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

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 3, 2010 Major News Stories

Petron raises cooking gas prices by P1.50/kilogram

A MAJOR oil company yesterday raised product prices by P1.50 per kilogram, a day after a retailer group hiked rates for the commodity.

Dengue cases highest ever, says DOH

The reported figure of 62,000 dengue cases as of August this year is the highest ever recorded in the country, a Department of Health official said Thursday.

DOH steps up anti-dengue info drive

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health on Thursday stepped up its anti-dengue information drive as the surge of dengue cases puts a strain on government resources.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the DOH distributed hundreds of leaflets at the Light Rail Transit system to spread the word about dengue prevention.

Ona said the country recorded 62,503 dengue cases from January to August 31 this year, up 88.8% from last year. The government also recorded 465 deaths compared to 350 during the same period last year.

While cases were reported all over the country, these are concentrated in: Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon); Eastern and Western Visayas; and Northern, Central and Southern Mindanao.

Metro Manila recorded 5,558 cases, lower compared to last year's figures at 6,561. Most are in Mandaluyong and Marikina.

DOH: Mild dengue cases can be managed at home

The Department of Health (DOH) assured the public that mild dengue cases can be managed at home and not all cases require hospitalization.

Rama: CCMC only for city residents

After he learned that not all dengue patients in the Cebu City Medical Center are his constituents, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama asked those from other local government units to go to other hospitals so as not to drain the city's resources.

Red tide alert up in Carigara Bay

by By Jenette Fariola-Ruedas, ABS-CBN Tacloban
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines - The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has confirmed the presence of red tide toxins in Carigara Bay in Leyte province.

Over 400T bags of rice 'kept' at CIP for lack of proper documents

ASIDE from the three million bags of imported rice in National Food Authority (NFA) warehouses that will be used up by Region 7 consumers in 65 days, about 900 container vans of imported Vietnam rice are stocked at Cebu International Port (CIP).

However, these could not be released for lack of proper documentation.

NFA 7 Director Danilo Bunabon said at an 888 News Forum last month that there would be millions of bags of rice arriving.

Yesterday, Bunabon, who is now assigned in NFA-Bicol, confirmed the Vietnam rice at CIP is "consigned to NFA for the account of a private group" under the so-called NFA

Private Sector Finance Rice Importation Program.

But he said he has no details on why the rice stocked at CIP was not released by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) even if the importation was done last June yet.

However, a BOC source, who requested anonymity, said the release of the rice shipment was held in abeyance because the new NFA leadership, upon instructions of President Benigno Aquino III, wants to review the scheme.

The source said the Aquino administration and newly-installed NFA Administrator Lito Banayo want to know why the NFA pays millions in duties and taxes to the BOC when private individuals, who finance the rice importation under the NFA, are the ones who profit.

BOC Port of Cebu District Collector Ronnie Silvestre said that based on the report he received, the processor of the customs broker who handled the release of the shipment ran off with the P2 million processing fees.

This compounded the problem and delayed the documentation.

At 500 bags per 20-footer container van, a source at the customs enforcement sector said there are 450,000 bags of rice at the CIP. If sold at P1,000 per bag, their total value is P450 million.

Customs records show that last July or before the order to hold the release of the rice shipment came out, 811 container vans of imported rice from Vietnam consigned to NFA under the same group of private persons were released by the CIP.

Silvestre ordered the Encoding and Processing Unit (EPU) to explain why they reported that there is no pending rice shipment when there are 900 vans at the CIP.

The EPU chief told Silvestre there was no record of the shipment because the NFA and the private group have not yet filed the mandatory import entry documents.

Under the Tariff and Customs Code, a shipment without import entry documents within 30 days can be automatically seized by the BOC.

Silvestre, a lawyer, said he will determine whether the shipment should be issued a Warrant of Seizure and Detention.

SRA to recommend higher sugar retail price of P56 per kilo

The Sugar Regulatory Administration on Thursday said it will recommend a higher retail price of P56 per kilo for sugar, on the heels of consultations with stakeholders and the price levels of the commodity in the international market.

Tobacco firms urged to pay for hospital fees

MANILA, Philippines – Tobacco companies should allot 5% of their income to pay for testing and hospitalization fees of people who have smoking-related illness, a lawmaker said Thursday.

AGHAM party-list Representative Angelo Palmones has filed House Bill 2005 to compel cigarette-makers to share in the health costs of smoking.

He cited Department of Health (DOH) studies showing that of an estimated 17 million smokers in the country, 250 die every day or around 90,000 annually.

He also mentioned studies stating that around 200,000 Filipino men develop smoking-related diseases, resulting in productivity losses. 

"It was estimated in 1999, that to provide healthcare for these sick men, and the loss in productivity, cost Filipino taxpayers some P43 billion," Palmones added.

Palmones said smoking affects the economy, as productivity is affected when workers tend to use their time for work in smoking.

Their livelihood also takes a hit when they become sick because of tobacco use, he added.

