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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 23, 2010 Major News Stories

MCWD to empty Buhisan dam

AMID the dry spell in the country, Cebu's main water distributor is emptying the Buhisan Dam to desilt it. This will mean water supply will be short in 126,000 households in Barangay Lagtang in Talisay City, in the mountain barangays of Cebu City, and Barangay Punta Engaño in Lapu-Lapu City.

Ernie Delco, Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) assistant manager for operations, said three trucks will supply water in areas that will have "minimal to zero" water.
Buhisam Dam accounts for five percent of MCWD's supply.

The rest of MCWD's consumers will be serviced by the 113 deep wells and the diversion weir in Barangay Jaclupan, Talisay City, which produces 95 percent of MCWD's water.

MCWD sources 10,000 cubic meters (cbm) per day from the Jaclupan weir alone.

But these water sources are also in danger of depletion because of the dry spell.

"It's a cause for alarm especially if El Niño stays on till mid-June," Delco said.

From 2,000 cbm per day, MCWD has increased its water production to 4,000 cbm per day so the dam is emptied faster, said Delco.

Given this production rate, Buhisan Dam will be empty in three to four weeks. Once empty, the silt and mud that have accumulated in its bed will be removed.

When desilted, the dam can accommodate more water.

Delco, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday, said once the Buhisan Dam is emptied, it will be filled back with rainwater.

But the limited rainfall this season will delay the filling up of the dam.

Rainfall in April usually hits 45 centimeters (cm) but as of April 20 this year, it registered only 1.5 cm.

The weather bureau in Mactan expects the level to go up to 2.5 cm. by end of the month.

MCWD's 113 deep wells that are located all over Metro Cebu and the diversion weir in Jaclupan are also in danger of depletion because of the dry spell.

Delco said MCWD has now lowered the daily production of the Jaclupan weir from 10,000 cbm to 8,000 to 9,000 cbm.

MCWD is monitoring its deep wells after three of them were found to be not producing enough.

Delco said it is likely water service will be interrupted for six to eight hours in the areas mentioned.

Areas affected by the rotating power outages, where MCWD's water booster generators are located, will have no water at certain hours.

Most of the northern and southern Metro Cebu towns will not be affected yet, Delco said.

Aside from monitoring the deep wells, MCWD is minimizing systems losses by checking pipe leaks.

Starting next week, MCWD will issue a daily advisory on water services.

Delco requested the public to conserve water.

Dengue rise alarms Sirao folk

HEALTH and barangay officials are alarmed at the number of dengue cases in Sirao, a mountain barangay in Cebu City.

The Cebu City Health Department has recorded six confirmed cases of dengue in the barangay.

They are confined at the Cebu City Medical Center.

In an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, City Epidemiologist Dr. Dorinda Macasocol said they are particularly worried since Sirao has a small population. (The barangay reportedly has a population of 4,000.)

She said the youngest victim they recorded in the barangay is one year and eight months, while the oldest is 33 years old.

Meanwhile, Sirao Barangay Captain Felix Limotan said that he, too, was shocked at the number of dengue cases in the barangay.

"I don't know why the number is so high. I make sure the surroundings of the barangays are always clean," he said in Cebuano.

Search and destroy

Limotan said the dengue cases are concentrated in Sitio Santol.

However, he said he, barangay officials and health officials have been conducting anti-dengue brigades in the area such as searching for and destroying all mosquito breeding sites.

"I don't understand why there are still dengue cases there," he said.

The health department has recorded 342 dengue cases in the whole of Cebu City, with six fatalities, since January.

The last recorded death was that of a three-year-old girl from Barangay Mabolo on March 1.

Macasocol said residents should be aware of dengue, particularly the practice of proper sanitation in order to combat the disease, which victimizes both rich and poor.

She reminded residents to clean inside their homes as mosquito eggs also thrive in water in flower vases and collected bottles.

Mayor's brod's house raided

A YOUNGER brother of Carcar City Mayor Patrick Barcenas eluded arrest in a buy-bust conducted by a police special anti-drug team yesterday afternoon.

But the Regional Anti-Illegal Drug Special Operations Task Force (Raidsotf) 7 arrested only Jewelyn Rentoma, 34, the alleged live-in partner of drug suspect Aquillo Barcenas, 40, of Poblacion, Carcar City.

The Raidsotf, led by Insp. Glenn Hife, hired a civilian asset to act as poseur buyer of Aquillo's illegal drug business.

The transaction was to buy two big packs of shabu worth P30,000 outside the Carmen Otik Pension House in Poblacion.

While policemen had positioned themselves outside the pension house, Aquillo arrived on a motorcuycle with Rentoma at 1:15 p.m.

Hife said Aquillo then reportedly took two big packs of shabu from his backpack and gave these to his live-in partner.

In turn, Rentoma handed the illegal stuff to the poseur buyer in exchange for the buy-bust money.

But Aquillo allegedly sensed the presence of policemen that he quickly revved up his motorbike's engine and sped off, leaving Rentoma behind.

Policemen, who tried to stop him, reportedly managed only to grab the suspect's backpack.

Six more packs of shabu and a .45 pistol with 15 live ammunition, a magazine and one silencer were found in the bag.

The value of the eight shabu packs reportedly totaled P240,000.

Rentoma also tried to flee to the direction of the pension house but was arrested.

Prior to the operation, Hife said Aquillo's illegal drug trade was placed under surveillance for more than a week.

The buy-bust occurred six days after the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency raided the house of Ruel Velez, 43, in Barangay Ocaña, Carcar.

Seized from Velez were three plastic packs of shabu worth P9,000, P59,920 cash and six mobile phones.

Ruel is the cousin of Dr. Nestor Velez, a mayoral candidate of the local Alayon Party and political ally of Patrick.

But while Ruel claimed his arrest was politically motivated, Patrick said the police operation against his brother had nothing to do with politics.

The Raidsotf identified Aquillo as an alleged member of the Ruel Velez drug group in Carcar City. He allegedly can dispose of at least one-fourth kilo of shabu per week.

The Carcar mayor even commended the police for conducting the buy-bust operation, as he admitted that his brother really got involved in the illegal drug trade.

Aquillo was into a buy-and-sell business but he allegedly shifted to the illegal drug trade, he said.

Patrick, who is on his last term as mayor, is now running as vice mayoral candidate of Velez.

Carcar City has two mayoral bets under one Alayon Party-–the Velez wing and the Apura group.

Vice Mayor Nicepuro Apura, who has no vice mayoral candidate, is up against Velez in the mayoral race. (GC)

Cenro to confiscate P1M tan bark cargo

THE Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) will confiscate P1-million worth of tan bark for coconut winemaking smuggled from Zamboanga.

The shipment of two 20-footer container vans was bound for Tacloban City via Ormoc City but was apprehended in Cebu.

Richard Abella of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro) said the shipment was seized last Feb. 15 yet, but Cenro will soon issue a Certificate of Confiscation against the product.

No documents

Tan bark, locally known as "tungog," comes from a type of mangrove used for making coconut wine.

Abella said the shipment was claimed by businessman Josue Lee of Zamboanga, but he failed to present legal documents to cover the cargo, pursuant to Presidential Decree 705.

The law provides that any person who transports tan bark shall secure a permit from Cenro. Otherwise, the shipment will be confiscated, while the shipper or consignee could face criminal charges.

Abella said Lee made it appear that the shipment was a finished product. It turned out that the finished product was only used as front for the smuggled tan bark.


If they go deeper into the case, the Penro official said, their counterpart at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Zamboanga could be investigated and held liable for allowing the shipment without the necessary documents.

Abella said the law is very clear that if the cargo of tan bark is shipped without the accompanying documents, it is subject to confiscation.

Since he re-assumed his position as Penro officer last Sept. 17, 2009, Abella has ordered the surveillance of tan bark shipments on board Aleson Shipping cargo vessels from Zamboanga because of reports that businessmen did not get permits to defraud the government of taxes and fees.

Bank files civil suit vs. Atan, wife over unpaid car loan

A COMMERCIAL bank in Cebu City has sued Cebu City congressional candidate Jonathan Guardo and his wife Clarissa over an unsettled car loan of P1.1 million they took out last year.

The Bank of the Philippine Island (BPI) Family Savings Bank Inc. filed before the Regional Trial Court a civil suit for recovery of personal property against the couple and an unidentified person for failing to pay P1,121,110.38 that they had borrowed to buy a vehicle.

Sought for comment, Guardo's lawyer Alvin Butch Cañares said the car is owned by Clarissa who uses it for her real estate business.

