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

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June 3, 2010 Major News Stories

Wage increases to be factored into BSP's next inflation review

WAGE INCREASES expected to be announced in the next few weeks could prompt a revision of the 2010 inflation forecast that will be reviewed in today's monetary policy meeting, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said.

P25 wage hike to keep inflation in check - BSP

So as not to stoke inflation beyond programmed levels, monetary authorities are looking at a wage increase that is significantly lower than the P75 to P125 labor leaders want. The wage board is expected make a decision on the issue this week.

'Fewer or no more brownouts'

POWER generators committed yesterday to increase their supply so Cebu will have less or, hopefully, no more brownouts by next week, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said yesterday.

Brownouts, higher power rates upset Mindanao consumers

MANILA, Philippines - Consumers in Mindanao are grumbling over the drastic increase in their electricity bills.

Tap LGUs in conducting census, NSO urged

MANILA, Philippines – The National Statistics Office should tap local government units to assist teachers in conducting the census nationwide, an official of the Department of Education said.

"From what I hear, teachers serving as enumerators are being treated badly by uninformed households, that is why we seek the assistance of barangay personnel who may accompany our teachers in doing the household rounds," Education Secretary Mona Valisno said.

Vailisno made the appeal after two teachers' groups — the Teachers' Dignity Coalition and the Manila Public School Teachers Association — reported to her the grievances of teachers who are visiting homes nationwide doing interview as part of the census.

She said some information asked in the census can be gathered from the Bureau of Internal Revenue or the LGUs and spare the teachers from asking for inputs which household members may not volunteer to give.

 "The census questionnaire seeks answers that are too confidential resulting to many homeowners refusing to talk to the enumerators," she added.

Teachers not prepared for class opening – group

While the Department of Education (DepEd) is all set for the opening of classes on June 15, many public school teachers may not be prepared.

This, according to Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC), is because many of them are still in the field gathering information for the 2010 Census of Population and Housing (CPH), others are still waiting for the full payment for their arduous tasks during the first automated elections last May 10, and majority of them are having a hard time dealing with parents in implementing some of DepEd's enrolment policies.

Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) national chairperson Benjo Basas said DepEd seemingly prepared everything for the opening of classes with the Brigada Eskuwela, the traditional school maintenance week program had been successful in almost all areas; the reiteration of its enrolment policies such as the "No Collection," "No Refusal," "No ID and No Uniform" policies among others; and a campaign against the "Jejemons," a text-Internet subculture among the youth. "But we feel that the DepEd might overlook the teachers' welfare while it is preoccupied with other matters of education and preparations for the class resumption," he said.

Basas said that while the teachers are aware of the fact that most of the problems of public education system stem from insufficient allocation of budget and national policies on education which need to be overhauled, the TDC asked DepEd to address the demands of the teachers. "These are demands that would complement the realization of DepEd's plan for coming school year, are doable and within the powers of the Department," he said.

One of the major concerns of teachers, according to TDC, is the allocation of greater budget for school maintenance and operation to enforce the "No Collection Policy."

Basas said DepEd has been very strict on the implementation of no collection policy in all public elementary and secondary schools and identified several fees that are authorized but voluntary. In fact, the voluntary nature of this collection did not spare even the Parent Teacher's Association (PTAs). 

DTI makes rounds to check prices of school supplies

Dahil magpapasukan na, abala na rin sa last-minute shopping ng school supplies ang mga magulang at estudyante. May magandang diskarte diyan ang Department of Trade and Industry! May Balik-Eskwela Caravan sila na unang dumayo sa lungsod ng Maynila.

DepEd, DOH warn students vs street food

Ipinagbabawal na ng DepEd sa Caloocan ang pagtitinda at pagbili ng mga street food malapit sa eskwelahan. Maging ang Department of Health, nagbabala na rin sa mga estudyante na mag-ingat sa mga sakit na pwedeng makuha sa pagkain nito.

Smoking banned in public schools; teachers covered

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Education (DepEd) ordered public schools to ban smoking in public schools effective immediately.

Sex education part of math in pilot program

MANILA, Philippines - Sex education will be included in the curriculum of 79 public high schools and 80 elementary schools this school year.

Palace to Deped: Consult bishops first before teaching sex education

The Department of Education (DepEd) should first hold a dialogue with bishops before including sex education in the curriculum of elementary and high school students this school year, a Palace official said on Wednesday.

EU job prospects remain bright for OFWs

MANILA, Philippines - Prospects for overseas employment in Europe are still bright despite the downfall of the euro and pound, and the prolonged financial crisis there, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said.

Filipinos warned against looking for jobs in Macau

Filipino jobseekers, especially those with only tourist visas, were warned Tuesday against seeking work in Macau as the special administrative region is giving priority to local hires.

Flour prices should be lower, DTI insists

Nanindigan ang Department of Trade and Industry na mas mura dapat ang presyo ng harina! Inirerekomenda na ng ahensya na kasuhan ang mga flour millers!

DDB can have Joavan sent to rehab: officials

POLICE Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez supported calls for Joavan Fernandez, son of Talisay City Mayor Soc-rates Fernandez, to undergo rehabilitation.

Cebu-Cordova bridge not feasible — Osmeña


CORDOVA, Cebu – This town's dream of being connected directly with Cebu City through a bridge is getting more difficult to be realized as Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he will not support such a project.

"You will have to close the port because no vessel can get under the bridge," said Osmeña, adding that the height of the bridge will make it impossible for vessels to sail through.

