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

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 13, 2010 Major News Stories

El Niño also blamed for rise in dengue cases

The El Niño phenomenon that affected the country last summer has also contributed to the increase in the number of dengue cases this year, a Department of Health (DOH) official told a news forum Sunday.
"Since we were earlier hit by El Niño, people start storing water and such stagnant water became the breeding place of the mosquitoes that carry dengue," said DOH assistant secretary Elmer Punzalan at the weekly Balitaan sa Tinapayan forum in Sampaloc, Manila.

The El Niño is an abnormal weather pattern caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean.

The DOH has recorded 67,000 dengue cases so far, most of them in Metro Manila. Of this number, 435 had died.

Dengue is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with any one of the four dengue viruses. 

Health secretary Enrique Ona has ordered all DOH hospitals to activate their dengue express lanes to facilitate patient admission for these severe dengue cases. He also appealed to private hospitals to set up additional wards and beds for dengue patients needing confinement.

Punzalan advised patients with symptoms of dengue fever to drink a lot of liquids and avoid taking aspirin as it can decrease the platelets that could result to internal bleeding. 

In Malacañang, Presidential Communication Operations Office head Herminio Coloma said there is no need to place the country under a state of national calamity despite the declaration of outbreak in several areas, including Quezon City.

Interviewed by Radyo ng Bayan, Coloma said the DOH is still on top of the situation.

"Wala pang katibayan kung bakit kailangan magdeklara ng national state of calamity, sa pakiwari nila kontrolado pa ang sitwasyon (There is no need to declare a national state of calamity. The DOH says the situation is still under control)," he said.

He added that there is continued close monitoring of the situation to ensure that appropriate actions would be taken at the right time.

Dengue scare forces hospital to boost facilities

ASIDE from buying additional beds and air-conditioning units, the Cebu City Govern-ment's hospital will hire five new doctors.

Councilor proposes P8T monthly honoraria for volunteer nurses at CCMC

CEBU City officials reassured yesterday that services at the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) will not be hampered by the impending departure of several nurses.

DOF wants senior citizens' exemption from VAT recalled

The Department of Finance is pushing the recall of the value-added tax exemption for senior citizens and suggesting that this be replaced by an increase in their discount on purchases to 30 percent from 20 percent.

According to a finance official, this is one of the proposals that the DOF has been preparing related to the possible amendment of revenue-eroding laws that were bleeding the government by as much as P86 billion in foregone revenues annually.

During recent hearings conducted by the Senate committee on finance, finance officials reiterated the need to address the effects of at least 14 laws given the government's continually high deficit-spending.

The government expects to spend P325 billion over the national budget this year, which it is financing through more borrowings from local and foreign lenders.

Finance Assistant Secretary Lourdes B. Recente said in an interview that the DOF might submit to the Senate within the month proposals on how to change the laws.

Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima told senators earlier that Congress should amend the Expanded Senior Citizens Act—signed into law last February—that exempted the elderly from paying the value-added tax on certain goods and services.

The DOF had opposed VAT exemption for the elderly while these were still pending in Congress, preferring instead that the 20-percent discount for senior citizens' purchases be raised to 30 percent.

Finance officials had said that such an exemption would present a logistical nightmare for the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which has been short of resources to implement existing tax measures.

DOF documents showed that the Treasury could lose P1.68 billion in tax collections yearly due to the new law.

Other laws that the DOF wanted changed are the corporate income tax reduction law (costing the government P15 billion to P20 billion a year); individual income tax relief law (P26 billion); personal equity and retirementaccount law (P12 billion); the law that imposed a franchise tax on power transmission instead of all other taxes (P9 billion), and the tourism incentives law (P6 billion).

There are also the law that abolished the documentary stamp tax (DST) on secondary trading of stocks (P1.4 billion); law on incentives under the Pag-IBIG Fund charter (P1 billion); law creating the Bataan freeport zone (P3 billion), and law on incentives for real estate investment trusts (P2.7 billion).

Further, the DOF is also pushing changes in the law that make free legal services rendered by lawyers tax deductible (P100 million); law that reduced the tax on life insurance premiums and restructured the DST on life insurancepolicies (a total of P2 billion); law that removed the DST on remittances from overseas Filipinos (P1 billion), and the law that exempted local water utilities from income tax and condoned their unpaid taxes (P800 million).

DBM releases P3 billion for Barangay, SK polls

The Department of Budget and Management has released P3 billion to the Commission on Elections for the conduct of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October.

