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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 30, 2010 Major News Stories

VECO to raise rates August 1

The Visayan Electric Company (VECO) will be raising the cost of electricity effective August 1 to comply with the new standards set by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

VECO announced yesterday that the power rates will go up by a little over three percent.

This means that a household that consumes 200 kilowatt hours (kWh) every month will now be paying P1,692.85 from the previous power cost of P1,633.97 or an increase of about P58.

VECO will be shifting to the Performance Based Regulation (PBR) tariff setting mandated by the ERC, which is the new method that will be used to regulate the operation of power utilities.

While this new method will cause a slight increase in power cost, officials of VECO assured that this will also translate to more efficient service in return.

PBR is an internationally-accepted rate setting methodology that replaced the Return on Rate Base (RORB). ERC adopted the new method to ensure stability in the regulatory process and assure customers of reliable and sustainable service.

ERC explained earlier that PBR will compel power companies to file their annual application for the translation of rates to subject them to a regulatory audit.

Also, should distribution firms like VECO fail to meet the service level standards, it will be fined, but if it meets the requirements, it shall be rewarded through the performance incentive scheme.

Under the PBR, approved by ERC last April, the distribution charge of VECO will increase by P0.1194 per kWh while the supply charge and metering charge will increase by P0.0124 and P0.076 per kWh respectively applicable to residential houses only. VECO has another rate for big power consumers like business establishments.

The P0.1194 per kWh increase means that the P1.1165 per kWh distribution charge for residential customers will go up to P1.2360 per kWh by next month.

The supply charge, which used to be P0.2629 per kWh, will increase to P0.2753 per kWh while the metering system charge of P0.3953 per kWh will increase to P0.4713 per kWh.

The retail customer charge per month remains at P5.

Ricardo F. Lacson, Vice President for Administration and Customer Services Group of VECO said that the increase in the rate only applies to the distribution revenues part of the bill, but not its other components.

The increase applies to the portion that comprises only 22 percent of the total bill, he explained.

The Generation and Transmission portion that makes up 70 percent of the consumer's bill will not increase and will remain at P4.4223 per kWh for the Generation Charge, P0.6431 per kWh for the Transmission Charge and P0.7617 per kWh for the Systems Loss Charge.

A slight increase in the distribution tax will add to the change though.

Lacson said that the rate adjustment is not a form of increase by VECO, but is in compliance with the requirements of the ERC set under the PBR.

ERC set and approved these rates based on VECO's energy forecasts and allowed capital, operating and maintenance expenses, duties and other taxes, identification of the rolled-forward asset base and calculation of its annual revenue requirement (ARR).

Lacson said that this means that the rates of adjustments every year for the next four years up to June 30, 2014 have already been set.

But it shall vary depending on their performance.

If VECO also fails to deliver the pre-set benchmarks or the guaranteed services levels approved by the ERC, it has to compensate the customer for the broken promise.

Compensation goes directly to the bill but it will not be given until the end of the regulatory year.

VECO's performance will be measured according to number of interruptions lasting at least five minutes experienced in a year where they are only allowed 24, average time to restore service per interruption where they are allowed not more that 126 minutes, systems loss of not more than 9.8 percent and time to process applications that should not go beyond eight days, among others.

Lacson said that implementing the PBR does not mean an increase for all consumers because it could mean a reduction in the monthly bill of some like to those who consume less than 100 kWh since VECO will also increase its Lifeline Subsidy or the discount to poor households.

Before, households consuming 21 to 25 kWh get a 50 percent discount, by next month, households consuming 21 to 30 kWh will have a 65 percent discount on their bill.

For five years since 2004, VECO did not impose increase to its rates until just last year when they had to adjust the rates to tune in to the present situation.

Mindanao workers to get P26 increase in daily wage

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in Northern Mindanao has approved an across-the-board wage increase of P26 per day for all workers, an official said Thursday.

