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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 4, 2010 Major News Stories

Majority of members decide: VECO union votes 'yes' to hold strike

The members of the labor union of the Visayan Electric Company (VECO) voted yes to a strike last night.

Majority of the 239 members of the Visayan Electric Company Employees Union - Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (VECEU-ALU-TUCP ) favor the staging of strike during the vote held outside the company's compound in Banilad and also at the D. Jakosalem office.

VECEU-ALU-TUCP president Casimero Mahilum said that of the 239 union members, a total of 156 members have voted for the strike. The union only needed 122 votes to make their strike legal.

In Banilad, of the 120 members expected to vote, 103 showed up and all but three voted yes. 

At the VECO Jakosalem office, only 53 of the 119 members voted. Of those who voted, 49 voted yes.

Mahilum said that those who failed to cast their votes were either on leave or simply failed to beat the 8 p.m. deadline.

Renato Gregorio Gimenez, VECEU-ALU spokesperson and vice president said that the strike vote is a protest against unjust labor practices.

The Labor Code mandates that a simple majority (50% plus 1) for the strike to be legal.

The result of the strike vote will be submitted by the union to the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) today.

After the result of the vote is submitted, there is a seven-day cooling-off period before the union will decide when to launch the strike.

Mahilum said that their action "will cripple VECO's operation."

He said that if the union will not get any positive response from the management of the power utility by November 10, they can hold their strike any time.

"Di lang mi mosulti sa when ang exact date sa strike. But mahitabo gyud na ang strike, kung walay mahitabo nga maayo during negotiations," Mahilum said.

Mahilum, who was terminated from work last week, said that the conduct of the strike vote was peaceful.

The union filed its notice of strike before the NCMB last October 28 on the ground of unfair labor practice.

The notice was filed after Mahilum was terminated that day on the ground of loss of trust and confidence.

ALU-TUCP had expressed disgust over the management's decision to terminate the local president and is expressing full support of whatever the general membership will decide related to this act from management of disrespecting trade union rights.

VECO, in a press statement reiterated its assurance to the public that in the event of a strike, electric service in all areas under their franchise shall be uninterrupted.

VECO spokesperson Ethel Natera had said that they shall ensure that electric service as well as customer requests, applications and payments as well as complaints will be acted on in a manner that the VECO customer requires and deserves. 

DOLE warns jobseekers on seasonal work in Italy

OFWs wanting to work seasonal jobs in Italy should be wary of recruiters because Manila and Milan have no bilateral arrangements for such jobs, the Labor Department said.

Asia's top island destinations: Capitol sees challenge; Tomas hits 'Suroy-Suroy'

The Cebu provincial government yesterday said the result of the recent survey by a travel magazine that show Cebu no longer in the Top Island Destinations in Asia is a challenge for Cebu to do more to be on the list again.

Capitol spokesperson Rory Jon Sepulveda said Conde Nast Traveler's survey showed that other islands are becoming better than Cebu, which is relying on industries highly dependent on incoming tourist and or customers who are coming for tourism and hospitality services.

"Dili gyud angay nga mokompiyansa ta nga maminus ang prestihiyosong Sugbo because that's the only thing that matters to them (tourists) - an image about Cebu," he told reporters yesterday while Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is still on a trip in China.

Sepulveda, however, cited that aside from tourism, Cebu's booming Business Process Outsourcing industry is also a come on for not only tourists but also investors.

"Ang atoang greatest asset ang human infrastructure. . . Di gyud palupig ang Sugbo. Ang atong paningkamot nga ang imahe sa Sugbo ug ang atoang government and physical public infrastructures are there makapadayung ma-perceive ang Sugbo nga di lang maayo suroyanan kon di maayo usab sa business," he said.

With the recent development, Cebu City south district Rep. Tomas Osmeña found another opportunity to hit at the tourism program of Cebu province dubbed as "Suroy-Suroy Sugbo."

According to Osmeña, the governor's program in promoting tourism was a "big failure" despite the provincial government's spending huge amount of money.

"Nobody is investing in the province. Kanang Suroy-Suroy daghang organizers ug wala gyud naka-attract," Osmeña said. Compared to Cebu province, he added the city has done so much especially in infrastructure projects like the South Road Properties.

Tourism stakeholders in Cebu expressed surprise over the result of Conde Nast's survey but they are still happy that two local resorts have made it to this year's list of Top Resorts in the World cited by the same travel magazine.

