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

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 31, 2010 Major News Stories

DOH urges public to step up dengue monitoring

MANILA, Philippines - Over 54,000 dengue cases have been officially reported in Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas and Central Mindanao from January to August 14, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

A total of 429 people, mostly children, have died from the disease. But apart from the cost to life, health officials admit, the disease is also putting a strain on the resources of both the government and the affected families.

"A mild case of dengue will cost us a minimum of P5,000. If we presume 54,000 cases is just mild dengue, that's easily P250 million," says Dr. Eric Tayag, head of the DOH-National Epidemiology Center, on ANC Dateline Philippines Sunday.

Tayag says that while P5,000 is the minimum cost for treatment, some severe cases run up to P100,000. He also notes the loss in wages as parents have to stay home to take care of their children who contract the virus.

Keeping the guard up

Tayag says they expect a slight drop in dengue cases in the coming weeks, but he also cautions the public to remain vigilant against the disease.

"We don't want to raise our people's hope because we want to make sure we continue our fight against dengue because it occurs all year round. We want to warn that the National Capital Region, in the last 2 weeks, is getting increasing number of dengue cases so we have to watch out for an upsurge in the number of cases here in Metro Manila," he says.

The alarm comes after the health department detected 4 different dengue strains nationwide compared to a single strain in previous years.

Initial home treatment 

Tayag says the presence of additional dengue strains raises the chance for more infections.

In anticipation of the possible surge of dengue cases in hospitals, Tayag says they are shifting their efforts to helping ease the load by informing the public on ways to monitor the virus and initially deal with it from the home.

"For example, in Metro Manila, we have now shifted our fight against dengue to taking care of patients with dengue, because we have a situation wherein hospitals may be swamped with cases, and there will be no beds for more cases if that happens," he says.

Given the unpredictability of the dengue virus, Tayag says they have used the acronym "dengue" to easily remember steps to monitor the disease.

D- daily monitoring of patient's status

E- encouraging intake of oral fluids

N- note for any warnings or signals (persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain, restlessness, irritability, platelet count, bloated abdomen)

G- give paracetamol to bring down fever (avoid aspirin)

U- use mosquitoe screens, insect sprays, repellant

E- early consultation is advised if you have doubts

"We encourage mothers, those taking care of patients to take a chance at home treatment. You don't have to be helpless. You don't have to be in the hospital, you can do something at home," Tayag says.

12,500 Cebuano families to get cash assistance

Some 12,500 poor families from the 18 municipalities in Cebu province will soon receive financial grants from the national government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The concerned families will be registered as beneficiaries of the so-called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4P's, a poverty reduction and social development program of the national government.

The DSWD officials said the 4P's aim is to end the inter-generation cycle of poverty among poor households by investing on human capital through education and health.

The program will provide conditional cash grants to poor household with children 0-14 years old where each household would receive P500 as health and nutrition grant and P300 for the education of the children every month. Meaning, if a household has three qualified children the concerned family can receive up to P1,400 monthly or P15,000 annually as long as they comply with the conditions of the program.

The DSWD social workers will start next month evaluating the possible beneficiaries from the towns of Alegria, Asturias, Barili, Badian, Boljoon, Dumanjug, Ginati-lan, Oslob, Samboan and Tuburan,

Other towns that will be included in the program are Borbon, Catmon, Daanbantayan, San Remigio, Sogod, Tabuelan, Poro and Tudela.

The 4P's program is also to be expanded to 12 municipalities in Bohol like in Alicia, Bien-Unido, Buenavista, Carmen, Carlos P. Garcia, Dagohoy, Getafe, Inabanga, Mabini, Pilar, Trinidad and Ubay.

DSWD officials said about 21,000 poor families from Bohol and Cebu provinces are expected to benefit from the program for the next five years.

The mayors and other officials in the concerned municipalities are encouraged to assist the DSWD personnel in reaching out to identified households for registration, othewise they cannot avail of the program.

Among the conditions for the beneficiaries is that the pregnant women must get pre-and post-natal care and be attended during childbirth by skilled health personnel.

They should also attend responsible parenthood sessions, mothers' classes and parent effectiveness seminars and their children 0-5 years old must receive regular pre-ventive health checkups and vaccines.

The children aged 3-5 years old must attend day care or pre-school classes and children 6-14 years old must enroll in elementary or high school and must take de-worming pills twice a year.

