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

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 10, 2011 Major News Stories (dyab-cebu.bokyo@blogger.com)

February 10, 2011 Major News Stories
February 10, 2011 Major News Stories

DTI to bakers: Go slow on price hikes

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is appealing to bread makers to go slow on planned price hikes due to increases in flour prices.

Flour prices may continue to go up and reach P80 per sack by end-February, millers have announced.

DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo asked traders to implement staggered increases to soften the burden on consumers, who are already reeling from higher fuel prices, fares and electricity bills.

If flour will reach P80 per sack, the DTI said the price of the loaf bread should only go up by P2, and the 10-piece pack of pan de sal, by P1.

The DTI, meanwhile, asked that the price of the generic Pinoy tasty bread be kept at P38.

"Sana ang [pagtaas] ng presyo naman po ay hindi naman sobrang laki. Doon po sa ibang bansa, may iba pang political considerations," Domingo said.

In a related development, Agriculture Secretary Proseso Alcala said sugar prices would go down by the end of the month due to additional supply.

He said sugar prices may hover between P55 and P60 per kilo, against the current suggested retail price of P65.

He said this should also help bread makers temper the increase in their products as sugar is also a raw material.

Girl, 6, murdered

CEBU CITY -- Ellah Joy Pique, 6, waved goodbye to two friends and classmates as she boarded a black sports utility vehicle, joining the Caucasian man who drove it and a Filipino woman on the passenger seat.

That was past 4 p.m. last Tuesday.

At 7:55 a.m. Thursday, Ellah was found dead at the foot of a cliff along the national road in Barangay Sayaw, Barili town, more than 40 kilometers away from home.

Her naked body was tightly wrapped, along with three rocks, in two cream-colored blankets. Gray cables snaked around the tiny bundle.

The discovery ended a frantic search by her father Renante, 40, who began looking for Ellah at 5 p.m. Tuesday when she failed to come home from the Calajo-an Elementary School in Minglanilla town.

Ellah Joy is his youngest child and only daughter.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory in Central Visayas will conduct an autopsy on the body, which was dumped near a beach resort.

The Grade 1 pupil's belongings were discovered in Patupat, the barangay next to Sayaw, around 9 a.m. These included a pink checkered skirt, pink shorts, a sleeveless white blouse, her violet slippers, a lunch box and her school bag filled with notebooks.

Two P50 bills were among the items found in Patupat, which surprised the girl's father.

"Naa'y kwarta? Wa ko kahatag og kwarta niya (There's money? I did not give her any money)," he said.

Renante said the last time he saw Ellah was at noon last Tuesday, when the girl went home for lunch.

The next time he saw her, she was in the Divine Heart Funeral Parlor in Ronda town.

He said he scoured Cebu City in search of his daughter and filed a missing person report at the Mambaling Police Station, apart from asking for help at the Minglanilla Police Station.

Renante and the Minglanilla police, headed by Chief Inspector Laurel Almirante, learned from Ellah's two classmates and companions that they were heading home from school when the black car, with brown lines on its sides, stopped in front of them.

This happened just a few meters away from the school.

The two children remembered that the license plate number ended in "679" but couldn't recall the prefix.

According to the children, the woman told Ellah to get inside the car.

"Day, sakay diri kay ihatud tika sa inyoha, kaila mi sa imong mama (I'll bring you home. I know your mother)," she reportedly said.

Without any hesitation, Ellah, who was very friendly, got inside and sat on the woman's lap. She waved goodbye.

That was the last time her friends saw Ellah alive.

SPO3 Elsa Albuera, chief of the women's desk of Barili Police Station, said judging from the information relayed by the two children, it is possible the case was an attempt at human trafficking.

"The younger the victim, the higher the price," she said.

Renante said he regularly walked with his daughter from home to school and, later, back. But that afternoon, he decided not to because he had to bring his motorcycle to a repair shop.

"Wa gyud ko magdahum. Pinangga kaayo to nako siya nga anak (I did not expect this would happen. I loved her so much)," he said.

Police investigators from the towns of Barili and Minglanilla are working together to identify the perpetrators. The police are also working with the Land Transportation Office to trace the vehicle.

Laurel, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, said they are trying to come up with the sketches of the Caucasian man and the Filipino woman, through the help of the two witnesses.

Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director Erson Digal directed Laurel to lead the joint team of investigators.

Digal said he also sent a team from the Special Reaction Unit (SRU) to Calajo-an to improve police visibility and to reassure the residents.

He appealed to the residents, especially those who witnessed the abduction, to help the police by reporting what they have seen.

Homicide investigators will invite witnesses to help the police sketch the suspects' faces.

These witnesses include habal-habal drivers and elementary pupils who saw the an unidentified woman and a Caucasian man whose vehicle the child boarded, said PO2 Humprey Alpas of the Minglanilla Police Station.

Two Minglanilla police operatives - PO2 Hazel Caballero, a women's desk officer, and PO1 Edsel Ricablanca - escorted the girl's father to Barili town to check on the body found there.

Girl’s abduction prompts review of school safety

DEPARTMENT of Education (DepEd) 7 Director Recaredo Borgonia urged grade school teachers to always remind their pupils not to talk to strangers and to go home early, following the death of a grade one pupil in Minglanilla town.

“I am saddened by this happening,” he said in a phone interview yesterday. He said the agency will investigate the death of the pupil, whose body was found in Barili town.

Borgonia also urged parents to fetch their children from school to ensure they reach home safely.

“Parents should also take extra effort in taking care of their children,” he said.

Grade one pupils are dismissed from class at 4 p.m., earlier than the older children.

He said school principals are given the discretion to put in place security measures in their schools.

