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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 15, 2010 Major News Stories

SC acquits Hubert, others in Vizconde case

Matapos ang mahigit 19 na taon, tinuldukan na sa wakas ng kataas-taasang hukuman ang kontrobersyal na Vizconde Massacre case noong 1991. Hati ang mga mahistrado, pero sa bandang huli pinawalang sala ang lahat ng 7 akusado sa krimeng tumagal nang halos 2 dekada. Makasaysayan ang pasya ng Korte Suprema, 7 ang bumoto para sa acquittal, 4 ang kumontra at 4 pa ang nag-inhibit o hindi bumoto. Sa ngayon, nakalabas na sa Bilibid ang mga akusado.

Hubert Webb reacts to Supreme Court acquittal

After 15 long years, Hubert Webb is now a free man after the Supreme Court acquitted him and 5 others in the Vizconde massacre case. Speaking in his first press conference at the New Bilibid Prison as they await the court order for their release, Webb said he wants genuine justice for the Vizcondes, and challenged his accuser, the NBI's star witness Jessica Alfaro to take a lie detector test.

Vizconde scion cries, faints after Webb acquittal

An emotional Lauro Vizconde cried and fainted after hearing the news that the Supreme Court had acquitted Hubert Webb and 5 others accused in the gruesome massacre of his family  in June 1991.

Lauro Vizconde to SC justices: Help me find real criminals

Lauro Vizconde, whose wife and two daughters were brutally killed inside their Parañaque home two decades ago, has challenged the Supreme Court to help him find his family's killers.

Aquino feels sympathy for Vizconde

Sympathy was what President Benigno Aquino III said he initially felt for the surviving patriarch of the Vizconde family upon learning the acquittal Tuesday of the men convicted of killing the latter's family.

Pinky de Leon overjoyed on Lejano's acquittal

Labis din ang pasasalamat ng angkan ng mga de Leon sa show biz, ang pamilya ni Tony Boy Lejano, sa pagpapawalang-sala sa kanya at mga kasama. Pero sa kabila ng kasiyahan, naroon ang simpatya ng pamilya para kay Ginoong Vizconde.

How the SC justices voted

Supreme Court administrator and spokesman Midas Marquez announced in a press conference Tuesday the name of the justices who voted to acquit the convicted killers of the Vizconde massacre, who dissented, and who inhibited themselves from the case.

Those who voted to acquit Hubert Webb and six others were Justices Roberto Abad, Conchita Carpio Morales, Diosdado Peralta, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Lucas Bersamin, and Lourdes Sereno.

The four who did not favor the acquittal of the convicts were Justices Martin Villarama, Jr., Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, and Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Meanwhile, the four magistrates who inhibited themselves from the case were Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Antonio Carpio, Antonio Eduardo Nachura, and Mariano del Castillo.

The reason for the acquittal of Hubert Webb and six other convicts was the quality of the testimony of Jessica Alfaro who may not be considered a star witness because she was an NBI agent, said Marquez.

Supreme Court denies Webb acquittal involved money

The Supreme Court on Tuesday vehemently denied allegations that money changed hands in the acquittal of Hubert Webb and five other accused in the Vizconde massacre case.

NBI, police urged to find Vizconde massacre culprits

MANILA, Philippines – Authorities should now find the real culprits behind the Vizconde massacre, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

NBI open to reinvestigation of Vizconde case

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is not closing its doors on a possible reinvestigation on the Vizconde massacre case following the Supreme Court's acquittal of the seven people, including a senator's son, who were initially convicted for the crime.

Now, Biong wants retribution, P1-M in back wages

by By David Dizon,
MANILA, Philippines - Ex-cop Gerardo Biong, who was jailed for allegedly tampering with evidence in the 1991 Vizconde massacre, now wants his back wages and pension with the Philippine National Police restored after the Supreme Court acquitted him and several others in the case.

