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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 22, 2010 Major News Stories

July 26 not a holiday

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday is a working day.

Aquino home in QC declared 'no rally' zone on Sona day

The Quezon City Police District has declared the street where President Benigno Aquino III lives as a "no rally zone" on July 26, when he would deliver his first State of the Nation Address as the country's chief executive.

Philippines slipping into hunger trap – SWS

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is in danger of falling into a hunger trap after over 20% of Filipino families said they experienced hunger for three consecutive quarters, a new survey revealed Wednesday.

The new survey by Social Weather Stations (SWS), conducted last June 25-28, showed that 21.1% of the country, or an estimated 4 million Filipino families, went hungry at least once from April to June.

Of that number, at least 780,000 families said they went hungry "often" or "always" compared to only 530,000 families in the first quarter.

SWS president Dr. Mahar Mangahas said the new hunger statistics show that nothing significant has happened to address the hunger problem for a long period of time.

"[Hunger] at 21.1 percent is simply terrible. It's been over 20% now for three quarters in succession. In fact, even between 15-19% is very bad and 10-14% is quite bad. When we started this in 1998, it was only 9%," he said.

He said hunger levels reached a record-high 24% (4.4 million families) in December 2009, dipped slightly to 21.2% (4 million families) in March and is now at 21.1% in June.

SWS surveys showed that hunger levels in the country have fluctuated above 10% at least nine times from July 1998 to March 2004.

Mangahas said hunger levels dipped to 5.1% in September 2003. However, hunger levels have stayed above 10% since June 2004, or the start of President Arroyo's second term in office.

According to Mangahas, the current trend on hunger levels means that the Philippines will be unable to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

"The MDG on halving poverty is definitely not going to be met when the trend is moving towards the wrong direction," he said.

Hunger and poverty

Mangahas said hunger and poverty are interconnected since the poor are often the ones who go hungry. He, however, noted that some people who actually experience hunger because they having nothing to eat sometimes don't think they are poor "because they see people who are much worse off."

"The standard of living has also fallen because there are quite a lot of people who are hungry sometimes and yet they think they are not poor," he said. 

The SWS president said the new hunger statistics should be used as a guide by the new Aquino administration in solving the hunger problem.

"I don't know his ideology but I hope he stops paying attention to Gross National Product or Gross Domestic Product and look directly at what's happening to the poor and be guided," he said.

He said the government could also conduct its own study on tracking hunger and poverty that is not centered on the country's economic condition. "By simply focusing forever on gross national product, they will be led in the wrong direction," he said. 

Conditional cash transfer vs hunger

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, meanwhile, said President Aquino will address the hunger problem in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) next week. He said the Department of Social Welfare and Development will identify the poorest families most in need of the money through its conditional cash transfer program.

"That will be addressed by the SONA. In fact, there will be poverty alleviation programs that will be taken up. One of them, which has already been stated by Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, is the conditional cash transfer program," he said.

Budget Secretary Butch Abad earlier said he will redirect P3.3 billion in funds for the food-for-school program to the conditional cash transfer program.

Soliman earlier said her office has received negative feedback on the food-for-school program "in terms of ensuring that the rice gets to the families that are supposed to be served."

She cited studies conducted by World Bank and the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) that showed substantial " leakage" or the amount of rice believed to be deviated from the rightful recipients.

Rama: Vendors on one side only

If you dream of a city that is free of obstructions on the sidewalks, that might soon come true, at least for one side on each street.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has assured the public that a few days from now they can easily pass by the city's sidewalks as he already instructed the members of the City Hall's Squatters Prevention Encroachment Elimination Division to strictly implement "one-side vending policy" in busy streets.

"One-side vending" means that the vendors are only allowed on the sidewalk on one side of the road. This frees up the sidewalk on the other side of the road for pedestrians, who don't intend to buy anything to use.

Rama has relieved Vicente Mercado as head of SPEED and designated Noel "Nonoy" Artes to the post with instructions to strictly implement the one side vending policy, particularly in Colon Street and some other busy streets in the city.

Murder raps vs. ex-PB man's son

A murder case will be filed today against the son of former provincial board member Antonio Almirante Jr. for killing his elder brother at the height of their quarrel last Tuesday.

Missing Philhealth Checks: Archua's lawyer: CTO collector did it

As the City Legal Office formally served the 30 days preventive suspension to Cebu City Medical Center credit officer Lourdes Archua because of the 28 lost checks from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, her lawyer yesterday claimed that it was not her client but a collector from the City Treasurer's Office was responsible.

