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

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 14, 2011 Major News Stories (

February 14, 2011 Major News Stories
February 14, 2011 Major News Stories

Couple arrested in kidnap-slay case

CEBU CITY -- Police arrested a couple at the Mactan airport last Saturday night, after seeing their resemblance to the sketches of the couple that kidnapped and killed Ellah Joy Pique, 6.

Sven Erik Berger, 49, a Norwegian, and his Cebuana girlfriend Karen Castro Esdrelon, 25, were picked up about 15 minutes before their flight to Hong Kong.

They were detained at the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Sunday after five witnesses, four of them children, positively identified them.

But in a press conference, the couple denied they killed or even knew Ellah, a grade one pupil at the Calajoan Elementary School in Minglanilla.

“We can’t do that, we also have children,” said Esdrelon, who has a 2-year-old son from a previous relationship.

Berger, who is separated from his wife and has two children, said they also want justice for Pique’s death.

“We hope they can find the killers,” Berger said.

Lawyer Salvador Solima said if his clients will not be released Monday, they will file a petition for habeas corpus and charge the police with illegal arrest and detention.


The couple was about to take a 10:15 p.m. flight to Hong Kong when they were held by the police.

At the airport, a 10-year-old boy identified them as the couple who picked up Ellah from outside her school last Tuesday afternoon.

Lito (not his real name), a self-confessed pimp, said that Berger was the one who asked him for a girl he could bring with him to Moalboal.

“We never went to Moalboal,” Esdrelon said in Cebuano.

After hearing the allegations, Esdrelon said she got mad and cursed the witnesses.

Lito faced Berger and told the police that the latter, with Esdrelon, approached him on Colon St. at 5 p.m. last Monday, Feb. 7.

Berger called Lito a liar. He arrived in Cebu at 6:40 p.m. that day.


Esdrelon, a registered nurse who worked at the Tuburan Health Center before, said they are set to marry in November this year or June next year.

She said she met Berger in an online dating site on Aug. 19 last year. Two months later, Berger visited Cebu for the first time to meet her.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia also questioned the suspects past 5 p.m. Sunday.

Esdrelon told the governor they are not guilty of the crime.

“Pareho man ni’g nawong nimo (The woman’s face looks like you),” Garcia told Esdrelon after seeing the sketch.

“Daghan kapareha nako, Filipina lagi ko’g beauty (A lot of Filipinas look like me),” Esdrelon said.

Berger, a computer engineer and photography enthusiast, said he left Norway on the morning of Feb. 6.

After stops in London and Hong Kong, he arrived in Mactan last Monday night. Esdrelon met him and they checked in at a hotel in Lapu-Lapu City.


They went out the next day, around 11 a.m.

An hour later, Esdrelon met her aunt at a store on Colon St. to get her engagement ring and bracelet.

From 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Esdrelon said she opened an account at a bank near the Cebu City Hall and enrolled herself at a Norwegian school. She showed reporters the receipts.

Two hours later, the couple dined at a restaurant then went to the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu City around 5:30 p.m.

Esdrelon said they have pictures with dates, which were saved in their laptop, to show they were at the hotel on the day Ellah was last seen being picked up outside her school in Minglanilla.

The town lies some 15 kilometers south of Cebu City.

Solima, the couple’s counsel, said they will also get a certification from the hotel management to prove his clients were in the establishment.


Last Wednesday morning, Ellah’s blanket-wrapped body was found in Barili, at the bottom of a cliff.

At 3 p.m. on that day, Esdrelon said they rented a blue Toyota Vios, which they used to drive to Tuburan.

Senior Supt. Erson Digal, director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office, said the Cebu Provincial Anti-Criminality Task Force will meet Monday to discuss what cases to file against the couple.

The victim’s father, Renante Pique, heaved a sigh of relief when the witnesses pointed to the couple from behind a one-way mirror Sunday.

“Migaan-gaan akong paminaw (I feel a little bit relieved),” Renante told reporters at the Cebu Provincial Police Office in Sudlon, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.

Renante, together with Calajo-an Elementary School principal Jenelyn Craste, went to the police camp yesterday after learning that a Cebuana, who hails from Tuburan town, and a Norwegian were arrested.


While watching the suspects being identified by the witnesses, he said, he went cold and wanted to confront the couple.

“Nindot gyud unta dapatan pero wa man gud nay labot sa proceso (I want to hit them but I know that is not part of the process),” he said.

He said that before heading to the police headquarters Sunday, he asked Ellah Joy’s spirit to help the witnesses identify her captors.

Renante said it is still hard for him to accept that Ellah Joy is dead.

Lucia Habasa, Ellah Joy’s 53-year-old grandmother, said she learned about the suspects’ arrest last Saturday night.

Habasa, who supervises the coop-operated canteen at the Air Transportation Office in Mactan, said she has been praying for the arrest of the suspects.

She is optimistic the police arrested the right suspects, after they were identified by the witnesses.

Sketch ‘looks like you,’ Pinay said, as a joke

KAREN Castro Esdrelon said she sensed an immigration officer was hesitant to clear her boyfriend, while the officer examined the Norwegian’s passport last Saturday night.

But she was so confident nothing was wrong, that when her boyfriend pointed to the sketch of a man’s face at the Mactan airport, she joked, “It looks like you.”

Sven Erik Berger, her boyfriend, laughed.

At that point, the immigration officer called the police, who then held the couple at the Philippine Center for Aviation Security (PCAS) 7 office.

They missed their 10:15 p.m. flight to Hong Kong.

Esdrelon said they didn’t even know the sketches were of the suspects in the abduction and murder of Ellah Joy Pique, 6, from a public school in Minglanilla town.

Their lawyer, Salvador Solima, later said the police’s move was illegal because the Bureau of Immigration (BI) 7 had no hold-departure order against his clients.

Alien Control Officer Casimiro Madarang III disagreed.

Under the Immigration Act, an immigration officer has the power to offload a passenger if he thinks the person has committed a crime, is using spurious travel documents, or is using a tourist visa but intends to work abroad, said Madarang.

He said the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) records show Berger arrived in Cebu at 7 p.m. last Monday, Feb. 7. It was his second time in Cebu since October 2010.

BI Officer Arthur Omega yesterday said he decided to offload the couple after he noticed their resemblance to the sketches provided by the police. These were posted on the immigration counters.

Omega said that Berger and Esdrelon were in line to get their passports checked, minutes before their 10:15 p.m. flight to Hong Kong.

He noticed that Berger and Esdrelon appeared uneasy after they saw the sketches.

Berger, he said, transferred to another immigration counter, leaving Esdrelon in the original line.

Omega said it was then that he decided to turn over the couple to the Police Center for Aviation Security, which takes charge of securing airports.

Tied-up murder victim found in Barili

AN UNIDENTIFIED man believed to have been salvaged was found at the roadside in Sitio Palalong in Barangay Guibuangan, Barili town past 1 a.m. yesterday.

He bore a gunshot wound in the head.

The man’s body was found just a few meters away from the foot of the cliff where the body of murder victim Ellah Joy Pique, 6, was dumped last week.

Police investigators said the man’s body was placed in a black plastic garbage bag. His feet and hands were tied, while his eyes and mouth were taped.

The victim was described to be slim and about 5’5”. He wore a white T-shirt with a black undershirt. Two men from the neighboring Dumanjug town found his body.

On the masking tape used to cover his mouth, the text “Piya-it (He who squeals) must die” was written. “Idol ko si Angelo Reyes, kawatan ko (I’m a thief)” was also handwritten on the man’s white shirt.

A spent shell from a caliber .45 pistol was found near his body.

Investigators from the Barili Police Station found skid marks left by a vehicle in the area, an indication that the body was brought and dumped there.