At 3 p.m. yesterday, Calajo-an Elementary School principal Jenelyn Craste and a representative from the DepEd Cebu Provincial Schools Division met with Minglanilla Police Station Chief Laurel Almirante.

The school officials wanted to get an update on the investigation on the death of six-year-old pupil Ellah Joy Pique.

Pique, a Grade 1 pupil of Calajo-an Elementary School, was found dead at the bottom of a cliff along the national road in Barangay Sayaw, Barili past 7 a.m. yesterday.

Almirante said among the other concerns they talked about was the security of the school’s pupils. At present, the school has no security guard.

Almirante said he told Craste the Minglanilla Police Station does not have enough personnel that can be assigned to secure the school.

The most that the police can do, he said, is to regularly patrol the area.

He suggested that Craste ask for the assistance of barangay officials of Calajo-an to provide tanods as security personnel.

Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Erson Digal, in a separate interview, asked the school to impose a stricter security policy for their pupils.

Digal said school staff or security personnel should not allow the students to leave the premises until their guardians arrive to fetch them.

Parents, on the other hand, should also bring and pick up their children from school.

Priest arrested after shooting student in Danao City

CEBU CITY, Philippines—A 60-year-old priest was arrested after he allegedly shot a criminology student of the Colegio de San Antonio de Padua located at the compound of the Ramon Durano Foundation in Barangay (village) Guinsay, Danao City, about 33.1 kilometers north of this city.

An airgun was also seized from Rev. Father Jonathan Durano Lao, parish priest of the church built by the foundation, said Senior Police Officer 2 Luis Perales, Danao police station desk officer.

Lao told the police that he shot 19-year-old Mark Robert Cecilio Ymbong at around 12:35 p.m. on Wednesday accidentaly, according to Senior Superintendent Erson Digal, Cebu provincial police director.

Digal said that the priest was outside his quarters when the airgun he was bringing accidentally went off. The police officer, however, could not explain why the priest was carrying an airgun.

The bullet, however, hit Ymbong who was climbing the mango tree near the priest's quarters.

Ymbong, a second-year criminology student and a resident of Cordova town, suffered a gunshot wound in the left breast. He was brought to the Danao District Hospital and was later transferred to the Perpetual Succor Hospital in Cebu City.

The priest was arrested and taken to the police station where he was being investigated on Wednesday night.

Digal said the priest promised Ymbong's family that he would pay for the teenager's hospital expenses.

Although an amicable settlement between the priest and the victim's family was in the offing, Digal said this would not stop the police from filing charges of reckless imprudence resulting in frustrated homicide against Lao.

Digal said it would be up to the prosecutor's office to decide whether to elevate the case to the court or not.

Retired cop attempts suicide

A RETIRED policeman shot himself inside his sibling’s store in Barangay Day-as, Cebu City yesterday morning, allegedly because of problems he encountered in processing his benefits.

He remained in critical condition last night.

Retired SPO4 Joselito Palang was rushed to Chong Hua Hospital at 10 a.m. yesterday after he shot himself with his service firearm.

Witnesses said Palang was depressed over delays in the release of his retirement pay. He used to be assigned at the Waterfront Police Station of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) but retired in October last year.

Bishop advises: Show empathy

by cebuweb

INSTEAD of being frowned upon, people who commit suicide should be treated with compassion and understanding, an archdiocese official said.

“It is very unfortunate that someone could reach that point in life when one feels hopeless…People like them deserve our best understanding,” said Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Julito Cortes.

Cortes answered questions from the media on the stand of the Catholic Church on suicide after several cases were reported in Cebu in recent weeks.

He said the church used to deny those who died by suicide a final blessing or a Christian burial.

City wants Mahiga floodgate

TO lessen the amount of water that swamps Cebu City during heavy rains, the City Government wants to build a floodgate at the exit of Mahiga Creek, which is expected to cost at least P10 million.

A portion of the P1-billion extra income of City Hall last year may be used to build the floodgate, after some councilors suggested that the City use the surplus funds for flood control projects and garbage collection improvements, among others.

The City also asked Prince Court Hotel in Barangay Mabolo to reconstruct its drainage at their own expense, after City Hall engineers found out that it did not follow the original plans and design.

Mayor Michael Rama conducted yesterday his second inspection on the creeks and rivers that overflowed during the heavy rains three weeks ago.

He invited all the city councilors and department heads to join him, but only the department heads and Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias went.

“Ingon man sila nakaanhi na sila. Lisud sad atong pugson (They said they were already here. We also can’t force them to join),” said Rama when asked about the absence of some councilors during the inspection.

Cabarrubias said that although he already visited the creeks and rivers last July, he decided to join the mayor in the inspection because he serves the chairman of the City Council’s committee on infrastructure.

During the inspection, Cabarrubias suggested to the mayor to construct a floodgate at the exit of Mahiga Creek, specifically the area beside the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) at the North Reclamation Area.

Rama said he is amenable to the suggestion. “If lives are at stake, you have to spend,” he said.

As to Prince Court’s situation, David Martinez, special agent 1 of the Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW), said the drainage is smaller than what was indicated in the plan, which is why it easily overflows during heavy rains.

In their hydrological computation, Martinez said the diameter of the culvert used for the drainage is only 48 inches, when the plan specified that it should be 72 inches.

“It is strongly recommended that this be removed and replaced at the expense of the building owner,” DEPW said in a statement.

After the inspection, Rama called the councilors to a lunch meeting and briefed them on his stand on providing relocation sites for families that will be affected by the demolition of illegal structures along the creeks and rivers.

The mayor reiterated that the City will not give the affected families relocation sites but will give “humanitarian intervention,” including financial aid. He said, though, that this will be on a per-case basis.

