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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 26, 2010 Major News Stories


Low pressure area spotted off Mindanao

State weather forecasters are keeping watch over a low-pressure area (LPA) that was spotted off Mindanao Sunday afternoon.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the LPA was estimated at 640 km east of Southern Mindanao as of 2 p.m.

While Pagasa did not say if the LPA will intensify into a cyclone, Bicol-based weather site Typhoon2000 said a tropical cyclone formation "is likely along the Southern Philippine Sea within the next 12 to 48 hours."

If the LPA intensifies into a cyclone, it will be code-named "Basyang."

The first cyclone to pass through Philippine territory, "Agaton," did not directly affect any part of the country last March.

PAGASA, meanwhile, said the tail-end of a cold front is affecting northern Luzon and the eastern section of Central Luzon.

"Northern Luzon and the eastern sections of Central Luzon will experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered light rains. The rest of the country will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms," it said.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast to east will prevail over Luzon and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough.

Elsewhere, light to moderate winds blowing from the east and northeast will prevail with slight to moderate seas.

Fresh round of oil price rollback seen likely

from mb.com.ph

The slight decline in regional spot prices last week, primarily for diesel, may warrant fresh round of cost rollback at the domestic oil pumps in the coming days.

In market updates culled from the industry, it was indicated that "Asian diesel prices slightly decreased as sentiment remained soft due to burgeoning physical supplies."

In the case of international prices for gasoline, there was also a marked price reduction, while crude prices were relatively flat. With the Philippine oil market generally depending on oil imports, pump prices are effectively dictated by cost movements in global trading of the commodity.

The resumption of flights in Europe after air travel halted due to the ash cloud mess triggered by a volcanic eruption in Iceland, the price trends ahead are seen trailing new up-ticks in the coming days.

As far as diesel supply is concerned, it was noted that the price sags in the past trading days were due to higher refinery inputs and exports from Northeast Asia that practically shored up supply in the market.

City suspends construction

CITY Hall suspended the work on a call center's building and ordered a background check on its contractor, in the second construction site accident to hit Cebu City in less than three weeks.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña admitted he doesn't want to disappoint the building's owner, Aegis People Support, as one of the biggest investors in the city.

He asked his consultants from the contractors' association to find out what caused the accident in the Asiatown IT Park.

The scaffolding and anchors for the third floor of the building gave way, reportedly when wet cement was poured on it.

The mayor asked for a background check on the contractor, DCD Construction Inc., and ordered the Office of the Building Official (OBO) to conduct a parallel investigation.

Acting Building Official Josefa Ylanan said the problem with some construction firms nowadays is not in their designs, but in their compliance with specifications set in
the permits.

Ylanan said she will meet with all contractors in the city to get their commitment for the safety of their sites.

Rule

Section 308 of the National Building Code, she pointed out, states the supervising engineers should be at the sites to oversee the construction work.

"It seems that provision has been ignored, so we have to call their attention," Ylanan said. "Problema na gyud ni, nagsagunson na. It might be better to stop construction work if we fail to get a commitment from the contractors" regarding the site's and workers' safety.

Cebu City Disaster Coordinating Council (CCDCC) Chairman Gerardo Carillo will meet today with the agencies that responded to the accident.

Carillo said he already received an initial account, but wants to hear first from the CCDCC, fire department and the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation.

Last Saturday night, part of the third floor of a building under construction in the Asiatown IT Park collapsed, hurting a 41-year-old construction worker.

Less than three weeks before that, a firewall of a building under construction also fell in Barangay Tisa, killing five workers.

Opposition congressional candidate Jonathan Guardo, in a press statement, said the collapse is a sign City Hall's management "has broken down." He accused the mayor of absenteeism.

"Now that the two buildings have collapsed, I just hope he will not pass the blame to the hapless OBO (Office of the Building Official)," Guardo said in his press statement.

Last Saturday's accident was the second to hit a construction site in the city since April 7, when a firewall on an unfinished department store in Barangay Tisa fell, killing five workers.

Osmeña, Guardo's rival for the south district's congressional seat, said his political opponent will be "sad to note" that he's up to date in his daily workload.

Worker

The Mabolo Police Station will wait for injured construction worker Jonathan Arquillano to decide if he will file a case against his employer, DCD Construction.

Arquillano's right leg was hurt after part of the third floor of the building, where he worked as a mason, collapsed.

Acting Mabolo Police Station Chief Pedro Cabildo said that until yesterday afternoon, Arquillano has not showed up at the police station to file a formal report.

Arquillano, the police confirmed, was the only one injured during the accident. He verified the information from one of the employees of the construction firm, from Perpetual Succour Hospital where the injured worker was brought, and from the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation, which drove the hurt mason to the hospital.

Should Arquillano decide to press charges, Cabildo said, the police can assist him.

Next steps

Councilor Edgardo Labella, in a draft resolution, said Dole should make sure occupational safety requirements set in the Labor Code are complied with. Labella chairs the committee on laws, ordinances, public accountability and good governance.

The Labor Code requires construction firms to adopt measures and provide gadgets to ensure the safety of construction workers and the general public.

Labella also urged the OBO to come up with a profile of project sites in the city and check if these sites have valid development permits.

The OBO needs to "spur the active involvement of the barangay government officials in monitoring project sites in their communities," he said.

Barangay officials can check if the project sites have development permits, environmental compliance certificates, commercial or non-commercial hauling permits, and basic safety plans, among others.

2 kids saved from burning ambulance

AN AMBULANCE in the town of San Fernando caught fire Saturday night as it was transporting a patient from a mountain barangay to a hospital.

Driver Glenn Laranjo was driving from Bara-ngay Tongo to the town proper when he heard a loud noise from behind the ambulance.

To his horror, he saw that the back part of the ambulance was on fire while two children, aged between 10 and 14, were inside. He jumped out of the ambulance, but the children were trapped.

Police had no other information except that the fire occurred at 10:10 p.m. Those on duty at San Fernando Fire Station had no official report available.

San Fernando Mayor Lakambini Reluya clarified initial reports the ambulance was set on fire.

She told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday that initially, fire investigators told her the indications point to the vehicle's electrical wiring as the cause of the fire.

What caused a commotion, she said, was that when Laranjo ran to the nearest house to ask for help, the owners of the house did not help him because they saw that he was driving an ambulance owned by the Reluyas.

She assured, though, that barangay tanods arrived and were able to rescue the two children before any harm came to them.

"They are now safe. Na-trauma lang sila," Reluya said.

Though initial reports stated the ambulance was set on fire, Reluya said that fire investigators did not find evidence of this, initially.

However, she said they took samples of debris and will submit these to the National Bureau of Investigation for analysis.

Reluya also clarified that the ambulance was her private vehicle and did not belong to the municipality. It was acquired in 2006.

She said it was razed and beyond repair.

Cebu priest seeks probe into colleague"s death

A Cebu-based priest has sought a deeper investigation into the death of his colleague, who was found lifeless in a motel room earlier this month.
Fr. Sinfronio Atienza made the call to Cebu archdiocesan officials after police ruled out foul play in the death of Fr. Alexander Villamor Salve.

"It is better if an investigation can be done so there is an account of the real story," Atienza said in an article on the Union of Catholic Asian News.

Salve, 52, died of a heart condition at Perpetual Succor Hospital in downtown Cebu City.
His body was found inside the Pacific Tourist Inn on April 15. Doctors said he died of myocardial infarction.

A hotel front desk attendant confirmed media reports saying Father Villamor checked in as "Al Villa." She said he was alone when she checked him in at 5 p.m. Wednesday last week

"Around 7 p.m. the hotel guard notified us here at the front desk that our guest in room 426 needs to be taken to the hospital," the report quoted the front desk attendant as saying.

She said the guard checked the guest out after "a concerned citizen" told him a man in that room, whose door was open, needed medical help.

Atienza, one of three priests in the team ministry program with Salve, said the late priest's family also supports an investigation to end speculation as to what he may have been doing.

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal was "saddened" by news of Salve's death, Atienza said. He said Salve may have checked in the hotel to rest.

"He complained of chest pains in January and the other day, but he was not able to have a medical check up," Atienza said.

Salve from Carmen town, north of Cebu, was ordained a priest in 1986. He was assigned to Fatima parish in Basak, Mandaue City, and San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish in Tisa district of Cebu City. He was assigned to Santo Tomas parish team in Pardo district in 2008.

Testing 'Daybreak'

SWIFT, painful and public." This was the brief the Visayan Sea Squadron (VSS) took for itself when it geared up last weekend for what could be its biggest operation against illegal fishing.

The team is a composite of volunteer lawyers and citizens, backed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 and special operatives from the Philippine Navy.

For months now, the coastal residents of Sagay, Negros Occidental have been complaining of blast noise from the sea. There had been reports that fishers from the island of Lipayran in Bantayan, Cebu have been using explosives.

The area had long been in the red list of the VSS for a couple of years, so that when reports of dynamite fishing persisted and were confirmed by the NBI 7,
environmental lawyer and Ramon Magsaysay awardee Antonio Oposa Jr. and lawyer Ben Cabrido immediately sought permission from RTC Branch 23 Judge Generosa
Labra to allow the VSS to search the area.

