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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October 13, 2010 Major News Stories

DoLE urges employers to correct wage distortion

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has urged establishments covered by new wage orders to quickly adjust their wage structures to correct any wage distortions.

"RA 6727 or the Minimum Wage Fixing Law provides for methods for correcting wage distortions, and companies and establishments should readily avail of these methods to avoid unnecessary disputes," a statement of the DoLE said.

The provision for correcting wage distortions is also stipulated in all wage orders being issued by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs), it added.

The DoLE cautioned that if the "distortion" in the salary rates of workers is not corrected, it could lead to demoralization that, in turn, could disrupt the harmonious work relationships between and among workers and employers in the establishments. This could then affect productivity in the workplace.

The National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) has suggested formulas to address wage distortion. One of the suggested formulas is by computing the previous minimum wage over the worker's current daily rate multiplied by the amount of the latest mandated wage increase. 

Wage "distortion" occurs when the usual differentials in wage rates between groups of employees in an establishment are drastically reduced or eliminated due to mandated wage increases. This means that the differences in wage structure based on skills, length of service, or other logical bases of differentiation may be eliminated if the other employees already receiving more than the minimum wage will not also have a corresponding increase in their salaries. Restoring a substantial or significant gap, as against the historical wage differentials, is allowed under existing jurisprudence.

In unionized firms, the employer and the union should negotiate to correct the distortion using the grievance procedures in the collective bargaining agreement or CBA or, if the dispute remains unresolved, through voluntary arbitration

To date, the minimum wages have been adjusted in eight regions, namely, NCR (Metro Manila) and in Regions VI (Western Visayas); VII (Central Visayas); IX (Zamboanga Peninsula ); X (Northern Mindanao; XI ( Southern Mindanao ); XIII (Caraga); and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

DOH alerts public on leptosprosis

by By Sol Aragones, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday advised the public to prepare for leptospirosis as the rainy season continues until the end of the year.

Aquino, bishops discuss gov't RH policy

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III met with Catholic bishops on Monday to explain the administration's position on responsible parenthood, a Palace spokesman said Tuesday.

Budget for higher education cut by P400-M

MANILA, Philippines - The budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for 2011 has been cut by P400 million.

Int'l math experts to train Pinoy teachers

MANILA, Philippines - Six well-known math experts from China, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand will be visiting the country next week to train Filipino teachers on how to make the so-called "fearsome" subject more fun for kids.

Robbers hurt, arrested after heist

Three alleged members of the Casimero 'Meloy' Garcia robbery group were arrested late Monday night after a heist that they pulled off in barangay Sambag 1.

The suspects, two of whom were injured in a shootout, claimed that Garcia, who is now incarcerated at the Tagbilaran City Jail in Bohol, continues to give orders to the group members via text messaging.

The robbers struck a lending firm that holds office at a boarding house inside the Chua Compound along Uytengsu St. at around 7 p.m.

Two of the robbers entered the house and carted away P113,100 in cash, four ladies wristwatches and a ring at gunpoint from employees of the lending firm named Pulis Kapit-Bisig.

When the robbers rushed out of the house, the victims shouted for help, which alerted PO3 Osorio Ramiso, Jr., who is detailed at the Police Regional Office-7.

Ramiso gave a chase then fired at the fleeing suspects, who also fired back at him.

The motorcycle was only able to travel for several meters before it crashed forcing the two people on board to flee to various directions and hailing separate taxi cabs.

The police later arrested Alberto Aniedez Torregosa, 29, of Danao, Bohol at the Cebu City Medical Center, who had a gunshot wound on the left side of his chest.

Minutes later, the police arrested Shyrell Lambo Ostia, a native of Baclayon, Bohol, at the Miller General Hospital along Tres de Abril St. He also had a gunshot wound on the left side of his chest.

Later that night, John Remoreras Nuez, 22, who served as lookout, was arrested in the same compound where the heist took place.

The victims were identified as Maridel Oblema and Josephine Sanchez, who are both from San Juan, Metro Manila.

They claimed that two men armed with pistols barged into the boarding house and declared a hold up.

Sr. Insp. Bonifacio Garciano, chief of the Theft and Robbery Section of the Cebu City Police Office, narrated that Ostia and Torregosa were the ones who allegedly went inside the compound.

After the heist, they rushed to the getaway motorcycle that was parked nearby.

PO3 Ramiso, who rents a room in the compound, heard the shouts for help. He is detailed at the Police Community Relations office.

