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

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 17, 2010 Major News Stories

Petron to cut price on Monday morning

Major oil firm Petron Corp. will reduce oil prices by as much as P1.25 per liter effective Monday morning.

At 6 a.m., prices of premium gasoline will be reduced by P1.25 per liter, while prices of diesel, kerosene, and regular gasoline will be reduced by P1 per liter.

"This is to reflect the downward movements in the international oil market," the firm said in an advisory.

Prices of school supplies stable

Nag-umpisa na ang bilihan ng mga school supply sa iba-ibang pamilihan, lalo na sa Divisoria sa Maynila dahil sa nalalapit na pagbubukas ng eskwela. Nakapako pa rin ang presyo ng mga gamit pang-eskwela at ayon sa mga tindera, hindi raw magtataas kahit pa malapit nang mag-Hunyo.

Annual cost: P1.5B

IT WILL cost Cebu City's taxpayers an estimated P1.5 billion a year to sustain the distribution of financial aid to help public high school graduates attend college.

The estimate comes from Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who admitted the program will get costlier in the next few years, as the number of beneficiaries increases.

"Wa tay problema sa first year pero magkadaghan man ang mga estudyante, so, moabot sa tulo ka tuig, magka-problema gyud ta (We won't have a problem in the first year, but as the number of high school graduates increases, we can expect to run into problems by the third year)," Osmeña said.

However, the congressman-elect of Cebu City's south district said he wants the City to sustain the program until the beneficiaries earn a college degree.


City Hall began the program this year by distributing P10,000 to each public high school graduate who intends to enroll in college.

The distribution, which came in the middle of the campaign period, provoked criticisms from those who saw it as a ploy to get the students' parents to vote for the administration ticket.

Osmeña said he is determined to pursue the program not only to prove critics wrong but to give the students a good start.

He described the program as the "most ambitious" the City has ever had, though it will cost at least P1.5 billion a year.

One way the program can be sustained, he said, is to double the selling price of South Road Properties (SRP) lots in the next three years.

The city council has approved a resolution raising the prices of lots in the SRP.

The price of interior lots ranges from P8,000 to P16,000 per square meter, and lots along the Cebu South Coastal Road cost from P11,000 to P22,000.

"The free education program lasts only up to high school, that's why we have no choice but to do what we can to help students attend college for free," the mayor said.

He has also committed to help Mayor-elect Michael Rama manage the SRP, even as he begins his legislative career.

Sun.Star Cebu, in a report last month, quoted a Department of Education (DepEd) official as saying local governments need to go beyond building more classrooms or hiring teachers, and to help grade and high school students from dropping out.

DepEd 7 Director Recaredo Borgonia said the low participation and graduation rate in basic education is an urgent challenge. The depart-ment's studies show only 65 of every 100 Grade 1 pupils manage to finish Grade 6.

Radazas assure critics they'll be transparent

MAYOR-elect Paz Radaza vowed to win the confidence of the business and tourism sectors in Lapu-Lapu City, by practicing transparency and supporting community programs these sectors will adopt.

Poll win may cost Ecleo bail

PROSECUTORS in the parricide case against congressman-elect Ruben Ecleo Jr. will cite his victory in last Monday's elections to persuade a Cebu judge to cancel his P1-million bail.

PPCRV suspends ops for a day due to exhaustion

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on Sunday suspended its canvassing of votes cast in last Mondays elections, citing the exhaustion of its volunteers.

Our servers are still working. We just temporarily stopped the canvassing because we also have to rest," said Ana de Villa Singson, PPCRVs director for media communications.

The suspension marked the first time the PPCRV failed to release updates on the transmission since it started its operations last Monday night shortly after the voting period for the first nationwide automated elections closed.

The PPCRV has been conducting its operations at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

The PPCRV, which has been tapped by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the official election watchdog and verifies the votes in the clustered precincts, is conducting a tally of votes in the presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates in some 76,475 clustered precincts.

The election watchdog, which originally targeted to finish their operations last Friday, had extended their target deadline to end their operations on Tuesday.

Operations would resume Monday, according to PPCRV secretary general Bro. Clifford Sorita.

Sorita, however, said the encoding of election returns (ERs) are still ongoing. He said the PPCRV already encoded 40 percent of the ERs that they are supposed to receive under the random manual audit.

PMP decries 'electronic Garci' in May 10 polls

by by Maricar Bautista, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) presented proof of what they claimed as "electronic Garci," or electronic cheating, in the May 10 elections.

Comelec asked to probe glitches, disenfranchised votes

Despite the fast transmission and tallying of results from the May 10 polls, election watchdog Kontra Daya (Against Cheating) said the country's first automated elections were still "fraught with problems."

Nograles: Don't pay Smartmatic yet

by Carmela Fonbuena,
MANILA, Philippines - House Speaker Prospero Nograles wants the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to withhold the payment of election equipment supplier Smartmatic-TIM.

Binay camp accuses Mar, LP of misleading public on vice presidential race

MANILA, Philippines - The camp of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay has accused closest rival in the vice presidential race, Sen. Mar Roxas and his supporters, of again misleading the public by "selectively" showing provincial results favorable to the Liberal Party bet.

