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

Monday, May 3, 2010

May 4, 2010 Major News Stories

Comelec rules out perforated sample ballots

A COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) ruling that forbids the use of a perforated sample ballot has encouraged opposition candidates in Lapu-Lapu City.

Sonny dares Tomas to show health record

FORMER senator John Henry "Sonny" Osmeña yesterday challenged Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña to show all his medical records to prove that he has been completely cured of his urinary bladder cancer.

Alvin claims lead in surveys, won't withdraw from race

THE mayoralty candidate of the opposition party Kugi Uswag Sugbu (Kusug) said yesterday no concession will make him withdraw from the race.

Coop-Natcco endorses Davide for governor

THE country's biggest cooperative party-list, the Coop-Natcco Network, yesterday announced its "unconditional" support for Davide.

Comelec: Beware of voters who take too long to vote

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) held on Monday a command conference with its senior officials, department heads, regional directors, the military, police, Smartmatic-TIM for final preparation instructions on the final leg of its preparations for the polls.

Comelec exec bares plot to disrupt polls

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it has received reports of people planning to disrupt or delay the voting process in the May 10 automated elections to push the failure-of-election scenario.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said these reports came from people on the field.

The aim of the poll fraud plotters was to discredit the election process and the results, which losing candidates can use for their advantage, Jimenez said.

We have heard reports that unscrupulous individuals may delay the voting and disrupt the proceedings, he said. It's a political strategy to discredit the elections and the commission, he noted.

Plans to disenfranchise voters on election day revealed

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) revealed on Monday that they have been receiving "credible" information that there are plans to delay or prevent some voters from voting on election day.

"What's happening (is that) some individuals will purposely delay the voting in some areas to prevent voters from voting," Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said at a press briefing.

Larrazabal explained that the plans would entail disrupting the voting process to delay, prevent, or discourage voters from taking part in the elections on May 10.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said they cannot divulge yet who the people behind the supposed plans are. "We cannot give you names... we have to be very careful (because of) who are and who are not involved," he said.

Jimenez noted, however, that the information came from several credible sources "all over" the country. "We evaluated some of them and we've found them credible," he said.

Jimenez hinted that the supposed plans could be part of some candidate's "political strategy" to prevent his or her opponents' supporters from voting. "These are one of the groups looking at. (But) you can only shut out the supporters for a short period of time," he said.

He added that another possible motive behind this is to discredit the poll body and the conduct of elections itself so that the results of the automated polls can be challenged easily.

Larrazabal, for his part, said they have already told their board of election inspectors (BEI) to "take appropriate action" in case voting proceedings are disrupted on election day.

Jimenez said that the BEI would ask a voter who has stayed for more than 10 minutes inside the precinct to fasten voting. He said voting should only take about seven to eight minutes.

He also said that the BEIs have the option to call the police if a "disruptive" incident takes place inside the precinct. "They should always be alert on election day," he said.

He said that disrupting the electoral process constitutes an election offense, which is punishable by disenfranchisement, disqualification from holding public office, and imprisonment of one to six years.

But Jimenez said that punishment would still depend on the crime.

Errors force Comelec to reset PCOS testing

MANILA, Philippines - Errors and malfunctions marred the testing of the much vaunted Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines with barely a week left before the start of the country's first nationwide automated polls.

The numerous reports of malfunctions prompted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday to issue a directive postponing all further testing and sealing of the PCOS machines throughout Luzon (including the National Capital Region), Visayas and Mindanao to May 7.

The Comelec decision to postpone the tests also gives Smartmatic-TIM just 4 days to study the problem and fix the malfunctioning PCOS machines.

During a test in Sampaloc, Manila, residents, poll watchers and members of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) expressed concern when a PCOS machine failed to register a single vote for city mayor.

Ten ballots were entered into a machine during the test and it failed to register the votes.

"Nine of us voted for (Joselito) Atienza and one for (Mayor Alfredo) Lim but the PCOS machine in our polling precinct failed to register a single vote," Herminia Yabut, Barangay 532 chairman, told ABS-CBN News.

A similar failure also occurred during the test conducted at the Graciano Lopez Jaena High School.

Ten ballots were used for each of the 8 machines in the school. All 8 machines malfunctioned. 
A paper problem?

However, the machines functioned properly when the votes for national positions were tallied.   

"The PCOS machines read the ballots (for national positions) correctly," said Maria Belen Fajilan, a teacher of Legarda Elementary School and member of the Board of Election Inspector (BEI). "I think the machine malfunctioned because the sample ballot used was too thin."

She noted that the real ballots for the May 10 polls were slightly thicker than the sample ballots used in the test.

In Makati, the lawyers of a local candidate running for mayor rushed to the Pembo Elementary School after learning that the PCOS machines there failed to function properly.

They learned the machines' tally of the sample ballots did not match the results of the manual count.

The test involved all the PCOS machines for the school's 31 polling precincts. 
Jessel Ruybibar, a Smartmatic-TIM PCOS technician offered the same explanation as Fajilan on why the errors occurred.

"I think the paper of the sample ballot is too thin compared to a real ballot," he said.

Ruybibar's explanation failed to reassure the people who witnessed the malfunctions.

"It's really saddening," said Dr. Eletia Lopez, the election supervisor of Pembo Elementary School. "We all want clean elections but you saw what happened with the PCOS machines."

Jitters before election day

Because of the reported malfunctions during the tests, many members of the PPRCV are worried that the same glitches could occur on election day.

"Right now, we are worried errors occurred," said Tonichi Fernandez, head of the PPRCV team at Lopez Jaena School in Sampaloc, Manila.

The PCOS machines were supposed to be sealed and secured after the final tests.

Despite the glitches, teachers and members of the BEI hope that the machines will be ready by election day.

Same error in provinces

The errors were not confined in Metro Manila. The PCOS machines often failed when tallying votes for local officials during tests, but were accurate when the votes for national officials were counted. Similar errors were also noted in Mindoro Oriental and Batangas.

Malfunctioning machines were spotted in Balete, Laurel, Lipa City, Lobo, Malvar, Mataas na Kahoy, Padre Garcia, Rosario, Sto. Tomas, Talisay, Tanauan, Tingloy and San Juan.

Members of the BEI at the Lodlod Elementary School in Lipa City were shocked when the tally of the PCOS machines differed from the BEI's manual count.

