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

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 14, 2010 Major News Stories

Oil firms cut gasoline, diesel prices by P0.25/L

Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Petron Corp., Chevron Phil. Inc. and Phoenix Petroleum will reduce the prices of their gasoline and diesel products by P0.25 per liter effective Tuesday morning.

Dengue claims 2 more kids

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja

Two more children taken to a private hospital in Cebu City succumbed to the dreaded dengue disease yesterday and the other day.

Last Sunday a seven-year-old boy, from Barangay Mambaling, this city, died of dengue while a six-year-old girl from Danao City also died yesterday.

The two, who died in the same room a day apart, joined the 12 other fatalities reported in Cebu City since January this year.

As of yesterday, the City Health Department recorded 1,424 cases of dengue with 13 deaths.

Barangay Mambaling is now second with the most number of dengue cases in the city and one of the barangays identified by the Department of Health as being close to the epidemic level.

The rising number of cases continues to fuel fears for a possible dengue outbreak.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama met with private hospitals yesterday to check their preparedness for a possible dengue outbreak in the coming days.

Since the city government-run Cebu City Medical Center cannot accommodate all patients of the city, Rama wants to make sure that residents who will acquire the disease have someplace else to go to be treated.

CCMC's pediatric ward will extend to the auditorium as per instruction of Rama should the number of dengue patients continue to rise. CCMC without the auditorium has 28 beds available for dengue patients yet the number of patients admitted sometimes reaches 48 and even more.

Rama ordered the extension to avoid twin sharing. He also asked the hospital to use cribs if possible for children because cribs take lesser space so there will be more beds available for children.

Rama asked the hospitals to possibly do what CCMC did in addressing the problem on space and bed capacity since the possibility of an outbreak is becoming more possible. But hospitals did not yet commit to the request of the mayor as they admitted they are congested with fever cases at this time.

Hospitals said that they could not just increase their bed capacity as they are bound by the standards and rules of the DOH.

"Private hospital operation is dependent on DOH and PhilHealth approval on bed capacity limit. Pero nahimo man gani nila sa una for as long as they are directed by the DOH. I will have to talk with DOH officials soon because we have to address the matter," he said.

The city government just released P10 million for the purchase of additional supplies of medicines and equipment to treat dengue patients. More or less half of the fund goes to the CCMC for its free dengue treatment program to indigents.

The rest goes to the CHD also for medicine supplies and to defray the cost of laboratory tests for dengue patients.

Meanwhile, dengue cases in the Province of Cebu are still increasing after the long vacation last week said the Integrated Provincial Health Office medical specialist Catherine Marie Buscato.

As of September 8, the top ten municipalities and cities with the most dengue cases are Toledo City, 109; Talisay, 99; Danao City, 95; Minglanilla, 90; Balamban, 88; Medellin, 56; Asturias, 53; Liloan, 51; Daanbantayan, 45; and Bogo, 43.

So far no areas in the province is declared outbreak.

According to Provincial Board member Sergio Restauro, who heads the task force Dengue in the Province of Cebu, the only way to minimize dengue-carrying mosquitoes is by misting using a chemical called Deluge.

Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez is also pushing for the mist-blowing operations in hopes of putting a stop to the rising cases of dengue in his city.

Talisay has 196 recorded dengue cases, four of which are fatalities.

The city's public information officer Arturo Bas said Fernandez believes that the city's fumigation technique has helped in eliminating the dengue-carrying mosquitoes, that while other local government units have hundreds of cases, the city has only 196.

DOH: No need to declare state of calamity

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the alarming increase in the number of dengue cases in recent months, the Department of Health (DOH) said there is no need for the government to declare a state of calamity.

DOH National Epidemiology Center Director Dr. Eric Tayag told Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG) on Monday that the dengue situation in the Philippines is still controllable.

"Since there were no other reports of dengue outbreak aside from Quezon City, there is no need to put the country in a state of calamity," Tayag said.

Tayag added that dengue death rate in the country is expected to remain below 1% of the total number of cases.

DOH has recorded 501 deaths since January 2010.

He said there are now 4 dengue strains in the country but these are still curable, he said.

Increase in cases in NCR

In fact, the DOH expects a decline in the number of cases in the next few weeks. "Dengue peaks during the rainy months, particularly in August," he told a press conference in Malacañang.

He said the DOH will release a new report on Tuesday.

"When we looked at the data, most regions are reporting a decline…but fewer regions, like NCR, are seeing an upsurge," he said.

The number of cases in Metro Manila is actually lower than last year.

