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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 28, 2010 Major News Stories



Piston gears up for major protests on Labor Day

MANILA, Philippines – Militant transport group Piston is gearing up for major protest actions in Manila on May 1, Labor Day, an official said today.

Piston secretary general George San Mateo said around 1,000 public transport drivers will be joining other people and labor organizations, including Kilusang Mayo Uno and Anakpawis, in Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to demand wage increase and a substantial rollback on the prices of petroleum products.

He also challenged the presidential candidates to make a stand and support their call for the oil price rollback.

Meanwhile, San Mateo said the transport sector is dissatisfied with the P0.25 per liter cut on diesel and P0.50 per liter rollback implemented today by the three big oil companies — Petron, Chevron and Shell. 

No surprises on May 1, Palace tells labor groups

THE ARROYO government is scrounging for non-wage benefits to present to the country's workers on May 1, telling representatives of labor groups who gathered in Malacañang yesterday that much of these wage alternatives had already been given.


DOLE orders PAL management, union to maintain status quo

by By Rocel Felix, abs-cbnnews.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Labor and Employment on Wednesday has intervened in the dispute between the management of the Philippine Airlines and the PAL Employees' Association, staving off a planned strike by employees of the country's flag carrier.

School supply suggested retail price to stay, says Trade chief

PRICES OF school supplies should remain unchanged from yearago levels after manufacturers and retailers reported no plans to hike costs, Trade department Secretary Jesli A. Lapus yesterday said.

OBO allows work to resume

CYC Construction can now resume its work on the Gaisano Capital building in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City.

This, after the Office of the Building Official (OBO) submitted its final report and recommended to Mayor Tomas Osmeña the resumption of the construction of the building.

The project was immediately suspended by OBO following the collapse of the building's firewall last April 7.

Five construction workers of CYC Construction were killed while six others were injured in the tragedy.

Contained in the report of OBO is the certification that the building passed the minimum structural standards that ensure public safety.

The contractor, however, was asked to comply with the requirements set by OBO, before it can proceed with the construction work.

CYC Construction must submit a built-plan of the building aside from securing a scaffolding permit.

The filing of a separate complaint, though, was recommended by Acting Building Official Josefa Ylanan against architect Charles Chiu, owner of CYC Construction.

Ylanan said Chiu violated the National Building Code (PD 1096) and should be held liable.

OBO and the city legal office, Ylanan said, will file the case against the contractor if the mayor will give them the go signal.

Osmeña, however, said he will only allow the filing of a suit against the contractor if the families of the victims are determined to pursue the case.

"Kung ang mga pamilya sa mga biktima dili makig-compromise sa contractor, then that's the time nga we will file charges against him (If the families of the victims won't enter into a compromise with the contractor, we will file the charges)," Osmeña said.

The mayor approved, though, the recommendation of OBO that CYC can continue working on the building after it will comply with the requirements.

Meanwhile, City Councilor Gerardo Carillo and Ylanan met with the representatives of DCD Construction yesterday after part of the third floor of the Aegis People Support building in Asiatown IT Park in Barangay Apas collapsed last Saturday and injured one worker.

Engr. Mario Roy Guibao, vice president for operations of DCD Construction, also submitted during the meeting an incident report.

The report said that at 6:10 p.m., when the concreting work on the third floor was almost complete, the firm's formworks engineer, Vincent Cerdeña, who was monitoring the stability of the support below the ramp being concreted, noticed that a single shoring post had slipped from the diagonal ramp directly below the ramp with newly poured concrete.

Evacuated

Guibao said the workers monitoring the forms below, as well as the workers involved in concreting works above, were immediately advised to vacate the area.

He said a few minutes after, one of the 16 trusses supporting the structure gave way, causing a domino effect on the succeeding 15 trusses that were all interconnected.

Ylanan, who visited the construction site the other day, said DCD Construction was able to implement safety measures and the workers had safety gadgets.
But she reminded the contractor to closely monitor the construction activity so that the incident will not happen again.

Guibao, for his part, assured Ylanan that all safety measures will be complied with to prevent another untoward incident.

Amend

Ylanan said DCD Construction can resume the work if it could submit an amended plan of the building.

"Meantime, all the construction work are suspended except the clearing of the area while we are waiting for the amended plan being done," Ylanan said.

Except for the suspension of the construction work, no other sanction was imposed on the contractor after the construction firm admitted the lapses.

Carillo, for his part, sees a need to monitor all the construction work in the city.

As of the other day, OBO had approved 207 building permits since January for residential, commercial, industrial and institutional structures in the city. Last year, it issued 919 building permits.


Transmission glitch mars PCOS test in Cebu

CEBU, Philippines - With 13 days remaining before the start of the country's first automated elections, a transmission problems to hound the tests of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines here.

Testing of the machines started last Sunday.

Lawyer Lionel Marco Castillano of the Commission on Elections provincial office said PCOS machines in 5 towns in Southern Cebu still cannot transmit their data reliably to the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBC).

Despite the problems, Castillano remained confident that all their systems will be working properly by May 10.

"This can't be perfect this time, but we have made recommendations to address this problem," Castillano said.

Castillano added that some of the technicians who were supposed to assist members of the PBC in operating the Canvassing Consolidating System (CCS) were not familiar on how to use it.

"To be frank..there are some CCS technicians who are not well versed with the system," Castillano said. "I'm recommending them for retraining. There's only a few of them."

If the transmission problem persists, Castillano said they will store a copy of the election returns in a CD, which will then be hand-delivered to the PBC.

