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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 16, 2010 Major News Stories

LPG prices to drop anew

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Independent liquefied petroleum gas (LGP) retailers will rollback prices of cooking gas next week, according to LPG Marketers Association (LPGMA) president Arnel Ty.

Ty said they will cut LPG prices by P0.50 per kilogram on July 19.

This means that the price of an 11-kilogram LPG cylinder, which is used by most households, will drop by another P6, Ty said.

The planned reduction in LPG prices reflects lower international contract price this month.

Last week, LPGMA also had a P6 per 11-kilogram cylinder rollback.

'Basyang' death toll rises to 26

MANILA, Philippines - The death toll from typhoon Basyang (international codename Conson) has risen to 26, according to the latest count of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

'Basyang' damages P23.69M agriculture, infrastructure

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Typhoon "Basyang" (international name: Conson) damaged over P23 million-worth of agriculture and infrastructure in four regions of the country, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

'Calamity' in calamity funds

by By Caroline J. Howard, ANC
MANILA, Philippines - Budget Secretary Florencio 'Butch' Abad on Wednesday said he will audit the P2-billion calamity fund after discovering that 70% of the fund has been spent in the first 6 months of 2010 despite the absence of any major disaster in the past months.

NFA assures stable rice supply in lean months

The Philippines' state-owned food agency has assured that the country has stable rice supply despite the onset of the lean months of July to September. 

Nursing grads must be flexible to find jobs in US

by By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
DALY CITY, California – New nursing graduates are advised to be more patient and flexible in order to find jobs in the US.

Jaeann Milan graduated in 2008 with a nursing degree from the Philippines. She was expecting to find work right away when she went back to the US. Instead, she found herself applying and waiting for six months.

"I was discouraged, I almost moved to Los Angeles to try to find something there. But I just stayed here and waited it out. You just have to be patient," said Milan.

A survey conducted in June 2009 by the National Association of Nursing Schools found that less than half of new graduates had no jobs by the time they finished school.

According to Priscilla Chua of Relief Nursing Services, hospitals are hesitant to hire new nurses because of the recession. She said hospitals spend an average of $50,000 to train each new hire.

With the high unemployment rate, many have lost their health care coverage. Also, budget cuts at state- and government-run hospitals have caused hiring freezes and hurt graduates' chances for a job.

"I think there are still a lot of patients. It's just that these nurses, they don't want to change their jobs, they want to stay because of the recession," Chua said.

But Chua said there are ways new nursing graduates can gain experience.

"You got to start somewhere. Start in long term care. Start through a nursing agency. Once you gain the experience, the hospitals will hire you. They'll be more willing to hire you as a registered nurse," added Chua.

Milan's patience eventually paid off. She gained experience as a per-day nurse with a staffing agency and a job as a nursing school instructor. Milan has since become a full-time Registered Nurse at a hospital. Balitang America

US bans Pinoy PTs from taking licensure exam

Apektado ngayon ang Pinoy physical therapists na nangangarap makapag-trabaho sa Amerika! Ito ay matapos pagbawalan ng Amerika ang mga Pinoy na kumuha ng exam para makapag-hanapbuhay doon! Ang dahilan ng ban: may nadiskubre umanong pagkalat o leakage ng mga tanong sa exam sa ilang paaralan at review centers sa bansa.

CEU grad tops 50 optometry board exam passers

A graduate of the Centro Escolar University (CEU) in Manila topped the 50 passers of the July 2010 optometrist licensure examination, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced on Thursday.
Justin Divinagracia of CEU-Manila led the exam passers, with a score of 88.81 percent, followed by Angela Czarina Villalobos, also from the same school, with a score of 88.32 percent.

Three other CEU-Manila graduates completed the Top 5 in the list of examinees. 

They are Trina Sabrina Allas (87.55 percent), Roden Natnat (87.42 percent), and Fortunato Arevalo (86.25 percent).

The optometrist licensure exams were administered last Tuesday to 58 students by the Board of Optometry chaired by Dr. Anita Villarta.

