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

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September 8, 2010 Major News Stories

Dengue kills 2 kids

TWO more children died of dengue last Monday, the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) reported.

The three cities in Central Visayas with the most number of cases and deaths are Cebu City, with 1,282 cases and nine deaths; Tagbilaran City in Bohol Province, with 363 cases and three deaths; and Lapu-Lapu City, with 220 cases.

One of this week's fatalities is a five-year-old girl from Sitio Kitchen, Barangay Pajo in Lapu-Lapu. Doctors at VSMMC diagnosed her with dengue shock syndrome (DSS).

The rest of the cities or towns with the most dengue cases are Toledo City, Talisay City, Dumaguete City, Danao City, Naga City, Mandaue City and Sibulan town in Negros Oriental.


The other child who died this week of dengue in VSMMC is a one-year-old boy from Zone Tangkong, Barangay Paknaan in Mandaue City. He was diagnosed with DSS and dengue encephalitis.

Both children were admitted last Sunday, Sept. 5.

Nonoy Mongaya, VSMMC spokesman, said the hospital has a total of 96 patients suffering from various stages of dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Most of the patients at the tertiary hospital are children.

Of the 96 patients, 17 are zero to five years old, while 13 are between six and 10 years. Five patients are between 15 and 24 years.

Based on the latest data from the Regional Epidemiological and Surveillance Unit (RESU) of the DOH, a total of 5,571 cases were seen, examined or admitted at different disease reporting units from Jan. 1 to Sept. 4.

The figures are 28.3 percent higher compared to the same period last year, when 4,342 cases were reported.

Fewer deaths were noted this year, at 32, and the case fatality rate is 0.6 percent.

Last year, there were 61 deaths, or a case fatality rate of 1.4 percent. (The World Health Organization's recommendation is to try to keep that rate at under one percent.)

Majority of the patients are 6 to 10 years old, although at least one 89-year-old patient was reported.

The RESU 7 report stated the dengue cases in Central Visayas have "reached the epidemic threshold."

Epidemic threshold areas are zones nearing "epidemic" classification, which has at least 20 percent of the population affected.

Dengue hot spots are areas that have three or more cases a week.

In Mandaue City, two children died of dengue fever in August: a seven-year-old girl from Barangay Pagsabungan and a three-year-old boy from Paknaan. They, too, suffered from dengue shock syndrome.

Last night, the Mandaue City District hospital received two more dengue patients.

Paknaan Barangay Captain Oscar Mendoza said City Health personnel noted the presence of dengue carrying mosquitoes in the area where the fatality was reported, prompting them to urge residents to thoroughly clean the place and eliminate pools of stagnant water.

From January to June 2010, there were 57 dengue cases in Mandaue, higher than in the same period in 2009, which had 51 cases. About 200 cases were reported in the second half of 2009.

August was the first month when deaths caused by dengue fever were reported this year in Mandaue. Last year, there were already three deaths in the first six months.


In Lapu-Lapu, the city recorded 220 dengue fever as of yesterday, from only 173 as of Aug. 28. The city averaged four new dengue cases a day in the last 10 days.

But Mayor Paz Radaza is confident that with everybody's cooperation and City Hall's tight prevention and monitoring, they can suppress an outbreak.

The RESU report listed Lapu-Lapu as the third city with the highest number of dengue cases in the region this year. Last year, the city recorded 518 cases, with six deaths.

Cebu City

As the cases keep rising, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said yesterday dengue may not be eliminated despite the intensified campaign of the City Government.

He assured, though, the city will continue to be aggressive in its anti-dengue campaign.

The City Health Department has adopted additional tactics in its anti-dengue campaign.

These include the impregnation of curtains and mosquito nets, aside from the usual "pulong-pulong", mist spraying and "the four S" approach (search and destroy, self-protection, say no to fogging, social mobilization).

Rama reiterated his appeal to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas to help the City Government in its information drive.

The CHD has recorded 1,175 dengue cases from January to August this year compared to 1,009 cases in the same period last year.

In July and August last year, there were 189 and 410 dengue cases, respectively. This year's figures are higher: 243 in July and 494 in August.

However, CHD records also showed fewer deaths this year, at 11, compared to 18 deaths in the same timeframe last year.

Rama was scheduled to meet yesterday with local health authorities to check again what they need for their anti-dengue campaign. The City Government is set to buy this week P7 million worth of medicines and supplies for dengue patients.

Dengue in Labangon, Guadalupe: Alarming situation

The Department of Health has declared that dengue fever cases in two barangays of Cebu City have reached the alarming stage and ordered local government officials to take immediate action to prevent the spread of the disease.

DOH regional director Susana Madarieta yesterday said the number of dengue cases in barangays Labangon and Guadalupe are already considered alarming.

