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

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 18, 2010 Major News Stories

Price of school supplies start to rise

Ilang linggo bago ang pasukan, nagsimula nang tumaas ang presyo ng school supplies. Ito'y sa kabila ng pagtiyak ng DTI na hindi tataas ang presyo ng mga ito.

DepEd, DoH prepare AH1N1 vaccines for school opening

Pinaghahandaan na ng Department of Health at ng Department of Education ang banta ng muling pagbabalik ang AH1N1 ngayong pasukan. Kasabay kasi ng pagbubukas ng klase ang tag-ulan o flu season.

Many teachers say still unpaid for poll duties

Marami nang nai-proklama sa mga nanalo sa halalan, pero ang mga guro na naupong Board of Election Inspectors noong botohan, di pa tapos ang sentimyento! Kung gaano raw kasi kabilis ang halalan, siya naman daw kupad ng Comelec sa pagbabayad sa kanila!

Passenger vessel stalls off Dumaguete; 2nd time in 5 months

MANILA, Philippines -  A passenger vessel bound for Cebu stalled in waters off Dumaguete Island, the second time it has done so in the past 5 months, according to a report by the Philippine Coast Guard Monday.

Gov't starts national population census

THE NATIONAL Statistics Office (NSO) yesterday started the Census of Population and Housing (CPH) whose data would serve as input for state planning.

NSO7 asks for stronger 2010 census support

CEBU CITY — With the start of the population and housing census Monday (May 17), the National Statistics Office (NSO) in Central Visayas is appealing for stronger support from the public by urging them to answer the questionnaires correctly.

"For the data to be accurate, we are calling on everyone to please answer the interview and questionnaire correctly," said Engr. Ariel Florendo, NSO7 OIC-Regional Director who also underlined that the "survey is considered as the biggest civilian operation in the country."

This year's Census for Population and Housing (CPH) is the 13th census for population and the 6th for housing.

The nationwide census statistical undertaking is aimed at providing government planners, policy makers and administrators with data on which to base their social and economic development plans and programs as authorized under Commonwealth Act 591 and Batas Pambansa Bilang 72.

Meanwhile, Florendo bared that over 6,500 personnel in the region consisting of public school supervisors, principals, teachers and some contractual hired employees are expected to conduct the survey covering some 3,003 barangays in Central Visayas.

Earlier, said personnel underwent a five-day training session in how to effective carry out the census which will last for 23 days.

The survey will cover all Filipinos as well as foreigners who have stayed in the country for at least a year. Each household in the region will be visited by census personnel who will also include all those staying in institutional living quarters like dormitories, hotels, hospitals and military camps.

The interview is expected to take from 15 to 30 minutes. Questions on household membership, demographic information, social and economic characteristics of the population as well as on the characteristics of the housing units will be asked.

Florendo also clarified that all information gathered from the census will be strictly confidential and will be published only in statistical summaries with no reference to any individual or household as provided for in Section 4 of the Commonwealth Act 591.

In Cebu City, Mayor Tomas Osmeña was among those in the first batch of people interviewed for this year's census.

Benhur sues Martinez bloc

BENHUR Salimbangon made good yesterday his threat to sue his political rivals, the Martinezes, over a standoff last May 10 in Barangay Polambato, Bogo City.

One Cebu checks reports of 'irregularities' in polls

DESPITE attempts to declare last Monday's elections as the cleanest and most orderly polls in Philippine history, a One Cebu official said the party continues to receive field reports about lapses and possible irregularities.

Count 4T votes, admin bloc asks

LAWYERS of John Victor Omolon asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider around 4,000 votes from four Mandaue City precincts which did not yield any results in last Monday's elections.

ABC to fill 2 vacancies

THE election of two newcomers in the Cebu City Council opened vacancies in the Association of Barangay Councils board (ABC) as well as their barangays.

Tomas open to help sans Neda post

AS his critics make fun of his interest in a Cabinet post, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he does not mind if he will not get the Neda post but said he is still willing to help.

Biliran peaceful after incumbent congressman accepts defeat

NAVAL, Biliran — This capital town is once again quiet, after four days of tension which started when the winning local candidates in the automated polls last Monday were proclaimed, and after incumbent Biliran lone district Rep. Glenn A. Chong reluctantly accepted defeat to challenger Rogelio J. Espina.

In his regular radio program ARANKADA aired over Radio Natin, Naval last Saturday, Chong called on his supporters to stop the protest rallies they have staged as he will now get ready to employ legal means in protesting the elections results.

Chong's supporters, claiming that their candidate lost through electoral fraud and cheating, have been staging protest demonstrations here since Wednesday last week. Up to Friday last week, they barricaded the provincial capitol where the Provincial Board of Canvassers was holding the canvassing at the Legislative Building. The protest action has resulted to the wounding of one person, allegedly a Chong supporter.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Regional Director lawyer Nick Mendros, in an interview, belied the claims of the defeated Chong camp that massive election irregularities caused Chong's defeat.

The Provincial Board of Canvassers in Biliran, headed by lawyer Richard Alvin N. Japson in the afternoon of May 11 proclaimed as winner for the lone congressional seat of Biliran Governor Rogelio J. Espina with 40,010 votes over incumbent Congressman Glenn Chong with 39,649 votes.

PPCRV tallies returns from 90.19% of precincts

MANILA, Philippines The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting has tallied returns from 68,975 out of 76,475 precincts or 90.19 percent, as of 2:53 p.m.

Senator Benigno Aquino III and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay continue to lead the pack for president and vice president respectively.


