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

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 25, 2011 Major News Stories

January 25, 2011 Major News Stories
January 25, 2011 Major News Stories

Traders question finding on E. Coli in some local meat from markets

by dr_tangarorang

CEBU CITY -- The release of a laboratory test result showing fecal bacteria in local meat has revived calls for random market tests and put pressure on the dealer who made the results public.

Cebu City Veterinarian Alice Utlang found out the dealer, who identified himself as Mario Montes in a press conference last Sunday, is not a registered or licensed meat trader in the city. She also learned from her counterpart in Mandaue that they have no records showing Montes as an authorized meat dealer in that city.

Utlang said the man's real name is Leo Cabangangan, but her office also has no records of a meat dealer by that name, which means his meat products can be confiscated.

Cabangangan, for his part, said he is a legitimate imported meat dealer and a registered and licensed trader, aside from having a Certificate of Meat Importation from the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS).

But the laboratory test results he showed were "self-serving" and intended to divert public attention away from the real issue, a local meat producers' group said.

The issue, they added, is the meat importers' compliance with the Department of Agriculture (DA) guidelines on the handling of frozen and chilled meat products.

Rolando Tambago, president of the Central Visayas Pork Producers' Cooperative, questioned the test results shown to reporters last Sunday and pointed out that the firm and the food technologist who conducted the test were not even willing to reveal their identities.

He said his group will study the possibility of filing a case against the firm, because the lab test result it showed can have a harmful effect on the local meat industry.

Cebu City Market Administrator Raquel-Bohol Arce assured the public that meat products in Carbon market that have meat inspection certificates are fit for human consumption.

Protection

Arce also questioned the meat samples used in the laboratory test, since out of the 178 legitimate meat traders in Carbon, only one source appeared to have been tested.

Utlang said if the firm had wanted to follow the correct procedure, it should have informed the NMIS and asked for its help in obtaining meat samples to be tested.

"The result should have been coursed through NMIS," Utlang also said.

The Meat Importers and Traders Association also welcomed the plan of NMIS Regional Director Romeo Capa to conduct a regular random test on meat samples from public markets in Metro Cebu.

"This move is laudable because it is for the protection of public health and safety.

Since Cebu is lucky to have a local Department of Science and Technology (DOST) laboratory that is reputed to be one of the best in the country, we suggest that NMIS use the local DOST lab instead of shipping it [the samples] to Manila and exposing the samples to bacterial contamination and decay," said Jimmy Escaño, the association's spokesperson.

The group of meat importers also urged local government units (LGUs), through their local veterinary office, to conduct random tests in the markets and slaughterhouses, whether or not the facilities are NMIS-accredited.

Random tests would help assure consumers that imported and local meat products sold in the markets are safe to eat, they said.

Discovery

Last Sunday, "Montes" showed reporters the laboratory test results, which indicated that local (warm) meat contained Escherichia coli (E. coli) beyond acceptable levels. (E. coli is typically found in the intestinal tract.)

E. coli contamination can cause symptoms like stomach cramps and pain, diarrhea and vomiting.

Members of the Cebu Market Vendors' Development Cooperative questioned the selection of the meat samples and pointed out that the release of the lab test results could be damaging to their business.

Mayor Michael Rama said he was thankful the laboratory test results were made public.

"Can you imagine? If there was no discovery, it could have ended up in a widespread infection out of contamination," Rama said.

He instructed the health and veterinary departments and other stakeholders to address the issue.

Cebu City's Operation Hot Meat has confiscated 703 kilos of imported meat since DA Administrative Order (AO) 22 took effect last Dec. 15.

The order calls for setting up cold-chain systems, particularly in wet markets, to ensure the safety of frozen meat.

Confiscated

Cabangangan revealed earlier that since Operation Hot Meat started, about 200 kilos were confiscated from him.

The meat dealer, however, said he will continue to do business in Cebu and Mandaue, because he is a legitimate meat dealer.

Tambago, of the pork producers' cooperative, said local meat producers can guarantee the public of their products' safety because they strictly follow the DA guidelines and they always monitor the health of the pigs they slaughter.

"We've been warning our fellow pork meat producers not to slaughter sickly pigs for the sake of the public and the industry," he told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday.

Meat importers, he added, cannot claim all their products are safe, citing an incident where pork meat in the US and Germany were massively recalled due to contamination.

He said the DA guidelines, which took effect last month, do not discriminate against meat importers because local meat producers are also required to comply with them.

Questionable

In a previous interview, he said vendors in some wet markets, despite the guidelines, continue their old practices, with some vendors at the Mandaue Public Market allegedly using Zonrox to disinfect their unsold meat.

Under AO 22, the guidelines require, among others, the accreditation and licensing of importers of frozen meat by the NMIS, as well as registration with the local government units.

Frozen meat is also required to be sold in its original packaging, and may be repacked only by an NMIS-accredited packing establishment.

Tambago said frozen meat is safe when they are stored in freezers, but once they thaw, contamination begins.

He said their group is not against meat importation, since some people depend on it for livelihood, but meat importers should follow the guidelines for the sake of the consumers.

Dr. Pilar Romero, chief of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries public health division, promised to help correct any faulty practices of meat vendors.