Clyde Guerrero, a resident of the area, was reportedly hit below his left thigh during the shoot out. The police said that the suspected robbers might have hit Guerrero, who was rushed Chong Hua Hospital by his neighbors.

Operatives of the Fuente Police Station headed by Chief Insp. Michael Anthony Bastes rushed to the crime scene and recovered the bag containing the loot, which the suspects dropped when they fled.

When they checked the motorcycle, they also found the plate numbers to have been tampered.

The police were tipped by security guards of CCMC and Miller General Hospital about the two patients, who both had gunshot wounds.

Ostia was later transferred to the CCMC after his arrest.

The victims, who went to CCMC, positively identified as the two suspects.

The police were also able to recover from inside one of Torregosa's pockets the four watches, a cellular phone and a ring, which the victims identified as theirs.

The police also found a caliber .38 pistol and a caliber .357 pistol on the hedges along Osmeña Blvd. where the suspects passed for their get away.

The third suspect was arrested after the police found the driver's license of Ricliz Navarro inside the U box of the getaway motorcycle.

The police went to Navarro, a resident of barangay Tisa, who said that his motorcycle was rented by a man, who he identified as a certain Jorge for P400.

Navarro said that Jorge, who was later identified as Nuez, was with two men, who identified themselves as policemen.

He added that Nuez later went to him to inform him that the motorcycle was impounded after they were apprehended by traffic personnel.

Navarro said that he suspected there was something wrong and reported the matter to the barangay hall of Tisa.

When he went to CCMC with the policemen, he also tagged Torregosa and Ostia as the companions of Nuez.

Navarro later accompanied the police to Nuez at his boarding house where the latter was arrested.

Recovered from Nuez's possession was a cellular phone, which contained messages he sent to Torregosa.

During tactical interrogation, the police learned that the suspects are members of Meloy Garcia Robbery Group from Bohol.

Sr. Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, director of CCPO, said they will also check if the suspects are involved in previous robberies here.

Buenafe also said that Torregosa is allegedly a notorious robber in Bohol.

Medellin barangay chief arrested again

Cebu City policemen have arrested yesterday in Mandaue City a barangay captain in Medellin who was previously arrested for illegal drugs.

Operatives of the Theft and Robbery Section of the Cebu City Police Office arrested Tipolo, Medellin barangay captain Marianito Yaun for violation of the Commission on Elections gun ban and for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Yaun's arrest stemmed from a warrant issued by Judge Antonio Marigomen of the Regional Trial Court Branch 61 on July 30.

Sr. Insp. Bonifacio Garciano, chief of CCPO Theft and Robbery Section, said they received intelligence information that the suspect was spotted having drug session in Barangay Carreta yesterday morning.

Garciano said they responded to the area but failed to locate the suspect. They then received further information that the suspect was already in Mandaue City.

While in Mandaue City, police spotted Yaun walking along Wireless Street in Barangay Subangdako and immediately arrested him.

The suspect, who is out on bail for illegal drugs, has denied the charges.

Couple's charred remains found after Siquijor fire

LUZONG, SIQUIJOR, Philippines - An elderly couple died Monday dawn when fire struck their house in Luzong, Siquijor.

The victims who were identified as Simeon Alad-ad, 84 and his wife Prima, 77 lived by themselves.

Policemen, who were the first to respond to the fire alarm, were surprised when they saw the 2 charred bodies. Their burnt remains were placed in only 1 coffin.

The couple's children, meanwhile, said they are convinced that their parents were robbed first before the house was intentionally burned.

"Why kill them? It would have been better if only the money was stolen. But kill them?" Jurna Yuag cried, hardly believing what happened to their parents.

Reports have it that it was not the first time their parents were robbed. This year alone, they have reportedly been robbed 3 times.

Eldest son Beato Ongue revealed: "We just didn't report them to the police. But this time, we have to. Our parents don't deserve this."

Police said they are looking into robbery and personal quarrel as possible motives to the crime.

"They lend money in exchange for coconuts. But they don't have bank accounts, so they pay you in cash," Senior Superintendent Benedict Poblete said.

The couple's remains will be laid to rest once the couple's third son returns from China.

The police said they are also investigating blood found in the crime scene.

Lawyer says political will needed to move fish market

The private sector representative in the Cebu City Market Authority believes Mayor Michael Rama should demolish the structures encroaching Tupas Street leading to the Pasil Fish Port if Rama is serious of transferring the fish market there.