The team was granted 12 search warrants, making the operation the biggest offensive against blast fishers in the country, says Oposa.

He branded the move as "Operation Daybreak" and customized caps for the whole fleet with exactly those words.

Scrapbook

Oposa also instructed a group of law students to make a scrapbook that will document the operation and turn it into a model for environmental law enforcement.

It would take note of every detail—from the checklist for dry box contents ("You don't want plastic on land, but you definitely need plastic in the sea," says Oposa) to ensuring the chain of custody for the material evidence.

On the eve of Operation Daybreak, the group finally knew the exact location. All respondents of the 12 search warrants were in the island of Lipayran. The squadron, whose members would approach from different points in the nearby islands, was scheduled to jump off at exactly 2 a.m. and converge in the sea to wait for daybreak.

Experiment

The plan seemed ironed out down to the last detail, the tides and sea currents included. That was to ensure the "swift" part of the operation, and it was "public" enough with the fleet having about 50 volunteers on board.

"We want to emphasize that this is a citizen-driven operation," said Oposa.

But as with any experiment, it was not free of glitches. "Reminds me of Murphy's Law," says Oposa. "If anything can go wrong, it will."

A bit past midnight, one of the navy boats could not leave because it did not have a "directive." This was a minor setback, though, as the bigger gunship was well on its way from Cebu City carrying two bomb-sniffing canines. The Philippine Navy had also sent a patrol plane hovering in the vicinity.

The boat carrying the volunteers was stuck for some two hours in shallow waters and unable to put its engine on full throttle, as the tide was unusually low.

The third and final glitch came when, nearer the targeted island past 4 a.m., all the mobile networks' signals proved elusive.

This left the rest of the group with no contact with the NBI, who, it was learned later, went on anyway with securing the area and conducted the search as early as 4 a.m., although not simultaneously serving all the 12 search warrants.

It should be a lesson learned, Oposa said.

He asked: If, along the way, the dogs will detect an explosive in a house that is not a subject of a search warrant, can the operatives break into the house?
This left the paralegal volunteers discussing the matter.

A student's question caused some comic banter: Can the dog's actions be taken as personal knowledge?

Apprehended

The 12 search warrants yielded but one successful raid.

Samuel Jamili, 41, was caught with sacks of ammonium nitrate and home-made dynamite in softdrink bottles.

According to the NBI, led by agents Jose Ermie Monsanto and Arnel Pura, the amount of chemicals can make about 2,000 dynamite sticks and would cost about P15,000, net.

That amount of chemicals can sweep about 10 hectares of marine life, said Oposa.

Monsanto says Jamili will face three cases: violation of RA 8550 or the fisheries code; illegal possession of explosives, and the Comelec gun ban.

Jamili had allegedly figured in intelligence reports as the main supplier in the island.

Following the raid, a supposed delivery of more ammonium nitrates from Panay did not come.

Jamili, a father of two, suffers from paralysis in the lower half of his body and limbs. During the arrest, an NBI operative had to carry him out of the house.

Jamili broke down when his daughter wailed and tugged at his pants.

"Maluoy intawn mo nako, sir. Wa man gud koy ipa-eskwela sa akong anak (Please have pity, sir. I need money to send my daughter to school)," he said. His eldest
daughter is now in junior year as a Hotel and Restaurant Management student in Cebu City.

The daughter cried and knelt before operatives, begging for them to spare her father.

Statement

Jamili was, however, turned over to Barangay Captain Orlando Aliw for custody until the case is filed in court today.

When the neighborhood gathered, Oposa scolded Aliw, and told him he could be sued, too, for negligence of duty.

He remembered Aliw committing to curb illegal fishing once in a gathering of barangay officials. He said he would have brought lechon to the island as a reward, but instead came with a whole fleet of law enforcers, following frustrating reports.

Oposa told the residents to help stop illegal fishing. "Unsa pa may makaon sa inyong anak kung hutdon ninyo'g pabuto tanang isda? (What will you feed your family if you kill all the fish?)," he said.

Some volunteer groups will go back to the island to show "Sangtuwaryo," a Cebuano film that tells the story of dynamite fishers, and will educate them on alternative livelihood.

"I want a mind shift," said Oposa, "we should be moving on from law enforcement."

No time to give bonuses before polls, says Oliva

EMPLOYEES of the Cebu City Hall will not yet receive half of their year-end bonus this May, the city treasurer said.

City Treasurer Ofelia Oliva said they cannot heed the order of Mayor Tomas Osmeña, directing her, the budget officer and the city accountant to release part of the bonus.

"Yes, we have received the memorandum already from the Office of the Mayor to prepare for the release of the mid-year bonus, pero dili gyud mahatag kay mag-prepare pa man sa (but we can't give it yet because we still have to prepare the) payroll and that takes time," said Oliva.

In a memorandum dated April 22, the mayor ordered the release of half of the year-end bonus for the City Government personnel, starting on May 3. He said this was consistent with Section 4.1.2 of Budget Circular 2005-6 of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

"Mora'g dili gyud mahatag kay mao pa sad paghuman ug hatag sa City sa ubang financial assistance para sa senior citizens (I don't think it can be released right away because we've just finished taking care of the financial assistance to the senior citizens)," said Oliva.

Last week, the city said it handed out financial assistance to at least 30,000 senior citizens.

Over 5,000 City Hall employees, including contractual workers who perform the functions of regular employees, were supposed to receive part of their year-end bonus this
May.

Opposition mulls complaint after Citom seizes campaign vehicle

A PICK-UP carrying the campaign materials of mayoral candidate and former Cebu City mayor Alvin Garcia was intercepted by the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) Saturday night.

The Toyota Hi-Lux pick-up, which used a red plate number (SCN 688), was carrying the sound system used by the Kugi Uswag Sugbu (Kusug) for a "pulong-pulong."
A radio dyAB report said the vehicle was intercepted by Citom around midnight on Climaco St.

Garcia, in a phone interview, confirmed the pick-up truck was carrying his campaign materials, but clarified it is no longer a government-owned vehicle.

He said the truck is owned by one of his allies, Engr. Josefino Martel, who had bought it during a public auction.

No violation

Garcia added that the traffic officers could not impound the vehicle since it has valid and proper documents.

He also said the truck was not supposed to be intercepted because its driver had committed no moving violation.

"It was just parked, waiting for the sound system and microphone that were used in a 'pulong-pulong.' Citom had no right to intercept it," he said.

An hour after the truck was intercepted, Garcia went to the office of Citom to present the vehicle's documents, and the vehicle was then released.

Verzosa: PNP needs civilian back-up in polls

from mb.com.ph

The chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) yielded Sunday that police need civilians to assist in securing the national and local elections on May 10.

With Election Day just 14 days away, the PNP is shoring up as much support as it can from various sectors to secure the country's first automated polls against threat groups, poll cheats and saboteurs.

Director-General Jesus Verzosa, PNP chief, said that beginning this week, police will be holding a forum in as many areas in the country as possible to encourage religious and cause-oriented groups to organize their members in assisting the PNP in its security efforts.

Verzosa admitted that this partnership is essential as one of the main concerns raised by local police commanders is the insufficient number of policemen to maintain peace and order on May 10.

"The main concern that we have discussed is the seeming insufficient number of personnel… especially in the disposition of our personnel, our units, and also the movement of PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machines, and how we will secure the different polling places," said Verzosa.

While most of the other concerns, particularly in the transport of PCOS machines and election materials have already been addressed, the PNP Chief said there is really a need to augment the security forces on May 10.

One of the measures being eyed is to seek the assistance of the local community leaders in making the elections clean and orderly.

"We will be conducting a national forum at the different police stations to seek the help of non-government organizations and the different concerned sectors so that we will be helped out in the establishment of public assistance centers in the different polling centers to help guide our voters," said Verzosa.

The PNP is the main security agency tasked to secure the elections, with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) serving as augmentation forces.

While recognizing the additional forces from the military for this year's elections, Verzosa said they still need more personnel, what with the fact that 35 percent of the total number of towns and cities in the country is under election watch list.

He, however, said that they will maximize everything that they have, specially in dealing with threat groups in hot spot areas such as Masbate, Abra and the entire Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"What we'll be doing is to re-align, to change the deployment in some areas towards the threatened areas and this is the normal thing that we do whenever there are deficiencies in the number of logistics, or the number of personnel that should be dispatched," said Verzosa.

But overall, Verzosa said they are foreseeing a peaceful and credible elections this year, as he allayed fears of rumors of massive election failure on May 10.

"It's all system go. The PNP and AFP are solid in all the activities to ensure that our elections will be honest, orderly and peaceful," said Verzosa.

Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina, PNP spokesman, said they attirbute the successful laying out of security measures to their preparations as early as March last year.

No NPA attack during May 10 polls: military

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - A military official on Sunday said the New People's Army is not plotting to sabotage the presidential and local elections partly due to the candidacies of several leftist bets.

Esperon denies part in 2006 coup plot

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Former Army chief Hermogenes Esperon on Sunday denied allegations that he was open to the idea of ousting President Arroyo through a military uprising in February 2006.

NPC assures hike in Mindanao power supply during elections

from mb.com.ph

With election failure hanging as a threat to the entire Filipino nation, state-run National Power Corporation (NPC) came forward assuring that it would be able to increase supply drawdown from the Agus hydropower complex by four-fold to ensure electricity supply in Mindanao during the polling period.

