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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 25, 2010 Major News Stories



National Heroes Day: No work, no classes on Monday

There will be no work or classes this coming Monday in celebration of National Heroes Day, a regular holiday.

PRO-7: SWAT team here can handle hostage crisis

Our local Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) team can handle a hostage scenario, this according to the Police Regional Office-7.

Some hostages killed by cops' guns?

MANILA, Philippines - A police official admitted Tuesday the possibility that some Hong Kong tourists taken hostage by dismissed Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza may have been hit by stray bullets fired by a police assault team that went after the hostage taker.

Director Leocadio Santiago, National Capital Region Police Office chief, told the ANC's Rundown that members of the police assault team were ordered to surrender their firearms after the bloody 12-hour hostage drama in Rizal Park (formerly Luneta) ended on Monday night.

"That is the possibility. That is why (part of) the (standard operating procedure) is the operatives surrender all their firearms used in the operations," Santiago said, reacting to questions about the possibility that some of the 8 dead victims were hit by the crossfire between Mendoza and the assault team.

He said the operatives' firearms will be subjected to ballistic tests by the Philippine National Police's (PNP) Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame.

Live coverage allowed

Santiago said he did not expect the hostage-drama's violent twist.

The police official said that a crisis management committee headed by Manila Police District head Chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay allowed the live media coverage of the hostage crisis because they were expecting to resolve it peacefully.

"As you see, the earlier events were very promising. (Media) coverage could have been an added boost to the honesty... as far as the intention of the PNP that it will take all measure to ensure the safety of the hostages," Santiago said.

Santiago was referring to Mendoza's opening up to a police negotiator and the initial release of 9 hostages.

He said that the police negotiating team was caught off-guard with the unexpected reaction of Mendoza's brother, Senior Police Officer 2 (SPO2) Gregorio Mendoza, who was summoned by the crisis management committee to help them pacify the hostage taker.

Santiago said that instead of pacifying his brother, SPO2 Mendoza "incited" the hostage-taker not to surrender and agitated him further by calling out to the media while he was being arrested by the police.

"That escalated the deterioration (of the hostage situation) further. The brother was commenting don't give up," he said, adding that they never thought that SPO2 Mendoza would put his brother in harm's way.

The hostage taker also saw the police arrest his brother via a television set installed inside the tourist bus, the Metro Manila police chief said.

Santiago said after SPO2 Mendoza's media interview, his brother fired at a hostage that he earlier handcuffed near the bus entrance.

PNP probe

Santiago said the PNP will start an "organizational" probe on Wednesday.

He said the they will try to fast-track the investigation, which will be two-pronged.

The PNP will try to look at possible improvements that police can make in handling hostage situations and determine the liabilities and possible lapses of police officers involved in the operation.

Santiago said all policemen involved in the hostage-taking crisis, including him and the MPD chief, will be investigated.

Meanwhile, Santiago admitted possible lapses in the police's handling of the crowd at the Rizal Park and mistakes committed by the assault team.

One possible lapse cited was the assault team's planning.

He said the assault team, which was seen hammering the front door of the bus, was redirected to the emergency door at the rear part of the bus after receiving text messages that the vehicle had an emergency exit.

Santiago also echoed statements of other police officers about a lack of equipment and appropriate firearms to deal with a hostage-taking crisis.

Hostage negotiator wants crisis policies reviewed

MANILA, Philippines – One of two police negotiators who handled the hostage-taking incident in Manila has called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership to review its policies implemented during crises.

Superintendent Orlando Yebra told the ANC's "The World Tonight" on Tuesday that the PNP needs to look at its crisis management committee.

"There are gray areas between the ground commander and people right below him," Yebra said. "We have to determine, identify, (at) bigyan ng resulta ang gray areas."

He added that the PNP should determine the specific roles of the members of its crisis committee, as well as improve coordination when various police agencies and units respond to a crisis. 

"Nagkakaroon ng problema doon," he said. 

Yebra, a veteran in the field, said Monday's hostage-taking incident was the first time that he saw talks deteriorate that bad.

He added that he continued to try to talk to the hostage-taker, dismissed senior inspector Rolando Mendoza, even while the bullets were already flying.

"Lahat nalulungkot sa naging outcome. Pero concerted effort iyon. Lahat kami apektado," he said. "With limited resources, nakita naman kung paano na-try resolve iyung problema."

Mistakes

PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Argrimero Cruz admitted on Tuesday that mistakes were made during the hostage situation. 

"Mga lapses ang titingnan ng pulisya sa operations, kung paano hinandle," he said. "At iyong media na rin na nai-broadacast kaagad ang mga pangyayari."

According to Yebra, journalists should be careful in covering hostage incidents. 

"Based on what I studied, interviews (with negotiators) are not encouraged. Questions should just be submitted to command post," he said. 

He added that live media reports of hostage incidents might affect efforts to resolve the situation without bloodshed. "The suspect might also be monitoring the news cycle," Yebra said. 