The body was brought to Tupas Funeral Homes in Carcar City, Cebu. As of 4:30 p.m. yesterday, the man remained unidentified.

SPO3 Job Sarvida, desk officer of the Barili Police Station, said the team of investigators assigned to the case is still gathering information to find out if the killing was done in the area or elsewhere.

Sarvida said the empty shell found near the body does not necessarily indicate the man was killed there.

“It can be a ploy to divert the attention of the police investigators,” Sarvida said in Bisaya.

He said they still have to ask owners of the nearby houses if they heard gunshots before the body was found.

As of last night, no one has been to the police station and the funeral home to identify the slain man.

Use ID systems, tanods to keep students safe

by cebuweb

SCHOOLS need the help of parents and local government officials in protecting children, Department of Education (DepEd) 7 Director Recaredo Borgonia said.

“The safety of children is too important to be left to schools alone. It should also be a concern among parents and local officials,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.

Most CV barangays lack council for children

by cebuweb

THE kidnapping and murder of Ellah Joy Pique, a six-year-old grade one pupil in

Minglanilla town, has prompted worried parents to fetch their children from school.

But it also raised questions about how much effort local government officials are exerting to protect children.

Nearly four decades ago, Presidential Decree 603 or the “The Child and Youth Welfare

Code” took effect, mandating the creation of a Council for the Protection of Children (CPC) in every barangay.

OSCA: Cebu City must give benefits to people over 80

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja/JPM

CEBU, Philippines - Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) Chief Guillermo Casinillo is working out on the qualification of senior citizens 80 years old to Cebu City’s financial assistance program.

These are senior citizens who, because of old, age were not able to apply for the assistance because they have long stopped participating in election activities.

Casinillo said that most of these elderly are in the mountain barangays and their health conditions prevent them from going to polling precincts to vote.

When the City Government established the Financial Assistance Program in 2009, those who qualified are senior citizens who are registered voters of Cebu City during the 2007 elections.

This left senior citizens 80 years old and above unqualified for the assistance.

“Sila man unta dapat ang mas nanginahanglan og assistance tungod sa ilang kondisyon. Kung mapamatud-an lang na taga-Cebu City sila, paningkamutan nato nga maapil sila sa atong programa,” he said. (These is the group who needs the assistance most. If they can prove that they are from Cebu City, then we will try to include them in the program.)

Casinillo said that he is finding ways for the City to agree to exempt the senior citizens 80 years old and above from this particular rule.

He clarified, though, that those 60 to 79 years old must still be a registered voter before they could apply.

OSCA has not resumed accepting new applicants for the Cebu City Government’s financial assistance to senior citizens almost 10 months since its suspension last May.

Casinillo said they have yet to finalize the new guidelines and they have not received a go signal from the mayor.

For the meantime, existing beneficiaries will continue receiving the assistance.

There are an estimated 5,000 senior citizens who are qualified but are not yet part of the 32,000 who are currently receiving financial assistance of P4,000 per year.

Casinillo earlier said that there are more or less 1,000 senior citizens who are part of the payroll but have not been living in Cebu City for a long time. They just decided to come back here to avail of the assistance.

Road repairs start next month

THE Cebu City Government will start implementing its P200-million road concreting and asphalting projects next month.

This, as the council already approved the P50 million for road concreting projects in the north district barangays two weeks after the P50 million share for the south district was approved.

The council has also approved and confirmed the list of barangays where the P100 million worth of asphalting projects will be implemented.

For asphalting, the biggest allocation goes to the rehabilitation of Talamban-Bacayan-Pit-os road, which is at P19.5 million.

Shelter for Mahiga families available

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja/JMO

CEBU, Philippines - Informal settlers affected by the clearing operation along Mahiga River may start occupying today the temporary shelter set up by the Cebu City Government at block 27 of the North Reclamation Area.

The temporary shelter will be available for a month and only for families whose structures have already been demolished. The city is providing the temporary shelter while the affected families find a new place to stay.

Some of the affected residents who want to go back to their hometowns within the province will be given assistance through the Provincial Government’s “Balik Probinsya Program.”

Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias, chairman of the City Council’s committee on infrastructure, said 50 container vans were provided by 2GO Courier Service. Each van can accommodate 25 persons or one to two families.

The Visayan Electric Company will provide electricity while the Metropolitan Cebu Water District will supply water. Eight showers, sinks and dirty kitchens were also set up.

Occupants will be given free meals for three days only.

Noel Artes, head of the Squatters Prevention Elimination and Encroachment Division (SPEED), said they have provided a master list of the affected families to the Department of Social Welfare and Services.

Affected families must present the notice they received from SPEED as proof that they are affected by the clearing operation.

The notices were provided so there will be no major screening necessary.

DSWS will facilitate the acceptance of occupants at the temporary shelter while the Department of Manpower Development and Placement will be there to collect data on the residents.

For the past week, SPEED has dismantled 28 of the 100 houses along the Mahiga river. However, the families that used to live in the 28 houses preferred to look directly for another place to stay in rather than stay at the temporary shelter.

Agency to magnify map of danger areas in CV

by cebuweb

THE Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB 7) is expected to come up with an enhanced version of maps that show details of areas prone to landslide and floods in Central Visayas.

“The production of a 1:10,000-scale geohazard map is like zooming in the 1:50,000 map until we see the details of the area, which cannot be represented in the 1:50,000-scale geohazard maps,” said MGB 7 director Loreto Alburo.

The features of the new maps would include parameters or features that may affect ground stability as well as the type of landslides or flooding that can possibly occur in the area.

Prayers start for good weather

by By Ryan Christopher J. Sorote/JPM

CEBU, Philippines - Over 130 parishes under the Archdiocese of Cebu officially started yesterday the very first Oratio Imperata issued by the new Archbishop of Cebu, Jose S. Palma, D.D.

To be prayed after every mass, this prayer is to invoke mercy against the effects of bad weather, such as the unprecedented flooding in Metro Cebu last month.

An Oratio Imperata is a specially drafted prayer which can only be issued by a bishop for a specific intention for the entire community. Palma’s predecessor, Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, had issued several such prayers during his leadership.

Palma considers the January-25 downpour as a wake-up call. He calls on every Cebuano to “undertake emergency preparedness measures” against future natural calamities.

“We cannot do these all alone without the help of our Almighty Father,” said Palma, adding that everyone should trust in the Lord amidst all natural and man-made disasters.

“We now seek the help of our Beloved Sto. Niño, Protector of Cebu, to spare us from further damage wrought by natural calamities,” Palma said.

He urges everyone to pray to the Holy Child of Cebu and for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu and Blessed Pedro Calungsod.

“May we do our share to be responsible and faithful seawards of Mother Nature,” he said.

Palma’s first Oratio Imperata states: “All-powerful and ever-living God, we find security in your forgiveness. Give us the fine weather we pray for so that we may rejoice in your gift of kindness and use them always for your glory and our good, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Some of the most notable Oratio Imperatas in the past years by Vidal included the prayers for a peaceful election and against the spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), bird flu virus, the influenza virus and dengue.

These mandated prayers issued by the head of the Roman Catholic Church are aimed to encourage the faithful to join as one family in prayer for the common good of everyone. It is also an answer to the challenge from various local government units to gear toward social consciousness and discipline, and the Church’s way to help the community.

Meanwhile, pro-life advocates are also urging Palma to issue another Oratio Imperata against the Reproductive Health Bill just like what Vidal did in 2007.

Establishments dump trash in mountain brgys

by By Ramil V. Ayuman /JMO

CEBU, Philippines - Councilor Nida Cabrera disclosed that private firms collecting the garbage of big establishments in the city allegedly dispose of the garbage in the mountain barangays.

Cabrera, chairperson of the City Council committee on environment, said these private garbage collectors allegedly dispose of the garbage at night when no one can see their illegal activity.

