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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 26, 2010 Major News Stories



Zero tariff on oil, steel approved

from mb.com.ph

ANGELES CITY, Pampanga – The government will lose as much as P4 billion in annual revenues following the Arroyo administration's decision to impose zero tariffs on imported petroleum products and midstream steel products in a bid to stabilize supply and lower their prices in the domestic market.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved Tuesday the recommendation of the Cabinet-level inter-agency Committee on Tariff and Related Matters (CTRM) on tariff reductions of said products during a National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)-Cabinet meeting at the Angeles University Foundation here.

The President's approval of the schedule of tariff cuts on rice, coconut oil, sugar, and other raw materials for detergents and yarns in compliance with trade commitments with the Asian regional bloc will further reduce the government's revenue base.

Apart from correcting tariff distortions arising from free trade pacts with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Finance Secretary Margarito Teves Jr. said the reduced tariffs on the said products sought to promote economic activity as well as ease the burden of the public from high prices.

Teves, speaking to reporters after the Cabinet assembly, said the most favored nation rate of imported crude oil, refined petroleum products would be slashed from 3 percent to zero under the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement.

In slashing the oil tariff duties, the government must also follow the provision of the Oil Deregulation Act, which mandates a "single and uniform" tariff for petroleum products, according to Trade Secretary Jesli Lapus.

The temporary lifting of the 7 percent duty on hot rolled coils (HRC) and cold rolled coils (CRC) also meant as relief for the local galvanizing industry, Lapus told reporters. He noted that steel companies earlier threatened to raise their prices by 3 to 5 percent amid surging prices of ore in the world market.

Teves said the steel tariff, however, would revert back to the 7 percent rate once the country's lone HRC/CRC steel producer, Global Steel Philippines Inc. (GSPI), returns to normal operations. GSPI has been unable to supply the Filipino Galvanizers, Inc. (FGI) with HRC and CRC due to financial problems and high world prices of steel.

He said the tariff removal on HRC and CRC would also result in savings in raw material costs to the downstream sector. The Philippines is a net importer of HRC, CRC as well as galvanized iron sheets.

With the elimination of import tariffs, Lapus said oil and steel companies are expected to slash the prices of their products to benefit the consumers and "not necessarily pocket their savings." "This is a revenue loss for the government but a gain resulting in a lower cost of living for the public," he said.

As part the country's trade commitment to ASEAN, Teves also announced that the Arroyo government has committed to maintain a tariff of 40 percent on its imports of rice from the ASEAN until January 1, 2015, when the rate shall be reduced to 35 percent.

Tariffs on sugar imported from ASEAN countries will also be kept at 38 percent until 2011 and will be lowered to 28 percent in 2012, 18 percent in 2013, 10 percent in 2014, and 0-5 percent in 2015.

Teves said the NEDA-Cabinet board also approved the tariff reduction of mixed alkylbenzene (raw material of detergents) and mixed alkylnaphthalene from 3 percent to 1 percent as well as monofilament yarns from 10 percent to 1 percent.

Tariff on refined coconut oil will be slashed from 10 percent to zero, Teves said. "This product will also be moved from the sensitive list to the normal track of preferred tariff in consistent with the tariff reduction agreement among members of the ASEAN," he said.

Teves admitted that the government would lose P3 billion in revenues from the implementation of the oil tariff cuts and another P400 million to P1 billion in the tariff reduction of other materials.

To replace the foregone revenues, he urged the incoming leadership to be keep an open mind and remain "flexible" in endorsing a number revenue generating measures, such as higher taxes on alcohol and tobacco products and sales tax on goods and services.

He said the next administration should also look into the improving tax administration and collection as well as intensifying the campaign against smuggling to boost revenues.

Despite its failure to balance the budget, he assured that Arroyo government would leave a "manageable" fiscal situation to the administration of presidential frontrunner Sen. Benigno Aquino III.

With Aquino's wide popular support, he said the incoming leader could adequately explain to the public about the need to stabilize the government's finances to rein in the budget deficit during his "honeymoon period."

The President is expected to issue the executive orders to formalize the implementation of the tariff cuts in the coming days, Teves said.

Petron Corporation earlier pushed for the removal of the 3 percent most favored nation (MFN) tariff on petroleum products. The company has complained that importers of refined oil products in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are in better shape since they can bring in their products from other Southeast Asian countries at zero tariff under an ASEAN free trade area. The local oil firm on the other hand pays 3 percent duty on the crude oil imported from the Middle East and incurs additional cost for the refinery.

Savings from the duty-free importation, meantime, are expected to result in lower cost of production estimated at $68.64 or P3.088 per metric ton CRC for galvanizers. This may be passed on to consumers at estimated 5 percent price reduction per sheet.

Talisay council to 'revisit' agreement with MCWD

THE focus of the next administration of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is to develop bulk water sources in various areas of the Province of Cebu to answer the water crisis, Capitol consultant Rory Jon Sepulveda said yesterday.

The bulk water development projects envisioned by the Cebu Provincial Government will be patterned after the power industry, where water sources development, transmission and distribution will be separately undertaken by different firms.

In Cebu's power industry, for example, power is generated by power plants and independent power producers, transmitted by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines and distributed to the power consumers by Visayan Electric Co.

Sepulveda said with the El Niño phenomenon, the Capitol has learned that water is really scarce in the whole island.

"The governor will identify an essential role the Province (of Cebu) will take. We will help develop bulk water sources and transmit water to other areas, especially that it
will pass several barangays and municipalities, which have separate territorial powers. It would be easy if the Provincial Government will lead rather than entrusting it to the private sector, where profit is the primary agenda," Sepulveda said.

He said most of the province's major roads and bridges were concreted during the last two terms of Garcia and the Provincial Government has constructed about 1,000 school buildings.

"Our next focus would be this bulk water supply that includes developing bulk water sources and to transmit it from the source to the consumers," he said.
Sepulveda said municipal governments will have to do their part in this project.

He said Capitol will take the role of an overseer in order to come up with "one common goal and one common vision for all."

"What the Province of Cebu will do is a long-term job, such as bringing bulk water to areas without sources of water," Sepulveda said.
The Capitol will take care of the logistics.

"While the people of Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City and Consolacion have a problem of how to get enough water supply, billions of gallons of fresh water are wasted daily as these flow from the bulk water sources to the sea. And I am talking of the bulk water sources in Tuburan, Balamban, Badian and Carmen," he said.

MOA terms

Meanwhile, the Talisay City Council decided to review first its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Cebu City-based Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD).

The proposed re-examination of the MOA came after Councilor Arturo Bas formally brought up before the City Council during its regular session yesterday the state of MCWD's water service to Talisay residents.

Talisay officials, including Rep. Eduardo Gullas, have expressed their support for the creation of Talisay's own water district.

Gullas earlier gave the City Council the go signal to pass an ordinance for the creation of the city-run water system.

But Councilor Rodi Cabigas suggested they revisit the MOA, which allows the water company to draw water from wells and the Mananga River in Talisay.

Cabigas said they had noted that the MOA, which the City entered into with MCWD during the term of former mayor Dehlia Tiu, was disadvantageous to Talisay.

Fees, board

He said MCWD started paying the City Government the royalty fees during the term of Gullas.

Gullas was elected as the city's first elected mayor in 2001.

Like Cabuenas and Bas, Gullas also expressed dismay over the non-representation of Talisay City in the MCWD board.

Councilor-elect and Lagtang Barangay Captain Celiapo Cabuenas earlier complained that the city residents have not been given discounted rates despite MCWD's water extraction from Talisay's natural wells.

The water firm reportedly extracts 33,000 to 35,000 cubic meters of water daily from Talisay's 15 wells.

But some areas in Talisay, including Barangay Lagtang, have experienced irregular supply of water.

In yesterday's session, the City Council agreed to the proposal of Bas to summon MCWD officials to attend the council's next session and shed light on the state of water supply in Talisay.

In establishing its own water district, Talisay City is weighing the option to either manage the local water system or forge a partnership with private firms.

Bas said they will also consider consulting the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) about the matter.

A LWUA official told Sun.Star Cebu earlier that the agency will provide loans and technical assistance to local government units that intend to establish their own water districts.