However, Tayag noted that a report 2 weeks ago showed that the difference from last year was at 25%. Last week, the difference was at 15%.

He said the government is now closely monitoring Metro Manila, particularly Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan, to see if the gap in numbers has become narrower.

"We don't want to speculate but the number of cases determined by communities' actions in finding breeding sites. [Many] strains may also be circulating in Metro Manila…If many strains circulate at any point in time, more people are susceptible to infection," he said.

Express lanes
Tayag, meanwhile, apologized for the closed "express lanes" during the weekend. The DOH has ordered health centers to operate express lanes that will filter dengue patients.

The health centers were closed during the long weekend forcing patients to move to over-crowded hospitals.

He reiterated emergency cases should be given proper attention.

The epidemiologist also warned the public against using insecticides and insect-repellant lotions. He said these cause skin allergies and respiratory problems when regularly used.

Tayag explained that people tend to rely on insect-repellant lotions without consulting a physician.

Aside from monitoring the early signs of dengue, it is best that the public observe and maintain cleanliness, he said.

"Dapat simultaneous yan, hindi lang pagpapatay sa lamok, kung hindi paglilinis sa mga lugar na maaring pag-itlugan ng lamok," he said.


Meanwhile, Tayag also asked parents to refrain from experimenting with supposed cures for dengue, such as the tawa-tawa leaf (euphorbia hirta).

The leaf, used in tea, actually induces excessive urinating, he said. "It can potentially aggravate…the dehydration."

He said a group is now investigating the effects of tawa-tawa.

Dengue fever killed 117 students in RP since January—DepEd

The Department of Education on Monday said 117 students have died of dengue while a total of 11,565 confirmed cases have been reported since January 2010, with reports spiking in August.

Cases were found among students in 359 schools nationwide, but officials said there has yet to be confirmation whether the deadly disease was contracted on campus or at home. Most of the students have also reported recovery.

In a press briefing, DepEd health officials said most of the cases were reported in Eastern Visayas, with 3,583 cases; the Davao region, with 3,418 confirmed reports; and Western Visayas, with 2,091 cases.

The dengue prevention campaign continues nationwide, according to education officials, with schools being encouraged to use window nets treated with mosquito repellents and students allowed to wear clothes that shield their skin from mosquito bites.

FDA bans 5 cosmetic products from Japan, Taiwan

MANILA,Philippines -The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned at least 5 cosmetic products from Japan and Taiwan for having high mercury content.

FDA identified the cosmetic products as Yudantang International-Taiwan's Beauty Girl Papaya & Hawthorn Essence (10 Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence), Beauty Girl Ginseng & Green Cucumber (10 Double Whitening Speckles Removed), Beauty Girl Essence Aloe Pearl (10 Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence), Beauty Girl Olive & Sheep Essence (10 Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence), and St. Dalfour Beauty Whitening Cream from Tokyo, Japan.

FDA Director Nazarita Tacandong ordered the seizure of the said items after they were found to have high mercury content.

Tacandong said the products are "imminently injurious, unsafe or dangerous" to consumers.

Tacandong also warned that business establishments selling or importing the products would be facing fine of up to P500,000 and/or closure under Republic Act No. 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009.

The FDA official sought full support and assistance of local government units in monitoring and reporting any violation to ensure public safety.

Solons criticize health budget cut

Lawmakers on Monday decried the slash in the budget of the Department of Health (DOH), which they said would affect the delivery of service of many public hospitals in the country.

Dinky defends DSWD budget increase

The Department of Social Welfare and Development's increased budget for 2011 is going to be used not just for assistance to needy families, but for programs to help them get out of poverty, Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman said on Monday.

Labor group plans to sue DOLE for failure to ensure wage hike compliance

The Alliance of Progressive Workers is contemplating to file a case against the Department of Labor and Employment in Central Visayas because of its failure to ensure compliance of the minimum wage law.

PRC: 1,594 new mechanical engineers

MANILA, Philippines - The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Monday that 1,594 out of 2,387 passed the Mechanical Engineer Licensure Examinations.
The successful examinees who garnered the ten (10) highest places in theMECHANICAL ENGINEER Licensure Examination are the following:

Biddings 'rigged'

ASIDE from the defects of some barangay infrastructure projects, allegations that there were "ghost bidders" for some P156 million worth of projects and that the process was rigged surfaced at Cebu City Hall yesterday.

Cop who shot ex-memberof volunteer group charged

by By Mylen P. Manto/JMO

The police officer who shot a former member of the Civilian Volunteer Organization is facing charges before the Provincial Prosecutor's Office.

