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

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 15, 2010 Major News Stories

Death toll in Cebu bus accident rises to 21

CEBU (UPDATE 4) Authorities on Monday scoured a deep ravine in the central Philippines as the toll from a deadly bus crash involving a group of Iranian students and tourists rose to 21, police said.

The tourist bus filled with mostly Iranian nursing and medical students from different schools in Cebu, was going downhill when it went off the road and fell down a 30-meter ravine along the portion of the Trans Central highway in Barangay (village) Cansomoroy, some five kilometers from the town proper of Balamban.

Thirty injured passengers were rescued from the crash site and were brought to different hospitals in Balamban and Cebu City, including the 10 critically injured who were airlifted by two military helicopters to Cebu City, according to Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva, commander of the Armed Forces Central Command (Centcom), based on information he received from Chief Supt. Lani-O Nerez, the regional police commander for Central Visayas.

Senior Superintendent Erson Digal, the provincial police office director, said the bodies of some of the fatalities recovered from the accident site were also airlifted to Camp Lapu-lapu, the Central Command headquarters in Cebu City.

"The bus lost its brakes and fell into the ravine," Digal said.

"Philippine police and the army are still scouring the area. There might still be bodies there."

He said the group apparently was on its way for an outing at a popular beach resort when the accident occurred.

Digal said the bus from Cebu City was headed towards Balamban for a day of sight seeing and recreation.

Suroy-suroy ra gyud tingale ilang tuyo kay wa may nindot nga beaches sa balamban (They might just be out on a leisurely sight-seeing trip since there are no beautiful beaches in Balamban), he said.

There were reports that the Iranian Embassy sponsored the trip but Digal said they had not confirmed this information.

Balamban Mayor Alex Binghay, who rushed to the crash site said Tsuneishi Heavy Industries, (Cebu) Inc. (THICI), a shipbuilding company based in Balamban, sent a crane to lift the wrecked bus, owned by the Cattleya Bus Company, from the ravine.

Rescuers from the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and even civilian volunteers were still retrieving bodies, as of 5 p.m.

So far, we have retrieved 20 bodies. I cant confirm their nationalities yet, but initially, most of them were Iranian nationals, Digal said in Cebuano.

Only two Filipinos were on board the bus, the driver, who was among of the fatalities and a nanny.

Lotlot Yap, 38, of Escario Cebu City, was miraculously saved with a 20-month-old boy, one of the twins entrusted to her by the Iranian teachers who were also in the group, said Digal.

Yap, who was brought to a hospital in Cebu City, said she did not immediately realize that the bus fell down the ravine because she was attending to her ward when the accident happened.

She said she saw her fellow passengers being thrown everywhere but she and the child seemed to have been glued to their seat until the bus stopped as it hit the bottom of the ravine.

Yap said she took the boy and struggled to get out from the bus through the window.

It was only when she was out of the bus that she realized that they had fallen down a deep ravine. With the help of the rescuers who threw her a rope, she was able to climb back to the main road with the child.

Unfortunately, Yap said, the boys twin, who was in the care of the mother during the accident, did not make it.

But the mother and her husband, both Iranian nationals, survived.

Initial reports had placed the death toll at 15 as of Sunday afternoon, and five other bodies were subsequently recovered. Another victim died while being treated at a hospital, Digal said.

A number of the survivors remained in critical condition, he said.
It was not clear how many people were aboard at the time of the accident, but the bus, which could seat 70 people, was apparently full, Digal said citing results of an initial investigation from the field.

"The (Filipino) bus driver as well as the Iranian organizer of the trip were among the dead," he said. "We are carrying out an investigation."

Cansomoroy barangay captain Emilia Montecillo described the area as accident prone, and drivers who did not know the terrain in the area, were vulnerable.

Balamban Mayor Alex Binghay said witnesses believed that the driver was new to the terrain and that the bus was going too fast for the downhill curve of the road.

Binghay said the driver must have lost control of the brakes and caused the bus to go off the cliff.

Binghay said buses and trucks usually passed through the Trans Central Highway, but they had to follow the signs placed in the area by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

You must be extra careful if you are not familiar (with the zigzag road of the) Trans Central Highway, he said.

Nursing attendant Edith Kaamio of the Balamban District Hospital, said she knew of 13 bodies already brought to the hospital.

Of the 13, two were children, one of the twin boys and an 8-year-old boy.

She said she knew of 27 survivors being brought to Cebu City hospitals through ambulance and two helicopters of the Air Force and Army.

They suffered fractures in the different parts of the body, she said.

As of 5 p.m., retrieval operations were still being conducted by policemen, paramedics of the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (ERUF), mountaineers, and other residents in the area.

The casualties were mostly Iranians studying as nurses or doctors at a Cebu university, officials said, correcting earlier reports that some of the dead were Pakistanis.

Iran consul accepts Cebu road tragedy as accident

The top official of the Iran consulate in the Philippines will leave it to Cebu police authorities to investigate Sunday's bus crash in Balamban, Cebu that killed 21 persons and injured 30 others.
Iran Consul Mohammad Tavana, who arrived in Cebu late Sunday, has accepted that it was an accident, according to Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal Jr., owner of Cebu Doctors Hospital (CDH) where a number of the fatalities and the injured were working as medical residents. 

