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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 30, 2010 Major News Stories

Malacanang: No wage hike on Labor Day

from by
MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang said there will be no announcement of a wage increase by President Gloria Arroyo on May 1 or Labor Day.

Satur hits Malacañang for moving Labor Day celeb to May 3

Bayan Muna Rep. Saturnino "Satur" Ocampo on Thursday scored Malacañang's decision to move the observance of Labor Day to May 3, when it is traditionally celebrated worldwide on May 1.

MCWD 'can't meet' hike in water demand caused by heat

OFFICIALS of Cebu's main water supplier said yesterday demand for water may increase by 10,000 cubic meters (cbm) in May, owing largely to the heat brought by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

The increased demand is more than what the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) can produce, an official said.

MCWD said the high temperatures that come with El Niño will push the demand for water higher.

Meanwhile, a private company has signed a deal with MCWD to alleviate the water problem in Barangay Lahug and its surrounding areas by providing additional bulk water.


MCWD assistant general manager for operations Ernie Delco said they project the demand for water to increase from 160,000 cbm a day to 170,000 cbm daily in May.

Delco said they see a stronger demand for water in May as the dry spell is expected to be at its strongest in that month.

Delco warned that MCWD cannot meet the increased demand since they they can only produce 160,000 cbm daily.

In order to meet the full demand next month, MCWD plans to cut consumption of water by about five percent, which is equivalent to a cubic meter per a day, of their over-all water production daily.

Delco said MCWD is urging its 128,000 customers across Metro Cebu to heed their call in limiting their consumption of water.


He said they will be putting up water advisories starting May 1 to warn their customers if they plan to limit supply in some areas in Metro Cebu.

But Delco explained that while the reduction in water supply may hamper services to customers, it is considered standard operating procedure to ensure that the daily demand is met.

MCWD is already conducting efforts to ensure that some customers may still feel the full water supply that they needed for the rest of the dry spell.

Intensified leak detection and the provision of water trucks for customers in upland Cebu areas such as Barangay Lahug have been done to alleviate the current water crisis.

Delco said that if the rainy season starts in June, MCWD may be able to meet the full demand again as water provisions are ecpected to fully recover.

But while water supplies are still limited, MCWD has signed a deal with a private firm that is willing to provide bulk water to areas in Cebu that need it.

Yesterday, MCWD signed a joint venture supply agreement with private firm Abejo Builders Corporation, to provide 2,000 cbm of water daily in Barangay Lahug and surrounding areas.

The additional volume of 2,000 cbm per day will be injected in the MCWD main pipe near BC Homes in Lahug. The company said this will benefit customers in upland areas who are experiencing continuous water shortages and low water pressure.

The joint venture supply agreement between Abejo Builders Corp is MCWD's first ever agreement signed with a private firm.

10 more areas in Cebu get ballots

TEN more areas in Cebu received their official ballots yesterday. Today, 16 areas are scheduled to receive theirs.

The towns of Alegria, Ginatilan, Malabuyoc, Samboan and Santander in the 2nd district of the province got their ballots yesterday. The ballots arrived last Wednesday yet, when the first batch arrived for distribution in Cebu.

Mandaue City and Tuburan also got their ballots yesterday along with the 4th district areas of Bogo City, Tabogon and Tabuelan.

The ballots will be secured at the municipal or city treasurer's office.

Today, ballots are scheduled to be distributed in the Bantayan Island towns of Bantayan, Madridejos and Santa Fe and municipalities in the Camotes group of islands—Pilar, Poro, San Francisco and Tudela.

Ballots are also scheduled to be distributed in the 1st district areas of Minglanilla and Naga and Talisay Cities as well as 2nd district towns of Alcantara, Badian, Barili, Dumanjug, Moalboal and Ronda.

The distribution of ballots will continue tomorrow and Monday.

A total of 2,873 packages are expected to arrive from Manila on Monday for the 52 towns and cities in Cebu.

Each package contains 500 to 1,000 ballots, depending on the number of voters per clustered precinct. There are no more than 1,000 voters per cluster.

Meanwhile, with 10 days to go before the elections, Metro Cebu suffered sporadic brownouts.

The Visayan Electric Co. (Veco), however, assured there will be no interruptions on election day.

Yesterday's brownout was caused by power rationing caused by defective equipment near the main sub-transmission line, according to Veco corporate communications manager Ethel Natera.

Natera said large parts of Cebu City and Mandaue City were affected by the power outage, which was restored after two hours.

A briefing at the Malacañang sa Sugbo about government projects was interrupted by the brownout.

In the past days, power was rationed daily because of supply deficiency from power generation plants.

Natera stressed that Veco is only a distribution firm. "We don't operate a power plant. So, if there is no power supply, we can't distribute power."

Natera said Veco needs 162 megawatts (mw) to supply Cebu City alone. A total of 340 mw is needed to service Veco's entire franchise area, which is from San Fernando in the south to Liloan in the north.

The two gas turbines with a power generation capacity of 50 mw at the Naga Power Plant Complex (NPPC) were not in operation since this was bought by the SPC Power Corp. early this year from Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (Psalm).

SPC Power has an existing contract with the National Power Corp. (NPC) to operate NPPC. The contract will expire in 2013. But by next year, SPC Power, in a joint venture with the Korean Electric Company (Kepco), will operate two 100 mw coal-power power plants in Naga City, near the NPCC.

In an earlier interview, Department of Energy Visayas Director Antonio Labios said they cannot force SPC Power to operate the gas turbines to augment the power supply because these have been privatized.

They're dreaming, says Sanchez

ONE Cebu and the local Nacionalista Party (NP) are daydreaming when they said they can deliver one million votes for their respective presidential bets, said Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez.

One Cebu is supporting Gilberto Teodoro Jr. while the NP is supporting Sen. Manuel Villar.

Sanchez said he does not have the same promise for Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

"I would tell them that they are just day dreaming...So, meaning, Noynoy is zero here (Cebu)," Sanchez told editors and reporters of Sun.Star Cebu yesterday in a roundtable discussion.

He said when Garcia won in 2007, she had around 700,000 votes while her opponent, former congressman Antonio Yapha got around 300,000 votes.

Sanchez then questioned how either Teodoro or Villar can get a million votes each.

Sanchez said this is impossible because Aquino's ratings are consistently high and he has topped most of the surveys.

"The heart of the people is the return of the people power," said Sanchez.

He said that even if Teodoro has the support of more than 50 governors in the entire country or even if One Cebu owns most of the mayors in Cebu, it is the people who vote and not the leaders.

Sanchez said the one million promise is a "very cheap propaganda."

In 2004, then presidential bet Gloria Arroyo got around the same number of votes when she had the support of Capitol.

Arroyo that time said Cebu made her president. She won over her closest rival, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., by 1.2 million votes.

That time, most local candidates were allied with the administration's Lakas Party.

In fact, all three gubernatorial candidates that time -— Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Bogo City Mayor Celestino "Junie" Martinez Jr., and former vice governor John Gregory Osmeña — were all supporting Arroyo.

In 2007, voter turnout in the Province was over 1.2 million.

If re-elected, Sanchez vows to strengthen Local Government Units (LGUs) and to minimize violations in the performance of governmental duties.

Sanchez aims to strengthen Cebu Province's LGUs by giving them the opportunity to handle micro projects.

In the interview yesterday, Sanchez said training LGUs on handling small-scale projects is a way of building their capacity to stand on their own with minimal intervention from the Provincial Government. This will help empower the municipalities, he said.

He said Gov. Garcia has been paying more attention to micro projects than big-scale ones. He said the Province's task is to focus on macro projects and monitor micro projects by the municipalities.

"If kuha-on nimu ang tanan, you will be committing several mistakes," he said.

Sanchez said the Province should adhere to the Local Government Code and that a clear separation of duties between the executive and legislative branches should be emphasized.

He takes pride in his livelihood programs. These include the Ginagmayng Regalo sa Gugma program, which teaches people business initiatives, and the Government Resources for Environmental Care Program, which introduces farmers to organic farming technology.

He aims to pursue his proposed Trans-Axial Highway, a road that will run from the northern to southern tips of Cebu island. Other plans include strengthening agricultural productivity through organic farming and identifying investment areas.

'Pres. Gwen in 2016' statement of Teodoro surprises governor

CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia admitted she was surprised when Lakas-Kampi-CMD Presidential bet Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro said he will campaign for the presidency of the governor in 2016.

City to sue Barili police who barred buses

THE Cebu City government will lodge a civil complaint against Barili policemen for "illegally holding" the Kaohsiung buses which were ferrying street children for a summer camp last Monday.

City Councilor Sylvan "Jack" Jakosalem, who is a member of the City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) board, said they found out in the investigation report of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) that the apprehension made by the Barili police violated Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code.

Jakosalem, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, said the City will be filing a case since Barili's police officers are not deputized by the LTO to apprehend vehicles and had failed to issue a Temporary Operator's Permit (TOP) to the drivers upon the confiscation of their licenses.

"The only instance we get the license when the enforcer has no TOP is when there is an accident and the driver involved will just accompany the responding enforcer in bringing the license to the Citom investigation desk," said Jakosalem.

Eight Kaohsiung buses belonging to the Cebu City Government were held by police officers in Barili last Monday for traveling without plate numbers or registration papers.

If the Cebu City Government chooses to file a complaint against the police, Cebu Provincial Police Chief Erson Digal welcomes it.