The health officials also declared seven other barangays - Apas, Lahug, Mabolo, Mambaling, Talamban, Punta Princesa and Tisa, as hotspots.

This category means that the dengue cases in these places have exceeded the average in the past five years, explained Madarieta.

Madarieta, however, failed to give the statistics of dengue cases of those barangays that she said the dengue problem is already in the alarming stage.

The epidemic status is declared when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected, said Madarieta.

The DOH regional director added that if the dengue virus will continue to spread rapidly and extensively by infection and affects many individuals in an area or a population at the same time, it is already called an epidemic outbreak.

"Kon modaghan pa g'yud ang mga kaso sa dengue sa Labangon ug Guadalupe nga molapas na sa atong threshold, mapugos na g'yud ta pagdeklarar nga dunay epidemic sa maong mga baranggay," she said.

The Cebu City Health department had announced that 11 persons died of dengue in different barangays of the city from January to September 4, but it is much lower compared to 23 deaths for the same period in 2009.

Speaking during the 888 News Forum at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel yesterday, Madarieta said the total number of dengue cases in Cebu City since January already reached 1,291 as compared to only 621 last year.

Cebu City treasurer Ofelia Oliva yesterday said the city had already started buying medicine intended to prevent the spread of dengue virus as requested by Dr. Myrna Go, head of the Cebu City MedicalCenter.

DOH Secretary Enrique Ona yesterday told local health authorities and the public not to let down their guard against dengue although he expects that the dengue cases will go down. 

Ona said the number of dengue cases nationwide from January to August 28 already reached 69,594 or 99% higher than last year's 34,997 for the same period.

There were 501 deaths recorded so far this year as compared to only 369 deaths last year.

The DOH Secretary has advised the public to go straight to the emergency room if they exhibit dengue warning signs, such as severe abdominal pain or persistent vomiting, red spots or patches on the skin and difficulty of breathing.

Dr. Noreen Chua of Chong Hua Hospital, who studied dengue cases, advised the public not to take it for granted even if their members of the family already shows improvement after getting high fever.

"Usahay ang dengue anha na mograbe sa ikatulo ngadto na sa ikaunom ka adlaw mao nga dili gihapon kita angay'ng mokompyansa," Chua said.

In Cebu City, the public are advised to approach the various healthcenters or at the Cebu City Medical Center to avail free medical services, including Complete Blood Count if they experience severe fever.

The DOH has already issued an order to all government hospitals to activate their dengue express lanes to facilitate patient admission for these severe dengue cases. 

The public, however, was advised to maximize the health centers for consultations before bringing their patient to the hospital in an effort to declog public hospitals of long queues in the dengue express lane.


Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama urged his constituents to clean their surroundings as a way to prevent the spread of dengue.

Rama said he will be asking the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) to allow the city government to use a free air time for a massive campaign on dengue.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has issued a memorandum calling all the local chief executives to support the DOH in its effort to contain the spread of the disease.

In a directive to all provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, and punong barangays, the DILG Secretary called for intensified information and education campaign on dengue fever and appropriate preventive and control measures.

Under the memorandum, the local executives should enforce environmental sanitation such as dredging of clogged canals, esteros and other waterways; pruning thick bushes or tree branches; and removal or draining of receptacles containing stagnant water.

DOH suspends seminars for dengue patients

Health Secretary Enrique Ona has ordered the temporary suspension of all out-of-town seminars and training among government doctors and local health workers to give more attention to patients suffering from the deadly dengue virus.

Dengue incidence slackens except in Metro Manila

Amid cramped hospitals and long waiting-time for dengue patients at health express lanes, the incidence of dengue hemorrhagic fever cases appears to have slackened during the last three weeks, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said Tuesday.

Ona disclosed at a news briefing that the Department of Health has observed a gradual downtrend of dengue cases, which peaked in the first week of August, in several regions. But the number of dengue cases in Metro Manilawas still slowly mounting, he added.

"The situation appears to be slowly receding according to our expectation... [and] the trend is very similar to what it was in the past [years]," Ona told reporters.

Citing the latest weekly monitoring, Ona admitted that the number of dengue cases across the country from January to August was already 99 percent higher compared to the same period last year.

From Aug. 22 to 28, the health agency monitored 7,091 new dengue cases, bringing the number of cases to 69,594 since January. But the increase was slightly lower than that monitored from Aug. 15 to 21, which was 7,844.

The total number of dengue-related deaths was 501, but fatality rate was still lower at .73 percent compared to the 1.1 percent in the same period last year.

Ona said that dengue cases this year were already gradually "leveling off" and were expected to go down further this month. When asked what caused the downturn, the Health secretary said, "It's the natural course of the disease."

"August was the peak... but we are still on our toes with regards to monitoring the continued effort of our local governments and health workers in preventing this disease," said Ona.

