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

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 15, 2011 Major News Stories (

February 15, 2011 Major News Stories
February 15, 2011 Major News Stories

Gas prices to go down, but diesel prices up slightly, say energy, industry official

MANILA, Philippines—Local oil companies are soon expected to roll back prices of gasoline, following the latest price movements in the world market, according to Energy Undersecretary Jose Ma. Layug Jr.

But Layug said on Monday that prices of diesel would increase slightly.

An official of an independent oil firm has separately confirmed that local gasoline prices are likely to go down by 50 centavos a liter, while diesel prices are seen rising by 50 centavos a liter. The official asked that the oil company not be identified at the moment, pending the release of its final advisory on price adjustments by 6 p.m. Monday.

Jeepney may shift to new LPG engine, says group

The Philippine jeepney, a basic mode of transportation in the country and the largest market for diesel fuel, may shift to liquefied petroleum gas after a study launched Monday, called "Love the Air, Save the Planet," is completed.

To skirt anomalies, NFA to bid out rice imports

The National Food Authority Council on Monday approved a measure to bid out rice import allocations, junking a first-come, first-served system that has supposedly bred connivances between private rice importers and NFA insiders.

Groups seek P405 wage

CEBU CITY -- Seven labor organizations jointly filed Monday a petition for wage adjustment before the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in Central Visayas.

In making the demand, the groups cited the eroding purchasing power of the peso, increasing prices of commodities and the increasing fare rates, among others.

These are the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Shemberg Employees Independent Union, Kan-irag Employees Labor Organization, Grand Majestic Convention Center Employees Union, Lonbisco Employees Organization, Cebu Midtown Hotel Employees Union (CMHEU), and Public Interest Advocacy and Litigation Office.

In a press conference, APL chairperson Joe Tomongha, CMHEU chairperson Jojo Regis and Cebu Labor Coalition (Celac) chairperson Boboie Belar-mino jointly announced they are not seeking a wage increase, but a "wage adjustment" because whatever amount that will be added to the existing minimum wage of P285 per day will just cover the amount of increase in fares and prices of commodities, as well as the reduction of the value of the peso.


They said that based on documents provided by the National Statistics Office (NSO), the minimum wage of P285 per day is equivalent to only "P16.24" during purchase.

The NSO records showed that for January 2011, the consumer price index was 175.3, inflation rate was 3.4 percent, and purchasing power of the peso was P0.57.

They asked the RTWPB-Central Visayas to increase the workers' wages by P120.40, across the board, so the minimum wage will become P405.40 from P285 per day.

The same labor groups filed a petition for wage increase of P150.45 in May 2010, but the RTWPB 7 only granted P18.

"When we filed our petition for wage increase last year, we had a scientific computation, but our figures were ignored by RTWPB, which granted only P18 without basis," Tomongha said.

Other grounds

Their other grounds for the P120.40 wage adjustment are the insufficient increases from the past, unstable oil prices, Revised Value Added Tax, hike in taxes, effects of globalization, and the increases in water and power rates, Belarmino said.

The three labor leaders said that even if the minimum wage is raised to P405.40 per day in Central Visayas, the amount still wouldn't be enough for a family of six.

"This is very far below the living wage determined by Neda (National Economic and Development Authority) of P867 per day for a family of six and how much a family should spend every month to meet their basic needs," Belarmino said.

Did police get right couple?

WHILE his office is still “ironing out” a formal complaint, the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) director said yesterday he is “morally convinced” the police caught the right couple for the death of a six-year-old girl.

But Minglanilla officials and a group of professionals who raised a bounty for the suspects’ arrest think it’s premature to release the rewards.

The Provincial Board (PB), in its session yesterday, condemned the “heartbreaking” crime and asked all barangays to assign at least two tanods near each school, from the pre-school to high school levels.

The Provincial Task Force on Anti-Criminality will finalize today what complaints to file against Norwegian national Sven Erik Berger and Cebuana nurse Karen Esdrelon.

Provincial Attorney Marino Martinquilla, whom Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia tasked to help in the prosecution, said yesterday the suspects’ defense, an alibi, seems weak.

But some doubts remained.

“There is no scientific evidence pointing to the couple as the perpetrators. Basin namay-ongan lang siguro (maybe they just looked alike), so we will just wait for further developments,” Minglanilla Councilor Concordio Mejias said.