DepEd: Enrol children early for kindergarten

The Department of Education (DepEd) has called on parents to pre-register their children for kindergarten in January.

VECO eyes rotating brownouts

The Visayan Electric Company is not discounting the possibility of "frequent and longer rotating outages or brownouts" in their franchise area, if their current power supply contract with the National Power Corporation will be reduced from 240 megawatts per day to 75 megawatts per day starting December 26, 2010.

VECO spokeswoman Ethel Natera said yesterday that they themselves were shocked when they received last December 6 a Letter of Agreement-Extension of Contract for the Supply of Electric Energy with the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management, addressed to VECO President Dennis Garcia.

Natera said that in that letter, they were informed that the contract is only for 75 megawatts, a much lower capacity compared to its original contract of 240 megawatts.

Natera explained that currently VECO absorbs no less than 60 percent of Napocor's shortage, which is VECO's proportionate contact with Napocor relative to other distribution utilities in the Cebu–Negros–Panay Grid.

 "We believe that a fair proportionate allocation of the Napocor capacity available for contract extension for VECO should be no less than 60 percent also. Otherwise, the possibility of massive power shortages in 2011 of up to 100MW within VECO's franchise area cannot be discounted. This will result to more frequent and longer rotating outages," Natera said.

Natera said that the 60 percent request is even lower than what was initially requested but VECO believes the said the request is fair considering that VECO's share of NPC's power shortage is 60 percent.

VECO should get about 60 percent also of Napocor's capacity available for contract extension. 

VECO sources 60 percent of its power requirements from Napocor, which makes it NPC's largest customer in the whole Visayas grid.

If Napocor's available capacity is only 360 megawatts, Natera said VECO is asking only for a maximum of 155 megawatts, which is below 60 percent of 360 megawatts.

Natera said that in keeping with its mandate to ensure the delivery of adequate and reliable power for its more than 300,000 customers, VECO has requested PSALM for a reconsideration on the contract extension.

VECO officials are also set to meet with the Department of Energy today on the issue.

VECO at present serves the greater Metro-Cebu area with a peak demand of 380 megawatts daily.

Of the total VECO power requirements, a maximum of 240 megawatts is sourced from Napocor–PSALM, a combined 105 megawatts is sourced from Cebu Energy Development Corporation and Toledo Power Corporation and the peaking requirement of 30 megawatts to 60 megawatts from Cebu Private Power Corporation CPPC.

Natera explained that all of VECO's contract with other Independent Power Producers co-exist with Napocor contract and serves only a maximum of 45 percent of VECO's total demand.

Since more than half of VECO's power requirements are still sourced from Napocor, Natera said these contracts with other IPP's do not replace Napocor's capacity and are not meant to replace Napocor's capacity at all.

She said that while it has bilateral contracts with three IPPs, this is not enough to cover the ever increasing needs of its franchise area.

Natera said if and when Napocor can only give them 75 megawatts daily VECO will be left with no choice but to purchase power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market or WESM, which price per kilowatt hour is higher than Napocor.

Electricity Spot Market open soon in Visayas

The Department of Energy has declared that the commercial operations and integration of the Visayas to the Philippine Wholesale Electricity Spot Market shall commence on December 26, 2010.

Your jobs are safe, Gwen assures Greg's staff

CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia will meet this afternoon with all 55 employees assigned to the office of Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr. "so these employees will be told the truth."

She reacted, in her press conference yesterday, to Sanchez's statement that many of his employees cried when they learned that the P3-billion budget, with the corresponding transfer of some funds from the legislative to the executive branch, was approved last Monday during the Provincial Board's (PB) session.

Court postpones hearing after Capitol fails to submit statement

A POTENTIAL witness of the Provincial Capitol was not able to testify in court yesterday in the hearing on the Balili case.

Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Raphael Yrastorza postponed the testimony of engineer Roy Cabonillas of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office.