In Western Visayas, the number of dengue incidents went down from its highest, 1,670 incidents during the first seven days of August to 931 cases from Aug. 15 to 21. The health agency recorded 34 dengue cases from Aug. 22 to 28 in the region.

The DOH also monitored the same pattern in Soccsksargen: dengue cases dwindled from 319 incidents from Aug. 1 to 7 to 71 cases on its 33rd week (Aug. 15 to 21); and one case on the 34th week.

Dengue cases in Calabarzon also waned from a peak of 786 cases in the 31st week (Aug. 1 to 7) to 648 cases in the 33rd week; and at least 146 incidents from Aug. 22 to 28.

In earlier monitoring reports by the health department, most of the dengue cases were Western Visayas, Soccsksargen and Calabarzon.

A similar trend was also monitored in 11 other regions but dengue incidents gradually increased in Metro Manila by 16 percent, particularly in the cities of Marikina and Mandaluyong, said Ona.

Cases in the capital climbed from 450 cases in the 30th week (July 25 to 31) to 730 incidents in the 33rd week (Aug. 15 to 21).

Dr. Eric Tayag, head of the National Epidemiology Center, said the upward trend in Metro Manila was expected because the capital was densely populated. Health officials said the Aedes aegypti mosquito thrives in populated urban areas.

Ona also ordered on Tuesday the suspension of all out-of-town seminars and training among government doctors and local health workers to give more attention to patients suffering from the deadly dengue virus.

Ona said he decided to postpone in the training session for local health providers as hospitals grappled with thousands of dengue patients seeking medical help.

"I've directed all our DOH staff together with local health workers to temporarily suspend all out-of-town trainings to make sure that they fully attend to their work in helping our local governments [provide the needs of dengue patients]," he said.

58 students succumb to dengue, says DepEd

The Department of Education yesterday reported that some 58 students have died of the deadly disease since the surge of cases in July, just a month since the new school year opened.

Pag-IBIG assures members savings are safe

MANILA, Philippines - The Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund) on Tuesday assured its members that their savings are safe after the discovery of spurious loan transactions involving property firm Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp.

Pag-IBIG starts blacklist proceedings vs Globe Asiatique over housing loans

The Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund) is set to blacklist controversial real estate developer Globe Asiatique, according to the officer-in-charge of the state-run firm.

Aquino allies question conditional cash transfer project

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MANILA, Philippines - Two senators allied with President Benigno Aquino III questioned Tuesday the wisdom of allocating billions of pesos in government funds for a conditional cash transfer program for indigent families.

Sen. Ralph Recto said the government has yet to prove that the conditional cash grants were received by the intended beneficiaries. He said that despite receiving P10 billion for the project, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has yet to report on the progress of the program beneficiaries.

"I have not seen a single report on how many kids stayed in school, how many kids whose weights increased. How are you supposed to monitor this?" he said in a budget hearing.

Launched in 2008, the conditional cash transfer program gives conditional cash grants to indigent families who have  kids ages 14 years old and below. A P500 monthly cash grant is given for health and  nutrition expenses while P300 monthly cash grant is given per child for educational  expenses.

Only a maximum of 3 children per household are allowed to receive stipends, for a maximum total of P1,400 (about $30.76) a month for a household with at least 3 children. In return, beneficiaries are required to send their children to school, and the mothers must go for regular prenatal or postnatal care.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña said there should be a feedback mechanism that allows government to monitor the class attendance of the student-beneficiaries.

National Economic Development Authority Director-General Cayetano Paderanga said he will coordinate with the DSWD to better monitor the conditional cash transfer project.

An April 2010 study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies shows that conditional cash transfers in the Philippines has affected school attendance rate of 7% of  total number of poor households nationwide or 18% of total number of poor households in the target provinces in the country.

"On the other hand, the program could increase the school attendance of the poorest quintile from 85% to 89.6% once current levels are increased to 1 million households by the end of the year," the study said.

DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman earlier said the program has led to more consistency and less absenteeism for the children-beneficiaries who go to school.

She also said the children-beneficiaries have become healthier because of better food and the immunization they get from health centers.

Barangay officials willing to face investigation

Officials in Cebu City south district barangays are willing to face investigation to determine whether irregularities were committed in the implementation of infrastructure projects in their areas.

Yesterday morning, officials from barangays Sinsin, Tabunan, Sudlon I, Kalunasan, Pung-ol Sibugay, Sapangdaku, Bonbon and Sudlon II met with south district Councilor Margot Os-meña to discuss the alleged irregularities.

Former mayor and now south district Rep. Tomas Osmeña had asked the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to look into reports that some projects in south district are substandard and overpriced.

Officials from the DPWH's central office will be in Cebu next week to conduct the probe.

