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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 2, 2010 Major News Stories

Hospitals already turning away dengue patients?

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DoH) is closely monitoring hospitals across the country amid reports that some are already turning away suspected dengue patients because of overcrowding.

Dengue cases nationwide nearly double from 2009

More than 62,000 dengue cases have been reported nationwide from January to August-nearly double the number for the same period in 2009. Dengue deaths have also risen by more than 30 percent. Western Visayas is the most affected region.

DOH: Over 62K dengue cases recorded so far

More than 62,000 dengue cases have been reported in the country in the first eight months of the year, but the Department of Health said the number is expected to go down in the coming months.
 Health Secretary Enrique Ona said his department believes the country has reached the "peak" of dengue cases based on figures from previous years showing the number going down after August. 

"We are at the peak, or maybe going down the peak of incidence of dengue," Ona said.

The 62,503 cases recorded from January to August 21 is 88 percent higher than last year's 33,102 for the same period, said Ona, although he noted that the higher figure may be due to the government's improved capability to monitor cases from increased sentinel sites nationwide. 

The DOH said the most affected age group was 1 to 10 years old, although cases range from 1 month to 95 years old. Most of the affected, or 52 percent, were male.

The most affected region was Western Visayas, with 16.1 percent of dengue cases coming from the region; according to department data, outbreaks have been detected in Roxas City in Capiz and Iloilo City, as well as in Zamboanga City in Mindanao. 

In the National Capital Region, most of the cases were reported from Quezon City.

"The increase in dengue cases can be attributed to the presence of four different strains of the dengue virus circulating in the country today, plus the fact that the country is experiencing the El Niño phenomenon)," said Ona.

Ona said 465 deaths were recorded so far this year compared to the 350 deaths recorded in 2009 over the same period. 

He noted, however, that the 2010 fatality figures take up only less than 1 percent of the reported dengue cases, compared to the 2 percent fatality rate of dengue 10 years ago.

Ona said the DOH has instructed local officials down to the barangay level to intensify their campaign to inform the public about dengue symptoms and what can be done to avoid the disease. 

"We are on top of it. The administration, the DOH is fully aware of what is going on and lahat po ng tulong na kinakailangan ay binibigay natin sa ating mga kababayan (We give assistance to those who need it)," said the health chief. 

Ona said the DOH has teamed up with the Department of Science and Technology to study ways to combat dengue, such as developing vaccines against all four dengue strains and investigating whether the tawa-tawa plant actually has curative properties against dengue as claimed by some.

The DOH chief said continued intake of hot tea derived from the plant can be done, but it should not be used as medicine and those affected with dengue should get proper medical treatment. 

He noted that there have also been studies in Asia, wherein many countries are hounded by dengue problems because of the tropical climate, about the possible genetic modification of the Aedes mosquito that will render them less active in biting victims. 

For now, Dr. Eric Tayag of the DOH's National Epidemiology Center advised the public to prevent dengue and treat mild cases in their own homes by keeping in mind the following guidelines: 

D - Daily monitoring of patient's status;
E - Encourage intake of oral fluids like oresol, water, juices;
N - Note any dengue warning signs like persistent vomiting and bleeding;
G - Give paracetamol, not aspirin because aspirin induces bleeding;
U - Use mosquito nets;
E - Early consultation is advised for any warning signs.

Filing of COCs for Barangay, SK polls begins October 1

Aspiring candidates for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls may file their certificates of candidacy beginning October 1 until October 13, the Commission on Elections said.
Comelec Resolution No. 9019, promulgated Tuesday, said that the election period for the Barangay and SK[youth council] polls will run from September 25 until November 10.

It noted, however, that candidates may only campaign from October 14 until October 23, adding that carrying of firearms and deadly weapons and the use of bodyguards by candidates is prohibited during the 45-day election period.

The poll body said filing of disqualification cases will be until October 18.

The Comelec said that the casting of votes on election day, October 25, will be held from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. The counting and canvassing of votes and the proclamation of winning candidates will immediately begin after the casting of votes, it added.

