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

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 7, 2010 Major News Stories



Grenade blast kills elderly couple

A GRENADE blast killed an elderly couple who was asleep in their house in Carcar City, Cebu yesterday.

Felipe Aller Nacua, 72, and his wife Felicisima, 70, did not survive the blast that struck their house in Sitio Kamanggahan, Barangay Napo around 1 a.m.

Police are still trying to determine the motive for the attack.

Acting Cebu Provincial Police Chief Erson Digal said that sometime last year, the Nacuas' house was burned down, and Felicisima suffered second-degree burns. The couple, however, did not report the incident to the police.

They moved to another location not far from their old house.

Sitio Kamanggahan is some 10 kilometers from the city proper.

Digal said there was no indication that the attack was politically motivated.

Police recovered the safety lever of the grenade.

Explosion

Roberto Nova, a neighbor, told investigators that he noticed a man carrying a flashlight in the vicinity earlier that night.

Later, an explosion occurred inside the house.

The bodies of the couple were taken to the Tupas Funeral Homes.

Carcar City Police Chief Renato Malazarte said the two were farmers.

Police won't relinquish probe to NBI

THE Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) will not relinquish to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) its probe on the murder of independent candidate Cresistomo "Tata Negro" Llaguno.

PRC: 1,905 new midwives

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Wednesday that 1,905 out of 3,623 passed the Midwife Licensure Examination.

Gov't stresses warning on 'drug mules'

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is taking proactive measures to address the issue of Filipinos recruited to act as drug mules by international drug syndicates.

US citizenship for foreign workers in Northern Marianas

Thousands of foreign workers, including Filipinos, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) who have lawfully resided in the US territory for at least five years may be given an improved immigration status.
"Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States," Assistant Interior Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta said, in the report.

Should US Congress act on the Interior department's initiative, some 15,816 aliens residing in the CNMI for five years or more would be covered, along with those who have been in the territory for three to five years, the report said.

There were 20,859 foreigners in the CNMI as of January 2010, with 16,304 classified as workers.

'Welcome news' for Pinoys 

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed there were over 14,000 Filipinos in the CNMI as of December 2008, with about 13,000 classified as temporary residents and 500 irregulars. The rest are considered temporary residents.

"This is welcome news for us, and we hope that the CNMI government will respect the decision of the Interior," Ramon Awit, an OFW in the CNMI's island capital Saipan for 16 years, told GMANews.TV in an interview.

Unlike the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in US mainland, foreign workers in the CNMI came to work and live under legal terms in the islands, Awit, an adviser for the CNMI United Filipino Organization, said. 

Most foreign workers in the CNMI are part of the US system, having been issued US Social Security numbers, said Rabby Syed, president of the United Workers Movement-NMI, whose membership consists largely of OFWs.

In 2008, the CNMI Department of Labor issued 23,110 permits to foreign workers, with 13,768 going to Filipinos.

"Ngayong may rekomendasyon na ang Interior, mababawasan na ang pagkalito ng mga tao. Sana huwag nang kontrahin ng CNMI (Now that Interior's recommendation has come up with a recommendation, people will be less confused. Hopefully the CNMI will no longer oppose it)," said Lito Espina, a Saipan-based OFW for 14 years.

Deputy Labor Secretary Cinta Kaipat and House Vice Speaker Felicidad Ogumoro, however, have expressed disappointment with the recommendation at the onset, as it would make it more difficult for the indigenous residents to compete with foreign workers for private sector jobs, the report stated.

Final test moved

THE final testing and sealing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that will be used for the country's first synchronized automated election has been moved tomorrow instead of today.

In other developments:

* The Supreme Court (SC) is expected to decide today how the counting of votes will be done on Monday.

* Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has asked Catholics to pray the rosary in polling precincts as election officers start to test and seal PCOS machines.

* Special elections will be held in areas that won't get their PCOS machines in time for the election, said Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano.

Cebu City North District Election Officer Rudy Gilos said the testing and sealing have been moved because the new reconfigured compact flash (CF) cards have yet to be delivered today.

Gilos, however, stressed that the delay in the sealing and testing of the PCOS machines will not postpone Monday's elections. Postponement will need legislation, he said.

Despite the malfunction of certain machines in Luzon during last Monday's testing, Gilos remains optimistic that there will be no more glitches tomorrow.

"Di nako motuo nga ang Smartmatic-TIM masayop pa na sila. Kung masayop pa sila, hiktananan na gyud na ilang li-og (I don't think Smartmatic-TIM will commit any
more mistakes. If they do, they should be hanged)," Gilos said in jest.

Smartmatic-TIM is the supplier of the automated counting machines.

Even if there are still glitches, Gilos said Comelec will still have time to replace the cards. He said that both the PCOS machines and CF cards have backups.

Gilos, however, warned that if there will be failure of elections on Monday because of the machines, Comelec will file a case against Smartmatic-TIM.
Today, the SC will sit in a special session to decide how the counting of votes will be done on Monday.

Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the SC is "pressed" to come up with a resolution although the matter was only brought to their attention last Wednesday.
Marquez was in Cebu with other ranking SC officials yesterday to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the future site of the Court of Appeals (CA) Cebu Station.

The SC is on recess, having adjourned its session last Tuesday. There is supposed to be no more sessions until the end of June, when Chief Justice Reynato Puno is retired and his replacement has taken over.

The special session will tackle the 18-page petition of the Concerned Citizens Movement of lawyer Harry Roque Jr.

The petition asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to count votes manually.

CCM is the same group that asked the SC to nullify the P7.2-billion poll automation deal between the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM.

The SC, in a ruling promulgated last September, however blasted the petition, citing the need to observe the Comelec's autonomy in the "discharge of its awesome functions."

In the same ruling, however, the SC acknowledged that things could still go wrong.

"Like anyone else, the Court would like and wish automated elections to succeed, credibly," it said.

But Roque and CCM argued in the petition that it is time for the SC to step in.

"To continue with a system whose reliability and credibility have been put in grave doubt is to violate with impunity the sacred constitutional right of the Filipino people to the ballot," the petition said.

The petition was filed after the counting machines failed in Comelec tests just days before the election.

Smartmatic-TIM executives blamed the glitch on errors in the configuration contained in the compact flash cards they are using to run the system.

Prayers

Meanwhile, Vidal has issued a circular asking parish priests, religious and the laity to hold prayer vigils near polling precincts when Comelec resumes testing and sealing the PCOS machines.

Vidal asked parishes to form prayer groups of three to five persons to go on hourly shifts and pray the rosary in precincts.

He asked parishes to coordinate with their election officers on the arrival of the PCOS machines.

The prelate said that instead of conducting vigils in their churches, parishioners are better off in the precincts to help safeguard the machines.

At the Comelec provincial office, Castillano said that if in case PCOS machines can't be delivered on May 10 to some areas in the province, a special election will be held in these areas.

Castillano said the challenge is now on the deployment of PCOS machines after these were recalled. He said manual election is already out of the question because Comelec did not prepare for it.

"The election will push through on May 10 but on certain areas where we can't immediately deploy the memory cad, we may conduct a special election," he told reporters.

The number of days on the conduct of the special elections will depend on the Comelec en banc, he said.

