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

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 13, 2010 Major News Stories

'Basyang' now a storm, 7 areas under Signal No. 1

07/12/2010 | 07:34 PM 
Tropical cyclone "Basyang" (international code name Conson) intensified further into a tropical storm on Monday afternoon and continued to move toward Northern Luzon, prompting state weather forecasters to place seven areas in Luzon under Storm Signal No. 1.

In its 5 p.m. advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said "Basyang" may make landfall over Isabela and Northern Aurora Tuesday evening.

"Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora, Quezon including Polillo Island, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes will experience rains and gusty winds," it said.

"The rest of Luzon and Visayas will have mostly cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms. The rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening," it added.

Placed under Storm Signal No. 1 were Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora, Quezon, Polillo Island, Camarines Norte, and Catanduanes.

As of 4 p.m., "Basyang" was estimated at 440 km east-northeast of Virac, Catanduanes, with maximum sustained winds of 75 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph.

It was moving west-northwest at 22 kph and is expected to be 200 km north of Virac, Catanduanes Tuesday afternoon.

By Tuesday evening it is expected to make landfall over Isabela-Northern Aurora. By Wednesday afternoon it is expected to be over Sinait, Ilocos Sur.

On Thursday afternoon it is forecast to be 300 kms northwest of Laoag City.

"Residents living in low lying and mountainous areas under signal # 1 are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides," Pagasa said.

Meanwhile, Pagasa said moderate to strong winds blowing from the Northeast to Northwest will prevail over Northern and Central Luzon and the coastal waters will be moderate to rough.

Elswhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the Southeast and Southwest with light to moderate seas. 

Cabarrubias: Vacate waterway for desilting

Residents living along the waterway passing beneath the Basak Pardo-Kinasang-an Bridge were ordered to evacuate within 10 days starting Tuesday last week so the drainage team may start desilting.

LPG prices cut by P0.50/kg

MANILA, Philippines - The LPG Marketers Association has cut liquefied petroleum gas prices by P0.50 per kilogram. 

Brownouts hit Metro Cebu as thermal plant bogs down

METRO Cebu suffered rotating brownouts yesterday after the Cebu Thermal Power Plant 1 bogged down, reducing the power supply to the Cebu-Negros-Panay (CNP) grid.

Joel Gaviola, Department of Energy (DOE) public relations officer who is based in Manila, said they are still waiting for a report on why the thermal plant, which is maintained and operated by SPC Power Corp., stopped operating.

Although the two 84-megawatt coal-fired power plants in Toledo City have been tested and are finished, they still cannot supply power to the grid because they have yet to be turned over by the contractor, Formosa Heavy Industries Inc., to the Cebu Energy Development Corp. (CEDC), Gaviola said.

Gaviola said from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. yesterday, the power deficiency in
the CNP grid was placed at 130 megawatts.

The first of the brownouts hit several parts of Liloan and Consolacion towns and Mandaue City at 9:03 a.m. Another brownout hit several parts of Cebu City and Mandaue City at 9:15 a.m. The brownout spread to Talisay City and Minglanilla and Naga towns at 9:26 a.m.

The brownouts lasted one-and-a-half hours.

DOE Visayas Director Antonio Labios did not answer several calls from Sun.Star Cebu.

Anti-smuggling group raids Thai sugar in Cebu

07/12/2010 | 06:23 PM 
The Sugar Anti-Smuggling Office, the Philippine National Police, and the Bureau of Customs confiscated over the weekend in Mandaue, Cebu some sacks of sugar smuggled into the country from Thailand.

More stocks of sugar were also raided in Mabolo, Cebu City. 

The stocks were reportedly headed for sale in a popular mall at Pier 5.

The volume and value of the raided stock, now under the custody of BOC, were not disclosed.

Sources said these stocks of sugar may have come from a single supplier, which the operatives are now validating.

Earlier, several stores in Central Luzon, specifically in Pampanga and Tarlac, were found to have smuggled sugar in their warehouses.

Customs on guard vs car, oil smugglers

Mahigpit na binabantayan ngayon ng Bureau of Customs ang mga tinaguriang billionaire ports: ang limang ports sa bansa na pinaka-malakas kumita.  

TUCP mulls questioning wage board order before CA


The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Monday said it plans to question before the Court of Appeals the denial by the regional wage board to grant a P75 across-the-board wage increase for workers in the National Capital Region.

The National Capital Region (NCR) Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) had earlier granted a P22 wage increase for workers instead of the P75 sought by the unions.

"We filed for a motion for appeal (with the RTWPB) reiterating the R75 wage petition. The motion appeal was denied so the TUCP is contemplating filing an appeal at the Court of Appeals," TUCP Spokesman Rafael Mapalo said, during a courtesy call on Monday, at the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) office in Intramuros, Manila.

The TUCP plans to file the petition with the Court of Appeals after obtaining the official evaluation for the denial of the wage petition, Mapalo said.

"We are still waiting for the official decision from the National Capital Region (NCR) Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB)," he said.

"We have not done this in the past. But it is our obligation as trade union to file an appeal at the Court of Appeals," he said.

TUCP said it would question the P22 minimal wage increase and the inclusion of the establishments with assets fewer than P3 million in companies which could file for exemption in its petition with the Court of Appeals.

The NCR-RTWPB abused its discretion when it implemented Wage Order 15, which increased the minimum wage by P22 in the NCR, TUCP said in a statement.

The TUCP said the RTWPB "grossly disregarded the very spirit and intent of RA 6727 which expressly mandates that, in fixing minimum wages, the Board shall ensure decent standard of living necessary for the health, efficiency and general well-being of employees."

