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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 10, 2010 Major News Stories

Customs seizes 33 container vans of smuggled rice from Vietnam

The Bureau of Customs seized on Thursday a shipment of 33 container vans filled with smuggled rice from Vietnam.

P18-M rice cargo seized in Cebu

CEBU CITY -- The Bureau of Customs (BOC) Port of Cebu has seized 33 20-footer container vans containing P18 million worth of smuggled rice from Vietnam.

Port of Cebu District Collector Ronnie Silvestre said he will immediately issue a warrant of seizure and detention against the shipment once he receives an official report from the customs inventory team.

Osmeña: Pag-IBIG liable in housing loan mess

by By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) allegedly favored Globe Asiatique by relaxing rules on government housing loans and allowing the property developer to bag billions of pesos of loans on behalf of "fake" borrowers.

Senator wants HUDCC abolished

Senator Sergio Osmeña III on Thursday sought the abolition of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, noting its apparent uselessness in the housing industry.

DOTC eyes early termination of LTO contract with Stradcom

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) may endorse the early termination of the Land Transportation Office's (LTO) contract with Stradcom Corp., which is currently entangled in an ownership dispute.

Aquino 'picks' Cuizon to head LTFRB 7

MACTAN-CEBU International Airport Authority (MCIAA) General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete yesterday announced that Public Affairs Manager Ahmed Cuizon has been appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as the new director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB ) 7.

Department of Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan confirmed Ahmed Cuizon's appointment but did not say whether or not he will be assigned in Central Visayas.

South District Rep. Tomas Osmeña claimed to have strongly recommended Cuizon to replace LTFRB-7 director Benjamin Go. Batuhan however said the communication he received from Malacañang did not mention which region Cuizon will be assigned.

But, he is expecting Cuizon to be designated in Central Visayas. There were earlier reports that Go will be transferred somewhere else. The report of Go's impending transfer came in the midst of his campaign against illegal issuances of taxi franchises in region 7.

Cuizon had been public affairs manager of the airport for several years already. Airport general manager Nigel Paul Villarete described Cuizon's appointment to the LTFRB as a "big loss for MCIAA but a huge gain for the LTFRB and the country."

"We at the MCIAA extend our warmest congratulations to Ahmed and wish him all the luck in his new endeavors and responsibilities," Villarete said.

According to Villarete, he is now looking for a qualified person to assume the post to be vacated by Cuizon. "Anyway it's not urgent. I will be doing reorganization at the Mactan airport in January so we still have enough time to study our options," Villarete said.

Meanwhile, only a few people attended the public hearing on the fare increase petition of the Cebu Integrated Transport Service Cooperate, which was conducted by LTFRB 7
Legal Officer Jose Douglas Sanson yesterday.

Sanson said he will hear the sentiment of the stakeholders, including the riding public, before endorsing the petition to the LTFRB central office in Quezon City.

However, lawyer Joel Chavez, the legal counsel of the petitioner, clarified that what they want is to restore the P8 minimum jeepney fare, which was approved by LTFRB in 2008, but was later reduced to P6.50.

P10,000 Christmas bonus up for cops—DILG chief

The country's 132,000-strong police force could have a Merry Christmas this year as a P10,000 performance bonus is in the offing from the Department of Interior and Local Government, Secretary Jesse Robredo said on Thursday.

No one says no to Balili project

AT the public hearing yesterday, no one spoke to oppose Capitol's plan to put up a Balili Eco-zone project in Tinaan, Naga.

Not even Timoteo Resaba, the president of the Tinaan fishermen's association, who just before the public hearing was held, told reporters that he was against the project, which covers the installation of a coal ash dump facility, because of the ill effects of coal ash on the health and environment.

Naga landslide site 'off-limits;' area still unstable says MGB

THE upland village in Barangay Ma-yana, City of Naga that was affected by a landslide last Tuesday has been declared "off-limits" to residents.