"We have to wait for the evaluation team to evaluate the project," Margot told the barangay officials as she advised them to cooperate with the investigation.

Margot said all south district projects funded by the city government will be investigated. These projects were started last year during the time of former mayor Osmeña.

In November 2009, the former mayor included in Supplemental Budget 7 over P200 million to fund for infrastructure projects that would be implemented by the barangays.

As a result, the former mayor was accused of electioneering by his political rivals because barangays in the south were the first to benefit from the program.

In March, Osmeña approved Supplemental Budget 3, which included some P340 million again for barangay infrastructure projects.

But this time, the north district barangays also benefited from thefunds.

The city government had insisted that the giving of aid directly to barangays would not delay the projects since the barangays are implementing them, not the city.

Projects implemented by the barangays do not undergo the bidding and procurement process, among other procedures, that need to be complied with.

That way, the implementation is quicker.

During yesterday's meeting, barangay officials are concerned how Osmeña felt about the issues.

"Tommy was disappointed," Margot said, emphasizing that if the barangay officials have nothing to hide, they should welcome the investigation.

Aside from Margot, all south district councilors were present in the meeting. 

Despite the controversy, Mayor Michael Rama assured that barangays will continue to get direct assistance from the city government.

Rama said the aid to barangays will be included in next year's budget, either under the Annual Budget for 2011 or the supplemental budgets.

Probe body visits scene of hostage tragedy

The Investigation Incident Review Committee (IIRC) conducted an ocular inspection of the Quirino Grandstand in Manila where a dismissed police officer seized a tourist bus that resulted in the death of eight of its passengers last August 23.

Hostage-taker saw brother's arrest—bus driver

(UPDATE) The driver of the hijacked tourist bus said Tuesday that hostage taker Rolando Mendoza started shooting the Hong Kong tourists after seeing on television his brother being arrested by policemen.

NBI, DOJ agents in HK talk to hostage victims

Nakuhanan na ng salaysay ng NBI at DOJ sa Hong Kong ang 2 Hong Kong tourists na nakaligtas sa Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis. Para sa NBI, malaking hakbang ito para sa pag-usad ng imbestigasyon. Ayon sa mga taga-NBI, naging maayos ang pakikitungo sa kanila ng mga awtoridad sa Hong Kong. Doon din gagawin ang ballistics test ng ilang balang nakuha sa crime scene na mula sa assault team.

Lim: Nobody abandoned the 'command post'

MANILA, Philippines - Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim said nobody left the "command post" during the most critical moments of the hostage crisis.

"Nobody abandoned the post. Naiwan doon ang number two man, which was Col. Alex Gutierrez, hostage negotiator Col. Orlando Yebra, the commander of the SWAT team, precinct commander, as well as the directors of the intelligence, operations, logistics and public affairs, to name a few," Lim said.

In a press release, he said some may have confused the Luneta Police Community Precinct (PCP) as the main "command post."

In fact, it was just the "advanced command post," he said.

The members of the local crisis committee are not even supposed to be at the advanced command post "kung ikaw eh nakakaintindi ng tamang police procedure," he said.

The advanced command post is specifically used by the police to manage their men on the ground.

Lim explained there are 3 layers during a crisis similar to the hostage incident last August 23. The crisis committee had already been formed earlier in the day at the Manila City Hall, he said.

The first layer is the Peace and Order Council (POC). Lim acted then as chairman of the POC.

Under the POC is the crisis management committee, with then Manila Police District Chief General Rodolfo Magtibay as vice-chairman.

The third layer, he said, is the critical incident management task group.

During the hostage fiasco, this was also headed by Magtibay. He had assistant directors from the operations, logistics and public affairs sub-groups.

He said the first and second layers are there to perform mere "staff functions," such as formulation of policies and guidelines.

The third layer is the one in charge of the negotiations, he said.

Compared to the Manila Police District where some government officials convened on August 23, he said he went to Emerald Restaurant that was nearer to the hostage site.

He did not clarify which place was used as the main command post.

He said he left the advanced command post on the belief that it will be a "waiting game." The plan then was to wear out the hostage-taker, he said.

He was also confident that Magtibay, by that time, was already able to contact National Capital Region Police Office chief Gen. Leocadio Santiago regarding an option to temporarily suspend the gunman's dismissal from service.

Negotiators earlier said this one last option could have been the key to pacify the hostage-taker. By then however, it was too late to present the resolution to the hostage-taker.

On statements that he ordered police to transfer the hostage-taker's brother to the MPD headquarters through a dark alley, he said: "Eh kaya ko nga dun sinabing idaan para hindi na putaktihin ng media."

The brother feared police would hurt or kill him. His eventual arrest eventually triggered the hostage-taker to open fire.

Lim lamented that a lot of "instant experts" have suddenly surfaced after the hostage incident.