Palmones said smoke from cigarettes can cause upper respiratory and pulmonary diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, bronchiolities, bronchogenic carcinoma, and lung cancer.

"Smoke is irritating to many individuals especially those who are allergic to it and can trigger asthma attack. Laryngitis can also be caused by exposure to heavy tobacco and cigarette smoke," he said.

Miguel Osmeña won't run for any brgy post

Miguel Osmeña, the only child of Cebu City South District Rep. Tomas Osmeña and Cebu City councilor Margot Osmeña, yesterday ruled out running for barangay captain or councilman of Guadalupe in next month's synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Tom orders probe on 3 bry. captains

ENGINEERS and officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Manila office will come to Cebu City next week to evaluate and look into the allegedly substandard and overpriced infrastructure projects implemented in the south district barangays.

Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south) said he is checking an allegation that Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) President Eugenio Faelnar Jr. and two other barangay captains had connived to allow E.M. Arante Construction to win in the bidding for projects in 16 of the 34 projects in the south.

According to the records of the City's Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW), Arante Construction won the bid for 72 contracts in 16 barangays, with a total project cost of P156 million.

DEPW's initial inspection showed that in one of Arante's projects in Barangay Sudlon I, the cement used for the road concreting project was not cured properly.

"We still have to finish the inspection so we can come up with a more comprehensive report on the contractor's performance," said Engineer Kenneth Enriquez, head of DEPW.

Because of the alleged irregularity in the awarding of the projects, the city's 46 north district barangays will have to wait for another month or so before money for their projects can be released.

With barely two months left before the barangay elections, north district village chiefs are worried they can no longer implement their projects because of the election ban that starts on Sept. 15.

The barangay captains of Lusaran, Cambinocot, Hipodromo and other villages were at City Hall yesterday to follow up the release of the funds.

Councilor Jose Daluz III, chairman of the City Council committee on budget and finance, said they are waiting for the investigation on the projects in the south district to be completed before releasing the funds for the north district.

The projects in question were funded by the P182-million aid to the barangays, which Osmeña distributed directly to barangays when he was still mayor in November last year, and other funds released before the May elections.

Osmeña said he is looking into an allegation that Barangay Captains Faelnar, Jojo Sable of Suba and Rustico Ignacio of Inayawan had lobbied with the barangay captains to award the contracts to Arante.

Osmeña said he had asked Faelnar about the allegation but the barangay captain said he knew nothing about it.

Arante won the bidding for projects in Sinsin, Bonbon, Babag, Sudlon I, Sudlon II, Sapangdaku, Kalunasan, Pungol Sibugay, Tagba-o, Poblacion Pardo, Inayawan, Suba Pasil, Calamba, Guadalupe, Tisa and Kasambagan.

Osmeña said he trusts the barangay captains "and they can't be trusted?"

"The people should know. I hope that this can't affect our relations with Faelnar. I'm just worried about this information, so, we will find out," Osmeña said.

The alleged irregularity was leaked when a barangay councilor from Kalunasan reported the alleged overpricing of the substandard riprap in their village.

For his part, Faelnar said he knows nothing about the allegation but is willing to be investigated to clear his name.

He said that while it is true that the projects in his barangay were awarded to Arante, these had gone through the bidding process.

Faelnar said Osmeña had not told him about an investigation.

Faelnar asked why he, Sable and Ignacio were being dragged into a project irregularity in Kalunasan.

He said they have nothing to do with the contractor.

Faelnar said he knows who has been sowing intrigues and dragging his name in the project irregularity.

In a phone interview yesterday, E.M. Arante Construction owner Enrique Arante denied any irregularity in the awarding of the projects to his company.

He said everything was above board.

He also denied an allegation that he has paid the barangay captains large sum of money to get the contracts.

He will wait for the results of the investigation. If the investigation finds defects in the project, he will have these corrected "at no cost to the City Government," Arante said.

Arante also denied he got the contracts with the help of Faelnar and some barangay captains.

He got the contracts by complying with bidding procedures.

"Dili ta anang suhol-suhol kay illegal man na (I don't go for bribery because that's illegal)," he said.

Funding for the projects were released directly to the barangays last year to avoid red tape in City Hall, which often causes delays in implementation. The barangays have full control of the projects, from drafting of program of works and estimates to bidding of contract, implementation and monitoring.

City mulls loan from banks to pay P4 billion SRP debt

The Cebu City government is mulling the proposal to pay off the remaining balance of its loan (Loan 1) from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation through another loan from local banks who offered to lend money to the city.

COA tells LTO-7: "Stop circumventing the law"

The Commission on Audit has advised the Land Transportation Office in Central Visayas to stop the practice of granting cash advances to one accountable officer on behalf of officials who are no longer allowed to make cash advances because of unliquidated cash advances.

Osmeña asks Binay to step into 93-1 issue

Cebu City south district Rep. Tomas Osmeña has asked Vice President Jejomar Binay, who hairs the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, to step into the problem on the implementation of the controversial Provincial Ordinance 93-1.