Larrazabal, who met with Tavana Monday morning, said the consul's primary concern was to ensure that the injured, 24 of whom are confined at CDH, would receive proper medical care and that the remains of the fatalities would be brought home to Iran as soon as possible. 

Larrazabal said the Iranian consul did not ask for an investigation because it was clear to him already that it was an accident. 

Chief Superintdent Lani-O Nerez, the Central Visayas regional police director, however, said the police will proceed with a thorough investigation into the incident to determine the cause and who should be held liable for it. 

The accident claimed 21 lives: 20 Iranians, including a 20-month old boy, and their Filipino driver, Jaime Batoon, who was also the owner of the bus company, JD Rent-a-Car (not Cattleya as earlier reported), that operated the tour bus, a 55-seater Hino passenger bus with plate number GWZ 666. 

Benjamin Go, director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Central Visayas, said he would issue a 30-day suspension of the franchise of JD Rent a Car effective June 15, 2010 to allow a thorough inspection of all the vehicles operated by the company. 

Marcelin Muñez, Batoon's common-law wife and business partner, said Monday they would submit to the investigation. 

She assured that the company would be able to compensate all the victims as the bus was properly insured and has complete registration papers.

Limits eyed on highway's use

A 30-DAY suspension was imposed on the car rental company that owns the tourist bus that fell from the Transcentral Highway in Balamban last Sunday, killing at least 21 persons.

All its drivers will be asked to take drug tests and a driving proficiency exam, ordered Assistant Secretary Alberto Suansing of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), who visited the crash site yesterday morning.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) needs to review its policy on which vehicles should be allowed to use the Transcentral Highway, said Rep. Pablo John Garcia (Cebu Province, 3rd district).

"I am asking DPWH to determine if it is safe for vehicles of all types and gross weight to pass through the Transcentral Highway or if there is a need to limit these," Garcia said.

Since 2007 when he was first elected congressman, Garcia said, he has been working to widen areas of the Transcentral Highway that are prone to landslides.

One of these areas is kilometer 39 in Cansumoroy, which is near the spot where the bus fell after reportedly losing its brakes.


Should the government conduct any investigation, Marcelin Batoon said she hopes the results will be fair. Her husband Jaime, the JD Tours owner who drove the bus last Sunday, died in the accident.

Marcelin arrived just as his remains were being brought out of the bus. She said she will accept a suspension as long as the process is followed. However, she also asked for understanding.

"It was unexpected. There were no warnings that buses should not pass there," Marcelin said. She assured the bus was in good condition, and was acquired only last May 24. Jaime personally tested it by driving it all the way from Subic to Cebu.

Efforts to lift the bus from the ravine in Sitio Buli, Barangay Cansumoroy were being finalized yesterday.


Soldiers from the Central Command recovered several personal belongings of the victims that were left in the bus. One of those found was a digital camera, which contained video footage of the passengers, who were on their way to a brief holiday.

At least 23 of the passengers were wounded in the accident. Many remained in the hospital yesterday.

Iranian Consul Mohamad Tavana arrived at 10:15 p.m. at the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes and said arrangements were being made to airlift the bodies back to Iran. He declined to issue further comments.

Suansing, as chief of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), issued the cease-and-desist order against JD Tours after he visited the crash site.

The suspension will give the Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) the time to check the franchises of the bus and the 30 other cars owned by Jaime Batoon. Batoon also died in the tragedy. He was driving the bus when it fell about 60 feet, apparently after its air brakes malfunctioned.

"We will find out what caused the road mishap," Suansing told Sun.Star Cebu.


He said he issued instructions to the regional directors of the LTO and LTFRB to coordinate with the rent-a-car company on the investigation.

"Umuusok na daw ang gulong (Smoke was coming out of the wheels) and then it was followed by a loud thud. Probably, the driver was trying to shift to a low gear when it happened," he said.

During his inspection, Suansing said he noticed there were enough road signs and railings.

He is planning, however, to suggest to the Department of Public Works and Highways to improve safety measures on the Transcentral Highway.

Councilor Dave Karamihan, in a separate interview, said the local government of Balamban can help the DPWH in putting up more road signs and railings.

He said some of the signs along the highway were provided by the local government through the assistance of the town's business locators.

The street lights were completed last year with the help of Sen. Joker Arroyo, Karamihan said.

Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez hopes bigger vehicles will avoid passing the Transcentral Highway,
noting its steep slopes.

He also said it is better for drivers to immediately change to a lower gear when they descend from Barangay Gaas into Cansumoroy and Prenza in Balamban.

Interviewed separately, Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. urged DPWH to ban big buses from the Transcentral Highway in the meantime, to avoid more accidents.


He said there was one medical-dental mission that had to be called off when the six-by-six truck carrying medicines and volunteers fell from the highway.

Sanchez also urged the police to set up a detachment in the area, to enforce a ban on large vehicles.

Capitol consultant Atty. Rory Jon Sepulveda said the Provincial Government is ready to act on whatever recommendations the DPWH will make, as the government's engineering and construction arm.

"We must be prudent before we make certain recommendations on this matter," Sepulveda said.

Marcelin, the bus driver-operator's wife, said she was surprised to learn they passed the Transcentral Highway, because Jaime told her they would take the Toledo City route.