Oil prices up for 3rd time in 2011

Tataas na naman ang presyo ng diesel at gasolina anumang oras mula ngayon. Pati ang ilang airlines, humirit na rin ng dagdag-singil sa pasahe dahil tumataas din ang presyo ng aviation fuel.

Diesel pump prices to rise by P1 per liter Tuesday

Local oil companies will raise prices of diesel by P1 a liter, of kerosene by 75 centavos a liter, and of gasoline by 50 centavos a liter, effective on Tuesday.

Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and PTT Philippines made their respective disclosures on Monday to the Department of Energy, while other oil companies have not made their announcements as of this posting.

According to Shell, the latest oil price hike reflected the upward movement in international product prices last week compared to the previous week.

Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr. confirmed by phone on Monday that oil companies would have to reflect these increases as prices of diesel, based on the Mean of Platts Singapore benchmark for refined petroleum products, rose by about $2 a barrel, while prices of MOPS-based gasoline increased by about more than a dollar.

Layug said these increases were within the energy department’s computations as well.

The formula provided by the Department of Energy assumed a P1-a-liter-increase or decrease in domestic oil prices for every $3-change in MOPS.

“Although simplified and easy to calculate, this formula has many assumed variables such that a significant change in any variable will no longer make the formula reliable,” the DoE cautioned.

This was the third time this month that oil companies raised the prices of fuel. The last two increases have raised prices of gasoline by a combined P1.25 a liter and of diesel, by a total of P1.25 a liter.

Based on the monitoring of the DoE, prices of unleaded gasoline with E-10 ranged from P46 a liter to as much as P53 a liter as of last week, prior to Monday’s announcements of oil price hikes. Diesel prices have already risen to the P38-P41-a-liter range while kerosene has been retailing at P46 to P52 a liter since last week.

Data from the DoE showed that the price of the Dubai crude averaged $92 a barrel as of Jan. 24, up from last month’s $89-a-barrel average.

The price of unleaded gasoline based on the Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS) benchmark for refined petroleum products also breached the $100-a-barrel mark at an average of $107 within the Jan. 1-24 period, from $102 a barrel in December 2010.

MOPS-based diesel prices were similarly much higher at $109 a barrel from the December 2010 average of $104 a barrel.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras already warned that local oil prices might continue to rise this year, especially if the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC) continued to keep its current oil production levels.

When demand rises and production remains stable, a tightness of supply may be felt and, most likely, will lead to spikes in crude oil prices, according to Almendras. Since the Philippines has been highly dependent on imports to meet its fuel requirements, it would be highly vulnerable to any price movements in the global market, the energy chief said.

For 2011, oil prices are seen to continue its rally, breaching the $100-a-barrel mark, which will mean higher prices not only for gasoline but for diesel and heating oil as well, according to a DOE oil monitor report.

Slow conversion delays taxi passengers’ pain

by cebuweb

TAXIS that use the old meters cannot charge the new rates.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) yesterday warned operators and drivers against increasing taxi fares without complying with requirements, which include the installation, calibration, testing and resealing of meters that can issue receipts.

Garcia to help solve Cebu portion: NPC budget cut to result in blackouts

by By Gregg M. Rubio/FPL

A cut in this year’s budget of the National Power Corporation has affected the agency’s fuel allocation which will inevitably result to possible power blackouts nationwide.

The NPC’s budget this year was slashed from P18.296 billion to P7.575 billion. NPC President Froilan Tampinco wrote a letter to Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to ask help from the province to avert the possible blackouts.

Tampinco said because of the budget cut their budgetary requirement for fuel of P7.687 billion has been trimmed down to P3.333 billion.

According to Tampinco, the amount is not enough. In fact, their fuel supply would only last until May. He said that this can be extended for another month if they start now adopting a four- hour blackout everyday.

Tampinco explained that the budget cut will greatly affect the small islands that the NPC is serving such as Camotes and Bantayan Islands in Cebu.

Garcia said the province will try to solve the problem in Cebu.

“That’s national but we will only try to solve the Cebu portion,” Garcia said.

Garcia learned that a five-hour blackout is already affecting Camotes Island.

Koreans eye Naga coal plant

by cebuweb

ASISTER company of Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) wants to put up another power plant in Cebu.

Yar-Sup Sim, vice president of the Construction Department of Korea Southern Power Co. (Kospo), together with other company representatives, met with Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday.

Missing US sailors land in Philippines

Five American sailors who had been missing at sea for nearly two weeks stepped ashore in the Philippines on Monday in good condition, coastguard officials said.

The 28-foot (8.5-meter) vessel “The Pineapple,” whose disappearance sparked a search by US and Philippine coastguards, was found at sea on Sunday and docked on Monday, said coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo.

"All the five Americans on board are in good physical condition," he told reporters.

Photographs released by the coastguard showed the five Americans on board the yacht smiling and in good spirits although their skin had been darkened by the sun.

The boat docked in the central island of Leyte for repairs and provisions, Balilo said.

The boat left Guam on January 6 but failed to arrive in the Philippines on January 16 as scheduled.

Relatives of the sailors then asked the US Coast Guard to help find them.

Balilo said the broken rudder had prevented the vessel from making its scheduled arrival time.

