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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 20, 2010 Major News Stories

CHED appeals for postponement of tuition hikes

Umapela ang Commission on Higher Education sa mga kolehiyo at pamantasan, na ipagpaliban ang pagtaas ng matrikula. Pero tila malabo itong pagbigyan ng mahigit sa 300 kolehiyo at unibersidad sa bansa.

Councilors take up shortage of water supply

THE Cebu City Government is allocating P3.6 million to dig and set up 18 artesian wells in the mountain barangays, which have suffered from reduced water supply since a dry spell began last year and worsened this summer.

Fire destroys P950T in property

CHILDREN playing with matchsticks allegedly started by accident a fire that destroyed at least 40 houses in an interior portion of Sitio Judas in Barangay Tinago, Cebu City past 4 p.m. yesterday.

Locals 'not consulted' on Mambaling flyover

CEBU City councilors yesterday gave the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7 the go-signal to proceed with the flyover construction in Barangay Mambaling, despite complaints City Hall was not consulted on the project plans and design.

Some councilors are worried the flyover will do little to ease congestion on N. Bacalso Ave., since an extensive study on the traffic volume that establishments in the South Road Properties (SRP) will generate was not made and factored in when the flyover was designed.

City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) head Nigel Paul Villarete was also dismayed to learn the planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that will operate in the south district was also not considered.

But DPWH 7 Assistant Regional Director Edgar Tabacon said they are open to suggestions on changes in the flyover, and they may make some changes subject to the availability of funds.

During the City Council session yesterday afternoon, he said they considered the development projects in the SRP and the traffic volume it will generate, but said he does not know the extent of the study made.

"We're always open to suggestions. We can always sit down with the CPDO and if it's possible, we will consider improvements on the structure," Tabacon said, when Councilor Arsenio Pacana asked if the flyover plans and design can still be adjusted.

Tabacon later told reporters that it might be difficult to implement major changes, "because we also have to consider funding."

The two-lane flyover will cost the National Government some P110.98 million, which was charged to the priority development assistance fund of outgoing Rep. Antonio Cuenco (south district).

It will be constructed for 300 calendar days, and is expected to be completed in February next year.

DPWH 7 officials, representatives of the contractor WTG Construction and Development Corp. and the City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) were invited to the session yesterday to present the flyover design and update on the construction, as well as traffic plans in the area.

Tabacon told reporters after his presentation that the flyover was proposed in 2008 yet and was funded in 2009, even before development projects in the SRP and the BRT were finalized.

Since the BRT will operate from Bulacao to Banilad, Villarete told DPWH 7 officials to make sure that two lanes beneath the flyover will be designated for the bus system.

The 420-meter flyover will be constructed near the Cebu Institute of Technology and will end near the Mambaling Elementary School. It is seen to ease congestion along N. Bacalso Ave.

Citom has finalized the traffic plan around the construction site, but its executive director Arnel Tancinco said they cannot guarantee the smooth flow of traffic there when the construction goes on full swing.

He assured the council, though, that Citom has designated sufficient alternative routes to ease traffic in the south district during the construction period, and will open all available roads to divert the traffic if the congestion worsens in the coming months.

After the discussions on the flyover design and the traffic plans, the council passed a resolution stating that "the City interposes no objection to the construction of a flyover along N. Bacalso Ave."

In a separate resolution, they also granted full authority to the Citom Board and the Cebu City Traffic Group to formulate traffic schemes and implement plans that will address the looming traffic congestion the flyover construction will cause in the area.

RMA chief eyes to finish counting this week

MANILA, Philippines – The technical working group for the random manual audit (RMA) is looking at finishing the manual count by the end of this week.

"We hope to submit it (consolidated report) to Congress by May 24," said RMA co-chairman and Commission on Elections commissioner Lucenito Tagle.

Although Tagle did not disclose in detail the updates on RMA, he mentioned that they have received 53 discrepancy reports in Manila alone, which the technical evaluating committee is already studying.

But he emphasized that the study they are conducting is just for verification purposes and will not affect the current rankings of candidates.

"Whatever these discrepancies are, they will not materially affect the results of the elections," Tagle said.

Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting chairman Tita De Villa, for her part, said, was satisfied with the development.

"I'm very glad that we have already reached 60 percent of the target so I hope that by the time Congress convenes, we have more or less finished the report for the random manual audit," she said.

No indication of fraud during manual audit - Comelec

Amid talks of poll fraud, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said that partial results from the Random Manual Audit (RMA) prove that there was no systematic rigging of the 2010 automated elections.

"We did not see something that will really shock us... overall it looks like the counts of the PCOS machines were consistent," said Comelec Commissioner Lucentio Tagle, co-chair of the Technical Working Group for the RMA, in Filipino.

Section 24 of Republic Act 9369 requires that a manual audit be conducted in one precinct per congressional district in each province and city. The Comelec eventually increased this to five precincts per legislative district.