He said the Minglanilla officials will only release the P100,000 bounty once it’s proven that the police arrested the right suspects in the abduction and murder of Ellah Joy Pique.

Lawyer Frank Malilong, speaking on behalf of another group that pledged P200,000, said he trusts the police, but that the reward will only be granted after “reasonable certainty” is reached—possibly, if a prosecutor finds probable cause to bring the case to court.

Berger and Esdrelon had a roundtrip ticket to Hong Kong. At one point last Saturday night, before an immigration officer “off-loaded” them, Esdrelon joked that Berger resembled the sketch of a man at the immigration counter.

Their lawyer, Salvador Solima, said in a phone interview that he already has a certification that the couple was in a Norwegian school, where Esdrelon enrolled, at the time Ellah Joy was kidnapped in Minglanilla.

They stayed in the school from 3:30 p.m. until 4:20 p.m., he said. Solima is also getting another certification from the Waterfront Hotel, that the couple stayed there last Feb. 8.


They never left Cebu City on that day, when the child was abducted, Solima said.

He described his clients’ arrest as “drastic and arbitrary.”

Interviewed separately, Councilor Mejias of Minglanilla said: “It is premature to release the cash reward because of some doubts that they could just be fall guys.”

In the meantime, the Minglanilla police will continue investigating the case.

Minglanilla Police Chief Laurel Almirante said they will not discard any information related to the case, despite the arrest of the couple last Saturday night at the Mactan airport.

But for Senior Supt. Erson Digal, head of the CPPO, the case is solved.

He said the witnesses, all children from Calajoan, Minglanilla, are certain that

Berger, 49, and Esdrelon, 24, were the ones who asked Ellah to board a black SUV exactly a week ago, outside a Minglanilla public school.


Digal, lawyer Kit Enriquez and Provincial Attorney Martinquila faced the witnesses at the CPPO conference room yesterday.

Digal showed the passports and sketches to them, and then the lawyers asked if they were the couple who abducted Ellah last Tuesday. The children confirmed.

Enriquez said positive identification “cannot be overcome” by alibis.

The lawyers, who were later joined by Atty. Malilong, were preparing the witnesses’ affidavits for the possible filing of cases today, Digal said.

Police were also fielded yesterday to check the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu City and other establishments Berger and Esdrelon said they visited.

In a forum yesterday, Director Digal admitted his office is not pursuing any other

leads not related to the Norwegian and his girlfriend, even though the Norwegian community in Cebu may have another suspect in mind.

Atty. Malilong said the police aren’t likely to manufacture charges just to claim a


“I have so much trust in the police. My father was a policeman. He did his job ma naa ba’y kwarta or wala (whether there’s any reward or not). The reward, perhaps, is an added premium that will probably not even go to them because the information came from someone else,” he said.

NBI probe

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 is conducting its own investigation, as ordered by Regional Director Edward Villarta yesterday.

Agents, however, said theirs will be more of a fact-finding inquiry as the family has not formally requested the NBI for help.

Digal said their case rests on the testimony of the three child-witnesses who saw Ellah Joy being taken and the statement of the immigration official who stopped the couple at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport last Saturday night.

He stressed that the testimony of a self-admitted pimp is not among the evidences they will use.

The pimp has claimed that the Norwegian approached him on Colon St. at 5 p.m. last Feb. 7 and commissioned him to look for a girl he could bring with him to Moalboal.

The pimp’s testimony subsequently sent Digal and his men fruitlessly scouring resorts in Moalboal, with one of the witnesses in tow, last Saturday.


The pimp’s claim was later proven false. Berger arrived in Cebu a full hour and 40 minutes after he was supposedly in Colon.

“Wala siya gi apil sa witness. Basin nangambisyon ra to siya sa reward (He wasn’t included as a witness. Maybe he was just after the reward),” Digal said. He added that it was the pimp who approached them with information.

He stressed that their case against the two suspects is strong, adding that the Cebu Provincial Anti-Crime Task Force interviewed the witnesses and helped review the affidavits.

“The identification was very clear, down to earth,” said Enriquez. “And in their hearts, they know that these are the people who took away their schoolmate.”

Also yesterday, at least 500 high school students from the Tulay National High School in Minglanilla conducted a prayer rally at the Calajoan Elementary School.