"There were disagreements between Mrs. Guardo and her partners over the updating of their monthly amortization, causing the delay in keeping current their payments," Cañares told Sun.Star Cebu by text.

"It has nothing to do with the business of Mr. Guardo and should not be used for political purposes," Cañares said.

Guardo believes the suit is politically motivated.

Likewise by text, the congressional candidate for Cebu City's south district said whoever is behind the suit should spare his wife because she is not running for public office.

Cañares said Clarissa and the bank have agreed on a compromise. He said the bank will not likely pursue the case once the court approves the agreement.

Guardo, through his public relations officer Jonji Gonzales, said, "I hope my opponent, in his desperation because of his failing campaign and even health, will keep his hands off my wife who is not running for public office."

He was referring to Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena, his rival for the House seat.

BPI, represented by lawyer Ismael Trinidad Jr., said the couple availed themselves of a loan of P1,521,396 on Feb. 23, 2009 to buy a Kia Carnival from Gateway Motors Inc.

The couple agreed to pay a monthly installment of P42,261 starting March 26, 2009 but missed their obligations for Dec. 26, 2009 and March 26, 2010.

Under the terms of the promissory note the couple executed, all monthly installments have become due with a total of P1,121,110.38. The sum excludes lawyer's fee, liquidation and actual damages.

BPI had demanded payments from the couple but had been ignored.

In their promisory note, the couple agreed that in the event of legal action, they will pay liquidation damages equivalent to 15 percent and attorney's fee equal to 25 percent, computed based on the outstanding balance of P1,121,110.38, including P67,266.62 as reimbursement of premium on replevin.

BPI asked the court to order the seizure of the vehicle worth P1,107,555.16 and the couple to pay the bank P168,166.56 as liquidation damages, P280,277.60 as attorney's fees, P15,000 as re-possession expenses, and P67,266.62 as reimbursement of premium on replevin bond and costs.

Davide considers troubles of Garcias, party a 'miracle'

FORMER chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. said the miracles he has been praying for so that his son, Hilario "Junjun" Davide III, will win the governorship in the May 10 elections are beginning to appear.

In a press conference at Rajah Park Hotel, the former chief justice said the break up of the family of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is already a sign that the governor is losing control. Garcia is facing Davide III in the gubernatorial race.

"There's a saying in the Bible that a nation divided into groups fighting each other will never last. That can be applied to the Garcia family. A family divided into groups fighting each other will never last," Davide Jr. said, adding that unlike the Garcias, they are united.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, a critic of the governor and an ally of Davide III, said he pities the mayors who have stayed under One Cebu.

"I really pity all the mayors. You know, they do not realize she's (Gwen) making a laughing stock out of all of them. They're behaving like sheep," Osmeña said in a news conference.

Last Monday, Garcia met with One Cebu candidates to reiterate their support for Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. after reports that some of her allies shifted their allegiance to Sen. Manny Villar of the Nacionalista Party.

For Osmeña, the province's administration party is already breaking up.

"In the province, they're all falling apart," he said.

This, as the Liberal Party slate is gaining more support, the former chief justice said.

"It is so inspiring and fulfilling because everywhere we went the demonstration of the genuine love of the people for (Sen. Benigno) Noynoy Aquino III and Mar Roxas and the entire slate of the Liberal Party, including Junjun for governor and (Vice Gov.) Greg Sanchez for vice governor. It is the love that will defeat everything," Davide Jr. said.

He recalled that during an earlier press conference, a reporter asked how his son can win over Gov. Garcia when she has the power, the fame and all the resources.

"I told that reporter that miracles will happen because as told by the Old Testament, they had a David fighting a Goliath. This time, a real David, Junjun Davide, is fighting a Goliath because Garcia starts with letter G," he said.

Davide Jr. said that another miracle he is witnessing is the support of the people for his son.

He said people themselves use their own money, indicating an "empowered sense of responsibility to help produce a real leader who truly responds to the call to action—the best character of a public office."

Davide Jr. said choosing a leader is not only based on competence but also on integrity.

He disagrees with Villar who had said that voters should consider competence, managerial skills or ability and experience.

Also during the press conference, lawyer Frank Malilong, who acted as moderator, announced that former congressman Jose Gullas is now openly supporting Aquino.

The former congressman is the brother of Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, 1st district) who is endorsing Villar.

'Ruiz would have quit race'

REP. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz was "deeply enamored" with Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. that she would have quit the mayoral race in Mandaue City to campaign for the presidential candidate.

Mandaue City Councilor Victor Biaño said he was surprised with Ruiz's decision to leave Lakas-Kampi and Teodoro to campaign for Sen. Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Biaño, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday, said Ruiz made the revelation during the presentation of Teodoro and vice presidential candidate Edu Manzano as the administration party's bets at the Philippine International Convention Center last year.

"Di' na ko modagan pre, mangampanya na lang ko ni Gibo diri sa Visayas (I will quit the race and just campaign for Gibo)," Biaño quoted Ruiz as saying.

Sun.Star Cebu tried but failed to get the comment of Ruiz's chief of staff Gonzalo Malig-on.

With Ruiz's shift to NP, her local party Nagkahiusang Mandauehanon also lost a Provincial Board (PB) member candidate, Wenceslao "Weng" Gakit.

During a proclamation rally last Tuesday in Barangay Opao, Gakit, who is seeking another term, and congressional candidate Luigi Quisumbing were absent.

Former Mandaue City mayor Thadeo Ouano, who is running for PB member, was present. Ruiz said Quisumbing was in Manila to attend the burial of his grandmother.

Gakit told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday he is no longer with Nagkahiusang Mandauehanon. He did not attend the rally, which was attended by Villar and his slate, since he remains a member of One Cebu, which supports Teodoro.

"He (Gakit) never attempted to be with us," Ruiz said of Gakit. She refused to elaborate about her relationship with Gakit.

Like Quisumbing, Ouano is a member of both Nagkahiusa and One Cebu but he openly supports Villar.

The former mayor said his wife Linda and Villar's wife Cynthia are close friends and were neighbors in Metro Manila. He said their closeness with the Villars transcend beyond party lines.

Ruiz, who served as Lakas Kampi's interim vice president for the Visayas from July 2009 until last month, said she left Lakas because the administration ticket failed to attend to its local allies' problems.

One Cebu's spokesperson Rory Jon Sepulveda said the local party could not for campaign support from Lakas-Kampi-CMD because it has no alliance with the national party.

It just so happened that the members of One Cebu are also members of Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

"We are expecting but not demanding," Sepulveda said, adding that One Cebu is expected to take care of its own.

He said this is the reason they have a freehand in supporting candidates for vice president and senators from different parties.

However, they need to have a solid support for Teodoro because One Cebu has already made a pledge.

But One Cebu's constitution and by-laws does not prohibit a candidate from affiliating with a national party.

"You could be One Cebu and, at the same time, Liberal," he added.

With regard to the statement of former senator John Henry "Sonny" Osmeña that the Garcias are staging a drama of a break-up due to political differences to have access to funding from more than one presidential candidate, Sepulveda said having various choices for president happens to any family and should not be made an issue.

"That's his (Sonny) own personal opinion. Iyaha na na.. We don't owe Sonny an explanation," Sepulveda said.

Meanwhile, Sepulveda said One Cebu is already drafting the revocation of the nominations of the slate of reelectionists Mayor Daisy Creus and her husband Vice Mayor Lito Creus, who earlier refused to sign a manifesto of support for Teodoro, since he is endorsing Villar.

Smartmatic discovers 'ghost precincts'

Natuklasan ng Smartmatic na may "ghost precincts" ang Comelec nang sila ang mag-survey.

Comelec denies reports of ghost precincts

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) strongly denied on Thursday that there were non-existent polling centers in its Project of Precincts (PoP) as initially reported by Smartmatic-Total Information Management (Smartmatic-TIM).

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, in a news conference, confirmed that there was a report by Smartmatic-TIM surveyors about the "missing" polling centers, but clarified that these "exist."

The poll body was reacting to an report that there were polling centers listed in the PoP no longer in existence. Surveyors of Smartmatic-TIM informed the Comelec that it could not locate the "missing" polling centers. (Click here for story.)

"When that report was given to us, we verified it. It exists. There are voters there. We can get our written report," Larrazabal said.

"If the reporter simply went to Comelec, we would have given the report to give an accurate article," he added.