The random selection of the precincts that were audited was conducted at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City on election day. The selection was done manually by randomly picking a precinct from a large container.

As of Wednesday morning, Tagle said they have already received verified reports from 726 audited precincts. He said they recorded 53 discrepancies in the National Capital Region (NCR).

But he said reports showed that whenever there was a supposed discrepancy in the manual and automated count, it would always just boil down to the "appreciation" of the marking on the oval.

He explained that sometimes the Special Board of Election Inspector (SBEI) tasked to conduct the RMA would count shadings on ovals which do not meet the 50-percent threshold recognized by the machine.

"Shaded naman talaga ang mga oval, merong times na hindi masyado, hindi bilang ng machine, binilang ng RMA team (The ovals are actually shaded, but there are times when it's not fully shaded, so it's not counted by the machine but the RMA team counted it)," he said.

He, however, added that there were SBEIs who forgot to record in their minutes the reason why there was a discrepancy.

"Medyo nagkulang sila, hindi naglagay remarks, maliwanag sa (They did not follow instruction, they did write on the remarks, it's clear in the) rules, they should state the reason why," he said.

On the other hand, Tagle said that the partial results of the RMA cannot materially affect the results of the counting of the elections. The Comelec has already declared 12 of the winning senators while a joint session of the Congress will canvass the votes for president and vice president.

Election is clean—PPCRV

Election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) concluded that there is no systematic cheating during the May 10 elections after it has discovered minimal discrepancies from election returns and data transmissions from precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Poll fraud probe won"t delay proclamation of president, VP, officials say

The ongoing investigation on alleged irregularities during the May 10 nationwide automated polls will not delay the proclamation of the countrys next president and vice-president, Congress leaders assured on Wednesday.

It [the investigation] will not affect the canvassing. It will not delay the canvassing," Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said in an interview aired over Bombo Radyo.

The House Committee on Electoral Reforms and Suffrage on Wednesday held a hearing on alleged fraud that took place during the May polls, which included pre-shading of ballots and transmission of results not coming from the official automated counting machines.

The investigation came a week before Congress convenes as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) to officially determine who will become the countrys next top leaders.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles also assured that the probe would not delay the canvassing and that the country will officially have its new president and vice-president by June 30.

"My job is to proclaim and proclaim accurately based on accurate count genuine and duly executed canvass papers. That's my job. I'm not going to allow delays but will surely entertain debates," he said in a text message to reporters.

Our deadline is to ensure that the president and the vice president (are) proclaimed on or before noon of June 30," he added.

The 1987 Constitution mandates that the six-year terms of the Philippine president and vice-president start at noon of June 30 of the election year.

Congress is set to hold a joint session on Monday to approve the canvassing rules to be used the following day, when canvassing is scheduled to begin.

Enrile, Nograles hope to complete vote canvass by June 4

MANILA, Philippines -- With the Senate and the House set to convene in a joint session starting May 25, its leaders are eyeing to complete the canvassing of the votes for president and vice president as well as their proclamation before Congress goes on sine die adjournment on June 4.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said fresh allegations of cheating would not affect or delay the canvassing of the votes for the two top posts in the land.

``That is beyond the function of the Congress as the national board of canvassers, Enrile said in reference to allegations of cheating in the polls.

He said those who were victims of electoral fraud should go to the appropriate electoral tribunal and file a case because Congress was not the body tasked to handle complaints.

Enrile was reacting to the release of a video showing a masked man claiming to be involved in vote padding and shaving to benefit the current front-runners in the presidential and vice presidential races.

In interviews with reporters Tuesday night and Wednesday, Enrile said he and Speaker Prospero Nograles had a ``tentative agreement that the two chambers of Congress would finish the canvassing of the votes for president and vice president by June 4.

``If we could not finish the canvass, we will go on sine die adjournment but we can continue the canvass beyond the sine die adjournment because the canvass is a constitutional duty. What we are going to terminate is the legislative calendar and legislative work of the 14th Congress, Enrile told reporters.

He said he could not say when Congress could actually proclaim the winners of the president and vice presidential races but gave assurance ``we will proclaim before June 30," the end of the Arroyo administrations term.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III and outgoing Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay continue to lead in tallies for president and vice president, respectively, as released by the Commission on Elections and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.

But before Tuesdays joint session, Enrile said that the Senate and House would hold separate sessions on Monday to come up with and approve rules that would govern the canvassing of the votes for president and vice president.

Sen. Joker Arroyo, meanwhile, is questioning the early holding of the joint session, which was a week early than the May 31 set in the legislative calendar.

``Why advance the date and create a problem of quorum?..The one-week short notice wont advance the cause of an honest canvass. But it will create an undue problem of quorum, Arroyo said in a statement.

``The distinction that the May 31st date under the legislative calendar is for legislative work while the May 24th date is for canvassing is puerile. That only exacerbates, not solve the problem of quorum, he also said.