A US embassy spokeswoman said they had been informed of the boat's arrival and that those on board were all well, but had no further details.

P-Noy told NFA to import only sufficient amount of rice

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the state-run National Food Authority (NFA) to import only sufficient amount of rice at a price that is most reasonable, a senior government official said today.

"The more immediate task is to make sure that we do not engage anymore in dramatic importation of rice as we did in previous years," Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang said in a news briefing.

NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo earlier disclosed that the agency has incurred 177 billion pesos (3.98 billion U.S. dollars) in debt due to excessive importation of rice in 2010.

In his report to the President, he said that only one group or person benefited from the excessive importation of rice. Banayo declined to identify this group. Rice importation over the last three years were three times more than what the country needed and was also over priced at 125 U.S. dollars per metric ton, he added

When asked whether President Aquino plans to see through the continued operationor abolition of the NFA during his six year term, Carandang replied this is not the time "to make a definitive statement on the future of the NFA."

"The priority right now is to make sure that we import the proper amounts of rice when they're needed and at a price that is most reasonable, something which the NFA had failed to do in previous years. So if we can do that this year, and we can save money for the taxpayers, then I think that will be the more immediate step," Carandang said.

The Philippines is the world's biggest rice importer, procuring over 2 million tons in 2010.

Gov't bats for universal kindergarten

MANILA, Philippines - Pushing for universal kindergarten in all public schools, the Department of Education will conduct a one-day early registration nationwide on January 29.

This is being done to reach more than half a million school-aged children who were left unserved in May 2010.

From the 1,914,137 who were reached in 2010 in both public and private schools, DepEd plans to raise the number of preschool children it will serve to almost 2.5 million or a 21% increase in 2011.

Deped Undersecretary Yolly Quijano said this is part of intensified efforts on the Education For All (EFA) commitment of Deped towards achieving the MDGs.

With the increased 2011 DepEd allocation, part of the thrust of the department is to implement the universal public kindergarten program for 5-year-olds to give new entrants to basic education the proper preparation on the rigors of schooling.

The problem is not all public schools have kindergarten. Out of 37,000 public schools, 35,000 are fortunate to have kinder, the rest don't.

Aside from kinder, those who are urged to participate in the one day early registration are those who will be in Grade 1 and 1st year high school.

"Ito ay para makuha ang actual number of students na papasok sa kinder para mabigyan namin ng preparations, gaano karami ang guro, training at classrooms ang kailangan", said Quijano.

Quijano said part of the plan is to make do with the resources available, like train the parents and just give them modules and do the lessons at home with the kids, or use the barangay hall as classrooms. The DepEd also plans to hire more teachers and volunteers like retired teachers and give them 3,000 honorarium.

Quijano admits universal kindergarten is the first step in the K+12 program of DepEd, which adds 2 extra years to basic ed.

Many parents are open to universal kinder but not the 2 extra years.

"Ok po yung universal kinder, importante matuto sila habang maaga pero yung 12 yrs dagdag gastos," said Mary Jane Gualberto, a housewife.

"Maganda po ang proyekto, kailangan ng karanasan ng mga bata pero hindi ako pabor sa dagdag na 2 yrs, galingan na lang nila ang kalidad ng pagtuturo!" said Richard Cordero, a father to twins who go to kinder.

But Quijano says whether K+12 will push thru or not, universal kinder is one of the priorities of DepEd.

Cebu City plans to dump garbage in Consolacion

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja/FPL

The Cebu City Government will send a team of inspectors within the week to the newly opened landfill in Consolacion because the city considers it as a temporary dump site until it is able to find a site for a new landfill.

Cebu City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete said dumping the city’s garbage in the neighboring town is the best option for the moment given a very short time that the Department of Environmental and Natural resources has given them to build a new landfill.

DENR-7 already sent Mayor Michael Rama to comply with the various requirements for the operation of the Inayawan landfill and the need to find a new site for another landfill.

The Inayawan landfill which lifespan already expired in 2005 is full and it needs a leachate treatment facility to avoid contamination of the water resources nearby.

Continuous dumping at the landfill also threatens another fire due to methane gas, a highly flammable substance that the garbage releases.

Rama said in his news conference yesterday that he will issue an Executive Order directing some City Hall officials to solve the issue. The officials will be tasked to conduct research and find the best solution to solve the garbage problem of the city.

Rama said there have been various proposals for the development of the landfill but these will have to be thoroughly looked into.

The city is looking for both short-term and long term solution to the garbage problem.

“Most especially they must present to me a concrete and more specific plan. It must also be measurable, attainable, realistic and timely,” Rama said.

Poblete said that he is now coordinating with Councilor Nida Cabrera and Eduardo Rama who are both knowledgeable on the matter. Both councilors chair the committees of environment and public services. They are also with the Solid Waste Management Board.

The proposal to dump the city’s garbage in Consolacion will cost the city P700 per metric ton. The city generates an average of 500 tons of garbage everyday which means that they have to spend P350,000 everyday and P127.75 million a year for the garbage alone.

The other proposal is to develop the landfill in Inayawan and convert it into a power plant using the waste-to-energy technology. There was also a proposal from private developers to build a new landfill that will be privately operated.