Based on the Smartmatic-TIM report, there were ghost polling centers in 7 provinces and in Metro Manila. reported that Comelec formed a task force to conduct an ocular inspection, but only in Lanao del Sur, where there were at least 47 supposed non-existent polling centers.

A report by assistant regional election director Renault Macarambon dated April 6 to the Comelec confirmed that there were 9 polling centers in the PoP which could not be found.

In two towns Balabagan and Tagoloan, where Smartmatic-TIM surveyors initially said there were 14 and 11 non-existing polling centers, the report said the surveyors admitted they did not conduct due diligence in preparing their respective reports.

But the Comelec failed to conduct an ocular inspection in these two towns, as they relied on the certification of education and police officials that the questioned polling centers do exist.

A Comelec source said they failed to conduct the ocular inspection, as mandated, for lack of time.

Comelec to hold 11th hour mock polls next week

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Commission on Elections will hold a mock elections next week to review the system a few days before the May 10 polls.

Comelec commissioner James Jimenez said the poll body is scheduling a 1,000-voter precinct mock elections somewhere in Metro Manila.

We are preparing for an 11th-hour election exercise which will involve 1,000 voters, he said. The objective of the exercise is to finally lay to rest the doability issues of the system, he added.

The Comelec will also test contingency measures in the mock elections, Jimenez said.

Comelec urged: Do manual audit in poll hot spots

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) on Thursday urged the Commission on Elections to do a random manual audit of voting in election hot spots during the May 10 automated elections.

Jamby, farmers to go on hunger strike until Comelec approves manual count

Independent presidential candidate Maria Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal on Thursday said that she will go on a hunger strike together with farmers and fishers until the Commission on Elections (Comelec) approves a proposal to conduct a manual count of votes before the results are transmitted.

Madrigal, who barged into the office of Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento during an interview with reporters, said the poll body should approve the proposal of farmer-fisherfolk coalition Alyansa Agrikultura to enable a 100 percent precinct manual count of votes for president, vice president, and one local official before transmission.

"Sana pakinggan yung daing ng taong-bayan kasi maghuhunger strike kami hanggang sa katapusan, hanggang eleksyon na, para kung hindi ninyo kami pakinggan, at least ang Diyos makikinig sa amin (I hope they listen to the plea of the people because we will go on a hunger strike until the elections, so that if they don't listen, at least God will listen to us)," she said.

She said there should be nothing wrong if the basis for the results of the automated polls is the manual count. "Ang basehan yung manual at wag yung automation, kasi pumapalpak transmission pa lang palpak na rin eh (The basis should be the manual count and not the automated because even in transmission, automation has already failed)," she said.

With only over two weeks before the elections, the poll body should immediately schedule an en banc meeting to discuss the matter, the senator said. "Wala na tayong oras (We don't have enough time)," she said.

Alyansa Agrikultura chair Ernesto Ordoñez, who accompanied Madrigal on Thursday, added that they only need a few minutes with the Comelec officials to explain what they want to do.

The manual count would only take three hours, just a small addition to the time needed to count all the votes needed for proclamation, Ordoñez said.

They sought to take matter to the en banc because the idea was shot down when they met with the poll bodys technical team.

Besides Madrigal, the farmer-fisherfolk coalition led by Ordoñez claims to have the support of presidential candidates former President Joseph Estrada, Ang Kapatiran's JC Delos Reyes, Bangon Pilipinas' Bro. Eddie Villanueva, and environmentalist Nicanor Perlas.

He said the other candidates have yet to respond to his proposal.

Sarmiento, for his part, said that the Commission has already discussed the matter although it still has to decide what to do.

"Initially nag-usap na po kami tungkol dito so siguro babalikan po natin, lalung-lalo na maraming humihingi ng parallel count po eh (We have already talked about this but maybe we will go back to this because many have been asking for a parallel count)," he said.

Earlier, Perlas had already asked the poll body to postpone the elections should the Comelec fail to address questions about the automated system, including the need for a parallel manual count. 

Defense boss asks bishops to appeal for clean polls

MANILA, PhilippinesDefense Secretary Norberto Gonzales has called on the bishops to exhort the people to work for successful elections, even as he assured them that the military will do its job on May 10.

Gonzalez made the statement as he emerged from a meeting with Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President Nereo Odchimar late Wednesday afternoon in Intramuros, Manila.

Like the Armed Forces, the bishops are also non-partisan. I think that they should be able to appeal to our people to make the elections clean and successful. They should help in that. They are our spiritual leaders, aren't they? And the election is a very important exercise for us, especially now, so we have to make it right. So I am really asking for prayers of the bishops, Gonzales told reporters.

Gonzales, who noted that he always sees Odchimar whenever the latter is in town, said he assured the prelate that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will play its proper role in the elections.

What I said was that the Armed Forces will really be doing its job come election day and are preparing our all in making sure that the election is successful. So all of the efforts of the Armed Forces are focused on that now, he said.

Replying to questions, he said the bishop requested nothing from him. He, in turn, asked for prayers.

Lots and lots of prayers for all of us, he added.

According to him, the call for peaceful, honest and ordinary elections should be repeated.

Several church leaders are involved with poll watchdogs and have made calls for the success of the May 10 elections, amid fears that the process would be marred by glitches.

Erap questions Villar's sincerity in helping OFWs

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada today claimed that Nacionalista Party presidential bet Sen. Manny Villar has been using the OFW market to make money.

In a press conference at the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino's (PMP) headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Estrada alleged that Villar's companies involved in housing projects, particularly Vista Land, are being used as "marketing schemes."

He also questioned Villar's sincerity in helping the OFWs.

Portion of billions of pesos from the earnings of the housing projects are now being used in the seemingly inexhaustible campaign kitty of the Villar camp, he added.

For his part, PMP re-electionist senator Juan Ponce Enrile said Villar, who was then a senate president, used his position to pressure Philippine Stocks Exchange (PSE) officials to jack up the value of his companies' shares of stocks.

Villar has reportedly violated some PSE policies in the public offerings and listings of his companies' shares, Enrile said.

Villar firms seek disbarment of lawyer

MANILA, Philippines -- The real estate companies of Nacionalista Party standard bearer Senator Manuel Villar are set to seek the disbarment of a former in-house lawyer who bared what he called the pattern of corruption in the conduct of Villars businesses.

In a press conference, lawyer Nalen Rosero-Galang, chief legal officer of the Villar group, said that aside from the disbarment case to be filed before the Supreme Court against lawyer Restituto Mendoza, Villar's companies would also file criminal charges such as extortion, grave threats and libel against him simultaneously before the Makati and Las Pias regional trial courts.

Galang said that the disbarment charge against Mendoza stemmed from his alleged blackmailing of the Villar companies at the height of the C-5 road controversy and for violating the attorney-client relationship.

Mendoza earlier filed a labor case against the Villar group before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and in his complaint, detailed what he called the corrupt practices of the real estate companies of Villar in acquiring properties for development.

Mendoza's account was detailed in a three-part series of Newsbreak, a reputable online investigative magazine.

Galang said the Villar group had heard that Mendoza was supposed to hold a press conference on Thursday.

Galang described Mendoza's tell-all account in Newsbreak as a new chapter in a very long series of attacks against Villar which were fabricated and untrue.

Galang said Mendoza supposedly tried to extort P25 million from Gerry Navarette, president of Adelfa Companies, one of Villar's real-estate companies on May 20, 2009, at a coffee restaurant in Makati City, the day that Villar conducted an ocular inspection of the C-5 road.

When Navarette refused, Mendoza allegedly threatened to bring his story to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

It's very obvious that this is politically motivated. All of these are obviously intended to divert the real issues in this elections because even the rivals of Villar would admit that he is the most competent among the candidates, Galang said.

Galang added that it was strange why Mendoza, in his NLRC complaint, would ask for a reinstatement in the companies.

It seems funny that you complain of the irregularities of the company and yet you want to return? Galang said.

Mendoza was hired by the Villar group in April 2004 and was dismissed in June 2009, according to Galang.

Sanlakas party to file plunder raps vs Villar

MANILA, Philippines - Party-list group Sanlakas will file a plunder case against Nacionalista Party presidential bet Manny Villar based on land-grabbing allegations.  Sanlakas said among its witnesses is Villar's former lawyer Restituto Mendoza.

Lakas-Kampi rejoices over 3 new members

Hail! We have three new party-mates! Still reeling from defections, the Lakas Kampi CMD can't help but break the good news that three lawmakers are officially joining the ruling party to campaign for Gilbert Teodoro Jr.