Arroyo reminded the public that Congress should proclaim the winners of the presidential and vice presidential races within 30 days after the May 10 elections and that would fall on or before June 9.

While a number of senators requested leave to travel abroad, some of them committed to return in time for the joint session, Enrile said. So he said he was expecting the chamber to have a quorum.

Among the senators out of the country as of Wednesday were Manuel Villar Jr., (away from May 12 to 31 for trips in Europe and Asia), Francis Pangilinan (who is in the United States from May 15 to 20), Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada (in Japan from May 15 to 22) Loren Legarda (who will be in France, the United Kingdom and the United States from May 20 to June 3). Sen. Gregorio Honasan had sought to travel to the United States from June 5 to 23.

Enrile explained the procedures the joint session of Congress would follow come canvassing time.

In accordance to the Constitution, Enrile said the Senate president was required to open the certificates of canvass (CoCs) officially delivered to the Senate in a sealed envelope.

The automation law has required the opening of election data, including certificates of canvass (CoCs) electronically transmitted to the municipal, provincial and highly urbanized cities and the Comelecs servers, he said.

``I am going to suggest to open the manually delivered election materials, which would include, I suppose the CoCs, the statement of votes, and the diskettes used to send the electronically transmitted CoCs. I would open the hard copy of the CoCs delivered manually and I will suggest we open the corresponding province or city involved in the electronic server installed in the House and compare the two, he said.

``If there is a difference between the two, then we set it aside and proceed (with the others). Later on, we go back (to the CoCs that have differences and were set aside). If we cannot reconcile the difference because its a substantial difference, we go to the election returns, he said.

``Then if theres still a problem, we see the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

It would be ``unwieldy if the entire Senate and House would do the canvassing of the votes, Enrile said and therefore, they would propose the creation of a committee composed of ``equal numbers from the two chambers to do the supervision and actual counting. The committee will be headed by Enrile and Nograles.

Meanwhile, Enrile said that he had asked Sen. Francis Escudero, chair of the Senate panel of the Oversight Congressional Committee on the Automation Elections, to look into the controversy regarding the 57 PCOS machines that were kept in the house of a Smartmatic technician in Antipolo City.

The automated machines are now in the custody of the Senate.

Enrile said that Escudero told him he would study the proposal.

The Senate is also storing the CoCs and ERs brought in from the precincts in the country, which will be used come canvassing time. There are 276 CoCs that should be turned over to the Senate but so far, 187 CoCs have been turned over to the chamber.

NP looks into 'disturbing' reports of poll fraud

The Nacionalista Party has been receiving "disturbing" reports from its local candidates about electoral fraud, and Senator Manuel Villar, its losing presidential candidate, has prioritized looking into these complaints, his political adviser said on Wednesday.

Malacañang believes Gibo was not cheated

MANILA, Philippine - Malacañang on Wednesday said an alleged poll fraud operator's claim that 5 million votes were shaved from administration presidential candidate Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro was unbelievable.

Roxas camp remains optimistic of victory

Tuloy ang laban hanggat hindi pa nabibilang ang kahuli-hulihang boto! Ito ang inihayag ng kampo ni Senador Mar Roxas sa harap ng gitgitan nilang laban ni Mayor Jejomar Binay. Itinakda na rin ng Comelec ang special elections para sa ilang lugar na pumalya ang halalan, pero napakaliit na raw ng mga botong bibilangin doon.

Aquino camp shrugs off poll fraud claim

The camp of president apparent Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III insisted Wednesday he won in a clean and honest elections contrary to allegations of vote- padding and vote-shaving supposedly to favor him and leading vice presidential candidate Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

Estrada, Binay still on good terms—Maceda

Former president Joseph Estrada and his winning running mate Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay together watched on television the congressional probe on the allegations of electronic election fraud that linked the local executive to supposed cheating operators from the Commission on Elections.

Comelec lauds PNP for keeping polls "peaceful"

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday thanked the Philippine National Police (PNP) for doing its part in making the countrys first ever nationwide automated polls good" and peaceful."

Election Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal visited on Wednesday the PNP national headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City to personally thank police officers for their good job" during the May 10 polls.

We (the Comelec) would like to extend our thanks to the chief PNP for all (his) help and support in ensuring a really good election," he said in an interview with reporters on Wednesday.

Larrazabal specifically thanked the PNP for its strict implementation of the election gun ban, which he said was instrumental in reducing incidents of election-related violence this year.

The PNP pegged the number of poll-related violent incidents this year at 82, with 27 people killed and 40 others injured.

This figure is way lower than the 229 election-related violent incidents reported during the 2007 elections, which left 37 people killed and 24 others injured.

PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, for his part, said the peaceful" conduct of elections would not have succeeded without the help of the military and the Comelec itself.

Espina likewise said that the public and religious groups also played key roles" in maintaining peace during the polls.

Comelec mulls use of PCOS for barangay polls

The Commission on Elections might use ballots similar to those used in the May 10 elections for the barangay elections to be held in October this year, an election official said Wednesday.