The international magazine, which specializes in luxury travel, recognized two high-end resorts on Mactan island, Cebu in the category of Top Resorts in Asia for 2010.

Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City ranked number 14 with 83.2 points, while Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, also in Lapu-Lapu, was number 15 with a rating of 82.6 - one notch higher than its last year's 16th place ranking. About 380 resorts were rated by magazine readers in the global survey.

The results, released in mid-October, are from Conde Nast's 23rd Annual Readers' Choice Awards, a listing of the best cities, islands, hotels, transportation and resorts worldwide for 2010.

It was Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa's first time to make the list.

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa tied with Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa (Siem Reap, Cambodia) for number 15 spot among Asian resorts.

Cebu was shut out of the list of Top Island Destinations after consistently appearing on the magazine's annual survey.

This year, Cebu was replaced by "Luzon" at number 7 with 75.1 points.

Cebu is an island in the Visayas with a population of 3 million compared with Luzon's 48 million. Luzon includes Metro Manila and regions of Ilocos, Bicol, Central Luzon, Cagayan, and the Cordilleras.

Cebu has occupied the 7th place four times in the magazine's annual survey garnering 72.6 points in 2009; 70.9 in 2008; 72.3 in 2007 and 72.8 in 2004. Twice, it has been ranked 8th best island destination by the same survey: in 2006 with 71.0 points and in 2005, with 69.5 points.

DND: No terror threat in Philippines

by by Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines-National Capital Region (AFP-NCR) Command is on red alert, but the Department of National Defense (DND) said there is "no terror threat in the Philippines."

NBI not sure if two suspects are also APO fratmen

The National Bureau of Investigation is "not sure" if the two men who reportedly helped the primary suspect in the September 26 bar exams explosion escape were indeed members of the influential Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity, the agency's spokesman said Wednesday.

De Lima asks APO to stick to commitment to blast probe

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday asked the leadership of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity not to renege on its earlier commitment to cooperate in the investigation in the grenade attack that marred the last day of the Bar examinations last September 26.

AFP chief to shed light on alleged Glorietta blast cover-up

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Ricardo David on Wednesday said he will appear before the Department of Justice to shed light on his alleged participation in the cover-up of the investigation of the explosion at the Glorietta mall in Makati City in 2007.

Tanod charged for actor's death

The family of actor Kirk Abella has filed charges for homicide and violation of Comelec gun ban against the barangay tanod who shot him to death during a shooting for a documentary film on Saturday night.

The bereaved family members appeared before the City Prosecutor's Office yesterday afternoon to press the charges against Parian barangay tanod Eduardo Cuizon. Assistant Prosecutor Noel Cellona received the complaint.

Cuizon, together with his legal counsel, Atty. Noel Archival, however, appeared before the prosecutor's office and filed a waiver asking for 10 days to prepare a counter affidavit.

Archival said that within the 10-day period, their camp will be looking for reasons why the supposed film shooting turned into a real shooting. The defense lawyer said the incident was unique and that he is very certain of the impending rigidness of the unusual case. 

"Among analyze-son pag-ayo ngano'ng pag lights-camera-action natinuod man… di man unta to tinuod," said Archival. In an interview, Nicolas Abella, the father of the victim, said that forgiveness is an easy thing to give, but "I will only forgive him after he served his sentence in jail."

From the Palace of Justice, Cuizon was brought back to Parian Police Station while his camp prepares its next move.   Cuizon shot Abella to death during a shooting of a documentary film entitled "Going Somewhere" by Alan Lyddiard Film based in London, United Kingdom, wherein the victim acted as the perpetrator of a drive-by shooting.

Contrary to the statements of Cuizon, who claimed to be unaware of the film shoot, Parian Police Station Chief Insp. Alexis Relado said the accused and other tanods of the barangay were informed of the film shoot.

Cuizon was reportedly at the residence of the barangay captain-elect Boy Nuñez, when someone reported that an armed gunman was spotted in their area.

After receiving the report, Cuizon rushed to the scene with his homemade gun and approached the victim riding a motorcycle driven by a co-actor while waiting for the action call.   Cuizon allegedly suddenly grabbed the victims' shirt right before the production team shouted the "action call" which caused the motorcycle to move, dragging Cuizon on the pavement which prompted Cuizon to fire his gun which killed the victim.

Police witness fears for his life, signs earlier affidavits prepared by others

(UPDATE) "Andal Ampatuan Jr. is not an ordinary citizen. He has money, guns and supporters. They can do anything," said massacre suspect Police Inspector Rex Ariel Diongon, 25, during Wednesday's direct examination in the on-going trial on the Maguindanao massacre.