Mapalo said the P22 wage increase was only enough to sustain the living standards of workers in 2008 and is not viable for 2009 and 2010.

The TUCP based its current wage petition on the consumer price index (CPI) or the change in the prices of a specific goods and services in an area for a period each year. The labor group's current P75 wage increase petition in NCR is based on the CPI from 2008 to 2010 in the region.

Ombudsman assigns anti-graft prosecutor

THE Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas started its fact-finding investigation on the legality of the P500,000 severance pay the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) board gave a former member.

Assistant Ombudsman Virginia Santiago said yesterday her office assigned an anti-graft prosecutor to focus on the legitimacy of the release to former MCIAA board member and former Department of Tourism (DOT) 7
director Patria Aurora Roa.

Santiago disclosed that former Tourism secretary Joseph Ace Durano called her up and inquired whether the reported release of severance pay to Roa was legal.

Despite her advice for the MCIAA to hold the check for Roa, Santiago learned from media reports that the check was delivered to Roa's house last Saturday afternoon.

MCIAA board secretary Evelyn Ramirez was quoted as saying they released the check to Roa since they did not receive any orders from the board to hold the release.

The 15-member MCIAA board passed last April 15 a resolution granting Roa the benefit to recognize her services to the board as an alternate member-director for 15 years.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia clarified yesterday that the "severance pay" to Roa was a collective effort of the board.


Garcia, who sits in the board, said the body stands by its power under the MCIAA charter.

Section 7(d) of Republic Act 6958 or the MCIAA Charter states that the board is empowered "to approve salary ranges, benefits and other terms and conditions of service for all officers and employees of the authority, upon recommendation of the general manager, which shall, as far as possible, be competitive with those offered in the private sector, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations."

Some airport employees questioned Roa's severance pay after MCIAA General Manager Danilo Augusto Francia issued last July 7 a memorandum directing the airport's cashier to expedite the release of the check to Roa.

However, the governor believes disgruntled employees are behind the issue since the board turned down their request for a collective negotiation agreement bonus.

She said the board decided not to grant it since after computation, the body found out that most of the employees will receive P200,000 to P300,000 for one year alone.

The board found the employees' demand too high.

Garcia sits as an ex-officio member of the board.

The other members are Department of Justice Undersecretary Jovy Salazar, Department of Finance Undersecretary Marilou Degal, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director-General Alfonso Cusi, DOT 7 Director Maria Rica Bueno and private sector representatives, including former Cebu City vice mayor Renato Osmeña, Cebu Business Club president Dondi Joseph, newspaper columnist Bobit Avila and businessman Winglip Chang, one of the owners of Cebu Grand Convention Center.


Francia reiterated yesterday the board did not violate any law when it granted the severance pay to Roa after her retirement.

In a text message, Francia also denied the MCIAA has incurred millions of pesos in payments and disbursements that were disallowed by the Commission on Audit (COA) due to lack of legal basis.

However, COA disallowed the payment of P58 million worth of benefits to MCIAA officials and employees for the years 1998, 1999 and 2000 before Francia became general manager.

In 2006, COA also reported the MCIAA disbursed without any legal basis P13.65 million worth of cash dividends to members of the board of directors and some officials and employees, including a legal consultant.

Greg urges guv to file case on road projects

CEBU Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. challenged Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to file a case against him instead of investigating road projects in Tuburan.

He added Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia may file a case against him before "the Supreme Court, Ombudsman or even in the United States of America."

"Liquidation, liquidation. Ngano dili na man lang sila diretso didto?

(Why don't they file a case immediately?)," the vice governor added.

This was in reaction to Garcia's order for a probe on the complaints of some barangay captains that they were required to liquidate bags of cement the Capitol distributed throughout the province even though they didn't receive any.

Sanchez said the investigation is meant to "pressure the barangay captains" and "extract" from them some information against him.

Garcia, in a press conference yesterday, said Sanchez is confused on his role as a government official.

She said the Local Government Code states the governor "shall exercise
general supervision over all programs, projects, services and activities in the province."

She said it is her duty to "control everything" as stated in the law.

"I determine the guidelines. I make programs. I'm the one who sets directions, not anybody else. Maybe he is reading the wrong page," Garcia said of Sanchez.

She said the duties, functions and powers of the vice governor as stated
in Rule 16, Article 89 of the Code is to be the "presiding officer of the sang-guniang panlalawigan and sign all warrants drawn on the provincial treasury for all expenditures appropriated for the operation of the sangguniang panlala-wigan."

"How can you serve if you don't know what your functions are?" Garcia

The governor said she will pursue the investigation on projects funded by Legislative Assistance Funds assigned to San-chez.

They will also look closely into the fuel consumption of "free

She will also investigate the contracting of the services of Zugbu Band, which is said to have performed at socio-cultural events where Sanchez distributed financial assistance.

But Sanchez said Garcia is an "expert in twisting facts."

Sanchez questioned Garcia's allegedly overpriced road project, citing the road opening in Alegria and Cabangkalan.

He alleged Capitol budgeted P10 million for a 14-kilometer road opening, estimated to cost P714,000 per kilometer, while his road opening only cost P2.7 million for a 4.7-kilometer road.

Sanchez also presented a project proposal in July 2008, which was signed by the governor, which stated the Zugbu band would cater to the needs of the different local governments in the province, especially in their socio-cultural activities.

Arrested suspect in Ting murder not a fall guy, but gunman: cops

TOP police officials yesterday downplayed a woman's claim that the suspected gun-for-hire who was arrested and charged for killing businessman Manuel Ting was not the gunman.

Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Lani-o Nerez said the 19-year-old woman's statement has no bearing on the murder complaint the Task Force Ting filed recently against alleged gunman Ruel Velez.

Velez, 44, of Barangay Ocana, Carcar City, Cebu was arrested last July 5, about two weeks after Manuel was gunned down in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City.

Manuel, who owns several businesses in the city including the Cebu Park-lane International Hotel, died of multiple gunshot wounds. He was attacked less than 24 hours after a brother, Nicolas, was also ambushed in Mandaue City. Nicolas survived.

Nerez said two eyewitnesses executed affidavits pointing to Velez as Manuel Ting's gunman, which he believes are strong enough to pin down the jailed suspect.

Because of the report, Nerez said, he asked the woman to come out in the open and issue an affidavit to support her claim.

Nerez said he would like to know the background of the woman and to find out if she has any relation with the alleged gunman.

"We should not believe at once what anyone says," he said.

The mother of the female witness, however, went to the headquarters of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) yesterday to correct the alleged claim of her daughter.

Ina (mother's real name withheld, to protect the identity of the reported witness) said she was with her daughter when a radio reporter interviewed her.

"Ang ingon sa akong anak nga wa gyud siya ka klaro sa nawong. Anggid-anggid ra sa lawas ug gitas-on (My daughter said she did not see the man's face clearly)," Ina told reporters.

Guam Logronio, a reporter of radio RGMA DySS and a Sun.Star Superbalita
correspondent, stood pat on his report that during his interview, the woman said Velez was not the gunman.


The witness, said Logronio, also told him she can recognize the real gunman if she sees him again.

Comendador yesterday said that before the complaint was filed against Velez, a team from the city police force led by Chief Insp. George Ylanan approached the woman four times.

They asked her if she saw the face of the gunman and if she could serve as a witness and issue a sworn statement.

Comendador said the woman repeatedly told them she failed to see the gunman's face, because the latter was standing behind her.

She also refused to issue an affidavit, Comendador said.

Like Nerez, Comendador said the claim will not have any effect on the complaints the police have filed against Velez.

The murder complaint is still pending at the Cebu City Prosecutor's Office, after Velez chose to undergo a preliminary investigation so he can submit his counter-affidavit.

Velez earlier denied killing Manuel.

Comendador, however, did not discount the possibility that the report would be "exploited" by the defense once the case reaches trial.

City managers 'demoralized'?

BECAUSE their employment in Cebu City Hall is left hanging, members of the Mayor's Management Team (MMT) said they feel demoralized these days after learning some of them may be demoted, while some were given an option to resign.

An investigating body that handles administrative complaints against City Hall employees, which is composed of MMT members, will also be discontinued, and the task will be turned over to administrative officers.

The MMT members said that since last week, lawyer Jocelyn Pesquera has been interviewing them and reportedly told them they will be transferred to other offices, with some getting lower positions and less pay.

Pesquera, a former city councilor and a close friend of the mayor, also reportedly told some of them the MMT will no longer exist under the Rama administration, which did not sit well with former mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Rama was quick to appease the close to 80 employees under the MMT. He assured he will keep them and will not demote them or terminate their services, and said some may even be given higher positions.


"No, I gave no instructions to demote them or tell them they should resign. I have no idea kung unsay gisulti ni Joy nila (what Joy told them) but she is just giving me ideas and guidance on human resources matters. Of course, the final decision is still mine to make," the mayor said.

Rama said he cannot stop the MMT members from having gripes, but said those who are demoralized are probably those who cannot wait for their appointments.

When he was mayor in 2005, Osmeña began hiring cum laude and magna cum laude graduates from different fields to fill up middle management posts in City Hall under the MMT program.

It was selected as one of the country's 10 best models of management by the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.

"The MMTs are the pride not only of the local government units but of Cebu as well... Joy Pesquera reportedly told them that the MMT no longer exists, that individually they would be fired or demoted if they don't resign, or something to that effect. The mayor denies it, though. So, who's the boss?" Osmeña asked yesterday.


In a text message, the Cebu City south district congressman also said their party Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan campaigned for Rama to be mayor, and not for Pesquera.

Osmeña said he is not the one who should be upset by the developments, but Rama, "whose administration will suffer."

Sun.Star Cebu called Pesquera to get her side on the issue, but she declined to comment.

In a phone interview yesterday, Rama explained he gave Pesquera authority to assess the strengths, skills, talents and performance of the MMT members so they can be assigned to offices where their capabilities can be maximized.

The assessment, he said, is part of his thrust to place "the right people in the right positions."


Five MMT members who were interviewed separately by Sun.Star Cebu yesterday said they and their peers are in low spirits because of the uncertainty on their employment status.

"For now, it's not clear who will stay and who will be hired and if he will get our current position. Some of us were told they will be demoted.

So demoralized gyud. Kami ra gud ang mga employees nga nakasulod sa City Hall not because of political endorsements, but because of our academic performance," one of them said.

They also questioned the authority of Pesquera in conducting the interviews, since she is not connected with the City Government at present.

Pesquera was a consultant on the Sangguniang Panlungsod systems improvement, sister-city ties and budget and finance under the Office of the Mayor, but her contract has not been renewed as of June 30.


Rama and Pesquera, who are both lawyers, specialized in human resources in the private sector before they joined the City Government.

"I don't think they should be questioning Joy's authority because that is my prerogative as a mayor. We don't have a specific person looking into these things, that is why I sought her assistance. And as mayor, I can choose anyone who I want to help me," he continued.

Rama said he will also change the structure of the body that investigates administrative complaints against City Hall employees, which will now be handled by administrative officers.

