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

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 16, 2011 Major News Stories (dyab-cebu.bokkyo@blogger.com)

February 16, 2011 Major News Stories
February 16, 2011 Major News Stories

Police pursue cases vs Norwegian national, partner

CEBU CITY -- Police on Tuesday filed criminal complaints against a Norwegian computer engineer and a Cebuana nurse, in connection with the abduction and death of six-year-old Ellah Joy Pique last February 8.

Sven Erik Berger and Karen Esdrelon insisted they are innocent, and their lawyer said he is open to his clients undergoing a lie detector test.

They were given seven days to answer the complaints, after Tuesday's inquest proceedings.

The case for kidnapping with homicide rests mainly on the statements of three children, who said they saw Ellah enter a black SUV last February 8, outside the public school she attended in Minglanilla.

There are no witnesses to the child's death, so far.

One of the witnesses, a 10-year-old boy, identified the couple last Saturday night at the Mactan airport, where they were "offloaded" from their flight to Hong Kong.

The witnesses "pointed his finger toward the direction of a lady and a foreign national who were sitting beside a table and identified them as the very same persons who kidnapped Ellah Joy," the complaint said.

Children

The day after, two more witnesses who said they were with Ellah Joy during the abduction, were invited to the police office.

Viewing the couple from behind a one-way mirror, the witnesses also identified Berger and Esdrelon as the ones in the vehicle that Ellah was lured into, the police said.

Salvador Solima, their lawyer, said the couple's documented itinerary last February 8 will prove they are innocent of the special complex crime of kidnapping with homicide.

He also called on the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a separate inquiry.

Berger, 49, and Esdrelon, 24, arrived at the provincial prosecutor's office past 1 p.m. Tuesday, holding hands.

After the inquest proceedings before Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Marlon Atillo, they were brought back to the Cebu Provincial Police Office.

They signed a waiver for their continued detention.

Provincial Police Chief Erson Digal and three other officers executed the joint affidavit against the couple.

Cooperated

Esdrelon denied claims they refused to give the police the password to her laptop.

"Kinsa man na nga pulis miingon ana (Who among the policemen said that)? They didn't ask me for the password. Had they asked me for it, I would have given it to them," she said.

"We turned everything over to the police; our camera, cell phones and even our personal belongings. We have been very cooperative from the start."

The nurse explained that the memory card of the camera was empty because Berger transferred all the photos into the laptop, so there would be enough space if they want to take more photos.

Saldy Sala, in a GMA 7 Balitang Bisdak report, said the couple rented a blue Toyota Vios from him and he drove them to Tuburan at 3 p.m. last February 9.

Sala said they took the Naga-Uling road and stopped in Lutopan because Berger took pictures of a church.

That was the same day Ellah's body was found at the base of a cliff in Barili town.

Records at Cebu Pacific Air also showed Esdrelon bought their roundtrip tickets to Hong Kong last January 30. They were supposed to return to Cebu, via Manila, on Thursday, February 17.

Esdrelon is "100 percent" sure they are the victims of a case of mistaken identity, she told radio dySS Tuesday.

Transfers

The police, in their complaint, said they received a report about the kidnapping last February 8.

The next day, Ellah Joy was found at 7:55 a.m. in Barangay Guibuangan, Barili town. Her body was wrapped in a white bed sheet and placed inside a sack.

Also recovered from the area was her school bag containing two P50 bills placed under a notebook.

The policemen, in their joint affidavit, said they conducted surveillance. They learned the suspects were moving from one place to another, including Cebu City and the towns of Moalboal and Tuburan.

A critical point in the case was when an immigration officer stopped the couple from boarding a 10:15 p.m. flight to Hong Kong last Saturday.

Esdrelon, in the dySS interview, said they were stunned when the children identified them as the suspects.

'Hesitant'

She recalled that the 10-year-old boy who faced her at the Mactan airport last Saturday was "hesitant" in identifying her as the woman who allegedly abducted Ellah, Esdrelon said.

She said she got angry when they were detained at the airport, because she did not expect that their plans would end that way.

She was excited about her first trip abroad.

"First time na unta nako nga maka-abroad. First time pod nga nakauyab ko'g tarong. Unya matapos lang didto ang tanan (It was my first time to go abroad with a committed boyfriend and our plans ended badly)," she said.

Esdrelon, a registered nurse, also denied the allegation of a mother from Mandaue City that she tried to abduct the latter's daughter last January 9. Esdrelon said she was at home that day.

Elena Cabahug said that Esdrelon looked like the curly-haired woman who tried to grab her daughter in a chapel last January 9.

Esdrelon retorted: "Naningkamot man gani ko nga magpa rebond unya magpakulot na hinuon ko (I have my hair treated to keep it straight, and now they're saying I had a perm)?"

Where’s social worker for young witnesses?

WERE the children that police officials presented as witnesses to the abduction of six-year-old Ellah Joy Pique handled correctly?

There did not seem to be any intervention from a social worker, said Emma Patalinghug, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 child specialist.

Asking the children to speak against potential suspects in the abduction of another child may be a traumatic experience, and they should be adequately prepared, said Patalinghug.

She said some police personnel get extra training to handle children, but the DSWD has yet to retrace what happened in this case.

One of the children was brought to the Mactan airport late Saturday night, where he reportedly identified Sven Erik Berger and his girlfriend Karen Castro Esdrelon as the same couple that abducted Ellah Joy last Tuesday, Feb. 8.

“We will also have to ask the parents if they have observed any unusual behavior of the children,” Patalinghug added.

Debriefing

The regional DSWD office has yet to receive a report from the Minglanilla Social Welfare Office, but is ready to provide stress debriefing and assess what the children’s families may need.

The non-bailable kidnapping with homicide complaint filed against the Norwegian man and Filipina woman rests on the eyewitness accounts of three children—an eight-year-old girl and a pair of twins, 10.

Their sworn statements were among the 11 sets of documents the police attached to the complaint they filed against the two before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor yesterday.

“We’ll see what the defense will do,” said Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Marlon Atillo. He and colleague Marvin dela Peña held an inquest on the complaint yesterday.

The other attached documents included the affidavit of the victim’s father and a joint affidavit of the police investigators, including Cebu Provincial Police Director Erson Digal.

It also included a copy of a transmittal letter and blotter entry noting the discovery of Ellah Joy’s body in Barili town last Feb. 9, her death certificate, the police’s sketch of the alleged assailants and photocopies of the suspects’ passport photos.

Abduction

Only the sworn statements of the three children—names withheld on account of their age—offer an account of Ellah Joy’s alleged abduction, but not her killing.

The documents indicate that a certain PO2 Hazel Caballero-Tuazon, of the Cebu Provincial Police Office Women and Children Protection Desk, prepared each one.

The children’s accounts begin with the events of 4 p.m., Feb. 8, 2011, when Ellah Joy was last seen alive, and end with the witnesses being asked if the persons they now saw across a one-way mirror in an interrogation room were the same people who took Ellah Joy.

The first witness, the eight-year-old, said she was walking home from the Calajoan Elementary School, holding hands with Ellah Joy, around 4 p.m. last Feb. 8.

