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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 6, 2010 Major News Stories



Jobseekers warned vs offers in Trinidad and Tobago

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino overseas jobseekers are warned from accepting dubious employment offers in Trinidad and Tobago.

RP agencies warn vs dubious job offers in Italy, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago

Government agencies have issued separate warnings on the veracity of job offers and job orders in at least three countries, in what seems to be a resurgence of illegal recruitment schemes for overseas employment.

Pinoy group in HK hits 20% hike in passport fee

A universal increase of US$10 in the application fee for electronic passports has been implemented by Philippine diplomatic posts across the world, to the dismay of various groups especially in Hong Kong which has a high concentration of Filipino workers.

FDA clears medicines recalled in US market

THE FOOD and Drugs Administration (FDA) has cleared the locally made counterparts of drugs that were pulled off the shelves in the United States last week due to quality concerns.

No product recall, says Johnson & Johnson Philippines

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Johnson & Johnson Philippines Inc. said all of its products sold in the country are safe,and are not subject to the recall action of its US-based affiliate, Johnson & Johnson's Mcneil Consumer Healthcare.

Comelec refuses substitution

SUPPORTERS of slain candidate for Cebu City councilor Cresistomo "Tata Negro" Llaguno trooped to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) 7 Office yesterday to push for his replacement.

The group gathered outside the Comelec office to ask the poll body to allow Cresistomo's brother, Cary, to run in his place.

Cresistomo, 35, who was seeking a post in the Cebu City council for the May 10 elections, was murdered while campaigning in Barangay Lorega-San Miguel last Tuesday
afternoon.

The gunman, identified as Jimmy B. Diala, 40, was arrested shortly after the attack.

Cresistomo's mother, Cristita, said her family decided to field Cary, the victim's older brother, to continue what his brother started.

"Ipadayon ang kausa ni Tata kay mutabang ra man gihapon na siya (Cary will continue Tata's cause for the poor)," Ramon Resma, one of the supporters, said.

"Ngano siya pa man? Maayong tao si Tata. Dili mamili kinsa'y tabangan. Bisag taga-north ka o taga-south district (Tata was a good person. He always helped those in need)," a crying supporter said.

But according to Comelec rules, Cresistomo cannot be replaced by a substitute candidate because he filed his certificate of candidacy for Cebu City north district councilor as an independent bet.

"His candidacy will be totally disregarded because he was an independent candidate," Rudy Gilos, acting election officer for the city poll office for the north district, said yesterday.

Citing section 13 of the Commission on Elections Resolution 8678, he said only candidates belonging to a political party can be replaced.

"If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, he may be substituted by a candidate belonging to, and nominated by, the same political party. No substitute shall be allowed for any independent candidate," the resolution reads.

"We sympathize with the family and the friends, but we cannot go against the law. Substitution of candidates in cases of death, disqualification or withdrawal is not allowable unless the running candidate belongs to a political party," Comelec 7 Legal Officer Enerio Ocariza Jr. said.

Gwen vouches: Glenn ahead in party's survey

CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and vice gubernatorial candidate Glenn Anthony Soco yesterday said the latest survey shows Soco overtaking Vice Gov. Greg Sanchez.

Senior citizen leaders claim to have left BOPK for Kusug

MORE than 80 senior citizen leaders of Bando Osmeña Pundok Kaus-wagan (BOPK) in over 20 south district barangays in Cebu City announced their defection to the Kugi Uswag Sugbu (Kusug) party yesterday.

Comelec, Smartmatic-TIM race against time to fix voting glitches

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Starting Wednesday, the Commission on Elections and poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM will attempt to accomplish in 3 days a task it completed in 3 months as it seeks to fix a glitch in 76,000 compact flash cards and redistribute them nationwide in time for Monday's nationwide election.

Comelec preparing for special elections in 5% of precincts

The Commission on Elections is preparing to hold special elections in five percent of the 76,300 precincts in case the replacement compact flash cards from Smartmatic TIM do not arrive on time.

Comelec: We'll deal with Smartmatic later

Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM), the technology provider for the country"s first ever nationwide automated elections on May 10, will not be penalized - at least for now - despite the reported glitches in some of their election machines.

Military offers to transport 'flash cards' to ensure elections

To help the Commission on Elections ensure that all vote-scanning and counting machines will be ready for the May 10 balloting, the military on Wednesday offered the use of its air, water and land assets to fast-track the transfer of compact flash cards and undelivered counting machines to polling precincts.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, spokesperson of the Armed Forces Task Force Hope (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections), said the military was keen on lending its helicopters, watercraft and trucks to the Comelec so it could catch up with its schedule.

"We intimated to the Comelec that we are willing to assist them in any way we can. They can use our assets if requested to facilitate the delivery of the machines," Nepomuceno told reporters during a briefing at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday.

"So instead of walking to remote polling precincts for three days just to deliver the machines, they could use our choppers for the delivery, which can be done within the day," he said, adding that the Comelec must make the request in writing.

Nepomuceno admitted that technical glitches in the memory cards, the heart of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, caused concern within the military "because it would affect our planning for the security."

Following a memo from the Comelec on Tuesday suspending the delivery of the machines to precincts, the military immediately directed officers on the ground to convene the regional joint security coordinating committee to make adjustments in the security measures they had prepared.

"Minor adjustments had to be made on the timing and the mode of transportation used for the delivery of the machines," said Nepomuceno.

The Comelec and its partner, Smartmatic-TIM, have tapped forwarders for the transportation of all counting machines to provincial hubs with soldiers and policemen as escorts.

Security forces, although providing security throughout the delivery, were not allowed physical contact with the machines.

Nepomuceno said this would still be the case even if their planes, choppers, trucks and patrol boats would be used to rush the delivery of memory cards and the remaining undelivered PCOS machines to polling precincts.

He said the delivery of the machines would have been completed by Thursday if not for the errors in the software of the memory cards.

But he made an assurance that when the Comelec has finished reformatting and testing the 76,000 memory cards by Friday, delivery could be completed within the day on Saturday, two days before Election Day.

Meanwhile, about 20 foreign military attaches trooped to the AFP's election hub at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday to observe the military's role in ensuring credible and transparent elections on Monday.

The military envoys came upon the invitation of Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales for them to become observers of the AFP during the country's first-ever nationwide automated elections.

"We want you to observe how the AFP will perform its mandated duties on Election Day. We appreciate your independent reporting and personal observations on its performance," said Gonzales.

"We observed the fine operations here," said Col. Anthony Senci, US defense and air attache, of the facility set up by the military at Camp Aguinaldo to monitor situations across the country on May 10.

"We look forward to free and fair elections and the Filipino people expressing their democratic will during the process," added Senci.

Australian defense attache Capt. Victor Jones said the military diplomatic corps was hopeful that the AFP would help in delivering a credible balloting on Monday.

The operations center and the presence of the media were "positive signs" that the elections would be successful and credible, said Jones.


PPCRV: Election Day may start with replacement of PCOS cards in some precincts

The first moments of Election Day in some precincts may be spent replacing and testing memory cards for the counting machines to be used in the country's first nationwide automated elections, a poll watchdog said Wednesday.

PPCRV, Namfrel war spills into local level

by By Aries Rufo, abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak
One group is reportedly blocking another's access to election returns MANILA, Philippines—While concerns are being raised by various sectors about glitches in the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and the potential questionable results of the elections, Church-backed election watchdogs can't get their acts together.

Cardinal leads prayers to peaceful, orderly, clean polls

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales led the Commission on Elections officials in an interfaith prayer for the success of the May 10 automated polls.

Noynoy, Erap ask Comelec to prepare for full manual count

Two presidential aspirants on Wednesday rejected calls for the postponement of the May 10 elections and urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to prepare for a full manual count in case poll machines fail to function properly.

Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Benigno Aquino III said in a press conference that he does not mind if the counting of votes takes time as long as elections will proceed as planned on May 10.

We demand that the Comelec begin preparing for a full manual count. Lets do it, no matter how long it takes to finish," he said.

Postponing the polls for even just a few days can ultimately cause a crisis, said Aquino, who continues to lead in various pre-election presidential preference surveys.

Aquino was referring to a proposal by Romulo Macalintal, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos election lawyer, to postpone the upcoming May 10 elections to avert a possible election failure.