The Comelec office here has been distributing voter information sheets and sample ballots to teach barangay residents here how to use the PCOS machines.


Allies rally for Gibo


HIS performance in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey may have improved, but presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro Jr. is not impressed.

Surveys, he said, don't mean anything to him.

"I don't trust surveys," Teodoro said in a quick interview. "We will just win." The interview took place on the sidelines of a gathering of barangay workers yesterday morning in Minglanilla town, the first stop of his two-day Cebu campaign trip.

The trip gave his allies in the One Cebu party a chance to show they remain united behind Teodoro, despite rumors of defections to candidates with better survey ratings or bigger war chests.

"We have decided to work hardest for your victory in the third district on May 10," Rep. Pablo John Garcia said in Toledo City, Teodoro's second campaign stop yesterday.

"Your presence here today, Mr. President, is acknowledged and we will always be grateful for this. And your presence here today, a few days before the elections, has only recharged your troops," Garcia added.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and her candidate for vice governor, Glenn Soco, joined Teodoro during yesterday's visit, which was projected to cover seven towns or cities in five congressional districts.

After Toledo, they proceeded to Daanban-tayan, Medellin, Bogo City, Danao City and capped the day with a rally in Lapu-Lapu City.

Today, he is scheduled to visit Camotes and Bantayan in the north, then proceed by helicopter to the southern towns of Dumanjug, Argao and Carcar, before ending the day with a rally near the Cebu International Convention Center in Mandaue City.

Teodoro's nationwide ratings rose from six percent in March 19-22 to nine percent April 16-19, SWS and its polling partner Business World reported last Monday.

In the Visayas, Teodoro's survey rating increased from seven to 11 percent.

His first campaign stop was in the first district, whose congressman, Eduardo Gullas, has campaigned for the Nacionalista Party's Sen. Manuel Villar since the start of this election season.

But while Minglanilla may be "orange country," the Minglanilla Sports Complex was flooded with green yesterday.

Barangay health workers (BHWs) showed up in green shirts, while the early childhood care and development (ECCD) workers wore uniform pink shirts.

Members of the Minglanilla town council, dominated by Gullas's Alayon members, wore green.

Mayor Eddie Selma immediately left the complex after giving his welcome address but still addressed Teodoro as "our president of the Philippines." The council stayed behind.

Governor Garcia urged the BHWs, ECCD workers, barangay nutrition scholars and barangay animal health aides to think of the country and vote for the most qualified presidential candidate, Teodoro.

Just as he promised the barangay workers in the same venue last December, Teodoro said he will make sure the National Government will help barangay workers. He wants their compensation legislated, so they would not have to rely on a meager honorarium.

But since it was the second time he made that promise, he said that he would rather do it than keep saying it.

Teodoro then tried to say in Bisaya one of Governor Garcia's favorite quips: "Dili sulti mao'y pabuhaton, buhat mao'y pasultion." (Let our actions speak). Teodoro stumbled on the last phrase, but gamely soldiered on after the governor told him the right words.

Teodoro also said if he wins, on the very first day he sits as president, Cebu will get a project from him.

In an ambush interview, he reiterated his plans for the road widening of Hernan Cortes St. in Mandaue City and the construction of a parallel road to Escario St. in Cebu City.

Also yesterday, One Cebu spokesman Rory Jon Sepulveda said the party has not asked for support from any religious group, but would welcome it as long as the group's views are consistent with the party's principles, platform and policies.

"It's okay with us. Just don't compromise One Cebu," he added.

"And I don't see any difficulty if some of our candidates will have these arrangements with other groups, be it religious social, civic, cultural or otherwise, to help their own campaign," he added.

Seven of the presidential candidates, including Teodoro, visited Davao City last Sunday for the birthday of the "televangelist" Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, the Philippine Information Agency reported. Quiboloy, however, deferred until this Sunday, May 2, his announcement on whom he will endorse for the presidency.

Tomas says other candidates are welcome to campaign during SRP launch

CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña will welcome candidates campaigning during the grand launching of the South Road Properties (SRP) next week.

The mayor said politicians can hold a rally during the week-long celebration at the SRP as long as they will not distract the revelers.

The invitation is open to all, including opposition party Kugi Uswag Sugbu (Kusug).

Osmeña made the statement after his estranged cousin, former senator John Henry "Sonny" Osmeña, who is running for mayor, said he will campaign at the SRP launch since he expects a huge crowd to gather.

Mayoral candidates Alvin Garcia of Kusug and Georgia Osmeña of GO Cebu will not attend.

They both reiterated their call for the administration to postpone the SRP launch after the May 10 elections. They earlier questioned the timing of the activity and the use of over P1 million in government funds.

Georgia said the City should use the amount for the launching on reforestation and other environmental projects instead.

"No amount of explanation can cover up the fact that the SRP grand launch is nothing but a cheap political gimmickry using our people's hard-earned money," Georgia said.

Garcia said he may attend and witness the launching if this will be done after the elections.

"Muadto ko anang launching kung himoon na human sa eleksyon, dili ta mukubit anang ilang paon kay tabla ra nga gikalawat nato ilang pagpamulitika (We won't take their bait because it will be just like we're tolerating their political gimmick)," Garcia said.

But SRP Manager Nagiel Bañacia said the plan for the scheduled grand launching, which will start on Saturday, has already been set.

The celebration will open with sports activities, such as ball games, boxing matches, drag racing, aside from the nightly shows, such as concerts, among others.