If the compact flash cards will arrive on May 8, Air 21 intends to deliver it within the day to the respective election officers of all towns, including the islands. It also means to that the testing and sealing of the PCOS will be done on May 9.

The testing and sealing will be done simultaneously and each precinct will have ten sample ballots to test. This is also open to the public.

'Problematic' May 10 polls won't fail: Comelec

by Reuters
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines' automated voting system could throw up some problems in next week's election, but the last-minute replacement of faulty technology should prevent an outright failure, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Thursday.

Ex-chief justice Davide says no to postponement

FORMER Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. hopes the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will do everything it can not to postpone the May 10 elections.

City Hall to open tunnel during SRP launching party

CEBU City's first tunnel will be opened to light vehicles for 24 hours this Saturday, when the City Government formally launches the South Road Properties (SRP).

Puno praises City for lot donation

SUPREME Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the new building of the Court of Appeals (CA) Cebu that will be built in the South Road Properties (SRP) will pave the way for a more efficient delivery of justice.

Possible delay in flash cards arrival in 5% of country seen

(UPDATE) The Commission on Elections on Thursday revealed there could be delays in the delivery of reconfigured compact flash cards for PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines to at least five percent of the country, even as it assured that contingencies are readily available.

Delays hound delivery of PCOS machines

MANILA, Philippines – Delays continue to hound the Commission on Elections on Thursday as the poll body rush to deliver the remaining Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and reconfigured compact flash cards to polling precincts scattered throughout the country.

And with barely a hundred hours left before election day, time is swiftly running for the Comelec.

A desperate roadblock

In Iloilo, a local candidate put up a roadblock on the road leading to 4 barangays, forcing the Comelec to stop the convoy delivering the PCOS machines.

Benigno Malaga, a candidate for Maasin mayor, admitted putting up the roadblock, saying it would help cut down the incidence of vote buying in his area.

He told ABS-CBN News he had the right to block the road because it passes through his property. However, he denied he was responsible for the spikes and caltrops seeded on the road.

Inspector Romeo Villasis, chief of the Maasin police said they were lucky that someone told the police about the roadblock and spikes before the convoy arrived. It gave them time to stop the convoy before it and its precious cargo could be damaged in an accident.

Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones, who is Malaga's rival, described the roadblock as an act of "political harassment."

"He (Malaga) must open the road," the mayor said.

Workmen with heavy equipment later showed up to remove the roadblock but it took them time to remove the spikes and caltrops.

Because of the risk the spikes poised to the vehicles in the convoy, poll officials ordered it to wait until the road was completely cleared.

As of posting, the convoy was still waiting for the "all clear" signal.

Mixed up schedules

In Sarangani, a mix-up in scheduling plagued the convoy delivering PCOS machines to several barangays.

Though the convoy reached its first stop safely in Barangay Alabel, the convoy's escorts found the Datu Abdullah Tondog Elementary School there closed, and none of the members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) was around to take custody of their machines.

The escorts waited for 10 fruitless minutes before deciding to go to the next barangay.

Upon arriving, the convoy's escorts again discovered that the BEI was unaware of their arrival.

They found Domolok Elementary School but like in Barangay Alabel, there was no one to take custody of their machines.

After a hasty search, the escorts found the acting school principal, Ms. Celeste Cabrera, and turned over the machines to her.

It was apparent that Cabrera was hesitant to take custody of the 3 machines meant for the school's polling precincts.

"I didn't know you were arriving today," she told the convoy's escorts.

In the next school in the convoy's list, the same thing happened again.

Wilma Campos, a BEI member of the Tokawal Elementary School explained that they thought they were the ones to get the PCOS machines. They didn't expect the machines to be delivered to them.

"The Comelec told us to get the machines tomorrow and bring them to school, she said.

A PCOS technician who accompanied the convoy told ABS-CBN that it was apparent that the BEI was unaware that the machines were going to be delivered on Thursday.

"Because they weren't there, it's doubtful that the testing and sealing of the machines will push through on Friday," the technician said.

Testing postponed?

In Bacolod, poll officials and election watchdogs are beginning to fear that they will not be able to test and seal their PCOS machines as scheduled because their reconfigured compact flash cards have not yet arrived.

Smartmatic-TIM technicians removed the compact flash cards from the PCOS machines last Tuesday for reconfiguration and replacement to prevent a repeat of the malfunctions that occurred during the testing of PCOS machines in several places in Luzon.

Because of the delayed delivery of the compact flash cards, Atty. Ryan Castro of Comelec-Bacolod said it was likely that the testing and sealing of PCOS machines in Western Visayas would be postponed to Saturday.

In Maguindanao, a heavily guarded convoy loaded with 365 PCOS machines left Cotabato City for the towns of Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, Parang, Matanog, Barira and Buldon.

The machines were delivered without their compact flash cards.

Local poll officials, members of the BEI and election watchdogs eagerly welcomed the delivery of the PCOS machines. However, without the compact flash cards, the machines are useless.

Like their counterparts in Bacolod, poll officials in Maguindanao doubt they can proceed with the scheduled testing and sealing of the PCOS machines on Friday without the compact flash cards.

Delayed delivery

In Ilocos Norte, the delivery of the PCOS machines was delayed in several barangays.

Unlike their counterparts in Sarangani, the BEI in Barangay Dilanis in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte was expecting the convoy's arrival and prepared to take custody of the PCOS machines.

Apparently, the convoy delivering the PCOS machines went to a wrong barangay, causing the delay. The convoy eventually arrived at its proper destination after a few hours.

Closer to Metro Manila, only 12 of the 24 towns and cities of Bulacan have received their PCOS machines.

Poll officials in the province said the remaining machines will be delivered along with the reconfigured compact flash cards on Friday, allowing them to test and seal the machines on Saturday, 2 days before election day.

Emelyn Mendoza, chairman of the Balagtas Municipal Board of Canvassers said they didn't mind the delay.

"The teachers agree that it's okay to delay the testing (of the machines) as long as we don't go back to manual (counting)," Mendoza said. "We are not ready for a manual count."

Atty. Sabino Mejanito, chairman of the Bulacan Provincial Board of Canvassers remains optimistic that the automated polls on May 10 will push through despite the delay.

He said they will test and seal the PCOS machines on Saturday as soon as the reconfigured compact flash cards are installed.

If anything else goes wrong, Mejanito said they still have Sunday to fix the problem.

But there was a bright note amidst the delay and confusion.

The PCOS machines meant for the remote villages of Legazpi, Albay were delivered safely and on time.


SC gives Comelec 2 days to disclose all poll preparations

The Supreme Court finally intervened in the brewing electoral crisis, when it ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday to disclose all its preparations for the country's first automated elections scheduled for Monday, May 10.

"The Court may, and given the alarming developments of late in the run-up to the May 10 2010 elections, should compel Comelec to disclose the complete details of its preparations," the court said in a 20-page resolution penned by Senior Justice Antonio Carpio.

According to the resolution, the Comelec should make the disclosure within two days upon receipt of the resolution.

Among the details the high court wants the Comelec to make public are the nature and security of all equipment and devices, including hardware and software components, that will be used on election day; the source code for review by interested parties; and the terms and protocols of the random manual audit.