Rama said the concerned departments will also have to draw up the guidelines for the financial assistance.

Aside from Cabarrubias, Councilors Alvin Dizon, Margarita Osmeña, Edgardo Labella, Jose Daluz III, Eduardo Rama Jr. and Rodrigo Abellanosa also attended the lunch meeting.

Towns can borrow funds for flood control

AT LEAST P1 billion is available for local governments that need to borrow funds for flood control, traffic management, drainage and road improvement projects, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said yesterday during the Metro Cebu Development Council (MCDC) meeting.

About P500 million will be taken from Capitol’s surplus, while the other P500 million will be from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

Garcia said each town or component city’s loan will depend on its capacity to pay, defined not only by their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) but also other revenues and funding sources.

If the DPB determines that a town or city has the capacity to pay its amortizations over a certain period, then their loan will be approved, she explained.

The governor acknowledged, though, that some towns are still determining whether a loan would be feasible now.

They can explore that option as they present their master plans, for integration with the MCDC’s plan that will be assessed by their technical working group.

The MCDC, she said, should have the overall picture.

Municipal planning officers are expected to submit their plans to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), the secretariat of the MCDC.

A memorandum of agreement will be signed on March 16 by the mayors.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who attended the meeting, pledged to support the governor’s call for a concerted effort on problems that cross town and city boundaries, like flooding, traffic jams and squatting.

Chief Insp. Eduardo Mara, of the Traffic Management Group, said the conditions are still manageable but that they don’t have a traffic master plan.

The Province also committed decent housing for urban squatters, as part of its urban renewal program. Garcia said portions of some 400 hectares the Capitol owns will be made available, but without mentioning specific places yet.

For this program, she said the Province will classify informal settlers, to distinguish those who have no livelihood or homes from those who have jobs and those who are “professional” illegal settlers.

Capitol spokesperson Atty. Rory Jon Sepulveda, in his presentation, said informal settlers who have properties or families to come home to within the province of Cebu can avail of the Balik-Lungsod Program.

Rama said he is in favor of the program, because there is a need to protect informal settlers, especially those on riverbanks, from floods.

Firm offers P1.2B facility, for 99-year deal

by cebuweb

A COMPANY from Germany is offering to set up for the Cebu City Government a P1.2-billion waste disposal facility, with a two percent share of whatever profits the company can generate from it.

The only equity from the City is a 15-hectare lot and a usufruct agreement good for 99 years to ensure the company’s return on investment. Usufruct is the right to use and derive profit or benefit from a property as long as it is not damaged.

DPWH turns over P50M to Capitol as part of agreement on roadwork

THE Provincial Government now has the P50 million needed for the road expansion project from Tayud, Consolacion to Liloan town, which will allow Capitol to widen the roads there soon, said Gov. Gwen Garcia.

Engr. Santiago Suico, officer-in-charge of the 6th Engineering District, met with the governor yesterday, two days after he informed the Provincial Board that he had no idea when the road widening project in Tayud, Consolacion will begin.

DBM advises Mandaue: Fix defects in budget documents

AN OFFICIAL of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) found some deficiencies in Mandaue City’s annual and supplemental budget in 2010, which totaled P1.160 billion.

Regional Director Carmel Fernan asked the City Council to submit some documents so the DBM regional office can proceed with its review of the budget.

“The budget...does not comply with the documentation requirements as prescribed in the budget operations manual for local government units,” read Fernan’s Jan. 31, 2011 letter, which the council received last Feb 3.

Majority Floor Leader Diosdado Suico asked his colleagues to invite Budget Officer Lamberto Marababol to their session next week, so he can explain.

Suico said the defects, unless corrected, may lead to disallowances.

Marababol said it was his office that prepared last year’s P894.94-million annual budget and the P264.93-million first supplemental budget. But the council is responsible for complying with the required documents, he said.

One of the supporting documents not properly submitted was the appropriation ordinance, which is the council’s lookout.

“Kanang budget nga sayop (As for that flawed budget,) that’s another story,” said Marababol. He said the budget was properly prepared by his office, and only the attached documents were questioned by the DBM.

Fernan’s letter stated that the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF) tables lacked the signatures of the local finance committee and the mayor.

“The signatures affixed to the documents are not the authorized signatories to the forms,” Fernan said.

In her letter, she also asked for the annual investment program (AIP) and personnel schedule.

The DBM official said the figures stated on the use of the general fund do not tally

with the breakdown provided for the AIP.

Also, the amount of salaries reflected in the programmed appropriation does not tally with the total salaries reflected in the personnel schedule in several offices, including the Housing and Urban Development Office, City Treasurer’s Office, City Budget Office, Department of General Services, City Health, City Cooperative and Mandaue City Hospital.

Suico said he found the DBM’s comments discouraging.

“Sakit, oy. Sakit kaayo, that our budget was not acted upon because it did not conform to standards,” said Suico.

Highway Patrol seizes 6 ‘hot’ cars in 2 weeks

by cebuweb

SIX vehicles were confiscated by the police from different owners in Cebu City after learning that these were units stolen in Metro Manila and Cagayan de Oro City.

With the cars found and cases filed against the owners, the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) 7 advised motorists to present their vehicles to their agency for the issuance of a clearance certificate and for monitoring.

Capitol, NBI seize 42 boxes of ‘illegal fish’

by cebuweb

FORTY-TWO plastic crates of assorted fish believed to have been caught through dynamite fishing were confiscated by Capitol and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday.

The NBI operatives led by lawyer Jose Monsanto apprehended the driver and fish vendors in Consolacion town, northern Cebu at 11 a.m. Monsanto said the truck came from Kawit, Medellin town and was bound for Barangay Pasil in Cebu City.