Representatives Zenaida Angpin (Manila), Ramon Durano (Cebu) and George Arnaiz (Negros Oriental) have quit the Nationalist People's Coalition to join Lakas Kampi CMD, secretary general Raymundo Roquero said on Thursday.

Pressures from NPC hierarchy for party-members to back Nacionalista Party candidate Senator Manuel Villar Jr. forced the three to resign and formally join Lakas Kampi CMD and openly support Teodoro, he said.

Noynoy warns foreigners vs Arroyo gov't contracts

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - The frontrunner to become the next Philippine president Thursday urged foreign governments to sign no new contracts with President Gloria Arroyo's outgoing administration, branding it corrupt.
"If such midnight deals are concluded just the same, they must all be subjected to the strictest scrutiny and immediately be rescinded whenever warranted."

Gordon files case versus SWS, Pulse Asia

MANILA, Philippines – Bagumbayan Party standard-bearer Sen. Richard Gordon filed a civil suit against pollsters Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia for allegedly conducting misleading surveys on the presidential elections through "obsolete" methodologies.

Lawyer Chito Diaz, Gordon's legal counsel, said his client is seeking P650,000 in damages from SWS and Pulse Asia for conditioning the minds of voters to go for candidates based on what surveys say instead on their actual platforms. 

Lawyer Carlo Tagalda said the lawsuit is not just for Gordon but also for other presidential candidates "being marginalized because of mental conditioning (by the survey firms)." 

He added that if they win the case, the amount of damages will be donated by Gordon to the Philippine National Red Cross, which he currently chairs.

Bro. Eddie, partymates wrap up Dumaguete sortie

MANILA, Philippines -- Bangon Pilipinas Party presidential candidate Bro. Eddie Villanueva and the rest of his ticket will be returning to Manila after wrapping up his campaign in Dumaguete in the province of Negros Oriental this morning.

The Bangon candididates will have a motorcade going around the city proper at around 9:30 a.m. At 11 a.m., Villanueva and other candidates will be sitting with members of the local media for a press briefing. This will be followed by a multi sectoral forum.

The Bangon bets will be leaving for Manila at around 3 p.m. to attend a youth forum. At 7 p.m., the Bangon camp will grace a concert rally.

Lim bares names of generals who planned coup vs Arroyo

Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon, binulgar ng nakakulong na si dating Gen. Danny Lim ang mga heneral na umano'y sangkot sa pandaraya nuong 2004 elections para madagdagan pa ng anim na taon ang panunungkulan ni Pangulong Arroyo. Pinangalanan din ng LP senatorial candidate ang mga heneral na umano'y nag-planong mag-kudeta sa Pangulo nuong 2006. Ang ilan dito, nasa mataas na puwesto sa gubyerno at tumatakbo pa ngayong halalan.

Chiz ready to be acting president if polls fail

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said Thursday that he is prepared to play the role of transition president in case of a failure of proclamation of a new president.  "Any senator, acting and sitting as Senate President, should be ready for that," Escudero told ANC's Headstart, but clarified that an acting president should stay in the position only for 90 days.

Chiz: Noy-Bi tandem better for the country

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero on Thursday confirmed he is supporting the candidacies of Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) vice-presidential bet Jejomar Binay because they complement each other.

Escudero on why he's not endorsing Roxas: 'Kulang sa kalyo'

MANILA, Philippines"Who is my vice president? Not someone rich, not an ilustrado, one who is courageous, a man of honor and a genuine member of the opposition.

Thus did Senator Francis Chiz Escudero describe Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay in a television advertisement to be aired next week.

People have yet to see the ad but already it is causing a stir since Escudero has chosen to endorse Binay as the vice president of Liberal Party standard bearer Senator Benigno Noynoy Aquino III instead of his running mate Senator Mar Roxas.

Escudero said in a live interview over ANC Thursday that the ad, paid for by friends of Binay, should not be a cause for division or conflict within the LP.

Escudero also taped another ad for Aquino that will be aired on television within the week.

There is no bloc voting in our laws. This is the essence of democracy, that each and every voter is allowed to choose who he wants to vote for a particular office, he said.

Im not saying that Senator Mar is not [a] true [member of the] opposition. Im saying Mayor Binay has been with the opposition longer, has done many things and is not just a talker. Also he has not backed away from a fight as recent history has shown, Escudero said in Filipino.

Anyone who thinks that my ad is against a specific person, well, I do not spend all my waking hours just thinking about him, he told news anchor Karen Davila.

In a separate interview over dzMM earlier in the day, Escudero said he would rather go for Binay because his heart is in the right place, adding he wants a leadership that combines the heart of Noynoy and the hands of Binay.

Asked what he thought of Roxas, Escudero answered, Kulang sa kalyo, which implies wealthy life.

The senator was also evasive when asked the ilustrado he referred to in the ad was.

Escudero said Nacionalista Party standard bearer Senator Manny Villar claims he grew up poor but no one asks him who he is alluding to when he says that. My endorsement is just the same, it is not against anyone.

For this reason, Escudero said he believes no one has the right to block the airing of his ad because it is not meant to hit anyone. Just because I dont support a specific person does not mean we are enemies.

He said the Liberal party has not tried to block the ad.

Davila, however, noted speculation that Escudero could be supporting Binay to thwart Roxas future plan to become president in 2016, an office that Escudero is reportedly also eyeing for himself.

I am nearsighted, Escudero replied. Even if it were true, why should I be making enemies this early? Its not in my interest to draw the line this early if indeed that is on my mind. This (endorsement) has nothing to do with (Roxas) or any of his plans and everything to do with Mayor Binay insofar as the vice presidency is concerned.

Escudero said his preference for Binay stems from their involvement in the opposition since 2004 when the late Fernando Poe Jr. ran against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Im not saying that Senator Mar is not a genuine member of the opposition but Mayor Binay has been with the opposition for a longer period. When Mayor Binay and I were with FPJ (Poes initials), Senator Mar was running on the administration ticket, Escudero said.

Besides, Escudero said, the Aquino-Binay tandem would provide a better balance in governance.

One is from the legislature while the other is an executive official. It might not be advisable for both presidential and vice presidential candidates to be from the legislative branch, Escudero explained.

He added that it would also be more advantageous if the running mates do not come from the same comfortable economic class.

Everyone says Noynoy comes from a rich family, so it might be a good thing if his running mate does not come from another rich family. And since Noynoy purportedly lacks experience, his vice president should have a background to make up for this. I think (Aquino and Binay) will complement each other, Escudero said.

Escudero was also asked why he did not choose Senator Loren Legarda, his erstwhile party mate in the Nationalist Peoples Coalition who is also running for vice president, or former president Joseph Estrada, his own wedding sponsor, who seeks to vindicate his name.

This is not about the persons I did not choose but about the person I have chosen, who is Mayor Binay, he insisted.

Escudero refused to elaborate on earlier reports saying the media team he lent to Aquino found itself in conflict with Roxas men within the LP.

My staff was not removed. We chose to stand down and let the LP, Noynoys campaign team, decide on the matter. It is not my habit to curry favor in a situation like that.

My team was not picked out. I decided to stand down because I decided not to cause any problems in the campaign, simply because there were changes, adjustments in the campaign that they wanted to do so we paved the way for that. Its not really an issue. There was no argument, walang sigawan, away, bangayan (no shouting match, quarrel, bickering), he added.

Nevertheless, Escudero said he has not communicated with Roxas either on the phone or through text since then.

There is no need for us to talk. I am not mad at him. I have no issues against him. Just because I do not support his candidacy does not mean I am mad at him, he said.

Jail warden removed after Andal Jr. press con

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of the Interior and Local Government on Thursday ordered the temporary relief of a jail warden for allowing Maguindanao massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. to hold a press conference inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City last Tuesday.
DILG chief Ronaldo Puno ordered the temporary relief of Senior Inspector Lloyd Gonzaga, warden of the Quezon City Jail Annex (QCJA), so as not to influence the investigation on the Ampatuan press conference.

Prosecutors want 5 witnesses in massacre detained in PNP

MANILA, Philippines -- State prosecutors have asked a Quezon City court to allow the Philippine National Police to retain custody of five accused in the Maguindanao massacre, to ensure their safety as potential state witnesses in the Ampatuan murder case.

In a six-page urgent motion, the Department of Justice urged Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Regional Trial Court Branch 221 to issue an order keeping the accused at the PNPs Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

The five accused are Takpan Dilon, Esmael Canapia, Insp Rex Ariel Diongon, PO1 Rainer Ebus and PO1 Pia Kamidon, who were earlier committed to the Metro Manila District Jail in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The DoJ said they were looking at the accused as prospective witnesses for the prosecution and that their testimonies would have great weight in the case against the Ampatuans and their henchmen.