The Department of Education (Deped) vowed swift action against schools that collect fees from students during enrollment, an official said.
The Department will call the attention of principal of schools that continue to collect fees from students, Education Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya said in a radio interview.
"Tatawagin namin ang attention ng principal sa iskwelahan na yan, we will call the attention of the principal (We will call the attention of the principals involved)," Malaya said in an interview on dzXL radio.
Parents and guardians can call his office at 6337224 to report the collection.
Last week, the DepEd reminded parents and school administrators of the government's "no-collection" policy.
Education Secretary Mona Valisno stressed pupils should not be made to pay various fees at the start of school, lest they be discouraged from attending classes.
The policy applies to schoolchildren enrolling in preschool up to Grade IV.
"No fees shall be collected from schoolchildren enrolling in preschool up to Grade 4 during the enrolment period and at any time during the school year," Valisno said in DepEd Order No. 65 dated May 19.
Under the order, Boy and Girl Scout fees should amount to P50 per learner, while the Anti-TB fees should amount to P5.
PTA fees will be determined by the Board of Directors.
School publication fees should not exceed P60 for elementary students and P90 for high school students.
Membership in student organizations will be based on existing school policies.
Class sizes should range from a minimum of 15 to a maximum of 60 pupils.
When possible, classes from Grades I to IV should not exceed 40 pupils per class.

A 21-year-old woman, whose family owns a flower business at Freedom Park here, has topped the 2010 board licensure examinations for certified public accountants with a score of 93.14 percent.
Gecel Cabucan Codera, who graduated magna cum laude in Bachelor of Science Accountancy from the University of San Jose Recoletos (USJR), said she was inside the Basilica del Santo Nio when her reviewer informed her by mobile phone of her feat at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
Four other examinees from the citytwo also graduating from the USJR, one from the University of Cebu (UC) and one from the University of San Carlos (USC)were among the top 10 in the list of successful examinees released by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).
Nino Martin Arcenal Juntong of the USJR placed third with 92.71 percent, while both Mark Solatorio, also of the USJR, and Rene Boy Monsida Lebores of the UC were in sixth place with 92 percent.
Ritchie Zanoria Tejana from the USC was 10th with a score of 91.14 percent.
Codera said she could not believe landing on the No. 1 spot, considering that it was a difficult examination.
Codera said she went to the Sto. Nio Church because she wanted to be alone on the day the results were to be released. I could not help but cry inside the church, she said.
Codera is the second of five siblings. Her parents, Reynaldo and Gina Codera, are engaged in buying flowers in Freedom Park, Cebu City and supplying them to Tacloban City.

Firms of herbal products hit new DOH 'disclaimer' order

Umalma ang industriya na nagsusulong sa herbal food supplements sa kautusan ng DOH na baguhin ang paalaalang nakakabit sa kanilang produkto. Pero nagmatigas ang DOH. 

Giagtang pagpusil ang supporter sa kandidato

NABALBAG ang ulo sa usa ka habal-habal driver nga giingong supporter sa usa ka pulitiko human gipusil patay niadtong Lunes sa gabii sa barangay Lawaan, lungsod sa Dumanjug, Sugbo samtang siya namasahero.

Gikatahong ikaupat na kining insidente sa pagpamusil sa Dumanjug sukad nahuman ang init nga local nga eleksyon.

Ang biktimang si Erwin Rebosquillo, 30, minyo taga barangay Candabong, gipusil tumong sa agtang sa wa pa mailhing mamumuno nga daling nisibat human sa krimin.

Si Rebosquillo giingong supporter ni Mayor-elect Nelson Garcia nga nakig-atbang kang Efren "Gungun" Gica sa milabay nga election sa Mayo 10.

Apan Si Sr. Insp. Rodrigo Giangan, hepe sa Dumanjug police station nga gikahinabi sa Sun.Star Superbalita, niingon nga ilang gihikling ang isyu sa pulitika sanglit sa iyang pag-estorya sa inahan niini ug mga igsuon, wa kini mag-apil-apil.

Bisan siya supporter ni Garcia, wa gyud kini mag-apil-apil sa kampanya o maghisgothisgot kalabot sa iyang gilabanang kandidato.

Si Giangan nipasabot nga sa pagkakaron ang usa ka babaye nga maoy katapusan nga sakay sa biktima maoy ilang gilauman nga mamahimong testigos nga makahatag og yawe sa kasulbaran sa krimin.

Ang babaye naestorya sa iyang mga imbestigador ug gikuhaan na og dugang mga pamahayag kon unsay iyang nabantayan dihang gihatod siya sa biktima sa wa pa kini patya.

Giklaro ni Giangan nga way record sa kapulisan ang biktima nga nalambigit sa illegal nga kalihukan. Hinungdan nga ilang gisubay nga posibling personal grudge o kaha dunay gikaaway nga habal-habal driver si Rebosquillo.

Niangkon si Giangan nga naglibog gyud sila karon sa ilang imbestigasyon gumikan ning sunodsunod nga mga krimin sa pagpamusil sa ilang lungsud diin upat na kahigayon human sa election.

`Gikulata' sa anak sa opisyal

GIINGONG gikulata sa anak sa kapitan sa Barangay Opao, dakbayan sa Mandaue ang 1st Runner up sa Mr. Cebu dihang gikasuyaan siya nunot sa pagduol niya sa kanhing uyab niini sa usa ka bar sa dakbayan sa Sugbo niadtong Dominggo sa kaadlawon.

Si Hans Joakim Grogaard, 22, nagpuyo sa Urgello St., dakbayan sa Sugbo, nagpa-blotter sa Mabolo Police Station nunot sa iyang nahiaguman nga mga samad ug bun-og dihang giingong gikulata siya sa anak ni Opao Barangay Kapitan Joy Ouano nga nailang si Cris Ouano Mangubat ug kaubanan gawas sa Loft Bar nga nahimutang sa IT Park.

Ang Sun.Star Superbalita nitawag sa daghang mga contact number ni Ouano kagahapon aron makuha ang ilang habig ning pasangil batok sa iyang anak apan wa makontak.

Nibisita si Grogaard, kinsa napiling 1st Runner up sa Mr. Cebu 2008, sa buhatan sa Sun.Star Superbalita kagahapon aron pagsaysay sa iyang nahiaguman kang Mangubat mga alas tres sa ka-adlawon niadtong Dominggo sa Loft.

Gikuyogan siya sa kanhi uyab ni Mangubat nga si Stephanie Thomas, kanhi kandidata sa Miss Superbalita.

Matod ni Grogaard nga gipaadto siya ni Thomas sa Loft Bar aron mokuyog kanila samtang uban sa iyang mga kauban sa trabaho.

Iyang gitumbok nga gikasuyaan na siya ni Mangubat dihang nagkakuyog sila si Thomas. Gani, gisigihan siyag hagad og sumbagay ni Mangubat apan gibira siya ni Thomas balik sa ilang lamesa aron di mahitabo ang kagubot.

"Wa man mi gibuhat nga makapasuko niya," butyag ni Thomas sa Sun.Star Superbalita kagahapon. Nitataw siya nga moabot og lima ka tuig ang ilang relasyon ni Mangubat apan buwag na sila karong higayona.

Dihang gikan si Grogaard sa comfort room, gisigihan siyag painit sa suspek unya giduol siya sa mga kauban ni Mangubat nga silang Marvin Roma ug Gino Ortiz ug nahitabo ang ilang panaglalis.

Gitukmod siya ni Roma unya gikuha siya sa bouncer ug gipagawas sa bar. Nitumbok ang bouncer kaniya nga siya ang nagsugod sa kagubot.

Samtang, didto siya sa gawas sa Loft niabot si Mangubat nahitabo ang ilang panaglalis ug nisangpot nga gisumbag siya sa suspek unya nitabang ang mga higala niini.

Gitumbok niya ang laing kauban ni Mangubat nga si Jose Maria Caseñas nga maoy nigunit kaniya hinungdan nga gitabangan siya sa pagsumbag hangtod nga natumba siya sa dalan. Iyang nahinumduman nga moabot gyod og pito ka tawo ang nikulata kaniya. 

Mi-plead not guilty

NIPADAYAG nga di sad-an ang gisubli sa pagpiling konsehal nga si Cebu City Councilor Eduardo "Edu" Rama Jr. sa kasong serious physical injuries nga gipasaka batok kaniya.Nahitabo kini niadtong 2002.

Si Rama ni-plead not guilty dihang gibasahan siya sa iyang giatubang nga kaso atol sa arraignment kagahapon sa sala ni Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 4 Judge Rosabella Tormis.

Gawas sa konsehal nga pag-umangkon ni Cebu City Mayor-elect Michael Rama, may laing tulo pa ka mga tawo ang nalakip usab sa gipasakahan sa kaso nga nilangkob nilang Jimmy Dimaunahan, Andre Ursal ug Jason Marcinco.

Gikataho sa GMA 7 Flash Bulletin nga sila si Rama ug Ursal lang ang ningtambong sa arraignment kagahapon. Kasamtangang gawasnon sila si Rama ug kauban kay nirekomendar ang Cebu City Prosecutor's Office nga tagsa-tagsa silang makapiyansa sa kantidad nga P6,000 samtang husayon ning giatubang nilang kaso sa korte.

Mga semento nausik?

MINILYON ka pesos nga kantidad sa sinakong semento nga iya sa Probinsya ang giingong nausik kay nadaot na lang kay wa magamit mga proyekto sa lalawigan.