Digal said the police are used to cases being filed against them.

"Normal nang kiha sa amoa. So, it's not a problem. Amo lang nang atubangon," Digal told Sun.Star Cebu.

Asked if the police in Barili were deputized to apprehend traffic violators, Digal said the arrangement regarding deputization from the LTO is similar to that of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

"Not all are deputized, but there are those who are, and they are the ones who can issue a TOP," he said.

He explained that those who are deputized also undergo seminars from the LTO so they are familiar with traffic laws.

If a police officer catches a violator but the officer is not deputized, the process is to call on a fellow police officer in his station who is deputized to issue the TOP.

He said this is how they handle traffic accidents.

Meanwhile, City Administrator Francisco Fernandez said the City already released P92,000 as payment to the LTO for the release of the plate numbers of the 11 Kaohsiung buses.

The 11 buses are part of the 22 new Kaohsiung buses donated by the city's sister-city in Taiwan.

Fernandez said the documents of the remaining 11 buses are still being processed by the LTO.

Malacañang sends inspection team to check P1.6-B Cebu South Tunnel project

AN inspection team tasked to check President Gloria Arroyo's priority projects visited the P1.6-billion Cebu South Tunnel of the Cebu South Coastal Road yesterday.

During the project inspection, Engr. Nilo Pamaylaon, project director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), said the tunnel is 97.5 percent complete.

The 2.5 percent remaining work include the control cubicle of the ventilation system, electrical control panel, telecommunications control, water pump system, generator, security cameras and emergency exit.

Maria Elena Bautista-Horn, head of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), said Arroyo has a "big debt of gratitude" to the Cebuanos, who gave her one million votes in the last elections.

Bautista-Horn said Cebu South Tunnel and the P2.6-billion Cebu North Coastal Road project are examples that Arroyo cares for the Cebuanos.

The Cebu North Coastal Road project was among the priority projects Arroyo mentioned in her State of the Nation Address in 2007. The project was completed early this year.

Bautista-Horn said there are several projects Arroyo implemented for Cebu but the public is not aware of them.

The 1.23-kilometer tunnel project, which is called "Segment 3B-2 Subway (Tunnel) Section" connects South Road Properties, Sergio Osmeña Blvd. and the port area, was supposed to be inaugurated last April 5 to coincide with Arroyo's birthday, but it did not push through because First Gentleman Mike Arroyo was hospitalized.

Hikanari Maeda, project manager of tunnel contractor Kajima Construction, briefed Bautista-Horn and other government officials present during the briefing yesterday about the durability of the structure.

The Cebu South Coastal Road provides direct uninterrupted access from southern Cebu to the central business area of Cebu City and the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

It has also improved Metro Cebu's road network system alongside other infrastructure investments to support economic and social development.

Malacañang created the Pro-Performance Team to monitor the projects.

The team is co-chaired by Fr. Anton Pascual, Caritas Manila executive director, and Bautista-Horn.

The team has intensified its monitoring, onsite inspection and evaluation of the President's priority infrastructure projects, fast-tracking the completion of many of these projects, spurring more economic opportunities throughout the country, Bautista-Horn said.

The members of the team are Ambassador Donald Dee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ambassador Marita Jimenez of the Asian Development Bank, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Manager Rosario Uriarte, Manila Broadcasting Company's president, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas vice president Ruperto Nicdao Jr., Jose Rizal University president Vincent Fabella and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines President Mayor Benjamin Abalos Jr. 

Pa makes son stand under heat of sun

A 13-year-old boy was made to stand under the sun as punishment for allegedly failing to take care of the fighting cock of his father.

A joint team from the Investigation and Detective Management Branch (IDMB) and the Family Juvenile and Gender Sensitivity Section (FJGSS) rescued the boy, while the father was held for investigation.

IDMB Chief George Ylanan said around 2 p.m. Wednesday, he got information that a father punished his son after the fighting cock, which was entrusted to the son's care, died.

The incident happened just across the headquarters of the Cebu City Police Office at Camp Sotero Cabahug on Gorordo Ave.

Ylanan dispatched a team from his office to verify the information.

PO3 Judith Nedamo of FJGSS went with the IDMB operatives.

The team found the boy standing outside the house.

"Gitugon daw ning bata sa amahan nga kung mo-init, hipuson ang manok. Pagbalik sa amahan, patay na ang manok kay wa mahipos (The father reportedly told his son to place the fighting cock under the shade if it got hot. But the son failed to do so)," Nedamo said, in an interview with reporters.

Irked upon seeing his dead fighting cock when he came home, the father allegedly punished his son by ordering him to stand on the spot where the rooster died.

Nedamo said they arrived in the area at 2:15 p.m. The boy told the police he had been standing in the spot around 2 p.m.

At the FJGSS office, where the father and son were brought, the father reportedly apologized for his action.

Nedamo said the boy and his sibling, however, asked the police not to detain their father because no one could take care of them anymore.

The children's mother is working abroad.

Nedamo said the father has eight children, but only two of them are under his care. He gives financial support, though, to his other children who are not living with him, Nedamo said.

Nedamo said the children described their father as a good provider.

For humanitarian reasons, the father was released but was warned not to impose harsh punishment on any of his children.

He was also made to sign a promissory letter to make sure that he would make good with his promise.

"Kay kung sa sunod pa gani niya nga buhaton, priso na gyud siya (We'll put him behind bars if he does it again)," Nedamo said.

AFP to go on red alert Friday morning for May polls

The Philippine military will be on red alert starting Friday morning in preparation for the country's first ever nationwide automated elections on May 10.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, spokesman of the Armed Forces Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections) on Thursday said all troops have to be on their posts on or before 8 a.m., the start of the effectivity of the red alert status.

The red alert status, the highest in the militarys three-tiered alert level scheme, will be in effect until May 20.

"Under red alert, we have to be there [posts] 100 percent. This will also be the start for us to man our operations center and then that is the signal for us to start implementing the security preparations we prepared," Nepomuceno said.

Under red alert, soldiers are not allowed to take vacations including days off.

"We will implement the red alert, meaning they [troops] now know that even their approved leaves and vacations are canceled. All of them should be reporting to duty," Nepomuceno said.

Task Force HOPE, headed by Armed Forces vice chief Lt. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang, was formed to provide supervision, direction to military personnel who will perform election-related duties.

Nepomuceno asked the public to report to the Armed Forces any military personnel who will commit election-related infractions, including siding with any of the candidates. "We will appreciate if you can help us," he said.

"We will be committed to ensure the credibility (of the elections) and a smooth transition to the next administration," he added.

Meeting with PPCRV

Earlier in the day, the task force had an "informative" meeting with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). Nepomuceno said they "threshed out and clarified some concerns so that our coordination with the PPCRV will be smoother."

During the meeting, Nepomuceno said the PPCRV agreed to send a liaison to the task forces operation center "so that we can easily resolve whatever issues they will get from the ground."

Nepomuceno said the two parties also agreed to have an exchange of directories up to the precinct level "so we will know who to contact."

"Our intent is to ensure that the elections will be transparent and that we will have a peaceful election," he added.

Religious, military, police leaders vow to help defuse poll tensions

DAVAO CITY, PhilippinesConfronted with a range of "disturbing" scenarios related to the May 10 elections, religious leaders, police and military officials forged an agreement here on Thursday reaffirming their commitment to work for a peaceful turnover of government power on June 30.

In a two-page joint declaration, the signatories also exhorted all politicians, election candidates and their supporters to surrender their private armies and loose firearms to the military and the police to ensure peaceful balloting.

The statement was signed by Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, convenor of the Bishops-Ulama Conference, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Delfin Bangit, Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa, among others.

The military and police officials met with bishops and other religious leaders here for a two-day forum on the elections It ended with the signing of the joint statement.

During the forum, the authorities presented progress reports on their efforts to dismantle private armies and to confiscate illegal firearms, which were intensified after the massacre of of 57 people in Maguindanao last November 23 in what has been described as the worst election-related violence yet in Philippine history.

The police earlier reported that it has documented the existence of at least 68 private armies in the country. The police claimed to have dismantled at least 23 of them.

"We heard persistent and strong rumors from many sources that there is a possibility of ideological and militant groups taking advantage of these problems and difficulties to sow discontent among the people and precipitate or abet the failure of elections, thereby bringing the country into socio-political chaos and unrest," said the statement.

It continued: "We, the spiritual leaders and peacekeepers... believe that by joint and coordinated efforts of the citizenry and of ours we can at least minimize the rumored dangers to the lives of our people and to the Republic."

To defuse the mounting tension leading to the May 10 elections, the religious leaders and authorities also appealed to the nation to renew its commitment to actively participate in the holding of credible elections.

They also called on the people to vote "in conscience and in freedom on moral values and legitimate nationalistic ideals discerned from the candidates' personal profiles, behavior and programs."

Poll officials, AFP and PNP being bribed to rig elections - DND chief

Philippine defense chief Norberto Gonzales has revealed that officials from the Commission on Elections, the military and police are being bribed to rig the coming May 10 polls, and that at least two presidential bets stand to benefit from it.

"Im telling you that some money is being distributed to some Comelec officials already these days. There will be cheating in the coming elections," Gonzales said at the Bishops-Ulama Conference in Davao City on Wednesday night.

Gonzales said he got the information on bribery attempts two to three days ago from a poll official whom he refused name. He added that even officials of the Armed Forces and the National Police are currently being handed money to cheat in the upcoming elections.