Meanwhile, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) presidential bet Joseph Estrada said he would rather have a manual count than rely on machines which read votes inaccurately.

Although hopeful that the May 10 polls will push through, Estrada also said that he is amenable to postponing the elections for another 10 to15 days, as long as manual counting will be done.

"If there will be a delay, it should only be to put the manual counting into effect. If there will be a delay of 10-15 days but this will ensure clean and reliable elections, then why not?" he said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Comelec however has said that the countrys first nationwide automated polls will proceed as scheduled on Monday.

DepEd, teachers unprepared for manual count

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The public school teachers tasked to serve in the country's first nationwide automated polls are not ready to conduct a manual count.

This admission was made during a pre-election briefing on Wednesday at the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig.

Education Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya, DepEd spokesman, told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday that the DepEd and its teachers are not prepared for a manual vote count if the automated count fails.

Malaya said they have to depend on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to provide the necessary materials in case a manual vote count is necessary.

"We expect that they (Comelec) will give us paraphernalia in the event of a manual poll count," Malaya said. "There is no way we can do it without the forms."

Malaya also confirmed that many teachers serving in the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) were worried after most of the more than 3,000 PCOS machines tested last Monday in Luzon malfunctioned.

The DepEd spokesman told the worried teachers that the Comelec will fix the problem.

"The Comelec has assured us that the automated elections will happen," Malaya said. "Failure is not an option. We give our trust and confidence to them. We are just Comelec deputies."

Despite Malaya's assurance, the leader of the DepEd National Employees Union said many teachers serving in the BEI were worried.

"The BEI is not prepared for a manual vote count," said lawyer Domingo Alidon, president of the DepEd National Employees Union. "We should have a contingency plan. We have very little time to get ready for a manual vote count."

He believes it would be better for everyone if the DepEd and the Comelec have a Plan B.

Not everyone at the briefing was pessimistic, though.

"I'm positive," said a BEI member after the briefing. "I am going to give Comelec a chance."

InfoTech savvy teachers

In a related development, DepEd Secretary Mona Valisno said every BEI in each precinct in the country has at least one teacher who is certified as information technology capable.

She said the Department of Science and Technology had certified 137,200 teachers as information technology capable with an average passing rate of 91 percent.

"The DOST Certification Program for BEIs is an important step to ensure the success of the first automated elections in the country. With all the trainings and seminars they had, our teachers are fully prepared to perform their electoral duties," Valisno said. "Hopefully this certification will reduce, if not take away, any doubts for the coming May elections and boost our confidence for an orderly election."

Don't take youth vote for granted

Meanwhile, a youth group organized by the Philippine National Police (PNP) is about to conclude their campaign for peaceful elections.

Young Vote of the Philippines spokesman Neil Lim said his group was reminding the youth and first time voters to be "vigilant and careful in choosing their candidate."

He said the youth vote should not be taken for granted because the youth makes up a large segment of the country's voters. Records show that the youth account for 54 percent of the voting population.

Young Vote Philippines was organized by the PNP's Task Force HOPE (Honest Orderly Peaceful Elections).

Villanueva calls for 2-week postponement of May 10 polls

MANILA, Philippines--Evangelist turned presidential candidate Eduardo Brother Eddie Villanueva agreed with the proposal of President Macapagal-Arroyo's election lawyer to postpone the May 10 presidential elections after the voting machines were found to have incorrectly counted votes during testing just days before the elections.

Villanueva, founder and leader of the Jesus is Lord Church, said he would formally ask the Commission on Elections on Thursday to postpone the elections for two weeks.

With the recent developments in the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines testing, a pre-requisite for the automated elections, I agree that elections should be postponed for two weeks in order to resolve discrepancy problems with the machines and the whole automated election process, said the Bangon Pilipinas standard-bearer in a statement Wednesday.

Our utmost concern now is to assure that the will of the people will prevail in this elections. Hastiness and unsupervised preparations have shown their destructive results, he added.

Villanueva's statement echoed that of Ms Arroyo's election lawyer Romulo Macalintal who proposed on Tuesday the postponement of the May 10 elections for 15 days to give Comelec enough time to prepare for manual elections.

Villanueva said their party's lawyers would file on Thursday before the Comelec a petition to postpone the election for two weeks.

The Filipino people have waited long, patiently at most for nine years, for them to elect a new set of leaders. We do not want them to be robbed of this long-awaited opportunity to exercise their power to elect, which will put to place our nations future for the coming years, he said.

Villanueva claimed he was also cheated by President Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 presidential elections.

Her chief rival, actor Fernando Poe Jr., filed an election protest against Ms Arroyo months after the elections but he died in December 2004, rendering his case moot and academic.

Ms Arroyo survived successive impeachment complaints after audio-recordings surfaced in 2005 showing Ms Arroyo conversing with a Commission on Elections official about her vote margin.

Biazon sees one-month poll postponement due to tech problems

MANILA, Philippines -- The Commission on Elections would have no option but to postpone the May 10 elections by a month to be able to go back to manual counting of votes, if the last pre-testing of the voting scan and counting machines failed again, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said on Wednesday.

He emphasized that a return to manual counting of votes would require a law to be passed by Congress and that President Macapagal-Arroyo would have to call for a special session of Congress.

"In this case, President Macapagal-Arroyo could cite a provision in the Constitution that states that unless otherwise provided by law, the election for president and vice president should take place on the second Monday of May 10, 2010.

He said this provision has opened the way for a new law to postpone and reschedule the May 10 polls if the situation called for it.

But with Congress on recess, the President would have to call for a special session, preferably on Monday, Biazon said.

The senator said that because of the preparations needed for manual voting and counting, particularly the manufacture of legal documents such as election returns, the poll body might need to postpone the polls for one month.

"We need to do this to prevent chaos in the country," Biazon said.

Namfrel asks Comelec: Keep the May 10 date, but ensure clean polls

The National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) said Wednesday the May 10 elections must push through, but the Commission on Elections (Comelec) must also ensure that safeguards would be in place to preserve the integrity of the results.

NP senatorial bet opposes plan to postpone polls

A Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate expressed opposition to calls to postpone the elections, stressing that it would be "unconstitutional" and could set a "dangerous precedent."

Aquino says no to poll postponement

Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is not amenable to postponing the May 10 elections even as he demanded the Commission on Elections to prepare for a "full manual count" of votes.

Lakas-Kampi insists on automated polls on May 10

The ruling party declared Wednesday that it won't settle for anything less than automated elections on May 10, and steered clear of any speculation regarding a postponement of the elections or reverting to manual counting and tabulation of votes.

Palace backpedals on option to postpone poll

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - A spokesman of President Arroyo on Wednesday backpedaled on his earlier statement expressing support for a delay in the automated elections on Monday over glitches in preparations.

Noli says PGMA has contingency plans but won't tell

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo already has a contingency plan in mind in case the problems over the automation of the elections escalate, according to Vice President Noli de Castro.

Macalintal quits post as Arroyo counsel on poll deferment issue

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo"s election lawyer and legal counsel resigned his post Wednesday night, citing a conflict between Malacañang"s position and his "firm" stand to postpone the May 10 elections.

Monsod: Glitches arise from incompetence but can be solved

Former Elections Chairman Christian Monsod on Wednesday tried to douse the fears of a jittery public that glitches in last Monday's election trial runs in various parts of the country would lead to a massive election failure.

Is Oplan Rafael in effect?

MANILA, Philippines - Leftist groups on Wednesday warned of an alleged plot to keep President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in power through Oplan Rafael or Retain Arroyo through Failure of Elections. 

Poll deferment will buy 'Garci machinery' more time to cheat

Postponing the anticipated May 10 polls would only give the infamous "Garci Boys" more time to carry out their plan of rigging the national elections.

This is according to the Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections (Compact), referring to the group of Commission on Elections (Comelec) personnel accused of participating in alleged poll fraud in 2004 presidential elections.

A series of widespread glitches marred testing of Precinct Counting Optical Scan machines (PCOS) on Monday, eventually derailing the Comelec schedule for the voting machines field tests. The incident later prompted an administration lawyer to suggest a deferment of polls.

"It will only give time to strengthen the Garci machinery in favor of a no proclamation scenario and status quo, compromising the people's right to suffrage," said Compact convenor Loretta Ann Rosales, opposing lawyer Romulo Macalintal's proposal.