Bids body sets meet on village elections

THE BIDS and awards committee (BAC) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will reconvene next week, its new head promising a "transparent and clean" process for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

PPCRV suggests use of pre-printed ballots for barangay, SK polls

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), a citizens' group, has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to use pre-printed ballots for the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls.
The Comelec is expected to decide this week on what type of ballot will be used in the October polls.

The poll body is reportedly looking at using manual ballot for the SK and barangay scheduled on October 25.

PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa said it would be better for the commission to use pre-printed ballots as this would reflect the poll body's goal to use automated election system (AES).

"If it's pre-printed, the names of the candidates are already there. That will be easier for them," she said in a phone interview.

De Villa said using pre-printed ballots would support Comelec's voters education program about automated elections because it is expected that the next 2013 national polls would also be computerized.

"That's also getting them used to in filling up the ballot in an automated system in preparation for the 2013 polls," the PPCRV head explained.

However, De Villa admitted that using pre-printed ballots would be much more expensive and time-consuming for the Comelec because "we are talking here of 42,000 barangays…so that will be more expensive."

However, she believes that the money that would be spent would be worth it.

"I'm sure even the PPCRV coordinators would say that it's worth the budget or amount….because of its positive effect for the next elections," De Villa said.

Noval wants Compostela department heads to sit as town councilors for now

The Department of the Interior and Local Government in Manila is studying the legal implication of the proposal of Compostela officer-in-charge Pedro Noval to ap-point the department heads of the Compostela municipal hall to be its interim municipal councilors.

CHR to probe dancing in jail

REPORTS that inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) are forced to dance will be the subject of a probe by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Did she offend One Cebu, or just Gwen? Loot wants expulsion to undergo due process

Daanbantayan town Mayor Maria Luisa Loot wants her expulsion from the One Cebu Party to undergo due process.

Rift between Gwen and Loot may hamper plan for solar power

The rift between Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Daanbantayan town Mayor Maria Luisa Loot may hamper plans for a solar power system for Malapascua.

Donations help town host festival

DAANBANTAYAN celebrated its Haladaya Festival yesterday, with Mayor Maria Luisa Loot thanking local businesses, balikbayan workers and other donors who chipped in funds for the activity.

City Hall to widen T. Padilla interior roads

The Cebu City government is set to widen the interior roads of Barangay T. Padilla to strictly implement the 10-meter road easement following a big fire last month that left over 700 families homeless.

2nd dismissal order for Rosas: Ombuds sacks ex-BI regional director

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of a former regional director of the Bureau of Immigration in Central Visayas after he was found guilty of grave misconduct for extorting money from Chinese nationals in 2004.

In an eight-page decision, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro ordered the dismissal of Senior Immigration Officer Geronimo Rosas.

It was Rosas's second dismissal order from the anti-graft body because he was also ordered dismiss from service in 2008 after he was also found guilty of grave misconduct for allowing two Iranian nationals to enter the country using fakepassports.

His previous dismissal however remains unimplemented because of his pending appeal.

Rosas' latest dismissal from service stemmed from the criminal complaint filed by businessman George Tan accusing the former immigration regional director in Central Visayas of demanding P200,000 from Chinese nationals Minwei Deng and Zhouzhi Cai.

The demand was allegedly made upon the arrival of the two Chinese nationals at the Mactan Cebu International Airport on November 13, 2006. Minwei and Zhouzi were asked by Tan to help in his prawn business as technicians.

The Chinese nationals however did not have working visas. Rosas allegedly threatened them of deportation if they will not pay P200,000. The accusation was proven by the testimony of Gabriel Andujar who witnesses when the demand was made.

Andujar was requested by Tan to assist the two Chinese nationals because they do not know how to speak english.

In 2008, Rosas was also dismissed from service after he allowed two Iranians to enter the country through Mactan using fake passports in December 7, 2004.

Based on the case record, Iranian nationals Jafar Saluti Taromasari and Jaliel Shokr Pour Ziveh were allowed entry in the country using tampered Italian and Mexican pass-ports.

They left for Narita, Japan on Dec. 16, 2004 but Japanese immigration authorities found their passports to be tampered. They went back to Mactan.

However, three days later they were "unlawfully" released despite their being considered "restricted" aliens who should have been investigated for being potential threat to national security. 

Manila mayor wanted cops to 'wait out' hostage-taker

MANILA, Philippines - Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim on Monday said he did not give out specific commands to police despite being chairman of the crisis committee handling the August 23 hostage-taking incident in Rizal Park.