"Why don't they show the regional results. They are again misleading the public by showing only favorable provincial results," Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino senatorial bet and spokesman JV Bautista said.

"Region by region, Jojo Binay won 14 out of 17 region," he said.

Bautista said while Roxas won in Pampanga, Binay won by wide margins in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Bataan.

"We won in Region 3," he said.

Yesterday, LP leaders said based on Certificates of Canvass in their posession, Roxas will win the vice presidential race.

But Bautista said he is puzzled by the seeming confidence of the Roxas camp, when all exit polls and unoficial counts point to a Binay victory.

"We do not know, but we would like to find out if the camp of Sen. Roxas has access to information that is not available to the Commision on Elections, the PPCRV and the KBP," he added.

Belmonte ready for Speakership fight

MANILA, Philippines – Congressman-elect Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte of Quezon City is ready to be the candidate of the Liberal Party (LP) for the House Speakership against outgoing President and congresswoman-elect Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Villar likely to become Senate President again, says Miriam

Despite having been ousted as Senate President in 2008, it is likely that Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. would assume the Senate leadership again after shifting political tides made him a strong presidential contender in the May 10 polls and helped him develop new alliances.

Villar will likely be the Senate President, because we have the numbers. If he wants to be Senate President again, he will have it," re-elected Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said in an interview on dzBB radio Sunday.

Defensor-Santiago ran as a guest candidate of Villars Nacionalista Party in the Philippines first nationwide automated polls.

Villar, whose term as senator would end in three years, conceded the presidential race to Sen. Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday.

He resigned as Senate President in November 2008 amid talks his colleagues were about to oust him for his alleged role in the controversial C-5 road extension project. [See: GMANews.TVs interactive map on the C-5 Mess]

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who also got re-elected in the May 10 elections, took over the Senate leadership from Villar.

Those who voted for Enrile at that time were Senators Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, Enrile, Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Jamby Madrigal, Ramon Revilla Jr., Manuel Roxas II, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Senators Joker Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pilar Juliana Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Aquino abstained, while Defensor-Santiago was absent and Villar and detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV did not vote.

Ironically, in the months leading to the May 10, 2010 elections, Aquino became Villars main rival for the presidency. Legarda became Villars running mate, while Angara, Lapid, and Revilla became Villars allies.

New batch of senators

On Saturday, the Commission on Elections proclaimed nine new senators: Revilla, Estrada, Santiago, Enrile, Pia Cayetano, and former senators Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto and Vicente Sotto III, with Ferdinand Marcos Jr. elected for the first time to the Senate. [See:Comelec en banc proclaims 9 of 12 newly elected senators]

The Comelec has yet to proclaim three more senators, pending the canvassing of some two to three million more votes.

Expected to fill the last three of the 12 slots are former Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, as well as Manuel Lapid, and Teofisto Guingona III. However, consistently trailing in 13th place is Akbayan Rep. Ana Theresia Risa" Hontiveros-Baraquel.

The new senators will join incumbents Angara, Arroyo, Alan Peter, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Legarda, Francis Pangilinan, Trillanes, Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri in the 15th Congress.

With the new composition of the new Senate in the 15th Congress, the following are openly allied with, or are perceived as allies of Villar: Angara, Arroyo, the Cayetano siblings, Legarda, Revilla, and Defensor-Santiago.

On Sunday, Defensor-Santiago warned Aquino to solidify his alliances in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

If he wants bills to be passed, he may not be able to do so if he would not get the support of the opposition majority," she said in Pilipino in the radio interview.

Santiago warns Aquino on an 'opposition' Congress

Likely president-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III may face an opposition Congress, with defeated presidential candidate and Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, incoming Pampanga representative, working to gain the Senate presidency and the House Speakership respectively.

Noynoy urged anew to accept Corona as Chief Justice

MANILA, Philippines - Palace and Supreme Court (SC) officials urged president-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to accept Justice Renato Corona's appointment as the new Chief Justice, in order to avoid clashes between the new administration and the courts.

Puno told Aquino: Respect the law

Amid charges that the Supreme Court has turned into an "Arroyo court," outgoing Chief Justice Reynato Puno has this piece of advice to his successor, Associate Justice Renato Corona: Prove that the Supreme Court under his watch will be independent of vested interests.

Corona urged to reject appointment as chief justice

A legal watchdog has urged Supreme Court Associate Justice Renato Corona to reject his appointment as chief justice, saying accepting it will compromise the integrity of the high court.

Arroyo's last foreign trip likely to be to Vietnam

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is likely to attend the World Economic Forum in Vietnam early next month, probably her last foreign trip before she steps down from office on June 30, according to Malacañang.

Jockeying for Cabinet posts starts

MANILA, Philippines – The jockeying for Cabinet posts in the next administration has started.

Florencio "Butch" Abad, the Liberal Party's (LP) campaign manager, told ABS-CBN News on Sunday that he has received over a hundred text messages and emails from people asking they be considered for Cabinet positions in the Aquino administration.

