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

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 7, 2010 Major News Stories

NFA rice to increase by P2/kilo

Tuloy na ang pagtataas ng presyo ng NFA rice bukas. Dalawang piso kada kilo ang madadagdag ditto. Ngayon pa lang, may mga mamimili nang umaaray lalo't magpa-Pasko. Pero giit ng NFA, kailangan nilang magtaas ng presyo para maiwasan ang lalong pagkalugi ng ahensya. 

Pump prices to go up anew - Almendras

by By Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy has confirmed a fresh round of price increases for diesel, kerosene and gasoline this week.

"International prices have been going up," said DoE Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.

Almendras did not say how much the adjustments would be, but sources from his agency said it would be around P1 per liter for diesel, and P1.50 for gasoline.

Meanwhile, LPG Marketers Association president Arnel Ty also announced a P3 hike in cooking gas prices. Ty said another P1 per kilo increase is expected next week.

"Lumalambot naman ang presyo pagdating ng January (But prices usually soften in January)," he said.

Toby Nebrida, Chevron communications manager, said the pump prices of its Gold, Gold E10, Silver and Silver E10 products will increase by P1.50 per liter. He also said that Chevron's regular gasoline will increase by P1.25/Li while diesel and kerosene will increase by P0.75/Li (all inclusive of Value-Added Tax).

He said the price hikes will be implemented 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Bakers vow to keep 'Pinoy Tasty' at P36/loaf

The local bakers' industry has committed to keep the price of the 450-gram "Pinoy Tasty" at P36 per loaf during the holiday season, even as the prices of other branded loaf breads and pan de sal continue to rise, according to Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo.

DTI bares SRP for 'Noche Buena' goods

by By Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has posted in its website the suggested retail prices (SRPs) of "Noche Buena" products to protect consumers from unscrupulous traders.

The agency said market prices of Christmas goods should not exceed the SRPs or the benchmark prices by more than 5%. Anyone who will violate the DTI price guide will be charged with overpricing, it said.

Among the food items with SRPs are ham, pasta, macaroni, fruit cocktail, cheese, spaghetti sauce, mayonnaise, keso de bola, and milk.

The Philippine Association of Supermarkets Inc. said prices will remain stable as there is enough supply of the products.

In the meantime, the DTI announced that the current shortage in sugar will be experienced until the end of the month.

It said the delay in sugar milling due to the El Niño phenomenon early this year affected supply.

The tightness in supply is now pushing sugar prices up, forcing the DTI to remove the SRP for the commodity.

At the Cash 'n Carry Supermarket, sugar sells at P65 a kilo.

DA sets rules for imported meat products

Producers of pork in Central Visayas consider it a victory that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala issued rules and regulations in handling imported meat products.

Administrative Order 22-2010 is set to be implemented on December 15.

"It was a success for us, but not totally. We are happy wala masayang among kahago," said Roland Tambago, president of the Central Visayas Pork Producers Cooperative.

The group has been lobbying for proper regulations in the handling of meat products.

Under the order, frozen products imported to the country should be transported to the market using a refrigerated van and stored in a facility with a temperature of not more than four degrees Celsius.

Meat inspectors must also supervise the meat products displayed by vendors.

Dr. Alice Utlang, chief of the city's Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries, warns meat vendors who will violate the order: "Mu-follow na unta sila unsa'y naa sa balaod. Para man na sa kaayohan sa tanan, Kung mu-violate jud sila, the more dili na mamalit sa ila ang mga consumers kay magduda na man na sila," Utlang said.

She said that vendors are not allowed to sell imported meat products as locally-produced pork by thawing the frozen meat with boiling water.

Utlang also added that vendors cannot sell imported meat without having freezers or appropriate storage facilities inside their stalls.

Any vendor who violates the rules, the city veterinarian said, will have their permits confiscated and shall pay penalties of at least P2000 and up to P5000.

"Dili na makabaligya kon wala'y permit gikan sa National Meat Inspection Service labi na kon walay facility ang tigbaligya. Dili na masayon-sayon karon," Utlang said.

She also urged the public to be cautious in purchasing meat products and to always look for the NMIS mark on packages and permit inside pork stalls.

Tambago, on the other hand, commended Utlang for the implementation of the regulations.

"She is implementing the law for the common good and not just for the importers or local meat farmers," he said.

Tambago said there was a 10-percent increase on the demand of locally-produced pork after government agencies decided to work out on the proliferation of imported products in wet market.

City allots P18M for Philhealth, medicines of poor constituents

THE Cebu City Government will earmark P18 million to enroll the poorest of the poor with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Councilor Ronald Cuenco—who heads the committee on hospital services, health and sanitation—met yesterday with department heads to discuss the proposal.

Under the proposed health program, PhilHealth will cover up to P40,000 in hospital services and confinement for up to 90 days. The program also sets a ceiling for minor hospital services at P4,200; P14,000 for secondary hospitalization cases, and; P28,000 for tertiary cases, which includes confinement in the intensive care unit.

