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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 11, 2010 Major News Stories

Aquino declares Nov 16 a holiday

President Benigno Aquino declared November 16 a national and non-working holiday in celebration of the Eid'l Adha, or the Islam feast of sacrifice.

Veco will not budge on firing of union president

VECO Employees Union-Associated Labor Unions-Trade Congress of the Philip-pines (VECEU-ALU-TUCP) president Casmero Mahilum said that during mediation, the management remained steadfast in its stand not to reinstate him from service.

Mahilum was terminated from service on October 28, 2010 on the ground of lack of trust and confidence.

VECO spokesperson Ethel Natera said that representatives of both parties will have another meeting at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) today.

"No concrete agreement has been reached. We will meet again tomorrow with NCMB. It's business as usual at VECO. Our contingency measures are in place. Services will not be disrupted," Natera said in text message sent to The FREEMAN yesterday.

VECO management has expressed its disappointment with the move of the union to go on strike based on the strike voting conducted last week wherein 156 out of the 238 union members and officers voted "Yes."

VECEU-ALU-TUCP has filed notice of strike for union-busting with various vio-lations allegedly committed by the management including harassment, suspension of 21 members without following the grievance procedure and labor-only contracting.

As the last day of the seven-day cooling-off period for the union to go on strike ended yesterday, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino announced he is leaving it to the labor department to resolve the matter.

Aquino was in Cebu yesterday for two events. He told members of the press that he learned of the labor dispute only five minutes before the ambush interview so he was not fully aware of the issue.

The President believes that the Department of Labor and Employment secretary is competent enough to resolve the matter.

"I cannot comment intelligently now on that issue cause I just knew it five min-utes ago. But our DOLE secretary will handle that and come up with a solution that is favorable for the workers and other stakeholders," Aquino said.

Retrenchment of 2,600 PAL employees could be put on hold

The decision of the Department of Labor and Employment to retrench some 2,600 employees of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) can still be put on hold while the notice of strike filed by the employees is under conciliation, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Wednesday.

PAL willing to open books to prove losses

Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is "more than willing" to open its financial books and submit them to Congress for scrutiny to prove that it is losing money and needs to retrench 2,600 of its employees.

Fortune Tobacco employees 'restive' over job prospects

MANILA, Philippines - The labor union of cigarette maker Fortune Tobacco has expressed anxiousness over potential job losses that ground and flight crew at Philippine Airlines also face following corporate reorganization.

Hiring of foreign workers in Guam to start late 2011 - POEA

The recruitment and deployment of foreign workers, including Filipinos, for the construction of US Navy facilities in the island of Guam will begin during the last quarter of 2011 and not earlier as previously reported, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
POEA said prospective overseas Filipino workers will have to wait another year for the project's construction phase to commence.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier reported that the construction project – a naval hospital worth US$700 million – is set to be awarded by the end of September this year, and the construction will begin by the first quarter of 2011. 

According to the POEA statement, the project's design phase will start during the first half of the 2011 as many of the construction projects are of build-and-design type, and construction activity in the island will begin during the second half. 

The statement said initial bids and requests for proposal had been published and would be completed by the end of November 2010.

"The military buildup will need at least 10,000 workers but only 6,000 will come from outside Guam. The remaining 4,000 workers will be Guam residents and other foreign workers already in the US territory," the POEA noted. 

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz earlier said the construction for the military facilities would be until 2020, and projects worth about a billion US dollars should be awarded every year, requiring around 7,000 to 10,000 construction workers.

"A Filipino contractor in Guam informed the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the area that easily 50 percent of the required manpower can be sourced out from the Philippines because of its workers' experience and track record of performance," she said in a previous statement.

Records from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas show that as of December 2009, there are over 23,000 Filipinos in Guam, which is one of the five US territories. 

Of the figure, more than half are considered permanent residents, while the rest are either undocumented or temporarily staying there until the end of their employment contracts.

Cebu City to enroll indigent residents with PhilHealth

All indigent Cebu City residents may soon become members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and avail of its benefits for free.

Yesterday, officials of the city government and the city PhilHealth office had a meeting and discussed the plan to enroll the indigent city residents with the government health insurance firm. Under the plan, the beneficiaries will have to shoulder nothing as it is the city and the national government that will shoulder the payment of the premiums.

City administrator Jose Mari Poblete said the PhilHealth officials informed him that the city will just shoulder P600 for every family because it is the national govern-ment that will pay the remaining balance of the P1,200 a year for each member.

But since there are about 30,000 indigent families in Cebu City that are not regis-tered PhilHealth members, Poblete said the city needs some P20 million every year for the payment of their premiums.

