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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 24, 2010 Major News Stories

Talisay water district plan 'will protect watersheds'

THE creation of a Talisay water district is needed to ensure the water needs of Talisaynons and to protect its watershed areas, said Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas (Cebu Province, 1st district) yesterday.

"I proposed the Talisay water district and tasked (vice mayor-elect) Alan Bucao to pass an ordinance creating it," Gullas said in a press conference.

When he ran for Talisay City mayor in 2001, Bucao was his running mate. Gullas won as the first city mayor of Talisay but Bucao lost to Lani Abarquez.

"I told Bucao that I want the Talisay water district organized so the water needs of the Talisay people must be addressed first.

There are 15 wells plus weir dams drawing water from Talisay water sources and giving these to MCWD (Metropolitan Cebu Water District). These 15 wells average 33,000 to 35,000 cubic meters of water per day, which are being supplied to Cebu City," Gullas said.

None of Talisay's officials, however, have a seat in the MCWD Board. That Board is chaired by Juan Saul Montecillo, an appointee of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Gullas said while there are barangays in Talisay City with MCWD connections, the barangays that are the direct sources of water, like Camp 3 and Lagtang—especially Sitio Burlas—have no water supply.

Earlier, Talisay City Councilor Arturo Bas, who resides in Lagtang, said he is working hard so MCWD will finally supply water to these areas.

"There must be and there will be a water district in Talisay City," Gullas said.

"Grabe ang sitwasyon sa Talisay at present. Rotating brownout, wa'y power, wa pa gyu'y tubig (The present situation in parts of Talisay is terrible. When there are rotating brownouts, the residents have no power and no water)," Gullas said.

He added that because Talisay's watershed area is properly preserved, some parts of the city still have water supply.

"The three coastal barangays of Cansojong, Poblacion and Dumlog have much potable water, meaning our aquifer in Talisay is not yet damaged, unlike in Cebu City where saltwater intrusion has reached as far as the Cebu Capitol (building)," Gullas said.

'Tuition hike forces tutors, students to transfer to public schools'

MANILA, Philippines - The exodus of teachers and students from private to public learning institutions continues as several private school administrators plan to increase matriculation to keep their operations afloat, an official of a group of Catholic educators said.

Monsignor Gerardo Santos, president of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, said they have learned to accept that many of the parents have been economically-burdened by the tuition hikes in private schools, forcing them to transfer their children to public elementary or high schools.

"May mga teachers na lumipat sa public schools. Mas maigi ang sinusuweldo dun at kailangan tanggapin natin yun," Santos said in an interview with Church-run Radyo Veritas.

He, however, said despite the drastic drop of enrolment in private schools, they still remain confident that it would be better for students to attend private schools because of their small class size.

"Sa class size kapag umabot na sa 60 di na natuto ang bata at kahit na magaling ang teachers di nya namomonitor ang performance ng bata kaya ang ideal ay between 40 to 45 per class sa classroom," Santos added.

He said the subsidy programs of the Department of Education have been helpful to keep some of the teachers and students in private schools.

"Ang bright lights natin eh yung voucher system and sanctity team na binibigay ng Department of Education through passes; yun malaking tulong talaga, sa high school yun. Salamat din sa gobyerno sa teachers subsidy, yun ay malaking tulong na rin sa maliliit na paaralang Katoliko," Santos said.

DepEd, parents disapprove use of jejespeak

Hindi ikinatuwa ng mga magulang at maging ang Department of Education ang nauusong jejemon na salita ng mga kabataan ngayon. Babala pa ng DepEd pinababantayan nila sa mga guro ang mga batang gumagamit ng kakaibang lenggwaheng ito.  

Graft dropped after 13 years

FOR lack of evidence, a Cebu City judge acquitted three officials of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and two private respondents charged with graft about 13 years ago.

Lawyer Ismael Amistoso, the former LTO supervising and transportation regulation officer in Cebu City; computer evaluator Segundo Famor Jr.; cashier Nanette Kangleon and private respondents George Albos and wife Jean were found innocent by Judge Bienvenido Saniel Jr of the Regional Trial Court's Branch 20.

They had been charged with violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Court records show Amistoso, Famor and Kangleon were charged with graft at the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas for allegedly issuing a genuine vehicle registration, using illegal means.

The Albos couple was implicated in the charge for allegedly duping Korean national Lee Eng Kiong, after they failed to settle about P130,400 they had borrowed from the latter in April 1997.

A car for a loan

The couple had offered their Honda Civic as collateral for a loan payable in 30 days.

The couple had also agreed to execute a deed of absolute sale, transferring the registration of the vehicle under Lee's name in case they failed to pay the loan on time.

After LTO certified the car's certificate of registration was authentic, Lee released the amount to the couple.

But the couple failed to pay the amount after a month and the check they issued to Lee was not honored.

When the couple did not show up anymore, Lee decided to transfer the vehicle to his name even if the vehicle was not turned over to him.

He then sought the assistance of the police traffic office to locate the car.

SPO3 Abdela Bungkalot of the Regional Traffic Management Office, after conducting an investigation, discovered the Honda Civic had been sold to a former bank employee.

It was later found out the documents the couple presented to Lee for the release of the loan were fake.

The accused LTO officials had allegedly issued the fake papers to the couple.

Further investigation also revealed the vehicle was first mortgaged by the couple to a commercial bank.

The police investigation also said Amistoso, Famor and Kangleon alleged connived to release the registration of the vehicle in Lee's name.

But in his decision, Judge Saniel said it was not clearly established whether the accused issued a fake certificate of registration to the complainant.

Citing a Supreme Court ruling, Saniel said, "Where there is reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused, he must be acquitted even though his innocence may be doubted since the constitutional right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty can only be thrown by a proof beyond reasonable doubt."

Hepe sa Samboan,imbestigaron karon

SI Sr. Supt. Erson Digal, direktor sa Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), nisaad nga mohimo og lakang karon sa pag-imbestigar kang Inps. Audie Pelayo, hepe sa Samboan, kinsa gikatahong nagmaoy ug nakig-sukmagay sa iyang sakop niadtong Sabado sa hapon.

Gikataho nga naguba ang patrol car nga resulta sa away nga giingong tungod sa wa magkasinabot sa bahin sa tigbakayan.

Si Digal, nahinabi sa Sun.Star Superbalita ug dySS Super Radio, nagkanayon nga palagputon gyud niya si Insp. Pelayo diha sa Samboan ug mag-atubang og imbestigasyon.

Matod ni Digal nga nangahadlok na karon ang mga sakop ni Insp. Pelayo ug wa nay motestigos sa insedente hinungdan nga iyang gimanduan si Sr. Insp. Ruben Cuizon ang hepe sa Provincial Investigation ang Detective Management Branch (PIDMB) sa pagpalawom pa sa imbestigasyon.

Gipadayag niini nga nagtuo siyang nahadlok lang gyud mosulti ang ubang mga police ug bisan paman gipadala niya si Sr. Insp. Cuizon iyaha gihapong istroyahon unya ang mga nahimtungdang police nga gi-report nga nagsinukmagay.

"Alangan og akong baby-hon, di ni siya angayang mag-opisyal kon ingon ana ang iyang kinaiya, gipakatulog siya sa iyang mga sakop he will suffer the consequences sa iyang gipakitang maayong maayong laki" sumala ni Digal.

Gullas: SRP not Osmeña's brainchild

REPORTS that portray Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña as the brains behind the South Road Properties (SRP) provoked yesterday a strongly worded response from Rep. Eduardo Gullas.

Gullas (Cebu Province, 1st district) called a press conference at the University of the Visayas to "tell the truth" about the multi-billion-peso project.

"The main purpose of this press conference is that I want to pursue the truth, because I think Cebuanos ought to know the truth. It is not true that the SRP is the brainchild of Mayor Osmeña. No sir," Gullas said.

A 330-hectare reclamation project in Cebu City's south district and part of Talisay was first "packaged for funding" as part of an investment program the Regional Development Council (RDC) prepared, Gullas said.

At that time, he was both Cebu governor and chairman of the RDC in Central Visayas, where he served from 1976 to 1986.

"And along the proposed reclamation was a (proposed) road, which is now the Cebu South Coastal Road, passing in the middle of the SRP, and undertaken by DPWH (the Department of Public Works and Highways)," Gullas said.

Gullas pointed out the RDC 7 created the Central Visayas Regional Project (CVRP) with two components, including the Metro Cebu Development Project (MCDP) 1, which deals with urban development focusing on Metro Cebu, Tagbilaran City in Bohol and Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental.