Under the program, the City will pay P600 per family every year.

Aside from hospitalization, the program provides for a capitation fund of P300 per family, to cover the purchase of medicines and laboratory works at the Cebu City Medical Center and barangay health centers.

The program is set to begin next year but Cuenco said the MOA should be signed before the year ends.

Courage of 11 Talisay SK chairmen lauded

For showing "exemplary courage and integrity" during the last Sangguniang Kabataan Federation election, the Talisay City government and first district Rep. Eduardo Gullas yesterday awarded 11 SK chairmen of the city.

Court asked: Hold Balili lot payments

THE court received yesterday a request to stop the distribution of P44.28 million the Provincial Government paid the heirs of Engr. Luis Balili for a beachfront property in Naga.

Businessman Crisologo Saavedra said the release of the amount would "destroy the evidence" the Office of the Ombudsman needs while it investigates Capitol officials for the transaction.

PB defers budget nod

THE Cebu Provincial Board (PB) yesterday deferred approval of Capitol's P3.09-billion budget for 2011 to allow the court time to resolve a petition filed by Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr., which sought to block passage of the appropriations measure.

PB Member Peter John Calderon assured Regional Trial Court Branch 18 Judge Gilbert Moises that the appropriations committee, which he (Calderon) chairs, would not tackle the budget proposal in its session yesterday to enable the court to resolve the case within the week.

City Treasurers Office hiring CPAs

With a current minute workforce to audit over 25,000 examination books by next year, the Cebu City Treasurers Office plans to hire 40 Certified Public Accountants to audit their tax documents.

Rama mulls outsourcing garbage collection

About 300 garbage collectors of Cebu City stand to lose their jobs after Mayor Michael Rama considers outsourcing the city's garbage collection because he is not satisfied with their performance.

Drunk father hacks, kills baby

AFTER quarreling with his wife, a drunken man turned his ire on his one-year-old son and allegedly hacked him to death in Barangay Maravilla, Tabuelan town Sunday afternoon.

Suspect Alfredo Tagl-ucop Jr., 29, an alleged cult member, killed James Amper, who had yet to be baptized.

James is Alfredo's son with live-in partner Maribel Pitogo, 26. Maribel, who has two other children, described her partner as the jealous type.

Alfredo was arrested later in Barangay Kautubaon by the village chief, Deonito Almonacin, and tanods.

Burglars rent room, dig hole to pawnshop

IT WAS the second time around, but hardly a repeat.

An alarm system connected to the police foiled the burglary attempt of Acetylene Gang members on Prime Asia Pawnshop on F. Llamas St., Barangay Punta Princesa, Cebu City last Sunday night.

In 2003, the shop was robbed of P1.7-million in jewelry and cash.

In last Sunday's incident, the gang failed to take anything.

Police operatives found a hole in the wall adjacent to the pawnshop, just enough for a person to sneak inside.

Over traffic violation: Policeman, suspect hurt in shootout

A police officer and a college student were injured in a shootout in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City dawn yesterday.

FVR not satisfied with PNoy's performance so far

by By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos is unsatisfied with the first 100 days of President Benigno Aquino III.

Palace elated over Aquino's high approval ratings

Malacañang is elated over the high approval ratings of President Aquino and his Cabinet and said this showed they continued to enjoy the trust of the people and that their "efforts are being seen as fulfilling the President's pledge to fight corruption and reduce poverty."

Distrust biggest stumbling block in PH-NDF peace talks

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The lead negotiator for the government in the peace talks with the communists said "mistrust" between both sides can prevent any successful outcome.

AFP willing to meet with communist panel negotiator to boost peace talks

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it would be willing to let communist chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni visit its national headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo.

'Morong 43' hunger strike won't influence Palace stand

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The reported hunger strike of the "Morong 43" detainees will not influence the position of the Palace on the issue, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said on Monday.

Palace dares 'Morong 43' camp to question arrest warrant before court

A Malacanang official on Monday challenged the lawyers of the so-called Morong 43 to question before the courts the warrant of arrest issued against their clients if they believe that the warrant was defective.

Belmonte assures passage of bill compensating victims of Marcos regime

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday gave guarantees that in his term he will work for the passage of the compensation bill for victims of the Marcos dictatorial regime.

Unclear list stalls anew amnesty grant approval in Senate body

SENATE PANEL discussions on the amnesty grant to rebel soldiers yesterday hit a snag after the Executive failed to submit the list of individuals covered by the presidential proclamation, even as the House of Representatives has set plenary approval of the same this week.

Senator Teofisto D. Guingona III, chairman of the committee on peace, unification and reconciliation, cited inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the list of persons submitted by the Executive as furnished by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

For one, respondents in the Marine standoff at the unit's headquarters in Taguig City in February 2006 included Senator Gregorio B. Honasan II, Pastor Boy Sarcon and former ambassador Roy Señeres.