"We counted the votes twice," BEI member Gina Santoyo said. "But our result still didn't match the machine's count.

During one test, a machine repeatedly reported that no votes were cast for local officials, contrary to what the BEI found.

"This is an alarming situation," PPCRV volunteer Lourdes Marali said. "The machines failed when tested with only 10 ballots. What more on election day?"

Lawyer Gloria Petallo, the Comelec provincial election supervisor for Batangas, told ABS-CBN News that they have informed Smartmatic-TIM of the errors made by the PCOS machines.

"Smartmatic told us the malfunctions were unusual," Petallo said. "They can't explain it. We're still hoping that this can be fixed before election day because we really want successful automated polls.

Smartmatic's explanation

Smartmatic spokesman Gene Gregorio said the problems most probably occurred because of the quality of paper used for the test ballots.

The paper of the test ballots was of an inferior quality compared to the paper used for the real ballots, he explained.

"We still have time to fine tune the machines," Gregorio said. "The Comelec and Smartmatic are checking the reports. We have to wait for the Comelec to release its findings."

"We're looking into this," he added. "A team from Comelec-Smartmatic is looking for a root cause. By tomorrow, we will have a diagnosis. The purpose is to test the machine and find a solution. Smartmatic-TIM will answer this."

The decision of the Comelec to postpone further testing of the machines to May 7 gives Smartmatic-TIM 4 days to study the problem and find a solution.

A group of information technology experts claimed earlier that the source code used in the PCOS machines was sloppily written and could cause counting and transmission errors. -- reports from Zyann Ambrosio and Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

Poll source code has flaws, says IT expert

MANILA, Philippines – There are several flaws in the source code being used for the automated polls, an official from the Computer Professionals Union (CPU) and Kontra Daya said on Monday.

A source code is a set of human readable instructions that define what a computer will do.

"Erroneous programming on the database can lead to serious problems in data corruption and integrity," said Rick Bahague of CPU and Kontra Daya. "Transmission of data is not always encrypted and this can be exploited to manipulate results."

Bahague said that the source code also revealed hasty programming with inadequate comments on the source code, test variables that were not deleted and inaccurate memory management. It also found that audit log entries are not always recorded with the proper time stamp.

He based his conclusions on the review conducted by Sys Test Labs of Colorado, USA on the source code being used by Smartmatic-TIM for the country's first national automated elections. Sys Test was the winning bidder for the certification of the software and hardware components of the 2010 polls.

Bahague claimed the Comelec has not publicly discussed or admitted the flaws found by Sys Test.

He explained that commands to add, update and delete existing database records lack an enclosing logic which may affect the integrity of the records, which at worse could lead to the database being corrupted or lost.

SQL injections

The Election Management Software (EMS) is also susceptible to SQL (Standard Query Language) injections, he added.

SQL is a standard language for accessing and manipulating databases. An SQL injection is a code injection technique that exploits a security vulnerability occurring in the database layer of an application.

Bahague said there is a possibility that the source code could allow the storage of unencrypted passwords in the EMS database. The source code also uses different numeric variables during mathematical computations, which leads to inaccurate memory management in the Election Programming Station.

Manipulated data possible

Because of these flaws, election data may not always be properly encrypted before being stored or sent, he explained. This means that the Certificate of Canvass and Statement of Votes might not be encrypted when sent to the Central Server from the PCOS machine.

Without a proper encryption, transmitted data can be intercepted, changed or even blocked.

"There is also some concern on how the machine will read undervotes," he said. "The review cautioned the non-standard treatment of undervotes which can lead to exclusion of such votes during counting."

An undervote is a ballot that a voter chose not to completely fill up.

"While the Sys Test review pointed out 'minor' errors, it has strongly recommended operational safeguards which if not properly implemented will seriously affect the accuracy of the results," he said.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo had announced last year that political parties and other interested groups can check the results of the Sys Test review by Feb. 26, 2010.

Another poll official later clarified Melo's announcement, saying that those who want to check the results can only do so at the Comelec office under certain conditions.

PNP deploys cops a week before elections

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine National Police has begun deploying its policemen to man the more than 36,000 voting centers across the country a week before the elections on May 10, a police spokesman said on Monday.

Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina said deployment of police troops begun on Sunday and is still ongoing in various police regional offices as of this time.

Simultaneous with the deployment is the putting up of police security assistance desks 50 meters from the polling precinct, to help secure the voting area before and during election day itself.

"The deployment has already started as early as Sunday. Today, Police Regional Office 11 (Southern Mindanao) is conducting simultaneous deployment in its area of responsibility," Espina said.

Espina said they will be putting up a total of 36,679 security assistance desks across the country, in proportion to the number of polling precincts.

Of the number, 16,583 are in Luzon, 10,213 in Visayas, and 9,983 in Mindanao.

Each security assistance desk will be manned by at least two policemen and representatives from the Armed Forces.

PNP: Incidence of violence less in 2010 polls, so far…

Dalawampu't apat na ang nagbuwis ng buhay sa 45 na insidente ng karahasan na kaugnay sa halalan ngayong taon. Pero ayon sa PNP,  mas mababa pa rin ito kumpara sa bilang noong 2004 at 2007 elections at hindi rin isinama sa bilang ang Maguindanao Massacre.

Comelec to place areas in 7 provinces under its control

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is planning to place areas in at least seven provinces under its control in preparation for the May 10 nationwide automated elections.

These places are the provinces of Abra and Nueva Ecija, and some towns in Davao, Maguindanao, Zamboanga del Sur, Masbate and Cavite, according to Comelec chairman Jose Melo.

Melo said they based their decision on the escalating number of election-related violent incidents in these places. He, however, noted that they have yet to promulgate the resolution regarding the order.

Last week, the Comelec en banc held a hearing to place some areas in Abra, Nueva Ecija, and Zamboanga Del Sur under its control. The requests were made by Tineg, Abra Mayor Edwin Crisologo, Bangued; Abra Mayor Dominic Valera, Labangan; Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali; and Zamboanga Del Sur Vice Mayor Wilson Nandang.

Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle earlier said the local officials requested them to place their areas under Comelec control because of the history of election-related violence there.

Melo even said that election officers in Abra had refused to accept the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, the technology that will be used in the upcoming elections, ahead of election day for fear that the machines would be stolen.

The Comelec had the machines stored at the residence of the archbishop for safekeeping.