Considering the nature of their testimony, the security of the accused is of vital importance. Their detention at the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology facility, together with the other accused against whom they will be testifying would be detrimental to their physical and psychological well being and even endanger their lives, the motion read.

The motion was filed by the panel of prosecutors led by Assistant Chief Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon and also signed by both state prosecutors and private lawyers.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., members of his family and more than a hundred are accused of carrying out the murders of 57 people, including women, lawyers and journalists, in a pre-election carnage in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, on November 23, 2009.

Most of the accused have been transferred to the MMDJs Quezon City Jail Annex following a court order, save for the five accused who remain in Camp Crame.

The DoJ claimed that certain accused in the massacre case were allegedly working to unduly influence prospective prosecution witnesses for the witnesses to recant their statements.

Under the circumstances, keeping the accused who are prospective witnesses with their co-accused in the same detention facility leaves them vulnerable to physical harm, serious threats, psychological pressure and undue influence that would adversely affect their ability, determination and resolve to testify truthfully," the DoJ added.

The DoJ cited the case of Ebuss brother, Esmael Tan Ebus, who was shot following the policemans refusal to recant his affidavit implicating Ampatuan Jr.

The DoJ said Ebus brother told his brother that the Ampatuans told him to take back his affidavit, to which Ebus refused, saying he was determined to testify and tell the truth.

Ebus brother was shot shortly after but survived the attack, state prosecutors said.

The DoJ added that Supt. Cesar Magsino, chief of the PNP Custodial Center, personally promised to present the accused and prospective witnesses to the MMDJ during hearings.

In tears, Agra stands by order

MANILA, PhilippinesAlberto Agra, the man in the maelstrom of public furor over his decision to clear two members of the Ampatuan family of murder charges in the Maguindanao massacre, was in tears Thursday as he bared that widespread criticism was taking a toll on himself and his family.

He also clarified that the Malacaang directive to review the case of Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan was contingent on the filing by private prosecutors of a motion for reconsideration of his decision to drop multiple murder charges against suspended Governor Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and his cousin Akmad Ampatuan.

I am sorry and Im on the verge of crying, Agra told employees of the Bureau of Corrections office inside the national penitentiary where he signed the new rules on parole.

Pinalaki kasi ako ng aking ama na iyakin kayat ako ay nagiging totoo lang sa sarili [I was brought up to be a cry baby by my father and I was just being true to myself], he said.

His being in the headlines and his being pilloried by angry protesters were taking a toll on him and his family, he said. He said that it pained him to see his name being the subject of malicious wordplay.

The past few days I was seeing my name that was bequeathed to me by my father not being respected, he said, pointing out that some placards waved by protesters at the Department of Justice read "Agra-biyado" and "Agra-be."

That hurts me because I am a family guy, he said.

Agra said he was glad that his family was abroad and pleaded with his detractors to spare them of anger.

Later, Agra told reporters that he had clarified with Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza the Palaces order for him to review the case and what it meant was for the justice department to pay close attention to the records attached to any motion for reconsideration.

So they were not asking that based on the current records I have, I should revisit my decision, he said.

Agra stood pat on his decision, reiterating that it was solely based on evidence and documents presented to him.

I stand firm on my decision. Until and unless a motion for recommendation is filed, I will stick with my decision, he said. If there is a motion for recommendation, I have three optionsaffirm my earlier decision, modify it or reverse it.

Part of Malacaangs order was to have Agra submit a weekly report on the developments in the Ampatuan case, the acting justice secretary said.

Agra said he was thinking of forming a panel of prosecutors to review the case of the two Ampatuans he was exculpating if and when the lawyers of the massacre victims relatives file a motion for reconsideration.

Once they file a motion for reconsideration, thats the time for me to either form a new panel, or Ill look at the evidence again, he said. But right now, Im more inclined to form a panel, but of course, they will not be the [same] ones who took part in the case.

Agra said he respected the rallies and protest actions against his decision, but he pleaded with critics not to resort to violence.

I hope [their anger] wouldnt reach a point where the lives of me and my family are under threat, he said. My conscience is clear. I can still sleep soundly at night, albeit in shorter hours because of the heavy workload.

President remains behind Agra, says Palace

MANILA, PhilippinesMalacaang made it clear Thursday that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remained behind acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra despite his decision to drop murder charges against two members of the Ampatuan clan accused of carrying out the Maguindanao massacre last November.

Presidential spokesman Gary Olivar acknowledged that the controversial decision had some political cost on the unpopular President, but maintained that, the primary consideration is still what the law allows and requires you to do.

Sometimes, you make the legally correct decision and you have no choice if there are costs associated with it, he told reporters.

Secretary Agra, as the secretary of justice, continues to enjoy the full discretion and authority of his office with respect to the conduct of prosecutorial proceedings on the Maguindanao massacre case, he said in a statement.

Olivar acknowledged that the decision clearing Governor Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and his cousin Akmad Ampatuan could be seen as an unnecessary aggravation in the sense that it was something Agra could have left to the courts to settle.

I understand, from the point of view of political expediency, you can make that argument, he said. But from the point of view of the operation of law, Im not sure that thats an argument that can be made or would be considered as legitimate.

Olivar claimed that Arroyo had not been informed about the decision before Agra made it public last weekend.

I would imagine that this was also news to her when this first broke in the news, he said, noting that Cabinet officials were not necessarily required to clear everything in advance with her.

Asked if the Palace found it odd that Agra never bothered to inform Ms Arroyo about the resolution beforehand despite the magnitude of the case, he said: No, I dont. Weve already made the point about Cabinet members enjoying discretion and authority in their areas of jurisdiction.

The two Ampatuans stand accused of conspiring with other members of their powerful clan in carrying out the massacre of 57 people, including media workers, in Maguindanao last year.

Faced with mounting protests, Arroyo on Wednesday ordered Agra to confer with his prosecutors to make sure that no important evidence was excluded in arriving at his resolution to drop the names of two of the accused.

State prosecutors handling the case earlier broke protocol and came out in the open to criticize Agras decision.

Olivar maintained that Malacaang was keeping its hands off the matter despite the Presidents order for Agra to confer with his subordinates.

Since there are adequate legal remedies available to the aggrieved parties, it is but just and proper to let the proceedings take their natural course, he said in the statement. Consequently, there is no need for the President to intervene in the secretarys actions or even to be involved in this matter.

Olivar assured relatives of the massacre victims that Arroyo expects that the judicial system will prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law so that justice will be served.

We see that feelings have been inflamed with what happened, but again, we make the point that purely in terms of how the law ought to operate and how the executive agencies ought to conduct their business within the constraints imposed by the law, everything is straightforward and there is no reason for us to stop believing that justice will be served as the President herself has demanded on this case, he said.

Appointment of GMA's manicurist to Pag-IBIG defended, nixed

MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo's personal manicurist will soon have the power to approve government housing projects after she was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the P202 billion Pag-IBIG Fund, the fund's president said Thursday.

Jaime Fabiaña, president and CEO of Pag-IBIG Fund, said Mrs. Arroyo's personal manicurist, Anita Carpon, will have a hand in formulating government policy on housing loans and housing projects as a member of the Pag-IBIG Fund Board of Trustees.

"The Board of Trustees reviews the policy recommendations coming from the management of Pag-IBIG. If we have housing loans or membership guidelines, the Pag-IBIG management will make a policy recommendation and we will submit it to the Board of Trustees for their appreciation and approval. There are also projects that are not under the authority of the officers and employees of Pag-IBIG, which are supported to the Board of Trustees," he told radio dzMM.

He added: "Basically, it's more of policy formulation and review of projects that need approval. Mabigat yan in terms of responsibility."

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar earlier confirmed that President Arroyo appointed her personal manicurist to the housing fund to represent government employees. He also confirmed that the President's gardener, Armando Macapagal, was appointed deputy of the Luneta Park Administration.

According to the Pag-IBIG website, the Board of Trustees is composed of the chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), the secretaries for the trade, finance, budget and labor departments, the CEO of the Pag-IBIG Fund, 2 representatives of private employees and a representative for government employees.

Asked if government employees have a say on who should represent them in the Pag-IBIG board, Fabiaña said: "I need to check the charter of Pag-IBIG and the implementing rules, but I don't think that government employees have a say on who should represent them."