Registration for the Barangay polls opened August 4 and ended on August 13, while the listup for the SK elections ran from August 6 until August 15.

Tom's son running for Guadalupe captain?

A source at the Cebu City Hall said south district Rep. Tomas Osmeña's son, Miguel, is planning to run for barangay captain in Guadalupe in next month barangay election.

But Miguel's mother, south district councilor Margot Osmeña, said her son will not be running for the position.

If the City Hall official is right, Miguel is expected to challenge Dino Faelnar, the barangay's first councilman and son of incumbent Association of Barangay Councils president Eugenio "Jing-jing" Faelnar, who is now on his last term as Guadalupe barangay captain.

Education budget hiked to P175B

Malacañang is proposing to increase the 2011 budget for education by P32.3 billion to P175 billion even as it ordered agencies and departments to refrain from lobbying Congress for bigger allocations.

Young supports Gullas' English Bill

Cebu City Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young supports the English Bill of First District Rep. Eduardo Gullas, which revives the mandate to use English as medium of instruction in all school levels.

DepEd: 12-year program will make HS students 'employable'

Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro said the Kindergarten-12th Grade (K-12) education model will help high school graduates qualify for jobs without obtaining a college degree.
"One of the basic deficiencies of [the current] basic education program is that in the country, a high school diploma is really not respected as a passport to a respectable employment," Luistro said.

DepEd has been criticized by various groups recently for the government's plan to add two more years to the country's current 10-year basic education program. (See: Teachers wary of 'trial-and-error' 12-year educ program)

The Kinder to Grade 12 program (K-12) will formally be presented on October 5, World Teacher's Day.

The K-12 education system, one of President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III's proposed education reforms, covers seven years of grade school and five years of high school. 

He said those who are opposed to the K-12 system do not exactly know what the new program entails.

"They haven't seen our proposal, so all they know is there will be additional two years," he said.

"Our current basic curriculum is very college-based. It's a preparation for college," he said. 

On the other hand, he said the "K-12 (program) will provide learning and life skills to adults so that they can start working."

Luistro admitted that problems in education seem overwhelming but the Aquino administrationhas already taken steps to address decades of neglect in Philippine education. 

One of these steps, he said, is the K-12 program which supports the government's "Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2," which aims to provide universal primary education for all.

"The move into the 12-year cycle will address part of the difficulties of basic education for all," he said. "Part of the Aquino administration's plan for education is to ensure that all school-age children are in school by 2015."

Dev't goals may not be achieved

According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) MDG progress report, MDG 2 may not be achieved based on the existing trends in "elementary participation rate" or the ratio between elementary enrolment and the total number of children in the elementary age group (six to 12 years old).

The NEDA MDG progress report showed that 72 million children were out of school in 2007. 

While the figure has decreased since, the projected number of out-of-school children by 2015 is 56 million.

In school year 2008-2009, only about half of the six-year-old population entered Grade 1. About 13% cited the 'high cost of education' as the reason for not enrolling in school. 

"The government needs to address issues with a sense of urgency and produce outcomes that can be sustained till 2015," said Erlinda Capones, Director for Social Development of NEDA.

More relevant education

Luistro said that the K-12 system will be free and compulsory for all and it will allow for a "more relevant education."

The Education Secretary said that the department is working towards fixing the shortages and problems within a two-year period, just in time for the MDG deadline in 2015. 

"While there are grave concerns and actual threats to achieving the MDG, I should say that we are still on track," he said.

Some education groups and teachers, including Ramon Magsaysay awardees Christopher Bernido and Marivic Carpio-Bernido, have expressed their concern about the proposed K-12 system, saying that DepEd should first focus on the "core problems" that face basic education. 

However, Luistro stressed that the K-12 system will not "distract" the DepEd from the other problems that need to be resolved. "These two actually go hand in hand," he said. "It can't be 'either or.'" 