City of Naga Mayor Valdemar Chiong has instructed barangay officials to prevent affected residents from going back to their houses, which have been buried during a landslide last Tuesday.

Possibly unopposed: One Cebu names bets for ABC, SK

One Cebu Party led by Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has already picked its candidates for the Federation of Association of Barangay Councils (FABC) and the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) in the Province of Cebu.

The FABC will have its elections on December 17 while the SK will elect a president today.

"Of course it's Joeyboy Holganza," Garcia told reporters after meeting ABC presidents coming from different component cities and municipalities at the Cebu International Convention Center yesterday.

Garcia is referring to the incumbent FABC President Ribomapil "Joeyboy" Holganza, Jr. who has been sitting as ex-officio member of the Provincial Board since July this year.

Holganza was vice president of the federation and has continued the term of then PB Member Teresita Celis after her election as mayor in Boljoon last May.

Aladin Willyamie Caminero, SK Federation president of Argao and son of PB member Wilfredo Caminero, is being floated to replace PB Member Bea Mercede Calderon.

Lot ownership affects Palace of Justice rehab

The rehabilitation of the palace of justice building in Cebu City will have to be deferred until the provincial government donates the lot to the Supreme Court.

Davide: No basis for SC decision junking Truth body

Truth Commission head Hilario Davide Jr. on Thursday openly criticized the Supreme Court (SC) decision declaring as unconstitutional an executive order creating the body supposed to probe anomalies during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Davide, himself a former Chief Justice, said that the SC ruling had "no basis," contending that Executive Order No. 1, which created the truth body, does not violate the constitutional provision on equal protection of the law.

"The Truth Commission does not run after only one specific person. It can apply to cases of graft and corruption committed by public officials holding third level or higher positions during the past administration. The issue on equal protection of law has no constitutional and statutory basis," he said at a forum in Quezon City on Thursday.

The SC on Tuesday declared as unconstitutional President Benigno Aquino III's first executive order creating the Truth Commission for violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution because it singled out the Arroyo administration as the focus of its probe.

The five-member body was supposed to investigate 20 corruption and cheating scandals that occurred during the Arroyo administration, including the botched $329-million national broadband network deal, the $728-million fertilizer fund scam, and the "Hello Garci" election scandal.

Not the end

Davide said the Truth Commission will, however, continue its work while waiting for the SC ruling to become final and executory. Earlier, Malacañang had said that it wasconsidering filing a motion for reconsideration within 15 days after receiving the SC decision.

He said that the commission en banc will meet on Friday to discuss its next moves.

"In our meeting, we will revisit the SC decision, and see where we stand—the way forward for us," he said.

The former chief justice, who likened the SC ruling to the 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States, likewise said that the Aquino administration's fight against corruption does not end with the junking of EO 1.

"The [SC] decision destroyed one of the strongest pillars, the foundation of the culture of honesty and good governance that President Aquino has envisioned," he said. "I hope this will unite the spirit of Filipinos to search for the truth… The war against graft and corruption has not been lost."

Party-list rep calls on citizens to seek removal of 10 justices

Calls are mounting for the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona and the nine justices who struck down the Truth Commission as unconstitutional before it could inquire into the Arroyo administration's misdeeds.

'No basis to impeach Corona'

There are no grounds yet to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona, several members of the House of Representatives said, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision declaring as unconstitutional the creation of the Truth Commission.

Chief justice calls for sobriety amid 'impeachment' talks

Chief Justice Renato Corona appealed for sobriety amid reported plans in the House of Representatives to impeach him.

Palace to amend 'Truth' order to include past govts

The controversial Executive Order No. 1, which aims to create the Truth Commission to investigate alleged corruption in the Arroyo administration, will be amended to include previous administrations, an official said Thursday.

Palace gets veteran Cory lawyer to boost legal team

President Benigno Aquino III is giving his embattled legal team a hoped-for boost with the addition of retired Court of Appeals justice Magdangal Elma, who was also part of the legal team of the late former president Corazon Aquino.