"Buriring" downs nine in Moalboal

by By Mellanie C. Rosales/FPL

CEBU, Philippines - Nine people including four children landed in the hospital after eating puffer fish locally known as “Butete” or “Buriring” in Barangay Basdiot, Moalboal yesterday dawn.

Petra Tapales, 73, Leonardo Dopio, 45, and his wife Josefina, 34, and their three children Leo, 6; Jennilyn, 3; Jeoffrey, 2; Nolan Cabaron, 34, and his wife Mary Jean, 34, and their daughter Jennilyn, 7, were rushed to the Badian District Hospital after showing signs of poisoning.

The victims experienced dizziness and vomiting at 3:15 a.m. yesterday prompting their neighbors to bring them to the hospital.

Senior Police Officer 1 Pariel Gaudencio of the Moalboal Police Station said that five adult victims were admitted while the four children were under observation, although all of them were already declared out of danger.

Gaudencio said that a barangay tanod informed the police station about the incident prompting them to respond. Based on their investigation, the victims shared for dinner at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday the puffer fish cooked by Josefina. The fish were given to them by their neighbor fishermen.

According to Gaudencio, the victims were aware of the toxins contained in the fish but they were confident to eat it because they were already used to cooking “buriring” in the past.

Puffer fish is known to be a toxic fish variety that can poison a person who will eat it if it is not properly cleaned, cut, and cooked.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said “butete” is highly poisonous and its toxins are fatal. In fact, a single puffer fish has enough poison to kill 30 adult humans.

It contains tetrodotoxin, which is deadlier than cyanide based on a study in the United States.

Puffer fish is generally believed to be the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world after the Golden Poison Frog.

Saavedra seeks Senate probe on Gwen

by By Gregg M. Rubio and Ryan Christopher Sorote/JPM

Manila, Philippines — Despite being aware that the Senate is already loaded with a lot of investigations and inquiry, Crisologo Saavedra added more loads to the Upper House by asking it to investigate the Capitol’s purchase of the Balili property and the construction of the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).

Saavedra had already requested the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the same transactions.

But he now wants the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate what he believes are anomalous transactions entered into by the Province of Cebu under the administration of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

Capitol spokesperson Roryjon Sepulveda, however, said Saavedra is only after media attention. He said they will file a case against Saavedra in due time but as of now, they will just let him be.

“He can do his worst. He is into recycling old issues over and over again,” said Sepulveda in a telephone interview.

Saavedra personally submitted yesterday his urgent request for investigation in aid of legislation against Garcia and other provincial officials and individuals involved in the Balili purchase and the CICC construction.

Separate sets of his sworn complaint and documents were submitted to the offices of Senators Sergio Osmena III, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Antonio Trillanes IV and Franklin Drilon.

He requested the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate Garcia and other provincial officials for plunder, the same request he had made before the anti-graft office.

Garcia already filed a case against him for malicious prosecution. This is now pending before the Cebu City Prosecutors Office.

Saavedra said he is also following up the status of Senate Resolution 262 filed by Senator Panfilo Lacson in December 2007.

If approved, Senate Resolution 262 would direct the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the alleged overpricing of the decorative lamp posts used in the 12th Asean Summit held in Cebu City and the construction of the CICC.

In his proposed resolution, Lacson stated that after the Asean summit in January 2007, allegations were made that the various contracts entered into by the Province for holding the summit were overpriced and violated procurement laws.

3 fiscals ‘willing to testify’ vs. Castro

THREE assistant city prosecutors said they will execute affidavits relative to the Ombudsman case lodged against their colleague, Assistant City Prosecutor Mary Ann Castro.

Their sworn statements will state that the counter-affidavit of alleged Emirati illegal recruiter Adnan Sayed Anwar Ali Alkazim was not executed on Jan. 21, the date stamped on the document, right above Castro’s name and signature, but on Jan. 22, a Saturday she allegedly wasn’t supposed to be on duty.

Castro quoted the affidavit in her Jan. 25 joint resolution dismissing the illegal recruitment complaint.

Iranian-Filipino Patrick Henri George, the complainant, is accusing Castro of preparing the counter-affidavit.

In his nine-page affidavit complaint to Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol, he described Castro as having acted less like a fiscal and more like a defense lawyer in her treatment of the complaint.

Castro earlier downplayed the charge before the anti-graft office, saying if George was looking for trouble, he came to the right person. She expressed her intent to file counter-charges against him for raising intrigues.

Separately interviewed, the three prosecutors said they haven’t yet prepared their sworn statements. However, they all said they are willing to testify, in the words of Assistant City Prosecutor Liceria Rabillas, “in so far as what I know.”

Rotation

It was Rabillas who subscribed Alkazim’s affidavit and that of his two witnesses – Jeannette Caramelo and Ronal Febre Dekit – and she stressed that she did this on Jan. 22.

She said the three came to her cubicle at the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor at around noon that Saturday. She was one of three inquest prosecutors on rotation duty that day.

“I even spoke to the escorting police officer,” she said.

Assistant City Prosecutor Aida Sanchez, whose cubicle is beside Rabillas’, said she can testify as to the time and date, adding that the respondent, the witnesses and the escorting policemen passed by her cubicle.

“This was around lunchtime already. I overheard Fiscal Rabillas asking them

questions,” she said.

The escorting policemen brought Alkazim and the witnesses to Assistant Prosecutor Castro’s cubicle earlier that day, Assistant City Prosecutor Maria Theresa Casiño also said.

Irene Caballes, counsel for the Iranian-Filipino complainant, said the testimonies of the prosecutors will bolster their criminal and administrative case against Castro at the ombudsman’s office.