The 2004 presidential elections, where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo won over the late Fernando Poe Jr. by a slight margin was marked by alleged fraud.

A year later, wiretapped conversation of then Comelec Commissioner Virgilio "Garci" Garcillano and a woman believed to be Mrs. Arroyo was released to the public.

Mrs. Arroyo and Garcillano (referred to in the conversation as 'Garci') allegedly talked about the rigging of the 2004 elections.

The President later delivered her now famous "I'm Sorry" speech but an impeachment attempt against her never prospered.

Early this year, Comelec chairman Jose Melo gave an assurance that the Garci Boys, who were mentioned in the controversial wiretapped tapes, would be reassigned before the May polls.

Digital signature

Rosales, a three-term lawmaker and president of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms (IPER), said matters could even get worse because of the Comelec's insistence on not reactivating digital signatures.

These signatures are a security feature that would ensure transmitted votes are valid and were sent by a duly authorized member of the Board of Election Inspectors.

Using digital signatures is required under Republic Act 9369 or the poll automation law, according to Rosales.

But the poll body had earlier argued that digital signatures would only delay the voting process further.

The Comelec has already instructed its BEIs to press the "No" button when prompted by the PCOS machine with the question: "Would you like to digitally sign transmission of files?"

"They are giving in to the image of speed but are compromising the integrity of the ballots," she said.

Rosales said the absence of digital signatures would also render the elections "unofficial and illegitimate," and would only give rise to a plethora of election protests.

"Ang mga talunan, pwede nilang gawing basis [ang absnece of digital signatures] para mag-file ng protest kasi hindi official ang results... Your ERs [election returns] must have digital signatures, otherwise when they are transmitted to the canvassing level, they are considered unofficial," she said.

The group is suggesting that the Comelec reactivate the digital signatures while it is still reconfiguring the PCOS compact flash cards.

The group suggested that the Comelec should "develop an alternative safeguard that would ensure the integrity of election results."

Among Compacts proposed safeguards is the parallel manual count a suggestion that had already been thumbed down by the Comelec, saying it was not stipulated under the poll automation law.

But Rosales said anything that is not stated in the poll automation law should not always be considered "unlawful," especially since it could help protect votes in the elections.

"Iyong nasa law [use of digital signatures], tinanggal nila tapos ngayon sasabihin nila iyong parallel manual count wala sa law... Palpak naman sila," she said.

Chiz, Jinggoy seek to prevent Smartmatic execs from leaving RP

Officials of Smartmatic the supplier of automated election machines that incurred glitches after being tested early this week should be prevented from leaving the country to hold them accountable for possible automation troubles.

This was the announcement made by Sen. Francisco Escudero, who said he would request Commission on Elections chair Jose Melo and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to move for the issuance of a hold-departure order against Smartmatic executives.

The move is to ensure that they can make good on their pledge to implement a nationwide automation of next Mondays polls," Escudero said in a statement. The senator co-chairs the Congress joint oversight committee on poll automation.

The Justice Department issues hold departure orders, while the Bureau of Immigration implements them.

Also on Wednesday, Senate Pro-Tempore leader Jose Jinggoy" Estrada called on the bureau to place Smartmatic officials on its watchlist, which would put them under close scrutiny in anticipation of untoward incidents on May 10.

Estrada said the government should include all foreign officials of Smartmatic under close watch of the immigration bureau," said a statement from the office of Estrada, a senatorial candidate running under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino banner.

Smartmatic is the foreign partner of Filipino company Total Information Management Corporation (TIM). The consortium bagged the Comelec contract to automate the May 10 elections.

Smartmatic spokesperson Gene Gregorio, for his part, laughed off Escuderos proposal for the issuance of a hold-departure order.

I wonder if the good senator knows his law. There can be no hold order unless there is a case, and there can be no case because there is no crime," he said in a text message to GMANews.TV.

The Venezuelans [Smartmatic officials] are not escaping because they are busy making the project succeed. That is Smartmatics commission to the nation. At this point, let us stop all blaming and accusations," Gregorio added.

In the meantime, a Malacañang official said that the proposal to issue a hold departure order against Smartmatic executives is illogical, since "they have not yet committed any crime."

However, Presidential adviser on political affairs Prospero Pichay stressed that the Commission on Elections should "run after" the company for any problems that may be encountered on May 10.

"There is no logic they have not yet committed any crime," Pichay said in a press briefing on the same day. If there is indeed a big problem on election day, we should run after Smartmaticlet's give [Smartmatic] the benefit of the doubt [but] Comelec should run after Smartmatic this is their responsibility,"

Pichay was prompted to make this statement after Escudero made his announcement.

Last Monday, numerous glitches marred the testing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, prompting the lawyer of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to ask the Comelec to postpone elections for two more weeks to avert the possibility of election failure.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar continued to support the Comelec and said it's "very rare" to have systems that are "error-free."

He also appealed to voters not to get carried away by "political noise," which he said are being used by various groups to advance their interests.

"Its not yet finished. Lets see what happens on Monday. For the nth time, [we] remind people we are currently automating and [political noise] complicates things. Please, give [Comelec] utmost support," Olivar said.

Polls to push through

Escudero and Estradas moves came in the wake of reports of defective Precinct Count Optical Scanners (PCOS) machines.

Some units counted votes for local candidates who were not even marked on the ballot.

The Comelec also recalled thousands of the compact flash cards used to store data inside the PCOS machines. The cards were said to have been the cause of the defects.

On Wednesday, the Comelec assured that the first nationwide automated polls would push through on May 10.

Lawyer condemns Gonzales' plan to effect 'transitional junta'

Lawyer Harry Roque of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) condemned on Wednesday a planned transitional junta from the secretary of defense in case of a failure or postponement of the May 10 polls something he also blamed on the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Intensyon ng Comelec na pumalpak, kaya nila pinili itong automated election system (AES) na binigay sa kanila ng Smartmatic.. dahil gusto nila ng Gloria forever," Roque said.

(It was Comelecs intention for poll automation to fail. This is why the automated election system from Smartmatic was chosen because they want Gloria to stay on forever.)

Roque announced the CCM would be filing a petition before the Supreme Court to revert to manual voting instead on May 10.

Hinain namin itong petisyon na ito dahil sa scenario ni Norberto Gonzales noong siya ay [nasa] National Security Council pa lamang. E ngayong siya ay [nasa] Department of National Defense, bakit ako magdududa sa kanyang determination na ipatupad itong transition junta niya? Hindi isolated itong nangyaring ito. Ang scenario po talaga, No-El, at iyan ang gagawin ni Norberto Gonzales at ng kanyang mga kakampi," Roque said.

(We plan to file this petition because of the scenario given by Gonzales when he was still with the National Security Council. But now that hes at the Department of Defense, why will I doubt his determination to effect his plan for a transition junta? This is not an isolated case. The real scenario is a no election scenario and this will be implemented by Norberto Gonzales and his allies.)

However, Armed Forces Chief Delfin Bangit assured on Tuesday that no military takeover would happen in case of a failure of elections. [see: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/190079/afp-chief-meets-bishops-allays-fears-of-military-takeover]

On the same day, President Arroyos lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the Comelec could still postpone the polls if glitches in the PCOS machine testing would not be remedied in time.

Macalintal said that postponement would avert a failure of elections scenario.
[see: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/190070/postponing-elections-the-only-remedy-arroyo-lawyer-says]

Revert to manual

Roque stressed that the polls must push through, but not under the system that he alleged was planned to fail in the first place.

[We want to] revert to manual voting, counting, and canvassing of results. At least we are used to this system and no voters education would be required," Roque said.

Hindi kami pumapayag sa kahit anong postponement [ng eleksyon]. Ito ay kasama sa plano ng mga nagnanasa na magdeklara ng military junta at nangunguna na dito si Norberto Gonzales, at hindi niya ito sinisikreto," Roque said, adding that a military junta scenario was what pushed the CCM to file a petition against the automated polls last year.

(We do not agree with any proposal to postpone the elections. This forms part of plans of those who seek to put up a military junta and Norberto Gonzales, who is spearheading this move, has not made a secret of it.)

In June last year, Roque filed a petition before the Supreme Court on behalf of CCM asking it to nullify the P7.2-billion poll automation project.

