigit 100 private armies na ang naitatala ng Zenarosa Commission, ang kumisyong itinalaga ng Malacañang para buwagin ang mga ito. Pero imbes mabawasan ang mga private army lalo't 19 na araw na lang ay halalan na, nadadagdagan pa raw ito ngayon at konektado pa umano sa ilang mga opisyal ng pulis.

NP proposes an alliance with LP vs no-election scenario

MANILA, PhilippinesSenator Manny Villar's Nacionalista Party is proposing an alliance with the Liberal Party and other parties to prevent a failure of election or a "Palace coup" type in case of a no-election scenario.

NP secretary general and Senator Alan Cayetano said the NP and LP can create a "working committee" to discuss how they can prevent a no-election scenario.

"If there's one issue na pwedeng magkasundo ang LP at NP (that the LP and NP can unite) and this is an appeal to all parties, magkasundo tayo at magkaroon tayo ng (let's unite and have a) working committee against a failure of election," Cayetano said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

"I think if there's one thing that is at stake here is the future of our country and mapagkakasunduan natin yun (we can agree on it). I think at least between the LP and NP and other candidates. We have to have common plans," he said.

Each camp, Cayetano said, may designate members of the committee preferably lawyers, "who can talk unemotionally" and not those who are "highly identified" with the campaigns of both NP and LP standard-bearers, Senators Manny Villar and Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, respectively.

The working committee, he said, can come up with a contingency plan to prevent any attempt by the administration or any other group to stay in power beyond June 2010.

"We might be able to find advocates for both and LP and NP, who love democracy and the country, who will prioritize a peaceful transition of power whoever wins more than who will win," he said.

"It's more of how do we make sure that democracy exists and that we have a peaceful transition of power and turn over," he further said.

Cayetano said the NP and LP might have been too focused on bickering while the people in Malacaang were cooking up something to stop the May elections.

He then pointed out two possible scenarios:

First, no one is proclaimed in May, and then there's a power vacuum and second, the election result is too close "that the NP and LP concentrate at each other while Malacaang is planning a "Palace coup" type to remain in power.

"Basically, it's a Palace coup type. Hindi bibitawan yung power (They will not relinquish power)," Cayetano said.

"There's no other choice for them but to step down. So they are just looking for an opening. So it's more of denying them that opening," he pointed out.

Cayetano said they are also hoping that the winner in the May presidential election would have a wide lead over his closest rival to avoid instability and accusations of a "Garci type or an automated Garci type" cheating.

Garci is former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who has been accused of allegedly conspiring with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to ensure her victory in 2004 polls.

Malacañang reiterates that poll failure concerns are baseless

Concerns regarding the possible failure of elections are "baseless," Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza reiterated on Wednesday.

No junta in the making-top AFP officials

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Delfin Bangit met with top military officials on Wednesday to dispel persistent talks about a so-called plot to set up a military junta should national elections fail on May 10.

Comelec, Smartmatic, telcos sign deal for May 10 transmission

MANILA, PhilippinesRepresentatives of the Globe, PLDT Smart, Digitel and satellite transmission providers met with officials of the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic-TIM to sign a contract for their services in the May 10 elections on Wednesday.

In essence, the three networks have agreed to provide Smartmatic-TIM a private channel which they can use for the transmission of the results from the precincts all the way to the national canvassing centers, Renato Garcia, the Comelec's information technology consultant, said.

It's not a public Internet network. It's private, he said. At the canvassing levels, that network will be open starting noon of May 10 until the proclamation in the provincial level is finished.

The telecommunication companies also agreed to provide Smartmatic-TIM and the Comelec a data center where they can store the back-up data of the election results. The companies initially backed out of the deal, citing security concerns.

Poll results will be transmitted without any problems, Smartmatic, telcos say

The Philippines supplier of automated voting machines and several telecommunications companies assured the public that poll results on election day will be transmitted without any problems.

On Wednesday, poll machine supplier Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) signed a contract with Globe Telecom Inc., Smart Communications Inc., Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc, We are I.T. Philippines, Inc (WIT), and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) for the transmission of results during the May polls.

The contract is part of the P7.2 billion deal between Smartmatic and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Smartmatic-TIM project director Alberto Castro said the contract just "formalizes" the participation of the different technologies involved in the automation project.

"This is an industry effort, all the major telecommunications companies are involved and are tasked to ensure that all the results are properly transmitted," said Smart Public Affairs Head Mon Isberto after the contract signing.


Smart, PLDT, and Globe will be providing the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), a mobile data service available to users of the 2G cellular communication systems global system for mobile communications (GSM).

The Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines require GSM network radio signals the same kind used by cellular mobile phones for calls and SMS to transmit election results.

Digitel will be also be providing GPRS services and a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) for the canvassing and data centers.

On the other hand, WIT will be providing the Broadband Global Area Networks (BGAN) and Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) for areas without cellular signals, which is 30 percent of the total polling places nationwide.


Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal also assured that those using jamming devices to disrupt transmission of election results wont succeed.

"It will not stop the transmission... it may delay but it will not stop the proclamation of the candidates," he said.

Although jamming is a "concern," it will not affect the operations of their networks, Isberto said, adding all infrastructure facilities are already "in place."

Jose Maddatu of WIT likewise said that the company has already set up stations all over the Philippines as directed by Smartmatic.

"This is a very historic thing for us. We are very proud to be part of it," he said.

Digitel spokesman Bill Pamintuan also said that his company foresee no problems for the telcos during the elections.

"We have already done our testings with the Comelec, so far there have been no problems reported during those tests," he said.


Comelec chairman Jose Melo, for his part, said the poll body will finally be able to heave a sigh of relief with the formalization of the agreement.

"For a while you gave us a scare there was some doubt that Globe and PLDT would cotinue with this exercise. They let their patriotism prevail that their business fears," he said after the contract signing.

The poll body chief was pertaining to the time when the two telcos refused to house poll servers at their data centers owing to fears that the elections would disrupt and pose security threats to their normal operations.

Later on, the two companies offered other facilities that were in compliance with the standards set by Smartmatic.

NP to appeal decision vs NP-NPC coalition

MANILA, Philippines - The Nacionalista Party of Sen. Manny Villar on Wednesday said it will appeal a Supreme Court status quo ante order stopping the Commission on Elections from implementing its ruling, allowing the merger of the NP and the Nationalist People's Coalition.