RH advocates want Buhay disqualified from party-list polls

MANILA, Philippines—Citing the party-list law's clear prohibition on the participation of religious groups in the exercise, some quarters have asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cancel the accreditation of the group Buhay, a pro-life group.

Lakas-Kampi still wants GMA as House Speaker

May kundisyon ang Lakas-Kampi-CMD kung gusto ng Liberal Party na makipag-alyansa sa kanila sa Kamara - dapat daw ang magiging Speaker of the House, manggagaling sa Lakas!  Pero hindi pa rin daw napapapayag ng mga kapartido si Pangulong Arroyo na kumandidatong Speaker. 

Arroyo not keen on seeking top House post, says adviser

CONGRESSMAN-ELECT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has begged off from the race for House Speaker, leaving Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) with no choice but to look for another bet to match the candidate of looming majority group Liberal Party of front-runner Senator Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" C. Aquino III.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. "signified their intention" at a party caucus in Malacañang on Tuesday night, said Prospero Pichay, the party's vice president for membership and accreditation and Ms Arroyo's political adviser.

But the party should also not count out Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, who gave Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia a stiff fight for the post in the 14th Congress.

It was the ruling party's second caucus in less than a week, and it included around 80 lawmakers from Lakas-Kampi-CMD and its coalition partners, the Nationalist People's Coalition, the Nacionalista Party and several party-list groups.

In the first caucus last Thursday, Ms Arroyo retook the chairmanship of the party from Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa.

But she reportedly rejected calls for her to run for Speaker, saying she preferred a role akin to that played by India's Sonia Gandhi who steered her Congress Party to victory in 2004 but refused the premiership.

Pichay said the speakership was not a priority of Ms Arroyo, who won the Congress seat representing the second district of Pampanga in the May 10 elections.

"She can live without it,'' he told reporters on Wednesday.

He said Ms Arroyo would rather be "a statesman and give way'' to any of the three aspirants.

But although she was "quite stubborn'' about not wanting to run, Pichay said it would not be impossible to make her to change her mind.

"The three lawmakers [Lagman, Suarez and Barzaga] are willing to give way once she changes her mind,'' he said.

Party secretary general Raymundo Roquero said Ms Arroyo was "serious'' about not wanting to contest the speakership.

Ruling party officials said a nominating committee would screen the candidates for Speaker and then submit their names to the board for consideration in another caucus.

"We have more than enough to elect the Speaker,'' Roquero said by phone, noting that a candidate would need 144 votes to win in a projected 286-member chamber.

Apart from the 107 party members who won in the congressional races last May 10, the party is counting on the support of at least 20 lawmakers from NP, NPC and Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, and more than 20 party-list representatives.

Asked if the Lakas-Kampi was open to a coalition with Liberal Party of presumptive president-elect Sen. Benigno Aquino III, Pichay said: "If they are willing to choose our Speaker, we will be more than willing.''

He said Lakas-Kampi-CMD lawmakers would not block the legislative agenda of the incoming administration, but would play the role of fiscalizers.

In an interview, Lagman confirmed that he would be willing to run for speaker against Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr.of the LP-led Conscience and Reform (Core) coalition, known to be backed by Aquino.

"The party has no decision yet but I am being considered by the party," said Lagman.

He said that while it has been Ms Arroyo's position not to run for Speaker, "we will have to wait for her official announcement. Just in case she does not run, I am willing to run and serve."

Meanwhile, LP campaign manager Florencio Abad reiterated on Wednesday the party's confidence of having Belmonte as the next House speaker.

Abad saw no roadblocks that could hinder a Belmonte campaign.

"By our last assessment, we do not see any major problem preventing the Liberal Party from securing the minimum number of votes to elect a speaker," Abad said in a statement.

Although the LP only has 45 elected representatives, he said members of other parties have expressed an interest in joining the party of the incoming president.

He said members of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD have also expressed interest in negotiating with the LP.

Congress office of GMA will be bigger than the rest

Kahit pa hindi maging Speaker of the House pang-Speaker naman ang opisinang naghihintay kay Pangulong Gloria Arroyo sa Kamara sa oras na manungkulan na siya bilang kongresista. Mas malaki at maluwag ang kanyang kuwarto kumpara sa ibang kongresista.

Escudero mulls Senate presidency

Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero was not completely abandoning the idea of seeking the Senate presidency although he said he was not "actively" pursuing it.

Bernas to Aquino: Recognize Corona appointment

MANILA, Philippines - Leading presidential contender Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III should recognize the appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, an expert on the Constitution said Wednesday.

Constitutionalist Father Jose Bernas SJ said that Aquino should accept the appointment of Corona to the chief justice post to avoid a constitutional crisis.

Bernas said, despite Aquino not wanting to take his oath of office from Corona, he believes the incoming president will respect the appointment made by outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Bernas, one of the authors of the 1987 Constitution, explained that even if he is opposed to the Supreme Court's decision on the controversial appointment ban, the high court should still be respected.