UNDP lauds Aquino gov't's anti-corruption drive

by By Caroline J. Howard, ABS-CBN News Channel
MANILA, Philippines - The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has lauded the Aquino government's renewed commitment to fight corruption.

Neri files counter-affidavit

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Former Social Security System (SSS) chief Romulo Neri has filed his counter-affidavit on Friday at the Justice Department in the tax evasion case filed against him by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in November for underdeclaration of his income which resulted in a tax deficiency amounting to P18.2 milllion, inclusive of surcharges and interests.

Judges seeking audience with Aquino over budget

The Philippine Judges Association sent a letter to President Aquino on Thursday seeking an audience to explain their appeal for the proposed 2011 judiciary budget to be increased by P1.5 billion.

Philippines won't antagonize superpowers: spokesman

MANILA, Philippines - Is the Philippine government afraid of China's reaction if it sends a representative to the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo?

AFP chief meets with Chinese defense officials on Spratlys

Armed Forces chief Gen. Ricardo David met with top Chinese military and defense officials in China this week to reaffirm the two countries' commitment toward peacefully resolving the dispute over the Spratly islands, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.

CHR calls for immediate release of 'Morong 43'

Saying that the criminal charges against them were "fruits of a poison tree," the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has called for the immediate release of 43 health workers who were arrested in Morong, Rizal, in February.

Suspected NPA men fire at soldiers' boat; 2 killed, 2 hurt, 6 missing

Two civilians were killed while a soldier and a civilian were wounded when the pump boat they were riding in was attacked by suspected members of the New People's Army in Las Navas town, Northern Samar late Wednesday afternoon.

Suspected MILF bomber nabbed in Maguindanao - military

A suspected Moro rebel tagged in the bombing of a public market in General Santos City six years ago has been arrested in Maguindanao early this week, a military official said on Thursday.

Ampatuan patriarch offered P50-M bribe to jail warden–DILG chief

(UPDATE) A P50-million bribery attempt was allegedly made by the Ampatuan patriarch to the warden of a local jail in exchange for his release and that of the other suspects of the massacre in Maguindanao, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo disclosed Thursday.

$1: 43.670

$1: 43.670 (P43.80)

Euro 1: 57.8995

Oil prices climb above $91 on freezing weather

by Agence France-Presse
LONDON - Freezing temperatures in Europe and sharp falls to US energy inventories helped push oil prices above $91 here on Thursday, analysts said.

Coco exports may reach $1.57B in 2010, says PCA

Higher prices and demand from both the domestic and international markets will likely boost coconut exports by 78 percent to $1.57 billion , the Philippine Coconut Agency said Thursday.

86% of PALEA members agree to strike

by By Ira Pedrasa,
MANILA, Philippines - Majority of the 3,700 members of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), flag carrier's ground crew union, voted to push through with earlier calls for a strike, its president said.

PAL prepared for massive strike

MANILA, Philippines - An overwhelming vote for the planned strike of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) would not be a surprise for the airline management, which still believes the balloting has no legal basis.

Employees of newspaper company stage protest

Employees of the Journal Group of Companies, including its editors and reporters, staged a protest in their office in Makati City Thursday to denounce management's alleged unfair labor practices, according to a report on Radyo Inquirer.

China anti-Nobel campaign winning it no friends

China's campaign to vilify this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and sabotage the award ceremony showed signs of backfiring Thursday, as criticism of Beijing rose and the imprisoned Chinese dissident seemed to be turning into a celebrity.

Malacanang denies boycotting Nobel Prize ceremony

Malacanang denied today the Philippines was boycotting the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo due to pressure from China.

President Aquino said it would be up to the Department of Foreign Affairs to deal with the matter.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the non-attendance of the Philippines to the ceremony should not be a big issue because it was optional.

The secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the prize, said China had mounted an unprecedented campaign to persuade other countries to boycott Friday's award gala, but two-thirds of invited nations would attend.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco are also not sending any representatives.