Last Saturday, personnel of the Department of Public Services (DPS) and Cebu City Environmental Sanitation and Enforcement Team (CESET) collected a truckload of waste materials from several ravines in Barangays Taptap, Sirao, Cambinocot, Adlaon and Malubog.

“Taud-taud na siguro ni nga gi-practice aning mga private contractors kay nangalata na man ang ubang mga basura” Cabrera said.

CESET was created last year purposely to monitor residents and private garbage collectors who may be dumping garbage along the city’s major thoroughfares. However, Cabrera said it is possible that these establishments and private collectors might have thought of bringing the garbage to the mountain barangays instead.

“Sukad atong gipang-assign ang atong mga CESET personnel ug mga barangay enforcement officers sa mga hotspot areas dinhi sa urban areas, adto na sila maglabay sa ilang basura sa mga kabukiran,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera said they already identified some big establishments in Cebu City and in Mactan, but the information needs to be verified. She said they also need to verify whether these establishments have connived with the private garbage collectors.

“Mga lata nga prutas ug lamas, dunay mga resibo ug mga karaaang business permit gikan sa mga establishment. Klaro kayo ni nga violations sa RA 9003 ug mahimo sila i-penalized niini,” Cabrera added.

Cabrera said she and Councilor Edu Rama, chairman of the Council committee on general services, will meet the captains of the five mountain barangays to discuss how to go about the issue.

Earlier, environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos gave Cebu City until March this year to fully implement the provisions of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or face charges in court.

P13M for garbage collectors

by cebuweb

THE Cebu City Government shells out at least P13 million from its coffers this year to augment the monthly take-home pay of some 500 garbage collection personnel in the city’s villages.

The council, in its regular session last week, approved the resolution filed by Councilor Edu Rama charging under the Barangay Aid Account the P12,927,013.20 that represents the additional honoraria of the garbage collection personnel.

The increase, however, will only be granted provided that the personnel will report to work at least eight hours a day.

Council fails to resolve bry. conflict

DESPITE exercising its administrative disciplinary authority over them, the Cebu City Council failed to settle the conflict between the village chief and the barangay council in one of the mountain villages of the city.

The council’s committee of three called to a meeting last week Buot-Taup Barangay Captain Rosalita Callino and some members of the barangay council to settle the conflict over the appointment of the barangay secretary, but no agreement was reached.


In appearing before the committee, which is composed of City Councilors Edgardo Labella, Sisinio Andales and Nida Cabre-ra, Barangay Councilor Donardo Labitad reiterated their opposition over the appointment of Marites Morales as barangay secretary.

Labitad believes that Morales will only taint the name of the barangay.

Aside from Labitad, barangay councilors Constituto Bacayan, Richard Bacayan, Ricardo Cabrera and Rogelio Cabrillos also expressed their opposition to the appointment of Morales.

The councilors believe that there are other residents of the barangay who are more qualified than Morales.


When sought for comment, Callino said she will just make Morales as the barangay secretary and their secretary Annaliza Daot as treasurer.

Callino said she want to keep Morales in the barangay.

“Unya kung mo-insist gyud sila nga tangtangon nako siya, ako siyang ilisan sa akong bana. Wa man koy makita-an lain nga ikailis (If they insist on removing her, I’ll appoint my husband instead),” she added.

With this, Labella who chair the council’s committee on laws told Callino and the members of the barangay council to think over the matter for another week.

“They should settle this because this will be pre-judicial to the interests of the constituency. They should remember that the power to appoint is conjoint, meaning it has to be decided by both the barangay captain and the barangay council,” he said.

Labella said the committee and the barangay officials will meet again this week.

In a memorandum of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), barangay councilors who will persistently refuse to agree to the appointment of the village chief “without a valid and legal cause” may be charged with abuse of authority.

The DILG said that the job of a barangay councilor is to only determine whether the appointee of the barangay captain is qualified or not.

Son charged for trying to kill ma

by By Mylene P. Manto/FPL

CEBU, Philippines - A 30-year-old man was indicted for attempted parricide after he tried to kill his mother because the latter failed to give him money.

Assistant Cebu City Prosecutor Naruzen Lorete recommended P120,000 bail for the temporary liberty of Randy Cabugason.

Cabugason, resident of Sitio Lawis Barangay Pasil, was charged before the Regional Trial Court with attempted parricide after the prosecutor’s office found probable cause to indict him of the complaint filed by his own mother.

Jasmin Cabugason, 50, said the accused chased her with a kitchen knife on February 8 because she failed to give him money. The victim said she ran outside their house crying for help alerting their neighbors and the barangay tanods.

Barangay tanods Matheo Derecho, William Robles, Rey dela Cerna and Ramil Guioguio responded to her call and arrested the accused.

Corruption in AFP is institutionalized: Osmeña

by cebuweb

REP. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) wants the congressional investigations on the alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continue after the remains of former chief of staff and defense secretary Angelo Reyes were laid to rest yesterday at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The Congressman said corruption in the AFP was already institutionalized and reforms should start from the inquiries so that it can be stopped.

Osmeña believed Reyes was only a victim of the tradition since corruption is “just like a normal activity” in the AFP.

Rabusa now under witness protection program

MANILA, Philippines – A whistleblower in the alleged massive corruption in the Armed Forces has been accepted to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) witness protection program.

Retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa is now also enjoying temporary immunity from cases that may spring from his testimonies.

While former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes was being laid to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Sunday, Rabusa was hearing mass elsewhere.

Rabusa, a friend and former staff of Reyes, had accused the former defense chief of involvement in massive corruption within the military.

At the church, people approached Rabusa to shake his hand and thanked him for his courage.

He said it was a personal decision not to attend his former boss' funeral.

“Gusto ko man talagang makiramay, nagpasya na lang akong huwag na muna,” he said. “Lagi ko silang pinagdarasal, na makamit na naming lahat ang katahimikan.”

Rabusa also confirmed that he and Col. Antinio Lim, who also testified at the Senate, have been accepted into the witness protection program.

The DOJ is now providing them security.

Rabusa will also receive immunity from any charges for at least 3 months.

“Iyan kasi yung hiningi kong kondisyon bago ako maglantad. Kailangan ko ‘to, maraming galit sa akin.”

Rabusa will continue to appear before any inquiry despite the death of Reyes.

He, however, said the investigations could do with a little more respect.

Rabusa believes that the berating of Reyes by Senator Antonio Trillanes greatly affected the late general.

“Sa tingin ko, yung ginawa ni Trillanes nagpalala sa kondisyon ni Reyes, eh. Grabe yung mga ginawa niyang salita. A lowerclassman should never do that to an upperclassman.”

Senators urge Trillanes to name person behind Garcia, show proof

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV equally shared the burden of identifying the powerful person behind ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia and backing this up with evidence, a senator said on Sunday.

Since Trillanes had claimed to have identified the powerful person to Malacañang, both the legislature and the executive department "shared the burden” of going public on the identity of this powerful person, Sen. Gregorio Honasan II said.

"If Malacañang was told about the name of the powerful person or the names of the powerful persons, then Malacañang now shares the burden,” he said in a phone interview.

But a disclosure of the identity should be backed by solid information that could stand the scrutiny of Congress and the public, and stand in court, the senator stressed.

(President Benigno Aquino III, through deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte, denied on Sunday ever meeting Trillanes to discuss the powerful person behind Garcia.)

"If we only have names, we might as well forget about it. Without information (evidence), what's the point?” Honasan said. "We can't just stop with names, whether coming from Trillanes or Malacañang.”

Trillanes earlier claimed that Garcia admitted to him that he was fronting for a powerful person while they were detained in the Philippine National Police camp, Garcia for plunder charges and Trillanes for coup d’ etat charges.

Since Garcia was scared to identify the person, Trillanes had passed on the information to Malacañang, Trillanes said in a Jan. 12 TV interview.