A barbecue cookout and a fireworks display of 120,000 rockets, aimed at setting a world record, will highlight the week-long celebration.

Earlier, former senator Osmeña said he will bring a sound system at the SRP and deliver a speech there.
Mayor Osmeña won't stop his cousin from doing so.

"No problem. It's a very good opportunity for him because he didn't like to go around for the last 30 years, so, karon lang ipakita ang iyang nawong (He will only show his face now), okay ra na," Osmeña said.

The mayor also disclosed he already gave a space for the party-list group Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines at the SRP.

He is waiting for others to ask for a chance to campaign there, too.

Bangit assures: No poll failure, no junta

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Delfin Bangit is confident that there will be no failure of elections next month because of the high level of preparation done by the military and the Philippine National Police.

Comelec awards padlock contract

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) finally awarded the contract for the acquisition of more than 200,000 padlocks to secure the ballot boxes for the May 10 polls to Neutron Construction and Marketing Corp. Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the commission en banc recently resolved to approve the recommendation of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) on the padlocks' procurement. In a promulgation held last week, he said the en banc denied the petition filed by the losing bidder Atlanta Industries Corp. questioning the decision of BAC for selecting Neutron even as it doesn't conform to the contract specifications. "We measured it (padlock).The measurement was done before the en banc and it resolved to deny the protest (of Atlanta). And we had the award given to the winning bidder," Larrazabal said. Neutron will supply the 228,000 padlocks for the safekeeping of 77,000 ballot boxes that will be used in all the precincts nationwide. Each ballot box will be sealed using three padlocks when the voting and counting of the ballots is completed. Larrazabal said the contract was awarded to Neutron because of its lowest bid at P18 million.

Strike threat at PAL worries Comelec

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo expressed concern over the threat of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) to go on strike.

Ex-poll chief Monsod backs parallel manual count

Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Christian Monsod on Tuesday added his voice to the growing calls for the conduct of a parallel manual count in the May 10 automated elections.

Monsod, who served as poll body chief from June 6, 1991 to Feb. 15, 1995, said the parallel count is the "best way" to test the reliability of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and the source code or the software that will be used in the upcoming elections.

"The manual count is the check on the electronic count. If the PCOS machine has been tainted, then the result will not be correct," Monsod said at a forum held in Intramuros, Manila.

He said the Comelec should conduct a parallel count of the votes for president, vice president, and one local position before transmission. He added that a one-percent error rate is tolerable, but anything more than that is alarming.

Comelec Resolution 9369 authorizes the Comelec to "prescribe" another manner or procedure for the canvassing and consolidation of votes. The same resolution also provides for a random manual audit of at least one precinct in each congressional district.

The Comelec had earlier increased the number of precincts to be audited to five.

On Monday, members of the Makati Business Club and the Philippine Bar Association asked the Comelec to conduct a manual count of votes for at least three positions in precincts nationwide.

Despite his stand, Monsod said he does not believe the current Comelec officials are conspiring to sabotage the upcoming elections. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel, who was also present during the forum, likewise said the present Comelec administration is better than the previous one.

Hunger strike

Last week, independent presidential candidate Sen. Maria Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal and the farmer-fisherfolk group Alyansa Agrikultura said they would go on a hunger strike until the poll body decides to conduct a parallel manual count.

On Tuesday, members of Alyansa Agrikultura started camping out in front of the Comelec office in Intramuros. "Nananawagan kami sa Comelec na magkaroon ng manual counting kahit sa tatlo o apat na mahahalang posisyonpresident, vice president, governor, at mayor," Alyansa Agrikultura member Rene Cerilla told GMANews.TV in an interview.

(We are calling on the Comelec to hold a manual counting on at least three to four important positionspresident, vice president, governor and mayor.)

Cerilla also expressed concern that voters who are not familiar with computers would be disenfranchised. "Hindi na kasalanan ng electorate 'yon, kasalanan 'yon ng sistema (It's not the electorate's fault, it's the system's.)," he said.

The group said it had secured a permit to camp out in front of the poll body's premises until May 3.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said they have yet to decide on the matter. "We don't base our decisions on emotions, we're looking at the matter objectively," he said in an interview with reporters on Tuesday.

Teodoro rejects parallel manual count

TOLEDO CITY, Cebu, PhilippinesAdministration standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro on Tuesday rejected calls for a parallel manual count on the elections, saying this could be a cause for bias.

In an interview after speaking at the inauguration of the Garden City Hall here, Teodoro said the parallel manual count was not among the provisions specified when they signed their certificates of candidacy.

"Pumirma kami ng certificate of candidacy, nandyan ba yan sa rules of the game? (When we signed the certificate of candidacy, was that part of the rules of the game?)" he said.

Teodoro also said the covenant the candidates signed did not include the issue of manual recount.

A parallel manual could result to trending, which would only favor certain candidates, he said.

Businessmen, led by the Makati Business Club and the Phil. Bar Association, called the Commission on Elections to conduct a parallel manual count of votes.

Palace sees "malice" in calls for parallel manual count

Malacañang is seeing malice" in the calls for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct parallel manual counting during the first ever nationwide automated elections on May 10.

The timing of these petitions, for me, is with malice," said deputy presidential spokesman Rogelio Peyuan at a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday.

Why only now? If there really think that this is meritorious, why they didnt even bother to raise these concerns during the public hearings at the congress," he added.

Peyuan said the petitions for a parallel count filed by several groupsthe influential Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Philippine Bar Association (PBA)were highly-questionable.

