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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 17, 2011 Major News Stories (

February 17, 2011 Major News Stories
February 17, 2011 Major News Stories

No classes on Feb. 25 to mark EDSA I uprising

MANILA, Philippines – There will be no classes on all levels in all public and private schools on February 25 in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA people power revolution, a Radyo Inquirer report said.

Radyo Inquirer, quoting Malacañang, said that the 25th will be a regular working day for employees. However, the Palace has urged employers to allow their employees to leave early on that day.

The 1986 EDSA people power revolution led to the proclamation of President Benigno Aquino III’s mother, Corazon Aquino, as the 11th president of the Philippines after democracy was restored to the country following the 14-year martial rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

SC flip-flops again, rules laws creating 16 cities constitutional

MANILA, Philippines— For the third time, the Supreme Court on Wednesday flip-flopped on its decision as it again reversed its August 2010 ruling that declared as unconstitutional the cityhood laws or Republic Acts converting 16 municipalities into cities.

In the ruling penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the high court reverted to its December 2009 decision declaring as constitutional the cityhood laws that converted the 16 cities into municipalities.

“This is a very unusual case considering that the court issued four decisions on this,” high court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said referring to the November 2008, December 2009, August 2010 and Wednesday’s ruling.

Marquez attributed the changes in the decision to the composition of the Supreme Court noting that some justices who were part of the November 2008 deliberation have already retired.

“A change in the composition (of the high court) can influence the outcome of the case,” Marquez said.

Declared as constitutional were RA Nos. 9389 (creating Baybay City in Leyte), 9390 (Bogo City in Cebu), 9391 (Catbalogan City in Samar), 9392 (Tandag City in Surigao del Sur), 9393 (Lamitan City in Basilan), 9394 (Borongan City in Samar), 9398 (Tayabas City in Quezon), 9404 (Tabuk City in Kalinga), 9405 (Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur), 9407 (Batac City in Ilocos Norte), 9408 (Mati City in Davao Oriental), 9409 (Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental), 9434 (Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte), 9435 (El Salvador City in Misamis Oriental), 9436 (Carcar City in Cebu), and 9491 (Naga City in Cebu).

On Nov. 18, 2008, the high court nullified the 16 cityhood laws for violating the Constitution. The decision became final after the high court denied its first motion for reconsideration while a divided high court with a vote of 6-6 denied the second appeal. Then, on May 21, 2009, the high court said it would no longer allow any pleadings related to the case.

However, the town mayors urged the high court to resolve the second motion for reconsideration that led to a reversal of its November 2008 decision and declared the 16 laws constitutional in its December 2009 decision.

The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) filed a motion for reconsideration asking the high court to reinstate its November 2008 decision, which it granted in a resolution issued August 2010.

Then, the town mayors appealed the August 2010 ruling which was reversed on Wednesday by the high court.

Marquez said this case was “very unusual” and that this could not be cited by other parties with pending cases with the high court because its decision is pro hac vice (for this particular occasion).

Keep investigating, Minglanilla cops told

MINGLANILLA’S police will keep investigating the abduction and murder of Ellah Joy Pique, a six-year-old town resident who was lured into a vehicle by a Caucasian man and a Filipina companion.

As this developed, hotel managers confirmed yesterday that Sven Erik Berger and a woman checked into the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug, Cebu City at 4:51 p.m. last Feb. 8.

That was less than an hour after Ellah Joy, according to witnesses, was last seen outside her school in Minglanilla, some 15 kilometers away from Cebu City.

Police insisted they have a strong case against Berger and his fiancée, Cebuana nurse Karen Esdrelon. They were arrested last Saturday night, before they could board a 10:15 p.m. flight to Hong Kong.

Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Erson Digal said he believes the inquiry by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 will not have any bearing on the complaint his office filed against the couple.


“We cannot ignore the positive identification of the witnesses,” he said, referring to three children who saw the couple who picked up Ellah Joy outside her school last Feb. 8.

But even if the kidnapping with homicide complaint has been filed at the prosecutor’s office, Minglanilla Police Chief Laurel Almirante said the town’s police force will continue to investigate, as ordered by the town council.

Reynante Pique, in a separate interview yesterday, assailed doubts raised over the arrest of Berger and Esdrelon. To prove the credibility of his witnesses, he is willing to allow them to undergo a lie detector test, if necessary.

With the suspects in jail, Reynante and his wife, Ligaya are preparing for their daughter’s burial in this Sunday.

Vice Mayor Elanito Peña and Councilor Concordio Mejias visited the Pique family’s house past 11 a.m. yesterday and handed P100,000 cash to the slain girl’s mother, Ligaya.

She thanked them for the financial help.

In her news conference yesterday, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said the abduction and the murder “was a gruesome and a most heinous crime.”

She confirmed that the NBI, as a member of the provincial task force against crime, is

conducting its own inquiry on the case.


In a letter to Provincial Attorney Marino Martinquilla, hotel manager Marco Protacio and hotel safety manager Jonathan Ho told the Provincial Task Force Against Criminality that Berger was accompanied by a woman when he checked in at 4:51 p.m last Feb. 8. He checked out the following day at 11 a.m.

“We are only able to establish the identity of the male guest, as it was his name that was officially registered in the reservation,” the letter said said.

There was nothing suspicious about the guest’s stay in the hotel.

The hotel managers also said the linens the police showed them were different from the ones the hotel uses. Policemen visited the hotel last Feb. 14 and showed hotel personnel the linens that wrapped the child’s body, when it was found last Feb. 9.

Governor Garcia, meanwhile, intends to meet with the Local School Board to find out what measures have been taken to keep school children safe.

She supports the move of the Provincial Board to ask for at least two tanods in each school in the province, and said the Capitol has been assisting them with their honorarium and their enrollment in a group accident insurance policy.

For his part, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he would prefer to create a task force rather than offer a cash reward for the arrest of the suspects.


Rama said offering a reward would only encourage people to pose as witnesses. He added, though, that he will not stop the giving of rewards since this has become part of the system.