Comelec in a bind on dominant party issue due to court TRO

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may not be able to declare a dominant majority and minority party due to temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in connection with the application of the NP-NPC coalition to be declared the dominant minority party.

In an interview Wednesday, Comelec chairman Jose Melo noted that the Supreme Court, has only one week to decide on the issue before it goes on a recess. The court will not be back until shortly before June 12.

"I would say it might be a bit difficult for the SC, at this point, to decide in the questioning of the coalition sobaka wala tayo maging (we might not have a) dominant majority and minority (party)," Melo said.

Melo and Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento dissented in an en banc resolution recognizing the coalition of the Nacionalista Party (NP) and Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC) for the May 10 automated elections. The coalitions application has been opposed by the Liberal Party (LP).

On Tuesday, the high court issued a TRO stopping the poll body from recognizing the coalition of NP and NPC. Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer explained that the poll body could not issue a resolution just on the dominant majority party status alone.

Number of members

Hindi pwede dahil naka-base yan sa computation natin ng members (of all parties concerned) nila so we have to deal with it jointly and not separately (That can't be done because we base our computation on the members of all parties so we have to deal with it jointly and separately)," he said.

Administration party Lakas-Kampi-CMD was the only party to apply for the dominant majority party position, while LP, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), and the NP-NPC coalition all vied for the dominant minority status.

The poll body said the awarding of the majority and minority status will be based on the number of incumbent and running members for each party. Lakas-Kampi claims to have a total of 10,418 incumbent members while Comelec records show that LP will be fielding 5,934 candidates in the May polls, NP 5,565 and NPC 2,373.

"That is not something we pluck out of thin air, it is a fair computation," said Melo.

Those declared as dominant majority and minority parties will have access to one election return each and a server where election results automatically come in on election day.

But if no party is declared as the dominant majority and minority, Melo said the groups might just be forced to rely on a secure Web site provided by poll machine supplier Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) for the results.

Melo, Villar optimistic

Melo, however, said he remains hopeful that the Supreme Court would be able to decide the case by next week. The high tribunal has set the release of their decision on April 26.

Melo said they had already signed on Tuesday a resolution declaring Lakas-Kampi-CMD and the NP-NPC coalition as the dominant majority and dominant minority parties, respectively. The promulgation, however, was stalled because of the TRO.

NP standard bearer Sen. Manny Villar Jr., meanwhile, said he is optimistic that the Supreme Court will uphold the legality of the NP-NPC coalition. He, however, admitted that he has yet to read the court order.

"Siguro kaya sila nag-isyu nun pag-aaralan muna nila. Hindi naman nangangahulugan na mali ang ating pinayl so naniniwala pa rin ako na in the end tama pa rin yung aming pinayl," Villar told reporters in an ambush interview in Tagbilaran City in Bohol where he was campaigning on Wednesday.

(I think the court issued the TRO because it wants to study the case more. That doesnt mean that our application was wrong so I believe in the end the court will rule in our favor.)

Opposition from Cojuangco

He also said that the coalition has the blessings of NPC members contrary to the claim of Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, son of NPC founder and businessman Eduardo Danding" Cojuangco, who said the NPC decision to support Villar has no consent, endorsement or approval from him and his father.

On Tuesday, the NPC, through its spokesperson Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian, formally expressed its support for Villar.

Villar said it is up to the NPC members to resolve their internal squabbles.

"Basta kami ay nakipag-ayos sa officials ng NPC at kung merong problema internally ang NPC yan ay nasa sa kanila para resolbahin but yung authorized officers nila at authorized na officers ng Nacionalista Party ay nag-usap at nagkasundo na magkaroon ng coalition," Villar said.

(As far as were concerned the NPC is among our supporters. If there is a problem among some of their members then it is up to them to resolve their squabbles. But we have talked with the authorized NPC officials and we agreed to form a coalition.)

Canada to send 22 poll observers to RP

by By Hermie Garcia, The Philippine Reporter
CANADA - Twenty-two Canadian citizens, including representatives from churches, labor unions, academics, lawyers and a sitting Member of Parliament, Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway), are preparing to head to the Philippines as part of an international observers mission during that country's upcoming presidential elections.

"Green-minded" Perlas tops environmental survey

Its final. Independent candidate Nicanor Perlas is the most green-minded" among the nine presidential bets.

With a total rating of 94.2 percent, Perlas bested his eight rivals in a "green survey" conducted by the environmental groups EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace.

Former President Joseph Erap" Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino) and administration bet Gilberto Gibo" Teodoro Jr. (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) did not participate in the survey dubbed as the 2010 Green Electoral Initiative (GEI). The survey is focused on the presidential bets' environmental platforms.

Perlas has the most comprehensive" plan, which offered clear steps on how to address the countrys most serious environmental woes, according to Commissioner Eileen Sison of the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

Von Hernandez, executive director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, attributed the result to Perlas long years of working as an advocate for the environment.

"That's also not surprising [since] he's been in [the] environmental movement for years. .. Therefore in a way, he's got the advantage because he knows the issues," he said

Sison and Hernandez were among the five evaluators who assessed the candidates' answers.

War vs smoke-belchers, corruption in DENR

In case he wins the presidency, Perlas said that in his first three months, he would remove all smoke-belching vehicles in Metro Manila and appoint a credible Environment secretary who would help him abolish corruption in the [Department of Environment and Natural Resources]."

Perlas said he would also task the new DENR chief and his team to re-examine and revoke, if necessary, all the controversial" Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECCs) and "questionable" logging permits.

Hernandez clarified that the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace are not endorsing Perlas. He said the main purpose of the 2010 GEI is to inform the public who among the candidates has a clear agenda towards protecting the environment.

"It just happen that [Perlass] view on these issues mirror the view of the organizers," he said.

Hernandez added that while some candidates gave "encouraging" answers, those "who are leading according to opinion polls" do not have solid plans to address environment problems.

No Erap, Gibo

He also expressed disappointment over Estrada and Teodoro for not answering the GEI "despite repeated attempts to follow up with their camps." Estrada and Teodoro have consistently ranked third and fourth in preferential surveys, respectively.