Negotiator says brod triggered hostage-taker to snap

As the Manila police grappled with questions about what went wrong the day after, one of the negotiators at the center of Monday's hostage crisis said it all came down to SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, the brother of hostage-taker Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza.

"The brother was the trigger that made him snap," said Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador, who accompanied the chief negotiator, Supt. Orlando Yebra, in trying to secure the release of the hostages, many of whom were Chinese tourists from Hong Kong.

"Ang ganda na ng usapan (The talk was going nicely). He (Mendoza) was about to surrender. We already had good rapport with him. We successfully got him to release nine hostages," Salvador said.

But negotiations broke down after Gregorio told the hostage-taker not to accept a deal set up by the negotiators unless his firearm, which was confiscated before he joined the negotiation, was returned to him.

Gregorio also told his brother not to accept the letter of the Ombudsman that was brought to him by Yebra and Salvador. Gregorio was heard telling Rolando the letter was "basura (trash)."

As the negotiators and Gregorio turned to leave, Mendoza fired a warning shot. "His gun was aimed at us," Salvador said.

Because of his actions, which the police considered to have impeded negotiations, Gregorio was placed under arrest. He tried to resist arrest and was forcibly shoved into a mobile police car. This was covered live by TV stations and monitored by his brother from the TV set on the bus.

"He became emotional and that's when he started firing shots," Salvador said. "That's when we knew we could no longer continue the negotiation."

3 Hong Kong tourists in stable condition – hospital execs

(UPDATE) Officials of the Manila Doctors Hospital said three Hong Kong tourists hurt in the hostage crisis on Monday night are now in stable condition.

Chinese envoy arrives in RP to help hostage victims

Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao arrived on a chartered flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, to assist the survivors of the Manila hostage crisis and help their families recover the bodies of the dead.

Family still in shock over fate of Rolando Mendoza

Dumating na sa Tanauan, Batangas ang mga labi ng hostage-taker na si dating Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza. Tumangging magbigay ng pahayag ang pamilya Mendoza pero nanatiling bukas sa media ang unang gabi ng burol.

Bus driver describes hostage taker as man on a crusade

There was no tension. He was calm.

This was how the 38-year-old Hong Thai Travel bus driver Alberto Lubang described former Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza during most of Monday's hostage drama at the Luneta. In fact, Lubang said in a sworn statement to police investigators, for most of the 11 hours he and more than 20 Chinese tourists were held hostage, Mendoza was a man on a crusade to prove his innocence.

But, Lubang alleged, everything changed when the sacked police officer saw on the bus' television his brother being handcuffed and taken away by operatives of the Manila Police District from the Quirino Grandstand.

The last words Mendoza reportedly shouted were, "Uubusin ko ang mga hostage kaya dapat i-release ninyo na iyan at pag inalis nyo yan makikita nyo." (I will finish off all the hostages so you should release him and if you remove him, you'll regret it).

Mendoza then started his shooting spree. He first fired his automatic rifle at a tour guide, who had been handcuffed on the aisle, and then shot the seated tourists indiscriminately while he walked along the aisle.

In his sworn statement to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Manila field office, Lubang claimed that he picked up the tourists from the Manila Pavilion for a tour of Intramuros at around 8 a.m.

After reaching Intramuros, the tourists disembarked and he returned for them after an hour, at around 9 a.m. He parked his bus in front of the Manila Cathedral and he saw a man wearing a ballcap, dressed in fatigue uniform carrying a long firearm. The man had been standing in front of the gate of Fort Santiago.

When the tourists boarded the bus, and Lubang was about to maneuver the bus forward, the man approached the bus and asked where they were headed. "When I told him airport, he asked if he could hitch a ride."

"While we were nearing Luneta, the man said, 'Sorry, mga hostage ko na kayo ngayon,' which surprised us. Dianna Chan immediately informed the tourists in their language of what the man had said," the driver recounted.

The armed man in the camouflage uniform then introduced himself as "Captain Mendoza, a Manila policeman."

"I thought that he was joking but realized he was serious when he told us, 'I am going to hold everyone of you hostage until 3 p.m.,' and he promised not to hurt anyone," Lubang said. He was then ordered by Mendoza to drive toward the Quirino Grandstand.

The bus driver recounted that there was an elderly female passenger who complained of being afflicted with loose bowel movement and Mendoza reportedly instructed the tour guide Dianna Chan to accompany the woman and told her in Filipino, "Go ahead. Get off the bus. Call the NCRPO and I will call them too so they would know I am holding your bus hostage."

At around 9:30, the policemen arrived and Chief Insp. Romeo Salvador, who claimed to have been with Mendoza before in Bicutan, approached the bus to start negotiating for the release of the hostages. Lubang heard Salvador asking Mendoza what he was doing and heard the police captain's reply, "Bok, iyon lang kaso ko sa Ombudsman ang gusto kong madinig dito. Wag kayong mag-alala, wala naman mangyayari pag nasunod ang mga gusto ko. Pangako iyan (I just want my case in the Ombudsman to be heard here. Don't worry, nothing will happen if what I want is followed. That's a promise)."

