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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 11, 2010 Major News Stories

After night of heavy rain: Tunnel swallows portion of house

by By Niña G. Sumacot

You've probably seen it in the movies when a portion of a house suddenly collapses and is sucked by the ground.

Yesterday, a portion of a two-storey house in sitio Maracas, Nivel Hills, Lahug, this city collapsed when a tunnel used during World War II caved in after heavy rain the other night.

Emma Auditor, 46, owns the house that was damaged by the "sink hole" and it is located very near to another portion of the old tunnel that caved in last June.

Her 13-year-old son was at the kitchen when their comfort room and dining room collapsed.

Auditor said that she asked her son to go to the kitchen to get some ingredients that she needed as she was cooking food at a neighbor's house.

She said that she was startled when she heard a loud noise coming from her house.

When she rushed outside, she saw her son, who was still shocked at the horror of seeing a part of their house collapse. Luckily, the boy was somewhere that did not cave in.

Auditor told The FREEMAN that shortly before the incident, her son told her that the parts of the concrete wall of their kitchen were falling.

She said that she told her son not to worry and just let it be.

She said that her husband, who works as security guard, was not around when a part of their house collapsed.

The incident, actually, did not surprise Auditor.

She said that there was a crack at her house and the portion that collapsed was the one that was separated by the crack.

She theorized that the heavy rain the other night must have loosened the soil.

"Naa na man na'y liki nang sawog sa kusina, wall to wall jud na. Nya kadtong kusina ug CR na giseparate sa liki mao'y nagcollapse," she said.

Personnel of the Special Reaction Unit of the Bureau of Fire Protection-7 have cordoned the area to prevent people from falling into the hole.

The tunnel was reportedly used by the Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Last June, the house owned by Susan Regidor, sagged after a portion of the tunnel collapsed.

The city and barangay officials, according to Auditor, had already advised them to vacate the area after last June's incident, but they did not heed it as they have nowhere to go.

"Giingnan na bitaw mi sauna pero asa man sad lagi mi paingon," she said. Their family has lived in that house since 1986.

Other residents of the place share the same sentiment.

The MGB-7 said that this tunnel leads to a cave that is estimated to be ten meters deep.

The residents, however, said that it could even be wider as their elders used to tell tales about trucks going into the cave.

Aside from the cave ins, the residents of the area are also worried about the bombs that have been left there after the Japanese surrendered back in 1945.

Some of the bombs are still unearthed from time to time.

1 dead, thousands affected in Mindoro floods

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - One person drowned while thousands of people have been affected by floods that have swamped a rain-soaked island in the central Philippines, police said Saturday. 

Maritime court to hear cases, patrol seas of illegal activities

by By Gregg M. Rubio/JMO

Cases on violations of environmental laws may soon be heard at sea when the Supreme Court implements the so-called "Seaborne Environmental Justice" project, the offshore equivalent to the "Justice on Wheels."

Power outages threaten Philippine economy - business group

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines' biggest business group on Sunday warned of more crippling power outages unless plants were upgraded and more investment in the sector was allowed to go ahead.

Coal plant at SRP?

IN A week marked by the return of rotational brownouts, a Cebu City congressman said investors are proposing to set up a coal-fired power plant at the South Road Properties (SRP).

Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) said investors, whom he declined to identify, have proposed a plant with a minimum capacity of 50 megawatts.

"I still have to look at the proposal but we should consider that we lack power which is not good for the economy," he said. Another thing that will be considered is the plant's impact on the SRP's marketability.

The congressman is set to leave for Taipei, Taiwan tomorrow to visit the prospective investor's coal-fired power plant, which is built beside a mall and in the middle of industrial and commercial centers.


Environmentalists have been opposing the establishment of a coal-fired power plant in Cebu, saying it will further damage the environment. They proposed, instead, for the government to push for the efficient use of energy or develop renewable energy.

But the energy department admits coal will continue to be a major source of power in the country, adding that clean coal technologies will keep the environmental impact minimal.

Power supply in the Visayas fell short by 93 megawatts of the peak demand yesterday, even if most businesses were closed.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said official figures from the energy department showed that total power demand is growing by 4.9 percent annually in Luzon.

Demand in the Visayas and Mindanao is growing at 4.6 percent annually.

The country faces a "critical power shortfall of 600 mw until 2013" with no new power plants expected to go online until then, the PCCI said.

It said that in the Visayas, peak demand had reached 1,298 mw, whereas dependable capacity was only at 971 megawatts, leading to a deficit. Mindanao is in the same situation.