He added, however, that previous trustees appointed to represent government employees in the Pag-IBIG fund were active members of the Philippine Government Employees Association and teachers' unions.

Fabiaña said Carpon's appointment papers were coursed through HUDCC, but that the new trustee had yet to attend the meetings. He also said Carpon was appointed before a 60-day ban on midnight appointments took effect last March 10.

The Pag-IBIG president also denied media reports that trustees get as much as P130,000 a month in per diem, plus perks, for a fixed two-year term. He said that instead of a salary, trustees receive P1,000 per diem for the monthly Pag-IBIG board meeting, P10,000 per diem for the twice monthly committee meetings and about P3,000 monthly representation allowance.

"There is also P6,000 transportation allowance but since they have a service vehicle assigned to them, the transportation allowance is forfeited. It's not P130,000. It's only about P20,000," he said.

Columnist Jarius Bondoc, who first exposed the appointments of Carpon and Macapagal, belied Fabiaña's statement.

"That P1,000 is a big lie. They make P130,000 a month. In their first meeting last Wednesday, the new trustees asked that it could be doubled to P300,000," Bondoc said in a text message to radio dzMM. 

'Brazen abuse'

The manicurist's appointment has earned criticism from various camps, with one critic calling it "a midnight  appointment of the incompetents."

Vice-presidential candidate Jejomar Binay criticized as a "brazen abuse of   presidential power" President Arroyo's decision to appoint her own stylist to handle a government housing fund. 
"I do not know what hiring criteria she used that she came to the conclusion that a P202 -billion-fund will be in good hands if the person who's making her hands beautiful will be installed there, " Binay said in a statement.

He added: "Pag-IBIG has 7 million members. Can't she find one with better credentials than the one who has been applying paint to her nails? This is not about belittling the capability of her manicurist. But corporate hiring standards should apply. There is clearly an abuse of discretion and a disregard for professionalism in government."

Butch Abad, campaign manager of Liberal Party presidential candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, also accused Mrs. Arroyo of acting without regard for the public good.

"She further deepened the culture of political patronage in this country by putting people who are loyal to her in positions which are delicate without any regard to the qualifications of these people," Abad said.

He said this followed a recent rash of controversial Arroyo appointments in the judiciary and the top military ranks less than three months before the end of her term.

"These appointments are meant to put people in positions of influence in the hopes that if she is out of power, she will still be able to exercise some degree of influence," Abad said. With a report from Agence France-Presse

President's approval ratings reach record low: Pulse

MANILA, Philippines - Almost six out of 10 Filipinos disapprove of President Arroyo's performance less than 3 months before she steps down from office, a Pulse Asia survey revealed Thursday.

Palace can't appoint Sandigan chief - SC

MANILA, Philippines - The recent ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) allowing President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice has effectively barred her from making midnight appointments to positions in the lower courts.

This was emphasized by court administrator and SC spokesman Midas Marquez who said that the rule prohibiting the appointment of judges and justices in appellate courts, based on the 1998 decision on the appointments of Judges Mateo Valenzuela and Placido Vallarta, still stands.

The SC on Tuesday upheld a March 17 ruling exempting the SC from the constitutional ban on midnight appointments. The ruling in effect gave the President the go-signal to appoint the successor of retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

"This final decision of the court only covers appointments to the SC, not to the Sandiganbayan and positions in the lower courts," Marquez explained.

He said the court rejected a government plea to exempt the entire judiciary from the ban.

"There are nine participating justices who voted to affirm the March 17 ruling. So in order to overturn Vallarta to exempt the entire judiciary from the ban on midnight appointment, there must be at least seven justices who would favor that the ban extend not only to SC but to the entire justices as well," he said.

Marquez said five magistrates led by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin voted to overturn the Valenzuela-Vallarta ruling.

The others were Justices Jose Perez, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr. and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.

Four other justices, on the other hand, had taken the position that appellate and lower courts should not be covered by the exemption.

They were Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Jose Mendoza, Mariano del Castillo and Diosdado Peralta.

The top post in the Sandiganbayan became vacant following the death of Norberto Geraldez from pancreatic cancer complications barely a month after his appointment.

Senior Justice Edilberto Sandoval has been designated acting presiding justice of the anti-graft court.  


While aching to name the next chief justice, Malacañang said it would abide by the SC ruling against midnight appointments to the Sandiganbayan and the lower courts.

"The High Court has spoken, we would abide by it," deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said.

He said the Palace has also asked Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to respond to the summons of the SC to comment on questions regarding his concurrent position as Solicitor General.

"Our stand there is for Secretary Agra to comply with whatever the Supreme Court is asking him to explain or to do," he said.

Olivar said President Arroyo would not knowingly make an illegal appointment in the case of Agra's dual posts.

Senator's appeal

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., meanwhile, called on President Arroyo to inhibit from appointing Puno's successor despite the SC ruling.

"There is still a remedy and that is for Gloria to inhibit herself from appointing the chief justice," Pimentel said during the Kapihan sa Senado yesterday.

"The incumbent president who only has a few weeks remaining in power, out of prudence and delicadeza, should not take up the matter of appointing a new chief justice," he added.

Pimentel reiterated his stand that the SC might have erred when it ruled in a majority decision that Mrs. Arroyo may appoint a new chief justice despite a constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

"It's not a question whether the SC rules with finality, the question is whether the ruling of the SC is right or wrong and it should be defended by the SC publicly," Pimentel added.

Pimentel, a veteran lawyer, maintained that the SC was "certainly wrong by the standards of the Constitution and of the law."

He noted that the President may appoint people as long as she is president, but the appointment of the chief justice is not obligatory immediately after a vacancy.

"It will be very imprudent of the President to appoint a new chief justice considering the circumstances," Pimentel said.

JBC list almost ready

President Arroyo will get the list of nominees for the incoming SC chief justice from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) next month, Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor said yesterday.

"There is no need to rush the submission of the list because Chief Justice Reynato Puno is retiring on May 17 yet," he said.

Defensor sits in the council as representative of the House of Representatives, where he chairs the committee on justice.

He said most likely, the JBC would send the list to Mrs. Arroyo shortly before Puno retires.

He said the council would still have to vote on when to submit the list and who would be in it.

The council has interviewed four applicants for Puno's job. They are Associate Justices Renato Corona, Arturo Brion and Teresita de Castro of the SC, and Sandiganbayan Justice Edilberto Sandoval.

Two other applicants – SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Conchita Morales – have said they would not accept an appointment from Mrs. Arroyo.

The two said the President would be violating the constitutional ban on midnight appointments if she named Puno's successor.

There are speculations that the President prefers Corona over Carpio, who is the most senior associate justice.

Defensor confirmed that Corona was almost in tears when he faced the JBC. On the day he was interviewed, the Philippine Bar Association came out with newspaper ads criticizing Corona and his wife, who is an appointee of Mrs. Arroyo in Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

"He felt that the criticisms were unfair, that he was happy with his family and that was all that mattered to him, that he did not need the job of chief justice," Defensor said.

He revealed that he and his Senate counterpart in the JBC, Sen. Francis Escudero, would still push for the inclusion of Carpio and Morales in the JBC list.

"We should not preempt the President and her successor. Who knows, she might not exercise her right to appoint the next chief justice and leave it to the next president," he said.

He said if Mrs. Arroyo does not exercise such right, her successor could not consider Carpio and Morales if their names are not in the JBC list.

"Remember that the President can appoint only from the list of nominees submitted by the JBC. So we have to include them in our list, just in case," he added.

Still no word from kidnappers of Swiss-Filipino

ZAMBOANGA CITY, PhilippinesThursday was Swiss-Filipino Charlie Rieths 17th day in captivity but authorities said they were still clueless as to the identity of his kidnappers, much more the location of the victim.

Rieth, 73, was abducted by a group of armed men from his beach house in Patalon village here on April 4.

Mayor Celso Lobregat, who heads the local crisis management council, said there has been "no word, no demand, no contact" from the kidnappers since the abduction.

"We've been closely coordinating with a lot of peoplefriendsand I have been in communication with Rieth's brother many times, but they, too, didnt receive a single call or even proof of life," he added.

Lobregat said local authorities have been getting a lot of information about Rieths whereabouts but none of it was definitive.

Superintendent Edwin Docos, chief of the polices Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said the only information they got on Rieths abductors was based on descriptions provided by witnesses.

He said artists sketches of some of the abductors have been made from witnesses descriptions.

One of the witnesses even said a suspect called his name. It meant the suspect knew him, Diocos said.

Diocos said the authorities believe that Rieths abduction might not be for ransom after all.