SC upholds GSIS workers' rights

GOVERNMENT Service Insurance System (GSIS) president and general manager Winston Garcia has lost his petition against seven GSIS employees before the Supreme Court five years ago.

The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed both the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) stating that the protest staged by the seven disgruntled GSIS workers in front of their central office last May 27, 2005 cannot be considered as "prohibited concerted activity or mass action."

"Government workers, whatever their ranks, have as much right as any person in the land to voice out their protests against what they believe to be a violation of their rights and interests," the High Court en banc decision dated July 27, 2010 read.

"Civil Service does not deprive them of their freedom of expression. It would be unfair to hold that by joining the government service, the members thereof have renounced or waived this basic liberty. This freedom can be reasonably regulated only, but can never be taken away," the decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza said.

Sun. Star Cebu tried calling Garcia for his reaction about the dismissal of his petition, but he could not be reached as of press time.

Case history

The case stemmed from the charges the GSIS and Garcia, in his capacity as president and general manager of the state-operated pension firm, filed against Dinnah Villaviza, Elizabeth Duque, Adronico Echavez, Rodel Rubio, Rowena Therese Gracia, Pilar Layco, and Antonio Jose Legarda for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service last May 27, 2005.

Garcia said the acts of the respondents violated the Rules of Procedure in Administrative Investigation (RPAI) of GSIS Employees and Officials in relation to Section 52A (3), (20), Rule IV, of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (URACCS).

Garcia charged the respondents after staging a march outside the office of the GSIS Investigation Unit along with some employees.


The employees staged a protest to show their support for their former union leader, Albert Velasco, who was inside the Investigation Unit office of the GSIS central office.

However, the GSIS management said the protest by the respondents caused alarm and heightened some employees and disrupted the work at the Investigation Unit of the
state-operated agency.

In their letter-explanation, Duque, Echavez, Rubio, Gracia, Layco, Legarda, and two other employees denied staging a planned mass action.

The GSIS employees reasoned that what they did outside GSIS Investigation Unit office was "a spontaneous reaction" after learning that Velasco was inside the office.

For her part, Villaviza submitted her separate letter explaining that she had a scheduled pre-hearing at the GSIS Investigation Unit on same date.


However, Garcia issued a decision last June 29, 2005 finding all seven respondents guilty of the charged offenses.

Subsequently, the seven GSIS employees were suspended for one year.

The suspended GSIS employees petitioned the decision before the Civil Service Commission (CSC), which later ruled that the respondents were guilty of lesser offense of violation of Reasonable Office Rules and Regulations.

Thus, the SCS reduced the penalty from one year suspension to mere reprimand. While the respondents were given due process to refute the charges, the CSC, however, ruled there was no "substantial evidence" to hold them guilty of Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service. 

Garcia filed a motion for reconsideration on the ruling of the CSC, but it was denied. Garcia later filed a petition for review with appellate court, but the CA still ruled in favor of the respondents.

The appellate court said Garcia failed to prove that the supposed concerted activity of the employees resulted in work stoppage and caused prejudice to the public service.

The CA said only 20 out of more than a hundred employees at the GSIS main office joined the protest. Garcia then filed a petition for review before the High Tribunal.

However, the SC said the petition lacked merit.

"A perusal of the decisions of the CA and of the CSC will reveal that the case was resolved against petitioners based, not on the absence of respondents' evidence, but on the weakness of that of the petitioners," the High Court said in its decision.


Upon review of Garcia's charges against GSIS workers, the High Court said the GSIS official was even uncertain whether the respondents marched or "just simply appeared there (Investigation Unit office) simultaneously."

The High Tribunal ruled that what the GSIS employees did was merely exercising their "freedom of speech and of expression" and that their actuations "did not amount to a prohibited concerted activity or mass action." 

Non-CESO plea: Give us a break

Hundreds of government officials who are not career executive service officers (CESOs) have asked President Benigno Aquino III to withdraw Memorandum Order No. 1 which declared their positions vacant as of June 30.