Then, she added, two persons—a woman and an “Amerikano”, meaning a Caucasian, passed by in a black vehicle, stopped and asked Ellah Joy where she lived and who her mother was.

They then offered to bring her home.

Close

“I told Ellah Joy not to ride, but still she did, and Ellah was cuddled by the woman. Then the black vehicle instantly sped away,” read PO2 Tuazon’s translation of the witness’ account.

The witness narrated that she then informed Ellah Joy’s father of what happened.

She said she was an arm’s-length away and saw the couple clearly.

It was one of the twin brothers who identified Bergen and Esdrelon when they were offloaded from their flight to Hong Kong by immigration officials last Saturday night.

Supt. Digal, in a previous interview, said the boy’s identification of the two at the airport prompted them to consider the duo as the only viable suspects.

The boy was already with him earlier that day, he said, while they scoured Moalboal town following the lead provided by a pimp, whose information was later determined to be false.

Digal said they dropped the pimp as a witness, and his statement was not among the documents attached to the complaint.

Raiders arrest, detain lawyer

LAWYER Alex Tolentino, who has aided many people facing arrest over the years, found himself the victim of switched roles last night, when he was arrested.

The former Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu City Chapter president was taken into custody at his home, as the respondent in a criminal case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

“I was having dinner at home when the police arrived,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Judge Monalila Tecson, of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 1, issued the warrant that also allows his release following bail at P10,000.

“I’m trying to ask the judge if I could post bail now and be released. If she won’t allow it, I’ll stay with the police and wait for the court to open,” Tolentino said.

Tecson will also hear the ombudsman case, which formally begins as soon as Tolentino is arraigned.

Tolentino was charged with violating Republic Act (RA) 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

In 2007, he allegedly accepted clients and engaged in the private practice of law while still employed by a government office, the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD).

Chaos feared as Ecleo arrest looms

MANILA, Philippines - Residents of Dinagat Island are concerned about possible chaos in case the warrant of arrest against Congressman Ruben Ecleo Jr. is served there.

Members of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA),  an alleged cult where Ecleo is the Supreme Master, said the issue could lead to a repeat of the 2002 bloody shoot-out between law enforcers and PBMA members as authorities tried to serve Ecleo a warrant of arrest.

Some residents said they are afraid of being caught in the crossfire, noting that they have been living in peace since the 2002 clash.

More than 700 city hall employees of Dinagat Island were reportedly removed even before the congressional district was remanded to Surigao del Norte. The district also has not gotten an Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) since January.

Remaining city hall employees and Ecleo's congressional staff members now fear that they will be next to lose their jobs since the local government can no longer afford their salaries.

The Sandiganbayan earlier affirmed 3 graft convictions against Ecleo in connection with his stint as mayor of Surigao del Norte between 1991-1994.

A separate parricide case remains pending against Ecleo in connection with the death of his wife, 4th year medical student Alona-Bacolod Ecleo, who died  on January 5, 2002.

Ecleo won as representative of the lone district of Dinagat Islands in the May 2010 elections.

Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez, meanwhile, said there is nothing barring the execution of warrant of arrest against Ecleo because there is no Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the Sandiganbayan order.

City identifies 72 houses along Bulacao River for demolition

by cebuweb

AT least 72 houses along the Bulacao River in Cebu City will have to be demolished soon since they encroach the three-meter easement on both sides of the river, putting the lives of occupants at risk.

The Squatters Prevention and Encroachment Elimination Division (Speed) visited the riverbank in Barangays Bulacao and Inayawan yesterday and identified the illegal structures that need to be demolished.

Speed Chief Noel Artes said the houses don’t stand on the river, but portions of the 72 houses have encroached on the three-meter easement required by law.

Rama wants sidewalks cleared

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama wants sidewalks along Osmeña Blvd., specifically from Sanciangko St. to Capitol, cleared of stalls and other obstructions to make the city’s sidewalks more pedestrian-friendly.

He ordered an inventory of all the vendors’ stalls and other illegal structures that will have to be removed.

During an ocular inspection with members of the beautification committee yesterday, Rama told leaders of the Cebu City United Vendors’ Association (CCUVA) they would have to leave the sidewalks when the City starts the clearing operations.

“The sidewalks from Sanciangko to Capitol should not have any obstruction… It should be free from street traders and all the vendors who have put up stalls on the sidewalks,” he told a news conference yesterday.

The beautification council, led by Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung, CCUVA officers and personnel from the Squatters Prevention and Encroachment Elimination Division accompanied the mayor yesterday.

Rama observed that in some areas, the sidewalks are no longer passable because of the stalls, forcing pedestrians to walk on the street.

Once the sidewalks are cleared, the mayor wants to install street lamps and construct waiting sheds with benches in certain areas, which will complement the Paris-inspired landscape that Salimbangon-Yeung plans for the city.

Some areas will also be designated loading and unloading areas for public utility jeepneys, with proper loading bays, to help improve traffic along Osmeña Blvd.

Anticipating complaints from some vendors, Rama said he will ask other City Hall departments and government agencies to help the vendors who will be displaced with their livelihood.

He specifically wants the Department of Manpower Development and Placement and the Department of Trade and Industry to help the City assist those who will be affected by the clearing operations.

City owes suppliers P10M worth of goods

CEBU City Hall has yet to pay its suppliers of P10 million worth of food, canned goods, and housing materials it gave to families affected by three fires last year.

Cathy Yso, head of the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) said the city owes some P5.6 million to suppliers for the T. Padilla fire last August, P3.6 million for the Duljo-Fatima blaze last November and P780,000 for the fire in Cogon-Pardo last December.

Almost 800 families were affected in the T. Padilla fire, 200 families in the Duljo-Fatima fire and around 30 families were left homeless in Cogon-Pardo fire.

Yso said, though, the suppliers are not assertive in demanding the payment since they also knew that the books will be closed every year-end.

But the DSWS head clarified the debt has long been overdue.

She said it only takes three months for the city to pay the suppliers.

Yso requested City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete to help her in making follow-ups to prioritize the release of the calamity funds for that purpose.

“We asked Atty. Poblete for prioritization because it’s a huge amount and the weather is not good. We need to have a ready supplier in case of emergency,” Yso said.

The city administrator, however, assured the contractors and suppliers that the City has enough funds to pay them.

“I was thinking that it’s been processed already. We will follow it up. I will talk again to Cathy to see what happened,” Poblete said.

Poblete said, though, the suppliers for T. Padilla fire had already been paid since someone offered to shoulder the expenses. But he said the City should also reimburse him.

Mayor Michael Rama sees the need to sit down with the concerned departments heads to solve the problem.

“Importante kaayo na kay mauwaw ta. Sige ta og padali-dali unya pagkahuman dili ta kabayad. Mauwaw ta ana uy (It’s embarrassing for the City. We pressure them for quick supplies but we couldn’t pay),” Rama said.

The mayor blamed the accounting office for the delay of payments and he wants its officer-in-charge replaced.