The SRP and the Cebu South Coast Road are components of MCDP 1.

Asked for comment, Mayor Osmeña said in a text message to Sun.Star Cebu that the SRP was first conceived by his grandfather, the late president Don Sergio Osmeña Sr.

His father Sergio "Serging" Osmeña Jr. again brought up the idea in the early 1960s, when he pored over old maps of Cebu's coastline while implementing the North Reclamation Project.

"My father showed it to me himself when I was 14 years old. What I conceived was the South Coastal Road. Gullas conceived nothing," he added.

The more important point, the congressman-elect added, is that the SRP is "the fulfillment of the Cebuanos' dream."

Sun.Star Cebu archives show the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund pledged to finance the SRP in May 1995. Filling operations were completed in October 2001, but until 2003, the City Government was still implementing projects like its road system and administration building, among others.

Other projects under MCDP 1 are the second Mactan-Mandaue bridge, now called the Marcelo B. Fernan Bridge, connecting Barangay Opao, Mandaue City and Barangay Pusok, Lapu-Lapu City.

"We identified that second bridge," Gullas said.

Another project identified by the RDC then, Gullas also said, is the Cordova reclamation project, which covers 3,000 hectares of foreshore lands in Cordova town.

Long before Osmeña came into the picture, Gullas said, the mayors of Metro Cebu were very active in identifying projects for the good of Cebu. Among those he mentioned were former Cebu City mayors Eulogio Borres and Florentino Solon, former Mandaue City mayor Demetrio Cortes, former Talisay mayor Lulu Abarquez, Minglanilla Mayor Eduardo Selma, former Naga mayor Vicente Mendiola and former Consolacion mayor Emmanuel Pepito.

"During our RDC 7 meetings, we were joined by directors of national government agencies. We worked hard to identify the projects like the SRP and the coastal road," Gullas said.

Bills for Cebu eco-zone, light rail to get new lease on life: Gullas

REP. Eduardo Gullas intends to file, for the third time, two bills that failed to hurdle the House of Representatives, when the 15th Congress starts on July 1.

These are the Cebu Economic Development Zone bill, which seeks to declare the entire province as an economic zone, and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) bill.

Even before he assumes office, congressman-elect Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City's south district has expressed opposition to both bills.

Gullas filed the Cebu economic zone bill in the 13th Congress.

After it failed to become a law, Gullas filed it again on July 2, 2007.

"I am for making the entire Province of Cebu an economic development zone. Investors will come, because their operations, including importations, will be tax-free and their other taxes will be minimal," Gullas said.

He said the Department of Finance (DOF) objected, saying it will decrease the National Government's revenues.

But Gullas believes the increased employment and business opportunities will offset whatever revenues the National Government stands to lose if Cebu is declared an economic zone.

All the Cebuano representatives co-authored the Gullas bill in the 13th and 14th Congress.

That will not be the case this year, if Osmeña maintains his opposition to it. He also raised his objections to the LRT proposal during a congressional hearing in Cebu last October.

Gullas and Osmeña have been at odds since 2003, when the Talisay City Government staked a claim on part of the South Road Properties.

According to Gullas, the Cebu economic zone bill was approved by the House of Representatives, and Sen. Pia Cayetano had scheduled a public hearing in Cebu last Jan. 9, 2010. However, Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu City's north district, Gullas said, requested that the hearing be postponed because the legislators had other

By then it was too late. There were only four days left until Congress adjourned for the campaign period.

Police, church allay doubts

CEBU Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal looks forward to the day when election monitors like C-Cimpel will become "superfluous and useless on election day."

During a thanksgiving celebration yesterday of the group's volunteers, Cardinal Vidal said having no election watchdogs would mean Filipinos have learned to reject a culture of corruption in elections.

"I do not say this to demean your sacrifices or to disparage your work. I say this as a wish that someday, Philippine elections will have become so honest and efficient that there would not be any need for watchdogs and anti-cheating mechanisms," he said.

While the Cebu-Citizens' Involvement and Maturation in People's Empowerment and Liberation (C-Cimpel) held its thanksgiving at the Archbishop's Palace, police officials also downplayed charges of fraud in the May 10 elections.

Instead of taking the allegations "hook, line and sinker," PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa said people need to see the evidence that supports each claim.

Verzosa visited Cebu yesterday for the awarding ceremony of the private stakeholders and police personnel who helped make the elections in Central Visayas peaceful and credible.

The church and police officials' expressions of confidence in the May 10 polls come amid charges of fraud, made last week before the House of Representatives' committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.

Cardinal Vidal said the country still has a long way to go in making its elections clean and honest. He encouraged the police and concerned citizens to continue contributing to the country's quest for honest governance.

But if there are no last-minute hitches and maneuvers, the May 10 election "will go in the annals of our history as one of the most peaceful and most efficient," said the archbishop.

He said he looks forward to the day when both candidates and voters will be so vigilant, there will be no need for election watchdogs.

"The day C-Cimpel will no longer be needed will be the day of its greatest triumph," said Vidal.

C-Cimpel is a church-based, political, non-government organization that has served as an election monitor in Cebu since 1992. Until this year's automated elections, it conducted a parallel count of the results, based on election returns obtained by its watchers in the precincts.

Cardinal Vidal commended and thanked yesterday the 17,111 C-Cimpel volunteers who worked hard and sacrificed during the election and contributed to its success.

At the PNP ceremony, Director General Verzosa reminded the public to consider the credibility of those raising doubts about the election results.

"First, reflect on the person that is raising that doubt. Maybe, analyze first what his motivation could be, or what his standing was after the elections. Most of those that are now bringing out some doubts are those who lost," Versoza said.

In his speech, Versoza said, he intended to personally thank stakeholders for their support of the police during the election period.


Before the May 10 polls, Versoza identified some uncertainties such as the reliability of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, power supply, the readiness and loyalty of security personnel and the frontline workers' commitment to be "morally and spiritually" ready to conduct an honest, orderly and peaceful election.

"Let us be proud of what we have done before, during and after the election," he said.

Overall, the Visayas, particularly Central and Western Visayas, were among the most peaceful regions in the country during the May 10 elections, he said.

The PNP's top official commended the Police Regional Office 7 for a job well-done and for coming up with "a little Camp Crame" in the region that duplicated all the programs in the national headquarters and put up a media center for election-related briefings.

The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) and the PNP-Defense Press Corps (Depp) are among the organizations honored in yesterday's ceremony.

Sun.Star Cebu journalists Cherry Ann T. Lim, CCPC assistant executive director, and Mia E. Abellana, Depp president, received the awards for the two organizations.

Other recipients are the Central Command, C-Cimpel, the National Telecommunications Commission, Department of Energy, Smart Communications, Dilaab Movement and the Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications.

PRO 7 Director Lani-o Nerez was awarded with a Medalya ng Katangi-Tanging Gawa (Most Outstanding Achievement Medal).

The Medalya ng Kagalingan was given to Senior Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, Chief Insp. Romeo Santander, Insp. Joselier Deveyra, SPO4 Ricaredo Ortiz, PO3 Jose Erwin Dumaguit, PO1 Arquimedes Olaciman, Senior Insp. Ricky Neron, PO3 Bernard Calzada, PO2 Alicon Quianlod, Supt. Julian Entoma, Insp. Ariel Arellano and PO1 Julius Cesar Tampus.

Senate, House open to finalize rules of canvass


Amid mounting accusations of poll fraud before a congressional inquiry, both the Senate and the House of Representatives open sessions Monday as a signal that it's all systems go for the official start of the national canvassing of votes for president and vice president Tuesday.

On Monday, they will convene sessions separately to approve their respective versions of the rules of national canvass before forming a joint session as On the other hand, the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms will continue its inquiry into allegations of election fraud that were reportedly staged on national and local level.

On the sidelines of the hearing is the controversy involving accusations that Malacañang, specifically former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, was the puppet master of the so-called "koala bear," a masked man who showed in a 30-minute videotaped interview to claim that cheating on a national level was indeed committed during the May 10 elections.

Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr., committee chairman, aired the accusation but has yet to present evidence to back up his claim.

For its part, Malacañang said Sunday that it remains hopeful that the congressional probe into alleged election fraud would be completed soon to keep the timetable of transition of power to the next leadership.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar said they are optimistic the investigation would not delay the canvassing of the votes and the proclamation of new government leaders.

"We hope these various allegations about electoral fraud would be resolved soon so the transition from one administration to another will be on time," Olivar said over government radio.

"We have high hopes the transition of power will be held on June 30 as scheduled," he added.