"There are big players willing to invest in power generation plants but they are not assured of viable buyers and decent returns," chamber president Francis Chua said.


He said government should identify alternatives and contingency measures, including a review of regulatory powers to allow more firms to come into the sector.

In Cebu, a non-government organization leader yesterday said independent power producers and power firms operating government power plants are violating energy output contracts by producing less than what the law mandates.

Vince Cinches, executive director of the Fisherfolks Development Center (Fidec), said that Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia should look into that, instead of "playing the blame game."

Cinches filed a petition last August before the Mandaue City Regional Trial Court, asking for an ex-parte environmental protection order on operators of coal-fired power plants to stop them from transporting any coal ash outside their premises.

He was joined in that petition by Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos of the Philippine Earth
Justice Center Inc. and Estrella Catarata of the Farmers Development Center, together with lawyers Benjamin Cabrido Jr. and Dante Ramos.

"The blame game is a smokescreen for the Province, under her leadership, lacking a sustainable and comprehensive energy road map, or perhaps to make us forget Balili-gate," Cinches said.


Not in Cebu, said Capitol consultant Rory Jon Sepulveda on Cinches' statement that independent power producers (IPPs) are violating energy output contracts.

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," said Sepulveda. He explained the Toledo Power Company and the Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) have undergone "very stringent processes" to put up plants in Cebu.

If there were any violations, these may have been from IPPs or power firms in Luzon, he added.

If environmentalists have alternative modes of producing additional power in Cebu, the Cebu Provincial Government will not oppose that, said Sepulveda, who is a consultant on information and revenue generation.

Sepulveda said that the governor is simply selling Cebu as a viable destination for power players, who may use coal, nuclear or renewable sources, as long as these are feasible.

It is the Department of Energy that approves the applications.

The governor wants embedded power supply in the province so that it will not have to depend on power supply from outside, given the increase in power demand, he said.


In a separate interview, Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu Province, 4th district) said he was one of those who proposed the suspension of the budget hearings because countryside electrification is not included.

"The people in the rural areas who also paid taxes to the government are paying for the electricity of those living in Metro Manila. That's unfair to those who have no electricity connections until the present," Salimbangon said.

The congressman, who used to manage the Cebu Electric Cooperative II, said he saw the improvement of the living conditions of families in remote areas, as soon as these were energized.

At least 111 members of Congress from the Visayas and Mindanao have agreed to push for the inclusion of P2 billion for rural electrification in the proposed 2011 national budget.

In a press conference the other day, Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas (Cebu Province, 1st district) said that of the 42,000 barangays in the country, about 12,600 have not been energized yet under the rural electrification program of the National Electrification Administration.

"There must be an equitable distribution of projects throughout the country by the present administration. For me, it is not good to focus only on Metro Manila. I do not see any justification to ignore the rural areas," Salimbangon said.

He said he is confident rural electrification will be given a big budget for 2011, because that is the understanding and commitment of the House leadership in continuing the budget hearings.

Mindanao power rates to go down

Power rates in Mindanao are expected to sharply go down following the order of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to the Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. (TMI) to refund consumers for over-recovery in capital cost.

10-10-10 a lucky day? Candidates flood poll office

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Cebu City was swarmed by candidates who wanted to file their certificates of candidacy (COC) yesterday, believing that yesterday's 10-10-10 was a "lucky day."

The Cebu City North District received more than 140 certificates of candidacy, compared to their usual five to 15 candidates a day since the schedule of filing of COCs started.

"We already expected that many applicants will file today because of 10-10-10, the other applicants synchronized their filing of their certificates of candidacy at 10:00 a.m. because they said it's lucky," said Attorney Marchel Sarno, Cebu City North District Election Officer.

Sarno, however, said the filing of the COCs was orderly despite the crowd.

Meanwhile at the Cebu City South District, there were more than 200 who filed their COCs.

The deadline of filing of COCs for the October 25- barangay and youth elections is midnight of October 13, 2010.

Lawyer Edwin Cadungog, Cebu City South District Election Officer, said that they are ready for the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections and they are on the process of preparing the ballot boxes to be used during elections.

Cadungog said that they are now sorting the schedule of seminars for those who will serve as Board of Election Inspector (BEI).

"Maybe third week of this month we will have the seminar for the BEI. We are just waiting for the mandate from the COMELEC-Manila when to start to conduct seminars," Cadungog said.

Security forces mobilized for village polls

PRESIDENT BENIGNO C. Aquino III has ordered the mobilization of law enforcement agencies for the successful conduct of barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections on Oct. 25.