This, after Provincial Attorney Marino Martinquilla failed to submit the sworn statement of Cabonillas as the Capitol's first witness in the civil case for specific performance and refund of P37 million, paid for lands that were later found to be submerged.

Yrastorza reminded Martinquilla the sworn affidavit of their witnesses must be submitted in court three days before the scheduled hearing. This is to give the other party time to prepare its argument and the court to go over the documents.

Before the court proceeding began, businessman Crisologo Saavedra stood up and informed Yrastorza he submitted his manifestation to intervene in the case.

However, Yrastorza stopped him. "You don't have the personality (to intervene). You are not a party to the case, so don't waste the time of the court," the judge told Saavedra.


An apparently disheartened Saavedra then quietly left the courtroom.

Last April 8, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, through the Provincial Legal Office, filed before the Cebu City Regional Trial Court a civil case for specific performance and reduction/refund of the purchase of parcels of land.

The Provincial Legal Office asked the court to order Atty. Balili to reimburse the Capitol a total of P37,810,400, covering the two properties, totaling 94,526 square meters, and for the interest from the time of the payment until it was fully paid.

Capitol lawyers and lawyers of the Balili estate failed to reach a compromise deal after the court-initiated mediation of the civil suit on the Balili property.

When Cabonillas was at the witness stand to testify, Judge Yrastorza asked Martinquilla if his witness had submitted his sworn affidavit to court. He said no.

Yrastoza said the pre-trial order he issued states that both parties are required to submit the sworn affidavits of their witnesses at least three days before the scheduled hearing.

Martinquilla assured Yrastorza he will submit Cabonilla's sworn affidavit soon.

Yrastorza also disallowed the manifestation of Saavedra to intervene because the judge ruled the businessman's proposal was "un-procedural," and violates the Rules of Court.

After the hearing, lawyer Romeo Balili, the executor of the Balili Estate, reiterated his stance to retire as executor.

"I want to retire if the judge will allow. If the judge will not (allow), there's nothing we can do," he told reporters.

Romeo also criticized the move of Amparo Balili, widow of the late Engr. Luis Balili, and her lawyers in withdrawing more than half of the proceeds of the Balili property without his consent.

Court rejects Saavedra's intervention in civil case

Self-styled anti-graft crusader Crisologo Saavedra failed in his bid to intervene in the civil case that the Cebu provincial government has filed against the Balili Estate to recover P37 million of the more than P98 million it paid for the purchase of the 24.7-hectare property in Tinaan, Naga after it was found out that a portion of it was underwater.

Usurpation case vs Garcia has reached Malacañang

The complaint of Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr. against Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and five other Capitol officials for alleged acts of usurpations has already reached Malacañang.

The Department of Interior and Local Government in Manila forwarded the complaint to the office of the executive secretary.

The complaint was referred by DILG legal service director Jesus Doque IV on November 23, 2010 to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr.

In his transmittal letter Doque said that, "we are transmitting the Affidavit-Complaint of Cebu Vice Governor Greg G. Sanchez, Jr. together with the documents appurtenant thereto, against the herein named respondents to wit: Governor Gwendolyn F. Garcia, Marino Martinquilla, Eduardo T. Habin, Roy Salubre, Emmanuel G. Guial and Noli Vincent Valencia."

Sanchez filed a petition earlier before the DILG seeking reprieve from "acts of usurpations" allegedly perpetrated by Garcia and other respondents who are provincial legal officer Martinquilla, provincial administrator Habin, treasurer Salubre, assistant treasurer Guial and human resource management officer Valencia.

Sanchez asked DILG to order the respondents to cease and desist from committing the alleged "acts of usurpations," one of which is the arbitrary move of Garcia in 2007 of taking over the signing of the appointments of 18 contractual employees and 39 casual employees assigned to the Office of the Vice Governor.

Sanchez also complained of the issuance of a cease and desist memorandum against the employees. 