He said the task force should consist of different law enforcement agencies who will work separately but collaborate on gathering information.

In his news conference, Rama also commended the Cebu City Police Office for reducing the crime rate last month, compared to the same period in the previous years, without necessarily giving out rewards for all the cases solved.

“Why is it that in Cebu City, now under (Sr. Supt Melvin) Buenafe, we don’t practice cash rewards in every arrest?” said Rama.

In yesterday’s Talakayan sa Isyung Pulis forum, Digal and Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division Chief Patrocinio Comendador both said it is now up to the prosecutor to decide on the complaint.

The two police officials said the seven-day waiver of detention signed by Esdrelon and Berger will give the police enough time to gather more evidence.

Time out

During their regular session last Tuesday, the Minglanilla Council decided to withhold the P100,000 reward for the capture of the suspects.

“We have reached a consensus not to release yet the cash reward, until it is clear that the real perpetrators are brought to justice,” Councilor Mejias said.

He said his colleagues in the council have also expressed doubts on whether the two suspects arrested at the Mactan Cebu International Airport last Saturday are indeed the culprits.

“It’s better to wait for further development because we cannot take the reward back if we release it,” Mejias added.

Also yesterday, the head of the NBI in Central Visayas clarified reports they are intervening in the police’s investigation.

Regional Director Eduard Villarta, in an interview, said the agency will wait for the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor to finish its inquest investigation on the kidnapping with homicide complaint the Cebu Provincial Police Office filed.

Wait and see

“They (the police) have already filed a complaint. In cases like that, it is prudent to wait and see,” he said.

He admitted, though, that they conducted a fact-finding investigation on the killing, particularly the alibi that the respondents raised.

This was not their parallel investigation, but that of the Provincial Anti Crime Task Force, he explained.

He clarified that no official findings have been reached or released.

“The report is still being drafted,” he said.

The complaint the police filed rests on the testimony of three children who said they saw a couple get Ellah Joy to board their vehicle last Feb. 8. They later identified the couple as Berger and Esdrelon.

Atty. Kit Enriquez, a member of the Provincial Task for on Anti-Criminality and a director of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City Chapter, believes that the police’s case against the respondents is strong.

“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.”

But another IBP director, Atty. Dave Duallo, described the case as “on perilous ground, if no other evidence supports it.”

Handling of witnesses in Pique slay DSWD asks CHR: Assess PNP move

by By Ria Mae Y. Booc

CEBU, Philippines - Was there a mishandling of the child witnesses in the killing of six-year-old Ellah Joy Pique?

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) wants the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct their own assessment if the Philippine National Police (PNP) knows the rules and regulations in handling minor witnesses.

Lawyer Gerardo ‘Gerry’ Carillo, DSWD consultant said that policemen should not divulge thorough information or allow minor witnesses to take part in public appearances as part of the rules.

“If they are not aware of that I would like to remind them,” Carillo said.

Carillo said that the PNP allowed the minor witnesses to appear on television, which put the children in a precarious situation.

But when asked if the PNP had mishandled the minor witnesses, Carillo said he can not make any judgment since it’s the CHR’s role to make the assessment.

The CHR is scheduled to go to barangay Calajoan in Minglanilla town today where Ellah lived, not to interrupt police investigations, but to give financial assistance.

CHR investigator Primo Cadampog said they cannot intervene in police procedures, but they will interview the victim’s family and give P10,000 cash as assistance.

Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Meinrado Paredes said there is a law that covers the rules and regulations for the protection of child witnesses — the “Special Rule on the Examination of the Child Witness.”

Paredes said the minor witness may have a “guardian adlitin” appointed by the court to protect the best interest of the child.

The law also provides that a facilitator appointed by the court will be the one to ask questions to the child.

Paredes said during the investigation the child may have a support person, which is the most important person chosen by the child, to accompany him or her to testify at or attend a judicial proceeding to provide emotional support for him or her.

He said every child is presumed to be competent and qualified as a witness, but if some person will question the competency of the minor witness, then they can file a motion to determine competency.

Charges of kidnapping with homicide were filed against Norwegian engineer Sven Erik Berger and his Filipina girlfriend Karen Esdrelon last Tuesday over the death of Ellah, whose body was dumped in Barili.

The two have vehemently denied the accusations and have presented evidence to prove that it was impossible for them to have committed the crime as they had a full schedule in the city.

The suspects were arrested last Saturday night at the Mactan Cebu International Airport. Both were supposed to fly to Hong Kong to celebrate Valentine’s Day there.

They were accused of kidnapping Pique right after class dismissal about 4:00 in the afternoon.

At around 7:55 p.m. on February 9, the body of Pique was recovered at a cliff beside the National Highway in sitio Palalong, barangay Guibuangan, Barili, Cebu. The body was wrapped using a white bed sheet.

The girl’s school bag was recovered nearby. Police found two P50 bills in the bag, which the victim’s father said must have come from the suspects as he does not give his daughter money.


If the case filed against Berger and Esdrelon will be dismissed, they have no plans to file charges against the PNP for putting them in a very bad situation.

“After everything, we will fly to Norway and stay for good. Dili nami mo-file. What for? Wala na among credibility,” Esdrelon, a nurse, said.

She will not also pursue plans to study at the Norwegian language school here.


The National Bureau of Investigation clarified yesterday that they did are not doing their own investigation into the death of Ellah Joy.

The bureau said that doing another investigation would be tantamount to obstruction of justice at this stage as the case is already with the prosecutor.

They said they will wait if what will be the outcome of the investigation of the prosecutor if the case will be dismissed or elevated to court.


Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Erson Digal said they have a strong case against the couple considering the positive identification made by the child witnesses.

“Alangan og dili butangan og weight ang positive identification sa mga bata,” Digal said.

He added that the CPPO is also gathering more evidence against the suspects.

Sr. Supt. Patrocinio Comendador, head of the Regional Intelligence Division, said “We will let fiscal decide whether there is probable cause to indict the suspects.”


Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia is set to convene the Provincial School Board to check what measures are now in place after the gruesome murder Ellah Joy.

Garcia said the participation of the Parent-Teachers Community Association (PTCA) is important.

Garcia said that during the meeting, she hopes to disseminate to PTCAs certain guidelines for parents and teachers to take.

The Cebu Provincial Board last Monday passed a resolution requesting component cities and towns to provide at least two barangay tanods for each school to help secure the students.

Garcia also said that as chairperson of the Provincial Anti-Criminality Task Force, she is closely coordinating with the National Bureau of Investigation on the conduct of the investigation of the case.

She said she is receiving periodic reports from NBI which is part of the task force and lending available resources needed in the investigation.


Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said sometimes the granting of cash rewards to those who could help solve and arrest the culprits of controversial cases will only encourage some people to lie just to get the offered bounty.

But Rama did not categorically say that the three minor witnesses, who pinpointed Norwegian and his Filipina girlfriend are lying in their testimonies, but he does not totally support the granting of cash rewards to informers.

Meanwhile, lawyer Frank Malilong who leads a group of lawyers and other professionals, who solicited cash donations to be given as reward to the informant to help solve the killing of Ellah Joy, said they will not release yet the bounty.

Malilong said although the police had claimed that they already have solid evidence to support the conviction of Berger and Esdrelon, because of the testimonies of the minor witnesses, they will just wait for further development of the case.

At present, many believe that Berger and Esdrelon could just be victims of mistaken identity.

Cebu reporter accuses police chief of sexual harassment

CEBU CITY, Philippines—A local daily in Cebu on Wednesday filed an administrative complaint of misconduct against a police official before the Police Regional Office (PRO 7) for allegedly making sexual advances on a female correspondent of the paper.

Cebu Daily News (CDN) publisher and acting editor-in-chief Eileen Mangubat, accompanied by legal counsel Haide Acuña, filed an administrative complaint for misconduct against the Talisay City Police Station chief, Superintendent Henry Biñas, with the office of PRO 7 director, Chief Superintendent Ager Ontog.

CDN correspondent Carmel Loise Matus stated in her affidavit that Biñas touched her breast and tried to kiss her after an interview on February 8, 2010 inside the police official’s office.

In her sworn statement, Matus stated that she was with radio reporter Robert Sabequil in the office of Biñas at around 9 a.m. on February 8 to get updates on the case of Joavan Fernandez, the highly controversial son of Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez.

Matus said that after the interview, they asked permission to leave so they could attend the 10 a.m. session of the city council.

Matus said Sabequil was the first to get out of the office while she stood up to get her bag from the chair.

When she was about to leave the room, Biñas grabbed her wrist and then appeared to be trying to kiss her on the cheek and touched her right breast.

Matus said she was shocked and felt confused, and as she moved away from Biñas, the latter pinched her tummy.

But Biñas, 42, a lawyer and a married man with two children, denied the accusation.

Biñas said he did not touch the breast of Matus and he did not intend to kiss her.

“It's true that I held her shoulder to keep her in the office in jest but I did not intend to harass her. There was no malice intended,” according to Biñas, who hails from Iloilo and has served as chief of Talisay City police station for the past two years.

Biñas said it was unfortunate that his joke was misinterpreted.

“It was in good faith. If she was offended, I’m sorry,” Binas said, adding that he would be willing to talk with Matus in front of the CDN publisher to clarify things.

Matus also said that Biñas had called her four times after the incident but she did not answer the calls.

She added that she felt “extremely violated and humiliated” and had trouble sleeping and concentrating on her work.

“Just thinking about the traumatic experience brings so much pain to my being,” Matus said.

On the other hand, Mangubat asked Ontog to take swift action on the complaint and for Biñas to refrain from approaching Matus or sending emissaries or messages, pending the resolution of the case.

Mangubat also gave assurances that the CDN would continue to report news from Biñas' office with fairness and independence.

‘File charges against DENR director’

THE Commission on Decorum and Investigation (Codi) of the environment department has recommended the filing of a sexual harassment charge against a high-ranking official.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 Codi, in a resolution last Jan. 24, said a prima facie case exists against Dioscoro Melana, former DENR 7 Protected Area, Wildlife and Coastal Management Zone Services (PAWCMZS) regional technical director.

A contractual employee has accused Melana of sexual harassment and psychological torture. Melana has denied the allegation, saying the contractual employee is trying to get back at him for cutting short her contract at DENR 7.

The DENR 7 Codi, headed by legal division chief Fernando Alberca, recommended that Environment Secretary Ramon Paje investigate the case so that both parties would have the chance to present their evidence.


Sun.Star Cebu tried to contact Melana but he could not be reached for comment.

Melana has been transferred to Zamboanga City, where he heads the DENR 9 PAWCMZS. A special order on his transfer was signed by Environment Undersecretary for Field Operations Ernesto Adobo Jr. last Jan. 31.

The DENR 7 Codi said it came up with the resolution based on several factors, including "the gravity of the allegations in the complaint, coupled with the natural assumption that no woman would have herself exposed to unnecessary embarrassment, ridicule, shame and dishonor, if none of the narrations indeed had happened to her."

The commission said the “integrity and competence” of the DENR in handling the case is “at stake.”

Kristina, not her real name, worked as a clerk at the PAWCMZS 7 office in March 2008 when the alleged sexual harassment and psychological torture occurred.

Kristina had also brought her complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas and the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

Earlier, she accused the DENR, the ombudsman and CSC of failing to act on her complaint.

But the anti-graft office earlier disputed Kristina’s claim. It said it began to conduct an investigation on the case but could not proceed because Kristina had filed similar complaints with the CSC and the DENR.

The ombudsman said it even sent a letter to DENR last year to inquire about the complaint and a second tracer letter last month.

Lawyers criticize police

SEVERAL lawyers have criticized the way Alex Tolentino, past president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City Chapter, was arrested last Tuesday night.