Also listed were businessmen Don Pepe Araneta and Jaime R. Regalario, as well as 12 other civilians.

Further, said to have taken part in the rebellion from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front were Prudencio Calubid also known as Ka Pablo, Leo Velasco or Ka Ili, Edelberto Silva or Ka Jes, and Tirso Alcantara or Ka Bart.

"It is clear that there was no comprehensive review of the list, which led me to suspend the hearings until they get their act together," Mr. Guingona told reporters after the hearing yesterday.

Submission of a more accurate list, he said, will allow the committee to endorse Proclamation 75 for plenary concurrence.

Senator Franklin M. Drilon, who was also present at the hearing, said in a separate interview that certain members of the AFP were listed as still in active service, when they are in fact not.

"The list is simply inaccurate. It also establishes how the previous administration prostituted the military legal system...," said Mr. Drilon, referring to 54 people who pleaded guilty of violating the Articles of War during the so-called Oakwood mutiny in July 2003.

Of the number, Mr. Drilon said, four reportedly "favored" by the past administration and not sentenced with suspension, as opposed to the remaining 50 who were suspended upon affirmation of then president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd district).

The uprising involved the takeover of the then Oakwood Premier (now Ascott The Residence Makati) by officers and soldiers comprising the Magdalo group that demanded the resignation of Mrs. Arroyo.

For his part, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the amnesty grant is limited to specific groups involving "specific acts of outburst," hence the need for an accurate list.

"The procedure at this stage is that the Department of National Defense (DND), which is in charge of the security under which ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) is an agency, must prepare a list of people who are potential beneficiaries. That list is to be officially transmitted by the Secretary of National Defense to the Palace. The Executive Secretary will transmit it to Congress, to the House and Senate, officially, and not just by handout," Mr. Enrile told reporters in an ambush interview.

Aside from the list of those covered by amnesty, the Senate also wants clarity on mutineers who have pleaded guilty.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. told reporters yesterday that "the amnesty will be concurred [by the House of Representatives] as early as [Monday night]. If not, I think not later than Wednesday this week."

He said the grant of amnesty is not automatic.

"You have to go there and claim that you are the victim of circumstances in your application for amnesty and explain why you should be covered by the amnesty," he said.

At the Palace, an official said Malacañang will submit to the Senate a list of possible applicants for amnesty to include the status of cases against soldiers, police and civilians covered by Proclamation 75.

"The Senate was asking the status of the different soldiers who were already charged... So that is what the Department of National Defense in coordination with the AFP is doing right now... so that when asked again [today] we will be able to tell the Senate the status of the cases," Jose Amor M. Amorado, senior deputy executive secretary, said in a briefing.

Despite the submission of a new list, he maintained that the Office of the Executive Secretary did not commit any mistake in including the name of Mr. Honasan.

"The lists that were submitted came from the AFP, DND and from the DoJ (Department of Justice)," he said. "So if you have a pending case regarding any of these three incidents, then we take it that you are a possible applicant."

Mr. Amorado further said there will be admission of guilt for applicants either implied or expressed depending on guidelines to be issued by DND.

The House committee on justice approved Concurrent Resolution 8 last Nov. 30.

The amnesty covers about 300 active and former officers and enlisted personnel of the AFP, Philippine National Police and their supporters involved in the Oakwood mutiny, Marine standoff and the siege at The Peninsula Manila Hotel in November 2007.

The Senate and House of Representatives should concur with Proclamation 75 that superseded Proclamation 50 whose provisions were questioned by lawmakers.


Honasan: 'malicious' and 'very irresponsible'

Senator Gregorio Honasan II on Monday branded as "malicious" and "very irresponsible" the inclusion of his name in the list of those who can avail of the amnesty granted by President Benigno Aquino III.

Nothing wrong with amnesty list, says Palace exec

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - A Palace official said on Monday there was nothing wrong with the inclusion of Senator Gregorio Honasan on the list of possible applicants for amnesty as alleged by some senators.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor Amorado said the list of possible applicants for the amnesty was based on the lists prepared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Department of National Defense (DND), and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

In the case of Honasan, his name was submitted by the DOJ based on a case on the 2006 Marine standoff, which is still pending preliminary investigation at the department.

"As far as the Office of the Executive Secretary is concerned, I don't think we committed any mistake regarding the submission of the list. The list that was submitted came from the AFP and DND list, and the DOJ," Amorado said. 

"I don't think there is anything to explain. If he is watching now, I would like to tell him that we did not make the list, we just got the list from the Department of Justice," he added. "We did not see anything wrong with it. It's only a list. It's still pending preliminary investigation." 

The Palace is not revising the list only to "amplify it" to possibly include other names.

Honasan, together with Council of Philippine Affairs' (COPA) Boy Saycon, former Ambassador Roy Señeres, and "other identified CPP-NPA personalities" have been charged before the DOJ, and their cases are still pending preliminary investigation, Amorado said.