"Ato pa na nga tan-awon kun duna bay budget ang City Hall nga magamit aron pag-enroll sa tanan g'yud nga indigent families," Poblete said after he met with the Phil-Health officials.

PhilHealth will shoulder part of the patient's bill if he got confined in the hospital, but the amount will depend on what level or category the hospital belongs.

For instance, if the PhilHealth member or their dependent gets confined at a third level hospital like Chong Hua, PhilHealth will pay P500 up to P1,100 room accommoda-tion a day for a period of 45 days, depending of his illness. The government insurance firm will pay from P4,200 to P40,000 for drugs and medicines, and P3,200 up to P30,000 for laboratories and others.

The qualified dependents are the legitimate spouse; legitimate, legitimated, ille-gitimate or adopted children below 21 years old and parents who are more than 60 years of age if they are not PhilHealth members.

GSIS to review several policies affecting members, pensioners

State-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is planning to review some of its policies to address issues that have long been affecting its members and pensioners.
These policies include the Premium-Based Policy (PBP), the Claims and Loans Interdependency Policy (CLIP), the Automatic Premium Loan (APL), and the grant of survivorship pension.

In a statement Wednesday, GSIS president and general manager Robert Vergara said that the pensionfund's board of trustees will revisit these policies that have caused "ire and clamor among members and pensioners."

"We want to restore the social mission of the fund, that is, to provide a basic safety net for government retirees in their old age. Clearly, throughout this process, we need to strike a balance between the needs of our members and the actuarial solvency of the fund," he said.

This move came about after the CLIP, the APL, and the Lower House had filed separate resolutions noting that they would look into the GSIS' policies.

Last September, Vergara announced that the GSIS, through his leadership, would make the pension fund service-oriented and responsive to the needs of its members.

The state-owned pension fund implemented in 2003 the CLIP, the APL, and the PBP to restore the actuarial solvency of the GSIS fund.

The CLIP involves the collection of outstanding balances of defaulting loan accounts from the proceeds of a new or renewed loan.

The APL meanwhile requires the automatic deduction of any default in the payment of the life insurance premiums, with interest, from the accumulated cash surrender or termination value of a member's life policy.

On the other hand, the PBP means that the level of benefits that members get depends on their actual premium contributions to the pension fund.

DepEd wasted P2.1 million for unnecessary travels

The Department of Education in Central Visayas wasted over P2 million public funds for unnecessary local and foreign travels in 2009.

The Commission on Audit found out that DepEd-7 officials spent a total of P2.1 million for their travels even if these were not necessary and therefore a violation of the government's austerity measures.

State auditors quoted Administrative Order No. 103 dated August 31, 2004 sus-pending all local and foreign travels unless "urgently necessary."

In its annual audit report, state auditors discovered that education officials in the region spent P695,452 during the study tours in Singapore and Malaysia on October 4 to 10, 2009, Benchmarking study on curriculum of regional directors in New Zealand on November 21 to 28, 2009, and for attending the 2009 Alternative Learning System con-sultative conference in Bangkok, Thailand on November 23 to 28.

COA said that the travel to Malaysia, Singapore and in other foreign countries, which involved observation and study visit on Madrasah Education cannot be classified under the instances when a foreign travel can be undertaken as cited in the General Ap-propriations Act.

DepEd Lapu-Lapu City division also spent P498,804 when its officials attended the mainstreaming and institutionalizing workshop in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and observed schools implementing the school-based financial management program for institutionalization in schools within the region in Macau, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

Aside from foreign trips, DepEd officials in Mandaue City also spent P100,600 to travel to Bohol to visit the pilot implementers of Strengthening Implementation of Basic Education in Selected Provinces in Visayas Project or DepEd-Bohol Strive program.

State auditors said that the cash advance granted to Narcisa P. Guido, DepEd Mandaue supervisor, for site visit in Bohol last April 7, 2009, was "irregular and unnec-essary" because the travel was not approved by the regional director.

Then it was also learned that Mandaue City was not identified for the Strive pro-ject for the school-year 2009-2010.

"Under this circumstance, the travel undertaken cannot be considered as urgent and necessary," the COA said.

State auditors told DepEd officials to adhere to the provisions of the law and other regulations to avoid waste of funds. 

PRC: 1,080 new marine deck officers

MANILA, Philippines - The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Wednesday that 1,080 out of 2,442 examinees passed the written phase of the Marine Deck Officers Licensure Examination for the various ranks given by the Board for Marine Deck Officers in Manila this November 2010.
The successful examinees who garnered the ten (10) highest places in the MASTER MARINER Licensure Examination (Written Phase) are the following:

The successful examinees who garnered the ten (10) highest places in the CHIEF MATE Licensure Examination (Written Phase) are the following:

The successful examinees who garnered the ten (10) highest places in the O.I.C. – N.W. Licensure Examination (Written Phase) are the following:

Early Christmas gifts for CH employees

Employees of the city government can expect the second half of their 13th month pay, as well as their cash gift by next week, Councilor Jose Daluz III said yesterday.