"I remain hopeful," he said. "In the interest of young people in the Philippines, in the interest of education, I do not think anyone is allowed to fail." 

LTO to return RFID fees

MANILA, Philippines – Motorists who paid radio frequency identification (RFID) fees to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) will get their money back.

The LTO will start issuing refunds to around 90,000 motorists starting this month, the agency said on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court, in a ruling in January, ordered the LTO and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to stop implementing the controversial RFID project.

The decision was made in response to a motion for intervention filed by militant groups that sought to declare the project null and void.

The Commission on Audit has given the LTO the green light to refund P31 million in RFID fees.

LTO chief Virginia Torres said the refunds will be made in cash.

She asked the motorists to present RFID payment receipts to the LTO.

The public welcomed the move.

"Bilisan nila, dapat nga di na siningil yun e (They should fast-track the refunds. The LTO shouldn't really have collected payments from us)," taxi operator Ricky de Guzman said.

He revealed that RFID stickers were not installed on his taxi cabs despite payments made to the LTO.

"Huwag na nilang pahirapan ang mga motorista, ibigay na agad in cash (They should not make it hard for motorists and give the money back in cash," said Piston secretary-general George San Mateo.

Seaoil asks DOJ to probe oil pilferage in Visayas

Independent oil player Seaoil Philippines Inc. wants the Department of Justice to investigate the alleged theft of several thousand liters of gasoline along the Cebu-Zamboanga del Norte shipping lane last year.
On Tuesday, lawyers of Seaoil and Ocean Tankers Corp., which supervises the oil firm's vessels, filed a criminal complaint against 13 crewmembers manning the oil firm's Barge 811 and Tugboat "Mark Anthony." The tugboat was used to pull the barge.

The crew was supposedly engaged in pa-ihi, a modus operandi where oil is siphoned off a cargo vessel and sold in the black market.

Respondents to the case were Sunny Boy Regolis, Leomar Tecon, Alberto Galos Jr., Noel de Leon, Jose Sison Jr., Jeffrey Magalonga, Roger Guzman, Jose Sianson, Ernesto Galino, Bernie Gamarcha, Isabelito Sancho Jr., Rusel Acut, and Melvin Nacional.

Seaoil and Ocean Tankers cited the testimony of witness Jerson Reyes, who was among the crew manning the barge. Reyes claimed that on Oct. 13, 2009, Barge 811 left its Mandaluyong City dock for Cebu, carrying about 650,000 cubic liters of unleaded gasoline valued at P26 million.

Off Masbate shores, Reyes claimed he saw and heard Regolis call De Leon "and discussed his plan to steal and sell fuel in the barge through an operation commonly known as pa-ihi."

"Approximately 20 drums were filled in just a few minutes," according to the Seaoil complaint-affidavit.

The alleged pilferage of thousands of liters of fuel occurred several instances later as the barge was en route from Cebu to Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte and back.

The respondents were also accused of dumping the gasoline into the sea. "While journeying from Dipolog to Cebu, the respondents expected to sell the unleaded gas to buyers who were supposed to meet them on their way to the Ludo depot. 

"But the buyer did not arrive despite hours of waiting. When the respondents sensed the buyers were absent, Regolis then ordered the dumping of 4,000 liters of gasoline [into the] open sea." 

Seaoil and Ocean Tanker asked the DOJ to file charges of "multiple, repeated violations" of Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code, Section 102 of Republic Act No. 8550, Section 4(a) of Presidential Decree No., and Section 5 of PD No. 600. 

These laws pertain to theft and robbery, marine pollution, and dumping of oil and other substances that harm the environment.

Ecleo denies killing his wife

For two hours, cult leader and Dinagat Islands Representative Ruben Ecleo, Jr. sat on the witness stand and denied accusations that he killed his wife, Alona, at their residence in Banawa, Guadalupe, Cebu City eight years ago.