On the other hand, the hearing to place some areas in Davao, Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat under Comelec control has been reset to Wednesday.

Placing an area under Comelec control means that the poll body commissioner to be assigned in the province would be the acting governor. It will also empower the commissioner to run the province and take command of the law enforcement there.

On Monday, officials of the poll body, Philippine National Police, and Armed Forces of the Philippines held a joint command conference to discuss the preparation for the next week's automated polls.

Masbate solon surrenders 20 guns

MASBATE CITY, Masbate, Philippines(UPDATE) Representative Narciso Bravo of Masbate (1st District) handed over 20 assorted high-powered firearms to Special Task Force Masbate in a ceremony held Monday morning at the chapel in the provincial police office.

Bravo turned over several firearms, including an M16 rifle, a 9 millimeter Uzi, seven caliber 38 revolvers, a shotgun, among others, according to a statement from Senior Superintendent Eliciar Bron, spokesman of Bicol regional police office.

The surrender was witnessed by high ranking police and military officials led by Lieutenant General Roland Detabali, chief of the Southern Luzon Command.

Also present before the ceremonial surrendering of firearms were ranking officials of the Philippine National Police led by Deputy Director General for Operations Edgardo Acuna, Commissioner Monina Zenarosa of the Zenarosa Commission, and Masbate Governor Elisa Kho.

The surrender followed the turnover of 23 firearms by spouses Representative Antonio Kho and his wife Governor Elisa Kho last April 27.

Data from Special Task Force Masbate showed that a total of 77 firearms had already been surrendered to the task force since the local campaign period started in January 10.

Masbate has been deemed an election hot spot by authorities because of its history of violence involving feuding political clans during electoral contests.

Bron said the move of Bravo would "soften the stance of the main political players in Masbate, and make this election the most peaceful in Masbate's history."

"It is not far-fetched that other political groups in possession of these lethal instruments of violence will follow suit, as a sign of their sincere desire to attain lasting peace in the province," Bron said.

NPA admits raiding Surigao mayor's house

Estrada slams uprising talk in Philippine elections

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - Former Philippine leader Joseph Estrada insisted Monday he could cause a major upset and win next week's presidential election, as he slammed the frontrunner for threatening a popular uprising if he lost.

FVR says 'no' to new Edsa Revolt

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Fidel V. Ramos does not support Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino's call for another "People Power" if he loses the presidential elections.

Aquino: Catholic Church to be on side of right in polls

BACACAY, Albay, Philippines -- Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales may frown on another display of "people power" but Liberal Party standard-bearer Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said on Monday that he still expected the country's Catholic Church to be on the side of right should push come to shove.

In a press conference, Aquino clarified that it would be the public that would decide if another people power revolt was necessary should massive cheating happen during the elections. He added that the country's Catholic leaders, not just Rosales, have also been closely watching the days towards the elections.

On Sunday, Rosales said that warnings of another people power revolt should the elections fail were "irresponsible" and "crazy."

"From what I saw, it was (only) Cardinal Rosales who spoke. He also said that he did not hear me or read my statement. We respect his opinion," Aquino said.

"But as I understand it, they will also look at how events will unfold. The Catholic Church is clear on what is right and wrong. And if something wrong is happening, they will make a stand like what they did on different occasions in our society's history," Aquino said.

With five days remaining in the campaign, Aquino said it would already be "very difficult" for his opponents to cut down his 19 percent lead in the surveys or a lead of around eight million votes.

"Is there a possibility of losing? You know, the 20-point spread--can I just round it off, it is 19 points but I can beg the one percent--so 20 percent in a 40 million turnout translates to about 8 million advance," Aquino said.

"So, they have to recover eight million, and they have to add more votes on top of the 8 million to overcome our lead. With five days left in the campaign, thats practically two million votes they will have to be getting and I think thats very difficult," he added.

However, Aquino said that the public would decide what to do if they felt that the elections results were rigged.

"We have been maintaining that this is a people's campaign. We are but servants of the people. Therefore, it will be the people who will decide the appropriate action in case there is cheating. But, we are there to defend and uphold the rights of everybody," Aquino said.

"As to what the people will do, they have in this whole campaign stood up, buttressed this campaign, supported this campaign, and advanced this campaign. If at the end of the day, clearly there is a majority with us and their voices are not heard, then they will take I think appropriate action," he said.

"And we hopefully will avoid a situation that will be as interesting or as tense as the 1986 elections," Aquino added.

He also explained that Rosales might have used strong words like "irresponsible" and "crazy" because he might have been "fed incorrect quotes" about Aquino's original statement on the possibility of another people power revolt.

"I assume he was fed certain quotes attributed to me which might or might have not been correct and he was reacting to those quotes. If he had seen or read exactly what I said, I don't think he would have rendered that opinion," Aquino said.

He said he issued his original statement after someone asked him what he would do if there was cheating and he lost the elections.

"My answer was people have been waiting for the elections to address what we perceive as the wrong governance happening in the last nine and a half years. Having waited patiently for the elections and having their patience rewarded with frustration, they will rise upand you know sovereignty resides in the peoplethey will exercise their sovereignty," Aquino said.

'Irresponsible not to take action vs poll fraud'—religious leaders

MANILA, Philippines -- It would be more irresponsible to do nothing in the face of massive electoral fraud, religious leaders said on Monday as they disputed the stand taken Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales calling such calls for people power as crazy and irresponsible.

Fr. Joe Dizon of the poll watchdog group Kontra Daya (Against Cheating) said he understood Rosales' position, but he said people should protest against cheating in the polls and failure of elections especially if these would lead to a holdover government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

If fraud and failure of elections will lead to a holdover government, we should fight it. If fighting it needs mass movement that is the right of the people. The people should see that their strength lies in that, Dizon said in a press briefing.

That is just and legitimate and a moral responsibility of the people if they are being fooled, he added.

He said in case of failure of elections, the people, and not one single group, should be the beneficiary of any mass movement.

Sister Mary John Mananzan, also a Kontra Daya convenor, said taking to the streets would be the only recourse available.

With due respect, I disagree vehemently [with Cardinal Rosales], Mananzan said.

It's more irresponsible if you do nothing. Where would you go, to Congress, to the Supreme Court? Even Art Panganiban, the former chief justice, said all of the institutions of government are severely compromised. So where will you go, but to the power of the people? she said.