The SC also ordered the poll body to show certifications that the entire automated election system (AES) is fully functional with all its continuity plans in place, and that the 240,000 Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) all over the country are trained to use the new election system.

The certification on the AES' full functionality must come from the Comelec's Technical Evaluation Committee, while that on BEI training must come from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the court said.

The resolution granted the petition filed by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Protestant Bishop Leo Soriano, Quintin Doromal, Fe Maria Arriola, Isagani Serrano, and NBN-ZTE whistleblower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada.

The petitioners named the Comelec as the lone respondent.

In granting the petition, the SC reminded the Comelec that it has a constitutional mandate to enforce and administer election laws, while the poll chairman and its six commissioners are beholden and accountable to the people they have sworn to serve.

"Respondent cannot shirk its constitutional duty to disclose fully to the public complete details of all information relating to its preparations for the May 10, 2010 elections without violating the Constitution and relevant laws," the court said.

Concurring with Carpio were Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno and Justices Conchita Carpio Morales, Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo D. Brion, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Mariano C. Del Castillo, Martin S. Villarama, Jr., Jose P. Perez, and Jose C. Mendoza.

Dissenting justices were Renato C. Corona, Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. and Roberto C. Abad.

Teachers worry: What if machines fail again?

Teachers who will man the precincts on election day are at a loss about what to do in case the precinct count optical scanners PCOS machines) still do not function properly.

Teachers told only vote scanners must be plugged in on election day

Teachers must make sure nothing but the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines are plugged into their precincts' electric outlets to make sure that no electrical overload or short circuits will occur and result in blackouts in their areas on Election Day.

Let teachers vote, Comelec asked

MANILA, Philippines – A last minute appeal to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was made on Thursday asking the poll body to reinstate disenfranchised teachers and allow them to vote on May 10.

IT expert: Full automated polls impossible

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials on Thursday declared the testing and sealing of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in Metro Manila--counting in the cities of Parañaque, Makati and Marikina--a 100% success. But amid such delays, and with limited time left to election day, Halalang Marangal secretary-general Roberto Verzola expressed doubts that full automated polls are even possible.

Vote-shaving possible in PCOS machines, poll watchdog warns

Contrary to the government's assurance that "automated cheating" is virtually impossible, the glitches that occurred in recent precinct-level tests showed there is an easy way to shave votes from target candidates in the May 10 elections, a poll watchdog group said on Thursday.

In a statement, Halalang Marangal (HALAL) said votes can be shaved off certain candidates by making minor changes in the configuration of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that would be used to count and transmit votes during election day.

According to HALAL secretary-general Roberto Verzola, the current problem with PCOS machines is that there was a mismatch between the PCOS configuration and the ballot layout for local candidates, thus preventing the machines from accurately counting votes during pre-election testing last Tuesday.

The ballot layout for the local candidates was changed from single-spaced to double-spaced, but the configuration was not changed to account for the new locations of the double-spaced ovals, said Verzola.

Smartmatic simply needs to adjust the coordinates of the ovals for the local candidates, to conform with the modified ballot layout, to correct the misalignment. This will require changing the configuration file containing the coordinates. I agree that, properly done, this would solve this particular problem," he said.

But Verzola, an information technology expert who had made an extensive study of the 2004 and 2007 elections and vote-rigging schemes, warned that this option to change the PCOS configuration file could be "exploited" to do targeted cheating through vote-shaving.

All that needs to be done is to slightly change the coordinates of the oval associated with a targeted candidate, so that the printed oval on the ballot for that candidate becomes slightly misaligned with respect to the new coordinates on the configuration file. The larger the misalignment, the greater the possibility of missing the mark on the oval this is called a false negative or a 'bawas'," he said.

"Of course, the cheat would not make such a big change that the PCOS machine will miss the mark entirely a consistently zero count would be too obvious and easily detected. But a slightly misaligned oval might be missed occasionally, say one in every ten marks, leading to a 10 percent shaving of votes for that particular targeted candidate," added Verzola.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal assured, however, that the Comelec is taking the necessary measures to ensure that the machines would read votes accurately.

"We have a retesting and resealing of the PCOS machines. I think that would provide us with the answer whether the PCOS machines would read the votes accurately," he told GMANews.TV.

Poll officials earlier said the PCOS machines retested on Thursday in Metro Manila accurately read the ballots that were not read properly during the first testing earlier this week.


Malacañang: No military takeover in case of total failure of polls

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's spokesman assured Thursday that Malacañang will not order the military to intervene in case of a total failure of the automated elections.

If polls fail, FVR says he'll oppose military junta

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Fidel V. Ramos is against the setting up of a military junta if there is a failure of elections on May 10.

Measures readied to anticipate 'threats' from 'enemies of the State'

The Philippine government is currently preparing measures to anticipate "threats" coming from "enemies of the State" such as communists and secessionist rebels.

Preventing such threats were among the subjects discussed during a National Security Cabinet cluster meeting in Malacañang, Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said, in an ambush interview at the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).

Based on reports, "enemies of the State" such as the New Peoples Army the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were planning activities to disrupt the elections, Mendoza said.

However, he declined to elaborate.

Its all about the preparations of the institutions for the coming electionsof course (we) discussed possible threats that the government is facing" he said. "They have plans but we are addressing them already."

Although the threats are not major, Mendoza said the government continues to hope that they too in government would be able to cast their votes on Monday.

For his part, Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said that military and police forces, besides being prepared for any eventualities.

The Armed Forces and the police are ready to ensure the integrity of our elections and to safeguard the sanctity of the ballots, and the safety of our voters of our election workers including the teachers and the transmission of results and the proper canvassing of votesLahat ito ay ating pangangalagaan at ito ay mahalaga para sa ating demokrasya," he said.

(All of these will be taken care of because these are important for our democracy.)

He added that no foreigners have actually been hurt in the country during previous elections, despite foreign governments issuance of advisories to their nationals in the country.

We had elections before as you as far as I know I do not know any great number of foreigners hurt in those elections," he said. "We do not take it against these countries warning their nationals but again I will look back on the records of elections as far as I know there are no foreign nationals who have been hurt in great numbers in those elections and we do not expect any of these casualties will happen in this election."

The governments of Canada, United Kingdom and Australia issued a warning to their nationals about election related violence in the country during the election period.

Both Mendoza and Saludo also confirmed that the glitches discovered in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines were also discussed, prompting the government to renew its offer of assistance to the Comelec if the need arises.

The Commission on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) already explained what took place and what the Comelec and Smartmatic TM are doing to address the issue, Mendoza said.

Ang isang masisiguro ko sa inyo na wala kailanman na binanggit na hindi magkaroon ng halalan. That option is not on the table anywhere in any government discussion. I mean I can say that categorically. Iyung no election is not an operative or serious scenario anywhere that I have attended," Saludo added.

(What I can guarantee is that at no time during the meeting was the no election scenario discussed.)

Protest actions may still be expected if problems occur during automated counting, he said.

We have seen such problems even beforein a manual count," Saludo said. "Kung medyo ang tingin medyo nagkakaproblema sa bilingan nagaalma ang tao..(If problems are experienced during the counting, the people take to the streets) I mean this is nothing new. It would be in a probably predictable that if you have problems in the machine counting, you will have similar reaction from people," he added.