Rama said, though, he already informed city accountant Arlene Rentuza there will be changes in her office soon.

He refused to reveal the replacement of Rentuza but the mayor said they are now in the final stage of interviewing the applicant.

Aside from the accounting office, Rama said he also wants changes at the Department for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP).

He didn’t say DWUP head Danilo Gabiana will be replaced but that anything can happen in the said office.

Monitor water, submit samples: DOH 7 to LGUs

by cebuweb

THE Department of Health (DOH) 7 has asked towns to create a committee that will focus on monitoring the quality of drinking water.

The move came following reports of outbreaks of water-borne diseases, such as typhoid and cholera, in four local government units (LGUs).

Last December, typhoid fever afflicted 600 persons in Alegria, claiming two lives. In Danao City, cholera struck 300 persons and claimed six lives. In Catmon, the DOH 7 recorded 15 diarrhea cases and one death.

Active role

Last week, 21 cases of typhoid fever were reported in Balamban.

LTO to add new security features to vehicle registration papers, car plates

MANILA, Philippines—The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is looking at adding new security features on vehicle registration papers and plate numbers as part of ongoing efforts to curb the falsification of documents that has allowed car theft syndicates to flourish.

In a statement on Tuesday, LTO chief Virginia Torres said all agencies in government must help police fight carjacking.

The official, who has had to answer some controversy regarding the registration of a missing vehicle when she was working in LTO-Tarlac, also praised the Philippine National Police for its recent apprehension of a man who was suspected of manufacturing fake license plates in Quezon City last week.

Torres has denied aiding any group suspected of stealing cars.

“As we all know, we are in a middle of an all-out campaign to cleanse the agency and in the process, restore the trust and respect of the public. Therefore, we welcome all the help that we can get, especially from our law enforcers” she said.

“Certainly, they [the police] are making our jobs easier by putting behind bars those behind the proliferation of fake plates and other documents, which the suspects pass off as genuine to the unsuspecting victims,” she said.

Torres said aside from license plates, some unscrupulous groups and individuals have resorted to faking other LTO documents such as driver’s licenses, car registration certificates and even the car emission test results.

All of these are requirements before a vehicle can be registered with the LTO.

“We are now carefully studying on how to come up with added security features [for these documents] to discourage con artists from coming up with spurious documents that tarnish the image of the agency,” Torres said.

But all these efforts would be for naught if the private individuals would not do their part, Torres said.

The LTO chief urged the public to avoid dealing with suspicious individuals and deal only directly with legitimate LTO personnel.

"They (the public) have no reason to deal with fixers anymore because as everybody could see, our services and transaction time on various services have improved considerably," she said.

Ombudsman studying options on impeachment proceedings

MANILA, Philippines—Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is considering appealing the Supreme Court decision that paved the way for the impeachment proceedings against her to proceed.

Momentum on to expose corruption of Arroyo allies?

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers and different organizations today hailed the Supreme Court for giving its nod to the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, saying this has set the stage to expose the other corrupt practices of the officials under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s time.

In a statement, Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change chairperson Sister Mary John Mananzan said “removing Gutierrez from the Office of the Ombudsman is a crucial victory for the people who have long been fighting to end the corruption with impunity perpetrated by the Arroyo administration.”

For its part, the Kilusang Mayo Uno said “this is an opening for the people’s struggle for Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her minions to be tried and punished for their grave crimes to the Filipino workers and people.”

Mananzan, in particular, cited the Garcia plea deal supported by the Ombudsman. The hearings in Congress, which had been participated in by Gutierrez, spawned several more controversies on widespread corruption in the military.

The House Committee on Justice intends to amend the complaint to include the issues surrounding the plea deal.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, for its part, said the success of the impeachment would also “test the accountability of government institutions under the Aquino government.”

The groups said this is a political process that would require the support of Aquino allies both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

SC realized mistake

Lawmakers also chimed in and welcomed the SC decision.

Senator Francis Pangilinan said the high court realizing its mistake is a most welcome development.

“The failure of the Ombudsman to act swiftly on corruption cases has emboldened many to continue with their corrupt ways. The last thing we want is a Supreme Court that is perceived to be a stumbling block in the efforts to address pervasive corruption in government,” he said.

Senator Franklin Drilon agreed, but said the public should not prejudge the Ombudsman.

“Let the House decide on the merits whether or not there are sufficient grounds for impeachment. Beyond that, I cannot say anything because it might come to us,” he said.

The enemies of Gutierrez have to muster at least 1/3 vote in the House of Representatives. This will then move up to the Senate, where a vote of 2/3 is needed in an impeachment trial.

Gutierrez still has 2 years?

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said if the Aquino allies fail to get the numbers, “it's just a waste of the resources of our country that could otherwise be spent on other economic and policy matters.”

In the meantime, Gutierrez will remain as Ombudsman absent the final decision from the Senate.

"She can only be deprived of the position after she has been found guilty by the Senate. It will take a long, long time, maybe two years, she'll still be there,” Santiago forecasted.

Gutierrez has 15 days within which to file a motion for reconsideration. The SC can take as long as 3 months to come up with a final and executory decision, she said.

“Even assuming for the sake of argument that the Supreme Court reiterates its original decision, then the House of Representatives would have about three months. So we're looking at about six months before the case comes to the Senate,” she added.

Santiago said she is not excited with the transfer of the case to the Senate, noting that lawmakers’ function is to pass laws.

“Sometimes it's very dangerous to give the power of impeachment to people who have never had the experience with our judicial system,” she said.

Palace: Going after Garcia's 'protector', et al a priority

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration is bent on pursuing the alleged "protector" of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and other officials involved in corruption.

“It is a priority for us to go against these corruption allegations, all those who have enriched themselves with impunity while being public officials. This is something that we will not let go,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters.

President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said he has an idea about the identity of the alleged protector of Garcia who was accused of amassing some P303 million when he was military comptroller.

"I have my ideas but I am the Chief Executive. I execute the laws of the land and part and parcel of that is that you do not bring accusations without the corresponding evidence already on hand. And once we are ready, it will be the DOJ (Department of Justice) that will be at the forefront of filing the necessary cases," Aquino told reporters.

He said he has not talked with Sen. Antonio Trillanes who earlier named former AFP and defense chief Angelo Reyes as among higher officers behind Garcia. Reyes committed suicide last week after being accused of receiving millions of pesos in "pabaon" (send-off money) upon his retirement from the Armed Forces.

The President said the congressional investigations are exposing more details about the anomalies in the AFP. He added that it will be up to the justice secretary and her legal team to determine what cases can be filed and in what sequence should they be filed to afford the maximum chances of conviction.

DOJ eyes special team to probe AFP corruption

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice is set to form a special team composed of state prosecutors, government lawyers and consultants such as retired prosecutors that would dig  deeper into allegations of graft and corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In an interview, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the team will gather more evidence on the revelations presented by retired military budget officer George Rabusa, former government auditor Heidi Mendoza and Lt. Col. Sonny Lim in congressional inquiries.

"We are prepared to take on the job. We will be the one to do the gathering and consolidation of evidence from other bodies and institution like Congress and the DND (Department of National Defense)," she said.