Aside from the appointment ban, he is also opposed to the decision of the SC on the executive privilege of current Social Security Systems President Romulo Neri in relation to the NBN-ZTE telecommunications scandal, and the division of a congressional district in Camarines Sur favoring presidential son Rep. Diosdado "Dato" Macapagal Arroyo.

He said Corona should now be given a chance to prove himself, saying that he is giving the new chief justice the benefit of the doubt, and that he is his own man. Report from Timi Nubla, ABS-CBN News

Palace says transition plan draft may be ready Friday

A TEAM created by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to ensure the smooth handover of power to her successor will meet tomorrow to finalize a transition blueprint that will be presented to the Cabinet next week.

Dinky Soliman: Amoy lupa? Not me

MANILA, Philippines - Incoming Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman on Wednesday laughed off an unsolicited advice from a Palace official that President-apparent Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III should appoint cute, presentable, and young (not "amoy lupa" or elderly)--people to his Cabinet.

She said the description of being too old to be in the Cabinet may still not apply to her. Soliman has already accepted Aquino's offer to assume the social welfare portfolio after he assumes the presidency on June 30.

"Di ko alam kung ako ang pinariringgang amoy lupa (laughs)," Soliman said, adding that those who provide sincere public service should not be insulted.

"Dapat di insultuhin ang mga nagta-trabaho dito sa lupa at naglilingkod ng tapat," she added.

Press Undersecretary Rogelio Peyuan told reporters on Tuesday the incoming president should select cute, smiling, and fragrant Cabinet officials.

Read: Noynoy told: Pick cute, smiling, fragrant Cabinet officials

Soliman, who was the first Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary of outgoing President Gloria Arroyo, said the more important qualifications for the incoming Cabinet of the new Aquino administration are integrity and competence.

Soliman served as DSWD secretary from 2001 until she left the Cabinet in 2005 after she and 9 other Cabinet and senior officials, or the so-called "Hyatt 10", called on President Arroyo to resign after she apologized and admitted it was improper for her to have called an election commissioner linked to poll fraud in the 2004 presidential elections.

It's Noynoy's prerogative to choose

Meanwhile, a lawmaker allied with Aquino said people who helped in his presidential campaign should not accept government posts, while Soliman said it is the prerogative of the president-apparent to choose his Cabinet.

Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero, who backed Aquino for president and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay for vice-president, said people who helped in Aquino's campaign should not feel slighted if they are not given positions in government.

This came after reports surfaced that Escudero is not in good terms with members of the "Hyatt 10," former members of the Cabinet of President Arroyo.

Both sides denied this report.

Escudero also said that he will request Aquino's camp to reveal the members of the "search committee" who will help choose possible members of the incoming president's cabinet.

Read: Robredo eyed for DILG, Montemayor for DA

He said this is to avoid conflict of interest, like if a member of the committee has a relative applying for a post, or they themselves are eyeing a position in the new administration.

The Aquino camp is now in the final stages of forming the committee.

Soliman said that even if she respects Escudero's position, Aquino still has the prerogative to choose whoever he deems fit as member of his official family.

'Power struggle' even before proclamation?

Despite Aquino not yet being officially proclaimed as the winning candidate in the May 10 polls, people around the Liberal Party standard-bearer are reportedly jockeying for key posts in the future administration.

Groups reportedly seeking posts in the incoming administration are the "Hyatt 10," the group led by his uncle Jose "Peping" Cojuangco also called "Kamag Anak Inc." (Relatives Inc.), the groups led by Senators Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and Escudero, and the so-called "The Firm."

Read: Jockeying for Cabinet posts starts

Soliman said that they all know Aquino's campaign was driven by different groups with different principles, but she said that what is important right now is that these groups rally behind Aquino to ensure his administration's success.

She said Aquino's supporters should set aside their egos and help Aquino instead. -- Report from Maricar Bautista, ABS-CBN News

No coups under new Aquino gov't, says AFP

MANILA, Philippines - Unlike her mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, who faced at least 7 failed coup attempts from restive rebel soldiers during her term, a senior military officer said incoming President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III will inherit a stable and professional Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that adheres to the chain of command.  

Special polls in Lanao, 3 other provinces set May 28

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) set special elections for 7 municipalities in Lanao del Sur, 2 barangays in Basilan, certain areas in Iloilo and Samar on May 28.

Dimaporos assert supremacy in Lanao Norte

TUBOD, Philippines - The Dimaporo family asserted its political supremacy in Lanao del Norte after emerging victorious in the local elections.

2 cops, two armed men killed in Basilan clash

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Two policemen and two armed men were killed in a clash between policemen and an armed group in the village of Bacung in Sumisip, Basilan on Wednesday afternoon.

Senior Supt. Antonio Mendoza, police chief for Basilan, said the armed men, numbering more than a hundred, clashed with police forces who were on their way to Isabela City from Sumisip.

He said the armed men were in civilian clothes.

