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

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 14, 2010 Major News Stories



Bread prices to rise Wednesday

Kasado na ang pagtaas ng presyo ng tinapay sa Miyerkules. Sa kabila ito ng apela ng Department of Trade and Industry sa mga panadero na huwag itong ituloy dahil bumaba naman ang presyo ng asukal. Giit ng mga panadero, ayaw man nilang pahirapan ang mga mamimili lalo't magpa-Pasko, pero hirap daw talaga sila sa gastos sa produksyon.

Lawmaker assures enough supply of LPG for Christmas

by By Jess Diaz

A lawmaker assured consumers yesterday that there is enough supply of liquefied petroleum gas (LP) at "fair prices" during this Christmas season.

Veco union set to launch protests after talks fail

The Visayan Electric Company-Employees Union is set to launch a series of protests after their general membership meeting tomorrow as their efforts for mediation outside the legal sphere of the National Labor Relations Commission failed.

PAL: 500 PALEA members are apt to accept separation pay

The Philippine Airlines management has claimed that more than 500 union members have signified their intention to accept separation pay amounting to nearly P1 million for each.

PNoy gov't hit for 'begging' diplomacy

MANILA, Philippines – A migrants' rights group on Monday called on Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto Romulo to resign over the alleged failure of the government to secure the release of Filipinos in foreign jails.

RP has more holidays than other Asian countries

Marami at pabago-bago ang mga holiday sa Pilipinas— iyan ang reklamo ng mga negosyante. Naaapektuhan daw tuloy ang takbo ng mga negosyo pati ang pagpasok ng mga dayuhang mamumuhunan sa bansa.

DILG chief to LGUs: Don't use IRA for bonuses, X-mas gifts

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo today enjoined provincial governors, city and municipal mayors to refrain from using their internal revenue allotment (IRA) on gifts and bonuses, even as he stressed that the IRA should be utilized for developmental projects.

Senate OKs higher wages for house helpers

A bill that will provide a higher minimum wage and additional benefits for house helpers, or "kasambahays," has been approved on third and final reading in the Senate.

Senate Bill No. 78, otherwise known as the "Act of Providing for Additional Benefits and Protection to House Helpers," filed by Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, was approved on Monday, a move that earned immediately praise from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Enrile said it was "high time that "kasambahays" are given the recognition that they duly deserve.

"All human beings, no matter their station in life, should be accorded full dignity and guaranteed full respect for human rights," he said in a statement.

"Most house helpers endure abuse in the hands of their employers. This bill not only ensures the rights of our helpers, but will also protect them from being maltreated," he added.

The bill, if passed into law, would require employers to pay a minimum wage of P2,500 to house helpers within Metro Manila; P2, 000 for those in chartered cities and first-class municipalities; and P1,500 for those working in third-class municipalities.

Under the existing Labor Code, domestic helpers in the National Capital Region get a minimum wage of only P800.

Aside from a higher minimum wage, Estrada's bill also mandates employers to shoulder the premiums for their house helpers' benefits in the Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Home Development Mutual Fund, or Pag-IBIG, and the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC).

Employers, under the bill, will also be required to provide house helpers with adequate food, suitable living conditions, and "first-aid medicines and equipment as the nature and conditions of their domestic work may require."

A mandatory contract between employer and employee, written in a language or dialect understood by both, and not exceeding two years, is also contained in the proposed legislation.

"Having a contract will ensure that employers will comply with standard wages and benefits," said Estrada.

"Under the bill, employers will be required to outline the house helpers' duties and responsibilities as well as their working hours and rest days," he pointed out.

Employers, the senator said, will also be required to provide their "kasambahays" with a pay slip, containing the amount paid in cash by the employer. Copies of the pay slip will be kept by the employers for at least three days, he explained.

"Any employer who violates these provisions shall be punished under existing penal laws without prejudice to civil and administrative cases, which may be filed against him/her," said Estrada.

Estrada said about two million domestic workers will benefit if this bill is passed into law.

Cash incentive for elderly to be released before Christmas

The city government will release before Christmas the P4,000 cash assistance to each of the more than 5,000 senior citizens who are residents and voters in the city but did not receive the benefit last April.