Garcia asserts authority, asks court to dismiss mandamus

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has asked for the dismissal of the mandamus case that Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez, Jr. has filed against her claiming it lacks factual and legal basis.

Nominees for MCIAA private sector reps now with P.Noy

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday said she has already submitted to President Aquino four recommendees to sit as private sector representatives in the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority.

The four recommendees, whose names Garcia refused to reveal, will replace the positions vacated by former Cebu City vice mayor Renato Osmeña, Cebu Business Club president Dondi Joseph, newspaper columnist Bobit Avila and businessman Winglip Chang who have tendered their courtesy resignation last July.

Garcia said she choose to withhold the names of her recommendees until the President signs their appointment. According to Garcia, while she makes the recommendation but it is the President who makes the appointment.

The same is true with the appointment of the general manager of the airport. MCIA general manager Danilo Augusto Francia is serving on hold over capacity as his courtesy resignation was supposed to take effect on August 31.

Garcia said Francia will remain in his position until the President is able to pick his replacement. On the other hand, the MCIAA board is yet to assess the impact of the hostage crisis in Manila to the airport operation in Cebu because they are still compiling the data.

Case dismissed

THE Board of Medicine of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) dismissed the case filed against five doctors involved in the controversial "Black Suede Scandal."

Mipetisyon aron mayor nga gikihag rape dad-on

NIAWHAG sa korte ang mga abogado ang giingong biktima sa pagpanglugos sa mayor sa lalawigan sa Palawan nga ipasusi sa usa ka mananambal ang akusado ug kon maayo ang iyang panglawas, ipadala na siya nganhi sa Sugbo.

Si Atty. Joyce Evidentes Moran, abogado sa biktima sa lugos, nisang-at og motion to conduct independent examination and to transport accused to Cebu City alang kang Rizal Palawan Mayor Nicolas Montaño Sr. kagahapon sa sala ni Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Gilbert Moises.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Nalatid sa mosyon ni Moran nga nag-awhag kang Moises nga momando nga ipaubos sa medical examination si Montaño sa medico legal division sa National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7.

Unya kon di sila pwede, mamahimo nga ang City Health Officer sa Puerto Princesa City, Palawan ang mopahigayon ug kon supak gihapon sila, ang medico legal officer na lang sa Philippine National Police.

Laing gihangyo niya sa korte nga kon masuta nga mamahimo nga makabiyahe ang akusado ug maayo ang kondisyon sa iyang panglawas ibalhin na siya sa dakbayan sa Sugbo.

Ilang gitumbok nga dihang ang mayor gisikop ug paingon nang dad-on dinhi sa Sugbo giingong si Palawan Provincial Legal Officer Winston Gonzales nidemanda nga ang akusado ipaubos sa medical examination kay giingong nagsakit ang dughan.

Gidala ang akusado sa tambalanan diin nalandig siya hangtod sa Septiyembre 1.

Ang mosyon nibutyag nga nipadala silag doktor sa tambalanan aron mosusi kang Montaño apan nasayran nilang gibalhin na kini sa AFP Western Command Hospital nga wa nila pahibaw-a ang korte.

Samang doctor ilang gipadala sa AFP Western Command Hospital apan gidid-an kining makasud sa tambalanan busa wa sila makakuhag impormasyon sa tinud-anay nga sitwasyon sa mayor.

Sa iyang bahin, si Atty. Joey Wee, abogado ni Montaño, nga nahinabi sa GMA Balitang Bisdak kagahapon nipahibawo nga wa matuman ang "due process" sa pagsikop kang Montaño.

Nitataw si Wee wa man lang gani padalhig subpoena ang iyang kliyente bahin ning giingong kasong pagpanglugos nga iyang giatubang.

Nitumbok siya nga katapusang nianhi sa Sugbo ang iyang kliyente niadto pang 2006 samtang ang gipasangil nga reklamo ning tuiga nahitabo.

Kining mayor nag-atubang ning kasoha tungod sa pasangil sa usa ka manikurista nga gilugos siya ni Montaño niadtong Hulyo ning tuiga sa dakbayan sa Sugbo.

Final moments of hostage taking to be re-enacted

The chaotic final moments of a hostage siege in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead will be re-enacted as part of an investigation into the tragedy, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday.

Autopsy report shows Mendoza shot 8 times

Eksklusibong nakakuha ang ABS-CBN News ng kopya ng autopsy report sa bangkay ni Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza kung saan nakadetalye ang bawat tama ng balang tumapos sa buhay ng hostage-taker. Tila hindi naman tugma ang bilang ng mga bala, sa mga balang pinakawalan ng sniper.

No Palace nod yet on 'cash aid' for hostage victims

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III has yet to decide on a proposed cash "assistance" for relatives of the victims of the August 23 hostage crisis.

RP's deadline to wrap up hostage probe 'reasonable'—Chinese envoy

The 15 day deadline set by the Philippines to wrap up its probe into the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis is reasonable, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao said Thursday.