"Our forces were inspecting them when they suddenly fired their guns," Mendoza said.

The police forces held their line for more than an hour, Mendoza added.

Killed were SPO1 Abdurajak Haji of the 1519th Provincial Mobile Company of Isabela City and PO1 Chargie Arsenal of 54th Special Action Force.

Mendoza identified two of the attackers who were killed as Addujil Kawilil, a militiaman and a barangay kagawad (village councilor) of Bacung, and Alex Munal.

I cannot say if they were Abu Sayyaf members or Moro rebels. What I know is that the attackers are followers of Bacung barangay officials," he said.

Had not the Marine soldiers arrived, Mendoza said all his men could have been killed.

"There's no cellular site, we cannot even ask for reinforcement from our nearby personnel. We are just so fortunate that Marines were able to pass nearby for their patrol and immediately they responded prompting the attackers to flee, he added.

2 hijacked Malaysian vessels discovered in Sarangani

Two Malaysian shipping vessels allegedly seized by a group of pirate syndicate were discovered by the Philippine Coast Guard late afternoon Wednesday along Sarangani Bay.

Coast Guard Spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armando Balilo said that the Coast Guard Station-General Santos which is under the PCG-South Eastern Mindanao District of Commodore Lino Dabi discovered two unidentified vessels near Port Kiamba in Sarangani while conducting seaborne patrol.

When the Coast Guard GenSan personnel approached the two vessels, composed of a tugboat and a barge, they immediately verified the identity of these vessels and found out that the two were actually similar to the MT Atlantic-3 and Barge Atlantic-5, both Malaysian-flagged shipping vessels which were recently hijacked somewhere within the territorial waters of Indonesia by a group of pirate syndicate allegedly based in Southern Philippines.

"The Coast Guard GenSan were just conducting seaborne patrol operations along Sarangani Bay when they noticed two suspicious shipping vessels which were unfamiliar and new to them, kasi mukhang bagong dating lang sa lugar. When they saw that the crew members of both vessels were conducting operations which were quite unusual in their eyes, agad-agad na sinita sila ng mga tao namin," Lt. Cmdr. Balilo said.

The Coast Guard spokesman pointed out that according to Commodore Dabi, his men noticed that the crew members of both vessels that time were apparently changing the appearance of both vessels by painting and changing their names.

Commodore Dabi said that his men noticed that apparently "pinapalitan ng mga crew members ng  pangalan at kulay 'yung dalawang barko, pero kita pa 'yung lumang pangalan at mukhang kasisimula pa lang nilang pintahan kaya napansin agad ito ng mga tao natin," Balilo added.

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo had already reported the incident to the Regional Cooperation Against Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea (ReCAAP) in Singapore while the arrested crew members were brought to a police station in Sarangani for further investigation.

Soldiers recover bombs after clash with NPA

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte, Philippines -- The military on Wednesday said it has recovered several improvised bombs following a clash with New Peoples Army rebels in Maco town, Compostela Valley.

Soldiers from the armys Scout Rangers Battalion stumbled upon seven improvised explosive devices (IEDs) after troops overran a suspected rebel encampment in Panangan village at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Capt. Emmanuel Garcia, 10th Infantry Division public affairs chief, said.

Garcia said troops were conducting an operation to locate and rescue four government troops the NPA had abducted in nearby Mawab town over a week ago when they ran into some 40 communist insurgents, resulting in a firefight.

No one from our troops was hurt but we suspected the enemy suffered heavy casualties whom they dragged along as they withdrew, Garcia said.

Garcia said government troops recovered a total of eight improvised mines across Davao region that day, with the other one being discovered by soldiers patrolling a hinterland village in Davao City.

Three assault rifles and other war materials were also captured from the rebels in Maco, Garcia said.

Our soldiers efforts of safeguarding our people against this kind of terrorism are already gaining ground and getting good results, said Maj. General Carlos Holganza, the armys 10th ID commander.

The military has accused the NPA of using IEDs banned by international war protocols due to the harm these explosives pose even to non-combatants.

In 2009, the NPA carried out 11 attacks using IEDs in Davao region, killing almost a dozen soldiers and civilians and wounding at least 30 others, Garcia said.

EU to send experts for Mindanao peace process

The European Union has agreed to participate in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) assisting the peace process in Mindanao, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald said.

Rights body approves witness cover program

THE COMMISSION of Human Rights (CHR) has passed a resolution yesterday that provides protection for state witnesses of human rights violation cases.

Peso slides to two-month low vs dollar amid plunging euro

MANILA, Philippines - The peso slid on Wednesday to a 2-month low versus the US dollar as investors fled to safer grounds, cutting exposures to emerging-market assets after Germany announced a ban on certain speculative securities trading practices.

Peso drops to P45.62 against US dollar over Euro zone debts

The peso fell sharply on Wednesday amid worsening fears of investors over the debt problems in the Euro zone.

