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

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 12, 2010 Major News Stories

Oil firms slash oil prices Monday

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) Major oil firms Petron Corp. and Pilipinas Shell will roll back oil prices by P1.50 per liter effective Monday morning, both firms said on Sunday.

Both firms will implement the price adjustment on their diesel, gasoline, and kerosene products. Petron will implement the price cuts at 6 a.m., while Shell vice president for communications Roberto Kanapi said Shell's price cuts will take effect 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Petron said the price cut was brought by the "decrease in international market prices and the effect of the zero tariff on crude oil and finished petroleum products."

Meanwhile, Seaoil Philippines slashed prices of gasoline, diesel and kerosene also by P1.50 a liter effective Sunday.

Small oil players, led by the Independent Philippine Petroleum Companies Association (IPPCA), had slammed the tariff reduction, stressing that this would create an uneven playing field for importers and refiners.
Contrary to their complaints however, oil majors, particularly Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., had been stressing that the reduction would actually help the energy industry cut down on its operating costsa move expected to possibly redound to lower oil prices on the retail level.
Edgar Chua, country chair of Shell Companies in the Philippines, explained that theoretically, the impact of the tariff reduction would be lower costs on the operations of local oil companies. He estimated the cost reduction to be about 70 to 80 centavos a liter.

Data from the DOE showed that as of July 6, the Dubai crude averaged $71 a barrel, still lower compared to the $74-a-barrel average in June.
The price of unleaded gasoline based on the Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS) benchmark also fell to an average of $81 a barrel within the first six days of July, from the previous months average of $83 a barrel.
MOPS-based diesel prices meanwhile slightly rose to $83 a barrel in the July 1-6 period, compared to $87 a barrel in June.

PISTON to hold protest caravan, submit wish list to Aquino

MANILA, Philippines - More than 500 drivers of the Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide or PISTON will be holding a protest caravan this week to present their 'wish list' to President Benigno Aquino III.

Gullas: Bus tragedies show need for Cebu MRT

MANILA, Philippines - Recent bus accidents that led to 36 fatalities and injured 48 others, underscores Cebu's need for a safe and modern overhead mass rail transit (MRT) system, Cebu Representative Eduardo Gullas said on Sunday.

8 wage petitions still being heard—DoLE

MANILA, PhilippinesEight wage petitions pending with other Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs) nationwide, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a news release.

There are at least eight petitions pending. The petitions range from P50 to P128.60 across-the-board daily wage increase, and RTWPBs concerned are currently holding a series of sectoral consultations and public hearings on said petitions, she said.

The labor chief said the RTWPBs of Regions 7 and Caraga are in the advanced stages of consultations and deliberations, and are expected to issue their wage orders soon.

Earlier, the RTWPB in Metro Manila had issued Wage Order 15 granting a P22 daily wage hike to all NCR minimum wage earners in the private sector.

The rules and regulations for the wage order were issued last June 29, 2010 and the wage increase took effect July 1, 2009.

The wage order sets the new minimum wage in Metro Manila at P404 per day for non-agricultural workers and P367 for workers in agriculture, private hospitals with bed capacity of 100 or less, retail/service establishments with 15 or less markers and manufacturing establishments with less than 10 workers.

As in previous wage orders, a one-year exemption may be granted to certain types of establishments, such as distressed establishments, retail/service establishments regularly employing not more than 10 workers, establishments whose total assets are not more than P3 million, and establishments adversely affected by natural calamities.

September 15 is the deadline for the filing of exemption to the wage increase.

Baldoz, who has just been appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as the new labor secretary, earlier said there is a need to study and review the countrys wage setting mechanism through extensive consultation for the National Wages and Productivity Commission.

She said the commission must come out with technically sound guidelines in determining what should contain a two-tier wage fixing system with a minimum wage as basic floor wage or safety wage for all workers across all industries and regions, as well as performance-based wage increases and bonuses using industry wage as basis for negotiations for unions and employees.

The idea is to determine additional wage increases on top of new wage that will keep body and soul together, which will be in the form of incentives, profit sharing, bonuses, etc. and on the basis of productivity and company viability, Baldoz said.

DoLE mulls wage hike based on industry performance


The Department of Labor Employment (DoLE) is considering adopting a performance-based payroll system as a new standard in assessing wage increases.

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz directed the National Wage and Productivity Commission (NWPC) to come out with guidelines for a two-tier system which would use the minimum wage as a base supplemented with productivity-based increases and bonuses scheme depending on the standard for a specific industry.

"The idea is to determine additional wage increase on top of a new wage that will keep the body and soul together, which will be in the form of incentive, profit sharing, bonuses, et cetera, and on the basis of productivity and company viability," Baldoz said.

Under the current Wage Rationalization Act Republic Act 6727, labor groups or other stakeholders are required to file their wage petitions with designated Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs).

The RTWPBs, the government agencies under the NWPC assigned to process wage increase in the regions of the country, are still processing the petitions by holding dialogues among the government representatives, employers, and workers to come up with a compromise.

There are still eight petitions for wage increases filed by different labor groups awaiting the approval by different regional wage regulating boards.

"RTWPBs concerned are currently holding a series of sectoral consultations and public hearings on the said petitions," Baldoz said in a statement.

The petitions filed by four labor groups, some of which have been recorded since last year, range from a P50 to P128.60 across-the-board (ATB) daily wage increase.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) filed for a P75 ATB increase in Region 4-A, Region 10, and Region 11; P50 ATB in Region 6 (together with the Philippine Integrated Industry) and Region 9; P65 ATB in Region 4-B; P60 ATB in Cararag; P100 ATB in Region 7 (the Alliance of Progressive Labor and the Shemberg Employees Independent Union, filed a separate P128.60 ATB wage increase).

Among the list, only the petitions from the Caraga Region and Region 7 are now in its final stages of being approved by the RTWPBs.

TUCP also filed for a P75 ATB wage increase at the National Capital Region (NCR), but the RTWPB at NCR only approved a P22 daily wage hike for all NCR minimum wage earners in the private sector instead.

The new wage order in NCR, which was approved in July 1 with the necessary rule and regulation, provides a P404 per day increase to non-agricultural workers and P367 for employees in agriculture, small private hospitals with 100 or fewer bed capacity retail and service establishment 15 or fewer markers, and manufacturing establishments fewer than 10 workers.

Companies regularly employing fewer than 10 workers, adversely affected by calamities, or whose total asset is P3 million or less in the NCR may file for a one-year exemption from the increase before the September 10 deadline.