Romulo Senining, lawyer of several fish dealers operating at the fish market, said transferring the market to the former Pasil Fish Port would be beneficial because the area is wider compared to the market's current location.

Days after he was elected into office, Rama announced his plan to demolish the existing Pasil Fish market along Tupas Street in front of the San Nicolas Church and convert the place into a public plaza and as a tourist attraction.

Rama said the vendors occupying the fish market do not have to worry because they will be transferred to the fish port, which the city will reportedly renovate.

Senining said Rama's plan needs political will from top city officials because it will entail restoring the six-meter-wide road, particularly the ones situated beside the existing fish market, towards the area where the fish port is located.

When this happens, several houses will be affected, including those built in concrete. 

Until now, the Pasil Fish Port that was constructed over 20 years ago with financial aid from the Belgian government is being occupied by the illegal settlers, some of them even tapping on electrical posts for power.

Rama earlier instructed Suba barangay captain Joel Sable and Sawang Calero barangay captain Benjamin Zabate to let the squatters presently occupying the fish port to vacate the place.

Abadita Maranga, president of the Pasil Fish Vendors Multi-Purpose Cooperative, asked the Market Authority to repair the dilapidated roof of the fish market while Rama's plan remains on hold.

"It has become a joke among the vendors and to our faithful customers that the roof of the Pasil Fish Market leaks, but the good thing about it is that it will only leak during a downpour," she said.

Market administrator Raquel Arce agrees the roof of the fish market needs to be replaced.

"Ako mauwaw na g'yud moanha sa Pasil tungod sa maong kondisyon sa merkado," Arce said.

Councilor Raul Alcoseba, chairman of the City Council's committee on market and abattoir, has recommended that Maranga's letter be forwarded to Councilor Jose Daluz III, chairman of the committee on budget and finance, for appropriate action.

Regional directors to sing, dance in concert

First there were the dancing tax collectors. Now, a group of government offices plan to advocate anti-corruption through singing and dancing.

The Visayas Executive Council of Leaders (VECL) and the Visayas Resident Ombudsmen Council of Leaders will be having an Anti-Corruption Concert, a concert for a cause in line with the One Visayas Against Corruption advocacy of the Office of the Ombudsman wherein all sectors of society are being organized to join forces in the fight against graft and corruption.

In a forum with government information officers yesterday, Land Transportation Office (LTO) 7 Director Raul Aguilos said that the concert would depict Filipino culture.

Dubbed as "Hagit...Siyagit!" the concert will show how culture is an ideal source of life of integrity or how it could lead a person to commit an irregularity.

A person's vulnerability to corruption is displayed in the concert, as well as his strong commitment to do only what is moral and just.

Aguilos, a member of VECL, said that he will dance during the concert along with 25 members of the council.

The council is composed of regional directors in the Visayas as well deputized and resident Ombudsmen in the Visayas.

The free concert was coined by Rev. Fr. Albert Alejo, the team leader of the "Ehem! Aha! Anti-Corruption Project of the Society of Jesus" and a partner of the Ombudsman in the Anti-Corruption Crusade.

Maria Irene Pintor, associate graft investigator officer III of Ombudsman-Visayas, said that the concert is a challenge to every Filipino to speak out and battle for the truth.

They want to send a message that the fight against corruption should be an effort by all sectors.

The concert will be shown on November 11, 2010 at 3:00 p.m. (matinee) and at 7:00 p.m. at the University of San Carlos Cultural Center, South Campus, Cebu City.

Political costs of PNoy's hostage sanctions

by By Caroline J. Howard, ABS-CBN News Channel
MANILA, Philippines - Some analysts say the President's final review of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) report on the August 23 Manila hostage crisis was well studied, but, they add, the President could've better handled members of his Cabinet who've been questioned for their supposed responsibility for the incident.

Napolcom: 60 days to rule on raps vs Manila cops

MANILA, Philippines - It may take the National Police Commission (Napolcom) 60 days to decide on the administrative liabilities of 4 senior police officials who were involved in the August 23 hostage crisis.

Hong Kong upset by no charges over Manila hijack deaths

Hong Kong said Tuesday it is disappointed by the Philippine leader's decision to spare top officials from criminal prosecution over the botched attempt to resolve a bus hijacking in Manila in which eight Hong Kongers died.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino III said Monday the police chief, mayor and five other officials instead would face administrative actions, with possible sanctions including dismissal.