Tolentino was arrested by a team of the Cebu City Police Office Investigation and Detective Management Branch (IDMB), headed by Chief Insp. George Ylanan, while having dinner at his home.

While the warrant for his arrest allowed him to post a P10,000-bail, Tolentino could not make payment because court-authorized cashiers were no longer available past court hours. The lawyer had to spend the night in jail, and was only able to post bail and leave his detention cell yesterday morning.

Tolentino, in an interview after his release, said he does not want to lodge a complaint against the police team.

IBP Cebu City Chapter president Michael Yu said a meeting is being called to discuss the way Tolentino was arrested.

More dangerous

“He was arrested at night, a day after his warrant was issued. He could have been asked to turn himself in. In the meantime, a lot of warrants against more dangerous people remain not served,” Yu lamented in an interview yesterday.

Judge Monalila Tecson of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 1, issued an arrest warrant against Tolentino last Monday.

The warrant stemmed from a criminal case filed against the lawyer by the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas for allegedly representing a client in a 2007 case while still being employed by a government agency.

Tolentino had worked with the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) legal


Lawyer Dave Duallo, a member of the IBP chapter’s board of directors, wondered why the arrest was carried out by the IDMB instead of the warrants and subpoena section.


“What’s so special about Alex Tolentino?” he asked.

Many lawyers describe Tolentino’s case as “minor,” saying that even if convicted, the lawyer would merely be slapped with a fine.

Some of them, requesting anonymity, said Tolentino’s arrest may be a form of retaliation.

They recalled an incident in 2007 at the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor where Tolentino embarrassed a policewoman, a subordinate of Ylanan at the Criminal

Investigation and Intelligence Branch, forerunner of the IDMB.

Tolentino, in front of Assistant City Prosecutor Raul Cristoria, accused PO2 Jerrybel Lerio of “planting” the evidence used in the drug case filed against two of his clients.


In full view of the prosecutor and within earshot of other policemen, Tolen-tino reportedly threatened to sue Lerio and Ylanan.

Although he will not file charges against the police team that arrested him, Tolentino said his lawyer, Earl Bonachita, plans to talk with MTCC Executive Judge Oscar Andrino to discuss how to improve the service of warrants against “non-high risk persons.”

“If this happened to a lawyer, an officer of the court, it can happen to anybody,” he said.

Yu said police officers are allowed to serve arrest warrants anytime to prevent the subjects from escaping.


“There are more pressing arrest warrants on hardened criminals that need to be served. Instead, they chose to arrest an easy target and deliberately did it after court hours,” said Yu.

Although the arrest warrant may be served “anytime of the day,” Yu said the rationale to that premise is clearly “to prevent an accused from taking flight.”

Human rights lawyer Rex Fernandez said the police should have allowed Tolentino “due dignity.”

If the judge signed the warrant of arrest late Tuesday afternoon, Fernandez said the police could have served it on Tolentino Wednesday morning.

He said there is an administrative circular by the Supreme Court that a warrant of arrest should be served during court hours “although it can be served anytime.”

Fernandez said Tolentino could file charges against the arresting officers, such as gross oppression.

100 families lose city ‘home’ as 79 become landowners

AS THE Cebu City demolition squad begins clearing the Citi-Center Commercial Complex (CCCC) building 1 of illegal occupants, the Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC) paid P6.1 million to the owners of the lots that will be converted into a housing site for 79 informal settlers in Barangay Labangon.

The Cebu City Squatters Prevention Encroachment and Elimination Division (Speed) sought the help of Kamagayan Barangay Captain Avila to rid CCCC of around 100 families that have been occupying one building in the complex.

Speed chief Noel Artes said the group will clear the second building in the complex next.

Avila said about 100 families also live in the second building but they are aware they have to leave the place soon.


Artes said notices to vacate the building have already been sent to the families in September last year. The building occupants also sent a 72-hour notice to the occupants last Sunday.

Initially, building occupants resisted but, Artes said, they were eventually convinced to leave the building.

Avila said some of the occupants have transferred to a relocation site in Canduman, Mandaue City while others have sought refuge among relatives in Barangay Busay and nearby barangays in the Cebu City.

Aside from deploying barangay tanods to the area, Avila said he allowed affected families to use a mini-dumptruck to transport belongings to their new dwellings.

But some of the illegal occupants remained in the CCCC premises.


“Mangita pa lagi mi ug kabalhinan. Asa kaha mi puyo ani nga naa man mi diri sa syudad nanginabuhi? (We have yet to find a place to stay. We don’t know where we will go as our livelihood is here in the city?),” one of the settlers said.

During the demolition, Speed personnel found several syringes that Artes suspected were used to inject illegal drugs.

Artes earlier said they plan to use the CCCC as a satellite office of Speed.

But City Mayor Michael Rama bared a plan to convert the 7,281-square meter property in Barangay Kamagayan into a housing site. He is also planning to put up a parking lot within the complex to solve the problem of illegal parking in the downtown area.

Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City south district), former Cebu City mayor, wanted to develop a sunken plaza in the area.


In Labangon, 79 families that have been occupying the lots of the Saceda family in Sitio Bonbonan have been given the chance to own the land their houses are built on.

This after the SHFC paid a total of P6.1 million to the heirs of Pedro Saceda, Canuta Saceda and Felo-mina Saceda-Menguito.

SHFC Region Chief Randy Librando said the 79 beneficiaries who are already living on the lots as squatters can now call themselves homeowners.

They will start paying amortization on the property starting March 2, for 25 years.

Librando said other squatters in Cebu can avail themselves of similar loans under the Community Mortgage Program (CMP) of the SHFC by forming themselves into a homeowners association and registering with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).


The SHFC is a government agency tasked to provide funding for socialized housing programs for informal or illegal settlers.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, through daughter Nancy Binay-Angeles, proposed a partnership between the National and Local Governments to provide socialized housing to underprivileged families.

In his message to Central Visayas governors and mayors read by Binay-Angeles during the Pabahay Caravan at Radisson Blu Hotel yesterday, Binay said some local government units need funds while others seek help to make their housing programs effective.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia welcomed Binay’s offer.