Lawyer Gloria Lastimosa Dalawampu, Archua's legal counsel, yesterday said it was not her client but Mary Grace Lopez, a collector of the CTO detailed at the CCMC, was responsible for turning over the checks to a certain Concha Ruth Adlawan.

Dalawampu said the documents will prove that her client was not responsible for the lost of the checks.

Dalawampu explained that her client only assumed the responsibility because she was the head of the billing and collection unit where Lopez holds office.

She admitted that she released the checks in her reply to the letter of CCMC director Myrna Go who asked her to explain the lost of 28 checks worth P240,000.

"She (Archua) said that she was the one who personally released the check because she feels that it is her command responsibility. But the person who is in-charged of all Philhealth transactions is not my client. She does not know anything about it. Si Lopez ra ang nakahibaw ana, dili ba dapat ni apilon og imbestigar?" Dalawampu said.

Lopez however is on leave since June 14.

She was detailed at the CCMC through a memorandum order dated March 28, 2005 issued by then OIC Tessie Camarillo.

Dalawampu said that Lopez is not even under the billing and collection unit headed by Archua. The memorandum designated Lopez at the Administrative Office or at the office of the chief of hospital.

Yesterday morning, a representative from the office of the Mayor formally served the suspension order to Archua.

Archua will be prevented from performing her functions for 30 days while the investigation is in progress.

The order was served pursuant to the formal charge filed against her for gross neglect of duty.

In a resolution, Atty. Marie Velle Abella ruled that Archua is liable for neglect of duty as she failed to perform the act inherent to her appointed position.

"The manner in getting the checks was palpably irregular and dubious but she gave the check without any precautionary measures taken. Respondent knows for a fact that only the chief of Hospital can release the checks through formal endorsement to the City Treasurer's Office," Abella said.

But Dalawampu insisted that Archua did not release the check and it is unfair for her client to be the only one suspended.

"Dili man ta ka-prevent kung mu-impose og preventive suspension but in our part unfair nga ari lang kang Mrs. Archua while in fact there is another person in-charge sa tanang Philhealth checks," Dalawampu said.

She said she will request the City Attorney to expand their investigation by including Lopez as one of the respondents.

She also wants Go to explain why she took all the documents showing all Philhealth transactions from the desk of Lopez without the latter's consent.

"According to my client, Dr. Go took all the documents from Lopez' desk. Wala man mabuhat akong client ana kay di man under niya si Lopez. Dr. Go knows that Lopez is the one in-charge of all these. Why didn't she tell this to the investigators and what are these documents she took? Lopez must be asked to make an inventory of all the documents that Dr. Go took from her," Dalawampu said.

Dalawampu also got irked by the pronouncement of City Attorney Joseph Bernaldez, who said that the City Hall employee, who rediscounted six of the stolen checks and deposited it his account, will stand as a vital witness.

"Why do they have to consider him the vital witness? Isn't he in the possession of the stolen checks? And being a City Hall employee, he knows very well that the check is in the name of CCMC, which means that it is a government fund. Kanus-a pa man diay napurdoy ang CCMC nga kinahanglan na magpa-rediscount og cheke?" she asked.

Bernaldez said that the employee was the victim of the crime. "Kay siya man hinuon ang naalkansi. He paid Adlawan an amount of P84,000 for the checks that were not deposited in his bank," Bernaldez said.

Dalawampu said that this case will reveal all the anomalous transactions happening inside the CCMC. She said that she found a lot of flaws in the systems which "opened the way to fraud."

In 2008, Archua caught one incident where the amount of the check in the transmittal was indicated as P52,290 but the Official Receipt issued by the cashier only indicated the amount P32,000.

The cashier is from the CTO. Because Archua complained about it, the cashier made the necessary correction.

City Treasurer Ofelia Oliva said that she tasked Camarillo to also make a study on all the deposited and endorsed checks in their office following the incident on the lost checks.

For the meantime, Ranulfa Alia, next in rank of Archua, will take over as the head of the billing section.

CCMC also implemented new procedures on receiving the checks. All checks from Philhealth now do not reach the billing section but stays at the Admin before it is brought to the cashier.

SB postponed after Cabahug asks for list of equipment to be bought

THE Mandaue City Council failed to pass its P231-million supplemental budget yesterday after an opposition councilor questioned the city's plan to spend more than P20 million to buy heavy equipment.