Philippine media agree to crisis restrictions: gov't

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA - The Philippines said Tuesday the media has agreed to new restrictions on covering police operations -- including limits on live broadcasts -- after a hostage crisis in which eight Hong Kong tourists died.

These measures include the definition of a safety zone or an exclusion zone where media and the public would be kept out of during the crisis; the non-interference of media in the crisis such as acting as hostage negotiators; the possibility of restraining live coverage of troop movement; and the designation of a crisis spokesperson.

Senior aides of President Benigno Aquino have discussed the new measures in meetings with the industry association for broadcasters and a media watchdog, presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma said.

For their own safety, journalists will stay outside the range of automatic rifle fire, normally 800 metres (half a mile), in crises such as hostage-taking incidents, Coloma added.

"One of the points universally accepted is the definition of a safety zone that will ensure that the life and safety of media practitioners and other citizens witnessing the event will not be put at risk," he said.

The media pledged to refrain from interfering in police operations, while also agreeing to limit live coverage in certain cases, Coloma said.

Journalists were criticised for airing the bungled police assault live and interviewing the gunman on the radio shortly before he began shooting, denying negotiators telephone access to him.

"I think this has already been agreed upon in the past, (that) troop movement should not be monitored live as it will impair the operations that are being conducted," Coloma told reporters.

Coloma said in future a police or government spokesman would be put in place to talk to the media during crises.

Aquino has apologised and taken responsibility for the bloody end to the bus hijacking.

A public inquiry due to wind up on Wednesday has uncovered a litany of mistakes by police and other officials assigned to handle the hostage crisis.

Coloma said the government had pledged not to support any changes in the law which would curtail the freedom of the press, which is guaranteed by the Philippine constitution.

Osmeña says 'acting' secretaries bad practice

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III's Senate allies are divided over his decision to appoint Jesse Robredo and 2 other officials as acting Cabinet secretaries.

Aquino admits differences with Robredo

Aquino said he had differences with Robredo during the election campaign, which is why he appointed Robredo in an acting capacity. Robredo's name has not been submitted to the Commission on Appointments (CA) for confirmation.

Aquino said he had differences with Robredo during the election campaign, which is why he appointed Robredo in an acting capacity. Robredo's name has not been submitted to the Commission on Appointments (CA) for confirmation.

He told Malacañang reporters he first wants to make sure that he can get along with Robredo, which is why he is in an "evaluation period" as chief of the interior and local government.

"There are various reasons kung bakit acting. In the case of Jesse, we had some differences during the campaign as to style. We want to make sure we can really work with each other well. It does no good to get him through the whole process of the CA only at the end of the day to find out that there might be difficulties in our working style, among others, our core philosophy, so we did agree na acting na muna," Aquino said. 
"May evaluation period, siguro check ang working style, after two months sigurado na tayo, we still have certain things discussed," he added. "Dadalawang buwan pa lang kami nagkakasubukan kung talaga nga bang kaya naming mag-mesh."

With respect to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, a career official, Aquino said she was also appointed in an acting capacity since she initially had second thoughts about the accepting the post. The President said he may have to talk to her about staying on as appointed secretary.

"Si Secretary Baldoz was very hesitant to take the position. She would have preferred one of the agencies attached. I prevailed upon her and she has been performing so well so baka mawala yung agreement namin na ang papalit sa kanya e baka hindi na natin pilitin na sumama sa gobyerno," Aquino said. "Baka kausapin ko si Sec. Baldoz na tuloy tuloy na niya."

In the case of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje, Aquino said he named him acting secretary since there were 2 others he wanted as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

He said Paje is aware that he is just the acting secretary while he evaluates his performance for a year.

"We had two other people in mind who were not available in the DENR post so Sec. Paje is aware that one year is a significant amount of time, depending on performance, we might reevaluate the need to get somebody else," he said.

Paje is widely believed to be a seat warmer for defeated Liberal Party senatorial candidate Nereus Acosta, who has to sit out a one-year ban on appointment to a government post for candidates who lost.

According to a list obtained by ABS-CBN News from the CA on Monday, Malacañang is asking the 25-member bicameral body to confirm the ad interim appointments of 18 heads of line departments as required by the Constitution.

Missing from the list are Robredo, Paje, and Baldoz.

'No one is absolved'

Meanwhile, Aquino said that while he has taken responsibility for the hostage crisis, this does not mean his alter egos and other public officials will not be made to account for possible infractions.

"Walang absolved. Tinatapos natin ang imbestigasyon, parang proseso na rin yun para malaman kung ano ang ginawa ng isang tao sa insidenteng yan. Ano ba ang dapat ginampanan nya, ano ang ginawa niya. Tapos pagkatapos nun, ang nagkulang, dapat merong kaukulang mapapataw na penalty," Aquino said.