The tour bus had a designated driver, but he was unable to drive the group because he had another client. Jaime volunteered to drive it himself, said Marcelin.


The last time she heard from Jaime was at 8:45 a.m., when he informed her he picked up all the passengers at the Cebu Doctors' Hospital and that they were ready to leave.

Marcelin explained the reconditioned Hino bus had an air brake.

While they have been in the car and van rental business since 2006, Marcelin said they had just started offering the tour bus.

The group of Iranians was their second client. They have a car rental booth at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

Marcelin said she did not know how many of them were supposed to be in the group, saying they rented the bus for a whole day's use for P15,000. She identified the person she talked to as a certain David.

She assured the company complied with all permits and each passenger was covered by insurance.

Investigation underway on bridge's cracks

The Department of Public Works and Highways has assured that appropriate measures will be done immediately on the reported cracks in the foundation of the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge.

Smooth class opening seen; brace for rains, students told

As majority of schools and universities open their classes Tuesday, Malacañang assured the readiness of all concerned agencies, including the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure a seamless school opening. Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Elena Bautista-Horn, also the director general of the Presidential Management Staff, said the security plans were laid down by the authorities as million of students flock to both private and public schools and universities. DepEd said around 24 million pre-school, elementary, and high students troop back to public and private schools as the classes open for the school year 2010 to 2011 this Tuesday. But while the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said that Luzon and Visayas will have generally good weather conditions this Tuesday, it expects isolated rain showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening. Therefore, it advised students to bring with them umbrellas for the likely drizzles. Based on the data gathered by the Department of Education (DepEd) through its Basic Education Information System (BEIS), it was estimated that the total number of students from the basic education sector - which covers pre-school, elementary, and secondary levels - trooping to their respective schools is 23.43 million. Of this number, 20.17 million are in public schools while the remaining 3.26 million elementary and high school students are absorbed by the private schools. According to figures released by DepEd, the number of public schools - including recently established pre-schools set up by DepEd in coordination with the Early Childhood Care and Development Coordinating Council - has a total of 59,045 wherein 37,967 are public elementary schools, 5,237 are high schools, and 15,841 are pre-schools. Education Secretary Mona Valisno said that the Department is as ready as can be for the opening of classes. "We can say that DepEd is 100 percent ready," she said. Valisno also has ensured the smooth opening of classes based on the reports of its partners in the government and private sector who did they part in ensuring an orderly and hitch-free school opening under the Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) project. Through the OBE, Valisno said DepEd is exerting its utmost effort in making sure that classes are seamless, the streets are safe, and that basic utilities and services are available for the students who will go back to school. "Education is everybody's business. That is why we ask the assistance and support of other agencies to make sure that the school opening will run smoothly and orderly," she said. According to DepEd Undersecretary for Regional Operations Ramon Bacani, the Department and its partner agencies - including the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP), National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Health (DoH), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA), Manila Electric Company (Meralco), Manila Water, Maynilad, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) - did all the necessary preparations for Tuesday's opening of classes. "All necessary measures and possible scenarios that may arise have already been discussed to ensure that the opening of classes will be smooth," he said. According to DTI Director Victorio Dimagiba, the Department did its best to ensure that the prices of school supplies are kept stable before the opening of classes. "We had continuous monitoring on the prices of school supplies to ensure that no parents or students will complain," he said. NCRPO chief Eric Reyes, on the other hand, aims to report zero crime incident involving students by doing the necessary measures to ensure the general safety of the children. "We want to maintain safety and order by arresting criminals from school vicinities and by ensuring that no incidence of crime will take place within school premises," he said. For its part, DPWH Assistant Secretary Roy Manao said that the they have cleared structures on national roads, repaired potholes, repainted pedestrian lanes, removed unsafe billboards, and cleaned the canals to ensure the safety of the students, specially the pupils in the elementary level. According to Bacani, there is smoother and more manageable opening of classes this year compared to last year. It can be recalled that the opening of classes on 2009 has been moved to later date because of the possible AH1N1 outbreak in schools. (With reports from Ellalyn B. de Vera and Francis T. Wakefield)

Classes resume amid teacher shortage

CLASSES open today, but an official of the education department admitted there is a great need for elementary and secondary public school teachers in Central Visayas.

The Department of Education (Deped) 7 said they are almost 100 percent prepared for the opening of the school year, although there are some things to improve on, such as personnel.

At least 671 elementary and 5,339 secondary public school teachers are needed, in addition to the 42,000 teachers, said Dr. Recaredo Borgonia, DepEd 7 director.

However, Borgonia said they have not counted teachers hired by local government units (LGUs), who are "crucial" in preventing extreme teacher shortages in public schools.

These teachers are hired on a contractual basis and paid about P5,000 to P 6,000 a month, he said.

Borgonia hopes the LGUs will remain supportive by hiring more teachers. LGUs are mandated to set aside one percent of realty tax collections, for the Special Education Fund.

DepEd expects a 10 percent increase in student enrollment this year, given a tuition increase in some private schools.

Last year, Central Visayas had 1,678,524 students from pre-school to high school.

At least 300 personnel from the Cebu City Traffic Operations and Management (Citom) will be deployed today, particularly in major intersections, as classes begin.