Councilor Editha Cabahug clarified she did not want to stall the P230.948-million supplemental budget, but only asked Councilor Beethoven Andaya, chairman of the committee on appropriations, budget and finance, to provide her with a list of the heavy equipment and construction materials they plan to purchase.

Bill seeks help for ex-couples

REP. Pablo Garcia plans to file again a bill that, if enacted into law, will bind the government to honor annulments granted by the Catholic Church, sparing estranged couples from the pain and expense of going to court.

"Mohammedan divorces are valid in the Sharia courts, and the parties can remarry," Garcia (Cebu Province, 2nd district) said in a recent interview, adding that most European countries recognize such divorces.

He pointed out the basis used in church annulment proceedings is similar to provisions in the Family Code, such as psychological incapacity.

He anticipates resistance from the Catholic Church and other sectors, but said divorces granted by religions recognized by the government should also be considered legal. Garcia filed the bill in 2007, but it has reportedly remained with the House committee on the revision of laws.

A church official, interviewed separately, said he supports the proposal, because it will complement church laws.

Msgr. Esteban Binghay, a Canon lawyer and former judicial vicar of the Metropolitan Matrimonial Tribunal, said at present, a couple whose marriage is found null and void by the Matrimonial Tribunal still needs to obtain a court annulment, especially if either party wants to remarry.

Binghay said that with Congressman Garcia's proposal, the couple will only be required to file a case with the Matrimonial Tribunal and won't have to spend more money going to court.

However, Binghay said, compared to court proceedings, the church's annulment process takes more time, as church officials need to make sure the marriage was indeed void from the beginning.

The diocese appoints a "defender of the bond" whose goal is to try to reconcile the couple.

Garcia pointed out the church is not in favor of divorce and only grants an annulment if its officials are convinced there was no valid marriage from the beginning.

According to church procedures, couples must first file a petition for nullity at the Metropolitan Matrimonial Tribunal in their Archdiocese.

The tribunal will evaluate whether the petition has merit or valid grounds. These include marriages that are not formally solemnized by a church authority; those where either party is still married to another person at the time of the rites; and "defects of consent" or cases where either party "simulated consent but had no intention to contract a lifelong relationship or to have children."

The tribunal accepts the case only if a valid ground exists.

Once they accept a case, the tribunal will then investigate, summoning both parties and their witnesses to make their statements, Binghay said.

Addressing a Canon Law symposium in April 2007, a judicial vicar said a church annulment can take about one year and cost the parties P15,000 to P50,000, but officials may waive the fees if doing so is in the couple's best interest.

Duque says Memo Circular 1 'a mess'

MANILA, Philippines - Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chairman Francisco Duque III wants better cooperation among agencies, especially in the wake of the disastrous first directive issued by Malacanang.

Duque said Memorandum Circular No. 1 (MC 1) was a "mess."

He said "it was too sweeping. I thought it lacked consultation. The MC should have spelled out…ordered the inventory of career executive service positions occupied by non-career executive service officer (CESO) eligible."

The Aquino administration, on its first day, issued MC 1, which originally declared "all non-career executive service positions vacant as of 30 June 2010 and [extended] the services of contractual employees whose contracts expire on 30 June 2010."

Saying it needed fine-tuning, Malacanang revisited the order the following day.

It now declares "all non-career executive officials occupying career executive service positions to continue to perform their duties and responsibilities and extending the services of certain contractual and or casual employees whose contracts expire on June 30."

Duque said the directive should have been clarified with the CSC, which got to check only the revised version.

He said the CSC was never tapped nor consulted with the drafting of the original directive.

Duque, who was first appointed Health Secretary during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's term, said he'd like "the cooperation of the heads of agencies."

Asked what it is like to be an Arroyo appointee in an Aquino administration, Duque said "I've not had any substantive interaction with members of the Aquino Cabinet."

Civil Service Academy

Duque said he is now pushing for the revival of a mothballed project, the Civil Service Academy.

He said there is a need for constant talks among the departments of Budget and Management, Interior and Local Government, National Economic Development Authority, and the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Together with the CSC chief, the heads of these agencies will form the board of directors of the Civil Service Academy.

"We need to put this up. It's an academy that has long been overdue," Duque said.

The need for the academy has been established as early as 1977, via Presidential Decree 1218.