We are also looking at business interests and land disputes," he said.

Diocos said these included a dispute involving Rieths mango and coconut plantation. Rieths family belonged to the citys landed few before the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was implemented.

Gov't, MILF see interim peace deal in May

MANILA, Philippines The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) expressed optimism that they would finalize an interim peace agreement next month.

Both parties formally exchanged amended draft proposals and matrices, discussed their proposals and agreed on areas of common ground, subject to endorsement by the panels to their respective principals, according to a joint statement released Thursday, after a two-day 18th round of exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia Wednesday.

This would be the basis for the interim document in early May 2010, the joint statement added but did not specify the so-called areas of common ground.

Rafael Seguis, chairman of the government panel, his MILF counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal, and Datuk Othman Bin Abd Razak, representing Malaysia, signed the joint statement.

Malaysia is facilitating the exploratory talks for which it is the third-party facilitator for the peace negotiations.

The interim agreement includes a transitional mechanism on governance that is supposed to bridge the present and the incoming administrations of the government. This came after both panels concluded that they could not sign a comprehensive peace agreement before the term of the Arroyo administration ends on June 30.

Acknowledging that their respective drafts were still far apart, both panels said at the start of the talks that they did not expect a final agreement to be signed.

In August 2008, the Supreme Court thumbed down the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

The ruling was believed to have to have triggered the fighting between government soldiers and the MILF despite an existing ceasefire.

This resulted in the displacement of thousands of people caught between the fighting.

During the latest round of talks, both panels agreed to work for the swift return of the remaining displaced persons.

3 foreigners still missing after plane crashes in Pampanga

MANILA, PhilippinesThree foreign nationals remained missing after the cargo plane they were on crashed in the open fields of Pampanga late Wednesday night, police said on Thursday.

Superintendent Baltazar Mamaril, spokesman of Central Luzon regional police, said in his report that three other foreigners were rescued and brought to the hospital after sustaining injuries due to the crash.

Citing accounts from the plane pilot, Mamaril said the cargo plane, with body number UP-AN216, left Mactan Airport in Cebu City at 7:45 p.m. enroute to Clarkfield, Pampanga.

However, while in mid-flight, an electrical malfunction caused fire to break out inside the cabin area of the plane.

Mamaril said the cargo plane eventually crashed in rice paddies in Barangay (village) Laput in Mexico town past 9 p.m.

The three, who were brought to the hospital, were identified as Yuri Tochonyy, 50, Russian national, pilot; Dmitriy Struminskiy, 39, Uzbekistan national, co-pilot; and Bokhadir Ruziev, 44, Uzbekistan national.

The three missing passengers were identified as Mikolay Bannon and Vadim Yakimov, both Russian, and Tzvitoslav Guetchevski, a Bulgarian.

Mamaril said the cargo plane was reportedly owned by Inter Island Cargo based in Pasay City.

$1: P44.350

$1: P44.350

Euro 1: P59.4543

Atlas ships out $10-M worth of metals

MANILA, Philippines - Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. said Thursday its subsidiary has completed its sixth shipment of copper concentrates worth $9.85 million.

PAF officer honored in East Timor

MANILA, PhilippinesA Filipino woman-soldier was honored recently by East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta for her work in the United Nations peacekeeping force there, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Thursday.

The DFA, citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Dili, said that Air Force Major Ann Marie Gerodiaz was conferred the Medalha Solideriedade de Timor-Leste (Timor-Leste Solidarity Medal) by Ramos-Horta on April 14. Gonzales is a military liaison officer with the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

The Timor-Leste Solidarity Medal is a state decoration awarded to national and international security forces for their contribution to stability and peace operations in that country. In November 2009, a Medal Parade was also given to the Philippine Contingent to the United Nations Police (UNPOL) in recognition of their service.

The embassy also reported that 133 of the 153 Philippine National Police (PNP) officials and officers who were on a 2009-2010 mission with the UNPOL completed their tour of duty on April 19.

The rest will remain in Timor-Leste until July 2010.

UNPOL is a major component of the UNMIT that has executive policing functions as well as supporting, reforming, restructuring and rebuilding the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL). Some PNP officers at the UNPOL have previously served as District Commanders or Deputy-District Commanders of the PNTL.

In 2009, there was the resumption of policing activities by the PNTL in the Lautem, Oecussi, Manatuto and Viqueque districts. This year, the PNTL resumed policing activities in the Ainaro district on April 12, with PNP Colonel R. Quesada serving as Deputy District Commander.

OFW nabbed for live-in partner's death in Dubai

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino bus driver was nabbed and accused of killing his Filipina live-in partner in Dubai.
The Dubai police did not divulge the identity of the 40-year-old suspect who allegedly killed Emma Angos Cambalon of Davao del Sur.

3 dead, 70 wounded in Bangkok grenade attacks

BANGKOK(UPDATE) A series of grenade blasts ripped through a pro-government rally in Bangkok Thursday, killing three people and wounding more than 70 in the latest bloodshed in the heart of the Thai capital.

The authorities said five grenades were fired from within the anti-government Red Shirt protesters' sprawling encampment, which has been fortified in recent days with sharpened bamboo stakes and piles of car tires.

"Three people died and more than 70 were injured," said Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, adding that an M79 grenade launcher was used in the attacks, which came as the supporters of embattled Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva faced off with the rival Reds.

"It was clear that it was shot from behind the King Rama VI Monument where the Red Shirts are rallying," he told reporters.

The mostly poor and rural Reds -- who are seeking immediate elections -- denied that they were responsible for the blasts, which shattered windows in the capital's financial district and prompted people to flee in panic.

According to a Western diplomat who asked not to be named, one Japanese and one Australian were believed to be among the injured.

The violence came less than two weeks after a failed attempt by authorities to disperse Red Shirt protesters sparked violent clashes that left 25 dead and hundreds injured in the worst political violence in almost two decades.

Ambulances rushed away bloodied victims after the latest blasts, which occurred close to a station of the capital's elevated Skytrain in an area home to dozens of corporate towers and a notorious red-light district.

Police later cordoned off and began investigating the blast scene, littered with pools of blood as well as abandoned shoes and flags.

Clashes later broke out between riot police and pro-government demonstrators who hurled bottles at the Reds.

The military said earlier Thursday that it wanted to avoid further bloodshed but warned time was running out for the Red Shirt demonstrators to leave their sprawling base in Bangkok's shopping and hotel district.

"We don't want you to risk your lives. If there is a clash you could be hurt by stray bullets," said army spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd. "Your time is running out. Please leave the area."

Earlier this week he warned that the protesters faced tear gas and live weapons fire in any new clashes with security forces.

Abhisit called an emergency meeting with top security officials following the grenade attacks, but Sunsern said that there would be no overnight crackdown on the protesters because it was too dangerous to act at night.

The army this week signalled it was preparing to crack down on the Red Shirt protesters, who have paralyzed the capital's commercial heart as they campaign to overthrow a government they say is undemocratic and elitist.

But the Reds, who have been demonstrating in Bangkok for weeks in their bid to topple Abhisit's government, have remained defiant and ruled out talks until the military withdraws.

The army chief said Thursday that he hoped to end the standoff without any more blood being spilled.

"Whatever I do will depend on the situation, and the outcome would be good for the country and we can uphold the law with no people dead or injured," General Anupong Paojinda told AFP.

Any action "must be legally responsible", added Anupong, who was last week put in charge of security in the capital by the government.

The protesters appealed to the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to Bangkok to help them.

The political crisis has spread to the rural northeast, where protesters blockaded a military train and forced busloads of troops to return to their bases.

Police said the train was headed for the Muslim-majority southern provinces where a separatist insurgency is raging, and later struck a deal with the Red Shirts who will now accompany it on its journey.

The red protesters are mainly supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is living in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

The Reds say Abhisit's government is illegitimate because it came to power in a parliamentary vote at the end of 2008 after a court ruling removed Thaksin's allies from office.

'Boom Boom' Bautista all set for Dubai clash

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino Rey "Boom Boom" Bautista will finally get to see action in Dubai, United Arab Emirates when he takes on a Thai in the boxing event "Philippines vs The Rest of the World" on Friday.  Bautista, a former World Boxing Organization (WBO) intercontinental and World Boxing Council (WBC) interim international featherweight champion, will go against Saichon Sotornpitak.  Bautista (27-2, with 20 knockouts) and Saichon (10-1, 5 KOs) will figure in a 10-round non-title fight.