Ex-NegOcc gov Lacson is new GSIS chair

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has appointed former Negros Occidental governor Daniel "Bitay" Lacson chairman of state pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Airport board defends grant

Six members of the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) board yesterday faced the media to insist that there was nothing irregular and illegal in the granting of severance pay amounting to P500,000 to former Department of Tourism regional director Patria Aurora Roa.

Ombud probes pay

THE Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has requested from the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) documents on the release of the P500,000-severance pay to its former board member.

Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas Virginia Palanca-Santiago confirmed yesterday her office sent a subpoena to the accountant of MCIAA last Wednesday and asked her to provide the anti-graft office with the documents.

The documents were used as basis for the release of "severance pay" to former MCIAA board member and former Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 director Patria Aurora Roa.

But Santiago declined to disclose the documents her office requested from the MCIAA, saying the anti-graft office will use the papers to determine if the release of the severance pay to Roa is legal.

Santiago said her office is also looking into the claim of defeated gubernatorial candidate Hilario Davide III that Roa was not qualified to sit in the MCIAA board.

But four members of the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) board yesterday said the granting of severance pay to Roa is legal based on the agency's charter and the Corporate Code of the Philippines.

As to the issue raised Davide that the pay given to Roa is not only illegal but also immoral, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said what is immoral to one can be moral to others.

In explaining Roa's P500,000-severance pay, Garcia, in a press conference, read Section 6, paragraph D of the MCIAA Charter.

The provision provides that the board shall approve salary ranges, benefits and other terms and conditions of service for all officers and employees of the authority upon the recommendation of the general manager which shall be competitive with those offered in the private sector.

"We did not make this provision. This was already contained even long before I sat here when the law which created the authority (was passed)," Garcia said.

"You should take note that the word 'be competitive' with those offered in the private sector is a responsibility that we must, as a board, consider when we now deliberate upon appropriate allowances or benefits or compensation to the members of the board, its officers and employees because when the power to approve salaries, benefits and other terms and conditions of service, was vested upon the board that power was so defined very clearly. But when we do approve such benefits, we should bear in mind that these benefits be competitive with those offered in the private sector," Garcia said.

Garcia said there may be questions on the definition of the word competitive.

"In very clear terms, at par, isn't it? If the private sector is giving one and a half month under the Labor Code for every year of service, let us be at par or higher than that because we must be competitive. In order to be fair, at least at par," Garcia said.

Garcia then referred the media to Gordon "Dondi" Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club, and another member of the board, who discussed the benefits of members of a board in the private sector.

Gordon said the minimum compensation of a member of the board of directors of a major company is P3 million a year.

"These board members also received separation benefits so do the directors of other GOCCs (government-owned and -controlled corporations). When the board decided to give a retirement package to director Roa, we felt (she deserves it) after 15 years of meritorious and active service... That was the basis on our decision to grant her a retirement package, like the benefits received by the retired employees and officials at any other corporation and as vested in the law," Joseph said.

Joseph's reasoning runs counter to the earlier statement of DOT undersecretary Phineas Alburo that Roa cannot get
retirement benefits from MCIAA because she was only representing the tourism agency to the board and that she is drawing her retirement from the DOT where she was under plantilla.

Joseph denied insinuations by some media personalities that members of the MCIAA board received huge benefits, including free flights (plane tickets).

"I can assure you that we received no free flights from anyone neither do we receive any benefits from any airline, regardless of what certain interests here are," Joseph said.

He said the P500,000 given to Roa was computed based on the 1.1 month per year of the 15 years of service she rendered.

MCIAA Board Member Valeriano "Bobit" Avila alleged that a group who wants to destroy the image of the airport authority is using the media but refused to name names.

"The issue (Roa's case) that has brought into is due to the fact that there is a serious misunderstanding not only by certain disgruntled employees but even in media on the rules of the board of directors in corporation," Avila said.

Garcia challenged those who questioned the morality of the board's decision to define the term.

"I would wish to ask those who are now crying to high heavens about morals if they themselves can truly answer that they are also truly moral. How much do they compensate their helpers in the house? How much do they compensate their drivers? How do they treat those that serve them?"