De Lima said the DOJ will seek the assistance of legal luminaries like University of the Philippines law professor Theodore Te in coming up with prosecutorial strategies.

She said the evidence gathered by the team would be reviewed for possible preliminary investigation that is on top of the complaint that is expected to be filed by Rabusa within the week.

Escudero: Lim should return ill-gotten wealth

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis Escudero on Tuesday said whistleblower Col. Antonio Ramon "Sonny" Lim should be made to return any ill-gotten wealth he received while working under military budget officer George Rabusa.

Escudero said Lim should say how much ill-gotten wealth he got, in the same way that Rabusa admitted getting P50 million while working under military comptrollers Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot.

"Kasama siguro sa pagbabalik loob sa pagbabago at tunay na paglilinis ng sarili ang pagbabalik din ng anumang nakuha sa iligal na pamamaraan," he told ANC's Headstart.

Both Rabusa and Lim have applied for witness protection after testifying in the Senate Blue Ribbon committee inquiry on military corruption.

The senator said the return of ill-gotten wealth is the central issue of the Senate Blue Ribbon inquiry, which is investigating the plea bargaining agreement of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Under the plea bargain, Garcia would return P135 million in assets and plead guilty to indirect bribery and money laundering while escaping a plunder charge.

Escudero said he also has questions about Lim's decision to testify especially since he remains active in the military. He said Rabusa earlier admitted having a change of heart and testifying in the Senate after getting a stroke and losing his wealth to legal fees and medical bills.

Lim is currently assigned as director for operations of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) 3rd Air Division stationed in Zamboanga City.

He served various positions at the Air Force headquarters at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City before being assigned to the office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for logistics from 1999-2004. It was there that he served under Rabusa  and participated in the alleged diversion of military funds to military chiefs.

In his testimony, Lim said he helped Rabusa prepare the cash disbursements for military chiefs from the so-called Provision Command-Directed Activity (PCDA) slush fund.

The Air Force officer also corroborated Rabusa's testimony that the latter kept 4 big vaults full of cash in his office.

Too much discretion leads to corruption

Escudero, meanwhile, blamed low salaries and too much discretionary power among officers for the proliferation of corruption in the military.

"All corruption is rooted in discretion. Minimize discretion and you minimize corruption always," he said.

He also noted that low salaries, especially of military generals, can sometimes tempt these officers to look for other sources of income.

He said some high-ranking generals even go out in "owner-type" jeeps while their subordinates have better looking cars.

"You have to give them a good amount by way of a salary so that they will have dignity and respect to perform the function of their office," he said.

Palace to tap UN in AFP fund mess probe

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang on Tuesday said it will seek the United Nations' assistance in probing the alleged corruption within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) involving UN peacekeeping funds.

'AFP got P179 billion surplus for salaries from 2002-2010'

MANILA, Philippines - Bayan Muna party-list Representative Atty. Neri Colmenares claims that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) received at least 100% budget surpluses for soldiers' salaries from 2002-2010.

He gave the year 2010 as an example when the AFP received a total of P41 billion for the salaries of more than 134,000 soldiers of the Armed Forces. But the actual budget for salaries, based on the books of the AFP, Colmenares said, was just more or less P19 billion, a difference of 112% between the actual fund needed and the agency's request.

This has always been the case starting from 2002 to 2010, based on the computations made by Colmenares.

Another questionable data for Colmenares are the records of the years 2002 and 2003.

In 2002, Colmenares said, the AFP received P50 billion for salaries of soldiers, but the actual amount needed was just P26 billion based on the books of AFP. But if one compares 2002 with the following year, 2003, the AFP had the same number of soldiers at 134,000, but the budget they received from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) was pegged at P32 billion, and the actual amount need was just P12 billion.

Surplus funds: P179 billion

All in all, based on Colmenares' computation, the AFP received P179 billion in surplus funds. "Unless they can explain the discrepancy between the budget and actual staffing, pwedeng maghinala na ito ay ang source ng pabaon at pasalubong," he said.

Colmenares added that the discrepancies probably went unnoticed in the eyes of the senators and congressmen who deliberate on the AFP budget annually because the voluminous financial books do not actually contain the actual total amount needed for salary. The total amount can only be seen in the summary, which could be mistaken as the total amount needed.

Colmenares admitted that congressmen and senators do not manually calculate the record books, and this is where the government agencies take advantage of the situation.

These surpluses are what is now known as the funds used for conversion, where the money intended for salary is used for other purposes.

Ghost deliveries

But what's worse, according to Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Franklin Drilon, apart from the conversion of surplus funds for purposes not indicated in the budget, there are actually no deliveries made on the supplies.

However, the documents show otherwise since the money was used for untraceable goods such as bullets, food and gasoline.

"Sa dokumento may dineliver na bala, na-ideliver sa field, pero hindi dumating duon, kunwari pinaputok na," Drilon said.

Colmenares is calling on President Aquino to create a special team of auditors to audit intelligence funds, which, according to him, reached P2.3 billion during the Arroyo administration. These funds wee not included in the list of auditable budget by the resident auditor.

"Ang Pangulo Aquino, dapat bumuo siya ng special team, pwedeng led by Heidi Mendoza, na i-audit ang intelligence funds from 2002 to 2010," Colmenares said.

 

Stricter punishment needed

According to public finance expert Prof. Leonor Briones of UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, the solution lies on how President Aquino will respond to all these controversial allegations.

"Lahat ng conversion of funds is happening in his territory…ang anti-corruption strategy na umuubra starts with the leader, sya lang ang may kayang magsabi na tigil na yan," Briones said.

Briones added that a stricter and heavier punishment must be created for corruption cases from the lower ranks up to the highest official. This, she said, might deter corruption in ways that authorities and public finance mangers will think twice about the penalty to be incurred when caught stealing from public coffers.

But according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it's impossible the fund for personnel services would be doubled since this is strictly monitored by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

"That's not true. That is being monitored by DBM. Palagay ko naman tinitingan ng DBM yan. Examine the data first before making any allegations," said AFP spokesman Gen. Jose Mabanta.

No welcome or send-off cash gifts for me—PNP chief

MANILA, Philippines — Following the series of corruption exposes within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Raul Bacalzo stated Tuesday that he has not received any "pasalubong" (welcome cash gift) or "pabaon" (send-off cash gift).

Palace says COA chief has to go

Malacañang maintained that the term of Commission on Audit chair Reynaldo Villar ended February 2, 2011 and that Villar has to vacate his position once a replacement is named.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the end of Villar’s term is expressly stated in his appointment papers. The President is now looking at possible replacements for Villar.

“Based on our appointment papers that we have in possession, it is very unequivocal. His appointment ends on February 2, 2011. So we believe his term ended,” Lacierda said.

“He’s raising a legal issue of having his term ending at 2015. As far as we are concerned, we are looking for competent people with integrity to occupy people with integrity to occupy positions in the COA. As you now, it is now very recently a magnet of controversy. That’s the reason why it is important for us to appoint men and women of integrity and who have clean record.”