The proposed Cebu-Cordova bridge was first revealed by Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy, who said earlier that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had asked the Philippine Reclamation Authority twice already about the status of the proposed bridge that will cut travel time between Cebu City and Cordova town and vice versa.

Currently, Cordova residents pass through Lapu-Lapu City and take the bridge that links Mactan and Mandaue City and then travel at least 30 minutes to reach Cebu City.

With the bridge, Sitoy said travel time will be reduced to just a few minutes.

The proposed bridge, with budget costs yet to be released, will take the South Road Properties in Cebu City and land in Shell Island, Cordova. The municipal government of Cordova has already planned to construct a skyway that will bring travelers from Cebu City to the Mactan International Airport without passing through Lapu-Lapu City.

But Osmeña said building the bridge will not be feasible as it will affect the flow of sea transport in the area. Instead of building the bridge, Osmeña said they can build ferry terminals and open ferry operations to and from Cordova.

"It will be very expensive to build the bridge because it will have to be very high to allow big vessels to pass through. The best way would be through a ferry boat that will sail the Cebu-Cordova-Cebu route," Osmeña said.

'Nullify Radaza proclamation'

DEFEATED congressional aspirant Joselito "Lito" Ruiz asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to nullify the proclamation of congressman-elect Arturo Radaza, his wife mayor-elect Paz and the couple's allies elected as councilors.

Aquino proclamation set

The next president, likely Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, and possibly the next vice president of the country are expected to be officially proclaimed on Monday, June 7.

This was revealed Monday night by Speaker Prospero Nograles as he noted that less than 35 percent of the 278 certificates of canvass (CoCs) have not yet been tabulated with the joint national canvassing committee left two days to count the remainder.

Pointing out that Congress has done its part of speeding up the canvassing of election returns for the presidential and vice presidential races and the eventual proclamation of the winners, Nograles said he also expects the Supreme Court, which will act as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), to fast-track its decision on electoral protests should there be one.

Aquino s predicted to win the presidential race having led almost throughout the national canvassing of votes by the 18-man committee composed of House of Representatives and Senate members.

Running second to Aquino is former President Joseph Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) who garnered 5,927,990 votes.

With the deferment of tabulation of 14 CoCs as of Tuesday night, a forecast of the vice presidential race winner is not possible.

Aquino's runningmate, Sen. Manuel Roxas, and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino are still slugging it out for the lead, although the latter has maintained a slim lead as of press time yesterday.

Binay posted 9,048,351 votes on Tuesday night while Roxas chalked up 8,749,968 after the canvassing of 189 of 278 CoCs, or a difference of 298,383 votes.

Lawyers for several candidates appeared headed to the PET as they continued to badger the canvassing panel with objections on various issues that could set the stage for an election protest.

Lawyers for Roxas, together with Senator Jamby Madrigal, sought the deferment of canvassing in cities and provinces where counting were allegedly discontinued to pave the way for the early proclamation of winning local candidates.

They cited a certification issued by Commission on Elections (Comelec) Executive Director Jose Tolentino that the poll body agreed to lower the threshold of counting in areas where there is no possibility that vote margins posted by leading candidates can still be overtaken.

The huge number of null votes for vice president, reaching 800,000 as of 4 p.m. Tuesday, is also expected to be brought to the PET. The number represents nearly 12 percent of all votes canvassed.

"We in the joint canvassing committee are tasked to make sure that all votes cast by our people on May 10 are counted properly. It will be a disservice to our people if we do an incomplete canvass at the national level," said Camarines Norte Rep. Liwayway Vinzons-Chato, an ally of Roxas.

In four days of canvassing, Congress, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, was able to canvass an average of 47 CoCs per day, starting off with the manually transmitted returns from 174 overseas absentee voting centers throughout the world.

Nograles said there remained a possibility that proclamation can be made Thursday but the June 7 schedule is a "safe" prediction.

Earlier, the House leader set June 4 as the target of proclamation of the winners in the presidential and vice presidential race but the closing ceremonies of the Lower House made it impossible for the joint canvassing panel to meet the schedule.

Last Monday, Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who both head the canvassing body, agreed to defer canvassing session on Friday to give way to the closing ceremonies of both chambers.

Aquino won in almost all provinces and cities. Among these are: Surigao del Norte; Bulacan, Catanduanes, Laguan, Benguet, Masmate, Albay, Paranaque City, Sorsogon, Aklan, Bohol, Cebu, Camarines Sur, Agusan del Norte, Compostela Valley, Tarlac, Cavite, Marinduque, Mandaluyong City and Bataan.

On the other hand, Estrada took Misamis Oriental, Cagayan, Occidental Mindoro, Saranggani, Isabela, Quirino, and Zamboanga City.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential bet Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro Jr., who is number 4 in the race, won in Camiguin, Dinagat Island, and Guimaras.

In the vice presidential race, Binay enjoyed the lead in the following cities and provinces: Nueva Vizcaya, Paranaque City, Cagayan, Sorsogon, Occidental Mindoro, Saranggani, Isabela, Misamis Oriental, Bulacan, Manila, Catanduanes, Laguna, Quirino, Compostela Valley, Zamboanga City, Bataan, Cavite and Mandaluyong City.

Roxas won in Negros Oriental, Guimaras, Marinduque, Cebu, Camarines Sur, Agusan del Norte, Tarlac, Surigao del Norte, Benguet, Masbate, Albay, Aklan, Bohol, and Zamboanga del Norte.

Actor Edu Manzano, Teodoro's running mate, led in Camiguin and Dinagat Island. Like Teodoro, Manzano is ranked fourth.