Citom will now strictly implement the traffic plan designed for the construction of the Mambaling flyover project.

The P160-million flyover project started last month and is expected to be completed in March next year, when the school year ends.

Citom Executive Director Arnel Tancinco said he has recalled personnel who were detailed in different offices. They will enforce road rules, as traffic is expected to worsen as the school year starts.

Tancinco anticipates heavy traffic on Natalio Bacalso Ave. starting today and advises motorists to take the alternative routes, like Katipunan St. in Barangay Labangon and F. Llamas St. in Punta Princesa. 

Region's wage board to hear on July 1

THE regional wage board will conduct a public hearing this July 1 on the petitions to raise the minimum wage of workers in Central Visayas.

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) 7 will hear positions for and against the proposed P100 and P128 additional pay for workers in the region.

The RTWPB 7 published last Sunday a notice asking groups to submit their position papers on the petition before July 1.

Department of Labor and Employment 7 Director Elias Cayanong, who heads the RTWPB 7, said the wage board hopes to decide whether to give a pay adjustment.

The Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and its affiliates, such as the Shemberg Employees Independent Union of Shemberg Marketing Corp., the Employees Association of Robinsons Supermarket, Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa LBF Hardware, Kan-irag Employees Labor Organization, Bank of the Philippine Islands Cebu Employees Union, Grand Majestic Convention Center Employees Union, Lonbisco Employees Organization and NUHWRAIN-Montebello Chapter, are seeking a P128 daily across-the-board minimum wage hike.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) asked for a P100 a day across-the-board pay adjustment.

Last March, TUCP urged the RTWPB 7 to immediately conduct public hearings on the proposed P100 minimum wage hike, saying the working class has not felt any "decent minimum wage increase" after they decided not to submit any petitions due to the global financial crisis of 2008.

TUCP reiterated the need for a minimum wage increase this year, as prices of basic goods and services, such as power and water, are skyrocketing, eroding further the buying power of minimum wage earners in the region.

The RTWPB 7 will conduct the public hearing at 1:30 p.m. at the Sarrosa International Hotel and Residential Suites on F. Cabahug St., Barangay Kasambagan, Cebu City. 

ALU-TUCP optimistic of wage hike

The Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines is optimistic that the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board will grant its request for additional wage in Central Visayas after salary of workers in Metro Manila was increased recently by P22 per day.

Drug firms offering new price cuts -- DoH

Other commitments expected after result of EO reviewDRUG COMPANIES have started to voluntarily offer lower product prices although their number has not reached a level that will allow new price cuts, the latest of which was implemented last March 31, a Health official said.

As Cebu Province Fall Short Of Its Target: City is 2nd most efficient tax collector

The City of Cebu remains to have the highest real property tax collection among the 16 cities of Central Visayas but was only second to Toledo City in terms of the tax collection efficiency last year.

The Bureau of Local Government-Finance reported that Toledo City emerged as the most efficient real property tax collector among the cities in Region 7 having posted 126 percent collection efficiency.

BLGF-7 assistant regional director Herminigilda G. Garsula said that Toledo collected a total of P16,555,642 or P3.4 million more than its assigned target. Toledo has an assigned target from BLGF of P13,133,375.

The City of Cebu posted only a collection efficiency of 116 percent having collected P642,454,879. The amount however is still very much higher compared to their assigned target of P551.1 million.

Even if the city was not the most efficient, Mayor Tomas R. Osmeña said he was satisfied of the city's collection efforts because their collection was much higher compared to Cebu Province.

Based on the BLGF record, Cebu Province did not hit the P237.3 million target having collected only a total of P235.6 million in real property taxes.

Cebu Province was only second to Bohol which topped the collection efficiency among the four provinces in Central Visayas.

Bohol had a total of P148,621,323 collections or 110 percent higher than its P134,886,149 target.

The City of Bais in Negros Oriental comes next to Cebu City in tax collection efficiency. It is followed by Danao, Lapulapu, Dumaguete, Tagbilaran, Bogo, Mandaue, Bayawan, Talisay, Tanjay, Naga, Carcar, Guihulngan and Canlaon. 

For the province Siquijor is third most efficient tax collector with P11.2 million or only 84 percent of the P13.3 million target. Negros Oriental comes fourth with only 77 percent having a total collection of P58.8 million or P16.7 million short of its P75.5 target collection.

Aquino to take oath at Quirino Grandstand

MANILA, Philippines – President-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has changed his mind and will now be taking his oath of office at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park on June 30.

Aquino inaugural scenarios

MANILA, Philippines - Preparations are underway for the inaugural of Senator Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III as the 15th President of the Philippines on June 30.

The camp of president-elect Aquino met on Monday over preparations for his inaugural on June 30.

In the Philippines, there are no prescribed rules for a president's inaugural.

Nothing is cast in stone, except for the constitutionally prescribed text of his oath of office, and the time he is supposed to be sworn into office, which is high noon of June 30.

"I do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as president [or vice-president or acting president] of the Philippines, preserve and defend its constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the nation. So help me God."

It is like a bride on her wedding day: the president-elect is free to observe or modify traditions.

And tradition, said the president-elect, is what they are considering in planning his inaugural.