City clears Ban-Tal of island railings

by cebuweb

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama personally manned the completion of the removal of railings in the Banilad-Talamban (Ban-Tal) area.

Rama said the Ciudad project has nothing to do with it.

“There were complaints already, there were just too many,” said Rama.

He ordered the removal of the railings along Gaisano Country Mall to J. Panis because those did not do much to ease traffic.

The mayor explained there were already a number of accidents in the area and the railings are not necessary because motorists do not go as fast as 80 to 100 kph since it is not a highway. There are also traffic lights in the area.

Managing traffic

Rama, accompanied by Cebu City Traffic Operations Management Chairman Sylvan Jako-salem, manned the transfer of the iron railings off the sidewalks.

This is so pedestrians will not be able to cross the road; there is a sky walk for that.

The removal of the railings is also for Citom to impose three lanes on one side of the road during peak hours.

Between 6 and 9 a.m., Citom plans to convert the road going to Gorordo into three lanes, while the road to Talamban will be a single lane.

Experiment

Citom chief Rafael Yap said this is still on the experimental stage and they will assess if there is a need to reverse the scheme in the afternoon peak hours.

He is under the impression that people are in a hurry to go to work, but don’t really feel the same going home.

Aside from blocking pedestrians, some of the railings were also situated in areas

mostly used by jeepneys as parking areas.

There were also more enforcers in the area.

Rama admits the City does not have the capability to widen the road, but there are schemes to ease traffic, such as taking out obstructions in intersections.

He also wants to widen the Mahiga Bridge.

Sinulog body on track of earning P15M

by cebuweb

THE Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) earned P7.1 million from the income-generating activities of the Sinulog festivities, said executive director Ricky Ballesteros.

He is also hopeful the foundation will reach its earnings target of P15 million, including income from sponsorship, which he has yet to check with the marketing department.

DENR staff seeks probe on official

by cebuweb

A CONTRACTUAL employee wants concerned government agencies to re-investigate a sexual harassment and psychological torture complaint against a high-ranking official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7.

Kristina (real name withheld) has not received feedback on the complaint she filed at the DENR 7, Office of the Ombudsman for the Visayas and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) last February 2010 against Protected Area, Wildlife and Coastal Management Zone Services (PAWCMZS) regional technical director Dioscoro Melana.

She said Melana kissed and embraced her, and told her he loved her when they were alone in his office.

“I want justice,” Kristina told Sun.Star Cebu.

She said Melana also berated her on several occasions.

Melana, in an affidavit dated Dec. 22, 2009, denied the allegations, saying Kristina just wants to get even with him for shortening her casual employment contract with DENR.

Pathological

He said the casual employee’s allegation that he kissed her and told her “I love you” is the “product of her pathological mind.”

He said he often reprimanded her "for her inefficiency, and for habitually sneaking out of the office during working hours."

The CSC 7, in a letter to then DENR 7 Director Leonardo Siballuca on Sept. 19, 2008, directed the department official to act on Kristina’s complaint. It asked Siballuca to report whatever action was undertaken on the matter, five days from receipt of the letter.

In a separate interview, DENR 7 legal division chief Fernando Alberca said an investigation was conducted on Kristina’s complaint.

He said he met Melana and the complainant separately. He also had a meeting with both parties together.

No settlement

"There was no settlement. So they were asked to submit affidavits," said Alberca, who also chairs the committee on decorum and investigation of sexual harassment cases at DENR 7.

He noted that Melana's wife, Ecosystems Research and Development Services (ERDS) chief and former administrative division officer-in-charge Emma Melana, had inhibited herself from the investigation.

But Kristina said the agencies she has approached had failed to act on her complaint.

"Gipahilom gyud kay ngano’ng wala sila magtagad. Wala bisan gamay (This has been silenced. They are not doing anything at all)," she said.

The latest development on the case, she said, was when Alberca furnished her a copy of Melana’s sworn statement on Jan. 6, 2010 and required her to submit her statement, which she complied with on Feb. 12, 2010.

No authority

Alberca, however, said the DENR 7 has no authority to act on the complaint as Melana is a presidential appointee.

"Our work is just recommendatory," he said, adding that his office is in the process of evaluating the submitted affidavits.

According to Kristina’s complaint, she was working as a clerk on the second floor of the PAWCMZS office in March 2008 when the alleged sexual harassment and psychological torture happened.

She was then directed by Melana to change places with two employees from the first floor where she was to work as a secretary.

"On several occasions and almost every time when the complainant brought in official documents and papers inside the respondent's office, there were attempts of sexual advances by the respondent," Kristina said in her sworn affidavit dated Jan. 28, 2010.

Date

Kristina said Melana would kiss her on the lips whenever they are alone in his office.

She said Melana had asked her to go out on a date but she refused. She added that her refusal made Melana angry.

On another occasion, Melana allegedly arrived in the office after working hours, smelling of liquor, and proceeded to berate her.

Kristina said she became evasive and afraid of the respondent that she refused to heed his request to report for work one Saturday to help him prepare documents for a trip to the US.

She alleged that Melana cut her six-month contract for 2008 after only three months, unless she agrees to a date with him.