Cathy Yso, head of City Hall's Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS), said they will do their best to hasten the processing of required documents so that the money can be released by December 20.

Guillermo "Dodong" Casinillo, Deputy Mayor for Senior Citizens, said the concerned senior citizens were excluded from the list of those who received their benefits last April because their application were only submitted last January, February, March and April this year.

The city has allocated P22.6 million from the 5th supplemental budget for the cash incentives of at least 5,200 senior citizens.

But Casinillo said more elderly persons can be expected to avail of financial assistance once the incentive will be released.

When the city distributed cash incentives to the senior citizens last April, 5,200 of the 32,000 senior citizens did not receive their share.

"Senior citizen" is the term used for those at the age of 60 and above, but the city will only give incentive to those who are registered in Cebu City and who voted in the 2007 elections.

But Casinillo said he has recommended that those who have become residents of Cebu City during the May 2010 national elections and the recent barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections be given consideration.

42 people evacuated: Flashflood hits Danao City

At least 42 people from Barangay Taboc in Danao City have been temporarily evacuated to the barangay's covered court after they were affected by the flashfloods brought about by the heavy downpour last Saturday.

The victims were rescued by the members of the Philippine Coastguard and the Danao City Police after they were trapped by floodwaters when the S-shaped river between Sitio Kamalig-Bato,Taboc and Sitio Bonifacio Extension, Poblacion overflowed.

Danao City Councilor John Cane told The FREEMAN that the city government provided food and clothing to the affected residents.

According to Cane, the city government also received food assistance from the provincial government through the Provincial Social Welfare Office.

Cane said they were advised to temporary stay at the barangay covered court to ensure their safety, while others mostly residing in nearby Barangay Poblacion returned their respected houses.

More than 300 families were stranded and some livestock were carried away by the strong currents. Mud also covered the floors of the residents' houses. No one, however, was reported hurt during the incident.

The Danao City councilor said that those living in danger zone were advised to transfer especially those in salvage zone areas along the river banks.

Danao City Agriculturist Mario Gorre proposes at least three measures to prevent the reoccurrence of flashfloods in the area.

Gorre who conducted an ocular inspection at the affected areas said that the illegal quarry and sand and gravel extraction in the river contributed to the incident.

He proposed that illegal sand and gravel extractions from the river should be stopped immediately. Gorre also recommended the evacuation of the residents living in the danger zone.

 "Strict enforcement of the laws gyud ang pinaka dali nga solusyon…ako i-recommend nga i-stop ang sand and gravel extraction" Gorre added.

According to him, most of the quarries are small time. But he contested that "bisan gagmay apan kun kada-adlaw nalang, kuyaw gihapon."

"Irregular ang path nga murag zigzag, mao nga mo-collapse gyud ang yuta…ma apiktohan gyud ang mga balay" he said.

Danao City Councilor Roland Reyes, chairman on environmental protection and natural resources, said he will call on a meeting with the concerned barangay officials to discuss their plans.

Reyes said that he will also take Gorre's proposals before the city council.

Court removes budget barrier

THE Cebu Provincial Board (PB) passed next year's P3.09-billion budget ordinance, after a judge denied the vice governor's petition for a restraining order.

Before the PB approved the budget on its second and third readings, Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. asked PB Member Agnes Magpale to preside, saying he has some visitors to attend to.

Mayor proposes 'bare' budget of P4.4B

THE Cebu City Government will operate next year on a P4.4- billion budget, the biggest annual appropriation so far in the history of City Hall, if the mayor has his way.

Next year's proposed annual appropriation is much bigger than the P2.8-million budget this year, after Mayor Michael Rama adopted a bare budget instead of using "lean and mean" and "skin and bones" budgeting.

Rama lists accumulated problems that Osmeña administration left behind

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama showed a list of problems, concerns and issues that he said have beset the City since he was a councilor until the administration of his predecessor, Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district).

These include environmental concerns such as the landfill, garbage collection, drainage system, and landslides, among others.

Rama also cited health issues, legal, infrastructure, traffic, administrative, social issues, public safety and security.

Rama listed 300 items in all.

When asked if the Osmeña administration failed to address these problems, Rama said these may have been overlooked. He clarified it is the primary function of the executive department to look for solutions.