Meanwhile, the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) has refiled a P125 ATB wage increase petition under house bill 375, directly in congress, during a courtesy call at DOLE last Friday.

"Our appeal to P-Noy is to release a statement declaring the bill as urgent," Executive Vice Chairman Joselito Ustarez told the Manila Bulletin.

KMU has decided not to file a wage petition at the RTWPB.

Ustarez also raised issues about the unresolved killings of labor leaders, militarization in work places, and unsupported cases filed against one of their detained members, Vincent Borja.

250 ka pasyente gihatagan og health insurance

MOABOT sa 250 ka mga pasyente sa Metro Cebu ang hatagan og libreng health insurance sa Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) uban sa pag-abag sa Phil. Health Insurance Corp. kun Philhealth.

Usa ka kasabutan ang gilagdaan sa DSWD-7 ug Philhealth alang sa maong programa.

Gipahibawo ni Jaybee Carillo sa DSWD-7, nga ang 250 ka mga pasyente mao ang mga "perennial clients" kun nagbalikbalik na sa Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) sa DSWD-7.

Ubos sa kasabutan, ang DSWD maoy moila ug molista sa qualified indigent family ug mosiguro sa pagpagawas sa pundo.

Ang matag pasyente dunay P600 nga budget alang sa iyang premium.

Ang PhilHealth sa ilang bahin nitanyag og duha ka package alang sa maong programa; ang una mao ang alang sa in ug out-patient package u gang usa alang sa outpatient consultation and diagnostic package.

Sa unang package, ang pasyente maka-avail og lawak, serbisyo sa mga health care professional, diagnostic, laboratory ug ubang medical examination services, medical facilities ug medisina.

Saa ikaduhang package, ang pasyente mahimong maka-avail og primary consultation ug laboratoryo sama sax ray, CBC, fecalysis, urinalysis ug sputum microscopy.

Ang matag beneficiary nga ilhon sa DSWD hatagan og ID sa PhilHealth.

Dengue spreading; 5,597 cases reported

Dengue - an infectious tropical disease transmitted by mosquitoes, characterized by headache, fever, pains in the joints, and skin rash - is slowly spreading around the country. A dengue epidemic has already been declared in Davao del Sur which was placed under the state of calamity effective July 7 due to the widespread outbreak of the disease. At least 14 deaths have been reported in the province. Davao del Sur provincial information officer Nilda Aniñon recalled that Davao del Sur was placed under a state of calamity during the 1980s because of the severe impact of the dry season or El Niño. "Though this is the second time that the province is declared under a state of calamity, it is the first time it is plagued by a massive dengue incidence," Aniñon said. Davao del Sur was placed under the state of calamity on July 7 during the inaugural Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) session after cases of the dreadful dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) reached 600 cases, already considered an alarming level by the Provincial Health of Office of Davao del Sur. Aniñon said most of the dengue death cases were children. Dengue is transmitted to humans by the Aedes aegypti or more rarely the aedes albopictus mosquito, both of which feed exclusively during day-light hours. The Provincial Health Office also reported that Digos City is the hardest hit among other areas of Davao del Sur with dengue cases to have reached 352. The municipality of Bansalan ranked second with 95 cases and Sta.Cruz with 57 cases, the rest of the victims are spread out in the various municipalities of the province, Aniñon said. In the Eastern Visayas, local health officials reported 37 deaths out of the 3,862 dengue cases from January to July this year. In the Cordillera region, health officials reported 539 cases for the first half of the year, a sharp increase from the 317 fever reported in the same period last year. Ifugao and Mountain Province registered unusual increases in the number of individuals with dengue fever. For the first six months of this year, Ifugao recorded 187 dengue fever cases compared to the 25 cases during the same period last year while Mountain Province had over 100 cases this year compared to the 32 cases last year. Aside from the three local governments, Apayao reported increase in dengue cases from 5 cases last year to 64 for the first semester of this year. Dr. Myrna Cabotaje, regional director of the Department of Health (DoH) in the Cordillera, said the best way to fight dengue is cleanliness coupled with the agency's "search and destroy" campaign against breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Officials said symptoms of dengue include sudden onset of fever associated with headache, muscle, and joint pains, and rashes. In Baguio City, dengue fever cases rose to over 100 cases during the first six months compared to the only 44 cases last year. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a total of 365 persons have been afflicted with dengue for the past six months. ARMM Health Secretary Kadil Sinolinding said at least six dengue-related deaths - three in May, one in March, and two in June - have been listed in Sulu where 183 cases of the killer disease have been previously reported. The other Muslim Mindanao areas which submitted dengue cases during the first semester of 2010, Sinolinding said, are Maguindanao which registered 89 incidents; Lanao del Sur, 60; and Tawi-Tawi, 33. Sinolinding, in a local radio interview, noted that most of those found suffering from the mosquito-bite-caused ailment were infants and teenagers in rural communities. In General Santos City, Dr. Jacinto Makilang, city health officer, said they already recorded at least 231 positive dengue cases from the city's 26 barangays since January and with one confirmed fatality so far. He said a two-year-old girl identified as Joanna Sophia Rabaya succumbed last Monday to complications caused by dengue hemorrhagic fever in a private hospital in the city. Makilang said that based on the initial site survey conducted by the city's sanitary inspectors, the victim could have been infected by the disease at their community in Barangay Conel here. He said the sanitary inspectors found several unattended water containers near the child's home that possibly served as breeding ground of the dengue-carrying mosquitoes. Makilang said the city's anti-dengue campaign is mainly centered on the adoption of the 4-S strategy earlier introduced by the DoH. 4-S stands for search and destroy, self-protection, seek early treatment, and say no to indiscriminate fogging. "It's important for all of us to clean up our surroundings on a regular basis and get rid of all mosquito breeding places to prevent the further spread of dengue," Makilang said. (Dexter A. See, Tony Pe. Rimando, and PNA)

Anomaliya sa Eversley Child Sanitarium nakaapekto sa pag-atiman sa pasyente

MITIYABAW na ang mga pasyente nga nag-antos sa sakit nga sangla ug mga kawani sa Eversley Child Sanitarium sa Barangay Jagobiao, dakbayan sa Mandaue sa giingong anomaliya sa pagdumala sa tambalanan.

Ang 150 ka mga pasyente ang mipadala og suwat reklamo ngadto sa Department of Health (DOH) ingon man ngadto ni Presidente Benigno Aquino III nga nagbulgar sa giingong binuhatan nila ni Dr. Primo Joel Alvez, chief of sanitarium III, ug Dr. Joanri Riveral, medical specialist II.