At the same time, the Department of Education (DepEd) also gave assurances on Thursday that their teacher-volunteers who would serve as Board of Election inspectors (BEI) during the elections are ready, willing and able" to do their duty.

DepEd is ready and prepared. Magandang experience nga ito dahil ang mga educators ay sanay na sanay na dito. Ang paggamit ng OMR, ito ay nagamit na 20 years ago sa mga examinations," said Education Secretary Mona Valisno.

(This is a good experience because they are used to the technology that they have been using in examinations.)

Technology used in automated elections such as optical mark readers (OMR) has been previously used by teachers in checking their students exams, she explained.

BEIs chosen to serve for the coming elections were former BEIs in the 2004 and 2007 polls. They underwent additional training and their ability to facilitate the automated election process have already been certified by the Department of Science and Technology.


Smartmatic execs told: Surrender passports

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) on Thursday urged foreign officials and employees of the Smartmatic involved in the election automation project to send their passports to a Catholic bishop.

PCOS escorts attacked in Masbate

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – A military convoy was hit by a roadside bomb explosion while on its way to a Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines' hub in Masbate province on Thursday morning.

Back Comelec now, punish people behind glitch later—CHR chair

MANILA, PhilippinesHuman Rights Chairwoman Leila De Lima said Thursday the punishment for those responsible for the glitches that imperil the May 10 elections should come later.

We can discuss these later at a more opportune time, De Lima said in forum.

At this point, De Lima said, everybody should work toward seeing to it that that the election paraphernalia would be in place on Election Day.

There is need to throw full support in the efforts of Comelec to ensure that election paraphernalia are in place, she said. This is a race we cannot afford to lose, she added.

Mindanao power supply 'tight' from May 9 to 11—energy chief

As if the last minute glitches hounding the elections are not enough, the Department of Energy has admitted that power supply in Mindanao will be "tight" from May 9 to 11, according to Energy Secretary Jose C. Ibazeta.

Noynoy lead now 22 points; Erap overtakes Villar-SWS

With the May 10 elections just around the corner, Sen. Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" C. Aquino III has picked up steam to widen his lead in the presidential race, results of the final BusinessWorld-Social Weather Stations (BW-SWS) Pre-Election survey showed.

The May 2-3 poll, conducted roughly a week before Filipinos troop to the precincts, gave Mr. Aquino the support of 42%, up four points and ahead of former President Joseph "Erap" E. Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masa who was now in second place with three-point gain to 20%.

Erstwhile second-placer Sen. Manuel "Manny" B. Villar, Jr. of the Nationalista Party (NP) was a point behind at 19%, a result within the surveys error margin of 2.2%. His support was down seven points from the prior BW-SWS poll of April 16-19.

The gap between the top two was 22 points, wider than the 12 Mr. Aquino enjoyed over Mr. Villar in the last survey.

Former Defense Secretary Gilberto "Gibo" C. Teodoro Jr., the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD partys candidate, remained fourth with an unchanged score of 9%.

Bangon Pilipinas bet Eduardo "Bro. Eddie" C. Villanueva was fifth with 3%, followed by Partido Bagumbayans Sen. Richard "Dick" J. Gordon (2%), Ang Kapatirans John Carlos "JC" G. de los Reyes (0.3%), and independents Maria Consuelo "Jamby" A. S. Madrigal (0.2%) and Nicanor Jesus "Nick" P. Perlas (0.1%)

Six percent of the respondents were classed as undecided. This category included votes for disqualified Kilusang Bagong Lipunan bet Vetellano "Dodong" Acosta and others.

As in three prior surveys, the last BW-SWS poll had respondents being asked to fill out ballots in a simulation of the May 10 exercise. Polled were 2,400 registered voters, divided into random samples of 300 for Metro Manila, 900 in the Balance of Luzon, and 600 each in the Visayas and Mindanao.

(The BW-SWS polls for December and January involved the interviewers providing lists of candidates and asking the respondents to choose.)

The error margins used were 2% for national percentages, 6% for Metro Manila, 3% for the rest of Luzon, and 4% for the Visayas and Mindanao.

They were asked: "Kung ang eleksyon ay gaganapin ngayon, sino ang pinakamalamang ninyong iboboto bilang presidente, bise-presidente, mga senador at party list ng Pilipinas? Narito ang listahan ng mga kandidato. Paki-shade o itiman po ang naaangkop na oval katabi ng pangalan ng taong pinakamalamang ninyong iboboto. (If the elections were held today, whom would you most probably vote for as president, vice-president, senator, and party list of the Philippines? Here is a list of candidates. Please shade the oval beside the name of the persons you would most likely vote for.)

The results gave Mr. Aquino the lead across all geographic areas and social classes.

The SWS said his wider nationwide lead was due to gains of eight points in Metro Manila (to 43%), six points in Mindanao (39%), four points in the Balance of Luzon (41%), and one point in the Visayas (47%).

Mr. Estradas score went up owing to an eight-point improvement in Mindanao (to 30%), one-point gains each in Metro Manila (26%) and the rest of Luzon (18%), and an unchanged 7% in the Visayas.

Mr. Villars decline was traced to a 16-point plunge in Mindanao to 15%, an eight-point loss to 10% in Metro Manila and a five-point drop to 20% in the Balance of Luzon. His support in the Visayas stayed at 25%.

Mr. Teodoros two-point gain in Mindanao to 10% and a steady score of 9% in Balance of Luzon, meanwhile, were offset by two-point loss each in Metro Manila (to 8%) and the Visayas (9%).

Mr. Villanueva saw his scores in the Balance of Luzon and Mindanao move up by one point each to 4% and 2%, respectively, which was offset by identical declines in Metro Manila (to 2%) and the Visayas (1%).

Mr. Gordon, meanwhile, gained a point in the rest of Luzon (to 3%) and stayed steady in Metro Manila (2%) and the Visayas (1%). His support in Mindanao barely changed at 0.2%.

"The vote percentages of de los Reyes, Madrigal, and Perlas across major study areas hardly changed from April 16-19," SWS said.

Among the ABC class, Mr. Estrada gained eight points (to 14%,) Mr. Teodoro by three (also to 14%), and Messrs. Villanueva, Gordon and Perlas added one point each (4%, 4%, and 1%, respectively). Messrs. Aquino and Villar lost nine points each to 44% and 13%, respectively.

Among the class D or masa, Mr. Aquino posted a six-point gain to 44%, Mr. Estrada added three points to 19%, while Messrs. Villanueva and Gordon were steady at 2% each. Mr. Teodoro lost two points to score 8% while Mr. Villar slid by seven points to 18%.

Among the class E, Mr. Teodoro posted a six-point increase to 12%, Mr. Aquino was up three points to 35%, and Mr. Villanueva added one point to 2%. Mr. Estradas score was unchanged at 23% while Mr. Villar lost 10 points to 21%.

As in geographical areas, the vote percentages for Ms. Madrigal, and Messrs. de los Reyes, Gordon and Perlas were hardly changed.