"Even though I was a city official during his (Osmeña's) term, my function was legislative unless there was an executive intervention," he said in Cebuano.

Not enough

The mayor admitted he didn't tell his predecessor about these problems, but said they were well aware these exist.

He said they are trying to address these problems, and encourage the private sector to help his administration.

"Three terms will not be enough to solve these problems. And if someone wants to replace me, then I will hand over the list (of problems) so he will have a guide," he said in Cebuano.

Osmeña, for his part, retorted that when he vacated City Hall, he left P3 billion in the City's coffers.

"Most of the problems the City faces require money to be solved. Now that Rama has the money, what's his problem?" Osmeña said in Cebuano.

The congressman said if the City was that problematic, SM Prime Holdings, Filinvest Land Inc. and Robinsons wouldn't have spent millions to buy land at the South Road Properties and the North Reclamation Area.

Osmeña continues to criticize Rama for allegedly doing nothing to improve the city since assuming office last July.

"Pulos lang siya propaganda, naa kuno siya'y 100 days nga accomplishment, naa moy nakita? Unsay nahimo sa iyang super beautification body? Naa kuno siyay private-public partnership pero ang iyang partner mao ra diay ang iyang personal nga uyab nga si Jocelyn Pesquera ug kanang gitawag ug Rene Mercado (He's all propaganda. He said he had 100 days of accomplishment? Do you see anything? What has his super beautification body done? He says he has forged a private-public relationship but it's with his girlfriend Jocelyn Pesquera and that certain Rene Mercado)," Osmeña said.

Orders

Earlier, he criticized Mercado allegedly for being arrogant in dealing with City Hall's department heads. He questioned the latter's authority to direct the department heads since he is not connected with the City Government.

In a separate interview, Mercado, a relative of Rama, denied interfering in City Hall affairs, although he did issue orders to members of the Task Force Street Dwellers,
but this was authorized by the mayor.

He also denied allegations that he interviews City Hall suppliers and contractors in behalf of the City Government.

Mercado admitted, though, that some bidders have approached him for help so they can join in the bidding.

"Look at the City's transactions now. There are more bidders. The City has ended up saving money as a result," he said in Cebuano.

Mercado appealed to Osmeña to spare him. He said he has been helping the City since Osmeña was mayor.

But Osmeña said he blacklisted Mercado for a questionable freight transaction during the shipment of the Kaoshiung buses to Cebu.

The congressman said that during his administration, he personally penalized officials and employees, allies and friends who committed wrongdoings.

He said as long as Rama continues to bully allied barangay captains and councilors, he will not hesitate to chide his successor.

In a previous interview, Osmena disclosed he will not support Rama if the latter seeks reelection in 2013.

The congressman said he might even contest Rama's bid or support the mayor's rival candidate.

Pesquera screened CH staff

Contrary to what former city councilor Jocelyn Pesquera is saying, an employee of Cebu City Hall yesterday confirmed that Mayor Michael Rama's girlfriend indeed interviewed some employees of City Hall.

An employee, whose name is withheld upon request, told The FREEMAN that then vice mayor Rama told the employees of their department to submit themselves for screening and interview with Pesquera.

According to the employee, the screening and interview by Pesquera will determine whether or not they will be transferred to other departments or retained.

The instruction was made by Rama after he was already declared the mayor.

"That is true. Councilor Pesquera is meddling kay pagkahibalo namo nga si Rama ang nakadaog pagka-mayor, first week of June naa man dayon instruction nga naay screening and interview adto sa conference room ni Rama," the employee said, saying that he never showed up for the interview.

Due to that incident, Rama transferred him to another department of the City Hall. According to him, he could not be charged of insubordination because, that aside from being a Civil Service Eligible, who has worked at City Hall since 1992, he thinks the former councilor has no official function and has no legal personality.

"Why should I submit myself to her?"

The employee has since been returned to his department since July 1.

The statement of the employee was also confirmed by one of the employees saying that he was also interviewed by Pesquera.

"Everybody was waiting from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. aron lang gyud mi ma-interview ug ma-screen ni konsehal Pesquera. Mura'g gi-loyalty check mi ba," the City Hall employee told The FREEMAN.