She said Capitol intends to ask for assistance from the National Government to implement its urban renewal program.

Land use

Binay, also chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said other local government units (LGUs) need help in preparing their comprehensive land use plans (Clups) and socialized housing programs.

“We all know that the Clup is an indispensable tool of the local government to ensure rational, socio-economical and ecologically balanced and sustainable development of resources and growth of human settlements,” read Binay’s message.

He said 12 LGUs in Central Visayas still do not have approved Clups.

Binay also urged LGUs to create a functional Local Housing Board, which will serve as a platform for the implementation of the Urban Development Housing Act of 1982.

He said HUDCC’s strategic framework on shelter must conform with President Benigno Aquino III’s social contract with the Filipino people, which provides, among others, the planning of alternative, inclusive urban development where people of varying income levels are integrated in productive, healthy and safe communities.

“This means that our strategic framework for the next five and a half years is anchored on providing families not just with the infrastructure of a house, but the framework of a home,” said Binay.

Gutierrez has nothing to fear, Speaker says

MANILA, Philippines—Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez will have her day in court to explain her side when she faces the justice committee in the House of Representatives, which is hearing the impeachment cases against her.

'Garcia deal can't be added to impeachment rap'

The camp of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is disappointed with the Supreme Court (SC) ruling yesterday junking her motion for reconsideration in connection with the impeachment complaint filed against her at the House of Representatives.

Atty. Butch Diaz, Gutierrez’s legal counsel for the impeachment case, said they presented strong arguments to prove that the impeachment complaint violated certain provisions in the Constitution.

OSG: We've legal standing to intervene in Garcia deal

by By Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) reiterated that it has a legal standing to intervene in the plea bargaining agreement entered into by the Office of the Ombudsman and retired Major General Carlos Garcia and it cannot be prevented from questioning the validity of the agreement and seek its nullification.

Enrile: We owe it to Angie to finish AFP probe

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday said that he wants to continue with the Senate inquiry on the alleged corruption in the military and finally put a close to the issue for the late defense Sec. Angelo Reyes.

No 'pabaon' for David, but PNoy offers him a job

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said he has offered a job to outgoing Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Ricardo David, who is retiring on March 8.

“I’m also convincing General David. He’s still young, he might want to take on another responsibility afterwards. I’m almost a hundred percent that I was able to convince him,” Aquino told reporters after presiding the Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND-AFP) command conference at Camp Aguinaldo.

In a separate interview, David confirmed the job offer even as the selection process for his successor is still ongoing.

“He (Aquino) asked me if I want to serve under him and my (answer) was yes, I’ll probably (take a job). I also told him ‘Mr. President, if I am still of use in your government, I am very willing to serve’,” David said.

The AFP chief said he does not know which government post the President will give him when he bows out of the service.

David is the first AFP chief to serve under President Aquino.

David said he doubts if he will be offered a Cabinet position. “He asked what’s my preference. ‘Sir, whatever is vacant where I can be of help and if that fits my qualifications then, I will be very willing to be in that position’,” he said.

When asked if he will have a “pabaon,” David said he is expecting to receive the full amount of a lump sum which represents his longevity pay, the lump sum of his pension, leave credits, and contribution with the AFP Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFPRSBS).

David said he expects the President to start meeting potential candidates to succeed him as AFP chief.

The three-star generals included in the list of possible bets are AFP vice chief Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu; AFP deputy chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban; Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz; Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena; Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan; Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali; Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban; Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva; Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer; AFP inspector general Vice Adm. Mario Catacutan; and, Philippine Military Academy superintendent Vice Adm. Leonardo Calderon, who is retiring on March 24.

Calderon is from the PMA class ’76; Ferrer and Catacutan are from the PMA class ’77, while Mapagu, Rabena, Detabali, Sabban and Vilanueva are from PMA class ’78 which includes former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as an honorary member.

On the other hand, Ortiz, Oban and Pangilinan are from the PMA class ’79.

David said the two-star generals they included in the list of contenders are 2nd Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Jessie Dellosa of the PMA class ’79 and AFP deputy chief of staff for operations Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista of the PMA class ’81.

Morale of troops still high: AFP

by By Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) today assured President Noynoy Aquino that the morale of the troops remain high, despite recent allegations of corruption within the organization.

Palace mulls Mendoza, Padaca for top COA post


MANILA, Philippines - A Palace official on Wednesday floated the names of former state auditor Heidi Mendoza and former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca as possible replacements of Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar.

Aquino inhibits from Marcos burial debate


MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said he will not decide if his family’s former foe, President Ferdinand Marcos, should be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Lacson: PNP also has pabaon system


MANILA, Philippines - Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed today there is also a slush fund in the Philippine National Police, saying it is high time that the agency be investigated as well.

Ex-PNP comptroller denies irregularities

A former police comptroller who is now a congressman denied Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s claim that there is a P40-million fund — or “commander’s reserve" — given to Philippine National Police (PNP) chiefs for their exclusive disposal.

Nagkaroon yata ng misunderstanding sa statement ni Senator Lacson. Hindi iyon commander’s reserve kundi command reserve. Halimbawa, kapag bumagyo at may mga nasira, doon kami kumukuha ng pampagawa," Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop told GMA News in a phone interview Wednesday night.

(I think Lacson’s statement was misunderstood. That’s not commander’s reserve but command reserve. That’s where we get funds when, for example, we need to fix structures damaged by typhoon.)

He said the command reserve is used as a contingency fund for the PNP’s “unprogrammed activities." He added that the said contingency fund, which actually amounted to P44 million, was not for personal use, and goes back to the national treasury if not spent.

“The savings are captured by the DBM [Department of Budget and Management]. Bumabalik sa (It goes back to the) national treasury," said Acop, who was PNP comptroller when Lacson was PNP chief from 1999 to 2001.

Earlier in the day, Lacson, who is still in hiding in connection with the Dacer-Corbito double murder case, bared supposed anomalies in the PNP.