Honasan may or may not apply for the amnesty. 

"If you have a pending case regarding any of these 3 incidents, then we take it that you are a possible applicant. Possible applicant, meaning that it is not necessary that you really apply. It's up to you if you will apply for amnesty or not," Amorado said.            

Those who were not charged but believe they have participated in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, 2006 Marine standoff, or 2007 Peninsula siege may also apply for amnesty.

Those applying for amnesty must admit guilt "impliedly" or "expressly," depending on the final version of the guidelines. The guidelines are being drafted by the DND.            

"Anybody who will apply for the amnesty will either have to impliedly admit guilt or expressly admit guilt, depending on the final version," Amorado said.   

There are "302 possible applicants" based on the list provided by the Palace to the Senate.  

Amorado said Senator Antonio Trillanes was consulted on who the possible applicants are and on the status of their cases.

He said the amnesty proclamation has undergone at least two revisions, taking into account the "suggestions" of the House and Senate committees deliberating on the proclamation. 

The Palace is still hoping that the amnesty proclamation will be approved by Congress before its Christmas break.

Asked about Army Major Jason Aquino, who reportedly is not interested in availing of the amnesty, Amorado said:

"Earlier this morning, that was I think the question of Sen. [Joker] Arroyo to [former] Gen. Danny Lim, and I don't know personally whether or not he's interested. But whether or not a person is interested in applying for amnesty, so long as you were involved in any of those 3 incidents, you will be given the opportunity to apply for amnesty. That's why the position of officer Aquino is he would like to avail of the trial in court, he would like to prove himself innocent, so that will be anti-thetical now with amnesty, because under the present proclamation, you will have--at least impliedly--you will have to admit guilt before your application can be acted upon."

Belmonte defends amnesty proclamation, peace talks

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr. on Monday defended the amnesty proclamation for rebel soldiers led by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Palace snubs shoot-to-kill proposal against Lacson

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has snubbed former police agent Mary "Rosebud" Ong's suggestion to issue a "shoot to kill" order against fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson.

DILG creates tracker team to hunt down Lacson

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has created its own team that will hunt down the elusive Senator Panfilo Lacson.

I can get Lacson off the hook–Enrile

Senator Panfilo Lacson will not go to jail for the alleged abduction and murder of public relations practitioner Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, solely on the testimony of the fugitive lawmaker's former aide, ex-police Superintendent Cezar Mancao II, according to Senate President Enrile.

House will seek to restore P880-M budget for contraceptives

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives will fight for the restoration of the P880 million budget for contraceptives that was slashed to just P8 million in the Senate version of the 2011 proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Senators stand firm on contraceptives budget cut

Senators on Monday defended their decision to slash the budget for contraceptives in 2011, saying its approval could mean that they are in favor of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

Bishops, doctors hold consultative meet on RH bill

Catholic Church officials on Monday held a "consultative meeting" with the country's largest organization of doctors regarding the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill currently pending in Congress.

SC denies sanctioning court employees's protest

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court denied it sanctioned the plans of judges and court employees to protest the cut in the budget of the judiciary.

Judges wear black to appeal for budget increase

Members of judges' associations nationwide wore black Monday in appealing to Malacañang to allocate P1.5B for the salary differentials of lower court judges.

Executive judge: Protest vs. budget cut here voluntary

Judges and court employees who want to protest the proposed budget cut in the judiciary may do so themselves, but no official directive was issued to this effect in courts here in Cebu, Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Meinrado Paredes said yesterday.

Junk complaint against me, Bello asks House ethics panel

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello on Monday asked the House ethics committee to dismiss the complaint filed against him for his supposed disorderly behavior and "unparliamentary remarks" that he made against former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Customs says no work slowdown on unpaid overtime

The Bureau of Customs on Monday said its people at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are not on a work slowdown in protest of unpaid back wages and that the long passenger queues during the weekend were brought about by staff shortage and the higher volume of arrivals.

DFA: 14 distressed OFWs repatriated from Malaysia

At least 14 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were repatriated from Malaysia last December 2, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

Pinoy nurse in UK jailed for rape, sexual assault

A Filipino nurse in the United Kingdom who was previously convicted for having sex with a minor was again sentenced to jail for a total of nine years for allegedly raping a female patient and sexually assaulting another in Oxford, according to reports in the British press.
Oliver Balicao, 37 and a British citizen, was convicted at the Reading Crown Court last November for the rape of a 17-year-old patient in 2004 and sexual assault of a 22-year-old student in 2002. 

Balicao, a resident of Bicester in Oxfordshire, used to work at the John Radcliffe Hospital prior to his two latest convictions. He was also convicted in 2008 to 16 months in jail for having consensual sex with a 16-year-old patient of the same hospital in March 2007. 

In 2007, he was accused of raping the teenage patient who took a paracetamol overdose after being bullied at school. She claimed Balicao took advantage of her at the hospital's lavatory for the disabled where he led her on the pretext of taking her urine sample.