The petitions were asking the Comelec to implement the manual count in all precincts nationwide to ensure the credibility of the May elections.

Peyuan said a parallel manual count is not only expensive but also defeats the purpose of the automation, which is to avoid human error. He stressed that Comelec is ready to address the concerns being raised by the proponents of the parallel manual count.

He added that the groups could be out to discredit the elections. I fear that, based on our history, that if these kinds of suggestions were brought up in the last minute and was rejected, these groups will then accuse that there are anomalies in the automation exercise."

Meanwhile, the Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) said that teachers should no longer be involved in case there would be a manual counting of votes on May 10.

Count us out," TDC national chairperson Benjo Basas said when asked if they support the conduct of a parallel manual count in the upcoming polls.

We are in favor of the parallel manual count to ensure that the results of the automated polls are authentic.Dapat talagang gawin ito ng Comelec pero sila na lang ang magbasa manually ng results at di na dapat pang masangkot dito ang mga teachers," Basas added.

(The Comelec should conduct a parallel manual count but they should leave the teachers out of it.)

The automated election system has reduced the Board of Election Inspector (BEI) requirement from 800, 000 to about 250, 000 teachers.

Local absentee voting for 21,000 voters begins Wednesday

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced on Tuesday that everything is all set for the conduct of the local absentee voting beginning Wednesday, April 28, until April 30.

"We're on track in terms of local absentee voting," Comelec Committee on Local Absentee Voting head Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told reporters in an interview.

Covered by the local absentee voting are around 21,000 government officials and employees as well as members of the military and police who will be on election duty in places where they are not registered on May 10, election day.

The guidelines released by the Comelec last February indicate that those who were approved to avail of the local absentee voting shall be allowed to vote anytime from April 28 to 30 in the place designated by the head of their agency and in the presence of an authorized Comelec representative.

But just like overseas absentee voters, local absentee voters shall only be allowed to vote for national positions. Local absentee voting is also traditionally done manually.

Sarmiento said they can vouch for the security of the ballots and the conduct of the local absentee voting. "We just entrust it to the head of that office," he said, adding that voting will be done in the presence of election officers.

He added that after the conduct of the local absentee voting ends, the ballots will directly be sent to the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila where they will be stored until election day.

"They will count and canvass the votes on May 10," Sarmiento said.

A total of 50,723,734 Filipinos in the country are qualified to vote while 589,830 more Filipinos abroad are also expected to participate in the overseas absentee voting in the May automated polls.

Overseas absentee voting began on April 10 and will end on May 10.

Cops, soldiers to cast absentee vote ballots Wednesday

MANILA, Philippines -- Tasked primarily to watch over the security concerns regarding the elections, state forces will miss experiencing the countrys historic automated balloting, the first to be held in the Philippines.

Starting on Wednesday, over 20,000 soldiers and policemen assigned to various camps across the country will start trooping to polling centers to cast their votes, albeit, via the traditional method.

As ordered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), policemen participating in the absentee voting would have to write the names of their candidates on the ballots, said Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, Philippine National Police spokesman.

No voting machines will be given to us, Espina told reporters in Camp Crame on Tuesday.

According to Espina, absentee voters have been allowed to vote only for president, vice president, senators and party-list groups.

Like in previous elections, local absentee voters, such as policemen, will have to write down on the ballots our choices for those running for national posts, he continued.

Under the Comelec resolution, the local absentee voting will be held from April 28 to 30.

After the voting period, the ballots, placed in sealed envelopes, will then be taken to the Comelecs main office in Intramuros.

Only members of a special board of election inspectors are allowed to open the envelopes and tally the votes on May 10.

So far, only 1,800 policemen -- or less than two percent of the 130,000-strong national police force- signed up for the local absentee voting.

We really cannot blame our men because most of them are already preoccupied with their assignments for the elections, Espina told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

He also surmised that a number of police officers who wanted to avail of a chance to vote ahead of the May 10 elections were disqualified by the Comelec.

I guess a number of us had failed to vote during the past two elections and were unable to register again to be able to qualify as absentee voters, he said.

But that doesnt mean that we are not interested in the coming elections, he stressed.

Espina said PNP personnel assigned in Camp Crame would cast their votes at the Comelecs main office.

On the other hand, the PNP regional headquarters will serve as polling centers for policemen assigned in the provinces.

The Armed Forces said some 19,722 military personnel deployed across the country have enlisted to be able to participate in the local absentee voting.

Col. Ricardo Morales, AFP Task Force Hope spokesman, said a total of 1,420 soldiers were expected to cast their votes at Camp Aguinaldo, the militarys main camp.

We are (closely) coordinating with the personnel and officers from the AFPs major services as well as with the concerned Comelec officials regarding the local absentee voting, Morales said.

Aside from Camp Aguinaldo, AFPs major camps nationwide will also be used as voting centers. 
Espina said the Comelec, not the PNP or the AFP, will organize a special board of election inspectors to oversee the electoral process in police and military camps.

He vowed that the PNP will remain apolitical and that its officials will not influence their personnel into supporting certain candidates.

Our role will be contained in ensuring that PNP members who want to exercise their right to suffrage will be given to avail the chance to vote, Espina said.

Professor denies 'mental evaluation' on Aquino

MANILA, PhilippinesThe psychology professor who purportedly conducted a psychiatric evaluation of Senator Benigno Noynoy Aquino III in 1979 denied the report made public on Tuesday by the camp of rival presidential aspirant Manuel Manny Villar Jr.