In a press statement, NPC noted that "the higher water discharges from Lake Lanao will enable National Power's cascading hydroelectric plants along the Agus River to increase their total output four-fold from the present 110 megawatts to 529 MW."

According to NPC vice president for corporate services Urbano C. Mendiola, the power firm opted for a strategy at increasing water drawdown from Lake Lanao to as much as 110 cubic meters per second (cms) from 30 cms currently.

The company official stressed that with such water supply shoring up, the power capacity in the grid will substantially increase; hence, guaranteeing power supply during the election period most especially during the critical days of May 9 to 11.

The lingering power outages in Mindanao have been triggering jitters among political parties that such incident may ultimately render election failure if not massive cheating in the exercises. Such reports and insinuations have already been downplayed by government leaders though.

It must be noted that in the past months, the generation capacity of the Agus power plants dwindled significantly because of the El Niño phenomenon and consequently plunged Mindanao grid into rotating brownouts almost reminiscent of the 1990s power crisis. This made almost all political groups fidgety that the dilemma may linger until election time.

As could be gleaned from NPC data, the six generating facilities at Agus complex as well as the other power facilities in Mindanao were just yielding 263 megawatts as of April 23; and that was just about 25-percent of the grid's installed capacity of 1,039 MW. The other NPC plants contributing power to the grid at present are the Pulangui IV hyhdro, Iligan diesel and Power Barge 104 facilities. Mendiola explained that the company has been adhering to "strict water conservation strategy in Agus since October last year, so that we can continue operating the plants."

The other mitigating measures laid down by government include re-powering of the Iligan diesel power plant to potentially add 30 to 40 MW capacity; as well as to request embedded generators to de-load during the three-day stretch of the elections. "We are anticipating that our customers will favorably respond to our request, which will yield a demand reduction of about 100 MW", Mendiola noted.

The Department of Energy (DoE) has been constantly assuring that "there will be enough power supply on May 10 given the offer of some private power generators and self-generators to supply additional capacities either directly to the cooperatives or to the grid."

Comelec prepares for manual audit

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is preparing for a random manual auditing of elections results, according to Henrietta de Villa, head of the poll body's committee on random manual audit.

She said part of the plan is the deployment of an additional 3,500 public school teachers to ensure the accuracy of random manual auditing.

De Villa said the committee has recommended the creation of a special board of election inspectors to undertake the manual audit.

The Comelec has rejected calls for a parallel manual canvassing of poll results, saying it is no longer necessary since a random manual audit is enough to do the job.

The Philippine Bar Association (PBA) insisted yesterday that parallel manual counting of votes is not an impossible task for the Comelec.

PBA head and former ombudsman Simeon Marcelo stressed that preparations for manual counts in all precincts for five elective posts could be completed in less than five days.

"Yes, it's not as simple as buying vinegar in the grocery store. It's as simple as counting money the way bank tellers do," he told The STAR in reaction to a statement from Comelec spokesman James Jimenez over the weekend that a manual count was "almost impossible" at this point.

De Villa said she agreed with the Comelec's position that a parallel manual count would defeat the purpose of automation and would be tantamount to putting together two systems: manual and automated.

She also said the Poll Automation Law does not mention anything about having parallel manual counting.

De Villa, who also chairs the church-based poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting or PPCRV, said the recommendation for the creation of SBEIs is now awaiting Comelec's approval.

She explained that fatigue had been a very big factor that had affected the accuracy of manual election system in past elections.

"But if we will have the SBEIs instead of the regular BEIs, the teachers will not be very tired and they would exhibit fresh look, fresh minds in conducting the random manual count," De Villa said.

Last week, the Comelec decided to increase from one to five per legislative district the number of precincts to be subjected to the random audit.

A total of 1,145 clustered precincts will be subjected to random manual audit involving three BEI members. She said the involvement of 3,435 members of the SBEIs would be necessary.

Not impossible

Marcelo said it would only take a day or two to print additional election returns and three more days to deliver them to polling precincts all over the country.

"If only Comelec will agree, it's not impossible at all. We just want parallel manual count for five positions - president, vice president, congressman, governor and mayor - and that will just take an hour," he explained.

Marcelo said their proposal is the last external check to verify results of the precinct count optical count (PCOS) machines.

Meanwhile, local business leaders are scheduled to meet with the Comelec today to discuss the group's proposal for a parallel manual count for president, vice president and mayor.

The Makati Business Club has urged the public to support the parallel manual count for an honest elections.

With the elections two weeks away, the group, which included Bishops Oscar Cruz and Deogracias Iniguez, called on the Comelec to rule on the matter immediately and not to wait until April 29. 

Meanwhile, Malacañang called on critics yesterday not to destabilize Comelec, adding that it is in the final stages of election preparations.

He said the Comelec would need all the support from the public to ensure its success.

"What we believe in is the law that mandates an automated counting of votes. If there would be different results from the two (automated and manual), what would be followed is the results from the automated count," Olivar said.

"We can't be shifting from one mode of counting to another. We must learn to respect the law," Olivar said.

Meanwhile, former president Joseph Estrada said the automated elections should be done in urban cities while far-flung areas should adopt the manual count. "Even in the US, they have not perfected the automated system, how much more here and right now, in Mindanao, there is brownout almost everyday. There could be a   24-hour brownout on the election and this might result in a failure of elections," he said.

In Davao City, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino senatorial candidate and spokesman on poll automation Joey de Venecia III said Comelec's rejection of parallel manual count might actually compromise the credibility of the automated system.

"It is puzzling that while the Comelec and Smartmatic officials broke out the champagne for completing the printing of official ballots several days ahead of their deadline, they choose to ignore multi-sectoral calls for a parallel manual count that's precisely meant to validate that the untested precinct count optical scan (PCOS) system works," De Venecia said.

"Has the digital dagdag bawas system been set up?"

De Venecia was among the politicians who arrived in Davao City to attend the 60th birthday celebration of evangelist Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ The Name Above Every Name congregation.

De Venecia said that a Princeton University study has found that PCOS machines could be infected with a malicious ware that could carry out automated vote shaving and switching.

Worst, he said, the malware has self-erasing capability thus it cannot be detected easily.

He said the possibility of the malware infecting the PCOS machines may be counter-checked by manual counting.

"It is plain to see that if the count for president, vice-president and mayor are accurate, then the people will accept even the counts for councilors and congressmen," De Venecia said.

Groups call for parallel manual count of May polls

MANILA, Philippines – Multi-sectoral groups led by the Makati Business Club (MBC) on Sunday called for a parallel manual count of the May 10 automated polls, saying that it would boost the "credibility and acceptability" of the May 10 election results.

"We support it because we know what automation entails and we know what the dangers are in automation," MBC Chairman Ramon del Rosario said during a joint press conference at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan Sunday morning.

Del Rosario clarified that the proposal did not just come from the business community, but from other sectors as well.

"We think that this proposal that's being put forward by the IT community, by the farmer community and now by the business community is very reasonable in terms of cost of hours, in terms of cost of funds and it will add immensely to the credibility and acceptability of the result," he added.

Other attendees at Sunday's press conference were members of the IT community and officials of farmers' alliance Alyansa Agrikultura.

"We do not want failure and we do not want cheating…," stated Alyansa Agrikultura Chairman Ernesto Ordoñez.

The MBC, meantime, explained why it signed the open letter regarding the proposal for a parallel manual count.

MBC Executive Director Alberto Lim stated: "The business sector is also delivering the letter because many sectors signed that open letter to the Comelec."

"Chief Justice [Artemio] Panganiban in January suggested the 100% manual count so it's not only now," added Lim.

Business groups claimed that most of the presidential candidates will join their call for a manual count simultaneous with the automated polls.

Higher degree of desire

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that while the poll body appreciates the groups' efforts to ensure the prevention of fraud,  there is no need to worry.

"But rest assured, Comelec is equally or even more… It has a higher degree of desire on the part of the Comelec to ensure that prevention of fraud. Rest assured, our main goal is to conduct successful and credible elections," he said in an interview on "Dateline Philippines Sunday."

Larrazabal denied the announcement made during the press conference that he would try to arrange a meeting with the multi-sectoral groups on Monday.

"I did not post on Twitter. It wasn't me," he said. "We're still open to meet them. I can't see any problem."

Larrazabal also said that a manual count is possible because of paper-based elections on May 10.

But he pointed out that the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) being held in Hong Kong and Singapore has been successful so far. Save for a delay experienced in the second day of voting, Larrazabal said the poll body has not heard about problems being experienced in Hong Kong and Singapore.

"It's the best way to prove that it [automated system] works... What we have been hearing is that people are happy, it's easier to vote. They were excited on being able to cast their votes using a new system," he stated.

Fear of poll fraud

The IT experts, meanwhile, expressed doubt on the results of the automated elections because the Comelec and Smartmatic lack experience in automated polls.

Gus Lagman, convenor of Transparentelections.org, said there could be major glitches in the May elections because it is the first time for Smartmatic-TIM to implement the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) technology.

He also noted that the Philippines is the first country to make the transition from fully manual to fully automated elections nationwide.

He then explained the proposal for holding a manual count if the discrepancy between the PCOS and manual count is more than 1%.