The Marcos-issued directive provides "it is the policy of the government to provide opportunities to its employees at all levels to improve and develop themselves so that they can better contribute to the realization of agency and national goals."

Duque said "we have to go beyond giving examinations…we should be doing bigger things, felt by entire bureaucracy, permeate every agency of government…let's set up quality service."

PRC: 1,787 new marine deck officers

MANILA, Philippines - The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Wednesday that 1,787 out of 3,445 examinees passed the written phase of the Marine Deck Officers Licensure Examination for the various ranks given by the Board for Marine Deck Officers in Manila this July 2010.

DOJ sends Trillanes case review to Palace but keeps mum on results

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has submitted to President Benigno Aquino III the findings of her review of the coup d'etat charge against detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, but is keeping silent for now about the results.

Sen. Trillanes: To release or not to release

MANILA, Philippines - State prosecutors have opposed detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's bid to attend the Senate session on Monday, July 26, the opening of the 15th Congress.

Akbayan to file new impeach raps vs Gutierrez

MANILA, Philippines - The Akbayan party-list group will file on Thursday a new impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez at the House of Representatives.

Palace respects SC independence on Luisita case

MANILA, Philippines -  Malacañang on Wednesday said it will respect the decision of the Supreme Court to transfer the land distribution case of Hacienda Luisita from the First Division of Chief Justice Renato Corona to the Court en banc.

SC postpones oral arguments on Hacienda Luisita case

The Supreme Court has postponed the oral arguments for the Hacienda Luisita agrarian reform case scheduled for August 3 because it would want to know who the current stockholders of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. were, a spokesman for the high tribunal said.

Chief justice denies secret meeting with Aquino uncle

Chief Justice Renato Corona has strongly denied the claim of an online news magazine that he met with Jose "Peping" Cojuangco in his home in Dasmariñas Village, Makati City, sometime in June.

3 justices inhibit from Roxas electoral protest

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court will have to raffle the electoral protest filed by former Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II the fourth time, after 3 magistrates inhibited themselves from handling or even taking part in the proceedings.

Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Antonio Carpio and Mariano del Castillo have refused to handle the case because of their connections to the parties.

Marquez is also the spokesman of the SC, which sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

Peralta, who first got the case, had to inhibit because of a relative who used to work for Roxas's rival, Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Carpio, on the other hand, used to be part of the law firm representing the defeated vice-presidential candidate.

Del Castillo, on one hand, previously worked for the Araneta Group of Companies. Roxas's family is owner and founder of the business firm.

Drilon: Poll execs must resign for letting Mikey into House

Senator Franklin Drilon on Wednesday backed calls for the resignation of election commissioners who voted in favor of allowing Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, son of former President Gloria Arroyo, to take a Lower House seat representing security guards and tricycle drivers in the 15th Congress.

Loren eyes probe on 'misuse' of climate aid

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Loren Legarda on Wednesday said she will initiate a Senate investigation on budgetary allocations and foreign grants intended for the Philippine government's initiatives to fight climate change.

Graft raps filed vs Smartmatic, Comelec execs

The Philippine Computer Society (PCS) has filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against 17 officials of the Commission on Elections and the Smartmatic TIM Corp. for alleged "incompetence," graft and unethical conduct in connection with the May 10 national elections.

Ombudsman recommends raps vs poll execs, ballot folder supplier

The Office of the Ombudsman has recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials and private suppliers who were involved in the botched P690-million ballot secrecy folder contract.

PAGCOR to review mobile casinos

MANILA, Philippines - The new management of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is alarmed after learning of the proliferation of various mobile casinos in different parts of the country.

This includes the mobile casino in Olongapo City, which is housed in 10- and 20-foot container vans.

Here, Filipinos and foreigners alike can play PAGCOR E-Games like video poker, video blackjack, baccarat, and other internet card games. People can also play online slot machines.

PAGCOR said there are a total of 167 PAGCOR E-Games or internet gaming centers around the country. They will now investigate how many of these are mobile casinos.

Since the mobile casinos are housed in container vans, PAGCOR is worried that the casinos can easily be transported to different areas.

This is despite the fact that the locations of casinos are strictly regulated.

They are also worried that children could gain access to the casino.

NPA owns slay of Samar ex-mayor

The New People's Army has claimed responsibility for the killing of a former town mayor in Eastern Samar.  The Florencio Elairon Command-Bagong Hukbong Bayan of the NPA said that Mateo Biong, the former mayor of Giporlos, was killed because of "sins committed against the people."