Apan ang Kapitolyo niingon nga di kini tinuod kay ang mao nga mga sinakong semento alang man sa nagpadayong mga proyekto niini.

Ang liboan ka mga sinakong semento gipangtabunan og trapal sulod sa motorpool sa lalawigan sa Sugbo.

Si Bise Gobernador Greg Sanchez niingon nga tungod sa kakuwang sa pla-no ug way klarong programa ni Gobernador Gwen Garcia nausik ang maong mga sinakong semento.

Dugang ni Sanchez nga si Garcia namalit og semento sukad pa niadtong 2005 ug gipang-apod-apod sa kalungsuran ug siyudad aron magamit sa mga proyekto sa kabarangayan.

Apan kini wa mahurot pag-apod-apod ug anaa na-tanggong sulod sa motorpool nga gipangtabonan og trapal.

"Dunay mga barangay nga nakapahimulos. Pero daghan sad ang wa gyud makapahimulos. Wa na maato sa pag-deliver kay daghan man kaayo na. Tungod sa lack of planning ug programming, nahitabo na," matod ni Sanchez.

Subay sa programa sa gobernador, ang siyudad o lungsod nga hatagan og semento motampo ug materyales alang sa proyekto sa barangay.

Samtang ang barangay motampo usab sa lalawigan, pinaagi sa paggahin og salapi aron ibayad isip labor cost sa proyekto.

Apan di tanan nga barangay maka-afford sa labor cost tungod sa kakuwang sa ilang budget, nagkanayon si Sanchez.

Nakadawat og taho si Sanchez nga adunay mga semento nga gipahimudsan personal sa pipila ka mga opisyal sa siyudad, lungsod ug barangay.

Adunay uban nga gidapat sa ilang balay ug adunay uban gipamaligya.

Apan si Manlalaban Rory Jon Sepulveda, tigpamaba sa gobernador, niingon nga di tinuod nga nausik ang semento nga gipamalit sa probinsya.

Ang mga semento nga anaa sa motorpool gigamit alang sa pagtukod og mga school building, tipik sa mga proyekto nga gihatagan og unang pagtagad sa gobernador.

"Way nausik nga mga semento. He is referring to stocks for our on going school building projects," matod ni Sepulveda.

Rama considering labor attache

A LABOR attache and three others from the private sector are being floated as possible candidates for the position of city administrator, but Cebu City Mayor-elect Michael Rama said he still has to talk to them and check their qualifications.

Rama, the City's outgoing vice mayor, yesterday confirmed the names being floated as possible replacement for outgoing City Administrator Francisco Fernandez, but said he has not made a decision yet.

Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) Undersecretary and Labor Attache to Taiwan Josephus Jimenez is said to have expressed his interest to serve the City and has submitted to Rama his curriculum vitae.

Jimenez, an Argao-born lawyer, admitted being close to local officials, including Rama and Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, 1st district).

Rama said he thinks highly of Jimenez, his former professor at the University of the Visayas College of Law and who also has extensive experience in human relations.

Aside from having somebody who has earned his trust and confidence, Rama told a news conference yesterday he wants someone who has experience in human resource development and relations to fill the post of city administrator.

"When you think about managing the city, you need trusted people.

Trust is very important... Experience in human relations is also important because in the City Government, I want human relations to be given focus because the productivity of our people depends on how you steer, move and touch their hearts to work with passion," Rama said.

The position of city administrator is one of trust and confidence and is coterminous with the term of office of the mayor.

The administrator is considered the mayor's alter ego, often representing the latter in different committees, commissions and councils in the City Government, including the bids and awards committee.

All the department heads also report to the city administrator, who earns some P35,000 a month.

In a chat interview yesterday, Jimenez said he is open to serving the city and Rama, whom he considers a good friend, but he will just wait for the mayor-elect to make a decision.

Rama said it is not necessary to appoint a new city administrator by June 30 when his term starts, since he can still rely on other elected officials and department heads for help in running the city.

"With Undersecretary Jimenez, serving government and coming back to Cebu is not a problem. His bio-data is replete in terms of human relations and many things... He intimated his desire that he will be available under my administration," he said.

When asked if his campaign leaders Leonardo Chiu and Rene Mercado, and his long-time friend and businessman Eugene Elizalde are also being considered for the post, he said he still has to check with them.

"The rest, I still have to check but it's not going to be something that has to happen by July 1. If ever Undersecretary Jimenez is available for whatever position or for consultancy, that would be good," Rama said.

He described Mercado as the "prime mover" of his campaign for the mayoral race, while Chiu also actively helped in his campaign.

Elizalde is a close friend of his "but I still have to talk to him," Rama said. Elizalde was a former president of the Cebu Business Club and is a grandson of a former mayor.

Jimenez said yesterday he is willing to give up his post in Taiwan for other options, among them helping manage the City during Rama's term.

"I have not yet reached a final decision on whether I will join the team or not. It is also the prerogative of the mayor if he has other candidates more deserving," he said.

Jimenez wants to help Rama make the city employees and officials feel happy and passionate about their jobs through training and human resource development programs.

He also wants to help other units in City Hall integrate their plans, programs and activities to support the mayor, and to hold regular press conferences to promote transparency and bring the City Government closer to the people.

Eleksyon sa barangay di ma-automated: direktor


BISAN kon wa pay kasiguroan kon madayon ba gyud ang barangay election karong Oktubre, ang regional director sa Commission on Election (Comelec) niingon nga kon kini madayon di gyud kini ma-automate.

Si Dir. Rene Buac, kinsa nibalik na sa Comelec-7 sugod kagahapon, niingon nga dako og gasto kon himuong automation ang eleksyon sa barangay kay nagpasabot kini nga matag barangay dunay ibutang nga mga makina nga duna ray pito ka mga konsehal ug usa ka kapitan nga pilian.

Alang kang Buac mas makadaginot kon mano-mano lang ang eleksyon.

Di usab mahimong gamiton kadtong wa nagamit nga mga flash card sa niaging national election kay di kini igo sa tanang barangay lukop nasod.

Si Buac nga nagsilbi sa niaging eleksyon sa Iloilo nihulagway sa niaging poll automation nga malampuson.

Apan iyang giangkon nga duna gyuy gagmay'ng mga kakulian ug kini masabtan ra gumikan kay unang higayon pa man gipahigayon ang poll automation.

"It was a successful election in so far as automation is concerned but when we say successful we do not mean perfect," pasabot ni Buac, kinsa ni-asumir og balik sa Comelec-7 kagahapon.

Nasayran nga gi-reshuffle ang mga regional director sa Comelec usa ka semana sa wa pa ang eleksyon ug matod ni Buac nga ni-signify na silang mobalik sa ilang karaang puwesto pinaagi sa pagpadala sa ilang intention didto sa ilang head office.

Kon wa may feedback nga madawat gikan sa kaulohan, matod ni Buac kini nagpasabot nga hingpit na gyud silang mobalik sa naandang pwesto.

Sa pag-asumir ni Buac, matod niya nga wa silay nadawat bisag usa ka election protest. Hinuon napupos na ang tagal alang sa pagduso og election protest nga napulo lang ka adlaw human sa eleksyon.

Comelec urged to proclaim winning party-list reps

A coalition of party-list groups asked Tuesday the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to proclaim all the winning party-list candidates by Friday instead of only a few leading party-list representatives in the race.

The Party-List Alliance — a coalition of leading party list groups — welcomed the poll body's decision to proclaim the winners, saying that the voters deserve and expect a quick proclamation due to the automated elections.

"It has been more than two weeks since the election and the 12 senators have already been proclaimed. It's time for Comelec to proclaim all the winners," the group said.

The group is composed of the following party-list organizations: AKO Bikol, Senior Citizens, Abs, Tucp, Coop-Natcco, Diwa, Kakusa, Alif, Alagad, Ave, Anad, Agap, Butil, and Abono.

In a resolution, the Party-List Alliance cited Canvass Report No. 8 which represents more than 96 percent of the total party-list votes cast.

"The Comelec, acting as National Board of Canvassers, can already proclaim the rightful winners in the party-list system considering that the would-be votes in Lanao del Sur can no longer alter the firm ranking established." (Raymund F. Antonio)

Poll-related cases up, says Comelec

The number of election-related cases filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has increased.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said that as of Tuesday, May 25, 2010, the total number of election protests and petitions filed with the poll body is more than 80 cases.

"This involving the governors and mayors while the petitions for annulment (of proclamation) about 60 plus involving congressmen. So it's really numerous around 100 plus cases," Sarmiento said.

The Comelec official urged those people who may have complaints to just file a case before the commission.

Asked to react on the alleged involvement of four regional officials of the Comelec in poll fraud, Sarmiento said that the person who made the claim should first identify the said officials.

"This is the first time that the issue came to my attention. I would suggest they identify which directors. Who are they? Who is this koala bear? I think that's in the spirit of due process and fairness," said Sarmiento.