When Supt. Orlando Yebra arrived, Mendoza reportedly handed him a thick folder and told the police official, "Sir, please bring those to the DOJ and the Ombudsman so I can find out their answer later." In exchange for that, Yebra reportedly asked for the release of hostages. "Oo ba, Sir, basta bigayan tayo ha," Lubang quoted Mendoza as saying. It was then that an adult and three children were released.

Mendoza then asked if the tourists were hungry and directed Lubang to call the Hong Thai Travel agency and ask for food.

"All of us had eaten but Sir (Mendoza) did not. He reasoned out that he might defecate if he did. Then he released another passenger (the 7th ), an old man. He was smiling at us and told us, 'Now they might be saying I'm okay. I hope they send in media so you (Lubang) would be famous,"

Mendoza soon released another hostage (the 8th) even without the negotiators asking for the release of a hostage.

Asked by police investigators if there was tension and if Mendoza threatened or hurt any of the passengers, Lubang said, "Wala po. Kampanti lang po siya. Wala po siyang sinaktan na pasahero ng mga oras na iyon at paminsan-minsan ay nagagawa niyang magbiro, pero seryoso po siya sa kanyang pakay. Naikwento nya nga po sa amin maski ang mga dayuhan kong pasahero na na-dismissed sya dahil sa maling desisyon at hindi naman daw sya ang may gawa nun, kagagawan yun ng mga tao nya noon.(There was no tension. He was calm. He did not hurt any of the passengers at that time and he occasionally joked, but he was serious in his goal. He told us, even the foreigners, that he was dismissed because of a wrong decision and he had nothing to do with what happened. It was his men who were responsible)."

Lubang also recalled that whenever he spoke on the mobile phone, Mendoza talked to members of the media. "But if the caller was a member of his family, he refused the call. Maybe he did not want to lose his resolve."

SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, the police captain's brother, started to approach the bus and was held back by the two negotiators because he was armed. The younger Mendoza's gun was taken before he was allowed to talk again to his brother at the rear of the bus, who asked him to extend his 3 p.m. deadline but Mendoza asked the negotiators to return his brother's gun.

"When darkness fell, Colonel Yebra, Major Salvador, and SPO2 Mendoza approached carrying several documents and the way I understood it, those were from the Ombudsman," Lubang recalled. But after Mendoza read the documents, he shouted, "This is not what I asked for. This is garbage. Return these. The decision I want is not among these." The negotiators tried to explain but Mendoza shook his head.

Before walking away, SPO2 Mendoza reportedly told his older brother that his service firearm had not yet been returned. "Dito na nagbago ang hitsura ng captain at nagpaputok na sya ng isang beses. Eto nung habang papalayo na ang tatlo." He likewise heard Mendoza remarking, "Naku, sinungaling pala yun. Ayoko na silang kausap."

Lubang claimed that the police captain was all ther more enraged when he saw on the onboard television that his brother was being handcuffed and Mendoza shouted that he was going to finish off the hostages if his brother was not released.

The bus driver said that he was surprised when Mendoza started shooting at the handcuffed tour guide on the aisle and walked along the aisle as he fired. "I was watching through the rear view mirror and I pleaded with him to let me go because I had a family. But he barked at me to move the bus forward. I could not because the tires were already flattened by sniper fire. I pleaded with him again to let me go. He did not speak but kept on firing."

Desperate, Lubang was able to break free of his handcuffs using the cuticle remover of a nail cutter. As soon as he was free of the handcuffs, he slipped through the small window on the driver's side and ran away, shouting, "Pinatay nang lahat yung mga hostage."

He reasoned out that he shouted those words because he witnessed how Mendoza kept on firing at the passengers on their seats.


Aquino declares Aug 25 day of nat'l mourning

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III has declared August 25 as a day of national mourning in the wake of a bloody hostage-taking incident at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on Monday.

Under Proclamation No. 23, Aquino said the deaths of eight civilians "are a great loss to the peoples of Hong Kong and the Philippines."

He added that there is a need to answer "a call for the most solemn commemoration and respect at a time of grief for our two peoples."

The Hong Kong government earlier declared a day of mourning to express sorrow over the deaths.

"I instruct all the public institutions in the Philippines and our embassies and consulates overseas to lower the Philippine flag to half-mast on August 25, 2010," the president said.

DFA mum on Aquino's snub of Hong Kong chief's calls

The Department of Foreign Affairs is keeping quiet on the diplomatic blunder that President Benigno Aquino III may have made for being inaccessible to Hong Kong officials at the height of and immediately after the hostage crisis Monday.

RP to send delegation to HK to assuage pain over hostage drama

The Philippine government is sending a high-level delegation to Hong Kong to meet and explain to officials there what happened in the hostage crisis that claimed the lives of eight Hong Kong citizens, Malacañang announced on Tuesday.