"Kung meron isa dyan na lumampas ng 1% sa precinct ang diperensya sa PCOS and manual, then we count everything for that particular precinct," he said.

Roberto Verzola of Halalang Marangal, for his part, said it is possible for many of the ballots printed by the Comelec to be misread by the PCOS machines.

Verzola said the ballots may have been misprinted, considering the reported displacements of the ultraviolet security markings on the ballots.

Continuity plan

Philippine Bar Association President Simeon Marcelo hit the Comelec for saying that the random manual audit of votes is enough and that a parallel manual count is illegal.

Under a random manual audit, ballots for all positions in randomly selected precincts will be counted. A parallel manual count, on the other hand, involves an audit of a few, if not all, positions in all precincts.

Marcelo said that the law provides for a manual count, citing the Continuity Plan in Section 13 under Section 11 of the act amending Republic Act No. 8436, which authorizes the Comelec to use an automated election system.

"Under the law justified magkaroon ng full manual count 'pag nag-malfunction yung PCOS machine. Puwede kang mag-full manual count," said Marcelo, a former Ombudsman.

The law states that the automated election system (AES) "shall be so designed to include a continuity plan in case of a systems breakdown or any such eventuality which shall result in the delay, obstruction or nonperformance of the electoral process."

No decision yet

Earlier, the Comelec said it has yet to decide on the proposal of a parallel manual count.

Other groups who joined the call were the Management Association of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Philippine Bar Association and Namfrel.

Larrazabal, who said that the Comelec's decision will be out next week, also said that such proposal should have been brought before Congress.

"We trust in the wisdom of the members of both houses, lower and upper houses, that you conduct a random manual audit… When congress itself passed the law that specifies that there is a random manual audit one representative per district there is wisdom in determination of that number," he said. -With a report from ANC

BIR: Many bets remiss in filing campaign taxes

from mb.com.ph

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) disclosed Sunday that many candidates running for various posts in the upcoming elections, to include some presidential bets, have not registered as tax withholding agents with the bureau, as required by law.

Under the law, candidates are required to register with the BIR as tax withholding agents and then collect and remit on a monthly basis a five-percent withholding tax on their campaign expenses.

However, many candidates running for various posts have not yet registered as tax withholding agents with the BIR, said BIR Deputy Commissioner for Operations Nelson Aspe.

Aspe said reports from revenue district offices throughout the country show that "only few (candidates) have registered with us."

He said the BIR is giving candidates for elective positions until a month after the May 10 elections to settle their respective five-percent withholding tax duties on their campaign expenses.

Upon the instruction of BIR Commissioner Joel L. Tan-Torres, the bureau will have to collect the withholding tax from both winners and losers in the elections as well as from political parties that failed to register or remit the tax.

Aspe said politicians should set the example of paying taxes promptly and honestly in order to give meaning and substance to their campaign speeches of nationalism and love of country.

He said it would be difficult for these politicians to hide their expenses as they are required by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to submit their financial reports.

Latest records showed that the BIR has raised P200 million from national and local candidates who have already registered with the bureau.

The BIR is targeting to raise some P1.3 billion from this source but the amount was reduced to R700 million as the Comelec decided to move the start of the official campaign period from December 2009 to February this year.

Tan-Torres said the BIR will not only audit expenses of candidates but also that of receivers of such expenses for entertainers and media advertising.

The BIR chief added that suppliers of goods and services to the Comelec will also be investigated to determine whether or not they are declaring correct earnings.

Noynoy leads by double digits over Villar in new SWS survey

With the race to Malacañang nearing the homestretch, presidential bet Sen. Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" C. Aquino III has gained a double-digit lead over his colleague and main rival, Sen. Manuel "Manny" B. Villar, Jr., in the latest BusinessWorld-Social Weather Stations (SWS) Pre-Election Survey.

The April 16 to 19 nationwide poll, conducted three weeks before the May 10 elections, saw Mr. Aquino -- the Liberal Party bet -- gaining a point to 38 percent compared to a two-point drop to 26 percent for the Nacionalista Party's Mr. Villar.

The lead between the two opened up to 12 points from nine previously in the BW-SWS survey of March 19-22.

Six percent of the respondents were classed as "undecided/others" -- these included votes for disqualified bet Vetellano "Dodong" S. Acosta of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan and responses that could not be properly read.

As in two earlier surveys, the respondents were asked to fill out ballots. The SWS polled 2,400 registered voters, divided into random samples of 300 for Metro Manila, 900 in the Balance of Luzon, and 600 each in the Visayas and Mindanao. The error margins used were ±2 percent for national percentages, ±6 percent for Metro Manila, ±3 percent for the rest of Luzon, and ±4 percent for the Visayas and Mindanao.

The question was: "Kung ang eleksyon ay gaganapin ngayon, sino ang pinakamalamang ninyong iboboto bilang presidente, bise-presidente, mga senador at party list ng Pilipinas? Narito ang lista-han ng mga kandidato. Paki shade o itiman po ang naaangkop na oval katabi ng pangalan ng taong pina-kamalamang ninyong iboboto. (If the elections were held today, whom would you most probably vote for as president, vice-president, senator, and party list of the Philippines? Here is a list of candidates. Please shade the oval beside the name of the persons you would most likely vote for.)

Former President Joseph "Erap" M. Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino remained third with a two-point drop to 17 percent, while administration bet Gilberto "Gibo" C. Teodoro, Jr. of the Lakas-NUCD picked up three points during the month to 9 percent, still a distant fourth.

Bagumbayan's Sen. Richard "Dick" J. Gordon -- who last week filed suit against the SWS and rival polling firm Pulse Asia over their presidential surveys -- lost a point to share fifth place, at 2 percent each, with evangelist Eduardo "Bro. Eddie" C. Villanueva, the Bangon Pilipinas candidate.

Support for the remaining three presidentiables -- independents Sen. Ana Consuelo "Jamby" A.S. Madrigal and Jesus Nicanor "Nick" P. Perlas, and Ang Kapatiran's John Carlos "JC" G. De Los Reyes -- basically stayed unchanged at less than half a percent each, although Ms. Madrigal is now sixth, from last previously, at 0.3 percent. Messrs. Perlas and De Los Reyes both scored 0.2 percent.

Taking into account a March 28-30 SWS survey commissioned by San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, Mr. Aquino's score was also up a point while Mr. Villar's loss was a slightly steeper three points. Mr. Estrada' score was unchanged while Mr. Teodoro was up a point. Both Messrs. Gordon and Villar stayed steady, while the changes among Ms. Madrigal and Messrs. De Los Reyes and Perlas were a tenth to two-tenths of a percentage point.

The April 16-19 BW-SWS survey showed Mr. Aquino the frontrunner in terms of geographical area and socioeconomic classes. (The demographic details of the March 28-30 poll commissioned by Mr. Zamora remain under embargo.)

The LP candidate's one-point improvement, said the SWS, was due to gains of two points in the Balance of Luzon (to 37 percent) and one point in Mindanao (33 percent) that were offset by a four-point loss in Metro Manila (to 35 percent) and a steady score in the Visayas (46 percent).

Mr. Villar's two-point drop, meanwhile, was attributed to a four-point gain in Mindanao (to 31 percent) being offset by losses of two points in Metro Manila (18 percent) and five points each in the rest of Luzon (25 percent) and the Visayas (25 percent).

Mr. Estrada's identical two-point fall was traced to losses in all four areas: one-point drops in both the Balance of Luzon (17 percent) and the Visayas (7 percent), two points in Metro Manila (25%), and four in Mindanao (22 percent).

Mr. Teodoro's gains, meanwhile, came via a five-point improvement in Metro Manila (10 percent), an extra four points each in the Balance of Luzon (9 percent) and the Visayas (11 percent), and a point gain in Mindanao (8 percent).

Mr. Villanueva gained a point in the Visayas (2 percent), lost one in Metro Manila (3 percent), and stayed steady in the Balance of Luzon (3 percent) and the Mindanao (1 percent).

Mr. Gordon lost two points in the Balance of Luzon (2 percent) and one point each in the Visayas (1 percent) and Mindanao (0.4 percent), but stayed steady in Metro Manila (2 percent).
"The vote percentages of Madrigal, Perlas and De Los Reyes across major study areas hardly changed from March 19-22," the SWS said.

By socioeconomic class, Mr. Aquino gained eight points (53 percent), Mr. Villar gained five (22 percent), Mr. Gordon gained one (3 percent), Mr. Villanueva stayed steady (3 percent), Mr. Teodoro lost one (11 percent), and Mr. Estrada dropped by five (6 percent) in the ABC category. As a result Mr. Aquino's lead over Mr. Villar widened to 31 points.

Among the class D or masa, the gap between the two frontrunners widened to 13 by virtue of Messrs. Aquino and Villanueva staying steady (38 percent and 2 percent, respectively), Mr. Gordon dropping one (2 percent), Messrs. Villar and Estrada losing two points each (25 percent and 16 percent, respectively), and Mr. Teodoro gaining four (10 percent).

In class E the gap narrowed to just a point: Messrs. Estrada and Teodoro gained two each (23 percent and 6 percent, respectively), Mr. Aquino lost one (32 percent), Mr. Villar was steady (31 percent), Mr. Villanueva lost two (1 percent), and Mr. Gordon (0.1 percent) fell by three points.