Citing the Local Government Code of 1991, Garcia claimed she stood by her "right" to appoint all officials and employees whose salaries and wages are wholly or mainly paid out of provincial funds. The same right was claimed by Sanchez.

Garcia presented yesterday to reporters copy of the latest appointments of the employees of Sanchez which were signed by the Governor on June 30, 2010.

Sanchez has six co-terminus, 11 contractual and 38 casual employees appointed by Garcia.

Garcia is set to meet all employees under the Office of the Vice Governor this afternoon to inform them of their work status after the P3 billion 2011 annual budget was approved by the Provincial Board last Monday.

"He (Sanchez) continues to peddle that lie in his pathetic attempt to court sympathy to his lost cause. This is not about the employees, this is about him," Garcia said.

Sanchez earlier said that many of his personnel are facing a "black Christmas and hungry New Year" when wages and salaries of casual and contractual employees of the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan were totally cancelled and his budget for next year was slashed by 61 percent.

But, Garcia said that those employees whose salary is being funded under the 2010 budget need not worry because they will be reappointed next year.

Environment court convicts 2 men

TWO men have been found guilty of illegally dumping unsegregated garbage.

Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 3 Judge Wilfredo Dagatan said Felix Tamarra Jr. and Gil Pilapil violated a provision of Republic Act (RA) 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

"The court hereby imposes upon them the penalty of fine in the amount of P10,000 each. Failure on the part of the accused to pay the said fine shall subject said accused to a subsidiary imprisonment equivalent to P8 per day," said Dagatan in a decision issued last Nov. 25.

Tamarra and Pilapil were caught dumping commercial and industrial garbage that were not segregated into a non-designated area or a material recovery facility in Mandaue City last Aug. 2.

They pleaded guilty.

"The record shows that all the accused have paid the fines imposed, hence, this case is now terminated," Dagatan said.

Other violations enumerated in RA 9003 include littering, throwing, dumping of waste matter in public places; open burning of solid waste; causing or permitting the collection of non-segregated or unsorted wastes; and open dumping, burying of biodegradable or non-biodegradable materials in flood-prone areas.

The judge also instructed the chief of the Mandaue City Solid Waste Management office to release the truck carrying the unsegregated garbage to its owner, Leonardo Geraldez of Camella Homes in Lapu-Lapu City.

Rama hoping to patch things up with Tomas

Mayor Michael Rama does not want his relationship with Cebu City south district Rep. Tomas Osmeña to go the way of the latter's rift with former mayor Alvin Garcia.

Eviction for Pasil fish port squatters

The Pasil Fish Port is expected to be cleared of illegal occupants before Christmas so the fish vendors from the Pasil Fish Market can already move there.

Market administrator Raquel Arce said she and the other concerned City Hall personnel have already met to discuss how to peacefully evict over a hundred people presently living in the Pasil Fish Port.

The P20 million Pasil Fish Port was occupied by informal settlers after it was no longer used by the city these past few years. The report said that the illegal occupants are also tapping power directly from electric posts.

But Arce is worried by reports that the foundations of the Pasil Fish Port, constructed with donations from the Belgian government, have already been weakened by waves lapping underneath the structure.

16 families lose homes to blaze

A fire destroyed a boarding house made of "amakan," a bamboo product, yesterday in sitio Tundan in barangay Basak, Mandaue City, displacing 16 families who were renting rooms.

The house caught fire at around 9:34 a.m. and was put under control five minutes after firefighters arrived.

SFO1 Arnold Lao of the Mandaue City Fire department said the cause has not been determined yet but it started in the room where a certain "Noynoy" was staying.

Most of the renters worked for a bakeshop, which is located 50 meters away. No one was home when the fire broke out, the children being in school and the parents at work.

A firewall of one of the houses near the boarding house prevented the fire from spreading.

Barangay Basak captain Vicente Dayanan said tents will be put up in the fire scene to serve as temporary shelter for the victims.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes also assured the families will receive assistance from the city.