Iyong mga forms na gagamitin para sa isang manual voting, counting, and canvassing, [maaaring] gawin pa rin sa [loob] ng dalawang araw siguro..kung gugustuhin, kakayanin. Kung nakinig sila noong isang taon pa, at naglagay ng mga safeguards, ay wala tayong problema ngayon. Kung [pinakinggan] nila ang aming hiling na mag-partial na muna, wala tayong ganitong dilemma," he added.

(Had Comelec listened to us when we asked them to undertake partial automation, the country wouldnt have this kind of dilemma.)

Roque also said the group would file anti-graft and plunder charges against all officials of Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM for entering into a contract that is disadvantageous to the government."

He also said it would file a special petition before the Commission on Immigration and Deportation to issue a Hold Departure Order against all officials of Smartmatic and Comelec.

Appoint new Senate President

The CCM also called on the Senate to appoint a Senate President to serve as acting chief executive after June 30.

Nananawagan po kami sa ating mga Senador, kailangan po silang maghalal ng isang senate president na mayroong mandato beyond June 30, 2010.. Buo ang loob ko na hindi papayag ang Korte Suprema na mabuwag ito ng isang transition junta," Roque said.

(We are appealing to our senators to elect a new Senate President who would have a mandate beyond June 30, 2010.)

Roque said the CCM would file all petitions within the day.

Asked how possible a Gloria-forever scenario is today on a scale of one to 10, Roque said immediately it was a nine.

"Naniniwala ako na kapag hindi matuloy ang eleksyon sa May 10, hindi magagalit ang taong bayan. Magwawala sila. Ang pakiusap na lang namin, mag-sama-sama na lang po tayo sa lansangan. Pakiusap po namin sa mga senador, bigyan niyo po kami ng acting president hanggang magkaroon ng eleksyon muli at sama-sama tayong manindigan laban sa transition junta ni Gloria at Norberto Gonzales."

(If elections fail to push through on May 10, I believe that the people will not get angry. They will go postal. What we are asking for is that we should all go out in the streets.)

Group calls for senate to elect senate president

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) called on the Senate to elect a Senate President with a mandate beyond June 30, 2010 to act as caretaker of the government in case of failure of elections and prevent a military junta.

At a press conference, CCM, through its co-convenor said Harry Roque said the scenario of a failure of elections as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) insisted that the election on May 10 will push through despite failure of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to properly and correctly function when tested last Monday in areas around Metro Manila and in several provinces.

Roque said the Senate should elect a senator whose term goes beyond June 30.

Among the senators whose term goes beyond June 30 are Francis Escudero and Edgardo Angara. The other senatorsManuel Villar, Benigno Aquino III, Loren Legardaare running for top two post in the country while Senator Panfilo Lacson is still in hiding.

We should oppose all efforts to postpone the holding of the elections as this will inevitably lead to the transition junta, Roque said.

Malacanang earlier warned that a military junta could take over the reins of power in the country should there be a massive failure of elections and no winner is declared in the May 10 polls.

Even Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales warned that there could be massive election fraud come May 10.

The Palace said junta is possible because there is no clear successor to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by June 30 because Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile as well as the House Speakers term also ends on that same date.

Section 7, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution provides that where no President and Vice-President shall have been chosen or shall have qualified, or where both shall have died or become permanently disabled, the President of the Senate or, in case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall act as President until a President or a Vice-President shall have been chosen and qualified.

Hundreds of guns, bombs for polls buried in Abra

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Hundreds of additional troops were sent to Abra on Wednesday as authorities scamper to unearth hundreds of firearms and explosives buried in various parts of the province.

PMA board goes for Noynoy, Mar

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) board is backing Liberal Party (LP) bets Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III for president and Sen. Mar Roxas for vice president.

No tradeoff in INC endorsement—Aquino

Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has assured the public that there was no quid pro quo in the Iglesia Ni Cristo's endorsement of his presidential bid.

Kris thanks INC for endorsing bro

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines -- Queen of All Media Kris Aquino extended her appreciation to Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) for endorsing her brother, Liberal Party presidential bet Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and LP's vice presidential bet Manuel "Mar" Roxas II.

NP: Relationship with INC hasn't changed

The Nacionalista Party of Senator Manny Villar was unfazed by the Iglesia Ni Cristo's endorsement of his rival, saying this will not change its relationship with the religious group.

Erap "saddened" by INC decision to endorse Noynoy

Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard-bearer former President Joseph Estrada said on Wednesday that he was "saddened" by the Iglesia ni Cristo"s decision to endorse the candidacy of Liberal Party presidential bet Senator Benigno Aquino III.

After 'Villaroyo' and 'Gloriaquino', now comes 'Erapoyo'

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - What's in a name? Plenty, judging by the number of permutations of the name of President Arroyo and whoever she is allegedly endorsing in the presidential race.

On Tuesday, former president Joseph Estrada's campaign manager, Ernesto Maceda, said supporters of President Arroyo may have to swing their support to Estrada after the latter edged out Villar in the pre-election surveys. He added that supporting Estrada was the only option left for Arroyo supporters to prevent an Aquino presidency.

The new alleged alliance was also given a name: "Erapoyo" or "Estrarroyo."

Reporters barred from interviewing Villar

Reporters covering the Nacionalista Party campaign were furious Wednesday night after they were barred from getting near presidential bet Senator Manuel Villar Jr. and interviewing him after at least four hours of waiting.

FVR roots for Gibo...in Ruffa photo 

Former President Fidel V. Ramos is apparently rooting for Lakas standard-bearer Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro,  former congressman Prospero Pichay said in Malacañang on Wednesday.

Pichay based his conclusion after seeing a photograph uploaded by actress and Teodoro supporter Ruffa Gutierrez on her Twitter page. 

The photograph showed Ramos wearing Teodoro's green campaign baller band.

"I'm sure there's a big impact considering FVR (Ramos) still has followers in the country," Pichay said. "I'm sure it's a big plus to the campaign of Gilbert Teodoro."

However, Pichay said he wishes the former president and Lakas party founder will state his endorsement in no uncertain terms.

Pichay said he appreciates Gutierrez's efforts to promote Teodoro's candidacy. She has been tweeting constantly about Teodoro.

"She has beauty and brains. If FVR (Ramos) will be a wearing Gibo baller, perhaps this is an indication he's for Gibo. But he has to announce it publicly," Pichay said.

Comelec en banc ousts Panlilio

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc ruled on Wednesday to uphold its decision to unseat Pampanga Gov. Eduardo "Among Ed" Panlilio in favor of former senior board member Lilia Pineda.

Running priest to go on hunger strike, hits Church's "pro-admin stance"

Catholic priest Father Robert Reyes, who has gained a reputation for running to advocate causes he believes in, will not run this time but refuse food, as he decried the pro-administration stand of a ranking Church official who rejected people power if the May 10 elections fail.

Manila prelate 'supports Comelec' amid automation problems

Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales on Wednesday expressed support for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) amid the problems being encountered by automated election system.

NPA kidnaps Surigao mayor, 4 escorts-police

BUTUAN CITY - A three-term Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor who is currently running for vice mayor and four of his security escorts were reported to have been kidnapped by suspected NPA rebels who reportedly installed a checkpoint along national highway in Monkayo town, police said.

AFP promises clean polls to foreign military attachés

Foreign military attachés are confident that the Philippine military will be able to help the country pull its first ever nationwide automated elections on Monday, May 10.

Agra reverses ruling on Maguindanao massacre suspects

Justice Secretary Alberto Agra on Wednesday reversed his ruling that cleared two members of the Ampatuan clan of involvement from the November 23 massacre in Maguindanao.

Palace welcomes DoJ move to keep massacre raps vs Ampatuans

Malacañang backed on Wednesday the decision of acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to reverse his earlier order to drop multiple murder charges against two members of the Ampatuan clan for the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

P55-m raised for families of victims of Maguindanao massacre

Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said Wednesday that a government-private sector aid package worth P55 million has been raised for the families of the 57 victims of the Maguindanao massacre which includes 31 members of media.

Transparency assured in GRP-MILF talks

The government"s chief negotiator with Moro rebels has assured the public of full transparency before any agreement is signed.

4 gov't troops abducted by suspected NPA men

Suspected New People's Army rebels abducted four government troops assigned as security escort of a Caraga Region politician in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, on Wednesday, police said.