"The panel evaluators interpreted their failure to respond to mean that environment is not really high on their agenda," he said.

Perlas, meanwhile, was followed by Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal (independent) with 78.68 percent, Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan) with 78.45 percent, and religious leader Eddie Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas) with 70.87 percent.

Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III (Liberal Party), a constant leader in presidential preference surveys, ranked fifth with 66.94 percent. He was followed by Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. (Nacionalista Party) with 62.59 percent.

Olongapo councilor JC de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran Party), meanwhile, ranked seventh with a 38.31 percent.


Hernandez said it is important that the next president has clear solutions to the environmental problems, even as he vowed to exert all efforts to ensure that the May 10 winner will be made accountable to the promises he or she has written on their GEI.

"We want to hold these politicians accountable for their commitments for positions they make on these issues. Kasi dito sa atin ang (here in our country the) track record ng (of the) government when delivering promises is not good," he said. 

Contempt raps eyed vs Andal Jr., jail officials for presscon

Lawyers representing families of the victims of the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre will file contempt charges against jail officials who allowed Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., prime suspect in the case, to hold a press conference while in detention last Tuesday.

Private lawyers Nena Santos and Pete Principe, representing families of 26 of the 57 massacre victims, noted that jail officials from the Metro Manila District Jail inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City are unauthorized to allow any detainee to hold such an event.

"We will join the public prosecutors to cite the jail warden in contempt," Santos said after the arraignment of 11 suspects in the massacre on Wednesday.

Principe said Andal Jr. could also be cited in contempt for the press conference.

At the press conference, Andal Jr. denied having close ties with Justice Sec. Alberto Agra, who ordered that his brother Zaldy Ampatuan and cousin Akmad Ampatuan be stricken off the charge sheet.

He also endorsed the candidacies of presidential aspirant Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and vice presidential bet Manuel "Mar" Roxas II. Aquino and Roxas are running under the banner of the Liberal Party.

Clad in a yellow shirt and wearing a yellow baller ID on his wrist, Andal Jr. said he believed that "real justice" could only be served under an Aquino administration.

Ampatuan is facing 57 counts of murder, along with 196 other individuals including his father Andal Sr. and his brothers, for killing members of an electoral convoy last year.


Santos stressed that only the court has the authority to allow any detained individual to leave his detention cell. "I think it should be the court that should order his removal from the jail cell and he cannot conduct any press conference for that matter," she said.

During Wednesday's arraignment, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes informed the prosecutors that she was not aware of the press conference. "I am not aware of that," she told the prosecution while summarizing the proceedings before ending the hearing.

Principe, legal counsel for slain journalist Henry Araneta, said being prevented from leaving a detention to hold a press conference was part of the restrictions of any detainee. "What they [jail officials and Andal Jr.] did was unethical," he said.

The lawyer said giving inmates the opportunity to speak in press conferences would only create "chaos."

High-risk detainee

Lawyer Harry Roque also blasted the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology for allowing the holding of the press conference given that Andal Jr. was considered a "high-risk detainee."

In his defense, Senior Inspector Lloyd Gonzaga, officer-in-charge at the jail facility where the Ampatuans are detained, stressed that the event was a "simple interview" and could not be considered a "press conference."

Gonzaga said such interviews are allowed so long as the "correct process" is observed in speaking to the media.

"Simpleng interview lang ito sa accused. Ito ay nangyari dahil may request at wala namang tutol ang attorney (It was just a simple interview and it happened because there was a request and the lawyer had not opposed)," he said.

Jail officers: Media interviews with Ampatuans will be stricter

MANILA, Philippines – Jail officers at the Quezon City annex detention facility inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City will be stricter in allowing media interviews with inmates.

Senior Inspector Lloyd Gonzaga, deputy jail warden, said they will be more stringent in giving permission to members of the media to conduct interviews with the detainees.

This came after lawyers for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre were up in arms after learning that members of the Ampatuan clan managed to hold a press conference inside the facility where high-profile suspects are detained while awaiting trial.

"We will be strict in allowing media interviews after that incident," Gonzaga told reporters before this morning's arraignment of the Maguindanao-based policemen implicated in the multiple murder charges. 

The jail official, however, maintained that there was no special treatment given to the Ampatuans, the principal accused in the case. 

"It has been usual for media to interview inmates here, it just happened that the inmates have been controversial so it has drawn attention," Gonzaga said. 

He also explained that there is no need for a court order as long as the lawyer and their clients consented to do the interview. 

At present, there are six members of the Ampatuans now detained in the facility, including Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

Kin of massacre victims: Ampatuans toying with public

MANILA, Philippines -- Myrna Reblando, widow of massacre victim and Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro "Bong" Reblando, said Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the main suspect in the carnage, was just peddling lies when he claimed his family was supporting the presidential bid of Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno Aquino III.

Andal is just weaving lies, Reblando told the Inquirer by phone.

She said it was clear that Andal Jr. wanted to hurt the victims families after she endorsed Aquino in one of his campaign advertisements..

Noemi Parcon, widow of victim Joel Parcon of the Prontiera News, also saw Andals endorsement as a way for people to withdraw their support for Aquino.

But she said she and the other victims families do not believe in Andal. "All the families of the victims strongly support Noynoy, an indication that they are finding it hard to cheat in the election," Parcon said.

Palace breaks silence, asks Agra to review order to clear 2 Ampatuans

MANILA, PhilippinesMalacaang finally broke its silence on Wednesday, calling on Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to review with state prosecutors his decision to drop multiple murder charges against two members of the Ampatuan clan in connection with the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

In a statement he issued hours after his news conference, Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza directed Agra "to confer with prosecutors to ascertain if any important evidence was not considered, presented or available when his ruling was made.''

"Then the Secretary of Justice should publicly justify the final decision,'' Mendoza said.

Earlier in the day, Mendoza said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo "always" respects the decision of her department secretaries while her chief legal counsel said he will advise the Chief Executive against interfering in Agra's decision.

Agra's dual posts questioned

BAGUIO CITY, PhilippinesThe Supreme Court ordered Alberto Agra to comment on a petition questioning his dual positions as acting justice secretary and as solicitor-general.

High court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez gave Agra 10 days to submit his comment.