Carrying placards and signs, they condemned the abduction and murder of Pique.


The Franciscan Friars of Charity, led by Bro. Peter Simon Jardinico, organized the rally. Students then proceeded to Ellah Joy’s house and held a vigil there with the girl’s family and friends.

Jardinico said that after Ellah Joy’s body was found in Barili, two more children from Barangays Tulay and Calajoan were nearly abducted by unidentified men last weekend.

In a separate interview, Rena (not her real name) said yesterday that a man riding a red car attempted to abduct her last Saturday.

Rena, a second-year student of the Tulay National High School, said that while she was waiting for her mother, a red car suddenly stopped in front of her at 10 a.m.

A white-haired man, who appeared to be in his 40s, suddenly talked to her and asked her where she was going. The car’s windows were closed, so Rena said she couldn’t tell if the man was alone.

Rena told the man she was waiting for her mother, but refused his offer of a ride.


He followed her in his car, until she approached the barangay hall. The teenager reported the incident to the police.

Jardinico said one of their order’s scholars studying in Calajoan Elementary School was almost abducted by unidentified men.

With these incidents happening, the community needs to make sure its children are protected, he said.

Malilong and his group have raised P174,000 as of yesterday. Cebu City Vice Mayor Augustus Young also announced the council will give P25,000.

The group will come up with guidelines on how the reward will be given.

“We’re coming up with a foundation, and while the contributions from the people will be welcomed, it will be funded mostly by us as our expression of solidarity with children,” Malilong said.

“The longer I delve into this, the more I realize that it doesn’t have to stop with Ella Joy. We need to do something to protect our children,” he added.

Girl, 7, picks Pinay nurse in PNP lineup

A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD girl yesterday identified Karen Esdrelon as the woman who allegedly tried to lure her away from her mother in a chapel in Mandaue City.

The girl identified Esdrelon, 24, in a police lineup at the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) headquarters at 4 p.m. yesterday.

CPPO Director Erson Digal said in a phone interview that Elena Cabahug’s daughter stood before a lineup of three policewomen, a female CPPO clerk and Esdrelon, who was on the right side of the girl, at 4:30 p.m.

Digal and Esdrelon’s lawyer Salvador Solima were beside the girl.

Digal said the girl pointed at Esdrelon, who was in a brown dress, after she was asked who tried to kidnap her.

Police officer

“Kanang naka brown, Sir (the one in brown),” Digal recalled what the girl said.

Digal said he tried to deceive the girl by saying the woman she pointed at is a police officer.

Solima said in a separate phone interview that a policewoman was the one pointed to by the girl, not Esdrelon. He said he thanked the girl.

Solima said no member from the media witnessed what they were doing at the CPPO and insisted Esdrelon is innocent.


“Wa ta kahibaw, nag-apas pod sila sa P200,000 nga reward (We don’t know if they are only after the bounty),” he said.

Digal said they will get an affidavit from the girl today.

The girl said it was Esdrelon who sat beside her inside the Sacred Heart Chapel in Sitio Lourdes, Barangay Jagobiao and tried to take her away.

The girl’s mother said she noticed her daughter talking to a woman during mass but did not mind them because she thought they were friends.

After the mass, the child and the woman disappeared, causing Elena to panic. She saw them a few meters from the chapel.


She said she immediately got hold of her daughter but did not notice where Esdrelon, who was alone then, went after that.

Esdrelon and Norwegian boyfriend Sven Erik Berger were identified as suspects in the abduction and killing of Ellah Joy Pique, 6, of Minglanilla.

Pique disappeared last Feb. 8 after she was lured into a vehicle allegedly by a Caucasian male and a Filipina. Her body was found the next day at the bottom of a ravine in Barili.

The mother of the girl from Mandaue denied that she is after the P300,000 bounty.


“Gusto nako mahunong na ni tanan kidnap ug patay kay ang akoang anak puro babaye unya mahadlok ko para nila (I want the kidnapping and killings to stop because I am afraid for my daughters),” she said.

Digal said the girl's identification of Esdrelon will bolster their case against her.

He added that the police is planning to file another complaint against Esdrelon.

Elena came to Mandaue City Police Office Director Noel Gillamac's office after seeing Esdrelon’s picture in the newspapers.

