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

Monday, April 5, 2010

April 6, 2010 Major News Stories

Oil firm to start price hike on petroleum products

MANILA, Philippines--Independent oil player Phoenix Petroleum Phil. will increase the prices of its diesel and gasoline by P0.50 per liter effective 6 a.m. Tuesday, the firm said in an advisory Monday.

The increase was brought by "the increase in the prices of finished petroleum products in the world market," the firm said.

Sizzling days still to come – weather bureau

Tumitindi ang init ng panahon. Sabi pa ng PAGASA, huwag nang magtaka kung umabot sa 40 degrees Celsius ang temperatura sa ibang lugar !

Self-sufficiency goals imperilled by dry spell

THE DRY SPELL brought about by the El Niño weather phenomenon is forcing the government to revisit its agricultural production targets for the year, a move seen delaying the goal of attaining self-sufficiency in rice and corn.

On his son's chances vs. Gwen: Davide Jr.: I believe in miracles

Former Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. yesterday admitted that it is an uphill climb for his son, Hilario "Junjun" Davide III to run against reelectionist Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia.

Pelaez accuses Radaza camp of vote-buying

Businessman Efrain Pelaez, Jr., the Liberal Party mayoralty candidate in Lapu-Lapu City, yesterday accused the Radaza camp of vote-buying.

Tanods stop bet from entering complex

Liberal Party standard bearer and Lapu-Lapu City mayoralty candidate Efrain Pelaez Jr. was refused entry into the sports complex in barangay Punta Engaño where the graduation ceremonies of Punta Engaño elementary and high school were about to start yesterday morning.

Georgia revives issue against Margot; ask her kids, Tom says

CEBU City mayoralty candidate Georgia Osmeña revived yesterday the allegations that her sister-in-law and First Lady Margot Osmeña was involved in the abduction of her three children more than a decade ago.

5th district voices support for Gibo

The fifth district of Cebu formally announced yesterday that they are unanimously supporting Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro to dispel rumors as to whom they are supporting in the presidential race.

Inmates may not be allowed to vote

Registered inmates in Central Visayas may not be allowed to participate in the first poll automation of the country in May 10 because of the difficulty in creating special polling centers to accommodate them.

Balili Controversy: Governor orders filing of case against CPAC members

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday ordered an administrative investigation against the members of the Cebu Provincial Appraisal Committee upon the recommendation of the review committee she earlier formed to look into the controversial Balili transaction.

Capitol seeks Balili discount

GOV. Gwendolyn Garcia wants an administrative investigation on the appraisal committee involved in the purchase of the Balili property, as well as a reduction of the P98-million purchase price.

Publication Not Libelous Raps vs. Vidal, priests junked

The libel case filed against Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and three other church officials was dismissed yesterday.

2 resorts in hot water for Lent parties

THE Cebu Provincial Police Office is recommending the filing of charges against two beach resorts in Sta. Fe for defying orders not to hold dance parties during the Holy Week.

Acting Cebu Provincial Police Chief Erson Digal said the Budyong Beach Resort continued to play dance music on the night of Black Saturday after police had asked them not to several times.

Digal said he sent Task Force Igmat head Eduardo Saavedra to inform the resorts that all forms of disco parties or concerts are prohibited during the Holy Week, due to an ordinance in Sta. Fe.

Management of Sugar Beach, for their part, claimed that Gov. Gwen Garcia gave them permission to hold a concert, which Digal said was not true.

When they later said they had a business permit from the municipality, Digal instructed the chief of police to read the document carefully. It was then police learned that the permit was to hold a sports activity, not a concert, which meant Sugar Beach's request to hold one was denied.

However, Digal said the resort did not disobey them.

Guadalupe vote likely after May 10 - Comelec

The plebiscite for the split of barangay Guadalupe into two barangays is likely to be held only after the May 10 elections as the Commission on Elections is yet to receive orders from Manila on the new schedule of the referendum.

Comelec cancels procurement of 1.8M overpriced ballot folders

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MANILA, Philippines The Commission on Elections (Comelec) decided to recall its decision to award the contract for the procurement of 1.8 million ballot secrecy folders to OTC paper supply after finding out that each would cost P380, spokesperson James Jimenez said on Monday.

Jimenez said the Comelec made the discovery two weeks ago and was investigating how the amount got approved.

He also said the actual contract was not yet drawn up when the poll body found out how much each folder would cost.

The direction [of the en banc] is toward the cancellation of the award, he told reporters.

Comelec denies using 'wrong' UV ink

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday denied that poll machine provider Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) failed to supply the correct ink for the ultraviolet (UV) security markings that are being printed on the ballots for the May polls.

"There was no admission on the part of the Comelec," said Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, who heads the poll body's steering committee on automation.

Earlier, the Comelec said it will be using hand-held 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 Precinct Count Optical Scan (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 becauseSmartmatic-TIM failed to supply the correct ink for the UV marks.

The UV marks are one of the security features that will prove the authenticity of the ballot. Banks use similar technology to detect counterfeit paper money.

The Comelec said other security features of the ballot include the special ballot paper, a bar code, Comelec markings, and the unique precinct-based numbers on the ballot.

Smartmatic-TIM Asia president Cesar Flores told reporters on Monday that they decided to turn off the automated detection of the UV marks of the PCOS machines due to lack of time to properly adjust the scanner to the security markings.

"The schedule was becoming more and more tight," he said, adding that printing would have been delayed by two to three weeks if they had insisted on using the UV scanner of the PCOS units.

He said the new system would allow voters to verify for themselves that their ballots are authentic and not pre-marked. "This is something we encourage," he said.

He asserted that the Board of Election Inspectors will not find it difficult to use the UV lamps. "It really doesn't require additional time. It is built into the procedure," he said.