Arroyo names OIC for outgoing Navy chief

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has named Navy vice commander Rear Adm. Danilo Cortez as temporary replacement for outgoing Navy Chief Admiral Ferdinand Golez, who will retire on May 16.

Peso falls to P45-to-dollar level

The value of the Philippine peso went down to P45 against the US dollar in Wednesday morning trading, falling from P44 in April.

$1: P45.010

$1: P45.010

Euro 1: P57.8758

Filipina faces death penalty on Thai drugs charges

by Agence France-Presse
BANGKOK - A 54-year-old woman from the Philippines faces the death penalty after being arrested at Bangkok's international airport for trafficking cocaine worth $500,000, police said Wednesday.

Iraq heads towards new Shiite-led government

by by Arthur MacMillan, Agence France-Presse
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq inched towards a new government Wednesday after its two biggest Shiite Muslim alliances struck a deal to end months of post-election haggling that had paralysed politics and alarmed Washington.

Washington Post puts Newsweek up for sale

WASHINGTON - The Washington Post announced Wednesday that it was putting money-losing Newsweek magazine up for sale.

Arum to convince Pacquiao to fight Mayweather

Top Rank big boss Bob Arum is coming over to the country on Thursday to give support to Manny Pacquiao"s candidacy for a congressional seat in Sarangani and at the same time, discuss another round of negotiations for his mega fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. to take place possibly by the end of the year.

Pacman-Floyd Jr. fight is going to happen, says Roach

THE boxing match the world wants to see is bound to happen - pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd "Money" Mayweather. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao"s multi-titled trainer, confirmed the news during an interview by an affiliate of ESPN radio.

Pacquiao retains No.1 slot, Donaire in 4th

BY JUN MEDINA Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Manny Pacquiao retained the No. 1 boxer in the world pound-for-pound, while compatriot Nonito Donaire Jr. moved up from fifth to fourth slot in the latest Ring magazine elite listing of the world's best prizefighters.


PBA: Kings escape past Express; Guiao slams officials

BARANGAY Ginebra battled back from a 15-point third quarter deficit and then heaved a sigh of relief as Ronnie Matias missed a soft, 15-foot side jumper at the buzzer to escape with a 101-100 win over Air21 Wednesday night in the PBA Fiesta Cup.

PBA: Llamados shackle down Painters to snap alarming skid

DERBY Ace went back to what it does best - play tough team defense. The no. 1 defensive team held Rain or Shine to its lowest output this season, scoring a runaway 75-67 win Wednesday night in the main game of a PBA Fiesta Cup doubleheader at the Araneta Coliseum.

Smart Gilas takes in Serbian import to power team in FIBA

The Smart Gilas national developmental pool has signed up Serbian Milan Vucicevic as import for the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

Kobe Bryant selected to NBA All-Defensive team

Kobe_250Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was selected to the NBA All-Defensive team for a 10th time, joining Orlando center Dwight Howard, Cleveland forward LeBron James, Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace and Boston guard Rajon Rondo.

The award was determined by a vote of the NBA's 30 head coaches.

Bryant, who averaged 1.6 steals a game, has been a first-team selection eight times in his career, including the last five seasons. He was a second-team selection in 2001 and 2002.

Lakers forward Ron Artest received some votes but not enough to make the second team, which consisted of San Antonio center-forward Tim Duncan, Atlanta forward Josh Smith, Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao, Miami guard Dwyane Wade and Oklahoma City guard Thabo Sefolosha.

Artest was 13th overall in the voting, receiving three first-team votes from coaches. Lakers forward Lamar Odom received one first-team vote and one second-team vote, while Pau Gasol received a second-team vote. 

ABS-CBN wins in New York

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – ABS-CBN has bagged 2 world medals at the recently concluded 53rd New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards in the United States.

The Correspondents' "Pagpag" episode, which tackled the plight of scavengers, won silver world medal in the news promotion category.

The music video of "Boto Mo Ipatrol Mo: Ako Ang Simula," on the other hand, grabbed the bronze world medal in the music video low budget category.

Vilma Santos to be honored at 7th Golden Screen Awards

by by Boy Villasanta, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - By virtue of her illustrious string of performances on screen, re-electionist Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos will be feted with the Lino Brocka Lifetime Achievement Award at the Entertainment Press Society, Inc.'s (Enpress) 7th Golden Screen Awards at Teatrino in Greenhills Wednesday night.

Willie to endorse Mar Roxas

MANILA, Philippines - Willie Revillame, the host of the popular noontime ABS-CBN variety show "Wowowee," will reveal the name of the vice presidential candidate that he is rooting for on Saturday.

Jericho, Andi team-up in the offing?

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Actor Jericho Rosales said he is excited to work with ABS-CBN's newest star Andi Eigenmann.

Ogie, Regine open to adopting a baby

by by Rachelle Siazon, ABS-CBN.com
MANILA, Philippines - After being together for so many years, Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez confirmed that they can't hardly wait to start raising their own family. As a matter of fact, they're already open to adopting a baby.

Willie Revillame stands by threat to resign

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – "Wowowee" host Willie Revillame is standing by his threat to leave ABS-CBN if the network refuses to dismiss fellow Kapamilya talent Jobert Sucaldito. "I mean what I say. Kapag nagsalita ako, yun na yun," said Revillame.

Thursday: heavy rain shower, Max Temp: 31°C (88°F), Min Temp: 27°C (81°F)

Max Temp: 31°C (88°F), Min Temp: 27°C (81°F), Wind Direction: ENE, Wind Speed: 9mph, Visibility: moderate, Pressure: 1008mb, Humidity: 65%, Sunrise: 05:24PHT, Sunset: 17:56PHT

How the new Iglesia leader chose who to endorse

MANILA, Philippines—The new executive minister of the bloc-voting Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), Eduardo Manalo, may have his late father's conservative views, but with a twist. Manalo—Ka Eduardo to his flock—pulled a surprise on Wednesday when he endorsed the candidacy of Liberal Party standard bearers Benigno Noynoy Aquino III and Manuel Roxas II.

The announcement came amid expectations by some INC elders and insiders that the sect would pick Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Manuel Villar Jr. Between Aquino and Villar, the latter courted the INC endorsement more avidly.

Only last week, abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak learned that Villar went to the INC headquarters in Quezon City to seek the bloc's endorsement. On that same day, the leader of another religious group also paid Manalo a visit purportedly to lobby for Villar.

In contrast, the last time Aquino was summoned to the INC Central was weeks ago, accompanied by his sisters, LP campaign manager Florencio Abad said. 

Estrada embarrassed them

Estrada, who the INC endorsed in the 1998 presidential elections, was out of the equation from the beginning, sources told us. The former President, who was convicted of plunder, broke an agreement with the INC that he would retire from politics if pardoned by President Arroyo.

It was the INC and El Shaddai (a Catholic movement) leader Brother Mike Velarde who brokered Estrada's pardon. The INC reportedly guaranteed to the Arroyo administration that Estrada would not run for any public office in exchange for the pardon.

But Estrada decided to run, embarrassing the sect.

Since the younger Manalo assumed the INC helm last year following the death of his father, Eraño "Ka Erdie" Manalo, political observers have been trying to decipher him. Will he retain his father's conservative political views, or will he make his own bold moves?

The May 10, 2010, elections will be the first major test of his leadership.

Villar was first choice?

About two weeks ago, Manalo issued a circular telling INC followers to exercise their right to vote. In that circular, he also implied that INC members should not question the decision of the INC leadership.

This has prompted some members to speculate that the INC might abstain from supporting a presidential bet, something that it did in the 1986 snap polls. 
 

Religious endorsements: Half-truths, bloated figures, with strings attached
MANILA, Philippines—With the new Iglesia ni Cristo head endorsing an unexpected choice for president, Benigno Aquino III, and with the El Shaddai leader's bet being closely watched by political players and ordinary voters alike, the real capability of their organizations to deliver supposed bloc votes is the subject of debates again.
 
Nine years ago, just after the senatorial and local elections, Newsbreak magazine asked questions related to bloc voting sects: How much of these religious groups' supposed strength and influence is myth? Are they any close to holding Philippine politics hostage? Or are they peddling half-truths?

The answer is, yes, they peddle half-truths, the estimates of the votes they can supposedly deliver is bloated, and their endorsements always come with strings attached. Even the candidates they supported in the past are downplaying the weight of the Iglesia ni Cristo support, for instance.
 