Aquino, Benigno III 13841382
Estrada Ejercito Joseph 8758424
Villar, Manuel 5013918
Teodoro, Gilberto Jr. 3674597
Villanueva, Eduardo 1026215
Gordon, Richard 467626
Perlas, Jesus Nicanor 48946
Madrigal, Jamby 42189
De Los Reyes, John Carlos 40066
Acosta, Vetellano


Binay, Jejomar 13491689
Roxas, Manuel 12679546
Legarda, Loren 3808830
Fernando, Bayani 937430
Manzano, Eduardo 706682
Yasay, Perfecto 330758
Sonza, Jose 75698
Chipeco, Dominador 47374

LP: Roxas ahead by 137K based on 88 COCs

MANILA, Philippines - The Liberal Party (LP) has advised leading vice-presidential candidate Jejomar Binay not to be confident with his current standing in the vice-presidential elections, as it unveiled data from certificates of canvass (COCs) that show Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II leading the race.

The LP based its finding on 88 out of the total 108 provincial and chartered city COCs that it has obtained, showing Roxas with a lead of 137,404 votes over Binay. Roxas has 11,890,802 votes, while Binay has 11,753,398 votes based on these COCs.

Binay earlier said he would win the vice-presidential race since he leads in the official tally of the Comelec and the unofficial count of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

Based on 90.27% of total election returns (ERs) transmitted by the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines nationwide, as of 3:57 pm of May 17,  Binay had 13,491,506 votes while Roxas had 12,679,915 votes.

The LP claimed that the data from the COCs are more credible, since these will be used by Congress as they proceed with the national canvassing of votes.

The LP has access to the official COCs since it was accredited by the poll body as the dominant minority party.

LP campaign manager Florencio Abad added that the data from the COCs clearly show that it is a close fight between the two top vice-presidential contenders.

In response, Binay said that even though they have no access to COCs, they are basing their statements on the official figures being released by the poll body, the PPCRV, and exit polls conducted by ABS-CBN/Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS)-TV5.

He also encouraged LP to reveal the copies their COCs to support their statements.

Binay's camp also advised the LP to just remain silent and stop conditioning the public's mind that Roxas would have been cheated if he loses the vice-presidential race.

PPCRV ends tally Wednesday

With the election returns coming in trickles, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said it would end its count on Wednesday.

PPCRV tallies returns from 90.19% of precincts

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting has tallied returns from 68,975 out of 76,475 precincts or 90.19 percent, as of 2:53 p.m.

PPCRV seeks inventory of election CF cards

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) is seeking an inventory of all used and unused compact flash cards following reports that some of them have been used in fraud.

SC urged: Don't let Comelec destroy CF cards

MANILA, Philippines - Losing presidential bets Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Nicanor Perlas and JC delos Reyes on Monday asked the Supreme Court  to intervene in the destruction of thousands of compact flash cards used in the May 10 automated election.

No full payment yet for Smartmatic, Comelec assures

(Updated 3:52 PM) - Smartmatic-TIM - the supplier of voting machines used for the May polls - has yet to be paid in full, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Monday, a day after Speaker Prospero Nograles asked that payment be withheld.

Aquino can take oath before village chief, says Corona

MANILA, Philippines New Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona sees no problem if president-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III will take his oath before a barangay (village) chairman.

"I have no problem with that," Corona said.

"The Constitution does not require the President elect to take his oath before the chief justice..." Corona added.

Aquino earlier said he would not recognize President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's appointed SC chief and asked her to reconsider her move. He also said that he would rather take his oath of office before a village chief in his home province in Tarlac.

Corona takes oath in a private ceremony


New Chief Justice Renato C. Corona has taken his oath before President Arroyo in a private ceremony in Malacañang this morning, May 17, 2010.

Corona, a former presidential chief of staff of President Arroyo, formally assumed the top post of the Supreme Court following the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno. He served as SC Senior Associate Justice prior to his appointment to the helms of the judiciary.

Corona, clad in a dark suit, was accompanied by his family during the closed-door oath-taking rites at the Palace. Reporters were not allowed to cover the event.

Malacañang has repeatedly called on apparent President-elect Benigno Aquino III and other government crtics to respect the law and accept the appointment of Corona. Corona was picked by the President from the list submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.

The High Tribunal earlier ruled with finality that the President can appoint the new chief justice since it is not covered by a constitutional ban on appointments 60 days before the presidential elections and 30 days before the end of a sitting president's tenure.

Last Sunday, Presidential Spokesman Ricardo Saludo encouraged Aquino to follow the lead of former presidents who have faithfully abided by rulings issued by the Supreme Court.

"When you look back at the presidents of the country since Edsa 1, I dont remember any president who directly objected the decision of the Supreme Court. I dont remember any president who did that. This should be seriously considered by the next president," Saludo said in Filipino over government radio.

"Cory, Ramos and Estrada were never like that. They all bowed to the Supreme Court," he added, referring to the late President Corazon Aquino and former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada.

Aquino, the likely winner of the presidential elections, however, has called on the President to withdraw Corona's appointment and let the incoming administration handle the matter. In an apparent snub on Corona as the country's next chief justice, Aquino also reportedly plans to take his oath before a barangay captain rather than follow a tradition of swearing in before the chief justice.

Osmeña, Lapid, Guingona still occupy last three Senate spots

Former senator Sergio Osmeña III, incumbent Senator Manuel Lapid, and Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III remain the leading bets who may be awarded the last three spots in the Senate, a report from the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) showed.

A national canvass report as of Monday 4 PM by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) sitting as the NBOC showed that Osmeña continues to hold on to 10th place with 11,583,854 votes, while Lapid and Guingona remains at 11th and 12th place, with 10,971,045 and 10,200,293 votes respectively.

But trailing the three at 13th place is Akbayan Rep. Ana Theresia Risa" Hontiveros-Baraquel with 9,041,494 votes.

Behind Hontiveros are Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Ruffy" Biazon with 8,566,631 votes and Jose de Venecia III with 8,317,528 votes who now rank 14th and 15th, respectively.