Lacson said he was given P40 million reserved funds when he was PNP chief for his exclusive disposal and other “perks" such as a credit card with a high credit limit and monthly gas allowance that exceeded his consumption.

He said he never availed of any of these supposed privileges.

Acop said that he is not aware of the credit card privilege, although he confirmed that Lacson ordered him to download the excess gas allowance to frontline units.

Pina-download niya ‘yan talaga kasi iilan lang naman sasakyan niya (He wanted it downloaded to the frontlines because he said he doesn’t own that many vehicles)," he said.

Enrile to Lacson: Come out now

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday renewed his call for Sen. Panfilo 'Ping' Lacson to surface, saying he himself believes the murder case against him is weak.

AFP chief blames local governments for insurgency

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Ricardo David Jr. cited the inefficiency of local governments as one of the main causes of the communist insurgency in the country.

Another communist rebel leader nabbed—Army

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Army announced it nabbed during the weekend another alleged ranking communist rebel leader, the third to be captured by government forces in five weeks.

Ericson Acosta, an alleged propaganda officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines Central Committee, was caught in San Jorge, Samar, last Sunday, but military authorities only announced his capture on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Army's 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan, Samar, described him as a former member of the instructors bureau of the "National Education Department" of the CPP Central Committee.

Jazmines: My arrest mocks the peace process

MANILA, Philippines - A top leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People's Army (CPP-NPA-NDF) said his recent arrest by military forces on the eve of the peace talks “is an outright and arrogant mockery and sabotage of the peace process.”

In a statement, Allan Jazmines said the government and its armed forces have been “intentionally violating” the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

3 more Cabinet men confirmed

MANILA, Philippines - After promising the senator that he will not repeal his predecessor's order banning the sale of kidneys to foreigners, Health Secretary Enrique Ona finally got Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago's nod and that of the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Santiago objected to Ona's appointment two weeks ago and threatened to invoke her one-person veto because of Ona's alleged support for kidney trade.

Santiago said Ona wrote him a letter clarifying that he won't rescind former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral's administrative orders banning the sale of kidneys, especially to foreigners.

"Ayaw na natin na dumating ang mga dayuhan dito at inaasahan nila na bibili sila ng kidney sa mga Pilipino, lalo na kung mahirap ang Pilipino," Santiago said in an interview after the hearing.

The CA approved Ona's appointment on Wednesday.

The bicameral body also confirmed the appointments of Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

Romulo on way out of DFA, but may be offered another post

MANILA, Philippines—Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, the highest-ranking holdover official from the Arroyo administration and a close friend of the Aquino family, is on the way out.

President Aquino indicated this much on Wednesday when he acknowledged Romulo’s capabilities in government service and said Romulo might be given another post in the Aquino government. “Bert Romulo is not a stranger to me. So, he still has contributions that he can make. It’s always the details that tie us up,” the President said.

Solon: P3B per year needed for RH bill implementation

Around P3 billion per year will be needed from the national budget to implement the provisions of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill if it is enacted into law, one of the authors of the controversial measure said on Wednesday.

RH bill activists hold rally; House OKs RH budget

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A big crowd of Reproductive Health (RH) supporters gathered at the Batasan Pambansa south gate on Wednesday morning to ask for the immediate passage of the RH bill.

House set to vote on ARMM polls next week

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The House of Representatives Committee on Suffrage is set to vote on the proposals to synchronize the regional elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the 2013 mid-term national elections.

Aquino appeals as China readies to execute drug mules

(UPDATE) President Benigno Aquino III launched a last-ditch appeal Wednesday for China to show clemency to three Filipino drug couriers who face execution next week.

Binay to visit China Thursday to plead for 3 Filipinos' lives

Vice President Binay will fly to China on Thursday in a last-ditch try to appeal to Beijing to commute the death sentence on three Filipinos convicted for drug trafficking. Earlier, the Philippine government tried to set up a phone conversation with Chinese President Hu Jintao to plead for the lives of the three Filipinos, but the Chinese government has yet to accept the call.

Chinese president powerless in Filipinos' execution

MANILA, Philippines--Chinese President Hu Jintao does not have the power to help the three Filipinos in death row, learned Wednesday.

Pinay drug mule's husband prays for a miracle


MANILA, Philippines – The family of Sally Villanueva, the alleged drug mule sentenced to die next week in China, is still hoping for a miracle.

420 Filipinos repatriated from Saudi

MANILA, Philippines—A total of 420 Filipinos, including 98 children, have been repatriated from Saudi Arabia this month, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

Group urges gov’t to probe ‘mysterious’ death of OFW in Lebanon

MANILA, Philippines—A Filipino migrant rights group on Wednesday called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Embassy in Beirut to conduct an investigation on the reported death of a Filipino domestic helper who was reported by a Lebanese newspaper to have leapt from the fourth-floor balcony of a building in Fanar, Lebanon.

The Middle-East based Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) said the Lebanese newspaper As-Sarif reported on February 2 that Lorena Bedjoan, 24, “threw” herself from the balcony and that “she died immediately and the police is investigating.”

“No additional information was given in the newspaper report,” John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said.

Monterona said he learned about the news report from a concerned fellow overseas Filipino worker from Lebanon who called him last week confirming the incident. The same OFW gave him the link of the news report, which is in Arabic and translated in English:

“Her case could be the first case of ‘mysterious’ death this year that reached us. It adds to the long list of unsolved cases,” Monterona averred.

$1: 43.585

$1: 43.585 (P43.72)

Euro 1: 58.8413

HSBC sees PHL peso to surge to 37.5:$1 in 2011

The Philippine peso will likely appreciate to 37.50:$1 this year and to 35.50:$1 next year, according to UK-based HSBC. But the bank's unit in Manila believes that while the peso was bound to strengthen, the more realistic rate by year-end is 41:$1.

Tetangco ouster sought; Palace firm

FORMER GOVERNMENT officials and private individuals yesterday called for the appointment of a new central bank chief, claiming irregularities that happened under the watch of reappointed Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr.