Trillanes initially tagged the late former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes as the powerful person. But he took this back last week after Reyes’ suicide, and said that military corruption could reach the level of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo's son, Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey” Arroyo, dared Trillanes to disclose the information at the Senate inquiry "if he has suspicions that he can substantiate with concrete evidence.”

At the opening of the Senate inquiry into Garcia's plea bargain and military corruption, Trillanes offered to help Garcia if he decided to spill the beans. But Garcia was firm, and said he was not applying to become state witness.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried but failed to reach Trillanes for comment.

Honasan, chair of the committees on public information, public order and agrarian reform, agreed that the powerful person must be named under certain conditions.

"It has to be named, and when you start naming names publicly, you must back it up with evidence that can stand the scrutiny... and the withering questioning of public opinion and the Senate,” he said.

"And we will presume that it will stand in court. It must be admissible as evidence so it could warrant conviction or acquittal. Absent such evidence, it will just continue to percolate, and it will die a natural death. Questions will be hanging in the air, and there will be no closure,” he added.

Backing up one's testimony or charges with pieces of documentation, testimonial or circumstantial evidence would be a "terrible burden” imposed on every citizen of the country, Honasan said.

"When you name names without proof, that is the height of irresponsibility,” he said, speaking in general terms.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had the same view that Trillanes should be forthright about the identity of the powerful person, but be prepared with evidence.

"If he has suspicions, get the evidence and say so publicly, ‘Well, I have now evidence,' and present this to the committee, and then the committee chair can now decide to summon the persons involved,” Enrile said over radio.

Otherwise, Enrile said the Senate should not be used for witch-hunting.

"The Senate should not be used as a witch-hunter to the point that we are going to just smear people and fish evidence that is not there. If there is evidence implicating anybody, whether President or ordinary person, that evidence should be explained. If it's pure speculation, suspicion, that can't be. We will become uncontrollable searchers of evidence that may not really exist,” he said.

Drilon said that no evidence has been mentioned linking Arroyo to ex-budget officer George Rabusa's exposé on military corruption before the Senate blue ribbon committee.

"For now, there's no reason to invite her,” he said over radio, pointing out that if even such an evidence cropped up and warranted her appearance in the inquiry, it would still be her prerogative to appear, given the inter-parliamentary courtesy between the two chambers.

The Senate blue ribbon committee resumes its hearing on Friday, more than a week after Reyes' suicide prompted calls for the senators to change their confrontational tack of questioning and become more civil.

Reyes – who showed up as a resource person at the inquiry's opening on Jan. 27, but ended up being accused of pocketing millions of pesos from military funds – shot himself in the heart at his mother's grave in Marikina City last Tuesday.

By all means the inquiry should continue but ground rules on the conduct of hearing, whether written or unwritten, should be established, said Honasan, who has inhibited himself from the hearing because Garcia was his classmate at the Philippine Military Academy.

"Let's be civil. Let's not prejudice people whom we invite as resource persons. Let's not put them in a difficult place. All of a sudden, after inviting them as witnesses, they become the accused,” he said.

"Let's differentiate between in aid of legislation and what should be matters of the court to decide. When we name names, we mention the information that warrants mentioning these things, and later if this develops, the information may or may not be used by the courts for possible trial,” he said.

Palace denies Aquino-Trillanes meeting on Reyes, AFP fund scam

MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino had not met with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who had allegedly informed him that the late former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes was not the protector of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

At the necrological services for Reyes last Saturday, retired Navy Commodore Rex Robles claimed that Trillanes had told the Palace that Reyes was not involved in the alleged corruption in the military but that President Aquino did not do anything about.

In a phone interview, Valte said she had asked President Aquino about Robles' claim and he told her that he "has not yet met with Trillanes.''

"We don't know what Robles was referring to when the President has not met with Trillanes yet,'' Valte said.

Interviewed over government radio dzRB on Sunday, Valte also said she did not think that the exposé of former military budget officer George Rabusa was all part of a plot to destabilize the government.

"We don't see it as a destabilization, all these allegations came out because, as what Rabusa said, he chose to come out because he has confidence in the new administration,'' she said.

Valte also said the government hoped that people who knew about the alleged anomalies in the military would come out ``so that we could put closure on this issue.''

Saying she has not yet consulted President Aquino, Valte refrained from making comment on a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report that contained some of the musings of Reyes two days before he killed himself.

And with Reyes now buried, Valte said the government would still have to go after those that should be held accountable for the corruption in the military.

"We should show not only to colleagues in the government but to the public as well that if there is a crime, somebody should be punished. There has to be accountability when a misdeed goes on,'' she said.

Valte said government has been looking into the alleged anomalies so as to prevent a repeat of these offenses.

Ligot believes Reyes made the supreme sacrifice

MANILA, Philippines – Retired lieutenant general and former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot, another man embroiled in a military fund scandal, showed up on Sunday at former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio.

Ligot, accused of diverting hundreds of millions of pesos in military funds including a P50 million “pabaon” for Reyes when the latter retired, said he viewed his former boss' suicide as a “sacrifice” for the sake of his family and the military institution.

Ligot, who has been scrimping on words during the Senate inquiry on the alleged fund diversions and who has repeatedly pleaded forgetfulness in fending off questions on his suspected involvement in the fund diversion scam, said “I think he (Reyes) made a supreme sacrifice of offering his life maybe to solve all these problems."

“What else is the reason for that? That's only my opinion. His son said it was (a sacrifice) for the institution, for the family,” Ligot went on, during a chance interview with reports.

When asked, Ligot said he did not feel that Reyes' suicide had a chilling effect on him and others who were called to the congressional hearings on the plea bargain with former comptroller dismissed general Carlos Garcia, who like Ligot has been charged with graft.

“Siguro masyadong tinamaan itong ating kasama (Maybe our friend was affected too much). I also don't know what his reasons are (for taking his life),” he said.

Ligot said he felt “unfairly” treated in the congressional hearings because he felt like being grilled in a courtroom.

Reyes' former commander in chief, ex-president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also showed up at the burial after having twice visited the wake.

Arroyo, who has not publicly defended her former chief of staff, as usual snubbed the media who asked for an interview.

She was accompanied by her former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita and former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales.

All the chiefs of staff who served under Arroyo showed up except for three including retired generals Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu whom former military budget officer George Rabusa has also implicated in the slush fund scam involving hundreds of millions of pesos. Former general Narciso Abaya was not around.

There were eight former chiefs of staff around namely Dionisio Santiago, Benjamin Defensor, Efren Abu, Generoso Senga, Hermogenes Esperon, Victor Ibrado, Alexander Yano and Delfin Bangit.

Controversial retired Army major general Jovito Palparan was also seen at the funeral, as well as Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

Reyes' classmates in the Philippine Military Academy Class 1966 were around along with his former PMA senior Rex Robles who said Reyes received a call from Arroyo a few days before he killed himself.

Former vice president Noli De Castro was at the funeral mass in Camp Aguinaldo but did not go to the burial.

There were no signs of senators and representatives.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin represented the Aquino administration while the current Armed Forces top brass were present led by Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo David Jr.

UN denies reports of Filipino general picking $5M check at New York office

MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations has denied reports that a Filipino general had personally picked up from its New York headquarters a $5-million check supposedly covering reimbursement to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for costs incurred in sending peacekeepers abroad.

"This is not the case," said the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in a statement furnished the INQUIRER by the UN office in Makati City.

The DPKO noted "all payments and checks (covering peacekeeping-related costs) are issued under a cover letter to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines (to the UN)."

It also disclosed it had "tracked (down) all payments and there was no Contingent-Owned Payment of $5 million" made to the Philippine government.