Evaluation result of May 10 polls out this week

MANILA, Philippines - Whether or not the country's first automated elections was a success will be finally known this week.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rene Sarmientro said initial assessment report on the May 10 automated elections will be out on Tuesday.

Sarmiento said the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is scheduled to submit an initial assessment report to the Commission during its meeting en banc.

"IFES will be submitting its report, initially, on September 14. They will be coming to the Comelec for their initial post-election assessment," Sarmiento said.

According to Sarmiento, IFES technology expert Michael Yard would present the report, which will focus on the voters' registration and post-election assessment.

Comelec told: Probe projects

FOLLOWING reports the projects are substandard and may even be overpriced, former senator John Henry "Sonny" Osmeña urged the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas to investigate projects in the south district of Cebu City.

City, Capitol need to reconcile lot occupants' unpaid balance

SOME Cebu City councilors worry that the urban poor occupying the lots covered under Provincial Ordinance 93-1 will be made to pay more.

Amid protest: Davide takes oath as head of Truth Commission today

Amidst legal questions surrounding the creation of the Truth Commission, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. will take his oath today as chairman of the investi-gating body, palace spokesman Erwin Lacierda confirmed to The FREEMAN yesterday.

Hostage crisis report to name accountable officials

Posibleng tukuyin sa draft report ang mga opisyal na mananagot sa palpak na Manila hostage crisis. Ito ang ipinahiwatig ni Justice Secretary Leila de Lima na sandali munang nagpahinga sa trabaho.

Aquino wants 'unassailable' report on hostage-taking by Wednesday—De Lima

President Aquino expects the investigating committee headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to submit on Wednesday an "unassailable" report regarding the Aug. 23 hostage-taking crisis in which eight Hong Kong tourists and the hostage taker died.

Sen. Santiago defends Robredo, scores Puno and PNP

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Sunday emerged as an unlikely ally of beleaguered Secretary Jesse Robredo, saying it would be a waste of talent if the chief of Interior and Local Government does not get a second chance.

'Insulting' letter damaged RP-HK ties, says Miriam

The "insulting" letter that President Benigno Aquino III received from the Hong Kong government over the Aug. 23 hostage tragedy damaged the country's ties with the special administrative region of China, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Sunday. Since Manila took full responsibility for the hostage tragedy, the letter was not necessary, she said in an interview over radio dzBB .

RP maids remain in demand in Hong Kong –recruiters

Filipinos remain the first choice among recruits for household work or domestic duties in Hong Kong despite the hostage-taking fiasco in Manila on Aug. 23 in which eight Chinese from Hong Kong were killed, causing outrage among authorities and residents there, two Hong Kong-based employment agencies said on Sunday.

OFWs cancelling contracts for HK jobs—recruiters

Even as Hong Kong employers still want to hire Filipino household workers despite the tragic hostage-taking incident in Luneta, some would-be Filipino migrant workers are cancelling their contracts, a recruitment leader said Sunday.

Bishop links moves to oust Robredo to jueteng

Exploiting the August 23 hostage tragedy that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead, jueteng protectors are joining moves to oust acting Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, retired Catholic archbishop Oscar Cruz, a known anti-gambling crusader, said. While declining to name names, he earlier charged that two Aquino appointees have been receiving at least P2 million a month from jueteng lords.

Solons eye 'full-blown inquiry' into 'jueteng' expose

A congressional inquiry is underway following revelations from retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz that two trusted officials of President Benigno Aquino III are allegedly receiving a minimum of P2 million in monthly jueteng payola.

Palace: No sacred cows in exposing jueteng protectors

Malacañang said on Sunday that President Aquino would go after those in his government found to be in the payroll of jueteng lords.

Santiago: Local exec close to Aquino is key to 'jueteng' operations

A local official close to President Aquino, who ran on a platform of change in the May elections, is the key to the continued operations of "jueteng" in the country, according to a senator.
"I have a particular person in mind whom we all thought was very bright but who ran for a local post because he controls a jueteng operation there," Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in an interview on dzBB radio said.

Truth body a go despite pending SC case - Miriam

Only a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court can stop the Office of the President from implementing Executive Order No. 1, which creates the Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 that will investigate corruption scandals in the Arroyo administration.

Palace encourages support for Arroyo bill vs drunk drivers

Malacañang on Sunday urged lawmakers to support the bill filed by former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seeking to criminalize drunk driving.

Apostol says P7-M pay for SSS post 'too small' to be called obscene

For Leyte second district Representative Sergio Apostol, P7 million was "too small" an amount for him to be subjected to harsh criticisms.