Senior writer Aries Rufo wrote "Church Power" for the May 23, 2001, issue of Newsbreak. Read on, and find that the views and analysis of our sources then remain relevant today. They sound like they are discussing the 2010 polls.      more [12]

Last week, the buzz in the INC was that Villar was the chosen one.

In an earlier interview, Abad said that the LP "is just going through the motion" of courting the INC endorsement and that "Noynoy would go only if he got invited." 

In those meetings, which Aquino admitted happened thrice, he was asked about his platform of government.

Asked what clinched the INC support, Abad surmised that the younger Manalo may have been convinced of Aquino's "character, idealism, and aspirations."

Maybe, maybe not.

In a statement issued after the official announcement, Manalo there were many factors considered in anointing the LP tandem. 

"Many important factors were taken into consideration in making our decision. After careful and prayerful deliberation, the Church believes that this is the best for our country," he said.

For the common good

Bloc voting, as practiced by the INC, has been criticized by some quarters for being contrary to freedom of choice and free will. But to the INC, freewill and freedom of choice should take a back seat when the common good is involved.

Politically, bloc voting has become a handy tool in serving the common good of INC members.

They are able to get concessions and favors from government, in exchange for their command votes.

Political observers may say that the endorsement of Aquino was hardly surprising, considering that he appears to be the likely winner, having topped the popularity surveys. The INC has been criticized for betting on sure winners, so that it would appear that it was INC that swayed the results.

This is only partly true.

In 1992, the INC went for Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., who lost to Fidel Ramos. In the 2004 race, President Arroyo was only a second choice. The sect wavered between Fernando Poe Jr. and Panfilo Lacson but it dropped the 2 opposition candidates when they failed to unite and run as a team.

Misgivings about Aquino

Those in the know say that the major factor in the decision-making process during the time of the older Manalo was personal politics.

The late Manalo cultivated close personal ties with the Marcoses, which may explain the INC's support of Cojuangco and Estrada in 1998. Arroyo, too, cultivated close ties with the elder Manalo.

But such personal ties do not burden the new INC leader.

Since entering politics in 1992, Villar has been consistently carried by the INC, indicating that the real estate magnate has cultivated close ties with the older Manalo.

On the other hand, the INC only supported Aquino in the 2007 senatorial race, and only after his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, personally sought the endorsement of the sect for her son.

The INC had its misgivings against Aquino following the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004, where some INC members were among those killed.

Stalled talks with El Shaddai

What does this say of Manalo's character?

Freed from the personal ties of the father, the younger Manalo is more pragmatic and less emotional in his decision-making process, some INC members observed. "I think, for him the bottom line is what serves the common good. The father also decided that way, but it is less emotional this time," one member observed.
 
Not many are aware that the older Manalo, before his death, and El Shaddai's Velarde were exploring the possibility of endorsing a common candidate for the 2010 elections. "Combining the endorsement of these groups would have been a major coup," an El Shaddai insider said.

But the younger Manalo was not too keen on forging an alliance with Velarde. And when he took the reins of the INC, the discussions were stalled.
 
In endorsing Aquino, the younger Manalo appears to be sending the message that he is his own man, ready to forge new personal ties and then retaining some. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)

Religious endorsements: Half-truths, bloated figures, with strings attached

MANILA, Philippines—With the new Iglesia ni Cristo head endorsing an unexpected choice for president, Benigno Aquino III, and with the El Shaddai leader's bet being closely watched by political players and ordinary voters alike, the real capability of their organizations to deliver supposed bloc votes is the subject of debates again.
Church Power
Newsbreak, May 23, 2001
 
By Aries Rufo, Newsbreak
 
They are feared, they are aggressively courted, they are among the most sought-after by political parties especially during elections. For those wanting to be elected to office, they are considered an important factor in the winning equation.
 
At first, it was only the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). Then the charismatic Catholic groups and Christian sects followed suit. The latest addition is the Couples for Christ (CfC), which is an otherwise apolitical religious group. 
 
Undoubtedly, religious groups have gained considerable clout in the political arena. For them, the electoral process has become as much as part of their affairs as their primary purpose of saving souls.
 
Religious endorsements—raised a notch higher by the INC through bloc voting— became fashionable in the 1990s when the INC, the Catholic Church and the Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement of Bro. Eddie Villanueva endorsed their respective candidates in the 1992 presidential race.
 
That election year, the JIL proved to be the biggest winner when its candidate, Fidel V. Ramos, a Protestant, bagged the presidency. Thus far, only the Jehovah's Witness church which has a membership of 144,000 has not participated in these endorsement exercises.
 
In the 1995 and 1998 national polls, the "religious contest" became fiercer and heated with the entry of Bro. Mike Velarde's El Shaddai. After testing the waters in 1998, CfC will again try to leave a mark in this year's polls.
 
But how much of these religious groups' supposed strength and influence is myth? Are they any close to holding Philippine politics hostage? What deals come with their endorsement?
 
THE NUMBERS GAME
One of the myths perpetuated by religious groups, intentional or otherwise, is the voting strength of their bloc, or congregation. Outside of their group, nobody knows for sure how many they are, or how big their voting population really is.
 
For instance, the bloc-voting INC boasts of a four-million-strong voting population nationwide, which roughly translates to more than 10 percent of the entire electorate. While it is not enough to ensure the election of a candidate running for a national post, the INC vote is most sought after, followed by the El Shaddai endorsement.
 
But insiders say the four million actually represents the entire population of the INC, including those ineligible to vote. Political analysts, strategists and politicians themselves believe the figure is much lower.
 
Reelectionist senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., one of the topnotchers in the 1995 senatorial race, estimates that the support of charismatic groups—the INC included— constituted only 0-12 percent of his total vote.
 
A former president's son who was endorsed practically by all religious groups in 1995, Magsaysay says their effective endorsement becomes magnified because the undecided "tend to go" with the perceived winners.
 
Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, who was endorsed by the INC in the 1998 national polls, also refuses to entirely credit the support of the religious for his victory in the 1998 polls.
 
Perhaps a more telling indicator that the INC's voting strength is not larger than life is the small number of sample respondents from the religious group tapped by reputable survey firms for their polls.
 
In surveys conducted in 1992, 1995 and 1998, the Social Weather Stations got three percent of its total respondents from the INC group, as compared to six to eight percent from other non-Catholic groups. In fact, an exit poll conducted in the 1998 polls, INC voters, at the very least, were estimated to be only 800,000.
 
But the INC is not the only religious group guilty of bloating its numbers. SWS estimates place at 307,000 the absolute voting strength of the JIL, far from its membership claim of three million. El Shaddai voters are estimated to number 1.31 million, also far from its supposed seven million membership.
 
"All in all, the survey's projected total membership in charismatic groups of all kinds amounts to 3.2 million voters," the SWS says in its book on the 1998 national polls. Given the numbers, religious bloc voting may not be all that effective at the national level.
 
Angelito Banayo, campaign manager of senatorial bet Panfilo Lacson, says that at most, religious endorsements come in handy for those running for local posts and those who emerge in the lower half of the winning senatorial lineup. For those on the borderline, he adds, a separate or collective endorsements of religious groups, especially the INC, may spell victory or defeat. 
 
This could spill over to the presidential race, as in the case of Miriam Defensor Santiago who lost by less than a million votes to Ramos in 1992. "Had the INC, for instance, supported Santiago and not [Eduardo] Cojuangco, Santiago would have won," Banayo says.
 
At the local level, especially in the areas where there is a huge concentration of members, religious endorsement can spell a difference. Banayo cites the case of Laguna where candidates endorsed by the INC won. In Manila, Mayor Lito Atienza won over political heavyweights by relying on the endorsement of the El Shaddai.
 
STUDYING CANDIDATES
If the religious and charismatic leaders are to be believed, their endorsements come only after a careful perusal of the qualities of the candidates. But analysts and politicians themselves believe that the endorsements actually hinge heavily on the popularity and the personality of the candidates and not on any church-based standards or teachings.
 
Magsaysay, a consistent topnotcher in the 1995 poll surveys, says he believes that the INC considered his "high winnability and party background." Also, he says, the JIL endorsed him because of his affiliation with the LDP-Lakas coalition, which the Christian group backed in that year's senatorial race.
 