Balicao, however, maintained the girl initiated the sexual act and that it was consensual. The jury cleared him of the charge, but the judge sentenced him to 16 months in jail.

The two other victims, upon hearing about Balicao's conviction, likewise decided to surface and file charges against him. 

Victims

According to a BBC report, the younger of the two victims said Balicao raped her in a side room at the hospital's accident and emergency department in October 2004.

The BBC report said the victim's boyfriend and mother initially didn't believe her as she was then suffering hallucinations following a drug overdose. 

The victim then went to the police after seeing Balicao's photograph in the news for the March 2007 case. 

separate report by the Oxford Mail, meanwhile, said Balicao, a father of two, was likewise sentenced for indecent assault on a student who was being treated at the John Radcliffe Hospital for blood clots in her lungs.

In the second incident, Balicao allegedly touched the woman's arm and forced a kiss on her mouth in December 2002. 

The victim also decided to come forward and report to the police after hearing news of Balicao's 2008 conviction.

Balicao was sentenced to nine years for rape and 18 months for indecent assault.

The Oxford Mail quoted Judge Stephen John as saying that Balicao had shown no remorse as he maintained innocence on the charges. 

"The rape of the 17-year-old girl was premeditated. You took her to another room and used a condom. The 22-year-old woman was a (foreign) PhD student in the UK for four weeks and another patient in your care. Again you abused your position of trust," John was quoted as saying in the report. 

"It appears your past offending caught up with you when both saw news reports of your conviction in 2007," the judge added, 

Brian Stalk, Balicao's counsel, said his client was "crushed" by the jury's guilty majority verdict a month ago. 

"If there was ever a lesson to be learned, he has learned it and he will never make the same mistake again," Stalk said in the same report. 

Top destination 

Elaine Strachan-Hall, chief nurse of the Oxfor Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, said Balicao will no longer be able to work as a nurse as his name has been removed from the register of nurses by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. 

Balicao was likewise banned from working with children under 16 years old and was placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for his 2007 conviction. 

"It is never acceptable for a nurse in a position of trust to abuse that trust and take advantage of a person's vulnerability. We are extremely sorry that this happened and that the patients, who were the victims of these crimes, did not feel able to report the incidents at the time," said Strachan-Hall after the hearing, according to BBC. 

The John Radcliffe Hospital is the largest tertiary teaching hospital in England. It opened in 1972 and is the main teaching hospital for Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University.

In recent years, the United Kingdom has been among the top destination of overseas Filipino nurses. 

Data from the UK Border Agency, cited by local recruitment agencies, show that an annual average of 7,000 nurses flew to the UK under a program that allows them to study and work at the same time.

Palace deploys more labor attachés abroad

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government has deployed additional labor attachés and welfare officers to attend to the needs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially in the Middle East and Asia.

Besides this, the government, through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), has allotted P1 billion as reintegration fund for the OFWs' families, he said.

Aquino said OFWs can tap this as a loan facility, with a minimal interest.

He also said an additional 54 help desks have been set up in the provinces to address to the OFWs' needs.

The president lauded the workers for their contribution to the economy, citing an increase in their dollar remittances.

Aquino said his administration will work to generate jobs and opportunities here so that Filipinos will not be forced to work abroad.

The president related that while he did not come from an OFW family, he said he understands the plight of being away from a loved one, leaving to other members the responsibility of raising the entire family.

He cited, for example, his mother who was left with the duty to raise the family when his father was imprisoned.

President Aquino handed this year's MOFYA to the following:

Engr. Ermie Lagman Garon and family of Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, 2010 Model OFW Family of the Year, Land-based category;

Victor R. Dela Cruz and family of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, 2010 Model OFW family of the year, sea-based category;

Alex V. Bello and family of Tacloban City, Leyte for Outstanding Achievement in Community Projects;

Capt. Gaudencio C. Morales and family of the NCR for Outstanding Achievement in Entrepreneurship.

OFWs can leave for SoKor as tension eases—DOLE

Filipino workers can leave for jobs in South Korea on Tuesday because the situation in the Korean Peninsula has now stabilized, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Monday.

AFP chief to ink equipment deal in China

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo David Jr. will leave for China on Tuesday for a five-day visit upon the invitation of the Chinese military and defense ministry.

Peso rises with prospects of better export earnings in Asian economies

The peso inched up on Monday, buoyed by speculations that a number of Asian economies would report this week improved export earnings.

$1: 43.750

$1: 43.750 (P43.88)

Euro 1: 57.9766

Gov't says no decision yet on 2011 rice imports

by Reuters
MANILA, Philippines - A government panel did not take any decisions on the size or timings of rice imports for 2011 at a meeting on Monday, and the head of the state grain agency said there was no hurry to decide on the plans.