The memo, issued on the day Aquino assumed office, extended the service of contractual workers up to July 31.

Such a large-scale dismissal would create a leadership vacuum in many offices whose heads' only fault is that they do not possess CESO eligibility, said the non-CESO officials in a statement.

These offices are now headed by the most senior CESO officials sitting as officers in charge (OICs).

In their statement, the non-CESO officials asked President Aquino to give them at least one year to gain CESO eligibility.

They pointed out that even if they lacked CESO eligibility, the experience they had gained in running government offices gave them an advantage over new CESOs.

They said that apart from reconsidering MO 1, President Aquino might take a second look at their individual performances and grant them at least a year's reprieve so they can take the civil service board exam to get CESO qualification.

Otherwise, they said, many government offices would be paralyzed.

MC 2 Extended

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. promulgated Memorandum Circular No. 2, dated 29 July 2010 amending MC 1, dated June 30, 2010. (Click here for a copy of MC 2).

MC 2 amended paragraph 2 of MC 1 which now extends the period for non-CESOs occupying CES positions to remain in office from July 31, 2010 to October 31, 2010 or until their resignations have been accepted, and/or until their respective replacements have been appointed or designated whichever comes first, unless they are reappointed in the meantime.

It likewise amended paragraph 3 of MC 1, authorizing the Department Secretary of the concerned agency to designate an OIC, in cases wherein the head of agency or office has resigned and whose resignation has been accepted, or is deemed separated on June 30, 2010 and no replacement has been appointed or designated. In such cases, the next-in-rank and most senior official of the agency or a senior official of the Department to which said agency is attached may be designated as OIC.

Further, MC 2 emphasized that any official whose service has been terminated or whose resignation has been accepted on/or before July 31, 2010, but whose replacement has not yet been appointed or designated shall be deemed separated from the service as of the date of termination or acceptance of resignation.

972 pass Agriculturist Licensure Exam

A total of 972 out of 2,689 passed the Agriculturist Licensure Examination given in the cities of Manila, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi, Lucena, Tacloban, Tuguegarao and Zamboanga earlier this month, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) said on Thursday.

Josephine Arambala Aguanta from the Mindanao State University in Marawi City topped the list with 87.50 percent rating, followed by Ernest Andrei Mante Mascariñas from University of Southeastern Philippines in Tagum City with 87 percent, and Don Johnson Saberon Neri of University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) with 86.33 percent.


The other examinees who made it to the top 10 were:

4. Mark Edward Rosales Fabreag from UPLB (86 percent)

5. Alex John Rafanan Galicia from UPLB (85.83 percent)
Angelito Antero Paguio Jr. from University of Southern Mindanao-Kabacan (85.83 percent)
Arlan James Dimailig Rodeo from UPLB (85.83 percent)

6. Jelord Moreño Sumaya from University of Southern Mindanao-Kabacan (85.67 percent)

7. Junrey Castrodes Amas from Central Mindanao University (85.50 percent)
Allan Abenoja Ramal from Visayas State University-Baybay (85.50 percent)

8. Paula Camille Cervantes Perez from UPLB (85.33 percent)

9. Vincent Beirn Oropieza Dayao from Central Mindanao University (85.17 percent)

10. Maria Victoria Rabaca Bascon from UPLB (85 percent)
Mary Joy Sanmillian Cañolas from University of Southern Mindanao-Kabacan (85 percent)

The PRC said registration for the issuance of Professional Identification Card (ID) and Certificate of Registration would be from August 4 to August 20, 2010.

Rama allows sidewalk vending near DOH

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has agreed to let the sidewalk vendors along Osmeña Boulevard, near the regional office of the Department of Health, continue vending at the place after they have offered to clean the area and comply with the one-side vending policy of the city.

P123M needed to rent equipment for clearing creeks

CEBU City's Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW) will need up to P123 million to rent equipment to de-clog creeks and waterways in the city.