Meanwhile, Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (Cebu, sixth district) urged the public to rekindle the bayanihan spirit and help protect even other people’s children.

Quisumbing distributed toys and learning materials to 100 pre-schoolers last Saturday at the Norkis Park in Barangay Centro, Man-daue City.


“We are very bullish in promoting our tourism industry. But in the process, we are also inviting the good and the crooks,” he said.

He said the PNP needs to further strengthen its linkages with international law enforcers to prevent criminals from entering the country.

He also promised to provide vehicles to all the barangays in Mandaue City and in the towns of Consolacion and Cordova.

Gillamac said the Police Regional Office 7, specifically the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Division, and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime have links with international law enforcers to track down criminals, as well as suspects involved in human trafficking.

For his part, Gillamac said he is always in touch with his former instructor and classmates in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and friends from US Naval Criminal Intelligence Service.

Arrest has made our love stronger: Norwegian national

THEIR love became stronger after their arrest, professed Norwegian Sven Erik Berger.

Berger, 49, and his Cebuana girlfriend Karen Esdrelon, 24, celebrated Valentine’s Day at the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), not in Hong Kong.

Woman arrested for alleged illegal recruitment

A SUSPECTED illegal recruiter was arrested for accepting money a jobseeker paid for an allegedly non-existent job in Dubai and Malaysia.

Elizabeth Chua, who was arrested in an entrapment yesterday, was also accused of allegedly accepting money from nine more women she reportedly assured she could place overseas, either in Dubai or Malaysia.


“Subject promised to deploy me for employment within two months,” Daisy Mae Avila, one of the complainants, said.

Church asks City: Remove squatters from graveyard

WORRIED about the peace and order and sanitation in the cemetery, the Archdiocese of Cebu asked Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama for help in removing informal settlers and vendors inside the Carreta Cemetery.

Officials of the archdiocese said the cemetery has become a haven for drug users, drug peddlers, thieves and robbers.

Shelter ‘not for everyone’

ONLY residents affected in the clearing of rivers and creeks can stay at the temporary shelter provided by the Cebu City Government, an official of the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) said.

DSWS Head Cathy Yso, who will facilitate the stay of the affected residents, said they will make sure only those who were affected by the clearing operations will be provided with shelter.

So they can stay at the shelter, the affected families must show proof they are residents of the city.

Gov’t. to clear Citicenter of tenants for Speed

AS a first step in developing the area, the Cebu City Government ordered at least 100 families currently living inside the Citicenter Commercial Complex in Barangay Kamagayan to move out.

Noel Artes, chief of the Squatters Prevention, Elimination and Encroachment Division (Speed), said they have given the families until tomorrow to remove their structures.

City fire station probes 25-min. Mandaue blaze

FIRE razed a house in Mandaue City at 4:15 p.m. yesterday, turning to ashes P800,000 worth of valuables.

No one was reported hurt in the 25-minute fire in Hermag Village, Ba-rangay Basak.

Fire investigator SFO1 Arnold Lao said the 25-minute fire started in the room of May Ann, 29, daughter of house owner Romeo Pajares.

Lao said he has talked to Romeo’s wife Aida, 66, who was in the house together with her daughter May Ann and two helpers.

The City Fire Department is trying to verify if the cause of the fire is a cell phone that was being charged.

Fewer dengue cases this year

FEWER dengue cases were recorded by the Department of Health (DOH) 7 in the first six weeks of this year compared to the same period last year.

In the latest report of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu) of DOH 7, only 370 dengue fever cases and three deaths were recorded from Jan. 1 to Feb. 12, 2011.

The number is 68 percent lower compared to the same period last year, when 1,165 cases and 14 deaths were reported, or a case fatality rate of 1.2 percent.

Mayor wants homicide rap dropped

MEDELLIN Mayor Ricardo Ramirez yesterday asked the Office of the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor to dismiss the homicide charge filed against him in connection with the death of his aide, Edelberto “Delbi” Abao, last year.

In his counter-affidavit, Ramirez disputed the allegations of Abao’s son Edelito “Bembem” Abao and his witnesses.

“The complainant and his witnesses are not credible as witnesses and their testimonies are not only contradictory, baseless, unfounded and fabricated, the same are all hearsay,” he said.

Barili town officials to meet with governor

LOCAL government officials of Barili will meet with Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia next week to discuss the issues sorrounding the town’s 2011 budget.