"It seems to be that the noble effort of our men and women in uniform are not being respected. There will be attempts to (bribe) our Armed Forces and police officials. There will be, and it has begun," he said.

To benefit two candidates?

In a later interview, Gonzales said at least two presidential candidates stand to benefit from the bribery and the planned cheating in the May polls.

Asked if it is the camp of Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Manuel Villar Jr. that is involved in the bribery, Gonzales answered: "I think youre all guessing it wrong."

When further pressed if the two presidential candidates he was referring to were Liberal Party's Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and administration bet Gilberto Teodoro Jr., the defense secretary said: "Mahirap yang ganyang tanong. (That question is quite difficult to answer.)"

In the conference, Gonzales identified the Southern Tagalog region as one of the areas where bribery attempts are currently taking place.

He, however, implied that most Comelec officials who were offered bribes refused to take the money, since they "hate" being bribed.

"Something good is happening these days. Many officials in the Comelec hate being bribed," he said.

Cases to be filed

Gonzales also vowed that the Armed Forces, which he has placed at the full disposal of the Comelec, will do its best to counter the cheating.

At the same time, Gonzales bared that "concerned authorities" are now in the process of documenting the bribery attempts, and "will file cases hopefully before the elections."

"I do not want to preempt it," he said when asked to identify those involved. "I have just mentioned it here for the officials to be aware, that as in other elections, cheating has always been active," he said.

Former PMS chief airs thoughts on polls, Arroyo

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - A former member of President Arroyo's Cabinet on Thursday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct parallel manual counting of votes to ensure credibility of the May elections, warning that unreliable results could result to a backlash against government.

Comelec told to answer petition on poll automation disclosure

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court is giving the Commission on Elections (Comelec) until Friday to respond to a petition that seeks to compel the poll body to reveal the entire extent of its poll automation preparations.

No UV lamps yet for May polls, Comelec says

With only 11 days before the automated polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) confirmed on Thursday that it has yet to award the contract for the supply and delivery of the ultraviolet (UV) lamps that will be used to verify ballots authenticity during elections.

The contract for the supply and delivery of 80,000 UV lamps for the 76,340 clustered precincts in the May polls "has yet to be awarded," Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

"There have been no award of the UV lamps yet. It's kind of rattled, I guess," he told reporters in an interview on Thursday.

An estimated P30 million has been allotted for the procurement, Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said.

Earlier, the poll body rebidded the awarding of the contract when the bidders failed to submit the required shipping schedule.

Three companies were vying for the UV lamp contract, including OTC Paper Supply, the company that was awarded the botched P690-million ballot secrecy folder contract.

The other bidders were Embu Integrated and Philand Industries. OTC offered the lowest bid of P28 million.

The absence of a UV lamp supplier as of the moment should not be a cause for alarm, Jimenez said.

"Not to worry. You have to understand that the UV lamps are not manufactured specifically for the Comelec so there's really no issue there. They can be procured rather easily," he said.

He said that the agency is just undergoing the post-qualification stage of the bidding before they can award the contract.

"Again, no urgency, we will have the UV lamps on time," he said.

Earlier, the Comelec said that it will be using handheld UV lamps to verify the authenticity of the ballot after the high-speed printing of the ballots caused the UV marks to misalign, making it hard for the PCOS machine to read the security feature.

But political analyst Ramon Casiple, a member of the Comelec Advisory Council, disclosed that the voting machines could not read the security features because Smartmatic-TIM actually failed to supply the correct ink for the UV marks. 

DepEd reiterates banning of campaign signs in schools

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Department of Education on Thursday directed all school heads to immediately remove all campaign posters within and around school premises.

Education Secretary Mona Valisno said the order was in accordance to DepEd Order No. 10, s. 2010 that outlines the Clean Schools, Clean Elections Campaign of the government.

At the same time, Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya reminded school executives to put the sign: In compliance with DepEd policy, this school PROHIBITS the posting of campaign materials in school premises. Violators will be PROSECUTED to the fullest extent of the law.

We are reminding our division superintendents and school heads to place the signage immediately and to remove all campaign posters, otherwise they will be subject to disciplinary action where applicable, he said.

Malaya added that monitoring teams will be organized in every region which will report to the nearest DepEd Division or Regional Office of any violations of the said order.

According to Valisno, the order is to ensure and maintain the neutrality and non-partisan stance of schools and the teachers in the upcoming automated elections.

We need to maintain the integrity and neutrality of our schools and teachers in the coming elections, said Valisno.

She noted that public schools have been plastered with campaign posters of candidates in anticipation of the automated elections on May 10.

Since the school is a polling place, no campaign materials must be posted or distributed outside school premises including grounds in front and areas around it such as walls, fences and sidewalks, the education secretary said.

She also urged incumbent local officials and other concerned citizens to implement and observe the DepEd order.

We appeal to incumbent local officials, the police and concerned citizens to help us keep our schools free of campaign materials, she added.

Concerned citizens may report violations to the Office of Under Secretary Franklin Sunga at 633-7205 or call the DepEd Action Center at 636-1663 or send a text message to 0919-456-0027.

Villar, Erap tied at 2nd in latest Pulse Asia survey

MANILA, Philippines – With just a little over two weeks before the national elections, things get a little more interesting in the presidential race with former President Joseph Estrada now joining Nacionalista Party bet Sen. Manny Villar at the second spot, according to the latest survey by Pulse Asia.

Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III continues to top other contenders for the presidency with almost 4 in 10 voters supporting his bid (39 percent).

But the survey's highlight is Estrada tying Villar at second with a 20 percent voter preference. Pulse Asia said Villar suffered a decline of 5 percentage points in his rating, allowing Estrada to catch up with him.

"Marginal gains in electoral support are enjoyed by Senator Aquino and former President Estrada between March and April 2010 (+2 percentage points). However, a significant decline in voter preference is experienced by Senator Villar during this period (–5 percentage points)," the pollster said.

Aquino, Villar and Estrada were the only presidential aspirants who got double-digit voter preferences.

At fourth place is Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro, who garnered a 7 percent preference. Following him is Eduardo Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas with a 3 percent rating.

Bagumbayan Party's Sen. Richard Gordon scored 2 percent to settle at sixth place.

Surprisingly, disqualified candidate Vetallano Acosta was still included in the survey, garnering a 1 percent rating to stay ahead of the rest of the aspirants — environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, Ang Kapatiran's JC de los Reyes and Sen. Jamby Madrigal. The three continue to languish in the cellars with less than 0.5 percent scores.

VP race: Roxas still on top

Aquino's running mate Sen. Mar Roxas continues to lead the pack in the vice-presidential race, with 37 percent of voters supporting his candidacy. This, Pulse Asia noted, comes despite a decline of 6 percentage points in Roxas' overall voter preference from March to April this year.

Enjoying a 9-percentage point gain is Makati City mayor Jejomar Binay, who got 28 percent of votes to occupy the second place. Following him his Villar's running mate Sen. Loren Legarda with a 20 percent rating.

Bagumbayan's Bayani Fernando and actor Edu Manzano of Lakas-Kampi-CMD got only 3 percent each. The rest of the vice-presidential bets registered voter preferences of at most 3 percent.

Meanwhile 9 percent of registered voters do not have a preferred candidate for vice president, Pulse Asia said.

Pulse Asia' survey on the preferred presidential and vice-presidential candidates was fielded from April 23 to 25, 2010 using face-to-face interviews of 1,800 registered voters 18 years old and above.

The poll has a ± 2% error margin at the 95 percent confidence level.

Villar loses support among poor: survey

Erap ties NP standard-bearer for 2nd place

MANILA, Philippines—The new Pulse Asia survey conducted 2 weeks before the May 10 polls is double whammy for Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearers Senators ManuelIn the April 23-25 survey, Villar and Legarda plunged 5 points and 3 points, respectively.

With 2 points margin of error, that means Villar lost from 3 to 7 percentage points. At 500,000 voters per statistical point, the drop is equivalent to 1.5 million to 3.5 million votes.

The numbers of Liberal Party (LP) bet Senator Benigno Aquino III and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) bet former President Joseph Estrada were steady. Their 2-point gains are within the margin error.

"We're not really surprised that President Estrada's ratings rose. We stuck to our strategy of going directly to the people, and they have realized that Estrada is the real leader of the poor," said PMP spokesperson Ralph Calinisan.

"I think people are starting to realize…that Estrada is the real ally of the masses…. We're winning back the D and E votes, which are really the Estrada votes," said Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco, PMP spokesman in Metro Manila.

Aquino stays on top with 39 points. It's 1-percentage point less than the combined numbers of Villar and Estrada, who are tied at 20 points.

Administration bet former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. is stuck at 7 percentage points.

The undecided group is also steady at 9 percentage points. It's equivalent to 4.5 million voters.

NP not discouraged

But NP spokesmen and senatorial candidates Adel Tamano and Gilbert Remulla said they are not discouraged by the survey results.

"Five points going down is not fatal. We are very confident hahabol kami (we are going to catch up)," Tamano told in a phone interview.

"There is a false perception that Noynoy is going to win. I tell you, expect some surprises. This is going to be the longest 10 days," he said. Tamano said the NP is counting on endorsements and their local machinery to deliver votes for Villar.