Speaker Propsero C. Nograles assured the public that the "accuracy or the integrity" of the national canvass will be protected and will not be sacrificed for speed.

"It's all system go for the canvassing. We assure the Filipino people and the international community that we are not going to sacrifice accuracy or the integrity of the count for speed," Nograles said.

The Batasan Pambansa Complex that houses of the Lower Chamber will serve as the venue of the joint session of Congress which will be tasked to proclaim the winners in the presidential and vice presidential derbies. Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap boasted that "preparations have been on schedule to the minute detail."

"Under our instructions from the House leadership, we in the House Secretariat have been in constant coordination with our Senate counterpart, the Commission on Elections, Smartmatic, our security personnel, including the Philippine National Police and other concerned entities to ensure the integrity of the national canvass," Yap said.

"We will ensure transparency all throughout the canvassing process. The people are entitled to be fully informed of the entire electoral processes. This is what democracy is all about," Yap stated.

Congress has a constitutional mandate to meet in joint session to transform into the National Board of Canvass that is tasked to canvass the votes and proclaim the winners of the presidential and vice presidential race.

Nograles said the legislative assembly has until June 30 to do its job but he aired confidence that an early proclamation of winners can be accomplished.

The ballot boxes containing the certificates of canvass from over 80 provinces and absentee and early vote points are expected to be delivered on Monday evening.

Meanwhile, Olivar defended the Arroyo government from allegations it was behind the alleged cheating in the May 10 automated elections, saying it has no motive to carry out such devious plan.

He said there was no compelling reason for the administration to cheat since President Arroyo will step down from office next month and its standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro is a decent man.

If the administration manipulated the poll results, Olivar said Teodoro would have won by a landslide. Teodoro, standard-bearer of Lakas-Kampi-CMD party, placed fourth in the presidential race.

The alleged whistleblower has reportedly presented himself to Sen. Jamby Madrigal to detail and present evidence that would buttress his claim that votes have been shaved from presidential and vice presidential bets and credited to certain candidates.

"I was told that the alleged koala bear has touched based with Sen. Jamby. It seems the details are now complete," revealed Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor, senior vice chairman of the suffrage panel.

But Olivar challenged the so-called whistleblower to present evidence to back up his sweeping allegations of massive cheating.

He also denied that the President's loyal Cabinet men were behind the emergence of koala bear, who claimed fraud was committed in the last automated polls.

If any of the President's Cabinet men are called to an inquiry, Olivar said he is confident they could clear their names before the proper venue.

Among the government executives reportedly implicated in the poll fraud are Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

In a related development, Defensor said he expects colleague, QC Rep. Mary Ann Susano to assert parliamentary immunity in the event criminal charges are filed against her for possession of compact flash cards used by Smartmatic-TIM during the May 10 elections.

The Commission on Elections is reportedly contemplating on filing criminal charges against Susano for mere possession of the memory card as provided under the poll automation law.

During the Friday hearing, Susano showed the memory card to support her claim that massive cheating took place on May 10 through the rigging of CF cards. She said the data fed in precinct count optical scans (PCOS) machines have been pre-programmed by poll fraud operators.

Angara sees quick canvass for poll winners

MANILA, Philippines -- The move by several presidential and vice presidential candidates to concede defeat early on after the May 10 elections would result in a much quicker canvassing by Congress of the votes for presidential and vice presidential candidates, Senator Edgardo Angara said on Sunday.

``Its not as hotly contested as in 2004,'' said Angara of the post-election scene.

Senator Benigno Aquino III has a wide lead in the presidential race based on unofficial tallies but its a close fight between Aquino's running mate Sen. Mar Roxas and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

On Monday, the Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to hold a session, a week earlier than scheduled, to approve the rules that will govern the canvassing of votes for the two top elective posts.

The approval of the rules on Monday would pave the way for the two chambers to convene in a joint session on Tuesday, to start the counting of the votes. Congressional leaders hope to proclaim a new president and vice president before Congress goes on sine die adjournment on June 4.

Interviewed over dzBB radio, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said that before Mondays session at 3 p.m., an all-senator caucus would be held to choose those who would make up the nine members of the the Senates joint canvassing committee.

Both Zubiri and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile are members of the Senate panel. Other members will be those who did not run for president or vice president in the May 10 elections.

Zubiri said senators in Monday's session would amend the legislative calendar first, which originally set May 31 as the resumption of sessions for the convening of Congress as the national board of canvassers for presidential and vice presidential elections.

Senators are also expected to discuss the rules they will propose for the conduct of the canvassing of votes, such as what to do in case some people would come out with evidence of fraud.

Zubiri said the chamber would have a quorum on Monday because more than 12 senators have signaled their attendance.

Two senators Manuel Villar Jr., and Loren Legarda are currently abroad, having sought permission to travel from Enrile. Sen. Joker Arroyo is in the United States, according to dzBB radio.

Zubiri said that while the Senate would have a quorum on Monday, he was uncertain about mustering a quorum on the joint sessions in Congress because many senators had inhibited themselves from participating.

Aside from Villar and Legarda, also inhibiting themselves from the Congressional canvassing were Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, son of ex-President Joseph Estrada who in turn was still contesting the presidential race.

Since they ran for president and lost, Senators Richard Gordon and Ana Consuelo ``Jamby'' Madrigal are not expected to attend the session. Ditto Roxas, who is still contesting the vice presidential race.

That was why Zubiri said he would appeal to the other senators to attend nevertheless so just to have a quorum in Tuesday's joint session.

On the day of the canvass, Zubiri said lawmakers would be comparing electronically transmitted and manually transmitted certificates of canvass (COCs).

``If there are no discrepancies, these would be canvassed. But if this is contested by a political party, then this would be set aside for the moment,'' he said.

Congress would approve the ``non-controversial'' votes first and would come back to those with questions later.

``But let me remind the public, that the evidence (of fraud) should be really strong there should be documents and not just someone speaking like Koala Bear,'' he said in reference to the masked whistleblower dubbed as Koala bear based on the appearance of his mask.

``Unless there is massive proof (of fraud), we would proceed with the canvassing of votes,'' Zubiri also said, adding that parties could file a protest case before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

He also said they intended to do away with deeming protests raised during the canvassing as noted, as what happened in the canvassing of the 2004 presidential and vice presidential elections.

Interviewed in dzBB radio as well in the program of Nimfa Rogado Ravelo, Angara said that contentious issues in the congressional canvassing would be ``minimized'' because many of the candidates for the two top posts had already conceded defeat.

Villar and Eddie Villanueva have conceded in the presidential race while Legarda, in the vice presidential race.

Angara said while lawyers and representatives of losing candidates could raise questions in the canvassing of votes, he did not think this would be ``hotly contested'' issues because ``their principals have already conceded.''

``If ever, this would be just for record and future guidance of Comelec,'' he said.

Angara also said tackling evidence of fraud was for the PET to handle and not Congress.

Nograles tells "Koala Bear" to reveal himself

MANILA, Philippines - House Speaker Prospero Nograles on Sunday, dared poll fraud whistle blower "Robin" who came to be known as "Koala Bear" to show his face and lend more credence to his claims.

Ferrer, Puno: No 'Hello, Garci' Part 2

Wala umanong "Hello, Garci" Part 2. Ito'y matapos itanggi ni Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer at ng kampo ni DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno ang issue na na-record ang kanilang boses sa kumakalat na CD kung saan pinag-usapan umano ang pagdaya sa katatapos na halalan. Hiningi na rin ni Ferrer ang tulong ng NBI para ma-imbestigahan ang issue.

Palace defends Ermita from "Koala Bear" controversy

Malacañang on Sunday took the cudgels for former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who is being accused as the man responsible for making public a masked witness claiming to have first hand knowledge of alleged fraud in the May 10 elections.
We are very confident that the former executive secretary can give a full and proper accounting," said deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar in an interview on QTVs Balitanghali.
The Koala Bear" videotape, which was first presented to the media in a forum Tuesday, shows a masked man claiming to have been paid by politicians to rig the election results.
Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. called the supposed whistleblower Koala Bear" because of the masked mans similarities to the marsupial.
Locsin heads the House Committee on Electoral Reforms and Suffrage currently investigating allegations of poll fraud.
The whistleblower has yet to unmask himself in public and substantiate his allegations.
Locsin said Malacañang protected the Koala Bear," while the Commission on Elections said losing candidates might be behind this mysterious character.
Over the weekend, Locsin tagged Ermita as the one responsible for the release of the whistleblowers videotape.
In a separate interview on Balitanghali Sunday, Locsin said that House Speaker Prospero Nograles gave him a copy of a DVD containing the whistleblowers videotaped message shortly before a committee hearing last week.
Locsin quoted Nograles as saying the copy allegedly came from Ermita. I saw that [the whistleblower] was dressed as a koala bear. I asked where did this come from, and the Speaker said, From Ermita," Locsin said.