PO3 Artemio Tumakay, Jr., 50, of the Bogo Police Station's Cebu-Criminal Investigation and Detection Team was accused of killing Agapito Cuizon, 34, in barangay Cantu-od, Balamban, Cebu.

Prosecutor Ferdinand Coliantes gave Tumakay seven days to file his counter-affidavit.

 "I give Tumakay seven days to file his counter-affidavit and after that I will resolve the case," Coliantes said.

Tumakay allegedly shot Cuizon late afternoon on September 11, 2010. Cuizon died owing to a gunshot wound on his stomach.

Tumakay's counsel, Pedro Leslie Salva, however, said the policeman was simply defending himself, as it was Cuizon who allegedly fired first.

In her affidavit, Cuizon's wife Epifania said she was on board a motorcycle with her husband and one-year-old child when they chanced upon Tumakay and a certain Dennis Paradero who were on a separate motorcycle.

An argument ensued between Cuizon and Paradero who reportedly have harbored ill feelings towards each other.

Epifania said the argument ended when Cuizon proceeded to drive. However, her husband reportedly stopped the motorcycle a short distance after, disembarked, and went back to Paradero and Tumakay. 

Epifania then heard gunshots, but said she did not see who fired the gun. She, however, admitted that Cuizon had a .45 revolver tucked at his waist at that time.

Initial investigation revealed that it was Cuizon who allegedly fired shots first at Paradero and Tumakay. This prompted the two to drive to the side of the road to seek cover.

Tumakay said he identified himself as a policeman, but Cuizon allegedly continued shooting at them, which forced him to open fire, hitting Cuizon on the abdomen.

One Manolito Arpajo who was parking his motorcycle at the area was also hit on the right arm.

Arpajo was taken to the Balamban District Hospital for treatment while Tumakay surrendered to the responding policeman of Balamban. He also turned over his caliber 9mm pistol with a magazine loaded with six live rounds, including his memorandum receipt, and PNP Identification card.

The Balamban police recovered five 9mm empty shells and five empty shells of .45 caliber from the crime scene.

For 'threatening' a guard: Joavan finds trouble again

by By Niña G. Sumacot

The controversial son of Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez, Joavan, found trouble again yesterday.

This time, a security guard of a mall complained that young Fernandez pulled out a gun. 

Joavan apparently did not like the way the guard looked at him as the adopted son of the mayor, who is out on bail, was leaving Mango Square Mall after a confrontation with a foreigner.

The mayor's son reportedly got into an argument with the Caucasian man and was leaving the mall accompanied by another man and a woman and the guard was looking at him curious as to what happened.

The guard, Roland Ruiz, said Joavan reprimanded him for staring and then pulled out a gun just to show it to the guard, but did not point it at him.

The guard said that he could not determine the caliber of the gun.

In a report over ABS-CBN's TV Patrol Central Visayas, Ruiz said that he was manning his post outside Mango Square when Joavan, whom he saw enter the establishment minutes earlier got outside after figuring in a verbal tussle with a foreigner at around 2 pm.

Joavan and company rode a white colored Toyota Revo after the incident.

"Ingon siya, 'Nganong tutok man ka nako', 'nya nagpakita dayon siya sa iyang armas," Ruiz said.

The Revo sported plate number SGH-541. The vehicle sped off after Joavan and companions went in.

The mall security immediately informed the police about the matter and the Special and Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) gave a chase.

A blocking force was set up by the Pardo Police and they intercepted the Toyota Revo in barangay Bulacao, Cebu City.

Joavan and his female companion were not anymore in the vehicle, which was driven Benedict Gabasa, 28, of barangay Bulacao, Talisay City.

Gabasa could not show a driver's license and could not also show a trip ticket for the use of the government vehicle, thus, was apprehended by the police.

The Toyota Revo was registered under the name of Talisay City government.

While the police suspect that Joavan and the woman got off the Revo to take another vehicle, Gabasa insisted that he was not with Joavan and that he took the vehicle from the motorpool of Talisay City and drove it Mango Square Mall.

He further claimed that he went to the mall to meet somebody, but when the person did not show up, he decided to head back to Talisay City.

Gabasa said that he is not a regular driver of the vehicle, but the mayor allows him to use it anytime if there are errands.

The vehicle was impounded by the Pardo Police and later brought to the impounding area of the City Traffic Police.

At around 6 pm, operatives of the City Investigation and Detective Management Branch (CIDMB) led by Chief Insp. George Ylanan searched the vehicle and found five rolled tin foils containing what is believed to be marijuana near the pedals.

Joavan, in an interview with The FREEMAN, denied the allegations against him.