The DPKO explained that "since its contribution to the Interfet peace operation in 1999, all contingent-owned payments made to the Philippine government have been made in accordance with this practice as per payment instructions received in writing from the Permanent Mission of the Philippines and signed by the (Philippine ambassador to the UN)."

On the alleged misuse of UN funds for Filipino peacekeepers, the DPKO reiterated that "the UN reimburses governments, not soldiers, and we rely on the member-state to disburse the funds in accordance with their national norms and standards."

"In this case, as per standard procedures, the UN deposits funds into a bank account given to the UN by the relevant troop- and police-contributing countries," like the Philippines, said the DPKO.

In its statement, the DPKO expressed willingness to assist the Philippine government in its inquiry into the missing UN funds only "if requested."

But "the UN has not received (any) inquiries or complaints at this stage from any specific contingent regarding payment (of peacekeeping-related funds)," it added.

Last week, officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) told a House defense committee hearing that they were verifying with the UN whether it had really issued a $5-million check supposedly intended for Filipino peacekeepers.

The DFA also ordered Philippine representative to the UN to investigate reports that millions of pesos in UN reimbursements for Filipino peacekeepers were diverted to a slush fund for retiring AFP chiefs of staff.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said he instructed the Philippine mission in New York to check with UN offices concerned if there were such funds issued in 2000 representing reimbursements for peacekeeping missions.

Romulo was referring to the revelations of retired AFP Lt. Col. George Rabusa at Senate hearings that the UN reimbursements in 2000 were diverted to the slush fund for retiring generals.

It was reported that at least three AFP chiefs of staff, among others, received cash gifts ("pabaon") of as much as P160 million upon their retirement.

Romulo also recommended the transfer of the $3.3-million peacekeeping funds from a Philippine government account in New York to the National Treasury "for proper accounting and safekeeping."

He said he had concurred with the proposal of Permanent Representative to the UN Libran Cabactulan for the immediate transfer of the money.

"These funds are secure and intact and will remain safe until such time that the AFP has coordinated with proper Philippine agencies to transfer these to the National Treasury," said Romulo.

In a statement, Romulo said the DFA "continues to work not only with the AFP but also with the Philippine National Police, the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government in seeing to it that the utilization of peacekeeping funds is transparent, and the welfare of Filipino soldiers and policemen serving under the UN flag is safeguarded."

UN resident coordinator Jacqueline Badcock earlier told the Philippine Daily Inquirer they were taking up the alleged UN fund misuse with the UN headquarters in New York.

Badock said the issue was "not something the UN deals with locally but at the level of the UN headquarters."

She also pointed out that "UN peacekeeping operations, including funding, are not administered by the UN locally but through the DFA."

Contacted for comment, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya, also the DFA spokesman, said "all payments and reimbursements for Philippine participation in UN peacekeeping operations are remitted by the UN directly to the AFP."

A total of 1,025 Filipino peacekeepers are posted in at least seven UN missions overseas, according to DFA records.

They are assigned to "trouble spots" like the Golan Heights in Israel (349); Haiti (194); Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia (143); Timor Leste (139); Darfur, Sudan (138); Khartoum, Sudan (55); and the Ivory Coast (7).

Earlier, Malaya said the Philippines would deploy more military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping missions worldwide.

The country is "committed to the maintenance of international peace and security as called for the UN Charter," according to Malaya.

Former DPWH chief appeals graft conviction


MANILA, Philippines - Former Public Works Secretary Florante Soriquez has asked the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division to set aside its decision last January 14 convicting him of graft in connection with the failure of a section of the P38.29-million Pampanga “megadike” on August 3, 1996 that buried 3 towns under water and lahar.

Ona: No ‘converted funds’ in DOH


MANILA, Philippines - Health Secretary Enrique Ona denied reports his department is also in the practice of “converting” allotted funds for other purposes.

Customs police chief dismissed

MANILA, Philippines—The Office of the Ombudsman has found the police chief of the Bureau of Customs guilty of grave misconduct and dishonesty for failing to disclose his properties.

In a decision issued last week, the Office of the Ombudsman also ordered the dismissal from service of Jose Brigido Yuchongco, chief of the customs police.

“Foregoing considered, Jose Brigido Nicomedes Yuchongco, Special Police Chief of the Bureau of Customs, Police Division-Enforcement and Security Service, is hereby found guilty of grave misconduct and dishonesty and is hereby meted the penalty of dismissal from the service,” said the decision signed by Deputy Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni.

The complaint against Yuchongco, which was filed in 2005 by the Department of Finance’s Revenue Integrity Protection Service, identified his properties—a mansion in a Muntinlupa subdivision; a 7,210-square-meter farm in Oas, Albay; a property in San Jose, Batangas; and a 32,593-square meter land in the same town.

These properties and expenses were not declared by Yuchongco in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. The complaint also said it was impossible for a customs official to purchase these properties and to have a net worth of about P6.48 million in 2004.

According to the Ombudsman, Yuchongco’s gross annual salary in 1994 was about P54,000. In 2004, it was at P256,116.

Long-awaited Philippine communist talks to start

by By Mynardo Macaraig, Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government and communist rebels will begin peace talks in Norway this week, but analysts say recent deadly clashes show there is no chance of a quick end to the decades-long insurgency.

Karapatan urges Aquino gov’t: Release all political prisoners now

MANILA, Philippines – As the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines resume the formal peace negotiations on Tuesday, the left-wing human rights group Karapatan is urging the Aquino government to release all political prisoners in the country.

5 Abu terrorists, 2 soldiers killed in Basilan clash

by Agence France-Presse

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines  - Troops overran the jungle lair of Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in the troubled southern Philippines, killing 5 of the guerrillas, the military said Sunday.

Comelec says ready for ARMM polls


MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it is ready for the August 8 polls in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

3rd batch of Pinoys from Egypt to arrive home

MANILA, Philippines – The third batch of Filipinos who volunteered to be repatriated from Cairo, Egypt will arrive on Monday afternoon, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Sunday.

In a text message to, DFA spokesman Ed Malaya said the group is composed of 36 Filipinos.

Malaya said they left Cairo International Airport on board a commercial plane at 12:15 p.m.

“They will arrive at the NAIA on Monday, Feb 14, 3:30 p.m.,” he said.

Manila bus hostage inquest to start in Hong Kong

by Agence France-Presse

HONG KONG, China  - A Hong Kong inquest into a Manila bus hijacking that left eight tourists dead is set to start Monday, after the incident sparked a diplomatic meltdown over claims of shoddy police work.

‘No violation of One China policy in dealings with Taiwan’

MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang defended on Sunday its plan to send an emissary to Taiwan to explain the government’s side in deporting 14 of its nationals to China.

In an interview with radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the plan to send an emissary there will not violate the One China policy.

“It’s not a violation. It’s a trade and tourism issue as well. We need to explain it to them, for the sake of the welfare of Filipinos working in Taiwan,” she stressed.

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s plans caught the attention of some critics, with some noting that he may be stepping on the One China policy.

The Philippines does not have any diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which is considered by China as a renegade province. The Philippines recognizes the Beijing government as China.

This means that Malacanang still has to be careful about sending an emissary to Taiwan.

The deportation of the 14 fraud suspects to China even became an issue. The suspects held “Taiwanese” passports, but were deported to China because their supposed crimes happened there, Malacanang earlier explained.

The actions of the government have already reportedly affected the country’s deployment industry.

Because of the diplomatic row between the government and Taiwan, the Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan (PILMAT) said they are now experiencing stricter visa processing for overseas Filipino workers.

PILMAT said the usual one-week processing now takes about four months to finish.

PILMAT President Jackson Gan said more than 5,000 OFWs scheduled to depart this February and March have been blocked by the new visa rules issued last Feb. 10, 2011 by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), which serves as the de facto embassy for the Republic of China (Taiwan).