Report: 2 Hong Kong cops held in NAIA

MANILA, Philippines – Two Hong Kong police officers who arrived in the country to conduct their own investigation on the tour bus used in the recent hostage crisis in Manila were held by authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, a radio report said.

The Hong Kong police officers were reportedly carrying a bagful of empty shells of an M-16 assault rifle while on their way to board a Cathay Pacific flight out of the country, the report added.

One of the Hong Kong policemen was identified as Police Inspector Lee Kuwai Wa.

Immigration and Customs authorities at the airport are now interrogating the two policemen regarding the bullet shells.

Earlier, a team of forensics experts from Hong Kong were allowed to inspect and do their own probe on the bus hijacked by dismissed senior police inspector Rolando Mendoza.

Mendoza used an M-16 assault rifle to gun down eight Chinese nationals inside the bus. The former policeman was also killed by members of the Manila policemen during the bungled rescue operation.

Report: Hostage survivor's condition improving

Hostage survivor Jason Leung Song-xue's condition is improving despite remaining heavily sedated with shattered bone fragments in his brain, a report from the South China Morning Post said Thursday.

Coffin mix-up discovered in Philippine hostage crisis

Three coffins with the bodies of Hong Kong tourists killed in a Philippine hostage crisis last week were mis-labelled, a government spokesman said Thursday.
"Three of the coffins were wrongly labelled," a government spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

"When the bodies were at the mortuary in Hong Kong, the error was discovered."

Hostage-crisis survivor appeals for kindness toward OFWs in HK

A survivor of the Manila hostage crisis has emerged as a voice of reason amidst a maelstrom of outrage, both in Hong Kong and the Philippines, over the Manila hostage-taking last August 23.
In an essay published on August 29 in the Ming Pao, a Chinese-language newspaper in Hong Kong, 36-year-old Lee Ying Chuen wrote, "The way to comfort the souls of the dead is not to blame the innocent Filipina domestic helpers and the people of the Philippines. Our focus should be clearly on the Philippines government and its police. We should support the people of the Philippines to build a more trustworthy government and a more just society."

An English translation of the essay was posted on the EastSouthWestNorth, a popular blog that posts English translations of Chinese-language news articles. Portions of another translation of the essay were posted by Filipino-Chinese Joaquin Sy on his Facebook page, under a note entitled "A Voice of Reason."

Lee was on vacation in Manila with her 67-year-old mother when their tour bus carrying 25 passengers was taken hostage by former policeman Rolando Mendoza. She and her mother were among the 13 Hong Kong nationals who survived the ordeal, while eight others and the hostage-taker were killed.

Dismayed by reports that Filipino maids were being insulted and even fired by their employers after the hostage-taking, Lee asked the people of Hong Kong to recall that ethnic Chinese also suffered racist discrimination when their city was still a colony of the British empire.

"The Filipina domestic helpers are the victims of their incompetent government, which was unable to provide a decent living for its people. That is why so many Filipinas have to leave their families. They work to take care of other's children while leaving their own children behind," wrote Lee.

Around 150,000 Filipinos, most of whom work as domestic helpers, are based in Hong Kong. Since the hostage-taking, Filipino citizens in Hong Kong have been worried for their own safety. Lee wrote that she was appalled by calls from some Hong Kong residents to send home all Filipino domestic helpers as a form of economic punishment versus the Philippines, and by reports that Filipino maids were being insulted in the streets.

"I am reminded of what the great Chinese writer Lu Xun said: When the brave gets angry, he turns his sword towards the mighty; but when the coward gets angry, he turns his sword towards the weak," she said.

Though very angry with the Philippine government and police for what happened, Lee has tried to better understand the deep-seated problems that plague Philippine society.

"I realized finally that even though I had some colleagues from the Philippines, I and most Hong Kong people know almost nothing about that country … We know that the Philippines is poor and that is why they export domestic workers all over the world. But how poor? I checked and I found out that one-third of its people live below the poverty line. Killings and kidnapping occur on a daily basis. Under such circumstances, why kind of life do the people have?" she wrote.

She even tried to understand the social ills that may have driven the hostage-taker to desperation.

"I kept thinking about what turned a former excellent policeman into a cold-blooded killer? Why did he have to choose to take hostages in order to force the government to review his case? Is there no way of making an appeal in that country?" she wondered.

Lee closed her essay by urging Hong Kong residents to hold the Philippine government and police accountable for the bloodbath. "This is how Hong Kong truly becomes a member of the international community and a cosmopolitan city with humanitarian concerns."

Senate revives probe on media's role in hostage crisis

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Senate is reviving an investigation on the role of broadcast media during the August 23 hostage crisis, Sen. Gregorio Honasan said Thursday. 

Chiz: No need for PNoy to attend hostage probe

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III should not be made to appear in the investigation on the Manila hostage crisis, one of his allies in the Senate said Thursday.

DILG usec: Aquino wanted to talk directly to hostage-taker

President Benigno Aquino III seriously considered talking face to face with hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza during the hostage crisis in Manila last week. But he was advised by his top officials to let the negotiators on the ground deal with the dismissed police officer, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Escalona Puno said Thursday.