'Koala Bear' handlers still in the shadows

MANILA, Philippines -- After getting public attention, the masked whistle-bloweralternately called Robin and koala bearhas become a creature nobody seems to want to have anything to do with.

Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin said on Sunday the source of the video in which the koala bear claimed the May 10 automated national elections were rigged was former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

Locsin said his information came from the staff of Speaker Prospero Nograles.

In a phone interview, Locsin clarified that he never on his own directly linked Ermita to the controversial video.

For his part, Nograles said Ermita might have just received his own copy of the video after it was first shown in a media forum on May 18 and subsequently uploaded on the Internet video sharing site YouTube.

Reached by phone on Sunday, Ermita said he did have a copy of the video but stressed that it was just given to him by Manila Times columnist Buddy Cunanan.

It was Cunanan who first presented the video to the public. He did it on May 18 during the Catholic Church-organized media forum at Cafe Ilustrado in Manila. Church officials later said they did not know such a video would be presented at the forum.

The following day, the video was played at the start of a congressional hearingpresided by Locsinon allegations of election irregularities.

The masked man had used the alias Robin. But Locsin called him a koala bear because of the way he had appeared with his hat and mask on.

Koalas are marsupials like kangaroos, which are said to be found only in Australia. They are supposed to be nocturnal animals, sleeping 18 to 20 hours each day and feeding on eucalyptus leaves.

Koalas are not very social animals, preferring to live alone. They are said to be harmless but often bite or scratch when angry.

In the video, the masked whistle-blower claimed he was involved in vote-padding and vote-shaving to benefit front-runners in the presidential and vice presidential races.

Robin or the koala bear presented no evidence to support his allegations. He hadnt up to Sunday.

In a phone interview, Ermita said Cunanan called him up on May 17 and told him about the testimony of Robin in a video which purportedly would be aired in a meeting of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Ermita said Cunanan told him that the masked man had mentioned that he (Ermita) was one of the candidates that the masked man had operated on in rigging the elections.

Ermita ran for congressman of the first district of Batangas but lost to Tomas Apacible by 22,000-plus votes.

He (Cunanan) gave me a copy of the video, Ermita told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding that the copy was still in his possession and that he never gave it to anyone.

That was why, he said, he was surprised by Locsins statement.

My only concern was that [Robin] mentioned my name and indeed, I was surprised by the results of the elections in Batangas, Ermita said.

He said a survey he had commissioned showed that he would win 70 percent of the votes against his opponents 29 percent. But the opposite happened and his opponent ended up winning 70 percent.

Ermita said the masked mans claims would be of no value if the latter did not come out in the open to testify and substantiate his allegations.

Malacaang decided to hold its peace on Sunday.

It would be better for the Palace to reserve any comment until we see what happens next, said deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar. He said the Palace had no motive to rig the elections.

We have an unnamed whistle-blower who does not show his face. We dont know his real name and a former executive secretary is being dragged here, he said on dzRB radio.

Olivar said he was confident Ermita could give a satisfactory accounting on this issue.

Locsin has no idea who the whistle-blower is. I dont know who Robin is although he does have some resemblance to Jojo Binay, he said in a mocking tone.

But not everything is lost for the koala bear.

Poll watchdog Lente convenor Carlos Medina said if it was established that technical failures occurred during the elections and machine supplier Smartmatic could not provide a reasonable justification for them, then the whistle-blowers claims might be worth looking into.

Medina acknowledged that the whistle-blower could be telling the truth about votes being shaved from losing presidential candidates if there were no security safeguards in the system and the [precinct count optical scan] machines.

Lente: Smartmatic should be liable for technical failures

MANILA, Philippines -- The Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) is currently reviewing Smartmatic-TIM Inc.s contractual performance to determine whether it is accountable for any breach in the security of its systems during the elections.

Lente co-convenor Carlos Medina said any unjustifiable failure by Smartmatic to protect its systems that made cheating possible could be a basis for a lawsuit against the foreign company.

However, the poll watchdog cannot secure copies of more than eight annexes to the contract between the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic where provisions on systems security may be detailed.

Smartmatic provided the electronic hardware that allowed the Comelec to conduct a historic swift count of the election results last May 10.

We want to know which provisions (of the contract between Comelec and Smartmatic) were observed, which ones were fulfilled only partially and which ones not accomplished at all.

"We do this to determine where breaches were committed, what are the reasons behind the breaches and if these reasons are justifiable, Medina said in a telephone interview.

The Lente co-convenor said the groups executive council has assembled a panel of lawyers to evaluate Smartmatic's performance to see if it has met the minimum requirements set by its contract with the Philippine government.

As it is, Smartmatic has come under fire in the House of Representatives some of whose members claim the foreign firm failed expectations to avert cheating in the last election.

But even as Lentes investigation has been underway, Medina said its lawyers learned that there are several annexes to the contract (that) we are still trying to secure. So far we have learned there are more than eight annexes. If we examine the contract without these annexes, the picture is not complete.

We are interested in getting the annexes based on the right to information. The contract between Comelec and Smartmatic was paid with peoples money and involves billions of pesos. So we should know what are the contents of this contract and whether they were followed, he stressed.

Medina said Smartmatic should be held accountable for any technical failures that Smartmatic could not justify.

Medina urged the public not to immediately dismiss a masked witness tagged "Koala Boy," saying he could be telling the truth that votes were shaved from losing presidential candidates if there were no security safeguards in the system and the (precinct count optical scan) machines.

If there was a breach, that means there was a violation in the safety guarantee (accompanying) the system, and Smartmatic (being) the provider would be accountable. Specifically, the contracts terms would indicate what Smartmatic should have done to maintain a secure system, Medina explained.

Lente, as an accredited citizens arm, must inform Comelec if there were violations and help Comelec evaluate the contract signed with Smartmatic, he added.

Will it be United States Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

Depending on whom President Barack Obama decides to send to the inauguration of the country's new president next month will be an indication of where he wants to take RP-US relations, The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think-tank, said Sunday.

This question was raised, following last Friday's meeting between US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. and president-apparent Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" C. Aquino III.

Walter Lohman, director of The Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center and recognized expert on Asian affairs, said that the US and Philippines have a "special relationship" that demands a special approach and, perhaps, even more with Aquino.

"Americans love Cory," Lohman said, referring to the late former President Aquino, an icon of democracy and mother of the senator.

Lohan stressed that many in the US remember the late former president as the lady who restored freedom and democracy in the Philippines, inspiring other "People Power" movements around the world.

He said he believes there is plenty of residual goodwill from the American public for Mrs. Aquino's only son and political heir.

In floating the names of Clinton and Biden as "ideal" representatives of Obama when Aquino assumes power, Lohan pointed out that sending top-level US officials to Philippine inaugurations is nothing new.

Lohman also expressed the belief that it would be a natural course for Obama to extend an invitation for Aquino to visit the White House in Washinton D.C. as early as possible.

"There are new opportunities in RP-US relations that should be explored and pursued," Lohman said as he hinted at the need for Aquino and Obama – who both campaigned on a message of change  and share the same generation – to establish a personal relationship.

The Heritage Foundation promotes policies anchored on free enterprise, individual freedom, strong national defense and traditional American values to Congress, the White House, and key decision-makers.

The Asia Studies Center is Heritage's oldest research center and tasked to analyze the full range of policy in East and South Asia, including the Philippines, and develop recommendations to further American interests in free enterprise, individual freedom, strong national defense, and traditional values.

Looking back, when President Ferdinand Marcos assumed power in 1969, US Vice President Spiro Agnew led the US delegation at his inauguration.

On the other hand, US Agency for International Development (USAID) director Elaine Chao led the American delegation to the inauguration of President Fidel Ramos in 1992.

President George W. Bush, meanwhile, dispatched Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi to lead the US delegation at President Gloria Arroyo's inauguration in 2004.

Be your own man, Noynoy urged

MANILA, Philippines - Militant group Bayan has challenged presidential frontrunner Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to have independence in creating his foreign policy for the country.

This after Bayan claimed that the early meeting between Aquino and US Ambassador Harry Thomas has raised questions on the type of foreign policy direction the next administration will take.

"The US wants to ensure that there will be a peaceful transfer of power and that its economic, political and military interests in the country will be preserved under the next administration. For the US government, Aquino is the man. The US now wants to make sure Aquino is their man," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Reyes said Aquino will have to prove to the people that he is capable of charting an independent foreign policy for the country after decades of controversial one-sided relations with the US.