Vice Mayor Marlon Garcia, the governor’s younger brother, said he is not a “cry-baby.”

But, since Mayor Teresito Mariñas had written a complaint to the governor and the Provincial Board (PB), he said, they will discuss the town’s budget in the presence of his sister.

Veggie, flower growers post P70M income

CEBU City’s agricultural sector earned about P70 million last year, the City Agriculture Office reported.

But City Agriculturist Joelito Baclayon said the income could still go up, as the P70 million only covers the earnings from vegetable and flower growers.

City to honor eight outstanding farmers

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja/FPL

CEBU, Philippines - Eight Cebu City farmers will be recognized by the city government during its 74th Charter Day Celebration for having excelled in their field and for being an inspiration to the others to strive for success.

The awardees are Fernando Arcilla of Barangay Tagba-o, Lorna Borres and Rowena Zanoria of Adlaon, Ernesto Atuel of Cambinocot, Freddie Soten of Paril, Teodoro Borbon of Guba, Joecel Codilla of Lusaran and Rubilyn Patindol of Pung-ol Sibugay.

Each of them will receive P10,000 and a plaque of recognition from the city government.

Adlaon Tugbong Vendors Association and the COBCAWA Multipurpose Cooperative were adjudged as outstanding farmer association and outstanding cooperative, respectively.

All the awardees will be awarded during the launching of the three-day AgroFair at the Plaza Sugbo on February 17.

City Agriculturist Joelito Baclayon said that this is the second year that they chose a set of farmers to be awarded to inspire others to succeed.

He said that the agriculture industry in Cebu City contributes 20 percent in the income of the city’s market office.

The cut flower industry alone is a P20 million industry in the city while the fruits and high-end vegetables give the economy some P50 million a year.

Baclayon said that their thrust this year is more on improving the production and marketing system as they have figured that for the industry to grow bigger they have to assist farmers in the marketing.

Various marketing strategies were introduced to the farmers while the city increases their mobility by opening more farm-to-market roads and other interventions.

The city agriculture also organized farmers associations and cooperatives so the city may reach out to the farmers easily to provide assistance in various areas such as farm technologies that are provided by farm technicians deployed in mountain barangays.

Baclayon said that they are promoting organic farming which uses traditional farming practices like the use of organic fertilizers among others, which aims to abolish the use of artificial or chemical fertilizers.

The city is encouraging the farmers to adopt organic farming not only because it lessens their expenses but also promotes healthy crops.

The city agriculture regularly distributes organic fertilizers to mountain barangays. The city receives four tons of organic fertilizer and sludge of industrial wastewater from San Miguel Corporation.

Sludge refers to the residual of the treatment process conducted by San Miguel to its wastewater. Baclayon said that they have proven this as an effective fertilizer for fruit bearing trees and other crops.

Meanwnhile, the Cebu City Youth Development Council is in the process of screening the nominees for the 12th Search for Outstanding Youth of Cebu City.

Councilor Sisinio Andales, chairman of CCYDC, said that they will conduct the final interview on February 18. The Awarding is on February 24 where five outstanding youth shall receive awards in five various categories - High School, College, Vocational, Community and Professional.

Andales said that past awardees have now succeeded in their various careers.

Senators’ ‘finger-pointing’ riles Miriam

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Amid criticisms on the way senators treated the late military chief Angelo Reyes during a Senate hearing, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Monday said the finger-pointing among senators must stop.

Robles may testify in Senate Blue Ribbon probe


MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Teofisto "TG" Guingona III on Monday said he may invite retired Navy Commodore Rex Robles to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on military corruption.

Lim says military graft probe must continue


MANILA, Philippines - Former Scout Ranger chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, a leader of 2 major plots to overthrow the Arroyo government over various issues like corruption, said the death of former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes should not hamper further investigations on military irregularities.

Drilon wants prosecutors charged over Garcia case


MANILA, Philippines - Senate Finance Committee chairman Franklin Drilon wants government prosecutors who entered into a plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia charged with graft.

Aquino: No talks with Trillanes over Garcia protector


President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said he has yet to talk to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV about the issue of military corruption that allegedly pushed former Armed Forces chief of staff Angelo Reyes to commit suicide.