Again, the SWS said the scores for the remaining candidates hardly changed.

Sought for comment, Aquino spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a telephone interview: "The Filipino people has identified the issue of character, and they think Noynoy is the best person to lead the country. The anti-corruption sentiment is resonating and Villar failed to address issues surrounding him. We hope that we will be able to convince more people in the upcoming surveys with our good news of anti-corruption and delivery of basic services."

NP senatorial bet Gilbert C. Remulla, who also acts as Mr. Villar's spokesperson, said a lot of things had taken place since the survey was conducted. The party, he said, believes that Mr. Aquino's lead has gone back to the single-digit level with two weeks before the national elections.

"We recognize that it is an uphill battle but ... a lot has happened and a lot will still happen. By no measure is this a sure win by any party. We have suffered continued attacks by both contenders and we are wondering why the concentration is on us, the number two, and not on the number one. Despite all the attacks, we are still very much in the running and that our supporters' resolve has only strengthened further," Mr. Remulla said.

Margaux M. Salcedo, Mr. Estrada's spokesperson, said: "It's not what we were shooting for but at least the solid base has stayed. We will just have to triple time to the finish line."

Lawyer Mike Toledo, Mr. Teodoro's spokesman, received the improvement as good news but said the party would rather not depend on surveys.

"We welcome any rise in the ratings of Gibo as shown by SWS and other polling firms. But as far as we are concerned, what is important to us is the kind of support that we are getting from the ground," he said.

Votes, not surveys, to decide candidates' fate -- Teodoro

DAVAO CITY, Philippines - With a fortnight to go before elections, Gilbert Teodoro Jr. on Saturday night here declared that voters, not surveys, would decide the fate of presidential candidates.

The administration standard-bearer spoke before a huge crowd in a rally at the Rizal Park Saturday night, and took the opportunity to hold out an olive branch to his erstwhile allies.

``Let's wake the others who are giving more importance to surveys and ignoring the voice of the people. For me until the last Juan dela Cruz speaks, it isn't over. Juan dela Cruz's vote is sacred,'' he told a cheering crowd of 2,000.

``Let's wait for Juan dela Cruz to make the decision. Let's not preempt him. Otherwise, we insult democracy,'' he added.

Throughout the campaign, Teodoro has struggled in the polls, stuck in fourth spot behind front-runners Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar Jr., and deposed President Joseph Estrada.

Despite his poor showing, the Lakas Kampi CMD standard-bearer is confident that the partys network of 12,800 local candidates, from governor to mayor, and the youth would deliver the votes for the candidate.

In his speech, Teodoro also extended the hand of reconciliation to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who has thrown his support behind Aquino of the Liberal Party.

``I want to thank a true friend. While we can't go together because we have different parties, my respect for him has not changed,'' he said, drawing cheers from city residents.

Teodoro spoke about providing free education, better health care, assistance for farmers, quality jobs, and student loans, but stressed that these could not be achieved without ``genuine unity and national reconciliation.''

``This is our message. We've refrained from attacking others, from throwing mud... Even if it's painful for us sometimes, we just turn the other cheek. Let's more forward. Let's stick to issues,'' he said.

In the rally, he showed up with his running mate Edu Manzano, and senatorial candidates Silvestre Bello III, Raul Lambino and Rey Langit, and Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Lagdameo.

Earlier in the day, Teodoro barnstormed Mati, Davao Oriental and Malita, Davao del Sur, with Manzano and Langit.

His visit to Davao City came more than a week after he tangled with Speaker Prospero Nograles.

Nograles had threatened to bolt the administration party and join Villar, blaming Teodoro for virtually abandoning the party when he resigned as chair in late March. Teodoro retorted that Nograles had never been a firm supporter from the start, and asked party-mates not to use him as an excuse to leave the party.

Influential religious leader makes no endorsement, but...

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- (UPDATE 2) Influential religious leader Pastor Apollo Quiboloy made no endorsement of any presidential and vice presidential candidate, but almost came close to disclosing his personal choice for president on his birthday celebration here Sunday.

While Quiboloy, founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, insisted that he would reveal his choice for president and vice president according to God's revelation on May 2, he gave clues to his personal choice for president.

When asked by reporters what qualities he was looking for in a president, Quiboloy answered, "Magaling at matalino," hinting at Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro, whose campaign slogan was "Galing at Talino."

"Well competent, karapat-dapat talaga.(really deserving) Makikita mo pwede siya maipagmalaki kahit sa international community because they are not an isolated nation, they also have to deal with nations like us," Quiboloy said.

Asked if the candidate was "magaling" (competent), Quiboloy said, "Magaling."

Asked if the candidate was "matalino" (intelligent), he agreed and said "Matalino."

But when another reporter pressed, "Masipag ba at matalino? (Is he hardworking and smart?)"

Quiboloy corrected the reporter and said, "Magaling at matalino (competent and intelligent)."

Asked if God already revealed to him the choice vice president, he said, "Mayroon na po. (He did). You will come to know about that this on May 2. Wala na akong problema sa May 2. (I have no more problems on May 2) Regardless of his or her qualifications, kapag ipinahayag ng Ama sa akin (once the Father tells me), everything has to take a backseat. Basta iyon ang gusto ng Diyos na ipahayag sa akin. Sa May 2 ko na lang sasabihin" (If thats what God wants to tell me, I will reveal it on May 2)

But Quiboloy said his personal choice might not be the same as God's choice.

"Personally, ako bilang tao katulad ninyo meron akong gusto; sa akin na lang iyon. (Just like you, I have my own choice too but Id rather keep it to myself) That has to take a back seat to Gods revelation to me. I have to sacrifice myself for that," Quiboloy told reporters at the Kingdom of Jesus Christ World Headquarters during his 60th birthday celebration here.

Quiboloy said he will be calling for a big rally on May 2, where over 50,000 members are expected to attend. There he will announce his pick for president, vice president, and senators.

Quiboloy said his birthday wish was that there would be no failure of elections.

"That this election will be honest, clean smooth, because this is where our countrys stability lies.

Quiboloy, who turned 60, drew politicians five of them presidential candidates and children who came from the poor communities of Davao City. The celebration, dubbed as the 5th National Childrens Day, was described by Nacionalista Party standard bearer Manny Villar as world class. It was held at the Cathedral of the New Jerusalem Compound in Buhangin here.

Quiboloy threw a party for his guests that included presidential aspirants and Senators Richard Gordon, Villar, and Ana Consuelo Madrigal, and Christian preacher Bro. Eddie Villanueva, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas and vice presidential bets Loren Legarda, Bayani Fernando, Jay Sonza and Perfecto Yasay. Other politicians present were senatorial candidates Pia Cayetano, Adel Tamano, Bong Revilla and Silvestre Bello III.

Former president Joseph Estrada arrived earlier but left after greeting Quiboloy.

Those absent were Ang Kapatiran's JC delos Reyes, and Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Quiboloy said Senator Mar Roxas called him up to say that he and Aquino would not be able to attend because of a "prior commitment."

"This is an invitation to them, this is RSVP so they can come or not," Quiboloy said.

While the A-list guests were having lunch inside the cathedral, an estimated 30,000 children from the poor families of Davao had their lunch outside and enjoyed free rides and games in a Disneyland-inspired park called "Sonshine Land." The children were also treated to overflowing supply of cotton candies, drinks, food and chocolate fountain.

Part of the celebration was the parade of "Sonshine Land" floats.

Farmers to Mar: Ask ma to drop land claim

MANILA, Philippines - More than 1,000 tenants living on a property in Rodriguez, Rizal owned by the family of Liberal Party vice presidential bet Sen. Mar Roxas II have called on the lawmaker to ask his mother to drop her opposition to the distribution of the land placed under the agrarian reform program.

In a press briefing, Felipe Jalago, spokesman of the farmer-beneficiaries of the Hacienda Araneta in Brgy. Mascap, challenged Roxas to make good his statements that he is pro-poor and pro-farmer.

"We already hold certificates of full payment and certificates of land tax payments," Jalago said.

He, however, said the land could not be distributed to them because the family of Roxas's mother, the Aranetas, petitioned for the conversion of the land into a commercial-residential area.

Most of the farmers have paid in full for the land, which was granted to them in 1972 under Presidential Decree 27, with the Land Bank of the Philippines. The law provides for the automatic transfer of the land to the farmers, who have paid regularly land taxes with the local government, Jalago added.

"We appeal to you (Roxas), your mother and the Aranetas not to pursue the case anymore so that we can now truly own the land," he said.

Earlier, protesting farmers in the sprawling hacienda owned by the family of Liberal Party presidential bet Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III called on the Supreme Court (SC) to act on their claim on the 6,453-hectare sugar plantation before the elections.

Members of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Hasyenda Luisita (Ambala) and Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) asked the high court to lift its four-year temporary restraining order against the distribution of the plantation to 10,000 farmer-beneficiaries. 

New evidence to compel Agra to review papers on massacre

MANILA, Philippines -- Justice Secretary Alberto Agra might reconsider his controversial decision dropping multiple murder charges against two members of the Ampatuan clan, if reports were true that a new witness has surfaced implicating the two members in the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre, a Palace official said on Sunday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said Malacaang also heard of reports that a witness came forward to provide "new evidence" linking Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and former acting Maguindanao Vice Gov. Akmad Ampatuan to the massacre of 57 people, mostly journalists.