Sen. Recto tells GSIS to invest in RP not abroad

A senator on Sunday asked state-run pension fund Government Service Insurance System to explore possible investment options in the country before taking the money somewhere abroad.

'Juicy' Posts Still Open

MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino is racing against time to appoint hundreds of people to positions in government offices, including state-run corporations, to ensure uninterrupted public service.

The President plans to appoint trustworthy and responsible people to occupy government posts as soon as possible after careful scrutiny of credentials, according to Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma.

"We are processing the recommendations for the appointments because we need to put responsible officials in these government agencies.

We are doing everything to complete the process," Coloma said.

Three months after he assumed office, the President has yet to fill a number of top positions in the national government, including government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), vacated by officials who are co-terminous with the past administration.

Aquino has not yet named the replacement of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President Winston Garcia, an appointee of former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.

The President also has to make appointments in some government offices, including the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), the Mindanao Development Authority (MDA), the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the National Youth Commission (NYC), the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the National Printing Office (NPO), the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA), and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

Aquino could also follow his predecessor's steps in picking numerous advisers and assistants for almost every concern in his government.

But Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon "Ricky" Carandang already said the Chief Executive would rather have only a few advisers as part of fiscal prudence.

Among the vacant posts are Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs, Presidential Adviser for Constituency Affairs, Presidential Adviser for Provincial Affairs, Presidential Adviser for Special Concern, Presidential Adviser for New Government Centers, Presidential Adviser on Cooperatives, Presidential Adviser for Mindanao; Presidential Adviser for Muslim Communities, Presidential Adviser on Culture, Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs, Presidential Adviser For Police Affairs, Presidential Adviser for Revenue Enhancement, Presidential Adviser for Subic-Clark Alliance for Development, Presidential Adviser for External Affairs, and Presidential Assistant on Media Affairs and Religious Affairs.

Apart from having an adviser for almost every region, the former leader also had assistants for military affairs, education, foreign affairs, youth affairs, mining, anti-smuggling, culture, veterans affairs, entertainment industry, among others.

The President also has not yet named individuals to serve as Special Envoy for Transnational Crimes, Special Envoy to the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Phil. East ASEAN Growth Area, Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The President recently said he intends to fill more than 4,000 government positions this month, or three months after he assumed office last June 30, as provided in the Constitution.

"Under the Constitution, we have a deadline for filling up all of the posts, all the appointments, three month period. I think that will end by September. So, that has to be the priority," he said.

For the GOCCs alone, he has to fill up more than 100 officials, as well as members of their respective boards.

The President previously admitted having difficult to recruit qualified people to serve in government. "It is not that easy to find all of these qualified people that we can trust, that who are willing to sacrifice for the duration of that task," he said.

Senators Advise Aquino on Nominees

MANILA, Philippines - Senators said on Saturday that President Aquino should not, as a matter of ''delicadeza'' (propriety), re-appoint his nominees once they have been by-passed by the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) two or three times. The issue cropped up as the CA, based on the instructions of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, concurrent CA chairman, meets on Wednesday to formally elect its officers in the current 15th Congress. Senators raised the issue of non-reappointment citing the decision of the nine-year Arroyo administration to re-appoint Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales 25 times after he was by-passed 25 times. Other Arroyo administration nominees by passed by the CA several times were Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and Environment Secretary Lito Atienza. They were re-appointed every time they were by passed in less than two years until June 30, the end of the last 14th Congress. Some senators who were CA members in the 14th Congress tried but failed to convince their colleagues in the commission that they, by moral suasion, force the President not to re-appoint those who had been by-passed, at least three times. ''Prudence dictates that after two or three by passes, they should already withhold such appointments. They should change horses,'' Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III told Bulletin. Sotto is a CA member. Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said that two or three by passes meant that the CA has sent its sentiments clear that it does not want to confirm a particular nominee.

Testimony of Rosebud flawed, says Acop

MANILA, Philippines - The former chief of the Philippine National Police Narcotics Group, retired Chief Supt. Reynaldo Acop, said the Sandiganbayan has been swayed by the "flawed, incredible and inconsistent testimony" of Mary "Rosebud" Ong in connection with the bribery charges against him and 9 other retired and active police officers.