$1: P45.620

$1: P45.620

Euro 1: P55.2652

Ibon tells Noyonoy: Don't raise taxes

MANILA, Philippines - Independent think tank Ibon Foundation gave unsolicited advice to Sen. Benigno Aquino III, frontrunner in the presidential elections, urging him to eschew proposals to hike tax rates in order to improve the country's fiscal picture.

Villegas: Aquino can recycle economic team

Dr. Bernardo Villegas of University of Asia & the Pacific told ANC's Business Nightly on Wednesday that leading presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III could tap individuals who has served previous administrations well as members of his economic team. He said he is eyeing former National Treasurer Omar Cruz for the Finance post. He also mentioned the following: Milwida Guevarra for public education, Ace Durano for tourism, and Jesse Robredo for local government.

Thai protesters surrender after deadly army crackdown

(UPDATE 7) Thai protest leaders surrendered Wednesday and told thousands of "Red Shirt" supporters to end their weeks-long rally after an army assault on their fortified encampment left at least five people dead.

Thai protesters set TV station ablaze—official

Thai anti-government protesters have set the offices of TV station Channel 3 on fire, trapping 100 staff in the building, a fire department official said Wednesday.

Curfew extended across 23 Thai provinces

BANGKOK--A curfew was extended to cover 23 Thai provinces as well as Bangkok on Wednesday night after a deadly army crackdown on an anti-government rally sparked rioting and arson in the capital.

Thailand's Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) said in a statement it had "imposed the curfew in 23 more provinces from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am".

Anyone violating the curfew would be jailed for two years maximum or fined 40,000 baht (1,200 dollars) or both, but a government spokesman earlier said those who needed to travel should carry passports or ID and tickets.

Earlier, General Prawit Wongsuwon told AFP that the curfew would be imposed in Bangkok and checkpoints would be set up across the city.

"We are waiting until the people go back home, then we will deal with rogue protesters," he said.

Freighter seized by pirates arrives off Somalia: EU

BRUSSELS - A Greek-owned freighter with a mainly-Filipino crew seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden a week ago has arrived off Somalia, the European naval force in the region said Wednesday.

Manny Pacquiao meets Noynoy Aquino

Sen. Benigno Aquino II with Manny Pacquiao and wife Jinkee, May 18, 2010

Sen. Mar Roxas with Pacquiao and wife

Sen. Aquino and Jake Joson, member of Pacquiao's staff

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) – Sarangani province Congressman-elect and 7-division world champion Manny Pacquiao met with incoming President Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III of the Liberal Party on Tuesday. 

The Filipino boxing icon paid a visit to the Aquino family residence along Times Street in West Triangle, Quezon City.

The meeting lasted 30 to 40 minutes

This was confirmed by his Atty. Edwin Lacierda, Aquino's campaign spokesperson. He said the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion was accompanied by his wife, Jinkee.

"He paid a courtesy call to the President-apparent," said Lacierda.

The meeting was cordial as Pacquiao shared with Aquino his plans for Sarangani as the province's lone representative. They never talked about the election campaign where they were in opposing camps.

Aquino's running mate Sen. Mar Roxas later joined the meeting.

"Nag-usap kami mga 45 minutes… okay naman," Pacquiao told ABS-CBN's Dyan Castillejo in a telephone interview. "Kuwentuhan lang paano tutulungan ang bayan."

On Tuesday, Pacquiao told reporters in Manila that he had several projects in mind for his province and the country.

He also said he wants to help the Philippines win its first Olympic gold medal. He also wants to provide livelihood programs to fishermen and farmers in Sarangani Province.

Pacquiao had supported one of Aquino's rivals, Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel "Manny" Villar, Jr, in the May 10 presidential elections.

During the campaign, a television advertisement for Villar even featured Pacquiao alluding to Aquino's lackluster record as 3-term congressman and senator.

This caused some friction in his friendship with Noynoy's sister, actress and television host Kris Aquino.

But Kris announced Tuesday night that she had made up with the pound-for-pound king.

Arum: Politics good for Pacquiao than billiards

MANILA, Philippines – While Sarangani province Congressman-elect Manny Pacquiao assured that his political position will not affect his ring performance, his promoter Bob Arum said it would even help the 7-division world champion.

Gorres' Colombian foe to fight Filipino in Cebu

MANILA, Philippines – Colombian Luis "Surtigas" Melendez, who dealt a career-ending brain injury to Z "The Dream" Gorres in November, will fly to the Philippines to face another Filipino fighter this month.

Takayama naangol, di kaaway

SA usa ka wala dam-hang panghitabo, dili madayon og away si kanhi two-time world champion Japanese Katsunari Taka-yama karong Sabado sa Mandaue City Sports Complex.

Si Takayama, kinsa bag-uhay lang nipirma og kontrata sa ALA Promo-tions, makig-away unta kang Jayson Rotoni sa Best of Boxing 1.