Base sa ilang open letter nga giduso ngadto sa kalihim sa DOH Enrique Ona nga sukad nga sila si Alvez ug Riveral mao ang ningdumala sa sanitarium gikan sa tuig 2006 ,daghan nang mga kausaban nga gipatuman.

Namatikdan sa mga pasyente nga gilisod-lisod silan ug ingon sa gi anam-anam sila og papahawa diha sa tambalanan.

Samtang ang mga sakop sa Eversley Childs Sanitarium Employees Union (ECSEU) nga adunay pag usik-usik sa pundo niini gumikan sa mismanage nila ni Alvez ug Riveral.

Gikabalak-an nga tungod niini hayan dili na nila makuha sa mga regular nga kawani ang ilang benepisyo.

Base sa ilang press statement pinitsahan og Hulyo 8 nga adunay gipahigayon nga mga unauthorized nga expansion sa hospital services ug ang pagsud sa Mandaue City College (MCC) diin dunay kabahin sa sanitarium nga gihimong classrooms.

Hinuon, nasayran sa Sun.Star Superbalita nga dunay daghang edipisyo ug mga lawak nga bakante sa compound nga giokupahan sa MCC.

Giingong mokabat sa P3.6 milyunes ang nagasto sa sanitarium sa maong expansion gikan sa April 2008 ngadto na sa May 2010.

Apan napakyas ang Sun.Star Superbalita sa pagkuha sa habig sa duha ka mga opisyal sa dihang giduaw ang sanitarium.

Fil-Am, 84, robbed, killed in Sudlon II

A Filipino-American octogenarian was killed in an apparent robbery inside his house in barangay Sudlon II located in the mountains of Cebu City early dawn yesterday.

The victim, Pedro Pantinople Kamelo, who would have turned 85 this Thursday, was found on his bed with a stab wound on the head.

The police suspect that the man, who is living off his pension from the United States, was killed during a robbery as his money and jewelry, as well as a gun, are missing.

Melecio Bacalso, 66, caretaker at the same time gardener of the victim, alleged that he went to the victim's house at 6 a.m. yesterday to wake him up, which was what he did every morning.

Bacalso lives in a house beside that of the victim.

He said that since he could not go inside the gate, he tried calling Kamelo to wake him up.

Since Kamelo did not respond, Bacalso decided to instead go to the house of the victim's brother-in-law, Domingo Balili, which is just a few meters away, to ask for assistance in waking up the victim as the gate was still locked.

Balili sent his son Al to accompany Bacalso as he had to attend to something.

Since they could not get in through the gate, Bacalso decided to climb up the fence and tried knocking at the window of the Kamelo's bedroom and still got no reply.

When he checked the surroundings, he noticed that the front door was open, so he and Al went inside and found blood coming from the victim's bedroom.

When they checked, they saw Kamelo already dead on his bed.

The victim sustained stab wounds on his head, on the right side of his face near his jaw, and had a cut above his lips.

"Pwerteng kuyawa nako oy. Wala gani ko ganiha mikaon pamahaw," Bacalso said.

They saw a knife near the bedroom's door but it was not stained with blood.

Joel Balili, another brother-in-law of the victim and brother of Domingo, suspected that the victim was robbed since the money, which he said amounted to P21,000 that was kept inside one of the drawers was missing.

The assorted pieces of jewelry, which Joel estimated to be more than P100,000, were also missing.

Bacalso said that the .45 caliber gun of the victim is also missing.

They found P11,000 cash among the scratch papers of the victim which Joel believed was part of the pension the victim received last month and was misplaced.

Joel told reporters yesterday that he accompanied the victim last Tuesday to withdraw the victim's monthly pension from a bank in the city.

Kamelo reportedly withdrew P23,000 and from the amount spent P2,000 for medicine.

Joel said that he surmised that Kamelo still had P21,000 in his possession based on the amount spent for medicine.

Bacalso, who alleged that he did not hear any commotion or strange sounds from the victim's house the previous night, said that the last time he saw the victim was at around 5 p.m. last Saturday.

The victim allegedly employed five construction workers to work on the façade of his house. The workers stopped their work at 5 p.m. and so did Bacalso, he said.

The victim was living alone since his wife and children are in the United States. He has been living in barangay Sudlon for more than a year already.

"One year na nako siya gi-amohan. Mipuyo siya diri kay ganahan lagi daw siya mag-farming," Bacalso said.

The case is jointly being investigated by the Homicide and Theft and Robbery Sections of the Cebu City Police Office.

The team has initially picked up the five construction workers to take their finger prints and as a standard operating procedure in the investigation, PO3 Celso Seville of the TRS said.

Seville said they also invited Joel for questioning.

 Joel, the policeman added, was the one who went to their office at 9 a.m. yesterday and reported the incident.

"Since wala pa ma'y matumbok na accused karon, right now, everybody is a suspect," Seville said.

Man found guilty of violating Comelec gun ban

The Regional Trial Court has sentenced a man to one year imprisonment after he was found guilty of violating the gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections. Judge Silvestre Maamo also disqualified Reysaldo Saavedra from voting and from holding public office.

Leyte-based priest faces rape charges

MANILA, Philippines – A Leyte-based priest is facing criminal charges after a 17-year old girl accused him of rape.

The victim, known only as Mutya, met the priest while she was still active in a youth organization working under the Pedro Calungsod Mission Station.

She claimed the first incident happened when she stayed over at the convent in November.

"Wag daw akong magsumbong kasi mamamatay daw ako. Sinaktan niya ako, sinampal. Iyak ako nang iyak nun! Pagkatapos naligo siya nun sa banyo nya, tapos pinakita niya sa akin ang katawan niya. Sabi niya sagrado ito, lalo na itong sa baba. Yun, pinwersa niya ako. Tinakot niya ako," Mutya said.

The victim said she was raped several times after that. She alleged the priest even had to follow her to the boarding school.

The priest supposedly warned her not to disclose anything to anyone.

The last incident happened in February this year, traumatizing Mutya. She has failed to report to school since then.

ABS-CBN Leyte tried to get the side of the priest, but officials in the convent said he has already been re-assigned somewhere else.

In a text message however, the priest apologized for the incident and asked that the charges be dropped.

Leyte Archbishop Jose Palma however denied the allegations.

In a text message, Palma said the allegation against the priest "is a lie."