He said he assumed responsiblity for the incident since it is the president who appoints policemen.

"Yung sino ang nagtalaga dun sa pulis dun, maski papano, marami nag-rerekomenda sa chain of command, and dulo nun, ako pa rin siguro ang tatalaga kung san. In the case of chief of police, syempre the LGU also has a bearing. Ang punto nito, ang gusto ko lang i-emphasize, meron talagang dapat umako ng resdponsibilidad at meron dapat maging responsible sa pagsasaayos ng lahat ng kakulangan na nangyari," Aquino said. 

PNoy's ex-campaign volunteers launch 'Save Robredo' campaign

by by Inday Espina-Varona, Bayan Mo Ipatrol Mo
MANILA, Philippines - Seven hundred signatures in a day is hardly record-breaking stuff in an era of messages going viral within hours. Still, the Facebook supporters of Interior and Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo believe they can 1) persuade President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to submit the Ramon Magsaysay awardee's name to the Commission on Appointments (CA) and 2) pressure "trapos" into confirming the former mayor of Naga City.

Aquino to name next PNP chief on Sept. 14

President Benigno Aquino will announce his choice for the next chief of the Philippine National Police on Sept. 14, or the very same day that PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa steps down.

PNoy says Verzosa won't be DILG chief

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III dismissed rumors on Tuesday that outgoing Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Jesus Verzosa is being groomed as the next Secretary of the Interior and Local Government. 

Lagman tells SC: Truth body unconstitutional

MANILA, Philippines - House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to nullify Executive Order No. 1 creating the Truth Commission because it violates the principle of separation of powers and supersedes the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to hear and prosecute graft cases involving government officials.

Arroyo receives subpoena for NBN hearing at Sandigan

(UPDATE) Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has received the subpoena for her appearance at the Sandiganbayan hearing on the national broadband network agreement with China's ZTE Corp., but did not give a clear answer if she would attend.

Palace expects Arroyos to speak the truth on NBN-ZTE deal

Malacañang expects former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo to tell the truth about the alleged rigging of the National Broadband Network-ZTE deal when they appear as witnesses in the trial of former Social Security System President Romulo Neri.

Ombudsman unfazed as impeachment case is found sufficient in substance

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez said on Tuesday she was "unfazed" by the progress of the impeachment complaint against her.

Will Imelda Marcos be RP rep in UN summit?

Posibleng maging kinatawan ng Kongreso si Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imelda Marcos sa United Nations summit sa New York ngayong buwan. Pero ngayon pa lang, may mga umaalma na sa posibleng pagdalo ng dating first lady sa pulong na malamang ay puntahan din ni Pangulong Aquino.

Singson asks for time, cites medical treatment

HONG KONG - A Philippine lawmaker and music promoter accused of drug trafficking in Hong Kong told a court Tuesday he could not enter a plea to the charges because he was undergoing medical treatment.

Ronald Singson was charged after being arrested by customs at Hong Kong's international airport in July for allegedly carrying a vial of cocaine weighing about 26 grams (0.9 ounces) in his hand luggage.

His lawyer, John Reading, asked the district court to adjourn the case because Singson was "undertaking medical treatment" and unable to enter a plea until he receives his medical report.

Judge Kevin Browne adjourned the case to October 19 and extended his bail. Singson has paid one million Hong Kong dollars (128,000 US dollars) bail, and two friends paid another one million dollars as surety.

Singson told reporters outside court he was under instructions not to comment on his medical condition, and kissed his baby daughter in front of a crowd of photographers.

The 41-year-old has a Manila film star girlfriend and juggles two jobs promoting US rhythm and blues acts in the southeast Asian country while holding a parliamentary seat.

He won a second three-year term in the House of Representatives in May, in the seat long held by his family in the northern province of Ilocos Sur.

The legislator is one of seven children by an estranged wife of Ilocos Sur governor and political kingpin Luis "Chavit" Singson, one of the most colourful and controversial political figures in the Philippines.

The 69 year-old patriarch was in Hong Kong last month to attend his son's bail hearing, when he denied his son was a drug dealer. "It's a set-up," he told reporters.

Also present then was Singson's girlfriend Lovi Poe, daughter of the late king of Philippine movies and unsuccessful presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr.

Flavier, anti-smoke groups file case to push graphic warnings on cigarette packs

Over a hundred petitioners led by former senator and health secretary, Dr. Juan Flavier, sought on Tuesday a declaratory relief from the Makati Regional Trial Court over an administrative order (AO) which required tobacco manufacturers to put graphic warnings on the harmful effects of tobacco products on cigarette pack.

4 NPA members killed in Masbate clash

Four alleged members of the New People's Army were reportedly killed while three firearms were recovered after an encounter in Masbate Tuesday afternoon, a military spokesman said.