City Council asks COA to submit audit results of CCMC's finances

The Cebu City Council will ask today the Commission on Audit (COA) to give them the audit results of all financial transactions entered into by the Cebu City Medical Center within the past three years.

City Health Dep't gets new chief next month

The Cebu City Health Department will have a new head of office in the person of Dr. Stella Ygoña starting next month after Mayor Michael Rama decided to replace acting city health officer Fe Cabugao.

Extra stipend only for "sharpshooters"

Cebu City Police chief Patrocinio Comendador has recommended that only those who pass the monthly firearm proficiency test should be given an additional P1,000 allowance from the city government.

Rama okays hike in allowances

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama approved yesterday additional allowances for city prosecutors and agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7.

2 killed, 2 hurt in Mandaue accident

Two persons died while two others were seriously injured after their vehicle smashed into a center island billboard before running into a tree along UN Avenue near the Marcelo Fernan Bridge in Barangay Umapad, Mandaue City, yesterday afternoon.

Bus falls off road in Samboan; 3 hurt in Alcoy accident

A passenger bus ran off the road and fell onto the shore after its driver allegedly fell asleep while driving in Barangay Tangbo, Samboan town, yesterday dawn, while three men were injured after two trucks collided in Alcoy town later in the afternoon.

Mandaue College execs explain school's classes in Daanbantayan town

The Sangguniang Bayan of Daanbantayan had invited officials of the Mandaue City College to explain why it was conducting extension classes in barangay Bagay in the municipality without securing permits to operate.

Cañete said the school received a copy of a resolution from barangay council of Bagay requesting MCC to hold night classes in the place.

Asked whether it was proper to conduct extension classes in the barangay without securing permits, Cañete said the school alone acts on the request without having to secure papers as it has done in other places.

I didn't touch, kiss students during confession: priest

IN AN effort to clear his name, a priest accused of harassing female students of a Catholic school came out yesterday to deny the allegations.

Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has convened a team tasked to investigate the allegations of sexual harassment against the diocesan priest, Archdiocesan media liaison officer Msgr. Achilles Dakay said.

Dakay said the doors of Vidal's office are open to the students who complained against the priest, who allegedly harassed them while hearing confession during a retreat.

The priest, who requested not to be named, denied he touched the bra straps of the female students and attempted to kiss them.

"Wala man ko namitik ug bra o nag-kiss nila. Na misinterpret siguro sa mga bata. Ang akong gibuhat ato kay gi-tap ra man nako ilang abaga. Ug nagpaduol raman ko sa akong nawong ug naghunghung ug tambag (I think the children misinterpreted what I did. I only tapped them on the shoulder and whispered my advice)," he said.

He also denied he is dating a guest relations officer and some nuns, as claimed by the students.

The priest said the topic on dating came up in an open forum he conducted with the female students before the confession.

"Gipangutana ko nila kung pwede ra ba ang pari ug madre mag-uyab ug kung naa ba'y uyab ang mga pari. Ako sila'ng gitubag nga naa'y mga pari nga nagkadayon ug madre ug that priests and nuns are human also, and are also prone to feelings (They asked me if priests and nuns could enter into romantic relationships. I told them there were priests and nuns who left their vocation to marry)," said the priest.

He said when he heard confession last July 20, he left the door of the confession room open and raised the curtains so the students could see what was happening inside.

"Ako pa gani gi-on ang electric fan ug gi-pakusgan aron malayog ang kurtina para makit-an mi sa mga tawo nga naa sa gawas (I even turned the electric fan on so it would blow the curtains and people could see what's going on inside)," said the priest.

He said he decided to be careful after priests have been involved in controversies while hearing confession.

He was surprised the next day when he received a text message from the school's campus ministry head, telling him a student complained to the school administrator regarding his alleged misdeeds.

Although he was not worried about the allegation, the priest asked the campus ministry head to schedule a meeting with him, the parents of the students and the school administrator so he can give his side on the matter.

During the meeting the following day, he was met with negative reactions about the incident.