Ecleo: Victim wasn't Alona

HIS wife was petite, no more than 5'1". So when the body of a woman was found dumped at the foot of a ravine in Dalaguete, Cebu in 2002, cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. was not convinced it was Alona Bacolod-Ecleo.

Surgery scandal victim dismayed, prepares to appeal

THE patient whose surgery was uploaded on YouTube expressed dismay after finding out the Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the complaints against his doctors and other medical personnel.

Capitol orders relief of CPDRC warden

The warden of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center was ordered relived from his post for allegedly trying to cover up the riot inside the jail two weeks ago that killed an inmate and seriously wounded another.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday admitted she has not yet made up her mind on where to reassign CPDRC warden Alito Gabuya but she added he should be transferred to another department so he could take his hands off the jail operations.

The governor added this would also prevent Gabuya from influencing the ongoing investigation conducted against him by the Committee on Discipline and Investigation (CODI) chaired by lawyer Lito Astillero.

However, it was not yet known when Gabuya's relief as warden will take effect and who will take over his post.

Garcia also announced yesterday that the Provincial Social Welfare Office has already informed the hospital where Benjie Ondet, the seriously injured inmate, was confined that the provincial government will be the one to pay for his medical expenses including all the medicines that he needed to take.

Ondet sustained severe injuries after he was mauled by at least 16 inmates two weeks ago while he was being investigated for allegedly threatening the life of one of the trustees of the provincial jail.

Garcia said an investigation is also being conducted against the 16 inmates who allegedly started the brawl that killed Angelo Cabalquinto and severely injured Ondet.

This as she welcomed the parallel investigation to be conducted by the Commission on Human Rights as long as it has coordination with her office.

Earlier, Garcia instructed CODI to investigate reports on the alleged mauling incident at the CPDRC, including Gabuya for relying "on wrong information" from inmates for his official report about the death of Cabalquinto and injury of Ondet to the Office of the Governor.

In his report, Gabuya said Cabalquinto died after he got outbalanced while hanging his clothes.

However, CODI found out during investigation that the inmate died after a brawl inside the jail facility.

Sanchez threatens legal action over interference in PB newsletter

Another conflict arose between the camps of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez after the Office of the Provincial Attorney refused to approve the purchase request for the printing of the legislative branch's newsletter for August.

Vice guv's vehicle hits boy, 15

POLICE took custody of the driver of Cebu Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. after he hit a 15-year-old boy in Barangay Uwak, Asturias town, Cebu Sunday night.

20 bullets fired from outside tourist bus

Dalawampung bala mula sa labas ang tumama sa iba't ibang bahagi ng tourist bus na na-hijack sa Quirino Grandstand, at base sa isang dokumentong nakalap ng ABS-CBN, pito rito ang tumama sa tapat ng mga bintana malapit sa mga pasahero.

Police said 58 spent shells were recovered from inside the bullet-riddled Hong Thai Travel tour bus, the scene of the tragic hostage-taking at the Quirino Grandstand last August 23, all of them from hostage-taker, dismissed cop Rolando Mendoza.

The bus has been brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City for forensic tests to determine the trajectory of the bullets that went into and were fired from the bus.

"58 na mga empty shells na galing po sa M16, 'yun po lahat ay galing lahat sa M16, yung armalite rifle na gamit-gamit ni Rolando Mendoza. Lahat po 'yun ay pinaputok papunta sa mga biktima at papunta doon sa assault team," said PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz.

But as many as 20 bullets were also fired by the assault team based on documents obtained by ABS-CBN News. The bullets hit different parts of the bus, including: 
the windshield; 
the driver's side window;
a window near some of the passengers;
the bus's tires; and, 
a window near the door.

Investigators are now trying to determine if some of the hostages were killed or wounded by friendly fire.

Policemen who joined the assault on the hijacked bus have turned over their firearms to the crime laboratory for ballistic testing.

The ground commander at the time of the hostage crisis, former Manila Police District (MPD) chief Rodolfo Magtibay, appeared before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Wednesday to give his sworn statement.

He apologized to Hong Kong media for the bungled rescue operation.