Larrazabal said the Comelec is in the process of bidding out the order for 77,000 UV lamps for the 76,340 clustered precincts in the May polls, and has allotted P30 million for the purchase.

As of Monday, he said an estimated 32 million ballots out of the 50 million to be used in the automated polls have been printed.

On Sunday, senatorial aspirant Jose de Venecia III called on the joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Poll Automation to investigate whether the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM "conspired" so that ballots could not be verified as genuine.

Nograles warns Comelec officials

House Speaker Prospero Nograles on Monday warned officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of possible impeachment, saying they could be impeached if they fail to heed his call for the purging of the voters' list for this year's elections.

In a text message, Nograles said that the purging of list is so important that it could become a reason for Comelec officials to be impeached.

"More important is to clean up voters' list of dead and double registration. If they won't, then they may face impeachment for not doing their duties," he said.

Asked if the impeachment could be done in this Congress and if he would be the one to initiate it, Nograles said: "[The] next Congress will do it for sure. {It will] not [be] in my watch. [There's] no more time]."

Nograles issued his warning against the Comelec due to its apparent inaction on his call. (Gabriel Mabutas)

PNP chief assures security of elections paraphernalia

MANILA, PhilippinesFor the nth time, Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa on Monday allayed fears of some sectors that the May 10 elections might fail due to issues over the safekeeping of election paraphernalia.

Speaking with reporters in Camp Crame, Verzosa said all PNP units in the regional and provincial levels had been meeting with election officials to discuss the storage of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, ballots and other materials needed for the automated balloting.

Verzosa, who presided over the change of command of the PNP Maritime Group, said the PNP will use its helicopters, rubber boats and other vehicles to safely transport the PCOS machines.

He stressed that the Commission on Elections (Comelec), not the military and the police, will decide on the security arrangements regarding the custody of election paraphernalia,

We have already finalized the security for the sub-hubs in the regional and provincial areas where the PCOS machines would be stored, the PNP chief told reporters.

The hubs and sub-hubs will be manned by police and military personnel, according to Verzosa.

Under the law, the 76,000 PCOS machines and other election materials should be kept in sub-hubs at least three days before Election Day.

The poll machines will then be brought to some 34,000 polling places on May 10.

Police to remain on high alert until June – spokesman

MANILA, Philippines Despite of the end of the Lenten season, the Philippine National Police will remain on heightened alert up until the end of elections and the opening of classes in June, a police spokesman said on Monday.

Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said they have not lowered the alert status and regions 1 to 8 and Metro Manila will still remain on heightened alert while the rest of the countrys regions, particularly in Mindanao, will be on full alert.

The alert status will remain ahead of the elections on May 10 and will extend up to the start of classes in June.

Espina, however, said that the status could be heightened days before and after election day as police brace for possible spike in incidents of election-related violence.

Aquino III Widens Lead Over Villar in Philippines

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Benigno Aquino III remains the frontrunner in the Philippines' presidential campaign and has won more supporters, according to a poll by the Manila Standard. 39 per cent of respondents would vote for Aquino III of the Liberal Party (PLP) in the May ballot, up five points since February.

Senator Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party (PNP) is a close second with 26 per cent, down six points. Former president Joseph Estrada of the Force of the Filipino Masses (PMP) is third with 17 per cent. Support is lower for former secretary of National Defence Gilberto Teodoro, senator Richard Gordon, and religious and political leader Eddie Villanueva.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took over as president in January 2001, following Estrada's resignation. Arroyo won a six-year term in the June 2004 presidential election, garnering 39.99 per cent of all cast ballots. Noli De Castro—running as Arroyo's running mate, but not as part of a single ticket—received 49.79 per cent of all cast ballots in the vice-presidential election, defeating Loren Legarda.

In May 2007, voters in the Philippines renewed the House of Representatives and one-half of the Senate. Final results gave seven of the 12 upper house seats at stake to Genuine Opposition (GO) candidates, followed by the pro-government Team Unity (TU) with three, and two independents.

In 1986, Corazon Aquino—the widow of murdered opposition leader Benigno Aquino—took over as president when long-time dictator Ferdinand Marcos was forced to flee to Hawaii. Aquino accused Marcos of stealing a presidential election, and led a series of massive demonstrations that came to be known as "People Power" in order to topple the regime. Aquino ended her presidency on a high note and remained an extremely popular figure in the country, until her death in August 2009.

Aquino's death ignited a sudden interest in her son Aquino III becoming a presidential candidate. A grass-roots movement urged him to run and the senator officially launched his bid in September.

Last month, Estrada commented on his third-place ranking in voting intention polls, declaring, "If you are below, your tendency is to go up. So as I have planned, this is just okay. But come election day, I will already be number one."

The presidential election is scheduled for May 10. Arroyo is ineligible for a consecutive term in office.

Polling Data

Which presidential candidate would you vote for?


Mar. 2010

Feb. 2010

Benigno Aquino III



Manuel Villar



Joseph Estrada



Gilberto Teodoro



Richard Gordon



Eddie Villanueva



Undecided / Other



Source: Manila Standard 
Methodology: Face-to-face interviews with 2,500 Filipino registered voters, conducted from Mar. 21 to Mar. 23, 2010. Margin of error is 2.2 per cent.

Aquino's 'Topak' behind smear campaign, says Villar camp

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) The Nacionalista Party (NP) pointed to the group called Topak as the brains behind the smear campaign against its standard-bearer Senator Manuel Villar, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, NP secretary-general, said Monday.

Topak, which stands for Trapos Opportunists and Kamag-Anak Inc., is composed of people who served in the core group of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and were now helping in the campaign of Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno Noynoy Aquino III, Cayetano said.

"The fanatical zeal of character assassination against Senator Villar by Senator Aquino and his salivating attack dogs can only be done by most sinister and hallucinating minds," he said in a news conference.