Barangay candidates told to forge peace pact, not to overspend

by By Mayen Jaymalin

Candidates in the coming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections were urged today not to overspend in their campaign and to forge a peace covenant even with their fiercest rivals.

Go reaffirms drive to end LTFRB anomalies

by By Rene U. Borromeo/JMO

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)-7 Regional Director Benjamin Go yesterday assured he is serious of his statement to cancel the franchises of vehicles, acquired through falsification.

Benhur denies set-up allegation

by By Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon/JMO

Fourth District Rep. Benhur Salimbangon strongly denied he had set up radio blocktimer Apolinario "Jun" Arigo, Jr. so the radio blocktimer could be placed under arrest last Friday evening.

Replica galleon to visit Cebu

A replica of the galleon Andalucia will arrive in Cebu on Wednesday, Oct. 13 for the Dia del Galleon (Day of the Galleon) festival visits to Cebu.

The Viaje Del Galleon is one of the activities of the Dia del Galleon which aims to remind us the significance of the galleon and its contributions to the world.

According to Fr. Harold Rentoria, OSA, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts commissioner, the visit aims to educate the young people about what happened in the past so "they can learn from it, and also to bring back the con sciousness of the people that the Galleon is part of Cebu City's history."

"The significance of celebrating the Dia del Galleon is helping to know ourselves, as who we are as a people, and learn from our history. It will also change our perception to the Spaniards that they are not only our colonists but also they brought good things to the Philippines," added Dr. Jocelyn Gerra, executive director of the Culture and Heritage Unit of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc.

The celebration of the 1st Dia del Galleon Festival in the Philippines is organized by the Baler 400 Steering Committee and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The galleon will only stay for four days and can only allow 25 visitors aboard at a time.

Visits will feature lectures and activities about the importance and contributions of the galleon on the spiritual, cultural and economic developments of the different islands in the Philippines.

A few of the other activities of the Dia Del Galleon include a nationwide compositions contest, an essay writing contest and declamations in Spanish.

Around 300 delegates from the NCCA toured around Cebu yesterday.

Rentoria said that the delegates of the event will become facilitators next year. He also said this will not be the replica's last visit to the country as they are planning to have a heritage pilgrimage in support of this event.

Man charged for pouring water on sleeping tot

by By Mylen P. Manto/WAB

A man is now facing a criminal complaint of slight physical injuries for pouring a pail of water on a sleeping one-year-old child in Sitio Kalubihan, Upper Calajoan, Minglanilla last week.

Alioser Orjaleza, 44, a resident of the place, was charged before the Regional Trial Court after it was established that he had an "intention to inflict physical harm and violence against the child."

Mary Anne Cartalaba, 21, said in her affidavit that on October 4, at around 4 p.m., she brought her son at the nearby shanty to rest on a bamboo bench.

Cartalaba said she cuddled the child until he falls asleep and placed him on the bench. However, moments later, Orjaleza, who was allegedly intoxicated, arrived and told the complainant to leave but she allegedly did not heed the accused as her son was sleeping.

This allegedly irked the accused who warned Cartalaba to leave the place or he will get a pail of water and douse it at her, which she ignored.

But she was later surprised when the accused came back later and made true of his earlier threat.

"I was shocked when Orjaleza splash a pail of water to my son who's still asleep and I was terrified as the mother when my son holds his breath and he was almost drowned because the water entered into his mouth and nose," Cartalaba said.

After the incident, the complainant said she immediately held her son and sucked the water from his nose to save him from danger. She added that after the incident, her son became sick and is always crying.

Cartalaba reported the incident to the Mingllanilla Police Station to ask for assistance.

SPO1 Florante Capangpangan, who responded to the place, confirmed through some bystanders the statement of Cartalaba.

Capangpangan and his colleagues then proceeded to the house of Orjaleza and arrested him.

Meanwhile, Cartalaba has filed a complaint of child abuse against Orjaleza but Maria Luisa Ong, inquest officer, dismissed the child abuse case and instead elevated to court the slight physical injuries case against the accused.

"Medical reports revealed that there was no evidence of significant injury on the child in relation to the incident. Thus, there is no basis to find any psychological abuse support the charge of child abuse under RA 7610," Ong explained.

Council asks for pay raise for barangay health crew

THE Cebu City Council wants Congress to pass the bill granting an increase in the salary of barangay health workers (BHW) as well as compulsory health insurance coverage.