Sought for comment, Pesquera confirmed that she really interviewed employees and personnel, because she was asked by Mayor Rama.

   Pesquera further pointed out that Rama at that time has just started organizing and merging of the some employees and personnel of then mayor Osmeña and Rama's staff.

"It's not intervention and meddling kay dili mana decision-making akong gihilabtan. Nag-assist lang ko," Pesquera said.

Pesquera said the interview was merely to know the talents and skills where the personnel and employees could be effective and be useful in their respective department.

Pesquera, who is a certified public accountant and a lawyer, reiterated that she is not controlling Rama.

But Rep. Tomas Osmeña, in a separate interview, told The FREEMAN that "the public is being kept in the dark and the non-disclosure is aggravated by the fact that Pesquera denies meddling in the city affairs."

"Who is lying?" Osmeña said as he accused Rama of employing and setting up double standards in favoring Pesquera and Rene Mercado, who holds no official functions at the City Hall.

Osmeña already warned Rama that Pesquera influences the mayor's decisions. The former mayor attributed Pesquera being the "mastermind" of Rama's failures especially in the Rama's stand opposing the land swap deal with the Capitol years ago.

The mayor said his distrust of Pesquera is one reason he asked his wife, Margot, to run as councilor in the city's south district.

Pesquera and Mercado cannot also claimed to be part of Rama's program — the public and private partnership with the city — saying that the city council has no knowledge of the partnership program of the two personalities.

"Isn't this a conflict of interest since the city's "partner" seems to also have an intimate, personal relationship with the mayor," Osmeña said, referring to Pesquera who was been the girlfriend of Rama since the two were then both city councilors and the Rama's marriage was annulled several years ago.

Mayor Michael Rama yesterday warned anybody who wants to discredit his administration by criticizing him even without basis because he is willing to die for the sake of sincere public service.

According to Rama he will not allow somebody to dictate him on how to run the Cebu City government, although he is very willing to listen to suggestions from anybody.

But Rama said that Osmeña should stop criticizing him and informed the former mayor that he is the one who is now trying his best to solve the more than a hundred problems in the city that was never attended during Osmeña's leadership.

Rama showed to the reporters his list that is five pages long containing handwritten notes on various issues.

The problems involve peace and order, environmental matters, infrastructure like clogged drainage systems, health and some others.  

Osmeña, in a text message to The FREEMAN, answered Rama, saying "Ask him why with the hundreds of issues against me, why did all 20 BOPK candidates win the last two elections. He forgot?"

"With all the hundreds of issues, how many problems did he solve during the eight months that he was the acting mayor while I was sick in the United States. He forgot? Instead the barangay captains petitioned me not to select him as candidate for mayor," Osmeña said.

For his part, Mercado said he accepted Rama's invitation for him to work with the City Hall without pay because he loves to serve the public.

At present he is tasked by Rama to head the task force that will attend to the needs of the sidewalk dwellers.

World Bank officials ready to start BRT feasibility study next month

WORLD Bank (WB) consultants are ready to start the feasibility study on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) this month, but Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama wants to see the draft of the study's details first.

City officials met with the consultants last week to discuss the details of the feasibility study for the BRT, the mass transport system that the City Government wants to implement.

The consultants are scheduled to conduct the feasibility study later this month.

SRP to be touted as new IT hub

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama wants the South Road Properties to become a hub for Business Process Outsourcing companies that are expected to increase in number in the next years.

Capitol, Balilis face off today over P37M refund

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) will hear today the suit the Provincial Government filed to get back the money it paid for parcels of the Balili estate that turned out to be underwater.

Atty. Ceasar Tabotabo, counsel for heiress Amparo Balili, expects the Capitol to present technical experts who will point to the defects in the P98.9-million sale finalized in 2008, like how part of the property—worth P37.8 million by Capitol's estimate—is underwater.

"But the issue for me is whether or not such things were not known to the Province prior to the execution of the contract to sell and whether the action is still valid," Tabotabo said in an interview yesterday.

Judge Raphael Yrastorza will hear the proceedings at the 14th branch of the RTC.