In a press release issued today, PILMAT suggested that Malacanang set up a one-stop center that would facilitate the authentication of documents now needed for visa applications for Taiwan.

PILMAT is requesting the help of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to coordinate with the DFA, NBI, NSO, SSS, Comelec, and Philhealth in setting up a one-stop shop where the required documents can be procured and authenticated in a shorter span of time instead of the usual 5-7 working days at the DFA.

This one-stop shop will also benefit new applicants for Taiwan and will facilitate the issuance of the authenticated documents saving them money since all the documents needed by the TECO can be issued by the one stop center.

Tax exemption for SRP sought

by cebuweb

THE Cebu City Government is seeking an exemption from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) from paying the income tax of the South Road Properties (SRP).

Councilor Jose Daluz III, who chairs the council’s committee on budget and finance, said the BIR told them the City is subject to income tax since it is exercising its proprietary functions.

But Daluz wants BIR to release a definitive ruling if the 290-hectare lot is, indeed, subject to income tax.

Magpale confident in Ad Congress bid

by By Gregg M. Rubio/JMO

CEBU, Philippines - Board Member Agnes Magpale is confident that Cebu will get to host the 2011 Advertising Congress in November.

Magpale was with Governor Gwendolyn Garcia in Manila last Friday to present Capitol’s bid. Cebu City, meanwhile, was represented by Ann Conejero, managing director of Graphic FX Advertising and Design. The Advertising Board reportedly treated the bid of Cebu Province and Cebu City as one.

Results of the bidding will be released within the week, Magpale said.

The province is offering the Cebu International Convention Center as venue of the congress. CICC can accommodate at least 3,000 delegates as proven during the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in 2007. On the other hand, Cebu City will take care of the delegates’ accommodations since hotels are mostly located in its jurisdiction.

Other contenders are Baguio City and Camarines Sur.

Magpale, who chairs the Provincial Board committee on tourism, said Cebu has the edge over the other contenders particularly Camarines Sur in terms of accessibility and accommodation.

The event’s organizers give importance to access and infrastructure. One requirement, for example, is a plenary hall that can accommodate up to 4,000 delegates.

Earlier, Garcia said the move of Capitol to bid for the Ad Congress is not meant to compete with the city government. She said that the province will be happy to work with the city in bidding for the event. Cebu hosted the event twice in 2001 and 2005.

Both Garcia and Rama believe that hosting the event again would boost Cebu’s economy. Should Cebu get to host the event, about 2,500 to 4,000 delegates from top business firms, advertising agencies and media companies will be pouring in money to the local hotel and service industries.

Aside from this, Garcia said the fact that the event will be held here will give prestige to Cebu.

Garcia said Cebu is equipped with the needed infrastructures, convention centers, and hotel rooms. Likewise, there is so much for the delegates to experience like natural heritage, adventure sites, the sea, the mountains and the “incomparable Cebuano hospitality.”

The Ad Congress was held before in the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu City with activities and parties spread out in various hotels, resorts and entertainment nightspots.

Egypt's military rulers suspend constitution

by Reuters

Egypt's new military rulers said on Sunday they had dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and would govern only for six months or until elections took place, following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt military junta under pressure from protesters

by Reuters

CAIRO, Egypt - Egypt's new military rulers, who have promised to hand power to civilians, faced impatient protesters on Sunday who want swift steps to prove their nation is set for democracy after Hosni Mubarak's overthrow.

Britain seeks international action on Mubarak assets

LONDON – Britain urged the international community on Sunday to take "concerted" action to deal with any assets held abroad by ousted former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Thousands rally to demand Algerian leader quits

by Agence France-Presse

ALGIERS – Up to 2,000 demonstrators evaded massed police Saturday to rally in a central Algiers square, pressing for the demise of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika following the ouster of leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.

Yemeni protesters march toward Palace, clashes erupt

by Reuters

SANAA, Yemen - Anti-government protesters clashed with police trying to prevent them from marching towards Yemen's presidential palace in Sanaa on Sunday, witnesses said.

Food, population growth fueled Egypt uprising: analysts

by Agence France-Presse

PARIS, France - Huge population growth and food insecurity count among the factors that fuelled the revolution in Egypt and serve as a caution for other countries facing human and environmental overload, say analysts. Egypt -- and Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen to a lesser extent -- found itself in a perfect storm in which massive youth unemployment conjoined with hunger and resentment over poverty to threaten an authoritarian regime, they say. In just 25 years, Egypt's population has risen by nearly two-thirds, from 50 million in 1985 to around 83 million today, with an average age of 24.

Mugabe in Singapore for eye surgery checks: paper

by Reuters

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is in Singapore for a medical review after undergoing a cataract operation there last month but is expected to come home before his birthday next week, state media reported on Sunday.

Thai 'reds,' 'yellows' rally on Bangkok's streets

by Reuters

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thousands of Thais held colour-coded "red" and "yellow" protests in Bangkok on Sunday, underlining persistent anti-government sentiment and deep political divisions ahead of an election planned this year.

UK to allow same-sex marriage in church: reports

by Reuters

LONDON, England - Britain plans to allow same-sex  unions to be celebrated in places of worship, removing a key legal distinction between homosexual civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage, newspapers reported on Sunday.

'Obama now has time to meet Pacquiao'


With the calming of Egypt after thousands of demonstrators brought down Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, it looks like a meeting between boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao and US President Barack Obama is now possible. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum revealed this himself.

Donaire, Pacquiao vow to make Pinoys proud

MANILA, Philippines — One week before his clash with Mexican boxer Fernando Montiel, Filipino bantamweight contender Nonito Donaire Jr. has landed on Las Vegas, Nevada.

Donaire went straight to the University of Las Vegas track aboard a van with a picture of him spread across the vehicle's surface.

The "Filipino Flash" went early for his training as to get himself used to the cold climate.

From his 7-week long training, Donaire underwent sprints to improve his speed and power.

He said he will use these routines once more to help him seize Montiel's World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) bantamweight crowns, when they go toe-to-toe at the Mandalay Bay Resorts and Casino in Las Vegas February 19 (Feb. 20, in Manila).

"Ready na 'ko at excited na ako sa laban na ito," said Donaire.

Donaire is busy training with trainer Jonathan Penñalosa and wife Rachel.

The 3 are now anticipating their team to be complete soon.


Pacman wishes Donaire luck

Compatriot and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao also arrived in Las Vegas to kick off his press tour of his fight with American "Sugar" Shane Mosley.

He met Mosley at the MGM Grand Arena, which has been seeping with fans who were also allowed to ask questions.

The fans were thrilled when Mosley and Pacquiao went centerstage to have their pictures taken.

Meanwhile, Mosley claimed he is faster than Pacquiao's most recent foe, Antonio Margarito. Of this, Mosley believes he will have better chances against Pacman.

"My conditioning is very good. It's in tip-top shape... I know he throws a lot of punches so I'm gonna make sure that I'm ready to go to war with Manny Pacquiao," the American boxer said.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, said he is excited to take on the former 3-time world champion.

"Hindi ito mabagal na kalaban. Hindi siya kasing slow kay Margarito. Mosley he had also speed. Kailangan nating paghandaang mabuti... [I will] train hard for his fight para hindi naman ma-disappoint ang mga fans and the millions of Filipinos,"  he said.

Pacquiao also sent his regards on Donaire for the upcoming bantamweight title fight.

"Pinoy power! Good luck to Donaire and itaas mo ang bandila, at nandito kamisa likod mo at nagdadasal ulit. Salamat samga karangalan na binigay mo sa bansa. Kaming mga Pilipino ay proud sa 'yo," he said.

Rondo triple-double gets Celtics by Heat (AP)

BOSTON (AP)—Rajon Rondo(notes) had a triple-double with 11 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, and the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics beat the Miami Heat 85-82 on Sunday to clinch the season series against their top pursuer.