Biong was gunned down by unidentified men last July 13 in Barangay Cutikot, Giporlos, Eastern Samar.

Girl escapes from abductors in Butuan

by By Trinidad Velasco, ABS-CBN Northern Mindanao
BUTUAN CITY, Philippines - A 13-year-old girl safely escaped from 2 men who snatched her in Barangay Libertad, Butuan City on Monday morning.

Police said the victim, Mary Angelou Sarvida was snatched by 2 unidentified men from a moving motorized trisikad at the Basco terminal in Barangay Libertad around 8 a.m..

Police said that according to Sarvida, she went unconscious after one of the men covered her mouth and nose with a handkerchief.

When the victim woke up, she was already in an old shanty house located in a cemetery in Barangay Bancasi.

Police said that according to the victim, she was able to jump out of the shanty's back window and ran towards the highway, where she took a jeepney ride found for the town proper of Butuan City.

The victim immediately went to the Butuan City police station to report the kidnapping incident.

Police said the victim claimed that the money she had with her amounting to P300 was missing and believed taken by the suspects.

Police have yet to determine if Sarvida's case was a foiled kidnapping for ransom incident.

Authorities have also brought the girl to a hospital for medical examination to determine if she was sexually abused.

Still no 'walk-in' jobs in Haiti, RP post reiterates

The Philippine Embassy in Cuba has reiterated its warning against individuals promising jobs in quake-ravaged Haiti, after two Filipinos fell prey to illegal recruitment and are now stranded in Caribbean country.

17 Filipinos arrested in UAE for human trafficking

Seventeen Filipinos were arrested in Abu Dhabi for victimizing fellow Filipinos in their human trafficking operations. Nine of those arrested were alleged victims of the syndicate who are forced into prostitution, according to a statement posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website.
Nine of those arrested were alleged victims of the syndicate who are forced into prostitution, according to a statement posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website.

The arrests occurred earlier this month.

Of the 17, four — three women and a man — were believed to be the operators of the syndicate.

The nine victims are currently sheltered at the Abu Dhabi Human Trafficking Center, the DFA said. Four other women were detained after they were suspected of voluntarily engaging in prostitution. 

Nine other Filipino women are currently under the Philippine Embassy's custody after they sought shelter last July 13 after escaping the same syndicate. 

The arrests came after a Filipino victim managed to escape the syndicate and immediately informed the Abu Dhabi Police.

Philippine Ambassador Grace R. Princesa met with Colonel Rashid M. Bursheed of the Abu Dhabi Criminal and Investigation Division (CID) last July 18 to discuss the case. 

The CID operatives also confiscated US$18,000 and UAE Dirham (AED) 12,128 (around US$3,314) in cash from the suspects. An additional AED 54,000 (about US$14,754) was also discovered under the accounts of one of the suspects.

Bursheed said the defendants confessed to the charges and admitted that they forced the victims into prostitution after promising them jobs in the United Arab Emirates.

The CID is now investigating the sponsors who issued the tourist visas for the victims. A court hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Ambassador Princesa is visiting the Trafficking Center and the Al Wathba Central Prison to meet the victims and the alleged operators, and provide assistance to them.

The statement said the DFA is recommending the blacklisting of the Filipino traffickers and referring this case to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

"The DFA is issuing a severe warning to those Filipinos who are engaging in trafficking their fellow countrymen that they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law," it said.

The DFA is coordinating with the IACAT to assist the victims and prosecute the traffickers.

The United States has recently retained the Philippines in its tier two watch-list of countries that do not comply with international anti-human trafficking laws for the second straight year, citing the government's inability to effectively prosecute trafficking crimes due to an inefficient judicial system and endemic corruption.

$1: P46.470

$1: P46.470

Euro 1: P59.7898

BIR goes after Makati for P1.2-B tax evasion case

The Bureau of Internal Revenue's P1.2-billion tax evasion case against Makati City is directed against the local government and not on its former mayor, Vice President Jejomar Binay.

BIR takes bigger steps to raise collections

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said it is taking bigger steps to plug tax leakages.
 BIR chief Kim Henares said the agency's focus will be on intensifying enforcement activities by filing tax evasion charges, simplifying and making compliance costs lower, and instituting internal reforms "to make sure that every centavo goes to the national treasury."