PNoy to sign 2011 budget during 3-day Xmas break

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said he may sign the P1.645-trillion national budget on Dec. 25, Christmas Day.

House ratifies 2011 budget

(Updated 6:41 p.m.) The House of Representatives on Tuesday ratified the report of the bicameral conference committee on the reconciled version of the proposed P1.645-trillion national budget for 2011.

House makes PNoy sing after approving 2011 budget

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III took time from his busy schedule to drop by the separate Christmas parties of journalists in the Congress Beat and the members of the House of Representatives.

Aquino was invited to the party by Congress media, many of whom covered him as congressman during his 12-year stay here.

Aquino stayed a while to party and joke around with the reporters before partying with congressmen.

Aside from Aquino, former President and now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte led other congressmen in gracing the party for media workers.

Arroyo wished the media workers merry Christmas for everyone.

Aquino arrived at the media party some time after Arroyo left.

Arroyo arrived at the media party early so she and Aquino did not bump into each other.

From the journalists' party, Aquino proceeded to the Christmas bash of the members of the House, where he was talked into doing two song numbers in return for the passage of the budget.

His first song was "All My Life" backed up by Rep. Neptali 'Boyet' Gonzales.
His second song was "Of All the Things," and this time, he was backed up by Belmonte, Gonzales, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño and other representatives.

Senate adopts House resolution on amnesty grant

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Despite disagreeing with its recommendations, the Senate on Tuesday adopted the resolution of the House of Representatives concurring with President Benigno Aquino III's amnesty proclamation.

Maj. Jason Aquino can still apply for amnesty - Gazmin

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Monday that Major Jason Aquino, one of the key Army officers accused of mutiny during the February 2006 protests against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, still has about three months, or 90 days, to apply for amnesty.

DND forms committee to speed up soldiers' amnesty

The defense department has formed a five-man amnesty committee to hasten the amnesty applications of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel accused of involvement in three rebellious acts against the Arroyo administration, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Monday.

PNP halts offensives vs CPP-NPA

All police units nationwide have been ordered to refrain from initiating offensives against the communist rebels in the next 18 days in observance of the traditional Yuletide ceasefire.

Gov't eyes peace pact with NDF in 3 years

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration is hoping to forge a final peace agreement with the National Democratic Font (NDF) within three years.  

Air Force to get refurbished US choppers

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines Air Force (PAF) is set to receive 5 of the 10 refurbished UH-1H  utility helicopters from the President of the United States (POTUS) Program,  PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena announced on Tuesday.

Energy chief's confirmation deferred

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras's confirmation to the Cabinet was deferred yet again by the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Tuesday, a few days before Congress goes on break.

During Tuesday's hearing, Iloilo Rep. Ferjenel Biron quizzed Almendras over the National Electrification Administration's order to sack and file charges against officials of the Iloilo Electric Cooperative for allegedly taking bribes without including the reported source of the bribe, former Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr.

Biron also questioned why the National Power Corporation stopped subsidizing the Dingle Power Plant in Iloilo, which resulted in frequent brownouts in his district.

Last week, Almendras's confirmation was deferred after he failed to answer the same issues adequately.

"My difficulty is I wasn't around when these things happened," he told reporters after the hearing. "I wasn't even around when the decisions were made."
Almendras said he respects the decision of the CA to resume the hearing on his confirmation on January next year.
He said he is "prepared for the worst" and will not insist on staying if the commission rejects him.
"I prepared myself for the fact that I didn't apply for this job," Almendras said.  "I never wanted to be in this position so I cannot say I'm keen to stay."
Almendras said the energy department will continue investigating the issues Biron raised.

Cabinet, bishops to meet on RH again on Wed

Government officials and Catholic bishops will meet again on Wednesday to discuss the controversial reproductive health (RH) issue, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Impeach case filed vs justice in plagiarism flap

An impeachment case was filed Tuesday against Supreme Court Justice Mariano del Castillo over his supposedly plagiarized ruling denying a petition filed by Filipina sex slaves to Japanese soldiers in World War II.