But Atty. Romeo Balili, the executor of the estate, has said most of amount in question has been withdrawn by Amparo via another court order, issued by RTC Judge Ester Veloso, covering P44,483,981.32.

Atty. Balili, who represented the entire estate in the sale, said the withdrawal was made without his consent. The two checks the Provincial Government issued on April 28, 2008 (P49.8 million) and on Oct. 2, 2008 (P49 million) were in his name.

The money the Provincial Government paid for the Balili property, less the advances Amparo made to her 50-percent share in the entire estate, was deposited in a Banco de Oro account under the name Heirs of Luis Balili.

Amparo and Atty. Balili reportedly served as signatories.

While the proceedings before Yrastorza are separate from the ongoing Office of the Ombudsman investigation on whether or not the Capitol's purchase of the Balili property caused undue injury, a former anti-graft lawyer said the case raises a prejudicial question that, unless resolved, insulates all public officials involved from any possible sanction.

The source, who asked not to be named, said an anti-graft case based on Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, requires the element of "actual damages capable of pecuniary estimation and is quantifiable as to its amount" to be proven.

"If the Capitol filed a case to get back its payment and the case has not yet been decided with finality, it is possible to argue that damage hasn't yet been proven.

Now, how long will it take for a decision on a civil case to reach the Supreme Court, pass and attain finality, 15 to 20 years?" the lawyer posed.

Tabotabo, in an interview yesterday, however said such things aren't within the purview of the proceedings today. He said the suit will center solely on whether the Provincial Government has grounds to compel specific performance—that is, get the Balili estate to return part of the payment.

In his original answer to the suit lodged by the Office of the Provincial Attorney, Tabotabo argued that the Capitol has no case.

First, he said, it knew of the defects prior to the execution of the sale and still pushed through with it.

"How many surveys did they conduct prior to the sale?" he asked. 

Second, the prescriptive period for civil actions claiming warranty against hidden defects of or encumbrances upon things sold is six months.

"Two years have passed between the execution of the contract to sell and the filing of this civil action and, in real property, the execution of the contract is equal to the delivery of the thing being sold," Tabotabo said.

Also yesterday, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia warned columnists to refrain from commenting on the "most recent twist" in the Balili case, as the sub judice rule is still in effect.

"I am now serving notice to everyone that this Province and the Provincial Government will not hesitate to protect its name as I have done in my personal and official capacity. And as chief executive of the Provincial Government, I will not hesitate to protect the name of the Provincial Government," she told reporters.

"And I am serving notice to all of these theorists, all of these rumormongers and armchair analysts, that I shall direct our legal officers to file the appropriate charges, primarily contempt, against those who will continue to comment on this case," she said.

Provincial Attorney Marino Martiquilla said columnists commenting on the case while it is pending in court may be cited in contempt.

"It seems nga kining mga comentaryo (that these commentaries) tend to influence the court in its decision on the matter. That's a no-no. That's not allowed. That's punishable by contempt. So among awhag (our request), please don't do that, otherwise the Province would be exercising its right to protect the interest of the Province," he said.

"This is a free country, but there are also rights that can be protected under the law. Time and again, we have legal remedies that can be resorted to," Garcia added.

Saavedra sues Gwen for libel

BUSINESSMAN Crisologo Saavedra filed a libel complaint against Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for "destroying his credibility" after his expose on the allegedly anomalous purchase of the Balili property.

In his complaint filed at the Cebu City Prosecutor's Office, Saavedra said Garcia maligned his reputation when she called him a "creature" in a press conference last Dec. 8.

Saavedra said Garcia besmirched his reputation when she accused him of trying to bribe her to get projects at the Mactan airport.

Digal ready to face mayor in court

FOR pulling out six policemen, Senior Supt. Erson Digal will be slapped with a harassment case by Daanbantayan Mayor Maria Luisa Loot.

But Digal, director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), said he is unfazed by Mayor Loot's move.

"Wa nay problema na, atubangon nato nang kiha (I will face the complaint)," Digal told reporters yesterday. "Trabaho lang, way personalan (I'm just doing my job)."

Loot was reportedly irked after she learned that Digal pulled out six policemen from Daanbantayan Police Station last Dec. 9.