Rico Puno qualified to handle peace and order - Palace

MANILA, Philippines – Despite the botched police rescue of Hong Kong tourists, Malacañang believes Rico Puno is qualified for his post as Interior and Local Government undersecretary for peace and order.

'Puno reports to Robredo at the DILG on police matters'—Palace

While President Benigno Aquino oversaw the hostage-taking crisis through Interior Undersecretary Rico Escalona Puno, Interior Secretary Jessie Robredo is still the head of the Department of Interior and Local Governments that oversees the Philippine National Police and its operations.

DILG Usec Puno is gun enthusiast, longtime PNoy friend

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno, the official reportedly in charge of the police during the August 23 hostage crisis, is a firearms aficionado and a longtime friend of President Benigno Aquino III.

Hostage-taker's brother rapped for crossing police line

MANILA, Philippines - The brother of slain hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza was arraigned Thursday before the Manila Regional Trial Court on charges of disobedience for crossing a police line during the August 23 hostage crisis.

Ombudsman suspends hostage-taker's brod

Humarap kanina sa korte si SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza para sa arraignment ng kasong disobedience na isinampa laban sa kanya. Lalo namang lumakas ang hinala ni Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim na binalak ni Gregorio na samahan ang kapatid niya sa ginawang pangho-hostage sa Maynila matapos matuklasang suspendido pala ang pulis.

Speaker says Secretary Ochoa not a heavy drinker

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Who is Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa? This question was raised again by some political observers following his lackluster performance as chief aide to the President during the Manila hostage crisis.

Robredo may face tough confirmation: Chiz

by by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Facing criticisms and blame for the botched hostage rescue operation in Manila, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo may find it hard to get lawmakers to confirm his appointment to the Cabinet, a senator said.

Let impeach raps go through process, says Speaker Belmonte

The impeachment complaints against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez will go through the process in the committee level at the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Thursday, as he spurned calls to lead in gathering signatures from his colleagues to send the cases right away to the Senate for trial

Belmonte says not enough votes to impeach Ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines - House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. virtually admitted that there are not enough congressmen to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez.

PET junks Binay's bid for preliminary hearing on Roxas poll protest

The Presidential Electoral Tribunal has dismissed Vice President Jejomar Binay's request for a preliminary hearing on the election protest filed by his erstwhile rival, former Senator Manuel Roxas II. But SC spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said the dismissal of Binay's motion has nothing to do with the merits of his counter-protest against Roxas.

Military to invite media to watch bidding process

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense on Thursday said it will invite members of the media to witness the bidding process for the acquisition of military hardware under the military's modernization program.

AFP to get inputs from civil society for new anti-insurgency campaign

The Philippine military will solicit suggestions from civil society groups in drafting a new anti-insurgency strategy to replace the much-criticized Oplan Bantay Laya, a military official said Thursday.

Hundreds flee village as rebels, military clash in Surigao

MANILA, Philippines - More than 200 families left their homes to avoid being caught between fighting military troops and suspected Communist guerillas in Marihatag town, Surigao del Sur province.

Cop in Maguindanao massacre nabbed in Sarangani

MANILA, Philippines - A policeman allegedly involved in the Maguindanao massacre last year was arrested from his hideout in Kiamba town, Sarangani province on Thursday morning.

SC defends judge in Maguindanao massacre case

The Supreme Court on Thursday defended a lower court's decision to postpone the Maguindanao massacre trial, saying the judge handling the case was just following the rules of court.

Aquino against delays in massacre trial

President Benigno Aquino III remains determined to help the relatives of the 57 victims of the Maguindanao massacre and wants the wheels of justice to grind faster, a Palace official said on Thursday.

Retired soldier threatens 'to do a Mendoza' over benefits

A retired military officer, who is asking for the "consideration of his broken service", has allegedly threatened to do a Mendoza, if no action will be made on his request, a Senate employee disclosed on Thursday.

In a letter to Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino this Thursday, Rodolfo Noel Quimbo, director-general of the Senate blue ribbon committee, reported that a certain retired TSG Charmie Palencia has been calling their office to follow up on his complaint.

"Just yesterday (Wednesday), September 1, 2010, when he called up to again follow up, we were alarmed when he informed the staff that if and when no action would be made relative to his complaint, he'd also do what Mendoza did in the Luneta Grandstand hostage-taking incident," Quimbo said in his letter.

"But prior to yesterday's incident, every time he'd call, he would always say that if ever no favorable action would be done, he will go on a protest at the Luneta," he added.

Palencia was requesting that "his broken service" from February 24, 1998 to August 14, 1994 be included in his benefits in the military service.

Quimbo's office has referred Palencia's case as early as January 2010 to then defense secretary Norberto Gonzales for appropriate actions.

HK cop held at NAIA for undeclared M16 bullet shell

MANILA, Philippines - Police at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Thursday held a departing Hong Kong police officer for not declaring an M15 rifle's bullet shell placed in his hand-carried baggage.