OFW group demands promised audit of OWWA funds

Whatever happened to President Aquino's promise to audit the funds of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration?

Breastfeeding rate in RP at 34% for past 5 years—Unicef

For the past five years, only 34 percent of Filipino mother exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months, Unicef country representative Vanessa Toobin said.

Senate urges speedy reorganization of GOCCs

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate said the government needs to start evaluating the performance of government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) to speed up their reorganization, including the possible abolition of some of these offices.
These are the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Local Water Utilities Administration, Light Rail Transit Authority, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), National Development Corp., National Electrification Administration, National Food Authority, National Housing Authority, National Irrigation Administration, National Power Corp., Philippine National Oil Co., Philippine National Railways, Philippine Ports Authority and the Home Guarantee Corp.

Senate to probe P1.4-B intel fund under 2011 budget

The Senate will scrutinize where the P1.425-billion allotment for intelligence funds under the proposed 2011 national budget will actually go, Sen. Franklin Drilon said Tuesday.
The proposed intelligence fund for 2011 is 3.26 percent higher than the P1.38 billion allotted for the same purpose this year.

"We want an entire picture of how much would be intelligence funds of the entire government structure because we suspect that this again (is) being abused," said Drilon after the initial hearing on the proposed 2011 budget. 

The senator said that they plan to "disaggregate" many of these intelligence funds, which are not really used for intelligence purposes, and to reclassify such expenditures in accordance with what the auditing code allows.

"We might as well be transparent," he said. "We will ask them, where do you use this? For what agencies? And if the use is valid, then we convert it."

Earlier, Drilon revealed that the state firm Clark Development Authority's (CDC) liquidated it P10-million intelligence fund using only certificates of expenditure. 

"He (CDC chief executive officer Benigno Ricafort) spent it without any indication as to how he spent it and whether or not really it is a proper item for the use of intelligence funds, so all of these we will look into," he said.

Drilon, however, noted that the P1.425-billion allocation under next year's proposed budget does not include intelligence funds of local government units and government-owned and -controlled corporations.

Govt corporations owe natl coffers P3.2 billion

Government-owned and -controlled corporations gave their executives excessive pay and bonuses despite owing the national government over P3.2 billion in unpaid remittances, Senator Franklin Drilon said Tuesday.

Recto: Debt service item in 2011 budget 'inflated' by P7.7B

The P357-billion allotment for interest payments under the proposed 2011 national budget may have been inflated by as much as P7.7 billion, Sen. Ralph Recto said Tuesday.

India PM warns China wants foothold in South Asia

by by Alistair Scrutton, Reuters
NEW DELHI, India - China is seeking to expand its influence in South Asia at India's expense, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned in rare public criticism of his country's main rival for regional resources and geopolitical clout.

Myanmar poll encounters apathy, ignorance

THABEIKKYIN, Myanmar - The first election in 20 years is only weeks away, but for many people in isolated Myanmar, a chronic lack of information -- and meaningful choice -- has dulled enthusiasm for the vote.

Indonesian volcano unleashes violent eruption

KABANJAHE – An Indonesian volcano that returned to life after four centuries of inactivity threw an ash cloud thousands of metres into the air Tuesday in its most violent eruption yet.

Pacquiao tops Floyd Jr on boxing's influential list

For the third time, Manny Pacquiao defeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. outside the ring after the Filipino boxing icon achieved a higher ranking in Yahoo! Sports' boxing's 100 most influential people. The Pinoy pug was ahead in ranking over the fast-talking American fighter.

JMM: Pacquiao's speed an advantage over Margarito

MANILA, Philippines – Mexican great and Manny Pacquiao nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez has picked the Filipino superstar to win over compatriot "Tijuana Tornado" Antonio Margarito on the November 13 super welterweight title clash.

RP boxing team nabs 5 golds in US tilt

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine amateur boxing team won 5 gold medals in the annual Blue & Gold amateur boxing tournament held in California, USA.

The Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines' (ABAP) 7-man boxing squad could have won 6 gold medals, but 2 of their boxers were pitted against each other in the finals.

Among those who participated in the competition were Shane Mosley Jr., son of former welterweight champion "Sugar" Shane Mosley, and several amateur boxers fighting under Oscar de la Hoya.

The Philippine team was in a training stint in the US for their Asian Games preparations.

The boxers tested their mettle at the Blue & Gold boxing tournament, where world champion Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire and elder brother Glenn Donaire started out as amateurs.

The Philippine team is composed of featherweight Charly Suarez, light flyweight Victorio Saludar, flyweights Rey Saludar and Gerson Nietes, light welterweight Delfin Boholst, bantamweight Reckly Dulay, and female boxer Josie Gabuco.