Trillanes denies linking Arroyo to AFP corruption

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday clarified that he never directly linked former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

COA chief: Go ahead, audit us


MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar is open to a proposal subjecting the agency’s executives and employees to a lifestyle check amid allegations of bribery and corruption stemming from the military.

COA mulls replacing auditors in gov't agencies

by By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Audit (COA) is now seriously considering removing resident auditors in all national government agencies and replacing them with audit teams that will be based in the COA central office in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

Lawmaker bares P180B 'missing' DND funds

A militant lawmaker on Monday claimed that almost P180 billion has been “siphoned" from the Department of National Defense (DND) budget during the past nine years.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said a discrepancy amounting to P179.3 billion has been observed from the DND personal services budget from 2002 to 2010, or during the Arroyo administration.

He said that the budgets for personal services during these years were always double the actual money released by the department for its staff.

In 2010, for example, the personal services budget was at P41.3 million, while the amount stated in the department’s staffing summary was only P19.3 million, according to data released by Colmenares’ office to the media.

“The question is where did all the money go and in all these years, did [then President] Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo know nothing about it?" the lawmaker said in statement.

Colmenares said he will try to provide an explanation to this supposed anomaly in the DND on Tuesday morning.

The militant lawmaker’s allegation of irregularity in the Defense budget came weeks after former state auditor Heidi Mendoza and former military finance officer George Rabusa revealed in congressional inquiries alleged corruption in the military.

Rabusa revealed during a Senate investigation a supposed practice of giving pay-offs to top military officials upon their retirement, while Mendoza detailed in House committee hearings supposed missing funds from the military budget.

Gov't, NDF declare mutual ceasefire for 7 days


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) on Monday declared a 7-day ceasefire starting Tuesday during the duration of the formal peace talks between the government and communist negotiators in Norway.

6 Scout Rangers cleared of 2006 coup, Marine standoff

MANILA, Philippines -- A military court has dismissed charges against six Army Scout Rangers officers implicated in the February 24, 2006 alleged coup attempt and the Marine stand-off that followed.

This left only three former senior officials still facing court martial, namely former Marines commandant retired major general Renato Miranda, former Scout Rangers commander and retired brigadier general Danilo Lim and retired Marine colonel and Medal of Valor awardee Ariel Querubin.

The seven-man special general court martial headed by Major General Joshue Gaverza Jr. announced Monday it has denied for “lack of merit” the motion for reconsideration made by Miranda, Lim and Querubin to dismiss the case against them for violation of the Articles of War 67 or mutiny.

Lim and Querubin were considered resigned when they ran but lost in the May 10, 2010 senatorial race. Lim ran under Mr Aquino's Liberal Party while Querubin ran under the Nacionalista Party.

The court decided to retain its findings that the actions of Miranda, Lim and Querubin from February 23 to 26 had the intent to convince the top brass led by then Armed Forces chief of staff general Genoroso Senga to withdraw support from then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It said the “intent to usurp power was clearly demonstrated by their actions and public declarations.”

In the latest turnaround, the military tribunal granted the motion for reconsideration and cleared Major Jason Aquino, Captains Isagani Criste, Montano Almodovar, James Sababan, Joey Fontiveros and former captain Dante Langkit.

Except for Langkit, who was considered retired when he ran for public office in May last year, all the rest were allowed to return to the military service.

The court said “the series of meetings and activities they participated in…did not take place in Camp Aguinaldo or Fort Bonifacio as alleged. All such activities transpired in Camp Tecson (in) Bulacan.”

“More importantly it was not proven beyond reasonable doubt that they performed any of the acts …withdrawing support from the president, convincing the chief of staff to also withdraw support and or join the protest rally of the so-called civil society in Edsa,” it said.

“Wherefore the motion for reconsideration of accused... is hereby granted,” the court declared.

The court said Miranda had told Senga that the military “must join and support” the people at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal where Arroyo was accused of cheating in the 2004 elections that gave her a fresh six-year term.

It said Lim had a videotaped statement that was supposed to be aired on national television withdrawing support from Arroyo and calling on the people to unseat her and establish a new government.

The military tribunal also said that on the night of February 23, 2006, Lim and Querubin had tried to convince Senga to withdraw support from the president and to join their men in marching towards Edsa where an anti-Arroyo protest rally was set to mark the anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolt.