Earlier in the day, Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that they will proclaim the last three winning senators on Tuesday morning.

On Saturday afternoon, the poll body already proclaimed nine of the 12 senators, namely:

  • BONG REVILLA, Ramon (Lakas-Kampi) 19,414,795 votes (as of Monday afternoon)
  • ESTRADA, Jose (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) 18,842,717 votes
  • DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO, Miriam of the People's Reform Party (PRP) 17,230,051 votes
  • DRILON, Franklin of the Liberal Party (LP) 15,764,639 votes
  • ENRILE, Juan Ponce (PMP) 15,577,837 votes
  • CAYETANO, Pilar Juliana of Nacionalista Party (NP) 13,583,810 votes
  • MARCOS, Ferdinand Jr. (NP) 13,098,254 votes
  • RECTO, Ralph (LP) 12,344,675 votes
  • SOTTO, Vicente III of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) 11,838,317 votes

Saturday's proclamation was based on 115 certificates of canvass (COC).

Of the total 274 COCs, 171 are from the overseas absentee voting.

As of Monday, the Comelec has canvassed 121 COCs or 37,685,706 votes.

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

Senator Benigno Aquino III's term will also expire in 2013 but official and unofficial tallies indicate that he is slated to win the presidency, leaving a vacant seat in the Senate.

Larrazabal, however, said that they cannot proclaim a 13th senator to fill the vacancy because technically there is no vacant seat yet. He said that the Congress can hold a special elections for the post once it is vacated if it wants to.

Robredo eyed for DILG, Montemayor for DA

MANILA, Philippines - With the turnover of power to a new administration on June 30 and the apparent victory of leading presidential bet Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, the Liberal Party has formed a search committee that will screen possible candidates for key positions in the Aquino administration.

According to an ABS-CBN News source, among those being recommended for Aquino's Cabinet are former Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Montemayor and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo for the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Sen. Aquino once discussed with winning vice-presidential bet Makati City Mayor Jejomar "Jojo" Binay the possibility of appointing him to the DILG post before he decided to be the running mate of former President Joseph Estrada as guest candidate of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.

Among those being considered for retention are Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and Energy Secretary Jose Ibazeta.

There are also those recommending the return to the Cabinet of former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez Tan.

Senator Aquino said the party is still in the process of forming a search committee, which will go through the applicants for Cabinet posts and other top government positions.

Former Civil Service Commission (CSC) chairman Karina Constantino David is said to be part of the search committee.

PNP chief to submit courtesy resignation June 30

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL Police (PNP) chief Director-General Jesus A. Verzosa will be tendering his courtesy resignation to the next president on June 30, six months ahead of his mandatory retirement.

Verzosa announces 15-point PNP 'transformation program'

MANILA, Philippines Nearly a month before the new president takes over the countrys seat of power, Director General Jesus Verzosa on Monday announced a 15-point transformation program for the Philippine National Police (PNP).

At the weekly flag raising ceremony at Camp Crame, Verzosa enjoined the 130,000-strong police force to train their resources and energies toward strengthening the PNP as an institution in the next six years.

He laid out the PNP Transformation 2016 Roadmap to guide policemen in improving the image and capability of the PNP.

Along with a new presidency comes a new campaign in the PNP, Verzosa said in his speech.

Our action must now focus on our beloved institution and no longer on the personalities involved. This is our challenge: To place the institution above ones self, he continued.

According to Verzosa, the new campaign would be the blueprint of the PNPs program to achieve a transformed police organization by 2030 as contained in its Integrated Transformation Program.

He said he would submit a copy of the operational plan of the PNPs campaign to the new administration.

In his speech, he also stressed that he was ready to relinquish his position as chief of the PNP once the new president is sworn in.

Verzosa said his plan to tender his courtesy resignation to the new commander-in-chief was also meant to highlight the importance of placing the interest of the institution above any individual interest.

Bangit admits military can't crush NPA by June

Armed Forces Chief Delfin Bangit declared Monday that the military won't meet the June 2010 deadline President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo set four years ago to crush insurgency in the country.

NPA frees abducted Surigao mayor, escorts

BUTUAN CITY - Communist rebels have released a town mayor in Surigao del Sur province and his four escorts whom they kidnapped two weeks ago.
Ruel Agustin, spokesman of the New People's Army (NPA) command in Compostela Valley, said Lingig Mayor Roberto "Jimmy" Luna Jr. and his escorts were released earlier in the day around 5 p.m.

Agustin said the five were freed along the forested boundaries of Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur and Compostela Valley. 

"We advise the families of Mayor Luna and his security escorts not to worry anymore as they were already released by us. We treated them well while in captivity," Agustin said.

He cited humanitarian grounds in releasing Luna and his escorts, identified as Rey Abao, Pfc. Arnel Dizon, PO2 Boy de Castro, and PO3 Alan Dapitanon.

The group was abducted last May 5 in Compostela Valley while on their way to Davao City.

Col Augusto Tolentino, commanding officer of the Philippine Army's 401st Infantry Brigade, said they are verifying reports that a P3-million ransom was paid to the NPA rebels in exchange for Luna's release.

"May mga tsismis at yung iba intelligence reports na bumayad daw ng P3 milyon ang pamilya ni Mayor Luna at ang mga malaking tao na supporters n'ya sa NPA upang siya'y ma-release (We received intelligence reports that a P3-million ransom was paid for his release)," he said.

But in a statement posted on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Website Monday night, Agustin said they released Luna "on account of his voluntary admission of culpability and issuance of a public apology in relation to the various crimes for which he stands accused of in the revolutionary People's Court.

Agustin said Luna, a three-term mayor who was running for vice mayor, admitted his culpability in maintaining a large private armed group consisting of police and military elements and hired goons allegedly to further his political and economic interests that in the process "violated the human rights of the masses."