Remulla also accused the survey firm of being biased against Villar. "Pulse Asia surveys have never been kind to Senator Villar from what we believe is due to its ownership structure," he told in a mobile text message.

Aquino's first cousin, Rapa Lopa, was former president of Pulse Asia. But Lopa has divested in the survey firm since Aquino joined the presidential race.

But Villar supporter political analyst Prospero De Vera acknowledges that the new survey is bad news.

"The numbers are bad. It's the result of a concentrated black propaganda from both Erap and Noynoy camps. The attack has been so vicious in the past few weeks," De Vera told in a phone interview. Binay's dramatic increase

In the vice presidential race, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay has overtaken Legarda with his dramatic increase of 9 percentage points, or the equivalent of 4.5 million voters.

Binay registered 28 points compared to Legarda's 20 points.

According to the analysis of Pulse Asia, the vice presidential race is now between Senator Manuel Roxas II of the Liberal Party and Binay. Roxas remains on top with 37 points.

But Roxas is already confident of the LP's big win in May. "I am happy that Noynoy Aquino and I will become the next president and vice-president of this country. We pledge to pursue our commitment to reform our government so that our people can enjoy the fruits of good governance as this will result in true progress and development for all the peoples of this country," Roxas said in a statement.

Noynoy gets poor, Erap gets Mindanao

Villar's numbers show he is losing the support across the board—in all regional breakdowns and all socio-demographics.



Candidates' gains and losses






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Villar is losing to Aquino and Estrada his support base among the poor.

Villar dropped 6-percentage points and 4-percentage points in classes D and E, respectively. Aquino gained 2 percentage points in Class D and 3 percentage points in Class E. Estrada gained 4 points in Class D.

The foundation of Villar's campaign has always been his rags-to-riches story. He says that if he can get himself out of poverty, he can also do it for the rest of the Filipinos.

But this claim was put in question when various camps starting in March belied Villar's poverty. (See Aquino joins 'Villar is not poor' chorus)

"Maybe the poor voters are getting confused. Probably they got confused by all these accusations," said Villar supporter, De Vera. "Our messaging has been drowned out by negative attacks. It's not anymore issues."

By region, Villar is losing to Aquino his supporters in Balance Luzon and the Visayas. Estrada continues to shrink Villar's support base in Mindanao.

In the March 2010 survey, Estrada registered a big gain in Mindanao at the expense of Villar.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who is vice president for Mindanao of Estrada's PMP, said the supporters of Estrada are returning to his side after the Supreme Court's decision in January 2010 to junk the disqualification case against him. (See Erap, not C-5, caused Villar's survey drop)

The other candidates, including disqualified bet Vetellano Acosta, got 1 point to 3 points increases across the board.

Victim of black propaganda?

Villar's camp said the surveys numbers are a result of a concentrated black propaganda against Villar.

"In the past few weeks, we have seen intensified black propaganda and vicious attacks from both the Erap and Aquino camps," Remulla said.

"Jamby, si Erap, si Gordon, and the Liberal Party, they're all hitting Manny [Villar] at the same time. There has been a flurry of negative campaigning. It's below the belt," Tamano added.

Among the key developments identified by Pulse Asia during the survey period are the following:

Defections from Lakas-Kampi CMD to NP and LP

Allegations made by Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that while serving Senate President in 2007, Villar used his position to pressure the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to decide in his favor on a matter concerning the public offering of his real estate company's shares

De Vera assailed the LP camp for "concocting" the alleged "Villaroyo" alliance between President Arroyo and Villar.

"All evidence show that it's (defections from Lakas-Kampi CMD) practically equal. And they got Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, the most notorious and most loyal adviser of President Arroyo. While he joined LP, he said he is still loyal to President Arroyo. What other proof of a distorted politician is that?" De Vera said. (See Lakas-Kampi defections: 'Villaroyo' or 'Gloriaquino'?)

He also challenged Estrada to file a case against Villar in allegedly exerting his pressure on the PSE. "The PSE has cleared Villar. Why don't they file a case?" he said.

Blaming the media

De Vera also laments what he calls "media's bias" against Villar.

"It's the black propaganda peddled through accusations in press conferences, the media, and the SMS. These have been driving the campaign since 2 weeks ago," De Vera said.

"The Noynoy camp has a significant advantage in the media. They are backed up by ABS-CBN. They are also backed up by columnists, who hide behind their columns. Villar doesn't have any of this," he said.

In a press conference on Monday, Villar's family also blamed the media for the negative stories on Villar (See Villar's mom: Stop picking on my son)

While Villar has dominated political advertising in television and radio, Tamano said the ads are powerless against all the attacks.

"It's very difficult to answer all allegations. It's not one-on-one. It's one side versus four," Tamano said.

Tamano said in the remaining days in the campaign period, the NP will stress their message on competence. "The real debate should be who is most competent. If we go back to that, I believe we are going to get the undecided voters," he said.

"Our voters have shifted to the undecided and we are doing all that we can to win them back. We believe there is enough time. Once that is done, it will be back to manageable levels and our party machinery will see us to victory," said Remulla. ( Villar Jr. and Loren Legarda.

NP admits losing supporters due to attacks vs Villar

The Nacionalista Party on Thursday admitted that the attacks and issues hurled against its standard bearer Senator Manuel Villar Jr. have lost them supporters as shown in the latest Pulse Asia survey.

PMP spokesman: It's Erap vs. Noynoy

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard-bearer and former President Joseph Estrada said the numbers in the latest Pulse Asia survey, which show Estrada and Sen. Manny Villar now tied at second place, do not reflect the overwhelming support for the ex-chief executive.

PMP spokesman Ralph Calinisan, however, said they welcome the latest survey.

"Now showing: Erap Dos. His return trip to Malacañang is now forthcoming," Calinisan said, adding that it will be Estrada going up against survey frontrunner Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III in the homestretch of the presidential derby.

Calinisan said Estrada's latest poll rating has nothing to do with the exposes made by PMP senatorial candidate Juan Ponce Enrile against Villar's alleged stock manipulation issue.

"The exposes' against Sen. Villar are not the reasons for the rise in President Estrada's numbers, rather, that the people have realized that he is the real president of the masses and not the pseudo-orange candidate," Calinisan said.

Calinisan also praised the PMP's vice-presidential bet, Makati City Mayor Jojo Binay, for overtaking rival Sen. Loren Legarda in the latest survey.

"Indeed, our Mayor Binay is the only vice presidential candidate with balls. In this case, it is performance vs. promise. Like his vice presidential candidate, Sen. Mar Roxas is just a media creation," Calinisan said.

Roxas, Aquino's running mate, still leads the vice presidential derby as shown in the latest Pulse Asia survey. 

'Lack of mass appeal keeps Gibo at 4th place'

MANILA, Philippines – Imaging problems and a weak campaign tack may have diminished administration bet Gilberto Teodoro Jr.'s chances of boosting his lead in nationwide election surveys.

A Pulse Asia survey released in the election period's home stretch showed that Teodoro had barely budged from 4th place behind rivals Joseph Estrada, Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar Jr.

Teodoro maintained a 7% voting preference, same as the last installment of the Pulse Asia survey.
Based on the results, the bulk of voters who prefer Teodoro as president come from the rich and middle-class (12%).

Only 6 to 7% of the poor and very poor, who comprise the bulk of voters, said they would vote for him.
Political consultant and election strategist Perry Callanta suggests this could be blamed on weak messaging in terms of Teodoro's campaign tack.

He cited as an example Teodoro's earlier advertisements, which featured the Lakas bet (who is a licensed pilot) flying a plane without passengers. This has little appeal to the poor, he said.

"Maganda ang mensahe niya, pero hindi naibababa sa mahirap. Hindi napalalim. Naging elitista," he said.
(He has a good message, but it wasn't made to reach the poor. It didn't go down to the mass level, it became elitist.)

Callanta, who has local politicians as clients, however, notes that national surveys can be seen as propaganda tools rather than accurate gauges of a candidate's strength.

Stuck at 4th
In December 2009 pre-election surveys, Teodoro had 2% voter preference. This gradually rose to 5% in January, then rose by 2 percentage points to 7% in February.

His 7% voter preference has remained steady from February to April surveys by Pulse Asia.

In a prior interview, Lakas spokesperson Francis Manglapus attributed Teodoro's 2 to 3 percentage increases to the Lakas bet's good showing in televised presidential debates and mock polls.

Manglapus said the bulk of Teodoro's voters come from the youth sector, who are impressed by his intelligence, and the women's sector, who are taken by his good looks.

Other pundits speculate he won votes when he seemed to have distanced himself from the highly unpopular President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The President had not made her presence felt early in the campaign. But in late March, she ordered Lakas officials to push for a Teodoro victory in a rare appearance at a Lakas executive meeting.

The meeting was held following defections by key members, reports of infighting among party officials, and rumors that Arroyo had dumped Teodoro to support Villar.

Don't believe surveys
Teodoro, however, said it is "arrogant" to presume that he cannot win the presidency simply because a survey had showed him lagging behind his rivals.

"They say all of us here tonight do not have a chance. They say, 'Let's not vote for Gibo because it's just a waste of votes'," an impassioned Teodoro told supporters at a campaign rally in Mandaue, Cebu on Wednesday.

"It's frustrating. Sobra na ang mga aroganteng dito sa Pilipinas kaya wala tayong pinatutunguhan. (There are so many arrogant people in this country, that's why we don't move forward)," he said.