HK cop held at NAIA over armalite shells allowed to leave

(UPDATE) The Hong Kong police official who was stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for allegedly not declaring empty shells from an M16 armalite rifle has been allowed to leave the country, justice undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar said on Thursday.

Pinoy suspect in Calif. killing spree shot dead

by By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
REDWOOD City, California – Police on Tuesday night gunned down a Filipino man believed to have killed 4 other Pinoys in California.

California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers shot and killed murder suspect Efren Valdemoro, 38, during a car chase that ended at the Ranch 99 market in Richmond.

CHP officers also found an unidentified woman, believed to be Valdemoro's girlfriend, dead inside his vehicle.

ABC7 ( reported that Valdemoro could also be behind the killings of 2 missing Filipino women, Macaria Smart, 60, and Segundina Allen, 67, whose bodies were found in a Vallejo home. The 2 were reported missing for a week.

He was also tagged in the killing of yet another Filipino, Ricardo Sales, 73, who was found beaten to death inside his Hercules home.

Sales' 35-year-old son, Frederick, is missing as well. He disappeared after his father was murdered.

Police tagged Valdemoro in the Vallejo and Hercules killings after a Cadillac Escalade, owned by one of the 2 women, was also seen at the crime scene in Hercules. Balitang America

Almost 700 suspected 'tourist workers' barred from leaving RP

Almost 700 Filipino travelers were barred from leaving the country after they were suspected of being "tourist workers" - those who pretend that they are going overseas as tourists when they are actually planning to work abroad.

'Euro General' promoted despite graft case

A senior police official facing graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly carrying almost P7-million worth of undeclared money outside of the country was promoted to a higher rank on Thursday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.
Executive officer to the PNP director for comptrollership Tomas Rentoy III, one of the so-called "Euro generals," was among the three senior police officials promoted to the rank of chief superintendent, PNP spokesperson Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. said in a statement.

Also promoted were Alex Paul Monteagudo, deputy director for investigation and detective management, and Elpidio De Asis, Jr., executive officer of the Directorate for Information and Communication Technology Management.

George Piano, the PNP director for information and communication technology, was meanwhile promoted to police director, equivalent to the rank of a two-star police general.

The promotions were approved by President Benigno Aquino III upon the recommendation of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa based on the evaluation of the PNP Senior Officers Placement and Promotion Board (SOPPB).

Verzosa officiated the pinning of ranks in the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Cruz said.

2008 Moscow trip

Rentoy was one of the 11 cops charged with graft for allegedly carrying 105,000 euros to Moscow to attend an International Police (Interpol) assembly.

Among those charged were former police Director Eliseo dela Paz, Superintendent Samuel Rodriguez, Chief Superintendent Orlando Pestaño, Superintendent Elmer Pelobello, Deputy Director General Emmanuel Carta, Deputy Director General Ismael Rafanan, and directors Romeo Ricardo, German Doria, Silverio Alarcio Jr., and Jaime Caringal.

The police officials flew to Russia in late 2008 for the Interpol assembly in St. Petersburg. On their way out of Russia, De la Paz, the group's disbursement officer, was stopped at the airport and later detained for carrying an undeclared amount in excess of the allowable limit.

De la Paz was later found out to be allegedly carrying P9.2 million — P2.9 million for travel expenses and P6.9 million as contingency funds. He claimed the money was a "cash advance," but Verzosa said the amount was meant for the purchase of spy gears that had been illegally released.

Former Director General Avelino Razon, the head of the PNP that time, admitted that he did not know why De la Paz's group brought with them such a huge amount of money, adding he only approved P2.314 million for the travel expenses of the eight PNP officers as indicated in his letter to then Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Razon noted that police spouses were not included in the list of people going to the conference. Some of the officers brought along their wives to the trip.

The police officials were later asked to return the travel funds. Then PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome said the embroiled officials were considered "cleared by the PNP" after the entire amount was returned.

$1: P44.950

$1: P44.950 (P45.08)

Euro 1: P57.8334

ADB extends $400-M loan for gov't pro-poor program

by By Raffy Santos, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Thursday approved a $400-million loan to support a Philippine government program for the poor.

Smuggling raps filed vs 5 customs employees

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Five customs employees have been charged with smuggling for allegedly defrauding the government of over P183.6 million in duties and taxes.

The Bureau of Customs (BoC) said customs examiners Vicitacion Difontorum, Ma. Theresa Agabao and Margarita Santiago; acting document processors Tala Cali and Glen Ollero conspired with rice importers in misdeclaring 781 twenty footer containers of white rice.

The five are all assigned at the Formal Entry Division at the Port of Manila, Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez said.

Also charged for violation of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and the Revised Penal Code were Lamberto Ramos Espiritu, owner of Point Given Marketing and customs broker Allan Jay De Vera Gahon, said Alvarez.