Ika-25 nga sumad sa pagkawa ni Fr. Rudy Romano, gihandom

GIHANDOM kagahapon sa mga militanteng grupo ang 25 ka tuig nga anibersaryo sa pagkahanaw sa aktibistang pari nga si Fr. Rudy Romano.

Ang Task Force Detainees of the Philippines-Karapatan, Sanlakas, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan ug mga kaalyadong grupo nihalad og buwak ug nidagkot og kandila sa marker ni Romano sa dan Katipunan, barangay Tisa, siyudad sa Sugbo.

Si Dennes Abarientos sa Karapatan nipasabot nga ang 26 ka mga kandila nga ilang giugbok maoy magtimaan sa 26 ka mga desaparecidos kun mga tawong kalit nga nahanaw.

Sa maong gidugayon, nagpabilin pa gihapon ang panawagan sa grupo nga mao ang hustisya alang kang Romano apil na sa ubang desaparecidos.

Si Romano nga usa ka Redemptorist priest, naila sa iyang pagka-human rights defender ug aktibong nangampanya alang sa kagawasan niadtong panahong diktadoriya ni Ferdinand Marcos.

Niadtong Hulyo 11, 1985, gituohang gidagit si Romano human kini kalit nga nahanaw.

Dunay mga saksi nga nagtumbok nga dunay mga armadong lalake ang nisignit sa usa ka tawo samtang nagbarog sa nahisgutang dan ug kini gituohang si Romano.

Sukad niadto, wa na igkita pa si Romano bisan ang iyang lawas kon kini gipatay man.

Isip paghandom usab kang Romano, ang parokya sa Redemptorist nibukas kagahapon sa ilang photo exhibit diin mga hulagway sa na-missing nga pari ang makita sa ganghaan sa simbahan.

Sa dayong hapon, nipahigayon usab og candle lighting ang mga militante nga grupo nga ilang pahinungod usab sa uban pang mga aktibista ug mga militanteng miyembro nga kalit usab nga nangahanaw tungod sa ilang pagtuo ug baroganan.

Comelec assures smaller clusters mean shorter wait for Oct. voters

UNLIKE the May 10 polls, the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in October will be peaceful and smooth even if the precincts are clustered, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said yesterday.

BEIs sa Lapu-Lapu misalikway sa mga pasangil ni Lito Ruiz

NILUWAT na sa ilang tubag ang Board of Elections Inspectors (BEI) sa dakbayan sa Lapu-Lapu ug ningsalikway sa pasangil sa naparot nga kandidato sa pagka-kongresista nga si Joselito "Lito" Ruiz.

Sa sayo pa, nipadangat sa iyang reklamo si Ruiz ngadto sa Commission on Election (Comelec) batok sa mga BEI, Department of Education District Supervisor, school superintendent ug principal sa dakbayan.

Nipasangil si Ruiz nga ang maong mga opisyal nakalapas sa 3019 o Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act ug Omnibus Election Code labot sa giingong di makiangayong paghatag sa priority numbers sa mga botante sa piniliay
niadtong Hunyo 10.

"It is worth noting that the allegation of the complainant that all BEIs distributed priority numbers without prior notice to the public and to the Election Officer are couched in general terms and short on specifics," tipik sa joint affidavit sa 570 ka BEIs.

Giklaro sa BEIs nga gipahinumdoman sila ni City Election Officer Atty. Ferdinand Gujilde nga mohimo og pamaagi aron mamintinar sa botasyon.

Canoy says Reluya motion "vague and misleading"

San Fernando Mayor Antonio Canoy has opposed the Motion for Clarification filed by losing candidate Lakambini Reluya on the decision of the court that denied her earlier motion to dispense with the authentication of the Precinct Court Optical Scan (PCOS) machines relative to her election protest against Canoy.

Comelec urged to act fast on Compostela row

Three members of the Provincial Board want the Commission on Elections to immediately resolve the "political unrest" in Compostela before the current situation affects the delivery of basic services in the town.

Trouble in Lupon

SOME active and regular members of the award-winning Lupong Tagapamayapa in Cebu City's barangays agreed yesterday to question the legality of the election last July 3 in their league.

DILG chief orders probe on STL-jueteng link

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines Newly appointed Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo on Sunday said he would ask the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to review the operations of the small town lottery (STL) and verify reports that it was a front for the illegal numbers game jueteng.

We need to clarify whats really happening on the ground, he said in a phone interview.

Robredo has been directed by President Benigno Aquino III to stamp out jueteng, which is played mostly by the poor. It generates billions of pesos for operators, who usually bribe police, military and government officials to stay in business.

The PCSO started test runs for the STL in several provinces and cities in February 2006 with the aim of eliminating jueteng. A priest and two bishops have claimed, however, that STL is serving as a front for jueteng.

Robredo, a multi-awarded former mayor of Naga City, said removing STL would be a policy that needed to be defined by the [Aquino] administration.

In the absence of such a policy, he said STL operations in the meantime should be above board and with safeguards to make sure the government was properly benefiting from its proceeds.

We should strengthen STL, he said.

The campaign to stamp out jueteng and the review of STL operations would be done nationwide, Robredo said.

Pampanga and Isabela, he said, would not be singled out because the former governors there, Fr. Eddie Panlilio and Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca, respectively, were his colleagues in Kaya Natin!, a movement for ethical leadership and good governance.

In Pampanga, Panlilio and Bishop Pablo Virgilio David earlier said that STL worked as a cover for jueteng.

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said the same ploy was happening in other areas.

Jueteng was stopped in the province in September 2007, according to the Pampanga police.

Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda believed that jueteng operations had stopped in her province. Pinedas husband, Rodolfo or Bong, was among the suspected operators called to the hearings when Congress investigated three jueteng scandals in 1998, 2000 and 2005.

STL and jueteng are almost identical. The only difference is that bets on jueteng are placed on a number pair chosen from 1 to 37. In STL, the choices are from 1 to 40.

In Pampanga, number pairs that STL bettors choose are written on two-inch wide, 14-inch long sheets called papelitos (small pieces of paper).

The first of two sheets comes in yellow and printed with PCSO. The second sheet is a blank white paper. Both sheets do not bear serial numbers or other security marks, making them easy to reproduce.

This system, which includes the non-issuance of an official receipt, makes the proceeds and income hard to account for.

Known jueteng kubrador (bet collectors) and cabo (area managers) have also been tapped in STL operations in Pampanga.

In an earlier interview, Cruz, chair of the Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Sugal (Peoples Crusade Against Gambling), said reports he received indicated that STL operations were used as fronts for jueteng.