But he told them the chaplain of the retreat house, the school's campus ministry head and the class teacher-in-charge are witnesses to attest to his innocence.

The priest said he talked to Cardinal Vidal about the matter.

Vidal, after hearing his side of the story, asked Fr. Raul Go, Archdiocesan judicial vicar, to conduct an investigation.

Vidal reminded the priest to prepare himself for the investigation and its results.

A three-man committee was formed to look into the allegations, Dakay.

He said the officials of the Catholic school, the students who complained and the priest involved would be called to give their accounts on the incident.

On the church's disciplinary action on erring priests, Dakay said priests are to follow proper conduct during public confessions.

The Canon Law, a set of guidelines for priests, contains sanctions for misconduct they commit, such as suspension of priestly faculty to hear confession.

In the past, Vidal suspended a diocesan priest's faculty to hear confession after being accused of committing acts of lasciviousness by female students of a public school.

But Dakay said the priest involved in the new should not be judged.

"Do not compare this case with those of other priests. They are involved in totally different cases," said Dakay.

"Why do we have to pre-empt (the investigation)," he added.

LP wants PCL elections postponed

The Liberal Party in Cebu is asking for a one week postponement of the scheduled August 4 elections of the Philippine Councilors League to allow the members to know their candidates and their programs better.

Greg no-show in Comelec conference

The Commission on Elections Second Division has declared Cebu Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez, Jr. "in default" after he failed to show up in yesterday's preliminary conference and for his failure to submit his preliminary conference brief in an election protest filed by defeated vice gubernatorial candidate Glenn Soco.

Joker: Truth Commission useless unless Congress arms it

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Joker Arroyo said government officials accused of corruption will just play with Chief Justice Hilario Davide's Truth Commission in the courts if it's formed through an Executive Order from Malacañang.
The senator said that anyone summoned by the Truth Commission for questioning will just go to the courts and question its power to subpoena.

De Lima: Give Truth Commission a chance

by By Ina Reformina, ABS CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has asked the public to give the still non-existent Truth Commission a chance, saying it will prove things as was envisioned.

Palace: Truth Commission to complement judicial agencies

The still-to-be-formed Truth Commission that will look into alleged abuses of the Arroyo administration will have enough teeth to complement, and not to interfere, with the judiciary, a Palace spokesman said Thursday.

Querubin: I'm not a first hand witness in 'Hello Garci'

MANILA, Philippines - Marine Col. Ariel Querubin, who has just been released from military detention, clarified Thursday that the Truth Commission cannot use him as witness if it decides to re-open investigations into the military's alleged election cheating in 2004.

Palace, senators welcome Marines' 'Hello Garci' testimonies

Malacañang and some senators on Thursday welcomed the willingness of several senior Marine officials to testify about the "Hello Garci" 2004 election scandal.

Former DA chief asks Aquino to review rice importation

Former Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Montemayor is urging the Aquino Administration to investigate the tariff-free importation of 200,000 metric tons of rice this year will result in a revenue loss of around P1.6 billion and further push palay prices lower.

Palace studying rice distribution

The government is studying a proposal for the National Food Authority to distribute rice to poor households instead of leaving it to rot in warehouses, Malacañang said yesterday.

DoF to audit rice traders' tax returns

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Finance will be checking the income tax returns of traders who participated in what President Benigno Aquino III dubbed in his State of the Nation Address as excessive importation of rice in recent years.

DoF, DoJ probe anomalies at NFA, DPWH

The Department of Finance (DoF) has asked both the National Food Authority (NHA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to submit a list of traders and contractors who participated in the rice importation and in the botched flood control project of the previous administration.

DOF orders lifestyle check for rice importers, DPWH contractors

Ipinag-utos naman ng Department of Finance ang lifestyle check sa mga importers ng bigas ng NFA at mga contractors ng DPWH, gayundin ang mga opisyal na sangkot sa mga iregularidad na ipinasabog ni Pangulong Aquino sa kanyang State of the Nation Address. Pati income tax returns at import duties ng mga ito, pinapaimbestigahan na rin.  