Sought for comment, Mr. Aquinos spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a telephone interview: "We are humbled by the numbers. Undecided voters have decided to go for Noynoy after they have heard of our platforms. Secondly, the negative reports that other camps tried to present against us backlashed on them. The issue in this election has boiled down to trustworthiness. The Villar camp is now paying the price of their black propaganda [against us]."

Former senator Ernesto M. Maceda, Mr. Estradas campaign manager, said the latest SWS survey results did not match those of their internal survey where Mr. Aquino scored 34% while the former president obtained 29%.

"We do not accept this as reflection of the true situation on the ground. Based on the [support of] tens of thousands of people in our sorties, we feel we have much more," he said in a separate phone interview.

Lawyer Mike Toledo, Mr. Teodoros spokesman, aired the same view, saying: "We find the survey hard to believe. Its different from what we see on the ground. The surveys dont reflect the reality [based on our sorties]."

The NP, for its part, was unfazed by the survey results, saying that Mr. Villars machinery would help him claim victory on May 10.

"While surveys may be good indicators of public opinion and perception, the NP, however, believes these do not dictate the outcome of elections," senatorial bet Gilbert C. Remulla, who also acts as NP spokesman, said in a statement.

"We believe that the political machinery established by Senator Villar in the provincial, city and municipal levels nationwide would deliver the much-needed votes for our presidential candidate." BusinessWorld

Binay ties Roxas; Noynoy widens lead in new SWS survey

The vice presidential race continued to heat up as the elections draw nearer, with Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay tying Senator Manuel Roxas II, who previously dominated pre-election surveys.
In the latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) last May 2 to 3, Binay and Roxas received a voting preference of 37 percent each. The results were posted on Thursday by television personality Kris Aquino-Yap on her official Twitter account.

Kris is the youngest sister of presidential front runner Sen. Benigno Aquino III. 

The survey was supposedly commissioned by BusinessWorld. The results are expected to be made public on Friday. BusinessWorld refused to comment on the matter, even as sources from the Aquino camp confirmed the results.

Roxas' rating was two points lower, while Binay picked up 12 points from the poll conducted last April. [See: Roxas rating drops as Binay's picks up

Sen. Loren Legarda, who previously ranked second, dropped by 12 points to score 12 percent.

In the presidential derby, meanwhile, Aquino has widened further his lead, getting 42 percent.

Former President Joseph Estrada, who obtained 20 percent, zoomed past former second placer Senator Manuel Villar Jr., who received a 19-percent voting preference.

Administration bet Gilberto Teodoro Jr. scored 9 points.

Erap camp incredulous of new SWS poll results

The camp of former President Joseph Estrada on Thursday questioned the results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing the Pwersa ng Masa Pilipino (PMP) standard-bearer in distant second to Liberal Party"s Senator Benigno Aquino III.

Last Senate slot up for grabs?

JUST ONE SLOT in the "Magic 12" senatorial race appears up for dispute, with recognized politicians -- most of them incumbents and former senators -- bolstering their hold in the rankings, results of the final BusinessWorld-Social Weather Stations (SWS) Pre-Election Survey showed.

The top two were described by the SWS as "well ahead" and next nine "clearly above the 12th place". The first three, the independent survey research organization said, have consistently been on top since a March poll, while the first 10 have always been in the winning circle since early December.

In first and second, with just a point separating them, were reelectionists Senator Ramon "Bong" B. Revilla, Jr. of the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD (51%) and Jose "Jinggoy" E. Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino or PMP (50%). Both lost three points each from the previous survey of April 16-19.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago of the People's Reform Party stayed in third (45% from 43%), while former senator Franklin M. Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP) gained four points (to 39%) for a two-notch jump to fourth place.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile of the PMP maintained his fifth place (36%) while Sen. Pilar Juliana "Pia" S. Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP, 34%) slipped a notch and two points to land sixth place.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand "Bongbong" R. Marcos, Jr. of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, formerly 10th, rose to seventh (31%); followed by former senator Vicente "Tito" C. Sotto III of the Nationalist People's Coalition (30%) down a notch to eight; former senators Ralph G. Recto and Sergio "Serge" D. Osmeña III, tied at ninth and 10th places with 29% each; and Senator Manuel "Lito" M. Lapid of the administration party at 11th and down a point (26%).

Contending for the last spot, the SWS said, were: 12th-placed Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto "TG" L. Guingona III (LP, 22% from 20%); businessman Jose "Joey" P. de Venecia III (PMP, 13th with 21% from 20%); former Cavite Rep. Gilbert Cesar C. Remulla of the NP and Akbayan party-list Rep. Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, in 14th-15th place with 20% each (the former down from 12th, the latter up from 16th-18th); LP bet and Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon (16th with 19%, up from 15%); and Sonia M. Roco, widow of the late senator Raul S. Roco (LP), Marine Col. Ariel O. Querubin (NP), and Gwendolyn Pimentel, daughter of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., who were in 17th to 19th places with scores of 18% each.

Compared to the previous survey, the SWS said the latest poll showed notable four-point gains for Messrs. Drilon and Biazon, Ms. Hontiveros and former Brig. Gen. Danilo P. Lim (LP, in 20th place with 17%).

Sought for comment, Mr. Estrada still attributed his top rank to an almost complete Senate attendance record and his hard work during the campaign period.

Mr. Drilon, for his part, said: "My record as public servant is clean ... People have made up their minds. Unless something huge happens, the top six will no longer change."

Mr. Remulla, meanwhile, said he would do his best, saying: "I am relying on the massive machinery of the Nacionalista Party to be able to secure the last spot. I am very much in contention."

Mr. de Venecia, meanwhile, said his being a whistle-blower in the NBN-ZTE scandal was helping his campaign. " They (voters) are saying we appreciate it and the fight will go on."

NP-NPC no longer dominant minority—SC

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) The Supreme Court has nullified a decision by the Commission on Elections allowing the merger between the Nacionalista Party and the Nationalist Peoples Coalition.

The high court ruling stemmed from a petition by the Liberal Party that questioned the formation of the coalition and the failure of the NP and NPC to meet the deadline set by the Comelec for their accreditation as merged parties.

We hereby grant the petition and, accordingly, nullify and set aside the resolution of the Comelec dated April 12, 2010 in the application for registration of the NP-NPCs coalition as a political coalition. The Comelec is declared barred from granting accreditation to the proposed NP-NPC collation in the May 10, 2010 elections for lack of the requisite registration as a political coalition. This decision is declared immediately executory, the high court said.

In its 28-page decision, the high court en banc through Associate Justice Arturo Brion said the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it granted the application of the NP-NPC despite the late filing.

The high court agreed with the LP that such a petition should have been heard first by the Comelec division before it reached the en banc. In this case, however, it was the Comelec en banc that made the ruling.

Also, the high court said the NP-NPC filed its petition for accreditation as a coalition on Feb. 12, 2010 which was approved on April 12. However, Comelecs own resolution provided an Aug. 17, 2009 cut-off date for the registration of parties.

The high court said the Comelecs ruling in favor of NP-NPC was without any valid justification or reason for suspending the rule. For the (Comelec) en banc to so act was not a mere error of law. The grant of registration was an act outside mandatory legal parameters and was therefore done when the Comelec no longer had the authority to act on it.