Formerly with the Public Attorney’s Office 7, she hinted that many government lawyers not on Saturday duty come to the Palace of Justice to finish their resolutions. But, she stressed, no one entertains parties in preliminary investigations.

“Why would you do that on a weekend? There is no need. Waivers of detention that expire on a Saturday or Sunday are automatically extended to the next immediate working day,” she argued.

The Emirati was arrested in an entrapment operation carried out by the Theft and Robbery Section of the Cebu City Police Office on Jan. 8. He allegedly swindled more than P300,000 from George after promising him a job abroad.

In filing the complaint against Castro at the anti-graft office, George accused her of grave misconduct, oppression, dishonesty, discourtesy in the course of official duties, falsification of official documents, refusing to perform official duty, conduct unbecoming and conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service.

The allegations, if proven, carry the administrative penalty of dismissal from service.

Castro, though, has denied the charge and described it as the “grumbling” of someone who failed to obtain a favorable ruling.

“This is part of the hazards of the job,” she stressed, adding that the dismissal of the complaint against Alkazim was the work of the entire Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor and not just hers.

Ecleo "clarifies" inconsistencies in his testimonies

by By Ryan Christopher J. Sorote/JPM

CEBU, Philippines - Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) supreme master and now Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. arrived very early yesterday to testify in the hearing for his parricide case for the death of his wife Alona.

Ecleo, however, took the witness stand only for few minutes for his legal counsel Orlando Salatandre to clarify some important dates in his previous testimonies.

The clarifications were mainly focused on the dates which Ecleo learned of his wife’s disappearance.

Ecleo said he first knew of his wife’s disappearance from Alona’s brother, Ben Bacolod.

Bacolod was reportedly the last person to be with Alona before she was missing nine years ago. Ecleo said that he only knew of Alona’s disappearance in the evening of January 9, 2002 after he traveled to several PBMA clusters in the southern part of Cebu for his visits.

He also clarified that in his earlier statements, he failed to cite dates to coincide with his claims adding that he can only think of January 8 while he was being questioned. Clarification for his whereabouts during the day of his wife disappearance was also done.

Salatandre was supposedly followed by a cross-examination of the prosecution. But this did not push through due to the absence of prosecutor Fritz Quiñanola.

Co-prosecutor Alfredo Sipalay told Regional Trial Court Judge Soliver Peras that Quiñanola received an urgent call for an urgent meeting in Manila.

Sipalay added that the invitation was so sudden, so they failed to inform the court ahead of time of their colleague’s absence.

Meanwhile, Salatandre also said that their witnesses are ready but they have yet to decide who to present first and when.

The next hearing for the case will be on February 23, wherein the prosecution will cross examine Ecleo.

Ecleo’s wife, Alona, was killed on January 5, 2002. Her body was discovered inside a black plastic bag thrown down a cliff in Dalaguete.

4 sites in Camp Aguinaldo eyed for Reyes wake

MANILA, Philippines - Despite killing himself, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and former Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Angelo Reyes is set to be given full military honors.

In a joint AFP-DND press conference, AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta, said that representatives of the military met with the Reyes family Tuesday night and offered 4 sites in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City as a venue for the wake.

Among the sites that were offered were the St. Ignatius Church, the AFP Theater, the AFP Grandstand, and the AFP Canopy.

The AFP said that if they get the consent of the Reyes family, they will also give full military honors to their former chief of staff and former secretary of national defense.

These include arrival and departure honors, vigil guards which have already been provided, necrological services the night before internment, internment honors, a 19-gun salute, flower drop, and the Libingan ng mga Bayani for his internment.

Mabanta said that the military is honoring the service and positions that Reyes held in the AFP and DND regardless of the manner of death.

He also admitted that there are positive and negative sides to the death of their former boss.

For his part DND spokesman Eduardo Batac said that that despite Reyes' death the DND probe on the irregularities and corrupt practices of former military comptroller and retired Maj. General Carlos F. Garcia and others will continue as they also pay their last respects to the former SND and AFP chief.

Libingan ng mga Bayani is Reyes’ final resting place

(UPDATE) Former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Angelo Reyes will be laid to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City, the spokesperson for the Reyes family said Wednesday.

Aquino sends flowers to Reyes’ wake, says Palace exec

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III has sent flowers to the wake of former defense secretary and armed forces chief Angelo Reyes but hasn’t decided about going there, a spokesperson for the President said.

Robredo pays last respects to Reyes

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jessie Robredo on Wednesday visited the wake of former DILG secretary Angelo Reyes and extended his condolences to the family.

EXCLUSIVE: Trillanes told Reyes to ID power behind ex-comptroller so he can be cleared

Nagpadala ng sugo si dating Secretary Angelo Reyes kay Senador Antonio Trillanes para itangging sangkot siya sa katiwalian sa AFP. Ayon kay Trillanes, hiniling din sa kanya ni Reyes na iabswelto siya sa Garcia plunder case.

Palace defends open Senate probe on corruption

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Wednesday it is not in a position to comment on observations that the congressional hearings on corruption in military have become trials by publicity.

Escudero says no to closed-door hearings on graft

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero on Wednesday shot down a proposal to conduct controversial investigations behind closed doors.

Arroyo allies blame 'trial by publicity' for Reyes' death

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman on Wednesday blamed the suicide of Angelo Reyes on “trial by publicity” by lawmakers in congressional investigations.

Senate, House urged to continue graft probe in executive session

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate and House of Representatives should continue their investigation into the military fund mess but should hold an executive session instead of conducting proceedings that turn out to be venues for “grandstanding” by lawmakers, a former Philippine National Police chief said Wednesday.

"Doon [executive session], no holds barred," Director General Roberto Rosales told reporters in a chance interview at the Ascension Chapels in Quezon City.