Council cuts budget by P86 million

The Cebu City Council slashed about P86 million from the P1.3-billion supple-mental appropriations proposed by Mayor Michael Rama for the continuation of his projects.

The slashed amount mostly came from the budget requests of the City Treasurer's Office for various collection strategy projects.

Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young said that the slashed amounts are for projects that the council thinks do require full funding yet.

The requested P25 million of the CTO for the Business Tax Mapping and another P20 million by the City Assessor's Office for the Revalidation of Real Property Units were cut by about 25 to 30 percent.

"We put only 25 to 30 percent first. We feel the project is maayo, but let's start first with one section of the city. If successful, we can extend to the next. Naa man ta kwarta, we can put that next year," Young said.

"There's no need to put the whole budget kay dugay kaayo to sila mahuman. The money, it could have been used for something else," he added.

The tax mapping project planned by the CTO will take 18 months to two years, said City Treasurer Ofelia Oliva during the budget hearing last Tuesday. It aims to tax map all business establishments operating in the city and to inspect their compliance with the Omnibus Tax Code of the city government.

The revalidation of RPUs, which will be a joint project of the assessor's office and the CTO, needs P20 million for implementation but just like the tax mapping, it was reduced to 25 percent.

"We would want to be cautious about it. We want to see if it will work in pilot areas first. Just like the opening of branches they proposed. They're planning to open 24 branches. Daghan ra kaayo na, not practical. Upat ra gani pwede na," Young said.

However, if they build four and sees the need for more, Young said there will be no problem with the council because they are willing to approve more branches.

The finance building which will cost P65 million was also removed from the budget because there is no proposal yet, Young said. He said that even the CTO is not sure whether the project will push through because negotiation is still ongoing.

The P10-million budget for christmas lighting and decorations was also reduced to P6 million.

"We should be more prudent about it because nagpahibalo naman daan ang VECO nga magsige og brownout. There are may things that we would have wanted to take out but we approved anyway. We just told them that before they do the purchase, they will go back to the council to explain the whole thing," Young said.

The council took out some items but also proposed to add funds to other items which they thought would need more funding.

P-Noy yet to decide on RDC 7 leadership

President Benigno Aquino III is unlikely to announce soon the next chairman and co-chairman of the Regional Development Council in Central Visayas.

There are seven nominees for chairman and co-chairman of RDC-7, which include Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Mayor Michael Rama.

The others who are in the list are Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto, Negros Orien-tal Governor Agustin Perdices and Siquijor Governor Orlando Fua Jr. and private sector nominees Jose Ng of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Argeo Melisimo, president of the First Consolidated Bank in Bohol.

The RDC traditionally votes for the next chairman and co-chairman, but during its meeting last August 19, majority chose to let the president appoint its next leaders. If the president chooses a government representative for the chairmanship, the co-chairmanship must go to the private sector - and vice versa - as provided in the RDC Manual of Opera-tions.

Police tracking down one of Joavan's alleged hangers-on

A man who allegedly latches on to Joavan Fernandez is being sought by police after allegedly figuring in a traffic accident the other day near the guard house of Vista Grande, barangay Bulacao, Talisay City.

The Talisay City police identified the alleged hanger-on as "Jury" of sitio Caba-nayan, barangay Bulacao.

Jury was driving a multicab (KEC-802) when he allegedly hit an XRM Honda motorcycle (GI 5938) driven by his neighbor Bernie Rosagenia, 36.

Rosagenia later on told the police that Jury, who fled shortly after the incident leaving his multicab behind, is a "bata-bata" of Joavan, adopted son of Mayor Socrates Fernandez.

Joavan's father has a house inside the subdivision.

According to SPO4 Henry Obiso, chief of the Talisay City Traffic Division, the multicab driven by Jury was moving away from the guard house when it made a sudden U-turn, and hit the motorcycle driven by Rosagenia.

Because of the impact, the motorcycle crashed to the road, bringing down Rosagenia and his wife with it.

The couple, who were on their way to Cebu City, sustained minor injuries.

Obiso said Jury allegedly alighted from the multicab and locked the door and, ig-noring the injured couple, left.

Rosagenia called the police for help. Obiso said the police attempted to tow the multicab, but since it did not budge, its plates were removed.

He said they went back to try to tow it again so they could have custody of the car, but it was already gone.