Police chief was 'scared to stop' Andal Jr's rampage

A former police official, who is among the nearly 200 accused in the Ampatuan multiple murder case but may turn witness, said on Wednesday he and his men did not dare thwart Andal Ampatuan Jr.'s alleged plan to massacre everyone in the convoy despite their knowing about it, simply due to their fear of the prime suspect.

Shrine for Maguindanao massacre victims to be built — Governor Mangudadatu

A shrine will be built on the site of the November 23 massacre last year in Maguindanao where 57 people were killed including 31 members of the media, Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said.

Report: Maguindanao gang-raped nurse undergoes surgery

Florence, the victim of gang rape in Maguindanao in September, successfully underwent surgery as doctors installed a steel plate to support her broken jaw.

Defense chief links MILF to Cotabato bus blast

The Defense secretary on Wednesday tagged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as one of the possible suspects in the October 21 bombing of a passenger bus in Cotabato which killed at least 10 and injured 30.

AFP chief: Marine brigade shift to Cotabato part of 'strategy'

Armed Forces chief General Ricardo David on Wednesday justified a recent decision to transfer a Marine brigade from Basilan province, a territory known to host Abu Sayyaf lairs, to central Mindanao, where the strongest bailiwicks of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are located.

Aquino won't meet with NDF prior to peace pact—Palace exec

Malacañang indicated on Wednesday that there will be no meeting between President Benigno Aquino and any leader of the communist negotiating panel until a peace pact is signed between the two sides.

Palace changes tune: P2.2-B for GMA's district 'necessary'

by by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - In a rare development, the lead spokesperson of President Benigno Aquino III virtually cleared his political nemesis, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, of any wrongdoing in the allocation of P2.2 billion pesos in funds for her congressional district in Pampanga.

Miriam files bill giving firms tax break for hiring ex-prisoners

To help former prisoners integrate back into mainstream society, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill giving hiring companies additional tax deductions.

Bill seeks to indemnify wrongfully jailed persons

A bill seeking to indemnify innocent persons for each year they were wrongfully jailed has been filed at the House of Representatives.
Arguing that innocent persons "especially the poor" have been jailed, "at times without due process," Albay Rep. Al Francis Bichara said House Bill 1138 provides that persons who were detained and later acquitted or found innocent by an appropriate court's final judgment will be indemnified by the government, at P60,000 per year of detention.

The measure, which Bichara authored, further provides that if the detention is less than one year, the rate of compensation will be computed at P5,000 per month.

However, the compensation has set limits. It will apply only to those who have been declared innocent after their case was tried; it will not apply if the complainant merely desists or fails to prosecute.

Bichara, chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, explained that the proposed law derives from the Constitution's Bill of Rights, which guarantees the right of every person to life, liberty, and property and to due process of law.

"No one shall be deprived the equal protection of the laws. This Constitutional guarantee of the right to be free, is the most cherished right of any human being," he said. 

He added: "In any imperfect society just like ours, persons especially the poor have been deprived of their liberty wrongfully and at times without due process of law."

There were cases where an accused had been languishing and spending his productive years in jail only to be declared innocent by the court some years or even decades later, the lawmaker said.

Nothing can fully compensate for the unjust deprivation of one's liberty, Bichara added, but still the government should rectify the injustice done.

"This bill does not claim to compensate the sufferings, deprivations or trauma caused by erroneous detention, but through this it is hoped that the State will be able to rectify an injustice and redress a wrong," he said.

Once the bill is enacted into law, it will be allocated an initial fund of P10 million, which will be included in the annual budget of the Department of Justice.

93 Filipinos detained in Latin America for drugs

At least 93 Filipinos are detained on drug-related offenses in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Peso now at P42.59 to dollar; more US portfolio investments in Asia seen

The peso inched up further to P42.59 (from P42.75) on Wednesday well into the P42-to the-US dollar territory, given expectations that the US Federal Reserve would pump more money into the US economy soon.

PAL readies P2.5-B compensation package for workers

by By Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has finalized its modified compensation package that will be offered to the 2,600 workers affected by the company's planned spin-off of its in-flight catering, airport services and call center reservation units.

New major eruption at Indonesian volcano Merapi: scientists

by Agence France-Presse
PURWOBINANGUN, Indonesia - Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano erupted Wednesday with more force than last week's blasts that killed 36 people, spewing huge clouds of searing gas into the sky, scientists said.