The high court said the deadline set by the Comelec in its own rules should be mandatory.

The [Comelec] en banc acted in excess of its jurisdiction when it granted the registration of NP-NPC as a coalition beyond the deadline the Comelec itself had set; the authority to register political parties under mandatory terms is only up to the deadline.

Effectively, the mandatory deadline is a jurisdictional matter that should have been satisfied and was not. Where conditions that authorize the exercise of a general power are wanting, fatal excess of jurisdiction results, the high court said.

In its petition, the LP said the alliance was a bogus coalition formed solely to deprive the LP from being recognized as the dominant minority party a status it held during the 2007 senatorial elections.

Quoting from the dissenting opinion of Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, the LP insisted that the NP-NPC merger was a sham, highly dubious and shameless.

The LP said that even NPC chairman Faustino Dy Jr., who signed the resolution for the NP-NPC alliance for the NPC, admitted under oath that the coalition was neither approved nor ratified by the NPC National Convention, the partys highest policy-making body, as provided in the partys Constitution and By-Laws.

It noted that Dy also admitted before the poll body that he did not consult the NPC members whom he knew or believed would not agree to the merger.

The LP also argued that the NP and the NPC have candidates running against each other for national and local positions in various areas.

It also added that, the absurdity of the purported coalition is epitomized by the supposed NP-NPC Coalition resolution, which allegedly adopted, as the Coalitions senatorial candidate, the entire senatorial slate of the NP, to the exclusion of NPC senatorial candidates Tito Sotto and Ompong Plaza.

LP lawyers lamented that despite glaring evidence that the coalition was unauthorized, the Comelec, nonetheless, in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess in jurisdiction, granted the petition for registration of the NP-NPC Coalition ratiocinating that since no written opposition was filed by any NPC member to the supposed coalition, the NPC membership has purportedly accepted the same.

On top of this, they alleged that the Comelec, in grave and capricious exercise of discretion, took cognizance of the illegal NP-NPC merger even if its Rules of Procedure and the explicit ruling of [the SC] require that the petition should have first been heard by a division of the Commission.

Sought for a reaction, Florencio Butch Abad, LP campaign manager, said that a day before the high court ruling, the party filed a petition before the Comelec asking that it be recognized as the dominant minority party.

Abad told INQUIRER.net that with the Supreme Court ruling, the LP has been left as the sole applicant for dominant minority status.

NP to media: Sorry for security foul-up in Pasig rally

The Nacionalista Party on Thursday blamed the security group it employed for its campaign rally in Pasig City for the "confusion brought about by a misunderstanding of security protocols," which earned the ire of reporters covering standard bearer Senator Manuel Villar Jr.

BJMP on red alert for detainee voting on May 10

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) is on red alert for the conduct of the first ever detainee voting in Philippine history.

"Our personnel are all ready full force on election day. I've already issued a memorandum placing the bureau (on) red alert," said BJMP chief Gen. Rosendo Dial at a press briefing on Thursday.

He said their priority is the security of inmates who would cast their votes on May 10, the first nationwide automated elections in the country. He said express lanes have already been set up for detainees who would vote in their precincts that day.

"We have contingency [plans] to preempt any untoward incident," he said.

On election day, Special Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) will create a polling center in detention centers with more than 100 detainees. Inmates will be allowed to fill out their ballots in the said polling centers.

After voting, the BEIs will take the ballots to detainees precincts where the ballots will be fed to the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. The BEIs will be accompanied by poll watchers and security detail from the Philippine National Police.

On the other hand, inmates in detention centers with less than 100 detainees have to be escorted to their respective precincts where they will be able to vote. These detainees, however, have to file a petition with the courts before they can be allowed to avail of escorted voting.

Comelec Executive Assistant V Erwin Caliba said they would be setting up special polling places in 66 jail facilities. He said that they would be deploying the election materials by the end of the week.

A total of 23,657 out of the 54,866 qualified detainees in 414 jails nationwide will cast their votes on May 10, according to Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

Metro Manila recorded the highest number of qualified detainee voters with 5,677, while Bicol has the least number with 199. Registration for qualified detainees ran from July to October last year. 

Ombudsman orders suspension of Duterte, 5 others

DAVAO CITY, PhilippinesMayor Rodrigo Duterte and five other city government officials have been ordered suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman on charges of grave misconduct brought against them by House Speaker Prospero Nograles last year.

But Duterte was unfazed, saying the suspension did not bother him at all as he was willing to vacate his post in favor of his daughter, Sara, his vice mayor who is running for mayor of Davao City against Nograles.

I do not know what purpose this agency is for. I am happy because the vice mayor will become mayor earlier. Very good, Duterte said.

The suspension will last for six months.

Nograles filed the complaint after Duterte ordered the demolition of the P2-million Nograles Park in an area in the city known as Mini Forest in 2008. In ordering the demolition, Duterte said the park had worsened the citys flooding problem because it sat over a canal.

The Ombudsmans order, dated April 21, but released only on Thursday, also suspended former city administrator Wendel Avisado, city engineer Jose Gestuveo Jr., city legal officers Elmer Rano and J. Melchor Quitain, and drainage maintenance unit chief Yusop Jimlani.

The order was signed by Ombudsman Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer I Clarisa V. Tejada and approved by Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro.

The order said Duterte and the other respondents acted in capricious, whimsical and arbitrary manner with conscious and deliberate intent to do an injustice to others.

The respondents nevertheless, should have exercised all the necessary prudence to ensure that the proper procedure in the abatement/demolition of dangerous/ruinous buildings/structures of structures under Section 216 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the National Building Code was complied, the order said.

Duterte is running for vice mayor to replace his daughter. He is up against Ben de Guzman, a former ally and an ex-mayor, who is running under Team Nograles.

2 aides of kidnapped Surigao Sur mayor freed

BUTUAN CITY, PhilippinesCommunist rebels have freed two aides of Mayor Roberto Luna, Jr. of Lingig, Surigao del Sur, but said the local official and his four escorts will remain in custody.

Chief Supt. Lino Calingasan, Caraga police director, identified the released hostages as Alberto Tranquilan, Lunas secretary; and Antonio Gargar, his driver.

Calingasan said Tranquilan and Gargar were released on Wednesday, several hours after being abducted with Luna and the four escorts at a roadblock set up by New Peoples Army rebels in Barangay Pasian in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.

Luna was on his way to Davao City to visit one of his children, who was confined in a hospital there, when his convoy was held by the rebels around 6:15 a.m., according to Capt. Emmanuel Garcia, spokesperson of the Armys 10th Infantry Division.

The personal secretary and driver of Luna had been freed, Calingasan said.

He said there was still no communication with the kidnapped mayor and his security escorts.

Calingasan said he had already convened the Surigao del Sur provincial crisis committee to find ways to open talks with the rebels and facilitate the release of the hostages.

The crisis committee was already convened to address the crisis. I hope he is still alive and the rebels would not harm him, he said.

Lunas abduction was the latest staged by the rebels in Mindanao, Garcia said.

He said that in April, former Lupon, Davao Oriental Mayor Arfran Quinones and a former village official, while campaigning in Marayag village in Lupon, were abducted by NPA rebels.