Egypt junta names panel to reform constitution

by by Samer al-Atrush, Agence France-Presse

CAIRO, Egypt - Egypt's military rulers warned on Tuesday that a wave of strikes sweeping the country was "disastrous," as it gave a panel of civilian experts 10 days to revise the constitution.

Japan must ease migrant rules or lose carers: minister

by Reuters

TOKYO, Japan - Japan must completely revise its immigration rules to deal with a shortage of labour in an ageing society or risk losing workers to China, whose population is also greying, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said on Wednesday.

Berlusconi clings on despite outrage over sex charges

by Agence France-Presse

ROME, Italy - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi clung to power Wednesday as Italy headed for turbulent times after the announcement that he will stand trial for sex with an underage prostitute and for abuse of power.

Obama-Pacquiao meet highlights Pinoy talent: Aquino


MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday hailed the meeting between United States President Barack Obama and Filipino boxing sensation and Saranggani Representative Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao in Washington, saying it highlighted Filipino talent and worth.

Donaire still pounds away from 118-lb limit

by By Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Three days before the weigh-in, Nonito Donaire still has about 4 or 5 pounds to lose to make the bantamweight limit of 118 pounds.

Without six teams, no PBL - for now

One team is all Nolan Bernardino, son of the late former Philippine Basketball Association commissioner Jun Bernardino, needed to get the new season of the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) going.

Pagulayan tops US 9-Ball tournament


MANILA, Philippines – Former World Pool Champion Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan went undefeated in the 15th Annual Jay Swanson Memorial 9-Ball Tournament, which was held at the Hardtimes Billiards in Belflower, California over the weekend.

Wade scores 41, helps Heat top Pacers (AP)

Dwyane Wade dominated the first half, LeBron James and Chris Bosh took over in the fourth quarter and the Miami Heat's star power overcame Indiana's youth and determination. Wade tied a franchise record for most points in a first half with 31, and he finished with 41 to help the Heat defeat the Pacers 110-103 on Tuesday night.

Echo confirms role in international film


MANILA, Philippines – After the successful launch of his newest primetime series “Green Rose” on ABS-CBN, drama actor Jericho Rosales is now proud to share to everyone his first international movie.

'Price Is Right' contestant wins brand new car

MANILA, Philippines – A 30-year-old contestant of ABS-CBN’s newest game show, “The Price is Right,” has won a brand new car.

During Wednesday's episode of the show, Paolo Gacusan took home a luxury vehicle worth P860,000 and a showcase after correctly guessing the price of an item.

Gacusan posts consumers ads on stores for a living.

“The Price is Right” premiered only on Monday, and is hosted by Queen of All Media Kris Aquino.

Pacman's hair a tribute to Bieber, The Beatles or Bruce Lee?

MANILA, Philippines – So what's the deal with Manny Pacquiao's shaggy hair?

In his promotional tour for his fight against "Sugar" Shane Mosley, Pacquiao has been sporting a hairdo that covers a big part of his forehead.

For columnist Michael Marley, Pacquiao– in yet his shaggiest hair to date– could actually be making a tribute to teenage pop and R&B singer Justin Bieber.

"I've been told by insiders now that Pacman's coiff is actually his personal tribute to teen idol Justin Beiber," he quipped.

The Canadian Bieber, who is a big name in the tween music industry, sports his trademark combed-over hair.

Marley added in jest that Pacquiao's Bieber-like hairdo might also be because of the boxer's adviser Michael Koncz's roots.

"Bieber, who draws squeals from females of all ages, is a Canadian which makes me suspect fellow Canadian and Pacquiao uber agent Michael Koncz is in the middle of all this," he said.

Marley went on with the joke, saying that, if not Bieber, Pacquiao might be projecting a Beatles-inspired look.

"I don't see how we can all survive the boredom unless somebody comes along to put something spicy into the mix beyond Pacquiao's coiffure making him the Pinoy Fifth Beatle," he said.

But, for Pacquiao himself, he replied in jest that his shaggy hairdo is actually in honor of a certain legendary Chinese-American action star.

“Bruce Lee is my idol," he said in

On the other hand, perhaps Pacquiao is avoiding a barber shop visit because of commercial purposes.

Just recently, the Filipino boxer disclosed that one company reportedly asked him to endorse its shaving product.

No politics in Pacquiao-Obama meeting

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao emerged from his private meeting with US President Barack Obama looking very much accomplished.

But what did the two of the most well-known figures of the decade talk about?

In an interview with, Pacquiao disclosed that Obama wished him the best for his upcoming fight with "Sugar" Shane Mosley this May.

"He wished me luck for my upcoming fight," he said.

Pacquiao added that he also invited the US president to watch his fight at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.

"[He] said he's gonna watch in pay-per-view," the Filipino boxer said.

Pacquiao also had a photo opportunity with Obama.

"We posed like we were boxing," he said.

The Filipino superstar made the side trip during the Washington D.C. stop of the 4-day tour promoting the Pacquiao-Mosley fight. The tour began at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, followed by stops in Las Vegas and New York, respectively.

Pacquiao and Mosley will collide on May 7 with the Filipino's World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title at stake.

No politics

When asked if Obama gave him an advice on politics, Pacquiao, congressman of the lone district of Sarangani, just smiled.

"No," he said. "I'm [just] happy, I met the president."

When pressed if he was advised by Obama to run as Philippine president in the future, Pacquiao shook his head.

"No. We didn't talk about that," he said, citing that they did not discuss government policies during the meeting.

Pacquiao added that Obama congratulated him for winning in the local elections last year.

Before starting the promotional tour in the US, the Filipino boxer mentioned about seeking aid for his projects in Sarangani.

Obama as Pacman's inspiration

Pacquiao said he was thrilled to meet the US president, whom he considered as an "inspiration."

"In boxing, you have an idol. He's my idol because (of) the way he talk to people, he serve the people," said Pacquiao.

The boxing icon said that, just like Obama, he wanted to serve his countrymen. This, he said, pushed him to enter politics.