She added that if a candidate was cheated, he and his supporters should exercise their right to protest. That right, she said, could be and should be exercised by every Filipino citizen victimized by a human rights violation.

If you don't, you are an irresponsible person, she said.

When asked, she said the circumstances that would lead her to believe widespread fraud and general failure of elections would be the absence of a proclamation of national candidates because of a failure to transmit the results and people other than the Board of Election Inspectors manning the elections precincts.

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, who has expressed his own misgivings about the automated elections, said he would join mass movements if he saw that the elections did not reflect the people's will and the process was shot full of holes.

Just because we are priests doesn't mean we don't care about the world. The truth is, under the laws of the church, a priest needs to be concerned about truth and justice. That is canon law. Clerics have to be involved in the promotion of justice and peace in society, Cruz said.

He added that it would be incorrect to see nothing and do nothing in the face of all the wrong things being committed.

But he said that his reading of Rosales' statements was that the cardinal saw no reason to support any people power at this point, but not that he would not support any people power at all.

When the situation warrants it, I do not think he's closed to a people power per se. But for him, as of now, he sees no reason why there has to be a people power, he said.

Rosales earlier said that the circumstances that led to the 1986 people power revolt were not present now, which was why he saw no need for another mass uprising. He also said that he was not averse to people power if there was basis for it.

But he emphasized that he would not immediately call for one in case of doubtful election results, to give people a chance to take legal recourses guaranteed by the Constitution.

Monsod: AFP won't back PGMA term extension

MANILA, Philippines – The military will not allow President Arroyo to extend her term beyond June 30, a former chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Monday.

Christian Monsod, who chaired the Comelec during the term of the late President Corazon Aquino, said his sources within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have assured him that they will only obey the Constitution, and not the orders of a hold-over president.

He added his sources have told him that the military will only support the succession process provided under the Constitution.

Monsod made the statement during a pre-election forum held at the Ateneo School of Government on Monday.

During the forum, he said another "people power" is unnecessary if no candidates are proclaimed president and vice president because the Senate president can serve as acting president until a new national election is held. Don't believe conspiracy theories

He said the public should not believe rumors and speculations which say the Comelec, the military, and the Supreme Court are conspiring to keep Mrs. Arroyo in power.

"It defies logic for people to think that she is the evil genius orchestrating events who's willing to risk the stability and credibility of the country, possibly bloodshed and disruption  of institutions, because she wants to protect herself," Monsod said.

Monsod is the president of One Voice, one of the many non-government organizations who have vowed to guard the conduct of the elections on May 10.

Monsod said it was highly unlikely there would be a failure of elections in the national level.

The Comelec, he explained, has contingency plans to ensure the success of the May 10 polls.

Monsod added there is no such thing as a perfectly conducted election.

"The country's first automated national polls will try the patience of all Filipinos," he said. 

Former DILG chief endorses Gibo

MANILA, Philippines – Rafael Alunan III, president of the First Philippine Infrastructure Development Corporation and a former Interior and Local Government secretary, has publicly endorsed former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro's bid for the country's top post.

Analyst: Gibo can still win

Hindi pa huli ang lahat para kay Lakas standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro kahit pa mababa siya sa mga survey. Ito ang tingin ng isang political analyst matapos i-endorso si Teodoro ni Pastor Apollo Quiboloy ng grupong Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Gibo no-show in Samar campaign rally

To the disappointment of his leaders and supporters, Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro cancelled his appearance at a rally in Laoang town, Northern Samar on Monday afternoon.

Arroyo pleased with Quiboloy endorsement

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was "pleased'' with the endorsement of teleevangelist Pastor Apollo Quiboloy of administration presidential candidate Gilberto "Gibo'' Teodoro Jr., her deputy spokesperson Gary Olivar said on Monday.

El Shaddai to reveal chosen presidential bet on Saturday

MANILA, PhilippinesEL Shaddai leader Mariano Mike Velarde said the group has finished its assessment of the presidential candidates and will reveal on Saturday the name of the candidate his group will support in the May 10 elections.

We will have this remaining one week as an assessment and this coming Saturday we will definitely release our decision, Velarde said in an ambush interview Monday at the Commission on Elections headquarters in Manila.

Velarde, along with officials from business groups like the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc. went to the Comelec to meet with poll chairman Jose Melo. The organizations are ready to offer their help to the poll body to ensure that Monday's national elections would be peaceful and honest.

Salceda: Noynoy to become country's 1st majority president after Edsa '86

With the surveys showing him leading in the presidential race, Liberal Party standard-bearer Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is on his way to becoming the country's first majority President since the return of democracy in 1986, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said.

Gordon hits presidential bet ads hiding behind party-lists

MANILA, Philippines -- Sen. Richard Gordon questioned the proliferation of television ads labeled to be for party-list groups but are actually dominated by images of presidential candidates.

Sought for comment on Monday, Gordon said: "This has become a very expensive campaign because the Commission on Elections, even the Supreme Court, has been very liberal on (those taking advantage) of loopholes in the rules."

Gordon said moneyed presidential candidates have spent on "backroom operations" to get around legal limits.

Numerous ads of party-list groups show the groups' names only on the last framethey are actually dominated by images of presidential candidates.

This is seen as a way to get around the limit on the number of minutes a presidential candidate is allowed to air commercials.

Candidates are allowed a maximum airtime of 120 minutes for TV ads and 180 minutes for radio ads for each station during the official campaign period.

But the party-list groups' commercials showing presidential candidates are presented to have been paid for by the party-list groups and are therefore counted against their allotted time, not to that of the presidential candidates.

Last month, Gordon has questioned the poll body's inaction over studies that showed his rivals Benigno Noynoy Aquino III and Manuel Villar may have overspent on television ads.

Gordon barnstormed Surigao Del Norte on Monday, a week before the national elections.

Sought for assessment of his presidential campaign, Gordon said: "I gave a good fight."

He said that unlike other bets, he did not break any rule just to further his bid.

Gordon said: "I did not violate the law. I have been truthful."

His one prayer for this coming election: That voters make principled choices.

Gordon said: "Candidates don't win or lose. It's the people who win or lose. If they choose the right man as the winner, they also win."

Aquino admits asking Binay to be DILG chief

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Liberty Party (LP) standard-bearer Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has admitted offering a Cabinet position to Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay in case he wins in the presidential elections.