Melana denied he had spent time alone with the complainant because there would always be staff members present in the office. He said his wife, whose office is across his, would often drop by unannounced.

He said Kristina is insecure about her employment as she had always been a casual employee since 1993 and was assigned to different divisions at DENR 7.

Palma open to SLA for priests

by cebuweb

CEBU Archbishop Jose Palma is open to the possibility of implementing equal monthly compensation for priests in the archdiocese.

“I would welcome the possibility of us priests discussing the feasibility of a standard living allowance (SLA),” he said.

He said the SLA will give priests in the archdiocese equal monthly allowance for personal expenses. It will be one of the financial solutions for elderly priests who can no longer work, he said.

Digal: Cop 'escorting' girlfriend in drugs trade

by By Niña G. Sumacot/JMO

Provincial Police Director Erson Digal disclosed that one of his men who were caught sniffing shabu recently has, in fact, jeopardized their illegal drug operations several times before.

Digal said SPO2 Roberto Canencia of the Minglanilla Police has long been escorting his girlfriend Marites Dalumpines, the subject of the buy-bust operation, in her alleged illegal drug transactions.

Digal accompanied the raiding team during the operation in Danao City last Friday and could not help but react when he came face-to-face with the suspect.

“Akong giingnan nga ‘nadakpan na jud ka!” the police official said.

Digal disclosed further that Canencia had requested to be reassigned to the Provincial Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Group (Paidsotg) when he was still the officer-in-charge of the Danao City Police. Digal, however, denied the request.

Digal said they already had prior knowledge that Canencia had been escorting Dalumpines at the bus terminal where she has been selling shabu.

On June 25, 2009, Canencia successfully entered Paidsotg, Digal said.

Digal said they had long been trying to arrest Dalumpines but the operations always turned out negative because Canencia, being in Paidsotg, has been tipping Dalumpines of the moves.

The woman was finally arrested late last Friday afternoon at her residence in Genhen Compound, Barangay Tuburan, Danao City for selling suspected shabu to police authorities. Her cohort, Jeshwani Tabla and Canencia, who were both inside her house, were also arrested.

Dalumpines has been in the police watch list as a level two drug pusher. A pusher is classified under level two if he/she is disposing of 300 to 500 kilos of prohibited substance every week.

Digal said he has already directed Chief Insp. Laurel Almirante, head of Minglanilla Police, to relieve Canencia who is currently detained temporarily at the Police Regional Office-7 detention cell.

Sr. Insp. Reuben Cuizon, head of the Provincial Investigation and Detective Management Branch (PIDMB), was also tasked to investigate the suspect for an administrative case.

Aside from the administrative complaints, Canencia will face charges of illegal possession of firearms after an unlicensed KG9 pistol was seized from him.

The other member of the Minglanilla Police accused of punching a former motorcycle-for-hire driver in Barangay Tabunok, Talisay City on the same day will have to explain the incident.

Digal said he directed SPO1 Florante Capangpangan to report to CPPO tomorrow to explain to PIDMB what really happened.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office-7 conducted a random drug test on its officials and personnel yesterday.

PNP Crime Laboratory-7 personnel headed by forensic doctor Jude Daniel Mendoza conducted the test to nine officials. No less than PRO-7 Director Ager Ontog led 97 non-commissioned officers in the test.

Mendoza, who withheld information as to those who possibly tested positive, said the results will be submitted to Camp Crame for confirmatory test.

Ontog said the test, which is conducted quarterly, was done following the controversies involving policemen involved in illegal drugs operations.

Gov't to solve shortage of fire trucks in 2-3 yrs

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines -The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Monday said it is optimistic that the national government will be able to supply fire trucks to 689 local government units that do not have fire trucks, in the next 2-3 years.

DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo said that while the DILG has no inclination for purchasing secondhand fire trucks, the agency is employing a new way of procurement that aims to purchase the best available unit at the best price possible.

He cited the Chinese Filipino volunteer fire brigade who uses secondhand fire trucks.

DILG chief: Cops looking for carjackers' cohorts in govt

Carjacking syndicates are enjoying connections in government offices, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo said Monday, adding that the ongoing police investigation is set to severe these ties and unmask the involved officials. He did not identify any government official or personnel pending the results of the investigation, but said they may be from agencies in charge of the registration of vehicles.

Dominguez faces 31 cases

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Raymond Dominguez, one of the suspects in the kidnap and murder of car dealer Venson Evangelista is facing a total of 31 cases, most of which deal with carjacking.

Bacalzo: Murder of car dealers not yet a closed case

by By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - The murder of car dealer Venson Evangelista is not yet a closed case, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Chief Raul Bacalzo said.

He noted his men are still on the ground to gather more pieces of evidence that would somehow link the case to other crimes such as the deaths of another car dealer Emerson Lozano and his driver Ernane Sensil and other carjacking incidents.

In an interview with radio dzMM, however, Bacalzo stressed that the leads so far gathered pointing to the Dominguez brothers are “very encouraging.”

Two of the suspects, Alfred Mendiola and Ferdinand “Batibot” Parulan, already confessed their involvements to the brutal slay of Evangelista.