Capitol: Stop 'bogus' issuance of police clearance

The provincial government will provide equipment to each of the police stations in the province to stop unscrupulous individuals who allegedly make business out of police clearances.

House adopts del Mar's resolution honoring Vidal

The House of Representative adopted on December 1 the resolution that seeks to honor Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal J. Vidal for his decades of service to the Cebuano Catholic community.

House concurs with amnesty proclamation

by by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives voted to concur with the amnesty proclamation of President Aquino for soldiers who rebelled against the Arroyo administration.

DOJ files petition dropping raps vs 'Morong 43'

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Forty-three health workers accused of being New People's Army rebels could go free anytime this week after prosecutors filed Monday the petition withdrawing criminal charges against the group before the regional trial court in Morong, Rizal.

Aquino: No reason for military to be demoralized

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III believes there is no reason for the military to be demoralized over his decision to withdraw the charges against the Morong 43.

Lacson camp unfazed by new witness in Dacer-Corbito case

The camp of fugitive Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Monday evening scored as a "publicity stunt" the emergence of a supposed new witness that would link him to the Dacer-Corbito case.

Congress poised to pass 2011 budget this week sans cuts

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - For the first time in over 10 years, leaders of Congress are eyeing the passage of a national budget bill into law before the start  of the year it is supposed to take effect.

Senate ratifies '11 national budget

The Senate has ratified the proposed P1.645 trillion national budget for 2011 with only three members of the opposition bloc voting against it. They were Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and Senators Joker Arroyo and Pia Cayetano.

Despite high court's decision, truth body's budget in 2011 stays

The budget for the Philippine Truth Commission in the 2011 proposed appropriation will remain despite the Supreme Court decision declaring it unconstitutional, Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya said Monday.

Let PCGG handle alleged Arroyo abuses, Aquino asked

(Updated 2:35 p.m.) A member of President Benigno Aquino III's legal team has suggested that the alleged corruption cases of the Arroyo administration be investigated by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) instead of the Truth Commission.
Magdangal Elma, the presidential assistant for special concerns, made the proposal in a memorandum to Aquino after the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional Executive Order No. 1, which called for the creation of the Truth Commission.

"It is the recommendation of Justice Elma that PNoy now reverts the PCGG, which is presently under the Department of Justice, to the Office of the President proper. Thereafter, PNoy to direct the PCGG to conduct the investigation of the graft and corruption cases covered in EO No. 1, series of 2010 and order the Philippine Truth Commission to turn over the cases it had already investigated to the PCGG for appropriate action," said a statement from Elma's office.

Elma was a former PCGG chairman who served during the administration of Joseph Estrada. He was also a lawyer in Malacañang when President Aquino's late mother, Cory Aquino, was president. The latter created the PCGG through her first executive order issued Feb. 28, 1986. 

The PCGG is currently headed by lawyer Juan Andres "Andy" Bautista, who took his oath a few months ago. 

The PCGG was primarily tasked to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, his family and associates. But under Section 2b of Mrs. Aquino's EO No. 1, it was also empowered to assist the president in "the investigation of such cases of graft and corruption as the president may assign to the Commission from time to time," Elma wrote.

Elma, also a former Court of Appeals associate justice, pointed out that Mrs. Aquino's EO No. 1 creating the PCGG is a law because she was exercising legislative powers back then as the 1987 Constitution had not yet been drafted at the time. 

The PCGG's charter and functions have also been upheld in several Supreme Court decisions, said Elma, citing the case of Virata vs. Sandiganbayan that said the commission's charter "does not violate the equal protection clause and is not a bill of attainder of or ex post facto law."

Since its creation in 1986, the PCGG has yet to retrieve all the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. As of June this year, the PCGG has identified P282.37 billion ($6.98 billion) of their purported ill-gotten wealth.

According to an Associated Press report, about P86.5 billion ($1.84 billion) of the amount have been recovered and remitted to the national treasury.

The report said some P175 billion ($3.78 billion) in assets are under litigation and P19 billion ($410 million) in property and jewelry have still to be sold. Aside from that, $35 million dollars, excluding interest, are still held by Merrill Lynch in the United States and $25 million, plus interest, in an account in Singapore.