Police admit blunders in hostage crisis

Philippine police conceded Tuesday they made blunders in ending a bus hijacking as outrage grew over the bloody assault played out on live television that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.

DILG chief admits problems in hostage handling

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo admitted Tuesday that there were "problems" as to how authorities handled the 11-hour hostage crisis in Quirino Grandstand in Manila, where eight Hong Kong tourists were killed.

DILG chief admits cops 'lacked skills, equipment'

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo admitted on Tuesday that Philippine policemen lacked the skills and equipment needed to handle hostage situations like Monday's 11-hour bloody hostage drama where 10 people died, including the hostage-taker.

Ombudsman defends decision not to yield to hostage-taker's demand

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman defended its decision not to give in to the demand of hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza to be reinstated into the police force after he was dismissed due to drug-related offenses.

No clear command caused Grandstand tragedy—Biazon

The hostage-taking crisis at the Rizal Grandstand was the result of a police situation that had no clear person in command, Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon said Tuesday.

Security experts angry over Manila hostage drama

by Agence France-Presse
SINGAPORE - Security experts Tuesday were baffled and angered by the Philippines' handling of a hostage crisis in which a lone gunman was able to monitor ill-coordinated police operations live on television.

"The fact that there was essentially live video was mistake number one," said assistant professor John Harrison, a homeland security analyst at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

He told Agence France-Presse there should have been a media blackout to deny the hijacker feedback on what was going on around him.

Instead, he was able to follow events -- including frenzied speculation by serving and former police chiefs appearing on Philippine networks -- via the bus's internal TV.

President Benigno Aquino, who took his oath of office on June 30 at the historic Rizal Park grandstand complex where the incident unfolded, has defended the police but ordered an investigation.

Hong Kong newspapers bemoaned missed opportunities by police to end the siege much earlier, including a moment when the gunman waved from the bus door. Protestors Tuesday picketed the Chinese territory's Philippine consulate.

Dennis Wong Sing Wing, an associate professor of applied social studies at City University in Hong Kong, said the police operation was "really shocking" to watch as it unfolded live on TV.

"I am very angry about their unprofessional performance," he said. "They are indirectly responsible for the deaths of the Hong Kong people."

Wong said the policemen assigned to end the hostage-taking appeared to lack modern weapons and communication equipment, and as a result were hesitant to attack the gunman, who was armed with an M-16 assault rifle.

He criticized the negotiating tactics employed by police, saying they failed to calm the hostage-taker down and hear him out.

A retired Philippine military official who wrote a counter-terrorism manual and now runs a security consultancy said the police had enough expertise and equipment to deal with such an incident, but they were not put to use.

"We have everything, except the execution was poorly done," he said, declining to be named.

He was critical of the stop-go negotiations and "tentative" assault launched after gunshots rang out from inside the bus, adding that the police should have disabled the TV monitor early on.

"Contact (by negotiators) should have been constant. It's the talking that does a lot," he said.

"When you order an assault, it has to be an assault. There is no such thing as a tentative assault," he said. "If 10 policemen have to die, they have to die in that assault."

The retired official believed many of the policemen on the scene, some of them seen crouching without any body armor behind patrol cars, did not appear to be fully trained Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) personnel.

"They just put helmets on certain people," he remarked.

Trial judge Jaime Santiago, a former SWAT officer, said in a television interview in Manila that police failed to impose crowd control in the hostage site and panicked after hearing gunshots from the bus.

"They should have put a tactical force, SWAT snipers and an assault team on standby during the negotiation so that if the hostage-taker started harming people, they would act," Santiago added.

Media hit for blow-by-blow coverage of hostage drama

The media may have overstepped the bounds in their blow-by-blow account of Monday's hostage drama inside a bus in Manila that left the hostage-taker and eight of his 25 hostages dead.

'Media should review how it covers hostage situations'

Dapat pag-aralan muli ng media ang mga panuntunan sa pagko-cover ng mga crisis situations gaya ng hostage drama kahapon. Ito ang tugon ng Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Pero para naman sa PNP-NCRPO, nakatulong pa nga raw sa mga pulis ang media coverage. Magba-Bandila si Jenny Reyes.

NBI joins probe on hostage crisis

A newly-created team of the National Bureau of Investigation has joined the investigation on Monday's bloody hostage-taking incident in Quirino Grandstand which claimed the lives of nine people, including eight Hong Kong visitors and the hostage-taker.

Filipinos in HK feeling brunt of hostage crisis

Filipinos based in Hong Kong are beginning to feel the heat caused by Monday's deadly hostage crisis in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead, a human rights group based there said Tuesday.

No security threats to Pinoys in HK, says consul

by By Leilani Chavez, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - There were no reported security threats to the large Filipino community in Hong Kong following the bloody hostage incident in Manila that killed 8 Hong Kong tourists on Monday.

OFWs call for probe, express sympathy for hostage crisis victims

An umbrella organization of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong on Tuesday sympathized with the families of those who died and survived the hostage-taking crisis in Manila and called for a thorough investigation of the failed negotiations and rescue.