"The people of Hong Kong, especially the survivors and the victims' families, will find this hard to accept. The Hong Kong government is also disappointed," the government said in a statement late Tuesday.

The Aug. 23 hijacking by a former police officer seeking reinstatement lasted 11 tense hours before the gunman opened fire on his hostages. A police SWAT team then took out the hostage-taker, but not before eight tourists were killed.

The bloody events — televised live — shocked Hong Kong, a wealthy financial hub where violent crime is rare, and damaged relations between Manila and China.

The punishment against the Philippine officials who oversaw the rescue operation must live up to Manila's pledge of accountability, the Hong Kong government said.

"That is also what is owed to the dead and the injured," the government said.

The Hong Kong police are also conducting their own investigation and will submit their findings to a local judge, who will then decide whether to hold a formal hearing.

De Mesa: Kin of hostage victims can still file criminal raps

 MANILA, Philippines - Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Ed de Mesa said on Tuesday that those who are not satisfied with the Palace's decision on the sanctions to be imposed on those responsible for the Manila hostage fiasco can still file complaints. 

IIRC review partial, says hostage-taker's brod

Kulang ang parusang inirekomenda kay Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim kaugnay ng Manila hostage crisis. Ito ang tingin ni SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, kapatid ng napatay na hostage-taker na si Rolando Mendoza. Para kay Mendoza, si Lim ang dapat managot sa pagkamatay ng 8 Chinese tourist sa hostage crisis.

Lim willing to testify vs hostage-taker's brother

by By Julius Babao, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim on Tuesday says he is volunteering to testify against SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, brother of hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza.

Mayor Lim: Go ahead, sue me

MANILA, Philippines - Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said on Tuesday he is ready to face any criminal complaint that may be filed against him in connection with the August 23 Manila hostage crisis.

Robredo says he's patching up differences with Puno

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said on Tuesday he would like to thresh out his problems with Undersecretary Ric E. Puno, get over the controversies between them and go back to work.

Senator: Will Palace also review Truth Commission rulings?

Will Malacañang's one-two punch again be tapped to review findings, this time, by the Truth Commission?

Senator Joker Arroyo said on Tuesday he was "troubled" with the way President Benigno Aquino handled the findings of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) on the August 23 hostage fiasco.

The senator said it was possible that Aquino would apply the same review process on the Truth Commission headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. tasked to investigate corruption allegations against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"It's not indecisiveness. Never mind. It's lack of…" he told reporters, then pointed his index finger to his head.

Arroyo recalled that the "two-man committee" of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo De Mesa twice reviewed the report of the five-member IIRC headed by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima.

"This is the impact of that review—they trifled with the review process," he said, pointing out that Mr. Aquino should have exercised his prerogative "prudently."

In case a similar review was made on the Truth Commission findings, he warned that it would "cheapen" the work of the body.

"The Truth Commission is composed of very respectable people chaired by no less than a former chief justice of the Supreme Court," he said. "Then are we to say now that they're going to be reviewed by lesser legal minds?"

Arroyo said he got the impression that Malacañang had insisted on the review as though it "had been waiting for a wording that would satisfy (it)."

"Only at that point that Malacañang said, 'All right, this is the one,'" he said. "It's not moro-moro, but (it's) of no value because they kept on changing it."

The senator added: "If everything that the Truth Commission does will be reviewed until such time that Malacañang is satisfied with the review, then what's the use of the commission? That's the one that troubles me."

Arroyo was even more incensed when asked about the final outcome of the Palace review of the IIRC findings.

"How can we be satisfied when the Senate has not even been given a copy of the original resolution of the IIRC? We don't have a copy, yet we suspended our investigation in deference to the IIRC," he said.

Noting that China had been furnished a copy of the original IIRC report beforehand, he said: "It's as if we don't exist."

SC to hold special session on impeachment case vs Gutierrez

The Supreme Court is planning to hold a special session to tackle the impeachment-case petition filed by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

Impeachment case vs Ombudsman, 'a waste of time'

The impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is not only a "waste of time" but "politically costly to the Aquino administration," two former justice secretaries said.

"Detractors of the Ombudsman are better off waiting out the two years remaining in her term than get mired in a time-consuming and protracted legal battle in the courts and the legislature," former justice secretary and retired Supreme Court justice Serafin Cuevas said. Cuevas is counsel for Gutierrez.