Interviewed in a campaign rally in Albay on Monday, Aquino said he asked Binay, who has been a local official since 1986, to be his secretary of interior and local government.

But Aquino pointed out that he had made the offer before Binay decided to run for vice president and running mate of his rival, former President Joseph Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP).

"Since we share the same principles, I asked, why not join the Cabinet?" he said. "But that was before he decided to run for vice president."

Sen. Mar Roxas, Aquino's running mate, said he didn't mind that Aquino made such an offer to Binay.

"I don't mind," Roxas, who accompanied Aquino in Albay, said. "It's as if he (Binay) is admitting defeat because he is considering accepting a position in the Aquino administration."

Reports of alleged junking of Roxas by pro-Aquino forces surfaced after Sen. Francis Escudero came out and endorsed an Aquino-Binay or "NoyBi" duo for the country's top 2 posts.

Aquino told ABS-CBN News that he would never abandon Roxas.     Smoking issue a desperate act

Meanwhile, Aquino criticized NP presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar for raising the fact that he is a heavy smoker.

"I don't deny that I smoke," Aquino said. "But I don't advocate it. I didn't make any promise to end it."

The LP bet said raising this issue showed the desperation of the Villar camp as the May 10 polls draw nearer.

Villar's ratings have fallen compared to Aquino's in the latest survey of Pulse Asia. (Click here for story.)

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said he believes the surveys indicate a possible landslide victory by Aquino.

"Noynoy will be the first majority president after 1986," Salceda said. "That is what we see, and it will good for the economy."

The LP's rally in Albay was Aquino's last provincial campaign sortie. -- report from Maricar Bautista, ABS-CBN News

NP to seek Noynoy's DQ using fake psych reports: Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – There is an alleged plan to try to disqualify Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III from the presidential race, Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel said on Monday.

The congresswoman, who's running for a Senate seat under the LP, said the Nacionalista Party (NP) plans to use the fake psychological reports on Aquino as the basis for his disqualification from the presidential race.

"The mental health issue did not gain traction, so they now want to use the documents to file a disqualification case," the congresswoman said. "Desperate men resort to desperate and foolish measures."

Senator Manuel Villar, NP presidential candidate, denied that his party has such plans.

"Apparently Rissa is better informed than me," Villar said. "I'm the NP president and I don't know of such a plot."

However, Villar conceded that such an action is possible.

"I'm not saying that won't happen," he said. "What I'm saying is that so far, there is no such plan."

NP spokesman Adel Tamano was more specific on his stand on the fake psychological reports.

Tamano declared that he will oppose any attempt to use these fake reports to push for Aquino's disqualification from the presidential race.

The 2 psychological reports, which turned out to be fake after their supposed authors denied writing them, were used in 2 separate attempts to portray Aquino as mentally and psychologically unfit to be President of the Philippines. Psychologists alarmed

Meanwhile, the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) denounced the use of fake psychological reports in the electoral campaign.

The group branded the fake psychological reports as "misuse of psychology" and "an affront to psychologists and to psychology as a discipline and profession."

"These irresponsible actuations have dangerous long-term effects on efforts of Filipino psychologists and other mental health professionals to address the psychological well-being of Filipinos," the PAP said in a statement released on Sunday.

The PAP said the results of psychological tests or assessments cannot be released to the media or the public or to any person other than the client.

"Any reputable individual psychologist or psychological organization ensures the practice of confidentiality and that the results of psychological tests or assessment are only shared with the client," PAP said.

The PAP also denounced suggestions made by certain individuals to force political candidates to take psychological tests or assessments.

"Individuals cannot be subjected to psychological tests or assessment without their informed consent," the PAP said. "Any reputable individual psychologist or psychological organization ensures that informed consent is acquired from the client before conducting psychological tests."

The PAP also condemned the insinuation that depression is a permanent disability and the use of words like "abnoy", 'sira ang ulo' and "may diperensiya sa utak" to label individuals.

"These irresponsible statements and similar acts perpetuate a profound lack of understanding of psychological concepts, of the nature of psychological problems and dysfunctions, and of the nature of psychological health and wellbeing," the PAP said. -- report from Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Most election reports of ABS-CBN, GMA-7 neutral: CMFR

MANILA, Philippines - As mudslinging among candidates intensify, so are the attacks against the media.   Media watchdog Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) said that in situations like this, it is usually the media that is caught in the firing line.

For some candidates, reports favoring them are considered balanced, but reports against them are described as unfair.

"Ang trabaho kasi ng media dapat i-report lang, i-report kung ano ang mga nangyayari. Di naman sinabing ire-report iyong nangyayari ayon sa gusto mo. So kung di naaayon sa gusto mo, baka naman iyon talaga ang nangyari," said Luis Teodoro, CMFR deputy director.

Based on CMFR's monitoring of the news coverage of private stations ABS-CBN, GMA-7, and government-station NBN-4 from March 1 to 12, NBN-4 devoted more time to election-related stories at 34.2%.

ABS-CBN's coverage of election-related stories was at 31.8% while GMA-7's was at 19.7%.

The CMFR said 90% of ABS-CBN's election stories were neutral while GMA-7 had 64% neutral reports. For NBN-4, 41% of its reports were seen as neutral.

The CMFR said the reporting done by the major networks was generally responsible during the period.

CMFR's findings are reflected in an April 2010 survey of Pulse Asia, which found 63% of respondents believe that ABS-CBN has been the most credible in covering the polls, followed by GMA-7 at 55%, and NBN-4 at 27%.

A recent survey by Manila Standard Today also showed a similar result: 60-63% of television viewers said they trust ABS-CBN News programs, while 35-38% found GMA-7's programs trustworthy.

The CMFR said the high credibility of television networks, and their being the major sources of news, are among the reasons why they are always being attacked.     "Pagka lahat ng kampo sinasabing biased ka, ibig sabihin nire-report mo lahat ng nakikita mo," said Teodoro.

The CMFR added that the strength and credibility of a news organization depend on how it can report the news fairly amid accusations of being biased. - report of Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN CBN News

New president, weaker reform prospect—Japanese firm

MANILA, PhilippinesJapanese financial giant Nomura sees a higher probability that the Philippines' upcoming elections will yield a new president but also warned that a tough political environment could weaken economic reform prospects.

"We believe a complete failure of the automated elections is unlikely, but they are unlikely to be smooth sailing either," Nomura International (HK) Ltd. said in an Asian economic report dated April 30.