He said the report of a new witness should be looked into to find if he or she could provide credible evidence to the government.

``We should hear this testimony. We are not closed on this matter because we want to pursue justice for all,'' Olivar said over government station dzRB radio.

He added that Agra was keeping an ``open mind'' on the whole issue.

``Secretary Agra said when new evidence comes in or a motion for reconsideration is filed, he would consider it,'' Olivar said.

He noted that Agra intended to form a panel to review his earlier decision, after Malacaang, finally acting due to public outrage from Agra's move, directed him to confer with state prosecutors and review his controversial resolution.

Last Friday, Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said he had directed Agra to give the Palace a weekly status report on the review being undertaken.

Asked what he thought of a plan of an international group to raise the Maguindanao massacre case to the United Nations, Olivar said there were enough remedies here for those aggrieved by the Agra resolution.

He said people could file a motion of reconsideration on Agra's decision or wait for the court to issue a resolution. If they are not content, they can also go to the Court of Appeals, according to Olivar.

`` I dont see how [why they have to] bring it to the UN. I dont see the reasoning behind that,'' Olivar said.

On April 16, Agra issued a resolution, ordering prosecutors to junk the charges against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan based on their claims that they were not in Maguindanao during the massacre.

Zaldy and Akmad are among the 198 Ampatuans and their supporters on trial for the slaughter of 57 people, including journalists and lawyers, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, while accompanying the convoy of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatus wife on their way to file the vice mayors certificate of candidacy for governor.

Besides media workers and families of the victims, state prosecutors, national candidates and party-list groups assailed Agras decision. Not a few have called for his resignation or disbarment.

Gadhafi rejects RP Muslims' secession

from mb.com.ph

TRIPOLI — The Leader of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Col. Muammar al-Gadhafi has always stressed in his meetings with Moro leaders that they should remain within the realm of the Philippine society and sovereignty, said Ambassador Salem Muhammad Adam, ex-Libyan envoy to the Philippines.

Adam said this has been the repeated message of Gadhafi when he granted an audience in the past to leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He said this has not changed.

Adam spoke with the Manila Bulletin after the signing on April 20 of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Manila Government and the MNLF at the restrictive Islamic Call College (ICC), about 30 minutes from downtown Tripoli.

"The Leader (Gadhafi) has always been keen to (help) bring peace and stability to Mindanao. The leaders of the MNLF and the MILF, and even (representatives of) the Philippine Government had audience with the Leader two or three times. And the Leader has always given his guidelines to Filipino Muslims to stay within the realm and sovereignty of the Philippines. And on the other side, the Philippine Government should respect the rights of the Muslims," said the former ambassador now working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as adviser to the Asian Affairs Department.

Adam recalled that Gadhafi, who masterminded the Al-Fateh Revolution on Sept. 1, 1969 that toppled the monarchy of King Idris, even suggested that a Muslim could one day become president of the Philippines.

Adam presided over the April 20 signing of the MOU which the Libyan Government hosted. The event was under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) through its Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCS) chaired by Indonesia.

The Libyan official, who served twice as ambassador to the Philippines, cited the continuing role of Gadhafi and his government in the search for peace in Mindanao.

It was Gadhafi who was the first Islamic and Arab leader to come to the assistance of the Moros in the early 1970s after the March 18, 1969 Jabidah Massacre on Corregidor Island.

Without Libya peace would not have come to Mindanao, he said.

He said the 1976 peace treaty has now become the mother of all peace accords that came later, such as the 1986 Jeddah Accord and the 1996 Jakarta Agreement (or the Final Peace Agreement).

$1: P44.330

$1: P44.330

Euro 1: P58.9997

Gov't prods pork imports, cites shortage

MANILA, Philippines - The government is encouraging the importation of up to 5,000 metric tons (MT) of pork up to the end of June under a tax subsidy scheme to cover a shortage in supply due to storms and diseases that hit last year and the current dry spell.

Weak consumer demand prompts retailers to close shop

MANILA, Philippines - Owing to weak consumer demand for electronics and household appliances in the first months of the year, a report released by GfK Market Insight (GMI) said that some retailers have closed shop or resorted to cheaper goods from China to cut their losses.

PAL talks 'not fruitful'--labor union

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Airlines Employees' Association (PALEA) said it had met with the management of the Lucio C. Tan-led carier but a plan to retrench 3,000 workers by the end of May was not discussed.

Gov't buying land for embassies abroad

from mb.com.ph

Malacañang is finalizing an executive order (EO) authorizing the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to enter into a lease purchase agreement with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for the acquisition of real estate properties abroad as sites for Philippine embassies and consulates, a move that would save on rental cost going forward.

"This is part of the ongoing program of the DFA under Sec. Alberto Romulo to acquire chanceries and ambassador residences and upgrade existing ones," DFA spokesman J. Eduardo Malaya told the Manila Bulletin.

DBP President Reynaldo G. David, in a separate interview, disclosed that the Palace is in the final stage of drawing the EO that "will authorize" the bank to "undertake the acquisition of the residences of the ambassadors and chanceries" for and on behalf of DFA.

This transaction known as lease purchase agreement is allowed under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) law as amended.

Under this scheme, DBP will be financing the purchase and the construction of the embassies, consulates and chanceries for DFA. The lease agreement will be for 15 years after which DFA will have the option to purchase the asset.

David explained this arrangement is cost-effective, moving forward, considering that of using its (DFA's) budgetary funds for rental, it will, instead, be used for monthly amortization.
It, too, is in consideration that rental cost continues to escalate on an annual basis.

"Instead of renting, the DFA will be owner of the property," said David.

It is the same process that DFA undertook for its new Office of Consular Affairs building in ASEANA Business Park in Parañaque City. DBP financed the construction of the four-storey building worth P450 million.

According to Malaya, some Philippine embassies and consular offices abroad are still renting spaces in a bid to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and Filipino migrants.

"We rent a majority of our embassy premises. For instance, in Europe, we own the embassy premises only in Madrid, Spain; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; London, United Kingdom; and Bucharest, Romania. The DFA rents the rest," Malaya earlier disclosed.

The embassy in Brussels, Belgium had also been renovated.

He added that "those in Jakarta, Indonesia; Singapore; and Wellington, New Zealand are expected to start shortly."

"Three foreigners out of 10 often have their first interactions with our country and people through our embassies. It is best to have the most presentable embassies and consulates our country can afford. Our embassies and consulates are windows of our world, as well as the world's windows to our country," Malaya said.

Currently, the DFA is having the permanent Philippine Embassy in Brunei Darussalam constructed, estimated at $2.5 million.

Malaya said Phase 1 involves construction of the new chancery building, which will take about a year while Phase 2 will involve the establishment of a multi-purpose building an and parking area.

The new Embassy, which will service some 22,000 Filipinos in the oil-rich nation, will be located at the Diplomatic Enclave in Jalan Kebangsaan.

Filipino bus drivers sue recruitment agency, lending firms

MANILA, Philippines - Twenty Filipino bus drivers in Saudi Arabia have sued their Manila-based recruitment agency and lending companies for alleged illegal fees and onerous loans, a migrant workers advocacy group said.

Migrante-Middle East said 20 out of the 37 bus drivers in Dammam of Saudi Arabia Public Transport Co. have signed their respective sworn statements and special powers of attorney to file the class suit against PERT-CPM and lending firms West Wind, NITTAN, and PJH, all based in Manila.

Migrante regional coordinator John Monterona said after a two-week consultation with lawyers in Manila and their relatives, the bus drivers decided to file the class suit.

Aside from the illegal charging of fees, the company could also be charged with illegal recruitment, he added.

The complainants alleged that the recuitment agency promised them P45,000 monthly salary but they only received P15,600 each. They added that they paid for the "red ribbon" and visa reader without official receipts.

The group urged the labor attaches in Riyadh and Dammam to immediately endorse the complaint to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Task Force on illegal recruitment.

'Pinoy teachers in Louisiana knew what they were getting into'

by by Rodney J. Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
WASHINGTON D.C. – The recruitment agency caught in a bitter contract dispute with about 360 Filipino teachers in Louisiana insisted that it disclosed all the conditions, including fees it had to pay, even before they signed their contracts to work in the United States.

Sweden's Catholic leader takes blame for abuse silence

The head of Sweden's Catholics said Sunday he takes full responsibility for the failure to probe the alleged abuse of two sisters by a pedophile priest, first reported to the Church in 1990.

UK apologizes to Vatican over Pope visit jokes

LONDON - Britain's Foreign Office issued a hasty apology Sunday to Pope Benedict XVI after publication of an internal memo in which officials joked he could open an abortion clinic, launch a range of condoms or sing a duet with Queen Elizabeth II during a four-day visit in September.

Al-Qaida statement confirms death of 2 top figures

BAGHDAD - An al-Qaida front group in Iraq has confirmed the killing of its two top leaders, but vowed in a statement that its members were not cowed by their death and would continue to fight.

China mayor told to resign after villagers kneel

BEIJING - Local officials in northeastern China have ordered the mayor of a small city to resign after he ignored scores of villagers who knelt in front of government offices to appeal for an investigation into official corruption, state media said on Sunday.