Teodoro said he would rather bank on the votes of 90 million Filipinos who did not participate in the survey, instead of the 2,000 respondents who did.

The most recent Pulse Asia survey, conducted from April 23 to 25, had a sample size of 1,800 respondents and has a margin of error of ±2%.

The Lakas standard-bearer has been known to shun surveys, sometimes growing agitated when asked by media about his standing in nationwide polls.

"I'm not going to respond to any survey stuff because that's not part of my strategy," Teodoro told Newsbreak in March.

Several Lakas party officials have also been equally credulous of surveys, saying they could be wrong.

In an earlier interview with Newsbreak, Manglapus said they will continue to push for Teodoro's victory regardless of survey results. He said they will also continue their "positive campaign."

Teodoro camp remains unfazed by poor survey results

MANILA, PhilippinesThe camp of Gilbert Teodoro Jr. on Thursday shrugged off anew results of the latest Pulse Asia survey showing him stuck in fourth place with 7 percent.

"You've been to rallies. Surveys are not reflective of what's happening on the ground. Surveys have been proven wrong, and will be proved wrong come May 10, 2010,'' Teodoro's spokesperson Mike Toledo said by phone.

He said that surveys have failed to factor in the party machinery, specifically the more than 12,800 local candidates, and the "command votes'' of religious groups and the youth sector.

"There's a strong silent majority out there for Gibo, and then of course, the volunteers who have promised to deliver at least 2.5 million votes in Metro Manila alone,'' he said.

"We're not discouraged, dismayed or deterred. We will continue with the campaign because what we see and hear on the ground is different from surveys,'' he added.

Gordon not surprised by 2 percent rating in surveys

MANILA, PhilippinesSenator Richard Gordon was no longer surprised that his survey rating remained at a dismal two percent even after almost three months of campaigning.

Interviewed by reporters on Thursday, Gordon said: "Syempre, itataas ba ako nyan (Of course, would that survey lift my number?"

Last week, Gordon's lawyers sued survey firms Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia for their misleading surveys and asked the Quezon City regional trial court for a temporary restraining order.

He further lamented: "Ang tagal ko na nag-senador, nag-mayor na ko, nag-con-con delegate pa ako, ang dami ko ng ginawa, 2% lang ang makukuha ko (I have been a senator for a long time. Ive been a mayor. I was a constitutional convention delegate. Ive done manay things and I got only 2%?"

He alleged that survey results would naturally favor those who paid for them.

Gordon said: "Kung sino ang nagbayad, siya ang panalo... So 'yung anak ng mahirap na matalino at may kayang mamuno, wala ng pag-asa. (Whoever pays for the survey, hes the president. The son of the poor who is intelligent and capable to lead has no hope.) You call that a democracy? Hindi demokrasya yan. (Thats not democracy) That is a masquerade."

In earlier interviews, Gordon lamented that the publication of survey results had jeopardized his campaign as he asked the media to just ignore survey results.

He said: "People are telling me: 'We want to vote for you, but the surveys say you're not gonna win."

Gordon barnstormed Pangasinan on Thursday. He went around Tarlac and Pampanga on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Aquino: I got depressed over dad's death but did not seek medical help

MANILA, PhilippinesLiberal Party bet Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III admitted on Thursday that he got depressed and thought of revenge after what the Marcos government had done to his father, the late senator Benigno Ninoy Aquino Jr., but it never came to a point that he needed medical help.

In a press conference in Oriental Mindoro, Aquino said he would never agree to undergo a psychiatric test as being espoused by his opponents. "If there are any more questions about that, I said my piece. I am not their propagandist. I will keep my silence on this particular aspect. I will not be a party to rewarding people who make false reports," said Aquino.

"How can you not be depressed with the kind of life we had? My father was killed by soldiers according to the Supreme Court. Some of them are still alive and they are still in denial. But have you seen or read anywhere that I approached them to beat them up or gun them down or stab them? Isn't that proof of how I can control my temper? said Aquino.

My father was killed in a stairwell, dumped in the tarmac, thrown into a van, his skull was crushed, and it took 20 minutes before he was taken to the hospital just to make sure he was dead," said Aquino. "And you ask me if I can handle depression? (I was depressed) but not to the extent they are portraying. I am not a machine, I have emotions too."

The senator admitted to being angry and plotting to avenge his father's grisly murder.

A reporter asked if he sought professional help, Aquino flatly said: "No."

Aquino said that the sources of the bogus psychiatric reports were dishonest and had ill motives.

"It's hard to agree with a person that you know is coming out with dubious documents meant to hurt other people. That is not a trait of good Filipino."

Aquino said that he has steeled himself against personal attacks in the campaign because he was focused on a bigger goaleffecting change through the elections.

"If we accept what is wrong, or an established false, we want to make that which is false a reality. Are we not the persons who should be undergoing treatment?" he said.

Aquino likened the challenge for all candidates to undergo psychiatric tests to the one-on-one debatesthe participants would not agree on a disinterested moderator; and they were unlikely to finalize the common ground rules before election day. "The one making the challenge is leading us into a trap. We are being manipulated by persons spreading falsehood. Who in his right mind would accept what is patently false? Except those who do not know what is real from what is not. Isn't that the person who should have his head examined?"

Aquino dismissed the recent allegations of columnists Carmen Pedrosa and Belinda Olivares-Cunanan about the state of his mental health, claiming that they have been biased against him, his parents and his family.

"Shes (Pedrosa) a little better in making a story in the sense that we know Dr. Aguilar who happens to be deceased, whose wife has recently been here, they were part of the Filipino community in and around Boston at the time we were there. I never talked to him in a professional capacity. It was his wife who was my dentist," said Aquino.

Aquino said that he was clearly being set up by these opinion makers who have been peddling lies about him. "But I have to thank them for helping me improve my numbers. Someday, they might tell me I owe them a debt of gratitude," said Aquino who was less cranky in answering questions on his mental health after being buoyed by the 19-point margin in the Pulse Asia survey.

Aquino also criticized the media's handling of bogus reports that placed the burden of proof on the person being accused.

"Somebody comes up with something established that is patently false, and we are all participating in giving them media exposure and perpetuating a lie. What happened to your ethics of getting sources, both secondary and primary? Are we still in search of the truth or are we propounding the truth as seen through the eyes of my opponent which is not the truth?" asked Aquino.

Aquino said that questions on the bogus reports were meant to nettle him and get him mad when all his defenses were down.

"Sometimes I think the media desks are instructing their reporters to ask these provoking questions at the end of a long rally or at the end of the day, when we're all sleepy and tired, when we are run down," said Aquino.

Marcos burial a thorny issue for presidential bets

BATAC CITY, Ilocos Norte, PhilippinesAsk any Ilocano if he or she wants the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery) in Taguig City and you will get an impassioned but somewhat ambivalent answer.

"Apo Marcos belongs here. Nobody respects him like we do anywhere in the country," said Lydia Ancheta, owner of an empanada stall right across the Marcos mansion housing the strongman's frozen body.

In the same breadth, Ancheta became upset when told of reports that only Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III among the frontrunners in the presidential race had rejected a proposal that Marcos be accorded a hero's burial.

"Noynoy once had a mother for a president. He should be the first person to understand how former presidents are to be treated," she said.

Aquino may have been told to go easy on the subject of Marcos' burial because he was mum on the topic when he made his first presidential campaign sortie here, the "Marcos country," in March. Statements quoting him as being opposed to a state funeral were made during a sortie in Isabela.

His celebrity sister, Kris Aquino-Yap, who accompanied him in the Ilocos Norte sortie, also distanced herself from the issue when asked about her position on burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

"I don't have any position on it. I am not a lawyer," she said.

The issue of burying Marcos is one that not only divided the country since his remains were flown home from Hawaii in 1993. Marcos' final resting place has also created a chink among the so-called Marcos loyalists.

In 2005, members of the Friends of Imelda R. Marcos (Firm) supposedly gathered a million signatures calling for a hero's burial for Marcos. The loyalists from around the country were then gathered in Ilocos Norte to mark Marcos' 88th birth anniversary.

The group presented the signatures to Imelda who, at that time, saw an opportunity to negotiate her husband's state funeral with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was facing an impeachment complaint in Congress.

Representative Imee Marcos, then representing the second district of Ilocos Norte, was widely believed to have abstained from voting in favor of Arroyo's impeachment as part of a supposed deal between her family and the government.

More birthday celebrations came and went but Marcos' remains were still kept in a glass viewing case in his hometown.

Imelda is again hopeful that under a Manuel Villar administration, her husband's body would be finally accorded a hero's burial.

"Villar will do the right thing once he becomes president," the Marcos widow said.

The Marcoses -- Ferdinand Jr., who is running for senator; Imee, who is running for Ilocos Norte governor; and Imelda, who is running for representative of the province's second district -- are allied with Villar's Nacionalista Party.

Ancheta said she never signed the supposed petition nor did she ever see or hear of any position paper being passed around in Batac or anywhere in the province to solicit signatures for Marcos' burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

She said the traditional Ilocano culture has been to bury their dead so their spirits would not be left wandering on earth.

"Maybe Apo Marcos likes it here [in his Batac home] with his kailian (town mates). We haven't seen any natural calamity of major impact [of disasters here] since his body was kept in Batac," she said.

Ancheta said Ilocanos benefited the most when Marcos served as president for 20 years.
"We continue to benefit even after his death," she said, referring to a steady stream of tourists flocking to the Marcos mansion.