Cuevas pointed out that just in case the impeachment process will push through, it could even go beyond the remaining two years in Gutierrez' term.

"That is what some observers say. Impeachment is a political matter, it can go beyond the two-year period if it goes back to the House [of Representatives] committee on justice, and subsequently to the Senate for a full-blast hearing," Cuevas said.

Earlier, former Solicitor General and justice chief Estelito Mendoza shared Cuevas' view. Mendoza is representing former President Gloria Arroyo in a plunder case before the Department of Justice.

"The Ombudsman has only two more years to go. Why not wait till she retires. She is not that important to divert attention of the Senate. If I were President Aquino I would discourage this. He has his priorities," Mendoza said.

Citing the impeachment case against former President Joseph Estrada where he also served as lawyer for the defense, Mendoza warned that such exercise would be "politically costly for the Aquino administration."

"Imagine that the nation will (again) be glued to the proceedings at the Senate, as what happened during the impeachment trial of President Erap. It won't do good to his [Aquino] administration," Mendoza said.

Meanwhile, rank and file employees of the Office of the Ombudsman expressed their continuing support to embattled Ombudsman Gutierrez who is now the object of an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives.

The Ombudsman Employees Association (Ombea), in a letter signed by their acting president Eric Durano Gutierrez, belied accusations that the Ombudsman is sleeping on the job and has been impartial to members of former President Macapagal-Arroyo implicated in scandals during the latter's terms. Ombea has members in the Ombudsman's Visayas and Mindanao offices.

"Over the past few days, we have seen the Honorable Tanodbayan Ma. Merceditas Navarro-Gutierrez as an active force in the public scene; we have come to value how the Ombudsman's goal in good governance as a fighter and instrument for the promotion of graft-free society," the letter read.

"In behalf of the officers and members of the Ombea, we stand in support of the Honorable Ombudsman Gutierrez now and forever, and urge her to continue her efforts to bring to an end the reign of corruption that threatens the very existence of public service," the Ombea letter stressed.

The Supreme Court is currently conducting an oral argument on the petition filed by Gutierrez against the impeachment case.

The first impeachment complaint was filed by losing senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel on July 22 and was endorsed by Akbayan Party-list Representatives Kaka Bag-ao and Walden Bello. The second complaint was filed on August 3 by Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes and was endorsed by Representatives Neri Colmenares, Rafael Mariano, Teodoro Casiño, Luzviminda Ilagan, Antonio Tinio and Emerancia de Jesus.

Both complaints were referred to the justice committee on August 11 and were declared sufficient in form on September 1 and sufficient in substance on September 7.

Gutierrez's camp asserted that declaring the complaints sufficient in form violates Sec. 3 (5), Art XI of the 1987 Constitution, which states that no impeachment proceeding shall be initiated against an official more than once within a year. Because of this, the filing of the second complaint violates the one-year ban.

Congress to pass amnesty resolution

(UPDATE 3) Congress on Tuesday guaranteed the passage of a joint resolution granting amnesty to rebel soldiers involved in pocket rebellions during the Arroyo administration, following a proclamation signed by President Benigno Aquino III giving them their freedom.

Magdalo soldiers welcome amnesty

The Magdalo group of soldiers involved in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny on Tuesday welcomed President Benigno Aquino III's grant of amnesty to soldiers charged with involvement in various failed coup attempts during the Arroyo administration.

Soldiers ready to face verdict even with amnesty proposal – lawyer

The soldiers and officers accused of trying to overthrow the Arroyo administration in 2003, also known as the Oakwood mutiny, want the promulgation of the case against them to push through despite President Benigno Aquino III's proclamation granting them amnesty.

State prosecutor questions timing of amnesty for rebel soldiers

A state prosecutor expressed dismay Tuesday over the timing of President Aquino's proclamation granting amnesty to rebel soldiers, saying this should have been done after the court decision on the case of the military officers and personnel linked to three attempts to topple the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Danny Lim after amnesty proposal: No regrets over uprisings

Retired brigadier general and former Army Scout Rangers commander Danilo Lim said on Tuesday he did not regret rising up against the Arroyo administration, adding "we will always be proud of what we did."

Military respects decision of commander-in-chief

The Armed Forces of the Philippines welcomed on Tuesday President Benigno Aquino III's granting of amnesty to soldiers who were tagged in various failed attempts to unseat the previous administration.