He, however, refused to elaborate and would not say where he was as the call was made to his cellular phone.

Apparently, that was not the first complaint against Joavan yesterday as Guillermo Baredo, 44, went to the Pardo Police Station to report that Joavan threatened his male house helper in barangay Cogon.

Baredo alleged that Joavan, together with two men and a woman, was looking for Baredo's sister around 7 a.m. yesterday. They were reportedly trying to collect payment from the complainant's sister.

It was allegedly the second time that Joavan went to his house as the young Fernandez was also there last Friday for the same purpose.

It was Baredo's house helper, who faced Joavan on both occasions, but yesterday, the two men, who were with Joavan, allegedly pulled out guns.

Joavan also belied Baredo's allegations saying he and his friends don't bring guns.

"Tinuod man na nga didto ko sa ilaha kay maningil lagi unta ko, pero wala man siya dinha. Ako nagtinarong baya ko'g adto sa ilaha unya mu-ana siya nga nagdala ko'g armas, tumu-tumo man sad na siya uy," Joavan said.

He added that he and Baredo have earlier talked through phone and have even agreed that Baredo's sister pay him half of what she owed.

Joavan said he was surprised that Baredo ended up reporting him to the police.

Mayor was informed

Mayor Fernandez said that Baredo called him around 10 a.m. yesterday to report the incident.

"Gitawagan ko ni Guillermo Baredo ganiha gada kuno og mga tawo (si Joavan), gipangutana to nako kung naa silay atraso, wala man kuno. Wala man pud diay sila nagkaaway. Way katarungan nga moadto si Joavan kay wa man kaha siya'y atraso," said Fernandez.

Fernandez said he had to "validate" Baredo's allegations, as he had yet to talk to Joavan regarding the alleged incident.

As of 6 p.m. yesterday, Joavan had not communicated with him, said his father.

The mayor also said that his son does not own a gun.

"Pirmi ko kalit mosud sa iyang sakyanan ug sa iyang bay, pero wala koy makita nga armas. Ako pa ng sutaan unsa na katinuod ng maong alegasyon," said Fernandez.

This is not the first time that Joavan has gotten into trouble because of guns.

Several months ago a male nurse complained that the young Fernandez pointed at gun at him during a traffic altercation in barangay Bulacao, Talisay City.

The alleged victim, Vincent Joe Castrodes, has filed a case against Joavan.

Hours after that incident, a .45 caliber pistol was found inside Joavan's vehicle.

Another charge for violating the Commission on Elections gun ban was also filed.

He however was able to post bail for his temporary liberty.

Joavan has had many other brushes with the law in the past several years.

Many of the victims, however, settled out of court.

Joavan was also incarcerated at the Talisay City Jail, but got temporary liberty when he was allowed to post bail.

Joavan also had a recent spat with a guard assigned to a subdivision in Talisay City, who called the attention of the mayor's son to the noise that his motorcycle was making.

Taboan market's illegal structures demolished

by By Rene U. Borromeo/BRP

Market authorities in Cebu City backed up by heavily-armed policemen and members of the Special Weapon and Tactics team yesterday started destroying illegal structures at the Taboan Public Market.

Hostage survivors say Mendoza shot at them at close range

MANILA, Philippines - Depositions of some of the survivors in the August 23 hostage crisis show that the hostage-taker shot at them at close range, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Monday.

IIRC panel rules out alleged conspiracy between bus driver and Mendoza

The Incident Investigation Review Committee (IIRC) ruled out the possibility that bus driver Alberto Lubang has conspired with hostage taker Rolando Mendoza.

Media people can also be held accountable for bungled hostage rescue—De Lima

Press freedom is not absolute, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, chair of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) that conducts probe on the August 23 hostage taking said.

Truth Commission ready to get down to business

MANILA, Philippines - The members of the Truth Commission are ready to get down to work after taking their oath before President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday.

On the sidelines of the members' oath-taking, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. said an executive session has been slated for Tuesday.

Davide was tasked to head the Truth Commission, the panel that will investigate the anomalies during the 9-year term of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The other members of the commission are: former SC Justices Romeo Callejo, Sr. and Flerida Ruth Romero, and Ateneo professors Carlos Medina, Jr. and Menardo Guevarra.

Aquino, for his part, said "they're going to start after their oath…yung organization, set of offices and personnel that they will need, na-determine na yun lahat sa executive order."

Aquino is referring to his first executive order creating the Truth Commission.

The executive order is now a subject of a case before the Supreme Court.

In a separate press conference, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez issued an appeal for judicial courtesy while the petition is still pending before the high court.