He said yesterday that he will look into the functions of the employee-management committee on inquiry (Emcoi) before restructuring it.

The Emcoi was created as a result of a case study of the first batch of the MMTs. Osmeña created the investigating body through an executive order.

Standing committee heads also chosen: Calderon is PB majority floor leader

Second district Provincial Board member Peter John Calderon was elected as majority floor leader while PB member Joven Mondigo was voted assistant majority floor leader in yesterday's session where the PB elected their top positions and chairmen, vice chairman and members of the different standing committees.

But before the approval of the standing committees chairmen, the PB discussed the house rules for more than an hour.

At least thrice, Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr. declared recess to allow members of the PB to approach fellow board members to discuss the issue.

After the deliberation, the PB members approved the house rules.

The respective chairmen of the standing committees were PB member Ribomapil Holganza for the Committee on Barangay Affairs and Rural Development and PB member Sun Shimura for the Committee on Information and CommunicationTechnology.

The Committee on Public Works, Highways and Infrastructure will be headed by Ian Caesar Geronimo Zambo, Committee on Public Health and Social Service by Sergio Restauro, Committee on Public Safety, Peace and Order by Sun Shimura, Committee on Public Service by Jude Thaddeus Sybico.

The Committee on Laws, and Review on Ordinances will be headed by Peter John Calderon, Committee on Complaints and Investigation by Joven Mondigo Jr., Committee on Provincial and Municipal Properties by Alex Binghay, Committee on Public Affairs and Information by Julian Daan.

The Committee on Agriculture and Livelihood will be headed by Alex Binghay, Committee on Environmental Conservation and Natural Resources by Thadeo Ouano, Committee on Budget and Appropriations by Peter John Claderon, Committee on Education by Wilfredo Caminero; Committee on Youth and Sports Development by Bea Mercedes Calderon, Committee on Human Rights and Labor by Ribomapil Holganza Jr., Committee on Planning and Development by Thadeo Ouano, Committee on ways and means by Wilfredo Caminero.

The Commitee on Tourism and International Affairs will be headed by Agnes Magpale, Committee on Arts and Culture by Arleigh Sitoy, Committee on Women, Family and Minors by Agnes Magpale, Committee on Commerce and Industry by Jude Thaddeus Sybico, Committee on Cooperatives by Ian Caesar Geronimo Zambo, Committee on Accreditation by Joven Mondigo Jr., Committee on Senior Citizens by Sergio Restauro.

The Committee on Ethics and the Committee on Dangerous Drugs and Prevention will be headed by Alfred Francis Ouano while the Committee on Differently-abled Persons by Arleigh Sitoy.

NSO: RP population to top 100-M in 5 years

MANILA, Philippines -The National Statistics Office on Monday said the country's population could go past the 100-million mark by 2015 if the 2% annual population growth rate is maintained.

Dengue cases up January to June

MANILA, PhilippinesDengue cases went up by 40 per cent during the period of January to June 26 this year compared to the same period last year, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

At least 190 persons died from the mosquito-borne disease out of the 25,283 dengue cases treated in hospitals during the period, the DOH said.

Some 172 villages were also found to have a clustering of dengue cases. The regions with the most number of cases included Central Luzon, South Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Sarangani-General Santos (Socsksargen), Southern Tagalog, National Capital Region, Central Visayas and Davao.

A total of 18,055 dengue cases were reported last year in the period January to June 26

Health Secretary Enrique Ona asked the media on Monday to remind the public to take precautions against the dengue-carrying mosquitoes which bite during the daytime and thrive in clean, stagnant water.

He said dengue had become fairly common not only during the rainy season but year round.

He was surprised that none of the reporters who interviewed him have had dengue since he himself had contracted the potential killer disease three years ago.

Na-dengue na ako (Ive had dengue). The public should be wary of stagnant water, Ona warned.

It occurs all throughout the year except during one month at the start of the rainy season, he said.

Ona downplayed reports that six elementary students in Candon City in Ilocos Sur had tested positive for the Influenza A(H1N1) virus last week, insisting that the cases were just like ordinary flu.

We want to assure the public that the DOH is on top of things. The A(H1N1) virus is already in the Philippines but it appears not much different from ordinary flu, he said.

The discovery of a new influenza strain triggered a global alarm last year after the World Health Organization nearly declared an A(H1N1) pandemic.

But health officials later downplayed the effects of the A(H1N1) flu strain due to the relatively low mortality rate.

According to news reports, the six studentsthree boys and three girlsmanifested typical symptoms of the A(H1N1) virus such as high fever, sore throat and diarrhea. But five have already recovered while one still has a cough.

Ona said the new cases appeared to have been caused by the same A(H1N1) strain that entered the country last year. It may or may not have spread but we are continuously monitoring it, he said.

Dengue claims 11; cases go up

The Integrated Provincial Health Office reported an increase of almost 50-percent of dengue cases in the province for the first two quarters of the year compared to the same period last year.

Ermita surprised over No.1 ranking in nutrition monitor

Officials of barangay Ermita cried foul over reports that the barangay has the most number of malnutrition cases among children zero to 71 months old among barangays in Cebu City.

Can P.Noy fix the public health system?

Dilapidated hospitals with outdated facilities, patients forced to rent their own oxygen tanks, and the shortage of medicines and health centers – these are just some of the problems in the public health sector that President Noynoy Aquino will have to solve in his administration.

RP's universal health care to target poorest of poor -- DOH chief

For the first time since he assumed office last Monday, Health Secretary Enrique Ona drew a broad outline of how the Aquino administration would carry out its ambitious goal of giving universal health care coverage within the next three years.