Re-imposition of death penalty pushed

Monday's bloody hostage-taking incident that left at least eight Hong Kong nationals dead prompted a senator to push for the re-imposition of the death penalty in the country.

Lingam massage operator arrested

Policemen arrested the owner of a lingam massage parlor in Barangay Mabolo, as well as two of her masseuses and their male customer, after the masseuses were al-legedly caught in the act of massaging the customer's genitals during a surprise inspection last Monday night.

Balili maintains refusal to reimburse Capitol

"We will maintain that we should not refund or reimburse the claimed amount by the Province of Cebu."

Malabuyoc mayor acquitted of graft charges

The Sandiganbayan has acquitted Malabuyoc Mayor Narciso "Lito" Creus of the criminal case for violation of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act arising from his alleged refusal to release the financial assistance of at least seven fire victims in 2008 because they were identified supporters of his political rival.

Greg hires Saavedra as project consultant

Cebu Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez has hired Engineer Crisologo Saavedra yesterday as consultant on project monitoring and evaluation to ensure transparency in transactions made by the province.

Gwen increases fiscals monthly stipend

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has promised to give a P5,000 increase in the monthly allowance of provincial and regional state prosecutors.

On top of the increase in the prosecutors' monthly stipend, the governor also plans to put up a satellite office in one of the towns in Cebu.

From the P5,000 monthly allowance that they used to receive from the province, the 23 provincial prosecutors from now on will receive P10,000 each. The same amount will be received also by the six regional state prosecutors.

City government may extend aid for Haladaya Fest

While the town of Daanbantayan failed to get financial assistance from the provincial government, the Cebu City government may extend assistance to the town in its staging of the Haladaya Festival on August 30.

Daanbantayan Mayor Maria Luisa Loot announced that a staff of former Cebu City mayor and now south district Rep. Tomas Osmeña informed her about the P500,000 assistance that the city is giving for the festival.

Osmeña's staff asked Loot to write a formal request addressed to Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

Loot immediately called for a special session of the municipal council the other day to approve a resolution requesting P500,000 from the Cebu City government as assistance for the festival.

With this development, Daanbantayan may join the Sinulog Festival in January next year.

Osmeña denied that he offered assistance to Daanbantayan town but said he would be willing to help if town officials will ask him.

DOH: Dengue cases rise by 75%; now a 'serious concern'

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona said dengue is now a "serious concern" after the number of cases rose by 75% from January to August this year, compared to the same period last year.

Dengue deaths rise to 13 in Iloilo City

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Dengue fever has now claimed 13 lives in Iloilo City, health authorities said Tuesday. 

2 killed, 11 hurt as jeep falls into ravine in Southern Leyte

Two persons were killed and 11 others were wounded when a passenger jeep fell into a 50-foot deep ravine in Sta. Cruz village, 17 km from Maasin City, on Tuesday morning.

The fatalities were identified as Jeffrey Serito, 23, and Anita Salapi, 50, of Libertad and Lundag villages, respectively.

Wounded were Paulino Lakayan, 68; Angelina Doron 39; Emeliana Soria, 49; Laurencia Palima, 68; Erna Adobas, 42; Jessie Kaubigan, 18; Melgar Pliro, 15; Ronie Omilan, 30; Anastacio Montera; and the jeepney driver Lonie Paloma.

Three other passengers aged four to eight survived unscathed.

The 68-year-old survivor Laurencia Palima said the jeep was negotiating a curved and uphill road when the driver lost control of the vehicle and it fell into the ravine.

Palima said the jeep had 20 passengers and was loaded with 40 sacks of copra.

The driver surrendered to the police after getting treatment for his wounds

Margarita Paloma, wife of jeepney owner Honorato, said they gave medical and financialassistance to the victims.

5 soldiers killed, one wounded in Agusan rebel attack

Five enlisted personnel were killed while one other victim was left wounded after a group of rebels attacked a military outpost in Agusan del Sur province early Tuesday, a military spokesman said.


Maguindanao massacre vehicles back on the road

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Some of the vehicles recovered by police in the aftermath of the massacre of 57 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, last year are reportedly back on the road again.

Proposed P1.64-T budget submitted to Congress

(UPDATE) President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday submitted to Congress his first proposed budget for 2011 amounting to P1.645 trillion.

SC sets oral arguments for plea to junk EO on truth body

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for the petition seeking to nullify President Benigno Aquino III's Executive Order No. 1, which establishes the Truth Commission that will probe the scandals that hounded the Arroyo administration.

Whistleblowers to spill more beans before truth body

A group of individuals on Tuesday vowed to spill more beans to the upcoming Truth Commission, created to investigate allegations of corruption that hounded the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

Arroyo-era whistle blowers seek protection

Four whistle blowers who exposed anomalies during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday sought to be included on the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice, saying they were more confident now about the security the Aquino administration could provide them.