Lawyers Dennis Funa and Melanio Elvis Balayan told the high tribunal that Agras dual positions violate Article 7, Section 13 of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits dual or multiple posts in government.

Agras positions also violate the Administrative Code which provides that the Office of the Solicitor-General (OSG) is supposed to be autonomous from the Department of Justice, the petitioners said.

Funa was the same person who questioned the dual post of Marina Administrator Elena Bautista while also serving as Department of Transportation and Communication Undersecretary.

The same constitutional provision and principle apply to Agra, according to the petition.

But Agra told reporters that the OSG is operationally independent from the DoJ.

Agra said the case of Ma. Elena Bautista could not be applied to his case because the OSG has autonomy and is operationally independent from the DoJ.

Aquino camp eyes NP or Arroyo hand in Ampatuan endorsement

MANILA, PhilippinesThe camp of Senator Benigno Noynoy Aquino III said Wednesday that the Ampatuan clan's endorsement of Aquino could be the handiwork of only two possible culpritsSenator Manuel Villar's Nacionalista Party or the Arroyo government.

Is this a joke? It's not logical. It boggles the mind, said Leah Navarro, content head of Aquino's New Media Bureau and executive director of Black & White Movement.

We were shocked to find he was able to engineer a press conference within prison and he was all decked out in yellow (Aquino's signature color). We're wondering how (he got) permission to do that? she said at the Fernandina Media Forum at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan City.

We feel there can only be two culprits, or one of both: the NP or it could also be the government. Who else would allow the (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) to hold a press con there? she said.

Is Andal that powerful? I don't think you can do that unless you have some backing from government, she said.

Navarro noted that the public and the media knew very well that Myrna Reblando, widow of Manila Bulletin's Alejandro Reblando, one of the Maguindanao massacre victims, was openly supporting Aquino.

She has in fact appeared in an ad where she endorses him. So why would the Liberal Party go to the Ampatuans? she said.

Navarro repeated Aquino's initial response to the controversy: No, thank you. There's no value added to getting the support of someone (accused of) back-hoeing 57 innocent individuals.

She also said they came across information that Anwar Ampatuan was the supposed chair of NP in Maguindanao, and asked the media to dig deeper into the alleged connection. That would help us a lot. It would explain things, she said.

Just last Thursday, we saw on the news, and on Youtube, Andal Ampatuan wearing two baller IDs: one for Villar and one for (Gilbert Remulla). He said these are the candidates I'm supporting, and he fingered the baller IDs, and raised them, she said.

Navarro said the Ampatuan clan's endorsement of Aquino could be another indication of the supposed collusion between Villar and the Arroyo administration.

Who has the most to gain? I would think it's his nearest rival. If we have an Aquino presidency and (Arroyo) wins a seat in Congress ... I wonder how much of her pork barrel she's going to get, she said.

I'm being facetious ha, she quickly added, although she also noted that Aquino had not been getting any pork barrel, or the Countrywide Development Fund, since 2005.

Villar gets unexpected welcome from Noynoy supporters in Bohol

It wasnt what Nacionalista Party standard bearer Manny Villar Jr. expected.

When he arrived at the Bohol airport past 10 in the morning of Wednesday, Villar was greeted by at least a dozen Boholanos wearing yellow-shirts and flashing the extended thumb and forefinger hand gesture campaign trademarks of Liberal Party bet Noynoy Aquino, Villars closest rival for the presidency.

Mostly young males, the group held a yellow banner stating their support for Aquino while shouting "Noynoy, Noynoy!"

Despite the unexpected welcome, Villar was received by his supporters who were allowed to stay inside the airport compound. Also present were NP Senate bet Susan Ople and Flor Querubin, wife of detained senatorial candidate Col. Ariel Querubin.

They also accompanied Villar in his campaign activities.

Villar then proceeded to visit local radio stations for interviews.

His first stop was DYTR.

While on the road, Villars jingle sang in local dialect and in Filipino was being played alternately.

Villar also visited Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso, met with local NP candidates, led the oathtaking of at least 75 local officials from other parties and held a motorcade in Tagbilaran and Carmen. 

Villar: More to leave Lakas-Kampi, Teodoro in coming days

CEBU CITY - Nacionalista Party standard bearer and Senator Manuel Villar belittled the show of force of Lakas-Kampi-CMD governors who met with Gilbert Teodoro here last Tuesday.

Villar said the governors might be physically present but their attendance at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu did not necessarily mean that their hearts were for Teodoro.

The leadership of Lakas on Tuesday announced in Cebu City that 56 governors and candidates for governors were supporting Teodoro.

However, only 31 incumbent governors and 12 candidates for governor attended the meeting held at Marco Polo Cebu.

According to Villar, it was usual for governors and other officials to attend if they were called to a meeting.

A clearer picture on who would remain with Teodoro would be known in the remaining days before the elections, Villar said.

Villar is running second to Sen. Benigno Aquino III in the popularity surveys on presidential candidates. They are followed by Joseph Estrada and Teodoro.

Cebu vice governor believes Garcias backing Villar

CEBU CITY, PhilippinesIs there an agreement between Nacionalista Party standard bearer Senator Manuel Manny Villar and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President Winston Garcia?

Cebu Vice Governor Greg Sanchez, who is seeking reelection under the Liberal Party, believed that Winston and Villar had a secret deal. Winston is the brother of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia who has thrown her support to the Lakas-Kampi presidential bet Gilberto Teodoro.

The way I look at it, Winston, I heard, is close to the First Gentleman (Jose Miguel Arroyo) so there really is a secret deal, the vice governor said. (While President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos party, Lakas-Kampi, has officially endorsed Teodoro, the Arroyos are said to be secretly supporting Villar.)

But Villar denied the reported deal with Winston when interviewed over station dyLA before he left for his campaign sortie in Bohol.

However, when asked if Winston was helping his campaign, Villar refused to say anything, saying he would not want to claim anybodys support, only to be denied later.

Despite Villars refusal to confirm anything, Sanchez said Winstons role in convincing local officials to support Villar had a deeper meaning because of his reported closeness to the First Gentleman.

However, Villar who held rallies in Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay cities Tuesday evening, said his opponents were just sowing intrigues anew.