He said the connivance between the Point Given Marketing and customs employees defrauded the government of P183,632,625 in duties and taxes.

"Had the respondent employees done their job and forfeited the rice shipments in favor of the government, the BoC would have earned at least P383 million from the sale of the confiscated commodity," Alarez said.

Records showed that on several occasions this year, Point Given imported a total of 781 twenty-footer containers of white rice from Vietnam. All the shipments were processed and released by the customs officers at the Port of Manila without paying duties and taxes.

The contents of the container were declared as mung beans, whose importation is zero-rated in both customs and value addedtax under the Asean Free Trade Agreement. Rice importation, meanwhile, is subject to 50 percent duty and 12 percent VAT.

Abbas, Netanyahu relaunch peace talks

WASHINGTON—Israeli and Palestinian leaders launched their first direct talks in 20 months Wednesday, starting the clock on a daunting one-year deadline to flesh out a Palestinian state to live in peace with Israel.

Masked police raid Russian opposition magazine—editor

MOSCOW—Russian police, including masked members of the special forces, raided Thursday the offices of outspoken opposition magazine The New Times as part of a libel probe, its chief editor said.

Oil rig blast forces 13 workers into Gulf of Mexico

NEW ORLEANS—An explosion ripped through an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday forcing 13 people into the water, one of whom was injured, the US Coast Guard said.

PSC fears backlash of Manila hostage-taking in Asiad

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is worried that Filipino athletes might feel the backlash of the Manila hostage-taking incident during the Asian Games (Asiad) in Guanngzhou, China in November.

Roach: Pacquiao will overwhelm Margarito

MANILA, Philippines – American trainer Freddie Roach reiterated his prediction of a Manny Pacquiao knockout win over Mexican Antonio Margarito during the second leg of the media tour for the November 13 fight.

Boxing icon Pacquiao: Floyd Jr needs me more

The issue of Manny Pacquiao's botched showdown with the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. continues to hound the Filipino boxing superstar when he made his second stop of a three-city promotional tour on New York City for his November 13 title fight with Antonio Margarito.

Belmonte on Pacquiao's absence: He's doing great service to RP

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Thursday said that the House of Representatives will not mind if Saranggani Representative Manny Pacquiao's role as legislator takes a backseat this time as he begins training for a boxing bout in November.

Pacquiao to keep receiving House salary despite absence

Professional boxer and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao would keep receiving his salary and allowance despite his absence from the House of Representatives for the promotional tour of his upcoming fight.

Grandmaster Antonio to sue chess officials Pichay, Abalos

Grandmaster Rogelio "Joey" Antonio is contemplating on suing officials of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) for his removal from the national team set to compete in two major international tournaments - the World Chess Olympiad in Russia from September 21 to October 3, and the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China from November 12 to 26.

Gloria Diaz says Cebuanos owe her an apology

"Hindi ako magsu-sorry!" Ito ang pinanindigan ni dating Miss Universe Gloria Diaz kahit siya'y binabatikos dala ng pangmamaliit umano sa pag-i-Ingles ng mga Cebuano. Kinampihan naman siya ng isang senador na mula sa Cebu.

Senator defends Diaz's 'anti-Cebuano' remarks

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Sergio Osmeña III has come to the defense of 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz after she allegedly made a comment that was insulting to Cebuanos. 

In a text message, Osmeña said Diaz was just misinterpreted and she never meant to insult Cebuanos. He said Diaz's long-time boyfriend hails from Cebu.

"She was misinterpreted and misunderstood. What she meant is - do not answer in English if you are not too fluent. Use the language you are most comfortable with. After all, the sponsor provides interpreters. I agree with her," the senator said.

Palace: No censorship of PNoy's FB page

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has denied censoring the web sites of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, including his Facebook (FB) page.

Ryan Agoncillo reveals name of 1st baby

MANILA, Philippines - Actor-television host Ryan Agoncillo disclosed that he and his pregnant wife, Judy Ann Santos, have decided to name their baby boy Juan Luis.

Indonesia's smoking toddler kicks habit

by Agence France-Presse
JAKARTA, Indonesia - A two-year-old Indonesian boy who smoked about 40 cigarettes a day has kicked the habit after receiving intensive specialist care, a child welfare official said Thursday.

Ardi Rizal shocked the world when a video of him drawing heavily on cigarettes appeared on the Internet in May and drew attention to Indonesia's failure to regulate the tobacco industry.

"He has quit smoking and the most important thing is he doesn't ask for cigarettes anymore," national commission for child protection secretary-general Arist Merdeka Sirait told AFP.

Six months after his father gave him his first cigarette, the overweight boy was smoking two packs a day and threw violent tantrums if his addiction was not satisfied.

Accompanied by his mother, the boy left his village on Sumatra island in July to undergo treatment in the capital.

"He received psychosocial therapy for one month, during which therapists kept him busy with activities and encouraged him to play with kids of the same age," Sirait said.

"We diverted his addiction from cigarettes to playing."