500 members of PAL union in Cebu to join strike vote

CEBU CITY -- Some 500 members of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (Palea) based in Cebu will participate in a strike vote required by law so they can conduct a strike against the airline management.

Gerry Rivera, Palea president and vice chairperson of the militant Partido ng Manggagawa, said the strike vote will be held Tuesday, and they expect to get the necessary majority support of their members.

PALEA expects to get majority from strike vote

by By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) will hold a strike vote on Tuesday, saying a protest action is already warranted due to the management's unfair labor practices.

NAIA customs officers slam unpaid overtime pay

Naaapektuhan na ang operasyon sa NAIA dahil sa pagtanggi ng ilang customs personnel na mag-over time. Buwelta nila ito sa hindi pagbabayad ng mga international airline operators ng 16 na buwan nilang overtime pay. Ititigil naman ng mga airline operators ang pag-iimprenta ng mga embarkation cards simula sa Enero.

PAL to shoulder extra pay for Customs; gov't to print immigration cards

FLAG-CARRIER Philippine Airlines (PAL) has agreed to shoulder a portion of unpaid overtime work of Customs officials detailed at the three terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), in an attempt to avert possible chaos from a shortage of personnel with the expected volume of arrivals for the holidays, the company's spokesperson yesterday said.

WIKILEAKS: Ex-Saudi envoy to Manila tagged by US in 'terror facilitation'

A former Saudi Arabia ambassador to Manila was suspected by Washington of "potential involvement" in terrorism, but a Saudi prince vouched for him, according to a secret US memo from Riyadh released by the online whistle-blower WikiLeaks.

A senior White House official under the Bush administration had told Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, that Muhammad Ameen Wali might be involved in "terrorism facilitation," the February 24, 2007, cable from the US Embassy in Riyadh indicated.

Classified "secret," the document was the first that directly referenced the Philippines out of the more than 250,000 sensitive cables from 274 American embassies, which WikiLeaks started publishing last month.

The memo said Francis Fragos Townsend, then the assistant to the US president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (APHSCT), cited the actions of Muhammad, who was posted in the Philippines from 2004-2009, to secure the release of two unnamed prisoners with suspected terrorism ties.

But Prince Saud told her that "some of his (Muhammad's) actions may have involved bad judgment rather than intentional support for terrorism," the memo said.

The conversation was said to have taken place in a private meeting held in Prince Saud's Jeddah home in February 2007. It was also attended by former US Ambassador to Riyadh James Oberwetter, who wrote and transmitted the memo.

"Waly (sic) had been investigated, he said, and no evidence was found regarding his involvement," Oberwetter recalled Prince Saud as telling Townsend.

The memo misspelled the ambassador's name as "Muhammad Amin Waly."

Of the memos acquired by WikiLeaks, some 1,796 originated from the US Embassy in Manila although none had so far been posted online (as of Monday). On the other hand, there were 2,036 documents with references to the Philippines.

Since publishing the leaked cables, WikiLeaks has struggled to stay online after its US domain provider pulled the plug on the website, forcing it to relocate to a Swiss host.

Its media partners, including the New York Times and The Guardian, however, continued to upload the sensitive documents that WikiLeaks had made available to them under embargo.

In raising US concerns about Muhammad, Townsend had broached the envoy's "intervention to get two members of IIRO out of prison." IIRO stands for the International Islamic Relief Organization, a Saudi-based charity.

But Prince Saud said there was no basis for the Americans' suspicions.

"Since this Ambassador's assignment in Manila would be ending in several months, Saud asked for USG evidence of his involvement. APHSCT Townsend said the USG would cooperate with the Mubahith in providing evidence," the memo further read.

USG refers to United States Government. The Mubahith is the secret police of Saudi's interior ministry.

The cable was addressed with "immediate priority" to the US National Security Council, the Secretary of State, the American Consulate in Jeddah, and five other American offices on Middle Eastern affairs.

Muhammad served as Saudi ambassador from May 2004 to November last year, and was replaced by Abdullah Al-Hassan.

An email seeking a statement from the Saudi embassy in Manila was not answered at press time.

Before he left, Muhammad was given the title of "Datu" by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and conferred the Medal of the First Order for strengthening Saudi-Philippines relations during his five-year stint.

Sought for a reaction, US Embassy in Manila spokesperson Rebecca Thompson said: "The Department of State does not comment on materials, including classified documents, which may have been leaked."

Obama calls Chinese president to discuss North Korea

US President Barack Obama called Chinese President Hu Jintao late Sunday, urging him to send "a clear message" to North Korea that its provocations are "unacceptable," the White House said.

Iran, world powers sit down for nuclear negotiations

by by Hui Min Neo, Agence France-Presse
GENEVA, Switzerland - Iran and world powers began talks Monday on the deepening standoff over the Iranian nuclear programme for the first time in 14 months, as Tehran claimed the upper hand by producing its own raw material for enrichment.