Kidnappers free 2 MSU students in Marawi

MANILA, Philippines - Two students of the Mindanao State University were released by their kidnappers Monday night, six days after they were snatched within the school compound in Marawi City.

China says Filipino drug mules handled according to law

by Agence France-Presse
BEIJING - China said Tuesday it was handling the cases of 5 Filipinos sentenced to death for drugs offences according to law, after Manila linked their fate to its no-show at the Nobel peace prize ceremony.

$1: 43.800

$1: 43.800 (P43.92)

Euro 1: 58.5306

TA Oil to intensify oil search in Central Visayas

Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp. said Tuesday it would intensify drilling and oil exploration activities worth $11.2 million in its offshore stake in Central Visayas.

PLDT 2010 profit to exceed P41-B: Pangilinan

MANILA, Philippines - The chairman of phone giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) is confident that the firm will exceed its projected P41.5 billion profit for the year.

Pirates attack ship with Pinoy crew in Oman Gulf - report

ROME - Pirates attacked an Italian cargo ship with a crew of 23 in the Gulf of Oman Tuesday but have so far failed to gain control, Italy's coastguard said.

Anwar faces six-month suspension from Malaysian parliament

by Agence France-Presse
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim could be suspended as an MP until the next election, after a probe found him guilty Tuesday of misleading parliament in a row over a slogan.

Disabled workers enslaved in China factory—report

BEIJING – Authorities have shut down a factory in western China where 11 workers, most of them mentally disabled, were allegedly enslaved for years in deplorable conditions, state press said Tuesday.

Bangladesh factory blaze kills 22, injures 100

ASHULIA—A raging fire on Tuesday tore through a huge Bangladeshi garment factory that makes clothes for Western shops including Gap, killing at least 22 workers and injuring 100 more.

Arum prefers Mosley as Pacquiao's next foe

A fight with Shane Mosley will generate the most money for Manny Pacquiao.

Donaire plans climb to super bantamweight after Montiel fight

MANILA, Philippines – Boxing champion Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire Jr. is planning to climb another weight class once he gets past world bantamweight champion Fernando Montiel of Mexico.

Azkals in high spirits

THE Philippine national men's football team is up for a daunting task when it faces Southeast Asian powerhouse Indonesia in a two-game semifinal series of the AFF Suzuki Cup tomorrow and on Dec. 19, which will both be played in enemy territory at the Gelora Bung Kamo Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Despite all the odds stacked against the Azkals, the RP squad is in high spirits coming into the team's biggest match to date.

Heat beat Hornets for ninth straight win (AP)

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Trevor Ariza #1 of the New Orleans Hornets dunks over Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat during a foul shot during a game at American Airlines Arena on December 13, 2010 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

LeBron James banked in a runner as he drew a foul, then joined the crowd's roar and threw a fist. A knockout punch? Pretty much. The basket came during a second-half spurt that turned a close game into another romp for the Miami Heat. They trailed early and waited until the end of the third quarter to make their move, winning by double figures for the ninth game in a row by beating New Orleans.

Lakers center Andrew Bynum ready to play, but it's not certain whether he'll start

The question wasn't whether Lakers center Andrew Bynum finally was going to play in a game or not after missing the first 24 games recovering from right knee surgery that he had in July.

Bynum had already answered that after practice Monday, saying he "definitely" was going to play against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.

'Ang Panday,' 'Dukot' win major FAMAS prizes

MANILA, Philippines- The 2009 remake of Philippine classic "Ang Panday" and independent film "Dukot" bagged major awards at the 58th Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Awards (FAMAS).

Isabel Oli: James and I just friends

Diretsahan ang sagot ng aktres na si Isabel Oli kung nagkakamabutihan na sila ng basketbolistang si James Yap.