They are one and the same anyway, as the STL uses the same structure of juetengsame bet collector, same cabo, same rebisador (bet reviewer), he said.

No official receipts are issued to STL bettors because the PCSO has not used hand-held terminals supplied by a Korean company. The firm has sued the PCSO for nonpayment of the terminals.

Already delivered, the terminals were supposed to issue tickets as proof of payment and a record of the number pairs that a bettor had chosen.

The STL terminal project was approved in April 2009 and was intended for 22 STL operators in 16 towns and three cities, said Romualdo Quiones, PCSO STL project director, in an earlier interview.

Marius Roque, a priest in Pampanga, said Mr. Aquino should also end STL because it stands as a front for gambling lords.

Legal or illegal, the STL and jueteng both drain the money of the people from their table. If the STL is meant to help the poor, why did they increase the numbers from 37 to 40? The chance of winning became little. If it is really the STL, why doesn't it have projects in every village? The permit holder gets a lot of money. We see no visible projects, Roque said.

The PCSO said Suncove Corp., STL agent in Pampanga, remitted P31.9 million to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, P58.8 million to 21 towns and city, P29.4 million to the provincial government, P14.7 million to four legislative districts, P29.4 million to the police and P55.9 million to the PCSO charity fund as of 2009.

But Panlilio said he believed more money should have entered the public coffers if the STLs collection of bets, remittance and the three draws daily were closely regulated.

He estimated that if bets collected in every barangay amounted to a low of P10,000 per draw, that could have generated P5.1 million from the 510 villages in Pampanga.

Three draws daily could amount to P15.3 million or P459 million in 30 days, he said.

Suncove obtained permits based on Resolution No. 63 of the Pampanga Mayors League in 2006. The PCSO board granted Suncove an authority to conduct a test run in 2006. The permit was renewed in 2008.

Sen. Edgardo Angara said Mr. Aquino might have given Robredo a mission impossible when he ordered the latter to stop jueteng.

So many Presidents had vowed, tried but failed to stop it because it seems jueteng is so rampant and embedded in our society, Angara said in a phone interview on Sunday.

No Press Secretary under Aquino government?

It is likely that there will be no Press Secretary under the administration of President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy"C. Aquino III. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that under the restructured Office of the Press Secretary (OPS), the position of the Press Secretary may likely be renamed, while all government television and radio stations, as well as the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) will be part of the Communications Group of the Aquino administration. If plans push through, this would be the first time since 1986, when then President Corazon C. Aquino created the OPS, that there is no Press Secretary in the Cabinet. Lacierda, however, stressed that the OPS will not be dissolved, just reorganized. The composition of the Communications Group, made up of people who have the trust and confidence of President Aquino, will be known this Monday, Lacierda said. "These are the people who have the trust and confidence of the President. That is the basis and their competence and integrity ay walang kaduda-duda [are without any doubt]," Lacierda said on Saturday over government-run DZRB. "What I can say, at least in my case, the Presidential Spokesperson will now be part of the Communications Group," Lacierda explained. The Presidential Spokesperson used to be a part of the Office of the President (OP) in previous administrations. This time, it will be part of the Communications Group. "Ang maganda dito, hindi hiwalay ang Press Secretary and [Presidential] Spokesperson so mas defined ang roles ng bawat isa," he explained. ["What's good about this is that the Press Secretary and the Presidential Spokesperson are under one department so everyone has defined roles."] "That's why President Aquino said that he wants an organization that will deliver the messages effectively and that would provide a feedback mechanism to what the government is doing. So based along those instructions and that mandate, we reorganized the Communications Group, the Office of the Press Secretary," he said. Asked to confirm the positions that will be given to television newscaster Ricky Carandang and newspaper columnists Herminio "Sonny" Coloma and Manuel "Manolo" Quezon III, Lacierda was firm in saying that all the details will be announced this Monday. Initial reports disclosed that Coloma will be assigned to handle media operations, including government-run television and radio stations, while Carandang will focus on messaging, including the Presidential News Desk. Carandang's resignation was already announced by ABS-CBN over the weekend. Malacañang, however, remained mum on further details, saying all the information regarding the Communications Group will be announced this Monday. "We have more details to give. It's not that simple but we will announce everything by Monday," Lacierda said. He said the structure is currently being finalized. "My position is there is no official statement until there is an official announcement from the Palace. Aayusin lahat yang mga concerns, mga details ilalabas ng Monday," he said. ["We will heed all the concerns and come out with the details on Monday."] It's not just about Ricky [Carandang] and Sonny Coloma," he said. "It will be too premature to explain everything right now," he added. Lacierda, however, assured that the Communications Group will be accessible to the media. "We need to speak with one voice and share with the public President Aquino's advocacies and asahan niyo na magiging accessible [you can expect that the group will be accessible to the media]," he said.

Former president's grandson joins Aquino's communications group

MANILA, Philippines - Television host and columnist Manuel "Manolo" Quezon III will also be joining the highly touted communications group of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, sources said.

Lacson will not exploit ties with new NBI chief

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Panfilo Lacson will not exploit his ties with newly-appointed National Bureau of Investigation Director Magtanggol Gatdula.

Lacson's associates in Aquino gov't questioned

What are Ping's men doing under the Aquino administration?

Another impeachment case awaits Ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines - An impeachment case will be filed against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez once the 15th Congress opens.

Gutierrez asked to prove judicial independence

Malacañang challenged Ombudsman Merceditas "Merci" Gutierrez on Sunday to prove her independence in handling cases that might be filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

GMA appointed 13 more a day after Aquino's proclamation

In addition to the 200 or so "midnight appointments" by ex-President Arroyo, she signed 13 more appointments just a day after Noynoy Aquino was proclaimed President-elect, or a full three months into the Constitutional ban on appointments. Three of the appointees were among those who passed a government resolution "legalizing" their own appointments.
Arroyo signed the appointments on June 10, 2010 even as dusk had settled on her presidency. She did so even though the day before, June 9, the joint congressional committee of Congress, which canvassed the votes, had already proclaimed Benigno Simeon Aquino III as the new President of the Republic.

Article VII, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution makes it clear: "Two months immediately before the next Presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety."

As it was, Arroyo had already come under fire for naming an army of appointees – by the most reliable count about 200 at least – to various government positions, including lucrative directorships in government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), just days before the March 10 cut-off for appointments set by the Constitution.

But documents obtained by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) show that Arroyo made another batch of appointments as late as a mere 20 days before she handed the reins of power to Aquino. More to the point, the appointments were made a full three months into the constitutional prohibition on appointments.