Mindanao key to RP food security, says DA chief

MANILA, Philippines - Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala on Wednesday said his department will build grains terminals and trading posts in Mindanao as part of a strategy to boost  food security in Luzon and the rest of the country.

UK won't shut out Pinoy migrant workers

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The United Kingdom's minister of state for Southeast Asia on Wednesday said the British government is not closing its doors to migrant workers, especially Filipinos.

Filipina expulsion case leads to law change in Norway

by By Macel Ingles, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
OSLO, Norway - Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg bowed to public pressure and announced that its government is changing a law that affects foreigners with Norwegian spouses.

"The immigration law will be changed such that foreigners with children in Norway who had fulfilled the requirements for family reunification cannot be expelled on the grounds of illegal work," Stoltenberg said.

The announcement was a turnaround from a previous statement that laws cannot be changed based on an individual case even as he admitted that the law has to be reviewed.

In an interview with TV2 News Chanel television, Ole Kristian Navrud, husband of Laila thanked everyone who supported them in the struggle to stop the expulsion of his Filipina wife. He believes that the massive support they got from the Norwegian public made the change in law possible.

Asked for his reaction to the decision, Navrud said that "it had been a long and painful process" and that it enables them to "get on with life and plan for their future."

Laila Navrud for her part said that the case taught her it is right "to fight for what is right and her family," and called the support they got from Norwegians as "fantastic".

Navrud appeared on television with his wife, Laila and their 8-month-old son, Oskar.

The Filipina was ordered by the Immigration Directorate to leave the country after it found her in violation of her visa when she worked without a proper working permit. The Directorate has issued an order to the Buskerud police to serve the order in the coming four weeks.

Hillary Clinton: A US Secretary of State fluent in ASEAN

by by Ernest Bower, Center for Strategic and International Studies
This should be a good week for U.S. engagement in ASEAN. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Vietnam for the seventeenth annual ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) as most of you read this note. By definition, that means a good week for U.S. strategy in Asia.

China floods deadliest in 10 years, conditions set to worsen

by by Dan Martin, Agence France-Presse
BEIJING, China - Flooding in China that has killed more than 700 people this year is the deadliest in a decade and looks set to worsen as the country gets deeper into typhoon season, the government warned Wednesday.

Pacquiao laughs off Floyd Sr.'s insults

MANILA, Philippines – Sarangani Congressman Manny Pacquiao just laughed off Floyd Mayweather Sr.'s insulting remarks hurled against him, saying the elder Mayweather may not have been himself when he called him (Pacquiao) a "midget" and "faggot."

Donaire, Concepcion and Sonsona return to action

MANILA, Philippines – After slugging it out against Latinos early this month, Filipino pugilists Nonito Donaire, Jr., Bernabe Concepcion and Eden Sonsona are slated to fight again this year.

Beermen drive weary Llamados over the edge in PBA

Jay Washington pumped in a season-high 28 points as San Miguel rolled past B-Meg Derby Ace, 101-88, on Wednesday night to seize a 1-0 lead in their PBA Fiesta Conference best-of-seven semifinal series at the Araneta Coliseum.

Aces stun Texters, take 1-0 lead in best-of-seven semis series

Up against the most explosive team in the league, Alaska got a big lift from an unlikely source.  Defense-minded Reynel Hugnatan presided over a telling third-quarter breakaway as the Alaska Aces stunned no. 1 seed Talk N Text at the start of their PBA semifinals series Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Filipino maid inherits US$4.3-M from Singaporean employer

by Agence France-Presse
SINGAPORE - A devoted Filipino maid inherited 6 million Singapore dollars (about US$4.3 million) from her late employer after more than 20 years of service, a newspaper report said Wednesday.

The maid refused to be named in public for fear of possible threats to her life in the impoverished Philippines, where wealthy people have been kidnapped for ransom and some killed by their abductors.

The windfall, including cash and a luxury apartment near the Orchard Road shopping belt, came from the estate of her employer Quek Kai Miew, a medical doctor and philanthropist who died last year at 66.

The maid had also taken care of the doctor's late mother, and was told that she would be a beneficiary of her employer's will when it was drawn up in 2008.

"There were no secrets between us. I was not surprised at all when she told me how much I was going to get," the maid recalled.

"Christine" was devastated when Quek died a year ago, as the two were inseparable, and temporarily moved in with the doctor's nephew for solace.