Meanwhile, a source said he was surprised when he learned that Winston had been trying to convince local officials to back Villar while remaining part of the administration of President Macapagal-Arroyo who is endorsing Teodoro.

He should have been removed, the source pointed out.

The source said Winston was instrumental in the signing of a manifesto of support for Villar by some mayors and local candidates last Sunday.

The source also said that Winston was inviting some mayors to another meeting this week, presumably to convince them to support Villar even if the mayors and the vice-mayors under One Cebu had signed a manifesto for support for Teodoro on Monday evening.

According to the source, the signatories of the One Cebu manifesto could shift their support to Villar if they did not receive any funding from Lakas-Kampi.

The source who knew about the meeting held last Sunday in Hilton Cebu Resort and Spa said Winston and his brother Byron, credited for the popular dancing inmates in Cebu, arrived separately during the meeting.

Winston allegedly told the mayors that Villar was the only presidential aspirant who could save the party.

Meanwhile, Malabuyoc Vice-Mayor Lito Creus who is running for mayor, was also quoted in a local newspaper as saying that Winston was the one who convinced them to support Villar.

Creus was the only one who admitted that he signed the manifesto of support for Villar.

When he refused to sign the new manifesto of support for Teodoro on Monday evening, Governor Garcia ordered the revocation of Creus certificate of nomination issued by Lakas and One Cebu.

On the other hand, Villar said that he should not be blamed if the Garcia family was divided over whom to support for president.

Reacting to the governors claim that he had split the Garcia family, he maintained that the family members themselves made the decision to support him.

Villar said he did not want to join in the familys disagreement but he added that he would welcome anybody who would like to help his presidential campaign.

There have been reports that aside from the governors brothers Winston and Byron, their mother, retired judge Esperanza Garcia, has been campaigning for Villar.

Although Garcias father, 2nd district Representative Pablo Garcia and brother 3rd district Rep. Pablo John supported the governors decision to back Teodoro, Sanchez said the LP leaders reported that the older Garcia and his son did not seriously campaign for Teodoro in their respective districts.

The governors cousin, former Cebu city mayor Alvin Garcia who is running for mayor again, has entered into an alliance with Villar.

Aquino silent on financiers, fears harassment by government

MANILA, PhilippinesLiberal Party presidential candidate and Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is keeping mum on his financial backers because he did not want to put a "bull's eye" on their backs.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Aquino said: "I kept silent on the sourcing of our funds primarily because people identified in pictures with us have been undergoing harassment. One of them had been harassed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and then the Office of the Ombudsman. I will stick to my policy because I don't want to make them a bull's eye for government harassment," said Aquino.

Aquino has been repeatedly asked if ports tycoon Enrique Razon Jr. has contributed to his campaign but on Wednesday, Aquino neither confirmed nor denied that he was approached by the businessman perceived close to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"I met him. He was already a big businessman during my mothers time. I met him several occasions," said Aquino.

Chief justice applicants confront objections

BAGUIO CITY, PhilippinesMost of the candidates to replace Chief Justice Reynato Puno have to confront varying degrees of accusations that bar their path to judicial leadership, during the first public interview conducted here by the Judicial and Bar Council.

Only Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval escaped this part of the grilling unscathed because no one had bothered to protest his application, according to Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman, a JBC member.

Lagman, retired Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr., retired law dean Amado Dimayuga, lawyer J. Conrado Castro, Justice Secretary Alberto Agra and Puno, the JBC chair, enumerated the names of people who wrote to protest the applications submitted by Associate Justices Renato Corona, Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro.

Corona, the most senior justice to apply for the post, confronted the more controversial objections submitted to the JBC, some of which were directed at his wife, Maria Cristina, who is president of the John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC).

JHMC, a subsidiary of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), is estate manager of Camp John Hay here.

Brion's application drew complaints from lawyer Pedro Baraquilla, a certain Jose Makbayan Aguilar, and a man named "Ka Aries" Bimuya regarding his stint as labor secretary under the Arroyo administration, because he supposedly favored management over labor in many cases.

De Castro's application drew questions about her judgment in two cases from lawyer Azucena Corpuz and Manuel Cruz.

Corona admitted to the JBC that he was emotional because most of the accusations had implicated his own family.

A JBC member asked Corona point blank if he had a role in the appointment of his wife, Maria Cristina, to the JHMC.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer learned that the JBC was swamped with letters questioning the policies of Corona's wife at the JHMC. Some of these letters were unsigned.

Corona said his wife had already been named JHMC head before Arroyo appointed him to the Supreme Court in 2001.

Another accusing letter cited Corona's supposed role in the Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco), a consortium owned by real estate giant Fil Estate, which leased Camp John Hay for 25 years.

Corona said the complainant "must be confused about [the difference between] the JHMC and the CJHDevco" because his wife operates as the developer's landlord and not its steward.

Another complaint involved a decision written by Corona that supposedly favored the defendant in exchange for a plane ticket to Las Vegas.

Corona said the trip cited by the complainant was made "on my own time with my own money." "We went to Las Vegas to visit my daughter. It was my only chance to see her again because I only see her once a year," the justice said.

Corona said his family, and even his grandchildren, received death threats.

After a long pause, the justice said: "The greatest gift God can give in a lifetime is a faithful wife and happy family. I have both. I don't need more, not even the chief justice [position]."

But Corona became more agitated when Agra asked him about a paid advertisement on April 18 by the group, Sagip Korte Suprema, which listed 10 questions that should be raised to the next chief justice.

Some of the JBC members, including Puno, had asked some of the questions when they interviewed all four applicants.

But Corona said the advertisement targeted his application. He criticized the group for being "noisy" and "undisciplined" in taking part in defacing the Supreme Court properties with provocative posters.

Corona later attributed the attacks to the Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo and Angcangco law firm, also known as The Firm. He said Sagip Korte Suprema's leader is the law firm's partner, former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo.

Bishop urges Arroyo not to rush pact with MILF

MANILA, Philippines -- Cotabato Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo is calling for the postponement of the signing of the peace pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) until after the term of President Macapagal Arroyo.

Bagaforo, interviewed over the Catholic Churchs Radio Veritas, said the signing of the agreement in the last days of Ms Arroyos presidency could lead to trouble that might even lead to the postponement of elections.