It was later found out that the vehicle was not registered with the Land Transpor-tation Office, Obiso said.

Obiso said as of 5 p.m. yesterday, the police waited for the couple to come back to their office so they couldfile a case against "Jury," who has since remained at large.

As this developed, Supt. Henry Biñas, chief of the city police, has already placed PO2 Aquiles Cabando, who responded to the alarm, under investigation. Biñas also said he has relieved Cabando from the traffic division and temporarily deployed him to their headquarters in barangay Poblacion while the investigation is pending.

Supporter: Ruben Ecleo did not hide

Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) supreme master Ruben Ecleo Jr. failed to attend in yesterday's hearing of his parricide case reportedly upon ad-vice of his doctor.

Gun ban lifted nationwide, except in areas to hold special polls

The Philippine National Police (PNP) announced Wednesday that even as the nationwide gun ban is lifted on midnight, it will still be implemented in areas where elections were delayed for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls scheduled last October 25.

PDEA chief accused of nepotism

by By Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Dionisio Santiago is in hot water for appointing his daughter and 2 grandchildren to permanent positions in the agency.  

Recto: GOCC, GFI should rationalize Christmas gift-giving

MANILA, Philippines - To help shore up government funds and trim the budget deficit, Sen. Ralph Recto suggested the "rationalizing" of annual Christmas gift-giving of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs).

'Little President' Ochoa denies he's leaving post

Unless President Benigno Simeon Aquino III fires him, the "Little President," Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa Jr. is not planning to leave his post anytime soon.

Clinton praises PNoy, GMA, FVR

MANILA, Philippines - Former US President Bill Clinton believes President Aquino possesses the qualities of a good leader, and though he had met him only briefly on Wednesday, he said he saw that Aquino has a clear idea of where to take the country and the energy behind it.

Clinton tells Pinoys: Get more people to come home

Ex-US president Bill Clinton faced an audience of elite Filipinos Wednesday and implored them to convince their countrymen abroad to return and help out the country. "Create a climate where everybody [participates]. Get more people to come home," he said.

Aquino, Clinton 'hit it off' - Carandang

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines  - President Aquino met with former US President Bill Clinton for about an hour in Malacañang on Wednesday before proceeding to the Manila Hotel for his talk, according to Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang.
Carandang said Clinton was particularly interested about the anti-poverty programs of the administration. 
Carandang said Clinton expressed support for the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. "He fully supports the conditional cash transfer as means of reducing poverty."
Clinton also offered his help for the Philippines to achieve self-sufficiency in rice. 
Clinton also asked questions about indigenous sources of energy like geothermal power, Carandang said.  
Clinton established the Clinton Global Initiative that works on poverty alleviation around the world. 
Carandang said the meeting between the two leaders was "informal and casual," and that the "two leaders hit it off."
Aquino was with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, and Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad when he met Clinton at the Premier Guest House in the Palace. 
On a lighter note, Carandang said Clinton asked for a Diet Coke during the meeting. President Aquino is known to be fond of regular Coke.  

PNoy hopes for more investments from Japan

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said he is hoping to exceed the $2.4 billion worth of investments that he secured from the US, when he flies to Japan Thursday to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Next envoy to seek Japan apology for 'comfort women'—Aquino

Obtaining an apology from Japan for exploiting Filipino comfort women during World War II will be one of the tasks assigned to the next ambassador to be posted in Tokyo, President Benigno Aquino has said.

In an interview with foreign correspondents in Malacañang on Tuesday, Aquino said he would also ask Congress to authorize the executive branch to use public funds to compensate the victims of sexual abuse by the Japanese Imperial Army.

"As far as asking for apologies at this point in time, diplomacy has to have a lot of legwork done with it and we are in the process of culminating the appointment of a new ambassador to Japan and that will be one of his tasks upon assumption of office," Aquino said.

Defense, Armed Forces chiefs cancel Spratlys visit

MANILA, Philippines - Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Ricardo David aborted a planned visit to the disputed Spratly Islands on Tuesday due to bad weather and poor landing condition, the military said. 

'Defective' proclamation stalls House approval of amnesty

MANILA, Philippines - Technical defects in the text of Presidential Proclamation 50 prescribing amnesty for soldiers and other individuals linked to the 2003 Oakwood Incident, 2006 Marines Standoff, and the 2008 Manila Peninsula Siege are threatening to delay congressional concurrence with the Proclamation.
National Defense Committee Chair Rodolfo Biazon noted that in the implementing cause, the words "by a majority vote of the Members of Congress" a standard feature in all concurring resolutions, were missing. "Absence of that clause is very important," he said.