Though LP standard-bearer Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino has not yet been proclaimed as the next president, he is ahead of his rival, former president Joseph Estrada, in the partial vote count.

Aquino has said he is ready to govern, but has not directly claimed the presidency.

A source told ABS-CBN News that 2 secretaries in the outgoing Arroyo administration, a former secretary and one mayor were among those who expressed interest of joining an Aquino administration.

Abad said Aquino prefers to have new faces in his Cabinet to help the country gain a fresh start.

On March 14, Aquino revealed that he was setting up a committee to look at Cabinet posts, with investors waiting on his choices for key economic and finance positions for signals on policy direction.

The relatively smooth election process and the emergence of a clear winner with market-friendly credentials are seen as a positive development for improving long-term investor perception.

However, the speed with which the result has become known has created something of a void. Official results are not likely until June, and second-placed Estrada will not concede until then.

Aquino's search committee is likely to have as members some of the country's top businessmen and prominent representatives from various nongovernment organizations and civil society groups.

Bigger role eyed

Abad said his party's primary focus now is to ask Congress to give the LP a bigger role in the canvassing of the certificates of canvass (COC).

He said the LP's request is justified because Aquino enjoys a big lead over Estrada.

The LP is currently a minority party.  Report from Maricar Bautista, ABS-CBN News

Private armies, upgrade to top military briefing

THE MILITARY would raise with the incoming administration the need to pursue the dismantling of private armies and the modernization program, Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Arnulfo M. Burgos, Jr. told reporters last Friday.

No political honeymoon period with Aquino—Left

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, PhilippinesLeftist groups would not observe the traditional honeymoon period with apparent president-elect Senator Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III. Instead, they vowed that the incoming administration will be met with a stream of demands and protests.

This was the statement of the militant fisher folk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) issued Sunday.

There's no honeymoon. The total political exposition of and opposition to Aquino and the newly installed ruling Mafia in Malacanang is the top order of the day," said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said

Hicap announced that several militant groups are now planning coordinated and separate protest actions on the first day of Aquino administration.

It is a declaration of round-the-clock vigilance and just war against Mr. Aquino, who is no different to Mrs. Arroyo," he said.

A week before the May 10 elections, Pamalakaya issued a national political memorandum to all its 43 chapters nationwide to reject the presidential bid of Aquino.

Hicap warned that Aquino will face an early political turbulence if his administration would not push for the prosecution of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her men implicated in several graft and corruption scandals, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and the still unclosed case of election fraud in 2004.

Hicap urged Aquino to push the Office of the Ombudsman to decide on plunder cases filed by various groups against Arroyo and her men.

He noted that Pamalakaya had a pending plunder case against Arroyo and former agriculture officials in connection with P728-million fertilizer fund scam and the P130-billion coconut levy fund.

The Pamalakaya leader also filed another plunder case against Arroyo and then agriculture secretary Arthur Yap in connection with the P455-million ice-making machine scam.

Hicap also noted that Arroyo and former environment secretary Michael Defensor were also facing administrative and criminal charges before the Ombudsman for allowing offshore mining companies to destroy Tanon Strait which separates the island provinces of Cebu and Negros, and Cebu-Bohol Strait separating Cebu and Bohol island provinces.

The Pamalakaya leader warned the incoming president of accommodating members of the so-called Hyatt 10, all former members of the economic team of President Arroyo,

Hicap tagged the group as responsible for the economic disaster the people experienced during the first five years of the Arroyo administration.

This so-called team of economic managers connived with Arroyo in executing ill-advised economic policies that further impoverished millions of Filipinos. These charlatans and puppets of neo-liberal globalization should not be allowed to prescribe poisonous economic prescriptions to the more than 90 million Filipinos, he added.

The militant group also challenged Aquino to compel his family, which controls 66 percent of Hacienda Luisita, to yield their unlawful and immoral claim on the 6,453- hectare sugar estate and ask the court to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) and allow the Department of Agrarian Reform to proceed with urgent, unconditional, and free distribution of lands to sugar workers.

Moro rebels ready to talk peace with Noynoy

Muslim guerrillas said Sunday that they were ready to enter into peace talks with Philippine president-apparent Benigno Aquino III after years of little progress under his predecessor, hoping that his strong electoral mandate can bolster negotiations to end one of the country's decades-long rebellions.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, however, said his group would reserve its expectations on the prospects of a peace accord under a new Aquino administration, recalling that talks initially went well under his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but then collapsed.

"Aquino's victory was untainted by allegations of vote-rigging unlike Arroyo's," Iqbal said. Arroyo stormy rule ends on June 30.

"He has more moral authority as a president and that will add to his clout," Iqbal told The Associated Press.

The long battle for minority Muslim self-rule in the southern Philippines by the Moro rebels, the largest guerrilla group with an estimated 11,000 fighters, will be one of Aquino's major security headaches.

Two smaller insurgent groups, including the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf, also have waged bloody insurrections in the south. New People's Army rebels have been fighting a rural-based Marxist uprising that has killed more than 120,000 people since the late 1960s.