Bagaforo said he had heard rumors of the final signing of the interim agreement either in Cotabato or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia next week. He said such an act could bring about trouble that might even lead to the postponement of elections in Mindanao.

That would have a big effect. There would be big trouble in Maguindanao and the whole Mindanao, and that could be one of the reasons for the postponement of elections in Mindanao, he said in the radio interview.

The governments peace panel is pushing through with the signing of a political agreement with the secessionist MILF. It has proposed to alter a framework peace agreement during talks held in Malaysia.

The revised proposal is comprehensive and substantial and would be responsive to the concerns of the two sides, according to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis.

Earlier, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain that was put together by previous negotiators. The high court decision came amid a howl of protests from various groups, including politicians who were riding on anti-Moro sentiments in large predominantly Christian communities in Mindanao.

Various groups contested the agreement, saying it would dismember the country by allowing the creation of a separate Bangsamoro entity. The MILF, on the other hand, had accepted the deal.

Bagaforo said tension has been rising in his province because of, among others, reports that the government would push through with the signing of the peace agreement before the end of Ms Arroyos term. He said this was not necessary.

Our position is to defer that until the next President comes in so that it could be studied well, he said.

He said that if the agreement pushes through, tension would escalate and those who had opposed the earlier memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain could rise up.

If this happens, there would be trouble and the Ilaga and Christian armed groups would rise up against the MILF, he said.

The bishop said he would request government officials, lawmakers and candidates for President to raise the issue in public so that whatever agreement that would be made between the peace panel and the government would be transparent.

Arroyo's gardener, manicurist land gov't posts

MANILA, Philippines - A Malacañang spokesman confirmed Wednesday that President Arroyo's personal manicurist and gardener have been given jobs in the Pag-IBIG Housing Fund and Luneta Park administration.

Arroyo's manicurist, Anita Capron, will receive P130,000 a month in per diem, plus perks, for a fixed two-year term as Pag-IBIG trustee. 
On the other hand, gardener Armando Macapagal was appointed deputy of the Luneta Park Administration.

Bondoc cited an insider among Malacañang's housekeeping staff who expressed doubts about the two appointees' credentials.

"Macapagal supposedly landscapes Malacañang lawns but does not manage people. Carpon is not known for financial expertise to oversee multibillion-peso housing mutual fund of all employees. Nicknamed Nitz, she is often scolded by Arroyo for mismatching presidential handbags and shoes," the column read.

Olivar, meanwhile, denied that the Malacañang gardener was appointed to an administrative post because he could be related to the President. He said Mrs. Arroyo's own daughter, Luli, disqualified herself from entering foreign service despite topping government exams.

"The President is the last person we can accuse of nepotism," he said.

He said the same argument could be made for the Maguindanao massacre case involving the Ampatuan family, who are known allies of President Arroyo. He said that after the November 23 massacre, Mrs. Arroyo declared a state of martial law in Maguindanao to effect the arrest of prime suspects involved in the massacre. 

$1: P44.370

$1: P44.370

Euro 1: P59.8949

PAL union, airline management to meet over job losses

MANILA, Philippines - Ground workers of Philippine Airlines (PAL) are set to meet with the management of the Lucio C. Tan-led carrier in a bid to block plans to outsource around 3,000 jobs.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has again upgraded the Philippines growth outlook, but it expects the country to still trail behind its neighbors in Southeast Asia this year.
In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF said it expects the Philippine economy to grow by 3.6 percent this year from the previous 3.2-percent forecast as a result of improving private investments that would boost private consumption.
The growth forecast is slower than 6.5 percent for Taiwan, 6 percent each for Indonesia and Vietnam, 5.7 percent for Singapore, 5.5 percent for Thailand and 4.7 percent for Malaysia.
"The ASEAN-5 economies are projected to grow by 5.5 percent in 2010. Private domestic demand is expected to be the main driver of growth, with net exports playing a lesser role than in the past, reflecting stronger imports relative to historical standards," the multilateral lender added.
The IMF stated in the report that higher investment inflows would help boost private consumption.
"For many [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] economies, notably the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia, improving the environment for private investment can play an important role in boosting private domestic demand," the Washington-based lender said.
Exchange rate flexibility would also boost the purchasing power of consumers.
"Greater exchange rate flexibility in many economies would also facilitate rebalancing by raising households purchasing power and helping shift productive resources from the tradable to the nontradable sector," it said.
The IMF forecast is within the governments 2.6-3.6 percent target, and faster than the World Banks 3.5-percent projection but slower than 3.8 percent from the Asian Development Bank.
For next year, the IMF said Philippine economic growth would improve to 4 percent still slower than Vietnams 6.5 percent, Indonesias 6.2 percent, Thailands 5.5 percent, Singapores 5.3 percent and Taiwans 4.8 percent.
The lender likewise expects inflation to average at 5 percent this year and 4 percent next year.
The IMFs inflation forecast is within the central banks 3.5-5.5 percent goal this year and 3-5 percent next year.
The IMF noted that despite the countrys relatively stronger fiscal response last year, few Asian economies appear to face debt sustainability challenges on a scale similar to those faced by a number of developed countries.
The government hopes to trim the budget deficit to P293 billion or 3.5 percent of economic output this year after a record P298.5 billion or 3.9 percent of output last year.
The National Government has set aside P100 billion to stimulate the economy this year after spending P330 billion under the Arroyo administrations so-called economic resiliency plan that cushioned full impact of the global economic slump.
The central bank, in a bid to boost liquidity, also cut benchmark interest rates by 200 basis points between December 2008 and July 2009, bringing the overnight borrowing rate to a record low of 4 percent.
"With regard to monetary policy, it may not be too early to start unwinding the stimulus if output gaps are closing and inflation pressures are beginning to emerge," the IMF said.

DA lifts import ban on poultry from Germany

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agriculture (DA) has lifted a ban earlier imposed on the entry of birds and poultry from Germany following official confirmation by global animal health authorities that the European country was already free from the avian influenza (AI) or bird flu virus.

Filipino nurses avoid Middle East due to security concerns

DAVAO CITY, PhilippinesSome 5,000 nurses are needed in the Middle East, but only a few from the Philippines are interested in the job openings even if many nurses in the country are unemployed, according to a government official.