"Makukuha nila lahat ng kailangan nila malaman, and after if charges need to be filed, they do it in proper courts," Rosales added.

He said current proceedings in the Senate and House aere prone to grandstanding by legislators.

"I hate to say this pero kahit mga abogado dun nagga-grandstanding," Rosales said.

When asked if he thought what Reyes did was a sacrifice to save his family, the Armed Forces, and the Philippine Military Academy, Rosales said: "I cannot say. Siya lang ang nakakaalam."

Nevertheless, Rosales said he was likewise surprised by Reyes' apparent suicide, saying that the military general he knew was a very strong man.

"It did not touch my imagination,"Rosales said.

When asked to describe how Reyes looked inside the coffin, Rosales said that he looked the same.

"Walang pinagbago. He is at peace now," Rosales said.

Jinggoy wants Reyes' family spared from AFP corruption probe

If he will have his way, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada will spare the family of the late defense chief Angelo Reyes from any inquiry on the alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

1-UTAK explains Reyes ouster move

MANILA, Philippines – Officials of partylist group 1-UTAK said Wednesday that they did not aim to disrespect former Armed Forces chief and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes when he was removed as one of its congressional bets in the last elections.

Melencio "Boy" Vargas, president of the transport group, said they were also stunned by Reyes’ death.

"Marami syang nagawa para sa amin kaya kahit ako ay na-shock sa nangyari," said 1-UTAK official Zenaida Maranan. "Masakit na ganon ang ginawa nya."

Reyes would have been a congressman today but the party-list group removed him as its first nominee.

Officials of 1-UTAK claimed that the disqualification case filed against Reyes resulted in his removal.

"Gusto lang namin makaupo na ang aming grupo. Sa pamilya ni Secretary Reyes, wala po kaming problema sa kanya pero dahil may disqualification case siya," said party board member Orlando Marquez.

The family of Reyes earlier said they will not welcome the party-list’s officials and members in his wake.

"Nanalo pero hindi nakaupo, sama-sama nang frustration yan. The family lalo na yung misis, they felt betrayed by everybody," said Reyes’ lawyer, Atty. Bonefacio Alentajan.

The Supereme Court has yet to rule on Reyes’ case.

Ombudsman wants Marcelo cited for indirect contempt

by By Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman has filed a petition with the Sandiganbayan to cite former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo and former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio for indirect contempt after both allegedly came out with erroneous information that cast doubt on the integrity and competence of the office.

AFP shortcomings on UN fund explained

MANILA, Philippines - A Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) officer told media on Wednesday that the ongoing military corruption scandal has left some US$3.3 million in reimbursements from the United Nations for Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployment as peacekeeping forces in Haiti frozen.

Elmer Cato, former first secretary of the Philippine Mission to United Nations, was a resource person at the House National Defense Committee's inquiry into the military corruption scandal today.

Cato said the amount, intact in an account of the Philippine consul in New York, is meant to be credited to the National Treasury. However, the AFP wants to credit it to its own account.

Cato noted the that military's finances, as uncovered in ongoing congressional investigations, were all lumped together into one account despite having different sources and intended beneficiaries.

The DFA wants the AFP to sort it out before releasing the money.

Cato said the DFA initially didn't want to take the money from the UN, but the UN told them that unless the DFA gets the money, the world body will just pay other countries with peacekeeping deployments.

"We don't want to get the money from the UN first because of the ongoing controversy and also yung question ng custody, but the UN told us that if you don't get these funds, we will be compelled to give it to other contributing countries that have not been paid, and it was actually the UN that recommended a solution for us to keep it in a bank in the US, and we did with instructions from Manila," he said.

Cato said the DFA has proposed 4 requirements which the AFP must meet before the DFA releases the money.

He enumerated them as: "One, transfer to a government depository bank. We wanted it transferred initially from UCPB [United Coconut Planters Bank] to the Land Bank; two, for the AFP to inform all peacekeepers that when they will be deployed, this will be the amount that they will be getting; third, review the inter-agency mechanism (on the peacekeeping deployment); fourth, for the AFP to ensure that funding requirements for future deployments will be in their budget."

Cato said that, so far, the AFP has failed to comply with 2 of the requirements.

"Hindi nako-comply yung dalawa, so hindi naming marelease-release yan. At the same time, yung concern nga natin, although we've been made aware of the need to remit to the National Treasury, we really have to balance between fulfilling our international obligations as a member of the United Nations, and to observing local regulations natin, especially accounting and auditing procedures."

Cato said they are also eyeing other solutions like the creation of a national peacekeeping fund.

Documents confirm Ligot owned 2 houses in US

by By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

MANILA, Philippines - The wife of former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot did own two houses in the US while Ligot was still in service as a Senate investigation earlier revealed.

Cimatu denies getting any denies getting any cash ‘gift’

MANILA, Philippines—Special envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu on Wednesday denied having received welcome or send-off money during his five months as military chief, and said he was prepared to face any investigation.

Journalists to sit as observers in AFP bidding

To ensure transparency in the bidding of military supplies, members of the media have been invited to sit as observers in the deliberations of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

After hearings into Garcia plea bargain deal, what next?

by By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers at the House of Representatives are mulling amendments to the Plunder Law, after ending its investigation into the state prosecutors' plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

CA okays budget chief’s appointment

MANILA, Philippines—Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was unanimously confirmed Wednesday by members of the powerful Commission on Appointments.

CA confirms Cuisia as envoy to US

MANILA, Philippines—Four ambassadors, including Philippine ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr., and three other diplomats have been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

Aside from Cuisia, the Commission confirmed the appointments of Philippine ambassadors Evelyn Austria-Garcia (Czech Republic), Nestor Ochoa (Brunei) and Bienvenido Tejano (Papua New Guinea).