Aquino, who is headed to a landslide victory based on an almost-complete count of the May 10 elections, can rule with more stability, which can help him defend possible accords with Muslim rebels, Iqbal said.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Aquino said he will restart talks with the Moro guerrillas and will consult all affected groups, including Christian politicians, to ensure acceptance of any peace pact.

"I really feel that Mindanao is the most poised for rapid transformation," Aquino said, referring to the resource-rich but poverty-wracked southern region, where the Muslim rebellion has raged on and off for four decades.

Although several agreements with the Moro rebels were signed under Arroyo, her administration failed to clinch a preliminary peace pact after it was opposed by Christian politicians in 2008. The Supreme Court declared the pact unconstitutional, sparking fierce fighting that killed hundreds and displaced about 750,000 people. A cease-fire has taken hold since then.

Although some of Aquino's political allies were among those who opposed the pact, his parents who are pro-democracy icons in the Philippines have no history of anti-Muslim bias, Iqbal said.

Aquino, however, has to overcome great pressure from interest groups, including Christian politicians and business people, to push an accord that would grant territory to minority Muslims and allow them to govern themselves, Iqbal said.

"Arroyo failed to bring the revolution to an end," Iqbal said. "Whether the next one can do it, it's very difficult to tell." - AP

Tan beats Misuari as Sulu governor again

MANILA, Philippines – Incumbent Gov. Abdusakur Tan has been re-elected in Sulu, one of the country's election violence hotspots according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

22 OFWs living under Jeddah bridge - Migrante

MANILA, Philippines - A total of 22 stranded overseas Filipino workers, mostly women with children, have sought refuge under the Khandara Bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, hoping they would get arrested and deported, an OFW organization said.

Migrante-Middle East said these stranded OFWs were forced to live under the bridge as labor officials in Jeddah lack the funds to rent a villa inside the al-Mina Hajj terminal to temporarily accommodate distressed workers while awaiting deportation.

"We are calling the outgoing Arroyo administration through its Labor Department Secretary Marianito Roque to order OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon to allocate the needed funds for the rental of a villa inside the Al-Mina Hajj terminal so that it could temporarily provide shelter to the stranded, run away OFWs and their children," the group said in a statement.

Migrante also called on the next administration to address the problem hounding stranded and runaway OFWs.

SC junks FG Arroyo's bid to stop journalists' class suit

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has denied a petition by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo to stop a class-action civil suit filed against him by a group of journalists.

DepEd to teach children how to be media savvy

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Education (DepEd) is set to introduce a media literacy education curriculum that seeks to protect children from the negative effects of all forms of media.

All 19 regional offices now issue ePassports

MANILA, PhilippinesAll 19 regional consular offices (RCOs) of the Department of Foreign Affairs have been issuing electronic passports (ePassports) since April 28, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said.

This way, our kababayans (countrymen) living in the provinces and overseas need not come to Manila to get a passport. They just have to go to an RCO nearest them and avail of the same fast and efficient services, ne added.

The same day that the RCOs shifted from the machine-readable passport (MRP) to the ePassport, the Philippine consulate general in Hong Kong also rolled out the ePassports, the DFA-Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) said.

Other embassies and consulates general will soon follow suit, it said.

In the coming months, the DFA-OCA plans to accommodate more people as it will ramp up the system to accept more appointmentsfrom 2,800 a day to around 3,300 a day, and even more in the near future. It is also aiming for a shorter queuing and turnaround time from receipt of application to the issuance of the passports. Earlier, Romulo said ePassport applications could last no more than 30 minutes from start to end.

14 Sayyaf militants fall in Basilan

Fourteen members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group were nabbed Saturday on the island-province of Basilan, a stronghold of the group notorious for kidnapping and other terrorist activities.

In an interview on dzBB radio Sunday, Armed Forces public information head Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said a task force deployed to secure the May 10 polls led the operations in Sumisip town that resulted in the arrest of the 14 Abu Sayyaf men. 

Burgos added that the militants were led by a certain Umar, who has a standing arrest warrant against him.

In March, the military estimated the number of active Abu Sayyaf members at 400.

Basilan province is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which has been placed under the Commission on Elections' control due to serious armed threats" and the presence of paramilitary forces, private armies or identifiable armed bands widely perceived to have committed terrorism, fraud or other election irregularities." 

2 hurt in Cotabato grenade blast

by by Lerio Bompat, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao
COTABATO CITY – Two people were wounded when a grenade exploded in front of a residential area along the national highway in Barangay Mother Tamontaka, Cotabato City Saturday night.

$1: P44.760

$1: P44.760

Euro 1: P56.1652

Incoming gov't needs to act on ongoing concerns'

THE GENERALLY smooth conduct of elections should bode well for the country's investment climate but the incoming administration still has to bolster infrastructure and cut the cost of doing business to boost inflows, the Board of Investments (BoI) said late last week.

Bangkok fighting leaves 30 dead, 232 injured

BANGKOK - Thailand's main emergency medical center says 30 people have been killed in four days of street fighting between Red Shirt protesters and troops in central Bangkok.