Inauguration scenarios 

Among the scenarios being considered are:

  • a mass at the tomb of former President Corazon and former Senator Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino Jr. on the morning of the inaugural, before he meets up with President Arroyo so they can ride in the same car to the inaugural venue.
  • Maria Montelibano, a member of Aquino's presidential transition team, confirmed that the inauguration will be held at the Quirino Grandstand, venue of most pre-martial law presidential inaugurals and the Ramos inaugural in 1992.
  • Aquino said that despite their political differences, he will accord the President all the respect that befits an incumbent during their car ride. Upon arrival at the venue, tradition dictates that final honors be given the outgoing President, after which she will leave in her personal car before his inaugural.
  • In the Aquino scenario, singer Ogie Alcasid will be tapped to compose an inaugural theme song for Aquino.

Carpio-Morales to administer oath

Aquino's camp, meanwhile, is set to formally write Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to administer the oath of office on Aquino.

Carpio-Morales was the lone dissenting vote in the Supreme Court decision authorizing President Arroyo to appoint Chief Justice Renato Corona during the ban on midnight appointments.

Contrary to popular belief, being sworn into office by the Chief Justice is just a tradition and not a legal requirement.

Aquino, meanwhile, revealed that his inaugural speech will focus on the state of the country in the past, present and future,

He is to emphasize to the public that the future of the country is a product of everyone's cooperation.

He plans to keep his speech short.

Aquino plans to have a working lunch after the inaugural, segue into the inaugural Cabinet meeting at the Palace, and the Vin d'Honneur or diplomatic reception at the Palace by 6 p.m. 

Street party at QC Memorial Circle

And instead of a luxurious inaugural ball, Aquino is favoring a street party at the Quezon Memorial Circle to celebrate his inauguration in the evening.

Already, his camp has canvassed that the sound system alone for the party may run up to half a million pesos, where volunteer entertainers are expected to perform.

Aquino, meanwhile, thumbed down proposals for a joint Cabinet meeting with the outgoing administration, saying the transition teams can handle the handover of the reins of government.

Bahay Pangarap or Goldenberg Mansion? 

Aside from the inaugural, Aquino is also deciding on his official residence.

Aside from the Bahay Pangarap, which is inside a military compound and which lacks servants' quarters, Aquino is also considering the Goldenberg Mansion adjacent to the Palace.

It currently serves as a storage house for the Palace Antique collection.

Last year, that was the venue for the press conference of visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Also being considered are the Arlegui Guest House, where President Cory Aquino resided, and the Premiere Guest House where former President Joseph Estrada lived.

Last Cabinet meeting to summarize transition plan

THE CABINET will be convened for the last time on the eve of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's last day in office to summarize the transition blueprint that will be turned over to the new administration, a Palace official said yesterday.

AFP chief Bangit to retire early: spokesman

MANILA, Philippines - Armed Forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit is retiring early after President-elect Benigno Aquino III said he would replace the military chief when he takes over the presidency on June 30, a military spokesman confirmed Monday.

Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos said Bangit has already started his farewell rounds and will not wait for July 2011 to retire from the service. The military chief turns 56 - the retirement age in the military - on July 11, 2011.

"Definitely he will be retiring from service early. As far as the exact date is concerned, wala pa kaming formal info," Burgos told reporters.

Burgos said the military chief visited the 2nd Infantry Division, a military unit that he formerly headed as company, battalion and division commander. He said the military chief will also visit military units in Mindanao that he used to head.

He said Bangit told elements of the 2nd Infantry Division to "maintain a high level of professionalism, which was best exemplified by the military's conduct in the last election."

Burgos said the successful conduct of the May 2010 election is the biggest accomplishment of Bangit's short-lived term as AFP chief.

He said that prior to the elections, there were a lot of doubts that the military will be used to cheat in the elections.

"We reminded troops to remain neutral. We said let's concentrate and focus on our mission, and we accomplished it as shown by the low number of election-related violence as compared to the previous elections," he said.

Aquino earlier said he will replace Bangit due to perceived differences with the military chief.

Among those reportedly being eyed to replace Bangit are Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo David, Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer and acting Armed Forces vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Nestor Ochoa.

All of them belong to Philippine Military Academy Class of 1977.

A Malacañang official, meanwhile, said Bangit has the right to feel hurt about Aquino's decision after it was announced to the media.

Presidential Management Staff head Elena Bautista-Horn said the military has a procedure in replacing their chiefs-of-staff.

"One of the challenges faced by the incoming president is how to be consultative. He is not just the president of friends and supporters but of his enemies and critics," she said.

Carandang: It's premature to talk about press sec post

MANILA, Philippines - ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) anchor Ricky Carandang on Monday said it was premature for him to comment on reports about him joining the incoming administration of President-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Broadcaster may join Aquino Cabinet

MANILA, PhilippinesPresident-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III neither confirmed nor denied reports that television news anchor Ricky Carandang would be his press secretary, but said he is considering him to be in his government.

"Not correct. (I) will still have to talk to Ricky," Aquino said in a text message to on Monday when asked to confirm the report.

But asked if Carandang was being considered for the post, Aquino said, (It's) unfair for him to read about it instead of hearing from me what I would want of him."