"It would be best if the executive order is not implemented in the meantime. Anyway, Chief Justice Renato Corona has already given his assurance that the case is being prioritized," he said.

Marquez, who is also the SC spokesman, noted the government could proceed absent a halt order. "It's just an appeal [however]," he said.

Members of the minority group in the House of Representatives lodged the case before the high court. House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said the executive order is replete with unconstitutional provisions.

SC urged to respect 'separation of powers'

Lawmakers on Monday served notice to the Supreme Court to respect the "separation of powers" and allow the House of Representatives to proceed in deliberating on the two impeachment complaints against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

House to probe Pag-IBIG officials for bribery

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives wants to investigate some officials of the Pag-IBIG Fund who allegedly received condominium units from troubled property developer Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp.

Bacalzo to replace Verzosa as PNP chief

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III has chosen the replacement for Philippine National Police (PNP) Director-General Jesus Verzosa, who has opted to retire 3 months early.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., in a text message, confirmed that PNP Deputy Director-General Raul Bacalzo, who is currently the deputy chief for operations of the PNP, will replace Verzosa as PNP chief.

Aquino earlier announced that Verzosa asked for early retirement even before the botched August 23 hostage-taking incident. The turnover rite has been set on September 15.

Bacalzo is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class 1977. He is not set to retire until September 2011.

Bacalzo's previous posts in the PNP included: chief of the Directorial Staff, Director of Directorate for Investigation & Detective Management; Headquarters Support Service chief; and Nueva Ecija police chief.

Before the announcement of Bacalzo as the new PNP chief, 2 other officials were seen vying for the PNP's top post: Deputy Director-General Perfecto Palad, who is deputy chief for administration, and Director Benjamin Belarmino, who is Directorial Staff chief, reports said.

AFP rejects military pullout in Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines - The military rejected Monday a proposal to pull out government forces in Mindanao so that there will be an end to decades-old hostilities in the region.

Miriam wants Senate probe on jueteng coddlers

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Monday filed a resolution urging the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate officials close to the Aquino administration for allegedly coddling jueteng operators.

Aquino orders Robredo to craft comprehensive plan vs jueteng

President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday ordered Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo to come up with a comprehensive plan to stamp out illegal numbers game jueteng.

Senate to probe intelligence funds

Pinabubusisi ng Senado ang mga ahensya ng pamahalaan na pinaglaanan ng milyun-milyong pisong intelligence fund sa proposed 2011 budget, kahit na ang mga ahensyang ito ay wala namang kinalaman sa seguridad o intelligence gathering. Posible raw kasing isinasailalim ang pondo sa intelligence fund para hindi masilip kung paano ito ginagagastos. 

DBM wants full accounting of judiciary collections

MANILA, Philippines -  The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Monday urged the judiciary to give a full accounting of its collections from basic legal and special docket fees before discussing a proposal to increase the judiciary's budget for 2011.

Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad said President Benigno Aquino III has given marching orders for all government agencies to utilize their own sources of revenue before tapping the national government for their budgetary needs. He said the judiciary has its own earnings through the collection of docket fees, which are used for the special allowances of judges and justices, and basic legal fees, which go to the Judicial Development Fund.

"What we want is really how much are they collecting from increases in docket fees, which go to the special allowances of judges and justices, and basic legal fees, which go to the Judicial Development Fund. We really don't know the status of those funds. We are really willing to give the increases as long as we know the status of those funds," he told radio dzMM.

He added that the government allotted P165 million yearly for salary increases of judges since 2007.

Judicial revolt

Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez earlier warned of a possible "judicial revolt" amid imminent cuts in the proposed budget of the judiciary for next year.

In a statement, Marquez said the judiciary, a co-equal branch of the two other branches of government, with a workforce of 2,300 justices and judges, and 25,500 court personnel across the country, has not even received at least 1 percent of the national budget. "In 2007, the judiciary got only .76 percent of the national budget, in 2008, .88 percent, in 2009, .94 percent, and in 2010, .87 percent," he said.

Marquez told Congress that the judiciary is asking for P27.1 billion in funds for 2011. Malacañang has cut the proposal to only P14.3 billion, which is only .78 percent of the national budget.

Marquez revealed that judges and justices have not been receiving their full rightful wages and allowances from 2007 up to the present.  Among the monthly allowances not being received by judges and justices are: P25,000 for first level court judges, P35,000 for Court of Appeals and Sandiganbayan judges, and P40,000 for Supreme Court justices.