25 dead in Thailand chaos

Pumalo na sa 25 ang patay sa ilang araw na bakbakan ng mga pulis at "Red Shirt" protesters sa Bangkok, Thailand. 150 iba pa ang nasugatan sa engkwentro. Kabilang sa mga sugatan ang ilang dayuhang journalists na nag-co-cover ng kaguluhan. Nakaamba nang magtakda ng curfew ang gobyerno dahil sa pagtindi ng bakbakan, lalo't may utos ang militar na magpaputok ng baril laban sa mga armadong tao na papasok sa restricted areas. Nauna nang hinikayat ng Department of Foreign Affairs ang mga Pilipino na ipagpaliban na muna ang pagbiyahe sa Thailand. 

ASEAN chair Vietnam calls for restraint in Thailand

by Agence France-Presse
HANOI - Vietnam, chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, expressed concern Saturday at the "worsening situation in Thailand" and called on all sides to avoid violence, state media reported.

Thai army to impose curfew as violence spirals

BANGKOK Thailand's army said Sunday it would impose a curfew on parts of Bangkok after two days of intense clashes between soldiers and "Red Shirt" protesters left at least 24 dead and more than 200 wounded.

A top protest leader urged the revered king to intervene in the crisis, which has turned areas of the city into no-go zones as troops fire live ammunition at protesters, some of them armed or using slingshots and fireworks.

Sporadic gunfire continued to echo around the fringes of the Red Shirts' sprawling encampment as a swathe of the city was shrouded in black smoke after demonstrators torched piles of tires in roads. One shop was seen ablaze.

"There will be a curfew announcement in some necessary areas and roads in Bangkok so that police and soldiers can differentiate people from terrorists," army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd told reporters.

The government said schools would stay closed Monday because of the unrest.

A senior leader of the Red Shirted protesters called for the intervention of Thailand's king, saying he was the "only hope" for an end to the two-month crisis, which has left more than 50 people dead and 1,600 wounded.

"As people in this country, we would like his kindness," Jatuporn Prompan told reporters at the rally site, where thousands of protesters were camped out.

"I believe Thais will feel the same, that His Majesty is our only hope."

King Bhumibol Adulyadej chastised both the military and protest leaders during a 1992 uprising, effectively bringing the violence to an end.

But the 82-year-old monarch has been hospitalized since September and has avoided commenting directly on the current crisis in public.

All of the fatalities in recent days have been civilians.

The military on Saturday declared a "live fire zone" in one area where a foreign witness said he earlier saw troops fire towards a group of Red Shirts advancing with a Thai flag.

Three bodies were later seen on the ground.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Thai authorities were on a "slippery slope" towards serious human rights abuses by designating live fire zones.

"It's a small step for soldiers to think 'live fire zone' means 'free fire zone', especially as violence escalates," the group said.

On the fringes of the protesters' vast encampment, smoke rose from two areas where troops and demonstrators clashed Saturday, close to a diplomatic district and a night market that was popular with foreigners.

Flames rose from a bridge and intermittent explosions, likely firecrackers launched by the demonstrators, sounded around streets strewn with debris.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva vowed there would be no turning back on the government's policy of sealing the protesters inside their fortified camp.

"Your rally has been used by terrorists. It's not a rally for democracy," he said in his regular Sunday television address.

The Reds have been seeking an end to Abhisit's government, calling it elitist and undemocratic because it came to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote after a court ruling ousted elected allies of their hero, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Protesters have turned a large area of Bangkok into a virtual state within a state, crippling a retail and hotel district and disrupting daily life for residents in the city of 12 million people.

Against a military armed with assault rifles, the protesters have fought back with homemade weapons including fireworks, rockets, slingshots, and burning tires.

An AFP photographer saw one demonstrator firing a handgun on Saturday.
Numerous grenades have been fired in recent days and weeks, many at military or government targets, authorities say.

Abhisit last week shelved a plan to hold early elections which the Red Shirts initially agreed to because the protesters refused to disperse.

The army warned it would move against the demonstrators' main rally site unless they disperse, but it gave no timetable for the action.

A military operation on April 10 to clear an area of the city of protesters left 25 people dead and more than 800 injured.

The violence prompted the United States warned against all travel to Bangkok and authorized the evacuation of non-essential embassy staff and families.

Thailand has been driven by years of political turmoil since Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006.

Thai society is deeply divided between the urban elite and rural poor, with most of the Red Shirts from the north and impoverished northeast.

Barangay Ginebra wrecks Realtors; SMB nails 8th win

BARANGAY Ginebra just needed a hot start in dismantling the overhauled Sta. Lucia Realty squad, 102-85, for its second straight win in the KFC-PBA Fiesta Conference Sunday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Orcullo enters semis of World Pool Masters

(Updated 10:38 p.m.) Dennis Orcullo scored an 8-3 win over Canada"s John Morra in their quarterfinal match to become the first player to reach the semifinal round of the 2010 Party World Pool Masters on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Khan dominates Malignaggi in 11th round stoppage

NEW YORK Junior welterweight champion Amir Khan stopped former titleholder Paulie Malignaggi in the 11th round of a brutally efficient, one-sided fight Saturday to retain is WBA title.