President Noynoy Aquino's EO No. 1 was struck down for violating the equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution because its mandate was to investigate corruption cases solely in the Arroyo administration. 

Prior to Elma's proposal, Aquino's legal team headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo de Mesa were considering filing a motion for reconsideration or amending Aquino's EO No. 1.

Elma said that if the Supreme Court later reconsiders its decision or if EO No. 1 is revised, Aquino "has the discretion and the authority" to let the Truth Commission handle the cases that, if Aquino follows his advice, had been turned over to the PCGG. 

"However, Justice Elma points out that the PCGG has more extensive powers to investigate, file and/or prosecute graft and corruption cases under EO No.1 series of 1986 than the Philippine Truth Commission under EO No. 1 series of 2010, and that the PCGG's powers had been recognized and/or settled in a number of cases decided by the Supreme Court," the statement from Elma's office read. 

Elma is not new to dispensing legal advice to presidents, having served as deputy executive secretary, acting executive secretary, and presidential assistant on legal and judicial affairs during the administration of Mrs. Aquino.

Aside from serving as PCGG chairman, he also served as chief presidential legal counsel to Estrada.

Resignation of 10 SC justices sought for ruling vs Truth body

Former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel on Monday led a group of so-called Truth Advocates into demanding the resignation of the 10 Supreme Court justices who voted to declare as unconstitutional a presidential fiat that created the Truth Commission.

SC affirms return of Marcos' Leyte mansion

The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed a lower court's ruling that voided a government order sequestering a Marcos rest-house in Olot, Tolosa in Leyte province.

US envoy to meet with Aquino this week

US Ambassador Harry Thomas has sought and will get a meeting this week with President Aquino but this early the Chief Executive said he need not explain to the American official or "any other country" his decision to snub the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident.

Philippines 'surprised' by new Hong Kong travel warning

by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines expressed surprise on Monday after Hong Kong warned its residents against travelling to the country because of possible terror attacks.

3 Filipinos among 22 feared dead after SKorean trawler sinks off Antarctica

by Agence France-Presse
WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A South Korean trawler sank suddenly and without warning off Antarctica Monday, killing up to 22 fishermen, with its owners saying it may have collided with an iceberg.

DFA vows to keep 24 captured Filipino seamen safe

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was working to ensure the safety of 24 Filipino seafarers on board the Panama-flagged vessel MV Renuar, seized by Somali pirates on Saturday.

$1: 43.920

$1: 43.920 (P43.66)

Euro 1: 57.8604

Carrageenan exports up, boost seaweed industry

The increased demand for carrageenan in traditional markets has shored up the exports of all seaweed products, now estimated to reach $200 million in 2010 from $180 million in 2009.

How about PPPs in herbal medicine industry?

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - An official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has backed calls for Malacañang to support the local herbal medicine industry through public-private partnerships (PPP).

Ex-Health chief: Raise cigarette tax to discourage smoking

Former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez-Tan wants legislators to increase cigarette tax and make smoking less affordable to children and teenagers.

Embattled Christians ask Indonesian president for protection

Indonesian Christians appealed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for protection on Monday after Muslim vigilante groups, backed by police, surrounded their homes and forced them to leave.

Egypt rain and sandstorms kill at least 31

CAIRO—Rain and sandstorms that battered Egypt at the weekend killed at least 31 people, officials said Monday, adding the toll could rise as rescue workers were still sifting through two collapsed buildings.

French school siege drama ends with hostages freed—official

BESANCON—(UPDATE) A French nursery school hostage drama ended peacefully Monday when the last five children held by a sword-wielding teenager were freed along with their teacher, officials said.

German minister under fire for Afghan 'PR' trip

BERLIN—Germany's defence minister, touted as a possible future chancellor, was accused Monday of turning a trip to Afghanistan into a publicity stunt after taking his wife and a talk-show host with him.

Domestic violence kills one Russian woman an hour—report

MOSCOW—A woman dies from domestic violence every 63 minutes in Russia, with more than 650,000 women beaten by their husbands and other relatives each year, a non-governmental organisation reported Monday.