"With this, it is now time to reveal who are the brains behind this paninira or smear campaign, which are the PhDs and masteral degree holders in paninira," Cayetano said.

"They are no other than the Trapos, Opportunists and Kamag-Anak Inc., who served as core group of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and who now form the core group of the Liberal Party and of Noynoy Aquino's campaign team," he said.

Cayetano said they were the same people who launched the smear campaign against the late Fernando Poe Jr., and orchestrated Arroyo's proclamation in 2004.

"The same people who tried to save the President from the Hello Garci scandal, the same people who left PGMA [Arroyo's initials] when they tried to grab power for themselves and failed, the same people who do not want to discuss platforms and programs since they have tried when they were in power and failed," the senator added.

Cayetano refused to name names, but among the former Arroyo Cabinet members, now with Aquino, are running mate, Senator Manuel Mar Roxas, former education secretary Florencio Butch Abad, former finance secretary Cesar Purisima, former social welfare secretary Corazon Dinky Soliman, and former presidential adviser on peace process Teresita Deles.

Some of these ex-Arroyo allies, he said, only became opposition when it was convenient for them. Some of them also refused to testify in an impeachment proceeding against the President, he added.

If Aquino will really go after Arroyo if he gets elected in Malacanang, then he should ask these former cabinet officials to reveal all the secrets of the Arroyos, including their financial dealings between 2001 and 2005, Cayetano said.

If he cannot do it, Cayetano said, Aquino should just get rid of them.

Cayetano said Aquino had gone as far as saying that Villar was never poor.

He lambasted what he called as Aquino's propaganda machinery for spinning "yarns of pure fiction" such as Villar's supposed exclusive Catholic pedigree, his mother being a fish and shrimp wholesaler and not a vendor, and his brother Danny's hospitalization at the Far Eastern University Hospital to refute Villars claims that his sibling died because they were poor.

Five NP senatorial bets Ilocos Norte Representative Ferdinand Bong-Bong Marcos Jr., Gabriela Womens Partylist Representative Liza Maza, Ramon Mon Mitra, Gwen Pimentel, and Susan Toots Ople joined Cayetano in the news conference to deplore what they described as dirty tactics being employed by Aquino's camp.

Its really, really sad that the party who claims to be espousing change, that which brandishes the fight between good and evil will sink this low to the extent of digging through the death certificate of a person close to Senator Villar, Ople said.

We have 35 days more to go [in the campaign] and we appeal to our opponents to elevate the level of the discourse, she added.

Marcos and Pimentel expressed the same sentiments.

I could not believe that I was watching Senator Villar, I was watching the absolutely ridiculously sight of Villar defending his poverty. I mean what kind of debate is this? That has nothing to do with what needs to be done in this country, Marcos said.

I guess this is what can only be referred to as really pure trapo [traditional politics] where its not the quality of the debate but merely the shamelessness of the accusation, he added.

Borrowing the slogan, Tama na. Sobra na Itigil na (Enough is enough, lets stop this) that was used during the first people power revolt, Pimentel called on everyone to use this campaign as a forum to present solutions to the problems of the country.

We are not competing against each other, but we are presenting ourselves with our own platform and how to solve the problems that we have in our nation, she said.

Villar dares Aquino to disclose campaign sponsors

MANILA, Philippines--Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Senator Manny Villar on Monday dared Senator Benigno Aquino III, his closest rival in the presidential race, to name the people or groups funding his campaign to see who is really being backed by the Arroyo administration.

Turning the tables on Aquino, Villar said records will show that the Liberal Party candidate has spent close to P500 million for his advertisements alone but the identities of his funders remain the biggest mystery in the 2010 presidential polls.

In the past weeks, Villar has been hounded with the VillArroyo talks that allege that he is the real candidate of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Where is he getting his money? Is this the fruit of their GloriAquino collusion? said Villar in a statement.

Spill the beans. Be transparent and practice what you preach. No less than a full disclosure will do, he said, adding that Aquino owes it to the electorate to say where his funds are coming from.

We might be surprised to find out that his funds are coming from sources that we could not even imagine, he said.

Villar said that it is Aquino who has relatives in the Arroyo administration.

Maybe he is benefiting from the Arroyo administration because he has some relatives in her Cabinet. He has the one who has connections, not I. Maybe thats the reason they have this propaganda that I am the secret candidate of Malacanang because they want to hide the truth that they are the ones benefiting from the administration, Villar said.

A GloriAquino candidate is not impossible, pointing out that Aquino has more to gain from an alliance with Malacanang than him, Villar said.

He reiterated that he has been spending his own money for the presidential campaign and that he is not beholden to anyone.

I am beholden to no one but myself because I am spending my own money. Can Senator Aquino say the same thing? If its not his money, then who are funding him? he said.

Villar dared to sue critics

MANILA, Philippines – Liberal Party senatorial bet Risa Hontiveros dared Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar to sue anyone who has accused him of getting support from President Arroyo.

"Sue us. If he thinks that the 'Villaroyo' tag is slanderous, then he should file a case against those who use it," Hontiveros said in a statement.

"What he doesn't understand is that this is not rumor-mongering. 'Villaroyo' has traction because he acts like, talks like, and walks like the real Arroyo candidate. The public can see through his brand of politics. Pag nakikita ng publiko si Villar, ang nakikita nila ay siGloria Macapagal-Arroyo (When the public sees Villar, the see Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo)," she added.

Hontiveros said that instead of blaming the LP, Villar should clarify the issues and act like a true opposition candidate.

"On many issues, he has been lukewarm in his opposition to GMA. Instead of an outright condemnation of GMA's midnight appointments, he merely said that he would review them, disregarding the unconstitutionality of the executive action. The same lukewarm reaction could be seen from Villar on the Chief Justice issue," she said. 