In a dzMM interview, the Court administrator denied that the judiciary has not been giving an accounting of its collections. He said the judiciary collects about P2 billion a year, which is properly audited by the Commission on Audit.

He also lamented that judges complain about the low pay, and that they even get lower pay than the fiscals or prosecutors. 

"It's true that there might be scarcity of funds but we only ask that our judges and magistrates also be given priority...Those fiscals are better paid than the judges who will rule on the cases," Marquez said. 

Dilapidated facilities 

He also noted that the Supreme Court is unable to act on dilapidated courtrooms, citing for instance the case of Manila trial courts that continue to be dispersed in the Manila City Hall, in the old dilapidated building of the Ombudsman, and in the antiquated condemned structure of the GSIS, due to lack of a hall of justice in the capital.

Marquez said there is a limit in the performance of justices, judges and personnel of the judiciary of their sworn duty to decide cases expeditiously and dispense justice fairly despite insufficient appropriations from national coffers in the past 4 years.

"Our courts will continue to function, as they have always functioned fairly and heroically, under extreme stress, and under unfavorable conditions that undermine their judicial independence, efficiency and integrity. Many of our judges and justices will continue to use their own personal computers and printers, repair their own courtrooms, work on weekends to declog their dockets," he said.

"But until when can they last? Are we waiting for our justices and judges to march the streets, for the judiciary to revolt, for justice to ground to a halt? Are we courting chaos?" he added.

Manila jail used as collateral by govt agency - official

At the conclusion of the Senate hearings on government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCC) on Monday, senators yet again made a startling discovery upon learning that a penal facility in Manila is now part of a housing agency's assets.
Home Guaranty Corp. (HGC) president Elmer Cadano admitted it has acquired the Manila City Jail as collateral when it guaranteed a loan of the Philippine Estate Authority (PEA). 

"We also have in our portfolio the old Bilibid compound," Cadano said.

The Senate committees on finance and on government corporations conducted a total of six hearings following President Benigno Aquino III's disclosure during his first State of the Nation Address that several GOCC officials have been receiving obscenely large salaries and perks. 

"It is so unusual that the City Jail is part of the assets of the HGC. How they ended up with those assets and how they valued these assets in their books is something that would have to be examined closely," said Sen. Franklin Drilon, who heads the finance committee, at a press briefing after the hearing. 

In its book, HGC valued the city jail at P1 billion, but Cadano said its latest value may reach as much as P5 billion. 

Law vs GOCCs, GFIs

Drilon said they will now start the process of crafting the Public Enterprise Corporate Governance Act, to be proposed in both chambers of Congress, to review and oversee all 157 GOCCs and government financial institutions (GFIs).

He added a Government Corporate Monitoring and Coordinating Council will also be created anew to review the mandates of these GOCCs. 

Drilon explained the council existed before but had no power to penalize GOCCs that refuse to comply with its directives. "We will intend to provide this monitoring council with teeth so that they can impose standards of performance," he said. 

The council will be tasked to, among others, recommend whether certain GOCCs need to be dissolved or merged, impose standards of performance for the board of directors, and review the salary structure and other compensation of GOCCs for their employees. 

"Hopefully before the month is over or before we adjourn on October 15, we should be able to submit this proposed legislation to the Senate and start the debate. Hopefully by the first half of next year, we should have a law already in place," said Drilon.

Globe Asiatique

For his part, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said the committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies which he heads will resume its hearing next week on the controversial financial arrangement between Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund, also a GOCC, and real estate developer Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. 

It was earlier disclosed that Globe Asiatique was able to take out at least P6.6 billion in housing loan proceeds for buyers of its housing projects in Pampanga. The units, however, were not yet complete, way below standard, unoccupied, or were closed. 

Some of the buyers were likewise alleged to be fake members of Pag-IBIG, while others were ineligible for membership. Another group of buyers used spurious loan accounts. 

Osmeña said former Vice President Noli de Castro will attend the hearing, tentatively scheduled for Thursday. "I already talked with him. I asked him to come and attend the hearing. He promised he would," he said. 

De Castro was the concurrent chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Council (HUDCC) during the Arroyo administration.

Osmeña said no one will be spared from the probe. "Nobody is off the hook because I have not even started."

Imelda Marcos announces son's possible 2016 presidential bid

(UPDATE) On his 53rd birthday on Monday, Senator Ferdinand "Bong-Bong" Marcos Jr.'s mother and now Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos, talked about his possible presidential bid in 2016.

Court orders Imelda to return P10M ill-gotten money

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has ordered Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, widow of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, to return P10 million in government funds secretly taken out by her late husband from the National Food Authority 27 years ago.