Donaire: I'll give Montiel a tough match

Riding high off of his four-round blowout of Wladimir Sidorenko on Saturday night (Sunday in Manila), Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire Jr. says he is confident that he has the style to shut down WBO/WBC bantamweight champion Fernando Montiel.

PNoy congratulates Donaire, RP football team

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III sent his congratulations to boxer Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire, Jr. and the Philippine national football team after getting key victories in their respective battles over the weekend.

Aquino lauds PH team over AFF Suzuki Cup victory

President Benigno Aquino III on Monday congratulated the Philippine team for their victory at the AFF Suzuki Cup in Vietnam.

Proposal to regulate running events passed

WITH the increasing events leading to simultaneous runs every weekend, a plan to limit the number of road races is in the works.

Cebu City Sports Commission (CCSC) administrative officer Raul Manawatao created a proposal to trim the events for the seasoned runners.

"The runs happening at the same time are not good for the athletes but are good for the running enthusiasts," Manawatao said.

"But road races are slowly becoming too commercialized and it is no longer healthy," he added.

PWDs from treasurer's office show tax collection, dance skills

"THEY have shown that dancing is not a monopoly of the (physically) able," said Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama after watching 48 persons with disabilities (PWDs) dance for the taxpayers.

The PWDs, who work as movie checkers and movie collectors in the amusement tax division of the City Treasurer's Office (CTO), yesterday got up and danced to make taxpaying a little less taxing.

Their dance routine not only caught the attention of the local media but members of the Japan press as well.

Leave Noynoy's love life alone, appeals Ballsy

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines – Please stop poking into PNoy's love life. Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, the eldest sister of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, made this appeal to the public while attending the birthday party of former child star Andrea Bautista-Ynares, wife of Rizal Gov. Jun Ynares, over the weekend.

'RPG Metanoia' is first Pinoy full-length 3D film

Makikipagtagisan sa Metro Manila Film Festival ang RPG Metanoia, ang unang full-length animation sa bansa. Ipinagmamalaking puro mga Pinoy ang gumawa ng animation para swak sa panlasang Pinoy.

Before eating that lechon, read this first

by abs-cbnNEWS.com
MANILA, Philippines - It's okay to indulge in lechon and other scrumptious dishes this holiday season as long as it's done in moderation, experts said. But how much is too much? Read on to find out.

People tend to give in to lechon (roasted pig) and other salty and fatty delights this Christmas, a season characterized by lots of food on the table.

Experts see nothing wrong with it, as long as it's done "in moderation." But how much is too much?

Eating a portion as big as a deck of cards 3 times a week is fine. But for those who suffer from hypertension and heart disease, it should be limited to once a week, according to Dr. Eric Tayag, director of the Health department's National Epidemiology Center.

Monitoring one's consumption of unhealthy foods like these is crucial, he said, as failure to do so may result in serious health risks -- from obesity and fatty liver to diabetes and stroke.

"When at a party, try moving around by walking or dancing so you get to exercise. Don't just stay at your table," he said in Filipino.

It's best to eat only one cup of plain white (or brown) rice per meal, paired with grilled or steamed fish instead of fried dishes.

Dr. Lulu Marquez, a wellness expert, said one's diet should always include different kinds of fruit and vegetables.

For sweets, Marquez said matchbox size portions 3 times a week is okay (once a week if you're diabetic).

"But it shouldn't be just one apple a day. It should be 7 to 9 kinds of fruits and and vegetables, say 3 vegetables and 4 fruits," she said in Filipino.

Experts warned against drinking alcohol, but a bottle of beer and a glass of wine per day is acceptable. If one takes in too much alcohol during the party, he or she shouldn't drive as this may cause accidents which can lead to death.

With these tips, you can still toast to good health this Christmas while eating your favorite sinful treats.

Keep it clean

Of course, before eating that lechon and enjoying your noche buena feast, one should wash and dry hands thoroughly -- even if spoons and forks will be used.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed hand washing and drying as a way to protect people against several infectious diseases -- from the common cold to amoebiasis.

A recent study from the Journal of Applied Microbiology in America showed that bacteria continue to spread with wet hands, even after washing. This, it said, can be addressed by using paper towels to quickly absorb wetness.

The worst option is said to be the traditional hand dryer as it encourages people to rub hands while drying, allowing bacteria embedded in the skin to surface.

Here are some ways to wash hands properly, as listed by local company Sanitary Care Products Asia Inc.:

1. Make sure you wash your hands with soap and running water.

2. Rub hands vigorously for about 20 seconds. Pay attention to the backs of your hands, wrists, between the fingers, and under the fingernails.

3. Wipe wet hands using a paper towel before turning off the faucet. Use the same paper towel to turn off the faucet to prevent recontamination.

4. Wash hands after using the toilet, after coughing or sneezing, after using a handkerchief, disposable tissue, eating or drinking, using tobacco, after handling soiled utensils or equipment, before and after food preparation, and after engaging in activities that contaminate the hands.