Davide endorses Aquino, Roxas

CEBU CITY, Philippines Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. on Monday endorsed Liberal Party presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Noynoy Aquino III and running mate Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II.

Speaking at a press conference held here, Davide said he considered Aquino and Roxas the best choice for the Filipino electorate, for the good of our country.

When it comes to the position of president and vice president of our country. We need people who could clearly lead our country sincerely, authentically for the common good and for the interest of the people, he explained.

Davide, who had just resigned as Philippine Ambassador to United Nations, effective April 1, arrived home to help in the campaign of his son, Hilario III and running mate incumbent vice-governor Gregorio Sanchez. Both are running under the Liberal Party against Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and her running mate Glenn Soco of One Cebu party.

While campaigning for his son was the main reason he faced the local media, Davide also bared his candidates for president and vice president.

And for the national slate, with all my heart, with all my mind, I am actually endorsing Noynoy and Mar Roxas, not because they are all friends of mine. As a matter of fact, I would like to tell you that all the candidates are my good friends, he said.

He added that his endorsement of friends running for elective position would be based on their capability to serve with the highest degree of integrity and the highest degree of accountability the public position that they are seeking or aspiring for.

'Welcome to the club,' Noynoy tells cousin Gibo

SAN RAFAEL, Bulacan - Welcome to the club. Liberal Party standard bearer Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III had these words for his cousin, Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr., amid reports that administration party is secretly supporting the presidential bid of Senator Manuel Villar Jr. of the Nacionalista Party.

Lakas execs to release pro-Teodoro manifesto

LUBAO, Pampanga, PhilippinesAmid reports that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is backing Senator Manuel Villar, the executive committee of the administration party Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats will come out with a manifesto reassuring standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro of the partys support.

This was according to Deputy House Speaker Amelita Villarosa. She said the manifesto will be released after the partys executive committee meeting Tuesday.

SC asked: Declare presidential poll court unconstitutional

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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal asked the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional the creation of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

In his seven-page petition, Macalintal said the creation of the PET is a violation of Article 7 Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution which provides that the Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the president or vice-president, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose.

He pointed that the Supreme Court cannot act as a quasi-judicial body with a separate budget, employees, and a different seal.

While the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to promulgate its rules in deciding such contests, the same constitution does not authorize it to create another Tribunal performing a quasi judicial function and operate under a separate budgetary allocation with new seal, new set of personnel and confidential employees, Macalintal said.

Macalintal added that the designation of the chief justice and other justices of the Supreme Court to the PET violates Section 12 Article VIII of the Constitution.

Under the said provision: The members of the Supreme Court and of other courts established by law shall not be designated to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative functions.

The Presidential Electoral Tribunal is the judge for all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of candidates for president and vice president.

Since the PET is a tribunal exercising a quasi-judicial function, we would have the anomaly of a decision or resolution of the PET rendered by the members of the Supreme Court exercising quasi-judicial functions being asked to be reviewed on certiorari by the same members of the Court exercising, this time, its strictly judicial functions, Macalintal said.

He added that in the case of former Department of Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Maria Elena Bautista, where the high tribunal applied the stricter prohibition rule of the Constitution on multiple or incompatible positions.

Time is of the essence that this petition be resolved with dispatch in view of the forthcoming presidential elections in May 2010 where cases may be filed involving the election, returns or qualifications of candidates for president or vice-president, Macalintal said.

JBC sets public interview of Chief Justice nominees

MANILA, Philippines The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Monday agreed to conduct public interview of nominees to the Chief Justice position, Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said.

The public interviews are scheduled on April 19 and 20.

Only after the public interviews that the council would be able to determine if it would submit the names of all six nominees to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Agra said in a phone interview.

In a separate text message, Quezon City Representative Matias Defensor said they would also await the decision of the Supreme Court on the motion for reconsideration filed by several groups to reverse the high tribunals ruling allowing Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice despite the Constitutional ban.

Agra and Defensor are both members of the eight-member JBC that met Monday afternoon on the nominees to replace Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who will retire on May 17.

Nominees to Chief Justice position include Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales, Renato Corona, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Edilberto Sandoval

Carpio and Morales have said in their separate letters to the JBC that they will accept their nomination to the Chief Justice post only if the next president will make the appointment.

Morales is the only justice who dissented in the high courts March 17 decision saying that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can appoint the next chief justice.

Morales, among others, held that the establishment of the JBC is not sufficient to curtail the evils of midnight appointments in the Judiciary and that the 90-day period to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court is suspended during the ban on midnight appointment. She stressed that the Court can function effectively during the midnight appointments ban without an appointed Chief Justice. To begin with, judicial power is vested in one Supreme Court and not in its individual members, much less in the Chief Justice alone. Notably, after Chief Justice Puno retires, the Court will have 14 members left, which is more than sufficient to constitute a quorum, she said.

Agra said if Carpio and Morales decided to withdraw their nomination, they will submit the names of the other nominees.

Screening body to await final ruling on power to appoint new Chief Justice

THE JUDICIAL and Bar Council (JBC) would await the Supreme Court's (SC) final ruling before submitting to Malacañang the short list of candidates for next Chief Justice, Justice Secretary Alberto C. Agra said yesterday.

GMA wants to appoint next Sandiganbayan chief

MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo is poised to make another controversial appointment, this time to replace Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Norberto Geraldez, who died barely a month after heading the court under which administration foes want her tried for corruption after the end of her presidency.

Malacañang said it is possible for the President to appoint a new Sandiganbayan presiding justice after the death of Geraldez last Sunday from pancreatic cancer complications. He was 60. 

The President, under the Constitution, is barred from appointing officials 60 days before the elections – or beginning March 10 – and until the end of her term on June 30.

Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez earlier said that a recent ruling by the high tribunal allowing Mrs. Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice does not cover other appointments in the judiciary.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said that the President would "do all she can and all that she's expected and in fact mandated to do in this particular situation."

Olivar said Justice Secretary Alberto Agra and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Victorino were advising the President on the matter.

Olivar hinted that the vacancy in the post of Sandiganbayan presiding justice was an issue that could be subject to the same guidelines on appointments during an election period as interpreted by Agra.

Agra earlier claimed that appointments in the judiciary were exempted from the 60-day election ban under the Constitution.

He argued that the SC ruling allowing the President to appoint the next chief justice was an affirmation of the position taken by the government.

"The Supreme Court reasoned, among others, that the establishment of the Judicial and Bar Council and their subjecting the nomination and screening of candidates for judicial positions to the unhurried and deliberate prior process of the JBC, ensured that there would no longer be midnight appointments to the judiciary," Agra said.

Olivar said the President would do whatever is required of her "subject to whatever legal constraints (that) apply in this case."

"If this is the position that Justice Secretary Agra determines (and) also covers this particular case in terms of the facts involved, then we can expect the appointment to be made (by the President)," Olivar said.

The sudden vacancy in the Sandiganbayan came amid the controversy sparked by Malacañang's insistence on appointing the successor of SC Chief Justice Reynato Puno despite an election ban on appointments.

The government has maintained that the ban only covers appointments to the executive branch and not the judiciary.

Malacañang recently announced several new presidential appointments, which drew widespread criticism, particularly from the political opposition.

Malacañang earlier claimed the appointments were made before the March 10 deadline.

Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III said that if he becomes president, he would void all of the illegal appointments made by Mrs. Arroyo in his first 90 days in office.

But Olivar said Aquino should first have to prove that the appointments were illegal.

"We always maintained that the appointments made by the President, including the latest bunch of appointments, are all legal for various reasons, but all of them conformed to the requirements of law," Olivar said.

"If Senator Aquino has a different opinion about this and if he wishes to use up his first 100 days focused on things like this then the first thing he has to do of course is to prove that in fact these appointments were illegal," he added.

Official mourning

The Philippine flag at the Sandiganbayan will remain at half-mast for the next six days as justices, lawyers, and employees of the anti-graft court mourn the death of Geraldez.

They also offered yesterday a minute of silent prayer after the flag ceremony and placed a piece of black cloth in front of the Sandiganbayan Centennial Building in Quezon City.

Necrological services for Geraldez will be held at the Heritage Memorial Park at 6 p.m. tomorrow to give Sandiganbayan personnel a chance to pay their last respects.

Executive Clerk of Court Renato Bocar said he had known Geraldez since they were law school classmates at San Beda College.

"He was low-key. He used to sit at the back of the classroom, a silent individual," Bocar recalled, expressing dismay that Sandiganbayan employees had not been given much of a chance to really get to know him.

"He would not have been appointed to highest position if he was not bright and qualified," he told The STAR.

The Office of the Ombudsman also expressed its condolences to the family of Geraldez.

"We sympathize and deeply condole with the family of a partner in the justice system. We grieve the loss of a good person and magistrate. His demise is a big loss to the cause of justice," Assistant Ombudsman and spokesperson Jose de Jesus Jr. said. 

Arroyo's husband to be discharged Wednesday, say docs

MANILA, PhilippinesFirst Gentleman Jose Miguel Mike Arroyo will be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday morning after showing signs of remarkable improvement, doctors of St. Lukes Medical Center Global-City in Taguig said Monday.

His low back pain has remarkably improved to an almost zero pain. This enables him to continue progressive aggressive rehabilitation, which he will continue as an outpatient after his discharge from the hospital, Marilen Lagniton, St. Lukes Medical Centers vice president for customers affairs said over the phone.

Because of this improvement, we plan to discharge the First Gentleman from the hospital on Wednesday, Lagniton said, quoting a medical bulletin issued by Arroyos doctors.

The official said Arroyos blood pressure remains stable and is being controlled with anti-hypertension medication and diet modification.

Palace exec: Arroyo"s Vietnam, US trips to push through

Because her husbands health condition is improving, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can now resume her normal work schedule, including her planned trip to Vietnam and the United States this month.

Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza told reporters in Pampanga on Monday that Mrs. Arroyos trips to the two countries will push through. The President was in the province to celebrate her 63rd birthday in her hometown Lubao. [See: Arroyo celebrates birthday in Pampanga hometown]

"There is no advisory that the trips will be cancelled," Mendoza said in Filipino.

Mrs. Arroyo is set to attend the 16th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings in Hanoi, Vietnam from April 8 to 9.

After Vietnam, she will fly to Washington DC in the United States to join President Barack Obama and other world leaders in the Global Nuclear Summit on April 12 to 13.

Radio dzBBs Nimfa Ravelo also reported that the Presidents trip to Madrid, Spain, on April 15 to 16 will also push through. Mrs. Arroyo is set to meet King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia in the trip.

In the past two weeks, Mrs. Arroyo had worked at the bedside of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, who was rushed to the hospital last March 25 after suffering a heart problem.

Last week, St. Lukes Medical Center at the Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig said Mr. Arroyos health condition is already stable.

On Monday, Mendoza also said the President can now attend normal functions in Malacañang because of the First Gentlemans stable health condition. 

Tighter maritime security after Zambo kidnapping—PNP chief

MANILA, PhilippinesPhilippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa on Monday called for tighter security in the countrys coastal areas after the kidnapping of a Swiss-born man in Zamboanga City on Sunday.

Verzosa said attention should be given on the countrys coastal areas, as a number of suspects flee seaward.

The Philippines is an archipelago and I find it hard to believe that our [security] coverage in coastal areas is weak, Verzosa said during turnover ceremonies at the PNP Maritime Group in Camp Crame.