UN chief raises human rights in China speech

BEIJING,China - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday emphasised the need for worldwide respect of human rights during a visit to China, after critics accused him of being too soft on Beijing on the issue.

No rematch clause for Pacman-Margarito bout

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum is not keen on putting up a rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito. Not unless their 12-round fight for the WBC super-welterweight title turns out to be a competitive and closely-fought bout.

Roach to Pacman: Your politics is over if you lose fight

Manny Pacquiao's stint in politics is definitely linked with his great boxing career. And trainer Freddie Roach believes whatever the outcome of Pacquiao's title fight with Antonio Margarito Saturday next week will definitely reflect on his job as a budding public servant.

Pacquiao breaks training partner's nose in sparring

MANILA, Philippines – If the broken nose of Manny Pacquiao's training partner is an indication of his readiness to fight Mexico's Antonio Margarito on November 13, then the Fighter of the Decade is ready to rumble, according to his boxing coach.

Pacquiao thrives on distractions, says biographer

MANILA, Philippines – Despite all the hoopla about the reported distractions faced by Manny Pacquiao, biographer Gary Andrew Poole said the Pinoy champ appears to be on track for his fight against Antonio Margarito next week.

Pacquiao backed US senator gets re-elected

MANILA, Philippines — Manny Pacquiao endorsed American senator, Harry Reid, was re-elected to the US Senate on Tuesday's midterm elections (Wednesday, in Manila).

PBA: Beermen defuse Bolts; Express tame Tigers

Good to the last drop. San Miguel Beer, the basketball team, is now becoming the toast of the PBA Philippine Cup. The Beermen continued to assert their mastery over their counterparts, adding the Meralco Bolts to their growing list of victims, 86-77, Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
In the first game, Air21 turned to Ronjay Buenafe to outlast Powerade, 102-95.

Sinulog 2011 is pilot for government's "command system"

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama yesterday said that he wants all government personnel and civilian volunteers tasked to respond to emergency situations will not rest until a problem at hand is solved.

He made the statement before representatives of different government agencies and volunteers who attended a whole-day seminar on "Incident Command System" (ICS) held at the City Hall's legislative building.

Minda Morante, regional director of the Office of the Civil Defense 7, said the Sinulog festival on the third Sunday of January 2011 will be made as the pilot project of the ICS.

Of all the cities in the country, Cebu City has been chosen as the pilot area where the Incident Command System will be strictly implemented.

Morante said the creation of the ICS is necessary to unite all the efforts during crisis management to avoid a repeat of the handling of the hostage taking in Manila involving a dismissed policeman who killed foreign nationals.

During the briefing of the lecturers yesterday, it was clarified that during crisis management there should only be one person to speak before the media to avoid conflicts.

Morante, however, said that changes to be introduced during the holding of next year's Sinulog festival would merely be a "fine tuning" of the system the organizers and authorities have been implementing over the years.

Morante explained that during crisis management there shall be three major committees to be created that will take charge for the security, communication and medical aspects.

"Kun magtinabangay lang g'yud ang tanan sigurado nga makabot g'yud nato ang atong tumong ug tinguha," Rama said.

Palace on Mai Mislang issue: Let's move on

MANILA, Philippines - Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda called Assistant Secretary Carmen "Mai" Mislang's Twitter episode a "learning experience."

Kris: Let's respect Noynoy's privacy

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential sister Kris Aquino said the public should not make a big fuss if her brother, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, and celebrity stylist Liz Uy are indeed dating as what is being rumored.

James Yap's camp asks for a gag order vs Kris

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of star cager James Yap asked the Makati Regional Trial Court to issue a gag order against his estranged wife, actress-television host Kris Aquino.

Ogie, Regine plan to go to Europe after wedding

MANILA, Philippines - Composer-singer Ogie Alcasid has unveiled some details of his wedding with "Asia's Songbird" Regine Velasquez in December.

Lapid seeks 50-percent postal discount for OFW families

Families of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) will be entitled to a 50-percent discount on postal services if Senator Lito Lapid's bill is passed into law.

No winner of P 312M Grand Lotto pot

Nagsiksikan ang mga tao sa mga lotto outlets kanina dahil umabot sa halos P312 million ang jackpot ng 6/55 Grand Lotto. Sa bolahan ngayong gabi, lumabas ang winning combination na  43-20-5-37-13- 6. Pero walang pinalad na nanalo. Sa darating na Sabado, mauulit ang bolahan at inaasahang tataas pa ang jackpot prize ng Grand Lotto.