Ukraine feminists 'urinate' on all-male cabinet

KIEV—Dozens of Ukrainian feminists on Monday staged an unusual protest against the country's all-male cabinet, pretending to urinate to show the government had turned into nothing more than a men's room.

Fans flock to Azkals' training

Aalis na bukas papuntang Indonesia ang RP football team na Team Azkals para sa semi-finals ng ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki cup 2010. Bago ang kanilang pag-alis, nag-courtesy call muna sila kay Pangulong Noynoy Aquino at nagpa-tikim ng kanilang galing sa mga fans.

Zubiri blasts PFF over Suzuki Cup hosting row

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - A senator on Monday criticized "the lack of passion and possible corruption" in the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) and other sports agencies for the country's failure to host a home leg of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup semifinals.

Tennis great Navratilova released from hospital

NAIROBI, Kenya -Martina Navratilova was released from the hospital Sunday, three days after her fluid-filled lungs forced her to abandon her attempt to climb Africa's highest mountain. 

Text holiday greetings early, NTC advises

Nag-abiso na ang National Telecommunications Commission sa mga consumer na agahan ang pag-text at pagtawag ng mga pagbati sa Pasko at Bagong Taon para maiwasan ang pagkakabuhul-buhol ng linya. Hinikayat ng NTC ang mga consumer na sa halip na tawag o text, gamitin din ang ibang social media gaya ng Facebook at Twitter sa pagpapadala ng mga bati ngayong holiday season.

Amy Austria celebrates 49th b-day

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines- Veteran actress Amy Austria is celebrating her 49th birthday today. Born Esmeralda Tuazon, the award-winning actress was first introduced in 1976 film "Bitayin si Baby Ama" with movie icon Rudy Fernandez.

ABS-CBN wants judge to inhibit in Revillame case

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – The camp of ABS-CBN on Monday filed an urgent motion with the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City seeking an early resolution of its previous pleas for Judge Luisito Cortez to inhibit himself from hearing the legal dispute between the network and Willie Revillame.

PNoy net satisfaction rating improves: SWS

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino's net satisfaction rating improved 4 points in the past 2 months, according to the results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

The survey, conducted last November 27-30 and first published in BusinessWorld, showed 74% of respondents saying they were satisfied with Aquino's performance compared to only 10% who were dissatisfied.

The survey said Aquino had a net satisfaction score of +64, higher than the +60 rating in September.

SWS said Aquino's ratings rose across most geographical areas, except in Metro Manila. In Balance Luzon, net satisfaction for Aquino improved from +65 to +69; in Visayas, from +54 to +56; and Mindanao, from +52 to +65.

On the other hand, Aquino's net satisfaction rating dropped from +66 to +59 in Metro Manila.

Net satisfaction for the President dropped a point among total urban respondents (+62 to +61) while improving 9 points among total rural respondents (+58 to +67).

Class ABC respondents gave Aquino an improved net satisfaction rating of +75 while Class D respondents gave Aquino an improved +63 rating. Satisfaction among Class E respondents for Aquino was unchanged at +64.

The SWS survey polled 1,200 adults nationwide via face-to-face interviews. The sampling error margins are +/-3% for national and +/-6% for area percentages.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, meanwhile, said the high satisfaction ratings indicate that a vast majority appreciate the Aquino administration's efforts to move the country forward through transparency and accountability in government.

"The people continue to overwhelmingly support a President whose heart they know is in the right place, and who they see as fighting for their welfare. We are on the cusp of fulfilling the great potential of our nation," he said in a statement.

Lacierda also warned that the "enemies of reform are locked and loaded" and that the President is aware of the situation that he inherited from his predecessor, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

"There will be continuing attempts to shroud in secrecy the corruption and wrong policies we have cast daylight upon. Concerted efforts to derail our agenda of change will intensify, led by those who wish to regain power so that we may go back to the old system of deception and corruption," he said.

Aquino's spokesman reiterated the President's clarion call to the people who have "sworn to tread on the straight and righteous path."

"The banner of reform remains upright, ready for you to rally behind it. Let us be faithful servants to the truth. Let us not let ourselves be used as pawns. Let us do right by the people, who are solidly behind the President, and who will remain so as long as he exhibits the honesty and integrity that they expect of every public official," he said.

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