Ardi's case has highlighted the tobacco industry's aggressive marketing to women and children in developing countries like Indonesia, where regulations are weak and many people do not know that smoking is dangerous.

Sirait said the government had given financial support to Ardi's parents, who were ignorant of smoking's dangers and used cigarettes to keep the toddler happy as they worked long hours at a street market.

"Ardi was very happy when he left Jakarta this morning as he has really missed his father in the village," Sirait said.

Cigarette consumption in the Southeast Asian archipelago of some 240 million people soared 47 percent in the 1990s, according to the World Health Organization.

God did not create the universe, says Hawking

by by Michael Holden, Reuters
LONDON, United Kingdom (Reuters Life!) - God did not create the universe and the "Big Bang" was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.

In "The Grand Design", co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday.

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," Hawking writes.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

Hawking, 68, who won global recognition with his 1988 book "A Brief History of Time", an account of the origins of the universe, is renowned for his work on black holes, cosmology and quantum gravity.

Since 1974, the scientist has worked on marrying the two cornerstones of modern physics -- Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which concerns gravity and large-scale phenomena, and quantum theory, which covers subatomic particles.

His latest comments suggest he has broken away from previous views he has expressed on religion. Previously, he wrote that the laws of physics meant it was simply not necessary to believe that God had intervened in the Big Bang.

He wrote in A Brief History ... "If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God."

In his latest book, he said the 1992 discovery of a planet orbiting another star other than the Sun helped deconstruct the view of the father of physics Isaac Newton that the universe could not have arisen out of chaos but was created by God.

"That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions -- the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass, far less remarkable, and far less compelling evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings," he writes.

Hawking, who is only able to speak through a computer-generated voice synthesiser, has a neuro muscular dystrophy that has progressed over the years and left him almost completely paralysed.

He began suffering the disease in his early 20s but went on to establish himself as one of the world's leading scientific authorities, and has also made guest appearances in "Star Trek" and the cartoons "Futurama" and "The Simpsons".

Last year he announced he was stepping down as Cambridge University's Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position once held by Newton and one he had held since 1979.

"The Grand Design" is due to go on sale next week.

PAGASA forecasters lacked training - Angara

Lack of training among its forecasters is the biggest problem facing the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), officials told a Senate committee hearing on Thursday.
Manila Observatory Regional Climate Studies Project head Dr. Mariano Estoque said the one-year training that one has to undergo to become state weather forecasters is not enough.

"Forecasting is a very difficult subject. They (forecasters) need a lot of formal training and experience," Estoque told the Senate committee on science and technology.

PAGASA Administrator Dr. Graciano Yumul, Jr. said they hire engineering and science graduates who would be trained at PAGASA for one year before they become state forecasters.

Estoque noted that the US National Hurricane Center requires its forecasters to at least have a master's degree or even a doctoral degree in the field. 

Senator Edgardo Angara, the head of the committee, proposed to have the training for forecasters start from the undergraduate level. "Training, that's the biggest gap," he told reporters after the hearing. 

This was echoed by Estoque, who said the state weather forecasters' lack of training has been hampering PAGASA's operations.

In July, PAGASA received a mouthful from President Benigno Aquino III after it failed to predict that tropical cyclone Basyang would pass by Metro Manila. This resulted to the sacking of veteran forecaster Prisco Nilo as PAGASA administrator.

Estoque said if state forecasters had used the Doppler radar "intelligently," they could have seen that Basyang was heading toward Metro Manila. A Doppler radar is a specialized radar that makes use of the doppler effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance

"[If] the forecasters have enough knowledge, they should have examined the wind pressures in Infanta [Quezon]. Looking at those, they could have found out that the cyclone was going westward to Manila," Estoque said.

Nilo, who was also present during the hearing, defended their prediction, saying climate change has been affecting the behavior of weather disturbances, making them difficult to predict.

He, however, agreed that PAGASA forecasters need to be "exposed" to advanced forecasting techniques being utilized by other countries. He suggested that these forecasters undergo trainings funded by United States and Japan.

Equipment, facilities

Aside from training, Angara said that it is their priority to provide funding for the 10 additional buoys needed by PAGASA. He said these buoys would be positioned in key channels to monitor the height and speed of the ocean current. 

"That is important for navigation and predicting rains, for changes," he said.

Angara said the buoys would cost P32 million to P33 million, although they can be locally manufactured for only P3 million to P5 million. "We can manufacture and fabricate many of the equipment that we need in the Philippines," he said.

Angara, however, noted that the accuracy of forecasts would still depend on the skills of the forecasters. "We just want our government scientists to operate with modern equipment and get current, modern training," he said.

The senator said they are also looking into the possibility of building a basin to ease the flooding in Metro Manila. He said the project would need a funding of P200 million.

He also said that they are mulling the possibility of creating a non-partisan and career institution that will oversee the risk management, education, training, and modernization of PAGASA.

He said that it will be different from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), which was organized to cope with disasters that have already happened.

"The institution that we have discussed... is one that will look into the science of risk management, global trends," Angara said.

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