DOH stresses importance of RH bill as Pinoys reach 100M

Aabot sa 100 milyon ang populasyon ng Pilipinas sa susunod na limang taon. Ito ang tantya ng National Statistics Office. Kaya naman binibigyang diin ng Department of Health ang kahalagahan ng reproductive health bill.

CBCP to Aquino: Junk 'contraceptive mentality'

MANILA, Philippines - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) wants President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to abandon the "contraceptive mentality" implemented by his predecessor.

Spa operators in Cebu complain about 'controversial massage'

A group of spa operators in Cebu province are complaining about a controversial massage that involves stroking the male sex organ.
The massage — called the lingam massage — is offered in some spas and parlors, which is viewed as a threat to tourism in the region, Radio dzXL said in a report. 

Central Visayas tourism regional director Ma. Rica Bueno was surprised to learn of the controversial massage being offered, the dzXL report said.

Bueno and the Spa Association of Cebu called for closer cooperation between local governments and the national government to "regulate" the activity.

88 percent of Pinoys trust PNoy - SWS survey

Roughly 88 percent of adult Filipinos trust President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III even though only 14 percent believe he can fulfill all of his campaign promises, the latest Social Weather Stations survey said.

DILG will focus on empowering local governments—Robredo

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said on Monday that the main focus of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) under his leadership would be the empowerment of local governments.

War on 'jueteng' a low priority for Aquino

Eradicating jueteng is a "low priority" for President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III as he is more concerned on the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the country.

Make human rights a priority, Aquino tells AFP top brass

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday told the top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prioritize human rights after a string of extrajudicial killings occurred during his first week in office.

Tradition, simple protocol to be observed on SONA day

07/12/2010 | 06:10 PM 
Traditions and simple protocol will be observed during the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III, his chief protocol officer said Monday.

"We want to make the protocol rules as simple as possible, that is the message that I've gotten from the President," said former Ambassador Miguel Perez Rubio, chief of the presidential protocol. 

He spoke to reporters on Monday after conducting an ocular inspection of the House of Representatives' session hall where the President will deliver the SONA on July 26.

He said they "want to be polite but not excessively ceremonial, not with a lot of pomp and circumstance. Traditions have been observed all the time. We will follow traditions because it's been observed under the Constitution."

He added they will not be strict but they will be observing the rules.

"We will hope (to keep the order) but obviously sometimes the people are emotionally excited and anxious. It's not very nice if you're showing on television that it is very unruly. Talagang maganda kung everything is very nice and orderly, at least we pray, we hope," he said.

During the ocular inspection, the protocol officers counted the seats to ensure that the number of attendees matches the number of seats.

Rubio admitted it will be difficult to limit the number of people attending the SONA because the Senate and the House also send their own invitations.

"I'm sure that a lot of people wanted to come here… it will be very, very difficult to be able to limit the people," he said.

He said they want to accommodate as many guests as possible. However, certain factors have to be considered like the size of the venue and the number of seats available.

Among those who will be invited are the Cabinet members, the members of the diplomatic community, and former presidents.

'Freedom of Information bill 1st legacy of 15th Congress'

MANILA, Philippines -- A congressman said he will push for the early passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to make it the "very first legacy" of the 15th Congress under the Aquino administration.

Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada (4th District, Quezon) said the bill is "long overdue" and had been a product of several discussions in the past Congresses.

The FOI bill passed the Bicameral Conference Committee but failed to be enacted in the final session day of the 14th Congress due to lack of quorum in the House of Representatives.

For the incoming 15th Congress, Tañada will file the FOI bill, titled "an act implementing the right of the people to information on matters of public concern guaranteed under section seven, article three of the 1987 Constitution and the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest under section twenty-eight, article two of the 1987 Constitution, and for other purposes."

"The approval of the FOI bill by the 15th Congress will add on and enhance the nation's democratic ideals and further empower the people," Tañada said.

The lawmaker said the new bill expands its scope in terms of government agencies as well as information covered.

The measure will also push for a clear, uniform and speedy procedure for access to information and a proscription against excessive costs of access to information, Tañada added.

He said the bill will enable a system of accessible and speedy remedies that may be resorted to by a citizen who has been denied access to information.

Likewise, it will mandate to promote a culture of openness within the government.

Furthermore, the bill will provide a clear administrative, criminal and civil liability for violation of the right to information, the lawmaker said.

"This bill is the very enabling law that the Constitution so mandated legislature to provide more than 20 years ago. I see no reason for any delay in the passage of this measure," he added.

Osmeña: Customs chief's appointment should be revoked if he cheated in golf

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III should revoke the appointment of Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez if he really did cheat in a golf tournament, Senator Senator Sergio "Serge" Osmeña III said Monday.

Concerns raised over Cabinet members' business ties

07/12/2010 | 07:15 PM 
A partylist representative on Monday expressed concern over President Benigno Simeon Aquino III's choice of Cabinet members.

"We can only hope…that the appointees will not allow themselves to be instruments of big business in plundering the national coffers and the economy," Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said in a text message.

He noted that Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose de Jesus used to be the president and chief operating officer of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) while Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras was a former president of Manila Water Co. Inc. and a long-time executive of Ayala Corporation.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson was a former president of Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI) and director of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC). He is also the concurrent chairman of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.

"This is definitely a matter of concern considering that these business interests are known supporters and funders of Aquino's presidential campaign," Casiño said.

Meralco and Maynilad Water used to be controlled by the Lopez family.

But now, Meralco is controlled by Manuel V. Pangilinan, holding an estimated 40 percent of the electric company through various firms that he runs, including the MPIC and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), the country's largest and leading telecommunications company. 