Hong Kong hostages planned to attack Mendoza

In a personal chronicle of the 11-hour hostage crisis in Manila on August 23, one of the Hong Kong survivors recounted how the hostages planned to attack the hostage-taker, Rolando Mendoza. "Our biggest mistake was to overestimate the ability of the local police force," wrote Lee Ying-chuen. "Why did we hand our lives over to that useless government?"

Hostage-taker also faced gang rape charges

MANILA, Philippines - Slain hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza was also accused of participating in the gang rape of a woman in Rizal Park in 1996, the same place where he would later hold hostage 22 Chinese tourists and 3 Filipinos, a police spokesman said Sunday.

PNP audit sought after Manila hostage incident

A former police official-turned-lawmaker will ask for a financial, logistical and operation audit of the Philippine National Police (PNP) following its alleged shortcomings in handling the Aug. 23 hostage-taking incident in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.

Buddhists, Catholics to come together to pray for bus siege victims

MANILA, Philippines - In a show of unity, Buddhists and Catholics will come together on Tuesday morning in Manila to give their respects to the victims of the hostage crisis last August 23.

HK forensic experts to examine tourist bus

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Hong Kong forensic experts have proceeded to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City to examine a tourist bus used in a hostage taking incident exactly a week ago.

DOJ chief the only spokesperson on hostage crisis probe--Palace

(UPDATE 3) No one but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is authorized to speak to the media about the ongoing government investigation into the August 23 hostage drama at the Quirino Grandstand.

Justice head issues gag order to all cops on hostage-taking probe

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday barred all law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of last week's hostage drama from disclosing their preliminary findings to the public.

'HK media to get updates only from HK officials'

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will not anymore entertain questions from the Hong Kong media regarding investigations being done on the hostage incident.

Sanctions eyed vs cops who posed with hijacked bus

MANILA, Philippines - Police on Sunday said they will start profiling identities of policemen who posed in front of the hijacked tourist bus one day after the August 23 hostage crisis.

Palace on RM awardees' snub: We understand

MANLA, Philippines - We understand. Thus said Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Monday over the decision of 2 Chinese not to attend the Ramon Magsaysay awards ceremonies in Manila honoring their humanitarian works.

Bishops hope to work with HK counterparts in defusing RP-Hong Kong tensions

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has floated the possibility of "making representations" with its counterpart in Hong Kong to extend its sympathies and concern in the aftermath of the bungled hostage rescue that led to the deaths of eight Chinese tourists last week.

Hong Kong says no anti-Philippines sentiment in the city

HONG KONG – Hong Kong authorities said Monday there was no anti-Philippines sentiment in the city and dismissed rumours that employers sacked Filipino maids to vent their anger over the Manila hostage bloodbath.

'No truth to rumors of abused OFWs in HK'

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Claro Cristobal called for a stop to the sending of text messages claiming overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong are allegedly being physically and verbally abused following the hostage fiasco that killed 8 Hong Kong tourists.

OFW deployment to HK continues—recruiters

In what could be a bright spot in the bleak scenario created by the hostage-taking incident in Quirino Grandstand, recruitment agencies on Monday assured that deployment of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong will continue.

Palace to hold media dialogues starting Wednesday

MANILA, Philippines -  A Malacañang spokesman on Monday said Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang will hold dialogues with several media groups on how to cover hostage situations starting Wednesday.

'Radio interview made Mendoza more brave'

Nakapagpalala sa hostage drama ang ilang bahagi ng live interview ng isang radio station kay hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza noong kasagsagan mismo ng krisis. Ayon ito sa isang psychologist at isang media expert.  Sabi ng psychologist, lalong lumakas ang loob ni Mendoza nang pilit siyang pakalmahin ng radio anchor. Naging sagabal din ang halos isang oras na interview sa kanya sa radyo, ayon sa isang media analyst.

3 incidents that agitated Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines - Hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza's interview with a radio station shows there were at least three incidents that agitated him. While he was calm in the first part of the interview, he gradually became angry, especially upon seeing the arrest of his brother on television.

At the start of the interview that would last more than an hour, Mendoza sounded calm and optimistic. He had just received word Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno was on his way back from the Ombudsman after relaying Mendoza's demands.

"Magandang balita iyong aking demand eh dala ni vice mayor. May tumawag sa akin. Dala ni vice mayor. At anytime ay iaabot niya sa akin. Malalaman natin kung ano ang laman ng kanyang dala," Mendoza said.

Mendoza wanted the Ombudsman to decide once and for all on the extortion case against him, saying his appeal had been pending for nine months.

But Mendoza's optimism turned to dismay upon reading the letter, which contained Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's promise for a mere review of his case.