Rebels gatecrash political rally in Surigao del Sur

MANILA, Philippines – Around 30 suspected communist rebels swooped down on a political rally of a brother of Lakas-Kampi-CMD stalwart Prospero Pichay in Surigao del Sur province yesterday afternoon and took the firearms of bodyguards and police escorts, an official said.

Chief Superintendent Lino Calingasan, Caraga regional director, said the armed group, reportedly led by a certain Commander Puma, wore military uniform when they stormed the political rally of Rep. Philip Pichay at Sitio Cadlom, Brgy. Cabangahan, Tago, Surigao del Sur, around 1 p.m.

The legislator was with Mayor Hermenildo Pimentel Jr. and his party mates when incident happened.

The gunmen took from the police escorts and body guards three M-16 assault rifles, a cal. 45 pistol and four AK-47 rifles. 

Abra town mayor tagged in the killing of rival's supporter

A supporter of a mayoralty bet in Abra"s capital town of Bangued was killed Thursday morning in a shootout with a group allegedly connected with a re-electionist mayor.

White envelopes distributed to Iloilo City voters

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, PhilippinesLess than two weeks before the May 10 elections, envelopes are already spreading in La Paz District in this city.

But rather than containing money to buy votes, the white envelope is empty and only has a large red "X" mark and the words "Not For Sale" placed on the front.

The envelopes being posted on doors and gates of some residents in 11 barangay (villages) in the district are part of the campaign by the parish against vote-buying.

"We thought of this campaign to encourage behavioral change among voters based on their faith as Christians," said Fr. Renato Cuadras, parish priest of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in La Paz District, in an interview on Thursday.

The campaign launched through the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on April 11 and explained in Masses, encourages voters to make a stand against vote buying.

Those who attended Masses were encouraged to sign a covenant pledging not to sell one's votes, not to use force and intimidation on other voters, and not take part in any cheating.

The lay workers and the PPCRV volunteers distributed the copies of the covenant after Masses in the villages, Fr. Robert Amalay, assistant parish priest, said.

Amalay said the covenant simplified the 10 commandments for responsible voting issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the PPCRV based on what was the common practice in their villages.

He said the campaign was launched amid talks among parishioners that the buying rate for voters reached around P2,000 per voter.

Amalay said those who signed the covenant were given the envelopes, which they could place visibly in their homes.

"When people ask about the envelopes, that's the time to explain our advocacy but it is still voluntary on the resident whether they will also post the envelope or not," Amalay said.

The campaign had gathered around 2,000 signatures as of Thursday.

Cuadras said this might still be small compared to 28,000 parishioners but he said spreading the message was more important.

"(The) 2,000 signatures would mean 2,000 votes not sold to candidates," Amalay said.

The parishioners were urged to reject outright any offer of money, favor or material benefits in exchange for their votes.

But in cases where it would be difficult for them to do this, they can give the money to the poor or put it in inside the envelope and turn it over to the PPCRV.

The parish will account for the turned over money and spend it for projects and programs for the poor.

"What is important is that the vote buying transaction is not consummated. Money by itself is neutral but it becomes evil if used for evil intentions," Amalay said.

A parishioner on Wednesday turned over an envelope with P100 inside, which came from a supporter of a candidate.

Cuadras said the parishioners from all social standing, including barangay officials, signed the covenant.

But not all welcomed the campaign.

A parishioner reported that the envelope posted at their house was defaced and torn down.

Another parishioner said garbage was thrown in front of their gate after they posted the envelope.

"We told them not to be discouraged because this could mean that the message is getting across and 'disturbing' those who sell or buy votes," said Amalay.

Cuadras said it's not too late for other parishes to launch a similar campaign with just a few days before the elections.

"(A) change of values will take time. But we should have faith that it can be done," he said.

Voters detail election activities

ABOUT A FOURTH of registered voters, beyond simply exercising their right to choose their next leaders, have expressed the same willingness to monitor the counting of votes or attend political rallies leading to the May general elections as in the 2007 midterm polls, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.

A pre-election survey, conducted last Feb. 24-28 and released to BusinessWorld, showed that 26% of respondents plan to watch the counting of votes even if they are not members of any organization, 23% said they will attend rallies of political candidates, and 20% would serve in organizations that would help in having an orderly and clean election.

The plan to watch vote counting and attend political rallies, SWS said, were also the top choices of respondents in pre-election surveys conducted in February, April and May 2007.

Other activities being considered during the election season include serving as poll watcher for a political candidate, 15%; putting up campaign posters, 11%; actively campaigning for a political candidate, 9%; and being a member of the Board of Election Inspectors, 3%.

Two percent did not indicate their preferred activities, while 27% had either no answer or refused to respond.

In terms of area, keenness to watch the counting of votes was highest among those in "Balance of Luzon" (31%) compared to those from Metro Manila (21%), Visayas (20%) and Mindanao (25%).

Interest in attending political rallies was highest in Mindanao (37%) compared with only 15% in Metro Manila, 19% in Balance of Luzon, and 20% in the Visayas.

More Mindanaoans are also interested in putting up posters of candidates (23%), compared with those in Balance of Luzon (8%), Visayas (7%), and Metro Manila (6%).

Respondents from Mindanao and Metro Manila are keen on serving in organizations involved in keeping elections clean and orderly (25% and 21%, respectively), compared with Balance of Luzon, 18%; and Visayas, 17%.

Interest in being a watcher for political a candidate was also high in Metro Manila (23%) and Mindanao (20%), compared with Balance of Luzon (12%) and Visayas (9%).

In terms of class patterns, those from classes ABC showed greater propensity to watch the counting of votes (27%) against classes D (23%) and E (22%).

Those in classes D (15%) and E (16%), meanwhile, were twice as likely to act as poll watchers of candidates compared with classes ABC (8%).

More of those from the lowest class (E) were interested to attend political rallies (29%) than those from classes ABC (23%) and D (21%).

Class E also scored the highest in intention to put up posters of candidates (17%) compared with class D (10%) and ABC (7%).

Finally, intention to serve in organizations was higher among those in class D (21%) compared with those in class E (17%) and ABC (13%).

Sought for comment, Earl G. Parreño, a political analyst at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, linked the Filipino voter's interest in election activities to the "fiesta mentality" or fondness for feasts. "Filipinos tend to view the elections just like a fiesta. They want to go to political rallies because this is a big gathering as in a feast. Part of the feast is a cock fight, just like the counting of votes where they want to see their bets winning," he said.

For her part, Clarita R. Carlos, a political science professor from the University of the Philippines, declined to analyze survey results, saying, "There's nothing extraordinary [in these activities.]"

The survey, which polled 2,100 registered voters divided into random samples of 300 in Metro Manila and 600 each in Balance of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, asked: "Which among the following activities do you plan to undertake in the coming May 10, 2010 elections?"

Respondents were shown a card that contained multiple choices. They were allowed to select more than one answer.

Over 50.7 million voters will troop to polling precincts in the next 10 days to participate in the first fully automated elections.

Agra defers ruling on review of Zaldy Ampatuan indictment

MANILA, PhilippinesActing Justice Secretary Alberto Agra on Thursday deferred his issuance of a ruling on motions for reconsideration of a ruling in which he directed prosecutors to drop multiple murder charges against two members of the Ampatuan clan facing trial for the Maguindanao massacre.

In a statement, Agra said the Department of Justice would await the supplemental motion for reconsideration to be filed by lawyers of the families of the massacre victims.

The National Prosecution Service rule on appeals provides that they have 10 days from receipt of a copy of the resolution within which to file a motion for reconsideration. The records show that the 10th day falls on April 30, 2010, he said.

During the flag ceremony at the DOJ last Monday, Agra said he would issue his final decision this week, adding that he would not inhibit himself from the case since he trusts his objectivity and will exercise [his] authority in full.

Agra said he has received a notice from Nena Santos, lawyer of relatives of 25 of the 57 people slaughtered in the November 23, 2009, that she would file a supplemental motion on Friday.

Meanwhile, Harry Roque, counsel for the families of 13 victims, filed a motion asking Agra to set aside his April 16 resolution dropping the charges against Governor Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and his cousin Akmad Ampatuan.

Indeed, the speed with which the Acting Justice Secretary resolved the petition of the two Ampatuans is uncharacteristic of a case that he claims to consider as 'ordinary' as any other case brought to his office for resolution; in fact, he came out with the resolution with unseemly haste, given that the petitioners did not even give proof of service of their petition to herein complainants, in violation of the rules, the motion said.

Thus, Roque said, Agras April 16 resolution was null and void.

The 13 complainants said in their motion they were never served a copy of the petitions for review filed by the two Ampatuans. This violated NPS rules and the case should have been dismissed outright by Agra, they said.

Such dismissal is called for under the 2000 NPS Rule on Appeal Section 6 [on the] effect of failure to comply with requirements [which states that] the failure of the petitioner to comply with any of the foregoing requirements shall constitute sufficient ground for the dismissal of the petition, they said.

The complainants added that the resolution was tantamount to gross ignorance of the rules, adding, It is inexcusable as it is repugnant to anyones sense of fundamental fairness and justice.

On April 22, the families of 43 of the victims filed a joint motion for reconsideration seeking to reverse Agra's resolution.