PNoy hosts 'halal' dinner for Filipino Muslim leaders

President Benigno Aquino III on Monday night hosted a special "halal" dinner for Filipino Muslim leaders in celebration of Eid Il Fitr, or the end of the fasting month of Ramadan last Sept. 10.

Former South Cotabato lawmaker is new MinDA chair

President Benigno Aquino III has appointed a former Mindanao congresswoman as the new head of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) replacing former presidential adviser for Mindanao affairs Jesus Dureza.
Luwalhati Ricasa-Antonino, who served as the representative of the First District of South Cotabato from 1992 to 2001, took her oath before Aquino on Monday in Malacañang. She is the mother of incumbent General Santos mayor and former South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio.

Coast Guard announces new assignments of senior officers

Coast Guard Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, head of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), approved on Monday the changes in the assignments of several of its key officers.
Commodore Cecil Chen, present commander of the PCG Southern Tagalog and a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1982, will be assigned to the Central Eastern Visayas PCG base in Cebu, where he will serve as commander of the district coast guard.

Commodore William Melad, a member of the PMA Class of 1983 and currently the commander of PCG District Western Visayas, will take over Chan's old position. 

Meanwhile, Commodore Athelo Ybanez, from PCG Northern Luzon District and the PMA Class of 1985, will assume leadership of the Western Visayas district, based in Iloilo.

The PCG Districts of Northern Luzon and Palawan will be headed by Captain Jorge Ursabia and Captain Rolando Legaspi, respectively.

Commodore Elson Hermogino, member of the PMA class of 1985, has been appointed as the new District Commander of Northern Mindanao. Hermogino's previous position as head of the PCG District Bicol will be filled by Captain Tranquilino Paiton.

The reassignments will also affect Mindanao, said Tamayo. Commodore Ed Gongona from the PMA Class of 1982 is the incoming district commander of the PCG in Southeastern Mindanao.

The position is currently occupied by Commodore Lino Dabi, a graduate of the World Maritime University in Sweden, who has been reassigned to the top position in the PCG's Manila-based Marine Environmental Protection Command.

The Cavite-based Maritime Safety Services Command, on the other hand, will be headed by Commodore Gilbert Rueras, a graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy in 1982.

The Coast Guard Education and Training Command will also have a new commander, Commodore Joel Garcia, a Master Mariner of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy Class of 1986. Captain Leo Laroya, from the PMMA Class of 1988, will take over the top position in the PCG Ready Force.

At the headquarters of the PCG in Manila, Commander Jose Balbino Luspo will assume the post of Deputy Chief of Staff for Education and Training, while Commander Daryl Vargas will be the head of the Ships and Aircraft Engineering Office. 

Meanwhile, Lt. Commander Weniel Azcuna will be the new Director of the Coast Guard Command Center.

"The PCG is a dynamic and professional organization, and its officers and men are always ready for any changes in assignment which would promote better service for the maritime community and the country," Tamayo said.

DFA warns vs fictitious hospital in Israel

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippine Embassy has confirmed that the "Jordan Valley Medical Center" is "fictitious and no such hospital exists in Israel."

Aquino to attend Asia-Europe meeting

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III will join leaders in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Brussels, Belgium from October 3-5.

Hostage fiasco affected only 3% of RP tourism—DOT

The country has lost about three percent or P40 million of the year's projected tourism income due to the hostage-taking fiasco that ended with the death of eight Hong Kong tourists, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said here on Sunday.

No more rotating brownouts in Mindanao on Tuesday—National Grid

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines has assured power consumers in Mindanao that it will not implement any more rotating brownouts on Tuesday (Sept. 14).

Belgian ship attacked, 1 Pinoy, 1 Croatian crew seized

by Reuters
BRUSSELS - An armed gang attacked a dredger offshore from the Central African country of Cameroon late on Sunday and kidnapped two crew members, the Belgian ship owners said on Monday.

13 shot dead in Indian Kashmir; Christian school torched

SRINAGAR—Indian police shot dead 13 people in Kashmir on Monday as stone-throwing rioters defied curfews and torched a Christian school in a surge of anger stoked by the desecration of the Koran.

Rescuers find 22 survivors at Venezuela plane crash site

CARACAS—Rescue workers have found at least 22 survivors among 47 people aboard a passenger plane that crashed Monday in southeastern Venezuela, officials said.

Rare North Korea meet delayed due to leader's health: report

by by Jeremy Laurence, Reuters
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea's ruling party has delayed the start of a rare conference due to leader Kim Jong-il's health, but his condition is not serious enough to cancel the meeting, South Korean television reported on Monday.