In a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jaime Bulatao of the Ateneo de Manila psychology department said he did not make such an evaluation nor sign any report.

It has come to my attention that an unverified psychiatric evaluation allegedly signed by me in 1979 about the mental condition of Senator Benigno C. Aquino III is currently circulating in the news. I categorically deny having written and signed that report, said Bulatao in a one-paragraph statement.

Palace: Public must know candidates' 'brain health'

MANILA, PhilippinesMalacaang said on Tuesday it was important to know the "brain health of candidates running for the presidency in May.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Rogelio Peyuan said the public needs to know the candidates, especially those running for the top post of the land.

"And maybe its only proper to know that the father of the republic is healthy, not only physically but mentally, Peyuan told reporters. He was reacting to the release by the camp of Nacionalist Party presidential candidate of an admittedly unverified psychiatric report that Aquino suffered from depression more than 30 years ago as a 19-year-old student.

"I personally, and I suppose the Palace [too] would believe that everyone must come clean, and the matter of brain health of course is a concern and so its important for people to know," he said.

Still, he said, it was really up to the people to appreciate the new claims about Aquino.

As in the first revelation of a psychiatric report, an Ateneo psychology professor who supposedly conducted the test and signed the purported report that was released at a news conference by a Villar campaigner on Tuesday issued a terse statement denying he conducted such a test or signed any such report.

Asked whether his call for candidates to reveal the state of their mental health was not really propaganda against Aquino, Peyuan said that he was just answering a question, that Malacaang did not start this debate and "we do not want to appear as facilitating all of these issues.

Asked whether presidential candidates should undergo a psychiatric test, he said he did not know whether this was "proper.

He said that a mental exam was not part of the requirements for a person seeking the presidency.

Estrada denies Binay betrayed him

MASBATE CITY, PhilippinesDeposed president Joseph Erap Estrada has denied accusations his running mate Makati Mayor Jejomar Jojo Binay betrayed him and that the latter is really for survey leader Benigno Noynoy Aquino III.

I dont believe so. I personally chose Mayor Binay to be my running mate because I believe in him, Estrada, who is seeking reelection, said during a campaign sortie here Monday afternoon.

With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, the visit was Estradas second to this island province, a known election hotspot that lies on the fringes of the Bicol Region.

Asked for comment on Senator Francis Chiz Escuderos endorsement of the Aquino-Binay combination, Estrada said: I respect the choice of Senator Escudero. That is his right.

Estrada, who arrived in the province at around 2:40 p.m. Monday, immediately went around the main public market, to the relief of his local supporters who waited almost seven hours for his arrival.

He delivered a brief speech before a crowd of Masbateos and later proceeded to Greenview Restaurant on Nursery St. for a press conference.

On the possibility that elections fail and no president would be elected on June 30, Estrada said he would not tolerate the idea of a military junta in which the military shall rule the country.

The people will not allow that, he explained, adding that a long-term junta will not sit well with the people and is out of the question.

He said a temporary junta is allowable only for a period of from six months to one year, at the most.

Aquino: Villar has only himself to blame

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, PhilippinesNacionalista Party standard-bearer Senator Manuel "Manny" Villar has no one else to blame but himself for his sliding numbers in the surveys, Liberal Party presidential candidate Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said.

In a press briefing at the airport here, Aquino said Villar's failure to personally answer the accusations against him might have cost him his credibility before the public.

"Didn't Senator Villar have many opportunities to answer all the issues he's facing? (But) he chose not to address these squarely," Aquino said in Filipino.

"This further increased the doubt of our people that he was not doing right. So, for the (survey) numbers, he has no one else to blame but himself," he added.

Hearing of Gordon appeal vs 2 survey firms postponed

MANILA, PhilippinesA Quezon City court has deferred the hearing of Senator Richard Gordon's petition for temporary restraining order against two polling firms earlier scheduled Tuesday .

Court staff of Regional Trial Court Branch 219 said the hearing Tuesday afternoon has been postponed as presiding judge Bayani Vargas is still on leave.

Both Gordon and the two survey firms, Social Weather Stations Inc. and Pulse Asia Inc. will be re-notified of the new schedule.

Enrile says he looks forward to receiving COCs, ERs for nat"l posts

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Tuesday expressed readiness to receive the certificates of canvass (COCs) and election returns (ERs) for the positions of President and Vice President immediately after the polling precincts close at 6 p.m. on May 10.

The rules and regulation for the reception of COCs and ERs were published in two newspapers Monday.

The Constitution mandates the Senate, through the Senate President, to receive all election returns for the positions of President and Vice President. After inspection, we will transmit them to the House of Representatives where both houses, in a joint session, will start the canvassing of votes," Enrile said in a press statement.

Since the country will have its first ever nationwide automated elections, the Congress will receive both physical and electronic transmissions of the COCs and ERs.

Enrile said the printed COCs and ERs, contained in ballot boxes, will be received at the Senate building in Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City while the electronically transmitted ERs and COCs will be received in the House of Representatives.

The COCs, its supporting documents, and paraphernalia will be received at the Claro M. Recto and Jose P. Laurel Rooms at the second floor of the Senate building while the ballot boxes containing the election returns will be received at the ground floor lobby.

As Senate President, Enrile will receive the first delivered ballot boxes of the COCs.

Subsequent ballot boxes containing the COCs and the ERs will thereafter be received by duly designated reception teams as representatives of the Senate President as provided under the rules and guidelines of the reception.

Three reception teams shall be on duty on a 24-hour basis, with each team observing an eight-hour shift, Enrile said.