"Their names should be identified so this can be investigated. The Comelec under Chairman (Jose) Melo is open for an investigation especially shenanigans committed by regional directors," he added.

Finger-pointing, yelling mar Comelec meeting with whistleblowers

A confrontation erupted Tuesday during the meeting between Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials and the personalities who blew the whistle on the poll bodys P690-million deal for the purchase of ballot secrecy folders for the recently concluded May 10 elections.

Interviewed by reporters after the meeting, Dr. Arwin Serrano of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said it started when Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer stood up, pointed an accusatory finger at him, and called him a liar.

Kung baril lang ang finger niya, tadtad na kami ng bala (If his finger were a gun, we wouldve been riddled with bullets)," he said.

Serrano and lawyer Melchor Magdamo of the Comelec chairmans office were the whistleblowers in the botched contract to supply 25-inch long ballot secrecy folders at P380 each.

Fistfight

Magdamo said Ferrer even challenged Serrano to a fistfight. Ayaw magpaawat... may sipa-silya pa yan(Ferrer was unstoppable, he even kicked some chairs)," he said.

In a separate interview, Ferrer admitted losing his cool at Serrano but denied that he challenged him to a fistfight. He said he did that because Serrano was lying.

I will point my finger at you anytime I want because you are telling a lie. Sino ka, who are you, (you are a) doctor of what?" he said he told Serrano during the confrontation.

Serrano said Ferrer loudly chastised him for almost three minutes. It was the first time I appeared before the en banc. I was disappointed," he said.

Serrano also said he extended a reconciliatory hand to Ferrer before the meeting ended, but the commissioner did not seem appeased.

Liar

Serrano said Ferrer accused him of lying after he said he was not informed of the biddings that were being conducted by the Comelec bids and awards committee for purchases related to the elections. He said he was PPCRVs representative in the biddings.

Ferrer, on the other hand, defended the Comelec bids and awards committee, saying Serrano probably never received a notice because he was not the official representative of the PPCRV in the biddings.

Wala amang official person na sinabi ang PPCRV (The PPCRV has never appointed an official representative to the biddings)," he said.

Serrano said he is planning to file an affidavit with the Comelec Law Department stating what happened during the meeting because he claimed the recorders which are usually used in en banc meetings were turned off, leaving everything off the record.

This was denied by Ferrer, who said he is thinking of filing libel charges against Magdamo for supposedly calling the commissioners plunderers" in a letter.

Ballot folder whistleblower claims getting death threats

The whistleblower in the controversial P690-million ballot secrecy folder deal on Tuesday said that his life is in danger because of a Commission on Elections (Comelec) official.

Lawyer Melchor Magdamo of the Comelec chairman's office said that a security detail warned him of danger because several unknown people who have already allegedly made good their part of the deal now want something back from Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino.

"Yung mga kaaway ni Dir. Tolentino ay gustong yariin kami (The enemies of Tolentino want to finish us off), whatever happens to us the blame will be placed on Tolentino," he told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.

Magdamo could not, however, say what these unidentified people were supposedly after or what they want from Tolentino.

But he said that he had already received an anonymous phone call telling him "isang bala ka lang (one bullet is all you need)." He even said that the security detail who gave him the tip had also given him a bullet-proof vest.

Magdamo had earlier implicated Tolentino in the anomalies surrounding the botched folder contract, because the poll official supposedly defied an en banc resolution postponing the bidding for the folders.

Comelec law department head Ferdinand Rafanan had also earlier said that Tolentino should explain himself because he supposedly recommended the One Time Carbon (OTC) Paper Supply, the company which eventually landed the botched P690-million contract.

Tolentino had earlier denied Rafanan's allegation. However, he could not be reached for comment as of posting time.

Magdamo resigned from the Comelec last May 4. He said he has since been moving from place to place with his family.

"For safety umalis na ako... marami nang nababaril dito, lalo na P700 million ang nasave na pera ng gobyerno (I left for safety reasons too many people here have been gunned down, especially if you're some who saved P700 million for the government)," he said, referring to the value of the botched contract.

Earlier in the day, the Comelec en banc demanded a letter from Magdamo asking him to "correct" his supposed revelations about the controversy. The three-man panel tasked to investigate the contract has yet to release a report on the matter. 

Congress to grill Comelec before actual canvass starts

No actual opening of certificates of canvass or canvassing of votes for President and Vice-President will happen on Wednesday.

Instead, the Congress sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) decided to hear first the explanation of the Commission on Elections and supplier Smartmatic on complaints of irregularities in the conduct of the May 10 polls.

The Senate and House of Representatives, sitting as the NBOC, convened on Tuesday afternoon at 2:52 pm with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles jointly presiding over the proceedings. (See: Congress starts joint session to canvass votes for president, VP)

More grilling for Comelec, Smartmatic

Before Congress suspended the joint public session, both chambers agreed that the joint canvassing committee will convene at 2 p.m. Wednesday, not yet to actually open certificates of canvass, but to seek clarifications from the Comelec and Smartmatic about recurring questions about the conduct of the recent polls.

The Comelec and Smartmatic were invited in the Wednesday hearing but if they will fail to appear they will be subpoenaed, and worse, cited for contempt, Enrile said in an interview after the session.

We will ask them some questions first about the resolution that they discarded, the performance of the PCOS, why are there so much questions raised and being heard now by the suffrage committee of the House and other issues that will come up," Enrile said.

The canvassing committee would also want to know what security measures were introduced in order to see to it that the integrity and the reliability of the documents that were created by the PCOS and transmitted to the various servers were maintained.

Enrile said he estimates that the joint committee will spend at least two to three days in grilling the poll officials and the supplier to clarify all of these issues so that we can canvass the votes without interruption."

He said the questioning could be shortened if we can get satisfactory answers to the questions."

If there are still questions to be answered then we have to ask the public to be patient so we can really clarify all these doubts. We do not want to have a canvass that is open to any cloud of doubt," the Senate President said.

Approved rules

After almost two hours of discussion, the Senate and Lower House also approved the rules it will use for the canvassing of votes for President and Vice President.

The senators adopted the rules without any questions, while Lower House members deliberated and asked clarifications on the rules particularly on the non-use of digital signatures and which document to use in the canvassing.

The House members finally agreed to approve the rules after Nograles assured them that the joint canvassing committee would seek clarification from the poll officials and Smartmatic.

Under the approved rules, the joint committee, composed of nine members from each chamber, will open the electronically transmitted and manually submitted certificates of canvass.

The joint committee shall ascertain that the number of votes cast for each presidential and vice presidential candidate in the printed COC and in the electronically transmitted COCs are identical. Should there exist any discrepancy between the printed and electronically transmitted COCs, the canvass of the COC shall be deferred," the rules stated.

It further stated that objections to the inclusion of a COC may be raised at the time the COC is being considered, and such objections may be submitted in writing together with evidence in support of it.

The Senate President and House Speaker may order the deferment of the canvass of the contested COC.

The rules also stated that after canvassing all uncontested COCs, the joint committee shall resolve the objections by a majority vote of its members, each panel voting separately. In case of disagreement, the decision of the Senate President and Speaker shall prevail.

If there are discrepancies between the printed and electronically transmitted COCs with regard to the number of votes cast for each presidential and vice presidential candidate, the joint committee shall require the Board of Canvassers concerned to appear before it and explain the discrepancy.

The rules said if the discrepancy cannot be reconciled even with the examination of the compact flash and secure digital (SD) cards from the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, the joint committee may order the opening of a pre-determined number of precinct ballot boxes of that particular city, district or province.

Canvassing committee members named

After the approval of the rules, the Senate and House then officially named the members of the joint congressional canvassing committee.

On the part of the Senate, these are Enrile, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Senators Rodolfo Biazon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan II, Edgardo Angara, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Joker Arroyo.

The alternates are Senate ProTempore Jose Jinggoy" Estrada, Senators Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid and Francis Pangilinan.

On the part of the House, the nine-man panel is composed of Nograles as chairman, majority leader Arthur Defensor, minority leader Ronaldo Zamora, senior deputy majority leader Neptali Gonzales II, senior deputy minority leader Roilo Golez, Reps. Crispin Remulla (Cavite), Didagen Dilangalen (Shariff Kabunsuan with Cotabato City), Jack Duavit (Rizal) and Matias Defensor (Quezon City).

Alternate members include Representatives Teodoro Locsin Jr. (Makati), Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro), Lorenzo Tanada III (Quezon), Liwayway Vinzons-Chato (Camarines Norte), Simeon Datumanong (Maguindanao), Giorgidi Aggabao (Isabela), Pedro Romualdo (Camiguin), Joseph Emilio Abaya (Cavite), and Eduardo Zialcita (Paranaque).