SSS chair, 3 other execs got P127M from mining firm

(UPDATE 3) Four commissioners of the Social Security System (SSS) received a combined P127.4 million "financial compensation" package from one mining corporation alone, documents submitted to the Senate Tuesday showed.

Based on the records of Philex Mining Corporation, outgoing SSS chairman Thelmo Cunanan supposedly received a total compensation package of P83.1 million from the company in the form of bonuses, per diem and other benefits; P17.2 million and P20.27 million for former SSS presidents Romulo Neri and Corazon dela Paz-Bernardo, respectively; and P6.3 million for Commissioner Sergio Ortiz-Luiz.

The four allegedly received the compensation package from Philex as SSS representatives to the Philex board of directors.

At the joint hearing by the Senate committees on finance and government corporations, Senator Franklin Drilon disclosed that Cunanan made a total of P66.6 million alone from the stock optiongranted to him by the mining firm in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

Cunanan got P1.2 million for selling 495,000 shares of stock in August 2007, P55.2 million in November 2009 for selling 3,140,000 shares, and another P10.1 million in March 2010 for selling 930,625 shares, Drilon said.

"For the three transactions as a member of the board of Philex representing SSS pension fund, Mr. Cunanan made P66,644,194," said Drilon.

A document the senator later furnished to reporters showed that Cunanan also received P16.1 in other allowances and a per diem of P312, 800.

"These are all on record and these were never turned over to the SSS," said Drilon during the hearing.

"This was not turned over to the SSS on the theory as Mr. Neri was saying. This was part of their compensation. I don't know how much taxes were paid here," he said.

In stock options, Neri earned a total of P11.8 million in May, September and November 2009, and March 2010 transactions aside from P5.2 million allowances and per diem of P102,000.

Dela Paz-Bernardo's stock options for August 2008 alone amounted to P9.7 million and received P10.8 million in allowances and per diem of P149, 600.

Ortiz-Luiz 's also earned P4.6 million when he sold the agency's shares from the corporation in January 2010. He also received P1.6 million allowances and per diem of P54.400.

While Philex's bylaws provides that one-and-a-half percent of its profits would be declared as a bonus of a member of the board, Drilon said it should be incumbent upon the SSS executives to return the bonuses to the agency.

"Now, the question on the part of the SSS commissioner who sits in Philex: Does he have an obligation to turn this over to the SSS? Because these are profits realized out of investment of the SSS in Philex," said the senator during a press conference after the hearing.

"In my mind, they are not entitled to it because they are there representing the SSS pension fund and if these were not declared as bonuses, it would have been profits. In other words, these are profits distributed to them in the form of a bonus, "he pointed out.

While he could not pinpoint a particular law that prohibited the SSS officials from getting the bonuses as part of their compensation, Drilon pointed out "the general principle" under the revised penal code, which provides "that when you are a trustee, you are supposed to turn over the funds that you received as a trustee."

"That's the principle and your failure to do so would constitute malversation because the bonus my dear is based on profit," he further said.

And these ex-officials, he said, might face possible criminal liability for their alleged failure to exercise the "extraordinary diligence" required of a manager of a trust fund, like the SSS.

Get clearance before exiting Saudi, OFWs advised

Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia reminded Filipinos working there to secure police clearances first before leaving the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for good.

Tetangco: peso won't be affected by hostage tragedy

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The cental bank of the Philippines said the local currency or the peso is not likely to be affected by the tragic hostage-taking on Monday.

Purisima: Hostage crisis hardly to impact economy

The hostage-taking incident in Manila, which ended in a bloody siege late Monday and resulted in the death of nine Hong Kong nationals, was simply a criminal act and not a political event with dire ramifications on the Philippine economy, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Tuesday.

RP stocks fall sharply after hostage crisis

Local stocks fell sharply on Tuesday as a bloody hostage-taking incident in Manila weighed down investor sentiment and escalated profit-taking pressures, dealers said.

Tourism to be affected by hostage crisis

by By Alexis Romero

Last Monday's hostage incident in Manila poses a setback to the government's efforts to achieve its tourism arrival target of 3.3 million this year, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said.

Napocor debts more than government could bear -- PSALM

State-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. said on Tuesday all electricity consumers must share in the burden of paying the power-related debts and obligations, which have gone "beyond the government to bear."

Government data showed that in 2009, debt service maturities and obligations to independent power producers reached $2.45 billion, eating up the measly P10 billion in revenues generated by the remaining state-owned power assets during the same period.

PSALM is expected to further service $2.53 billion in debt service maturities and IPP obligations this year; and another $1.93 billion next year.

Raise workers' salaries to solve economic crisis

1 person liked this - leo lastimosa
As trillions of dollars in stimulus packages are running out and as governments deliberate on new ones to stave off the inevitable collapse of the world economy, social movements belonging to the Asia-Europe Peoples' Forum (AEPF) urge decision-makers to re-think their assumptions and actions.