LeBron James(notes) scored 22 points for Miami, which had won eight in a row. But he missed the first of two free throws with 13 seconds left and the Heat trailing by two points.

The Celtics (39-14) took back the top spot in the conference from Miami (39-15) and earned the tiebreaker for home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Palace: Valentine's to be normal working day for PNoy

Monday may be a special occasion for many Filipinos, but Valentine’s Day will just be a “regular working day" for President Benigno Aquino III, Malacañang said Sunday.

Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said Aquino will treat Feb. 14 the same way he did his birthday last Feb. 8 – just another day for work.

Alam natin (We know that) it’s a regular working day in the same way the President’s birthday was a regular working day for him. Valentine’s Day is a regular working day for the President," she said on government-run dzRB radio.

She declined to comment on whether Aquino will have a date on Monday. After breaking up with Valenzuela City Councilor Shalani Soledad, Aquino has been linked to stylist Liz Uy and broker Len Lopez.

Valte added her office does not keep tabs on Aquino’s personal life, noting Aquino himself may occasionally answer questions on his love life in ambush interviews by the media.

Wala tayong alam sa personal na life ni Pangulong Aquino (We cannot intrude on Aquino’s personal life)," she said.

“But I can say for the record (that) tomorrow for the President is a regular working day kahit (even if it is) Valentine’s," she added.

Bianca Manalo denies relationship with 'TV exec'

MANILA, Philippines – Beauty queen-turned-actress Bianca Manalo denied on Sunday that she is getting big breaks on ABS-CBN because of her supposed relationship with a television executive.

Manalo, the lead star of afternoon series “Juanita Banana,” told “The Buzz” that she is very dedicated when it comes to her work.

“Nagtra-trabaho [ako] ng maayos, professional akong magtrabaho. Nagagawa ko ng maayos ang trabaho ko, nakapagpapasaya ako ng manonood. ‘Yon po ang mahalaga sa akin,” she said.

Aside from “Juanita Banana,” Manalo used to be part of hit TV program “Magkaribal.” She now hosts ABS-CBN’s newest noontime show “Happy, Yipee, Yehey!”

Meanwhile, Manalo also made a denial when told to react on rumors that she is dating the estranged husband of Kris Aquino, cager James Yap.

She said she was surprised when told about it.

She said the last time she saw Yap was in 2009 when she was still the reigning Binibining Pilipinas-Universe. “Nag-muse ako for Purefoods, ‘yon lang.”

Vic Sotto to do fantasy-comedy film under Star Cinema


Prince of Comedy Vic Sotto will be paired with young actress Bea Alonzo in a fantasy-comedy film under Star Cinema. This is the first time that the 2 stars will work in one movie project together. Sotto and Alonzo were reportedly introduced to each other only during the story conference.

China restricts smoking in films, TV

by Agence France-Presse

BEIJING, China - China has ordered that smoking scenes in films and television series be restricted, amid concern it is failing to deliver on pledges to help its 300 million smokers kick the habit.

Cebu ready to distribute 10T condoms

CEBU CITY -- As lovers celebrate Valentine’s Day Monday, the Cebu City Health Department will continue to distribute condoms for free. Up to 10,000 condoms are available.

Dr. Ilya Tac-an, the city epidemiologist, said the contraceptives were originally intended for commercial sex workers and those working in the city’s night spots.

Individuals who have been diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) will also be prioritized.

But other people who will need condoms will also not be refused when they visit the CHD to ask for it.  

“We have a lot of condoms available for distribution, so we will continue to give them to those who work in night establishments, the freelancers and whoever will visit our office to ask for condoms,” said Tac-an, who is also the STD, HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) coordinator for Cebu City.

She said the distribution of free condoms is part of their campaign to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS in the city.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier requested the Department of Health (DOH) not to give away condoms to couples on Valentine’s Day.

CBCP believes the distribution of condoms could send wrong signals, particularly to the youth, that premarital sex is acceptable as long as long as couples take precautionary measures.

But Tac-an said that making condoms available to those who need it is part of their tasks.

For the whole month, the CHD will be conducting a surveillance as part of its HIV survey and will be taking blood samples of individuals who are at risk.

They also handed out free condoms to identified clients after conducting interviews for the HIV survey.

Tac-an disclosed that last year alone, they recorded 183 persons who had just found out they had HIV. One was later diagnosed with Aids.

Two new cases were also reported this year, but the CHD is still waiting for the results of the confirmatory tests on the specimen sent to Manila.

Tac-an said, though, that condom use is only one of the three components of the government’s ABC program to prevent HIV and AIDS.

The ABC campaign stands for “Abstinence from sex,” “Be faithful to your partner” and “Condom use.”

“We already know how one can get infected with HIV, it’s through sex and sharing syringes and needles during drug use. So we always remind those injecting drugs not to share needles. And we always have to go back to the basics, the ABC,” Tac-an said.

She also appealed to Cebuanos to undergo HIV tests regularly so they can detect the virus early on, and help prevent the spread of the disease.

AIDS-Free Philippines country director Rene Josef Bullecer earlier clarified that condom use is not the appropriate solution to the rising HIV cases.

In an earlier interview, Bullecer said the distribution of condoms is even a form of discrimination against women, particularly those working in bars, because “it’s as if the government is branding all of them as prostitutes.”

Bullecer believes that abstinence from sex and staying faithful to ones partner is the more effective ways to fight HIV, and not the use of condoms.

The unshared story of room boys

MANILA, Philippines – Motels are considerably a hit during Valentine's Day.

They are the place where lovers can canoodle far from the judging public eye. They are the zone where sweethearts can do whatever they want, and for however long they want.

But of course, there are more motel stories to share behind the usual "things" that happen in bed.

For one, there are stories of the young men charged as caretakers of the place and called as "room boys."

A room boy's job includes delivering quality service to the lovers who come in and rent rooms.

But above everything else, John Rey Conde says, a room boy has to follow the "code of silence."

"Bawal sa amin na iyong nakikita namin ay ikuwento namin sa labas," he said.

Conde has spent the past 2 years working as a room boy.

He said part of his job is to assist partners and to assure the motel provides them quality service.

However, it is not a secret that room boys generally earn a low income.

Conde says he receives a meager P85 a day or P2,500 for a month, for his 12-hour work a day.

The room boy also points out the attitude of certain costumers, which becomes a burden on their job.

"[Kapag] madaming customer... 'pag hindi na-assist iyong customer, nagagalit. [Ang sinasabi ay] 'Tagal naman ng serbisyo niyo, boy!'" Conde said.

Dan Rodan, also a room boy, shares Conde's plight. He seconds his fellow, saying that the salary they earn is not enough to sustain them.

"Sana naman dagdagan ang sahod namin, kasi hindi magkasya sa pangangailangan namin," Rodan said.

Meanwhile, the motel where Conde and Rodan are employed, admitted that its room boys indeed receive such low salaries.

The motel management, however, assured that it will give them salary and/or benefit adjustments.

The cheapskate's guide to celebrating Valentine's

MANILA, Philippines - Valentine's Day, February 14, in 2011 falls on a Monday. That means many of the country's workforce who traditionally receive their salaries on the 15th and 30th of the month won't be loaded with cash on the day for lovers.

Now how can one celebrate Valentine's Day on a budget? Is it possible to express your love in a special way without spending much?

The answer: a resounding yes! All it takes is a bit of creativity and research.

Here are 6 ways a cheapskate can celebrate Valentine's Day with his/her sweetheart in style:

1. Have a DVD marathon at home.

Buy some DVDs at the mall, or, if really pressed for cash, borrow DVDs from your officemate or friend. Schedule a DVD marathon for the evening, microwave some popcorn, put some comfy throw pillows on the sofa, and dim the lights. Romantic comedies would be good picks.