The kidnapping of Swiss-born Charlie Reith, he said, was an example of an incident where the suspects were able to escape on board three boats with the 72-year-old victim.

Most crimes committed here transpire on the seas, such as smuggling, terrorism, trafficking, and abduction, Verzosa said.

Thats why we really have to reform the Maritime Group andin developing the capabilities of our personnel, he added.

Verzosa said that in the coming months, the PNP is looking to procure more fast boats as well as the establishment of more maritime detachments to better secure the coastal areas in the country.

He added that the PNP is targeting one fast boat per town in the country.

Aside from tighter security, Verzosa also ordered all personnel of the Maritime Group to be part of environmental protection.

We should also protect our maritime species, he added.

Grenade explodes at Zambo Sibugay Gov's compound

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines - One person was hurt when a grenade exploded at the gate of an FM radio station in Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay a few minutes before 7 p.m. Monday.

Zamboanga Sibugay Police Provincial Director Sr. Supt. Federico Castro Jr. identified the victim as Obando Arnesto, who sustained minor shrapnel injuries. As of posting, the victim was being treated at the provincial hospital.
Castro said two men, riding on board a single black motorcycle, hurled the grenade at the entrance gate of the Magic 103.1 FM at Barangay Kitabog in Titay town.

The radio station is situated inside the residential compound of Sibugay Governor George Hoffer, who also owns the FM station.
The blast also caused minor damages at the gate.
Castro said a joint investigation has been launched by the police, Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO), and Criminal Investigation Division Group (CIDG).

But Castro disclosed that initial results of the probe point to the possibility that the explosion is related to the forthcoming elections.








Go slow on wage hikes -- NEDA exec

A WARNING against immediate pay hikes was raised yesterday by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), ahead of Metro Manila wage board consultations scheduled to start on Thursday.

Philippine peso nearing P44-per-dollar level - Business Mirror

THE peso rose on Monday to its strongest against the US dollar since August 2008 after a report released on Friday showing improving employment figures in the US further fueled investor optimism about the global economic recovery.

The local unit, which was also boosted by remittances of overseas Filipinos during the four-day Easter holiday, was up 0.35 percent to P45.01 per dollar from Wednesday's close of P45.17.

"Strong inflows during the long weekend helped push the peso higher," said Jonathan Ravales, chief market strategist at Banco de Oro Unibank.

Traders at UOB Bank in Singapore said "greater risk appetite" was expected following the release of data showing US nonfarm payrolls were up by 162,000 in March, the largest in three years, while the unemployment rate was steady at 9.7 percent for the third-straight month.

The data gave the dollar a boost against other major currencies.

But while the peso may break into the P44 territory in the second quarter, as what an analyst at Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank) had recently predicted, there may be some "correction" along the way following the sustained rally.

Ravelas said he expected the peso to trade between P45  and P45.20 in the "near term."

Traders at Metrobank see the possibility of the peso rising further to as high as P44. 80 this week.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, they said, was seen in the market last week buying dollars at P45.20.  E. de la Cruz

Concern raised over peso's rise

EXPORTERS who have only recently begun enjoying the global economic pickup are now grappling with a strengthening peso, which they fear will make their prices unattractive to foreign buyers.

BIR tops March target

from by Reuters
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines' main tax agency exceeded its collection target last month by 2.6% or P1.4 billion ($31 million), the head of the agency said on Monday, citing preliminary figures.

World economy not out of woods' yet, says IMF chief

AMMAN -- International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Sunday the world economy was not "out of the woods" despite a faster recovery in developing and emerging countries than earlier forecast.

Somali pirates holding 24 RP seamen — official

There are now 24 Filipino seafarers being held captive by Somali pirates following the hijacking of a South Korean-owned vessel carrying 19 Filipinos last Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) disclosed Monday.

Based on a report by the Philippine Embassy in Nairobi, the DFA said the Marshall Island — flagged, South Korean owned MV Samho Dream was hijacked by Somali pirates on Sunday, carrying 19 Filipinos and five South Korean crew members.

The vessel was reportedly en route to Louisiana, USA from Iraq when it was hijacked 1,500 kilometers southeast of the Gulf of Aden. It was reportedly carrying about two million barrels of crude oil worth an estimated $170 million.

"The DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs (OUMWA) is closely coordinating with the vessel's principal, the local manning agency and the Philippine Embassies in Nairobi and Seoul for the early resolution of the case," the DFA assured Monday. (Madel Sabater)

No Filipino casualty in Mexico quake—DFA

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MANILA, PhilippinesNo Filipino was injured or killed in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday in a news release.

However, the Philippine embassy in Mexico and the Philippine consulate general in Los Angeles are still checking on Filipinos who live in Baja California and nearby regions where the earthquake struck.

According to consulate officials, initial reports indicate that no Filipino has been injured in the quake which resulted in two deaths and 100 injured individuals.

DFA said there are 308 Filipinos in Mexico, mostly in the capital Mexico City and not many reside in the border regions with the US. Meanwhile, some 942,715 Filipinos live in South California and nearby areas covered by the Philippine consulate in Los Angeles.

The DFA has instructed the embassy in Mexico, which has jurisdiction over Baja California, and the consulate in Los Angeles, which covers San Diego and Southern California north of the US-Mexico border, to look into the conditions of Filipinos living and working in the affected areas.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake struck at 3:40 p.m., about 110 miles east-southeast of Tijuana, Mexico.