The council expressed its "strong" support for the passage of Senate Bills 1384 and 1340, both drafted by Sen. Loren Legarda.

Senate Bill 1384 seeks to increase the BHWs' salary and benefits by placing them under salary grade 10, which corresponds to P14,000 a month and a mandatory Christmas bonus.

Senate Bill 1340, on the other hand, seeks to provide compulsory coverage for BHWs under the National Health Insurance Program. This will entitle the workers to personal health services, including emergency and transfer services, hospital care, and other supplementary health benefits.

In his resolution, Councilor Edgardo Labella said there is a need to increase the BHWs' salary as they currently receive only P1,000. That's more than P5,000 below the minimum wage in Metro Cebu.

Labella, who chairs the council's committee on laws, said the increase and the health insurance are needed by the BHWs because they are "extremely vulnerable to health risks, as they are exposed to diseases they confront every day."

"With the role and presence of these health workers becoming more vital now than ever, especially with the dengue outbreak, the need for increasing their financial help and
insurance coverage has well become more imperative and significant," said Labella.

"The barangay health workers are the government's frontliners in the entire chain of health care delivery," he added.

Labella cited provisions of the Local Government Code that mandate the government to uphold adequate and efficient delivery of health services and to promote labor, particularly in the area of health care, as a vital force in maintaining the government's health care system.

DSWD services strained by 'overpopulation '--Soliman

If there is one government agency that is feeling the impact of overpopulation, it is the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Sec. Dinky Soliman said.

"We are the ones who are feeling the consequences of unplanned pregnancy, like babies being born and abandoned by their parents. We are the ones who are feeding children who cannot be fed properly. We are the ones who are taking care of minors... who have to be rehabilitated after committing crimes…We are the ones who are looking after victims of trafficking," Soliman said.

She said educating parents on family planning would be one of the ways of decreasing the number of street children, who have made begging a livelihood for their families.

"We are being unfair to our children if we could not feed them well. We are being unfair to them if we cannot provide for their basic needs and if we cannot raise them decently," Soliman said.

She said President Aquino has always been committed to implement poverty reduction programs to ease the lives of majority of Filipinos. Among the government's targets are reducing the dropout rate in schools and improvinghealth care and other related programs to ensure that the number of women dying of childbirth is lessened.

A report from the United Nations Population Fund shows that at least 4,600 women die while giving birth yearly.

Aurora Quiray, Cordillera director of the Commission on Population, said lack of attention given to the health of pregnant mothers has been one of the reasons for the country's high maternal mortality rate.

"If you allow family planning among couples, maternal mortality rate would decrease by 30 percent. Natural family planning would also be given more weight in the reproductive health bill," Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation (PLCPD), said in a recent press forum here.

San Pascual said the RH bill "is not about abortion."

Former Health Undersecretary Ethelyn Nieto, a UNFPA consultant, said no mother would resort to abortion if information about family planning was accessible.

"This is all about informed choice for mothers. We are giving them information on how to go about planning a family," she said.

Solons deny inflating pork barrel

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers denied they were able to wring from Malacanang a P50-million increase in their so-called pork barrel.

House urged to probe fraternity-related violence

MANILA, Philippines - Amid the unabated number of incidents supposedly caused by fraternity-related violence, a lawmaker is urging his colleagues to initiate an investigation.

Aquino to meet with Robredo, Puno to thresh out differences

President Aquino has summoned Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and his undersecretary Rico E. Puno to thresh out what appears to be a feud between them.

Sumilao farmers finally get own land

by By Maricel Butardo, ABS-CBN News Northern Mindanao
BUKIDNON, Philippines – Sumilao folk can start cultivating their own farmlands after the government distributed 144 hectares of land to the farmers Sunday.

Luisita farmers give Pnoy failing mark

MANILA, Philippines - While some may have been forgiving of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on his first 100 days in office, a number of Hacienda Luisita farmers are not.

Public access to Presidential records sought

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has filed a bill that seeks to open Presidential records to the public. 

3 RP firms stay on World Bank blacklist

by By Jojo Malig,
MANILA, Philippines - Three Philippine construction companies and the owner of one firm have remained on the World Bank's blacklist for alleged fraud and corruption.

C.M. Pancho Construction Inc., Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp., and E.C. De Luna Construction Corp. were accused by the institution's anti-fraud watchdog in January last year of forming a cartel to secure a major WB-financed roads project in the Philippines.