The President-elect has been keeping close to his chest the names of his Cabinet members, saying he would announce its composition probably within the week.

So far, Aquino has named only four of his Cabinet secretaries: Pacquito Ochoa as Executive Secretary, Corazon Soliman as Secretary of Department of Social Works and Development, Teresita Deles as presidential adviser on peace process, and Edwin Lacierda as presidential spokesman.

Aside from Carandang, singer Jim Paredes was also rumored as the next Tourism Secretary.

Cesar Purisima was also reportedly being considered as Finance Secretary.

Lakas splits up to survive

MANILA, PhilippinesThe countrys dominant political party is breaking up into three factions with majority of members joining the Liberal Party-led coalition in the House of Representatives that is pushing to seat Quezon City Representative Feliciano Belmonte Jr. as the speaker.

But not one in the Lakas-Kampi-CMD will renounce his membership or be expelled from the party, according to Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, who disputed claims by presidential adviser and party stalwart Prospero Pichay that those who join the coalition would be kicked out.

I dont know of any Lakas-Kampi congressman renouncing hiss party membership and joining another political party, Antonino said.

Lakas-Kampi deputy executive director Reginald Velasco said the decision of the majority of members to retain their identity despite coalescing with a rival party was meant to ensure the survival of the party in the next Congress.

He said Lakass situation was akin to that of the Nationalist Peoples Coalition whose members were given a free hand in taking positions such as joining the Lakas-led rainbow coalition in the last Congress.

Of the 108 Lakas representatives elected to the 15th Congress, 73 confirmed they will join the LP coalition, which means that only 35 members will be left in the minority.

Of the 73 joining the new majority, 47 formed a new group called Coalition for Peace and Development with six other representatives from other parties. The remaining congressmen have lined up behind Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who is holding separate negotiations with the Belmonte bloc.

Earlier, Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said the 44 Liberal Party representatives in the 15th Congress would form the core of the Conscience and Reform (CORE) alliance which would install Belmonte as Speaker.

Gonzales, a former Lakas-Kampi stalwart who switched to the LP a few weeks before the election, said the election of Belmonte was all but wrapped up despite the posturing of Lakas, which is planning to field Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman Jr. as its candidate for Speaker.

President-elect Benigno Aquino III had said he was confident that Belmonte would become the Speaker while his candidate for Senate President faced a tight contest.

Binay says ready to accept any Cabinet offer but Monsod airs warning

Tatanggapin na ni vice president-elect Jejomar Binay ang anumang posisyong ibigay sa kanya ni president-elect Noynoy Aquino. Nagbabala naman ang isang ekonomista laban sa pagbibigay kay Binay ng pwesto sa gabinete. 

Aquino sisters: No rift with Binay

Itinanggi ng magkapatid na Ballsy at Pinky Aquino na may nabubuong hidwaan sa pagitan nila at ng kampo ni vice-president elect Jejomar Binay! Sinagot din nila ang umano'y panlalaglag ng kanilang kampo sa ka-tandem ng kapatid na si Senador Mar Roxas. 

Aquinos, Danding have ended decades-old family rift

Nagkaayos na ang pamilya ni dating ambassador at San Miguel [Corp] chairman Danding Cojuangco at pamilya Aquino matapos ang ilang dekadang tampuhan at samaan ng loob. Para sa pamilya Aquino, sarado na ang away-pulitika na sumira sa kanilang pamilya simula pa noong panahon ni dating pangulong Ferdinand Marcos.

'No deal in Danding's support for Noynoy'

MANILA , Philippines -- Influential businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr., chairman and chief executive of diversifying conglomerate San Miguel Corp., is not asking anything in return for his support of his nephew, President-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, in the recently concluded elections.

Catholic pastors to Noynoy: Don't open new casinos

MANILA, Philippines - The Catholic Church called anew on the government to stop opening casinos, which, it said, is promotes corruption and poverty.

Comelec asked to refund poll protest fees

An anti-graft group has called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to refund about P3.7 million in filing fees for the at least 37 local election protest cases that the poll body failed to resolve since the 2007 mid-term elections.

Controversial issues up in CJ Corona's 1st en banc

MANILA, Philippines - All eyes will be on new Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, who will be tested on Tuesday as he presides for the first time over a full court meeting.

In a text message, Supreme Court (SC) spokesman Jose Midas P. Marquez said "there are almost 300 items in the agenda of the court en banc as it meets tomorrow for the first time with the new Chief Justice presiding."

Mr. Marquez is also the incumbent Supreme Court administrator.

The topics are closer to home, even as the recently-appointed chief justice tries to shrug off rumors he is biased for former boss President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Corona's rise to the highest position in the judiciary has been plagued with controversies. Some claim he may not be able to rule independently from that of his former boss.

Corona served as chief of staff when Arroyo was still the vice president. He then joined her in Malacañang when she assumed the presidency in 2001.

2nd appeal on midnight appointments

The full court will, in fact, tackle the second motion for reconsideration questioning a March 17 decision that exempted the SC from the so-called midnight appointment ban.

The decision was affirmed in a resolution last April 20.

Corona had inhibited himself from previous rulings on the matter.

Another relevant topic on the list is the constitutionality of the appointment of General Delfin N. Bangit as Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.