She said, "It is only God, the Supreme Being, who can in fact judge us on our own morality. But as a board, we act in accordance with the duties, powers and responsibilities vested upon us by this very law which creates the authority. This law was created not by us, long before us, but because we are here, we are bound to follow the letter of the law."

Davide earlier said Roa was not qualified to be a member of the board because RA 6958 only states that the DOT secretary, undersecretary or assistant may sit as ex-officio member of the board.

However, Garcia said that only the DOT that designated Roa can answer it. She said Roa was designated as member of the board for 15 years.

In answer to the question on why Roa received P500,000 instead of distributing the amount to the airport employees, Garcia said MCIAA has distributed more than P35 million in incentive bonuses to officers and employees.

MCIAA waiting for SC ruling on disallowed severance pay

THE controversy involving the severance pay to a retiring Mactan- Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) board member is not new.

On March 20, 2003, the Commission on Audit said the P100,000-severance pay the MCIAA board gave to former Department of Transportation and Communication undersecretary Carina Sepulveda Valera did not have legal basis.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Aside from the amount, Valera also allegedly failed to refund a certain amount of honorarium, which was fixed by the board, and COA considered it a "double compensation," in violation of audit rules.

However, MCIAA Legal Officer Glenn Napuli said yesterday the COA opinion on the Valera case is pending before the Supreme Court.

Officials and members of the MCIAA Employees Mutual Association (Mema) have criticized the MCIAA board for its decisions in the use of its funds.

In June 2002, Mema officials and employees held daily protest-rallies and burned effigies of then governor Pablo Garcia, then justice undersecretary Ramon Liwag, Valera, and former Department of Tourism 7 director Patria Aurora Roa—all members of the MCIAA board—for refusing to release their benefits despite the order by Judge Agapito Honta-nosas Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 16.

But former MCIAA general manager Alfonso Alerre said then that the board was careful in paying benefits to MCIAA officials and employees because COA issued a disallowance for the P58 million it released in benefits to airport personnel in 1998,
1999 and 2000.

The board allegedly approved the release of P85,000 for MCIAA official or employee without any legal basis.

But aside from conflict in the use of funds, differences among board members and politics have created problems in the MCIAA.

When Alerre stepped down as general manager in October 2002, the board approved a resolution granting him a cash gift of P50,000.

But the board recalled it because of differences with some of its members.

Former congressman Raul del Mar authored the MCIAA Charter or Republic Act 6958 in the 9th Congress.

Since del Mar was an ally of former Cebu governor Emilio "Lito" Osmeña, the governor's political rival Maximo Patalinghug, then mayor of Lapu-Lapu City, was not given a seat in the MCIAA board even if the airport is located in the city. (EOB)

Greg sues Gwen, 3 others for damages

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez, Jr. yesterday filed a civil case for mandamus, prohibition and damages against Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and three other provincial officials because of the non-renewal of the contracts of his nine consultants.

Rama asked to reconsider rule on media access

Some Cebu City councilors asked Mayor Michael Rama to reconsider the new policy he implemented in the City Hall which limits media access to department heads and instead, coursing interviews through the Public Information Office.

According to department heads, they are discouraged to talk if they are not prepared or if the mayor will not give them clearance.

Councilor Edgardo Labella said the Philippine Constitution provides that any information on matters of public concern must not be denied to any individual unless the matter is in the interest of national security or public safety.

"So I think along that line, anybody, a public official should not be prevented from commenting or answering questions that are matters of public concern. It is guaranteed by the constitution. If it has something to do with their public functions, why not answer?" Labella said.

Under Article III or the Bill of Rights, Section 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, "the right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized."

Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.

He said that coursing the release of information to the PIO is a good practice but this should not prevent any official from answering when they are asked.

"We are all public officials, we are answerable, we are accountable to the people, so if you can answer, why not? This is a democratic country, that's the essence of democracy. Freedom," he said.

"I hope that the Mayor will reconsider because we have nothing to hide," Labella added.

Allowing easy media access, he said, shows that this administration upholds maximum transparency and accountability.

Labella said that the council will function independently from the executive department and will keep all information accessible to the public. He said, however, that the council was not met by the mayor regarding the order.