He cited the prolonged presence of US troops under the Visiting Forces Agreement and the rape of a Filipina by a US serviceman which happened during the Arroyo administation.

"Mr. Aquino should be reminded of a unanimous Senate resolution calling for a review if not abrogation of the [VFA] that was during his term. He was part of that resolution and so we expect him to carry forward the sense of that resolution. The review of the VFA has been sought by many lawmakers, legal experts and cause-oriented groups," Reyes said.

DOJ: on with murder raps vs Senator Lacson

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sunday said it will continue pursuing the two counts of murder charges it previously filed against fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson, quelling talks of a political concession with president elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III whom Lacson reportedly supported in the May 10 elections.

Government admits losing track of fugitive Senator Lacson

Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra admitted to reporters Friday that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had lost track of fugitive Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, four months after he fled the country to evade arrest on double murder charges.

MILF on peace process: Aquino should make the first move

Moro rebels who are talking peace with the government are wary of the incoming administration, noting that leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Noynoy" Aquino III is surrounded by spoilers of the peace process."
Mohagher Iqbal, chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said they are leaving it to Aquino to initiate moves to continue the peace process that failed to gain a significant headway during the nine-year Arroyo administration.
It depends on them. If they want to talk, lets talk. But if they adopt a war policy, we will defend ourselves," Iqbal said in a phone interview Sunday.
Iqbal, however, said there is reservation on their part since Aquino is associated with Sen. Manuel Roxas II and North Cotabato vice-governor Emmanuel Piñol, who both opposed the signing of a government-MILF territorial agreement in 2008 that could have paved the way for a final peace accord.
The botched deal the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain or MOA-AD was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The non-signing led to hostilities in Central Mindanao that rocked the fragile truce between government soldiers and MILF fighters.
Iqbal said the Aquino government should be the one who should signify if they are still willing to pursue the peace process with the MILF because they are the administration, they are the ones in government."
We are a revolutionary group. Normally, our way is war," said Iqbal. He, however, said that at present, the better option for us to take is the negotiation track."
Iqbal said it is difficult to speculate" on the fate of the peace process during the Aquino administration, noting that the outgoing administration declared in 2001 that it was adopting an all-out peace policy only to be marred by military offensives in 2008.
They (Arroyo government) pronounced a policy of peace process, replacing the all-out war (of President Estrada) with an out-out peace policy but as time went by, its not purely peace policy but there was also an all-out war," he said. 

Save RP's child soldiers – UN


The United Nations (UN) stressed the need for the government to protect children in strife-torn areas as it cited the Philippines as one of two countries in Southeast Asia where children are being used in armed conflict and violence.

The annual report of the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict showed that three of the 16 different armies and insurgent groups reportedly using children in armed conflicts in the last five years are from the Philippines: The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the New People's Army (NPA), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"We still live in a world with those who would use children as spies, soldiers, and human shields," Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said.

"The shifting nature of conflict has put many children on the front lines. Too often children become collateral damage during military operations. Every year the release of this report should give us pause. Let us remember that we must protect the most innocent and most vulnerable," she said.

Malacañang Sunday sought the help of concerned foreign governments and watchdogs to put pressure on armed rebel groups to stop using child soldiers in their armed struggle.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar said they hope these foreign observers could convince rebel organizations to incorporate the issue of child soldiers in the peace negotiations with the government.

Olivar said the Arroyo administration has a policy against child soldiers and has repeatedly appealed to rebel groups to stop tapping children in the frontlines.

"We hope the international observers and other countries helping in the peace process would push for the inclusion of ending this practice by some rebel groups we are engaged in the peace process," he said.

"This is wrong and this is against international laws," Olivar said, referring to the rebels' practice of tapping children in armed conflict.

The UN report tagged the ASG, NPA and MILF as "persistent violators," along with Myanmar's national army, known as Tatmadaw Kyi, and the rebel Karenni Army and Karen National Liberation Army in Asia.

Others include rebel and armed groups in Colombia, Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Afghanistan, Central Africa and Somalia.

The report, however, cited the progress made by some groups, including the MILF, which have recently signed an action plan in a bid to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Aside from the MILF, the report cited the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist for signing such plans.

"The report lists several recommendations to the Security Council for consideration, including more vigorous measures against those groups and individuals who persistently commit grave violations against children. The Council will discuss the report at an open debate next month," the report stated.

It will be recalled that the MILF and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) forged an agreement in 2009 that the MILF will pull out minors serving in their camps. This development was lauded by the UN.

The MILF had resumed peace talks with the Philippine government on Dec. 8, 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In August 2009, the UN Security Council (UNSC) had recommended to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to expand the criteria of violations against children during conflict to include those who kill, maim, rape or commit other forms of sexual violence against children aside from child recruitment during wartime.

AFP: NPA's strength down to 350 fighters in 7 areas

Despite falling short in its mission to crush the communist insurgency by June, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed on Sunday it had reduced the strength of the New People's Army (NPA) in seven areas to at least 350 fighters.

3 soldiers killed in NPA ambush in Davao City

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- Three government troopers were killed in an ambush by suspected members of the New People's Army in a residential area in Barakatan, Toril District here, on Saturday.

Captain Emmanuel Garcia, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division of the Eastern Mindanao command said the soldiers belonging to the 59th Infantry Battalion were on their way to buy some food supplies at a nearby store when around 30 rebels started to fire at them.

The attack, which happened at past 12 noon, occurred near residential areas in Barakatan. The three soldiers, whose names were withheld pending notice to their families, were proclaimed dead on arrival at the hospital.

Asked what could be the motive behind the attack, Garcia said it might well be that rebels were disgruntled that their candidates lost in the recent election.

So they kept on attacking our government troops and also civilians, Garcia told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

Meanwhile, the Army was able to retrieve some 29 improvised explosive devices (IED) that were planted by the rebels along roadsides in different occasions and areas in Davao region. The latest was on Saturday, following the discovery of three IEDs in an outskirt village of New Leyte in Maco, Compostela Valley province.

On May 11, a day after the election, at least five people, including a poll watcher, two soldiers and two militiamen, who were part of the team securing election returns were killed in an ambush by suspected rebels.

The Communist Party of the Philippines with its armed wing the New People's Army has been fighting the government for the past four decades in a bid to install a Maoist form of government.

Suspected NPA men raid sugar plantation, seize guns

Suspected New People's Army rebels raided another sugar plantation in Negros Occidental on Saturday and disarmed private security guards of three firearms.

3 dead, 7 hurt in firecracker explosion

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines (UPDATE) Three persons died and at least seven others were injured when a house believed to be used in manufacturing firecrackers exploded and burned down late Sunday afternoon.

FO1 Rollin Hormina, an investigator from the Bureau of Fire Protection in Iloilo City, identified the fatalities as siblings Rodeza Gallena, 19; Ruther Gallena, 16; and their grandmother Josefina Gallena, 84.

The three were burned inside their house in Barangay Mohon in Arevalo District in this city after a strong explosion at around 5:10 p.m., said Hormina.

At least seven others were brought to various hospitals in the city to be treated for burn injuries.

Hormina said the fire, which started at the house of Rodrigo Gallena, also burned down the adjoining house of his brother Robin. Rodrigo and his wife Hermeza were among the injured.

Firecracker manufacturing is a major industry in Arevalo District and fires previously occurred in the area especially in small and unregulated firecracker businesses.

The explosion was heard a kilometer away from the house. It damaged glass windows and walls of neighboring houses.

Property losses in the fire were initially estimated at P300, 000, according to Hormina.

The cause of the explosion and the fire was still being investigated but Hormina said it was likely caused by firecracker materials inside the house.

Journalists mark sixth month of Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines - The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) on Sunday marked the sixth month of the Maguindanao massacare, in which 32 out of the 57 victims, were journalists.

The world awaits RP freedom of info act

Today starts a series of mass actions by journalists, workers, students, professionals, business and church leaders, and civil-society groups in their vigorous final push for Congress to ratify the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

Arroyo likely to skip Vietnam forum next month

Outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is likely to skip the World Economic Forum-East Asia in Vietnam early next month, a Malacañang official said on Sunday.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has informed him that President Arroyo has no scheduled visit to Ho Chi Minh City where the forum would be held on June 6-7.

At this point wala pang planong pumunta sa Vietnam ang Pangulo, ayon na sa DFA (According to the DFA the President has no plans of going to Vietnam as this point)," Olivar said.