7.2 Earthquake Jolts California-Mexico Border

  • This photo provided by Jorge Rivera  cimarron98 on Twitter  shows structural damage to the Escomex business school building after an earthquake in Mexicali, Mexico, Sunday, April 4, 2010. The 7.2-magnitude quake struck at 3:40 p.m. in Baja California, Mexico, about 19 miles southeast of Mexicali, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    This photo provided by Jorge Rivera cimarron98 on Twitter shows structural damage to the Escomex business school building after an earthquake in Mexicali, Mexico, Sunday, April 4, 2010. The 7.2-magnitude quake struck at 3:40 p.m. in Baja California, Mexico, about 19 miles southeast of Mexicali, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

  • Strong quake hits Indonesian waters, no damage

    JAKARTAA strong 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck northern Indonesian waters on Monday but there were no reports of damage and no tsunami warning was issued, geologists said.

    The quake struck below the sea about 218 kilometers (135 miles) south of Manado, Sulawesi island, just after 5:00 pm (1000 GMT), according to the US Geological Survey website.

    The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue a warning.

    95 workers alive from flooded China mine—state TV

    BEIJING(UPDATE) At least 95 workers have been found alive in a Chinese coal mine more than a week after they were trapped by an underground flood, in what state media has hailed as a miracle rescue.

    "By this morning, a total of 95 workers have been found alive in the mine and... so far 30 have been taken out of the mine shaft," state television reported.

    Scores of ambulances were seen lining the road out of the mine to transport the survivors after their ordeal, while numerous hospitals in the region have been getting ready to take in the men, the report said.

    A total of 153 workers had been trapped in the Wangjialing mine in the northern province of Shanxi since it flooded on March 28 during construction work, the latest accident in the notoriously dangerous mining industry.

    China Central Television had earlier shown the first nine survivors carried out of the mine strapped to stretchers, wrapped in green blankets and had towels covering their eyes and blackened faces to protect them from lights.

    Groups of rescue workers wearing orange jumpsuits loaded them into awaiting ambulances, while medical personnel dressed in white administered intravenous drips and oxygen.

    State television replayed repeatedly the rescue scenes as China celebrated its annual "grave sweeping day," a national holiday to mourn the dead.

    Thousands of people lined the road from the mine, applauding as ambulances carrying the first survivors rushed past, the state Xinhua news agency said, while the Beijing News described the rescue as a "miracle".

    The vital signs of the first nine survivors were "basically stable," the China News Service said, quoting hospital officials in the city of Hejin, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the mine.

    The nine, all part of the same work team, were dehydrated as they had refused to drink the water in the pit during their week-long ordeal, fearing contamination.

    At least 3,000 rescuers had been racing against time to pump water out of the mine after it flooded.

    Rescuers entered the mine over the weekend but said conditions were "complex" and there was more water in the shaft than anticipated.

    On Sunday night, a team of 100 rescue workers descended into the mine again and discovered the nine survivors two hours later, the China News Service said.

    As the first team of rescuers exited the mine with the survivors, a second team was dispatched into the pit to search for the remaining missing, the report said. Up to 300 rescuers were in the pit by mid-morning Monday.

    The accident occurred when workers apparently dug into an older adjacent mine that had been shut down and filled with water, press reports have said.

    The work safety watchdog blamed the accident on lax safety standards by the mine owner, the Huajin Coking Coal Company, which failed to heed repeated warnings that water was accumulating in the pit days before the disaster.

    Workers at the mine, which was under construction, had also been ordered to step up the pace of work in order to ensure that coal production began by October this year, the safety watchdog said.

    Workers' safety is often ignored in China's collieries in the quest for quick profits and the drive to meet surging demand for coalthe source of about 70 percent of the country's energy.

    According to official statistics, 2,631 coal miners were killed last year in Chinaor about seven a day. In the deadliest recent disaster, 172 workers died in a mine flood in the eastern province of Shandong in August 2007.

    Pacquiao picks Mosley, Roach chooses Mayweather

    MANILA, Philippines – American trainer Freddie Roach and his prized fighter, Filipino 7-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, failed to agree on who they think will win on May 1 when "Sugar" Shane Mosley takes on Floyd "Money" Mayweather, Jr.

    PSC sees 10 golds in Asiad

    The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) on Monday justified its projection of winning eight to 10 gold medals in the Guangzhou Asian Games this November.

    PSC chairman Harry Angping said in a discussion with reporters yesterday afternoon that after a meeting with the upper echelon of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) prior to the Lenten break, the PSC was briefed by the association about its forecast of two to three gold medals.

    "Based on their program, it is very possible," said Angping, who met and discussed with ABAP president Ricky Vargas about the PSC's focus this year.

    The PSC has earmarked P6 million to finance the international exposure and foreign exposure of the 40-member ABAP pool in the months leading up to the November 12 to 27 Asian Games.

    Angping said the amount doesn't include the food allowance of the boxers, whose chances rest on the capabilities of the lady punchers who are at par with the world's best.

    N.B.A. Roundup: Knicks End Road Drought Against Clippers

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    The Knicks ended a four-game losing streak, while the Clippers lost their fifth straight and 16th in 19 games. The victory was the Knicks' first on the road against the Clippers since March 25, 1998, when they won their fifth straight at the L.A. Sports Arena.

    Baron Davis had 23 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, who reached 50 losses for the 18th time since the franchise moved from San Diego to Los Angeles for the 1984-85 season. Chris Kaman had 22 points and 16 rebounds.

    CELTICS 117, CAVALIERS 113 Visiting Cleveland, which erased a 22-point deficit, trailed by 2 when LeBron James grabbed a rebound with 10 seconds left and raced downcourt. Instead of passing to Antawn Jamison for an open 2-pointer, James missed a 3-pointer.

    James scored 20 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, but he missed two free throws in the final 16 seconds and two 3-point attempts.

    "It's tough to question anything he does," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. "It felt like he scored their last 60 points in a row at one point. And who didn't think that was going in when he shot it?"

    Ray Allen scored a season-high 33 points, hitting his sixth 3-pointer to give Boston a 4-point lead with 48 seconds left, and Rajon Rondo scored 16 with 14 assists to help the Celtics end a three-game home losing streak.