For Councilor Margot Osmeña, department heads were put in their position because they are responsible and because they have the knowledge of their field so they should be prepared to answer questions all the time.

"I don't want to say it's right or wrong but I do know that department heads are such because they do have the talent and they are responsible people. I would like to say that we can work with people whom we trust and we work together because we acknowledge each other's talent," Osmeña said.

Killers of ex-mayor, son get 80-year prison term

A policeman and his cohort, accused in the twin murder of a former mayor in Leyte and his son, were sentenced to suffer 80-year imprisonment.

Regional Trial Court Branch 18 Judge Gilbert Moises found Police Officer 1 Roque Marsan F. Bisnar and cohort Neddy Polistico guilty for the Roy Jumao-as, Sr. and Jake Jumao-as twin murder in March 2004.

Moises meted the two the penalty of reclusion perpetua or 40 years imprisonment for each count of murder, which means that for the two counts they will suffer a total of 80 years in prison.

In a 12-page decision promulgated yesterday, Moises also ordered Bisnar and Polistico to pay the heirs of the victims in the total amount of P150, 000 as civil indemnity; P100,000 as moral damages; P50, 000 as exemplary damages; and P50,000 as temperate damages.

Former Hindang Mayor Roy Jumao-as, Sr. and his son Jake were killed in March 4, 2004 at about 5:30 p.m. on D. Jakosalem St., Cebu City.

Bisnar and Polistico were positively identified to be the assailants. They both denied the charges.

Bisnar claimed that he was in Mandaue City when the shooting incident happened. Bisnar said he was on duty at the Subangdaku Police Station when Jumao-as and his son were killed. Polistico on the other hand said he was just in the house doing some carpentry works when he was arrested by the police.

Narcisa Jumao-as, Roy's wife, however testified that prior to the shooting of her husband and her son she already noticed Bisnar twice.

She said there was even a time that Bisnar offered a drink to her husband. Another prosecution witness, Bernaditha Andrino, 65, said she saw the killers and pointed to the two accused.

A 10-year-old witness likewise positively identified Bisnar as the gunman she saw hurriedly left the crime scene.

The court ruled that these witnesses were not known to the accused prior to the shooting incident and have no ill feelings against them.

"Hence, the court believes that these witnesses were not impelled by any other motive except to tell the truth," Moises said in his decision.

According to the court, even if the prosecution failed to prove evident premeditation, the presence of one aggravating circumstance qualifies the crime to murder.

"Verily, the prosecution, through the solid, categorical and logical narrations of its witnesses was able to overcome the accused' constitutional presumption of innocence by establishing their guilt beyond reasonable doubt," the decision reads.

Women's Commission urges probe on "lingam massage"

Concerned on how it would affect women working in massage parlors, the Cebu Provincial Women's Commission (PWC) is urging Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes to investigate the existence and operation of lingam massage parlors in Mandaue City.

The Cebu Provincial Government had approved in 2005 Ordinance No.2005-18, which is the Women's Development Code of Cebu Province. This ordinance seeks to uphold the rights, worth and dignity of women as human beings.

Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale, chairperson of the committee on women, family and minors and co-chairperson of the PWC, said she received information that such a massage parlor is now operating in Mandaue City, specifically in Barangay Cambaro.

The women's commission, in a press release, said that a fact-finding investigation would help the PWC to have "a full grasp" on what a lingam massage parlor is all about, and why it had stirred the attention and curiosity of many.

"It is therefore, that the Cebu PWC requests Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes to conduct a fact-finding investigation on the matter, and to impose appropriate sanctions if and when warranted," read the press statement.

Lingam massage is specifically for men and touches on their private parts. Some describe this kind of massage as sexually provocative, but operators of a spa who claimed to be the first one offering lingam massage in Cebu insisted that it is not indecent.

Owners of Authentic Lingam Massage were reported as saying that just like other kinds of massage, lingam is still meant to soothe and relax. This technique involves stroking the male sexual organ, called "lingam " in Sanskrit.

The Spa and Wellness Association of Cebu (SWAC) president had earlier expressed fears that the number of spas offering lingam massage would jeopardize the reputation of wholesome Cebu spas.