Presidential and vice presidential bets and political parties fielding presidential and vice presidential candidates are entitled to one representative each to witness the reception of COCs and ERs.

Enrile said the reception of the COCs and ERs will be documented using still and video cameras to ensure transparency of the proceedings.

Upon receipt of the ballot boxes and the transmittal slip from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) officer, the team leader, in the presence of the Comelec officer, will describe the condition of the ballot box, state its serial number, the number of keys and locks turned over to them and the serial number of the self-locking seal.

As an added security measure, the Comelec officer will be asked to conform or comment on the description or observation made by the team leader, who will turn over the ballot boxes to the Senate security team for storage.

The team leader who will receive the COCs and the ERs will issue an official receipt describing the condition of the ballot boxes to the Comelec officer.

On the other hand, the Senate will also deploy another team to run the electronic transmission of the COCs at the House of Representatives.

The Senate will assume responsibility over the Consolidation and Canvassing System at the House of Representatives from the time of installation and initialization until the convening of the Congress in Joint Session on May 31 to canvass the Presidential and Vice Presidential votes, Enrile said.

Meanwhile, Senate Secretary Emma Lirio Reyes said the gun ban will be strictly enforced at the Senate premises for the duration of the reception of COCs and ERs.

She said Comelec officers and their escorts will be required to deposit their firearms with the security team.

Reyes said only vehicles carrying ballot boxes and other vehicles authorized by the Senate President will be allowed entry into the covered parking area effective May 10.

We are implementing tight security measures during the reception period to ensure that the proceedings will go smoothly," she said.

Aquino, Roxas to chase tax cheaters and smugglers

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - An Aquino-Roxas administration will chase big tax cheaters and smugglers to raise the government's coffers, instead of imposing new taxes, leading vice-presidential candiate Mar Roxas said.

Masbate gov surrenders 24 firearms

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Re-electionist Masbate Gov. Elisa Kho surrendered Tuesday 24 assorted firearms, believed to have been used by her family's private army, to the Department of National Defense.


Loren Legarda shrugs off Sarah photo

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Loren Legarda, who is running for vice president under the Nacionalista Party, brushed off the controversial photo of her big celebrity endorser Sarah Geronimo.

Rogue MILF eyed in Sarangani gov convoy blast

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The military on Tuesday said it is investigating the possible involvement of rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in the bomb attack of the convoy of re-electionist Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez.

Watchdog wants 'drenched' Zambo ballots probed

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - A poll watchdog on Tuesday said it will ask permission from the Commission on Elections to check the integrity of poll automation ballots that got caught in the rain after being delivered at the Zamboanga City airport.

Ex-Batangas Gov Sanchez dies

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
LIPA CITY, Philippines - Former Batangas Governor Armand Sanchez passed away in the Mary Mediatrix Center in Lipa City, Batangas at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday.

NBI exec: We've turned over semen specimen from Vizconde girl to court

MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Courts unusual order to belatedly subject vital forensic evidence in the celebrated 1991 Vizconde rape-slay case to DNA testing hit a wall after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it no longer had the specimen.

This developed as Lauro Vizconde, whose wife, Estrelita and children Carmela and Jennifer, were killed in 1991, opposed the belated holding of DNA testing on what would be questionable specimen.

In a five-page report submitted to the Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon, NBI Deputy Director for Technical Services Reynaldo Esmeralda said they turned over to the Paraaque Regional Trial Court Branch 274 in 1996 the specimen taken from the body of 18-year-old rape victim Carmela Vizconde during autopsy.

The desired semen specimen/vaginal smear taken from cadaver of Carmela Vizconde (including all original documents, i.e. autopsy and laboratory reports and photographs) is no longer in the custody of the NBI, Esmeralda reported.

He said all the pieces of evidence were submitted to the Paraaque court by then NBI medico-legal chief Prospero Cabanayan when he testified on Jan. 30 and 31 and Feb. 1, 5, 6 and 7, 1996, before the court.

Esmeralda on Monday said the NBI conducted an inventory of all forensic evidence in its custody after the Supreme Court granted last week a request of the convict, Hubert Webb, first made in 1997 to subject the semen specimen/vaginal smear to DNA analysis in an attempt to disprove that he raped, and killed, Carmela, her mother Estrellita, 47, and sister Jennifer, 7.

The Paraaque court then presided over by Judge Amelita Tolentino rejected Webbs request at the time after the prosecution protested that the specimen might no longer have been intact.

In his report, Esmeralda confirmed that a semen specimen was discovered in the vaginal smear.

NBI Medico-Legal Division Laboratory Report No. SN-91-17 confirmed that microscopic examination made on the said specimen gave positive result for the presence of human spermatozoa.

In an interview with reporters, NBI Medico Legal Chief Dr. Florencio Arizala said Cabayanan had reported that he turned over three glass slides of the semen specimen to the Paraaque RTC .

As part of standard operating procedure, fluid was taken from the vagina of Carmela Vizconde for the purpose of semenology. At the time, 1991, the NBI was not thinking about DNA. The first time the NBI acquired DNA (equipment) was in 1996, said Arizala, a lawyer.

While semenology is an almost perfect science, still in sperm pooling, we cannot determine how many different sperms are there in the semenology. We can only differentiate human spermatozoa from that of animals. But with DNA testing, it can be established how many different sperms and who may own them, he said.

The Supreme Court ordered the NBI to coordinate with the University of the Philippines Natural Science and Research Institute in conducting the DNA test.