Using superior speed and crisp right hands, the former British Olympian made good on his promise to quiet the flamboyant Malignaggi, who was fighting just across the river from his home in Brooklyn.

"I think with my speed I can catch any fighter," Khan said. "I knew I was going to catch him and I could see him getting his head knocked back. I could see him get frustrated."

Malignaggi's face was red and swollen from the middle rounds on, and he had to lobby the ringside doctor before the 11th round just to let him continue.

It wound up being a bad idea.

Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) backed Malignaggi against the ropes and threw a series of unanswered blows before referee Steve Smoger finally stepped between them at 1:25 of the round. Malignaggi (27-4) didn't argue with the decision, tapping his chest and congratulating Khan on the victory.

"He knows how to win rounds, man," Malignaggi said. "He has a lot of ability."

Khan signed with Golden Boy Promotions in an attempt to raise his profile in America, where he can land the biggest fights and the biggest paydays. But just getting permission to fight in the U.S. took a lot more work than he anticipated.

Khan had been preparing with trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles under a tourist visa, but his application for one that would have allowed him to work was held up by red tape. Khan went to the British consulate in Vancouver, Canada, to expedite the process, but he was given the run-around by the Department of Homeland Security.

The visa was granted a little more than a week ago, without any reason given for the delay. Khan assumes it had something to do with his Pakistani heritage and possibly the investigation linking the Pakistani Taliban to the recent failed Times Square bombing.

"My head was all over the place," Khan said. "It did get to me, but I was still training hard."

Khan has certainly come a long way since his stunning loss to Breidis Prescott two years ago, which is beginning to look more like an aberration with each passing fight. And much of the credit belongs to Roach, who also trains pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.

Roach changed Khan's diet and workout regimen to redistribute muscle mass from his upper body to his legs, which seemed to improve his speed and stamina.

Their work together showed throughout the fight Saturday night, Khan repeatedly beating Malignaggi to the punch. His straight right hands and sharp jabs created heavy swelling under both of Malignaggi's eyes, and Khan seemed to relish every blow that connected.

"I remember going back to the corner in round 10, and Freddie said, 'Go and send a statement to the world and send this guy off,'" Khan said. "And I sent him off."

The two fighters had a genuine distaste for each other that was evident before the contracts were even signed. They argued through Twitter and traded verbal jabs at news conferences, and tempers finally boiled over during the weigh-in Friday inside a hotel ballroom.

The event was supposed to be closed to the public, but close to 100 Khan supporters showed up wearing "Khan's Army" shirts. When the fighters began pushing, the crowd rushed toward the stage and Malignaggi was jostled around. Several people received bumps and bruises, though no punches were thrown and nobody was seriously injured.

It's unclear whether the state athletic commission will levy any fines or suspensions.

The crowd of about 5,000 inside Madison Square Garden was just as revved up before the fight, when a contingent of fans in the middle of the arena stood up and began waving two British flags flanking a Pakistani flag.

A few scuffles broke out during the fight and several fans were escorted from the Garden.

"I've fought all around the world but today I was a little nervous," Khan said. "I was walking in and I could hear a lot of boos, but at the end of the fight a lot of people were cheering for Amir Khan, because I know I have a style that people will like." AP

Kris Aquino admits 'career changes' after June 30

MANILA, Philippines – Television host-actress Kris Aquino on Sunday announced that she is set to meet the big bosses of ABS-CBN to discuss a "sacrifice" that she has to make if her older brother, Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, is sworn in as president on June 30.

Kris Aquino's full interview on 'Failon Ngayon'

MANILA, Philippines – Controversial television host-actress Kris Aquino on Saturday night finally addressed the clamor for her to keep her word and leave country as what she supposedly promised if her brother, winning presidential candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, emerges victorious in the May 10 elections.

Kris answered in the negative when asked by Ted Failon if she is leaving the Philippines once Noynoy becomes the next leader of the country. She also went on to say that her statement has been taken out of context.

Below is the transcript of Kris's phone interview with Failon on his show, "Failon Ngayon."

Ted Failon (TF): Kris, we're fine, thank you sa iyong pagpapaunlak sa amin. Kris, ano ba ang iyong reaksyon sa mga despi-despidida na hinihiling para sa iyo? At ano ba ang iyong eksaktong sinabi talaga doon sa isyung ikaw ay mag-a-abroad sakaling manalo ang iyong kapatid bilang presidente?

Kris: Okay, ganoon sila ka-bobo, Ted. Hindi sila nakinig sa buong statement. That was the time na nagka-issue kay Ruffa [Gutierrez] and kay Tita Annabelle [Rama]. Si Tita Annabelle nagta-tirade kay Noy na, 'Palayasin na si Kris dito. Huwag iboto si Noy dahil kay Kris na walanghiya!' Kung anu-ano ang pinagsasabi sa akin.