Ofelia Domingo, assistant director of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) in Southern Mindanao, said on Monday that concerns about security has been deterring Filipino nurses about getting jobs in the Middle East.

The common perception among Filipino nurses is that going to the Middle East is not safe. They are afraid, she told reporters here.

Domingo said a large number of Filipino nurses would rather go to the United States, Canada and non-Middle East countries.

But she said strict regulations in other countries resulted in only a small number being accepted in health-related jobs there.

Jobs in the US and other countries are only for qualified nurses, Domingo said.

But she said the government has taken steps to help unemployed nurses, through the Project Nurse program.

Domingo said under the program, unemployed nurses could opt for training in the countrys rural areas while earning P8,000 per month.

Another program, she said, was aimed at helping unemployed nurses form cooperatives and associations that would provide health care services.

4 Pinoy illegal workers deported from Canada

by By Marieton Pacheco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
VANCOUVER, Canada – Six Filipinos were arrested in a raid by the Canadian Border Services agency at a Pinoy restaurant in Vancouver for allegedly working without proper work permits.

Immigration Consultant Angio Ledesma, counsel for one of those arrested, said his client and another Filipina were eventually released after proving they had valid work permits. However, the 4 other Pinoys were deported back to the Philippines last week.

"Allegedly they were caught in the kitchen 'working'. They were all asked for identifications as a standard procedure and that's the reason why my client was released because she was able to present proper identification," Ledesma said.

He said this should be a warning to other Filipinos who are planning to work illegally while in Canada.

"The Canadian system, it works. The monitoring system is very, very good so mahirap yung sinasabi mag-TNT," Ledesma added.

The Filipinos involved had requested not to be identified in the report and there is limited information about their deportation. 

Pirates seize Liberian cargo ship with 21 crew off Oman—EU

BRUSSELSPirates seized a Liberian-owned bulk carrier with 21 Filipino crew in the Gulf of Aden early Tuesday, the European Union's naval force in the region said in a statement.

The MV VOC DAISY "was able to raise the alarm before the four armed pirates, carrying three AK47s (assault rifles) and one RPG (rocket propelled grenade), stormed onboard and cut their lines of communication," EUNAVFOR said.

The attack took place 190 nautical miles (352 kilometers) east of Oman.

Airlines lost $1.7-B due to Iceland volcano blast, IATA says

MANILA, Philippines - Airlines have lost over $1.7 billion in revenues since a volcano in southern Iceland erupted, causing cancellations of flights bound for Europe, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a statement.

Thai gov't offers talks if protesters abide by law

BANGKOK - Thailand's prime minister is ready to negotiate with protesters seeking a change of government, but only when the demonstrators who have illegally occupied city streets agree to abide by the law, his spokesman said Wednesday.

VATICAN CITY Pope Benedict XVI has promised "church action" to confront the clerical abuse scandal.
Benedict told his weekly public audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square that he had told victims of abuse during his recent trip to Malta that he "shared their suffering ... assuring them of church action."
Benedict met Sunday with eight Maltese men who say they were abused by priests as children. The Vatican issued a statement saying Benedict had told the men during the private meeting that the church would do everything in its power to bring justice to abusive priests and would implement "effective measures" to protect children.
Benedict's words Wednesday are his first public comment on the scandal, although he called for repentence last week. AP

LONDON Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is marking her 84th birthday with a quiet day at Windsor Castle with her husband, Prince Philip.

The queen marks her birthday twice a year: privately on the actual birthday, which is Wednesday, and officially with the "Trooping the Color" ceremony that is traditionally held in June, when the weather is better.

Her Buckingham Palace office says the queen has no official engagements on Wednesday but will be dealing with official paperwork as she does every day except Christmas and Easter.

The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery will fire a 41-gun salute at noon (1100 GMT) in London's Hyde Park to mark the birthday. An hour later, a second salute will be fired from the Tower of London. AP

Alcano wins opening round of Asiad 9-ball qualifier

MANILA, Philippines – Ronnie "The Volcano" Alcano prevailed in the opening round of the Asian Games 9-ball qualifying tournament at the Rizal Memorial Billiards Center in Manila on Tuesday.

Mosley-Mayweather 'technically' a non-title bout

MANILA, Philippines – "Sugar" Shane Mosley's WBA welterweight crown won't "technically" be at stake when he goes toe-to-toe with former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Former IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch dead at 89

BARCELONASpain's Juan Antonio Samaranch, one of the longest-serving presidents of the International Olympic Committee who was credited with commercializing the Games, died Wednesday. He was 89.

Samaranch, who headed the Olympic movement from 1980-2001, passed away at 1:25 pm (1125 GMT) at the Quiron Hospital where he was admitted on Sunday suffering from acute coronary insufficiency, it said in a statement.

An honorary president for life of the IOC, he helped to revolutionize sponsorship and broadcasting deals for major events, seeking global sponsors instead of national federations making their own local arrangements.

"Thanks to his extraordinary vision and talent, Samaranch was the architect of a strong and unified Olympic Movement," IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement.

"I am personally deeply saddened by the death of the man who built up the Olympic Games of the modern era, a man who inspired me, and whose knowledge of sport was truly exceptional."

His term at the helm of the IOC -- only Pierre de Coubertin, the "father" of the modern Olympics and IOC chief from 1896 to 1925, has held the post longer -- was marked by a major ethics scandal which led to a tightening of the rules.

The IOC faced federal and congressional investigations in the United States into revelations that its members were given paid vacations, shopping sprees and cash payments to sway support for Salt Lake City's successful bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Under Samaranch's watch, the IOC adopted ethics reforms that severely restricted interaction between committee members and cities bidding for the Olympics in response to the scandal.

Born on July 17, 1920, into a rich Catalan family which made its fortune from the textile industry, he served as Spain's minister for sport and ambassador to the Soviet Union during the right-wing regime of General Francisco Franco.

Samaranch remained active in Spanish sports administration after stepping down as the head of the IOC and was a key part of Madrid's failed bids to hold the Olympics in 2012, which London eventually won, and 2016, which went to Rio de Janeiro.

"I know that I am very near the end of my time. I am 89 years old," he said in October 2009 before asking the IOC members for the honor of hosting the 2016 Games in Spain during Madrid's bid presentation in Copenhagen.