"Basura 'to sakin, di ito ang kailangan ko. Ang kailangan ko ay desisyon nila, reversing or not reversing. Yun lang yung thank you for the effort of the mayor and the vice mayor, di ko kailangan yang sulat ng yan sir," he said.

Mendoza vented his ire on government negotiators led by police Superintendent Orlando Yebra. 

"Ito, sasampulan ko to sir, tabi, magsialis kayo... di ko kailangan yan sir, walang sinasabi yan ...ikaw abogado ka... walang nilalaman yan."

When he resumed his radio interview, Mendoza said he had fired a warning shot in the air. There was a second reason for his increased agitation.

Mendoza was informed by his brother Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio Mendoza that the authorities had yet to return his service firearm, contrary to a supposed statement by Yebra.

"E nung nagpunta dito yung kapatid ko, kasama si Colonel Yebra sabi niya, 'tol, yung baril ko wala pa sa akin. Kaya ayaw ko nang kausap si Colonel Yebra, sinungaling siya!" he said.

Throughout the interview, Mendoza ranted repeatedly against Yebra.

Around that time, RMN also managed to talk to bus driver Alberto Lubang.

Lubang said everyone in the bus, including Mendoza, could see what was happening on TV.

But the final straw for Mendoza came about an hour later, when he saw his brother on TV struggling and resisting Manila policemen who were trying to arrest him.

Authorities later said Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim ordered Gregorio's arrest on Yebra's recommendation, as if something inside Mendoza snapped.

"Nakikita ko ang sitwasyon, bakit ginaganyan nila ang mga kapatid ko? Wala namang kinalaman yan. Ito kapag hindi nila binago yan, tutuluyan ko na yang mga nandito sa loob. tutuluyan ko na 'to kapag hindi sila nagbago."

Already shouting, Mendoza threatened to shoot the hostages if his brother was not released immediately.

RMN DZXL anchors and reporters scrambled to pacify Mendoza even as they tried to dissuade the policemen from arresting Gregorio and taking him away from the scene.

But it was only after 6 minutes when the first shots rang out.

Mendoza picked up the phone once more to tell the RMN anchor that he had just shot two hostages.

Then the line went dead and Mendoza was never heard from again.

Rough-sailing for PNP budget in Congress seen

Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Jesus Verzosa and other top police officials could expect a tough grilling over the force's 2011 budget after Monday's bungled hostage incident, lawmakers said on Monday.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said Verzosa and the other officers should justify every item on their budget for equipment and training.

"We will scrutinize each item, and they should be able to defend the breakdown of each item for training and equipment for the people to know—and to assure Hong Kong—that their budget will be geared toward preventing terrorism, hostage-taking and criminal acts," said Rodriguez, a member of the House ways and means committee, in a phone interview.

Hong Kong residents demonstrated on Friday to mourn the deaths of eight Chinese tourists during the hostage-taking at the Luneta Park and to press for a thorough and impartial investigation of the police handling of the crisis. Beijing has also asked the Philippine government to do more to ensure the safety of tourists.

The House appropriations committee will begin hearing presentations on the proposed P1.645-trillion national budget for 2011 on Wednesday.

Herrera-Dy, a member of the appropriations committee, said the police officers should explain what happened to the allocation for equipment and training of personnel in their 2010 budget.

"This time they have to justify how they used the funds, if they bought the equipment, and if they had the training. If they had the training, how come they didn't know how to use it?" she said over the phone.

The 11-hour hostage drama, which has caused tension with Hong Kong and Beijing, exposed the operatives' lack of training and equipment to handle a hostage situation.

If they fail to justify their budget for training and acquisition of equipment, the PNP should be given a "P1 budget," said Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares.

"It's the duty of Congress not to pass their budget if they can't explain where they spent their P10-billion modernization fund. Why did they only use a sledgehammer (during the hostage crisis) and did not have gas masks in their inventory? Congress should give them a P1 budget if they fail to explain this," he said.

Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, another member of the appropriations committee, said he was also keen on questioning the officials on their budget "in the context of economic development."

"The hostage incident's effect on the economy is unimaginable. Everything is translated into economic terms. The generals should learn how to justify their budget in economic terms," he said by phone.

According to Ibon Foundation Inc., which reviewed the proposed P1.645-trillion budget, the PNP allocation for 2011 is pegged at P6.6 billion, 13.2 percent higher than in the 2010 budget.

Rodriguez said he would also question Verzosa and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo on their absence during the hostage drama.