Appointments "to rank"

In a June 10, 2010 letter to Career Executive Service Board (CESB) chairman Bernardo P. Abesamis signed by Arroyo and endorsed by her Executive Secretary, Leandro Mendoza, Arroyo appointed 13 senior officials to the next higher rank in the Career Executive Service (CES). The appointees "to rank" include three department undersecretaries, four regional directors, and several directors of various agencies.

These 13 officials are:
1. Defense Undersecretary Proceso Domingo, appointed to the rank of CESO 1;
2. Public Works Regional Director Angelito Twano to CESO III; 
3. Presidential Management Staff Director Susan Solo to CESO III; 
4. Agriculture Regional Director Remedios Ongtangco to CESO III; 
5. National Food Authority Department Manager Mercedes Yacapin to CESO IV;
6. Department of Education Regional Director Teofila Villanueva to CESO III;
7. Philippine Orthopedic Center Chief of Medical Professional Staff Luisito Maano to CESO V; 
8. Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar to CESO I; 
9. Science and Technology Undersecretary Graciano Yumul to CESO I; 
10. Interior and Local Government Regional Director Evelyn Trompeta to CESO II; 
11. Trade and Industry Provincial Director Desiderio Belas to CESO III; and 
12-13. Presidential Management Staff Directors Irene Calingo and Josephine Raynes to CESO III. 

"Pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, (the 13 officials are) hereby appointed to ranks in the Career Executive Service (CES)," Arroyo said in her letter to Abesamis. The appointment of an official "to rank" is in effect a promotion to the next higher salary rank within the same government position.

Professionalizing ranks

The Career Executive Service (CES) was created by then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 to serve as a professional pool of government career administrators. In theory, the CES system should shield the bureaucracy from the politicizing influence of whoever is in power. 

The CES consists of six ranks, with the highest reserved for CESO I, with salary grade 30, just three grades below the president, and the lowest being CESO VI, with a salary grade of 25. 

According to former Civil Service Commission (CSC) chairperson Karina David, the appointments to rank clearly violate the constitutional ban on appointments that starts two months before a presidential election and stays until the end of the outgoing president's term. 

Still an appointment

"Appointment to rank is an appointment and therefore covered by the midnight appointment ban," David told the PCIJ. "Tingnan mo na lang, what were the words used in the approval letter of the president? Hindi ba 'appointment'?"

But CESB officials have been quick to defend Arroyo's appointments. According to CESB deputy executive director Arturo Lachica, the eight-member board had passed a resolution "clarifying" the ban on appointments. In Lachica's view, the resolution effectively legalized appointments to rank during the election ban.

"The Board has taken the position that the ban on appointments does not cover the appointment to rank," said Lachica, "because appointment to rank is not the appointment contemplated by the ban." 

CESB Resolution 870, approved by the board on June 2, 2010, states that "appointment to a CES rank cannot properly be deemed synonymous to an appointment to a position in the legal sense for it is merely a completion of a previous appointment and does not entail the conferment of an authority to exercise the functions of an office."

Under civil service rules, the president makes appointments based on the CESB's recommendations. The CESB in turn bases these appointments on the recommendations of the heads of agencies.


But the PCIJ has learned that three members of the CES Board that signed Resolution 870 allowing appointments during the election ban are themselves among the direct beneficiaries of the Resolution. Defense Undersecretary Domingo, Public Works Regional Director Twano, and Presidential Management Staff Director Solo are members of the CESB's eight-person board. 

All three affixed their signatures on the board resolution allowing appointments to rank despite the election ban. All three of them were among the 13 officials that the same board recommended for appointment by Arroyo and whose June 10 appointments are now being questioned. 

The long and short of it: The three signed the resolution that exempted their own appointments from the election ban. 

"It is really a conflict of interest," David says. 

She adds that Solo, as a director in the Presidential Management Staff, also heads the group that reviewed the recommendations for appointments. "It is PMS that reviews the recommendations from the CESB, and Solo is the head of the unit of the PMS in charge of reviewing these recommendations," David points out. "Patong-patong ang conflict of interest (There are numerous conflicts of interest)."

The CESB website describes Solo as "the Acting Head of the President's Personnel Group Secretariat." Solo started her career as a Presidential Staff officer under then President Corazon Aquino.

Late resolution

There is also the fact that CESB was already recommending appointments to rank during the election ban even before it decided to issue its "clarification." 

For instance, the board recommended to Malacañang the appointments of Maano, Salazar, and Yumul on May 18, 2010, or more than two months after the election ban, but nearly a month before the board issued its resolution justifying election-ban appointments. The recommendations to appoint Belas and Ongtangco, meanwhile, were made on June 2, 2010, the same day the board released the resolution.

Confronted with these details, Lachica said: "You have to ask the board na. Pero ang ano kasi diyan, dito sa resolution, apparently kasama sila (You have to ask the board that. But the thing is, here in the resolution, apparently they're included)."

But Lachica stressed that the appointees were all eligible for the appointments. Twano, for example, had been conferred CES eligibility as early as March 2000, but merely neglected to apply for CESO rank until recently. Added Lachica: "Domingo was already CESO even before, and Susan Solo was also CESO. Their ranks were just adjusted."

Pay adjustments

Asked if this adjustment in rank also carried with it an adjustment in pay, Lachica admitted that there was a "step increment" in pay that resulted from the Arroyo appointments. The constitutional ban on appointments was meant to prevent senior government officials from politicizing the bureaucracy by currying favors through appointments or promotions during the last days of their term of office. This is also why Article XXII Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code prohibits promotions or increases in salaries of government officials during an election period.

Lachica, however, said that these salary adjustments were insignificant. "The increases are just P1,000," he told PCIJ. "In some cases, it won't even reach that." 

"That's not true," David countered. "That is not just P1,000. From Director IV to Assistant Secretary, that's several thousands. And besides, that is not the point. The point is, it is still wrong."

Asked if the salary adjustments would violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the ban on promotions and appointments, Lachica replied, "It was the board's decision. The board simply looked into the aspect of the appointments. The issue on the salary increase, that is negligible and it was no longer taken into account because the board has already said the appointment to rank is different from appointment to position."

Grey area

To former 1987 Constitutional Commission delegate Rene Sarmiento, though, these appointments "to rank" make up what he called a "grey area" in the deliberations for the 1987 Constitution. He said that while it was clear that appointments to positions were prohibited by the election ban, the Commission failed to make a call on appointments to rank.