Official count as of 9 p.m. on June 1:

For President: Benigno C. Aquino III , 9,564,943; Joseph Estrada, 5,927,990; Manuel Villar, 3,333,558; Gilberto Teodoro Jr., 2,480,185; Eduardo Villanueva, 722,857; Richard Gordon, 270,781; Vetellano Acosta, 118,351; Nicanor Perlas, 33,730; Jamby Madrigal, 30,553; JC de los Reyes, 28,297.

For Vice President: Jejomar Binay, 9,048,351; Manuel Roxas, 8,749,968; Loren Legarda, 2,570,103; Bayani Fernando, 582,162; Edu Manzano, 497,296; Perfecto Yasay, 232,135; Jay Sonza, 37,919.

Arlegui Mansion ready for transition teams

MANILA, Philippines - As early as Monday next week, transition teams formed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and presidential frontrunner Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III can already use Arlegui Mansion as their offices.

7 Lanao del Sur towns ready for special polls

Sa Lanao del Sur, kasado na ang gagawing special elections sa 7 bayan doon bukas. Ito'y matapos ibasura ng Korte Suprema ang petisyong ipagpaliban ang special elections doon. Handa na rin ang mga pulis na sasabak di lamang para panatilihin ang seguridad kundi para magsilbi ring Board of Election Inspectors.

Special polls won't affect nat'l posts – Comelec

Special elections in some towns in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and in other areas have no effect on the results for national positions, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Wednesday.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said although they expect around 80,000 voters in Thursday's special elections, they don't expect this to affect the results for president, vice president and even for senators.

"This will affect the local, meaning congressional, mayor, vice mayor, councilors and party-lists," he said.

The special elections will be held in a total of seven municipalities in Lanao del Sur (all precincts), as well as in Poblacion, Glan, Saranggani (1); Buenos Aires, Pagsanghan, Western Samar (1); Al-Barka, Basilan (7); and Maluso, Basilan (2).

Sarmiento, meantime, revealed that the holding of the special elections would entail additional logistical expenses as well as the re-leasing of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

"What is written in our contract is that the use of the machines are good for 10 days, so from May 10 to May 20. After May 20, they have to be retrieved and, because of redeployment and special elections, this means an additional expense... for the payment of the technician personnel, deployment of machines, transportation so I think it's around P16 million," he said.

Aside from the payment for the PCOS, Sarmiento said other expenses could amount to P5 to 6 million as it would cover the expenses of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as for the payment of honorarium of those who will be rendering services.

Sarmiento appealed to candidates in these areas not to resort to violence anymore so that the special elections would push through smoothly.

"I hope we do away with this (violence) because this is the reason why we are holding these special elections and we cannot afford another special election because it's too expensive," he said.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, for his part, said the budget for the special elections would be sourced from the poll body's regular budget.

The special elections have been set in these areas after the regular elections failed to push through in the concerned precincts either due to security problems or misplaced ballots.

Watch point
In another development in Mindanao, policemen have started setting up "watch point" places in flood-prone areas in the ARMM following severe flooding in some towns in the region that has so far affected more than 45,000 families.

Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said local police commanders have already tapped the services of at least 100 lawmen to man the watch point areas.

"He (referring to Chief Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, ARMM regional director) proposed the idea (of watch point areas) so that they can keep the necessary warning signals and determine if evacuation is needed," said Espina.

But Espina said the number of watch point areas and policemen would increase should the flooding worsens and affected other parts of Maguindanao and nearby provinces.

He explained that the watch point areas have been and will be set up in high ground and strategic areas in flood-prone areas of Maguindanao and nearby provinces.

Presently, Espina said the concentration of the police deployment is in the towns of Sultan Kudarat and the nearby Sultan Mastura, both located in the northern part of Maguindanao.

Flash floods swept most of the barangays in the two towns due to heavy rains since last week. Hundreds have already been evacuated to safer grounds, according to police report. (With a report from Aaron B. Recuenco)

400 CF cards replaced and reconfigured, says poll official

MANILA, PhilippinesAbout 400 compact flash (CF) cards were replaced and reconfigured in various provinces because of defects during the May 10 elections, an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) told the congressional canvassing committee Wednesday.

Jose Tolentino, Comelec executive director, said that after verifying about the defective CF cards, the poll body authorized the electronic transmission of the configuration from the Smartmatic warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna for the particular precinct.

The configuration will then be burned or copied in the new CF card by the authorized regional director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) before turning it over to the Comelec provincial supervisor.

Several lawmakers attending the canvassing expressed wary over the replacement of the CF cards.

When you said you reconfigured the cards, it means you can change anything, Speaker Prospero Nograles said.

Maguindanao Representative Didagen Dilangalen asked if it was possible that the data burned or copied into the new CF cards were prepared in a way that could favor a candidate.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel and Senator Rodolfo Biazon asked the Comelec to submit a report identifying the areas where the CF cards were replaced.

Lawmakers also grilled Tolentino for issuing a memorandum a day before the elections to all Comelec regional directors advising them that replacement of defective cards will be done at the offices of the DOST provincial directors.

Twenty blank CF cards and two card burners will be deployed to your respective offices, the memo from Tolentino said.

Tolentino admitted that the issuance of the memorandum was not covered by an en banc resolution of the Comelec.

Since all of us agreed to that procedure we did not deem it necessary to elevate the matter to the en banc, Tolentino said.

But Pimentel questioned Tolentinos authority to issue the memorandum.