Senate wants Comelec, Smartmatic, technology experts to explain poll glitches

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Senate wants election and Smartmatic officials and technology experts to appear before the joint congressional canvassing committee to address all questions, issues and doubts raised on the conduct of the first automated elections in the country.

The Senate, through its president, Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile, specifically wanted the Commission on Elections to explain why it issued a resolution that allowed the transmission of the vote results even without the required digital signatures.

Congress must require the appearance before the members of Congress in joint session of the Comelec, Smartmatic, and other persons or entities including information technology experts , whose testimonies, explanations or elucidation may be required, prior to proceeding with the canvassing proper to be conducted by the joint congressional canvassing committee, Enrile said in his opening statement a the start of the joint session on Tuesday.

Moreover, Comelec must explain why, in its order or directive under Resolution 8786 dated March 4, 2010, it disregarded the requirement of the law for digital signatures to be affixed before transmitting the results of the voting, he said.

And given this situation, we may find it instructive to hear from Comelec, Smartmatic and the independent information technology experts on the availability of other means, if any, of ascertaining the authenticity of the election documents before us, Enrile added.

Enrile also reported to the canvassing committee that during the initialization process of the Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS) equipment or server immediately after the polling hours closed on May 10, all information on the number of certificates of canvass (COCs), COCs reported, voters of actually voted, total valid ballots counted and names of each candidate , and the total votes garnered for the presidential and vice presidential elections yielded zero results except on the number of registered voters.

In the field marked No. of registered voters Enrile said, the figure 256, 733, 195 was reflected.

I inquired from Smartmatic if this was just a code or an outright error which must be corrected right away. Smartmatic asked to be given time to verify the data.

In the evening of May 10, Enrile said his office received call from elections commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal requesting permission to send their officers as well as Smartmatic personnel to the House of Representatives to make the necessary correction in the No. of registered voters data in the CCS.

He said he acceded to the request on condition that duly-designated officers from both houses of Congress as well as representatives of the political parties/and or candidates were present when such correction was encoded or keyed into the CCS.

But based on the report submitted to his office by the Senate officers, Enrile said there were no representatives of political parties and or candidates present when the correction was made.

I fully intend to ask Comelec to explain why this was allowed to happen despite the explicit conditions given to them, said the Senate leader.

But Enrile pointed out that a thorough examination and analysis of the technical procedure undertaken showed that no malicious code was executed that would comprise the integrity of the CCS.

Defeated congressmen likely to delay canvassing

While senators adopted their canvassing rules without a cinch Tuesday during the first day of joint session, it took their counterparts at the House of Representatives more than an hour to approve their rules after a handful of congressmen took the floor to express their manifestations.

According to Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Rep. Joel Villanueva, this was a glimpse of what the public should expect to happen throughout the joint committee canvassing of votes for president and vice-president.

Villanueva, who is on his third and last term as a lawmaker, said he would no longer be surprised if during the canvassing the senators would keep their mouths shut while congressmen would be up and about, airing objections and clarifications one after the other.

In an interview with GMANews.TV after the first day of the joint congressional meet, Villanueva predicted that it would be outgoing congressmen defeated in the recently concluded May 10 automated elections who are most likely to delay the canvassing.

"Kapag dumating rin ang [pag-bilang ng certificates of canvass sa] distrito na kung saan ang miyembro ng Kamara ay natalo, asahan mo na magiging maingay iyan," said Villanueva, son of twice defeated presidential aspirant Bro. Eddie Villanueva.

[When certificates of canvass from districts where incumbent congressmen have lost last May 10 are checked, expect these defeated lawmakers to raise hell.]


Villanueva said delays are most likely to be encountered not on the canvassing of votes itself, but on the approval of the joint committee report on the canvassing. "Iyon siguro ang mas matagal kasi lots of questions will be raised kapag binuksan ang COCs, again mostly from members of the House who lost in the elections," he said.

(That will probably take longer because of the questions that will be raised during the opening of the COCs by defeated members of the House of Representatives.)

Based on canvassing rules, the joint committee shall approve its report by a majority vote of all its members, each panel voting separately. After which, the joint committee report will also have to be approved by a majority of the members of both chambers along with a resolution proclaiming the next president and vice president.

Villanueva also expected the canvassing of the votes for the vice presidential race to be "exciting," saying Congress was still "half and half."

While the presidential race is likely to be won by Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III who is ahead of his closest rival by a wide margin in the unofficial tally the vice presidential derby sees a neck-and-neck race between former Makati mayor Jejomar Binay and Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas.

The exact same fear of a delayed vice presidential canvassing had prompted other lawmakers to bring up the matter during the first day of the joint session.

Alagad party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta expressed fears that a delay in the canvassing of either the presidential or vice presidential votes might lead to non-simultaneous proclamations. House Speaker Prospero Nograles assured that this would not happen.

But Villanueva remained confident that Congress sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) would be able to beat the June 30 deadline set by the 1987 Constitution to proclaim the two top posts in the land.

Allegations of poll fraud are a service to the nation, says Locsin

MANILA, PhilippinesMakati Representative Teodoro Locsin said Tuesday that defeated candidates alleging fraud in the recent elections may sound like whiners but are actually doing the country a service.

Locsin said during a hearing of his House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms that more evidence of alleged cheating is coming out now than in the last presidential election whose integrity came under a cloud of doubt following the "Hello Garci" election cheating scandal involving taped telephone conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and an election official. At that time, the only evidence were taped phone calls, he said.

Here you have documentary evidence of certainly suspicious transactions. Most of these complainants will be back in a fight in three years. They could save themselves the trouble and go after so-called winning opponents who may have cheated them in three years.... It is a public service that they bother to come here and bring up these complaints, he said.

He said the losing candidates could have chosen to prepare for the elections in 2013 instead of bringing up claims of fraud.

Three years pass really fast. You can be ready for next fight rather than waste your time here, he said.

Locsin's committee hearings have heard the videotaped allegations of a masked man claiming involvement in massive vote-shaving and vote padding, claims of offers to rig the polls in exchange for princely sums and tales of pre-shaded ballots, confiscated compact flash cards and missing voting machines.

Congress urged to stop probe on alleged poll fraud

MANILA, Philippines -- An official of election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) has called on the House of Representatives to stop the probe on the alleged irregularities in the country's first automated polls.

PPCRV national chairperson Henrietta de Villa said it would only be a cause of delay for Congress to proclaim the new President and Vice-President.

"Senators have been proclaimed by the Comelec (Commission on Elections) in record time… It's now up to Congress to write a fitting finish to our first automated elections," said De Villa in the PPCRV's official website.

The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, chaired by Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr., resumed its inquiry on the claims of anomalies during the May 10 elections as new allegations of poll fraud cropped up.

In the hearing yesterday, losing Surigao del Norte Gov. Robert "Ace" Barbers claimed that a supposed "poll operator" approached him late last year and offered to rig the results of the elections so that he and all his partymates would win in exchange for P50 million. 

De Villa said they hope Congress would do its job of canvassing the votes instead of disrupting the canvassing process.

"Grandstanding in the name of accuracy has no place in any election system," she said.

'Malicious' software may have existed in PCOS machines, group says

"Malicious" software may have existed in automated voting machines, a poll watchdog said, citing discrepancies found by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the Commission on Elections citizens arm.

Although the PPCRV said that no fraud took place during the Philippines first nationwide automated polls, the discrepancies raised the possibility of "malicious" software inside the voting machines, Election watchdog Halalang Marangal (HALAL) said in a forum on Tuesday.

HALAL was pertaining to PPCRV's report saying that they found four types of discrepancies in the results, one of which is that the election return (ER) would show a specific number of votes cast but the transmitted data would cast one vote less for one candidate.

"For that to happen, there must have been one part of the software to set one vote less... that's malicious software," said HALALs information technology expert Roberto Verzola.

The IT expert also questioned discrepancies regarding election returns and their transmission.

Some ERs reflected votes cast but that its transmitted form would only show figures less than 10, he explained. In some cases, the printed ER would show zero votes cast for all positions but that the transmitted data would reflect votes cast.

"That is another malicous code, to maintain two sets of vote data. There are hidden commands in the machine that will allow the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) to choose which data to send," he said.

But election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who was present during the forum, cautioned the public to not immediately believe that there are "hidden commands" inside the PCOS machines.

"Yung mga sinabi niya (Verzola) puro presumption... ito ay observation lamang niya (Verzola's statements are all presumptions, they are only his observations)," he said.

He added that it is impossible for any IT expert to prove that the automated polls were manipulated.

"The best evidence is to open the ballot boxes and have a recount. The remedy is to file an election protest and to expedite the opening of the ballot boxes," he said.

He likewise asked the public to "somehow" trust the electoral system.