Reyes, Bustamante avenge 2007 loss to Thai pair at World Cup of Pool

After bucking opening match jitters unusual for players of their caliber, the charismatic Philippines A team of Efren "Bata" Reyes and Django Bustamante steamrolled its way, Tuesday night, past Thailand, 8-3, to advance to the second round of the World Cup of Pool at the Robinson's Mall in Ermita.

Venus Raj: You can't judge a person by 1 Q&A

by By Karen Flores,
MANILA, Philippines - Before she became known worldwide as the Miss Universe fourth runner-up who gave a "major major" answer, Maria Venus Raj got to try her hand at judging beauty pageants. She believes that to win in contests such as these, one does not need to be the most beautiful. Rather, she said all it takes is enough charm and confidence to make a candidate stand out from the rest.

Pinay in 'Camp Rock' gets praises from co-stars

NEW YORK – The granddaughter of Filipino singer Sylvia La Torre has earned admirations of her co-stars in the sequel to the hit cable movie Camp Rock.

Ana Marie Perez De Tagle plays "Ella," a memorable ditsy girl in Camp Rock 2 The Final Jam.

The Jonas Brothers, De Tagle's co-star in Camp Rock 2, described her as inching her way to stardom.

Angelina Jolie in Pakistan to meet flood victims

ISLAMABAD – Hollywood star Angelina Jolie Tuesday visited Pakistan to draw world attention towards the plight of 21 million people affected by the country's worst-ever floods, the UN refugee agency said.

Beatles-inspired bands from world over feeling fab in US

WASHINGTON – The resemblance was striking: four young men in suits and skinny black ties, all sporting an early-Beatles bowl haircut, with the same guitars, and of course, the songs that still make crowds go wild.

Except for one difference: instead of John, Paul, George and Ringo, this Fab Four featured Diego, Juan Carlos, Francisco and Heriberto.

And it wasn't Liverpool's Cavern Club. This was a festival for Beatles-inspired music lovers on the banks of the Potomac River outside Washington. And these crowd-pleasers were not British but Puerto Rican.

"The Jukebox," a cover band steeped in the magic of the Beatles, was among some 50 groups who took turns making fans scream and shout at the Abbey Road on the River festival this Labor Day holiday weekend.

The event, billed as the "the world's largest Beatles-inspired music festival," drew groups from around the globe like Germany's "Lucy in the Sky" and "The Norwegian Beatles," who boast being "probably the northernmost Beatles tribute band in the world."

Half a century after they first stepped up to the mic, the Beatles continue to inspire new generations of followers.

But apart from the music that brings them together, tribute bands use a broad variety of formats. There is everything from Jimmy Pou, a one-man orchestra specializing in George Harrison's repertoire, to the "Newbees," a big band with violinists, cellists and a solo singer.

Not all of them dress like the cuddly mop tops or limit themselves to music from their favorite Liverpool band.

Up close, the four Puerto Rican "Beatles," who are nearing their forties, may lack the youth of their heroes at the height of Beatlemania, even though they were not even born when the legendary band finally split.

But they still manage to wow their audiences with their perfect English, playing hit after hit before a greying crowd that delights in the nostalgia.

"We try to look like them, but we don't pretend to be them," said Francisco Cairol, Jukebox's solo guitarist who plays the role of George Harrison on stage.

The group hopes to simply share a good time with their audience.

"People are happy and dancing, that's the greatest feeling ever," he told AFP.

The 38-year-old said he and his colleagues make a living by imitating their idols, playing in several countries, including at the legendary Cavern Club and even opening a Paul McCartneyconcert in Puerto Rico in April.

Nine years ago, the four Puerto Rican musicians set aside their repertoire of Latino hits to head into a whole new direction.

Jukebox has now played some 60 Beatles songs. The group changes costumes based on the Beatles period chosen for any given concert.

"We let our beard grow a bit when we play later songs," explained the would-be Harrison.

At the festival in National Harbor, Maryland, fans found everything to quench their nostalgia, with stands selling stage costumes -- including the grey suits from "A Hard Day's Night" for $370 -- or a replica of the bass drum used for "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," for $275.

David, a T-shirt vendor, was not worried his business would dry up any time soon, even in these hard economic times.

"The music will last forever and the products will last forever," he said.

Abbey Road on the River has attracted some 30,000 spectators each year since 2002. The tribute festival was first held in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 2005. This year marked its Washington debut.

Chinese woman sues cinema over excessive advertisements

BEIJING - A Chinese woman is suing a cinema and the distributors of domestic box-office hit "Aftershock" for wasting her time by showing 20 minutes of commercials before the movie, state media said Tuesday.

Men have more 'senior moments' of memory loss than women

Lost the car keys? Forgot someone's name? Many elderly people suffer slight cognitive problems but men are more likely than women to suffer momentary memory lapse or senior moments, according to a US study.

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