The trio, including E.C. De Luna owner Eduardo de Luna, were found to have violated the WB's Procurement Guidelines 1.15(a)(ii) pertaining to fraud in connection with the bank-funded National  Roads Improvement and Management Program 1.

"'Fraudulent practice' means a misrepresentation of facts in order to influence a procurement process or the execution of a contract to the detriment of the Borrower, and includes collusive practices among bidders... designed to establish bid prices at artificial, non-competitive levels and to deprive the Borrower of the benefits of free and open competition," according to the WB.

The bank indefinitely blacklisted E.C. de Luna and its owner, the first permanent debarments since 2004.

C.M. Pancho and Cavite Ideal, meanwhile, were debarred for 4 years each. They are banned from taking part in WB-funded projects until January 12, 2013.

"The debarment can be reduced or terminated after two years if that firm puts in place a compliance program satisfactory to the World Bank," the international lender said in a press statement.

"Misuse of public money is a problem for everyone. It deprives the poorest people of the development funds that are so vitally needed and it undermines public confidence in public and private institutions," said James Adams, World Bank vice-president for East Asia.

"This case shows our processes working as they should:  we detected the possibility of collusion early, we took action to investigate, we worked with the Government of the Philippines to strengthen anti-corruption controls in the next phase of the project and after an extensive and fair process, we have sanctioned the parties involved."

The debarment, however, has not prevented C.M. Pancho and Cavite Ideal from joining the bidding for other infrastructure projects.

The two companies have tendered bids for a P706-million Plaridel Bypass Road project in Bulacan that is being co-financed by the Japanese government, according to the Manila Standard.

Bank cleans house

The WB has debarred 406 firms, individuals, and non-governmental organizations since since 1999.

"The firms and individuals... are ineligible to be awarded a World Bank-financed contract for the periods indicated because they were found to have violated the fraud and corruption provisions of the Procurement Guidelines or the Consultants Guidelines. These findings were made through an administrative process that permitted the accused firms and individuals to respond to the allegations," the international lender states in its website.

Aside from placing 45 more erring companies and individuals on its blacklist this year, the bank referred 32 cases to governments and anticorruption agencies for follow-up action.

It also signed a cross-debarment agreement with other similar instutitions such as the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

"The results of the last two years speak volumes about the World Bank Group's commitment to ensuring that project funds reach their intended beneficiaries.  I anticipate that the next two years will even be more challenging and rewarding," said Leonard McCarthy, the bank's Integrity vice-president.

The bank anti-corruption watchdog's Preventive Services Unit (PSU) had been focusing on finding ways to foresee problems involving high-risk projects worldwide.

The PSU reviewed risks in two particularly vulnerable sectors: the road sector and community-development projects.

It also trained 1,200 people within and outside the financial institution on prevention and integrity risk mitigation measures.

The PSU and the WB's other units have developed new advisory tools to safeguard funds intended for development programs. The tools include a handbook on fraud and corruption risks and a red-flags manual.

"As we further ramp up our operations, we must continue to assure donors and client governments that we are responsible stewards of scarce development funds," said World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick. "Working with governments, the private sector, and other international institutions, our governance and anti-corruption efforts can also help restore the public's trust in financial institutions and markets." 

Morato blasts PCSO chief over transfer to PICC

Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chair Margarita Juico has been accused by a former official of "resorting to squid tactics and twisting the facts" in defending the agency's decision to move its present headquarters in the Quezon Institute compound in Quezon City to the PICC complex in Pasay City.

MILF rebels hunt down woman's kidnappers

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - Muslim separatist rebels due to resume peace talks with the Philippine government said on Sunday they had launched a manhunt for a group of armed men who seized an elderly woman in the south. 

SC junks bid to declare Human Security Act unconstitutional

The Supreme Court, voting 14-0, dismissed the petitions seeking to declare as unconstitutional Republic Act 9372, otherwise known as the Human Security Act of 2007.

Ampatuan driver arrested in Pasay

by By Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Philippine police on Sunday arrested one of about 120 suspects still at large for the country's worst political massacre, which left 57 dead including 32 journalists.

Moactar Daud did not resist arrest by Pasay police and members of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines while he was watching an illegal motorcycle race at the Macapagal Avenue, Pasay City early Sunday.

Gunman names Davao Sur governor, mayor as brains in journalists' killing

The main suspect in the June murder of former Davao del Sur journalist Nestor Bedolido has named Governor Douglas Cagas and a town mayor as the brains behind the crime.

Media group wants PNP manual for journalists scrutinized

The National Press Club on Sunday called for a review of the Philippine National Police's safety handbook for journalists, saying the police did not consult media groups in crafting the manual.