"Hangga't di natin napapatunayan na walang dayaan, sana di tayo gagawa ng statement na makakasira sa sistema. Kailan pa ba tayo magtitiwala sa isa't-isa (Until we have proven that there was cheating, I hope nobody makes statements which destroy the credibility of the system. When will we finally trust each other)," he said.

Verzola admitted that he has no proof of his allegations.

But he was quick to note that this does not mean that his assertions are baseless.

"The fact that such an opportunity exists is already indication of malicious code in the machine that could have been exploited," he said. 

Election problems are Comelec's own doing, says Monsod

MANILA, PhilippinesAn apparent preoccupation with speed in delivering election results with little regard for legal procedures and accuracy could be one of the reasons the Commission on Elections is now confronted with allegations of fraud just two weeks after it received praise for what appeared then as a successful first crack at automated elections..

This was the assessment made Tuesday by Christian Monsod, a former Comelec chairman and honorary chair of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections. He also scored the Comelec as its random manual audit of the election results continued at a snails pace more than two weeks after the May 10 elections.

There (was) an apparent premium on speed at the expense of due process and accuracy. And its coming back to haunt them, Monsod told the Inquirer in an interview on Tuesday.

Monsod again raised the issue of recent Comelec decisions that decreased the grounds for pre-proclamation protests and directed that no replacement ballots be given to voters.

In a commentary published in the Inquirer shortly before the elections, Monsod said that in making those decisions, the Comelec intended to speed up the delivery of the results, but he also warned that they could lead to a cloud of doubt over the election results that would be its own making.

Monsods remarks on Tuesday were made in the wake of numerous allegations of pre-programmed election results made by losing candidates at hearings by the House committee on suffrage.

Defeated candidates, mostly for congressman and local government positions, also raised allegations of pre-shaded ballots that left voters helpless.

Monsod said the elections for national positions so far appear unaffected by the allegations of fraud but indicated that a worsened situation at the local level would greatly affect the credibility of the presidential, vice presidential and senatorial elections.

Many of those who trooped to the House of Representatives to allege electronic poll fraud were candidates whose political rivals have already been proclaimed winners in the local elections.

Total credibility depends on how many local elections are questioned, Monsod said.

Monsod said he was still evaluating the reports of poll fraud and how they affect the integrity of the May 10 elections.

Reports are still coming in. Im still studying them, Monsod said.

Monsod scored what appeared to be a failure to comply with the provisions for the random manual audit of the election results and with the requirement for a hash test of the PCOS machines.

Theres apparent non-compliance. Hindi pa tapos, e (Its not yet completed), Monsod said.

They have to adequately explain (the delay) in the random manual audit. It is such inadequacies and lack of competency that give rise to allegations of fraud, he added.

Monsod indicated that a quick random manual audit that is found to be consistent with the results of the automated polls would have already dismissed the allegations of fraud.

When answers are not forthcoming or clear, doubt or suspicions arise about possible fraud when the causes may just be incompetence or inefficiency, Monsod said.

Monsod also wants Smartmatic to explain whether it was possible to reconfigure compact flash cards to add or shave votes if anybody from Smartmatic who knew how to do so was in connivance with persons out to rig the elections.

They said no reconfiguration could be done outside Smartmatic. But can it happen if Smartmatic is involved? Monsod said.

In a resolution on March 22, the Comelec said a candidate or a political party could stop the proclamation of a winner only if there was any illegality in the composition of the board of canvassers or if the board was engaged in any illegal proceedings.

Candidates in past elections could prevent the proclamation of a winning candidate by claiming irregularities in the counting of votes, using the election returns and certificates of canvass as evidence.

The last two documents could be challenged and used as the basis for further election protests.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the decision to limit the scope of pre-proclamation controversies was to speed up the delivery of the results of the vote.

The electronic transmission is the basis for proclamation. If this will be bogged down due to all these motions, you will render the benefit illusory, Jimenez said.

Puno orders PNP to probe 'fabricated tape'

MANILA, PhilippinesInterior Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Tuesday ordered the Philippine National Police to quietly investigate those responsible for the fabricated tape where he was supposedly heard talking to an election official to rig the May 10 polls.

Puno said he particularly tasked the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to look into his alleged wiretapped conversation with Commission on Elections Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer and file appropriate charges.

I challenge anyone (who has heard the tape) to say that that was my voice, Puno said in a statement.

On Monday, Puno denied he was in had a phone conversation with Ferrer, who has also denied the allegation.

I think it is a deliberate attempt to try to derail the proclamation process and I hope that people will not allow this to happen, Puno said, adding he would not allow himself to be distracted by crude and inconsequential attempts by enterprising idiots.

He added, I call upon everybody to try to focus on the canvassing and the proclamation. Thats really what this is all about. The country is still waiting for the proper proclamation and that is the only thing that will settle everybody down so that we can proceed with the orderly transition into the next administration.

Puno said even President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was busy preparing for the smooth turnover of power.

If the President herself is already preparing for the transition, then we hope that those that are not affected as directly will heed the clear desire of our people, he added.

Olivar: Stop all 'no proc' talk

ANGELES CITY, PhilippinesThe deputy spokesperson of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called for an end on Tuesday to speculation about the possibility that the countrys next President will not be formally proclaimed as having won the May 10 elections.

Before the elections, there were words about a no-proclamation scenario by Malacaang; that the election will not succeed because of this. The elections have been orderly. Now, the transition is proceeding well. We are trying to meet the schedule of the proclamation, said deputy spokesperson Gary Olivar on Tuesday.

There should be a stop to all these because all of the momentum now is to have a credible and timely transition of power, he said.

Ms Arroyo on Tuesday presided over a Cabinet meeting here that discussed the preparations for the transfer of the reins of government to a new administration. She also opened a photo exhibit at the Angeles University Foundation that commemorates the birth centennial of her father, the late former President Diosdado Macapagal, this year.

While Malacaang cannot stop Congress from investigating alleged electronic fraud, which some fear could derail the proclamation of President-elect Benigno Aquino III, Olivar said he hoped that other quarters should stop making baseless allegations.

Siguro dapat itigil natin yun kasi may bago nang papasok na bagong pamunuan (Perhaps we should stop making baseless allegations because a new administration is coming in), Olivar said.

He said Ms Arroyo wants her last month in office to be focused on transition, stability and legacy.

The President, he said, has instructed officials of the various agencies to prepare reports for the incoming administration and meet its representatives.

She said, Make the government at the disposal of the new administration. Thats what we are trying to accomplish now, Olivar said.

A term extension by Ms Arroyo, he said, is in the imagination only of people who cannot accept that leadership is due to change.

Press Undersecretary Rogelio Peyuan said a team headed by former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has prepared the blueprint of the transition, which includes the accomplishments of the Arroyo administration and the list of projects and programs that need to be completed.

Every member of each agency is also doing his part in [preparing reports so these could be presented] to the incoming team. What is being awaited only is for the incoming administration to name its representatives who will sit down with the [transition] team, Peyuan said.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said he hoped Filipinos would not allow allegations of fraud to derail the proclamation of a new President.

I call on everybody to try to focus on the canvassing [of votes] and proclamation of the new President. That is the only thing that will settle everybody down so we can proceed with the orderly transition to the next administration, Puno said.

Arroyo 'not happy' over reports of poll fraud, says Puno

MANILA, PhilippinesEven President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not happy about allegations that the May 10 automated voting was fraught with cheating, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said Tuesday.

Puno said Ms Arroyowho was herself accused of fraud in winning the 2004 presidential electionhad discussed with her Cabinet at a meeting in Angeles City a transition of power to the next president.

If the President herself is already preparing for the transition, then we hope that those who are not directly affected will heed the clear desire of our people, Puno said in a statement.

Ms Arroyo has denied allegations at the height of the so-called "Hello Garci" scandal that she cheated in the 2004 election.

Enterprising idiots

Apparently piqued by rumors that he had phoned Election Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer to rig the recent elections, Puno said he had ordered the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to quietly investigate the matter.

I think it is a deliberate attempt to try to derail the proclamation process I will not allow anything to delay the orderly, valid and legal proclamation of the next president of the republic, he said.

Instead of entertaining insinuations about election cheating, he said the people should try to focus on the canvassing and the proclamation.

Puno blamed enterprising idiots for the crude and inconsequential attempts to undermine the results of the countrys first automated elections.

He said it does not take a forensic or voice expert to determine that the alleged recorded conversation between him and Ferrer was bogus.

More names floated as possible Cabinet execs under Aquino admin

Migrante: Salary of OFWs not enough to cope with tuition hike

MANILA, Philippines -- Overseas Filipino workers earning a meager monthly income of $250 to $450 a month are not earning enough to cope with impending tuition hikes in most schools, Migrante-Middle East warned today.

The group said the current dollar-peso exchange rate of $1 to P44 only gives an ordinary overseas worker between P11,000 to P19,800 monthly income and is even insufficient to cover the P780 daily cost of living in Metro Manila.