The suspects also pointed to brothers Roger and Raymond Dominguez as masterminds in the “pre-meditated” killing of the car dealer, whose body was found on January 14 in Cabanatuan City.

Raymond submitted himself to police custody late on Saturday.

Fool-proof

Bacalzo said he is confident that the 2 suspects will not retract their sworn statements considering the circumstantial evidence the police also gathered on the field.

In a sworn statement, Mendiola confirmed police reports that he was the transvestite who disguised as the prospective buyer of Evangelista's Toyota Land Cruiser last January 13.

He tagged a certain "Joel," who disguised himself as a mechanic, and went to the victim's car shop in Cubao, Quezon City.

After offering P3.4 million for the car, Mendiola and Joel had convinced Evangelista to conduct a test drive.

The suspects also identified 2 safe houses in Pampanga supposedly being used by the Dominguez brothers.

A subsequent raid resulted in several pieces of evidence.

Bacalzo said the case will become fool-proof once laboratory results are in.

Evidence gathered

These include Evangelista's half-burnt license; 2 vehicles, one of which is believed to have been used as a backup vehicle in the car dealer's kidnapping; 3 pistols, including the gun possibly used in the killing; 22 license plates; and several car keys, metal plates and a wig.

Police were also able to gather a memory card, with a “Sencil” written on it, Bacalzo noted.

There were also bloodied pants recovered, which could have been used by the suspect who killed Lozano and Sensil. The result of the laboratory test may also be released today.

The police are also awaiting the results of the macro-etching tests on the car plates recovered.

The test would determine if the plates can be linked to the other cars used in the deaths of Lozano and Sensil, as well as a separate carjacking incident involving the family of overseas Filipino worker Monica Atienza.

Suspected carjackers went on a test drive on January 12 using Atienza’s Isuzu Alterra. She and her children were later found gagged and tied-up in Victoria, Tarlac.

Evangelista identified the suspects

Asked why the suspects killed Evangelista and not Atienza, Bacalzo said the former may have identified them during an initial meet a day before he went missing.

The suspects already went to Evangelista’s shop to check out the vehicle in question, he said.

“It was possible that Evangelista had already identified them,” he said. This means that the killing may be pre-meditated, Bacalzo stressed.

He also said there is a certain “Kirat,” a witness who would link the Lozano case to the Evangelista case.

However, “Kirat” already fled even before he could sign his testimony. “We are pleading that he come back,” Bacalzo said.

In the meantime, they will entertain all information submitted, he said. “We all treat information as investigation tools,” he added.

Do not judge the police

This includes news that there may be government authorities aiding the Dominguez brothers. “That is why the case is not yet closed, we’re checking all leads,” he added.

He asked the public, however, not to believe all speculations against the police.

Members of the police have been in the news recently because of their alleged links to other crimes and scandals.

He said Central Luzon Police Director Chief Superintendent Allan Purisima, should be hailed for doing a “breakthrough” – the surrender of the 2 suspects.

Trillanes files bill making carjacking non-bailable crime

Several senators on Monday proposed making carjacking a non-bailable offense, but Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile thumbed the proposals down, saying the problem could be addressed by a simple enforcement of the law.

Palawan radio commentator shot dead

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines—(UPDATE 2) Police said local radio commentator Dr. Gerardo Ortega of RMN Palawan, who was gunned down at around 10:30 a.m. immediately after his radio program today, sustained bullet wounds in the head and body.

Ex-AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia missing?

by By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday said he is verifying information that former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia could not be found.

House panel wants SC to decide on Gutierrez petition before Feb.

The proceedings on the impeachment complaints against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez may push through in February if the Supreme Court will not release a ruling by the end of the month.

House to grill Ombudsman on Garcia plea bargain

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman  is set to account for its plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia  before the House Committee on Justice.

House Justice Committee Chair Niel Tupas said the committee  invited Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, her deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro who personally handled the case,  prosecutor Wendell Sulit and 2 other prosecutors to face the probe.

Also expected to attend are former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo and former special prosecutor Dennis Villaignacio, who also handled the Garcia case.

“There are 2 objectives tomorrow. First is find out that policy on  plea bargaining agreement when it involves plunder. . Second objective is if indeed there are irregularities or anomalies in transaction We may recommend possible penalties," he said.

Tupas said that since Gutierrez has a pending impeachment case before the same committee, she may just opt to send a representative to Tuesday’s probe.

Still, Tupas said that while impeachment is not the goal of the probe, anything that could come up tomorrow may be included in the impeachment.

“She’s invited or she may send authorized representative. Reason is she’s now the subject of impeachment proceedings. Things may come out in investigation it may or may not be included," he said.

Tupas told mediamen that the investigation stems from last week’s privilege speech on the matter by Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez.

Tupas however hastened to add that Garcia’s offer to return some P150 million of alleged ill gotten wealth as part of the plea bargain agreement already bolsters the case for plunder, which requires corruption worth P50 million or more.

The lawmaker said the Justice Committee expects the SC to rule on the pending petition on the legality of the impeachment of Guttierez  before February 1.

He said they hope the Court will soon issue its ruling since the 60 session day deadline for them to dispose of the impeachment will lapse 2nd week of March.