Witness reveals how Ampatuan Jr. shot Maguindanao victims

by By Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News
TAGUIG CITY, Philippines –  Prosecutors in the Maguindanao massacre case presented on Wednesday its 5th witness, Police Officer 1 Rainier Ebus, one of the 6 police security personnel assigned to former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.  

'Former Vice Mayor has valuable evidence in massacre case'

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said former Sultan sa Barongis Vice-Mayor Sukarno Badal is a very valuable witness in the Maguindanao massacre case.

28 Maguindanao massacre suspects plead not guilty

MANILA, Philippines - At least 28 policemen and former militiamen pleaded not guilty to 57 counts of murder filed against them in connection with the Maguindanao massacre in November last year.

30 hurt in Surigao del Sur bus accident

BUTUAN CITY, Philippines – Two people are in critical condition while 28 others were injured after the bus they were riding figured in an accident in Surigao del Sur province early Wednesday morning, police said. 

Initial police investigation showed that the Bachelor bus was travelling on the national highway from Mangagoy in Bislig City toward Poblacion, Lingig, when the accident occurred.

The driver, identified as Alberto Mauricio, reportedly lost control of the vehicle while it was travelling through a descending curve. 

One of the bus' right wheels hit the road shoulder. The bus fell on its side and crashed after Mauricio tried to regain control of the steering.

The injured passengers were brought to the Andres Soriano Memorial Hospital. 

Those in critical condition were identified as Police Officer 3 Victor Limeño and Army Calope. 

The bus driver has been arrested and was jailed at the Lingig Municipal Police Station while charges are being prepared against him.

Ricky Reyes appeals for cooperation for cancer patients

Ipapuputol na ng Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) ang kuryente at tubig sa Child House at tuluyan nang paaalisin ang mga batang may cancer at ibang malubhang karamdaman na tumutuloy sa halfway house. Ikinalulungkot ito ngayon hindi lang ng mga magulang kundi pati ng  nagtatag sa child house na si Ricky Reyes.

Another Filipino activist deported from South Korea

Another Filipino activist who had planned to take part in alternative meetings that are set to run parallel to the G20 summit was barred from entering South Korea Wednesday.

Jean Enriquez of World March of Women and Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), said that she was held at the Seoul immigration upon arrival Wednesday morning.

"After getting my documents and my fingerprints, I was told that they cannot allow me to enter the country today. I asked if I can enter in the future, as I'm concerned of our long-term work, she said she thinks so," Enriquez said.

She said immigration officers then informed her that she would be taking the next flight to Manila three hours later and that she would foot the bill of her return travel.

"I said how could they charge me when they are forcing me to return. She said it's in their law --immigration law. I asked for a copy, and she could say anything. Both looked exasperated with me," Enriquez said.

"She said I have a return ticket anyway and I'm not going to live in Korea. I said 'of course I'm not! But because I bought it for a purpose, and I didn't achieve my purpose, so you should pay for it because you're denying me entry! It's you who want me to return now! Why will I pay for your policy?'," she said.

"They kept shaking their heads. I said 'that's total abuse'. She said I can complain with the Korean embassy in the Philippines. I said, 'shameful!' I felt that all eyes were on me as I was being escorted out of the office," Enriquez added.

Enriquez was then brought to a waiting lounge where she then asked for a copy of her repatriation paper but was denied. She added that South Korean immigration staff also refused to return her passport even after she has boarded the plane on her way back to Manila.

"It is most absurd that this despicable government is denying entry to visitors and making us pay for it," she said.

Enriquez condemned the South Korean governments' apparent crackdown on foreign members of civil society groups.

Last Saturday, six Filipino activists were also denied entry and put on a flight back to Manila.

"I have come to Korea around eight times speaking on economic and violence against women issues, upon invitation of local civil society groups. I am coming today upon the invitation of Korea Women's Alliance to the World March of Women, where I am part of the International Committee, to deliver the keynote Speech in the Gender Justice Action Debate," Enriquez said.

"How illustrative of its ilk in the G20 who are crafting anti-poor policies and still charge their wrongdoing to the poor. Such arrogance!" she added.

The repatriated Filipino activists were supposed to attend the People's Collective Action against the G20 Summit, organized by civil society groups.

3 Filipinas who hid travel papers in underwear held

They were supposed to be "tourists" but the travel documents hidden in their underwear showed that they were actually laborers headed for the Middle East.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) officer in charge Ronaldo Ledesma said three women who had hidden their real travel documents in their underwear were arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last Oct. 25 as they were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Singapore.

It turned out the women, who pretended to be tourists, were actually bound for the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

The Philippine government has a standing ban against Filipino labor deployment in Lebanon.

"It appears that the illegal recruiters and human trafficking syndicates are using all tricks so their victims can avoid detection by immigration officers," Ledesma said.