Cuisia will also have jurisdiction over the US Virgin Islands, Grenada and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The Commission likewise confirmed the ad interim appointments of Reynaldo A. Calapang as chief of mission; Adelio Angelito S. Cruz, career minister; and Raul H. Dado, foreign service officer.

Thousands affected in Capiz floods

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - At least 12,000 families were affected by floods that hit 9 towns in Capiz province, the regional Office of Civil Defense (OCD) reported Wednesday.

50,000 OFWs may lose jobs over PH-Taiwan row

by By Niña Corpuz, ABS-CBN News

Taiwan's representative to the Philippines Donald Lee is leaving for Taiwan this week as he confirmed reports that he is being recalled by his government.

Palace: MECO to deal with diplomatic spat with Taiwan

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang on Wednesday said they will let the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) speak about the reported recall of Taiwan's representative to the Philippines.

GSIS to turn over Coconut Palace to Binay

MANILA, Philippines - The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) will formally turn over the Coconut Palace to the Office of the Vice President on Friday, February 11, at 9:30 a.m.

GSIS President Roberto Vergara and Vice President Jejomar C. Binay will officially sign a contract attesting to the turnover.

The P1.2 billion Coconut Palace at the CCP Complex in Pasay City will be the official office of Binay and future Vice Presidents of the Philippines.

Former First Lady Imelda Marcos had the Coconut Palace built in 1981 for the visit of Pope John Paul II in Manila.

The Pope refused to use it though, as he found it ostentatious.

The 7-bedroom Coconut Palace has since been used to house high-profile guests such as Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, actress Brooke Shields, and actor George Hamilton.

In later years, it became a venue for weddings and special occasions.

President Benigno Aquino III offered the Coconut Palace to Binay as office after Binay did not like the idea of holding office at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) or the Philippine National Bank Financial Center in Pasay City.

Govt workers urged to display yellow décor for EDSA-1 anniv

Malacañang enjoined government officials and employees to display People-Power-themed décor, including yellow buntings, stickers and tarpaulins, to mark the 25th anniversary celebration of the 1986 EDSA revolt.

In Memorandum Circular No. 13, the Palace also enjoined government employees and officials to take part in commemorative activities from Feb. 17 to 27.

"(All) departments, agencies and instrumentalities of the National Government, including government-owned and controlled corporations as well as local government units are hereby enjoined to participate in the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution," it said in the memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

President Benigno Aquino III's late mother Corazon was at the forefront of the EDSA-1 revolt, and was installed to the presidency on the same day Ferdinand Marcos was ousted.

The Palace pointed out the EDSA-1 revolt from Feb. 22 to 25, 1986 "restored democratic institutions and ushered in meaningful political, social, and economic reforms in the country."

"It was a moment in our history when millions of Filipinos bravely united for democratic reforms through peaceful means which earned our country the respect and admiration of the world," it said.

This year's celebration will bear the theme “EDSA 25: PILIPINO AKO. AKO ANG LAKAS NG PAGBABAGO," to be spearheaded by the EDSA People Power Commission (EPPC).

The Palace also urged government officials and employees in particular to join related activities such as fora, lectures, film showing, and tree-planting.

It encouraged them to display banners or tarpaulins carrying the celebration’s theme in government offices, and also to put up yellow buntings or flags.

$1: 43.560

$1: 43.560 (P43.41)

Euro 1: 59.2553

Gov't says rice imports may be below 1-M tons

  1. First quarter rice crop looks good - farm minister
  2. Says maximum 2011 rice imports may be 1.3 mln T
  3. Studying government-to-government rice import deals

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The government may buy less than 1 million tonnes of rice this year, less than recommended by a government panel, given forecasts of a good first-quarter crop of the national staple, the Agriculture secretary said on Wednesday.

Manila has been the world's biggest rice buyer in recent years, including a record 2.45 million tonnes for 2010, but early rains this year, hefty stockpiles, and better logistical management have given the government room to slash imports.

"We are expecting a really good harvest in the first quarter. We are expecting a huge increase," Agriculture Proceso Alcala said. "We are preventing over-importation because our farmers will be disadvantaged."

"We are forecasting a better yield because more fields are getting water right now, and most fields are rain-fed so we will have more fields to harvest," he said.

Manila said last month it expects a 15.4% increase in unmilled rice output in the first half to 7.64 million tonnes, more than two-fifths its 2011 output goal of 17.4 million tonnes.

Imports

Manila also still had pending rice deliveries of 56,000 tonnes from Vietnam, Alcala said. The government had delayed the shipment of the rice bought in 2010 for lack of storage.

Alcala said a government committee could meet in the next two weeks to finalise the size and timing of the rice imports, and said the maximum purchase volume may be 1.3 million tonnes.

"But the way we look at it, we will not import that much," Alcala said on the maximum volume.

On Monday, Reuters reported a government panel had recommended imports of 1 million to 1.5 million tonnes of rice this year, with the purchases possibly to be made during the peak harvest season in the major exporting countries.

Manila was considering government-to-government contracts for the imports, possibly with Vietnam as the Philippines has an existing supply agreement with it, Alcala said.

Rice imports this year would be staggered, he said, and look set to be timed with the Asian harvest when prices may be more favourable.

"What we want is for deliveries to come before June or July, when harvest is over," Alcala said.

Small power utilities allowed to hike rates

MANILA, Philippines—Electricity prices in over 70 isolated areas and small islands will increase further after the Energy Regulatory Commission allowed state-run National Power Corp.’s small power utilities group (SPUG) to impose higher price hikes.