RP to hold tender offer for 100,000 MT sugar

The Sugar Regulatory Administration will hold a tender offer for the importation of 100,000 metric tons of sugar Friday to ensure sufficient supply in the local market, the agency's administrator said Thursday.

Purisima: new guidelines to keep excess pay in check

In light of the furor over excessive benefits of water officials, Philippine fiscal managers started to work on guidelines for the compensation and allowances of officials of government- owned and -controlled corporations and government financial institutions.

Arroyos back in RP, no comment on Aquino's SONA

Former president, now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is back in the country. Mrs. Arroyo arrived from Hong Kong late last night, with her husband, Mike. The former First Couple was welcomed by their son, Congressman Dato Arroyo And Mrs. Arroyo's spokesperson, Elena Bautista-Horn. The former president declined to give any statement to media which sought her reaction to President Benigno Aquino III's first State of the Nation Address where he bared several anomalies under the Arroyo government.

Arroyo to cooperate with truth commission – spokesperson

If called to speak, Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will attend the hearings of the soon-to-be-formed truth commission to make a clean breast of issues being linked to her.

Lozada, Neri, Joey De Venecia 'reunited' at Abalos hearing

It was a reunion of sorts at a Mandaluyong City court Thursday afternoon when three main personalities in the NBN-ZTE case attended the pretrial conference of the corruption charges filed against former poll chairman Benjamin Abalos.

Fertilizer fund scam 'repeated 4 times'

Sa patuloy na pagdiskubre ng pamahalaang Aquino ng mga anomalya, natuklasang apat na beses pang naulit ang fertilizer fund scam sa Department of Agriculture sa kabila ng matinding imbestigasyon tungkol dito noong 2005.

Ombudsman suspends Comelec execs

The Office of the Ombudsman preventively suspended officials of the Commission on Elections in connection with the canceled award to OTC Paper Supply for the purchase of Ballot Secrecy Folders (BSF).
Preventively suspended for six months without pay were Comelec Executive Director Jose M. Tolentino Jr.; Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chairman Atty. Maria Lea R. Alarkon; and BAC members Atty. Allen Francis B. Abaya, Atty. Maria Norina T. Casingal, Atty. Martin B. Niedo, and Mr. Antonio B. Santella.

Luisita mill owners chopped workers' 13th month pay in 'bad faith' - SC

The Supreme Court (SC) has declared that Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), the sugar milling company owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III, acted in bad faith when it reduced the 13th-month pay of its employees, following a strike in 2004 that ended in violence and killed at least seven people.

Class suit vs sex education program withdrawn

MANILA, Philippines - A lawsuit filed by a group of parents against the Department of Education's sex education program has been nullified after the original complainants decided to drop the complaint.

PSG checking 'minor' security threats vs Aquino

The Presidential Security Group (PSG) is checking reports of possible security threats against President Benigno Aquino III, even as the President's impending move from his Times Street to Bahay Pangarap should make it easier to secure him.

Dureza submits resignation from Mindanao body

Long-time peace negotiator and former press secretary Jesus Dureza offered, on Thursday, to quit his post as chairman of the newly created Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) despite a fixed term of six years set by law.

Abu Sayyaf man's guilty plea in US court sends strong signal vs terror—Thomas

United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas welcomed the guilty plea entered by Abu Sayyaf Group founding member Madhatta Haipe to four counts of hostage taking of 16 Filipino and American citizens in Mindanao in 1995 before a US federal court Thursday.

Philippine Navy modernization via real estate deals

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) will study a proposal to lease the headquarters of the Philippine Navy located at a prime property along Roxas Boulevard in Manila in order to raise revenues for the Navy's modernization, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said on Thursday.

De Lima orders BI probe of Singson's drug case

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has asked Undersecretary Jose Salazar, concurrent officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Immigration, to find out how Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson was able to leave the Philippines with illegal drugs in his possession.