Webb, son of former senator Freddie Webb, and five young scions of rich families were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000 for rape with homicide while two other accused, including the supposed boyfriend of key prosecution witness Jessica Alfaro, remain at large.

Their conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2005 and affirmed in 2007. The case has since been pending on appeal in the Supreme Court.

Reached for comment about the NBI report, Supreme Court spokesperson and concurrent court administrator Midas Marquez said, Well wait for next action of the court.

Marquez admitted that in Webbs case, the Supreme Court veered from the rule that prohibited it from trying factual evidence in a case.

In ordering the DNA test, the magistrates, invoking the higher interest of justice, decided not to remand the case to the trial court but to receive evidence.

Lauro Vizconde vowed to appeal the Supreme Court decision granting Hubert Webb's request for DNA testing of vital forensic evidence.

Vizconde himself went to the Supreme Court office in Manila Monday morning to get a copy of the resolution ordering the DNA testing of the semen specimen taken from the body of Carmela.

"My worry is, the result will no longer be credible because of the long period of time of its (specimen's) storage. And we are worried that this will lead to the acquittal of Hubert Webb. We have to act now, we have to do something, he said when interviewed by reporters at the Supreme Court office.

Way back in 1997 we already opposed the conduct of DNA test and it (motion) was already dismissed that time. It is only now that the Supreme Court decided to proceed with the conduct of DNA analysis," he continued.

The others convicted in the Vizconde murders were Antonio Tony Boy Lejano, son of actress Pinky De Leon; Michael Gatchalian and Miguel Rodriguez, sons of prominent lawyers; Peter Estrada, son of a wealthy businessman; and Hospicio Pyke Fernandez, son of a retired commodore.

Two other accused remain at large namely Joey Filart, allegedly a relative of former Capital Region Command Chief Marino Filart; and Artemio Dong Ventura, allegedly the boyfriend of key eyewitness Jessica Alfaro.

Police officer Gerardo Biong was also convicted as accessory to the crime and sentenced to 11 to 12 years of imprisonment.

Newsbreak editor files counteraffidavit in SC justice's libel suit

MANILA, Philippines--Veteran journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug, editor in chief of Newsbreak, on Tuesday filed her counteraffidavit to the 13 counts of libel filed against her by Supreme Court Justice Presbitero Velasco.

$1: P44.430

$1: P44.430

Euro 1: P59.1067

RP sends 326 peacekeepers to Syria

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Armed Forces of the Philippines has sent a 326-member peacekeeping force to Golan Heights, Syria.

The Philippine troops will replace the 333-member contingent deployed to Golan Heights last November 30 as part of the United Nations Disengagement Observers Force (UNDOF), said AFP spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, Jr.

The contingent, composed of 49 officers and 277 enlisted personnel, is led by Colonel Alexis Gopico of the Philippine Army, said Burgos.

A send-off ceremony was held Tuesday at the 600th Air Base Wing in the Clark Air Base in Pampanga. Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Delfin Bangit was guest of honor and speaker.

The deployment of Filipino troops to Syria is in accordance with the 2009 agreement of the Philippine government and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Part of the agreement is for Manila to contribute personnel, equipment and services for a Headquarters Support Platoon at the UNDOF headquarters and a Philippine battalion at the southern portion of UNDOF area of responsibility to assist the UN in bringing peace between the Syrian and Israeli governments.

The UNDOF was established in May 1974.

Ex-Panama dictator Noriega extradited to France

by Reuters
WASHINGTON – Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was extradited on Monday to France where he has been convicted on money laundering charges, according to U.S. law enforcement and airport officials.

Thai king speaks for first time since protests broke out

by Agence France-Presse
BANGKOK - Thailand's revered king spoke on national television Monday for the first time since anti-government protests broke out in mid-March, addressing a group of newly appointed judges.

Chaos in Ukraine parliament as Russia deal ratified

KIEV, Ukraine - Ukraine's parliament erupted into chaos Tuesday as deputies scuffled and hurled smoke bombs during a tumultuous session that ratified a bitterly contested deal with Russia extending a naval base lease.

Priestly celibacy not 'untouchable': Vatican number two

by Agence France-Presse
MADRID, Spain - Vatican number two Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has said that priestly celibacy is not "untouchable" but is a "positive tradition" during an interview with a Spanish television station.

Mosley: Mayweather will face a speed he's not used to

MANILA, Philippines – "Sugar" Shane Mosley said Floyd Mayweather Jr. will face a speed he's never handled before on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Wesley So retains lead over Asian Chess rivals

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So kept his lead in the 2010 Asian Individual Chess Championships in Subic even if his 6th round match ended in a draw on Monday.

N.B.A. Roundup: Sweep for the Magic and a Lesson for Howard

from NYT > Pro Basketball by By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Vince Carter scored 21 points, Jameer Nelson added 18 and the Magic showcased its depth in a 99-90 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday to complete a sweep of their first-round series.

Howard was held to 6 points in his fourth straight game in foul trouble, but the Magic never flinched in closing out the first four-game sweep in franchise history. Orlando will face the Atlanta-Milwaukee winner in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Coach Stan Van Gundy said he knew the Magic could not afford to have Howard sitting on the bench in later rounds.

"If you would have told me that he would have averaged well under 30 minutes for the series and we would sweep, I would have said you're crazy," Van Gundy said. "I think it's a testament to our other guys."

Howard had so much trouble staying in games in the series that his teammates gave him a nickname.

"They've been killing me all day calling me, 'Foul on You,' " Howard said in the pregame shootaround.