No 'interim agreement' with MILF yet

MANILA, PhilippinesThe government is not on the verge of signing any interim peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front yet, chief government peace negotiator Rafael Seguis told Thursday.

Seguis was reacting to reports that North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piol, Representative Bernardo Piol Jr., and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial) board members asked the high court to stop the signing of the document set for the first week of May until the details of the agreement have been divulged.

There is no such document. We are still working in that direction. We are consulting all the stakeholders. We are making sure that we comply with the Constitution and the Supreme Court decision stopping the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), he said.

As required by the Supreme Court in the 2008 case Province of North Cotabato v. GRP Peace Panel, Seguis said the peace panel has conducted and continues to conduct regular consultations with concerned communities and stakeholders in Mindanao.

We dont want a repeat of the MOA-AD, he said.

After the high court declared the MOA-AD unconstitutional on August 5, 2008, fire-fighting ensued, killing 400 civilians and combatants and displacing 700,000 civilians from their homes.

Seguis said he is still hopeful that an agreement may be reached before the end of the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

I still think its doable. I am still optimistic, he said.

Asked to comment on the suggestion of leading presidential candidate Senator Benigno Noynoy Aquino III to stop the negotiations, Seguis said the government cannot simply abdicate its responsibility to continually search for a negotiated political settlement to the long-standing conflict in Mindanao.

Walk away? [But] both sides would like to engage each other and not throw in the towel. This cannot wait. Walking away may be misunderstood by MILF, he warned.

Seguis said the current impasse that has long imperiled the safety and security of local residents need to be broken. He said the peace and security situation in Mindanao has been a long-standing roadblock to the stability and economic development of the region.

At the least, there is need to preserve the gains of 13 years of negotiations, and assure that the peace process will continue with a clear roadmap," he said.

5 suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen killed in Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Five suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group were killed and 2 others were wounded during a firefight in Basilan. One soldier, a member of Army Task Group Panther, was slightly wounded during the skirmish.

$1: P44.650

$1: P44.650

Euro 1: P59.0752

PAL assures uninterrupted service amid labor dispute

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Philippine Airlines (PAL) has assured uninterrupted service in the transport of passengers, cargo, ballots and other election paraphernalia in the days leading to the national elections on May 10 amid an ongoing labor dispute.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has assumed jurisdiction over the dispute between the airline management and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) to prevent both parties from taking drastic action that could lead to work disruption or stoppage.

In the order on April 23, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque urged the PAL and PALEA "to refrain from committing any act that might exacerbate the situation."

"Thus, PAL's scheduled spin-off and restructuring programs are on hold while the PALEA cannot engage in any mass action, work slowdown/stoppage or go on strike without violating the DOLE order," PAL said in a statement.

The airlines management said the labor department is now on top of the situation.

PAL officials and PALEA will meet on Friday with the undersecretary for Labor Relations to discuss their differences over a planned restructuring program that could affect some 3,000 employees.

PAL said shipment of Comelec materials and paraphernalia to various domestic points is being given priority on all its flights. It said it has recently completed delivery of PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines in Mindanao.

New government should focus on reducing poverty

Former National Treasurer and University of the Philippines Professor Leonor Briones says the new government coming in after the May 10 national elections should do more to reduce poverty incidence in the country. Briones, in an interview with ANC's Business Nightly, says that contrary to government pronouncements, the ranks of the poor have grown, and their sorry plight, worsened by the economic crisis and natural disasters in recent years. She notes the government needs to focus on creating new jobs and increasing employment opportunities, especially in the most marginalized sectors such as the agriculture and industrial sectors.

Thai troops struggle to contain Bangkok protests

by Reuters
BANGKOK – The Thai army said on Thursday it would step up efforts to stop anti-government protesters in Bangkok getting more weapons, a day after a soldier died in the latest clash in a seven-week campaign to force early elections.

Suu Kyi asks Supreme Court to stop party dissolution

YANGON--Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi filed a lawsuit with Myanmar's Supreme Court Thursday in an attempt to prevent the dissolution of her party under a controversial new election law.

Middle East, Asia fail to protect domestic workers—HRW

KUALA LUMPURMiddle East and Asian nations, which draw millions of foreign domestic workers, have failed to take action to tackle widespread abuse of the vulnerable women, Human Rights Watch said.

"The reforms undertaken by Middle Eastern and Asian governments fall far short of the minimum protections needed to tackle abuses against migrant domestic workers," the US-based group said.

"Despite recent improvements, millions of Asian and African women workers remain at high risk of exploitation and violence, with little hope of redress," it said in a report launched ahead of International Labor Day on May 1.

The report focused on Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Singapore. HRW said that several nations had made improvements but far more must be done.

"In general, reforms have been slow, incremental, and hard-fought," said Nisha Varia, the group's women's rights researcher.

"Jordan deserves credit for including domestic work in their labor law, but enforcement remains a big concern. Singapore has prosecuted physical abuse against domestic workers vigorously, but fails to guarantee them even one day off a week."

Households across the region rely on foreign maids to cook, clean and care for children and the elderly. Saudi Arabia alone absorbs 1.5 million foreign domestic workers, and there are 196,000 in the tiny city-state of Singapore.

The workers come from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and other countries in Asia and Africa, and their earnings contribute billions to their home countries, often making up a good chunk of those economies.

HRW said the women are too often subjected to physical and sexual violence, forced isolation in private homes, excessive working hours with no rest, and unpaid wages for months of hard labor.

"Reforms often encounter stiff resistance both from employers used to having a domestic worker on call around the clock, and labor brokers profiting handsomely off a poorly regulated system," Varia said.

"Governments should make protecting these vulnerable workers a priority."

HRW called on governments to bring domestic workers under the protective umbrella of labor laws, reform repressive immigration laws that contribute to abuse, and ensure police and courts respond to abuse cases.

Priests think abuse 'doesn't break celibacy'—ex-bishop

SYDNEYSome pedophile priests believe molesting children does not breach their vow of celibacy, a retired Australian Catholic bishop said in a magazine interview.

Geoffrey Robinson, former auxiliary bishop of Sydney, told The Australian Women's Weekly he had made the observation during years of work with victims of child abuse within the church.

"We've met it often enough to see it as a factor. That's what the vow of celibacy refers to, being married. If it's not an adult woman, then somehow they're not breaking their vow," the 72-year-old said.

Robinson, who was abused as a child, although not by a priest, has previously criticized the handling of pedophilia cases by the church, which is facing a growing crisis over the issue.

In his 2007 book, "Confronting Power and Sex In The Catholic Church," he also hit out at compulsory celibacy, which the Vatican's number two last week said was a "positive tradition" but "not untouchable."

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has also insisted celibacy was not contributing to the child sexual abuse revelations rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

During his visit to Sydney in July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI apologized to victims of child abuse by priests in Australia after a rash of cases came to light in recent years.

Tom walks 4, Atan runs 7

CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña visited the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) yesterday and walked 10 rounds at the oval to dispel rumors that his health is deteriorating, an issue raised by his opponents.

Osmeña walked the equivalent of four kilometers with some of the candidates running under the Bando Osmeña Pundo Kauswagan (BOPK) ticket. The brisk walking lasted 55 minutes.

But Jonathan Guardo, his opponent in the congressional race in Cebu City's south district, upstaged him by running seven kilometers.

"I just want to show everybody that I am okay because this propaganda is making people bothered about my health. A lot of people care about me. I want to show them I'm okay," Osmeña told reporters after his walk.

Also at the oval yesterday was Kusug candidate for city councilor Joel Garganera, a regular runner who has finished six 42-kilometer races.

Garganera was at the CCSC as part of his preparation for a race in Mandaue City on Sunday.

Guardo arrived with two of his running buddies on the second round of the mayor's brisk walking.

Asked if he timed his run at the oval with the mayor's visit, Guardo said it was just coincidence.

"Well, na-timing lang siguro kay usually, I jog in the morning but because of the handshaking in the morning, I have to schedule the jogging in the afternoon," said Guardo, Kugi Uswag Sugbu (Kusug) for the south district House seat.

Guardo said he is preparing for the Milo Marathon in June. Guardo has run a full marathon, a race that covers 42 kilometers. His last full marathon was the Cebu City Marathon in January.

"I was surprised but when I saw him, I was happy that he was trying to be fit. We all know that he has cancer and it's not easy to be battling cancer. So I'm glad that he is trying to be fit and that's what I want for all the constituents of the south district, including our congressman and our mayor," said Guardo.

When told about Guardo's comment, Osmeña said he is not convinced his rival is happy that he is trying to stay healthy. The mayor said issues on his health are being raised by Guardo's camp.

"Where did it (propaganda) come from? Atan, who else? He says I go around with my surgeons and nurses. With my health usik daw imong boto, you know, He's desperate what can I say? That's his last issue," said Osmeña.

After yesterday's walk, Osmeña was scheduled to attend another political gathering.

Later in the evening, however, a text message from Guardo's camp said BOPK was worried by Osmeña's walk at the CCSC.

"The plan was for Tomas to walk for only one round in an attempt to dispel rumors on his health. But since Atan arrived with his running buddies and ran an additional 18 rounds, Tomas was forced to walk a few rounds," the message said.

Floyd belittles Pacquiao's PPV numbers

MANILA, Philippines – This early, Floyd Mayweather Jr. appears to have set the tone for difficult negotiations on a possible fight against Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.