"The intention was that two months before the presidential election, up to the end of the term, you cannot make appointments," said Sarmiento, who is now an Elections commissioner. "(But) these appointments to rank look legally debatable. Grey area ito."

Sarmiento, however, said that any adjustment in salaries may already be covered by the ban.

Spirit of ban

"If we are to extend or expand the meaning of promotions," he said, "then we can say that this is really not permitted, because the salaries go up along with the ranks."

"The spirit of the provision (on election ban appointments) will be eroded especially if it (the ban) will not prejudice the performance of the government," Sarmiento explained. "More than a question of legality or constitutionality, it is a question of conflict of interest and propriety. It looks like something is flawed."

To be fair, some of the appointments may be well-deserved. Most of the appointees are old-time career service officers whose appointments to rank were rushed at the last minute by Malacañang. Interior and Local Government Regional Director Trompeta, for instance, was awarded the Presidential GAWAD CES Award in 2009, along with six other outstanding Career Service Officers. 

Unfortunately, the Arroyo administration's insistence on rushing their appointments just three weeks before a new president was to take his oath of office places all such appointments under a cloud of doubt and raises questions of propriety and conflict of interest. Besides, David says, there was apparently no urgency in rushing these appointments in rank anyway, since these officials had already been performing the functions of their office for some time now.


Yet if some of the officials made good with their career, others had a more checkered record in government service. Defense Undersecretary Domingo, for example, had served as National Irrigation Administration chief, presidential adviser on Infrastructure, and Local Water Utilities Administration head at various times during his career. 

In June 2007, however, Domingo was ordered suspended for three months on the recommendation of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission for violation of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Domingo had failed to declare three properties he owned in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN. Domingo said he and his wife had just gotten confused in drawing up his SALN.

It was then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita who ordered Domingo's suspension. Almost exactly three years later, Ermita's successor to the Palace post, Leandro Mendoza, would rush Domingo's appointment to higher rank to the CESB.

"Part of the check of the Board for appointments is integrity," David said. "If you do not have clearance, or if you were suspended, that means you were found guilty, and you should not have been appointed."

Comelec disqualifies two Ang Kasangga nominees

The Commmission on Elections' First Division has ruled that two nominees of Ang Kasangga party-list do not belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sector the group claims to represent.

5 Filipino die in Saudi road accident

The Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia on Saturday confirmed the death of five Filipinos in a six-vehicle road accident in the eastern governorate of Al-Hassa four days earlier.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, citing the embassy's reporter, identified the fatalities as Roberto Demetrio, a building transmission worker; his wife Elizabeth, a teacher; their daughter Joyce Hassan, a nurse; and her son Hope. Also killed was Gener de Java, a friend of the family who was driving the car.

The accident happened while the family was traveling Wednesday night along a highway in Al-Hassa, a governorate 400 kilometers east of the capital city of Riyadh. The family reportedly was hoping to catch a flight to the Philippines.

Ten more people were killed in the accident.

The DFA's Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs has asked labor attaché Des Dicang to proceed to Al-Hassa to provide on-site assistance to the victims and their family.

The DFA said it has been closely monitoring the situation and coordinating assistance to their families here.

OFWs live like 'squatters' near RP post in Jeddah

About 20 stranded Filipinos, including four children, have been staying in makeshift shelter beside the Philippine Consulate General's (PCG) office in Jeddah, a Filipino migrants' rights group there reported.

New peace pact under Aquino -- MILF

Solution to long-standing conflict seenZAMBOANGA CITY -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday said it is looking at forging a comprehensive agreement under the Aquino administration that will end the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.

BSP will remit P9.9 billion in dividends to natl govt

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) would remit about P9.8 billion worth of dividends to the national government this year, up by 46 percent from last year's P6.7 billion.

RP gov't seeks boost to tourism

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is aiming to double tourism revenues in six years while avoiding the mass-market route taken by some of its Southeast Asian neighbors, the country's new tourism minister told AFP.

Air France jet lands in Brazil after false bomb alert

PARIS – An Air France jumbo jet with 405 passengers on board, en route to Paris, landed in Recife on Brazil's Atlantic coast overnight after a hoax bomb alert, the airline said on Sunday.

Yemen court upholds death terms of 4 Qaeda suspects

SANAA – An appeals court on Sunday upheld the death sentences of four Yemenis convicted of lethal attacks on government and Western targets, while commuting the terms of two others to 12 years in jail.

No decision yet where to try 9/11 plotters: US

WASHINGTON-- The Obama administration is still mulling where to hold the trials of the alleged co-plotters behind the September 11 attacks, US attorney general Eric Holder said Sunday.

Anwar's newspaper defies Malaysia's publication ban order

A Malaysian newspaper run by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Keadilan party Sunday pressed ahead with publication despite being suspended by the government.

2 babies among drowned African migrants in Spain

MADRID Five African migrants including two babies were drowned when their boat sank as they tried to reach the coast of southern Spain, the coastguard said Sunday.

The small boat was spotted 43 nautical miles (80 kilometers) south of Motril by a Salvamiento Maritimo plane on Saturday, but it began to sink before rescue service vessels could reach it, the coastguard said.

Around 30 migrants, the majority from sub-Saharan Africa, were saved but two men, a woman and two babies were drowned, it said.

Spain is one of the major landing points for illegal immigrants to Europe from Africa.

Donaire downs Marquez as other Filipino boxers fall in Puerto Rico

MANILA, Philippines -- Nonito Donaire Jr. retained his WBA interim super flyweight title with an eighth-round technical knockout of Mexican Hernan Tyson Marquez Sunday to save an ill-fated Filipino campaign in Puerto Rico.

Donaires victory came before compatriot Bernabe Concepcion, seeking a spot in the roster of boxing superstars, absorbed a crushing second-round TKO loss to Puerto Rican Juan Manuel Lopez.

The defending WBO featherweight champion Lopez, who traded knockdowns with Concepcion in the first round, is the same fighter who destroyed Gerry Pealosa in 2009.

Eden Sonsona, the third Filipino in the card, absorbed a similar defeat, losing by knockout in the ninth round to Puerto Rican Jonathan Oquendo in a WBO super bantam 10-round eliminator.

Donaire used his height and reach advantage to overwhelm the Mexican.

Switching to a right-handed stance in the fifth round after starting as southpaw, Donaire knocked down Marquez with a series of hooks and the Mexican barely finished the round on his feet.

The Filipino Flash pressed on in the next three rounds before putting Marquez away in the eighth with a stinging uppercut that forced the referee to stop the fight just before the round ended.