"I am very sorry for the unnecessary loss of lives. I would like to extend my condolences to the families. I did my best," Magtibay said.

The negotiators, led by Police Superintendent Romeo Salvador, Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) anchor Michael Rogas, who interviewed Mendoza before he went on a shooting rampage, and Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, also gave their sworn statements.

Despite a gag order, Moreno faced reporters to criticize those blaming him for the botched negotiations.

"Ang gusto ko, ang lahat ng tao sa pamahalaan ay maging responsable, di ba? At least, sort of saying magkaroon naman sila ng bayag," Moreno said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the head of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee, is now reminding those involved in the crisis to refrain from talking to the media.

De Lima is instead inviting them to the committee's hearing on Friday.

Among those invited are Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Verzosa, and the woman who accompanied the hostage-taker from Tanauan, Batangas to Fort Santiago in Manila.

Meantime, President Aquino paid a surprise visit to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Wednesday to view the bus used during the hostage-taking incident.

Accompanying Aquino were PNP officials, including National Capital Region Police Office chief Leocadio Santiago.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma said the President met with other police officials in his surprise visit, but refused to divulge further information about his trip.

Erap chides PNoy after bus siege tragedy

MANILA, Philippines - Former president Joseph Estrada on Wednesday found fault in the leadership style of incumbent President Benigno Aquino III after the latter failed to peacefully resolve the August 23 hostage-taking incident in Manila.

Estrada said Aquino made a mistake when he kept a low profile during the 12-hour hostage crisis that killed 9 people. He said the President should have made himself more visible to the public to show that he was in control of the situation.

He said that instead of Aquino, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim  should shoulder the blame for the bloody outcome of the hostage crisis. He said the Manila mayor made a big mistake when he ordered the hostage-taker's brother to be detained, which incensed the hostage-taker.

Estrada said Director General Jesus Verzosa, Philippine National Police chief, should also be sanctioned for leaving Manila while the hostage situation was ongoing.

The former Chief Executive pushed for a speedy investigation of the incident and punish those responsible for the tragedy.

He also urged the media to stop focusing on the hostage crisis and instead pay attention to the problem of corruption.

Robredo on hostage tragedy: 'I wish I was in the loop'

If he could turn back time, Interior and Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo would have chosen to be in the loop instead of acting as "an outsider looking in" during the negotiations for the safe release of foreign tourists held hostage by dismissed police officer Rodolfo Mendoza last week.

Alleged rift between top 2 DILG execs denied

An undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government on Wednesday denied reports that there were factions among supporters of the administration and that infighting of these resulted to the botched rescue attempt of Hong Kong tourists in the August 23 hostage-taking incident.
At the same time, Undersecretary for Public Safety Rico Puno told reporters that there was no rift between him and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, after a television report revealed that Robredo was apparently not directly involved in the handling of the hostage incident where eight Hong Kong tourists were killed.

Puno said that he was reporting directly to President Benigno Aquino III at the time of the hostage crisis, as he was supervising the Philippine National Police. 

"I am undersecretary of the interior side and I oversee the PNP," Puno said. 

But his role in the hostage crisis was merely supervisory in nature, as he admitted that he could not be directly involved because he had no training on hostage crises. 

"I didn't handle it. I was there to oversee the orders of the President. [Former Manila Police District director Chief Superintendent Rodolfo] Magtibay and [Superintendent Orlando] Yebra have the experience to handle it," Puno said. 

He said that reports of infighting among administration officials were merely "intrigues" that came out from the media.

"Sa inyo lang nanggaling [It came from you]. Wala kaming problema, pag may pinagawa ginagawa. Marami lang naiintriga na naririnig natin sa media," Puno said. 

Puno also said that apparently, Magtibay, who was the ground commander during the hostage crisis, was amiss when he did not use the Special Action Force that was on standby at that time.

"The ground commander opted to use the Manila police SWAT [special weapons and tactics] instead of SAF," Puno added.