The Vietnamese government invited President Arroyo last May 12 to visit Ho Chi Minh City next month for the 19th World Economic Forum on East Asia.

Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Vu Tu, also the deputy director of the HCM City Department of Foreign Affairs, delivered the invitation to President Arroyo through Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

President Arroyo, however, is likely to go on an official visit to China on June 8-9 to attend the Philippine National Day celebration at Shanghai World Expo, which coincides with Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day.

She is expected to visit the Philippine Pavilion leased in the Expo Site there.

President Arroyo will step down from office on June 30 and will immediately assume her new position as congresswoman representing the second district of Pampanga province at the House of Representatives.

The Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, started last May 1 and is ongoing until October 31. The Chinese government expects the display of cultures all over the world to draw 70 million visitors.

The Department of Tourism is promoting the Philippines as a country of natural sceneries and rich historical culture. Products, services, and cultural performances from the Philippines are showcased in the pavilion.

Group seeks probe of OFW beating in Saudi death row

MANILA, Philippines -- A migrant workers group in the Middle East called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila and the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to investigate reports that an overseas Filipino worker who had been sentenced to death was beaten up in jail in the capital city of Riyadh.

Migrante-Middle East (ME) said the family of Joselito Zapanta had sought help from their Manila office after learning that Zapanta had experienced heavy beating at the Malaz central jail.

Zapantas family requested for his protection. They said he could hardly eat because of the heavy blows he sustained, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator based in Riyadh, said in a statement.

Monterona said the family had no information on who had beaten Zapanta.

It could have been a fellow prisoner, he said, adding that their group had yet to independently verify the report.

He (Zapanta) used to call me from his cell. I have been calling his mobile phone since yesterday (Saturday), but there was no answer. In one instance, someone answered. When I asked to speak with Joselito, the line was cut, Monterona said.

Monterona said that on behalf of Zapantas family, he spoke to an embassy official about the possibility of hiring a Shariah (Islamic law) defense lawyer since Zapantas case had been elevated to the Saudi appellate court for automatic review.

Monterona said the embassy should have hired a Shariah defense lawyer for Zapanta when his case was still in the lower court.

Zapanta, 30, of Mexico, Pampanga, was meted out the death penalty by the Saudi Court of First Instance on April 13 for stealing from and killing his Sudanese landlord.

He was brutally beaten by his Sudanese landlord when he refused to pay his rent as his payment was not yet due. He fought back and accidentally killed the Sudanese [in] June 2009, Monterona in an statement earlier.

Zapanta worked in Riyadh as a tile setter since October 2008, and has been in jail since June 2009.

SC nullifies law making Dinagat Island a province

The Supreme Court affirmed its decision nullifying a law that created the province of Dinagat Island in Mindanao and voiding the election of provincial officials during the 2007 polls.

Piston scores Teves for E-VAT hike proposal

MANILA, Philippines - Militant transport group Piston slammed Finance Secretary Gary Teves for proposing to presidential frontrunner Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to increase the expanded value-added tax of 12 percent to 15 percent to arrest the ballooning budget deficit of the country.

Piston secretary general George San Mateo said it is a blatant intervention by International Monetary Fund on the economic policies of the country.

"Hindi na kakayanin ng mga tsuper at mamamayan ang anumang pagtaas sa E-VAT na magbubunga ng lalong pagtaas sa petrolyo, mga bilihin at serbisyo. Kaya binabalaan namin si Noynoy na 'wag pakinggan ang panukala ng IMF at ni Teves," San Mateo said.

He also reminded Aquino that he had promised during the campaign not to impose new tax hikes if he would be elected President.

"Hinahamon namin siya na maglabas ng public statement na tinatanggihan n'ya ang anumang pagtaas sa E-VAT," San Mateo said, adding that the transport group would launch a massive protest action if he would agree on Teves's proposal.

Thai PM says Bangkok 'calm', curfew continues

by Agence France-Presse
BANGKOK – Thailand's premier said Sunday the capital was calm and returning to normal after a massive clean-up, and defended a crackdown on protest rallies that unleashed a rampage of arson and looting.

Thai crisis affects Filipino community in Bangkok

by by Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News
BANGKOK, Thailand – The Red Shirts are gone but the mark they left on the streets of Bangkok serves as a grim reminder of the violence that gripped the nation for 2 months.

Indonesian volcano spews ash and lava

LOMBOKAn active volcano has erupted in Indonesia, spewing ash and lava at least 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) into the sky, damaging crops but not threatening villagers, an official said Sunday.

Mount Baru Jari on Lombok island, near Bali, has been active for several months but Saturday's eruption was "big," the island's volcano monitoring official Mutaharlin told AFP.

"From Saturday evening to early Sunday, the volcano erupted three times and was accompanied by tremors. The first eruption spewed ash and lava 1,500 to 2,000 meters high," he added.

Lava flowed into a lake, pushing its temperature to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), up from 21 degrees Celsius, Mutaharlin said.

"The smoke had spread as far as 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) and dozens of acres of crop land were covered in ash," he said.

"But the eruptions haven't reached dangerous levels yet, so we're not evacuating villagers," he added.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.

19 killed as landslide derails train in eastern China

At least 19 people were killed and another 71 injured Sunday when a train derailed in a mountainous area of east China after a landslide damaged the tracks, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Clinton to push China for 'balanced' relationship (AP)

BEIJING – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that she would be pushing the Chinese for a "more balanced economic relationship" with the U.S. in upcoming economic and strategic talks in Beijing.

Those talks, to be co-chaired by Clinton and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, are likely to be dominated by efforts to win China's support to punish North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship. But the U.S. officials will be focused on economic issues as well.

"For trade to work in any economy and for it to produce the benefits we know it can, there must be a level playing field where domestic and international companies can compete freely and openly," she told workers at a Boeing maintenance facility at Shanghai's Pudong Airport.

Clinton said she, Geithner and the U.S. delegation would press the Chinese for greater regulatory transparency, nondiscrimination, fair access to markets and strong enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Geithner and Clinton are leading a delegation of nearly 200 officials to Beijing as part of an effort to helpPresident Barack Obama deliver on his pledge to double U.S. exports within five years and create 2 million jobs.

One issue likely to come up is the trade advantage Beijing has because of an undervalued Chinese currency.

As the European financial crisis deepens, Beijing appears to be pulling back from expected moves to loosen its currency's peg to the U.S. dollar, saying the euro's slide to four-year lows against the dollar is putting too heavy a burden on its own exporters.

China has kept the yuan at a rate of about 6.83 per dollar for nearly two years, seeking to cushion its exporters from the global financial crisis. Some economists reckon the yuan is undervalued by up to 40 percent against the dollar, giving Chinese exporters an unfair advantage in overseas markets.

While trying to make progress on economic issues, Clinton will also be trying to win Beijing's support for punishing its ally North Korea.

She faces a hard sell convincing China's leaders that they should back U.N. penalties after an international investigation blamed North Korea for sinking a South Korean navy ship.

Her trip has been a hectic and intense three-nation journey to Asia. She stopped briefly in Japan on Friday, and her schedule put her in Beijing on Sunday and the South Korean capital of Seoul on Wednesday.

"Virtually every major challenge that we face in the world requires China and the United States to work together," she told staff at the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai.

But the downed ship is crowding out all else on her agenda, even the high-level strategic and economic talks between the U.S. and China on Monday and Tuesday that were the main thrust of her trip.

The release Thursday of the report blaming the North changed all that. Now, her chief task is persuading China to go along with U.N. Security Council action against the communist nation.

An international team of civilian and military investigators said that a North Korean submarine fired a homing torpedo on March 26, ripping South Korea's 1,200-ton Cheonan in two. Fifty-eight sailors were rescued, but 46 died — South Korea's worst military disaster since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The U.N. Command began an investigation Saturday into whether the attack violated the Korean War truce agreement.

North Korea threatened Sunday to "crush" South Korea, calling its Cheonan report an "enormous fabrication" only designed to justify its attempt to invade the North in collaboration with the U.S.

"What kind of mercy is needed for this kind of warmongers?" the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea has routinely accused Washington and Seoul of plotting to invade the nation, despite the repeated denials by the allies.

China is North Korea's primary ally and financial supporter. Beijing has been neutral on the conclusions of the report.

In Tokyo on Friday, Clinton said the evidence was "overwhelming" that North Korea was behind the sinking and that the reclusive communist country must face international consequences.

Chinese officials have appealed for calm and called the sinking "unfortunate." But they have stopped short of backing South Korea, instead reiterating long-standing views on the need to maintain peace on the peninsula. China is a veto-holding permanent member of the Security Council, so its backing for any action is critical.