Aquino to Lacson allies: SC ultimate arbiter in Dacer-Corbito slay case

President Benigno Aquino III admitted on Sunday that some allies of Senator Panfilo Lacson had sought his help for the fugitive senator, but he made it clear to them he would not and could not interfere in the case.

Political figures gather at Escudero's b-day

Prominent personalities led by President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III gathered on Sunday night for the 41st birthday celebration of Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero.

Escudero and Aquino have been friends since they worked together while they were at the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Aquino arrived at the party, which was held in Makati City, at around 7:30.p.m.

Aside from Aquino, other prominent personalities who showed up in the party were former President Joseph Estrada, Executive Secretary Pacquito "Jojo" Ochoa, Senate President Juan Once Enrile, Senators Franklin Drilon, Jose "Jingoy" Estrada and Loren Legarda, and Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson.

Businessmen Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, Tony Boy Cojuangco and the latter's live-in partner and actress Gretchen Barreto were also present.

Vice President Jejomar Binay arrived shortly before 9:00 p.m.

Escudero's wife, Christine, opened the program with her own version of the song "Fallin, she also sang a duet with former President Joseph Estrada.

Presidential aide heads VFA body

EXECUTIVE SECRETARY Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr. has been appointed chairman of the Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), one of several changes in the composition of the presidential body monitoring the 11-year-old Philippine-United States pact.

Manolo Lopez is next Philippine ambassador to Japan

MANILA, Philippines - Manuel "Manolo" Lopez will be the next Philippine ambassador to Japan replacing Domingo Siazon.

$1: P43.450

$1: P43.450 (P43.30)

Euro 1: P60.4705

Recto wants GSIS Act revised for teachers

Prompted by mounting complaints of government employees and public school teachers against the GSIS, a senator wants to increase the their representation in the state pension fund's board of trustees.

ASEAN transport experts to meet in Cebu today

by By Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon/BRP

Transport experts from the 10-members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will gather in Cebu starting today for a week-long event that would tackle different issues concerning transportation.

Indonesia flood toll rises to 148: official

by Agence France-Presse
JAKARTA - The death toll from flash floods that struck a remote region of eastern Indonesia last week climbed to at least 148 Sunday, with more than a hundred people still missing, an official said.

Iran hangs woman, 3 men for drug trafficking – report

TEHRAN – Iran hanged on Sunday a woman and three men in a prison in the northwestern city of Zanjan after they were found guilty of drug trafficking, Fars news agency reported.

32 killed on China's smog-hit roads

BEIJING – At least 32 people have been killed in traffic accidents in China over the weekend as heavy smog and fog shrouded huge swathes of the country, state press said Sunday.

Margarito may knock down Pacquiao - analyst

MANILA, Philippines - Mexican Antonio Margarito might be the first to knock down reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao in the upcoming November 13 match, an ESPN boxing analyst said.

Writing for the Filipino Boxing Journal, Kenneth Ragpala quoted John "Iceman" Scully who said Margarito "has more than enough to take out" Pacquiao.

"Don't get me wrong, I think Pacman's speed of legs and hands will cause Margarito some big problems. But I think Margarito is still very formidable," Scully told Ragpala.

Scully said if Margarito extensively uses his jab during the fight, the people's champ will be up for a tough battle and might experience the first major loss in his boxing career.

"If he (Margarito) presses the fight and uses his jab in a big way, (he) could really test the conditioning and the skills of Manny," Scully said.

According to Ragpala, Margarito is "the hungrier boxer" as he is "looking for redemption and there is no shred of doubt that he is hell bent on putting the shadows of the hand wrapping scandal behind him by beating Pacquiao."

"It may turn out to be the toughest and most grueling match of Manny's career and while I think he has enough speed and shiftiness to overcome Margarito, I think he will do so only after being pushed to the full limit of his reserves," Scully was quoted as saying.

Amateur boxers draw inspiration from Pacquiao

The Philippine National Boxing Team was among the handful of people allowed entry into the closed-door training session of world pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao in Baguio City.

Peñalosa wins by TKO in last boxing ring battle

Former two-time division world champion Gerry Peñalosa said farewell to his fans with a sixth-round TKO win on Sunday night over Thai Yodsaenkeng Kietmangmee, whom he described as ordinary.

Mighty Mouse Alapag sizzles as TNT spills SMB

What was expected to be an explosive match-up with San Miguel Beer turned out to be a breeze for Talk `N Text.