"It was heartbreaking for me as I saw more years with Doctor Quek than with my own mother. I would break down every time I thought about her. I could not be by myself," she said.

"I was always beside her. Wherever she went, I was with her."

The maid, who is now applying for permanent residency in Singapore, said her newfound wealth had not changed her lifestyle.

"I do not really think much about the money I got. I just live my life as I did before, and not as a rich person," the maid, dressed simply in a blouse and slacks with short-cropped hair, was quoted as saying.

"I am still who I was before. I cannot behave differently because I have money now. Even my Filipino maid friends here still treat me the same."

Nearly 200,000 foreign maids, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, work in affluent Singapore, which has a population of five million.

PNoy's salary 65% more than Arroyo as president

President Aquino has his predecessor to thank for his higher salary. During her term, then-President Arroyo signed a series of orders raising government salaries, but none applied to her because regulations prohibited her from benefiting from the raises she approved.
President Aquino's monthly salary is pegged at P95,000/month – quite a jump from P57,750/month, which was former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's last salary as the country's chief executive.

In a way, PNoy has former President Arroyo to thank for his bigger pay. It was the latter who, just days before her term ended, signed Executive Order No. 900 implementing an increase in the basic pay in all government salary grades, including the President's.

The President's salary is equivalent to Salary Grade 33 (SG 33) – the salary grade exclusively assigned to the highest position in the Philippine government as per the Compensation and Position Classification Act of 1989 (Republic Act 6758). 

Despite the raise, the President's salary remains a paltry sum compared to the compensation of top-level executives in private firms who can earn several times more. 

A check of the annual report of the publicly-listed Ayala Corporation shows that its highest-ranked officers take home salaries averaging P1.3 million a month, excluding allowances. 

According to the Finance Office of the Office of the President, the chief executive's salary is also subject to mandatory deductions such as withholding tax, Philhealth, Pagibig, and GSIS life and retirement insurance premiums.

EO 900 was the last of a string of issuances on compensation adjustments signed by Arroyo during her term (see table). But being the incumbent President at the time they were ordered, the pay hikes did not apply to her – only to her successor, in this case President Aquino.

The 1987 Constitution explicitly states that when it comes to the President's salary, "no increase in said compensation shall take effect until after the expiration of the term of the incumbent during which such increase was approved."

The first of Arroyo's pay hike orders came five months after EDSA II installed her to the Presidency. Executive Order No. 22, signed in June 2001, granted a five percent increase on basic monthly salaries of government personnel. SG 33 as per this salary schedule was pegged at P57,750/month. Arroyo adopted this figure as her monthly salary when she won a full six-year term in 2004. 

In March 2007, Arroyo approved Executive Order No. 611 further increasing the basic monthly salaries of government workers by 10 percent. Under this issuance, SG 33 increased to P63,525/month.

Another 10% increase came the following year through Executive Order No. 719. This brought up SG 33 to P69,878/month.

Last year, Congress passed the Salary Standardization Law III (SSL III) authorizing the President to carry out salary adjustments for government personnel in four yearly tranches. 

The first tranche took effect in July 2009 by virtue of then President Arroyo's Executive Order No. 811. SG 33 under this issuance is equal to P82,400/month.

EO 900, the basis of PNoy's salary, prescribes the second tranche. 

The third and fourth tranches fall within PNoy's term. By the time the last installment is carried out, SG 33 will be equivalent to P120,000/month.

Arroyo wants respite from the limelight

Pampanga Representative and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she would want to keep a "low profile" as member of the House of Representatives and asked for a "two to three months" respite from the limelight.

Mother Lily distances self from Kris-James marital woes

MANILA, Philippines – Regal Films' Lily Monteverde has distanced herself from Kris Aquino and James Yap's marital troubles.

Kim denies dating Enchong

MANILA, Philippines - Young actress Kim Chiu strongly denied dating young actor Enchong Dee, clarifying that the latter was not courting her.

Judy Ann almost missed 'Hating Kapatid' premiere

MANILA, Philippines - Superstar Judy Ann Santos almost missed the anticipated premiere of her new movie with Pop Princess Sarah Geronimo because of pregnancy issues.

Charice taps speech coach to improve diction

by by Bernie Franco,
MANILA, Philippines – Aside from cosmetic procedures and voice lessons, international singing sensation Charice has also tapped a speech coach to improve her diction before she starts taping for popular American musical television series "Glee" on July 28.

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