Pangilinan also has interests in Maynilad, which is run by a joint venture between MPIC and publicly-listed company DMCI. 

Quezon Rep Erin Tanada, Liberal Party spokesperson, said the appointed Cabinet members should be given a chance to prove their worth.

"We have full faith and confidence on the choices of PNoy in the different departments. I don't think that it is fair to judge them just because they used to work for regulated companies. They are professionals and they should be allowed to prove their worth before any person may pass judgment on them," he said.

Rift in Aquino communications team could worsen

MANILA, Philippines - Alleged infighting in the communications group of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III could lead to problems in the future, a political analyst warned Monday.

Prof. Prospero de Vera of the University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG), said Aquino was trying to please everyone in his inner circle in the formation of his communications group.

Speaking at the sidelines of the UP-NCPAG seminar for new lawmakers, De Vera said the inclusion of former mediamen Manolo Quezon III, Ricky Carandang and Herminio Coloma is a " choice the president had to make given that he was carried to power  by a vast array of  forces."

De Vera warned the President that such a situation is not sustainable over the long term since the president will eventually have to act decisively and get rid of people who don't help.

He said all new Cabinet members will have to assessed after one year if they have delivered on the promises of the administration.

De Vera said problems could come up with the warring factions because they might end up contradicting each other or furthering their own interests. De Vera said the same thing happened during the term of President Cory Aquino, mother of the incumbent president.

He added, however, that the rift is part of the normal birth pains of a new administration.

De Vera said the President may also be trying to compensate for weaknesses and clashes of his Cabinet with the media by expanding the communication system.

Quezon and Carandang have been identified with the group of Aquino supporters allied with the Hyatt 10, Liberal Party and former Senator Mar Roxas.

Coloma, columnist of BusinessWorld, is identified as a close associate of Cory Aquino's Radio TV Malacañang head, Maria Montelibano, who is also perceived to be close to the camp of Vice-President Jejomar Binay.

Sources have told ABS-CBN News that the weeks-long impasse over the communications team---which will supersede the current Office of the Press Secretary---is because of the acrimonious struggle over control over the government's propaganda machinery in preparation for the 2016 elections.

Over the weekend, Carandang and Quezon tendered their resignations from immediate past positions in ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, though they gave no details of their next plans.

Malacañang had separately said the communications team will be formally created and announced this week. However, it did say that the communications team is complete.

Sources have also told ABS-CBN News that the arrangement for the communications team was formalized last Friday, the same night Carandang tendered his resignation from ABS-CBN. Quezon, meantime, announced on his farewell column for the Inquirer his functions in the Aquino administration.

Carandang and Quezon will supposedly handle the messaging function of the communications team, while Coloma will handle media relations, which handles the bureaucracy under the OPS.

Such a bureaucracy includes the Philippine Information Agency, government channel NBN 4, sequestered stations RPN9 and IBC 13, and government radio Radyo ng Bayan as well as the National Printing Office.

Manpower exporters vow to help look for new markets

MANILA, Philippines - The overseas employment service industry said it would look for new labor markets amid strong commitments from President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's administration to strengthen the workforce.

DFA appeals case of 3 OFWs on Saudi death row

Philippine officials are exhausting all legal remedies to help three overseas Filipino workers convicted of killing and robbing another Filipino worker in Jeddah on April 15, 2008.

Aquino mum on calls for Ombudsman's resignation

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was mum on calls for Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez's resignation amid questions on her resolve to try corrupt officials linked to the past administration.

Ombudsman: Don't prejudge me

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez called on the public not to prejudge her in acting on anomalies involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And standing pat on her earlier stance, she said her enemies will not find any ground to impeach her.

Ombudsman Gutierrez says she will not resign

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez will stick to her position despite growing calls for her resignation, the second impeachment complaint set to be filed against her, and the Aquino administration's skepticism toward her resolve.

JBC sets public interviews for SC applicants

MANILA, Philippines - The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) expects to come up with the short-list of nominees for the vacancy in the Supreme Court by the first week of August.

'Roxas poll protest sufficient in form, substance'

MANILA, Philippines - Defeated vice-presidential bet Manuel Roxas's petition questioning the results of the May 2010 vice-presidential race is sufficient in form and substance, the Supreme Court said Monday.

Military open to renewed 'Garci' probe

MANILA, Philippines - The military on Monday said it is open to the suggestion of former Scout Ranger chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim for a fresh investigation into the involvement of several military generals in the rigging of the 2004 presidential election.

Martial law baby shocked by Marcoses' return to power

by By David Dizon,
MANILA, Philippines - Former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel on Monday admitted that she is shocked that the Marcos family has returned to national prominence more than 20 years after they were removed from power.

NBI chief promises impartiality in case of ex-PAOCTF superior

Justice secretary issues marching ordersFORMER Quezon City Police District chief Magtanggol B. Gatdula vowed "no special treatment" to his former superior at the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, as he took over the helm of the top probe agency yesterday.

DOJ twits jail execs for special treatment of Ampatuan Sr.

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday twitted the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology for the reported special treatment given to Maguindanao massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Sr. last week.

DOJ chief to check Ampatuan clan's jail time

(UPDATE) Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said she will monitor the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) on the kind of treatment it provides to members of the Ampatuan clan facing 57 counts of murder for the massacre of people in Maguindanao.

Aquino mulling lifting state of emergency in Maguindanao

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday said his administration is now studying lifting the state of emergency in Maguindanao.

MILF alarmed by hawkish statements of AFP chief

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has expressed alarm over the pronouncement of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Ricardo David Jr. that the government will crush the rebellion by 2013.