Lacierda brushed aside Villar’s statement where he said that the fact that the President has not named a replacement after February 2 showed that the President still wanted him to stay on.  

“The fact that we have not yet appointed a replacement to (Comelec) Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal does not mean Larrazabal is entitled to stay on. The appointment papers are very clear, it expires on February 2, 2011,” Lacierda said.

But the Palace says it would be “prudent” to discuss things over with Villar and it is better for the case to be “resolved amicably.”

Asked if former state auditor and whistleblower Heidi Mendoza is being eyed for the position of COA chair, Lacierda said there was no mention of a specific job offer when the President met Mendoza. Lacierda said the President had merely asked her to consider working again in government.

Enrile: Time to bury Marcos in Libingan ng mga Bayani

MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said it is high time that the remains of former President Ferdinand Marcos be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

In an interview with reporters, Enrile said “he has not been tried of any crime although there are claims about certain behaviors and venalities in his government, but that is to be judged by the people and the courts in a proper case. I think in terms of his entitlement to become a resident of the Libingan ng mga Bayani, it should not be questioned.”

The issue was raised anew after an Ilocos resident supposedly texted Senator Francis Escudero on the matter.

The texter supposedly told Escudero that if former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes could be buried there, so too should Marcos.

Reyes, who shot himself last week, had been dragged into allegations of corruption in the military.

Marcos’s body remains in a refrigerated crypt in the family mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

Enrile, Marcos’s defense chief, said the dictator had been a veteran of the World War II, and even went through the Death March.

“He got sick in Capas, Tarlac where he was confined. Then he joined the guerilla organization where he fought again. He was a member of the United States Army in Northern Luzon. He became a congressman, Senator of the Republic, Senate President. He became President of the country, and he did well as a President,” he said.

Enrile noted that there is no law that would stop the burial of Marcos at the Libingan in Fort Bonifacio.

He said it is the Department of National Defense which should implement the law.

This means that the decision now lies in the hands of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, whose family experienced the oppression of the Marcos regime.

Asked if the revival of the topic could be offensive, he said: “You see, that is a separate issue all together. I think it will take a big portion of one's lifetime to heal the wound that created that division.”

Malacañang remains mum on the matter.

In a press conference at the Palace, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said: “Well, we don’t know—this is news to us.... We will have to consult with the—I have to talk to the President about it.  I have to inform the President about this development.  So, let me hold-off any comments on that.”

Romulo out as DFA secretary: sources

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - It's been delayed for about a month, but President Aquino said the long promised Cabinet revamp is finally pushing through this week.

The President declined to say who's in and who's out of his official family.

"Yung sa Cabinet, we're just finishing a few details. Hopefully we would be able to execute it this week," he told reporters on Monday (Feb. 14).

But two sources within the administration said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo is the lone casualty of the revamp for now.

The President himself would not confirm, if this is true. "Can we just finish this week? I promise you we'll have clarity at the end of the week," he also said on Monday.

Romulo is in the country, but was out of his office the whole day on Tuesday.

His son, Pasig Congressman Roman Romulo, said the secretary was in a meeting.

Romulo's impending exit won't come as a surprise considering he was not the President's original choice to be Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary.

Romulo is close to the Aquino family having served in the Cabinet of the late President Corazon Aquino.

Romulo was also foreign affairs secretary during the Arroyo administration.

ABS-CBN News sources said there has been no decision so far to give another government position to Romulo.

But those close to Romulo are reportedly hoping he would be appointed Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Former Ambassador Alberto del Rosario is expected to replace Romulo.

Like his would-be predecessor, Del Rosario served the Arroyo administration as ambassador to the United States.

Long-awaited Philippine peace talks resume

NESBRU, Norway - The Philippine government and communist rebels resumed peace talks near Oslo Tuesday, more than six years after the last round broke down, but prospects for progress remained uncertain after the arrest hours earlier of senior guerilla leader.

"Dialogue is not a sign of weakness. It is a strategy of the brave. It opens doors," Norway's deputy foreign minister Espen Barth Eide declared in opening comments at a Nesbru hotel overlooking the icy Oslo fjord.

The two sides finally agreed last month to talks, the first since 2004, in a bid to end the decades-old rebellion which has claimed thousands of lives.

President Benigno Aquino's administration expressed hopes that the festering conflict would be over by 2014, but the fact that fighting has persisted is a bad sign for the already slow-moving peace process.

Observers have meanwhile cautioned that the seven days of closed-door negotiations between the representatives from Manila and the National Democratic Front (NDF) -- the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) -- probably will not lead to an immediate breakthrough.

Under Norway's guidance, the new round of talks is set to focus on economic and social reform -- in particular the agrarian reform called for by the communists.

Ture Lundh, the Norwegian ambassador to the Philippines and a mediator in the talks, told the some 20 delegates from each side they seemed "to be on the right track," pointing out that they were now addressing "core issues" towards achieving peace.

"But we still know that the road to peace is littered with small and large failures," he warned.

In a potential threat to the talks, only hours before they began, the Philippine army announced the capture of a senior guerilla leader, Alan Jasminez, a central committee member of the CPP.

He will stand trial for rebellion, armed forces chief of staff General Ricardo David said, while a police statement said he also faced 13 murder charges.

The NDF demanded his immediate release, insisting he enjoys immunity during the talks.

"It could undermine the peace talks if the release of Alan Jasminez as a political consultant of the NDF is not carried out ... as soon as possible," Luis Jalandoni, NDF chief negotiator, told AFP.

"We hope it will prejudice the talks," he added.

There have been other discouraging signs since the two sides agreed on January 18 to kick-start the peace process.

Earlier Monday, the rebels said they were holding a policeman as a "prisoner of war" and on Sunday, the army said a rebel landmine in a remote part of southern Philippines killed one civilian and wounded six people, including two soldiers.

The rebels meanwhile honoured a promise made last month and declared a truce on Monday to coincide with the seven days of talks. The government has said it will do likewise.

The CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), launched their uprising in 1969, in a conflict which has killed tens of thousands of people, according to military estimates.

About 4,700 NPA rebels continue to fight, mainly in the poorest areas of the Philippines, earning funds primarily through extortion from businesses and provincial politicians.

Since 1986, successive Philippine administrations have held peace talks with the communists through their Netherlands-based political arm, the NDF, but they have foundered, among other reasons, on NDF demands to be removed from US and EU lists of "terrorist" organisations -- a condition that remains a priority, according to NDF founder Jose Maria Sison.

A press conference is scheduled for the final day of the talks, next Monday.

Ranking communist rebel detained in Camp Crame, NDF demands release

MANILA, Philippines— (UPDATE 2) The National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Tuesday demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Alan Jazmines, senior member of the Communist Party of the Philippines who was captured by security forces a day earlier.

Palace says ARMM a 'failed state'

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Malacañang has called the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) a "failed state" and a "failed experiment" that has held back the delivery of social services to the people in the region.