2. Take a cruise around Manila Bay.

Make it a "Titanic" night sans the sinking and book a cruise around Manila Bay via Prestige Cruises. The P500 fee already includes meals, serenade, and hour-long cruise.

3. Go biking.

Turn Valentine's into a healthy date and go biking at Quezon City Circle on Elliptical Road near Quezon City Hall. Bikes are for rent at cheap prices and you can enjoy the breeze as you pedal alongside your special someone.

4. Attend a free concert or event.

Many of the malls have scheduled free concerts this Valentine's weekend and on Valentine's Day itself.

Ayala Malls, for instance, has booked Nyoy Volante and jazz artists for separate concerts.

At SM Malls, a symphony orchestra will play romantic tunes to delight mall visitors.

A string quartet, meanwhile, will be serenading mall visitors at Robinsons Place Manila on Valentine's Day.

At Rizal Park in Manila, Concert at the Park will feature an all-Filipino program dubbed "Tula at Awit ng Pag-ibig" on Sunday, February 13. It promises to be a night of music and poetry.

5. Dine on fishballs and other street food.

Romantic dinner dates don't just mean eating at a pricey place.

For a change, bring your date to a night of feasting on street food at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman for some good fishballs, squid balls, kekiam, isaw, and barbeque. You can splurge on all the food you want with some drinks thrown in for P200.

6. Serenade each other via videoke.

There's nothing like a heartfelt serenade from a loved one. Sing to your sweetheart live by going to a videoke place or even a videoke booth at an arcade. Each song may cost only P5.

Valentine's Day celebrations need not be expensive. Just ask lovers -- they would attest that being with the one they love is all that matters.

Prayers, patience to bring true love, says priest

Prayers, patience to bring true love, says priest

MANILA, Philippines – To all single ladies and gents out there, don’t envy couples going on romantic dates on Valentine’s Day on Monday. Find comfort in what a Catholic Church official has to say: Just pray and your true love will come at the proper time.

“This may sound corny, especially to the youth, but the truth is, to have a suitable and worthy partner, it must be asked from God,” said Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.

Castro said unattached men and women must not let Valentine’s Day and the outpouring of affection and hormones that go with it pressure them into rushing love.

“Love life is not rushed. It comes at the proper time, most especially with prayers,” Castro told reporters on Sunday. “They must not be green with envy if they don’t have a date [today] because searching for the one to love and love you in return needs time.”

The priest said it would better to wait and be discerning than to be “fooled” by a wrong kind of love.

“So to all the singles, especially the young people, be very discerning, responsible and prayerful,” said Castro.

He added that Valentine’s Day was not merely showing affection to a partner, but also to friends, relatives and family.

“They can always show their love to a friend, or a niece or nephew or a relative, so they don’t need to be gloomy,” he said. “The singles could also go out on a group date and bond.”

'Apoy ka ba?' and other desperate pick-up lines

For the singles out there, presumably searching even on Valentine's Day, it's as good a time as any to practice a few pick-up lines. They come with no guarantees. (By the way, "Kasi 'alab' you" is the other half of the pick-up line in the headline. Would you fall for that one?)

(For maximum effect, read aloud – with feeling!)

“Are you on Facebook? ‘Coz I’d definitely click Like."

“Oops, I think I lost my number. Can I have yours?"

“If I were an Azkal, then you are my goal."

“Sorry, I forgot your name, can I call you mine?"

“Well, here I am! What were your two other wishes?"

“If I were a gardener, I'd put your tulips and my tulips together."

“Hi, you got raisins? No? Well, how about a date?"

“My love for you is like diarrhea. I just can't hold it in."

“You must be a thief, ‘coz you stole my heart."

“Hi, I'm Right... Mr. Right. You were looking for me?"

“Is your name Gillette? Coz you’re the best a man can get!"

“I’m not drunk. I’m just intoxicated by you."

“Your legs must be tired, coz you’ve been running through my mind all night."

“You must be Jamaican, coz Jamaican me crazy."

“You’re like a dictionary. You add meaning to my life."

“Hi, my name is (your name), and you are... gorgeous!"

“Are you a tamale? Coz you're hot!"

“Hi, have I seen you before? Oh yes, now I remember, in my dreams!"

“I’m invisible. Can you see me? How about tomorrow night?"

“Am I in heaven? Or do you just look like an angel?"

“Your dad must’ve been retarded, ‘coz you are special."

“Your dad must be a terrorist, ‘coz yoh da bomb!"

“Was your dad an alien? ‘Coz honey, there’s nothing else like you on planet Earth!"

“Do you have a map? ‘Coz I keep getting lost in your eyes."

“Am I a bad shooter? ‘Coz I keep on missing you."

“Hi, you must be the devil? ‘Coz you're hot as hell!"

“Hi, I’m Batman. Do you wanna see my batmobile?"

“Hi, I'm Superman. Can you read my mind?"

“Hi, you look a lot like my next girlfriend."

“Wanna bet 100 bucks you're gonna turn me down?"

“Kiss me if I’m wrong… but isn't your name (take a guess)?"

“Life without you would be like a broken pencil... pointless."

“Hi, I know I’m a guy but I want to be Alice, coz your body's a Wonderland."

In Tagalog

O, Tagalog naman tayo, dahil mas matindi raw humirit ang mga Pinoy:

“Miss, Google ka ba? Kasi, nasa iyo ang lahat ng hinahanap ko."

“Miss, album ka ba? Kasi, single ako, eh."

“Apoy ka ba? Kasi ‘alab’ you."

“Para kang traffic sa EDSA! ‘Coz I just can't move on!"

“Tatakbo ka ba sa eleksyon? Kasi, botong-boto sa yo ang parents ko."

“Ice ka ba? Crush kita eh."

“Para kang tindera ng sigarilyo. You give me ‘hope’ and ‘more’..."

“Calculator ka ba? Kasi, sa 'yo pa lang, solved na ko."

“Keyboard ka ba? Kasi type kita."

“Pustiso ka ba? ‘Coz I can’t smile without you."

“Kung posporo ka at posporo ako, eh di, match tayo!"

“Di mo pa nga ako binabato, tinatamaan na 'ko sa yo."

“Pulis ba tatay mo? Kasi, nahuli mo ang puso ko."

“Matalino ka ba talaga? Sige nga, sagutin mo 'ko!"

“Buti pa ang email, may attachment."

“Di ka naman camera, pero tuwing nakikita kita, napapangiti ako."

“Dalawang beses lang naman kita gusto makasama... ‘now’ and ‘forever.’"

“Inii-SMALL ka ba nila? Di bale, inii-BIG naman kita!"

“Hindi lahat ng buhay ay buhay. Tingnan mo 'ko – buhay nga pero patay na patay naman sa 'yo!"

“Kodigo ka ba? Kasi, ikaw ang sagot sa lahat ng tanong ko, eh."

“Kakapagod kasing umupo, eh. Pwede bang tayo na lang?"

“Hindi ka ba nalulungkot, babe? Nag-iisa ka lang kase sa puso ko eh."

“Top view, side view, bottom view, kahit anong view, I love view."

“Tulisan ba tatay mo? Kasi nabihag mo puso ko."

“Magaling ka ba sa algebra? Can you substitute my ‘x’?"

“Masasabi mo bang bobo ako, kung ikaw lamang ang laman ng utak ko?"

“Amo ba kita? Bakit inaalila mo ang puso ko?"

“Centrum ka ba? Kasi, you make my life complete!"

“Alam mo ba ang pinakamasarap na feeling sa buong mundo? Ang maka-feeling ka!"

“Miss, mekaniko ka ba? Kasi, ikaw na ang nagpapatakbo ng buhay ko."

“Miss, pwede ka bang maging side-car? Single kasi ako."


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