He said this was a new modus operandi—"a sign of desperation on the part of the syndicates"—after the BI intensified its drive against human trafficking.

Lawyer Arvin Santos, BI airport operations division chief, said the three female passengers were queuing for clearance at the NAIA immigration counter when they were invited for questioning by members of the bureau's travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) because they were "acting strange."

While undergoing secondary inspection, the women apparently panicked and revealed their true plans, Santos said.

"They pulled out their visas and plane tickets from their underwear after we managed to bluff them into revealing their final destinations," he added.

Santos said that the hidden travel documents showed that from Singapore, the passengers had connecting flights to Beirut and Dubai.

Over 100 job orders for Filipina maids cancelled over insurance

The new government policy requiring insurance coverage for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) has led more than 100 Hong Kong residents to cancel their requests for Filipina maids, a recruitment industry leader in Manila said on Wednesday.

Fire kills 3 OFWs in Dubai -- report

DUBAI - Three Filipino overseas workers were killed in a fire on Saturday morning in Dubai, an online news provider reported Wednesday.

According to online news provider The National, the fatalities were identified as Renalyn Luna, 24, waitress; Ariel Soberano, 28; waiter and saleslady Krisleen Francisco, 32.

The fatalities were among 6 people reportedly sleeping in a makeshift room on the rooftop of a 5-storey building in Al Satwa.

Another Filipino identified as Reynald Luna, 32, remains in critical condition at the Rashid Hospital Trauma Center.

According to Josephine Jacob, an aunt of one of the victims, they were roused from their sleep by the blaze that immediately consumed their home, which was made of light materials.

Meanwhile, Migrante-United Arab Emirates called on the Philippine consulate in Dubai to immediately facilitate the repatriation of the fatalities. It also urged the government to extend assistance to the other victim.

Likewise, the OFW group asked Philippine officials to look into the safety of the accommodations of OFWs. 
"Many, if not majority of the OFWs in UAE, live in cramped rooms because of high rent. They are forced to live in unsafe accommodations to save money so they can provide for their families back home," Yuri Cipriano, Migrante-UAE chairperson said.

Cusi - De Jesus row worsens with new 7 CAAP execs

MANILA, Philippines - An imbroglio is brewing at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) after several key appointments were made by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), which based its action on a "desire letter of the President" to appoint them, over the head of the chief of the authority.

Congress panel grills PAGIBIG officials on housing mess

Ginisa ng Joint House Committee on Good Government at Housing ang mga opisyal ng PAGIBIG Fund sa unang pagdinig tungkol sa maanomalyang transaksyon sa kanila ng Globe Asiatique.  Hindi naman sumipot sa pagdinig ang negosyanteng si Delfin Lee.

$1: 43.400

$1: 43.400 (P43.37)

Euro 1: 59.6088

House body to conduct hearing on cigarette stamp tax

MANILA, Philippines - The House Committee on Ways and Means is set to conduct next week a hearing on the controversial tax stamp proposal following the Department of Justice's ruling that the proposal is valid.

They also said that the project would translate to an additional 52-centavo per pack, which will be passed on to consumers.

The SICPATRACE system proposal will involve the application to tobacco products of tamper-proof strip stamps using a combination of data matrix code and fuse-on features; and installation in the premises of tobacco manufacturers of scanning and activation software to monitor the number of tobacco products produced.

Early this week, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said there is nothing illegal with the BIR's plan to attach strip stamps on cigarette packs without approval from Congress.

She said it is within the powers of the BIR to pass on to consumers the cost of the project as a regulatory fee.

De Lima's opinion reversed former Justice Secretary Alberto Agra's previous legal opinion which said that the proposal is legislative in nature.

Villar real estate company reports P2-B profit

The Villar-led property developer Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. grew its nine-month net profit by 36 percent to P2.17 billion on brisk revenues particularly from its affordable housing business.

Blasts target Iraq Christians, 3 dead, dozens hurt

by Reuters
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Bombings and mortar attacks targeting Christians killed at least three people and wounded over two dozen in Baghdad on Wednesday, Iraqi security sources said, 10 days after a brazen assault on a Catholic cathedral that killed 52.

Death toll from Indonesian volcano rises to 191

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia - Indonesia says the number of people killed by its most volatile volcano has climbed to 191.

Myanmar preparing for Suu Kyi release: officials

by Agence France-Presse
YANGON, Myanmar - Preparations are under way for the expected release of Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, officials said Wednesday, after the army's proxies claimed a landslide election win.

Pacquiao, Margarito ready to rumble

Speed versus strength. That wasn't more obvious when Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito worked out for everyone to see Tuesday, before they finally come face-to-face this Saturday at the Cowboys Stadium and fight for the World Boxing Council (WBC) super-welterweight championship.