Querubin seeks amnesty, accuses Arroyo of helping Ampatuan in gun seizure

MANILA, Philippines—The Arroyo administration interceded, in 2006 on behalf of then Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. when soldiers confiscated a caché of powerful firearms and ammunition meant for his private army back in 2006, a decorated military official disclosed Tuesday.

Retired Marine colonel Ariel Querubin said influential politicians and ranking military officials including then chief of staff Generoso Senga interceded for the Ampatuans when his men confiscated the firearms in Marawi City during the first week of February 2006.

He said he brought the matter up with Senga during their meeting on the night of Feb. 23, 2006, and the former chief of staff admitted to him that Malacañang had called him up to intercede for Ampatuan.

Querubin, a recipient of the military's highest combat honor, narrated the events in his application for amnesty offered by President Aquino III to soldiers implicated in uprisings against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Querubin, retired Marine major general Renato Miranda and retired Army brigadier general Danilo Lim are still facing court martial for the Feb. 26, 2006 Marine stand-off and an alleged coup attempt at the height of the Hello Garci election cheating scandal that rocked the Arroyo government.

Querubin and Lim, who were considered resigned when they ran for senator in the May 2010 elections, were accused of instigating a military withdrawal of support from Arroyo when they talked to Senga on the night of Feb. 23, 2006.

In his narration, Querubin said he asked Senga if he had instructed then 6th Infantry Division chief major general Agustin Demaala to intercede for the release of the firearms to the Ampatuans.

Senga reportedly told Querubin that he indeed told Demaala: “Tignan mo kung paano natin tulungan si Gov. (Let’s see how we can help Governor.)”

“He further told me that Malacañang called him up to help Gov(ernor) Ampatuan,” Querubin said.

Ampatuan and his family led by son former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. along with nearly 200 private army members are being tried for the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre that saw 57 journalists, relatives of a political rival and bystanders were brutally killed.

Querubin said he was moved to support the soldiers who planned to join the anti-Arroyo protest rally on Feb. 24, 2006 because he had been told by young officers and even American servicemen that they were used to manipulate the results of the 2004 elections in favor of Arroyo.

He said his superiors had told him “not to rock the boat and not to be naïve. They told me, everybody cheated in the election and GMA was the lesser evil.”

Querubin said Senga had ordered him and Lim to abort their planned march “which we obeyed. That was the reason why there was no soldier in the protest march to commemorate Edsa Anniversary last February 24, 2006.”

“The Marine stand-off took place only after the AFP leadership removed our commandant on February 26, 2006 which was a Sunday without any proper turnover,” he said.

Ex-Comelec supervisor charged with election sabotage

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections on Tuesday filed 11 counts of election sabotage at the Pasay Regional Trial Court against Atty. Lilian Radam, former provincial election supervisor of South Cotabato.

The charge stemmed from allegations of "dagdag-bawas" (vote-shaving/padding) in the province during the 2007 senatorial elections.

Comelec chairperson Sixto Brillantes said Radam was responsible for shaving upwards of 10,000 votes from 11 candidates of the Genuine Opposition (GO) to pad the numbers of candidates from Team Unity.

Brillantes said this was the first case of election sabotage ever filed since the law was passed in 2007. It is a non-bailable offense that carries a punishment of life imprisonment.

According to the Comelec, Radam has gone AWOL ever since the controversy broke out.

Brillantes clarified that the case against Radam will have no effect on the election protest filed by Atty. Koko Pimentel against Senator Juan Manuel Zubiri. This is because the tampered certificates of canvass (COCs) were discovered early and were not included in the canvassing of votes in 2007. Instead, corrected COCs were used.

Mom of Pinay on death row in China seeks PNoy's help

MANILA, Philippines – Three Filipinos will be meted out with the death sentence next week for drug trafficking charges in China.

In a press statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the death penalty will be carried out against the following:

  1. a 42-year-old male who was convicted for smuggling 4,113 grams of heroin on December 28, 2008 in Xiamen;
  2. a female, 32, convicted for smuggling 4,110 grams of heroin on December 24, 2008 also in Xiamen; and,
  3. a female, 38, convicted for smuggling 6,800 grams of heroin on May 24, 2008 in Shenzhen.

ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol was able to interview the mother of one of the women scheduled to be executed next week.

Mrs. Edith Ordinario said she can hardly sleep and is deeply concerned about the fate of her daughter, Sally Ordinario Villanueva, in China.

Mrs. Ordinario of Echague, Isabela province said she was summoned by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for important news about her daughter.

Sally was sentenced to death after being caught with 4 kilos of heroin in Xiamen on December 24, 2008.

“Nagulantang ako noong sinabi nilang February 21 ma-execute ang anak ko. Gumuho ang mundo ko talaga, di ko na kaya," said Mrs. Ordinario.

Ma appeals to PNoy

Mrs. Ordinario appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to help spare her daughter.

“Tulungan ninyo naman kami! Ikaw lang ang pag-asa namin President Noynoy Aquino. Tulungan mo ang anak ko doon na biktima ng drug syndicate, walang kaalam-alam. Mabait yung anak ko,” she said.

She maintained that her daughter was a victim of a drug syndicate and illegal recruiter.

Sally started working as a domestic helper in Macau in 2006. When her contract ended, she went back to the Philippines but was again recruited to work as a cell phone store helper in China.

Before the mother of 2 left for China, her recruiter told her to bring a luggage for their boss.

“May maletang ipapadala sa kanya para ibalik sa amo, parang ganun. Pero walang kaalam-alam ang anak ko na may laman pala yun, drugs,” she said.

Sally was only able to send 2 letters to her husband and children during her 2 years in jail and while her case was being tried in court in Xiamen.

In her last letter, Sally seemed happy and conveyed her love and longing for her family.

“Kawawa yung dalawang apo ko. Walang kaalam-alam sa nangyari sa nanay nila na ganyan. Mababalitaan mo mae-execute na anak mo, ilang araw na lang gahol na kami sa oras,” a crying Mrs. Ordinario said.

DFA seeks commutation of sentence

“I can assure you na hanggang ngayon, dahil yun ang utos ng ating pangulo, patuloy ang ating engagement with the Chinese authorities,” said DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr.

The DFA said the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) in Beijing has reviewed and decided on 5 cases of Filipinos sentenced to death by courts in the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong for drug trafficking.

The DFA said the SPC sustained the lower courts’ decisions against the 3 Filipinos, and the death sentences will be carried out in accordance with Chinese law.

The two other Filipinos earlier meted the death penalty were given two-year reprieves.

Under Chinese law, the original verdict may be commuted to life imprisonment if the prisoner displays good behavior while incarcerated. Also, smuggling of 50 grams or more of heroin or equivalent drugs is punishable by death.

The Philippine government has provided assistance to the 3 Filipinos to ensure that their legal rights were observed and their welfare protected from the time of their arrest and throughout the judicial process. Their families were also informed of the SPC’s decision.

The DFA expressed its “grave disappointment” and sadness at this turn of events. Despite this, the government is still conducting representations for possible commutation of the death sentences.

Filipino overseas workers and travelers are urged not to fall victims to international drug syndicates. The DFA said travelers should not agree to carry any luggage for strangers or bring packages from dubious individuals in exchange for money.