Kiamco gains Asiad 9-ball slot

MANILA, Philippines – Warren "Warrior" Kiamco fought his way through the Asian Games (Asiad) qualifying event of the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP), beating Ronnie "Volcano" Alcano in the 9-ball final on Wednesday.

Pichay says So likely to qualify for Chess World Cup

MANILA, Philippines -- National Chess Federation of the Philippines president Prospero "Butch" Pichay Jr. is confident that Grandmaster Wesley So will again qualify for the prestigious Chess World Cup.

KBP to hold mini olympics

MANILA, Philippines – The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) will hold a Mini Olympics on Saturday to celebrate its 37th anniversary.  The KBP Broadcast Olympics, which will take place at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, will also be held in celebration of Broadcasters' Month.

Roundup: Spurs Win Game 2, Tying Series With Mavericks

from NYT > Pro Basketball by By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jefferson rebounded from a miserable 4-point performance in Game 1, responding just as Coach Gregg Popovich had hoped when he said, "We had a lot of guys that played like dogs."

Dallas's Dirk Nowitzki missed six of his first seven shots and finished with 24 points.

MAGIC 92, BOBCATS 77 Vince Carter scored 19 points, Dwight Howard added 15 and host Orlando took a 2-0 series lead with a victory against Charlotte.

Carter and Howard took control when it counted most. They combined for 21 second-half points to help the Magic build a 20-point lead and hold on late.

Stephen Jackson showed no ill effects from his hyperextended left knee and led the Bobcats with 27 points, but Charlotte's 21 turnovers were a big reason the franchise is still searching for its first playoff victory. Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Saturday at Charlotte.

Before the game, Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said that the league's first-round playoff format, which spreads games out for prime-time television, was difficult on teams. "Baseball gets their whole playoffs and World Series done in like three weeks," he said. "Us, it takes us the first round to go three weeks."

BROOKS IS COACH OF THE YEAR Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks was named the N.B.A.'s coach of the year. He received 71 of 123 first-place votes and 480 points to finish ahead of Milwaukee's Scott Skiles (26 first-place votes, 313 points) and Portland's Nate McMillan (9, 107).

The Thunder struggled last season to a 3-29 start, but General Manager Sam Presti said he was impressed by the way Brooks stayed the course after taking over from the fired P. J. Carlesimo. This season Brooks led the Thunder, the league's youngest team, to a 50-32 record and the franchise's first playoff appearance since 2004-5.

"He is unaffected through adversities and also through successes, and I think that's an important quality," Presti said of Brooks.

KIRILENKO EYES EARLY RETURN Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, sidelined most of the last month because of a strained left calf, said there was a slight chance he could play if Utah's playoff series against Denver goes to six or seven games. Utah is also playing without its starting center, Mehmet Okur, who tore his left Achilles' tendon in the series opener Saturday. The series is tied at 1-1; Game 3 is Friday night at Utah.

HORNETS RETAIN BOWER AS G.M. Although key injuries doomed Jeff Bower's only season as an N.B.A. head coach, they indirectly strengthened his credentials as an evaluator of talent.

The New Orleans Hornets announced that Bower, who oversaw the acquisition and development of the rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, would be stepping down as head coach but retaining his post as general manager.

"This move allows Jeff to fully focus as the team's general manager and build off of our great draft success of last season," the Hornets' president, Hugh Weber, said.

Valero buried amid questions over drug and alcohol abuse

by Reuters
EL VIGIA, Venezuela - Venezuelan boxer Edwin Valero, who committed suicide on Monday in a jail where he was held for killing his wife, was buried on Wednesday as details emerged of the troubled fighter's history of drug and alcohol abuse.

Rolling Stone mag gives Marcos-inspired CD the thumbs up


 Rolling Stone, the US-based rock and roll magazine, gave the Imelda Marcos-inspired album "Here Lies Love" a favorable review. The album is a collaboration between David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.

Rolling Stone writer Jody Rosen, who reviewed the album, wrote, "David Byrne turns an unwieldy premise – a musical dramatization of former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos' early life – into dizzy fun by setting 22 songs to Fatboy Slim's lush and bustling dance beats."

Rosen noted that "Marcos was a clubgoer who had a disco ball in her New York town house."

The Rolling Stone review also described the themes of the songs in "Here Lies Love" as "depicting (Imelda) Marcos' outsize anxieties, desires, and ambitions," and cautioned listeners to "dig into that heady stuff if you like," but ultimately pointed to the lively quality of the music in the album when it advised listeners to "just surrender to the inexorable beats" of Byrne and Fatboy Slim's tunes.

The 22-track concept album is bannered by the single "Please Don't" by multi-genre singer-songwriter Santigold. "Here Lies Love" also features guest singers Tori Amos, Cyndi Lauper, Martha Wainwright, Florence Welch, and Steve Earle, as well as US-based Filipina jazz singer Charmaine Clamor.

Manila Bulletin Entertainment looked into Byrne's website and found that "Here Lies Love" is downloadable for $16.98 (around P765), while the deluxe version, "which includes two CDs, a DVD with 6 videos featuring songs from the album cut to archival and historical footage from the Philippines, and a 120-page hardcover book with lyrics, photos and essays" costs $34.98 (or P1,575).

Byrne is formerly the leader and founder of the seminal new wave band "Talking Heads." Fatboy Slim (a.k.a. Norman Cook) was the bassist of the English pop-new wave group The Housemartins before gaining world renown as the DJ responsible for the electronic dance hits "Rockafeller Skank" and "Praise You."

"Here Lies Love" was released in the US early April under the Todomundo/Nonesuch Record label.

Doctored GMA photo appears in hacked TESDA website

MANILA, Philippines - On Thursday, Internet users visiting the official website of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) were welcomed by a rather offensive and disrespectful photo of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

An optimistic Lucy Torres still campaigns for Richard

by by Boy Villasanta,
MANILA, Philippines – Despite the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) disqualification of Richard Gomez's candidacy, his wife, television host Lucy Torres, still proudly campaigns for her husband barely 2 weeks before Election Day.

CA disqualifies Lucio Tan's daughter from QC race

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals on Thursday disqualified Vivienne Khao Tan, daughter of tobacco magnate Lucio Tan, from running for Congress as a representative of Quezon City's 1st District.

Tyra Banks Pinoy producer shares success in Hollywood

by By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
NEW YORK - An award-winning Filipino producer for a popular national television show in the US started out from humble beginnings.
Michael Carandang and his family came to the US from a small town Tanauan, Batangas in 1993. All they wanted was a better life. Little did he know that one day, he would be an Emmy Award-winning producer for the Tyra Banks Show.

Cristine Reyes speaks up on Sarah-Rayver 'break-up'

MANILA, Philippines - Sultry actress Cristine Reyes denied reports that she is the reason behind the rumored break-up of Pop Star Princess Sarah Geronimo and actor-dancer Rayver Cruz.

Priest sex video on sale in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIROA video of a priest receiving oral sex in a church from a former choir boy was being sold in the streets of Brazil Thursday, in another stinging twist to the pedophile scandal enveloping the Catholic Church.

The hidden-camera images were being sold illicitly, with a Bluetooth video file downloaded to the purchaser's mobile telephone upon payment of three to six dollars, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.

The video was that of Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa, 84, engaged in oral sex in front of a church altar with a 19-year-old former choirboy who says on tape he was abused by Barbosa for many years, since he was a minor.

Its screening on a Brazilian television station last month sparked a parliamentary inquiry into priestly pedophilia, and deepened the scandal that has come to light in Europe and the Americas, badly tarnishing the reign of Pope Benedict XVI.

Barbosa, who ran the parish in the northeastern town of Arapiraca, was arrested this week and is currently under house detention, with his passport confiscated, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Two other local priests also implicated in alleged pedophilia by three former choirboys speaking in the video have been ordered to not leave town.

According to reports quoting Barbosa's lawyer, the priest had been blackmailed over the video and paid $23,000 last year to prevent it being made public. He later refused to make further payments.

The bishop for Arapiraca, Valerio Breda, pleaded in a letter to parishioners dated from last week for "forgiveness in the name of the Church," saying he was "shamed" by the incidents.

Barbosa denies being a pedophile.

Friday: heavy rain shower, Max Temp: 32°C (90°F), Min Temp: 26°C (79°F)

Max Temp: 32°C (90°F), Min Temp: 26°C (79°F), Wind Direction: E, Wind Speed: 10mph, Visibility: good, Pressure: 1013mb, Humidity: 67%, Sunrise: 05:29PHT, Sunset: 17:55PHT

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