Filipino faces Japanese champ for WBC title

MANILA, Philippines – Undefeated Filipino super bantamweight Balweg Bangonyan will face reigning World Boxing Council champion Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan in Tokyo on Friday.

Wesley So inches closer to Asian Chess lead

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino teen Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So bounced back from his 7th round loss in the 2010 Asian Individual Chess Championships by winning over Chinese Yu Ruiyuan in their 8th round match on Wednesday.

Miller to play vs his old team on Friday

MANILA, Philippines – Friday's game between the Alaska Aces and the Ginebra Gin Kings will be an interesting match up as former MVP Willie Miller and Cyrus Baguio suit up against their former teams.

Lucy Torres replaces Goma in congressional race

MANILA, Philippines – Television host Lucy Torres is replacing her husband, Richard Gomez, following his disqualification in the congressional race in Leyte province.

Comelec junks Pacquiao disqualification petition

MANILA, Philippines -- The Commission on Elections has junked the disqualification case against boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, who is running for congressman in Sarangani province.

US envoy to RP does an Obama, eats at fast-food joint

Like his top boss Barack H. Obama II, it appears that US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas also loves to drop unannounced into a fast-food restaurant for a quick bite when he feels like it.

Vhong says he's not competing with Willie over TV ratings

MANILA, Philippines – Is "Wowowee's" main man Willie Revillame getting insecure of Vhong Navarro, one of the hosts of "Showtime?" Navarro was asked this question during the launch of Star Records's newest dance album, "I.Star The Best of Dance Novelty," Wednesday amid reports that "Showtime" has already outranked "Wowowee" in terms of television ratings.

Carmen Soo's first film with Jericho postponed

MANILA, Philippines - Due to hectic schedules, Malaysian star Carmen Soo confirmed that the filming of her first movie project with actress Kristine Hermosa and former on-screen partner Jericho "Echo" Rosales has been postponed.

Mendoza's 'Kinatay', 'Lola' win big in 33rd Gawad Urian

MANILA, Philippines - Critically acclaimed filmmaker Brillante Mendoza's star continued to shine when 2 of his films, namely "Lola" and "Kinatay," dominated the 33rd Gawad Urian held at the University of the Philippines Cine Adarna Thursday evening.

Cinema Scope names Diaz's film one of decade's best

MANILA, PhilippinesInternational film magazine Cinema Scope has picked Lav Diazs 10-hour epic Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino as among the Top 10 Films of the Decade.

Coincidentally, Diaz also shot Ebolusyon for 10 years, from 1994 to 2004.

The other films in the Cinema Scope list are: Jia Zhangkes Platform (2000); Pedro Costas In Vandas Room (2001); Lisandro Alonsos La libertad (2001); Thom Andersens Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003); James Bennings 13 Lakes (2004); Edward Yangs Yi Yi (2000); Paul Verhoevens Black Book (2006); Bong Joon-hos Memories of Murder (2003); and David Lynchs Mulholland Drive (2001).

The Toronto-based magazines editor Mark Peranson said the inclusion of Ebolusyon in the list that was chosen by leading filmmakers, critics and festival programmers.

Diaz is happy and thankful to be included in the lineup. These are great films and filmmakers. I love and respect their works- especially Pedro Costas. The great Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang died of cancer three years ago.

Filipino filmmaker Raya Martin wrote an essay on Ebolusyon in the same special issue of Cinema Scope. Martin called Diaz the standard bearer of contemplative cinema, describing his oeuvre as part history class, part film history, and pure cinema.

Diaz recalled that Martin, who loved Ebolusyon used to drop by my old studio in Cubao during the struggle of editing it. He was still in college then and he asked lots of questions. Hes a great student of Philippine cinema.

He only hopes that more Filipinos would get to watch his films that are sadly unavailable on DVD.

I hope to get a grant to tour the film in local universities and far-flung villages next year and conduct discourse with students and barrio folk. Well try to act on the DVD issue next year. But I heard Ebolusyon is already available online [Torrentz], along with Heremias, Death in the Land of Encantos and Melancholia, with Italian subtitles, he said.

He doesnt feel pressured by this latest recognition. They are affirmations but even without these honors, I will still work in the realm of greater aestheticism. Great cinema is great food for the soul.

He is elated that the world is now looking at Philippine cinema with renewed interest.

Level playing field

Its now a level playing field in the festival circuit. The digital age, the Internet dismantled the previous feudal setup where Hollywood, Hong Kong and European films dominated all venues of cinema.

He is grateful to the earnest critics and programmers who pushed for his works. They know that my films are not mere novelties because of their so-called impossible lengths, he said.

Filipino filmmakers can sustain this global interest, he pointed out, through better works, greater visions.

In the end, all this international acclaim could do ordinary Filipinos a world of good, he said.

Filipinos now know that there are great filmmakers, great artists in their midst. We dont have to look far. Beyond commerce, the greater praxis must be focused on a cultural revolution to help this nation grow. And cinema can be on the forefront.

Sandra Bullock latest victim of Oscars 'curse'

LOS ANGELESSandra Bullock is the latest in a long line of best actress Academy Award winners who have fallen victim to what has become known as the "Oscars curse."

Bullock, 45, confirmed to People magazine Wednesday that she had filed for divorce from her husband Jesse James -- less than two months after collecting a best actress Oscar for her performance in "The Blind Side."

It followed reports that James -- who Bullock proudly stated had "got her back" during her win at the Golden Globes in January -- had cheated repeatedly with a tattooed stripper and other women.

Yet Bullock was only the latest woman to have been brought back to Earth after receiving the crowning glory of a best actress Academy Award.

In the past 12 years, eight other best actress winners have split with their husbands or long-term partners after winning one of the gold statuettes -- Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and Helen Hunt.

Six of those partings -- involving Bullock, Winslet, Swank, Witherspoon, Paltrow, Roberts -- occurred less than a year after an Oscar triumph.

Berry and Hunt split with their respective partners, Eric Benet and Hank Azaria, less than two years after collecting Oscars.

More often than not, Oscar-winning actresses have paid tribute to their significant others during their acceptance speeches.

Witherspoon praised her "wonderful husband" Ryan Philippe when she was honored for "Walk the Line" in 2006 while Swank described husband Chad Lowe as "my everything," when she won for "Million Dollar Baby" in 2005.

Bullock did not mention James during her acceptance speech at the Kodak Theater on March 7, but her burly husband could be seen welling up as his wife poignantly paid tribute to her late mother.

James meanwhile could be said to have fallen victim to a curse affecting reality television stars.

James, the star of the series "Monster Garage," first met Bullock after she arranged for her 10-year-old godson to tour the set of the show.

Now James has now joined Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Whitney Houston and Carmen Electra as personalities whose marriages have ended after participation in reality television shows.

Handwritten John Lennon lyrics to be sold in NYC

NEW YORK For the right price, some lucky Beatlemaniac will be able to own the lyrics to the final song on the Beatles album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to the Beatles classic "A Day in the Life" are being auctioned in June, Sotheby's announced on Thursday. The double-sided sheet of paper features Lennon's edits and corrections in his own hand in black felt marker and blue ball point pen, with a few annotations in red ink.
It is expected to fetch between $500,000 and $700,000 when it is sold in New York on June 18.
Rolling Stone magazine listed "A Day in the Life" at No. 26 in its compilation of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and "Sgt. Pepper" won four Grammy awards in 1968.
The lyrics stirred controversy when the Beatles released the album in 1967. The song was banned by the BBC because it twice features the line, "I'd love to turn you on," which was interpreted as supporting illegal drug use. The song was also left off copies of "Sgt. Pepper's" sold in several Asian countries for the same reason.
The album's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was alleged to have glorified the use of the hallucinogenic LSD, a claim that band members denied.
In addition, "A Day in the Life" features the lyric "he blew his mind out in a car," which Beatles aficionados claim is a reference to the accidental death of Tara Browne, the Guinness heir and close friend of both Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Lady Gaga, Bill Clinton, Lula top Time's influence list

NEW YORK—Extravagantly outfitted singer Lady Gaga, former US president Bill Clinton and Brazil's leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are the world's most influential people according to Time magazine's annual list.

The US weekly explains its sometimes surprising choices saying that the "Time 100 is not about the influence of power but the power of influence."

Lady Gaga, famous for bizarre costumes and chart-topping dance music, leads the list of most influential artists, leading US late-night TV host Conan O'Brien, Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow and daytime TV queen Oprah Winfrey.

Clinton, who has reinvented himself as a major fund-raiser and anti-poverty activist since leaving the White House, heads the "heroes" section, beating South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-Na and Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

The "leaders" list starts with the Brazilian president, who is praised for his drive to bring social justice and end deep inequality in his huge Latin American country.

J.T. Wang, CEO of the Taiwanese PC maker Acer comes in at number two as a representative of the rise of Asian companies.

The top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, is third, with President Barack Obama only in the fourth slot.

"Some of the people you'll encounter on this list are influential in the traditional sense," Time managing editor Richard Stengel says. "But we also seek out people whose ideas and actions are revolutionizing their fields and transforming lives."

Friday: light rain shower, Max Temp: 31°C (88°F), Min Temp: 26°C (79°F)

Max Temp: 31°C (88°F), Min Temp: 26°C (79°F), Wind Direction: E, Wind Speed: 5mph, Visibility: moderate, Pressure: 1013mb, Humidity: 64%, Sunrise: 05:26PHT, Sunset: 17:55PHT

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