You think the deployment of CF cards is a small matter. You think under your authority you can do that, Pimentel said.

About 76,000 CF cards were used in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines on May 10. But the Comelec and Smartmatic allotted 1,600 more CF cards, or 20 cards for 80 provinces, for contingency.

Tech provider in May 10 polls 'close' to being cleared—solon

MANILA, Philippines Smartmatic Inc., the automation partner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), is close to getting off the hook on allegations of electronic fraud in the May 10 elections as far as Makati Representative Teodoro Locsin Jr. is concerned.

Locsin, chairman of the committee on electoral reforms and suffrage investigating cheating allegations, agreed to observations by information technology experts that outsiders would find it difficult to hack the system.

"That's why at the end of this hearing, we're coming close to clearing Smartmatic and focus will be on Comelec," Locsin said.

Roberto Verzola of the group Halalang Marangal, said that the "remaining possibility is for an inside job" since it would be very hard for those not familiar with the system to hack it.

But Verzola believes that Smartmatic should not be completely off the hook.

As Congress, sitting as national board of canvassers, have started counting the votes coming from certificates of canvass, several losing candidates continued to claim that electronic fraud could have taken place in the May 10 elections.

Cesar Flores, president of Smartmatic-Asia Pacific, insisted anew that it would be impossible to tamper with the system since they were encrypted. He also said that Smartmatic turned over the system to Comelec for its implementation during the election.

Locsin will summon the information technology personnel of Comelec in the next hearing.

No proof of Binay desertion - Erap camp

There is no evidence showing that leading vice presidential candidate Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay deserted his partner, former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, during the May 10 automated elections.

Palace: Appointments, deals can't be revoked

MANILA, Philippines - President-apparent Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III may be able to review the so-called midnight appointments and contracts of outgoing President Arroyo but he cannot revoke or overturn them as they are all aboveboard and legal, her spokesman insisted yesterday.

Deputy presidential spokesman Rogelio Peyuan was commenting on Aquino's repeated warnings that he would revoke all the illegal appointments and contracts made by Mrs. Arroyo, especially those made towards the end of her term.

Aquino had strongly opposed the appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Last week he vowed to review the re-appointment of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chairman Ephraim Genuino and four board directors of the government corporation.

Mrs. Arroyo issued a slew of appointments in the days leading up to March 10, the start of the constitutional ban on appointments during the election period.

Peyuan said all the recent contracts entered into by the administration as well as all the appointments made by Mrs. Arroyo complied with rules and regulations governing the civil service and concerned agencies as well as election laws.

"We have charters and other rules and all these are reviewed by the Office of the President before the appointments are released," Peyuan said. "We see to it that all those appointments were executed within the ambit of what the law provides."

He said contracts go through "intense study by different legal offices," and that it is likely that private parties that may be affected by Aquino's move to revoke government contracts would contest the matter before the courts.

He, however, stressed that "nothing can prevent the next administration from putting all of these in a review."

"They (incoming administration) will have their own legal experts, their own legal offices to look into these things and they'll be the ones to decide if it's proper for them to contest either before the Civil Service Commission or any of our competent courts," Peyuan said.

"There is nothing we can do beyond June 30. The rest is their show, the rest is their task, the rest is their constitutional obligation to put all of these things on the table and look at them and for them to find out the legalities. That is no longer in the hands of the current administration. That is the duty of the next government to proceed within the bounds of law," he said.

Peyuan said it was normal for any incoming president to look into the appointments of his or her predecessor, especially on sensitive posts like revenue-generating agencies like the Pagcor, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs.

Kiko hits last minute AFP deal

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan warned President Arroyo against possible midnight deals in connection with the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Pangilinan issued the warning amid reports that Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales was planning to cram the purchase of P300-billion worth of refurbished or surplus equipment from Israel, Canada, Australia, Italy, and South Korea – some of which had been returned to their suppliers due to poor performance in bad weather and low light conditions.

"Why must we cram such large and crucial purchases into the last month of this administration's term when, in fact, the Multi-Year Obligational Authority for the AFP is not co-terminus with the outgoing administration? Why should we shove surplus equipment down our Armed Forces' throats when what they need is new and better equipment to serve the needs of our countrymen?" Pangilinan said.

He said these deals need to be looked into "lest we once again enter into anomalous contracts that can spell the difference between life and death for our servicemen."

The proposed AFP modernization also includes the realignment of P2-billion worth of funds for "intelligence" and "Social Integration Program," which the senator said are subject to less stringent government accounting and auditing controls.

"Who will benefit from these last minute contracts? If the government is true to its objective to modernize the AFP, then it should first study thoroughly the offers of the suppliers so as not to endanger the lives of our soldiers and civilians," he said. 

'Bangit to step down if Aquino says so'

MANILA, Philippines - Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Delfin Bangit will step down from his post once told by president-apparent Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who will assume the post on June 30, a military spokesman said.

AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos made the statement a day after Aquino told the media that he is not going to re-appoint Bangit, who is perceived by some quarters as a loyalist of outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Burgos said he spoke with Bangit on Monday, and the AFP chief mentioned to him that he has his "personal sentiment" about the reports.

However, Burgos did not elaborate on Bangit's "personal sentiment", adding the AFP chief will just keep that to himself.

"It's an organization governed by rules and regulations. To us, Filipino soldiers, we support and uphold the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. Whatever is the order given to us, we will follow," said Burgos.

Burgos said the AFP chief maintains the position that he is serving at the pleasure of the President, who is also the military's commander-in-chief.