Carandang said the Philippine Ambassador to Norway would not be in the ceremony because of conflict of schedule. Lacierda said the DFA informed the Palace that the Philippine ambassador would be in Denmark.

16 Tycoons to Give Away Fortunes


The billionaire founder of social network Facebook Inc. has agreed to give the majority of his wealth to charity, part of a broader group of rich entrepreneurs committing to philanthropy earlier in their lives.

Mark Zuckerberg has signed onto the "Giving Pledge," which asks its signatories to commit publicly to give away the majority of their wealth.

The 26-year-old is one of 16 billionaires new to the pledge, which now totals more than 50 donors. New names include AOL co-founder Steve Case, investor Carl Icahn and former junk-bond king Michael Milken.

They join existing pledges made by wealthy individuals and families including Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison, film director George Lucas and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The Giving Pledge is an effort organized by software mogul Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett to persuade the world's rich to boost their giving.

Joining the Pledge

Getty Images

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Billionaires that have agreed to disburse their fortunes:

Nicolas Berggruen

Steve & Jean Case (Read their letter joining the pledge)

Lee & Toby Cooperman

Ted Forstmann

David & Barbara Green

Lyda Hill

Carl Icahn (Read his letter joining the pledge)

Sidney Kimmel

Duncan MacMillan

Michael Milken

Joseph & Rika Mansueto

George P. Mitchell

Dustin Moskovitz

Denny Sanford

Tom & Cindy Secunda

Mark Zuckerberg

'No safe level' for tobacco --US report

WASHINGTON - Even limited exposure to tobacco or secondhand smoke can lead to cardiovascular and other health problems, a new US public health report said Thursday.

The US Surgeon General's report, the latest update to its first study in 1964 highlighting tobacco dangers, said that even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful.

The latest report "substantiates the evidence that there is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke," said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, who serves as the top public health adviser to the White House.

"You don't have to be a heavy smoker or a long-time smoker to get a smoking-related disease or have a heart attack or asthma attack that is triggered by tobacco smoke," said the report.

"Low levels of smoke exposure, including exposures to secondhand tobacco smoke, lead to a rapid and sharp increase in dysfunction and inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels, which are implicated in heart attacks and stroke."

The surgeon general said the report underscores the need to step up efforts to dissuade people from smoking in the United States, where there has been little change in the percentage of users since 2005 after a long period of declines.

"Evidence in this report provides additional understanding that the risk does not increase in a linear fashion with increasing exposure, and even low levels of exposure to tobacco -- such as a few cigarettes per day, occasional smoking, or exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke -- are sufficient to substantially increase risk of cardiac events," the report said.

"Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds. Hundreds are toxic and more than 70 cause cancer... the chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale. Your blood then carries the toxicants to every organ in your body."

The report added that cigarettes "are designed for addiction" with nicotine and other ingredients and that adolescents "are more sensitive to nicotine" and more easily addicted.

Mosley: I'll hit Pacquiao on the chin

It's alright with Sugar Shane Mosley if Manny Pacquiao's camp thinks he would be the easier opponent compared to Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez or reigning World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion Andre Berto of Haiti.

Pacquiao vs Martinez won't happen - Roach

MANILA, Philippines – Renowned trainer Freddie Roach does not think there will be a bout between World Boxing Council (WBC) champions Manny Pacquiao and Sergio Martinez.

AFF: RP-Indonesia semi-final games to be held in Jakarta

MANILA, Philippines – The ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) announced on Thursday that the matches between 2010 Suzuki Cup semi-finalists Philippines and Indonesia will take place in Jakarta, Indonesia.

RP wants 1 AFF game of Azkals in Bacolod

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Football Federation is appealing to the ASEAN Football Federation to reconsider its decision to reject the Philippines as a venue for the 2010 Suzuki Cup semifinal games.