"What will happen if colleges and universities will implement a seven to 15 percent or even higher tuition increase at the opening of classes in June?" the group said.

The impending tuition hike will definitely put the OFW parents in dire straights when classes start, Migrante added. Even those earning $500 or P22,000 a month will have a hard time coping with the increase.

Soaring prices of basic commodities on top of the tuition hikes, the group said, will only force more parents to seek work abroad or seek additional jobs.

Bureau of Customs plans to sell a set of Imelda's jewelry

(Update 7:36 PM) The Philippines Customs Bureau is planning to sell a set of jewelry owned by former first lady Imelda Marcos.
Called the Roumeliotes jewelry collection, the set one of three owned by the spouse of the late dictator Ferdinand is named after Greek national Demetrius Roumeliotes who reportedly tried to smuggle the collection out of the country in March 1986.
However, the set considered as the most expensive was intercepted and seized at the airport by the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
The other two jewelry sets are named Malacañang and Honolulu.
The items were intercepted at the airport by the BoC who reportedly tried to smuggle them out of the country, two weeks after the Marcoses flew to Hawaii.
Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said he discussed the matter with officials of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), an agency tasked to retrieve ill-gotten Marcos wealth.
We had a meeting with them but the problem was I told them I do not have a budget to invite these internationally known European-based gemologists, who are known in the world. The PCGG will be inviting them to appraise these Roumeliotes jewelry," Morales said.
The Roumeliotes set is currently stored at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
The bureau attempted to sell the jewelry collection twice through an auction in 1993 and 2009 but both resulted in failed bidding.
Meanwhile, proceeds from the jewelry sale are expected to help cover the Philippines budget deficit next year, which is expected to reach 3.3 percent of the countrys gross domestic product.
The planned auction will also cover the other two sets of jewelry, Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves said separately in a text message.

The military said Tuesday it has neutralized 50 members of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) in the last five months.
The latest military operations against the militant group was on May 15 when Scout Ranger troops raided an Abu Sayyaf lair in Barangay Gihong, Sumisip, Basilan where an extremist was killed and 15 others were captured, said Brig. Gen. Francisco Cruz, commander of the militarys Civil Relations Service.
Captured in the May 15 raid was Abu Sayyaf leader Umar Ipong who has standing warrants of arrest for kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and atrocities in connection with the siege of Lamitan town in Basilan in June 2001.
Since January, the military killed 18 militants and wounded and incapacitated 16 others in at least 24 encounters, while one was arrested and 15 others were captured, Cruz said.
Seventeen firearms and other war paraphernalia were also recovered from the group, the military said.
This year, the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] has effectively curtailed the terror campaign of the ASG," Cruz said.
Even so, we are doubling our efforts to surpass this achievement based on a roadmap for the strategic, tactical and categorical defeat of the ASG," Cruz added.
The Abu Sayyaf had an estimated strength of 390 at the end of 2009, from a peak of about 1,200 in 2000.
The latest numbers from the military would suggest that the groups current strength is now down to 340.
Our military operations against terrorism will not stop. In so doing, the AFP continues to adopt a well calibrated policy to prevent collateral damage and a cycle of violence, Cruz said. "We need to emphasize that the peace and stability in Mindanao does not lie solely on the shoulders of AFP."
We are all stakeholders of lasting peace and sustainable development. Hence, we encourage more interfaith dialogues, and more collaborative efforts with the [local government units] and other agencies, peace advocates, and the entirety of the civil society towards a mutual goal of having a terrorism-free country," he added.

MILF replaces Kato as 105th BIAF leader

CENTRAL MINDANAO, Philippines – Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar has announced that Ameril Umbra Kato is no longer the leader of the 105th base command of the Bangasamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

P300-million cocaine haul destroyed in Samar

TACLOBAN CITY -- Around P300 million worth of cocaine bricks washed ashore in Northern and Eastern Samar provinces were destroyed here yesterday as the military vowed to double efforts to recover similar bricks in other parts of the country's eastern seaboard.

$1: P47.100

$1: P47.100

Euro 1: P57.6131

Stocks, peso fall on global concerns

PHILIPPINE STOCKS AND THE PESO slid yesterday, with the currency closing at a six-month low, as continued worries over the euro zone debt crisis were compounded by renewed tension between North and South Korea.

Teves warns vs 'no new taxes'

Nagbabala si Finance Secretary Margarito "Gary" Teves kay presidential frontrunner Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III tungkol sa pangako nitong hindi magpapataw ng bagong buwis sa kanyang termino. 

2011 deficit could be 4.4% of GDP with no new taxes

The country's budgetary shortfall could widen to 4.4% of gross domestic product, higher than the 3.3% target. That is if the new administration decides to forego proposed new taxes, outgoing finance minister Margarito Teves says.

Gov't borrowings jump 16% to P37-B in April

MANILA, Philippines - The government's borrowings rose 16% in April from a year ago, with the sale of $500 million worth of retail treasury bonds.

PCGG divided on the planned auction of Marcos jewelry

MANILA, Philippines - Members of the Philippine Commission on Good Government  (PCGG) are split on the issue of the Marcos jewelry collection.

N. Korea to sever all relations with S. Korea

SEOULNorth Korea said Tuesday it was severing all relations with South Korea and cutting communications links in protest at claims that it had sunk one of Seoul's warships.

The North said it would expel all South Korean personnel from a jointly-run industrial estate at Kaesong north of the border, and ban South Korean ships and planes from its territorial waters and airspace.

The state Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said South Korea's claims that it had torpedoed a warship were tantamount to a declaration of war.

In a statement on the official news agency, it said it was freezing relations and abrogating a non-aggression agreement.

The statement further heightened regional tensions sparked by an official report last week, which concluded that a North Korean submarine had sunk a South Korean corvette on March 26.

Seoul on Monday announced a package of reprisals, including a halt in most trade. It plans to refer the sinking to the United Nations Security Council.

The North said it would not talk to the South again for the remainder of President Lee Myung-Bak's term of office.

The conservative leader began a five-year term in February 2008, adopting a tougher line towards the North than his liberal predecessors.

The North also vowed an "all-out counterattack" against the South's decision to resume an official cross-border propaganda campaign, including loudspeaker broadcasts.

It did not give details but had earlier threatened to open fire at the loudspeakers.

The North also said all inter-Korean issues would be handled "under a wartime law" but did not elaborate.

"There is no need to show any mercy or patience for such confrontation maniacs, sycophants and traitors and wicked warmongers as the Lee Myung-Bak group," it said.


Thaksin says terrorism charges 'politically motivated'

BANGKOKFugitive ex-Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra labelled an arrest warrant against him on terrorism charges "politically motivated" Tuesday and accused the government of human rights abuses.

"During my entire political career I have adhered to non-violence and the constitutional monarchy," he said in a statement issued by his legal adviser in Bangkok.

"I have never supported violence," Thaksin said. "The arrest warrant against me is unfair. I am ready to prove that I am not a terrorist and the accusation is politically motivated."

Thailand's Criminal Court on Tuesday approved an arrest warrant for Thaksin on terrorism charges, which carry a maximum penalty of death, in connection with recent violent protests.

The tycoon-turned-premier was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006 and lives in self-imposed exile, mainly in Dubai, to avoid a jail term for corruption.

The street rallies, which were broken up last week by the army, paralyzed central Bangkok and descended into several outbreaks of violence that left 88 people dead since mid-March, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

The Thai government "must be held to account for these deaths and abuses of human rights," Thaksin said in a second statement issued Tuesday.

Pacquiao checks out of hospital

MANILA, Philippines -- World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday morning after recovering from ulcer.

Cigar-chomping FVR tells Noy to give up smoking

MANILA, Philippines - Presidential frontrunner Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III received yet another unsolicited advice on his nicotine habit, this time from an unlikely source.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos, who often chomped on--but never lit--his cigars when he was chief executive, told Aquino through an interview with reporters on Tuesday that smoking is bad for his health.

The 82-year-old claimed that he's never felt stronger and better since he kicked his nicotine habit decades ago.

 

Ramos holding a cigar. Credit: User picturetakingone of Flickr.com.

 

Like most former chain smokers, Ramos said he was able to end his use of cigarettes through self-discipline and sheer determination. He made it clear, however, that he's not forcing Aquino to give up this habit if he's not yet ready.

On Monday, Aquino admitted that he can't quit smoking yet, reacting to calls made by certain individuals and groups.

Since being the Philippines' most powerful person entails a lot of responsibilities, Aquino said he needs all the de-stress mechanisms he can get, and this includes smoking.

Among those who urged Aquino to kick the nicotine habit are former Health Secretary Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, Sen. Pia Cayetano and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines.

More anti-smoking calls

Earlier, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the Presidential Security Group may have a hard time securing Aquino if he's always smoking cigarettes outside of Malacañang Palace.