"To us here in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we are just waiting for orders actually. Whatever order is given to us, we will just follow…Gen. Bangit has been constantly saying that the chief of staff serves at the pleasure of the President, who is also the commander-in-chief," he said.

Burgos said Bangit and the military will not be distracted by the development, adding they will continue doing their job to accomplish their mandated tasks.

"As a professional soldier, he will continue to work even doubly hard for the AFP to accomplish its mandated tasks. Rest assured that the AFP, under his stewardship, will remain committed and steadfast to its sworn mandate and we will remain focus on our mission just like what we did in the last elections," said Burgos.

Burgos noted that before the elections, there were allegations that the military, Bangit in particular, will be involved in possible cheating, among others. However, he said the military did not mind the allegations and just did its job.

"We just saw how the people have spoken, and we have seen the result of the election, and we were not remiss (in our duties and responsibilities)," said Burgos.

" At the same time, we remained focus on our mission of providing a safe and secure environment so that we will be able to protect the integrity and the sanctity of the ballots that will be cast by our citizens and we did not allow ourselves to be affected. We remained focused. If you are going to see it, we have labored so much during the last election and we have proven our role in the election," he said.

Gonzales: No midnight deals in DND

by By Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philppines - Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Norberto Gonzales denied charges made by Liberal Party Senator Francis Pangilinan that he attempted to use the entire P300 billion in modernization funds of the military.

Gonzales disappointed he leaves no helicopters

MANILA, PhilippinesDefense Secretary Norberto Gonzales is disappointed he leaves the Armed Forces of the Philippine with only memorandums of agreement with several countries for the supply of new military weapons, with the exception of some helicopters from Poland.

Gonzales said Wednesday he was a bit dismayed that his few months in the Department of National Defense only allowed him to work out memorandums of understanding with at least five foreign governments

"We have not reached the point of really beginning talks on the acquisition," Gonzales told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo after signing a project agreement with Manila Water for water and waste improvement at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

"Unfortunately of me, what I will be leaving behind are memorandums of understanding with these countries," Gonzales added. But he hoped that these memos would pave the way for the acquisition of new hardware for the military organization under the new administration.

The defense chief earlier confirmed that he was in last-minute negotiations to acquire new weapons for the AFP under the expiring AFP Modernization Act of 1995, which was enacted to allow the military to modernize in 15 years with a total outlay of P331 billion.

Out of the total allocation, only P28.9 billion has been allotted under the law, which allows the defense department to spend only up to P5 million per year.

Gonzales disclosed two months ago that he was engaged in talks with the governments of Canada, France, Italy, Israel and South Korea, which he said were offering the AFP long-range patrol aircraft, among others.

But presumptive President-elect Benigno Aquino III warned early in April that he would cancel all midnight deals in the AFP if they provedharmful to the government.

Gonzales disclosed on Wednesday he has already signed the contract papers for the procurement of new helicopters from Poland, which had been in the works during the last two years.

"That's the only one I signed, which is already for procurement," he said. "But I did not initiate that... it has been in the works for the last two years."

He also shrugged off allegations that he had tried to use up the entire P300 billion modernization funds under his watch, saying that it was "impossible" to do so.

"And we are not crazy to attempt to do so.... We simply sought to maximize what we thought was achievable in my seven months stay in the DND," he added.

Cabral tells bishops sex education should begin in kindergarten

MANILA, PhilippinesHow young should a child be taught sex education?

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral on Wednesday risked drawing the ire of the Catholic hierarchy anew by arguing that even children in kindergarten should be exposed to appropriate sex education.

Actually, even those in kindergarten should be given a some information about that, she said in Filipino in an ambush interview in Malacaang. Its not right that when one gets pregnant, thats only the time when she should know how she got pregnant. Thats not how it works.

Cabral added: From a young age, they should already be given lessons appropriate to their age.

But Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza advised concerned agencies of government to consult the Church, particularly the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, before any policy or program on sex education is made final.

We have always respected the opinions and the advocacy of the religious (sector), particularly the CBCP, he said in a media briefing. I think its best for the DepEd (Department of Education) to do a consultation before any policy is made on this particular issue.

Mendoza said the DepEd would have to address some reservations coming from the CBCP and other church organizations.

Such reservations apparently go beyond sex education, extending to the larger issue of a legislated government policy on reproductive health (RH).

The RH bill is stuck on second reading at the House of Representatives and by all indications, would go through the eye of the needle again in the coming 15th Congress under a new administration.

Education Secretary Mona Valisno earlier announced the implementation of a program intended to provide sex education to high school students. She was quoted as saying: Teaching sex education in school is still better than letting students learn the topic from any sources, such as the Internet.

One thing revolting to those opposed to such a program is the idea of exposing grade school pupils to sex education.

Cabral was confident that the DepEd would know the appropriate time when children would be exposed to the subject matter.

I dont think they would give to children the type of sex education appropriate only for adults. They know what theyre doing, she said.

Cabral earlier enraged the CBCP for leading the distribution of free condoms in time for Valentines Day this year.

She argued that the program was meant to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but Catholic bishops warned that it would promote promiscuity.

Ship's crew seize back control from Somali pirates

BRUSSELS—The crew of a Libyan cargo ship seized back control from Somali pirates on Wednesday after fighting in which some of their captors are believed to have died and a crew member was wounded, the EU said.

Saudi govt goes tough on gay, lesbian workers

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently issued a memorandum reminding recruitment agencies in Manila to be stricter in screening job applicants to the Middle Eastern country to prevent the entrance of homosexuals in its workforce.