Nomura assigned a 60 percent probability that 60-70 percent of precincts across the country would successfully implement automated counting. The remaining 30- 40 percent was seen either experiencing delays or resorting to manual counting.

The research noted that many potential glitches had been identified by independent bodies as recently as mid-April. For instance, it noted that the ongoing power outages as a result of the El Nio weather phenomenon were seen posing additional risks, particularly in the Mindanao area, which makes up nearly a fourth of the voting population and is prone to election-related violence.

"These problems, along with an overall lack of confidence in the process and concerns that fraud-prevention measures have not been properly implemented by Comelec, could undermine the credibility of the election outcome," it said. Nomura noted that several institutions were calling for parallel manual counting in randomly selected areas because they see the need to authenticate the automated returns.

Against this backdrop, Nomura sees risks of delays in the declaration of winning candidates and an orderly transition to a new government. It said any outcome will likely be subject to protests by the losing candidates, particularly at the presidential level where surveys indicate the top three candidates are still all in the running, referring to Benigno Aquino III, Manuel Villar, and Joseph Estrada.

But beyond problems concerning the automated polls which could undermine a credible outcome, Nomura said the next administration would likely face a tough political environment for economic reforms.

"When the election dust settles, even if it takes a while, we think Aquino will likely emerge victorious. In our view he has the advantage given Villar's current woes associated with alleged corruption scandals and secret links to the unpopular Gloria Arroyo, the outgoing president," Nomura said.

Aquino's strength of a broad support base across income brackets also stands him in good stead to meet electoral promises versus Villar's strongman image, it noted.

"That said, we doubt an Aquino administration would usher in a sea change in governance.

One major headwind to reforms is a likely hostile legislative environment if the lower house of Congress is controlled by an Arroyo-led opposition," Nomura said.

President Arroyo is stepping down in June but is almost certain to win a seat in Congress, it noted. Whether she ascends to the speakership is uncertain but Nomura thinks it would not be difficult for her party, Lakas-Kampi (LK), to garner a majority and support that move. Two possible reasons have been suggested for Arroyo's decision to remain on the political scene: to reduce the probability of being prosecuted on corruption charges; and to push for constitutional change that would provide a platform for her to become Prime Minister.

A parliamentary system has been debated for a long time and Arroyo's supporters have been unable to change the constitution under her presidency, so it would appear less likely under an opposition successor, Nomura said. But given that an LK majority is likely, it said Arroyo may still pursue constitutional change.

"This suggests a difficult political environment for the next administration to push its reform agenda, even more so under Aquino given his (Aquino's) highly vocal criticism of the Arroyo regime and his plan to create a commission to deal with corruption allegations against her," Nomura said.

The most likely post-election scenario is thus one with the weakest prospects for economic reforms.

Nomura said this projected environmentof the upcoming elections yielding an uncooperative Congress which may weaken reform prospectscould cap the country's domestic economic growth at 4 percent going forward, if status quo persists.

In contrast, potential growth could be as high as 7 percent with the acceleration of reforms which would allow the country to take advantage of economic opportunities in a booming region, it explained.

On the pressing issue of fiscal reforms, Nomura said the tax administration measures preferred by Aquino would be "necessary but insufficient" in its view.

"We believe that the fiscal measures that have been pending in Congress for some time now needs to be enacted, but unless the political environment become more supportive, prospects for fiscal consolidation could weaken further," it said.

On the single biggest issue of fiscal consolidation, Nomura noted that both Aquino and Villar have explicitly stated their preference for improving tax administration rather than imposing higher tax rates or new taxes.

In terms of personnel selection, Nomura said it's too early to predict names but it expected an Aquino cabinet to have more technocrats led by his running mate Manuel Roxas who is dominating the vice-presidential race.

The latest survey by the Social Weather Station conducted on 16-19 April shows that Noynoy Aquino slightly extended his lead to 12 percentage points over Manny Villar, consistent with the findings of PulseAsia at the end of March.

"But this lead is not unassailable in our view given Villar's financial firepower, the large number of undecided voters, and PulseAsia acknowledging that there tend to be significant shifts in the final two surveys which may sway voters," it said.

Estrada remains in third place but judging from strong turnouts in recent campaign sorties he cannot be ruled out just yet, the research added.

"Investors are likely to be indifferent between Aquino and Villar on the basis of their policy leanings, but may be averse to Estrada," Nomura said.

In earlier reports, Nomura has said that the prospect of a come-backing Estrada was worrisome for the markets "given his reputation and expected inability to rein in the budget deficit."

Estrada was ousted from power during a popular revolt in 2001, convicted of plunder by anti-graft court Sandiganbayan in 2007 but was afterwards given executive clemency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Palace, SC at odds over when to name next chief justice

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) Malacanang and the Supreme Court are on a collision course over whether the next chief justice should be appointed before incumbent Reynato Puno retires on May 17 or after.

The Palace said there was a need to appoint one before the May 10 elections but the high court, through its spokesman Jose Midas Marquez, said that when there is no vacancy, there can be no appointment.

I dont see how one can be appointed if there is still someone occupying the position, Marquez said, adding that there can be no two chief justices at the same time.

The successor will only succeed in office when there is a vacancy already, he added.

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will submit the nominees for chief justice May 5. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will choose among Supreme Court Associate Justices Renato Corona, Teresita Leonardo De Castro and Arturo Brion and Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval.

The JBC opted to submit the list on May 5 to wait for the outcome of the second motion for reconsideration on the Supreme Courts March 17 decision to be filed by the Philippine Bar Association (PBA).

This ruling by the high tribunal, which became final on April 20, said President Arroyo has the authority to appoint the next chief justice and ordered the JBC to submit the list to Malacanang on or before May 17.

PBA head former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo said that while PBA was aware that as a general rule, a second motion for reconsideration was a prohibited pleading, the case presented an issue unprecedented in its public interest implications and involved a constitutional question.

He said the issues involved the independence and credibility of the Supreme Court in light of the intended appointment to be exercised by the incumbent President, as well as giving life to the systems of checks and balances in the Constitutions and limitations with respect to this particular presidential right.

JBC nominates Corona

MANILA, Philippines - Senior Associate Justice Renato Corona and three other contenders for chief justice are in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC)'s shortlist to be sent to President Arroyo tomorrow.