The teasing stemmed from Howard's being called for 16 fouls in the first three games against the Bobcats, who have used three centers to frustrate him.

Howard fouled out with 3 minutes 32 seconds left in Game 3 on Saturday, but the Magic still rallied to win. He fouled out again in Game 4, after playing only 23 minutes, meaning he appeared in 105 of a possible 192 minutes in the series.

Tyrus Thomas scored 21 points for the Bobcats, whose focus will now turn to the nomadic coach Larry Brownand his future with the team.

Brown, in the second season of his 13th head coaching job in college and the pros, said two weeks ago that the Bobcats' new owner, Michael Jordan, was "the only guy I'm going to coach for." But Jordan said last month that he would not hold the 69-year-old Brown to his contract if he wanted to leave for family reasons.

Brown's wife and children live in Philadelphia, and he could hold true to his word if he left for a job such as team president of the 76ers and hired his own coach.

BUCKS 111, HAWKS 104 Carlos Delfino scored 22 points and made six 3-pointers, and host Milwaukee drew even in its first-round series against Atlanta.

Brandon Jennings scored 23 points and John Salmons added 22 for the Bucks, who survived a fourth-quarter surge led by the Atlanta stars Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. The Hawks will head home for Game 5, desperately needing a win to stave off a surprising challenge by a team missing its best player, the injured center Andrew Bogut.

"I still feel like there's no pressure on us," Jennings said. "At the end of the day, everybody still expects us to lose the series. The best thing we can do right now is just keep fighting, keep competing with them and just see how everything goes. Hopefully we can go over there and steal one."

SUNS 107, TRAIL BLAZERS 88 Channing Frye scored 20 points off the bench to lead five Phoenix players in double figures in scoring as the Suns beat visiting Portland and took a 3-2 lead in the first-round Western Conference series.

AWARD FOR HILL Grant Hill of the Suns won the Joe Dumars Trophy for outstanding sportsmanship in a vote by N.B.A. players. Hill, 37, won the honor for the second time in three years.

BULLS ARE HURTING Bulls guard Derrick Rose missed practiced to have a magnetic resonance imaging test on his right ankle, and his teammate Luol Deng sat out with a sore knee. But they are expected to play on Tuesday in Cleveland as the Cavaliers will try to wrap up the first-round series, which they lead by 3-1.

BUCKS' BUS IN COLLISION A car collided with the Atlanta Hawks' bus as the team was leaving a shootaround session in downtown Milwaukee on Monday afternoon. A team spokesman said no one was injured. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the incident on its Web site, displaying a photograph of a white car with significant front-end damage and a dent in the side of the bus.

Lakers must improve transition defense against Thunder

from Lakers Blog by Brad Turner

The theme for the Lakers after watching flim and after practice Monday was to get back on defense.

Repeat. Get back on defense.

It has to be said again. Get back on defense.

The Lakers didn't get back on defense nearly enough in the two losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder last week and now find themselves in a 2-2 tie in the Western Conference first-round playoff series. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Staples Center.

The first question posed to Kobe Bryant was what did the Lakers learn from the film viewing Monday.

"We need to get our (butt) back," Bryant said.

The Thunder had 24 fast-break points in Game 4 and 23 in Game 3.

"We've got to get back," Bryant said. "You got to run, you got to get back and you go to protect the basket."

Bryant said his health is fine.

The avulson fractured on his right index finger is healed, but Bryant now has arthritis in the joint on the finger. HIs right knee and left ankle are also better after two days of rest, he said.

Sasha Vujacic, healing from a left ankle sprain, said he might be able to play for the Lakers in the second round of the playoffs, if they get by the Thunder.

The Lakers are 17-0 at home in a Game 5 when the series has been tied 2-2.

Still, the Lakers know Tuesday's game won't be easy. "It's a must-win for us," Pau Gasol said. "We don't want to go back to Oklahoma City down 2-3."

Bryant was asked if the Lakers are angry after losing two games in Oklahoma City.

"We don't get angry," Bryant said. "There are certain things that we have to do to execute to win. Angry doesn't get it done. Emotion doesn't get it done. You got to execute."

Brillante Mendoza's 'Lola' in Tribeca filmfest

Napabilib ang international film makers sa obra ng Pinoy na si Direk Brillante Mendoza na "Lola." Itinampok ang indie film sa prestiyosong Tribeca International Film Fest sa New York! 

Sexy group Mocha Girls disbands

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The 5-member Mocha Girls have disbanded after 4 of them formed their own singing group.

Brazilians told to get more sex for healthy living

by Agence France-Presse
BRASILIA – One of the best ways Brazilians can stave off chronic illness is to engage regularly in physical exercise, especially sex, Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said Monday.

British election candidate dropped over sex talk

by Agence France-Presse
LONDON – Britain's ruling Labour party has suspended a candidate ahead of the May 6 general election, it said Monday, after he boasted about his sex life online.

Dry spell in Mindanao to be alleviated

THE LOW pressure area (LPA) being experienced in Mindanao would significantly alleviate the critical water levels in dams amid power shortages hitting the island, the state weather bureau said yesterday.

Wednesday: heavy rain shower, Max Temp: 30°C (86°F), Min Temp: 27°C (81°F)

Max Temp: 30°C (86°F), Min Temp: 27°C (81°F), Wind Direction: ESE, Wind Speed: 11mph, Visibility: good, Pressure: 1013mb, Humidity: 69%, Sunrise: 05:27PHT, Sunset: 17:55PHT

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