Hostage crisis affecting police morale, says PNP chief

MANILA, Philippines - The chief of the Philippine National Police admitted Wednesday that the August 23 hostage crisis is affecting the morale of the country's police force.

Magtibay apologizes for 'loss of lives'

The head of the Manila police during the August 23 hostage tragedy has apologized for the bungled rescue operations that resulted in the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists at the Quirino Grandstand last week.

KBP investigates hostage-taker's radio interview

MANILA, Philippines - The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) on Wednesday said it is starting an investigation on the propriety of a radio interview conducted by RMN-DZXL with hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza at the height of the August 23 hostage crisis.

Joker wants probe on media's role in hostage crisis

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Joker Arroyo on Wednesday urged his colleagues to continue their inquiry in aid of legislation into the Manila hostage crisis, this time centering on the role of broadcast media whose coverage of the crisis was heavily criticized.

Woman with hostage-taker denies knowing plot

MANILA, Philippines - The woman who accompanied hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza from Tanauan, Batangas to Fort Santiago in Manila claims she did not know that the dismissed police officer was planning to hold hostage a busload of Hong Kong tourists last August 23. 

The woman, identified only as "Rose", submitted her sworn affidavit to the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) tasked to investigate the Rizal Park hostage-taking.

The committee also took the sworn statements of other persons involved in the crisis including Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno, former Manila Police District chief Rodolfo Magtibay and journalist Erwin Tulfo.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who heads the committee, said Rose, Lim, Moreno and Magtibay have been invited for questioning during a clarificatory hearing on Friday.

Hostage negotiator Orlando Yebra, Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa and Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno are also being asked to attend.

The bloody incident left Mendoza and 8 of his hostages dead and sparked an outcry from Hong Kong, demanding justice for the victims.

In a separate interview, Moreno reiterated that the Manila Police District did not make a mistake during the hostage-taking incident that left 9 people dead.

Asked why the hostage incident ended in tragedy, he replied that he had no control over the actions of the hostage-taker.

Aquino gov't scores another diplomatic gaffe: source

On the heels of the Manila hostage crisis, the Aquino administration drew flak for announcing that a Philippine delegation was being sent to China and Hong Kong, without first consulting the other side. Now, the President is again being criticized for canceling his scheduled trip to Vietnam and Indonesia this month.

Barely two weeks before he was scheduled to leave, President Aquino announced Tuesday he was cancelling his state visits to Vietnam and Indonesia.

The two-nation swing would have been his first foreign trip as president.

"Cancelled ang trips. The first one would be America... 'Yung Vietnam, there is also a summit scheduled on the same date. We have asked that if we can do what has to be done in Vietnam on one trip, rather than two trips," Aquino told reporters on Tuesday.

Aquino's decision was a break from tradition. From the time of Aquino's mother, the chief executive's first foreign visit was always with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Cory Aquino visited Singapore and Indonesia. Fidel Ramos went to Brunei. Joseph Estrada went to Malaysia. And so did Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Aside from being an expression of solidarity with ASEAN, it was an opportunity for the new kid to introduce himself around the block.

Instead, Aquino chose to first visit the United States, where expects to meet with President Obama this month.

Officials, meanwhile, gave varying reasons as to why even the Indonesian trip was called off.

The President implied Jakarta was not ready to receive him on September 14 to 15.

"'Yung Indonesia, I understand, can accommodate us sometime in October," he said.


But sources in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and in Malacañang separately told ABS-CBN News that the President cited "domestic concerns" as reason for cancelling the visits.

DFA sources also found it embarrassing that the President announced the cancellation even before he could formally inform the leaders of Vietnam and Indonesia.

Malacañang referred all queries to the DFA.

"I would have to ask the DFA, but I understand it's the role of the DFA to convey the decision of the President to the different nations," Lacierda said.

In a statement posted on its website on August 31, the DFA said the Vietnamese and Indonesian foreign ministries were given prior notice through a "note verbale."