The Philippine Bar Association (PBA), which had filed the second motion for reconsideration in the chief justice controversy, also questioned before the high court Bangit's appointment and that of his other colleagues.

The PBA claimed these were also considered midnight appointments.

Agra's dual posts

The high court will also tackle the appointment of another Arroyo ally, Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra.

The petitioners claim his designation as Solicitor General is prohibited under Article 7, Section 13 of the Philippine Constitution.

Agra first inherited the Solicitor General post after his predecessor, Agnes Devanadera, gave up the position to focus on her duties as justice secretary.

After the latter also resigned to focus on the local elections, Agra became acting justice chief.

The high court will also check on the merits of the case filed by defeated presidential candidates led by Senator Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal against the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The group had asked the high court to halt the poll body from destroying the compact flash cards that malfunctioned during the automated polls. They said these can be reviewed to prove alleged irregularities.

SALN disclosure The high court also needs to resolve several issues besetting the judiciary.

A controversial topic that the high court needs to thresh out is the issue on transparency, especially with regard to the disclosure of their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).

It will also resolve the election issues plaguing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

The high court has been in recess since the elections.

The last meeting was presided by former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, who retired on May 17.

DoJ seeks P6.1B budget for 2011

MANILA, PhilippinesThe Department of Justice (DoJ) seeks the approval of P6.1-billion 2011 budget for the implementation of 34 new and existing programs including hiring new prosecutors, creating new branches plus constructing new court houses and strengthening of the governments witness protection program.

Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said his department has already submitted its proposal to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The DoJ needs the go-ahead from the DBM for this 2011 budget plan because the P6.1-billion hike is P3.7 billion or 151 percent higher than the adjustment ceiling of P2.4 billion set by the budget department in the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) for next year.

Agra said that of the proposed increase of P6.1 billion, P4.536 billion is earmarked for the continued implementation of 10 programs, or P2.301 billion more than the DBM-fixed 2011 budget ceiling of P2.235 billion.

Agra said that more than half the planned budget increase for the office of the secretary (P3.826 billion) is earmarked for the prosecution services, particularly for salaries and other compensation for vacant positions filled up in 2008 and 2009, creation of positions for 100 new prosecutors, as well as positions for additional 733 support staff to augment the inadequate manpower at various city and provincial prosecution offices.

This proposed amount for the prosecution service is P1.962 billion higher than the 2011 budget ceiling of P1.863 billion.

The DoJ wants a P309.67 million allotment, or P132 million more than the ceiling of P177.478 million, for its general administration and support services for, among others, creation of new positions in its Internal Audit Service, purchase of new motor vehicles and motorcycles for the delivery of summons and subpoenas in the field offices, and provisions for terminal leaves and retirement benefits of employees retiring next year.

Agra said the DoJ needs P187.729 million for the Witness Protection, Security, and Benefit Program for the hiring of more people; establishment of Regional Temporary Shelters and safe houses for state witnesses; and acquisition of service vehicles, firearms, body armors, and communication equipment for the use of both WPSBP personnel and witnesses.

This WPSBP budget plan is P103.636 million more than the DBM ceiling of P84.093 million.

Another P53.218 million is needed to implement the Comprehensive Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) and P43.706 million more to institutionalize the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) System.

The proposed JJWC outlay is P44.9 million higher than the ceiling of P8.314 million while that for the ADR is P33.706 million more than the ceiling of P10 million set by the DBM.

The rest of the proposed budget hikes for DoJ programs will go to the Special Legal Services, Board of Pardons and Parole, Board of Claims, Special Committee for the Protection of Children, and capacity-building activities for trade and investment negotiations.

Of the proposed allocations for DoJ projects, P1.245 billion is allocated for 22 new projects and another P66.9 million for the implementation of two existing projectsthe continuous computerization of the Information Systems Strategic Plan (P56.967 million) and the participation of legal/technical staff in international or bilateral joint economic/trade relations activities (P10 million).

On the other hand, funding for the 22 new projects, a hefty part (P942.7 million) will go to the Justice System Infrastructure Program (JUSIP) for the construction of 83 additional court houses.

The rest of the funds are earmarked for, among others, the implementation of the Governance for Justice Sector Reform Program or GJSRP (P66.077 million), Anti-Trafficking Act (P25 million), and the National Council for Disability Affairs (P21.257 million); establishment of Rape Crisis Centers in cities and provinces (P21.5 million); Gender and Development or GAD awareness program (P16.76 million); and funding for extradition treaties/mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and agreements on the transfer of sentenced persons (P10 million).

Villar still richest senator; Aquino 18th

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Manny Villar is still the richest senator, based on the 2009 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) of senators obtained by ABS-CBN News.

His net worth is nearly P1 billion, P1 million lower compared to 2008.

When the SALNs were filed, Villar has not officially begun his campaign for president, but his infomercials have already flooded TV and radio.

If Villar is the richest, detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is the poorest. His net worth – P3.47 million. It was higher by P500,000, compared to 2008.

President-elect Benigno Aquino III, meanwhile, is ranked 18th. He declared his net worth at P15.44 million. It was higher by P1.4 million, compared to 2008.

Noynoy included in his SALN his stake in Hacienda Luisita and its corporations.

According to their SALNs, Senator Jamby Madrigal is the second richest, with P145 million.