Palace open to drug test for officials

Even though drug tests for government employees are not mandated by law, Malacañang on Thursday said it is open to the idea of its officials undergoing drug tests in light of a congressman's arrest in Hong Kong over drug charges.

House of Pacquiao's sister raided

Ni-raid ng mga pulis ang bahay ng kapatid ni Saranggani representative Manny Pacquiao sa General Santos City kung saan nakumpiska ang ilang gambling paraphernalia.

Gov't to cancel Lacson's passport?

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice on Thursday said it is considering the possible cancellation of the passport of fugitive Sen. Panfilo Lacson to compel him to surrender to authorities.

Ex-IBP president is new Solgen

A former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has been named the new Solicitor General.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda announced Thursday that Joel Cadiz would take the place of Alberto Agra.

Legarda questions Carandang's role in LP campaign

It might not be a walk in the park for newly-appointed Communications Group Secretary Ricky Carandang when he faces the powerful Commission on Appointments as a senator intends to question his independence as a journalist during the last May elections.

Random manual audit results show 99.6% accuracy

The random manual audit of 1,145 clustered precincts showed that the audit of the presidential, vice-presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, and mayoral races held up against the accuracy rate determined by the National Statistics Office.

NSO representative Florante Varona said all five positions have an accuracy rate of 99.6 percent. "There was a variance of .4 percent," he said in a press briefing Thursday.

Varona said the variance, the difference between the machine and manual count, was lower than the threshold of 1percent.

The random manual audit only managed to count 1,406 clustered precincts, which translated to about 500,000 votes.

Catholic mission in Pagadian closes a year after Sinnott abduction

Nearly a year after one of its missionaries there was abducted, a Catholic mission in the southern city of Pagadian has decided to pull out of the area. But Columban missionaries insist the closure was not due to the abduction of Fr. Michael Sinnott, but rather, to the shortage of priests.

Peso appreciates as appetite for US dollar dips

The peso strengthened further Thursday against the US dollar, benefiting from the generally anemic appetite of investors for the greenback.

$1: P45.730

$1: P45.730 (P45.90)

Euro 1: P59.6388

BIR wants GOCCs, GFIs to pay taxes

The Bureau of Internal Revenue wants government-owned or -controlled corporations and government financial institutions to pay their taxes religiously.

Pinay gets 12 years for sodomizing young girl

by By Balitang America Staff
MISSOURI – A 34-year-old Filipina was found guilty and sentenced to jail for molesting a young girl.  

Maya Zapata-Gasa was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for statutory sodomy last June 25.

In 2004, Gasa and her former live-in boyfriend, Christopher Gray, were apprehended for illegal drug activity. They were also accused of sexually molesting 2 girls, ages 11 and 6.

Court records disclosed that Gasa told investigators that she and Gray became foster parents so he could use the girls as sex slaves.

Gray is serving life in prison for sexual exploitation of a minor.

Zapata-Gasa was not found guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor. However, she was found guilty of sex with a minor.

Meanwhile, Gasa and her family maintain her innocence.

Fraud raps vs fugitive Pinoy doc dropped in US

MANILA, Philippines – A fugitive Filipino doctor got off scot free after a US court dismissed the fraud charges filed against him for duping more than a million dollars from a military health program.
Associated Press (AP) reported that US Federal District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin formally dismissed the case against Dr. Alberto Marzan due to lack of evidence.

Thai court issues warrant for Thaksin over asset case

Thailand's Supreme Court on Thursday issued a new arrest warrant for fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in connection with allegations of false declaration of assets.

Thailand likely to end emergency rule in six areas – minister

The Thai government is likely to lift emergency rule in six more provinces, but not Bangkok, because of easing concerns about possible political unrest, the defense minister said Thursday.