"Robredo should be asked what his role was in the hostage-taking, especially since the hostage-taker, Rolando Mendoza, was a policeman. We should also know what Verzosa did, and why he wasn't seen or heard from during the incident. They were not seen," he said on the phone.

The Manila police chief recently told a Senate inquiry that the head of the hostage crisis team was actually Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, a former Manila police chief.

Belmonte hopes hostage incident won't affect Singson case

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte expressed hope that the bloody hostage-taking incident in Manila last week will not have any adverse effect on the drug case against Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson in Hong Kong.

Scrap hike in e-passport fee—OFW group

An umbrella organization of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) groups based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia has asked President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay to "right a wrong" committed by the Arroyo administration by scrapping the increase in the electronic or e-passport processing fee.

Survivor of Sulu 'massacre' urges Aquino to disband private armies

She has lost her hearing. She could no longer walk— the shrapnel and bullet wounds did that to her. But 61-year-old Ajaran Abduhalim can still speak— and speak out, she does, about her story.

MILF to form peace panel for talks with govt

The secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it would form a peace panel as soon as the government completes its lineup of peace negotiators.

DENR to stop use of toxic jewely cleaners

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is ready to prohibit the use of jewelry cleaners that contain toxic substances.  This move came after a recently held multi-sect oral consultative meeting where representatives of civil society and industry sectors clamored for tighter measures on the use of cyanide-based silver jewelry cleaners.

Boracay initially loses P15M due to hostage crisis

Businesses in Boracay have lost P15 million in income opportunities due to the cancellation of bookings in Boracay by tourists from the Hong Kong territory and the rest of China following the bloody hostage-taking last week, the Department of Tourism (DoT) said.

Boracay takes hit from hostage fiasco

MANILA, Philippines - Tourism in famous destination Boracay Island is feeling the effect of the deadly hostage-taking in Manila last week as airlines and hotels continue to report a wave of booking cancellations.

Gov't cuts 2011 tax expenditure budget

MANILA, Philippines - After implementing a moratorium on rice importation, the government slashed its budget for next year's tax expenditure by 61%.

Data from the Department of Finance showed that the 2011 tax expenditure fund (TEF) has been programmed at P5.25 billion, a significant decline of P8.1 billion from last year's P13.349 billion.

TEF is a subsidy released by the Department of Budget and Management to state-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions to settle customs duties and other taxes arising from the importation of goods.

About 95% of the fund was usually given to the National Food Authority (NFA) to cover the 50% tariff imposed on all rice imports.

Earlier, President Benigno Aquino III vowed to stop the government's policy on rice importation and said funds for this would be used to help farmers instead.

The Bureau of Customs said it would likely miss its revenue target of P280 billion this year due to reduced imports.

OPEC weekly oil price keeps falling

The weekly average price of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declined to $70.88 per barrel last week, the Vienna-based cartel said Monday.

China president meets North Korea's Kim Jong-Il—state TV

BEIJING—North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il told Chinese President Hu Jintao his nation was willing to return to nuclear disarmament talks and reduce tensions in northeast Asia, state media said Monday.

Gun rampage leaves eight dead in Slovakia

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - A man armed with an assault rifle shot seven people dead, wounded 15 and then turned the gun on himself in a Monday morning rampage on a street in the Slovak capital Bratislava, the police said.

Biden in Iraq as US winds up combat mission

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Vice President Joe Biden landed in Baghdad on Monday to mark the official end of the US combat mission in Iraq after seven years of fighting that has seen more than 4,400 American soldiers killed.

'Misinformation' behind mislabel as Muslim: Obama

by Agence France-Presse
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama blamed a "network of misinformation" for keeping alive persistent rumors that he is Muslim, but he shrugged off the misconception as being out of his control.

Pacquiao going to US to promote fight vs Margarito

Manny Pacquiao pupunta nang Amerika para sa laban kay Antonio Margarito!

PSC releases P13M for athletes competing in Asian Games

The Philippine Sports Commission has approved the release of P13 million for the airline booking and other immediate needs of the 160-athlete delegation going to the Guangzhou Asiad on Nov. 12 to 27.

'Glee' stars praise Charice

LOS ANGELES – The cast of hit American musical television series "Glee" praised young Filipino singer Charice, who is joining the show's second season.

Angel, Aga leave for Japan to shoot 'Huling Sayaw'

MANILA, Philippines - Actress Angel Locsin and matinee idol Aga Muhlach left Manila Monday morning for Japan to shoot their first film together.

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