The committee had earlier voted to proceed with its hearings on the case despite the pendency of the petition before the SC upon a request of Speaker Belmonte to give the court due courtesy.

Tupas said they will again seek the speaker’s stand should the court fail to achieve its own self-imposed deadline. Tupas said the court said 2 weeks ago it will rule on the matter before February 1.

Tupas said the committee is ready to do daily hearings on the case to allow them to vote on the sufficiency of the grounds and probable cause before being transmitted to the plenary for action.

Singson risks expulsion if he enters into plea bargain

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Ilocos Sur 1st district Rep. Ronald Singson risks expulsion or suspension from the House of Representatives should he enter into a plea bargain agreement with the Hong Kong Government over drug cases in the former Crown colony.

Lim, Isko will not face Hong Kong probe

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Both Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno will not be entertaining the Hong Kong inquest into the hostage-taking incident that happened in Philippine shores last August 23.

Bar blast suspect sheds tears during prelim probe

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Alpha Phi Omega fratman Anthony Leal Nepomuceno, charged before the Justice Department for the post 2010 Bar examinations blast, that injured almost 50 people, appeared before prosecutor Gerald Gaerlan, the government prosecutor in charge of the preliminary investigation of the case.

Nepomuceno, who personally subscribed to his counter-affidavit, became emotional when his mother, Maria Luisa, and sister, Antonette, swore to their affidavits before the prosecutor in his defense.

They provided Nepomuceno's alibi, stating in their sworn affidavits that he was with them during the Bar examinations blast contrary to reports he was at the incident site perpetrating the crime.

Two other witnesses - Alma Shiela Liquigan and Merick Mira, Nepomuceno's fraternity sister and brother, respectively - also submitted their affidavits in his defense.

Liquigan and Mira stated in their affidavits that they did not see Nepomuceno at Taft Avenue, Manila at the time of the blast.

Asked by this reporter why he became emotional when his mother and sister were subscribing to their affidavits, Nepomuceno said: "Tinatanong ko sarili ko bakit ako nandito, bakit kami nandito."

"Ang masasabi ko lang, para kay Raissa (Laurel) at para sa mga biktima - pareho tayong biktima dito," Nepomuceno said.

During the hearing, Nepomuceno's lawyers - Jeff Zarate, Gilda Clave and Felix Mariñas, Jr. - insisted that Gaerlan issue a subpoena duces tecum to compel the National Bureau of Investigation, Supreme Court and Manila Police District to submit the results of their respective investigations into the bar blast.

Nepomuceno's lawyers claimed these reports will exonerate their client because they made mention of witnesses coming forward immediately following the blast naming other suspects.

Nepomuceno's lawyers maintained that if these reports are not factored into the preliminary investigation, the prosecutor hearing the preliminary investigation may be accused of bias and singling out Nepomuceno when there have been other suspects identified.

However, Gaerlan ruled to deny Nepomuceno's counsels' request and insisted that Nepomuceno first file his counter-affidavit before other pleadings and matters shall be entertained.

The debate on whether or not said reports should be subpoenaed by prosecutor Gaerlan lasted for minutes, with complainants' counsel, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr,  interjecting against the defense's move.

In the end, Nepomuceno's lawyers had to submit to the order/ruling of the prosecutor and submitted Nepomuceno's counter-affidavit and that of his 4 witnesses in spite of the defense's contention that other witnesses are expected to submit affidavits in defense of nepomuceno.

The complainants were given 10 days to respond to Nepomuceno's counter-affidavits, if they so desire.

Meantime, Nepomuceno counsel Atty. Felix Marinas Jr. challenged the Department of Justice and justice chief Leila de Lima to file charges versus the two other APO fratmen also tagged in the bar blast as Nepomuceno's alleged co-conspirators.

Marinas said de Lima has repeatedly been quoted as saying the 2 have been identified and charges against them being readied, thus, now is the time to make good her pronouncement.

Kidnapped child released in Cotabato

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – A 10-year-old kidnap victim in Pagadian City was released on Sunday morning by his abductors in Cotabato, police said.

Ceekim Gomonit arrived home in Pagadian after he was released, said Chief Superintendent Elpidio de Asis, Jr.

He said the victim’s mother immediately called up the authorities and reported the incident.

The boy was brought to the Pagadian City Medical Center for treatment.

De Asis said the child is doing fine.

Gomonit was reportedly given a P1,000 fare by his kidnappers.

The child went home by himself by boarding a jeep and a passenger van heading to Pagadian City.

Police are now investigating the case.

Authorities also want to interview the victim to get more information regarding his abductors.

Gomonit and his grandmother were abducted from their home in Pagadian on October 30.

His grandmother's body was later found.

Authorities have not received information if a ransom was given in exchange for the boy's release.

De Asis hopes that 2 other kidnap victims – Mary Cris Cuartocruz in Zamboanga City and Larry delos Santos in Basilan – are released soon.

Evardone bill calls for Charter change

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone on Monday made good on his promise to file a measure for Charter change.

Palace: Responsible parenthood bill not a population control measure

The responsible parenthood (RP) bill is not a population control measure but a means to reduce poverty, Malacañang assured Catholic bishops on Monday.