Citing Philippine laws, Cabral said Aquino may be restricted to smoke only in a specific room or 10 meters away from any government building, including the Office of the President.

 

Aquino smoking a cigarette. Credit: ABS-CBN

 

"Lahat ng doktor ay umaasa na eventually titigil na manigarilyo di lamang si President-elect, kung hindi lahat ng tao (All doctors are hoping that not only President-elect Aquino will quit smoking, but also everyone else)," Cabral said.

For his part, Press Undersecretary Roger Peyuan said Aquino, as the Philippines' next president, should not "go against the government's anti-smoking campaign."

"Siguro darating din iyong punto na makikinig siya at marerealize niya (Maybe there'll come a time when he'll finally listen and realize what he's doing)," Peyuan said.

"The population is just rather concerned about the habit which may affect governance and ruling in our country," Peyuan added.

Smoking is one habit that Aquino shares with Barack Obama, whose successful campaign for the United States presidency is considered a momentous political phenomenon.

Like Aquino, the US President has been struggling to get rid of his smoking habit since 2006.

Cesar Montano confirms he's hosting 'Wowowee'

MANILA, Philippines - Award-winning actor Cesar Montano on Tuesday disclosed that he will host noontime show "Wowowee."

Jobert Sucaldito: I respect ABS-CBN's decision on Willie

MANILA, Philippines – Entertainment columnist and host Jobert Sucaldito said Tuesday he respects the decision reached by the management of ABS-CBN and Willie Revillame after their closed-door meeting Monday. 

Vice Ganda, Tado exchange heated words in 'Showtime'

MANILA, Philippines - Things were heated in Monday's episode of "Showtime" after a word war erupted between the show's resident judge Vice Ganda and guest judge Tado Jimenez.

Charice to join American TV series `Glee'

MANILA, Philippines--The Philippines' pride, international pop star CharicePempengco, will soon join the cast of the award-winning American musical comedy-drama TV series "Glee."

Is Nora Aunor a victim of botched surgery?

TORONTO, Canada – Superstar Nora Aunor told loyal fans Saturday that the concert they were watching was her last. Aunor told the audience that she was advised by her doctor not to sing, or even speak. Through the concert, she was lip synching her songs.

Aunor's onstage spiels included bits and pieces of information that hinted of a surgical procedure gone wrong and a subsequent lawsuit. There was no official statement.

Backstage, a source claimed Aunor is filing a malpractice lawsuit against a doctor who performed surgery that damaged her vocal cords, effectively ending her career as a singer.

"Hindi ko pa puwedeng sabihin lahat dahil meron akong group of lawyers. Itong usaping ito ay napakadelikado," said Aunor, who neither confirmed nor denied a lawsuit and botched surgery.

Aunor's voice was uncharacteristically hoarse and raspy.

The performer cried backstage, saying she was grateful to her fans that have stayed loyal.

"Natutuwa ako sapagkat ang mga tao, noon hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin nawalan ng pag-asa. Masaya ako dahil sila nandito pa rin," Aunor said.

Tearful fans said they are willing to continue supporting their idol.

"I'm willing to help in prayer and in finance," said one.

"I'm going to help her, nagsasabi siya ng totoo," said another.

In February, Aunor told reporters that she was staging a comeback to Philippine show business. To prepare for her return to acting, the actress-singer reportedly underwent "cosmetic enhancement" in Japan, after authorities lifted a 5-year ban preventing her from leaving the US in connection with a drug case.

Aunor was arrested for possession of methamphetamine (shabu) in 2005. It is not clear if the "cosmetic enhancement" she reportedly had done in Japan is the subject of Aunor's lawsuit. 

In a TV interview at her Glorietta show on May 23, Pempengco herself hinted at "a surprise" that will surely make her fans happy. "Basta in na in posiyangayon," she said.

The quote set off the Internet abuzz with rumors, which zeroed in on the possibility of Pempengco appearing on "Glee" because the show's theme and the cast's age group fits her.

"Yes, it's true, Charice will soon join "Glee," her Philippine manager, Grace Mendoza, confirmed to the Inquirer. "And not just as a guest, but as part of the cast in a new season."

The popular TV show won the 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series Musical or Comedy.

Pempengco's joining the "Glee" cast comes on the heels of her most recent triumph as the first Asian to break into the Top 10 of the Billboard album chart. Her self-titled US CD has debuted at No. 8 in its first week of release, selling 43,000 copies in America alone.

The album is at No. 4 in the Canadian music chart.

White House to host concert honoring Paul McCartney

WASHINGTON--Legendary musician Paul McCartney will perform at the White House in June, where President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will present the former Beatle with a prize honoring his career.

The White House announced the concert on Monday, saying McCartney would perform in the East Room on June 2 and receive the third Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, an award given by the Library of Congress.

The prize, which commemorates American songwriters George and Ira Gershwin, "is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins," the White House said.

The president and the first lady last year awarded the second Gershwin Prize to Stevie Wonder, who also performed at the White House before receiving the accolade.

The first recipient of the award was American singer-songwriter Paul Simon.

McCartney's concert will be rebroadcast on US public television in July, the White House said.

The former Beatle has written, recorded and performed since the break-up of the legendary English pop group and has received a slew of accolades at home and abroad.

He has remained popular in the United States and in 2005 was chosen to perform at the Superbowl half-time show.

McCartney, 67, gave fans a heads up about the gig in a webchat last week, saying: "If there is an announcement mentioning the White House, remember where you heard it first."

Congress okays canvassing rules

MANILA, Philippines(UPDATE) Congress on Tuesday approved the proposed rules that would govern lawmakers sitting as National Board of Canvassers in canvassing votes for president and vice president.

After about an hour of discussion, the senators and congressmen unanimously said yes to the rules paving the way for the start of the official canvassing.

The joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives adjourned at 5:09 p.m. following the approval of the rules.

Smartmatic officials, Comelec officials and Information technology experts were asked to attend the session on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Questions on the certificates of canvass were raised by several congressmen to ensure that what they would canvass are authentic and duly executed.

Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casio said his group does not accept the explanation of Smartmatic Inc., the automation partner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), that the certificates of canvass no longer need the electronic signature of the board of election inspectors because the digital signature required under the law are already built in the machines.

Speaker Prospero Nograles gave assurances Congress through the joint canvassing committee would seek further explanation from Smartmatic officials.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman questioned the documents that would serve as basis of the canvass, whether they were electronically transmitted results or the printed certificates of canvass manually transmitted to Congress.

Nograles replied that both documents would be used to canvass the votes.

On questions by Representative Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna partylist about the canvass of presidential and vice presidential votes, Nograles also assured that votes for both position would be canvassed at the same time and the proclamation of the countrys next president and vice president would be made at the same time.

Pertinent provisions of the rules include:

Section 17: Determination of Due Execution and Authenticity of the Certificates of Canvass

The Joint Committee shall satisfy itself that:

a) each certificate of canvass (CoC) was duly executed, signed and thumbmarked by the chairman and members of the city, district or provincial BoCs;

b) that it contains the names of all the candidates for president and vice president and their corresponding votes in words and figures;

c) that there exists no discrepancy in other authentic copies of the CoCs or in any of its supporting documents such as statements of votes by city, district or provincial BoCs or discrepancy in the votes of any candidate in words and figures in the certificate; and

d) that there exists no discrepancy in the votes of any candidate in words and figures in the CoC against the aggregate number of votes appearing in the election returns of precincts covered by the CoC.

Section 18: Comparison of Printed Certificate of Canvass and Electronically Transmitted Certificate of Canvass

The Joint Committee shall proceed to open the corresponding electronically transmitted CoCs, and a printed copy thereof shall be generated from the Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS). The Joint Committee shall ascertain that the number of votes cast for each presidential and vice-presidential candidate in the printed CoCs and in the electronically transmitted CoCs are identical. Should there exist any discrepancy between the printed and electronically transmitted CoCs, the canvass of the CoC shall be deferred.

Section 20: Discrepancy Between the Printed Certificates of Canvass and the Electronically Transmitted Certificates of Canvass

Should there exist a discrepancy between the printed CoCs and the electronically transmitted CoCs with regard to the number of votes cast for each presidential and vice presidential candidate, the Joint Committee shall require the Board of Canvassers concerned to appear before it and explain the discrepancy.

The Joint Committee may order the production, examination and comparison of the compact flash (CF) cards (both the main memory and back up cards) from the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine, the secure digital (SD) card from the CCS machine, the audit logs, and the printed or generated election returns, SoVs by precincts, city or municipal CoCs, SoVs by city or municipality and provincial CoCs.

If the discrepancy cannot be reconciled or resolved on the basis of an examination of the foregoing CF and SD cards, and the printed or generated copies from the concerned precincts and/or canvassing centers, the Joint Committee may order the opening of a pre-determined number of precinct ballot boxes of that particular city, district or province.

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