Margarito's trainer predicts 11th rd KO win

Finally, Robert Garcia, Antonio Margarito's soft-spoken trainer, is now also into the business of predicting. Initially shunning the question of when he expects his fighter to take out Manny Pacquiao in their 12-round World Boxing Council (WBC) super-welterweight title bout this Saturday, Garcia boldly announced he expects the knockout to come later in the fight.

Pacquiao camp questioned fighter's dedication

by Reuters
DALLAS – Manny Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach questioned his fighter's dedication to boxing in recent weeks following a training camp that was more chaotic than usual, he told Reuters on Tuesday (Wednesday, in Manila).

Roach longs for Christmas in Boracay

by By Abac Cordero, The Philippine Star
DALLAS – Is Freddie Roach so sure of a Manny Pacquiao victory over Antonio Margarito that he's already looking forward to his Christmas vacation?

Arum warns: Margarito has tools to pull an upset

Venerable promoter Bob Arum has warned that Mexican Antonio Margarito can pull an upset against Manny Pacquiao.

Court orders Mayweather Jr. to stay away from sons

LAS VEGAS - A Las Vegas court has ordered boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. to stay away from his former girlfriend and their two sons after prosecutors say he hit her and threatened to beat his children if they called 911.
The 33-year-old Mayweather was not required to appear at a hearing Tuesday before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Diana Sullivan on eight misdemeanor and felony charges. Sullivan gave Mayweather a week to pay $31,000 in bail.

Authorities allege Mayweather also took mobile phones belonging to Josie Harris and his sons following the Sept. 9 dispute.

Mayweather faces charges of felony coercion, grand larceny and robbery, and misdemeanor domestic battery and harassment.

He could face up to 34 years in prison if convicted on all charges. He is due back in court Jan. 24.

Simon's hot streak lifts Llamados over Air21 in PBA Cup

The way coach Jorge Gallent talked on Wednesday night made it sound like it was just one of those days for Peter June Simon.

Simon explodes for 42 as Llamados strikes anew

Known as Philippine Basketball Association's super sub, Peter June Simon is now beginning to build a reputation as the league's new scoring machine.

Wednesday Massacre: Aces arrest skid, vent ire on Tigers

Tim Cone and his Alaska Aces are tired of losing. On Wednesday night, the reigning Fiesta Conference champions rediscovered their old form to arrest an alarming skid.

Lakers 8-0 after beating Wolves 99-94 (AP)

Los Angeles Clippers ' Al-Farouq Aminu scores a layup as Sacramento Kings ' Darnell Jackson looks on during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010.

Ron Artest, the former math major at St. John's, could only chuckle at the unfairness of this equation. The Lakers' worst performance of the season plus the Minnesota Timberwolves' best effort of the year still equaled another win in Los Angeles' historic start to the season. Kobe Bryant scored 33 points, Pau Gasol added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the Lakers improved to 8-0.

Millsap's 46 trump James' triple-double (AP)

Dwyane Wade had 39 points. LeBron James had a triple-double. The Miami Heat had a 22-point lead. The Utah Jazz were unimpressed on all counts. Paul Millsap scored a career-high 46 points -- 11 coming in the final 28 seconds of regulation as Utah rallied from eight down -- and the Jazz stunned the Heat 116-114 in overtime on Tuesday night.

Hornets move to 7-0, roll past Clippers (AP)

Miami Heat forward LeBron James , left, and guard Dwyane Wade watch from the bench during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the New Orleans Hornets in New Orleans, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010.

Jerryd Bayless nailed a 15-foot jumper, the Clippers called timeout and Chris Paul sprinted off the bench to give Bayless a soaring shoulder bump. After a shaky first few outings with New Orleans, Bayless was suddenly taking over a game in the fourth quarter, much like the three-time All-Star he backs up.

Pacers go 20 for 21 in 3rd, rout Nuggets (AP)

Josh McRoberts had no idea history was at stake when he launched a deep 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter. If he did, he said he would have taken a different approach. The Indiana Pacers made their first 20 shots of the third quarter, missing out on a perfect period when McRoberts was off on a 26-footer with 1.9 seconds left, and rolled to a 144-113 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Bucks end offensive slump, rip Knicks (AP)

Milwaukee Bucks ' Brandon Jennings tries to drive past New York Knicks ' Toney Douglas during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010, in Milwaukee.

Brandon Jennings took it upon himself to help break the Milwaukee Bucks out of an early season shooting slump. The second-year point guard scored 12 of his 19 points in Milwaukee's 41-point first quarter, and the Bucks never looked back in beating the New York Knicks 107-80 on Tuesday night.