Court junks Katrina's case vs Hayden: report

MANILA, Philippines – The Pasig Regional Trial Court on Tuesday dismissed a case filed by actress Katrina Halili against Hayden Kho in connection with the sex video scandal, according to an online report.

PH contractor unseats top taxpayer Pacquiao

A builder with a reputation for winning fat government road contracts has taken multi-millionaire boxing hero Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao's title as the Philippines' top taxpayer.

Eight-time world champion Pacquiao, one of the world's biggest-earning sportsmen, fell to number 113 on the Bureau of Internal Revenue's top 500 taxpayers for 2009.

His tax due of 7.41 million pesos (about 169,000 dollars) was dwarfed by the 59.54 million-peso assessment on Elaine Gardiola, according to the list published on the bureau's website Tuesday.

World champ Pacquiao was the country's top individual taxpayer in 2008 when Gardiola was the number four, the bureau said last year without providing tax due amounts.

Local newspapers describe the new taxpayer champion, Gardiola, as the owner of a construction company named after her and based in Batangas province, south of Manila.

Her firm won 2.3 billion pesos' worth of road repair contracts from the public works ministry in the nine years to 2008, according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, a media watchdog.

Filipinos are taxed on the basis of their declared income, not their known assets.

The list of biggest taxpayers was sprinkled with many of the country's top film stars and big businessmen.

However only one of the two Filipinos in the Forbes billionaires list this year, Henry Sy, made it to the top 10 taxpayers.

Shopping mall magnate Sy, the country's wealthiest man with a family net worth of 4.2 billion dollars according to Forbes, was the number-eight taxpayer with tax due of 25.18 million pesos (574,000 dollars).

Lucio Tan, with 1.7 billion dollars in assets according to Forbes, was only the 76th biggest taxpayer with dues of 9.2 million pesos (210,000 dollars).

Both men's firms, though, were in the top 10 of corporate income tax payers.

The bureau says just five million Filipinos pay income taxes with more than 20 million others probable tax evaders.

House probes 'sukang pinakurat' trade war

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Competition has apparently turned sour literally between  a condiments giant and a startup competitor over "sukang pinakurat", a special variety of spicy vinegar.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on small business and entrepreneurship development, said his committee will probe how one of the giants in the condiments industry has allegedly been allowed to strangle a small, Mindanao-based suka manufacturer.

Casiño said he has filed House Resolution 577 to investigate the violations committed by Southeast Asia Foods, Inc. (SAFI), makers of Datu Puti Pinoy Kurat Spiced Tuba Vinegar, of the tradename and trademark of Green Gold Gourmet Foods, Inc., original maker of the Suka Pinakurat brand.

SAFI is listed as the manufacturer and distributor of Datu Puti Lines, Mang Tomas, Golden Fiesta Cooking Oil, and Nelicom Lines, among others. It is said that SAFI is lording it over the condiments market.
In contrast, GGGFI is a small suka manufacturer based in Iligan City. Its main product is the Suka Pinakurat, which they registered with the Philippine Intellectual Property Office in 2006, Australia's Intellectual Property Office in 2008 and the United States Patent Office in 2009.

In a statement and in a press conference with House media, Casino said"Datu Puti Pinoy Kurat" appears to violate Section 123 of the Intellectual Property Code (Republic Act 8293) which states that a mark "cannot be registered if it is identical or confusingly similar to an already registered mark. As such, it may be considered a trademark infringement, which is a form of unfair competition."

"In effect, DTI and [Intellectual Property Office] has allowed SAFI to grossly push aside a successful small business brand by eating into its hard-earned niche in the local and even the international market," he added.

Casino said the DTI should prohibit Datu Puti Pinoy Kurat from selling their version of Suka Pinakurat until the matter is resolved. "It is only right that we hear this to come up with new policies that will prevent big businesses from eating up the success of small corporations," he said.

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