The owners of Authentic Lingam Masage, in an earlier news report, were quoted as saying that lingam massage is a widely accepted form of wellness massage all over the world. They, however, noted the sprouting of spas that claim to offer lingam although they doubt whether personnel of these new spas were trained properly.

Aquino mulls abolishing PAGC, PASG

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is mulling to abolish 2 agencies created by his predecessor President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  Aquino told reporters the government can make do with bodies that are already doing the jobs of both the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) and the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG).

Aquino government files first tax evasion case

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino government filed its first tax evasion case on Thursday to launch its campaign to shore up shaky revenues and cut the budget deficit by cracking down on corruption and enforcing tax collection laws.  Finance officials went to the justice department to file tax evasion charges against pawnshop owner William Villarica, who they said paid only P25,600 in income tax between 1998 and 2009, but was able to buy a P26 million Lamborghini sports car.

Purisima: No compromise with tax evaders

The Department of Finance on Thursday warned that the government will not enter into a compromise with tax evaders, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said.

The return of EJKs

Within the first two weeks of the new president's term, five political activists have been killed. It seems that those responsible for the several hundred other cases of "extra-judicial killings" (EJKs) of members of left-leaning organizations during the Arroyo administration do not intend to fade out, hoping that oblivion will bury their deed along with the dead.

Aquino forms 21st century 'Magsaysay' media team

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III is assembling a communications group that will use both traditional and new media in reaching out to Filipinos of all ages.

Speaking to Malacañang reporters at a special press dinner Tuesday night, Aquino said the government is carefully constructing its new media team to be a 21st century version of the media effort of former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay Jr.

"We are making a 21st century version of Magsaysay. If before you had an issue, you sent a telegram but nobody uses a telegram nowadays. If we use short messaging system or text, how many billions of text do we need? If somebody sends us a text, how do we respond?" he told reporters.

He said that aside from text messages, the new communications team will also tap social networks since 18-22% of Filipinos are now members of at least one social network. "The press, the interaction, the production, messaging, lahat ito kailangan gawin, hati-hati," he said.

The new President said he will not appoint a press secretary since having one felt like he was "leading the press."

He added that the new communications group will have two co-equal divisions that may need separate budgets.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier said structural changes in the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) will be "wide-ranging" since the office is already outmoded. He said there is even no harmony among its many attached agencies.

Lacierda said Aquino wants Malacañang to become visible in social networking websites Facebook and Twitter in order to address the needs of the public. The group would address all these, he said.

Sources earlier said the communications group will be composed of former Presidential Management Staff Herminio "Sonny" Coloma, former ANC anchor Ricky Carandang and historian Manuel "Manolo" Quezon III.

The group will supposedly strategize and craft the government's messages.

Meanwhile, Lacierda denied there is a rift among those who will complete the communications group.

He said all of them have a common job to pursue – promote the president's advocacies. One will be made a deputy spokesperson, he said. 

Binay accepts Aquino's offer to become housing chairman

(Updated 9:52 p.m.) Vice President Jejomar Binay formally accepted on Thursday President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's offer to head the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). As housing czar, Binay will head five of six key shelter agencies, including the Pag-IBIG Fund, a trust fund that helps Filipinos buy and own their houses.

Rumors of political elbowing mar Senate presidency race

As the Senate presidency race heats up, rumors of political elbowing are surfacing, the latest of which have focused on the controversial 2007 senatorial race between Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.
On Thursday, at least two senators said the race for the top Senate post has nothing to do with the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to allow Zubiri to proceed with his counter protest against Pimentel, whom he defeated in the race for the 12th senatorial slot in the 2007 elections.

Senators Edgardo Angara and Sergio "Serge" Osmeña III issued similar statements after Pimentel claimed that the approval of the protest was used as a bargaining chip for a vote in the race for the Senate presidency. 

Pimentel ranked 13th in the 2007 senatorial elections while Zubiri managed to get the 12th and final seat at the time. Pimentel contested Zubiri's win, and the SET ruled in 2008 that he actually won by more than 200,000 votes.