Icelandic court reopens Bobby Fischer's case

MANILA, Philippines – The District Court of Reykjavik, Iceland reopened the case of Jinky Young, the Filipino child of the late Bobby Fischer, to allow her to present more evidence in support of her claim to the estate of the chess legend.

Mayweather Sr. picks Pacquiao over Margarito

MANILA, Philippines – The father of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. said that the upcoming fight between Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao is a good match-up, but for reasons of his own.

Hatton to seek help after cocaine revelations

LONDON, United Kingdom—Former two-weight world champion Ricky Hatton is to seek help after a newspaper published photos and video footage of the boxer allegedly snorting cocaine.

9-M Filipinos can't compute: survey

by By Cai Ordinario, Business Mirror
MANILA, Philippines - There are 9 million Filipinos of the 67 million, or about 13 percent, who can only read and write but can't make out the difference between prices of goods. They are called basically literate. The other 58 million, or 87 percent, can read and write and comprehend ideas as well. In other words, they are functionally literate.

These findings came from the final results of the 2008 Functional Literacy and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS) recently released by the National Statistics Office (NSO). The Filipinos—men and women—involved in the survey were aged 10 to 64 years.

In a telephone interview, Administrator Carmelita N. Ericta of the NSO said, "In this survey, a functionally literate person is one who can read, write and compute, or one who can read, write, compute and comprehend. Persons who completed high school or a higher level of education are also considered functionally literate." 

Functional literacy is higher among women than men. The NSO said functional literacy among women aged 10 to 64 years was 88.7 percent, while the functional literacy among men in the same age group was 84.2 percent.

Based on the country's fourth Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the country has a high probability of attaining the targets set in the gender-equality goals but is failing in addressing the problem of the double whammy of decreasing school enrollment and increasing dropout rate of boys.

"On Goal No. 3, gender gap in education, it appears to be in favor of girls as far as participation in basic education is concerned," said National Economic and Development Authority Director General Dr. Cayetano W. Paderanga Jr. in a speech at the presentation of the country's fourth MDG report.

"We are looking seriously at the factors contributing to the comparatively low completion and retention among boys in schools. Based on a recent study commissioned by Unicef, boys dropped out of schools because they had to work, lacked money for school requirements, and had lower levels of motivation [as shown by feeling] lazy going to school," he added.

The functional literacy rate is obviously higher among people with higher levels of education. Among those who reached but did not finish high school, the functional literacy was 89.8 percent and for those who finished elementary, 80.8 percent.

By comparison, the NSO added only around 67 percent of those with some elementary education were functionally literate, while only 5 percent among those with no formal education were functionally literate.

The 2008 FLEMMS also revealed that the functional literacy of 87 percent was higher than the 2003 FLEMMS functional literacy rate, which was 84 percent.

Metro Manila highest

Among the regions, functional literacy is highest in Metro Manila at 94 percent, followed by Calabarzon with 93.5 percent, and Central Luzon, 92 percent.

The three regions with the lowest functional literacy rate were the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Eastern Visayas, and Soccsksargen with functional literacy rates of 72 percent 73 percent and 78 percent, respectively.

In the 2008 FLEMMS, a self-administered questionnaire was accomplished by 69,482 individuals aged 10 to 64 years in 25,505 households sampled for the survey. It was conducted in coordination with the Literacy Coordinating Council and the Department of Education.

'Swimming in chlorinated pools can lead to cancer'

by Agence France-Presse
MADRID - Swimming in chlorinated pools can cause an increased risk of cancer in bathers, Spanish researchers said on Monday.

Researchers from the Barcelona-based Centre of Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) and Research Institute Hospital del Mar studied changes in indicators of mutagenicity -- permanent mutation of the DNA -- among a group of swimmers in an indoor chlorinated pool.

"The evidence of genotoxic effects were observed in 49 healthy adults after swimming for 40 minutes in a chlorinated indoor pool," CREAL said in a statement on Monday.

Researchers found indicators of an increase in cancer risk in healthy subjects as well as potential respiratory effects from the cholorine used as a disinfectant, the statement said.

The study was published on Sunday in the US journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The co-director of CREAL, Manolis Kogevinas, said the findings should not put people off swimming.

"The positive health impacts of swimming can be increased by reducing the levels of these chemicals," he said.

"In no case do we want to stop swimming, but to encourage the reduction of chemicals in swimming pools," said Kogevinas, who suggested the problems caused by a reduction in levels of disinfectant could be offset if swimmers showered before taking a dip, wore bathing caps and refrained from urinating.

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