De Lima surprised on decision over Trillanes' amnesty

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima was surprised by the issuance of the Presidential Proclamation granting amnesty to detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV together with other rebel soldiers and officers linked to military uprisings in 2003 and 2006.

De Lima not resigning, after all

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said Tuesday afternoon she has opted to stay with the Cabinet, saying there were no irreconcilable differences on questions of policy between her and President Benigno Aquino III.

Prosecutors insist: GMA must testify in ZTE case

MANILA, Philippines - Government prosecutors are protesting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's plea not to testify in the graft trial of former Planning Secretary Romulo Neri in relation to the scrapped P329 million ZTE-National Broadband Network project. 

PCGG to pursue 278 cases on Marcos' ill-gotten wealth

MANILA, Philippines - Newly appointed Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chair Andres Bautista defended the agency for its alleged inaction toward cases in connection to recovering ill-gotten wealth from the Marcos family.

No reason for judiciary to revolt over scarce funds: Drilon

MANILA, Philippines - The judiciary has no reason to hold a revolt protesting scarce funds because it has enough money in its coffers and its budget was increased, a senator said on Tuesday.

Arroyo grills DSWD in budget hearing

Ginisa ang Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) kanina kung kailan pag-bobotohan na sana ang budget nito sa kamara. Maging si dating pangulo at ngayo'y Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, sa unang pagkakataon ay nagtanong sa plenaryo.

Arroyo questions DSWD's capacity to manage P21-B cash transfer

Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday scrutinized the P34.3-billion proposed budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Davao governor denies he ordered journalist's slay

Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas dismissed as a cheap trick on Tuesday the claims of the alleged gunman in the murder of former journalist Nestor Bedolido that he masterminded the crime.

De Lima orders wider investigation of gang rape case

JUSTICE SECRETARY Leila M. de Lima yesterday said she has ordered a wider probe of the volunteer nurse who was gang-raped in Maguindanao province last month following meetings with local security enforcers.

Jolo student's kidnappers demand P3M ransom

by by Queenie Casimiro, ABS CBN News Zamboanga
MANILA, Philippines - Kidnappers of a 21-year-old college student in Jolo, Sulu gave the parents of the victim 5 days to pay P3 million in ransom for the hostage's release.  

UN: 250,000 starving in war-torn Mindanao

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said some 250,000 people in war-torn and disaster-hit areas of Mindanao are starving and that about $26 million is needed to help them.

DFA works for safe release of 20 seamen in Kenya

 MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is currently coordinating with the local manning agency of the 20 Filipino seafarers kidnapped by Somali pirates in the coastal city of Mombasa in Kenya.

$1: P43.640

$1: P43.640 (P43.60)

Euro 1: P60.2888

August exports up by over 36%

Philippine exports amounted to $4.745 billion in August, an increase of 36.6 percent from the same month a year ago, as shipments of electronic components continued to surge, the National Statistics Office said Tuesday.

DOT allocates P100M for Facebook, Twitter, new media campaigns

Tourism Undersecretary Vicente Romano III confirms that his department is investing heavily in Facebook, Twitter, and other new media.
Romano said the budget allocation will go towards: 
  • social networking; 
  • the establishment of an industry linkage platform; 
  • online advertising; and 
  • special projects.

    "(Social networking) will be an important component of all our campaigns, both offline and online. Pinoys are among the heavy users of Facebook and Twitter, and we see the Pinoy online communities as both target and partner in promoting the Philippines," he said.

    According to industry watchdogs, the Philippines is known for the following: 
  • having the heaviest consumption of SMS messages worldwide.

    Romano explained that the agency aims to develop a "search" system to make it easy for tourists to look for resorts, hotels, transport providers, tour operators, and other businesses in the local tourism industry. 

    "The idea is to try to make it as easy as possible for would-be travelers to book everything online after being excited by what they see," he said.

    Romano also hinted that the DOT is eyeing the development of social games "ala Farmville" to promote the country's tourist destinations. However, he did not give specific details.

    Before Romano was sworn in as tourism undersecretary, he formerly headed the new media team that oversaw the online components of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III's successful presidential campaign.

    "With the new administration, there seems to be a heightened sense of patriotism, and as a consequence –a heightened spirit of volunteerism," he noted.

    "For example, even without our prodding, there was a twitter-based campaign initiated by volunteers (helpDOT) which they called 'Voluntourism,'" he noted.