Zubiri, however, filed a counter protest and said that he was cheated in more than 73,000 precincts, out of the the country's total of more than 224,700 precincts in the 2007 elections. Last June 4, the SET — voting 7-2 — allowed Zubiri to proceed with the revision of the results.

Included in the seven who were in favor of the revision were Senators Angara, Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, and Francis Pangilinan, and Supreme Court Associate Justices Teresita de Castro and Presbitero Velasco Jr.

The SET is composed of three Supreme Court justices and six members of the Senate, and is tasked with the work of hearing and deciding on electoral protest cases on the senatorial elections.

No connection

In a text message to GMANews.TV, however, Angara dismissed Pimentel's assertion that Senate politics had anything to do with their vote in the SET as "far-fetched" and "superficial." 

Osmeña also explained that the protest could have not been used as a bargaining chip, because the SET approved a recount of the precincts where Zubiri claims he had been cheated long before the Senate tackled the question of voting for a new president.

"I don't think that can be a bargaining chip because if you want a bargaining chip, don't sign and get a promise," he told reporters during a weekly forum at the Senate on Thursday.

He added that aspirants for the Senate presidency, Senators Pangilinan and Manuel Villar, could not have "pressured" Zubiri into any vote because he had been out of the country for most of the session break.

Zubiri is widely known to be part of Angara's bloc, which is considered to provide the "swing vote" that could decide the Senate presidential race. Reportedly siding with the two are Senators Legarda, Lapid, Gregorio Honasan, Tito Sotto, and Ramon Bong Revilla.

Pangilinan is said to enjoy the sure support of fellow Liberal Party members Senators Franklin Drilon, Teofisto Guingona III, and Ralph Recto. 

On the other hand, Nationalista Party's (NP) Villar expects to get the votes of Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Pilar Juliana Cayetano, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Joker Arroyo, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who all ran under NP.

A senator needs 13 votes to secure the Senate presidency. Under the Constitution, majority of the Senate is pegged at 13 because the number of senators is fixed at 24.

No done deal yet

Osmeña claims that Pangilinan already has 11 votes at hand, including that of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. The detained Trillanes, however, cannot exercise voting powers unless a court allows him to attend the sessions.

Trillanes ran under Villar's NP during the 2007 senatorial elections but Osmeña said the detained senator "saw the light" and has since decided to support Pangilinan.

Osmeña refused to reveal the names of the other senators who have reportedly expressed support for Pangilinan.

"I'm not at liberty to name because they themselves, some of those who signed, did not want to divulge (their vote)," he said.

He likewise said that people can "speculate all they want" but that it's still anyone's game. "Nothing's a done deal yet (but) I'm optimistic that Pangilinan is closer to getting it (the 13 votes)," he said.

Angara said that his bloc's choice will reflect their legislative agenda and priorities.

"We maintain ties as blocs because we want to have a say in the reforms we want to push for. We want to have an influence on the content of the legislative agenda," said the senator, who was also a former Senate president.

Angara said that in the 15th Congress, he will push for the amendment of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Charter, the Collective Investment Schemes Law, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

"We will eventually have to agree for the sake of pushing for reforms that are of utmost importance to the country and to the people," he said. 

Osmeña fails to meet poll expense deadline, says sorry to Comelec

Senator Sergio "Serge" Osmeña III on Thursday apologized to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for failing to submit his statement of contributions and expenditures before the June 24 deadline.

Poll protests swamp House electoral tribunal

Despite general acceptance of the results of last May's first ever automated nationwide elections, it looks like the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) will have a busy season.
Fifty-five protests or disqualification cases have been filed against new members of the 15th Congress in the HRET, although eight of them have been withdrawn or dismissed for failure to pay the corresponding fees.

Among the more prominent personalities complained about are former first lady Imelda Marcos, who won a seat representing Ilocos Norte, and TV host Lucy Torres, who won in Leyte.

Most of the cases were filed by losing candidates.

Marcos' disqualification is being sought by lawyers Mariano Nalupta and Ferdinand Ignacio who claim that she failed to meet the one-year residency requirement for candidates. 

Marcos defeated Nalupta for the congressional seat representing the second district of Ilocos Norte. 