Arizona immigration law sparks outrage, President Obama criticism

WASHINGTON D.C.: Authorities in the US state of Arizona faced new protests on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) after the governor signed a tough new law targeting illegal immigrants, which critics claim enshrines racial profiling and President Barack Obama branded "misguided."


Arum was eyeing future bout between Pacman, Valero

Days after Edwin Valero's shocking suicide, Top Rank Promotions chief Bob Arum said he was planning to pit Manny Pacquiao against the Venezuelan knock out artist either this year or in 2011.

PBA All-Star: Smaller North uses speed vs taller South

Puerto Princesa City - Mac Cardona was the most productive player, Gabe Norwood provided the highlight reels and the North All-Stars outsprinted and outhustled their rivals from the South.

N.B.A. Roundup: Brandon Roy's Return Lifts the Trail Blazers

from NYT > Pro Basketball by By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points and 11 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who unexpectedly activated Roy shortly before the game, eight days after he had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Roy did not start and played a relatively quiet 26 minutes, but hit a 3-pointer with 4 minutes 55 seconds left to give Portland an 85-79 lead and swing the momentum of a close game.

"For the first game in a couple of weeks, I thought I did O.K.," he said. "Once I get my rhythm back, I'm capable of making shots."

Amar'e Stoudemire led the Suns with 26 points. The best-of-seven series returns to Phoenix on Monday night.

Roy was not expected to play in this first-round series; his recovery time was said to be one to two weeks. He was greeted with a hearty ovation during pregame warm-ups, and again when he came in the game with 4:06 left in the first quarter. His layup about a minute later put Portland ahead, 20-19.

In addition to Roy's surprise appearance, the Trail Blazers shook up their lineup, starting the second-year guard Jerryd Bayless rather than Rudy Fernandez.

After losing the series opener, 105-100, in Phoenix, the Suns cruised to a 119-90 home victory before beating the Trail Blazers, 108-89, in Portland.

In Games 2 and 3, the Suns stymied the Trail Blazers with the pick-and-roll, kicking the ball out to Jason Richardson, who scored 42 points in Game 3, a career playoff high.

The Trail Blazers caught on in Game 4, limiting Richardson to 15 points. Steve Nash had 15 points and 8 assists.

THUNDER 110, LAKERS 89 Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Russell Westbrook added 18 points and 8 assists, and Oklahoma City evened its first-round Western Conference series against Los Angeles with a dominant victory in Game 4.

For the second straight game, the host Thunder capitalized on significant advantages in points at the free-throw line (42-17) and in rebounding (50-43), despite the presence of the Lakers' 7-foot tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Oklahoma City never trailed after the opening five minutes and led by as many as 28 points in a thorough dismantling of the defending N.B.A. champions.

Bynum had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant finished with 12 points. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Los Angeles.

MAGIC 90, BOBCATS 86 With its star center Dwight Howard stuck on the bench again, Orlando showed its depth, grit and experience.

Jameer Nelson scored 32 points, including five 3-pointers, and the visiting Magic overcame Howard's continuing foul trouble to hold off Charlotte and take a 3-0 lead in their first-round Eastern Conference series.

Howard played only 26 minutes and fouled out with 3:32 left. But Nelson had a crucial basket down the stretch and the backup center Marcin Gortat made two free throws with 12 seconds left to put the game away.

"You've got to admire them with Dwight getting foul trouble and fouling out how they still didn't fold," Bobcats Coach Larry Brown said. "They were disciplined and executed. They got a well-deserved win."

Stephen Jackson scored 19 points for the Bobcats, but was 6 of 18 from the field and missed a key 3-pointer in the final minute.

Howard was plagued by foul trouble for a third straight game, finishing with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocks. But Orlando can clinch a spot in the second round with a victory at Charlotte in Game 4 on Monday.

"I think this is a big test for me, learning how to keep my composure in tough situations," Howard said. "Things may not go my way, but we're playing for something bigger."

The cold-shooting Bobcats face the prospect of a first-round sweep in their first playoff appearance. Charlotte had not hosted a playoff game since the Hornets' last season there, in 2002.

BUCKS 107, HAWKS 89 John Salmons scored 22 points for Milwaukee, and the host Bucks built a 19-point first-half lead against Atlanta in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference series. The Hawks lead the series, 2-1.

Playing without the injured Andrew Bogut, the Bucks appeared overmatched in double-digit losses in Games 1 and 2 at Atlanta. But the 15-year veteran Kurt Thomas had 8 points and 13 rebounds, and Jerry Stackhouse scored 16 points off the bench.

"We came out with a lot of energy," Salmons said. "We knew that would be the only way we'd be able to win. We've got to play as close to perfect as possible, and we did a good job of that."

Joe Johnson scored 25 points for the Hawks, who cut their deficit to 9 points, 54-45, early in the third quarter, but fell behind by as many as 28 in the fourth. Game 4 is Monday night at Milwaukee.

Before the game, Bucks General Manager John Hammond was named the N.B.A.'s executive of the year. Milwaukee's 46 victories in the regular season were 12 more than in 2008-9, and its most since 2000-1.

GINOBILI HAS A BROKEN NOSE San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili sustained a nasal fracture in the Spurs' Game 3 victory over Dallas on Friday, but he will not need surgery and will play Sunday in Game 4. Ginobili caught an errant elbow from Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki in the third quarter. He returned later in the period and scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to push the Spurs to a 94-90 victory and a 2-1 series lead.

Lakers lack mental focus in 110-89 Game 4 loss to Thunder

from Lakers Blog by Mark Medina

53464223 

The Lakers entered Game 4 pledging to work the ball inside more. But that doesn't mean the post remained exempt from rebounding the ball.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant entered Game 4 pledging to involve his teammates more on offense. But that doesn't mean abstaining from shooting the entire first quarter.

The Lakers entered Game 4 pledging to play much differently against Oklahoma City than it did in their Game 3 loss. But that doesn't mean tanking in the game right away instead of allowing the Thunder to rally from a poor start.

The Lakers' 110-89 loss Saturday to the Thunder not only tied the first-round series to 2-2 and extended the series at least to six games. It revealed that the Lakers are perfectly vulnerable to losing in the first round to Oklahoma City, a feat that would mark the first time an eighth seed would beat a No. 1 seed after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-seven first-round series. Surely, the Lakers can very well treat this like last season's semifinal against Houston where they tested whether talent alone can trump work ethic and attitude, while driving the sanity level of every Lakers fan through the roof. But with the Lakers matching up against a talented, speedy and workmanlike Thunder team, it's a formula that could lead to disastrous results.

Really, you could fast forward or rewind to any part of the game to highlight the Lakers' deficiencies. But there were several plays in the first quarter that continued to plague the Lakers all game long. And to think this took place just at the beginning of the game, when the outcome was still within reach.

On one possession, Lakers center Andrew Bynum received an entry pass from Lakers guard Derek Fisher, met a double team and missed an open layup. Neither Bynum nor Lakers forward Pau Gasol made an effort to grab the rebound, leading Oklahoma City foward Kevin Durant to lead the break, driving past Ron Artest by the perimeter and ending the play with a one-handed slam. The next play went like this: Bryant fed Gasol inside. Durant blocked his layup. Thunder forward Jeff Green led the break, fed an entry pass to center Nenad Krsticand then secured the loose ball after Bryant denied the pass. OKC guard Russell Westbrook reset the offense at the top of the key, ran off a screen Krstic set on Fisher and passed to an open Green on the far corner. His three-pointer rimmed out, but Krstic cleaned the glass over an apathetic and unattentive Gasol and Bynum and converted on the putback. And on the next play? Bryant led the offense down the floor and passed the ball to  Artest on the far corner. But Durant swipedthe ball before quickly feeding it to Westbrook. He dumped the ball to Durant at the top of the key before finishing with another one-handed dunk. 

The Lakers' execution problems continued throughout the quarter. On one play, Lakers forward Lamar Odomthrew a pass outside to Artest, who drove the lane and missed a layup. Oklahoma reserve forward James Harden grabbed the rebound over Gasol. Though the Lakers stopped Harden from running the break, they didn't stop the Thunder from scoring. Green missed a layup, but essentially grabbed the rebound from Gasol while lying on the ground flat on his back. Westbrook reset the offense and then pulled up for an elbow 18-footer. Odom ended one possession with a missed 17-footer and followed on the other end by allowing Serge Ibaka to rebound a shot over his back for the tip in. With 21 seconds remaining, Jordan Farmar forced and missed a 19-footer and paid for it. After Harden grabbed the board over Artest, Westbrook drained a shot over Farmar just before time expired.

The Lakers trailed 29-17 at that point in what represented their worst quarter of the series so far. Consider the difference between the Lakers' first-quarter starts in the first three games compared to their start in Game 4, including points (26.7, 17), points allowed (17.7, 29), field-goal percentage (51.5%, 36.4%) and opponent field-goal percentage (30%, 52.6%). And unfortunately for the Lakers, that was only the beginning in what became such a disastrous game that the starters sat out for most of the fourth quarter after trailing 88-64.