"The NPA and the revolutionary masses enjoin Luna to desist from doing acts inimical to the interest of the people, particularly peasants and lumads, respect their political, economic, social and other human rights and make amends to those whom he had done injustice to," Agustin said.

Mike Arroyo not shaken by SC ruling on journalists' suit

The camp of First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo on Monday shrugged off the Supreme Court's decision allowing a Makati court to proceed with the hearing of the P12.5-million class suit filed against him by several journalists.

New US visa application process by May 24

MANILA, PhilippinesFilipinos who want to travel to the United States and get non-immigrant visas (NIV) will be asked to submit their visa applications via an electronic, online form known as the DS-160, the US embassy here said in a news release.

The new on-line application form replaces three paper forms, so it should be easier and faster for clients to complete their applications, it said.

The new form has two key changes. The DS-160 form is submitted electronically, through the Internet, replacing paper forms. Also, the online form requires applicants to upload a digital photograph from the computers they use to complete the application, it added.

The new form is more environment- and user-friendly.

Applicants may save the data in the form in order to complete an application later, and saved data may be reused for future applications. The form reduces use of paper, making it a greener method to apply for a US visa.

The rest of the application process remains the same. After completing the online application, visa applicants must schedule an interview appointment, either online at US visa services, or by calling 1-909-101-7878. Applicants must then pay the visa fee at an approved fee collection point. The final step is the appointment at the embassy.

If using the form for the first time, applicants should read a step-by-step instructional guide, which may be found at US embassy website for non-immigrant visas.

For more information, visit US embassy website.

Q1 remittances from overseas workers rise 7% to $4.3-B

MANILA, Philippines - Remittances from Filipinos working overseas rose by 7% in the first quarter to $4.3 billion, the central bank or the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said on Monday.

$1: P45.200

$1: P45.200

Euro 1: P55.4032

Peso dips to P45 against US dollar

MANILA, Philippines The peso slipped back to the 45:$1 territory on Monday as other major Asian currencies fell amid fresh worries on the debt crisis in the Euro zone.

The local currency opened Monday's trade already weaker at 44.93 from Friday's close of 44.76 against the US dollar. The opening value was also the intraday high. Intraday low stood at 45.2, which was also the closing value.

Volume of trade, however, was brisk and reached $1.377 billion. This was 14-percent higher than the $1.207 billion recorded Friday.

Traders said the volume was brought more by the buying of dollars than pesos, as investors expressed renewed concerns about the fiscal woes of Greece and other troubled countries in Europe like Spain and Portugal.

After weakening to the 45-to-a-dollar level in the week before the elections, the peso recovered to the 44:$1 territory following the elections as investors deemed the democratic exercise to be relatively orderly.

However, traders said the local currency went back to the 45:$1 level because the calm resulting from a positive sentiment on the past elections was outweighed by concerns over the fiscal problems of countries in Europe.

Several proposals to address the fiscal problems in the European Union have been raised, including stiff expenditure cuts.

While these could indeed help fix the budget problems, substantial reduction in public expenditures is feared to curtail growth of the European economy. If this happens, economists said, Asian economies would be adversely affected.

Many Asian countries partly depend on Europe for their export revenues. In the case of the Philippines, about 14 percent of its income comes from sales to Europe.

Thousands of Thai protesters defy deadline to leave

BANGKOK—Thousands of protesters in the Thai capital defied a deadline to leave their fortified camp Monday as their leaders offered a truce after five days of street clashes that have left 37 people dead.

32 trapped after Turkish mine blast

ANKARARescue teams were on Monday striving to reach 32 workers trapped hundreds of meters underground after a powerful explosion in a state-run coal mine in northern Turkey, a local official said.

The explosion ripped through the Karadon mine in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak at around 1:30 p.m. (1030 GMT), cutting off contact with the workers at a depth of 540 meters (1,782 feet), provincial governor Erdal Ata told the NTV news channel.

"We have two rescue teams trying to reach the workers from different directions," Ata said. "If there is not a lot of damage underground, we expect help to reach them in a short time."

The teams were "within 500 meters" of the trapped workers, he added.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosion or whether it had led to a cave-in.

The trapped workers were extending and bolstering tunnels at the time of the explosion, a process that calls for the use of dynamite, Ata said, but added that it was not clear whether the workers had set off a dynamite on Monday.

The explosion knocked out electricity in the mine, damaged the communication system and blew out the windows of nearby buildings, media reports said.

Eight other workers, who were trapped in the elevator after the explosion, were rescued and brought to the local hospital for treatment for gas poisoning.

Workers on three different levels in the mine were evacuated safely.

Several ambulances were on stand-by in front of the mine as anxious relatives waited for news beyond the security perimeter set up by authorities, the Anatolia news agency said.

Labor Minister Omer Dincer was to fly out to the accident site late Monday, the agency said, adding that the health ministry had sent an ambulance plane to Zonguldak for possible assistance.

Explosions and cave-ins are common in Turkey, particularly in privately run mines where respect for safety regulations is often minimal.

Most recently, 13 workers were killed in February when a methane explosion caused a mine in the country's northwest to cave in. In December, 19 workers lost their lives also in a cave-in set of by an explosion in a mine also in the northwest.

According to official statistics, more than 2,700 workers have been killed in mining accidents since 1955.

The worst such accident happened in 1992 when 263 workers were killed in a gas explosion in a mine in Zonguldak where the current rescue operation is under way.

Plane crashes in Afghanistan with 43 on board

SALANGAn Afghan passenger plane carrying 43 people, including three Britons, crashed in the mountains of northern Afghanistan on Monday, sparking a frantic search operation, officials said.