$1: P46.730

$1: P46.730

Euro 1: P56.9116

PEZA investments up 68% in Jan-May

MANILA, Philippines - Investments registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) rose 67.79% to P46.35 billion in the first 5 months of the year, versus P27.62 billion in the same period last year.

International passenger traffic flow to RP up 11.6% in Q1

MANILA, Philippines - International passenger traffic flow to the Philippines in the first quarter grew by 11.6% from a year ago, raising hopes that the airline and tourism industries will start recovering from the global economic crisis.

ExxonMobil to drill 3rd oil well in South Sulu Sea

Preparations are underway for drilling a new exploratory well in the South Sulu Sea oil field, the Department of Energy said Wednesday.

Japan PM resigns after US base row

TOKYO Japan's centre-left Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tearfully resigned Wednesday, just nine months after a stunning election win, his brief reign derailed by a row over an unpopular US airbase.

Hatoyama ended more than half a century of conservative rule in an electoral earthquake last August, but soon earned a reputation for crippling indecision at the helm of the world's second-biggest economy.

The 63-year-old millionaire, the scion of an influential family dubbed "Japan's Kennedys", quit at a meeting of his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

"I will step down," an emotional Hatoyama told party lawmakers at a special meeting in parliament, while also vowing to "create a new DPJ".

"The government's work has not reflected the public's wishes," said Hatoyama, who formally remains as premier until a successor is voted in.

"I apologize to all of you lawmakers here for causing enormous trouble."

The party plans to vote for a new leader on Friday. Finance Minister Naoto Kan, who is a deputy prime minister, was widely tipped to succeed Hatoyama.

The new DPJ chief must then be elected as prime minister by parliament in a vote expected later the same day.

Speculation had swirled for days that Hatoyama would quit as his approval ratings, once above 70 percent, crashed below the 20-percent mark.

The premier's rapid demise since he took office in September was driven by the festering dispute over a Marine airbase on Okinawa island that badly strained ties with the United States, Tokyo's bedrock ally.

Hatoyama, a Stanford-trained engineering scholar, took power vowing less subservient ties with Washington and closer engagement with Asia, worrying many Japan watchers in the United States.
He promised to move the US base off Okinawa, to ease the burden for locals who have long complained of aircraft noise, pollution and crime associated with a heavy American military presence since World War II.

But, after failing to find an alternative location for the base in Japan, the premier backtracked and decided to keep it on the island, enraging Okinawans and his pacifist coalition partners the Social Democrats.

The left-leaning group quit his three-party coalition on Sunday, weakening the government in parliament's upper house ahead of elections for the chamber expected on July 11, in which the DPJ expects to take a beating.

Hatoyama said he had also asked the DPJ's most influential figure, secretary general Ichiro Ozawa, to quit. Both Hatoyama and Ozawa have been embroiled in a political funding scandal.

Hatoyama's wealthy mother handed large donations to his electoral warchest, triggering a criminal investigation that saw a close aide receive a suspended jail term.

Ozawa, described as the "Shadow Shogun" for his power behind the throne, has seen three of his current and former aides indicted for cooking the books. Prosecutors have also questioned Ozawa himself and raided his offices.

Hatoyama identified the funding scandals and the Okinawa issue as the two main reasons for his demise.

"I have caused trouble for the people of Okinawa," he said.

"Cooperation between Japan and the United States is inevitable for peace and security in East Asia, so I had to ask Okinawans, with regret, to bear the burden."

Apart from the finance minister, other potential successors include Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Transport Minister Seiji Maehara and Deputy Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Tokyo share prices rallied on Hatoyama's exit.

"The PM's resignation will provide some stability to the market short-term as it removes big uncertainties" regarding overall policies, Citigroup trader Mattia Ciancaleoni told Dow Jones Newswires.

Thai PM survives no-confidence vote

BANGKOKThailand's premier easily survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote Wednesday over his handling of deadly street protests, but a row erupted within his fragile ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been accused by his political opponents of violating human rights in the tense standoff between protesters and armed troops, who fired live rounds during several confrontations in the capital.

Thanks to his ruling coalition's majority in the lower house, however, the censure motion submitted by the opposition was rejected by 246 votes to 186.

The Red Shirts' rally, broken up on May 19 in an army assault on their vast encampment in the retail heart of Bangkok, sparked outbreaks of violence that have left 89 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

The Red Shirts were campaigning for elections they hoped would oust the government, which they view as undemocratic because it came to power with the backing of the army after a court ruling threw out the previous administration.

Deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban, reviled by many protesters because he oversaw an earlier deadly crackdown on April 10, also survived a no-confidence vote, along with the foreign, finance, interior and transport ministers.

But a row flared within the coalition government as the Bhumjai Thai party said it could no longer work with Puea Pandin lawmakers who withheld votes of confidence in the interior and transport ministers, both from Bhumjai Thai.

Deputy Transport Minister Suchart Chokchaiwattanakorn demanded the premier "choose between" the two parties.

"The prime minister must give an answer within this week," said Suchart, who belongs to Bhumjai Thai. "But I can assure you that these two parties cannot work together any longer."

The two parties each have 32 seats in the lower house of parliament and if one bolts it would leave Abhisit's coalition with a very narrow majority of 243 seats out of 475.

Abhisit has defended the government's handling of the two months of protests in Bangkok, which dealt a heavy blow to Thailand's key tourism sector, blaming "terrorists" for inciting unrest.