Militant groups want US troops to leave Mindanao

"When will US troops leave Mindanao? Militant groups have dared President Aquino to ask US President Barack Obama this question during their meeting later this month in the sidelines of the 65th United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

9-hour power outage to hit Mindanao - NGCP

KIDAPAWAN CITY - The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines confirmed over the weekend it will implement a nine-hour power outage in various parts of Mindanao in southern Philippines, starting Monday.
NGCP Mindanao system operation head Maxim Adiong attributed the impending power outage to the Maramag-Kibawa 138-kilovolt transmission shutdown in Bukidnon province. 

For his part, Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) spokesperson Felix Canja said the temporary shutdown is also necessary to fix the Maramag-Bunawan 230-kilovolt transmission line.

State of calamity considered in Koronadal due to flooding

KORONADAL CITY -- Local officials are considering declaring a state of calamity after flash floods from heavy rains late Friday killed five persons and stranded hundreds of vehicles on a main southern access road to General Santos City.

Kids of couple sentenced to death in Malaysia seek Aquino's help

The seven children of Timhar Ong and his wife Nurrie, who have been sentenced to death in Malaysia for alleged drug trafficking, are desperately seeking President Aquino's help.

Health dep't hales cigarette pack graphic warning case to SC

THE LEGAL battle over cigarette graphic warning label has reached the Supreme Court (SC).

'Ukay-ukay' tax eyed

Itinutulak ng Bureau of Customs na buwisan na ang ukay-ukay o segunda-manong damit. Ang problema, mahihirap naman ang tatamaan. 

Ex-PNP spokesman endorsed for key BOC post - report

A retired Philippine National Police (PNP) general is being considered to man a key post in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to curb sugar smuggling.
Sugar Regulatory Administration head Gina Martin said she wants former PNP spokesman Joel Goltiao as assistant to the Customs commissioner for "sugar matters."

Aquino issues EO 8 creating Public-Private Partnership Center

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has transferred the Build-Operate-Transfer Center under the helm of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in a bid to hasten the implementation of public-private partnership programs.

South Korea to propose flood aid to North Korea

South Korea will send a list of proposed relief aid to flood-stricken North Korea and hold talks on reuniting families separated by war six decades ago, the government said Sunday, in signs of easing tensions on the divided peninsula.

Clinton resuming `last chance' Mideast peace talks (AP)

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is shepherding Mideast talks this week that she says may be the last chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Clinton and former Sen. George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the region, planned to be in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, for talks Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

They're scheduled to shift to Jerusalem for a second day of talks Wednesday, and it's likely that Obama will resume negotiations with Abbas and Netanyahu in New York the following week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

2 killed in Afghan anti-Quran-burning protest

KABUL, Afghanistan - Two protesters died and four were injured as Afghans protested for a third day Sunday against a plan by an American pastor to burn copies of the Islamic holy book, despite his decision to call off the action.

Disgraced Belgian bishop to go into seclusion

BRUSSELS--Belgium's disgraced bishop Roger Vangheluwe will go into seclusion away from the diocese of Bruges, where a paedophilia scandal forced his April resignation, the Belgian press reported Sunday.

Chinese outgun unsteady Pinoys in World Cup of Pool

Failing to make difficult shots and turning safety plays into stunning opportunities for its foes, a nervous Philippine B pairing of Dennis Orcollo and Roberto Gomez picked the absolute worst time to play bad.

Hatton 'distraught' after cocaine revelations

Former world champion Ricky Hatton was "devastated and distraught" on Sunday after a newspaper published photos and video footage of the boxer allegedly snorting cocaine.

Wedding bells for Mayweather after arrest?

MANILA, Philippines – After being released on bail following his arrest on a theft charge stemming from a domestic violence complaint filed by his former lover, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is back in the headlines with news of his upcoming wedding to his current flame.

Pingris won't be operated on, may join Llamados in December

Well, not all is bad news for Derby Ace as it aims for back-to-back PBA Philippine Cup titles. Marc Pingris, the Llamados' do-it-all power-forward, may be back in the team's starting line up sooner than later.

Willie Revillame to start new show on TV5?

MANILA, Philippines - Controversial television host Willie Revillame is gearing up for a new show on network TV5 despite his pending legal battle with ABS-CBN, an online report said.

In power to 120 years old: Putin, Berlusconi joke at summit

by Agence France-Presse
MOSCOW – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi cracked jokes about hanging on to power to well past 100, during a relaxed meeting in Russia, TV pictures showed Saturday.

Man kills in US over fried egg

Isang lalaki naman sa Kentucky sa US ang nagwala at pinatay ang kanyang pamilya ang kapitbahay bago nagpakamatay matapos hindi magustuhan ang nilutong itlog ng kanyang asawa.

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