Deadline for war vets' claim appeals on Feb. 18

REDWOOD SHORES, California – Filipino World War II veterans whose claims have been denied are running out of time to get their benefits.

Those whose lump sum claims have been denied only have until February 18 to file an appeal before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Those who fail to file to do so would lose the chance to get the one-time payment of $15,000.

Ninety-two-year-old Filipino veteran Felino Punsalan said he was denied because his name is not on the Missouri List, which the VA uses to determine the active service of the veteran.

“I plan to file my appeal before the 18th (of February). I still have hopes that they will give that benefit to me because I deserve it,” said Punsalan.

Rudy Asercion, a Filipino veterans advocate, said veterans need to contact their advocates immediately to prepare their appeals before filing it with the VA.

Asercion said, “They need to write the VA letter stating that they want to file an appeal. They also need to provide supporting documents, such as testimonies from other veterans that they indeed fought in the war for the US”.

Peso falls as traders weigh mixed views of economy

MANILA, Philippines—The peso fell by 6.5 centavos in the second trading day of the week, a movement traders considered as sideways, as investors weighed positive and negative factors that will influence the economy's performance this year.

$1: 43.720

$1: 43.720 (P43.65)

Euro 1: 58.9300

Remittances reach record $18.8-B in 2010

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Money sent home by overseas Filipinos rose 8.1% to $1.69 billion in December 2010, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported on Tuesday.

Pacquiao to woo US Congress for garments bill

BOXING STAR Emmanuel "Pacman" D. Pacquiao will again be making a trip to the United States, not to enter the Las Vegas arenas but instead mount the podiums of Washington, to champion a bill that will benefit Philippine garment exports.

The acclaimed fighter and Sarangani representative in Congress will be meeting with American lawmakers to push for the re-filing of proposed legislation that will lower tariffs on Philippine-made apparel exports, the Board of Investments (BoI) said.

"[Mr. Pacquiao] is scheduled to leave for the US in the first half of the year to solicit support of US congressmen and senators for the bill," the state agency posted on its website, referring to the proposed "Save our Industries Act."

PALEA denies agreeing to settlement in labor row

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - The ground crew union of Philippine Airlines (PAL) has denied it agreed to consider a partial settlement of its dispute with the airline's management before Malacañang hands down a decision on the year-long labor row.

US-South Korea war games amid tensions with North

by Agence France-Presse

SEOUL, South Korea - The United States and South Korea will launch annual joint military exercises this month, officials said Tuesday, amid continued tensions with North Korea over two deadly border incidents last year.

Follow Egypt's example, Obama tells Arab world

WASHINGTON—US President Barack Obama urged autocratic Middle Eastern allies to look to Egypt's example on Tuesday and encouraged the Iranian people to pursue their quest for democracy.

Palace intrigue: the last days of Mubarak's rule

by by Rana Moussaoui, Agence France-Presse

CAIRO, Egypt - The end of Hosni Mubarak's rule was marked by bungling and confusion as he was misled by his interior minister and urged by his son to ignore the anger on the Egyptian street, according to the media.

Iraq protesters demand jobs in countrywide rallies

FALLUJA, Iraq, Feb 15 - Iraqis protested against corruption and joblessness across the war-ravaged country on Tuesday as anti-government rallies echoed in the Arab world.

CPJ: At least 44 journalists killed in 2010

NEW YORK—At least 44 journalists were killed worldwide because of their jobs last year, with Pakistan the deadliest country to work in, a rights group said Tuesday.

Pacquiao seen to earn $20M in Mosley fight

by By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

NEW YORK, New York – Boxing superstar and Sarangani Congressman Manny Pacquiao and "Sugar" Shane Mosley concluded their coast-to-coast US media tour for their world championship fight in May.

Montiel eyes big KO vs Donaire

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Three-division boxing champion Fernando Montiel plans to knock out Filipino Nonito Donaire. The “Filipino Flash” is favored in their bantamweight championship bout this Sunday, but this doesn't bother the Mexican champion. He knows what he can do.

Meralco, Alaska in 3-player swap

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) clubs Meralco and Alaska agreed on a 3-player trade as they prepare their respective rosters for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, which begins on Friday.

Meralco Bolts acquired 6’4” forward Reynel Hugnatan from Alaska in exchange for rookies Hans Thiele and Paolo Bugia.

The Bolts, who also welcomed big man Marlou Aquino, hope to improve their defense by adding taller men in their line-up.

The Aces, on the other hand, believe that Thiele and Bugia will suit their rotation.

Thiele briefly played for Meralco where he averaged 7.7 points per game. He also played for Barako Bull where he averaged 8.8 rebounds per game.

Bugia, meanwhile, landed in Meralco last month as part of the Bolts' multi-player trade with Air21 and Rain or Shine.

The 6’9” Aquino finally found a team after being virtually left out in the cold following Barako Bull’s decision to take a leave of absence from PBA.

Piolo gets emotional during his V-Day show

MANILA, Philippines – Singer and actor Piolo Pascual was not able to contain his emotions during his concert, “Piolo meets the Maestro, Ryan Cayabyab,” at the PICC Plenary Hall on Monday.

During the special event, Pascual unexpectedly burst into tears when he went down the stage to perform a song for girlfriend KC Concepcion, who was watching the show.

The actress-television host was sitting beside the actor’s mother.

“Naiyak ako! Somebody who has been there who showed me the true meaning of love. Thank you Kristina,” he said.

When sought for an explanation after the concert, he said: "Hindi ko rin alam. Hindi ko naman inaasahan. I just wanted to say a few words just to thank her. Kung anuman ang sinabi [ko] it came from the heart kaya siguro medyo naging emotional ako.”

Pascual was also happy that his concert was a huge success. He said it was a dream come true for him to hold his own show at the PICC.

He also shared that for the first time he got a standing ovation from the audience. "Tapos first time na may nag-more so it's really momentous. Na-boost ang morale ko."

Yeng Constantino and Sitti Navarro were his special guests.

After his Valentine gig, Pascual will do shows abroad.

"Sa States muna tayo. I'm doing 6-city tour that's in Connecticut, Florida, Chicago, Toronto, Virginia and isa pa, mga ganoon. I will be in the States for shows naman, so doon ko dadalhin ‘yong concert naman," he said.

Robin opposing Mariel's showbiz comeback?

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Action star Robin Padilla has belied reports that he disapproved of his wife, actress-host Mariel Rodriguez, resuming her career in show business.

Angel confirms plan to go target shooting with Phil

MANILA, Philippines – Angel Locsin confirmed that she and star football player Phil Younghusband initially planned to go target shooting over the weekend but had to postpone it.

"Just to clear things, we didn't go target shooting. We thought about it but we found out saturday afternoon that the range closes on sundays☺ be nice to @iamtimyap & @tjmanotoc :) hehe, happy happy! :)” she tweeted.

Locsin made this declaration on microblogging site Twitter on Tuesday in an apparent defense of television host Tim Yap and ABS-CBN correspondent TJ Manotoc, both of whom tweeted about the supposed Locsin-Younghusband date.