In March, two followers of a local candidate in Davao City were abducted and later freed while their vehicle was stolen after the candidate reportedly refused to give in to the NPAs extortion demand, he said.

George Madlos, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Mindanao, said at least eight other politicians in Caraga alone, including Surigao del Sur Rep. Phillip Pichay, were being targeted for failing to abide with policies while campaigning.

As to Lunas case, Simon Santiago, NPA spokesperson for Southern Mindanao, said the Lingig mayor was arrested for being a warlord of President Macapagal-Arroyo in Caraga.

Santiago said Luna and his escortsPrivates First Class John Rey Abao and Arnel Dizon of the Armys 58th Infantry Battalion, and Lingig policemen PO3 Allan Dapitanon and PO2 Boy de Castrowill remain in NPA custody until the investigations were over.

The NPA shall issue further statements related on the incident, he said.

CPP faction moving for failure of elections - AFP

The military on Thursday accused the extreme Left" of working for the failure of the first ever nationwide automated elections on May 10.

"We have reports that the extreme Left wants to see a failure of election because they are enemies of the state. They would like to destroy the state," said Brig. Gen. Francisco Cruz, chief of the Armed Forces civil relations service, in an interview in Camp Aguinaldo.

Citing intelligence information, Cruz said the effort is being waged by a faction within the Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) under Benito Tiamzon.

As if proving Cruzs point, NPA rebels attacked early Thursday morning government soldiers who were escorting the delivery of poll machines in the Bicol Region.

Maj. Harold Cabunoc, spokesman of the Army 9th Infantry Division, said the soldiers were heading toward Masbate province on board one KM450 truck and a Simba Armored Personnel Carrier when a roadside bomb went off in Palanas town.

No one was injured among the soldiers but the KM450's windshield was damaged, according to Cabunoc.

Joma Sison

But in pointing an accusing finger at a faction of the extreme Left, Cruz, however, noted that another faction, the one under founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison, wants the automated elections to succeed, noting that some of Sisons alleged allies, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Masa, are running for senator.

"Joma would like this [election] to succeed but not Tiamzon. He [Tiamzon] is for failure [of elections] because Tiamzon is a hardcore [communist leader]," Cruz said.

Cruz said Tiamzon and his group believe that a failure of elections would give them better opportunity to recruit new members and combatants. He said it is also part of Tiamzons groups plan for "urban insurrection."

"They want violence to erupt. An uprising is their agenda. If you look at their campaign plan, that is their agenda uprising, urban insurrection until it becomes nationwide," Cruz said.

Oplan Rafael

Meanwhile, Cruz belied allegations by Bayan Muna about the presence of a so-called Oplan Rafael, which supposedly details the plan to keep President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power beyond June 30 once there is a failure of elections.

"Thats part of a fertile imagination. Tree is no such thing as Oplan Rafael. Nobody is planning for any extraordinary eventuality. We are predicting a successful election," he said.

Cruz said Tiamzons group and some of their unnamed friends are behind disinformation campaigns or propaganda in relation to the coming elections while at the same time harassing some local candidates.

Navy gunship catches fire in Basilan

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines - A Navy ship caught fire while docked at the Naval Forces Western Mindanao headquarters in Basilan province, a military official reported Thursday.

Faulty wiring triggers fire on Navy boat

A Navy patrol boat caught fire Wednesday afternoon while it was docked at the Naval facility here but the military said it was not the handiwork of a terror group.

RP, MILF negotiators sign accord on mine clearing, refugees

Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front negotiators have signed two important documents on land mine clearing and the handling of refugees in conflict zones in the troubled Southern Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.

Plunder, graft raps vs ex-SC justice junked

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday junked charges of plunder, falsification of public documents and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against former Supreme Court Associate Justice Dante Tinga.

Peso continues to fall against the dollar due to poll concerns

The peso slid further on Thursday amid election-related concerns, which prompted some investors to temporarily let go of the local currency in favor of the US dollar.

$1: P45.385

$1: P45.385

Euro 1: P57.6920


Exports, OFW money to boost peso, foreign banks say

The peso will strengthen to as much as P41.50 to $1 this year as the Philippine economy recovers on the back of strong exports and higher international reserves boosted by remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

39 dead, more than 160 injured in China tornado--media

BEIJING (UPDATE) At least 23 people were killed and more than 160 injured when a tornado struck China's southwestern mega-city of Chongqing Thursday, smashing homes and destroying crops, state media reported.

The tornado hit two rural counties in the giant municipality at around 2:00 a.m. (1800 GMT Wednesday), Xinhua news agency said, citing government sources.

The number of dead and injured was still being tallied, the report said.

Power outages were reported in at least two towns in the wide disaster zone, it said, noting that the strong tornado was accompanied by hailstorms.

The local government has begun organizing rescue and relief operations, it added.

Chongqing has a population of more than 30 million people.

Britain goes to polls in closest race for decades

LONDON Britain will go to the polls Thursday in a general election expected to be the closest in decades which, for the first time in more than 30 years, could fail to produce a clear winner.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, opposition Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat chief Nick Clegg topped off a month of campaigning Wednesday, rushing round the country to win over undecided voters.

Opinion polls on the eve of the election gave the Conservatives a clear lead over Brown's Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.

But they indicated Cameron's party would not secure enough votes to form a government alone and easily eject Labour from power after 13 years.

This would result in a hung parliament where no one party has enough seats in the House of Commons to form a government alone for the first time since 1974.

On a hectic final day of campaigning, Cameron undertook a gruelling tour on his battlebus that carried him from Scotland to his final rally in Bristol, southwest England.

"Get out tomorrow. Vote for change. Vote Conservative," he told a cheering crowd.

"Vote to give this country the hope, the optimism and the change we need. Together we can build a better, stronger country."

Brown traveled to his native Scotland and issued a last-ditch plea to wavering voters to back Labour as the best party to safeguard the country's fragile recovery from a deep recession.

"At this moment of risk to our economy, at this moment of decision for our country, I ask you to come home to Labour," he urged a crowd in Dumfries, in the southwest of the country.

Britain is struggling to recover from its worst economic downturn since the 1930s and Brown a former finance minister has talked up his economic credentials throughout the election race.

Clegg urged voters to back him and seize a "once in a generation opportunity to do things differently," on one of his last campaign stops in Durham, northeast England.

"If you give us a chance, if you trust us with your vote, I promise I will do everything I can to make things better for good, to deliver the fairer Britain you want," he said.

Clegg's party transformed the poll battle into a three-horse race after his assured performance in Britain's first ever pre-election TV debates.

The Lib Dems won a surge of support on the back of his performance, for a while at least propelling them out of their traditional third position into second position ahead of Labour in many surveys.

Clegg has been cast as a potential kingmaker in the event of a hung parliament one of his larger rivals could win power if the Lib Dems decide to support them.

The party's support among the public appeared to be fading in the final stages of the election race, however.

The final newspaper polls Wednesday gave the Conservatives between 35 and 37 percent support, which represented a clear lead but would still result in a hung parliament.

Labour was vying to hold onto second place with the Lib Dems. The governing party scored between 28 and 29 percent of the vote, with the Lib Dems on 26 to 28 percent.