Pacquiao taken to hospital for stomach ailment

MANILA, PhilippinesWorld boxing champion Manny Pacquiao was taken to a hospital on Sunday for a stomach ailment, but his lawyer said it was not serious and that he would likely be out the next day.

Pacquiao, who was recently elected as a legislator, was taken to a suburban hospital in Manila after feeling pains in his stomach, said lawyer Jesus Gacal.

"It was just his usual acid reflux. The doctor told me there is nothing to worry about," Gacal told AFP.

"There was even no need for him to be confined but he wanted to take a rest after the (election) campaign," the lawyer added.

He said Pacquiao had suffered from this stomach problem before.

The 31-year-old fighter, who was elected on May 10 to represent the impoverished southern province of Sarangani, has been preparing to take up his post in the House of Representatives.

Boxing promoters are also working to arrange a bout between Pacquiao and American Floyd Mayweather Jr. in November, to settle once and for all the fighters' claim to be the best fighter, pound-for-pound, of his generation.

Pacquiao has said he can handle the simultaneous burdens of being a legislator and training for a major fight, remarking that this required only proper "time management."

Boxing victories as well as his commercial endorsements last year made Pacquiao the world's sixth-highest paid athlete, with earnings of $40 million, according to Forbes magazine.

For the second time in almost three weeks, Lee Van Corteza conquered two big cities in the United States to lay claim on major pool titles.
The highest-rated Filipino player outlasted Chinese ace Lo Hi Wen in a grueling 25-rack encounter, 13-12, to pocket the $20,000 top prize and add the US Open 10-Ball Championship to his growing list of winning collections.
More than two weeks ago, Corteza also ruled a major 10-Ball tournament in Los Angeles, the Hard Times Mezz Cues 10-Ball Open.
Corteza, ranked No.5 in the World Pool-Billiard Association rankings, is one of three Filipinos to win a pool championship overseas the past three weeks.
Last week, Dennis Orcullo bagged the World Pool Masters crown then Francisco Django" Bustamante stamped his class in the Super Billiards League in Winnipeg, Canada.
Playing in his favorite discipline, Corteza racked up six straight wins in the winners bracket. He scuttled Tony Robles of Mexico (9-6), whipped Chris Bartram of US (9-5), nipped Francis Crevier of US (9-8), ran roughshod over Kuo Po-cheng of Chinese-Taipei (9-2) and edged Mike Dechaine of US (9-8), and Manny Chau of Peru (9-8), respectively.
With the bruising pace taking its toll on the World Ten Ball runner-up, Corteza lost to Lo, 6-9, in the hot seat match, relegating the best player from the Negros Billiards stable in a do or die encounter with former US Open champion Shane Van Boening, who earlier defeated Bustamante, 9-6.
There, Corteza found himself on the brink of defeat again.
After 5-5 standoff, Van Boening racked up three straight sets and pushed Corteza on the jaws of defeat.
But the Filipino player who finished second to world No.1 player Mika Immonen in the World Ten Ball Championship last year, rallied and won the next four to pull off a come-from-behind victory.
So the stage was set for a rematch between Lo and Corteza. This time, though, Corteza got the better end of the match after gaining the much-needed confidence form his previous hill-hill encounter with Van Boening.

Celtics smother Magic to grab 3-0 series lead

by Reuters
BOSTON - The Boston Celtics tightened their grip on the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday with a commanding 94-71 win over the Orlando Magic.

'Willie, ABS-CBN may talk legal issues in Monday's meeting'

MANILA, Philippines – The lawyer-friend of controversial television host Willie Revillame on Sunday said legal repercussions might probably be discussed in Monday's meeting between the "Wowowee" host and ABS-CBN bosses.

Kris won't be my First Lady – Noynoy


Presidential frontrunner Senator Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III supports the decision of his sometimes-controversial sister, Kris Aquino, to give up part of her showbiz career for the sake of the apparent incoming "First Family" but clarified that she will not take the role of "First Lady."

"Her decision's okay," said Sen. Aquino when asked about Kris' soft departure from show business during an interview after the Holy Mass of thanksgiving joined by his campaign volunteers in Quezon City last Thursday night.

But the apparent successor to Malacañang was quick to clarify that his sister's decision to move away from show business is not a confirmation of her taking the role of First Lady.

"She's (Kris is) not going to be the First Lady. I have a contract with my sisters that once I'm proclaimed, they will return to their respective private lives," the 50-year-old bachelor said.

Earlier, Kris said she has come to the decision of giving up hosting "The Buzz" and "Showbiz News Ngayon" after deliberating on it with her sisters, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, and Viel Aquino-Dee.

Kris said she will minimize her television appearance "for Noynoy's sake," but will keep her stints in her daily primetime soap opera and a talent search program.

As a brother, the senator said he supports Kris' decision because it would give her more time to attend to her sons, Joshua and Baby James.

"That will give her more time for her children. While Baby James is already attending school, Joshua is growing taller and bigger. It's hard whenever he invites me to go out, he literally drags me like the other day at The Podium," Sen. Aquino said.

"Kris might be giving up hosting talk shows, but I think she also wants to embark in different areas in her career path. Let's just wait and see how her career will go on," Noynoy added.
When asked if he intends to have a First Lady, Noynoy was hawkish. "I recognize that being married can inspire me, but I am at the same time cognizant of possibly making the wrong choice. Getting married then will only be a heavy burden," he said.

Shalani: Noynoy told me he survived 1987 ambush because of me

During the August 1987 coup against then President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, her then 27-year-old son Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III narrowly escaped death when he was wounded in an ambush staged by rebel soldiers near Malacañang"s gates.

Shalani Soledad, Kris Aquino face off

MANILA, Philippines - Valenzuela 2nd District Councilor Shalani Soledad has opened up about her more than a year relationship with winning presidential candidate Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Soledad, 30, was interviewed exclusively by Noynoy's youngest sister, Kris. During the interview, she shared details about their first meeting as well as her thoughts on her 50-year-old boyfriend's remarks that marriage is not his priority right now.

The interview was aired on "The Buzz" Sunday.

Below is Kris's full interview with Soledad.

Kris (K): Umpisahan natin from the very, very beginning. April 27, 1980, 'yon ang birthday mo. Ano ang type of family 'yong nakagisnan mo?

Shalani (S): Close ako sa mga relatives ko. Uncle ko, tita ko, cousins ko and lalo na sa brother ko.

K: How many years older sa'yo ang brother mo?
S: Three years. I'm the youngest. Dalawa lang kami.

K: Nabanggit mo lahat ng mga relatives, hindi mo na-mention ang mommy mo.
S: Because was my mom was working abroad for almost 20 years. Tapos once a year lang siya umuuwi like 2 months.

K: Saan siya nagwo-work?
S: 'Yong last ni mommy was in Kuwait.

K: Middle East.
S: Yes.

K: Naka-ilang years siya doon?
S: Sa Middle East, almost 20 years.

K: So, sino ang nag-alaga talaga sa iyo?
S: Lolo and lola ko sa mother side ko.

K: You can choose to answer this or not pero saan 'yong father along the way?
S: Hiwalay kasi sila ng mommy ko. Since I was small, hiwalay na sila.

K: Did you know him at least or did you have a relationship?
S: There was really no relationship but yes, I know him. Kasi magkaaway sila ng mommy ko.

K: Were you a good student?
S: Average. I was not on the top.

K: Anong hilig mo? Like high school, doon ka magjo-join ng kung anu-anong mga club, groups?
S: My club was religious club. (Laughs). Kami 'yong taga-dasal, actually. Praying plus teaching the younger class ng mga Bible stories. And drama club, actually.

K: Punta na tayo sa college.
S: College, I took up human resource management at CSE. I still have my PE class, actually.

K: Bakit hindi mo ginawa ang PE?
S: Because I ran for councilor already so naiwan. Hindi ko na nabalikan.

Public service

K: Saan nanggaling ang hilig sa pulitika?
S: I guess, it's my love for people. Kasi 'yong mom ko lahat sila into government service pero walang elective post. Ako 'yong first sa family namin to have an elective post.

K: Why did you feel na ito 'yong tamang landas na tahakin mo?
S: Dito ko naramdaman 'yong sinasabi nilang fulfillment. Meron pala 'yon. Dati akala ko showbiz at cliche pag sinasabi na may sense of fulfillment... Kasi in spite of hirap, 'yong pagod, kapag nakikita mong nakakatulong ka and people appreciate that; pag nag-tha-thank you sa'yo, ang sarap sarap ng feeling.