Peso falls amid concerns over inflation

MANILA, Philippines—The peso fell on the first trading day of the week amid concerns inflationary pressures might somewhat dampen growth in the region.

$1: 44.580

$1: 44.580 (P44.48)

Euro 1: 60.5665

2010 budget deficit likely at P310-B - official

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - The government's budget deficit in 2010 was about P310 billion, smaller than the government's target of P325 billion ($7.3 billion), a senior government official said on Monday.

OPEC could increase production in 2011—Saudi

OPEC members could increase their production to meet 2011 demand which could rise by two percent, while oil prices are expected to maintain last year's levels, Saudi's oil minister said on Monday.

Saudi minister: 2011 oil demand to grow 1.8M barrels a day

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabia's oil minister said he expects global oil demand to climb as much as 1.8 million barrels per day this year.

Napocor-SPUG wants to raise power rates in provinces

State-owned National Power Corp. and its department known as the Small Power Utilities Group wants permission from the Energy Regulatory Commission to raise it power generation costs in rural areas as a way of recovering its production and foreign exchange costs.

Nenaco exec named prexy, CEO of Aboitiz Transport

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

In a disclosure to the stock exchange, ATS said it has confirmed the appointment of Sulficio O. Tagug Jr. as chief executive officer and president of Aboitiz Transport.

Dubai opens 'world's highest' restaurant

by Agence France-Presse

DUBAI - Dubai opened on Sunday a restaurant 422 meters (1,350 feet) up in the sky on the 122nd floor of the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, its developers said.

South Korea to soon propose nuclear talks with North

by Reuters

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea will soon propose holding talks with the North that could pave the way for a resumption of six-party negotiations aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions in return for aid, an official said on Monday.

Six killed in Iraq blast as Shi'ites hold rite

by By Muhanad Mohammed, Reuters

KERBALA, Iraq - A car bomb killed six people and wounded 12 in the holy Iraqi Shi'ite city of Kerbala on Monday as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims streamed in for a religious rite, an Iraqi army captain said.

Defiant Tunisian protesters vow to oust interim government

by by Imed Lamloum, Agence France-Presse

TUNIS, Tunisia - Hundreds of defiant Tunisians camped in front of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi's office to force the government to quit, as schoolteachers were set to launch an open-ended strike from Monday.

Legal net tightens around Haitian ex-strongman

by by Edouard Guihaire, Agence France-Presse

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Legal threats loomed over Haiti's ex-dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier Monday after the current president said he must face justice for crimes during his 1971-1986 reign.

China province faces worst drought in a century

by Reuters

BEIJING, China - China's eastern province of Shandong is facing its worst drought in a century, with nearly a quarter of a million residents facing drinking water shortages, while more snow is expected in the south, state media said on Monday.

So grabs lead in Netherlands chess tilt

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Grandmaster (GM) Wesley So of the Philippines defeated GM Wouter Spoelman of the Netherlands on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to grab the solo leadership in the 8th round of the 2011 Tata Steel Corus Group B chess championship at the De Moriaan Community Centre.

Ogie defends appointment to People Power Commission

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Singer-actor Ogie Alcasid, one of President Benigno Aquino III’s celebrity endorsers in May 2010 elections, has shrugged off criticisms questioning his appointment to the EDSA People Power Commission.

Bb. Pilipinas auditions. Out of 108 ladies, 50 remain. They need to trim them to 24. Tough job for judges!

China orders etiquette classes for schoolchildren

by Agence France-Presse

BEIJING, China - China has mandated that all schoolchildren undergo lessons on etiquette -- the latest expression of concern over uncultured manners in one of the world's oldest civilizations.

Weighty mission for scientists: redefine the kilo

LONDON, United Kingdom—Scientists said Monday they were moving closer to coming up with a non-physical definition of the kilo after discovering the metal artifact used as the international standard had shed a little weight.

Researchers caution there is still some way to go before their mission is complete, but if successful it would lead to the end of the useful life of the last manufactured object on which fundamental units of measure depend.

At the moment, the international standard for the kilo—the equivalent of around 2.2 pounds—is a chunk of metal, under triple lock-and-key in France since 1889.

But scientists became concerned about the cylinder of platinum and iridium housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, near Paris, after discovering it had mysteriously lost a tiny amount of weight.

Experts at the institute revealed in 2007 that the metal chunk is 50 micrograms—0.0000017 ounces—lighter than the average of several dozen copies, meaning it had lost the equivalent of a small grain of sand.

They are now searching for a non-physical way of defining the kilo, which would bring it in line with the six other base units that make up the International System of Units (SI).

The other units are the meter, the second, the ampere, the kelvin, the mole, and the candela, and none of them are now based on a physical reference object.

Experiments are focused on establishing a link between mass and the Planck constant, the fundamental unit of measurement in quantum physics, to provide a new definition of the kilo.

Michael Stock, a BIPM scientist who will on Monday discuss the proposed change in London, said the metal chunk, known as the "international prototype," was coming to the end of its useful life.

"Measurements get more and more precise, and precise measurements require well-defined measurement units to express their results," he said.

He added that "our experiments are moving forward, however, it is too early to implement the new definition of the kilogram just yet."


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