Consider Indonesia as new broker in talks, says Aquino

PRESIDENT BENIGNO Simeon C. Aquino III will ask the military and members of the peace panel to consider inviting Indonesia to broker the peace talks between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Blast kills boy, wounds 5 in Maguindanao

COTABATO, Philippines - A 7-year-old boy was killed and 5 others wounded after an improvised explosive device (IED) went off at a police outpost beside Datu Piang, Maguindanao municipal hall around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Aquino open to leasing properties of military

The military said President Aquino was open to approving the lease of prime properties of the Armed Forces to bankroll its delayed modernization.

Aquino ready to listen to military's grievances

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has assured the military of a feedback mechanism that would address its grievances as he acknowledged that there might be some who are "disgruntled" and "demoralized" within the organization.

PNP to use poetry to teach schoolchildren vs. crime

The Philippine National Police will soon be fielding its personnel to schools nationwide, not as security personnel but as teachers.

UN Envoy awards UN medals to Filipino peacekeepers

MONROVIA, Liberia—United Nations Envoy Ellen Margrethe Løj awarded UN peacekeeping medals to 115 Filipino peacekeepers serving the UN Mission in Liberia (Unmil).

$1: P46.270

$1: P46.270

Euro 1: P58.4599

Ex-nat'l treasurer to solons: eye on the budget, not taxes

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - A fiscal crisis is looming  and first time lawmakers should be focusing on addressing the country's fiscal situation, instead of raising taxes, a former National Treasurer said on Monday.

Tech-voc graduates get jobs fast--Tesda

Graduates of technical vocational courses have higher chances of getting employed and with a shorter job search period, Technical Education Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Director General Pastor Z. Guiao said.

BoC to file charges vs owner of seized yachts

MANILA, Philippines -- The Bureau of Customs (BoC) is set to file smuggling charges against the reported owner of two pleasure yachts that were allegedly brought into the country illegally from the United States.

According to Attorney Juito Doria, BoC-Certificate of Payment Centralized Clearing Center (CPCCC) chief, the BoC will file smuggling raps against Restie Bicomong, who is said to be the owner of the "Pleasure Yacht RDB" and "Pleasure Yacht VZR." The vessels are reportedly worth P20 million each.

The case would be filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the bureau's Run After the Smugglers Program (RATS) since it appeared that there was no payment of import tax.

Earlier, the BoC issued a warrant of seizure and detention against the vessels, each weighing 12-gross tons.

"Since last May, we have already received initial information on the yachts. We could not believe that they were locally built," said Doria.

The vessels were confiscated by joint elements of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the BoC at 11:30 a.m. of July 8 at the bay side of the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Customs personnel were able to talk to Bicomong when they seized the ships last week, but they did not apprehend him at that time since he reportedly denied being the owner. BoC-Enforcement Security Service (ESS) director Nestorio Gualberto said that they initially checked on the background of Bicomong, but they did not find any derogatory record on him.

Gualberto has already given instructions to verify if the company Bendice Transportation Management, Inc., whose office is said to be located at Orchid Tower Oriental Gardens, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City, really exists.

They would also check if Bicomong is connected the Bendice. The names of both entities appeared in the Certificate of Ownership issued by the Maritime Industry Authority.

As for the two yachts, BoC-Deputy Commissioner Horacio Suansing Jr., who heads the Enforcement Group, said that forfeiture proceedings would be conducted at the Port of Manila (PoM). Once the vessels are forfeited in favor of the government, it would be decided if they would be auctioned or given to the PCG in the conduct of maritime patrol or for search and rescue missions.

PCG commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo is hoping that the vessels would be turned over to them because they are faster than any of their existing vessels and it can be useful in the conduct of search and rescue mission. Each vessel is equipped with three units of 250 horsepower Yamaha engines or a combined 750 horsepower.

"The vessels would also come in handy in seakeeping during rough weather," Tamayo added. 

Twin Uganda attacks kill 74 at World Cup parties

KAMPALA, Uganda - Bomb attacks ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final in Kampala, killing 74 and wounding scores in blasts blamed on Al Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia, officials said Monday.

Al-Qaeda-linked Somali group claims Uganda blasts

KAMPALA, Uganda - An al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group claimed responsibility Monday for twin bombings in Uganda that killed 74 people watching the World Cup final on TV, saying the militants would carry out attacks "against our enemy" wherever they are. It was the group's first international attack.

ICC adds genocide to charges against Sudan's president

THE HAGUE—The International Criminal Court added genocide Monday to the list of charges against Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir, after issuing a warrant for his arrest for war crimes and crimes against humanity last year.

Haitians mark poignant six-month quake anniversary

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Haitians marked a sad anniversary Monday, mourning the hundreds of thousands killed six months ago in a massive earthquake and eyeing a precarious future amid the slow trickle of aid.

Fidel Castro to appear on Cuban TV Monday: official

HAVANA, Cuba - Fidel Castro, the ailing 83-year-old revolutionary leader who still heads Cuba's Communist Party, is to make a rare television appearance on Monday, the state-run daily Granma reported.

Paul Williams in lineup of possible foes for Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines -- Count Paul Williams among those waiting to challenge seven-division champion Manny Pacquiao in November.

With unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather Jr. yet to sign the proposed November 13 contract to fight Pacquiao, Top Rank promotions head honcho Bob Arum is looking at Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto and Mexican Antonio Margarito as alternative opponents.

Dan Goossen, chief promoter of the 6-foot-2 Williams, however, called the two unattractive challengers, in an interview with

Cotto was manhandled by Pacquiao in their showdown in 2009, while Margarito is still banned in the United States for fighting with a plaster-like substance in his hand wraps.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao will play in a basketball exhibition highlighting the 44th Foundation Anniversary of South Cotabato and the 11th Tnalak Festival on Friday.