Bishop not happy with 'prayerful' lotto bettors

Invoking God to win in lotto or other forms of gambling is a 'defective' practice of religiosity, a Catholic bishop said.
As the jackpot in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office's lotto draws nears P300 million, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. criticized lotto bettors who pray only to win in gambling.

"It's sort of not exactly right because there's a right way of expressing spirituality and religious sentiments. It's a defect," Iñiguez, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) public affairs unit.

In a news article posted on the CBCP news site, Iñiguez said some bettors pray hard inside churches to ask for help in picking the winning combination in the lotto draws.

The bishop was also not happy with lotto bettors who reportedly wipe images of saints inside churches with their tickets as they pray for good fortune.

Many Filipinos have formed queues in betting stations in the hope of becoming instant millionaires.

The Catholic Church opposes gambling in any form, saying it is a menace to society and promotes the wrong values of depending on sheer luck instead of hard work.

Virtual teachers coming soon

by By Karen Galarpe,
MANILA, Philippines - Soon, public high school students in the country will get access to the lectures of the best, even award-winning, teachers. Thanks to technology, virtual expert teachers will be "holding" classes in English, Science and Math through Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc.'s (KCFI) "Masterminds" program beginning 2011.

"The concept is to place virtual master teachers in classrooms because there's a lack of teachers in the country and a lack of expert teachers in the fields of English, Science, and Math. The Department of Education (DepEd) needs more than 100,000 teachers," said Rina Lopez-Bautista, president of KCFI.

The program is envisioned to help high school students achieve better mastery of various topics in these subjects.

"Masterminds" will be launched in January 2011 featuring the Biology subject in the pilot test. Classes in English, Science, and Math will follow. The students will watch the program as a class with a teacher present to facilitate the learning.

Although "Masterminds" is targeted toward high school students, Lopez-Bautista said the program may later on be offered to elementary public school students.

Declining achievement scores

"There are many resource gaps that exist today in the educational system. Many of these gaps are the reasons why the outcomes of Philippine education is very low today in both national and international tests," said Lopez-Bautista.

"There's a lack of teachers in the country," said Knowledge Channel Foundation Inc. president Rina Lopez-Bautista (in pink). Credit: KCFI

She disclosed that scores in the National Achievement Test (NAT) for both high school and elementary students have been going down in recent years.

"In elementary, it's 66% in public schools. For private schools, the [average] score is even lower at 54%," Lopez-Bautista added.

Private schools do not just include the elite schools, but also many small mission, parochial, and diocesan schools whose tuition fees are about the same as what the government spends for every public school student annually--P7,500, she said.

"The combination of lack of teachers and budget are the reasons why the outcomes are low," Lopez-Bautista said.

For high school, public school students' average score in the NAT has gone down from 49% to 46%, and now, 45%, disclosed Lopez-Bautista, citing figures from the Department of Education.

'Inspire learners to want to love to learn'

To address these declining performances, KCFI has partnered with SkyCable, ABS-CBN, the Lopez Group, and others to launch the "Masterminds" program, and put teachers in the classroom to teach the curriculum directly.

"The format of the program is such that it will not just focus on the content of the subject matter," said Lopez-Bautista. Also to be included are topics the participating groups feel are important: "values such as leadership and good governance, critical issues to global Filipinos, and all that we feel is important for any learner to know, to learn, to be aware of, to reflect, to know they can be part of a community and whatever they do affects the community."

It's a wholistic way to address the learning gaps since it considers both academic and spiritual aspects, she added.

"What we want is to inspire learners to want to love to learn, and not just achieve mastery of content. The topics covered go beyond Science, English, and Math," she said.

"Masterminds" will be aired on Knowledge Channel (channel 42 on SkyCable; it is also available on other cable networks), and will also be posted online.

"It is also a means of empowering teachers, and showing different ways of teaching, and learning of kids, and inspiring them to inspire students," said Lopez-Bautista.

According to studies done by the University of the Philippines' Statistical Research Center in 2006 and 2007, public schools using materials from Knowledge Channel regularly increased their NAT scores by 3%. In provinces, Knowledge Channel helped increase enrollment rates, improve completion rates, and decrease truancy levels. is the online news department of ABS-CBN Interactive Inc., a subsidiary of ABS-CBN Corp. ABS-CBN and KCFI are both part of the Lopez Group of Companies.

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