Eufrocino Codilla Jr. and Silverio Tagolino, who both lost to Torres, have sought her disqualification. 

Codilla belongs to an influential Leyte political clan. He ran for the seat vacated by his father, Eufrocino Codilla Sr., but was beaten by Torres.

In Makati City, Ma. Lourdes Locsin has filed a disqualification case against the winner of the first district seat, Rep. Monique Lagdameo. 

Locsin is the wife of former Rep. Teodoro Locsin, who as chair of the House committee on suffrage concluded after an official inquiry that the automated polls were flawed and any cheating that took place probably occurred at the local level.

Quezon City Rep. Vincent Crisologo is facing not one but two protest cases filed by his rivals Vivienne Tan and Elizabeth Delarmente.

Neophyte Rep. Jorge Banal Jr. is also facing two cases from his rivals—former QC Rep. Matias Defensor and Franz Pumaren. 

Losing candidates who belonged to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Cabinet have refused to accept defeat as well. 

Former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita has questioned the victory of his rival, Batangas Rep. Tomas Apacible. 

Former Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera has challenged the victory of her opponent, Quezon Rep. Wilfredo Mark Enverga. 

Party-list representatives have not been spared. 

Jovito Palparan Jr., a retired general accused of involvement in the extrajudicial killing of leftists, has sought the ouster of the nominees of the militant Bayan Muna, Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares.

NBI chief appeals to Lacson to surrender

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Magtanggol Gatdula has appealed to fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson to surrender, saying it is high-time for him to present himself to the law, so he could defend himself in the twin murders he has been accused of committing.

Trillanes posts bail but still detained for another case

A bondsman posted bail for Antonio Trillanes IV at the Makati regional trial court on Thursday but the detained senator could not be released immediately as he has been denied bail in another case.

Serge: With Trillanes, Kiko has 11 votes for Senate president

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Antonio Trillanes has posted bail for rebellion charges in connection with the Manila Peninsula siege pending before the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 presided by Judge Elmo Alameda.

Rey Robles, Trillanes' lawyer, told ANC his client is asking the court to allow him to attend the first session of the Senate on July 26.

This is because Trillanes would like to perform his duties as a senator, including voting for the next Senate president.

Meanwhile, Senator Serge Osmeña claimed on Thursday that Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan already has 11 out of the 13 votes needed to win the Senate presidency.

Osmeña said the Liberal Party candidate has the backing of Sen. Trillanes, even if he supported the presidential bid of Senator Manny Villar during the election. 
Villar is the Nacionalista Party's bet for the Senate president. 
Speculation is also rife that Senator Lito Lapid will vote for Pangilinan on the condition that his son Mark is retained as general manager of the Philippine Tourism Authority.

This contradicts earlier reports that Lapid is part of the bloc of Senator Edgardo Angara.

Meanwhile, Senator Jinggoy Estrada is reportedly convincing Senator Bong Revilla to support Pangilinan.

Ranking US official to visit RP, consult with Aquino gov't

The flurry of diplomatic activity in the region will bring next week the highest US official yet to meet with the Aquino administration.

William Burns is US Undersecretary for Political Affairs.

He was Ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, and reports in Washington DC suggest he played a big role in the recent "spy swap" between the US and Russia.

He is scheduled to arrive for a two-day visit to Manila starting Tuesday.

MILF welcomes Leonen appointment as peace envoy

MANILA, Philippines - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Thursday welcomed the appointment of University of the Philippine College of Law dean Marvic Leonen as the government's chief peace negotiator.

Army, PNP ask Congress to keep Maguindanao state of emergency

Top military and police officials are asking Congress to sustain a state of emergency in three provinces where militias and gunmen, allegedly involved in the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao in November last year, continue to roam.

Group asks Aquino to free 'Morong 43'

MANILA, Philippines - An international group has urged President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to free 43 health workers arrested in Rizal for being alleged members of the New People's Army.

Militant groups dispute Rosales' nomination as CHR chief

Militant partylist representatives on Thursday asked President Benigno Aquino III to reconsider his choice of the next chairman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Disabled ask Aquino gov't to recognize rights

Their physical handicap it appears, is not the biggest battle confronting persons with disabilities (PWDs). It is the government's inability to implement the laws that protect their rights that is their biggest challenge.