So, in my apology to them because I felt na na-offend ko naman sila,…. nagkausap kami ni Noy because perfect nagsho-shoot si Noy ng commercial after 'The Buzz,' nag dinner kami sa Sakura restaurant. Witness namin doon dalawang best friend ni Noy, pinsan kong si Rapa Lopa, I told Noy, tapos dalawang anak ko, 'If i'm gonna be a problem for you when you're president, by all means titira na lang ako abroad.' And then sabi ko, 'I can work from TFC from abroad.'

Tapos sinabi ni Noy, 'Ano ba, ba't ka nagpapa-affect sa mga yan? Huwag kang pikon. Bawal ang pikon sa pulitika. Tigilan mo na yang drama mo.' 'Yon yung exact words ni Noy sa 'kin. So in the context of saying it na kung magkakaproblema si Noy once he is president because of me--because I'm controversial--what can I do, diba Ted?

Pero Ted, number one, hindi pa nga pinoproklama ng Comelec si Noynoy. Pangalawa, sa paulit-ulit naman pong sinabi ng kampo ni president Erap (Joseph Estrada) naintindihan ko na kailangan ang Kongreso at Senado ang magpo-proclaim ng kung sino ang magigi nating pangulo.

So, sobrang excited yata silang palayasin ako. Secondly, at ipagpapatuloy ko lang ha, nagresearch ako kasi na-challenge ako, Ted. Kagabi pinahanap ko lahat ng mga dinalaw kong probinsya at siyudad para ikampanya si Noy dahil 33 dates akong nag-alay ng sarili ko para sa kapatid ko. So, through, nahanap namin in the Comelec. Alam mo, Ted, in all fairness sa kin, nagwagi ako para kay Noy in 90% of the places I campaigned in. Hindi ko na iisa-isahin kasi… gagawin yan sa 'The Buzz' kasi meron kaming mapa. Lahat. The journey I took campaigning for Noy. Pero parang patunay lang po na pasensya na sila kung nabubwisit sila sa kin pero siguro po dahil 6 years old palang ako nangangampanya na ako, expert talaga ako sa pangangampanya. So nag-succeed ako para kay Noy.

TF: So, doon sa konteksto na sinabi mong ikaw ay mag-a-abroad, paano namin dapat tatanggapin 'yon? Ito ba ay kumbaga salita mo na paninindigan mo...

Kris: Alam mo Ted, in every presidency merong napag iinitan. Sa presidency ng mom ko, yun yung ... [uncle] ko na si Peping [Cojuangco]. May presidency naman ni president Ramos, mahirap nang banggitin kung sino kasi baka magalit pa sila sa kin. Sa mga kilala na lang, si president Arroyo, si FG po ang napag initan, diba? Kay president Erap marami ring ibang napag initan.

Ang sinasabi ko, at sana maintindihan nila ito, nobody loves Noy more than his sisters love him. And if I will cause him problems, I don't wanna be the cause of that because I want him to succeed.

Pero I also know kung gaano kalaki ang naitulong ko kay Noynoy. Kumbaga ang nagpapanalo sa akin, 'yong mga talunan. Ang lahat naman ng bumoto kay Noy kino-congratulate ako, di hamak mas marami yung kumo-congratulate sa kin so--sorry. Kasi I talked to Noy about this.

Sabi ko, 'Noy bakit naman noong kinakampanya kita, never ending ang tira sa akin? Ngayon na nanalo ka na, tinitira pa rin ako.' Ang sinabi ni Noy sa akin, 'Kristina, di ba i told all of you kung ano man ang success na meron ako, utang ko 'yon sa apat na kapatid ko na noong down na down ako, nandiyan para ibangon ako. So, do you think na hahayaan kong apihin ka nila ngayon?' 'Yon lang.

Kuya ko yan, Ted. Syempre naman!

TF: Kris, doon sa mga sabihin mo nang hindi ka type at doon sa mga bumoto sa iyong kapatid, ang kagandahan ba dito Kris, ikaw, dahil sa iyong kapatid ay apparently magiging pangulo ng pilipinas, 'yong Kris Aquino, aasahan nila 'yong decorum mo maganda ngayon, at ikaw ay mag-iingat na para ikaw ay hindi na ma-involve sa kontrobersya na maaaring magbigay ng problema sa iyong kapatid?

Kris: Ay, hindi! (Laughs) Kasi mabo-bore sila sa akin. Ted, ang pangako ko lang is gagampanan ko lahat ng pinangako ko sa nanay ko noong mamamatay na ang mom sa pagtulong kay Noy.

Kagabi sinabi ko na kay Noy, 'Noy, alam mo ang dami ko ng campaign promises na nabitiwan on your behalf. Hayaan mo naman na matupad ko 'yon. Unang una na 'yong pagbibigay ng mga school supplies doon sa mga distrito na talagang overwhelming ang pinapanalo. Hindi ko naman nanakawin 'yon; bibilin ko with my own money. Alam mo, Ted, mahirap to change myself kasi kaplastikan 'yon. Pero alam ko naman hindi ako magnanakaw, Nagbabayad ako nang tamang buwis, at sa akin may transparency dahil alam ninyo lahat ng nagaganap--walang sikreto. So ang gagawin ko lang ganito: hindi ako gagawa ng kahihiyan para kay Noynoy. Why? Cause we've been there, Ted. Super bilis, one sentence ko masasabi. Alam namin what it's like to step down because noong June 30, 1992 nagawa 'yon ng nanay ko.