"The government and army had no intention to attack people," the British-born, Oxford-educated head of the establishment Democrat Party told reporters on Monday ahead of the two-day censure debate in parliament.

"What had happened was there was a militia group which attacked the military and that led to clashes. We will explain this fact and we show our sincerity by allowing an independent committee to investigate" the events, he added.

Abhisit, who does not have to face voters until the end of next year, had proposed November elections in a bid to end the protests, but he said over the weekend that it would now be "difficult" to have polls this year.

Protest leaders surrendered after the army stormed their rally base but enraged demonstrators set fire to dozens of major buildings in the capital.

The government on Saturday lifted a night-time curfew imposed 10 days earlier, saying the situation was returning to normal, but it left in place emergency rule across more than one-third of the country, including Bangkok.

Lawyers for Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former premier accused by the government of bankrolling the protests and inciting unrest, said Monday they had hired an international war crimes expert to help investigate the crackdown.

A Thai court last week approved an arrest warrant on terrorism for Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives overseas to avoid a jail term imposed in absentia for corruption.

'Smokin' Joe Frazier to hand award to Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines – Legendary boxer and former world heavyweight champion "Smokin" Joe Frazier will present the prestigious "Fighter of the Year" award to pound-for-pound king and "Fighter of the Decade" Manny Pacquiao on Friday in New York (Saturday in Manila).

Wesley So claims 3rd Battle of GMs

MANILA, Philippines – Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So scored back-to-back wins in the last 2 rounds to capture his 3rd Battle of GMs crown at the Character Hotel in Tagaytay City on Wednesday.

Torre shines in Canadian chess tournament

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine chess icon Grandmaster (GM) Eugene Torre flashed his old deadly form when he beat local International Master (IM) Raja Panjwani in the 9th and final round of the 3rd Calgary International Chess Classic at the Calgary Chess Club in Alberta, Canada.

Int'l bowlers, OFWs in RP Open Bowling tilt

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino bowlers will go against international players as well as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the upcoming 39th Philippine International Open Tenpin Bowling Championships (39th PIO) in Manila.

Angping reports PSC's good financial standing

MANILA, PhilippinesOutgoing chairman Harry Angping said on Wednesday he would be leaving a financially stable Philippine Sports Commission to the incoming head of the governments funding arm for sports.

The next chairman will have a lot of cash. Immediately, he will enjoy the benefits of the savings that we made. He (next chair) will have nothing to worry about as long as finances are concerned, Angping said.

After one year and four months in the post, Angping managed to cut the agencys expenses and settle its debts. The PSC will also save P1.5 million in monthly water bills because of the deep well built near the baseball park that will be operational next week.

Angping added that the PSC had no more long-standing debts and would be getting P40 to P45 million a month from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

The former Manila congressman and softball president said he has decided to file his courtesy resignation either on June 30 or July 1 to give presumptive president-elect Benigno Noynoy Aquino III a free hand to choose his successor.

Texters crush Painters for 10th straight win

MANILA, Philippines -- Ten and counting for Talk 'N Text (TNT). The Tropang Texters scored another lopsided win, this time against Rain or Shine, 104-85, for their 10th straight victory in the KFC-PBA Fiesta Conference Wednesday night at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Lakers seek repeat, revenge vs Celtics


LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Kobe Bryant powers the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers into an NBA Finals showdown against the Boston Celtics, who seek a repeat of their 2008 title victory over the Lakers.

The Celtics have beaten the Lakers in the finals nine times and lost only twice, but the history that has made this the NBA's most legendary rivalry will not matter when the best-of-seven showdown starts Thursday at Los Angeles.

"Celtics-Lakers means more to each guy because of the history, even to the young guys," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "But 2008 was 2008. We're not going to lean a lot on that. They are a totally different team."

Bryant remains the spark for the Lakers, who have won 15 titles in club history, second only to the 17 captured by the Celtics.

"You love him if he's with your team and you don't like him when he's on the other team," Rivers said of Bryant. "He has the ability to drive himself and will shots (into the basket)."

Boston has only lost three times in a final, but two of those were in 1985 and 1987 to the Lakers.

"I want to go out and win a championship again," said Boston star and 2008 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Paul Pierce. "So many things motivate you in the finals."

The Lakers might take motivation from the last game of the 2008 final, when new arrivals Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Pierce in claiming Boston's first title since 1986 with a 131-92 rout.

"Everybody on our team remembers what happened," Lakers center Andrew Bynum said.

Bryant looks back at that loss as a turning point for his club, which beat Orlando in last year's final and will try to become the first repeat champion since the Lakers won three in a row from 2000-2002.

"They taught us what it takes to win," Bryant said. "We have what it takes to win – in terms of defense, energy and rebounding – more than we had two years ago."

A fifth NBA title in 11 years for Bryant and the Lakers would give him one more than former Laker star Shaquille O'Neal, who left the club after joining Bryant in the "Three-peat" and won a crown with Miami.

Bryant, already the Lakers' all-time scoring leader at age 31, would cement his legacy among the all-time Laker greats like Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

It will be a third trip to the NBA Finals in three Laker seasons for Pau Gasol, the Spanish seven-footer who replaced "Shaq" as the vital Laker big man.

James Tells CNN That Cavaliers Have Edge in Re-Signing Him

from NYT > Pro Basketball by By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

In his first interview since the Cavaliers' season ended with a second-round loss to the Boston Celtics, James told CNN's Larry King that Cleveland had "an edge" to re-sign him when free agency begins July 1.

King, who interviewed James at his home near Akron on Tuesday, asked him if Cleveland had "an edge going in."