K: You did work for Senator Lacson?
S: During 2002-2003.

K: Was he a senator then? Pero hindi pa kayo nagtagpo ng landas ni Noy kasi 2007 siya na-elect na senator?
S: Yes.

Love story

K: Ito na ang gustong marinig ng lahat, paano ba kayo nag-meet?
S: 'Yong first was during 2005. I was then with UNTelevision. I was covering 2005 SONA. Reporter. We did that interview with Noy. My question was it was not something about the SONA, it was something about you. So, ang sabi ni Noy, 'My sister is old enough to answer those questions.'

K: Pero kailan kayo nagkakilala ulit?
S: 2008. Alfredo's. Kasama ko ang vice mayor ko and then at the same time nandoon din sina Noy and then afterwards nagpa-picture kami kay Noy.

K: And then?
S: Sabi ni Noy, 'I am the chair of the local government committee. Baka mayroon kayong amendments na you would want to introduce. Let me know.'

K: Binigay niya 'yong number niya sa'yo?
S: Hindi, kinuha nila ang numbers namin. Across Alfredo's, merong coffee house so nauna sina Noy. So after a few minutes, nag-ring 'yong phone ng vice mayor namin, ini-invite daw kami ni Noy mag-coffee. (Laughs)

K: I'm sure hindi naman si vice mayor ang gusto niyang maka-kape. Tapos?
S: That time, nag-cross kami. When we got there, nandoon 'yong staff niya.

K: And you realize now that Noy doesn't even drink coffee?
S: Yes.

K: Tumabi ka naman sa kanya?
S: No, we were seated across and then kinukwento niya na 20 years ago na mayroong coup tapos 3 of his PSGs were gunned down. Sabi niya it's a miracle na nabuhay daw siya. So, sabi ko naman sa kanya na, "Senator, baka hindi mo pa talaga time.' Ang sabi niya, 'Oo nga, dahil 20 years after makikilala pala kita.'

K: Kadiri ha, Noy. Gross. (Laughs). Hindi ko kaya! I thought I was the baduy one in the family. Kinabog ako ni Noy sa linyang 'yon. Do you remember what day it was? 'Yong exact date?
S: Yes. July 28.

K: Ano 'yong first date ninyo? Alam ko nanood kayo ng movie ni KC (Concepcion) at ni Richard Gutierrez? For the First Time?
S: Yes. 
K: Movie ko na nga sapilitan pang manood 'yon. So, sinamahan ka niyang manood?
S: Oo. Pero first and last na daw 'yon.

K: May anniversary ba kayo?
S: Yes. Sept. 5, [2008].

K: What were the signs na ito na, this is it?
S: Kinikilig ako. With Noy, from previous relationships, parang na-realize mo na kung ano ang gusto mo. And you would want someone na honest sa'yo, 'yong totoo, 'yong hindi ka binobola lang.

K: One year, 8 months na kayo. Matagal na 'yon ha for Noy. (Laughs).

Meeting the family

K: Anong na-feel mo noong una mo kaming nakilala?
S: Si Noy afterwards, tinatanong niya ako, 'So, how was it?' Ang tinatanong niya more on sa mommy ninyo. So, sabi ko, 'Noy, actually na-starstruck ako hindi sa mommy mo, kay Kris.' So, tawa lang siya ng tawa.

K: Kailan bago mo siya pinakilala sa mommy mo?
S: Si Noy kasi nanliligaw pumupunta siya sa bahay.

K: Hindi ba nag-alangan ang mommy mo na halos ka-edad niya si Noy?
S: Ang apprehension ng mommy ko was... sinasabi niya sa akin 'to na, 'Anak, senator yan nakakasama ninyo.' Kasi baka we seemed to forget daw na dahil nakakasama namin si Noy, almost every night kasama naming mag-dinner out. Sabi ng mom ko, 'Anak, hindi tayo mayaman. Baka hanapan ka or singilin ka.' Baka daw api-apihin ako. Sabi ng mommy ko.

K: Me?
S: No naman. Sabi ng mom ko, 'You know, Noy being an Aquino. Very prominent ang family.'

K: I hate to bring this up because it means I know too much but noong time na medyo my mom was nearly dying na, I think you went through a rocky point of your relationship. Tama ba ako? Nahirapan ka bang ilagay ang sarili mo kung saan ka dapat ilalagay?
S: In a way. Because siyempre alam ko na masakit kay Noy. At the same time, I wanted to be there for him pero...

K: Paano mo titimbangin kung saan ka lu-lugar?

K: Para at least finally na-tackle at alam na ng buong mundo. Di ba kaya ako nagalit sa'yo kasi dinedma mo si Noy? The way I heard the story parang 8 hours siyang nagtext at nag-miss call tapos parang ang tagal bago ka naka-reply.
S: No. Walang 8 hours. Matagal na siguro 1 hour and a half pero wala namang 8 hours.

K: Pero do you also realize na he's also the type na minsan ite-text mo and then 14 hours or 24 hours ang sagot?
S: Si Noy? 
K: Oo, sa akin. Sa'yo, hindi naman?
S: Nagre-reply.
K: Iba ang girlfriend, iba ang sister.

Deep commitment

K: Doon na tayo sa nag-iba na. Yong tumakbo sa presidency that's why sinabi ko 'yon sa The Buzz. Sinabi ko na appreciative kami kasi marami kang napuntahan na mismo kami hindi na namin napuntahan at nagawa sa kanya. Kung tatanungin kita, why did you do it?
S: I believe in him, No. 1. And second I wanted to be of help also to Noy.

K: Pero, thoughtful naman siya as far as being a boyfriend is concerned?
S: Thoughtful si Noy in a sense na sa birthdays, special occassions at kung ano ang nagiging need mo, ina-anticipate na niya.

K: Anong stage na kayo sa relationship ninyo?
S: It's a deep commitment pero at this point kasi parang napakalaki noong task na haharapin ni Noy. So, ang focus talaga should be on the task ahead of him kasi ang hirap.

K: Tatanunging kita, 30 ka ngayon. Are you ready to wait 6 years?
S: I hope.

K: Kasi ilang times na inulit na ni Noy na within his term na parang hindi niya nakikita na he would be settling down. Na-hurt ka ba noong narinig mo 'yon?
S: In a way. Siyempre ako I'm looking forward kasi when you're in a relationship you're looking forward long term. Since mahal mo you would support what he wants and what he needs.

K: Hindi mo naisip 'yon na baka sa kakahintay mo, hindi kayo magka-baby, hindi kayo magka-family nang sa inyo?
S: Ako kasi I just pray. Kasi when you are in a relationship you just hope na it would be better. Siyempre, long term, di ba? Let's see. Kasi hangga't mahal mo ang tao, maghihintay ka.


K: May nag-tweet sa amin sa SNN so kailangan kong tanungin ito. Totoo bang nag-cool off si Shalani at si president Noy
S: No.

K: Pag nagtatampuhan, may moments na walang pansinan?
S: Meron.

K: Ilang days 'yon?
S: Pinakamatagal, 3-4 days.

K: Sinong nagma-make ng move, siya o ikaw? O take turns?

S: Take turns.

K: The last tampuhan, who made the first move?
S: Ako, kasi kasalanan ko.

K: Mabilis mong makuha ang lambing? Pagmagso-sorry, hindi naman pakipot?
S: Si Noy kasi may mood siya na very sweet, may mood din siya na medyo mataray. Like one time, this was during the campaign, I called him up then he answered sabi niya, 'Why?' Sabi ko, 'Wala naman Noy, nami-miss lang kita.' Sabi ni Noy, 'You called me just to tell me that? I'm in a middle of conversation here.' Yan, ganyan siya. (Laughs)

K: Hurt-hurt-an ka doon.
S: Opo.

For the First Time

K: May love song ba kayo?
S: For the First Time.

K: Anong pwede mong sabihin kay Noy na pwede mong i-share sa buong Pilipinas?
S: Congratulations, of course. And whatever happens siguro, it's a very hard time siguro right now because ang daming magiging adjustments. Both sa relationship natin or relationships mo with your family and other people. Nandito lang ako. I hope you really, really appreciate how much people love you. And siyempre kay Noy, super love kita.

K: Nagi-I love you ka ba on the daily basis?
S: Not everyday.

K: Sa text?
S: Yes.

K: Ano 'yong sa text? Love yah? (Laughs)
S: Complete na I love you with smiley.

Thai wins top film prize at Cannes

Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul scored a surprise win at the Cannes film festival Sunday, bagging top prize for a surreal reincarnation tale, "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives".

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