Plane crashes in Nepal with 14 on board -- home ministry

A small plane heading for the Everest region with 14 people on board including four Americans and one Japanese crashed in bad weather near the Nepalese capital on Tuesday, the home ministry said.

China plane overshoots runway, at least 47 hurt: state media

BEIJING, China - A Chinese passenger plane overshot its runway and burst into flames while attempting to land late Tuesday in China's northeast, injuring at least 47 people, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Chinese plane with 91 on board crashes—state media

BEIJING—(UPDATE) A Chinese passenger plane with 91 people aboard crashed late Tuesday in China's northeast but the extent of casualties was not immediately known, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Six MPs among 32 killed in Somalia hotel carnage

MOGADISHU-- Two extremist insurgents disguised as government soldiers went on a shooting rampage in a Mogadishu hotel Tuesday, killing 30 people, including six MPS, before blowing themselves up.

UN says 800,000 cut off by Pakistan floods

ISLAMABAD - About 800,000 people have been cut off by floods in Pakistan and are only reachable by air, the United Nations said Tuesday, adding it needs at least 40 more helicopters to ferry lifesaving aid to increasingly desperate people.

Jimmy Carter to visit NKorea to free US man—report

Former US president Jimmy Carter plans to visit North Korea soon on a mission to secure the release of an American man serving eight years of hard labor there, Foreign Policy magazine said Monday.

Roach assures no illegal wraps vs Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines – American coach Freddie Roach said he will make sure he will protect his prized fighter, WBO welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao, by barring challenger Antonio Margarito from using illegal hand wraps.

Filipinos use Facebook to vent hostage anger at Aquino

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - Philippine President Benigno Aquino's Facebook account was on Tuesday flooded with insults and criticism over the botched hostage rescue in Manila than left 8 Hong Kong tourists dead.

Raj's runner-up finish at Miss U 'bright spot on sad day'—Palace

Malacañang welcomes the fourth runner-up finish of Venus Raj in the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in Las Vegas, saying her "success...is a bright spot in an otherwise sad day for our country," an official said Tuesday.

'Major major:' Venus Raj's legacy?

by By Karen Flores, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - She may have failed to get the crown, but Venus Raj, the country's representative to this year's Miss Universe pageant, left something for the whole world to remember. Will it eventually be in the running for the country's "Word of the Year?"

CamSur celebrates Venus Raj's feat

Piyesta sa Camarines Sur sa pagkakapanalo ng kababayan nilang si Venus Raj bilang runner-up sa Miss Universe. Emosyonal naman ang ina ni Venus sa tagumpay ng anak na dumaan sa hindi birong pagsubok. 

Ex-Miss Universe Pinays defend Venus Raj

Mismong ang dalawang dating Pinay Miss Universe na sina Gloria Diaz at Margie Moran ang nagtanggol kay Venus Raj sa mga punang sablay siya sa "Question and Answer" portion. May payo sila kung paano sana sinagot ni Venus ang tanong. 

CPDRC inmates to dance in ABS-CBN's "Idol" show

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has allowing the world famous dancing inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center to dance for ABS-CBN's new show entitled "Idol" which will pilot next month.

The CPDRC will get P300,000 cash donation in return for acceding to the network's request for its inmates to dance for the show. Garcia, who is also the jailer of the CPDRC, announced yesterday that she is allowing the inmates to dance.

The governor also said that she is announcing to the public the cash donation that they will be receiving in return for purposes of transparency. She said the money will be properly receipted by the Provincial Treasurer's Office as soon as it is received by them.

Based on the guidelines earlier set by Garcia, 25-percent of the donations will be retained by the province while 75-percent will go to the inmates' fund.

Rocky Ubana, ABS-CBN's executive producer of the show, said that the "Idol" will pilot on September 4, 2010.

According to Ubana, having the CPDRC dancing inmates to dance is part of their campaign to promote the show. CPDRC inmates will be featured during the third in-stallment of their campaign.

The first installment was held last July 28 at the Market-Market Mall in Taguig and in the Mall of Asia wherein 100 dancers, posing as regular shoppers, simultane-ously dance to the show's theme song, You'll Always be my number one, sung by pop princess Sarah Geronimo.

The event was covered by the network's production team, it will be aired together with that of the CPDRC inmates' dance in TV Patrol and ASAP on August 28 in the Idol:The Making.

Ubana said that the dancing inmates, which has earned worldwide accolade for the success of their "Thriller" dance routine, will help promote their new show. A cho-reographer from Manila will fly to Cebu to teach the inmates the dance steps for a two-minute dance material.

The actual event will be held on August 27, which will be covered by 109 video cameras and will be aired in "IDOL the making."

The program top billed Sarah Geronimo, Sam Milby, Coco Martin and veteranactress Zsa-Zsa Padilla. 

Pop star George Michael pleads guilty to drug offenses

Pop star George Michael pleaded guilty Tuesday to drug offenses and a judge suspended his license and warned him he could face jail after an incident in which his car crashed into a photo shop and he was found slumped at the wheel.