Reserves spark Cavaliers by Nets 93-91 (AP)

New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson talks with Terrence Williams (1) during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010,  in Newark, N.J.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have found a new scoring threat in the post-LeBron James era: the bench. Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker hit late 3-pointers and Cleveland's reserves poured in 52 points in leading the Cavaliers to their third straight win, 93-91 over the reeling New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night.

Party-list solon to watch Pacquiao fight

MANILA, Philippines - Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Rep. Mark Zambar is leaving for the US on Thursday to watch the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito. 

Will Vice Ganda host 'Pilipinas Win na Win?'

MANILA, Philippines – Contrary to reports, host-comedian Vice Ganda, the resident judge of "Showtime," will not move to "Pilipinas Win na Win (PWNW)," his camp clarified.

After Bea, Empress confirms receiving hate messages, threats

MANILA, Philippines- Young actress Empress Shuck disclosed that, like Bea Alonzo, she, too, received hate messages from fans after she was linked to actor Gerald Anderson.

Angel reveals her family receiving death threats

by by Marie Lozano, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Actress Angel Locsin revealed that her family is receiving death threats after her niece's murder in Cebu province last week.

Baptism of Judai's first baby set this month

by by Marie Lozano, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines – Actor Jeffrey Santos confirmed that the baptism of Judy Ann Santos and Ryan Agoncillo's first baby will take place this month.

Still no winner for P383-million lotto prize

No one won the P383-million jackpot in the 6/55 grand lotto draw on Wednesday night, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) said.

Filipinas put food before sex in survey

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Filipinas rank food a lot higher than their sex life among the main things that make them happy, according to a government survey released Wednesday.

Both Filipino men and women ranked family, health and religion in that order as the three most important things that made them happy, the National Statistical Coordination Board found in a poll.

Female respondents, however, put food in fifth place, just ahead of work. Love life came 10th and sex life at 18th, just one rank above the bottom.

For men, love life figured in 6th place and sex life 10th, with food at 9th.

And this can lead to trouble, said the agency's secretary-general Romulo Virola.

"This is easy to trivialize, but the unmet expectations for love and sex by either partner can surely lead to problems, and must be managed properly and professionally," he wrote on the government agency's website.

For the Philippine poor, the survey found that men ranked their sex, love lives and food at the top while women said family, love life and food were top of their lists.

In the four months since Benigno Aquino became president of the Philippines, the impoverished country's population has grown by about 600,000 -- the fastest rate of increase in Southeast Asia.

It now stands at around 94 million and there have been calls to increase access to contraception in the devoutly Catholic nation.

The non-random 2010 poll covered 356 respondents in two Manila districts, a nearby province, staff of two government offices and one private firm.

NSCB: Family, health still main sources of happiness for Pinoys

A pleasant family life and good health remain as Filipinos' main sources of happiness this year, a government survey revealed Wednesday.
The results of a survey of 356 randomly selected Filipinos conducted by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) last August showed that both Filipino men and women ranked their families as their primary source of happiness.

The same importance given by Filipinos to their families was observed in previous NSCB polls conducted in 2007 and 2008, when survey respondents also ranked "family" as their No. 1 source of happiness.

The results of the survey were posted on the agency's website on Wednesday.

"The family is definitely a very (if not the most) important source of happiness among us. It is therefore important that we preserve the family as the social unit that can bind us together," NSCB Secretary-General Romulo Virala said in an article posted on the agency's website .

Good health came in second place, while spiritual work was ranked as the third most important source of happiness by Filipinos this year.

According to the NSCB, middling sources of happiness among Filipinos include: work, peace and security, food, education and love life.

Most of the respondents, on the other hand, regarded cultural activities and community work as aspects of their lives where they derive happiness the least.

The survey was conducted by the NSCB three months ago among low-income families, government workers and members of the private sector from two districts in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

For men from poor families, sex ranks first

The NSCB also noted an "intriguing" finding, which showed that men from low-income families regard sex as their primary source of happiness.

This ranking is in stark contrast with the findings among low-income women, majority of whom said that their families make them the happiest.

Men from low-income groups ranked family only as their 10th source of happiness, ranked lower than technological know-how and sports.

"The men are not very happy with their family, however, a great mismatch with the women and a cause for concern," Virala said in his article.

The government agency likewise noted a "large disparity" in the rankings of sex life between men and women across economic classes. Filipino men generally regarded sex as their 10th most important source of happiness, while women ranked it second to the last.

The NSCB also noted how the relative importance of friends has gone down since 2007, when it was ranked 4th. Respondents for this year's poll only ranked friends as their 12th most important source of happiness.

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