Kung pagpalarin talaga si Noy at mag all the way tayo, alam din ng buong pamilya namin na June 30, 2016, mag-gu-goodbye kami. So bakit ka magwa-walanghiya? I think Noynoy benefited dahil nga ang mom ko hindi naging sakim sa kapangyarihan, na ang pamilya namin--ang mga Aquino--hindi rin magiging sakim sa kapangyarihan kaya si Noynoy nakuha ang majority sa boto.

Sa exit polls ng ABS-CBN halos 43% ng mga bumoto, si Noynoy ang binoto nila. So 'yon lang ang kaya ko i-promise, Ted. Pero syempre Ted, I won't be Kris kung masyado akong tahimik, at mabo-bore kayong lahat sa kin. Pero alam ko naman it's very different when you're 39 years old and very different. I was 16 when nanalo ang Mom. Syempre lahat ng ka-bratty-han nandoon. Ngayon na 39 na ko, syempre naman nanay na ko. Behaved na ko.

At pwede ba, sorry ha, 'yong kapatid kong si Viel nga naging mas madaldal pa sa kin. Diyos ko, nagcomment sa love life ni Noy. Tawa kami nang tawa nang tawa lahat dahil sabi ko, 'Viel, I told you, it's nakakahawa!'

Barangay captains in Tarlac excited to swear in Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – Village officials in Tarlac are excited to swear in Sen. Benignoy "Noynoy" Aquino III as president.

Robin Padilla distances self from Willie issue

MANILA, Philippines – Robin Padilla has distanced himself from the recent issues hounding "Wowowee" host Willie Revillame.

Willie Revillame speaks up, appeals for understanding

MANILA, Philippines – Controversial "Wowowee" host Willie Revillame has appealed to his supporters for understanding as he continues to contemplate his next move in terms of his career in show business.

Revillame, who made the "I'll quit" threat on his show, admitted that he is still thinking whether to continue hosting "Wowowee."

Revillame promised that the public will know his decision.

"Basta ako malalaman naman ng lahat kung ano ang magiging desisyon ko. Siyempre may takdang panahon para diyan. At kung malaman nila 'yon sana maintidihan nila ako kung ito pa ang gusto kong gawin o hindi na," he told TV5's new celebrity show, "Paparazzi."

He added: "Sana maintindihan nila ako dahil may pinagdadaanan ako ngayon. Meron din akong dapat na gawing desisyon sa buhay ko. Pinag-aaralan ko lahat. Pinag-iisipin ko lahat. Kung baga kinakausap ko ang sarili ko. Kung baga ano bang dapat kong gawin, ano pa bang gusto kong gawin sa buhay ko."

It was Revillame's first television interview after taking a leave of absence from "Wowowee."

"Hindi ko nami-miss ang programa. Nami-miss ko ang tao," he said.

During the interview, Revillame refused to discuss his public tiff with Jobert Sucaldito. He also vowed not to get affected by constants criticisms thrown at him.

"Tapos na yan. Wala naman akong galit kahit kanino…. Ngayon iba na ang pananaw ko sa buhay. Kung gusto ninyo akong sabihan ng hindi maganda, hindi ko na kayo papansinin… … lahat ng tumitira sa akin sa Twitter hindi ako concerned doon. Tsaka hindi ko pinapansin 'yon kahit tirahin nila ako araw-araw," he said.

Revillame said he would instead focus on helping his kababayans and making other people happy.

Sublime Venus-moon alignment seen Sunday night

Village elders believe it tells of lovers eloping, or pregnant woman being married. Either way, the alignment of Venus and the moon on a fine Sunday night as seen in the country was indeed one majestic sight.
On that night, Venus joined the crescent moon, its bottom part illuminated with a bright lining a few days after the new moon phase.

A rare sight: the smile of a crescent moon and the planet Venus above it on Sunday night as seen from Manila. Luis Liwanag adds right between the Venus and the moon are the star cluster Messier 35, which will only be visible on fine weather and with the aid of binoculars.

An article on the Website further explained that this means Venus is gradually coming closer to the Earth, estimated this week to be 1.4 astronomical units (about 130 million miles) away. 

On August 20, it will be farthest from the sun and just 0.7 astronomical units away from the Earth, as it quickly passes between the sun and the Earth to move into the morning sky.

The next time Venus passes between the sun and the Earth, the article further said, will be on June 5, 2012, when it will pass directly in front of the sun as seen from the Earth in what is called a transit.

The last time the transit occurred was in 2004, and the next will be in 2117, making June 5, 2012 event the last chance for all for to see the grand transit of Venus in their lifetime.

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