You know, I wanted some more rounds, said Donaire in a report posted on I knew that I could figure him out right away if I returned to my regular right-handed style. But I wanted to do my lefty style.

I really practiced for it, and everybody believed in me, he added. I was very confident going in there. But he came out really tough. I couldnt counter him the way that I had done against other guys. So I took some beating.

Donaire is currently ranked No. 4 just behind Manny Pacquiao, undefeated American Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Mexican warrior Juan Manuel Marquez in Ring Magazines pound-for-pound list, despite the fact that he has failed to fight a big name since his fifth-round stoppage of the feared Vic Darchinyan.

Concepcion tried to duplicate Donaires impressive win by charging at Lopez at the start, but the Puerto Rican star took the opportunity to pepper the Filipino with accurate punches.

A vicious left hook sent Concepcion to the canvas for the first time. When Concepcion got up, Lopez went for the kill, unleashing a flurry of combinations.

Concepcion managed to counter Lopezs attack and even landed a surprise left hook that sent Lopez crashing and the partisan crowd gasping.

Inspired by his strong finish, Concepcion again tried to take the fight to Lopez in the second round, but Lopez again landed clean blows that knocked the Filipino twice. The referee waved off the fight at the 2:37 mark of the second.

Viloria bounces back with split decision win

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-American Brian "The Hawaiian Punch" Viloria defeated Mexican Omar Soto by split decision on Saturday, almost 6 months since he collapsed after losing to Colombian Carlos Tamara in January.

Aces edge Kings anew, move a win away from PBA semis

Alaska went to Joe DeVance when the going got tough, and then watched Sunday Salvacion botched a game-winning three-pointer as the Aces escaped with a gripping 84-82 win over Barangay Ginebra and moved on the threshold of advancing to the semifinals of the PBA Fiesta Cup.

Ateneo losses opening game to FEU Tamaraws

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) The Far Eastern University Tamaraws defeated Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles on its opening game with a score of 72-69 in the second game of the University of Athletics Association of the Philippines basketball tournament Sunday.

In the first game, the Adamson Falcons defeated National University Bulldogs 60-54.

Thursday will have the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles against Adamson University Falcons in the opener at 2 p.m. while National University Bulldogs will face La Salle Green Archers at 4 p.m.

Kris Aquino takes legal action vs James Yap

MANILA, Philippines - It's final. Television host and actress Kris Aquino has asked her lawyers to initiate the appropriate proceedings to end her marriage with basketball player James Yap.  

James hoping for 'a miracle'

Inspite of the fact that his estranged wife Kris Aquino has already given her lawyers (from Marcos Ochoa Serapio & Tan law firm) the go-signal "to initiate the appropriate proceedings" to end their marriage, James Yap is hoping against hope that Kris would change her mind and give, as both of them have during their past break-ups, their five-year rocky marriage another chance.

Yayo Aguila announces split with William Martinez

MANILA, Philippines - Actress Yayo Aguila announced Sunday that she has called it quits with William Martinez, her husband of 25 years.

Charlene, Toni new co-hosts of 'The Buzz'

MANILA, Philippines - Top-rating celebrity talk show "The Buzz" welcomed 2 new hosts on Sunday -- Charlene Gonzales and Toni Gonzaga.

'GMA' out, 'Agri-P-Noy' in agriculture programs

Move over "GMA," here comes "Agri-P-Noy."

Filipino teachers win US award for fighting for rights

An association of Filipino teachers based in Louisiana, US, received Saturday a prestigious award from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an education sector labor union with almost one million members.

The Filipino Educators Federation of Lousiana (FEFL) was bestowed the President's International Democracy Award at the ongoing AFT convention in Seattle, Washington.

The award was created two years ago by AFT "to highlight the continuing struggle for human rights around the world."

News of the award reached Manila through the workers group, Partido ng Manggagawa (Workers' Party), which has been helping Filipino teachers here and abroad organize themselves.

In a letter to FEFL founding president Ingrid Jomento-Cruz, the AFT said: "We have selected your organization for your perseverance in fighting against the abusive treatment of placement agencies, its dedication to promote the rights and welfare of all educators and migrants, and its commitment to the democratic and legal system."

AFT said its leaders and staff "have witnessed the immense courage you and your colleagues have displayed in the face of great adversity."

FEFL has been instrumental in organizing Filipino migrant teachers against the alleged abuses of recruitment agency Universal Placement International (UPI) and its Philippine-based counterpart, PARS International.

With the help of AFT and other groups, the efforts of the Filipino teachers resulted in initial legal victories, including a decision by the Louisiana Workforce Commission ordering UPI to refund up to $1.8 million (about P83.6 million) in fees to the teachers.

Another complaint has been filed with the US Department of Labor.

Three years ago, Cruz and about 300 Filipino teachers were flown to Louisiana for jobs which, their recruiter promised, would give them a salary of $40,000 annually.

The Filipinos protested inflated fees, commissions and rents that their recruiter tried to collect from them in return for their US work visas.

In her acceptance speech, Cruz cited how AFT helped them revisit the Filipino tradition of "bayanihan."

"It is most impressively displayed in the old tradition of neighbors helping a relocating family by getting enough volunteers to literally carry the house on their shoulders and move it to a new and better location. And believe it or not, the act is done with a happy, festive disposition. We can clearly see the heroes in the community collectively work and sacrifice for each other. In essence, bayanihan is all but one with the spirit of unionism," she said.

Iran judiciary chief halts woman's stoning 'for now'

TEHRANIran's judiciary chief has temporarily halted the execution by stoning of a woman accused of adultery, state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday, quoting a judiciary official.

"Although the verdict is definitive and applicable, the verdict has been halted due to humanitarian reservations and upon the order of the honourable judiciary chief and it will not be carried out for the moment," Malek Ajdar Sharifi, head of the judiciary in East Azerbaijan province, told IRNA.

The woman, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, had been sentenced to death by stoning after she was found guilty of adultery by an Iranian court, a ruling that has sparked outcry in Western countries.

But Sharifi said the move was temporary and her death sentence could be carried out as decided by the judiciary chief, Sadeq Larijani.

"Whenever the judiciary chief deems it expedient, the verdict will be carried out regardless of Western media propaganda," Sharifi said.

Mohammadi-Ashtiani was convicted on May 15, 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men, according to her lawyer and London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International.

Amnesty said she received 99 lashes as per her sentence but was subsequently accused of "adultery while being married" in September 2006 during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband.

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