The JIL, he says, has always been supportive of whomever Ramos endorses. Case in point is former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. whom the JIL even "anointed" in 1998 as the next president.
 
Although JIL's Villanueva says the group comes up with its "list" after "careful discernment" by its leaders, an examination of their choices shows that the group is inclined to support Ramos's candidates. This year, it is supporting the entire administration slate which Ramos also supports.
 
INC critic and political analyst Alex Magno says the sect, contrary to its claim of supporting candidates who are pro-poor, actually endorses those whom they believe they would benefit from in the long run. "Their strong personal loyalty to [Ferdinand] Marcos is the reason why they supported Cojuangco and [Joseph] Estrada in the elections," he says.
 
To make sure that their chosen candidates actually win, Magno surmises, the INC draws up its own"kodigo" for members in the last few days of the campaign. "Kung talagang winning, ilalagay sa list. Tumataya naman sila sa siguradong panalo (They always bet on the sure-winners)," he says. 
 
An INC member says that the sect's hierarchy likewise "consults" its members about its "chosen" candidates to gauge who the popular ones are within its own ranks. An informal survey is usually held six months before the elections, and three months before.
 
El Shaddai spiritual adviser Fr. Anton Pascual admits that one of the reasons why Bro. Mike got into trouble with Catholic Church officials was his choice of candidates.
 
"In the case of Estrada, Bro. Mike endorsed him even (without Church approval). Sa standards, dun sumabit si Bro. Mike," he says. One plausible reason why Velarde endorsed Estrada, Pascual says, is that most El Shaddai members were for the deposed President in the first place. He committed the grave mistake of basing his endorsement on popularity. "One cannot just endorse a candidate, it has to be grounded on objective moral standards," he adds.
 
"Masa yan e, kaya  it went for Estrada. So in effect, Bro. Mike's influence on his members is minimal," Pascual argues.
 
ENDORSEMENTS WITH A PRICE

Of all the half-truths perpetuated by leaders of religious groups, the most understated perhaps is that their endorsements are voluntarily given—with no strings attached.
 
But various interviews by Newsbreak shows otherwise. Religious groups do not ask concessions or favors from candidates in exchange for their endorsement. The requests pour in after the candidates win.
 
Banayo, whoa acted as Estrada's political adviser in Malacañang, says that the INC and the Catholic Church, to a certain degree, had at one time or another asked favors from the government.
 
As a member of the presidential personnel group that screened potential nominees to some government positions, including the judiciary, Banayo says there were several instances when the INC pushed for its own candidates. He says this excluded the appointment of former Justice Secretaries Serafin Cuevas and Artemio Toquero, both INC members, during Estrada's time. It was generally believed that their appointment came with the strong endorsement of the INC.
 
By dangling their suppose bloc vote, Magno says the INC expects "to exact favors from the power wielders" later on. "It's their version of political horse-trading. I'll give you votes, I'll expect from you later," Magno says. 
 
The INC, he adds, grew financially during Marcos's time, cornering juicy contracts, particularly public works projects, in exchange of continued support for the late strongman. Under Estrada, he says the INC wanted to control government agencies such as the Land Registration Authority, the Land Transportation Authority and the Justice department.
 
And weeks before the Edsa protests, Magno adds, "they wanted to control Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue," two of government's revenue-generating agencies.
 
"Influence-peddling, kasi ang ikinabubuhay ng INC. Remove that and it will mean the death of their institution," he says.
 
But in fairness to the INC, Magno says, its leaders want to "commandeer state resources for the benefit of their members" unlike Velarde who seeks government favors "to enrich himself." The plunder case pending against him is an indication of this, Magno points out.
 
The 1.2 million-strong CfC is no less immune from seeking quo pro quo arrangements with the government. The CfC recommended to Kompil the inclusion of senatorial candidate Liwayway Vinzons Chato in the administration slate.
 
Besides political favors, religious groups also extend their influence over the formulation of national policy. A classic case, recalls Biazon, were the bills on divorce and population planning which he introduces in the Senate and which died a natural death. His colleagues refused to endorse it for fear of reprisal from the Catholic Church. 
 
Another bill, introduced in 1995 and which sought to tax churches on their operations, was archived following strong pressure from religious groups. This early, Biazon says, he can already anticipate pressure from these groups when bills they perceive to be contrary to their beliefs or interests are introduced in the Senate.
 
Who says there was such a thing as free lunch? (Newsbreak)

Comelec was warned about ballot production software

With the numerous failures to read local votes in initial tests of the voting machines and the Smartmatic admission of a problem in configuring the ballot design, is it possible that Smartmatic used their ballot production software despite the clear warning by the source code review contractor that it should not be used? And that was only one of over 5,000 unresolved problems that the review found in the source code. Analysis by poll automation expert Roberto Verzola.

According to the Automated Election Law (R.A. 9369), the Comelec Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) must "certify, through an established international certification entity, ... categorically stating that the AES, including its hardware and software components, is operating properly, securely, and accurately, in accordance with the provisions of this Act based, among others, on the following documented results: 1) ... ; 2) ... ; 3) The successful completion of a source code review; 4) ... "

For the certification entity, the Comelec chose SysTest Labs Inc., a U.S. firm that certifies voting software. SysTest conducted its review of the Smartmatic source code on Oct. 26, 2009 to Feb. 9, 2010. It was on the basis of the SysTest recommendation that the COMELEC accepted the Smartmatic software and went ahead with the automated elections. Although SysTest submitted its "Certification Test Report for Source Code Review, Readiness and Security Testing Rev. 1.06" on Feb. 9, the COMELEC released the full text of the report only on Apr. 30, barely ten days before the May 10 elections.

The SysTest review found 9,888 problems, which ranged from "critical" or "major" to "minor" problems. Of these problems, Smartmatic was able to correct 4,422 critical or major problems. However, 327 major problems, 4,897 minor deviations from standards and 242 minor non-standard-related problems – a total of 5,466 problems – remained unresolved, according to the SysTest report.

However, the software changes that supposedly resolved the 4,422 critical or major problems have not yet been successfully tested here or abroad, contrary to the following provision of the AES Law:

"Sec. 12. ... With respect to the May 10, 2010 election and succeeding electoral exercises, the system procured must have demonstrated capability and been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad."

In addition, the problems which are supposedly minor are actually significant problems, if the text of the SysTest report is scrutinized carefully.

Among the unresolved problems revealed by the SysTest code review are the following:

"Possible database corruption", which can result in loss of vote data (p.16, 24) "Potentially incomplete, corrupted, overwritten or lost audit logs," which can also result in loss of vote data as well as make it possible for intruders to hide their tracks (p.18-19, 21, 23, 30-31); "Possible injection of malicious SQL [database] commands", which can corrupt vote data (p.19); "Unencrypted passwords in database and other encryption and password problems" (p.19-20, 24, 29); and "Possible loss of significant digits" in the vote data (p.20, 22).

To remedy the problems above that SysTest identified, it subsequently submitted a separate report entitled "Final AES Certification Test Report for the Smartmatic Automated Electon System (AES)," which the COMELEC has not yet made available to the public, although it has released a summary of the report, dated March 8, 2010 and entitled "Certification Test Summary for AES May 2010 Rev. 1.00". The Summary lists "compensating controls" needed to cover the shortcoming in the Smartmatic software identified in the Report. In particular, two compensating controls listed in the Summary should be noted (Summary, p.6):

- The Ballot Production tool was not subjected to the full certification process; therefore it should not be utilized in the May 10, 2010 election process."

- As the modem firmware was not subjected to the full certification process and is required for transmissions, COMELEC should request the source code from Smartmatic and have a thorough review conducted prior to the May 10, 2010 election."

Given the transmission problems encountered by Smartmatic even in Metro Manila and the printing problems of the NPO with regards to misalignment from high-speed printing, these two compensating controls seem particularly important. The COMELEC should report to the public whether these two, as well as the rest of the compensating controls listed in the Summary, were accomplished.

With the reports of failure to read local votes in initial tests of the PCOS machines and the Smartmatic admission of a problem in configuring the ballot design, is it possible that Smartmatic used their Ballot Production software despite the clear SysTest warning that it should not be used?