Yap was the first to announce the news, with Younghusband’s older brother, James, as his source. Manotoc retweeted it, but later announced that it was not true.

Manotoc was quoting Younghusband himself.

After Manotoc’s tweet, Yap came under attack on Twitter. Netizens criticized Yap for tweeting unverified information.

Amid the criticisms, Manotoc said Yap should not be blamed.

He said: Hey tweeps, I spoke to @iamtimyap and have apologized already, this is to apologize online as well. He is not wrong. He heard it from james. Meanwhile Phil denied it to me. So what can we do? Nothing :) let them have their peace as so they wish. Sometimes celebs admit to a few & deny to many. You can tell who is "few" & who is "many" in this situation :) thanks for understanding tim! My apologies again, you don't deserve the stupid hate being thrown your way for this.”

Last week, Younghusband publicly asked Locsin for a romantic date on February 14. Unfortunately for Younghusband, the lead star of “Imortal” had to work that day.

Why partners cheat -- and what to do about it

MANILA, Philippines - "Mike," 25, has 3 girlfriends -- but they don't know that they're being cheated on.

He initially found it cool, saying that it helped him get accepted into his group of cheating male friends. But now that he has a baby with one of his girlfriends, Mike said he's starting to regret his life of infidelity and deception.

"Sa barkada, 'pag marami ang babae mo, astig kang tignan. Pero sa ngayon pong may baby na ako, mali na po," he said in an interview on ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda last week.

He continued, "May plano namang mag-seryoso, lalo na kasama ko ang baby kong lumalaki."

Mike said he wants to start a new life, but he doesn't know where to start. For one, he admitted that he's not yet ready to come clean to his girlfriends and face the consequences of getting caught.

"Ngayong lumalaki na ang baby ko, natatakot na rin ako sa epekto sa kanya," he said.

Mike, indeed, has a reason to be afraid as children are likely to follow the cheating ways of their parents, according to relationship expert Maribel Dionisio.

Most children look up to their parents as their role models. If not properly guided, they may end up having an affair as well, she explained.

"May predisposition. 'Pag nagtaksil ang magulang mo, ang mga anak maaaring magtaksil. Parang modelo mo na kasi ang magulang mo. Kaya dapat masusing preparation 'yan para maiwasan," Dionisio said.

Causes of infidelity

Aside from peer pressure and cheating parents, there are many other reasons why people cheat.

Dionisio said infidelity -- whether in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship or in a marriage -- may be caused by insecurity, trust issues, lack of communication, and addiction to sex, among many others.

Sometimes, cheating may even be inevitable in a relationship if the "foundation is weak already to start with," she said.

"Minsan sa simula pa lang, mali na ang pagsasama ng boyfriend/girlfriend. At kapag pumapasok na agad ang pagtatalik sa simula ng relationship, minsan ang friendship hindi maganda," Dionisio explained.

She continued, "Tapos minsan kapag ang courtship less than 3 years, mga one year or 6 months, whirlwind ang courtship so wala talagang connection or compatibility ang couple. Dapat kasi kilala mo na talaga."

How can you tell if your partner is cheating? Here are some common signs, as shared by Dionisio:

  1. When he or she no longer talks to you, or if he or she only talks about your obligations in the house, such as the children
  2. When you no longer have the usual once-a-week dates
  3. When you're no longer happy in the relationship
  4. When he or she stops being caring and affectionate
  5. When he or she shows no interest in your relationship's future
  6. When his or her behavior changes to the point that your friends are starting to notice
  7. When he or she starts to hide things from you

When things seem wrong, talk to your partner about it, Dionisio said. This applies even if the partner is not yet caught cheating.

"The first thing is to resume the weekly date. Mag-usap kayo about how you feel," she suggested.

It's all about knowing what the other person feels. When the erring partner or spouse has repented and has sincerely promised to stay true to you, Dionisio said there should be room for forgiveness.

If he or she does not have any plans of letting go of the affair, it's best to end the relationship to avoid further damage, she said.

"Dapat makapili siya. Magulo din ang buhay na 'yan eh," Dionisio ended.

City spreads compost method

A JAPANESE expert yesterday introduced to representatives of different non-government organizations and universities a composting method that uses live microorganisms.

Dr. Koji Takakura of the Wakamatsu Environment Research Institute discussed the method, which he invented and is named after him, in a technical symposium held at the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) 7.

The Takakura compos-ting method was adopted by the Cebu City Government last year, in a bid to address the city’s garbage problem, which is among the factors blamed for the floods that struck the cities of Mandaue and Cebu last month.

“We hope to reduce the city’s solid waste by 10 percent this year using the Takakura composting method,” said Rey Pacres, executive director of the Cebu City Solid Waste Management Board.

The project aims to cut waste generation by 20 percent in three years.

Pacres said the symposium was organized in order to encourage the universities and non-government organizations to adopt the composting method, which has already been piloted in eight barangays in Cebu City.

These barangays are Sawang Calero, Mamba-ling, Quiot, Capitol Site, Luz, Kasambagan, Mabolo and Ermita.

Every day, the city generates 400 to 500 tons of garbage, 50 percent of which are biodegradable, he said.

Pacres said the program targets to reduce the volume by 80 tons to 100 tons a day.

Hope Minor of the Pagtambayayong Foundation said the method has been taught to about 2,000 individuals in the city.

Partner

Cebu City has partnered with the foundation in implementing the project, with the financial and technical assistance from the Japan Fund for Global Environment and the Kitakyushu International Techno-cooperative Association.

Compared with vermi-composting, which uses earthworms, the Takakura method requires smaller space: 100 square meters per one ton of garbage, said Pacres.

He said the Takakura method will be one of the components of the city’s solid waste management plan.

With the program, Minor said people can earn income from composting, as it turns biodegradable garbage into organic fertilizer, which can be sold at P8 per kilo.

Pacres said the program implementation would include the construction of a material recovery facility (MRF) and use of the Takakura method of composting.

The Takakura method uses live microorganisms for the degradation of household waste such as leftover foods, fruits and vegetables.

Koji Takakura said compost is a product used in plant cultivation derived from the aerobic degradation of organic solid waste. Compost is used for improving subsoil and for fertilizer.

Model

He said each person in Cebu City generates at least 500 grams daily, and 250 grams of this is biodegradable.

The model for the waste reduction project is the implementation of the same method in Surabaya in Indonesia, wherein the solid waste of 16,000 households was reduced by 30 percent within three years.

Toshitaka Hori, Kitak-yushu International Techno-cooperative Association executive director, said the Surabaya project was able to generate employment, herbs and vegetable production using compost waste segregation and recycling, as well as income generation through compost sales.

Cassy Catapang, of Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Water, said the target of the project is feasible as long as there is segregation of waste at the household level.

However, the issue on its implementation is in question with, the lack of a committee or body that would oversee the project.

“There is still no CENRO (City Environment and Natural Resources Office), which is supposed to be the implementing arm (and tasked to ensure) that each barangay should have an MRF,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

 


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