A net worth is the value of one's assets, including cash, minus all liabilities.

The law mandates the lawmakers to declare their net worth yearly. But there is no way to determine if their SALNs are true, unless someone has them investigated.

A senator earns just P376,500 a year. Report from Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

Aquino and agriculture: Meeting food security, solving poverty

MANILA, Philippines - President-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is eyeing reforms in the agriculture sector to address the country's poverty situation. A former agriculture secretary believes the job rests on his administration putting a premium on achieving adequate food security in the Philippines, while ensuring profitability to the country's farmers.

Aquino finds Arroyo numbers hard to believe

President-elect Benigno Aquino III questioned the integrity of some of the economic data released by the Arroyo administration, saying that not knowing the real numbers would make it tougher to come up with solutions.

North Korea completely cuts off state rations: aid group

by Agence France-Presse
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea has completely cut off state food rations after China failed to supply the impoverished communist country with extra cereals, a welfare group said Monday.

40 feared dead as boat capsizes in India

LUCKNOW—At least 25 people drowned and 17 others were missing after their boat capsized on Monday during a prayer ceremony on the river Ganges in northern India, officials said.

Ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan kills 117

by by Hulkar Isamova, Reuters
OSH, Kyrgyzstan - Kyrgyzstan's interim government said on Monday it had arrested a "well-known person" on suspicion of fomenting the worst ethnic riots in 20 years, which have killed at least 117 and left cities in flames.

Pacquiao ready to fight anyone

While talks are still on-going for a proposed November 13 fight, Manny Pacquiao said upon his return from a two-week vacation in the US and Mexico on Monday that he will not back away from anyone who will be put in front of him.

"Kahit sino ang ilagay sa harap ko, lalabanan ko," said Pacquiao, who brought home a pair of awards from the Boxing Writers Association of America for his ring exploits not only in 2009 but in the previous years.

Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum has said that getting a fight with Floyd Mayweather is his "No. 1 priority" although the likes of Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito are on stand-by in case a megabuck matchup with Maywetaher doesn't materialize.

Last week, Oscar De La Hoya, whose promotional outfit is representing Mayweather in talks with Arum's Top Rank Inc., made a startling revelation in an interview with a leading Spanish-language TV station.

De La Hoya said that while negotiations are tough, a deal is within sight to have Pacquiao and Mayweather get it on in a showdown that is expected to break all existing attendance and pay-per-view records.

Also last week, the Nevada State Athletic Commission virtually favored Pacquiao in his drug-testing stand after meeting with key officials from the USOC and US Anti-Doping Agency.

Only the USADA is batting for random blood and urine testing despite declarations made by sports doctors that blood tests are not only "unreliable" and "dangerous" as well.

Mayweather is demanding that Pacquiao and himself undergo Olympic-style testing all the way up to the fight.

Pacquiao has softened his stand on the issue and is now agreeable to being tested as close as two weeks before the fight.

Pacquiao was in the US to receive the Fighter of the Year and Fighter of the Decade awards from the BWAA.

Two lifters to train in China

The Philippine Weightlifting Association is planning to send its top two athletes to a three-month training in Nanning City in the province of Guangxi in China in preparation for the Guangzhou Asian Games slated this November.

RP team coach Tony Agustin on Monday said they have already requested the Philippine Sports Commission to fund the training of Olympian

Hidilyn Diaz and Nestor Colonia since the two lifters will most likely represent the country in the Asiad.

"Inaayos pa namin. Ang tentative date is July 12 to Oct. 12," Agustin said.

If plans push through, Diaz and Colonia will be training at the Nanning Provincial Training Center, where most world champions train.

"Maganda doon kasi makakasama nila yung mga world champions. Walang barrier, kaya marami silang matututunan doon," Agustin said.

Pacquiao begins training...for Congress

MANILA, Philippines - Boxing champion and now Congressman Manny Pacquiao has begun taking a short course that will prepare him for his congressional duties.

2 singers prepared to work under Aquino gov't

MANILA, Philippines - Singer Leah Navarro, co-convenor of civil society group The Black and White Movement, is willing to accept a government post if offered a position by president-elect Benigno Aquino III.

Smartmatic taps Miss U as transparency envoy

MANILA, Philippines - As various watchdogs, IT specialists, and civil society groups continue to present alleged evidence of electronic fraud in the just-concluded first nationwide automated elections that used a system by Smartmatic, the Venezuelan firm is bringing in a beauty queen from its home country for a counter public relations offensive.

PGT's Jovit Baldivino vows to help family

MANILA, Philippines – "Pilipinas Got Talent" (PGT) grand winner Jovit Baldivino said he will use his P2-million cash prize to help his family.

PGT's Jovit Baldivino wants to act, eyes KC as his leading lady

MANILA, Philippines – Family, relatives and friends of Jovit Baldivino were ecstatic after the 16-year-old singer was declared the first grand winner of ABS-CBN's talent-reality show "Pilipinas Got Talent" (PGT).

Kho lawyer says inspection of hotel room would prove consent

The camp of former celebrity doctor Hayden Kho said Monday the inspection of the hotel room where he videotaped his sexual intercourse with his accuser Katrina Halili three years ago would prove there was "consent."

1 comment:

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