  • PNoy, DTI unveil quick business name online registration

    President Benigno Aquino III and Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo on Tuesday unveiled the quick Electronic Business Name Registration System (eBNRS) at the DTI- National Capital Region Area 3 office on Highway 54.
    The quick online registration is one of the Aquino administration's commitments to hasten and simplify the process of doing business in the Philippines, Domingo said. 

    "The new system in effect gives businessmen less hassle in doing business in the country," according to him.

    "Our aim in automation is to lessen people handling the process and allow technology to hasten transaction. In a way it makes government transaction transparent and prevent corruption in the workplace," the trade and industry chief added.

    Government is constantly improving its services and breaking down barriers to business to ensure that there will be unhampered flow of services to the public especially to entrepreneurs in the country, he said.

    Ongoing work at the Philippine Business Registry aims to consolidate business registration into one system including mayor's permit, Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Trade and Industry, and other government permits and licenses, according to Domingo.

    Also, the National Economic Research and Business Assistance Center places under one roof all government agencies giving permit and licenses. 

    "Businessmen need not go around the city in getting licenses. This way they save on time and transport expenses," Domingo said.

    "This is a concrete example of lessening the cost of doing business in the country," he added.

    Making the environment friendly to business attracts more capital to local communities, Domingo said. 

    "When businesses are established, the government eventually addresses the employment concerns of its constituents and brings develop to communities," according to him.

    Present at the unveiling of the enhanced eBNRS were Trade Undersecretary Merly M. Cruz, Trade Assistant Secretary Angel Pelayo-Ty, Trade Management Information Service director-in-charge Ireneo Vizmonte, National Competitive Council head Ambassador Cesar Bautista, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Francis Chua, Federation of Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Alfonso Uy, Makati Business Club president Rizalino Navarro, and International Finance Corp. country director Jesse Ang.

    6 Filipinos killed in cargo plane crash near Kabul

    KABUL  - A cargo plane operating on behalf of a US-based company crashed into mountains and burst into flames near the Afghan capital on Tuesday, killing all eight crew on board, officials said.

    The plane had taken off from Bagram, one of the largest US-run military bases in Afghanistan, 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Kabul.

    Local aviation officials said the plane was carrying goods on behalf of the US-led NATO force in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), but an ISAF spokesman said only that he was checking those reports.

    Officials gave no immediate word on the cause of the crash, which happened after dark. Five months ago an Afghan passenger jet crashed into treacherous mountains near Kabul during bad weather.

    "A C-130 cargo plane operated by National Air Cargo was on its way from Bagram to Kabul," Mohammad Yaqoob Rasouli, the director of Kabul International Airport, told AFP.

    "It disappeared from radar screens at 19:25 (1455 GMT) six miles on the radar screen northeast of Kabul airport," Rasouli told AFP.

    "The tower saw a fire in the same location and we also got telephone confirmation from the area of a crash," he said.

    "The plane had eight crew members: six Filipinos, one Indian and one Kenyan. Search operations have already begun."

    A spokesman for Afghanistan's ministry of transport and civil aviation told AFP that all crew on board perished.

    "They are all dead," said the spokesman, Nangyalai Qalatwal.

    A police official in the area said a fire was still burning at the crash site nearly two hours after the plane came down.

    US-headquartered National Air Cargo told AFP that the crashed aircraft belonged to Trans Afrique, a company based in Ghana.

    "We're a customer of theirs and I believe they were on a flight on our behalf," National Air Cargo CEO Preston Murray told AFP by telephone.

    NATO said that its troops and Afghan security forces were conducting a search and rescue mission for the plane. A spokesman told AFP that ISAF had scrambled helicopters to the scene which were circling overhead.

    "The crash occurred shortly before 8 pm approximately 25 to 30 kilometres (16 to 18 miles) east of Kabul International Airport," ISAF said.

    "Early reports indicate the plane is an L-100 Hercules aircraft, the civilian equivalent of a military C-130. The plane was not an ISAF aircraft."

    Although commercial aviation incidents are rare in Afghanistan, it was the second civilian aviation crash in five months, in a country where travel by road can be hazardous due to a nine-year Taliban insurgency.

    On May 17, a commercial passenger jet operated by private Afghan airline Pamir Airways crashed during bad weather with 44 people on board, slamming into mountains in the Surkh-e-Parsa area of the Shakar Darah mountains near Kabul.