"After prior notification to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Republic of Indonesia, the state visits of President Benigno S. Aquino III to Hanoi and Jakarta are deferred," the DFA said.

"President Aquino looks forward to visiting both capitals at a more propitious and mutually convenient time, to discuss bilateral issues towards further enhancing Philippine relations with Vietnam and Indonesia, respectively," the DFA added.

But the DFA source said a note verbale would not suffice. As a matter of courtesy, the President himself would have to inform his fellow leaders.

"Note verbale will not suffice. Advance lang yon. As president, he has to inform the two leaders as well. Courtesy yon," said the ABS-CBN News source in a text message.

It was not immediately clear if Malacañang was planning to do such a thing.

Malaya: Vietnam, Indonesia notified prior to announcement

However, DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya said there was "prior notification and consultation" with their counterparts in Vietnam and Indonesia before Aquino made the announcement.

"When this was done, there was prior notification and consultation with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and also the Republic of Indonesia. So they had prior notice in fact about these new developments," he said in an interview on ANC's The World Tonight.

"It does not really matter in what form. What is important is [that] the notification is made in advance, and, in fact, it was made during the weekend, on the 28th of August," he said.

He added, however, that the notification is still being "formalized."

"In this modern day of diplomacy, one can make a quick phone call to another nation's capital and the word has already gotten through. However, as may be pointed out by some people, there is a need to formalize it and indeed, that is being formalized," he said.

Malaya also said that they "may or may not cite" the reason for the cancellation of the trip," but said that the President has said the reason for the cancellation of the trip "very well."

"For us in the DFA, our role is to convey the President's wishes and convey it in time," he said.

'No damage'

Malaya said that despite the cancellation of the trip, the country's ties with the two ASEAN neighbors are still solid.

He said that there has been "no damage" to the Philippines' relations with Vietnam and Indonesia with this incident, adding that cancellations of trips of world leaders occur frequently.

He added that it is a challenge for diplomats to manage relations all the time.

Malaya also said that new schedules for Aquino's visits to the two countries are currently being worked out.

"Some schedules are now being worked out in October... and if I may give a clue, towards the end of October, in fact," he said.

Senate OKd resolution suspending bonuses, allowances of GOCC execs

(UPDATE) Senators unanimously adopted on Wednesday a resolution urging President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to immediately suspend all the "unusually large and apparently excessive allowances, bonuses, incentives and other perks of the governing boards" of government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).

SSS urged to recover millions of pesos from ex-officials

The Social Security System (SSS) has been urged by a senator to recover the millions of pesos that its former commissioners have allegedly pocketed from various private corporations.

From Philex Mining and Unionbank alone, ex-SSS commissioners Romulo Neri, Sergio Apostol, and outgoing chairman Thelmo Cunanan, and Sergio Luis Ortiz, currently sitting in the agency's board, allegedly received combined bonuses and benefits of about P208 million pesos in three years as members of the board of directors of these two firms.

Documents furnished to reporters by the office of Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the Senate finance committee, showed that Cunanan earned a total compensation package of P132.6 million pesos from 2007 to 2010; Neri, P44.1 million from 2008 to 2010; Apostol, P25.1 million from 2008-2010; and Ortiz-Luiz, P6.3 million from 2009 to present.

"I urge the new leadership of the SSS to recover this amount from Mr. Neri together with the amounts which Mr. Thelmo Cunanan received which runs to again millions of pesos," Drilon told a press briefing on Wednesday.

"I urge Mr Juan Santos and Emil de Quiros institute measure to recover these payments given to their previous SSS commissioners," he added.

Santos and de Quiros are chairman and president of SSS, respectively.

Aquino wants cap for legislators' 'pork barrel'

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III now wants legislators to limit their spending of their last tranche of their congressional allocations for this year by proposing a list of specific projects.

New DOH chief is 'pro-choice' on condom use

MANILA, Philippines – Couples should be free to choose modern family planning methods such as condoms and other artificial means to prevent pregnancies, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona said on Wednesday.