Pacquiao will banner the Public Works department against the Kenneth Duremdes-led Coke Ambassadors.

Fil-Am women's boxing champ in Manila to meet P.Noy

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino-American boxer Ana "The Hurricane" Julaton is in town not only to trace her roots, but also to meet the country's 15th President.

Michael Jordan proclaims that Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James

All it took was a one-word answer for Michael Jordan to settle the Kobe Bryant-LeBron James debate. When he was asked at a basketball camp who the better basketball player was, Jordan simply said, "Kobe."


You can counter that Jordan's talent evaluations leave a lot to be desired. He did draft Kwame Brown, you know. But his reputation as the game's all-time greatest player speaks for itself. This is hardly a new revelation. When James won his second best most valuable player award, I presented in detail why Bryant is still the NBA's best player. But as James continues to be rightfully derided for how he went about making "The Decision," The Times' Mark Heisler correctly observes that Bryant's reputation has improved as James' has fallen.

And to think, the storyline appeared much different only one season ago. Former Lakers General ManagerJerry West, who drafted Bryant out of Lower Merion (Pa.) High in 1996 and has remained one of his most ardent supporters, argued that James surpassed Bryant as a basketball player. When Cleveland made the Finals and the Lakers endured another first-round exit in 2007, the conventional thinking said James had proved he could lead a team while Bryant hadn't. In reality, neither person has really changed. James' one-hour special served as the latest example that he has looked out for No. 1 with little regard for anyone else. Bryant's tempered attitude has coincided with the Lakers adding more talent around him and winning championships.

But as of right now, Bryant is prevailing in the court of public opinion, a notion that's further cemented with Jordan's endorsement.

Judai sheds tears for Mommy Carol

MANILA, Philippines - Young superstar Judy Ann Santos, who is now 6 months pregnant, turned emotional as she described how much more she appreciates her mother now.

Piolo: I want to grow up together with KC

MANILA, Philippines - There's only one actor in the Philippines with the honorific "Papa" attached to his name, and he is setting his sights on one of the country's most exciting showbiz personalities. 

Nikki Gil gleeful for Charice's 'Glee' casting

by By Reyma Buan-Deveza,
MANILA, Philippines - Actress-singer Nikki Gil has praised international singing sensation Charice for bagging a role in the next season of the hit US musical series "Glee."

Boy Abunda: 'Ang Paglilitis' is worth my investment

by By Boy Villasanta,
MANILA, Philippines - King of Talk Boy Abunda is happy about spending his own money for Mario O'Hara's "Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio."

After stroke, Dick Israel appeals for financial aid

MANILA, Philippines - Veteran actor Dick Israel is seeking financial help from his celebrity friends after suffering from a stroke.

Expired passport and other PNoy quirks as told by longtime staff

This — as well as other quirks of the man who just a year ago was just a regular neophyte senator who was hardly headline material — was bared by Aquino's longtime secretary in an exclusive interview with GMA News reporter Lei Alviz.

"Siguro noong congressman siya, mga two times lang (siyang lumabas ng bansa), isang States at isang Japan (I think he left the country only two times when he was still a congressman, one to the United States and one to Japan)," said Undersecretary Rochelle Ahorro, who has been with Aquino since 1987.

The interview was aired over GMA News' "24 Oras" Monday.

Ahorro was Aquino's secretary, executive assistant and chief of staff during his nine-year stint as Tarlac representative, and senior executive assistant and appointments secretary when he was a senator. 

She said they have yet to work for the renewal of Aquino's passport, which she said expired in 2004.

PNoy vs branded clothes

Ahorro said Aquino, despite being a scion of an affluent political clan, also has a liking for inexpensive clothes. She recalled during the interview Aquino's reaction when, one time, she bought for him pants worth P8,000 each.

"Nagulat siya sa price. Gusto niya yata akong patayin 'yun (He was so surprised with the price that I think he wanted kill me)," she said in jest. 

The same frugality, however, is not applied on food, as Aquino is known to prefer steaks, and crabs over chicken, Ahorro said.

The appointment blunder

Nicknamed "Sexy" by Aquino himself, Ahorro remembered one major mistake she committed in her job in 1987 that resulted to Aquino attending a function that was scheduled a week later.

She said up to now, Aquino still teases her about the incident.

"Nagkamali ako ng schedule. Gusto ko nang tumalon sa building. Pumunta siya sa isang function na one week pa pala. Naalala pa niya, that's how many years ago na," she said.

(I made a mistake on his schedule. I wanted to jump off a building back then. I made him go to function a week earlier than it was scheduled. He still remembers that, even if that happened many years ago.)

Apologies are enough

The schedule blunder apparently irked Aquino, according to Ahorro, but he was appeased by a simple gesture of apology.

"Sa kanya kasi, 'wag kang magde-deny, magtuturo o mandadamay. Kung kasalanan mo, kasalanan mo, mag-apologize ka (He doesn't want you to deny your faults or blame other for it. If it is really your fault, admit it and apologize for it)," she said.

On a more serious note, Ahorro described Aquino as a hands-on boss who would personally choose which functions he wants to attend. He was also known for finishing whatever task he has started working on no matter the odds. 

"Pag sinabi niya, sinabi niya. May paninindigan (He stands by what he says. He is principled)," said Ahorro.

Longevity gene may also boost memory—study

PARIS—A gene linked to increased life span through calorie restriction also appears to play a critical role in boosting memory and brain power, according to a study published Sunday.


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