Sunday PBA Shocker: Barako ends long skid, stuns Meralco

After authoring a stunning win in the PBA Philippine Cup just a week ago, Meralco found itself at the receiving end this time.

Shalani Soledad denies dating Valenzuela mayor

MANILA, Philippines – Valenzuela City councilor Shalani Soledad and Valenzuela mayor Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday shot down rumors that they are dating.

Kids have recovered from HFM disease, Kris says

Ibinalita ngayon ng Star of All Media na si Kris Aquino na magaling na ang kanyang 2 anak matapos dapuan ng hand, foot and mouth (HFM) disease. Ipinaalala naman ng Department of Health (DOH) na ang pagiging malinis sa katawan at kapaligiran ang pinakamainam na panlaban sa sakit.

FPJ daughter named new MTRCB head

MANILA, Philippines - A daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. has been appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as new head of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), a Malacañang official announced Sunday.

ABS-CBN warns vs 'Showtime' scam

MANILA, Philippines – An ABS-CBN executive on Sunday warned the public against a text promo purportedly being conducted by ABS-CBN talent-variety show "Showtime."

Actor-politician Patrick Dela Rosa behind bars

Sa kulungan nagpalipas ng weekend ang aktor at Oriental Mindoro Provincial Board Member na si Patrick Dela  Rosa. Bukas pa kasi dedesisyunan ng Quezon City Prosecutor's Office kung uusad o ibabasura ang kasong rape na isinampa sa kanya.

John Lennon's son unveils monument on anniversary

by Reuters
LIVERPOOL, England – John Lennon's son Julian and first wife Cynthia unveiled a monument to the late singer Saturday, the 70th anniversary of his birth, and said the time for mourning the former Beatle was over.

Elevated expectations a challenge for Aquino

PRESIDENT Benigno C. Aquino should exert every effort to deliver on his promises given high public expectations, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey indicated.

Results of the poll, made exclusive to BusinessWorld, found 44% of the respondents saying they expect Mr. Aquino to keep most or all of the pledges made in his July 26 State of the Nation Address (SONA), more than double the 19% who said the same of then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after her first SONA in 2001.

Awareness of Mr. Aquino's first speech to Congress after taking office on June 30 was also high at 78%, the SWS said, compared to the 44% for Mrs. Arroyo.

Nearly half or 48% of the respondents, meanwhile, believe Mr. Aquino is serving the interests of the poor, significantly higher than the 25% and 19% who said so of Mrs. Arroyo in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

A political analyst said the results of the Sept. 24-27 survey reflected the support Mr. Aquino received during the May 2010 elections.

A Palace official, meanwhile, said the president remained "attuned" to the public and had laid the groundwork to achieve his promises during his first 100 days in office.

The SWS asked 1,200 adults nationwide, via face-to-face interviews, "In your opinion, how many of the promises of Pres. Noynoy Aquino can be fulfilled?". Nine percent responded "all or nearly all", 35% "most", 50% "a few" and 4% "almost none."

In a September 2001 survey, meanwhile, 5% replied that Mrs. Arroyo -- now a Pampanga congressman -- would keep "all or nearly all" of her promises, 14% said "most", while 64% and 16% responded "a few" and "almost none," respectively.

With regard to Mr. Aquino's first SONA, 56% said they watched it live on television, 15% heard about it on TV, 9% heard about it from other people, 8% listened to it live on radio, 5% heard about it on radio, 3% read about it in newspapers and 0.1% learned about it on the Internet.

Nine years earlier, 25% said they watched Mrs. Arroyo's 2001 SONA live on television, 12% heard about it on TV, 2% heard about it from other people, 5% listened to it live on radio, 6% heard about it on radio, and 4% read about it in the newspapers.

To the question "Do you think Pres. Noynoy Aquino is serving the interests of the rich, the middle class or the poor?", 48% answered the poor, 55% the middle class and 23% the rich.

In Sept. 2003, meanwhile 25% said Mrs. Aquino served the interest of the poor, 33% said the middle class and 65% replied the rich. Four years later, the proportions became: and 19% the poor, 31% middle class and 59% the rich.

Mrs. Aquino -- who Mr. Aquino wants investigated over allegations of graft and corruption during her term -- was not immediately available for comment.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, in a text message toBusinessWorld, said: "The findings show the president is attuned to public opinion and expectations. They are keeping an open mind on the administration to serve all and want to be partners in change."

"As the president has said his job is about the efficient allocation of resources and the first 100 days [served as] the staging period," he added.