The eight-member collegial body led by retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno decided to submit the shortlist with the names of four candidates – Corona, Supreme Court Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion, and Sandiganbayan acting Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval – following an SC decision last month allowing the President to appoint Puno's successor.

This developed as the Supreme Court (SC) said yesterday that the President could not appoint a new chief justice until a vacancy is created, which is on May 17.

The statement was issued in reaction to a Malacañang pronouncement that the President would appoint Puno's replacement before the elections on May 10. A court spokesman said Puno did not intend to retire before May 17.

Corona, De Castro and Brion each got the unanimous nod of members of the JBC with eight votes, while Sandoval got seven.

Apart from Puno, the other members of the JBC are Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, Sen. Francis Escudero, Rep. Matias Defensor Jr., retired SC Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr., University of Sto. Tomas dean emeritus Amado Dimayuga, Justice Aurora Santiago Lagman and Integrated Bar of the Philippines representative J. Conrado Castro.

Castro, who missed the meeting but submitted his vote to Puno before leaving for a vacation abroad, did not vote for Sandoval.

All four nominees submitted themselves to the screening process of JBC and attended the public interview in Baguio City last April 19.

The JBC did not include two other nominees for the post – Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales --who manifested their lack of interest in the post due to their stand that Mrs. Arroyo is not allowed by the Constitution to make the appointment.

In a press conference, SC spokesman Midas Marquez explained that the JBC opted to submit the shortlist to the Palace on May 5 so as to give the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) a chance to pursue its second appeal on the March 17 ruling of SC in today's last full court session before the magistrates take a recess for the elections next week.

"The JBC is bending backwards for PBA. But the JBC can't wait forever. If they failed to file that second motion for reconsideration before 9 a.m. or if it would be noted without action, then the JBC will submit the shortlist on Wednesday," he stressed.

"The JBC does not see the need to delay these proceedings any further," he added.

Marquez also rebuffed a reported statement of the Palace that Mrs. Arroyo would make the appointment before the automated elections on May 10.

"I don't see how a chief justice can be appointed when the position is not yet vacant. There can't be two chief justices at the same time. When there's no vacancy there can be no appointment made," he stressed.

The SC official also assured the public that Puno would not leave the SC until his retirement on May 17.

"Whoever will succeed can't even take his oath while the retiring chief justice is still around," added Marquez.

However, he admitted that the period for the appointment by Mrs. Arroyo was not touched in the SC ruling because "it was not an issue."

Marquez said he does not know what the basis of deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar was in suggesting the appointment of the next chief justice before election day: "We leave it up to them."

In a decision last March 17, the SC ruled that positions in the High Court are exempted from the ban on midnight appointments under Article VII Section 15 of the Charter, giving Mrs. Arroyo the power to name the successor of Puno.

The Court, in a resolution last April 20, affirmed this ruling and junked motions for reconsideration filed by parties. Marquez said this made the SC decision final.

GMA to act quickly on shortlist

Meanwhile, President Arroyo would act quickly on the shortlist of candidates for chief justice once it is submitted by the JBC, Malacañang said yesterday.

Olivar also said Mrs. Arroyo would not be affected by last-ditch attempts to stop her from naming the successor of Chief Justice Puno.

"Since all four names have been floated for a while now, this has given the President a head start in arriving at a well-considered choice from among these eminently qualified candidates," Olivar told a news briefing.

"We can expect a decision soon," he said.

He said ideally Puno's successor should be named before the elections this coming Monday because of the possible filing of electoral protests before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) that would be headed by the chief justice.

Olivar hit the groups planning to file another motion for reconsideration before the SC, saying they could have some hidden agenda.

"Why are they insisting (on blocking Mrs. Arroyo to appoint the chief justice) when the SC already ruled twice against them? She is stepping down so there is no debt of gratitude. Maybe they want to install their own chief justice who will be indebted to them," he said.

SC will be tainted if GMA appoints next CJ

Rep. Satur Ocampo of the militant party-list group Bayan Muna yesterday said that the SC will be tainted if President Arroyo appoints next chief justice.

He said people would call the tribunal an "Arroyo Court."

Ocampo lamented that the JBC, which is supposed to be an independent body, apparently gave in to the prodding of Malacañang for it to submit its shortlist of nominees for the next chief justice.

"Mrs. Arroyo will appoint anyone who will have a debt of gratitude to her and her administration and hence shield her from legal accountability when the time comes for her to face charges for her crimes committed in office," he said.

Even if Carpio is included in the JBC list, there are speculations that Mrs. Arroyo prefers Corona to him. Carpio wrote the October 2006 court decision junking the administration's Charter change campaign through the people's initiative mode, labeling it as a "gigantic fraud" and a "grand deception."

Several groups, including lawyers' organizations, have urged Corona to back out of the nomination process for next chief justice because of his close association with Mrs. Arroyo and the fact that his wife has been appointed by the President as an officer in a state corporation.

Meanwhile, Bagumbayan presidential bet Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday said that although he personally does not agree with the appointment of the new chief justice by Mrs. Arroyo before she steps down next month, he respects the decision of the SC.

PMP Senate bets tell GMA to give successor chance to appoint new CJ

Meanwhile, four senatorial candidates of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) yesterday said that President Arroyo should give the next president the chance to appoint a new chief justice.

In an interview with STAR editors, lawyer JV Bautista said there is a need for a "new dispensation" both in the national government and the Supreme Court.

Bautista, running under President Estrada's political party PMP, said the justices of the High Court who signed the resolution favoring the contention that Arroyo has the authority to appoint the new Chief Justice "lack a sense of delicadeza."

He said the interpretation of the Supreme Court justices' on the Constitution is what prevails today.

"I think what is lacking there is the sense of delicadeza among the members of the Supreme Court. If you will check on the records of those who favored the ruling that Arroyo has the authority to appoint the new chief justice is that they are the most recent appointees of the president," Bautista said.

For his part, former senator Francisco Tatad said there's no need to interpret the Constitution to guide and enlighten the justices in their ruling on the authority of the President to appoint the new chief justice during the 90-day ban on appointments before the election.

"What you need is to read the Constitution correctly. You don't have to interpret the Constitution. The Constitution is very clear. The vacancy has to be filled within 90 days, fill up the vacancy before the 90 days ban," Tatad said.

PMP senatorial candidate Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada said the High Tribunal can elect an acting chief justice from among themselves.