$1: P46.330

$1: P46.330

Euro 1: P58.9400

Remittances hit monthly record in May

Money sent home by overseas Filipinos rose 6.5% in May from a year ago to $1.58 billion, the highest monthly remittance level recorded by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The May figure brought remittances for the first 5 months of the year to $7.4 billion, up 6.6% year on year. Money remitted came mostly from the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, United Kingdom, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Italy.

Mobile phones in use worldwide top 5-B: study

by Agence France-Presse
STOCKHOLM - The number of mobile phones in use worldwide has topped 5.0 billion, boosted by soaring demand in emerging markets India and China, a study by Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson showed Thursday.

Singapore needs 100,000 workers as economy sizzles

Singapore will need 100,000 new foreign workers this year to keep on track an economy enjoying a stunning rebound, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in remarks published Thursday.

Malaysia makes first deployment to Afghanistan

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia will make its first military deployment to Afghanistan Thursday, sending a unit of medical personnel as ties with the United States deepen.

Argentina first in Latin America to legalize gay marriage

by by Indalecio Alvarez, Agence France-Presse
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentina on Thursday became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage, following a landmark Senate vote carried live on national television.

UN, Oxford unveil new index to measure poverty

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Oxford University on Wednesday launched a new index to measure poverty levels which they said give a "multidimensional" picture of people living in hardship, and could help target development resources more effectively.

O'Neal departs Miami for Boston

by Agence France-Presse
BOSTON, Massachusetts – Six-time NBA All-Star Jermaine O'Neal decided he didn't want to spend one of his remaining seasons in the league watching Miami's new star trio sort themselves out.

Text-savvy P-Noy no stranger to text scams

MANILA, Philippines - It seems President Benigno Aquino is no stranger to text scams.

Aquino said he once kept receiving text messages from an unknown sender, saying: "Kamusta na kayo diyan, ito na ang bagong roaming ko (How are you? This is my new roaming number)."

He said he replied to the sender, not knowing that it was a scam. He said the sender then replied that he was Aquino's sibling.

"I answered back: I don't have a sibling abroad. Good night to you," he told reporters.

He said the text scams had yet to reach the point where he was asked for cellphone load.

At first, he said he felt sorry for the people sending text messages saying that they were looking for their fellow siblings. However, the persistent messages soon began to irritate him.

He said some of the messages even asked him for a car loan or a housing loan.

"Gusto kong magpalit ng numero pero yung gusto kong bigyan ng numero, marami-rami rin," he said.

Aquino said he usually answers text messages after reading newspapers in the morning or before going to sleep at night. He said he gets up 40-50 text messages throughout the day.

"Sinasagot ko umaga at gabi. Bago matulog, pagkagising. Pagkagising, hindi kaagad. Dalawang diyaryo muna. Pagbukas ko kanina, 55 yata. Pinapatay ko. Sa gabi pag-uwi ko, 44 yata. Normally by lunch nababawasan. Kanina 15 pa ang naiwan. Pagdating ko sa bahay siguro 40 na naman yon," he said.

Report: Kris Aquino's grounds for separation with James Yap will 'shock' public

Nananatiling palaisipan ang dahilan kung bakit iniwan ni Kris Aquino ang mister na si James Yap. Pero sa isang ulat sa telebisyon, sinabing ikagugulat ng publiko ang "grounds" sa ihahain nitong petisyon sa korte para pawalang-bisa ang kanilang kasal.

Pacquiao fights climate change, aims to save RP forests

by By Jay Dayupay, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - After making his mark as a world boxing champ, Sarangani congressman Manny Pacquiao is now fighting climate change by filing a bill to increase reforestation efforts in villages all over the Philippines.

Kris gifts Pokwang with pink bus for helping P.Noy

MANILA, Philippines - TV host-comedienne Pokwang received a Mini Coaster from one of her closest friends in showbiz, presidential sister Kris Aquino.

Math champions back home with medals

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine delegation to the 51st International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) that bagged silver and other awards arrived in Manila on Thursday.


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