Ramon C. Casiple, chairman of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said the 44% who said they expect Mr. Aquino to fulfill most or all of his primises was more or less the percentage of the electorate who voted him into office.

"They are the core constituency. They will be with Noynoy all the way except if they will be dismayed," he said.

Mr. Aquino, Mr. Casiple added, has been identified as pro-poor given his campaign pledge of eliminating corruption as a means of ending poverty.

Mr. Aquino has started his six-year term with very high approval ratings: last week, the SWS announced that 71% of Filipinos were satisfied with his performance so far, with just 11% having the contrary view.

Sampling error margins used in the Sept. 24-27, 2007 SWS survey were ±3% for national and ±6% for area percentages. The 2001, 2003 and 2007 surveys cited were conducted from Sept. 1-18, 2001, Aug. 30-Sept. 14, 2003 and Sept. 2-5, 2007 also involved 1,200 respondents each and a ±3% error margin.

Beleaguered Puno describes depth of ties to President

From the affairs of the state, to the affairs of his heart, Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno seems to know the country's first bachelor president all too well.

In fact, Puno said he was among the few people who could "tame" President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, whenever he became overly engaged in the realm of his newfound role as the nation's chief executive.

"Sometimes, when he would speak to me in a raised voice, I would just say, 'Yes, sir.' Then he would say, 'Okay, ganito lang pare (Okay, buddy, we'll just do it this way).' Apparently, he would realize that he was talking (to a friend)," Puno told Philippine Daily Inquirer reporters and editors on Thursday night.

"So when he becomes tense, I try to make him relax. I would just answer him, 'Ok, Mr. President," Then, he will realize that he's talking to me," he said, pointing out that nothing has changed in their relationship as friends despite the firestorm he's now facing.

By the way he narrated his strong bond with the President, it may probably take more than just a jueteng exposé or a hostage fiasco to even make a dent on their relationship that has spanned for almost 25 years.

According to Puno, he still enjoys the trust and confidence of Mr. Aquino despite the string of controversies thrown at him since joining the President's Cabinet over three months ago.

"He knows I'm not like that," he said, referring to rumors that he was on the take from individuals running the illegal numbers racket.

Being a long-time confidant of the President, Puno was at the front seat of Mr. Aquino's travails and triumphs as a politician and as a bachelor.

He said his Quezon City house was the setting of arguably the most significant event in the country's recent history -- Mr. Aquino's first peek at the presidency.

After the funeral of Mr. Aquino's late mother, freedom icon and former President Corazon Aquino, Puno said talks were rife that then Liberal Party presidential aspirant Mar Roxas was about to give up his bid.

At the time, he said they sensed Roxas might talk to Mr. Aquino since his ratings in the presidential surveys had dipped to 15 percent.

As they expected, Roxas requested for a meeting with Mr. Aquino.

"There were talking already on Times Street and in Balay. Senator Mar called for a meeting. They wanted a quiet place. So he (Mr. Aquino) said 'Let's do it in Rico's house," Puno recounted.

Aside from Mr. Aquino, Roxas and Puno, LP official and now Budget Secretary Butch Abad also showed up at Puno's house.

Over a plate of sisig and fried lumpiang ubod, the four discussed about the country's setting in the next six years.

Puno quoted Roxas as saying: "In this meeting I will wear two hats. One is that of a nationalist, the other is that of a politician. I start off with the nationalist."

"We both have the same dream -- the same one as that of our fathers, (former senators) Gerry Roxas and Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. -- to put food on the table of our people. We both want to be president, we want things for our country," Roxas supposedly continued.

"Now, I will wear the hat of a politician. I've started campaigning for the last two years. I've spent so much money. I have my own machinery right now, but I can put it aside. I'm willing to give up all of that," he said.

Even before the meeting, Puno said Mr. Aquino "sensed" that Roxas would offer him to run either as president or vice president in the May 2010 elections.

"Before that, (I told Mr. Aquino), 'You will not ask for it. Mar should be the one to tell you,'" he said.

"So when Mar said, 'I want you to be the next president of this country,' Noynoy stood up and lit a stick of cigarette."

As he took a puff on his cigarette, Mr. Aquino purportedly told Puno: "Pare, we are 95 million Filipinos already. We must not fail. If we fail, 95 million Filipinos… would starve."

In their more than two decades of friendship, that scene left a lasting impression on Puno.

"I said, 'This person is really one of a kind.' The thing that impressed me is here was this guy who was offered the presidency, and he thought of others first," Puno said.

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