His remains will lie in wait at the headquarters of the regional government of Catalonia in Barcelona on Thursday, the Catalan regional government said. Funeral details have yet to be announced.

Spain's King Juan Carlos honored him with the title of marquis in 1991 for his work in the Olympic movement, which culminated in the award of the highly successful 1992 summer Games to Barcelona, a city the event transformed.

Samaranch had been plagued by health problems in recent years and the hospital chief of internal medicine Rafael Esteban told a news conference late on Tuesday that "given his age, we can't be optimistic".

He fell ill and went to the hospital after watching Spain's Rafeal Nadal secure a historic sixth straight Monte Carlo Masters title on Sunday on television, family members told Spanish media.

Samaranch's wife Maria Teresa Salisachs-Rowe, another scion of a Catalan textiles dynasty, predeceased him on September 16, 2000.

He is survived by two children, Maria Teresa and Juan Antonio Jr., who in July 2001 was elected an IOC member.

Pacquiao confident of political victory

GENERAL SANTOS - An armored Hummer jeep rolled out of Manny Pacquiao's garage and past his boxing glove-shaped swimming pool, ready to take the world's best fighter on the election hustings.

Shortly afterwards a smiling Pacquiao dressed in smart casual clothes walked into a reception room at his mansion that was covered from floor to ceiling with blow-up photos of his finest moments in the boxing ring.

"I want them to believe me -- that I'm good not only in boxing but also in serving them," the seven-time world champion told Agence France-Presse in an interview, getting straight to the point as to why he desperately wants to become a politician.

With realistically only a few years -- if not bouts -- left before the end of his prime, the 31-year-old "Pacman" is making a second attempt to win a seat in parliament.

Unlike in the ring, where he is widely regarded to be the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, in politics he has an undistinguished 0-1 record after having been bloodied in an attempt in 2007.

Knocked out in his last congressional run in the southern port city of General Santos, Pacquiao is standing for a seat in nearby Sarangani province at the May 10 national elections.

Pacquiao says his lack of experience in public office will work to his advantage in a nation where violence and graft has earned it a reputation for being ruled with "guns, goons and gold".

"Right now it's getting worse you know, (the) corruption," he said.

"If you think politics is dirty, I think we can change that."

Pacquiao is up against a member of the Chiongbian clan, which has ruled the area for years and owns large chunks of the local economy, making the champ very much the nouveau-riche upstart.

But Pacquiao has had plenty of election campaign cash to spend from his fat fight purses and a myriad of commercial endorsements that range from shampoo to beer and karaoke microphones.

Forbes Magazine listed him as one of the world's highest-paid athletes in 2009 with a year's earnings of 40 million dollars, and he made another reported $12 million in his last fight against Ghana's Joshua Clottey in March.

However it was not always that way and Pacquiao gives a sincere impression that his political ambitions are rooted in his childhood poverty.

He listed the absence of many basic social services in Sarangani, one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines.

"The problem in our place, first, is livelihood; second is education and third is health care and medical assistance."

The province of 420,000 people does not even have a hospital of its own, he added.

Pacquiao was abandoned by his father and as a boy lived in a tiny rented room with his mother at the Labangan slum in General Santos, the country's tuna canning capital and also one of the hotbeds of local boxing.

Like many other local youths before him, he used his golden fists to escape a life of poverty. He has since reconciled with his father, Rosalio Pacquiao, who now helps him at the stumps.

Some of the boxer's riches have been invested in the local economy, including a bottled water business that bears his name and undercuts rivals.

Local officials say the champ is also an important contributor to charity, with free school buildings in Sarangani among his pet projects.

Pacquiao the candidate flashed the cash this month in a rain-soaked sortie in the impoverished town of Malapatan, where the locals plant maize and fish the nearby Sarangani Bay in tiny outrigger boats.

At a local petrol station, 56-year-old farmer Leonardo Salazar joined more than a hundred moped riders queuing for a free tank of petrol, paid for by the Pacquiao camp.

The group said they only had to join the Pacquiao motorcade to collect P200 (about $4.5 ) at the end of the day.

But Salazar insisted everything was above board.

"This is not bribery. We see this as a chance to help our idol," he said.

Although the boxer would seem to be using tactics of more seasoned politicians to garner support, Pacquiao insisted he was fighting his political battle by the rules and would as such emerge victorious.

"Right now I'm leading in the public surveys," he said. "I'm confident that people will trust me."

Justice Sotero Cabahug honored today

Mandaue City will be honoring Justice Sotero Cabahug today with a series of activities on the occasion of his 119th birth anniversary.

At 3 p.m., a floral offering will be held at his monument at the Mandaue City Plaza. Eucharistic Mass will follow at 4:30 p.m. at the Mandaue Cultural and Sports Complex, and then a lecture at the same place will be given by Melya Jaca, and then a testimonial dinner and awarding of the 2010 Sotero B. Cabahug Medal for Academic Excellence at 7pm at Robinland at the Reclamation Area.

Cabahug, a Mandauehanon who brought honor to the country is remembered as a statesman having served the three branches of government.

He was in the Executive Department as governor of Cebu who was responsible for the construction of the stately Capitol building.

He was one time the Secretary of National Defense during the time of President Ramon Magsaysay and one time a Secretary of Public Works.

He also served as congressman of the second congressional district of Cebu for two terms.

He became also a Justice of the Court of Appeals where he concluded his public service. 

Lea Salonga shares stage with Patti Austin

by by Bev Llorente, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Grammy award winner Patti Austin and Tony award winner Lea Salonga shared the stage in an evening of Broadway and jazz over the weekend at the Les Theatres Des Arts of the Paris Las Vegas.

ABS-CBN chosen to cover Cannes film fest

MANILA, Philippines - ABS-CBN is set to make another history in entertainment broadcasting after it was chosen to cover the prestigious Cannes Film Festival from May 12 to 23.

Thursday: sunny, Max Temp: 33°C (91°F), Min Temp: 26°C (79°F)

Max Temp: 33°C (91°F), Min Temp: 26°C (79°F), Wind Direction: ENE, Wind Speed: 7mph, Visibility: moderate, Pressure: 1012mb, Humidity: 57%, Sunrise: 05:30PHT, Sunset: 17:55PHT

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