5. While outdoors, clean dirty hands whenever you have the chance. Hand sanitizers containing 60% to 90% ethyl alcohol or isopropanol can be used in place of hand washing if you have no immediate access to soap and water.

By following these guidelines, one can eat his or her Christmas dinner sans the health concerns.

Healthy food options for noche buena

MANILA, Philippines - Some 40,000 people in the country get sick after the Christmas festivities as they eat a lot of sweet, salty and fatty foods such as candy canes, ham and crab fat.

These patients usually suffer from high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, among others, reported ABS-CBN's weekend health program Salamat Dok.

On top of these dishes are leftovers which are just as sinful such as the gravy-laden lechon paksiw (roast pig stewed in its own liver sauce).

Indeed, it's hard to skip these delectable treats during the holidays. There's a way, however, to make them healthier, according to nutritionist-dietician Joy Wilwayco.

On Salamat Dok, she suggested the following ways to make typical noche buena dishes better for the body, with the help of Banquet chef Christopher Balane:

Kare-kare

Kare-kare, or a peanut-based stew with meat and vegetables, is a staple in many households duringnoche buena for its rich and unique flavor.

It is, however, usually oily, especially when ox tail or beef is used.

Make kare-kare a bit healthier by using lots of vegetables and lean meat or ox tripe, which are less in oil and fat. When eating this dish, don't pour the peanut sauce on rice -- only 2 to 3 tablespoons of it will do.

Salad

Most people think that they're eating healthy if salads are a part of their diet. That's not necessarily true, however.

If a salad is loaded with mayonnaise, pasta and bacon, among others, chances are it's just as unhealthy as the other dishes.

For a genuinely nutritious treat, use lettuce (the darker in color, the better) and other organic vegetables. For dressing, prepare a simple vinaigrette, which includes oil, vinegar and some spices.

Seafood

Make seafood more interesting  for kids by adding them toputtanesca (an Italian pasta dish) or paella, a Spanish rice dish.

Stay away from aligue(crab fat) and shrimp heads, as these are high in cholesterol. White meat from crab and shrimp, as well as fish, squid and other shellfish, won't bring too much of a health risk.

It's best to steam or grill seafood with vegetables to get the most nutrition, as compared to frying, which involves a lot of oil.

Meat dishes

Just like seafood, meat is most nutritious when grilled or steamed.

Barbecue pork on sticks is commonly served onnoche buena as it is easy to prepare and is loved by kids and adults alike. To make this dish healthier, remove the fat and burnt parts.

Also, make it a point to serve fruits (preferably fresh) and vegetables with every dish.

US cable describes controversial Saddam execution

A newly-leaked US diplomatic cable describes in detail the circumstances of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's execution, from guards telling him to "go to hell" to officials taking mobile phone pictures.

Saddam's execution in December 2006 sparked international controversy after mobile phone video of the sentence being carried out was published on the Internet showing witnesses taunting him as he was about to be hanged.

The controversies led then-US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to comment in the leaked cable that supporters of Saddam would use the poorly-conducted execution as an excuse to condemn what he said was a fair trial.

The cable, dispatched in January 2007 and classified SECRET, was one of several hundred US diplomatic reports that have so far been published by whistleblower website WikiLeaks out of a tranche of 250,000 that it says it has obtained.

According to the cable, Iraqi deputy prosecutor Monqith al-Faroun, in a meeting with Khalilzad, described a guard who was escorting Saddam to the execution platform telling the ousted president to "go to hell", remarks that Faroun said he admonished.

Faroun said that subsequently, he saw Iraqi officials present at the execution openly taking photographs with their mobile phone cameras, despite the fact that the devices were prohibited.

The lawyer added that as Saddam was conducting his final prayer before being hanged, one witness shouted, "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada", in reference to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who rose to prominence after Saddam's fall from power.

The mobile phone footage, which spread across the Internet and was being sold on Baghdad streets in the days following the execution, showed an angry but composed Saddam standing on a steel platform in a dark hall, his hands bound and a rough hemp rope around his neck.

Several members of the party carrying out the hanging can be heard chanting, "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada!" before Saddam is seen falling to his death as the metal trapdoor opens below his feet.

Commenting on the incident, the cable's author, whose identity is unclear, wrote, "The GOI's (government of Iraq) lack of a clear and coordinated plan to control the witnesses and conduct the execution resulted in a hastily run and confusing event."

The cable noted that the Iraqi witness list for the execution changed "several times prior to the execution and at one point included 20-30 personnel."

Khalilzad told Faroun, the cable said, that "Saddam's supporters would use the execution as an excuse to condemn what had been a fair and just trial."

Asked by Khalilzad what Iraq would change for subsequent executions, it said, "Faroun responded emphatically that the only witnesses who will be permitted are those required by law: a public prosecutor, a judge, a religious leader and the prison director.

"This, he concluded, will prevent unacceptable behavior and unnecessary controversy," the cable said.

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