Last September, the court martial cleared seven officers (one of whom is already retired) from the Marines and Scout Rangers, including a recipient of the military's highest honor, on charges of “conspiracy to attempt to begin a mutiny” against the Arroyo administration.

It reversed two previous rulings and concluded there was no sufficient evidence against the seven officers to show that they committed "overt acts" to overthrow the Arroyo government.

The acquitted officers who were allowed to return to military service were Colonel Orlando De Leon, Medal of Valor awardee Lieutenant Colonel Custodio Parcon and 1st Lieutenant Belinda Ferrer of the Marines; and Major Jose Leomar Doctolero, Captain William Lupano and 1st Lieutenant Homer Estolas of the Scout Rangers.

Former lieutenant colonel Achilles Segumalian reached the retirement age of 56 in May last year while in detention.

Twelve accused officers have been previously acquitted, most of whom have resumed their military careers.

No automatic House expulsion for Ecleo

by by Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Dinagat Islands Rep. Ruben Ecleo, Jr. appealed on Monday not to be prejudged by the House leadership in line with a Sandiganbayan ruling on Thursday, ordering his arrest following the dismissal of two petitions filed at the Supreme Court questioning his conviction.

Ecleo asks anti-graft court to put arrest order on hold

MANILA, Philippines -- After pleading his case before the Supreme Court last week, cult leader and Dinagat Island Resentative Ruben Ecleo Jr. has asked the Sandiganbayan to recall or defer the implementation of his arrest warrant, saying that his graft conviction is not yet final.

House sets ethics probe vs Singson

by By Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News

The House of Representatives Committee on Ethics is scheduled to start the formal investigation on Tuesday against Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson who pleaded guilty last January 31 for his drug trafficking case before the Wan Chai District Court in Hong Kong.

Ortega wife files murder raps against Reyes, et al


MANILA, Philippines - The wife of slain Palawan environmental advocate and media practitioner Dr. Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega today filed before the Department of Justice (DoJ) murder charges against former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and other former local officials.

Lauro Vizconde asks SC for 2nd time to reconsider decision

MANILA, Philippines—Lauro Vizconde has again asked the Supreme Court to reverse its decision acquitting Hubert Webb and six others in connection with the grisly killing of his wife, Estrelita, and daughters Carmela and Jennifer in the early ’90s.

Aquino: RP bill is middle-ground between Church and RH bill

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III said on Monday the Palace-backed responsible parenthood (RP) bill is the "middle ground" between the controversial reproductive health bill and Church's stance on natural family planning.

‘Families prefer artificial contraceptives’

IN CENTRAL Visayas, health officials said they informed couples about natural and artificial family planning methods.

But there seems to be more couples that prefer to use contraceptive pills and condoms than following the rhythm method or other church-approved programs.

“For our family planning program, we have the responsible parenthood program,” Dr. Susana Madarieta, Department of Health regional director, said.

Comelec now has budget for ARMM polls


MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) assured the public that it has savings from the last national elections that it could use for the polls in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

ARMM execs welcome new audit ordered by Aquino

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Monday welcomed the directive of President Aquino for another audit on funds given to the ARMM regional government.

PNoy plans to send private citizen as emissary to Taiwan

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said he is probably sending a “private citizen” as an emissary to Taiwan to explain the circumstances of the Philippine government's decision to deport Taiwanese nationals to mainland China.

PH lost 24,502 scientists, technology workers in 2009 alone’--DOST

MANILA, Philippines -- The country’s “brain drain” has worsened with the number of Filipino science and technology (S&T) workers leaving the country to work abroad jumping by 148 percent from 1998 to 2009, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said.

Senator bares sale of poppy seeds in PHL stores

Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Monday said some establishments in the country are openly selling poppy seeds, which he described as precursors of the illegal opium poppy plant.

$1: 43.655

$1: 43.655 (P43.82)

Euro 1: 59.2010

800 million more air travellers by 2014: IATA

by Agence France-Presse

SINGAPORE - Eight hundred million more people will travel by air by 2014, over a quarter of them from China, raising the need for more efficient traffic management and airports, IATA trade body said Monday.

Japan eclipsed by China as world No. 2 economy

by Agence France-Presse

TOKYO - Japan lost its 42-year ranking as the world's second-biggest economy to China in 2010, with data out Monday showing a contraction in the last quarter due to weak consumer spending and a strong yen.