UN declares water and sanitation a 'human right'

UNITED NATIONS - The UN General Assembly on Wednesday declared access to clean water and sanitation a "human right" in a resolution that more than 40 countries including the United States didn't support.

Japan experts call for robot expedition to moon

TOKYO--An expert panel advising the Japanese government called in a report approved on Thursday for the nation to send a wheeled robot to the moon in five years and to build the first lunar base by 2020.

Mike picks Hayco

A NEW set of officers, led by Dancesport Team Cebu City founder Eduard Hayco, will take over the Cebu City Sports Commission.

"Everyone fit the criteria we set. We wanted everyone to have knowledge in and exposure to any sport and have management experience," said Young, who will be joined by Councilors Yayoy Alcoseba and Joey Daluz and Rengel Pelayo in the CCSC.

The other members of the team are journalist Nimrod Quiñones, Ryan Aznar, Andrew Choachuy, Brian Lim, Tony del Prado and Chao Sy.

Alcano off to good start in Guinness 10-Ball

MANILA, Philippines – Ronnie "The Volcano" Alcano got off to a blazing start with a 6-3 victory over Indonesia's William Tanizar in the 2010 Guinness World Series of Pool – 10Ball Challenge  in Jakarta, Indonesia Thursday.

Pinoy math wizards win 31 medals in SKorea

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MANILA, Philippines - Filipino math wizards again showed their mastery of numbers by bagging 31 medals including 2 team gold medals at the International Math Competition (IMC) held in South Korea on July 25 to 29.

US names 15-man NBA lineup for world championships

by Agence France-Presse
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – Scoring champion Kevin Durant and veterans Chauncey Billups and Rajon Rondo were among 15 NBA standouts named as finalists for the US world championships team.

Robin Padilla denies P25-M talent fee

MANILA, Philippines – Actor star Robin Padilla on Thursday said there is no truth to rumors that his talent fee for "Pilipinas, Win na Win" is P25 million a month.

Kris is not retiring from work, says Abunda

MANILA, Philippines – Despite leaving celebrity talk shows "The Buzz" and "SNN: Showbiz News Ngayon" last month, Kris Aquino is far from giving up the world of show business, her best friend, King of Talk Boy Abunda, said Wednesday night.

Kris Aquino to tell all in interview

Bagyo ng intriga ang sasalubong kay Kris Aquino sa kanyang pagdating bukas sa bansa. Pero ayon sa presidential sister, game na siyang sagutin ang maiinit na isyu kasabay ng pagbabalik-telebisyon sa Sabado!

Pacquiao to soon-to-be-married Krista Ranillo: 'Sana masaya ka lagi'

Nagbigay ng mensahe si Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao sa seksing aktres na si Krista Ranillo na dating naugnay sa Pinoy boxing icon, at ngayon ay napabalitang ikakasal na sa susunod na buwan.

Visit to Tokyo ward's 'oldest man' home leads to grisly find

A home visit by Tokyo officials to a local resident to congratulate him on his 111th birthday instead led to a police search that uncovered his three-decade-old skeleton, media reported Thursday.

The officials in the Japanese capital believed Sogen Kato was the eldest resident of Adachi ward and visited his listed address to honour him on his birthday, public broadcaster NHK and Jiji Press reported.

But they grew suspicious when his 53-year-old granddaughter told them that Kato "doesn't want to see anybody".

They also realized that the pension fund of his deceased wife had long been unable to contact him.

A police search Wednesday of the family house found his mummified skeletal remains lying in his bed, dressed in long underwear, reports said.

His relatives told police that he had "confined himself in his room more than 30 years ago and became a living Buddha," according to Jiji Press.

The family had received 9.5 million yen (109,000 dollars) in widower's pension payments via Kato's bank account since his wife died six years ago, and some of the money had recently been withdrawn.

Police are investigating the family for possible fraud charges.

PAGASA: Meteor shower due 2nd week of August

Barring moonlight and light pollution, stargazers can expect a treat in mid-August watching a meteor shower, state astronomers said Thursday.

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