It was unclear whether there were any survivors. The Pamir Airways plane had been en route from the northern province of Kunduz to Kabul when it came down over the treacherous Hindu Kush mountains, shrouded in heavy snow.

According to the passenger manifest seen by AFP, six people on board were foreigners and the rest Afghans.

A Turkish aid organization, the IHH, said two of its employees -- both Turkish men -- were on board the ill-fated plane, but there was no immediate confirmation from the Turkish foreign ministry.

"I can confirm that a Pamir Airways plane has crashed over the Salang mountains with 38 passengers and five crew members on board," interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.

The Afghan acting transport minister, Mohammadullah Batash, said the aircraft lost radio contact 37 minutes after taking off on a return journey to the capital -- normally around an hour's flying.

"The plane left Kabul at 6:40 a.m. (0210 GMT) and took off from Kunduz at 8:30 a.m. back to Kabul, but lost radio contact at 9:07 a.m.," Batash said.

The minister, who went to the suspected crash site in the Salang mountains to oversee the search for the wreckage and any survivors, said the cause of the crash was not clear. Poor weather could have been a contributing factor.

"We have to recover the black box to determine the cause," Batash said.

"We cannot rule out any of the usual causes behind crashes -- which could be bad weather, technical error, thunder and lightening or even terrorist attacks," he said.

Yalda Natiq, director of communications at the transport ministry, said the Antonov 24, which is a Soviet-made turboprop plane, crashed due to bad weather.

Dozens of Afghan police and local residents started to climb the snow-capped mountains where the plane is believed to have crashed, Abdul Rehmand Sayeedkhaili, police chief of Parwan province, told AFP.

A highway task force, responsible for clearing snow from the Salang mountain pass -- the main road from Kabul to northern Afghanistan -- reported a blast at around the time the plane went missing, Sayeedkhaili said.

"We hope to find the crash site before it gets totally dark," said Sayeedkhaili.

Snow, cold weather and the harsh terrain made the search operation difficult and it would be impossible to continue after dark, he said.

According to a passenger list obtained by AFP from the Pamir Airways office in Kunduz, six foreigners, including a woman, boarded the plane. There were 35 men and two Afghan women, according to the name list.

A British embassy spokeswoman in Kabul confirmed that three British citizens were on board. The US embassy also said it was "investigating" the nationalities of those on board.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) fighting against the Taliban said it was assisting with the recovery operation.

"A manned ISAF fixed-wing aircraft has been dispatched to the last known position of the missing plane. However, the poor weather conditions in the area are hampering the aerial search," the military said.

"Two ISAF helicopters are en route to the area. Other ISAF helicopters are also on standby... to assist in any rescue effort," it said.

According to its website, Pamir Airways was founded in May 1995 and is the oldest private airline in Afghanistan.

Pamir Airways flies between Kabul and Kunduz six days a week. As well as domestic routes that criss-cross the mountainous country, the company flies to Dubai, New Delhi, Jeddah and Riyadh, according to its website.

Commercial aviation incidents are rare in Afghanistan, where travel by road can be hazardous due to the nearly nine-year Taliban insurgency.

In February 2005, a Boeing 737 operated by private company Kam Air crashed in the mountains on the outskirts of Kabul during heavy snow. There were 104 people on board, including two dozen foreigners. There were no survivors.

The increasingly deadly Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan has seen the United States and NATO allies decide to boost their military deployment in the country to a scheduled 150,000 by August.

Orcollo wins Vegas 9-ball title


Dennis Orcollo bucked a listless start to clobber Japanese player Toru Kuribayashi, 8-3 and rule the 2010 9-Ball Party Poker World Pool Masters Monday at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Showing steely resolve, Orcollo battled back from 1-3 down to frustrate the Japanese and capture $20,000 (P900,000) winner's prize.

Orcollo's win came a year after his spectacular win in the International Predator 10-ball.

After getting his rhythm back, it was Orcollo's show all the way as he knocked down one huge shot after another to the delight  of the crowd.

Actually, Orcollo encountered more trouble during his semifinals duel with compatriot Roberto Gomez.

In beating Gomez, 8-6, Orcollo had to dig deep in his bag of tricks to prevail in the all-Filipino semifinals.

"Yung laro ko kay Kuribayashi (Toru) ay ganoon din ang laro ko kay Gomez, naunahan agad ako sa umpisa. Ang hirap humabol kasi race-to-8 lamang ang laro at winner's break format pa. Buti na lamang pumabor y'ung bola sa sumunod  na tagpo," said Orcollo, who also topped the 2008 Qatar 9-Ball Open.

Considering the star-studded cast, Orcollo considered his win as his most memorable so far.

It also bodes well to his build-up for the Asian Games where he is set to compete in the 9-ball event.

Other top Filipinos who competed in the tournament were Efren "Bata" Reyes, Francisco "Django" Bustamante, Ronato "Volcano" Alcano and Lee Vann "The Slayer" Corteza.

Cariaso decides to call it quits; Alaska to retire cager's jersey

(Updated 1:55 p.m.) Jeffrey "The Jet" Cariaso has decided to end a 15-season flight in the Philippine Basketball Association. He will leave the game as one of Alaska Milk's best players and will have his jersey number retired on June 20.

Edu Manzano disappointed over defeat, says son

by by Napoleon Quintos,
MANILA, Philippines - Luis Manzano admitted that he felt sad for his father, Edu Manzano, who lost his bid for vice presidency in the national elections.

Kris Aquino may leave 'The Buzz'

MANILA, Philippines – Television host-actress Kris Aquino, youngest sister of winning presidential candidate Sen. Benignoy "Noynoy" Aquino III, has hinted that she might leave her top rating weekly entertainment show, "The Buzz."

'Panlilio not likely to return to priesthood'

San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said the priest-turned-politician had sent a petition to Pope Benedict XVI last December asking to be dismissed from the ministry.