Timeline: Manila hostage crisis

A timeline of the hostage crisis in Manila that turned bloody on Monday night:

  • 10:15 a.m. – Dismissed Manila Police Mobile Patrol Unit chief Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza boards tourist bus at Intramuros. He announces he is taking the 25 passengers hostage and stops the bus in front of Quirino Grandstand. nitial reports mistakenly identify the hostages as Korean nationals.

  • Before 11:37 a.m. - On QTV, Theresa Andrada reports that by this time two hostages have already been released.

  • 12:01 p.m. - Negotiations are ongoing between Manila Police and the hostage-taker. At this point, three hostages have been released.

  • 12:05 p.m. – Four more hostages are released, including three Chinese children.

    Photo by Danny Pata


  • Around 12:30 p.m. - Korean embassy officials confirm that there are no Korean nationals on the bus.

  • Before 2:00 p.m. - The hostage-taker releases an elderly man. By this time he has posted a message on the bus window that reads, "Big mistake to correct a big wrong decision."

  • 2:05 p.m. - Mendoza posts a second message on the bus window that reads "Big deal will start after 3 p.m. today Mendoza."

  • 2:18 p.m. - Mendoza posts a third message: "3 PM today deadlock" and releases one of the hostages, a young man.

  • Before 2:50 p.m. - By this time, food and gas have been delivered to the bus. Some of the hostages can still be seen peeking through the bus windows.

  • 3:00 p.m. - Negotiators agree to refuel the bus as as Mendoza's 3 p.m. deadline passes.Mendoza's brother SPO4 Gregorio Mendoza talks to him on the phone and convinces him to extend his deadline. [See: Ex-cop holds tourist bus passengers hostage in Manila]

  • 3:28 p.m. - Mendoza posts a fourth message on the windows of the bus demanding for "media now."

  • 4:00 p.m. - The hostaged tour group's Filipino photographer is the ninth hostage to be released.

  • 4:43 p.m. - Police deliver a box of food to the hostages.

    Photo by Danny Pata


  • 6:00 p.m. -- The hostage-taker receives a letter from the Office of the Ombudsman promising a review of his case.

  • 7:10 p.m. – Police arrest SPO4 Gregorio Mendoza after he becomes agitated. The hostage taker, who is monitoring the news on television, angrily tells an RMN anchor over the phone that he will start firing at the tourists if his brother is taken away. According to RMN, this is the last time Mendoza is heard on the air.

    Photo by Danny Pata


  • 7:21 p.m. - Two shots, followed by several more, are heard from the bus. GMA reporter Emil Sumangil reports that snipers have fired at the wheels of the bus to immobilize the vehicle.

  • 7:30 p.m. - The bus driver escapes, going straight to the mobile command of the National Capital Region Police Office and shouting that all the hostages had been killed.

  • 7:37 p.m. - Members of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team start to surround the bus. They use a sledge hammer to break down the door of the bus.

    Photo by Danny Pata


  • 7:39 p.m. - Emil Sumangil reports that three more gunshots were fired from inside the bus.

  • 7:40 p.m. - Two loud gunshots hit the outside of the bus.

  • 7:41 p.m. - Two police mobile units approach the bus from the side.

  • 7:45 p.m. - Mike Enriquez reports that the mobile units have moved to behind the bus and attempt to break the bus windows from behind.

  • 7:51 p.m. - Police lob tear gas inside the bus.



  • 8:04 p.m. - Another round of shots is heard, but it is unclear if it came from inside the bus.

  • 8:10 p.m. - Police tug at the rope to pull the bus door open, but it snaps a few minutes later. One hostage could be seen slumped near the front door of the bus.

  • 8:23 p.m. - Several rounds of automatic gunfire are heard. At this point, teargas smoke is seen coming from the windows of the bus. A bystander is hit by a stray bullet.
    Photo by Danny Pata


  • 8:40 p.m. -Shots are fired again, though it is unclear whether they were coming from inside or outside the bus, which has been surrounded by police

  • 8:43 p.m. The lifeless body of the hostage-taker is seen hanging out the door of the bus. No longer ducking gunfire, police begin to approach the bus. They seem to be signaling to bystanders and media that the area has been secured. Michael Fajatin reports that a sniper says he has shot and killed the hostage-taker.
    Photo by Danny Pata


  • 8:45 p.m. Civilians, media, police, and ambulances begin to crowd around the bus.

  • 8:47 p.m. - Police manage to open the rear emergency exit. No movement is seen inside the bus, but a light comes on. Police hesitate in entering the bus but eventually force their way in. Several hostages are seen walking out, while others are carried on stretchers and brought to waiting ambulances.

    AP Photo/Bullit Marquez


  • 8:55 p.m.- One of the surviving hostages, a middle-aged woman dressed in white, cries hysterically as she is removed from the bus. Surviving hostages are taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.

  • 12:30 a.m. - President Aquino gives a press conference about the hostage crisis.
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