"The justices have probably been pressured. It's payback time for debt of gratitude. The SC justices should appoint a chief justice, but they come up with the ruling probably because they are forced to pay back their debt of gratitude," Lozada said.

Of the four, only Senate President Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada gave a submissive statement to the High Court's ruling.

"We can stage rallies and so forth. But we cannot really do anything about it anymore. The Supreme Court is the court of last resort," Estrada said.

Bayan Muna opposes Marcos wealth settlement

MANILA, Philippines - Militant group Bayan Muna is strongly opposing a fresh attempt by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to work out a "universal settlement" with the Marcoses on their alleged ill-gotten wealth.

No midnight deal with PCGG – Bongbong

The son of late President Ferdinand E. Marcos denies reports of a midnight deal between his family and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) for the recovery of some P140 billion worth of alleged ill-gotten assets attached in more than 500 cases in court.

Senatorial aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., who was here in Ilocos Sur last Sunday to join the campaigh rally of Nationalista Party presidential bet Senator Manny Villar and NP vice-presidential candidate Senator Loren Legarda at President Quirino Stadium in Bantay town, said the report was politically-motivated and black propaganda aimed against his candidacy.

"There is no truth about the issue, it's false; it's purely a "black propaganda" initiated by those people who want to destroy my candidacy for senator this May 10, 2010 election," he said.

He claimed the issue was aired by detractors because they had no other means to derail his candidacy.

"This issue doesn't make any sense considering that this had already been existing in the past until it was again brought out this time that I will seek senatorial position this coming election," he said.

"This is clearly a black propaganda against my candidacy considering its timing," he said.

He disclosed that his enemies in politics orchestrated the issue to destroy his credibility at a time when he had a great chance to win a senatorial post.

The young Marcos consistently places in the top 12 among candidates for senator in different surveys.

He said a settlement with government on the many ill-gotten wealth cases is remote as most were now being dismissed in favor of the Marcoses.

Marcos said that his brother in law, Gregorio "Greggy" Araneta, the husband of Irene, had met one of the PCGG officials but there was no discussion of a deal.

Meanwhile, he asked his detractors not to resort to dirty tactics in politics and instead present voters with alternative solutions to solve the country's problems.

"Our people want unity against the crisis that we are presently experiencing. They didn't want a politics of hatred; they didn't want a politics of division; they didn't want traditional politicians; but what they want are the solutions to solve our current problems and crisis," he said.

In a related development, a Malacañang official assured the public that any government deal with the Marcos family over the ill-gotten wealth will be done transparently and prudently.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar said the government will not in any way speed the process and it will be transparent enough in handling the Marcos wealth issue.

"Any proposal will be made to public," he said.

He said the Department of Justice, the supervising agency of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), will closely review any proposed settlement and would endorse it to the Office of the President for another scrutiny.

PCGG Commissioner Ricardo Abcede earlier clarified that the compromise talks between the Marcoses and PCGG were just exploratory, saying that any negotiations should have to be reviewed by appropriate government agencies.

Malacañang earlier expressed resolve to forge a settlement of the Marcos wealth issue before President Arroyo's term lapses in June. 

Marcos wealth cases: Settlement or not

MANILA, Philippines - Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Ricardo Abcede has admitted he is exploring a settlement with the Marcoses and their cronies, saying he sees nothing wrong with it.

PCGG chief: Imelda placed Marcos wealth at $1 trillion

It's the kind of fantastic wealth that could run the Philippines for almost 40 years or pay off its foreign debt 18 times.

Morgan Stanley: Philippine peso to rise P43.50 vs US dollar

MANILA, Philippines - International investment bank Morgan Stanley expects the Philippine peso to further appreciate against the US dollar, and is predicting the peso to hit P43.50 against the US dollar by the end of the year.

Gov't to borrow P5-B for typhoon rehab projects

MANILA, Philippines - The government will borrow P5 billion (9.9 billion yen) from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for reconstruction and rehabilitation programs undertaken following back-to-back killer typhoons last year.

Gov't lost millions in developers' 'housing scam'

Nalugi ng bilyon-bilyong piso ang gobyerno dahil sa mga housing loan na pinakinabangan umano ng mga developers at ng mga kumpanya ni Manny Villar. Reklamo ng mga umutang, pineke ang kanilang mga dokumento para agad mabayaran ang mga developers, habang sila ay baon sa utang at nagtitiyaga sa mga sub-standard na pabahay. Nilinaw naman ni Attorney Nalen Galang, abogado ni Senador Manny Villar, na walang pananagutan ang mga kumpanya ni Villar sa gobyerno at lahat ng mga pabahay ay nai-turnover sa Pag-Ibig.

White male sought in Times Square car bomb incident

NEW YORK—New York police on Monday hunted for a middle-aged white man caught on tape near a car bomb in Times Square that sparked a new terrorist alert as authorities discounted an Al-Qaeda link.

Strong quake strikes off Japan—US geologists

TOKYO - A strong earthquake with a 5.9 magnitude struck off Japan's Izu Islands on Monday, seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was issued.

Pacquiao: Mom to decide on my next fight

Malabong matuloy ang laban nina boxing champ Manny Pacquiao at Floyd Mayweather Jr.! Ito ang pahiwatig ng kampo ni Pacman. Ayon naman kay Pacquiao, na abala ngayon sa pangangampanya, nakadepende ang susunod niyang laban sa desisyon ng kanyang Mommy Dionisia.

Torre, Gonzales rule chess exhibition

MANILA, Philippines – Grandmasters (GMs) Eugene Torre and Jayson Gonzales flashed their deadly old form in a rare simultaneous chess exhibition held in Quezon City on Sunday.

LP sends Kris to woo north

ACTRESS Kris Aquino admits the administration party in Cebu is well-organized, but this is no reason to worry because it is always better when people support a candidate based on sincerity.

Charice says no to love for now

MANILA, Philippines- Charice is in no hurry to find love. Charice, along with Billy Crawford, flew to Dubai recently for their "Rhythm and Voices" concert.

GF of Cesar Montano's son apologizes

MANILA, Philippines - Cesar Montano, a gubernatorial candidate in Bohol, divulged that the girlfriend of his son, Christian Angelo Manhilot, had apologized to his family. Angelo took his own life last March 26 after his girlfriend reportedly ended their relationship.

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