Mommy D gets a jewelry set from Manny


Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao again received a multi-million peso gift from her boxing champ son, Manny Pacquiao.

Mommy D revealed she cried upon receiving the surprise gift from her son—a new set of diamond bling.

"Doon napaiyak talaga ako. Hindi ko alam na may ibigay pa siya. Hindi pa sapat siya sa lahat ng binibigay niya sa akin. Akala ko, walang i-surprise sa akin. Merong surprise kagabi na mga diamond. Hindi ko alam," Mommy D revealed in a phone patch interview with Pia Guanio in "Showbiz Central" on May 16.


"Ako na nanay, hindi ako 'materyarikal.' Sabi ko, 'Bakit nagbigay pa kayo anak nito?'" Sabi niya, 'Mahal ko kayo, Ma.'  Ang dami ko ng alahas, bakit binigyan mo pa ako ng ano. 'Kagustuhan ko ito, Ma. Siyempre, labs na labs kita, Ma,'" Mommy D continued.

The popular mom said the gift was "isang set—hikaw, singsing, kuwintas… terno."

But she balked when asked about the price of the precious gift. "Ay hindi ko alam. Secret! Natakot ako talaga isabi."

Mommy D's birthday was very simple. "Birthday wish ko lang, sinabi ko kagabi, sana pagbigyan pa ako sa Panginoon ng habang buhay para magkita-kita pa kami sa ibang taon. At sana 'yung binigay Niya sa aking mga mabait na anak, hanggang may buhay pa ang kabaitan nila hindi mag-iba. Iyon ang hinihiling ko sa Panginoon para masaya ako na nanay."

Mommy D also expressed a wish for hes son Manny, who is now an elected congressman in Sarangani province.

"Wish ko lang sa kanya, sana unti-unti sa pagsisikap, matapos niya, matupad niya ang mga projects sa Sarangani. Alam ko na matapos niya. Mabait ang anak ko, magaling mag-isip."

Earlier in the interview, Mommy D corrected Pia's report that some 2,000 attended her 61st birthday party. 

"Ay hindi, mahigit sa 1,000 lang ang makapasok dyan. Sobra, mahigit na 1,000."

And when asked what she feels about her son's victory in the recent elections, she exclaimed, "Nanalo. Nanalo talaga, eh. Masaya, maligaya kasi nanalo siya!"

What does she prefer her son to be, a boxer or a congressman?

"Pinili naman niya lahat. Sabi niya, lahat naman ay sa boksing niya. Siyempre alam na niya na pasok siya ng pulitika kasi wala na siyang gagawin."

 She admitted she cried out of sheer joy during her party.

 "Sa sobrang saya, sobrang tuwa. Nakita ko lahat ng venue ng party sa birthday ko, maraming tao, maraming bisita. Masaya talaga ako noon."

Then she thanked Pia for doing the interview. "Maraming salamat din sa inyo lalo na sa interview na ito. Ano ito, GMA? Maraming salamat sa 'Showbiz Central' sa inyong pag-interview."

In the past, Mommy D received a diamond-studded Rolex watch from her son, designer bags, clothes and shoes and a set of diamond jewelry worth around P6 million. It was the same jewelry Mommy D was lent to use to the premiere night of her movie with Ai Ai delas Alas and President Joseph Estrada,  "Ang Tanging Pamilya: A-Marry-Go-Round."

After the premiere night, Manny bought the diamond jewelry for her as a gift.

Of course, there's also the P7 million mansion in General Santos City. It's a four bedroom, 300-square-meter home decked with expensive furniture. The dining set alone, bought in Italy, reportedly cost P700,000.

Court issues arrest warrant vs Hayden Kho's ma

MANILA, Philippines – The Quezon City Regional Trial Court on Monday issued a warrant for the arrest of Irene Kho, mother of controversial cosmetic surgeon Hayden Kho, in connection with 2 counts of libel filed by actress Katrina Halili against her.

Hayden Kho refutes lawyer's claim that his passport will be revoked


Beleagured former doctor Hayden Kho was utterly surprised that Atty. Raymond Palad, Katrina Halili's lawyer, came out with a press release that said his passport would be revoked because he sneaked out of the country without permission.

Kho is in the US for a "spiritual journey." His departure drew a lot of criticisms since he is facing charges filed by Katrina Halili in court after their controversial sex video scandal surfaced.

Through Facebook chat, "Showbiz Central" interviewed Kho. His official statement about his trip was aired May 16 on the said GMA-7 talk show.

"I heard about the news Palad went out on TV with a press release that my passport will be revoked for sneaking out of the country without permission from the judge. I was surprised that Palad did this...

"Palad knows I have permission. We are sure of that. It's in paper. So, to come out on TV with a press release that I sneaked out of the country without permission gives me a reason to believe that he wants to perpetuate hate towards me."

Atty. Palad refuted Kho's claim.

"On April 27, Hayden filed an urgent motion to travel and the same was set for hearing on April 30 at 8:30 a.m. before RTC 159. I filed a comment that he must post a travel bond. However, the motion was no longer heard on April 30 at 8:30 a.m. since Atty. Patajo of the Kapunan Law Office told me when I met him at the Quezon City Hall on April 30 at 9 a.m. that they did not attend anymore the hearing of their motion to travel since the presiding judge is on official leave. Therefore, I do not know where the accused Hayden got his permit to travel from the RTC 159 in Pasig," he said in a statement.

Dr. Vicky Belo, Kho's former girlfriend, admits his trip was "his gift to me, actually." "It's something that I've always wanted him to do. I always wanted him to do a spiritual journey. He needs to pay attention to that part of his life.