"Absolutely," James said in a portion of the interview released by CNN. "Because, you know, this city, these fans, I mean, have given me a lot in these seven years. And, you know, for me, it's comfortable. So I've got a lot of memories here. And so it does have an edge."

The interview will be shown Friday on "Larry King Live." Other than his postgame interview, James has not talked to the news media since the Cavaliers were eliminated by the Celtics.

James, 25, heads a star-studded free agency class that also includes Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer. James has not given any other hints about his plans, saying only that he and his team of advisers will weigh all the options.

The Knicksthe Nets and the Chicago Bulls are among the teams expected to make a strong push to sign James.

Boy Abunda: I'm qualified to be tourism secretary

MANILA, Philippines - TV talk show host Boy Abunda on Wednesday said he was hurt by insinuations that an entertainer like himself is unfit to join the Cabinet of incoming President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

Carmen Soo spotted with her new BF?

MANILA, Philippines - Carmen Soo and director Lino Cayetano on Tuesday night watched the special screening of "Noy" together in a Quezon City mall, fueling speculations that they are dating.

Derek Ramsay denies existence of gay sex video

by by Napoleon Quintos,, and Reyma Buan-Deveza,
MANILA, Philippines – Derek Ramsay has laughed off a claim that he was videotaped having sex with another man. Ramsay, whose girlfriend is "Rubi" lead star Angelica Panganiban, categorically denied the existence of his supposed gay sex video.

Call center industry at no risk from 'jejemon' culture

MANILA, Philippines - The much-talked-about "jejemon" culture does not pose a risk to the reputation of the Philippines as a top outsourcing destination, with a highly-skilled English-speaking labor force.

Chocolate may cut cholesterol but only in some people: study

by Reuters
NEW YORK - Eating chocolate could bring down cholesterol levels -- but only in small amounts and only in some people, according to an analysis of eight studies.

Laguna town prevents demolition of Rizal mom's home

SAN PEDRO, Laguna, PhilippinesThe city government of Bian in Laguna on Wednesday stopped the demolition of the 200-year-old ancestral home of the family of Teodora Alonso, mother of national hero Jose Rizal, and announced plans to acquire the property so as not to lose the citys cultural heritage to a resort in Bataan.

The two-story house, with a floor-area of about 600 square meters, was built in the 1800s in the heart of the city opposite what is now the Bian city hall.

The house, locally known as the Alberto Mansion, was owned by the family of Jose Alberto Alonso, the father of Teodora.

According to the local group United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development, the current property owner Gerardo Alberto, had closed a deal to sell off the house to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, a heritage resort, in Bagac, Bataan.

It said about 20 percent of the houses interior was already demolished as of this week.

All the antique furniture were already taken out. The ceiling was also already taken off, said Rosauro Sta. Maria, the groups president and executive director, whose honorary chairman is also Bian Mayor Marlyn Alonte-Naguiat.

Sta. Maria said the demolition was being carried out despite the non-issuance of a demolition permit by the city government to the property owner.

We fully understand the plight of the Albertoshow costly it is to maintain such an old house and maybe that was why they were forced to sell it, said Sta. Maria.

But Sta. Maria appealed to the Albertos not to take the valuable piece of heritage out of Bian as losing it means losing the identity of the city.

Understanding the present, means knowing the glorious past, he said, adding that little is known about Bian being a part of the history.

He said both Rizals parents, Franciso Mercado and Toedora, were natives of Bian. The hero himself spent years in Bian while he was in grade school.

I asked our city engineering office to order a halt to the demolition. We have not issued them a permit for the demolition, said Vice Mayor Arman Dimaguila in a phone interview.

He said the city council in a hearing on Thursday will discuss the mechanics of acquiring the house, which the city government could renovate to house a proposed Binan cultural affairs office.

The house was priced between P500,000 and P1 million.

Our call is for the Albertos to heed the proposal of the city government of Bian. If that wont do, we are appealing to Jerry Acuzar, owner of the heritage resort, to instead donate the house to Bian City and we will forever be indebted to him, Sta Maria said.

Bryan Jason Borja, artistic director of the United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development, said they were organizing a cultural protest and were inviting artists and cultural workers to join their campaign against the demolition of the heritage home.

Moon to turn red during partial lunar eclipse this month -- Pagasa

According to the agencys astronomical diary for June, a lunar eclipse will appear as a partial lunar eclipse in the country on June 26. Around half of the moon will be covered, with PAGASA estimating the eclipses magnitude (the size of the eclipsed part) at 54.2 percent.

The eclipse will begin at 4:55 p.m. local time, with the greatest eclipse at 7:38 p.m. and end at 10:21 p.m.

Lunar eclipses are safe to watch and observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes. A pair of binoculars will help magnify the view and will make the red coloration of the moon brighter, said PAGASA Administrator Prisco Nilo.

The annual Bootid meteor shower will also be active from June 26 to July 2. While the peak of the shower is slated for June 27, PAGASA said little or no showers are expected to be visible because of a full moon on June 26.

The shower comes from debris ejected by Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke. The radiant of the shower will originate from the constellation of Bootes, the Herdsman, which lies in the northern sky.

Also in June, nights in the country will be shortest and the daytime longest at the Summer solstice on June 21. During the summer solstice, the northern part of earth tilts towards the sun with the sun seemingly at a stand still in the sky.

Some countries and cultures in the northern hemisphere consider the summer solstice as the first day of the summer season while cultures in the southern hemisphere consider it the first day of winter.

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