No 'ambassador' title for special envoys

MANILA, Philippines – Special envoys appointed by President Benigno Aquino III shall not carry the title of ambassador, according to a new order issued by Malacañang.

1,000 Pinoy domestic workers off to Malaysia

by By Lerio Bompat, ABS-CBN Central Mindanao
MANILA, Philippines – Around 1,000 Filipinos trained as household service workers (HSW) are set to fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia next month.

205 Pinoy drug mules still detained in China

MANILA, Philippines – More than 200 Filipino "drug mules" are currently detained in China, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) revealed at the Senate hearing on Wednesday.

DFA: Hostage tragedy won't worsen Pinoy death-row cases in China

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday assured that the Manila hostage tragedy will not jeopardize the fate of five Filipinos who are currently on death row in China.

5 Filipinos face execution in China this month

(Updated 7:58 p.m.) Five Filipinos may be executed in China this month over drug-related offenses, a party-list lawmaker said on Wednesday citing information from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

PRC: 108 new guidance counselors

MANILA, Philippines - The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Wednesday that 108 out of 180 passed the Guidance Counselor Licensure Examination given by the Board of Guidance and Counseling in Manila last August 2010.

Police, military admit difficulties in dismantling private armies

Military and police officials in Western Mindanao and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have admitted difficulties in dismantling private armed groups.

Peso rebounds as Asian economies report sound fundamentals

The peso gained 29 centavos on Wednesday to wipe out the previous day's losses, benefiting from a shift in market sentiment from cautious to positive as neighboring Asian economies report favorable fundamentals.

$1: P45.080

$1: P45.080 (P45.37)

Euro 1: P57.4627

Barak sees Israel ceding parts of Jerusalem

by Reuters
JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel is ready to cede parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians in the framework of a peace deal, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday ahead of the start of talks in Washington.

Strong tropical storm hits Taiwan, heads to China

by Reuters
A strong tropical storm lashed Taiwan on Wednesday on its way to China, bringing heavy rains and howling winds to areas battered by a deadly typhoon just over a year ago as authorities braced for rare mass evacuations.

Building crumbles in Russia, people feared buried -- officials

An eight-storey building under renovation collapsed Wednesday in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg, and people were feared trapped in the ruins, an emergencies ministry spokeswoman said.

'Margarito deserves to fight Pacquiao'

MANILA, Philippines – Members from the camps of Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito pleaded to the media and public to give the Mexican a chance to prove himself in the ring after serving out a one-year suspension.

Pacquiao says Margarito aware of illegal wraps

LOS ANGELES, California, United States--Manny Pacquiao says he believes Antonio Margarito intentionally tried to use illegal hand wraps in his last US fight which resulted in the Mexican boxer being banned from the sport for one year.

Pacquiao foe Margarito wants to move forward

Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao's towering Mexican opponent, wants to put the past issues behind him deciding not to answer allegations made by the Filipino boxing superstar that he was unaware of wearing illegal hand wraps the night he was caught moments before his welterweight title fight against Sugar Shane Mosley.

Son of boxing promoter Arum goes missing

The son of Bob Arum has been reported missing in the mountains near Seattle forcing the international boxing promoter to abandon a three-city promotional tour to help in the search.

Pacquiao gunning for 'special' WBC belt

MANILA, Philippines – Seven-division world champion Manny Pacquiao will take a shot at winning the WBC super welterweight title, a belt that was held by Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

So, Laylo rebound, beat rivals in 'Campomanes' chess

Filipino grandmasters Wesley So and Darwin Laylo rebounded with victories over their respective rivals to remain in contention in the sixth round of the first former Fide president Florencio Campomanes Memorial Cup chess championships at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium Tuesday night.

Health secretary won't tell Aquino to quit smoking

Health Secretary Enrique Ona is not about to advise President Bbenigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to quit smoking, despite concerns aired about the President's physical fitness and the well-documented reports of smoking's ill effects.

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