"Matagal ko nang in-encourage, ngayon lang niya ginawa. Nag-file na si Atty. Palad, parang ayaw na niyang paalisin si Hayden. Then the judge decided na puwede since there's no hearing for the whole month, pinabayaan siyang umalis."

Belo hopes Kho can start his life anew. "Gusto lang naman niya (is) to move on. Of course, get a court hearing out of the way. Sana he can start his life again. Kasi bata pa siya, 'di ba? It's too early to define his whole life by one incident," Belo said in defense of her former boyfriend.

Brillante Mendoza begs off as 2010 Cannes jury

by by Boy Villasanta,
MANILA, Philippines - Brillante Mendoza, the 2009 Palm d'Or Best Director, has turned down an offer for him to sit as one of the judges at the ongoing 63rd Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France.

Rains to come in June – PAGASA

Looking forward to cooler days and some rain?

Luzon and Metro Manila will have to wait for two more weeks before the southwest monsoon starts to bring some rain, according to the country's weather bureau, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The last week of May was normally the onset of the rainy season but weather forecaster Bernie de Leon said rains would probably start pouring during the "first week of June."

Some parts in Visayas and Mindanao have been experiencing scattered rain showers in the past few days but Luzon and the metropolis will experience cooler and wetter days once the southwest monsoon starts to blow next month.

De Leon said the country would experience a "gradual lowering of temperature" starting the last week of May.

But on Monday, the metropolis sizzled again and recorded 37.3 degrees Celsius at 3 p.m. – the same temperature recorded on April 28, which was the hottest day in the metropolis so far in 2010.

The weakening of the El Niño would bring back the country's "normal" weather conditions, De Leon said.

The La Niña effect, characterized by strong rains, usually replaces the severe dry spells brought by El Niño. But De Leon said there were no indications yet that the country would experience La Niña.

In an advisory this month, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said the highest temperature recorded in the country this year was 39.7 degrees Celsius in Tuguegarao City. It did not surpass previous records.

The provinces of Rizal, Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental experienced drought between December 2009 and April.

Cebu, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Samar, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Davao del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Lanao del Sur also experienced dry spells.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council placed crop damage at P12 billion.

"The current El Niño is likely to continue to weaken toward the neutral condition. Likewise, the onset of the rainy season associated with the southwest monsoon is expected to be slightly delayed," Pagasa said.

The May 10 elections: Questions, answers

The election results may have been "fast," to cite Comelec and Smartmatic, but this claim should not gloss over the fact that over and above the poll outcome is the overarching need to establish the integrity of such results and to determine whether automation did promote democracy and address the systemic problem of fraud.

The Call to Form an Independent and Impartial Body to Review and Assess the Automated Elections

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) salutes the teachers, media, watchdogs, and the Filipino people, for their collective efforts at vigilance and dedication to national interest during
the May 10, 2010 national and local elections. Although there should yet be no judgment on the overall failure or success of this electoral exercise, these people provided the face of government where government, particularly the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its agent Smartmatic, was non-existent. They showed to the Filipino nation the values of accountability and transparency in their own humble way.

These traits we witnessed in the face of what many believed to be the Comelec's and Smartmatic's seeming disorganization, ill-preparedness and chaotic indifference, to what was the first automated elections in our history. Indeed we were left to fend for our own selves – from creating systems on verifying voters' list to providing means by which manual voting and electronic counting could perhaps proceed – if only to save the nation from discord and strife that would have followed the elections. Where the Comelec and Smartmatic failed in extending adequate voters' education and poll watch training to millions of voters, it is the citizens watchdogs, community organizations, various groups from the Church, schools, NGOs, and other institutions – including those that the Comelec-Smartmatic and CAC unabashedly called "doomsayers" and AES "critics" - that filled this void.

CenPEG is alarmed that the Comelec and Smartmatic have tolerated a flawed process to fester, and is dismayed that these entities have appropriated today's calmness and sobriety that the Filipino people by their own, individually and collectively, embraced and nurtured. Indeed victory has many parents but decency dictates that the Comelec and Smartmatic cease from patting their backs in congratulatory mode, for they did less than what was expected of them to make the automated election system work.

The election results may have been "fast," to cite Comelec and Smartmatic, but this claim should not gloss over the fact that over and above the poll outcome is the overarching need to establish the integrity of such results and to determine whether automation did promote democracy and address the systemic problem of fraud.

CenPEG's monitoring of the May 10 elections through reports from its field researchers, poll watchers, and other reliable sources reveal a significant number of incidents all over the country on the May 10 automated elections involving:

1. The malfunctioning, shutting down, and even destruction of PCOS machines, compact flash (CF) cards unable to function, paper jams, and power outages in many areas;

2. Failure of transmission from the clustered precincts, forcing BEIs to bring the CF cards or even PCOS machines to the municipal canvassing centers (manual transmission). We have received reports from May 10-15 of failures of transmission from many municipalities and provinces; a number of clustered precincts resorted to manual count due to PCOS and CF card failures;

3. Delayed canvassing and random manual audits (RMAs) in many areas with the results of completed RMAs remaining undisclosed

Aggravated by inefficient voting procedures enforced by Comelec and the lack of training given to BEI personnel, these technical glitches, power outages, and widespread transmission failures resulted in the disenfranchisement of many voters during the election. CenPEG estimates the actual number of voters at 35.3 million or 70.9 percent of the 50.7 million registered voters, leaving a big 30 percent unable to vote or disenfranchised. The number of disenfranchised voters could be bigger because of a significant number of rejected ballots. The poor voting management procedures, technical breakdowns, transmission failures, delayed canvassing and RMAs were vulnerable to the tampering of the election results – an independent probe of which has been started by CenPEG.

In many rural areas nationwide, CenPEG's field reports reveal Comelec's failure to prevent soldiers and police personnel from intruding into voting centers in violation of election laws that security forces stay outside the 50-meter radius of the polling place.