Fisher's layup at buzzer lifts Lakers (AP)

Los Angeles Lakers small forward Matt Barnes , right, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan defends during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 87-86.

Clock ticking down, Derek Fisher has the ball, and he stops to launch a perimeter shot. It's a scenario the 36-year-old has executed to perfection over the years in the playoffs. This time, Fisher did something different. The guy who doesn't shoot a high percentage inside hit a layup on the left side at the buzzer to give the Los Angeles Lakers an 87-86 victory over the Clippers.

Heat beat Jazz for sixth straight win (AP)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 8:  Francisco Elson #16 of the Utah Jazz and James Jones #22 of the Miami Heat during the second half of an NBA game December 8, 2010 at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Heat beat the Jazz 111-98. NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Forget that the Utah Jazz had upset Miami on the road 29 days earlier with a huge comeback. This was a much-improved version of the Heat, even if the personnel was the same. "You could tell they had a chip on their shoulder coming into this game," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said. LeBron James scored 33 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 and the surging Heat extended their winning streak to six.

PNoy on his love life: Wala nga!

MANILA, Philippines - The most powerful person in the land only has one wish this Christmas season -- to have a blossoming romantic life, which he said can only be achieved if he is left alone to deal with his personal matters.

Abunda's life partner speaks up, defends self

MANILA, Philippines – Bong Quintana has finally broken his silence as he defended himself from critics who were questioning his appointment as assistant vice-president for entertainment of state-owned gaming firm Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Auditions for 'Pilipinas Got Talent 2' kick off

MANILA, Philippines – The much-awaited second season of "Pilipinas Got Talent (PGT)," touted as the country's biggest nationwide talent reality show, will kick off first quarter of next year.

Winner of P741-M lotto jackpot surfaces to claim prize

The lone winner of the P741-million lotto jackpot already claimed his prize Thursday afternoon, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chair Margie Juico said.

Grand Lotto winner let another bettor cut in line to win the P740-M pot

The New York-based balikbayan could have missed the mind-boggling jackpot if he did not let another bettor cut in line at the lotto ticket outlet.
The winner of the P740-million Grand Lotto jackpot "generously" let another person place her bet first and waited for his turn before he could place his winning combination for the lottery prize, a Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) official said Thursday.

The PCSO earlier said that the Grand Lotto winner, who placed his bet at an outlet in Olongapo City in Zambales, used the "Lucky Pick" method, which generates randomly selected numbers, to come up with the winning combination. (See: Jackpot! Olongapo bettor wins P741.176-M lotto prize)

"May sumingit na babae bago siya tumaya pero hindi siya nagalit at pinabayaan niya. Mukhang mabait talaga siyang tao," PCSO chair Margie Juico told GMANews.TV in a phone interview on Thursday night. 

(A woman cut in line before he could place his bet, but he kept his cool and allowed her to place her bet first.)

The woman also used the "Lucky Pick" method, which meant that if she hadn't cut in line, she would have received the winning combination. "Imagine, kung hindi sumingit 'yung babae at hinintay, siya dapat ang nanalo," Juico added. 

Juico said the Grand Lotto winner, a 60-year-old married man with three children, was abalikbayan from New York in the United States, who returned to the Philippines for a "sentimental journey" in his home country.

"He has been staying in the US for a long time. He went back to the Philippines to visit places. Nagkatuwaan lang silang magkakapatid na tumaya sa Subic at doon siya sinwerte [He and his siblings agreed to place a bet at Subic, just for fun, and he got lucky]," she said. 

The PCSO chairperson, who personally handed the prize to the winner on Thursday afternoon, described the balikbayan as a "kind-looking" man. (See: Lucky bettor claims P741-M Grand Lotto prize)

"Nakakatuwa kasi simple lang talaga siya at mukhang mabait. Sinabi niya sa akin na madasalin din siya. Dininig ang panalangin niya," she said. 

(It's so heart-warming, because he's really just an ordinary guy, and kind-looking. He told me that he prayed often. His prayers were answered.)

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