    Despite the loss, their third in the last 20 games, the Cavaliers clinched home-court advantage through the N.B.A. finals when the Los Angeles Lakers lost to San Antonio at home.

    Six technical fouls were handed out, including two to Cleveland Coach Mike Brown, who was ejected. James received one and was spared another when he lingered in the Celtics' huddle during a timeout to exchange words with Tony Allen.

    "We don't like them," James said. "They don't like us. So I wasn't surprised at all."

    SPURS 100, LAKERS 81 Manu Ginobili scored 32 points and Tim Duncan 24 for visiting San Antonio, which clinched its 13th consecutive playoff berth. A loss would have increased the Spurs' chances of facing Los Angeles in the first round; instead, they moved into the No. 7 spot, a half-game ahead of idle Portland.

    WARRIORS 113, RAPTORS 112 Don Nelson tied Lenny Wilkens with his 1,332nd victory, the most among N.B.A. coaches, as visiting Golden State held off Toronto. Stephen Curry had 29 points and 12 assists, and Corey Maggette scored 31 points for the Warriors. Chris Bosh had 42 points and 12 rebounds for Toronto, which is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of theChicago Bulls.

    WIZARDS 109, NETS 99 Andray Blatche had 20 points, a career-high 13 assists and 9 rebounds for host Washington (23-53) in a matchup of two of the league's worst teams. Brook Lopez and Devin Harris each scored 22 for the Nets (11-66), who had won four of six games.

    MAGIC 107, GRIZZLIES 92 Vince Carter of host Orlando had 26 points and 7 rebounds. A third-period scuffle between the Magic's Matt Barnes and Memphis's Hasheem Thabeet escalated into a shoving match involving several players.

    THUNDER 116, T'WOLVES 108 Kevin Durant scored 40 points for host Oklahoma City, breaking the franchise record for scoring in a season.

    PACERS 133, ROCKETS 102 Roy Hibbert had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Indiana in its ninth victory in 10 home games.

    BOGUT OUT Andrew Bogut, the Milwaukee Bucks' leading scorer and rebounder, has a broken hand, a dislocated elbow and a sprained wrist, injuries that will keep him out indefinitely and cast doubt on his availability for a potential playoff run. Bogut sustained the injuries Saturday against Phoenix when he crashed to the court after a dunk.

    Did Villar camp copy Argentinian politico's ad?

    from by By David Dizon,
    MANILA, Philippines - Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar's TV ads have won praise from various sectors for its catchy jingles and superb production values.

    Erich Gonzales denies 'attitude problem' issue

    from by
    MANILA, Philippines - Young star Erich Gonzales denied reports that she has an attitude problem. Gonzales stressed that there's no truth to rumors that she is now becoming difficult to work with.

    Will Vice Ganda join 'The Buzz?'

    from by
    MANILA, Philippines – Is the hunt for the new host of entertainment show "The Buzz" on? Since Ruffa Gutierrez left the popular program last month, speculations regarding Gutierrez's replacement have started to circulate.

    ADMU official: Our students didn't write MVP's 'plagiarized' speech

    MANILA, Philippines - An official of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) on Monday denied that those who wrote businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan's (MVP) plagiarized speeches came from the school.

    Loren to Venus' rescue

    Being a champion of women's rights (besides the environment), Sen./Vice Presidentiable Loren Legarda deplores the decision of the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI) to dethrone 2010 Bb. Pilipinas-Universe Maria Venus Raj on a mere technicality barely a month after she won.

    Child sex abuse cost US Catholic church $3B

    CHICAGO—The pedophile priest crisis has cost the US Roman Catholic church nearly three billion dollars, but only a fraction of the perpetrators faced prison and little has been done to punish those who covered up the crimes.


    Elvis Presley liked 'em young - young enough to be his daughter as shocking new tell all reveals the voracious sexual appetite of the King .

    "Elvis loved 14 and 15-year-old girls," reveals author Alanna Nash  in Baby, Let's Play House: Elvis And His Women . "He was insecure about his sexual prowess and wanted virgins so they wouldn't have anyone to compare him to as a lover. Adult women scared him. He wanted to mold them and mentor them and they adored him.

    "He didn't seem to worry that a fling with a child could land him in jail."

    One pretty teen Reeca Smith, the book claims, was only 14, an innocent schoolgirl, but the aging King, then 40, called the wild blonde child "my Li'l Lioness".

    "He didn't take advantage of me", Recca insisted, although they dated for six months.

    According to the book, the teen was described as "having an infant's flawless skin wrapped around a woman's voluptuous body. Squeezed into hip-hugging denim hot pants and a tight tank top accentuating every curve," she was more than Elvis could resist. 

    Buying her an expensive wardrobe reeking of style and sex, the aging Elvis promised to make her a top model.

    "I thought it was crazy because I was so young," Recca  now 50 said. 

    "I was 14 and he was turning 40. He wanted to take me to Las Vegas and Nashville but my parents refused to let me go.

    "He said, 'I know you're young but when you're older, maybe in a couple of years, maybe we can go places and have more of a relationship.' 

    "I couldn't fathom it."

    Ask Nabokov.


    With serial cheater Jesse James abrupt exit from rehab, Sandra's Bullock's been prepping legal docs for divorce with an ironclad pre-nup that if caught cheating, Jesse gets nothing.

    "If she divorces  Jesse and proves he was cheating, which won't be hard, Sandra won't have to pay Jesse anything," a source told

    The Oscar winning actress protected her fortune extremely well in her prenuptial agreement

    "Right now Sandra is not thinking about the money," the source told

    "She's protected financially.

    "She's just trying to deal with this mess."

    And Sandy's about ready to file for D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

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