    In February 2005, a Boeing 737 operated by private company Kam Air crashed in mountains on the outskirts of Kabul during heavy snow. All 104 people on board, including two dozen foreigners, were killed.

    Asia may face severe water crisis in 2030 - ADB

    MANILA, Philippines - Asia may experience a severe water crisis in the next 2 decades, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warned Tuesday, and this could hamper the region's growth if left unaddressed.

    China dissident wants wife to collect Nobel prize

    by by Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley, Reuters
    BEIJING, China - China's jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has asked his wife to collect the award in Oslo, she said on Tuesday, as the Chinese government pressed the case that it is the victim of Western prejudice and plotting.

    Zyrene consults NHI over national anthem

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    WBC chief orders probe into Pinoy boxer's injury

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    PNoy's love interest: Trisha, Barbie, Liz?

    MANILA, Philippines – Try as he might, President Benigno Aquino III still fails to keep his personal life private.

    The 50-year-old bachelor's lovelife has been in the public eye since last year after rumblings of his presidential run started in August last year.

    This month, rumors were rife that the President is dating various women after allegedly breaking up with Valenzuela City councilor Shalani Soledad.

    Former child star and now television news reporter Patricia Ann Roque is said to have caught Aquino's attention.

    In her interview with tabloid "Remate Tonight," however, Roque expressed confusion as to how her name was dragged into the issue. According to her, she has never met the President face-to-face.

    Even the President denied ever meeting the TV reporter.

    Aquino did, however, admit being "friendly" at this point of time after being seen with an unidentified woman in a posh restaurant in Makati over the weekend.

    The President refused to identify the mystery date and even hinted that he might have struck out: "'Yong nakasama ko doon, di na kami magkikita muli dahil ayaw niyang center of attraction siya," he said.

    The third woman to be romantically linked to the President is his personal stylist, fashion magazine editor Liz Uy.

    Uy is a former girlfriend of actor John Lloyd Cruz.

    Upon the recommendation of Aquino's youngest sister, actress-TV host Kris Aquino, Uy joined a team that oversees the President's wardrobe and looks.

    Up until today, Uy is staying away from the limelight. Her close friend, actress Anne Curtis, denied the rumors, saying Uy was merely laughing off the speculations.

    Curtis further said that it was an old issue, and Uy has long been aware of it.

    PNoy's appeals to stop inquiring about his personal life seem to be falling on deaf ears as the public continues to keep an eye on his love life. 

    Sis to Kris: You can't have it all!

    MANILA, Philippines – The eldest sister of popular actress and TV host Kris Aquino-Yap has admitted she does not want her youngest sibling to have a love life as of the moment.

    Gerald bursts into tears during press con

    Umiiyak na humingi ng tawad si Gerald Anderson sa ka-love team at napabalitang girlfriend na si Kim Chiu dahil sa umano'y mga problemang ibinigay niya. Sa tindi ng emosyon, hindi natapos ang press con ng kanilang bagong pelikula dahil isinugod sa clinic ang 2 na kapwa nahirapang makahinga.

    Jovit Baldivino prepares for 1st major concert

    by by Reyma Buan-Deveza,
    MANILA, Philippines – "Pilipinas Got Talent: grand winner Jovit Baldivino will hold his first major concert, titled "Jovit Baldivino, Faithfully," at the Aliw Theater on November 13.

    John Lloyd denies calling Ruffa; clears Shaina issue

    by by Reyma Buan-Deveza,
    MANILA, Philippines - Hunk actor John Lloyd Cruz vehemently denied rumors that his girlfriend, actress Shaina Magdayao, is now tracking him using her GPS-enabled mobile phone.

    Ryan's song as Regine's bridal march

    When Regine Velasquez marches down the aisle in a flaming-red gown by Monique Lhuillier "sometime in December, on a beach somewhere," for her altar date with Ogie Alcasid, she will do so to the tune of Iniibig Kita, a song composed by Ryan Cayabyab between 1992-1993 for Raul Mitra for Raul's first CD recording but was not included in the final CD tracks.

    Actor turned politician Patrick dela Rosa charged with rape

    (UPDATE) Former-actor-turned-politician Patrick dela Rosa was charged with rape at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on Tuesday afternoon.

    P104-M jackpot in 6/49 Lotto still up for grabs

    MANILA, Philippines - Lotto fans have reason to rejoice as the P104 million jackpot prize for the Super Lotto 6/49 is still up for grabs.

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