Britain's press voiced support for its parties of choice in a series of front-page editorials Thursday.

The Conservative-supporting Sun newspaper declared "Our only hope" under a picture of David Cameron.

The Mirror, which backs Labour, showed a picture of Cameron during his days at Oxford University, and urged: "Don't let Cam con youvote Labour."

Pacquiao-Mayweather bout doable, says Arum

The demand for the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout reminded Bob Arum the first time Muhammad Ali and Joe Fraizer squared off in 1971. Now, the Top Rank promoter is doing everything he can to make the mega-rich fight a reality and he believes it's doable.

Analyst says Pacquiao like 'Pancho Villa'

MANILA, Philippines – For sports analyst Joaquin "Quinito" Henson, Manny Pacquiao's character in and out of the boxing ring is reminiscent of the first Filipino to ever become a world champion: Francisco "Pancho Villa" Gilledo.

Donaire-Darchinyan bout off

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The supposed August rematch between Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire, Jr. and Armenian Vic "Raging Bull" Darchinyan will not push through.

More stars coming out to support Teodoro

Bigay-todo sa pag-endorso ang mag-inang Ruffa at Annabelle Gutierrez para sa administration presidential bet na si Gilbert Teodoro! Prangkang inamin naman ni Kris Aquino, nasaktan siya sa pagpanig ng ilang artista kay Teodoro.

After flap, Willie Revillame goes on indefinite leave

by by Reyma Buan-Deveza, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Who's afraid of "Wowowee" host Willie Revillame? Certainly not veteran entertainment writer Jobert Sucaldito.

'Tears for Fears' promoter speaks up on Korina 'booing' incident

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines- The promoter of "Tears for Fears" concert here apologized to veteran broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez for the reported booing incident during the English pop rock duo's show at the Araneta Coliseum.

John Lloyd Cruz faces charges over taxes

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Quezon City Prosecutor has recommended the prosecution of John Lloyd Cruz for violation of tax laws. In a resolution approved April 15, the prosecutor's office said there is "sufficient grounds" to indict Cruz for violating Sections 5 and 14 of the Tax Code of 1997.

'Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn' set for 2011 release

by Reuters
LOS ANGELES – The "Twilight" vampire fangs -- and fans -- will be out again in 2011. The Hollywood studio behind "Twilight" on Wednesday set a November 18, 2011, release date for a film version of the last of the four novels in the teen vampire series.

Friday: heavy rain shower, Max Temp: 31°C (88°F), Min Temp: 25°C (77°F)

Max Temp: 31°C (88°F), Min Temp: 25°C (77°F), Wind Direction: ENE, Wind Speed: 9mph, Visibility: moderate, Pressure: 1008mb, Humidity: 72%, Sunrise: 05:24PHT, Sunset: 17:56PHT

Villar, Villanueva, Perlas are the only outsiders in the old-rich network

MANILA, Philippines—Nacionalista Party standard bearer Manuel Villar Jr. was probably right after all—at least, in this election—that it's a class war.

Villar, who's hinged his campaign partly on a being a successful businessman with humble beginnings, is one of only 3 presidential aspirants who don't belong to old-rich families. The others are Bangon Pilipinas' Eduardo Villanueva and independent Nicanor Perlas.

There are 9 presidential candidates this year, and 6 of them are related by blood or marriage. (See "How Most 2010 Presidential Candidates Are Related by Blood or Marriage.")

That Liberal Party bet Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III and Lakas-Kampi-CMD candidate Gilberto Cojuangco Teodoro Jr. are second cousins is no secret. Neither the fact that Bagumbayan standard bearer Richard Gordon is the uncle of Ang Kapatiran presidential candidate Juan Carlos Gordon de Los Reyes.

But did you know that Gordon is related to Aquino by marriage? Gordon traces his roots to the Tagles of Cavite, one of whom married a Lopa, whose son married Teresita Cojuangco, a sister of former President Corazon Aquino and therefore an aunt of the Liberal candidate.

"This shows that Philippines politics are captured by a set of families," said Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, a political analyst and professor at the University of the Philippines.

There are more connections.

Former president Joseph Estrada, who is seeking to return to Malacañang under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino is related by marriage to the Aquinos through the Marcoses. And through the Marcoses, both Aquino and Estrada are related to another prestigious family, the Aranetas.

It is in the same Araneta clan that LP vice presidential bet Manuel Roxas II is related to First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Independent presidential candidate Jamby Madrigal is related to Jose Vincent Madrigal de Leon, who is the second husband of Lakas bet Teodoro's mother-in-law.

"Philippines is dominated by a set of families that perpetuate themselves in power," said Ferrer.

Ferrer views the exclusion of Villar, Villanueva, and Perlas from this network of old-rich families 2 ways.

She says it is a proof of how narrow the base is of families who enter and stay in politics. However, the break they got in politics also means that there remains a space—not matter how small—for political and social mobility.(abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak)

OFWs younger, better educated than local workers

MANILA, PhilippinesFilipino temporary migrant workers tend to be younger and better educated than their domestic counterparts, a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said.

They also tend to be women, said the study of PIDS senior research fellow Dr. Aniceto Orbeta Jr. and research analyst Michael Ralph Abrigo entitled, Philippine International Labor Migration in the Past 30 Years: Trends and Prospects.

Around seven of every ten temporary migrant workers are of ages between 24 to 44 years old and half of them have at least some tertiary education...with majority of temporary migrant workers being women, the study said.

The last 30 years saw international labor migration shape Philippine society and economy, and many see it as an enduring feature of Philippine development.

The study said that the drivers and prospects both in the local economy and in the major destination countries will define the future of migration streams in the country.

The number of Filipinos leaving the country for work shot up from around 36,000 workers in 1975 up to more than 1.2 million in 2007, it noted.

The Middle East is the primary destination of land-based temporary migrants followed by Asia, particularly the newly industrialized countries which turned to labor importation to sustain their economic growth, the study said.

Over the past 30 years, professionals (architects, engineers, health professionals, composers, and performing artists) dominated international labor migration in 1975, but were replaced by production process workers, transport workers, and laborers in the 1980s; this coincided with the construction boom in the Middle East.

Unlike temporary workers who are mostly professionals and service workers (maids and housekeepers), the larger proportion of permanent migrants are unemployedhousewives, students, and minorsdependents of professionals who emigrated because of more career advancement opportunities, over and above the differences in wages, it said.

The situation with permanent migrants is principally defined by the United States, the primary destination of Filipino migrants.

Permanent migrants are highly educated which may reflect US immigration policy o admit workers with skills needed by the economy. In terms of age, however, the 44 years old and above age category comprises the largest group, reflecting the preference of employers in hiring more experienced workers, in addition to the family reunification program in the US, the study said.

Other destinations of Filipino permanent migrants are countries in Asia, Oceania, and Europe.

In the case of irregular migrants, a large proportion is likewise in North America but this is already declining from 37 percent in 1997 to 28 percent in 2007. However, there is an increasing number of irregular migrants in East Asia, comprising around 30 percent of the total number of irregular migrants in 2007. Other regions with irregular migrants are Europe and the Middle East, representing 9 and 10 percent of all irregular migrants, respectively, in 2007, the study said.

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