It should be noted that Systest only gave a conditional endorsement of the Smartmatic software in its March 8 report (p.7), one month after the AES Law deadline for a categorical certification:

"Assuming the abovementioned [compensating] controls are put into practice and that the AES is properly configured, operated and supported, SysTest Labs finds the Smartmatic Automated Election System to be capable of operating properly, securely and accurately and therefore recommends the system for certification and use in the May 10, 2010 election."

This is not quite the categorical statement that the AES Law R.A. 9369 requires. This endorsement is conditional on the crucial assumption that all compensating controls are "put into practice".

Given the problems cited in the SysTest report, and the explicit warning against using Smartmatic's ballot production tool, it is clear that no certification should have been issued to the Smartmatic software and the full nationwide automation of the Philippine elections should have been aborted.

Testing, testing, 1,2,3

In UP, just like any school that teaches computer science, we tell our students the importance of testing. Testing ensures that your software conforms to the specification. There is no software that is 100% bug-free; however, you should ensure that no major bugs are present before you submit it to the teacher, or to the client.

What happened in latest election brouhaha involving the PCOS machines is simply a display of inefficiency of both Smartmatic and Comelec.

Smartmatic is at fault for not testing that the software works with the hardware. What is worse is that the Comelec failed in catching this error and for allowing the machines to be deployed!

Several questions come to mind now.

1. What happened to the software review? The review should have included the software running on actual hardware under all conditions, ideal or otherwise. Comelec paid for he software review and and now we get this -- an error in software and hardware integration? Are we getting our money back?

2. Did Smartmatic test the software before loading it on all the PCOS machines prior to deployment? I highly doubt this. If they did test it, this wouldn't have happened. This is VERY BASIC! For such to be missed, what can be said of Smartmatic now?

3. Who is in charge of QA at Comelec? A problem like this invites people to think that somehow someone just let this pass without testing. Was someone bribed to let this pass? Sorry but you cannot blame us for thinking like this.

4. Smartmatic will now change the code in the memory cards and reload it on the PCOS machines. Question is - who will review the code now?

This defeats the purpose of the code review prior to deployment! Now, you invite us to think that this is an opportunity to insert malicious code into the software!

5. Is Smartmatic going to be penalized for all of these problems?

I apologize to the Comelec: We know that you are trying to regain the trust and confidence of the people. However, with what has been happening the past few days, how can we trust you?

Sorry, Comelec, but I think the only way for you to regain our trust is to allow a parallel manual count for just the two top positions.

If, and when, we prove that the machines are working accurately, then the results for all other positions can be deemed accurate and acceptable (again, we are throwing a bone here, so to speak).

If a simple TEST BEFORE YOU DEPLOY wasn't done, what other major tasks were missed? What is your guess?

What teachers have to go through on election day

from mb.com.ph

Four days to go and everyone is all geared up for the elections on Monday, May 10 – but probably not the much-ballyhooed PCOS counting machines.

Over the past week, the test runs and mock voting showed that the automation was still suffering from a few hiccups. For fear of massive cheating and failure of elections, some quarters are pushing to go back to the old ways of manual counting.

Ironically, while much attention is focused on the previous voters, they have the easiest task in the election process – get in, vote, and get out. The frontliners, on whose hands always fall the most difficult tasks during the elections, are the teachers who act as the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI).

To understand what teachers have to go through, here's a condensed process for BEIs and their role on election day as printed in the training manual provided by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

Very, very early in the morning of the elections, all BEIs will move and collect all election forms, documents and supplies such as official ballots, book of voters, etc. from the city or municipal treasurers.

The BEIs must then be at their site at 6 a.m., and again ensure all election forms, documents and supplies are present, especially the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine.

In the precinct, BEIs should begin the set-up of all materials before the precinct officially opens at exactly 7 a.m., including the posting of one copy of the PCVL (posted computerized voters list) near or at the door of the polling place.

After showing the public that everything is sealed, setting-up of the machine must begin. The chairman of the BEIs must make sure that supplies needed for the machine's operation are at hand such as the contact flash (CF) cards, iButton security key, among others.

The voting begins. BEI must verify voter's identity through proper identification. Chairman must check if any of the fingernails of the voter has already been stained with indelible ink. Voter must sign in the EDCVL and then the chairman shall authenticate the ballot by affixing his/her own signature at the designated space. The BEI must instruct the voter on how to fill-up the ballot properly. Only the chairman shall issue the official ballots and not more than one ballot shall be issued at one time. The voter will also be given one marking pen.

The BEBEI shall monitor the process and make sure that the ballot was successfully accepted. The chairman will apply the indelible ink.

The counting begins at 6 p.m. If there are no errors the BEI shall sign and affix their thumbmarks in the ERs. The BEIs shall individually fold the first eight copies of ERs and seal each of them with serially numbered paper seals, place in envelope and then seal.

After printing all the reports and transmission of precinct results to all destinations, the PCOS must be properly shutdown.

After the counting, the chairman shall announce the total number of votes received by each candidate and state their corresponding offices. The poll clerk must post a copy of the results within the polling place.

The BEI must now start packing all materials and supplies, close the ballot box, lock it with one self-locking serially numbered length seal and three padlocks. Each key of the lock must be kept and sealed inside an envelope, separately.

BEI must then deliver the ballot box accompanied by watchers to the city or municipal treasurer.

After all of this is done, the BEIs responsibility is finished. Hopefully, in a few days time, the new national and government officials will be announced.

Creativity in Teaching

from mb.com.ph

We have always believed that students are not failing because of the curriculum.

Any subject may be taught as long as it relates to the learners' learning style preferences.

New knowledge is formed on the basis of what has already been understood and believed.

It is rare, if not close to impossible, for a student to comprehend, remember or learn something totally unfamiliar. Some form of prior knowledge or a basic idea is necessary for a new lesson or task to be understood. Learners need to have their prior knowledge activated and should then use this for understanding and learning.

Research shows that learning is enhanced when teachers pay close attention to their students' prior knowledge, and use this knowledge as the starting ground for a new lesson or activity.

In class, teachers can help students activate prior knowledge and use this for the task at hand in a number of ways:

• They can discuss the content of a lesson to ensure that the students have the necessary prior knowledge. Oftentimes, this prior knowledge is incomplete or may be characterized by false beliefs and misconceptions. Teachers must therefore take it upon themselves to break such myths and fallacies.

• Teachers can ask questions to help students see the relationship between what they are reading and what they already know.

• Effective teachers should be able to help students grasp relationships and establish connections by supporting their efforts to improve their performance.

EFFECTIVE STRATEGiES

People learn through effective and flexible strategies that help them understand, reason, memorize and solve problems.

Studies show that students develop approaches which help them solve problems from an early age.

Research also shows that when teachers attempt to teach learning strategies to students, substantial gains can be had.

• Strategies are important because they help students understand and solve problems in ways appropriate to the situation at hand. They can also improve and hasten learning. The broader the range of strategies and approaches children can use appropriately, the more successful they can be in problem solving, reading, text comprehension and memorizing.

In class, teachers must recognize the importance of students' knowing and using a variety of approaches to learning. They should give students a task and provide a model of the inquiry process by asking key questions. For example, teachers can show students how to outline the important points in a text and how to summarize them.

It is important to ensure that students learn to use these strategies on their own, without relying on teachers for support. Teachers need to lessen intervention gradually and allow students to take greater responsibility for their learning.

Learners must know how to plan and monitor their learning, how to set their own learning goals and how to correct errors. Studies show that students may actually be using strategies for learning unconsciously, without being fully aware of what they are doing.

Self-regulation involves the development of specific strategies that help learners assess their learning, check their understanding and correct errors when necessary. It requires reflection in the sense of being aware of one's own beliefs and strategies.

Reflection is the ability to distinguish appearance from reality, common beliefs from scientific knowledge, etc. It could be developed through discussion, debates and essays, where students are encouraged to express their opinions and defend them.

• In class, teachers can help students become self-regulated and reflective by providing the following opportunities to plan how to solve problems, design experiments and read books, and to let their students set their own learning goals.

(The author is the president of the Center for Learning and Teaching Styles, an affiliate of the International Learning Styles Network, based at St. John's University in New York. He is a graduate of the AIM Masters in Development management and of the Harvard Graduate School for Professional Educators. He is the author of the following books: Cooking Up A Creative Genius; The HI CLASS Teacher, Breakthrough Ideas in Education; and Using Passion and Laughter in Your Presentations. He can be reached athtenedero@yahoo.com)

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