Even before the holding of the May 10 election, the automated election system (AES) was already stripped of the legal processes, safeguards, and minimum industry standards as mandated by the election law and Comelec's ToR. Urgent proposals and recommendations raised by CenPEG, the AES Watch, and other citizens watchdogs for a source code review, the enabling of voters verifiability feature, digital signature and private keys to be generated solely by the BEIs, adequate and timely voters education and BEI training, the holding of real mock elections, and accurate field tests remained unheeded up until the final stretch of election preparations. As mandated by law, all these were absolutely necessary in order to establish the integrity of the AES and the election results.

Meantime, there are issues and concerns that Comelec should answer to test its claim of "success" and "celebration of democracy" of the May 10 election. We ask Comelec's cooperation in providing us data and information in the spirit of fully disclosing or explaining the following:

1. Failure to fully cleanse the voters' registration lists, with many legitimate voters de-listed from their polling precincts and many others unable to vote;

2. The actual number of PCOS machines that successfully transmitted and how "transmissions" were done from polling centers with many machines unable to transmit or failed to transmit altogether;

3. The magnitude of PCOS breakdowns, malfunctioning CF cards, and other technical problems;

4. The real reasons for the malfunctioning of the CF cards in the May 3 final testing and sealing (FTS) and whether the new CF cards were correctly reconfigured. How many of the reconfigured CF cards reached their destinations before election and how many did not? The problem arising from incorrectly configured CF cards that Comelec discovered on May 3 and the haste and limited material time for the Smartmatic to re-do the process would contribute to the erroneous counting of votes.

5. Whether a final FTS was done prior to the election and, if so, how many of the 76,340 clustered precincts were able to conduct the FTS and what is the percentage of success or accuracy. In relation to this, was the FTS in the clustered precincts witnessed by poll watchers and election watchdogs?

6. Why the use of the P30M worth of UV scanners was not fully complied with and why the Comelec website reveals only summarized election returns (ERs). The accuracy of the ERs cannot be verified unless the digitally-signed, consolidated returns from the clustered precincts are transparent. on the website.

7. Why did Comelec Chairman Jose Melo start reading before the media the "first transmitted results" at 6:30 p.m. May 10 even if the polls were to be closed at 7 p.m.? Comelec should explain the discrepancy in the "first transmitted results" from Western Samar and Zamboanga Sibugay when the first transmissions were officially registered from a different province at 7:30 p.m.? Western Samar was able to transmit results only on May 14.

8. Moreover, was it simple oversight, or just a case of incompetence, or was there an evil scheme to rig election results in the case of the highly-irregular storage of 67 PCOS machines in Antipolo and the reported Cagayan de Oro election returns (ER) junk shop discovery?

9. Why did Comelec order the destruction of all CF cards that malfunctioned in the May 3 FTS which is tantamount to destroying evidence for the review of the May 10 elections and election protests?

10. And many other questions that beg to be answered including the 153,902,003 registered voters registered by Smartmatic machines at the national canvassing center!

Moreover, contrary to Comelec claims the automation system failed to prevent fraud of all types like the widespread incidence of vote-buying, election-related violence, campaign overspending, vilification schemes against progressive candidates, and other types of cheating. It failed to "promote democracy" owing to the big number of disenfranchised voters. It also failed to equalize the election playing field with many political dynasties and powers-that-be being retained in power from the presidency down to the LGUs. It would take longer to verify the accuracy and credibility of all the election results amid the failure of the system to provide transparency to the counting, canvassing, and consolidation of the results.

CenPEG is in the process of collating data to help each of us objectively and rationally assess the outcome of the recently-concluded elections. As social scientists, we cannot stand idly by to accept a verdict without substantiation, to allow our sense of vigilance to be lulled by the Comelec and Smartmatic's empty "trust-the-machine" rhetoric.

An overriding task of researchers and analysts is to seek out facts. Well-researched findings should be able to provide the outcome of projects and programs, generate solutions, safeguards, and/or remedies to identified problems and vulnerabilities way ahead of implementation and, in the process, help support policy and law reform toward effective governance. THAT was the rationale behind CenPEG's study on the 30 vulnerabilities and 30 safeguards of the Philippine AES. Research is not doomsaying, research is truth and fact finding. And a basic requirement to make any research meaningful is access to information and availability of documents.

CenPEG therefore asks the Comelec and Smartmatic to provide or at least make available to every interested voter, candidate or entity engaged in electoral advocacy, all documents – electronic and hardcopy – by which this assessment could be accomplished with reasonable accuracy and transparency. The state of elections is at severe and critical stake if we are to continue in this context of Governmental disarray and purposelessness, turmoil and incompetence. The only way to arrest this skid, nay, this systemic disorganization in our electoral system is to work here and now and impose accountability upon those who should be accountable.

In the tight race for the Vice Presidency, the anxious 10th to 12th spot fot the Senate, the party-list contests, the fiercely disputed local posts, the CenPEG certainly cannot say that electoral problems and issues are over and done with. We must reserve judgment until all parties have been asked and their questions answered, until judgment is due. We cannot afford another case of impunity in this country for we have already too many to count.

And now, CenPEG calls for the formation of an independent, non-partisan, and impartial citizens' body to review and assess the conduct of the May 10, 2010 automated elections, including the processes and procedures taken in preparing for this most expensive May 10 election and thereafter. The Joint Congressional Oversight Committee must also act now to exercise its statutory mandate to require the Comelec and Smartmatic to reveal all information or data in whatever form so that the citizens' body could very well perform its intended duties. This independent initiative is imperative not only to clear the air with regard to the conduct of the recent elections but to conclude once and for all whether automation is the best instrument for a fair, transparent, democratic, and credible election.

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