"Like in boxing... I hoped to be a champion. And now in politics, I hope to achieve to be a champion public servant," said Pacquiao.

Medical malpractice? 6 forceps found in tummy

MANILA, Philippines - A woman is seeking justice after her live-in partner died allegedly after surgical equipment were left inside him post-operation.

Hannah, not her real name, still can't believe what happened to her live-in partner Roger Panzo.

She recounted that on January 30, Roger was brought to the FEU-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation (NRMF) Medical Center after he sustained gunshot wounds in a robbery incident in Caloocan.

He was operated on and was able to recover, but the surgical wound was not closed immediately. The hospital said it was done to be able to monitor the patient closely.

"They could not control the bleeding, so it was decided to keep the OS inside the abdomen first," said Dr. Deane Campo-Cruz, Chief of Clinics at the FEU-NRMF Medical Center.

Roger, however, suddenly died on Febraury 1. When his body was brought to the morgue, several instruments were recovered from his body.

"Basahan, hindi ko po alam kung ilang basahan, basta anim na forceps sa katawan niya, [tapos] ilang tahi," said Hannah.

"Kahit na hindi naman tayo duktor o ano, ibig sabihin dapat kapag nag-expire na ang pasyente, dapat ina-ayos nila," said Oliver Bueno, owner of Holy Hour Funeral Home, where Roger's body was brought.

A report from the police's Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) unit said he died from gunshot wounds, but the police said the instruments left inside him could have contributed to hastening his death.

"Based doon sa SOCO report.. napag-alaman na hindi naisara ito after the operation, and naka-recover ng 6 na forceps," said Supt. Jude Santos, chief, Caloocan Police.

The hospital, however, said they do not see any malpractice in the incident.

They said they meant to leave the surgical equipment inside the body for the medico-legal to examine.

"Our residents did try to coordinate with the funeral parlor to tell them that there were still instruments left there then they have to take care of that, so that the medico-legal officer can take care of them later on," said Campo-Cruz.

The Philippine Hospital Association (PHA) sided with the hospital.

"Walang kasalanan ang mga duktor doon because, itong pasyente is really, shall we say, literally patay na ang pasyente eh. Binuhay lang nila," said Dr. Leo Olarte, PHA legal counsel.

Hannah, however, said she is not accepting the hospital's explanation.

Roger's family is planning to sue the hospital for negligence, and for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

DSWD: Only OSCA-issued IDs entitle senior citizens to discounts

Only ID cards issued by the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) will entitle senior citizens to discounts due them under the law, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has said.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said membership cards issued by senior citizens associations will not necessarily be recognized for granting privileges and benefits under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act (ESCA 2010).

"Senior citizens are not compelled to become members of senior citizens groups, or to procure said membership cards to avail of discount privileges," Soliman said in an article posted on the DSWD website.

She issued the clarification amid inquiries if membership cards issued by senior citizens associations will guarantee their rights and privileges provided under the law.

“No Filipino elderly should be forced to become a member of a senior citizens association if one does not want to, nor should an older person be threatened that he or she cannot avail of senior citizens’ benefits without said membership," Soliman said.

Besides, she said, the OSCA-issued ID is the only valid ID required by business establishments and medical facilities for senior citizens to avail of the 20-percent discount.

On the other hand, she clarified there is currently no national or unified senior citizens ID card yet that will be used as a basis for disbursing the P500 monthly social pension for indigent senior citizens.

“At present, the OSCA-issued IDs will be used since it maintains its value as a standard document proving one’s seniority, and is valid anywhere in the country. Eventually, once the intended beneficiaries have already been identified, prospective social pensioners will be issued a proper ID card for that purpose," she said.

Various senior citizens associations, such as the Federation of Senior Citizens Associations of the Philippines (FSCAP), Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VRF) and the Association of Retired Postal Employees and Senior Citizens (ARPES), may continue to issue ID cards to their members fro their own purposes, she added.

Senior citizens say they ‘starved’ at CH-organized Valentine’s Day event

WHILE City Hall considered the Valentine’s Day party for senior citizens in Cebu City last Feb.14 a success, the elderly who were present at the event said they went hungry.

The senior citizens who complained, most of them from mountain barangays, said they were not served food during the party, which was held from 6 to 10 p.m. at the JSU-PSU Mariner’s Court near Pier 1.

“Gipangkabuhi intawn ang mga tiguwang hasta ilang mga kuyog tungod sa kagutom. Gikan pa gud intawn sa bukid. Nangapasmo naman mi (The elderly suffered hunger pangs. They came all the way from the uplands only to starve),” a man who accompanied his elderly mother told Sun.Star Cebu in a phone interview.

The activity was initiated by the Office for the Senior Citizens Affairs (Osca) in Cebu City to give the elderly an opportunity to bond together.

Guillermo Casinillo, head of Osca, said they were given a budget of only P100,000 for the party.


He said P55,000 of the funding from City Hall was used to pay for the venue, while P20,000 was used as prize for the King and Queen of Hearts contest.

Of the P100,000, Casinillo said Osca spent P10,000 for flowers and decorations, P4,000 for the choreographers’ honoraria, and P3,000 for decorators.

“Pila naman lang ang sobra ana? (How much is left?),” Casinillo asked.

He said he had told the senior citizens in an earlier meeting to take their dinner before going to the party because the event has a limited budget.

The Osca head lamented that they have been trying their best to entertain the elderly but they ended up being criticized.

“Siguro, kadtong nangreklamo nga mga seniors mao tong gahi gyud kaayo patambungon og meeting mao na nga nagpatuyang na lang ug reklamo (Maybe those who are complaining are the ones who hardly attend meetings so now they are complaining),” Casinillo said.

Despite the complaint, Casinillo said the party was a success and was attended by about 700 senior citizens in the city.

He said he will not allow the incident to deter him from implementing another program for the elderly. He added that Osca is planning to hold a Santacruzan for the senior citizens in May.

He said he is grateful to City Hall for supporting Osca’s activities.

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