Apan nasayran pinaa-gi sa text message ni ALA Promotions PR man Chad Canares nga dihang nag-jogging si Takayama, aksidente siyang nadakin-as dihang nilikay siya sa usa sakyanan nga iyang gikasugat.

Sa maong insidente, napiang ang tuo nga kamot ni Takayama hinungdan nga dili na kini makaaway.

Hinuon gipasabot ni Canares nga madayon ra gihapon ang promosyon ug kasamtangan pa silang nangita og ikahulip kang Takayama.

Sa supporting main event, si Bon Jovi Canillas sa Toledo City makigpa-rang gihapon kang kang Dexter Mendoza.

Gikonsiderar si Cani-llas nga maoy usa sa umaabot nga dekalidad nga mga boksidor sa Sugbo.

Kabahin sa mga tiket, mahimong motawag sa ALA Promotions Office sa Talamban (032) 2364611 o sa Mandaue City Sports Complex (032) 343-8056.

9 pool bets advance, Bata loses

Nine Filipinos hurdled their second round rivals but one of the country's best hopes – Efren "Bata" Reyes – was relegated to the losers' side Wednesday in the 2010 US Open 10-Ball championships at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Nevada.

Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, the 55-year-old Reyes was beaten by compatriot Roberto Gomez, 9-6, but will still have a chance to recover in the loser's bracket of this tournament which dangles $20,000 (P900,000) to the champion.

Best remembered for his bridesmaid finish in the 2007 World Pool here in Manila, Gomez, who downed British Imran Majid, 9-2, in the first round, edged Reyes by pulling away from a 6-all deadlock. He will next face American Jason Klatt.

Aside from Gomez, the other Filipinos who continued the winning ways were Francisco "Django" Bustamante, Ronnie Alcano, Lee Vann Corteza, former world No. 1 Dennis Orcollo, Warren Kiamco and little-known Al Lapeña and Edwin Montal.

Bustamante trounced Japanese Toru Kuribayashi, 9-2, while Alcano turned back American Glenn Atwell, 9-3, Corteza thumped American Chris Bartram, 9-5, Orcollo blasted Canadian John Morra, 9-3, Lapeña swamped American Tommy Najar, 9-1 and Montal nipped John Schmidt, 9-8. Kiamco, meanwhile, beat Huidje See, 9-2, to set up a third round date with German Ralf Souquet.

Joining Reyes in the losers' bracket was Jose "Amang" Parica.

Expect another casualty Friday as Bustamante is set to face in the third round Montal, who started to make a name for himself by ruling the 1996 US Open.

Baguio's sizzling performance makes Alaska too hot for Coke

POC holds poll for next PSC chief

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) conducted Wednesday what amounted to a straw vote on possible nominees for expected vacancies in the Philippine Sports Commission PSC.

POC spokesperson Joey Romasanta termed it as a "temperature-check" as top POC officials held its expanded board meeting at the Philsports in Pasig City.

The scene was reportedly a happy gathering of people eager to finally takeover the PSC which, under its current chairman Harry Angping, was at odds with the POC and its sports allies many of whom suffered many setbacks especially in matters related to funding.

Angping had waged a relentless campaign against needless spending by national sports associations, frozen financial aid to NSAs with unaccounted funds, and filed cases against those suspected of having malversed government (PSC) money.

"A consensus was made by the POC expanded board just to source our probable recommendees to the PSC so there won't be something that was not unilaterally recommended by the POC president but a consensus of all," Romasanta said.

Romasanta said it was done informally and the results handed to POC president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. Romasanta said he has no idea who were nominated and who topped the straw poll.

Cojuangco is expected to have a strong say on who the next PSC officials will be, being the uncle of leading presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino whose mother is Peping's sister.

"At least the POC president has a guide and when he is asked, he will have something to show to the president (Noynoy)," Romasanta said.

Kris leaving hosting jobs for good?

Sister of leading presidential candidate says she'll be too old to resume hosting jobs after 6 years.

Xyriel Manabat plays 'Momay'

MANILA, Philippines - Child star Xyriel Manabat, who rose to fame after portraying the young Agua and Bendita, top-bills ABS-CBN's upcoming TV show called "Momay," which will premiere on May 24.

Oprah to stand as Charice's godmother, says singer's ma

MANILA, Philippines – International and local celebrity heavyweights, including American television host Oprah Winfrey, have been invited to become Charice and her younger brother's godparents in their joint baptism and confirmation this week.

Alfred Vargas to play Andres Bonifacio in O'Hara film

by by Boy Villasanta,
MANILA, Philippines - It's a double celebration for actor Alfred Vargas. After clinching the coveted role as Andres Bonifacio in the 6th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival in the historical drama "Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio," Vargas was also proclaimed as a councilor of the 2nd district of Quezon City.

Metro reaches 37.3 degrees C again; to remain hot in next 4 days

The maximum temperatures in Metro Manila reached its highs again Wednesday with little relief from the heat in sight after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said rains would come in the second half of June yet.

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