Egypt Army delivers ultimatum to Tahrir protesters

CAIRO - Egypt's military delivered an ultimatum on Monday to dozens of committed protesters in Tahrir Square, nerve-centre of a movement that toppled Hosni Mubarak, to leave and let life get back to normal or face arrest.

Egypt army urges unity

by Reuters

CAIRO, Egypt - Egypt's army called on Monday for national solidarity, urged workers to play their role in reviving the economy and criticised strike action, after many employees were emboldened by protests to demand better pay.

Iraq diverts F-16 budget for food rations

by Agence France-Presse

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq has postponed the planned purchase of 18 F-16 fighter planes from the United States this year and diverted the funds to feeding the poor, an official said on Monday, amid growing protests that have been inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Palestinian government resigns

RAMALLAH—Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad on Monday tendered his government's resignation, a minister told AFP, just months before the Palestinians hold general elections.

At least 10 Chinese moles infiltrate Taiwan: report

by Agence France-Presse

TAIPEI, Taiwan - At least 10 Chinese moles are believed to have penetrated Taiwan's national security units, a retired agent told media Monday, as the island reels from its worst espionage case in half a century.

Donaire now world's best bantamweight fighter

Former Filipino world boxing champion Nonito Donaire Jr. already put one over Fernando Montiel heading into their title showdown this weekend in Las Vegas. The 28-year-old Donaire was the runaway choice as the best bantamweight in the world today in an ongoing poll by The Ring Magazine, the so-called `Bible of Boxing.'

Donaire shows off new jab, new shoes for Montiel match


MANILA, Philippines — With less than a week to go before his match against Mexican opponent Fernando Montiel, Filipino bantamweight contender Nonito Donaire Jr. geared up for a sparring session at the Top Rank Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pinays breach Top 10 world rankings

by By Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Two Filipino lady fighters – Alice Kate Appari and Nesthy Petecio – made it to the Top 10 of the February 2011 world rankings released by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

14 Thai couples kiss for more than 32 hours

PATTAYA, Thailand - A kiss is still a kiss -- even if it goes on for over a day.

Paul McCartney wins Grammy for 'Helter Skelter'

by Reuters

LOS ANGELES – Former Beatle Paul McCartney won his first solo Grammy in 39 years on Sunday for a live recording of "Helter Skelter."

Electronic libel bill filed in Senate


MANILA, Philippines - A bill has been filed in the Senate pushing to penalize those who try to defame others through the use of electronic media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Alcohol kills more than AIDS, TB or violence: WHO

by By Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters

Alcohol causes nearly 4% of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence, the World Health Organization warned on Friday.

List of Grammy winners in some major categories

Winners in selected major categories at Sunday's 53rd Annual Grammy Awards:

Album of the Year: "The Suburbs," Arcade Fire

Record of the Year: "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum

Song of the Year: "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum

New Artist: Esperanza Spalding

Pop Vocal Album: "The Fame Monster," Lady Gaga

Pop Performance by a Duo or Group: "Hey Soul Sister," Train

Female Pop Vocal Performance: "Bad Romance," Lady Gaga

Male Pop Vocal Performance: "Just The Way You Are," Bruno Mars

Rock Song: "Angry World," Neil Young

Rock Album: "The Resistance," Muse

R&B Song: "Shine," John Legend & The Roots

R&B Album: "Wake up!" John Legend & The Roots

Rap Solo Performance: "Not Afraid," Eminem

Rap Song: "Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z and Alicia Keys

Rap Album: "Recovery," Eminem

Female Country Vocal Performance: "The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert

Male Country Vocal Performance: "'Til Summer Comes Around," Keith Urban

Country Performance by a Duo or Group: "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum

Country Album: "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum

Latin Pop Album: "Paraiso Express," Alejandro Sanz

Contemporary Jazz Album: "The Stanley Clarke Band," The Stanley Clarke Band

Classical Album: "Verdi: Requiem," Riccardo Muti, conductor

Traditional Gospel Album: "Downtown Church," Patty Griffin

Dance Recording: "Only Girl (In The World)," Rihanna

Electronic Dance Album: "La Roux," La Roux

Alternative Music Album: "Brothers," The Black Keys

Spoken Word Album: "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Audiobook)," Jon Stewart


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