In its order dated February 7, the ERC said Napocor-SPUG could increase its power rates by 94.92 centavos per kilowatt-hour within the off-grid areas in Luzon; by P1.1950 per kWh in the Visayas; and P1.4680 per kWh in Mindanao.

These increases were much higher than the 50-centavo-per-kWh rate hike that the ERC had granted only last month.

The increase allowed Napocor-SPUG to recover the costs associated with fuel and purchased power under the third installment of the Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM). The application, which was filed before the ERC in March 2007, covered the period of January to December 2005.

“A thorough review of the documents submitted by Napocor-SPUG revealed that there is indeed a need to increase its (recoveries) to enable it to meet its fuel requirements and ensure that there is efficient, continuous and reliable supply of power within the SPUG areas,” the commission explained.

ERC executive director Francis Saturnino Juan confirmed in an interview that the February 7 order granting the new set of increases would supersede the January 2011 order, which allowed the 50-centavo power rate hike.

The ERC directive is expected to spell some relief for Napocor, which has been experiencing difficulty in securing the fuel requirements of its SPUG operations due to budget constraints.

Napocor has been exploring different ways to finance its SPUG operations after a Department of Justice opinion earlier barred Napocor from conducting fund-raising activities such as borrowings and bond issuances. Aside from that, the power firm’s revenue stream had also been significantly reduced due to the privatization of state-owned power generation assets and independent power producer contracts.

The state power firm currently maintains several small power facilities in far-flung areas through its SPUG, as it has been mandated by law to provide electricity in remote areas that are not connected to any of the three main power grids.

It now operates 232 generating units with a total generated capacity of about 175 megawatts. It serves 214 island and isolated grids, providing electricity to 47 customers consisting of 39 electric cooperatives, seven local government units and one multipurpose cooperative.

Egypt protests mount despite regime threats

CAIRO—Egyptian protesters defied warnings from Hosni Mubarak's regime that their campaign could plunge Egypt into chaos and marched on parliament Wednesday, amid reports of deadly violence in the remote south.

Syria renews direct access to Facebook, YouTube

DAMASCUS—For the first time since 2007, Syrians can directly log onto Facebook and YouTube without going through proxy servers abroad, Internet users said on Wednesday.

Third of Russians think sun revolves around earth—poll

MOSCOW—Does the sun revolve around the earth? About one third of Russians appear to believe so, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

Top Rank: Pacquiao-Obama meeting not confirmed

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Top Rank Promotions clarified on Wednesday that there’s no confirmation yet about the supposed meeting between Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and US President Barack Obama next week.

Caligdong,Younghusband deliver big in Azkals' 2-0 AFC win vs Mongolia

Air Force personnel Emil Caligdong came through with a brilliant play in the first half then Phil Younghusband capped the Philipine Azkals' performance by striking a goal down the stretch, towing the Pinoys to a 2-0 victory over Mongolia Wednesday night in their AFC Challenge Cup pre-qualifying match at the packed Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.

PNoy praises Azkals' win

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III congratulated the Philippine Azkals for "bringing pride and honor" to the Filipinos for winning 2-0 over the Mongolian Blue Wolves in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup qualifier.

DepEd 7 wants to make sure Cebu sends best

by cebuweb

AMIDST the criticism the Department of Education got from Cebu City Vice Mayor Augustus Joy Young for not cooperating with the plan for the Palarong Pambansa, Dep-Ed Regional Director Recaredo Borgonia said it is best to stay calm.

“The other regions has not yet even started their regional meet, kalma lang ta, dili lang ta magdali dali (Let’s be calm, not so fast),” Borgonia said.

He said they already released the final list of athletes in the individual event, but will still finalize the line-up in the team events.

All set for Palaro Games in Dapitan

Preparations for the 2011 Palarong Pambansa in Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte are now in full swing.

This was bared by Rose Domingo, the Department of Education (DepEd) Task Force for School Sports officer in charge, squelching reports that the hosting of the event will be transferred to Naga City.

“There are text messages being circulated that the hosting will be moved to Bicol. But that is not true and Dapitan City remains the host for this year’s Palarong Pambansa," said Domingo.

The country’s biggest sports event for elementary and high school students is slated from May 8 to 14 with 10,000 athletes, officials and visitors from 17 regions expected to troop to Dapitan City.

DepEd, led by undersecretary Tonisito Umali, had also conducted an ocular inspection at the host city last week. He expressed confidence that all renovations and construction will be finished before the opening of the games.

Vice President Jejomar Binay has been invited to grace the opening ceremony.

“We liked what we saw, and we’re happy with the way the Local Government Units are doing," added Domingo.

Former Congressman Romeo Jalosjos, a staunch backer of local tennis, heads the organizing group, while the LGUs from Sibugan and Zamboanga del Norte also showed their support to ensure a successful staging of the 54th edition of the Palaro.

This is also the first time the city is hosting the Palaro and the first time in 28 years that Zamboanga del Norte will be holding the games. It was in 1982 when the province hosted the Palaro in Dipolog City.

The Jose Rizal Memorial State University will be the main venue, where track and field and swimming will be played.

“Construction is ongoing for other venues and billeting areas," added Domingo.

A P200-million fund is needed to cover the cost of refurbishment and construction.

Jalosjos is confident the organizers will be able to raise the funds needed through the help of the LGUs and the national government.

John Lloyd, KC lead BIR campaign

Kung noon ay hinahabol siya ng Bureau of Internal Revenue, ngayon naman ay ehemplo na si John Lloyd Cruz sa pagbabayad ng tamang buwis. Kabilang din ang Mega Daughter na si KC sa mga nagpaalala sa April deadline ng BIR.

 

 


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