There are those that will suggest this is proof that the Lakers worrying about establishing an inside game instead of allowing Bryant to run free serves as a misguided strategy. Bynum and Gasol each scored 13 points on five of 10 shooting and the team scored 44 points in the paint. But Bynum and Gasol proved more detrimental by allowing the Thunder to beat them to the boards 50-43, overall, and 13-10 on the offensive end.

Though it's good that Bryant made a concerted effort to get his teammates involved, that doesn't mean he should've remained absent from the offense the entire first quarter. This isn't a black or white issue where the suggestion that Bryant should not force so many shots means he should shoot zero shots. Yet, his first attempt didn't come until the 9:06 mark in the second quarter and he finished with only 12 points on five of 10 shooting. 

The Lakers may lament Oklahoma City's ability to get to the free-throw line and its 42 of 48 finish from the stripe. But with the Lakers only converting on 17 of 28 free-throws, who knows what drawing trips to the line would have really done for them. 

The Lakers may also struggle finding a solution from the Thunder converting on 24 fast-break points, a common problem they've handled for the entire season. But preventive measures such as better shot selection, grabbing rebounds and not having the entire starting lineup end up with negative plus-minus ratings should offset that. 

There's many things you can conclude from this loss. You can argue the Lakers got one bad performance out of their system and that everyone should give credit to Oklahoma City for the effort it's giving. But that's really just masking the Lakers' poor effort. No, this isn't a lack of urgency issue. The Lakers have been trying since the last month. But with all that periods of neglect during the dog days in sharpening team chemistry, it's games like these that expose the Lakers' weakness in maintaining mental focus when things don't work out right away. The result leaves the Thunder hungrier, more determined and more confident it can beat the Lakers, which now have to go through Oklahoma City again in Game 6 to secure the series. 

Arroyo sings in her first sortie for congressional seat

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines In her first sortie since the campaign period for local positions started on March 26, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sang Florante's "Handog" on Saturday.

Gubernatorial candidate Lilia Pineda, a friend of the Presidents, joined her in singing the familiar Pinoy tune about gratitude at a gymnasium in Lubao, hometown of her late father, former President Diosdado Macapagal.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD campaign coordinators said the rally's host, Rosve Henson, put Ms Arroyo on the spot during the program. The President took a dare and embraced Pineda as they sang before some 3, 000 people.

Ms Arroyo, however, was unfamiliar with the lyrics of Handog. Her voice was drowned out by Pineda's in most parts of the song.

Ms Arroyo's voice was clearer in the song's chorus: "Tatanda at lilipas din ako/Ngunit mayro'ng awiting/Iiwanan sa inyong alaala/Dahil minsan, tayo'y nagkasama (I will get old and my time will pass/But there's a song/That I will leave you/Because we were once together)."

Handog, a hit in the 1980s, is a singer-composer's gift to his fans as he accepts the fact of aging or retirement a matter that the President is not bound to do because she aspires to be a legislator again.

Before the rally in the gymnasium, the President led a motorcade that went around the villages of Porac, Floridblanca and Lubao towns to press flesh and woo votes.

Garbed in a light blue blouse and pair of pants, Ms Arroyo was relaxed. She smiled and waved to people gathered along the route. Some of them flashed cardboard bearing her initials, chanting these as she passed by. Others held her campaign posters.

Accompanying her was Pineda, a former board member and Lubao mayor who is facing Gov. Eddie Panlilio in the gubernatorial race.

In another showboat, Ms Arroyo's son, outgoing Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, also worked the crowd.

Mikey dropped his plan to seek a third and final term to give way to his mother who, before filing her candidacy on Dec. 1, 2009, said public service was in her DNA.

Mikey is seeking to return to Congress as a nominee of the Ang Galing Pinoy, a party-list group representing security guards.

At the Pineda Sports Complex in Lubao, security for Ms Arroyo got tighter.

Members of the Presidential Security Group stopped reporters from entering the gym. The Office of the Press Secretary did not advise Pampanga-based reporters about the campaign activity.

The President took a dare and embraced Pineda as they sang before some 3, 000 people.

At the rally, Ms Arroyo talked little, telling the crowd she was eager to do "pamanuyu" (service).

Doing motorcades is not new to Ms Arroyo. She has ridden countless motorcades since she ran for senator, vice president and president, said her sister, former Pampanga Vice Gov. Cielo Macapagal-Salgado.

Ms Arroyo, though, was not known to sing in front of a huge audience, Salgado said.

After the rally, the President proceeded to the St. Augustine Parish grounds for a dinner held for Mikey's 41st birthday.

In her earlier visits here, Ms Arroyo said she would be "firmly in control of our national government until the last day I am in office as President."

She vowed to be "pursigido" (determined) in her bid to become the district's next representative.

Noynoy Aquino's Facebook account hacked

MANILA, Philippines - The camp of Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was forced to shut down the candidate's official Facebook Fan Page after hackers gained illegal access to Aquino's Facebook account and started unsubscribing the LP bet's online supporters.

Rumors of Tomas's collapse revive questions on health

TEXT messages circulated yesterday that Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña allegedly collapsed at the South Road Properties (SRP) while checking the venue of the property's launch in early May.  The mayor texted back to deny the rumor, which said that he was rushed to a hospital around 11:30 Saturday night.

He recounted that on the night in question, he attended six "pulong-pulong" sessions that ended at 9:30, then went to the IT Park to inspect the construction site where an accident occurred.

Osmeña said he then went to Crossroads in Banilad for a foot massage and to the Tinder Box resto-bar to meet with friends. He said he went home past midnight. (A Tinder Box representative confirmed the mayor went there for about an hour on Saturday night.)

By 7 a.m. yesterday, Osmeña said, he went to Labangon for another "pulong-pulong."

Vice mayor dies of heart attack while campaigning

TAGUM CITY, DAVAO DEL NORTE, Philippines The vice mayor of Pantukan town, Compostela Valley, died Saturday evening after suffering a heart attack while campaigning for reelection here.

Vice Mayor Hyrone Ranain succumbed to cardio-pulmonary arrest secondary to hypertension while campaigning at the mining community of Gumayan, Barangay (village) Kingking at 6:30 p.m., said Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino, Compostela Valley police chief, quoting a municipal health officer.

Ranain was 52.

We had just ended our sortie in Gumayan and started our drive back to poblacion some one hour away but his (Rainan) motorcycle got stalled so he got off and started to complain about a heavy chest, Mayor Celso Sarenas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by mobile phone.

He then vomited blood. We rushed him to the (Pantukan district) hospital but he was DOA (dead on arrival), Sarenas added. Ranain was his running mate under Lakas-CMD-Kampi party and was unopposed.

Local officials expressed regret over Ranains sudden demise. Governor Arturo Uy called him a good soldier" in politics and "a dedicated public servant.

Ranain served nine years as Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council) member before being elected as vice mayor in 2007.

Uy called Ranains death "unfortunate," and said the Muslim vice mayor had a good relationship with his Christian constituents, endearing himself to them through his kindness.

Doctors had advised him against too much stress, Uy said.

Sarenas said the local Lakas party mourned Ranains death and that a meeting has been set Sunday afternoon to choose who among the late officials kin would substitute him.

He said Ranains daughter, a law student, was among the likely candidates to replace Ranain.

Ranain was to be buried 1 p.m. Sunday in accordance with the Muslim tradition.

'In My Life' reaps Star Awards honors

Excited ang komedyanteng si Eugene Domingo sa panibago niyang pelikula ngayong Mayo. Humakot naman ng parangal ang pelikulang "In My Life" ng Star Cinema sa Star Awards.

CA allows local airing of HBO's 'Big Love'

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals has nullified a cease and desist order issued by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) blocking the local airing of HBO's original series "Big Love", which is a fictional story about a family of polygamists.

"Dragon" wings it back to No. 1 with $15 million

LOS ANGELES - "How to Train Your Dragon" continues to breathe fire at the box office, while newer releases are mostly blowing smoke.

Police barred from penis enlargement

by Reuters
JAKARTA – Forget about getting a job as a police officer in Indonesia's Papua if you have had your penis enlarged. You won't get it, according to local media reports citing the Papua police chief.

An applicant "will be asked whether or not his vital organ has been enlarged," said Papua police chief Bekto Suprapto, quoted on local website Kompas.com.

"If he has, he will be considered unfit to join the police or the military."

The ban was applied since the unnatural size causes "hindrance during training," said police spokesman Zainuri Lubis in Jakarta, quoted by news portal Detik.com.

Indonesia's remote easternmost province is home to Papuan tribes, many of whom are known for wearing penis gourds.

A low-level separatist insurgency has waged in the resources-rich part of Indonesia for decades and there is a heavy police and military presence there.

Papuans use a local technique to achieve the enlargement, according to a sexologist quoted by local newspaper Jakarta Globe, wrapping the penis with leaves from the "gatal-gatal" (itchy) tree so that it swells up "like it has been stung by a bee," the expert said.

Heat wave not ruled out, says agency

THE WEATHER bureau said yesterday that temperatures in May could reach 41 degrees Celsius, with the possibility of a heat wave being monitored.

PAGASA: Brace for hotter days

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
'Acid rain a possibility' MANILA, Philippines – People in Metro Manila can expect hotter days ahead or up until April is over. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said it expects temperatures in Metro Manila to hover over the 37-degree Celsius mark over the next couple of days.

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